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Oconauftee Visitor Center | Great Smoky Mountains

Hands-On Learning in Cherokee!

The Oconauftee Visitor Center

If you are traveling through The Great Smoky Mountains, do yourself a favor and stop by the Oconauftee Visitor Center. This cute little visitor center is full service, and “green”. (Read all about the “green” features here!)

The beautiful visitor center, and clean restrooms aren’t the only perks of stopping here on your way through the Great Smoky Mountains. This visitor center for also be a destination for an educational experience. In my opinion, meaningful learning experiences are crucial for children to thrive in school. The Oconauftee visitor center was such a highlight of our North Carolina vacation, because of the face-to-face experience with history.

Things to Do at the Visitor Center

Outside of the visitor center, you can take a short walk to an open-air museum featuring a barn and other buildings that have been taken from the mountains and preserved for guests to see. The museam is set up to give guests an idea of how people would have lived 100 years ago in the mountains.

In addition to the village, there are indoor exhibits featuring images, artifacts and other information life in the Great Smoky Mountains. My girls enjoyed seeing how butter was churned. There is also a 20-minute informational video and a paved walking trail to enjoy.

The visitor center is open every day (except Christmas) at 8:00 a.m., and the closing time varies between 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. depending on the time of year. You can find hours and contact information on this website.

In addition to the educational component this particular visitor provides, there are stunning views of the mountains and if you are driving through early in the morning you might catch a glimpse at some Elk grazing in the field.

We loved all the stunning mountain views and couldn’t resist a family photo or two. Before you leave, make sure you pop into the visitor center and get a stamp for your national parks passport.

The Street Address

1194 Newfound Gap Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719

Sharing is Caring

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More Fun Things Nearby

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HVcVeD7QEM

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The Mouse Boutique

About The Mouse Boutique

Central Florida locals, Michele, and her sister have been selling t-shirts since 2014. I met Michele when she joined my Disney Fans Facebook group I was so honored when she asked me to select a few shirts for my family to review. If you saw my unboxing video you know that I couldn’t decide so she sent me a sampling based on our families interests!

Watch the Video Here!

Sometihing that I found to be unique about The Mouse Boutique is their approach to creating the shirts. Instead of typical vinyl on a fabric t-shirt The Mouse Boutique (TMB) does things a little differently.

All of the designs are custom created and printed directly onto the shirt with a process that fuses the design into the fabric. This produces prints that are crisp, soft, and breathable. Inks are Earth-friendly, water-based, and are non-toxic. Prints are sealed with a commercial heat press to ensure the design stays put.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/themouseboutique#about
Photo by: Erin Jimenez, StorybookErin.com

Interview with Michele

What do you love about being a small-business owner? 

My sister and I both love the freedom it gives us to be with our family stay home with child and grandkids

What are the challenges you’ve faced being a small-business owner?

Making sure each of our customers are 110% happy with their order and always trying to go beyond what is needed. After all the customers are the heart of our business.

How do you stay motivated? 

We stay motivated by the sweet comments that our customers post about our excited they were about wearing the shirts on their trip.

What do you think is unique about your store?

All the different designs and shirt colors that we offer. I am sure we are one of the few with soooo many designs. My sister does a great job.

My Thoughts on The Mouse Boutique

The Quality 

The shirts are comfortable and hold their shape throughout washings. We haven’t gotten a stain yet – but with three young children, I’m sure we will test stain removal soon.

The Designs

There are so many designs, TMB could absolutely be a one-stop shop for all your customized t-shirt needs. They have RunDisney inspired shirts, park-inspired and with the ability to add your name to it you are destined to find a shirt you like.

Erin Jimenez |StorybookErin.com

Turn around time and communication

Working with Michele is so easy! She is quick to respond to Facebook messages and willing to help you find the best shirt for your trip.

Once the item leaves the shop it generally makes it to the customer in 2-3 days. However, since they are local to the theme parks, TMB will often hand-deliver the shirts to your hotel. How awesome is that?

hcom/shop/TheMouseReady to order? 

Michele was kind enough to give my readers a discount code. Just use BLOGGERFREE when checking out and you will receive FREE shipping on your order!

Visit her Website: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheMouseBoutique

Michele, thank you so much for sending these adorable shirt to our family.

Erin Jimenez | StorybookErin.com

FREE Facebook Group for Disney Fans!

Are you a Disney Fan? Would you like to join my FREE facebook group for Disney Fans and content creators to connect! This free group is managed by my dear pal Keri from https://www.flipflopweekend.com/. We’d love to have you join our Ohana!

Travel The Road to Nowhere, Bryson City N.C.

Travel The Road to Nowhere

Just beyond Swain County high school in Bryson City, North Carolina, you will find “The Road to Nowhere”. To locals, it is a memory of broken promises dating back to World War II. To my family, it has become a must-do on each trip to Western North Carolina.

Shortly after we were married, we took this epic photo (which is printed on a canvas in our bedroom).

On our most recent trip to Bryson City, we recreated the photo and included our girls.

History of The Road to Nowhere

The best information I’ve found about the history of the Road to Nowhere can be found on this website.   In short, back in the 1930’s and 40’s some of Swain County’s private land was given to the Federal Government. During World War II hundreds of people in these communities were forced out of their homes and Old Highway 288 became buried under Fontana Lake.

The government was to replace the road and stretch from Bryson City to Fontana. However, when an environmental issue arose all construction stopped and the citizens named the road “The Road to Nowhere”

In 2010 a legal settlement was reached in regards to The Road to Nowhere.

It’s a really interesting read, so I’d be sure to check out the history on the Bryson City Website. 

Directions

From Bryson City, take Everet street until it turns into Lakeshore Drive and ends. There is a small parking section just outside the tunnel.

Things to Do in the Road to Nowhere

The Road to Nowhere can be an all-day adventure or just an hour or two. It’s really up to you, and what you want to do. Please be aware, if you are traveling with your family there can be some inappropriate graffiti on the walls. If you just shine your light down at your feet and not at the walls, you won’t even notice it.

Walk through the Tunnel

During your visit, you can simply walk from one end of the tunnel to the other. It will take you less than an hour, you can snap a few fun photos and be on your way.

Go Hiking

There are a few trails just beyond the Road to Nowhere. The Gold Mine Loop is only 1.2 miles. However, my Apple Watch claimed we hiked closer to 4 miles. Either way, the hike was awesome. Even with our young girls, we enjoyed this hike.

We had the privilege of having a Bryson City local join us, so we got to learn the history. See some things we might not have. He also escorted us to Fontana Lake. Just off the trail a bit, you can actually walk down to Fontana Lake, which was such a neat experience. We even got to see some bear tracks while we were down there.  If you are going to hike The Road to Nowhere, don’t forget your snacks. #momfail I left all the snacks in the car and only took some water with us.

Tips for Hiking with Toddlers

When hiking with toddlers, safety is the #1 concern. We want our children to explore and enjoy the hike but we also want them to be safe. Here are a couple recommendations for hiking with your children.

  • Use a Baby Carrier

If your toddlers are young enough or small enough to fit in a baby carrier, bring it along. Our girls (4,3 & 2) all took a turn or two in the baby carrier for this hike. This is my favorite one*

  • Buddy System

We made sure at least one adult was with each of the girls during the entirety of the hike. Helping climb up and down the mountain and give the opportunity to take a rest break throughout the hike.

Have a Picnic

The Road to Nowhere is a great spot for a picnic. Either on the other side of the tunnel or somewhere on the trail. The Road to Nowhere is a beautiful destination for a quiet picnic.

Photo Shoot

Have you considered family photos at the Road to Nowhere? Either with the beautiful foliage or the tunnel, this could be the next location for your family photo.

Exploring the Road to Nowhere

There are many things to do on The Road to Nowhere if you’ve been – leave a comment below! Let me know what you think!

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Visiting Savannah on a Budget

Savannah Georgia

Savannah was established in 1733 and is the oldest city in Georgia. Back in the 1700’s downtown Savannah had 4 squares with communities surrounding them. Today, there are 22-squares. Each square is named in memory of a person or historical event.

Just walk the cobbled streets and you can’t help but want to explore the history of this city.

Getting Around Savannah

Downtown is a very walkable city. With plenty of sidewalks and public transportation, you can get to wherever you want to go fairly easily. My recommendation is to park your car and walk. (Grab a parking pass here!) If you are going to spend more than a day in Savannah, I’d recommend the hop-on-hop-off trolly. We’ve done a similar tour in St. Augustine, and it was completely worth it. Grab a Groupon for the Savannah Tour here*

If you are traveling with young children, I would ditch the stroller and grab a baby-carrier* and a backpack for your day. Here’s my all-time FAVORITE baby carrier! I’ve used this carrier for the last 3 years, and it still looks fairly new – I love it!

Savannah on a Budget

If you are sticking to a budget and don’t mind skipping the guided tour approach to Savannah. I’d recommend the DOT. Since we were only there for a couple of hours, we opted for this approach.  This fare-free transportation will take you all over downtown. You can also board the water ferry and visit “Waving Girl”, City Hall and Hutchinson Island! Check out the DOT website for current hours.

 

Budget-Friendly Savannah Accommodations

For our trip, we booked an Airbnb in Beaufort, SC.* We saved a lot of money by booking outside of Savannah and were able to cook our own meals and relax before exploring the city. If you’ve never booked an Airbnb, you might want to check it out – there are lots of great properties in the area! Use this code for $40.00 off your first booking! *

Saving Money on Attractions

It’s no secret, I love to search through Groupon* when visiting a new city. It’s a great way to save a bit of money, and have an experience I might not have booked. The official Savannah Website also has a section dedicated to coupons, so be sure to check that out before your trip.

Eating in Savannah

We didn’t actually eat any meals during our visit. We had a big breakfast in a nearby cracker barrel and then some ice cream at River Street Sweets. River Street Sweets is located on East River Street and the perfect destination for something sweet during your visit. They have World Famous Pralines, Home-made candies, treats and ice cream available for purchase. It was absolutely delicious and we even brought home some of the pralines to share with friends and family.

If you are a big Paula Deen fan, you might want to check out Lady and Sons. 

If you want to keep on exploring the city or eat like a local. I’d recommend walking to the nearby Kroger and purchasing some picnic supplies. Here is the address: 311 E Gwinnett St. Savannah, GA 31401

There are plenty of yummy places to eat depending on your budget.

Family Fun

This city was a beautiful location for a family adventure. It is home of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) so you will see several college students out and about working on projects. You will also see the playgrounds filled with families and children.

You will find gardens to explore, old city streets and history wherever you look. We only had a few hours in this city, but it could definitely be a destination for a longer family vacation.  Check our Savannah Vlog to see all the fun we had! 

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s go visit Savannah!

The question of the Day: Have you ever been to Savannah? What’s your top thing to do?

 

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Visiting National Parks – Big Cypress National Preserve

National Parks

I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children in the years before they begin school is a solid foundation of experiences. It is those experiences that help them to make meaningful connections in the classroom.

National Parks are an amazing place to create those experiences.

Big Cypress National Preserve

We recently took a quick trip through the Big Cypress National Preserve. It was such a fun trip, one we’ve taken many times over the years but this time was different. This time we decided to pack a picnic to explore the Big Cypress.

Watch the vlog here on our Youtube Channel.

About Big Cypress National Preserve

On October 11th, 1974 Big Cypress was established as America’s first national preserve. (Happy Birthday, Big Cypress!).  There are two welcome centers in the preserve, and there are many things to do. You can go camping, hiking, or just take a drive through it and have a picnic.

With its diverse landscape and the largest habitat for the Florida Panther, it is certainly something to go on your Bucket List.  – Find out more about Big Cypress Here.

Visiting the National Parks with Kids

When visiting the National Parks with children, you will want to stop in all the welcome centers. It’s a great opportunity for them to speak with a park ranger and collect a free stamp. My girls love to ask for a map at each park.

Picnics are also a great idea when traveling through a national park with kids. I also recently introduced our girls to leaf rubbings, this can be a great craft for your family. It’s as easy as collecting a few leaves together and using some copy paper and a crayon to make an art piece. There are many things to do with your family inside a national park.

What are your favorites?

 

Love National Parks? Share the love on Pinterest!

 

Fall Activities for your Preschooler

Preschoolers

Preschool is the most magical age, I’m convinced. I always knew deep down in my heart that I loved this age. It’s primarily the reason I studied Early Childhood Education in college. Now that I am the mom three girls ages 2, 3 and 4 – I am convinced there is something magical about this age. You can find me holding onto every last ounce of the magic.

In an effort to soak in all the memories while my girls are still young, I’ve put together a list of all the fun things we are planning to do this Fall. I hope you will subscribe to our Youtube Channel to catch the Vlogs. 

Fall activities for your Preschoolers

As soon as the kids go back to school, there seems to be a hint of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes filling the air. I’m not a fan of PSL, but I do love Fall. I believe it was L.M. Montgomery who said in her popular book Anne of Green Gables who said

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers”

October is a beautiful month, one to fill with many happy memories.

Read Fall Themed Books

Reading is one of the most important things you can do with your young children. It is never too early (or too late) to read to your children. Here are a couple of my favorite authors and their Halloween-inspired books!

I have a whole post with more research on the importance of reading, and some recommendations for Thanksgiving themed books on this post if you want to extend your Fall festivities into November.

Pumpkin Patch Photos

It is our yearly tradition to head to a local pumpkin patch and take photos. I love seeing the big changes in the girls from year-to-year. Check Facebook Events for local pumpkin patches. We’ve found so many great events through Facebook!

 

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Pumpkin Painting

My friend Michelle and Little Man painted the cutest pumpkins for Halloween. I can’t wait to see what designs my girls come up with! P.s. Go give her channel a subscribe – you won’t be sorry! 

 

Apple Picking

This fall our family will be traveling to North Carolina. While we are there, we will be going to an Orchard to pick apples! I am so excited about this. I’ve never picked apples before, and we’ve found the cutest place to go. I can’t wait to share more with you soon!

Bake some Spooky Treats

One of the best parts about the holiday season is all the fun treats you get to create. My friend Keri from Flipflopweekend.com has put together 10 fun Disney inspired treats you can create with your family!

 

Dress-up!

It wouldn’t be a Halloween bucket list if I didn’t add playing dress-up. My daughter is absolutely in love with Halloween. I asked her why she loved it so much, and she told me it was because EVERYONE dresses up. This is the perfect age for group costumes. The kids love it, and I’m sure you’ll love it too!

There are so many churches, malls, libraries and parks that have Thanksgiving festivities. Be sure to find one or two and go as a family for some fun!


 

What are your favorite October traditions?

*This post contains affiliate links. It will cost nothing extra if you decide to purchase, but we appreciate your support of StorybookErin.com

Tips for Staying Cool on a Hot Day in Hollywood Studios

Florida Weather

As a Florida Native, I sometimes don’t realize how hot Florida weather temperatures are for some. Yes, us Floridians are hot (don’t misread that) but we’ve had a lot of practice keeping cool in the heat. Today, I’m going to share some of my favorite spots to cool off during a visit to Hollywood Studios.

In my experience, the coolest months to visit Walt Disney World will be from late-October until about mid-April. If you are visiting any other time of the year, you will want to check out some of my favorite spots – so keep reading.☺

Plan Your Day

When going to Hollywood Studios when the weather is particularly warm you will want to have a plan. The warmest part of the day will be from about 1-4 p.m. This is the perfect time to check out some shows or even book a dining reservation. When we visited HWS in August, we spent the morning inside the new Toy Story Land and then for the afternoon we had a leisurely lunch in the nice cool air conditioning, did some indoor attractions and character experiences before heading back to Toy Story Land in the evening.

Be sure to catch the Vlogs to see all the fun we had!

Avoid the warm weather with these shows

The following is a list of indoor shows available!

Muppet Vision 3D

Do not skip this! This show is a little bit hidden towards the back of the park, just before the entrance to Star Wars Land (opening in 2019).  The entire show is about 15-20 minutes and will have you giggling the whole way through. We also love this section of the park because there are several little areas to just sit quietly and avoid some of the crowds.

Frozen Sing-Along

This 30-minute show is absolutely hysterical. It combines your (kids) favorite songs from frozen with just enough humor to get even the non-frozen loving guest to laugh. This show is perfect for less-than-perfect weather days inside Hollywood Studios.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid, one of the most adored princesses of all. Follow the story with this semi-live-action show and be out of the weather elements for about 20 minutes. If you have an Ariel Fan, be sure to check out this post. 

Indoor Rides

Rockin’ Roller Coaster

Arguably my favorite ride on Disney Property, Rockin’ Roller Coaster is completely indoor. The line cue begins outdoors but is mostly inside, as is the coaster. Be sure to check height requirements (48 inches) or take advantage of rider switch.

Tower of Terror

The line cue for Tower of Terror begins outdoors with several fans to keep you cool. There is a height requirement of 40 inches for this ride, so be sure to make arrangements for rider switch if traveling with smaller Mouseketeers.

Midway Mania

Located inside Toy Story Land, Midway Mania is the perfect family friendly ride to do while avoiding the warm weather.

Star Tours

Star Tours is such a classic. It was the first of the Star Wars attractions to open inside Hollywood Studios, and with each refurbishment, it’s gotten better and better. The height requirement for Star Tours is 40 inches.

Educational Experiences

I guess it’s my background in education that is really shining through, but there are some really cool educational experiences inside Hollywood Studios. One of them will even get your name written in the Walt Disney World Archives! Are you intrigued? I’ll start with that one them.

Walt Disney Presents

If you want to see some of the most unique Disney artifacts on the property, and see sneak peeks of upcoming attractions you will want to walk through the Walt Disney Presents. If you want to have your name in the Walt Disney World Archives, ask the cast member at the entrance for the trivia game.

When we visited HWS in August I wanted to try my hand at the trivia. It was so much fun to do and only took about 10 minutes for me to complete. This experience is a must-do for all my Disney Nerds out there!

The Launch Bay

Inside the Star Wars Launch Bay, you will have opportunities to see props from the movies and meet several of the characters. There is so much to do inside, you will be able to avoid a few hours of the warm weather and have learned so many cool things about Star Wars.

Top Places to Eat

If I had to pick my favorite place to eat inside Hollywood Studios, I’d say The Brown Derby that’s only because I got engaged there in March of 2008. The food is a little pricey, and if you are on the Disney Dining Plan it’s 2-table service credits.  So, keep that in mind when booking the Brown Derby.

Other great options are Mama Melrose or 50’s Primetime.

My favorite quick service inside Hollywood Studios is Pizza Rizzo. I love it because it’s towards the back of the park and typically not as crowded as other quick service locations. Also, there is plenty of indoor seating. It’s the perfect way to avoid the harsh weather.

Looking for more great weather tips? Check out my friend Keri’s post on what to do when it rains during your Disney vacation! 

Love Disney? Join my FREE Facebook Group!


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5 Thanksgiving Books to Read with your Preschooler

The Importance of Reading

Around the age of 5 years old, children will begin to read. It’s an exciting time in the life of a child. One of pride and accomplishment, another step in the direction of independence. The road to reading begins LONG before your child reads or even says their first words. Research even recently proved that reading aloud to children actually changes their brains. – Read about the study here. 

When should I start Reading aloud to my children?

Now. Right Now.

I believe that no time is too soon to start reading aloud to your children.

Even when your baby is still in the womb, reading to your children will create such a special bond. Your baby will start to become familiar with your voice. I remember when my first daughter was born. Even in her earliest days she knew our voices and would love to listen to her dad read stories to her.

Preparing Our Hearts for Thanksgiving

Happy First Week of Fall!

It doesn’t feel like Fall here in South, Florida with temperatures still in the 90’s. However, since Pumpkin Spiced lattes have arrived, it must be time to start preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. Last year during the month of November we worked on memorizing a bible verse together and created a little bucket list of things to do together.

This year we have been reading through several books to help prepare our hearts for the season. Also, since the girls are a little bit older (4,3 & 2) they are able to understand more about the first Thanksgiving.

Top 5 Thanksgiving Themed Books for Preschoolers

These books are not ranked in any particular order. These are just five of the many Thanksgiving themed books we have been enjoying this season. This post does contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase it won’t cost anything extra for you, but our family will receive a small commission. I thank you for your consideration and support.

‘Twas the Night Before THANKSGIVING

Written and Illustrated by Dav Pilkey.

This story is about eight students who ventured off onto a field trip to see Farmer Mack Nuggett and his 8 tiny turkeys. During the field trip, the students learn about the farm and befriend the turkeys and you won’t believe how the story ends…

My girls loved the rhyming and adorable watercolor styled images in this story.

Balloons over Broadway

Written by Melissa Sweet, A Caldecott Honor Winner

A Thanksgiving tradition for our family is to participate in a turkey trot.  However, for many families, it might be to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Balloons over Broadway is a whimsically written story based on the history of the Macy’s Day Parade.

In this book, you will learn all about how Tony Sarg began his work for Macy’s by designing the window decor, and eventually started the famous balloons we watch each year on Thanksgiving morning. This book was also awarded The Robert F. Sibert Medal.

 

The Thanksgiving Story

Written by Alice Dalgliesh and Illustrated by Helen Sewell

This book is a great way to introduce your preschoolers to chapter books. There are limited images in this book, but with 5 short chapters (2-3 pages) this book is a great tool for 1) teaching your child about Thanksgiving and 2) reading comprehension and recall. This book also received the Caldecott Honor.

 

Turkey Trouble

Written by Wendi Silvano and Illustrated by Lee Harper. 

Follow along as one turkey discovers he’s in trouble. This cute little story is a quick and easy read for your family. One that’s sure to make you laugh.

Bear Says Thanks

Written by Karma Wilson and Illustrated by Jane Chapman 

The “Bear Books” are a popular series of stories written by Karma Wilson. Each story teaches an important lesson for toddlers and preschoolers. Bear Says Thanks is no different.

This story recreates the first Thanksgiving, and Bear learns to be grateful. With large beautiful images and limited text per page. this Story is perfect for your toddlers and preschoolers. It is also an option for beginning readers.

These are just five of the books we’ve been reading to our family. There are so many more available. Comment below, what are your favorite stories to read to your family during Thanksgiving?


Looking for more fun things to do with your Preschooler for Thanksgiving? Check out this Pinterest board

Let’s go Running and Give Kids The World in 2018

Running?

Remember when I used to run? Yeah… it was a while ago I know. After training for and completing the 2018 WDW Marathon, I decided to take a break from the sport.  I guess 3 babies in 3 years does a number on your body…😉

I’ve spent 2018 re-building my core through different beach body programs and other routines found on Youtube. I’ve also made a commitment to my husband that I wouldn’t register for any more Half Marathons or Marathons until our youngest daughter starts school (3 years to go…).

On a personal level, we just felt the commitment of training for those type of races combined with the logistics of actually attending the races is too much right now. #adulting

So, I took a break from running. Until now…

Give Kids the World

Give Kids the World is an organization in Orlando Florida that grants a wish for families with children who have life-threatening illnesses. This non-profit organization began in 1986 by hotelier Henri Landwirth. Mr. Landwirth passed away in April, but the organization continues on with the goal of making wishes come true. I had the opportunity to volunteer at Give Kids the World Village when I was in high-school. It was such a unique experience. If you ever have the chance, I recommend volunteering there!

Running: December 8, 2018

This year I have teamed up with my blogging-bestie Keri (Flipflopweekend) and our Disney Fans FB group (Join the Ohana!) to run the Give Kids the World 5K. All proceeds from the race will be given to Give Kids the World.  The GKTW 5k will be my first race since the 2018 WDW Marathon. I am so excited to participate in this event! Guess what, we are doing the virtual option, so you can join me!

REGISTER HERE! 

Running isn’t my thing…

I hear you, a lot of you perhaps aren’t into running. That’s okay, you don’t have to be a runner to participate in this race. We created a virtual team, and you can either walk, run or cycle! My friend Jennifer is actually going to be in Miami on December 8th so we are going to complete the race together!

So will you join me? Will you help Give Kids the World? 

REGISTER HERE!

Planning a trip and want to support GKTW at the same time? Check out Keri’s travel resource page. 10% of the proceeds earned through her affiliate links will be donated to Give Kids the World.

Join our Ohana! 

 

Cycle through Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami is the oldest and largest zoo in Florida. It spans over 750 acres and has many different opportunities to have up-close experiences with the animals. In the brand-new Everglades exhibit, guests can crawl through a passageway leading directly through an alligator tank, slide through an otter slide and explore an exhibit for an American Bear!

WATCH ELLIE’s HATCH DAY CELEBRATION HERE!

Zoo Miami was recently included in the USA TODAY 10 Best Zoos in the country! 

Fastest Way to See Zoo Miami

If you only have a few hours to visit Zoo Miami, I highly recommend renting the family cycle. Safari Cycles can be rented hourly for for the entire day. We found we were able to see most of the zoo in about 2 hours with limited stopping. If you wanted to experience the zoo a little more thoroughly, i’d recommend the full day.

Find out current rates here.

Our family rented the large cycle, and fit quite comfortably. It did rain while we were cycling through the zoo, so we couldn’t put our bags on the roof.

Benefits of the Safari Cycle

Everyone is together

If you are visiting Zoo Miami with your family of friends and want to have a conversation, the safari cycle is a must. We were able to have an enjoyable visit and conversation with my parents during our trip to the zoo. When one is pushing a stroller and another is chasing a toddler around the exhibits meaningful conversations can be a struggle.

Children can better see into the Exhibits

Since the exhibits have fairly high fences, it can be difficult for younger children to see into the exhibit. With the safari cycle, your children will be above the fence line.

Shade from the Sun

There are lots of trees and foliage around Zoo Miami, but the build in shade of the Safari Cycle is AWESOME!

See the Whole Zoo in less than a day

Zoo Miami is the largest Zoo in Florida, and with small children it is very difficult to see the whole zoo in one day. The Safari Cycle helps guests to move quickly from exhibit to exhibit and make the most of their day!

Make an Unforgettable Memory

There is something magical about experiencing something new. Cycling with your entire family through a beautiful zoo is a memory that will last forever.

Zoo Miami

Zoo Miami is one of my favorite places. Our family visits regularly and has an amazing time during each visit. I hope you will check out Zoo Miami next time you are in the South Florida area!  Be sure to check Groupon for any deals before purchasing your tickets.  You can also run through the zoo this October! 

Find great deals at Groupon.com!

 

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The BEST time to Meet Characters in Toy Story Land

If you are heading to Toy Story Land for the first time, I encourage you to check out my round-up of tips from bloggers, vloggers, and Moms.

Who can I Meet in Toy Story Land

Inside Toy Story Land you can meet:

  1. Buzz Lightyear
  2. Woody
  3. Jessie
  4. Green Army Men

We traveled to Toy Story Land in August of 2018, and here is where we found each of the characters.

Character: Buzz Lightyear

As you enter Toy Story Land you will be greeted by Woody with a large “Toy Story Land” sign. Directly after the welcome sign, the line forms to meet Buzz Lightyear. If you are coming to the land in the evening, he is in the same area just a little more into the land as there is better lighting for photos.

Our favorite Space Ranger, Buzz Lightyear is available for photos from park open to park close (weather permitting). We found that the best time to meet Buzz was right at the park opened. Many people rush to the rides and miss the opportunity for character interaction.

Characters: Woody and Jessie

Woody and Jessie can be found just a few steps beyond the new entrance to Midway Mania. The absolute best time to meet them is right as you enter into Toy Story Land. During the morning Extra Magic Hour, the line for Woody and Jessie was only about 15-20 minutes.

Watch our Meet and Greet with Woody and Jessie

Catch our latest Disney Vlog to see the amazing character interaction and hear my tips for meeting the characters with your toddlers.

Characters: Green Army Men (Green Army Brigade)

Walking around throughout Toy Story Land and interacting with guests you will find the Green Army Men. With the opening of Toy Story Land, they changed the name to Green Army Brigade in order to include women.  There are also opportunities for toys (guests) young and old to play games with them. As long as the Army Men aren’t participating in an activity, you can approach them for a photo and autograph. The Army Men were one of the most fun parts of the atmosphere of Toy Story Land, simply because it’s not a common occurrence for characters to walk around freely among the toys (guests). I loved it!

Best Autograph Books and Alternatives

For our visit to Toy Story Land, we opted to use a Canvas panel to collect signatures. This was so that we would be able to use the signatures as artwork in our children room. My blogger pal Keri, as a whole post of ideas on autograph books, if you are looking for more creative approaches to gathering signatures.

Shop for Autograph Supplies

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The Umbrella Sky Project, Coral Gables FL

About the Umbrella Sky

Located in the heart of downtown Gables, Florida the Umbrella sky is certain to delight visitors of all ages. Created by the Sextafiera company in Portugal, the Umbrella Sky project began in 2012 and has been installed all over the world.  Coral Gables, Florida is one of only three cities in the United States to host this project.  (The exhibit was in Pensacola, FL in January of 2018).

According to the Facebook Page, the mission of this project is “Coloring Life and Making People Smile”. Mission Accomplished, this exhibit is adorable. You can’t help but see the connection with Mary Poppins in this exhibit, which brings such a fun Disney-inspired experience to South Florida.

One you won’t want to miss – and you better hurry. This exhibit leaves Coral Gables in September of 2018.

If you are interested in finding out about similar projects, check out their website. My favorite was the all pink umbrellas!

Where to Find The Umbrella Sky Project

Address

2349-2301 Salzedo St, Coral Gables, FL 33134

Parking

There is plenty of metered parking and garages throughout downtown Coral Gables. Just make sure to bring some change. We parked around the corner from the exhibit and parking was about 2.50 per hour.

How long did you stay? 

I went to the exhibit with my sister-in-law and a friend and we stayed about 1 hour inside the exhibit. We took our time taking tons of photos and really enjoying the atmosphere. You could definitely make this into a half-day or longer trip if you opted to eat in one of the many cafe’s under the umbrella sky.

My Philosophy on Encouraging Art Appreciation

As a mom of three young children with completely different personalities. I make every effort to expose my children to multiple experiences. I want my children to be well-rounded adults with an appreciation for the arts, nature and academics. Opportunities to get outside and experience beautiful art exhibits are the perfect way to show the beauty of art in a way that’s exciting for young children and toddlers.

So, if you want to encourage your children to love art, expose them to age-appropriate art exhibits from a young age. Encourage and foster the love for creativity!

Comment below: What are some art exhibits in your area, we love to travel!

Whimsical Photo Opportunities

The Umbrella Sky makes for some of the most beautiful and whimsical photos. Perfect for couples, families and children. We brought a blanket with us and snapped lots of fun photos with the girls. If you want to capture photos without too many people in the background, I recommend going around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning. This is before the cafe’s open so there will be less traffic in the area.

What to Bring to the Umbrella Sky

If traveling with young toddlers or babies. Bring a snack and water. Under the umbrellas it does get a little warm, especially with the summer heat. I forgot our water bottles in the car, and my girls were quite thirsty.

You might also want to bring a blanket or any props you might want for your photos. We saw lots of people with brightly colored umbrellas. I went with the Mary Poppins inspired Disney Bound with my dress (found on Amazon).

Hurry, this exhibit leaves South Florida Soon!

This exhibit is set to leave Coral Gables in September. So don’t delay! Make plans to visit soon!

This is perfect for a Mom’s Day Out, Girls Brunch, Family Day, Date… Perfect for a fun outing! A Must-See in Coral Gables, Florida! Be sure to tag your photos with #umbrellaSky on social media and join the conversation!

The Meg – Movie Review (NO SPOILERS!)

The Meg

The Meg releases to the public on Friday, August 10th, 2018. My husband and I were given the unique opportunity to watch the movie this evening before it is released to the public. Here are my (spoiler-free) thoughts on the new movie The Meg. (This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own).

About the Movie

The movie begins with an intense scene involving a rescue mission. This is where the film introduces Jonas Taylor, one of the main characters in the film.  The film then cuts to 5-years later and a research facility has found themselves in a situation where they need assistance from Jonas Taylor once again.

Throughout the film, there are several heart-warming moments, awkward tensions and of course a giant pre-historic shark to keep you entertained. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I shed a tear during one of the early introductions of the mother-daughter characters. My oldest daughter has recently been very interested in learning about sharks, so I felt a little connection with them.

The film moves rather quickly from start to finish and provided a fun evening out with my husband.

Is this Movie Family-Friendly?

Although there was only mild language and no nudity. There are parts of the film that are pretty intense and could be frighting for younger crowds. I wouldn’t classify this movie as a “horror” film, it just wasn’t that scary in my opinion. However, I wouldn’t bring young children to the movie theater to see this movie.

This movie should be considered the Jaws of our generation. There are plenty of thrills, relatable and lovable characters and enough humor to keep you entertained from start to finish.

You can read more about the film on their website (here).

Watch the Vlog

 

Final Thoughts

If you are a fan of Jaws or not-so-scary horror films, this movie is for you. If you really don’t enjoy this type of unbelievable aquatic life films, i’d saw skip it and wait for it to come out on DVD. I personally enjoyed the film, and was thankful for an evening out with my husband to see it before it releases to the public.

Preparing for your first visit to Toy Story Land

About Toy Story Land

Today Story Land is the newest addition to the Walt Disney World Parks in Florida. It opened on Saturday, June 30th, 2018. With the opening of Toy Story Land, there are two NEW rides for guests to enjoy. Both of these rides have height requirements, so that is something to keep in mind if traveling with young children. My friend Meg, had the opportunity to interview some of the Imagineers as well as the Entertainment Director for Hollywood Studios and has lots of great information on her blog. 

Toy Story Land Opening Day (Vlogs)

Grant and Jayme’s Perspective: Flying Elephant Apparel on YOUTUBE

Missy, Casey & Elijah’s Perspective: The Wayts World 

Stephanie and Corey’s Perspective: Cory Meets World 

Preparing to Go to Toy Story Land

My husband and I will be taking our oldest daughter to Toy Story Land in August. She will be going to Preschool towards the end of the month, and so we wanted to take her on a special trip. Toy Story Land was the perfect destination for our trip. The Toy Story movies really sink into your heartstrings with reminders to play, to create and to dream. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, if it is your first time or one-hundredth time seeing the Toy Story Movies, the story is relatable to all generations. It’s that relatability that is the number one reason I believe the Toy Story Land was so heavily anticipated and has been loved by everyone who has gone.

I am so ready to PLAY BIG this summer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I have been soaking in as much as I can to prepare myself for the trip and I wanted to share all my knowledge with you!

Tips from people who have gone to Toy Story Land

Protect yourself from the Sun

In Toy Story Land everything is large, this gives the illusion that YOU are one of the toys in Andy’s backyard. Due to this design, there is limited shade. As we know, the sun is the most intense between the hours of 11a and about 2p. It is crucial for guests to protect themselves from the sun.

Ways to Protect yourself from the Sun

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Drink Water

FYI – Disney does provide cups of water to guests free of charge at most quick service locations. All you have to do is ask.😉  We like to take a water bottle and ask for ice – As it melts we have nice cold water to enjoy.

Sunscreen

My absolute FAVORITE sunscreen is Babyganics. I have used this sunscreen on myself and my three children exclusively for the last four years and we have not gotten a burn. Prior to finding this sunscreen, I’d typically get burned regularly during the summer.😱 I like to buy this at my local CVS using my 30% off coupon and extra bucks. It’s a little money saving tip for my Mama’s on a budget.

Fans

Taking a small hand fan or a necklace fan like my friend Jen talks about in this video can help so much! In the video, Jen brought up an excellent point, and that is that when standing in long lines it can be a little stuffy. A small hand fan or necklace fan (like this one) can really help keep you cool as you wait for rides in the parks.  We picked ours up from our local CVS Store, but you can definitely order them on Amazon. Be sure to order some extra batteries though. ☺

The *NEW* Rides!

There are two new rides in Toy Story Land. Both of these attractions have height requirements, so you will want to be sure to get an accurate measurement of your little Mouseketeers before traveling.

Slinky Dog Dash

Undoubtedly the most anticipated ride, slinky dog dash looks like an incredible experience. In order to ride this ride, you must be at least 38 inches. This is the same for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom. So, if your toddler is able to ride this ride, they should be good to go for the NEW SLINKY DOG DASH.  

I have read several reports that claim this ride is much longer than you expect and April from Pixie Dust Savings gave this ride a thumbs up for plus-sized guests as well.  From everything I’m seeing, this ride is your number one choice for a Toy Story Land Fast Pass reservation.

If you aren’t able to score a Fast Pass for this attraction, my friend Jen (from Jen Lafforge on Youtube) said in her review of Toy Story Land that the lines went significantly down in the evening. Just a quick reminder, if you are IN LINE before the park closes, you will be able to ride the ride. Watch her review here. 

Alien Swirling Saucers

Our family has a Fast Pass for this ride when we go in August. However, many reports are saying  Fast Pass isn’t worth it. According to a few Disney Fans I follow on Instagram, this ride is a lot of fun it just goes too quickly. Since the ride is relatively short, the line moves fairly quickly. They recommend using your Fast Pass reservation for something else.

There is a height requirement for this ride of 32 inches.  Goofy’s Barn Stormer in the Magic Kingdom is 35 inches, so if your toddler can ride this ride. You are all set!

Instagram Worthy Walls

There are lots of “Instagram Worthy Walls” throughout the Disney Parks. Toy Story Land is no different. For detailed information on where to find the walls in Toy Story Land, check out Heather’s Blog.

Here are a couple fun photos of some of my friends in my Disney Fans Facebook Group! 

A post shared by M E G (@meg.for.it) on

Final Thoughts

From everything I’ve read, Toy Story Land is incredible. Walt Disney World captured the hearts of Toy Story fans young and old and I simply can’t wait to go PLAY BIG this summer with my daughter!

If you found this post helpful, I hope you’ll give it a share! – Thank you! 😍

 

Three BEST Breakfast Dishes (according to my 3-year-old)

The Importance of Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps wake you up and get your body ready for the day. From my own experience, when I start my day with a glass of water and something small to eat I tend to make better choices throughout the day. My children also tend to eat better throughout the day when they’ve started their day with a meal.

Additionally, when I first started my weight loss journey in 2012 one of the first things I did was to make time for breakfast in the morning. I firmly believe that eating a healthy breakfast in the morning was key to kick-starting my weight loss journey.

Here is a photo of me when I first started my weight loss journey with a photo of me last fall. – The biggest thing I remind myself is that I am worth it. This August I am getting back on track with my weight loss goals and reminding myself that I am worth it  and You are too!

3 Best Breakfast Dishes (according to my 3-year-old)

If you didn’t know, my daughter has requested to start making “cooking movies”.  This particular video is one that she asked to do, and I thought it was actually a really great thing to share. She gives her top 3 favorite things to eat for breakfast. So, I do hope you’ll take a moment to go watch her video and give her a big thumbs up!👍🏼

Breakfast One

The number one thing my children request for breakfast is scrambled eggs with cheese. We recently purchased some round plates at our local Target, and they were perfect for making the eggs into a happy face.

Eggs kind of get a bad reputation sometimes. However, they aren’t as awful for you as you might think. Did you know that just 1 large eff has 6 grams of protein? They are also packed with lots of nutrients that help boost your brain power, vision and keep you feeling full longer. – Go ahead, google it! Eggs are a great breakfast for your kids!

Breakfast Two

Muffins! or, Breakfast Cupcakes. Muffins also have a bit of a reputation for being an unhealthy breakfast. Yes, there are a lot of muffin recipes out there that fill you up with empty calories. However, with this recipe, you are loading your kids up with Kale (and they might not even realize it!) 😱

Kale is such a great vegetable to include in your diet. It is rich in so many vitamins and nutrients, including Fiber, Protein and Folate. Do your brain a favor and have some Kale.😊

Breakfast Three

Mickey Waffles.

Mickey Waffles are a Saturday tradition in our home. Everyone in our family loves waffles, and who doesn’t want to eat a Mickey Waffle? If you want to make this option a little healthier, I recommend the recipe for the 21-day fix cookbook. It is made with whole-wheat flour and other quality ingredients. My children have been eating their waffles this way for so long they prefer whole-wheat waffles to any other.

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How I save money on our family hair cuts.

Money.

Money. Yep, you need it for everything. Truth be told, I am naturally more of a spender than a saver. Let me insert a clip of me…😅

via GIPHY

Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But, the sentiment is the same. I am not a naturally frugal person. I am getting better though, and one of the ways I’ve become more of a DIY girl is with my haircuts.

Saving Money with Shark Tank

I was up late one night binge watching Shark Tank, and I saw a product that allowed you to cut your own hair.😱 I was so impressed by this product and inspired to try it out that I ordered one from Amazon. I figured if I could cut my own hair, and the hair of our three children with this product for at least one time it would be worth it to try.

A haircut for my hair typically costs around 25-30 dollars and a child’s haircut is very similar in price. A creaclip retails on Amazon for $30.00 and is available on PRIME. – Yes. Please!

See how Easy!

In order to use the product, just follow a few easy steps.

  1. Brush out all the tangles in your hair.
  2. Put the creaclip on towards the top of your hair.
  3. Make sure it’s level.
  4. pull down to where you want to start cutting.
  5. Cut.

Benefits of cutting my own hair

As a mom of three very young children, I just don’t have the extra time to head out to the salon. I also don’t really change my hairstyle that often. For this season of life, I prefer my hair to have enough length to put into a braid or a bun and be on the go with my family. The Creaclip saves me TIME. 

The creaclip also saves me money. Even if I only use it 2 or 3 times, I have more than broken even on the cost of the product.

Favorite Hair Cair Products

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Preparing to Tent-Camp at Walt Disney World

Let’s go Camping!

Camping isn’t for everyone, but I can assure you camping at Disney just might one of the most fun experiences you can have. I grew up in girl scouts, and we would always camp at Walt Disney World at least one time a year. I have very fond memories of setting up tents, playing on the beach and just exploring.

5 Things I googled before our camping trip

Is “googled” a word? Regardless. I am no stranger to camping. I’ve camped at Disney, I’ve camped in the mountains of North Carolina and throughout Florida and Georgia for much of my childhood.  However, once you have children, it seems to be a whole new world of questions and preparations that need to happen.

So, here are five things I searched on google before packing for my camping trip to Walt Disney World.

1) Is Parking Free at Fort Wildness Campground?

Ever since WDW announced they were going to start charging all overnight guests parking, there has been a lot of uncertainty about fees and such online. I wanted to be sure we budgeted appropriately for our trip, so I checked it out.

The answer is Yes. 

Standard parking is still complimentary at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. If you want more information on the parking fees, you can check out this website.

2) Do I need to bring a Towel?

The answer is Yes.

Many of the resorts at Walt Disney World have complimentary towels at their pools. Additionally, if you are staying in a resort there are towels inside your room. Tent-Camping at Walt Disney World, however, you will need to bring your own towel.  Read more about it from the Disney Parks Mom’s Panel. 

3) What if a Hurricane Comes when I’m camping?

Read the Disney Hurricane Policy Here.

I’m scheduled to camp during the month of August. As a Florida native, I am all too familiar with the possibility of hurricanes. I am thankful that Disney does have a full policy to help their guests have the most magical experience possible. Just be sure to keep your eye on the weather during Hurricane Season.

4) Can I cook and clean my dishes at my campsite?

Yes. Each campsite has its own grill and water. You will want to bring your own supplies and dishpan though.

Find out more about the accommodations here.

5) Can I come earlier than 3:00 p.m. to the campground?

Yes.

Your campsite might not be ready. However, there is a parking lot available so you can park your car and then use Disney transportation to explore the property.

What other questions do you have about camping at Fort Wilderness, am I missing anything? 

If you want to check our Fort Wilderness but aren’t sure tent-camping is for you, try renting a cabin. These are perfect for families. You can also visit the resort and join in on some of the festivities such as the evening campfire, learn more about it here.

Disney Fan or Planning a Trip?

I invite you to join my Disney Fan’s facebook group.  This group is co-admined by my friend Keri from www.flipflopweekend.com in this group there are lots of opportunities to ask questions, share stories and just talk Disney. We’d love to have you join us! 

CLICK HERE TO JOIN!

Our Favorite Camping Gear

Our family has a few camping items, and continue to build our collection after each trip. (Read about our first camping trip here) Here are a couple of my favorites. These links are affiliate links if you decide to purchase it will cost nothing additional for you, but your support helps keep StorybookErin.com going.  I appreciate your consideration and support.

If you found this helpful, would you mind giving it a share? ⭐

Blueberry Kale Muffins (Vegan) and Toddler Approved

Vegan Blueberry Kale Muffins

Full disclosure, this recipe is not my own. It came via text message from my friend Meg, (megforit.com) and is one that she created based off this recipe. When Megan and her family lived in Miami-Beach, she and her children would come to Zoo Miami with us and bring these delicious muffins. After my oldest daughter ate about three of them, I had to have the recipe. These muffins have become a staple in our home, and I make them a few times a month.

Recipe for Vegan Blueberry Kale Muffins

All-Purpose Flour, 3/4 Cup
Whole Wheat Flour*, 3/4 Cup
*I often use all whole wheat flour, the difference is the final product is a little denser
Brown Sugar, 1/4 Cup
White Sugar, 1/2 Cup
Baking powder, 2 teaspoons

salt 1/2 tsp

Vegetable Oil, 1/3 Cup
A Ripe Banana
Milk (Nut Milk for Vegan), 1/2 Cup
Blueberries, 1 Cup
Kale Blended with water, 1 Cup

Mix all ingredients together and bake at 400 degrees for 17-20 minutes.

Watch the Video

These muffins are super easy, you will want to put it together with your kids. Since it’s egg free, you won’t have to worry about chance of your children eating it before it is baked.

 

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Easy (Toddler Approved) Cauliflower Pizza Recipe

 

Cauliflower Pizza Recipe

As a mom of three toddlers, I am always on the lookout for easy, veggie-packed recipes to feed my girls. My girls love Pizza, but I want them to love vegetables. When I found riced cauliflower at my local Aldi, I knew I needed to find a recipe for cauliflower pizza. Thank you, Pinterest for directing me to this blog –  with only three ingredients needed for the crust, I knew it was the perfect recipe to try with my girls.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust Ingredients

Again, this recipe was not my own. I found it on this website. 

For this recipe you will need:

  • Bag of Riced Cauliflower
  • 1 1/5 Cups Parmesan Cheese
  • An Egg

Optional ingredients:

  • Garlic Powder
  • Italian Seasonings

I found all these items at my local Aldi, making this recipe super budget friendly. Another one of my favorite Frugal recipes is my Taco Chicken Casserole. 

Directions for Cauliflower Pizza

This pizza recipe was so easy my three-year-old was able to put this together.

Watch the vlog on our youtube channel.

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Recipe for Hidden Mickey Cookies!

Cookie Collaboration

Who wants a Cookie? I am so excited to collaborate with my new friend Bethany from The Pintastic Girls to share our favorite Cookie Recipes. Be sure to go check out The Pintastic Girls and give their channel some support! You can find them on Youtube, Twitter and Instagram! 

My Favorite Cookie Recipe

My favorite Cookie Recipe was actually found by my sister in law, and she first made it with my girls a couple of months ago. (Find the recipe here) It has become our go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and if i’m being honest – I have made it about 3x this week. It really is THAT GOOD!.

Cookie Ingredients

Again, this recipe was not created by me, it was found on pinterest.

  • 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar (packed)
  • 1 1/4 Cup Flour (Sifted)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 Cup (1-Stick) Melted Butter
  • An egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

In order to make these cookies Mickey inspired, I purchased some M&M’s and added little Mickey shapes into each of the cookies. For the Minnie Bow, I cut an M&M in half and attempted a bow look. I think it turned out pretty cute, but you definitely need to use your imagination for the Bow. 😉 For all Disney sweets inspiration, I encourage you to check out this instagram feed. She does some of the cutest little Disney treats.

How to Make the Cookies

First, combine both types of sugar with the softened or melted butter. 

Next, you will want to add the egg and vanilla. Mix the dough until well combined.

Finally, sift the flour and baking powder together.

Don’t forget the Chocolate Chips! 😍

After everything is combined, let the dough chill for about 20-30 minutes.

We like to use a tablespoon to scoop out our cookie dough, but you can use whatever you prefer for this step.

To make these cookies Disney inspired, add your M&M’s in the shape of a Mickey Mouse and bake.

Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes in the oven preheated to 350 degrees.

Pro Tip: These cookies are extremely chewy, you will want to let them cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.

Frugal Tip: M&M’s can be found pretty inexpensively at your local pharmacy or grocery store, and are an easy way to create Disney Inspired cookies. If you have Mickey-Loving kids like me you will want to give this little tip a try! When we made the cookies in the video we added the candies before baking. This didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. Simply because the cookies expanded. A better way would have been to let them back halfway and then add the candy for the remainder of the bake time.

 

Recommended Baking Supplies

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Frugal Meal: Recipe for Taco Chicken Rice Casserole

Recipe for Taco Chicken Rice Casserole

When I welcomed our third daughter into the world, our dear friends brought over this most amazing casserole. It was Taco Seasoned chicken with rice, black beans, and some other ingredients. I’m pretty sure I ate most of the pan by myself!  Since I loved the recipe so much, I decided to re-create a similar casserole. In my version of this recipe, we use fewer ingredients in the casserole and serve more things on the side.

Recipe Ingredients

The ingredients for this casserole are simple, and can most often be found in my kitchen.

  1. Boneless Chicken*
  2. Taco Seasoning
  3. Rice (we like Brown Rice)
  4. Olive Oil
  5. 1 Can Black Beans
  6. Cheddar Cheese

* You can also use ground chicken, turkey or beef for this recipe. The only difference is, instead of using a slow cooker you will want to cook it in a pan as you would if preparing tacos.

Recipe Instructions

  1. First Cook the Rice. We like to use a rice cooker but it isn’t necessary. You can cook it on the stovetop if you prefer.
  2. Add Taco Seasoning, onions and water to Chicken. Cook in the slow cooker on high for about 4 hours.
  3. Once the Rice is done, add 1 cup cheddar cheese and black beans. 
  4. After the Chicken is done, shred and add to the bowl of rice.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees until done.

WATCH THE VIDEO

This recipe is so easy my 3-year old is able to help me put it together! – Be sure to subscribe to our Youtube Channel! 

This recipe pairs great with Corn, Tortillas and all the ingredients you’d find on a taco bar.  My favorite way to eat this meal is with tortillas and sour cream with a few tomatoes. What items do you like to include on your Tacos?

 

Favorite Kitchen Products

I will be the first to tell you that I am not really into kitchen gadgets. In fact, I prefer to have as little as possible. I guess the kitchen is the one area I’ve mastered Minimalism?

These next few products are affiliate links. It costs nothing extra for you if you decide to make a purchase, but it does help our family and we appreciate your support.

This is an upgrade from the slow-cooker that I have. It doesn’t have anything fancy, but it gets the job done. I’ve had mine for a few years and I really like it.

Rice Cooker! This is the one product that I didn’t know I needed until I had one. Mine was given to me by my mother in law when she got a larger one. I love it and use it almost every day.

Glass Baking Dishes

I love glass baking dishes so much. I think they are perfect for all occasions and are easy to clean.

The Question of the Day:

What are your must-have products for the kitchen?

 

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I let my Toddler do my Makeup Challenge!

Makeup Challenge

I’ve seen the challenge where you allow your children to do your makeup floating around Youtube for a while now. Since my three-year-old is really into makeup I thought it’d be the ideal challenge to do with her. As a mom of multiple children who are close in age, I really try my best to find ways to connect with each of the girls. This challenge was an absolute blast, and I literally had tears in my eyes as I watched her excitement.

Makeup Challenge Video

I was inspired by my friend Bethany from The Pintastic Girls to do this challenge, and I’m so glad that I did! Watch the video here, be here to leave a thumbs up or comment! If you like following our family, we’d l love it if you’d hit that subscribe button!

Makeup Products Used

Here are a couple of the products used. I allowed her to use my actual makeup products and felt she did a great job being careful with them. As much as I love these products, I am always curious to find new great and affordable products. Leave me a comment with some of your favorite products below!

These links are affiliate links. If you decide to buy, it costs nothing extra for you but my family does receive a small commision off of the sale.

Milani Conceal and Perfect

I was introduced to this product by my friend Julie – Follow her on Instagram for hilarious makeup tutorials, and encouragement! I do love this product, but it feels a little thick going on so just be sure to have some really good brushes or a damp beauty blender for the application. It wears really nice throughout the day and I have found that I don’t use concealer when I use this product.

 

Wet and Wild Mega Glow Highlight

This product is amazing. It has become my favorite product for doing my makeup in a hurry because I can use darker pink shade for an eyeshadow, and also the highlight for that Instagram worthy glow!

Real Techniques Brushes

Several years ago Real Techniques sent me some brushes to test, and I’ve been in love ever since.

Mascara

I usually stick with wet n wild mascara, I find it to be easy to apply and long wearing.

As mentioned before, I am in the market for some more makeup so be sure to leave me a comment below on your favorite makeup products!

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10 Things to Love about Zoo Tampa

Zoo Tampa History

When I was growing up, my mom was quite active with various mom-groups and educational groups. As a result, we went on a lot of trips to the Zoo. Zoo Tampa (formerly Lowry Park Zoo) has been around since the 1930’s and has continued to grow ever since. Opening up new sections of the zoo, and providing more opportunities for education. You can read a full history on their website.  The newest section of Zoo Tampa, Roaring Springs recently opened and we had the opportunity to explore the section before it opened to the public. Take a look at what it has to offer (including a new ride) on this post.

Zoo Tampa, Exhibits

There are 8 sections in Zoo Tampa with enough activities for your family to spend several hours or even a couple of days exploring!

  1. Main Entrance
  2. Florida Wildlife
  3. Asian Gardens
  4. Primate World
  5. Carousel Circle
  6. Wallaroo Station
  7. Safari Africa
  8. NEW Roaring Springs  – Read all about it here! 

Our family walked most of the zoo but were not able to see everything Zoo Tampa had to offer.

10 Things to Love about Zoo Tampa

Educational

You knew that was coming right? As a mom with a background in Early Childhood Education, I like to ensure my children are having positive educational experiences. I want them to have a love of learning from an early age. One way I like to instill that love for learning in them is by fun activities such as the Zoo!

Theme Park Vibes

Zoo Tampa totally gives me “Theme Park Vibes”  when I walk through. Perhaps it is that all the rides are included with your park admission (yes, even the new Roaring Springs Water Coaster). Perhaps it’s the signage throughout the park. The reality is, when I walk through Zoo Tampa I feel as though it is an extension of Busch Gardens. It is worth the cost of admission to visit Zoo Tampa!

Be sure to check Groupon* for discounts on tickets!

Splash Pad

If you are an outdoor facility in Florida, it’s almost expected that you have a Splash pad. The one thing I loved about the Splash Pad at Zoo Tampa, was that during the majority of the day there is an employee sitting at the splash pad helping keep kids and families safe.

Instagram-able Walls

Zoo Tampa had so many adorable walls. All of them worthy and perfect for your next family photo or selfie!

Quality Customer Service

While visiting Zoo Tampa we spoke with so many employees, each of them was so helpful and kind. Any question I had was answered. We even reported an issue of safety concern in the new Roaring Springs section, and it was handled immediately!

Security

Before entering the cue to purchase your tickets, you must go through a bag check. I love this! I understand it can be a hassle when you have several bags and a stroller, but the added level of security is worth every ounce of hassle.

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches

Let’s be real for a second. Churro’s are amazing – but when you add a heaping scoop of Vanilla Ice cream between two churros… DELICIOUS!

Family Rest-Zone

Inside the Children’s Zoo is a little area for parents to take small children from out of the crowds. On the wall is some yoga poses you can do with your children, and there is enough privacy to nurse your baby.

Plenty of Picnic Tables

Bring a lunch and plenty of snacks. There are lots of places to take a little rest and eat!

Free Rides

I know I mentioned this, but all the rides are included with the price of your admission. We could hardly get our girls out of the children’s section of the zoo. It was worth every penny to see them ride the rides over and over again, and listen to the giggles as they enjoyed the ride!

Admission

There are a lot of options when buying admission into Zoo Tampa. 

You can also check Groupon* for deals on admission. 

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The Florida Aquarium, Tampa FL

What to Expect at The Florida Aquarium

Florida Aquarium - Tips for your visit

Opening in 1995, the Florida Aquarium has been fulfilling their mission by educating and inspiring guests to be good stewards of the natural environment. I first visited the Florida Aquarium in my middle school days and have fond memories of the facility. My sister and her family are members of the aquarium and were kind enough to show our family around.

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 Pricing

Children 0-2 years old can enter the aquarium free of charge.

Individual Tickets can be purchased through Groupon* online for 24.95

Memberships are available starting at $70.00 – $225.00 for one to eight guests.

Location and Parking

The Florida Aquarium
701 Channelside Drive
Tampa, Florida 33602

Parking for non-members is $6.00. If you are a member of the Aquarium, your parking is included.

Can I bring in Food and Snacks?

The aquarium does not allow guest to bring lunch inside. The only exception is food for infants or guests with food allergies or other needs. The full policy can be read on this page of their website. 

Know before you go…

The parking for the facility is actually quite a distance to the front door. You will want to plan accordingly and make sure everything you need before entering the aquarium. We forgot to bring our girls swimsuits when we arrived, and my husband had to walk back out to the car to grab them.

Even though the walk is quite far, once inside the stroller became cumbersome and I wished I’d opted for just a baby carrier instead.  The Lille baby airflow is my favorite baby carrier for!

The Splash pad at The Florida Aquarium is the best I’d ever seen. Included with the cost of your ticket is access to the Splash Pad. There is plenty of seating areas around for parents to keep an eye on their family. The splash pad does have some shade, but most of the shade covered the playground.

The ground was a very soft and squishy material and almost felt as though it had cooling elements included. Overall, we loved this splash pad and were quite disappointed when the thunderstorm closed the attraction.

Best Splash pad in Tampa

Take some time to look around and see what offerings the aquarium has while you are there. We got to participate in a ladybug release and play with the river otters before their feeding.

STORYBOOKERIN - The Florida Aquarium Attractions

There are lots of things to do in Tampa. Including Zoo Tampa and the newest section of the zoo, Roaring Springs. Click here for a full review and video of the new attraction! 

The question of the day: What is your favorite sea creature?

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Sneak Peak of the NEW Roaring Springs at Zoo Tampa

Roaring Springs at Zoo Tampa

The Roaring Springs Boat ride is scheduled to open on Saturday, June 9th and thanks to Zoo Member preview, I got a chance to ride it! Here are a few things to keep in mind and expect as you plan your day at Zoo Tampa.

What is Roaring Springs

Roaring Springs is the newest section of Zoo Tampa. Located just to the left of the Carousel is Roaring Springs. As you walk in you can see the new water coaster and plenty of activities for families. There is a small schoolhouse with desks and a wooden house with swings and rocking chairs for children to play with. You can also quench your thirst with both spirited and non-spirited beverages and grab a snack at one of the food trucks.

Roaring Springs makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to a simple time. We didn’t take the time to shop, but there was an adorable general store with several items to purchase.

My favorite instagram worthy wall is located just beside the food truck. The phrase “Hey Y’all” is perfect for the vibes this section of the zoo gives.

Roaring Springs Ride Restrictions

The boat ride is fast moving and sure to cool guests off in a hurry – perfect for a summer day! Guests must be at least 36 inches to ride this ride. Guests between 36 and 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult. Although this is a water attraction you will need to wear a shirt and shoes.

Things to Consider about the Roaring Springs attraction

Will guests get wet? 

Yes.

Can I watch my family on the ride?

Yes.

If you want to get wet, you can watch from Lookout Landing.

In order to stay dry, you can watch from either the stairs or right next to the exit of the ride has excellent viewing area.

Where can I store my phone or other items I want to keep dry? 

There are lockers and also small cubbies at the exit of the ride, ask an employee for assistance.

Roaring Springs, Food Recommendations

There are a couple of options for food inside the newly opened Roaring Springs. My personal favorite was the fish tacos and the Churro Ice Cream Sandwich!

The Fish Tacos were quite flavorful and I loved the crunch of the coleslaw.

The Churro ice cream sandwich was so good, we actually had to order a second for our family to share!

View the Ride on our Youtube Channel

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Join me in June – Insanity Max 30!

June Fitness Goals

June 1st?! I can hardly believe 2018 is almost halfway over – it’s so crazy how fast time flies when you have young children. If you watched my instastories back in April, you know that I was doing Insanity Max 30. I was loving the program, but when I got bronchitis I had to stop the program.

Now that I am healthy again, I have teamed up with my new blogger pal, Bethany from The Pintastic Girls to do the Insanity Max 30 program!

I will be sharing real-time updates on my Instagram page, so be sure that you are following me!

About Insanity Max 30

Insanity Max 30 is a Beach Body program with fitness trainer Shawn T. I am not a beach body coach, but I do enjoy the programs. If you would like to start with Beach Body, I can point you to a few really good trainers – just let me know!

The goal of Insanity is to push yourself a little farther than the day before. Each workout is about 30 minutes, and no equipment is needed. That’s right, just you!

What’s needed for Insanity Max 30

  1. The Program
  2. Yoga Mat
  3. Water Bottle
  4. Pen & Paper
  5. Big Goals & Dedication!

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Getting Started with Insanity Max 30

Before starting an exercise program, it is always important to have proper clearance from your doctor. Once you have proper clearance, take your measurements and before photos.

When I first started my weight loss journey in 2012, I did not take any measurements. Honestly, I don’t even know exactly how much I weighed. I have a rough estimate, but that’s it. If I could start again, I’d take the time to properly weigh myself and take my measurements.

About a year ago I did a Live Video on my FB page about how and why I track my measurements. So be sure to watch the replay if you are interested in learning more!

Once you are in the BB on-demand application, take a look at the Program Material Tab. This will provide you with the calendar of workouts. I like to write them down in my planner, but do what is comfortable for you.

Accountability

Accountability is so important when starting an exercise program! I am so excited to be working with Bethany from The Pintastic Girls during the month of June as we chase our goals! We’d love to have you join us!

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Visiting The Animal Kingdom at Night!

Animal Kingdom After Dark

We recently traveled to Orlando on business, and on the first night we arrived I snuck over to the Animal Kingdom and met my Disney Blogger Pal Keri from flipflopweekend.com for about an hour of mischief and fun! You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in just a short period of time!

Keri and I moderate a FB group for Disney-Fans and bloggers to connect, and would love for you to be a part! We have a lot of fun and it’s a great resource for bloggers or families planning a trip to Walt Disney World.

JOIN HERE! 

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Must-Do One

We entered the park about 1-hour before closing and headed straight to ride Everest! This is one of my all-time favorite rides at Walt Disney World, and my Number 1 MUST-DO inside the Animal Kingdom at night.  We did have a FP+ reservation, but to be honest, there was no wait for this ride.

There is something a little more exciting about riding roller coasters at night. I’ve always preferred it – can anyone else relate?

Must-Do Two

My second MUST-DO inside the Animal Kingdom at night is the Kilimanjaro Safari! This ride is fun for the whole family and in the evening, there are animals to be seen at every turn! Like these cute Bongos!

We happened to be on one of the last trucks of the evening, and our tour guide was so fun and informative. I highly recommend the Kilimanjaro Safari at night!

Must-Do Three

The third MUST-DO inside the Animal Kingdom at night is to enjoy the ambiance. The park has such a unique vibe after dark. I’d been wanting to find this instagram famous wall, and Keri was so gracious to help me find it!

If you want to find it yourself, look inside the Harambe Village – If you’re hungry I recommend any of the food stands in the village they are excellent! Our favorite menu item is the Grilled Chicken Skewer!

See the full menu here! 

There are no fireworks inside the Animal Kingdom, but you can see some while on the Safari if you time it right. You can also watch the Rivers of Light show, or the watch the Tree of life sparkle and shine with a beautiful show set to music.

Personally, I have not watched either show from start to finish. However, the parts I’ve seen are so beautifully done.

Must-Do Bonus!

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Pandora. Pandora – the world of Avatar opened in summer of 2017 and has been dazzling guests daily ever since! One of my favorite things about this new section of the park is the way that it seems to sparkle as you walk through it during the evening.

While in Pandora, head over to Pongu Pongu for a night blossom. This beverage was all over instagram, and I was a little skeptical of how good it really was. Well, in February my family decided to give it a try and we LOVED it! This ice cold beverage is layers of frozen apple, desert pair, and lime topped with passion fruit boba balls! It can be purchased for 5.99 or by using one snack credit on the Disney dining plan! 

 

There are so many fun things to do inside the Animal Kingdom during the night, I hope you won’t skip it on your next trip!

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Here’s a family vlog from Fall of 2017 when we celebrated our youngest daughter’s 1st birthday!

The Ultimate Little Mermaid (Ariel) Experience!

The Ultimate Little Mermaid Experience

Do you have an Ariel fan in your life? Perhaps you are the mermaid fan! My youngest daughter is completely obsessed with The Little Mermaid. At around 1-year old she started to show a huge interest in this particular princess, and her love has only grown. If you are looking to build the ultimate Little Mermaid experience at Walt Disney World, this post is for you!

Finding Ariel – Without a Park Ticket

It’s true, you can find the Little Mermaid without a park ticket!

Art of Animation Resort

Walt Disney’s Art of Animation has an entire section dedicated to The Little Mermaid. In this resort, you can stay in a Little Mermaid themed room, swim in the pool or explore the props throughout the resort.

Electric Water Pagent

Find a spot on the seven seas lagoon between 9-10 p.m. and watch the Electic Water Pagent. You will find Dolphins, King Triton, and other Little Mermaid inspired friends. My first memory of this parade is from when I was a girl scout and we’d go camping at Fort Wilderness campground. We’d find a spot on the beach each night to watch the parade!

Meet Ariel at the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast

If you want to meet Ariel and Prince Eric, book a breakfast at the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast!  We dined at Trattoria al Forno in February and had the best character interactions.  The food was also delicious!

The Magic Kingdom

There are many places inside the Magic Kingdom to find Ariel. Depending on your budget and the type of experience you want, here are a few recommendations!

Meet Ariel

Ariel’s Grotto

If you want to meet Ariel, I recommend booking at FP+ reservation for Ariel’s Grotto. Ariel is very friendly and loves to talk with all her friends. This makes for great memories, but long lines. If you aren’t able to score a FP+ reservation, you might want to go meet her in the first hour that the park is open.

Cinderella’s Royal Table

Inside Cinderella’s Royal table is another place to meet Ariel. This dining experience is 2-table service credits on the dining plan and reservations are recommended 180 days prior to your visit.

Themed Ride

Under the Sea, The Journey of the Little Mermaid. Located inside New Fantasy Land this ride is a must-do for all Little Mermaid Fans! This ride is designed so that it never stops moving, making the line for this move very quickly. Our experience has been that we don’t need a FP+ reservation for the ride. Pay attention to the beautiful details inside the line, there are lots of hidden treasures that the true Little Mermaid Fan won’t want to miss.

Interested to know what the ride is like? Watch this video put together by Nicole from Happilyeverdisney.com!

Mickey’s Philharmagic

This adorable show featuring Donald Duck and all your friends has a slight peak under the sea during the show. We enjoy heading into the Philharmagic show on a particularly hot day or when it rains.

The Festival of Fantasy

See your favorite characters from Under the Sea during the afternoon Parade. I like to watch the parade from Frontier Land, but many others enjoy the main street view. The parade begins in Frontier Land and ends on Mainstreet. I find it best to consider my next fast pass before choosing a parade viewing location.

Epcot

Ariel isn’t very well represented inside Epcot, but she can be seen in Akershus Royal Table.  Our family really enjoyed this dining experience. The breakfast was very filling, and we loved that we could book the dining 1 hour before the park even opened.

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios has quite a few ways to soak in all the fun of the Little Mermaid. You can’t currently meet Ariel inside this park, but there are a few great experiences you won’t want to miss.

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid (show)

This 17-minute show is a fun way to get out of the sun and beat the heat during the summer. It also takes you on a musical journey through the movie, ending with the iconic transformation of Ariel as a mermaid into a human.

Fantasmic

Ariel and her prince can also be seen during the Fantasmic Show.

Animal Kingdom

There are currently no Little Mermaid experiences inside Animal Kingdom at this time.

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Oh My Disney: We are flipping our fins over a new collection featuring a Sebastian pool float, mermaid leggings and more!

 

 

Dining at the Whispering Canyon Cafe

Do you Love Mickey Waffles and a refillable skillet full of delicious Breakfast foods? You might want to check out the Whispering Canyon Cafe in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge!

Whispering Canyon Cafe, Location

The Whispering Canyon Cafe is located inside the Disney Wilderness Lodge. Since you are just a boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom, it is perfect for breakfast before hitting the parks. If you decided to visit the Magic Kingdom, be sure to look for these little secret spots for some added Magic to your day.  We were not going to the parks on the day we ate in the Whispering Canyon, so we took some time to walk around and explore the resort.

What to Expect at the Whispering Canyon Cafe

Prior to eating in this restaurant, I asked a group of Disney Moms, and overwhelmingly they all recommended it. Instead of doing some personal research, I just booked a brunch.

When you check in for your meal there is an adorable little table with Lincoln Logs for the kids to play with. My kids loved building little cabins and making friends with other guests.

The cast members are loud, rambunctious and a have a little attitude. It’s all in good fun, and there is a cute little prank with the ketchup. Be sure to ask for some ketchup and even your kids will have the opportunity to get involved.

The food is an all-you-can-eat family style buffet. If you can’t get enough Mickey Waffles, this dining experience is for you! My favorite thing at this restaurant was the bottomless Chocolate Milkshake.

Cost

Dining at the Whispering Canyon Cafe is 1-table service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

You can expect to pay between 15-25 dollars per person during breakfast.

Whispering Canyon Cafe wasn’t for us…

Despite all the great things this restaurant has to offer, and the playful atmosphere it wasn’t a good fit for our family.

My girls are quite shy and don’t like too much attention drawn to them. The charm of this restaurant is the rambunctious behavior, and little practical jokes the cast members play. From the moment we approached the counter my girls were on edge and clingy. This made it almost impossible for us to actually eat our meal. My husband and I each traded having the kids on our laps while we tried to eat our meal.

From now on, I think we will stick with Trails End.  They serve similar food and a less rowdy experience.

The Question of the day

Have you ever regretted a dining reservation?

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Why I always book a dining at Biergarten Restaurant

Biergarten Restaurant

If I had to pick one restaurant in all of Walt Disney World property to eat at for the rest of my trips to Disney, it’d be Biergarten. My husband and I have eaten at this restaurant at least six times in the last four years. To be honest, typing this post is kind of making my mouth water for some of the yummy-food they have to offer!

Restaurant Location

The restaurant is located all the way towards the back of the Germany Pavillion in Epcot. Look just behind the beautiful fountain and you will see the entrance to the restaurant. You will need to check in about 15-minutes prior to your dining reservation. We like to check in, and then sit by the fountain and enjoy the ambiance while we wait. Pro-tip. If you are traveling with children in your dinner party, request to be on the floor closest to the stage.

The Ambiance

Imagine yourself at an outdoor Oktoberfest in a village. There will be dancing, live music, communal tables and a large assortment of delicious German food. One of my favorite things about this restaurant is that once you walk inside, you really feel as though you’ve transported to Germany. Similar to the Mexican restaurant, the ambiance of the restaurant makes you feel as though you are dining in the evening. Even if you have an early afternoon meal.

Menu Options

The Biergarten Restaurant is not the healthiest restaurant on property. Although salads are available, they are not exactly known for the salad. This restaurant has incredibly seasoned meats, potatoes and a flavorful cheese soup that pairs perfectly with their pretzel bread. I think one of the reasons this restaurant is so appealing to my family is the wide variety of meats.

See the full menu here. 

I recently tried the grapefruit beer while we were dining at Biergarten. I felt the beer was a little too sweet for the main course, but paired nicely with the desserts. If you like fruity beers, you might want to give it a try. Alcoholic beverages are included in the 2018 Disney Dining Plan.  

Biergarten Restaurant Pricing

If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, this restaurant is only 1-table service credit.

Adults (Lunch): 34.99

Adults (Dinner): 59.99

There is a discount of Annual Pass holders available.

This isn’t the most economical restaurant on the Walt Disney World Property. However, our family really enjoys the whole experience. Plan on about 60-90 minutes for this dining experience, and have a good time.

Is Biergarten Kid-Friendly?

Yes. Absolutely.

There is a great show that goes on while you are eating your meal. You will always see a crowd of kids both young and old dancing to the music. The show is also an educational experience as you will have the opportunity to see the types of instruments played in Germany.

Our girls actually look forward to this dining experience. I think this is because they are not required to sit still for the entire meal. Kids and families are encouraged to get up and dance and have fun.

Our family absolutely loves dining at The Biergarten Restaurant. It is one that has become a tradition for us, and one I crave when I’m home. If I had to pick a favorite, hands-down Biergarten!

 

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What’s in my Diaper Bag for Disney

Packing a diaper bag for Walt Disney World can be a little overwhelming. In fact, my first trip to Disney with my oldest I packed WAY too many things but still seemed to not have what I needed. It was crazy to me that we had so many things, but I still felt under prepared!

Now that I am a mom of three (ages 4,3 and 18m) and annual pass holder, I finally feel like I’ve wrapped my mind around packing for the parks!

Diaper Bag Pre-Packing

When packing your diaper bag it is important to consider a couple of key things.

  1. Weather
  2. Reservations
  3. Amount of time in the park

Florida weather can be pretty fickle. I’ve been in the parks when the weather has gone from 70’s to 40’s in just a few hours. When packing your diaper bag, consider the weather. Sometimes the weather is a little rainy in the parks, my friend Keri has some great tips on what to do when it rains at Disney on this post. 

You will also want to consider your dining reservations or fast pass+. If you are going to be dining with Mickey and Minnie or some of the Princesses, you will want to make sure your outfits and your children’s clothing are ready for all the photo opportunities. I often change my girl’s outfits right before a fastpass+ reservation, just so they are clean and fresh for the photopass pictures.

Lastly, how long will you be in the park? Are you planning a rope drop to fireworks day? Do you plan to head back to the hotel for naps or some time in the pool? The longer you plan to be in the park, the more diapers and outfit options you will need.

My Diaper Bag Essentials

These are the essentials I like to have on-hand in my diaper bag for a typical day in the parks during the Spring and Summer. Again, this is for my family of 5. I have a 4-year-old, a 3-year-old (almost fully potty trained), and 18m old. This post does contain affiliate links. It costs nothing extra for you, but your support helps our family.

If you have more than one child, I recommend a backpack. Be as hands-free as possible for your day at the parks! Our “diaper bag” is my husband’s college backpack.  I’ve tried to find a replacement that we loved, but the truth is, we just are more comfortable with the backpack.

 

Disney Resources

If you love Walt Disney World or are planning a trip soon. I invite you to join me in my Disney Fans Facebook Group. 

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What’s in my (Disney) Bag: First Aid Essentials

Walt Disney World is equipped with incredible First Aid Stations. I’ve personally visited them and directed guests to them on a few occasions. – They are AWESOME! Although Disney does provide this (free) resource for their guests, it isn’t always in a convenient location. That is why I like to pack a few essentials in my backpack!

If you do end up visiting First Aid, you will get an adorable little Nurse Mickey or Nurse Minnie sticker. My kids thought this was so adorable. They would wear them with pride!

What’s in my First Aid Kit

First Aid Kits are important for mom’s to have. No matter the ages of your family, I think it’s important to have a few essential items with you. As a mom with three young children (4,3&1), I tend to keep mostly infant and toddler-friendly items with a few essentials for my husband and me.

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First Aid Essentials: Mom and Dad

The few items I like to keep in my backpack for a day at a Disney park for my husband and I include:

  • Tylonal or Ibuprofen
  • Eyeglass cleaner
  • Bandaids

 

First Aid Essentials: Infant and Toddler

  • Tylonal or Ibuprofen (with the proper dosage information)
  • Travel Size Diaper Rash Cream
  • Tums

First Aid Essentials: Other Items

There are a couple of other items that I like to keep with me when in the parks.

  • Small notebook with a pen
  • Thermometer
  • Hair ties
  • Comb

Here is a video I made to show you have I pack everything inside a small cosmetic pouch. I hope this was helpful for you as you plan a trip to Walt Disney World with your family!

What items do you keep in your first aid kit? Leave me a comment with what you recommend! If you are looking for more tips for planning an epic Disney Vacation, be sure to check out this post! 

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My 2018 Mother’s Day Wishlist!

This Post Contains Affiliate Links.

Mother’s Day can be a little tricky, what do you purchase the woman who gave you life? Admittedly, I am not the best at remembering to actually send a card. (Mom is still waiting for her Birthday Card from earlier this month). So, if you are a little stumped on what to get the mom in your life, here are a couple of my top picks!

Mom’s Who Like Cleaning

There are mom’s out there who actually enjoy cleaning. If I had to pick between cleaning and cooking, I think I’d fall into the cleaning category, so here are a couple of cleaning products that are on my list! – Anything that will make cleaning a little easier.

Spin Mop

I saw this on the Do it On a Dime Youtube channel and have wanted one ever since! Anything that makes my mopping process go faster, is on my list!

Method Cleaning Products

As a mom of young children, I am extra cautious with my cleaning products. I love the brand Method, because it is non-toxic. I’ve switched most of my cleaning products over to this brand. I love the way it cleans and smells!


Cleaning Towels

Another item on my list is this microfiber cleaning towel set. I love cleaning with microfiber because it doesn’t scratch or leave any lint. I’d be pretty excited to open this up on Mother’s Day!

Mom’s Who Like Customized Pieces

Let’s face it, sometimes we just like to have those cute little pieces of jewelry to showcase our family! I found Cajun Keepsakes on Instagram and have fallen in love with her work. She hand-stamps all her pieces and has a pretty quick turn-around time. She was kind enough to give me a discount code. Make sure you use STORYBOOKERIN on www.cajunkeepsakes.com for 10% off your purchase.

Here are a couple of my favorite mother’s day pieces! 

Mother’s Necklace

This necklace is adorable and can be customized for either a mom or a grandparent. I love that you can put the birthstones on the item as a subtle way to showcase your children. This appeals to me because I am very guarded with my kid’s names, I don’t like to display it too often.

Purchase it here! 

Mama Bear Necklace

I love the way this piece is so customizable.  If you aren’t into the style with the name on a long-bar that’s totally cool! Keli is so flexible and easy to work with. She can customize it however you wish!

If I were to order this piece, I think I’d just put the Mama Bear plate with the birthstones of my girls. – What would you do?

Order the piece here.

Mom’s Who Love Fitness!

We all want to stay healthy and be the best version of ourselves. – Right? So let’s treat the moms in our lives to some brand new fitness gear! If you saw my instastories the other day, you saw I had to throw away my sneakers. It was pretty sad, those shoes carried me through the zoo, half marathons, and life during my third pregnancy. If my shoes were worn out, I’m sure the mom in your life could use another pair.

New Shoes!

Fitness Watch

Another item I’d love to have is a new Fitbit. One that would be more useful for all types of fitness. I’ve got my eye on this one, but haven’t seen enough reviews to commit to purchasing it.

Fitness Clothing

Here are a couple of my favorite fitness clothing items.

This visor is so comfortable, and I have used it for all my outdoor running. Trips to the park, the beach, and zoo. I find it to be a staple in my wardrobe.

These shorts by under armor are awesome! I’ve worn them for years, and they are the most comfortable pair of shorts I have ever run in. They are great for running while pregnant, or with your new postpartum belly.

Mom’s who love Disney

The Disney Store has been releasing some ADORABLE things and I am totally geeking out!

What are you going to buy for your mom?

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival with Kids!

The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is perfect for young families. Today I am going to share our top three favorite activities to do during the Festival.

Flower and Garden Festival with Kids

This post contains affiliate links.

About Flower and Garden Festival

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. It began on February 28th, 2018 and ends on May 28th, 2018. Each Spring Epcot is filled with beautifully cultivated topiaries, gardens and pop-up venues to try fresh and unique menu options. There is so much to see and do at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, you might want to plan a few days during your visit so that you can see it all.  Since the Festival is held at the Epcot park, you will need to purchase a park ticket.

Shop before you go!

Imagination Play Garden

The imagination play garden is located on the walkway to the world showcase near the Figment ride. This play area is perfect for children of all ages and with plenty of chairs in the shade, you won’t want to skip it. The garden is only open until dusk, so don’t wait until the end of the day, because it will be closed.

Inside the Imagination Play Garden, you will find several xylophones, and materials to create music. You will also find chairs under the shade, this is a great spot to take a break!

Road to Florida 500

If you have a Disney / Pixar Cars fan in your life, you will not want to miss this little play area. Just outside this section, you will find Topiaries for Lightning Mcqueen, Mater and Cruz Ramirez. Cruz Ramirez was introduced to us during the Cars 3 movie. You will have to go watch the movie to find out all about her story.

This play area is much smaller than the imagination garden, but there are plenty of nice shaded seats for parents to watch their children play.  My girls enjoyed racing around the track, and playing in the tires!

StorybookErin - Flower and Garden Festival

The Goodness Garden Butterfly House

Our third favorite must-see activity for kids during the Flower and Garden Festival is the butterfly house presented by Gogo Squeeze.   Located on the other side of Starbucks this little house is both beautiful and educational. Your family will have the opportunity to see hundreds of butterflies fluttering around the house. There are many educational posters to learn about the lifecycle of a butterfly.

This is a walk-through experience and no seating is available. You are permitted to take your stroller inside.  However, I found it to be a little cumbersome to navigate through the exhibit. I ended up taking the youngest to have a snack while my husband and our older girls continued to observe the butterflies.

As mentioned before, there are so many things to do in the Flower and Garden Festival, so be sure to allow plenty of time to explore the park during your visit.

Looking for the most frugal way to get to Orlando? Check out this post from my friend Keri over at Flip Flop Weekend.

Share on Pinterest!

StorybookErin - Flower and Garden Festival

 

Toddler Activities Featuring Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is one of my favorite stories. I first discovered it when I was doing my student teaching internship, and fell in love! There are so many activities to do with this book and can be modified to encourage learning at any age. I’ve been using this book for the last couple of months, and today I wanted to share some of the fun activities we have been doing.

About Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, and is a number one best seller on Amazon.com This simple story helps children identify all 26 letters of the alphabet in a fun and rhythmic way. The beginning starts with a challenge from the Letter A to the Letter B, claiming that they will beat them to the top of the coconut tree, as you can imagine, the dare trickles down the alphabet and to find out what happens, you’ll have to read the story.

Here are a couple of my favorite ways to use this story to encourage higher learning with my toddlers and preschooler.

Music: Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom

Did you know this book has also been translated into a song? This adorable song has helped my 2 and 1-year-old learn their alphabet. It is absolutely adorable to hear the voice of my sweet little 1 year old try to sing her alphabet to the tune of the song.

You can find the song by searching Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on Youtube or purchase it from Amazon Music*.

 

Art: Draw the Coconut Tree

An activity for all ages is to actually draw the coconut tree. I purchased some large drawing paper and crayons from my local Dollar Tree.

Reading: Letter Recognition

Since the entire story is about the alphabet, this story is great for helping children identify their letters. To help me understand exactly what my girls are understanding and how much they know about the letters, I developed a quick little Letter Quiz.

The front cover of our book as the enter alphabet, both upper and lower case letters. Before reading the story to my girls we would open the book and I’d point to a letter and quiz the girls on them. This is especially important because it’s easy to memorize the letters and what comes next, but are they really understanding the shapes of the letters? When you quiz them in this fun and casual environment, you can really see what they are understanding!

Reading: Book Knowlege

Perhaps it is the teacher in me or the fact that my husband is a librarian – who knows. But, we always take our time to go over the parts of the book with our girls before reading. This simple task will increase your child’s vocabulary, and assist in school readiness.

Build Vocabulary with your Children

Math: Counting

Confession time, Math is not my strongest skill. I’m actually a little terrified for when my kids start school because I’m pretty sure their math homework is going to intimidate me a bit. Even though I am terrible at Math, I try very hard to incorporate math into daily routines, even with simple things like reading a story.

Ways to encourage Math with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

  • How many pages?
  • Count the Letters of the Alphabet.
  • Can you count the letters on the coconut tree?

As you can see, this book can be used in so many ways to encourage learning with your toddler and preschooler.

The question of the Day: What is your favorite children’s book? 

 

Storybook Erin is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

 

I let my 4-year-old plan our day in The Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom can be a very daunting park to plan. In fact, with so much to do and see it can be hard to accommodate the wishes of everyone in your party. So, when my daughter asked if we could skip a birthday party and take the family to the Magic Kingdom instead, I decided we would have a “yes” day!

The Magic Kingdom “Yes” Day!

Instead of spending hours planning every detail to ensure we had the most fun possible in the Magic Kingdom, I simply said “yes”. Yes to everything the birthday girl wanted to do – and it was awesome!

“May I dress up like Snow White and take a picture with her?” – Yes! 

Even if it means walking to the back of the park with 4 girls ages 4 and under. 

“Let’s ride the Ariel Ride!” -That sounds amazing!

“I want a MICKEY SNACK!” – Yummy!! Where should we get one? 

Lessons Learned

For a person who loves to see spreadsheets, checklists, and plans all set into place before a big trip, this type of day can be a little scary. I was a little nervous that we’d get into The Magic Kingdom and wander around aimlessly and not accomplish anything. To be honest, we kind of did that a little when we were looking for Snow White and the My Disney Experience App was directing us to the wrong spot. However, when I saw the smiles and heard the giggles from the girls I knew we’d made the right decision. 

It wasn’t my birthday we were celebrating. It was our daughters, and this was her day.

Friend, are you going crazy, trying to plan the most amazing Magic Kingdom day for your child? – Don’t. When we are so focused on the matching outfits, the perfect instastories and conquering the Magic Kingdom in a day, we miss out on the giggles and opportunities to soak in the sweetness of our children creating memories.

My friend Keri recently touched on this on her blog, and if you are feeling overwhelmed with Disney planning I invite you to go read her post. 

How to make Fastpass+ Reservations on a “yes” Day!

If you are planning a “yes” day at The Magic Kingdom, I think it is important to make a couple of fastpass+ reservations. I know my girls absolutely LOVE meeting all the princesses, so I used our Fastpass+ reservations on two meet-and-greet opportunities and one of their favorite rides.

Since this was a “yes” day, we were not concerned if we actually made it to the fastpass+ reservations, we simply asked the girls where they wanted to go. If we were near a reservation time I would ask if they wanted to go meet the princess and we went from there. If you want to plan a “yes” day, I don’t recommend booking dining reservations. The reason I don’t is that there is a penalty if you don’t show up.

The Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom is beautiful. No matter how you decide to spend your day it will create a lifetime of memories. Go ahead, have a “yes” day with your family. Ditch the schedule and embrace spontaneity! Or you can follow my quick tips for planning an epic Disney Day! 

No matter how you decide to plan your Magic Kingdom Day, make sure you embrace the moments with your family.

Soon these moments will become memories.

Let’s make them beautiful!

_ _ _

If you are looking for more encouragement as you plan your trip to Disney,

check out my FREE facebook group! 

What happens when you let your 4-year-old plan your day at the Magic Kingdom

RunDisney Terms you need to know!

It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned runner, or new to the sport. RunDisney is a whole new world of terms to learn. I’ll never forget my first RunDisney 5k, and Half Marathon, I had no clue what to expect. I learned so many amazing things during and just after my first RunDisney race and today I wanted to share some of my knowledge with all of you.

RunDisney Terms

There are in no particular order, but the following terms will give you a little insight as you plan for your upcoming Disney Race!

“POT”

Proof of Time

A few months before a race you will see the internet buzzing with the term POT. This is because if you don’t submit a proof of time, you might be placed in the very last corral of a Disney race.  You want to be in one of the faster corrals because it means fewer people on the course in front of you and fewer people to weave in and out of while you are running.

Corral

If you are thinking of cattle, chances are you are thinking the right thing. A Corral is the system RunDisney (and many big races) use to organize runners by start time.

Waiver

The document you need to print and sign in order to receive your racing bib and shirt.

The Galloway

Olympian Jeff Galloway is the RunDisney expert and running coach. He has developed a method of running called the Run/Walk. This method uses intervals to help get you from the start to the finish line with a smile on your face!

I personally love the 30/30 intervals (30 seconds running and 30 seconds walking). Don’t worry, you don’t have to count 30 seconds over and over, you can purchase a Gymboss and have a little buzzer remind you when to walk and run. This is the one I use and love

.

Expo

The Expo is where you will have to go in order to get your racing bib and other race items. It is also where you can meet with vendors and purchase race specific merchandise.

Here is a guest post from oilswithDana on what to expect at a RunDisney expo.

“Parade Bus”

As you run your race, you might notice several buses lined up along the course labeled “Parade Bus” this is not characters preparing for a parade, this is a bus you absolutely don’t want to be on. This is the bus that RunDisney cast members load runners who have not met the 16-minute pace per mile requirement or have become injured during the race.

Sweeper

RunDisney cast members who stop you from racing and ask you to wait for the aforementioned “Parade Bus” This only happens if you have not met the 16-minute pace per mile requirement.

Pacer

Incredible people who follow Jeff Galloway Run/Walk intervals. They literally hold a stick for the entire race and shout “RUN” … “WALK” to keep people on track with their pace goals. These people are heroes and should be thanked and treated with so much love as they work very hard to keep a consistent pace and encourage everyone in their group to meet your goal.

Without the 7 hour pacer at the Walt Disney World Marathon, I’m 100% positive that I’d have been on the “Parade Bus”

Read about the 2018 WDW Marathon here! 

Balloon Ladies

Stephanie, after completing the 2018 WDW Marathon!

Amazing women who start at the very end of the race and maintain a 16-minute mile while wearing balloons around their waist.

Yes, that’s actually a thing.

These amazing women maintain a 16-minute pace per mile which is the pace you must maintain to complete a RunDisey race. The theory is, that if you stay in front of the balloon ladies you won’t be swept off the course.

Goofy Challenge

This happens during the WDW Marathon every year. It is when you run the Half Marathon on Saturday and the Full Marathon on Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles. I ran this challenge in 2015 when I was pregnant with my second daughter, it was such a rewarding experience!

Read about the 2015 Goofy Challenge here! 

Dopey Challenge

Also during the WDW Marathon weekend is the Dopey Challenge. This challenge, has runners participate in all the available races from the weekend. 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Full Marathon.

Darkside Challenge

During the Star Wars Darkside weekend, this challenge has runners completing the 10k and Half Marathon on consecutive days.

Fairytale Challenge

This challenge takes place during the Princess Half Marathon weekend. Runners complete the 10k and Half Marathon on consecutive days.

Two-Course Challenge

As you may have guessed, this challenge takes place during the Wine and Dine weekend. Runners complete the 10k and Half Marathon on consecutive days.

There you have it! a few RunDisney terms you might come across as you are researching for your upcoming race at Walt Disney World!

The Question of the Day: When is your next RunDisney Race?  

Dining at Chefs de France in Epcot

Chefs De France, Epcot

Is there a more romantic section in all of  Epcot than France? – I’m not sure. I’m on a mission to eat my way through Epcot, and today I’m going to share our perfect date-day at Epcot! This February my husband and I had the opportunity to spend a few hours at Epcot for a romantic lunch at Chefs de France and stroll through the Art Festival.

Chefs de France, Location

Located just over the bridge in the World Showcase, you will find the beautiful country of France. The streets in this section are filled activities, such as; adorable vendors, street performances, a gazebo where you can meet Princess Aurora, and a garden where you can chat about your favorite books with Belle. In the midst of all those things is the lovely Chefs de France Restaurant.

I’ve been intrigued by this restaurant for years because there are windows throughout the entire restaurant, so you will be able to enjoy your meal and still be a part of the experiences happening outside.

Chefs de France, Ambiance

The ambiance of this restaurant was very relaxed, with bright lighting from the windows and soft lighting from the overhead fixtures I felt very comfortable and happy in this restaurant. On the walls, you will find many bottles of wine displayed, and the tables are set with stunning glassware.

This restaurant made me feel, happy. 

Chefs de France, Menu

FULL MENU HERE

The menu at this restaurant was much of what I’d expect to find at a French restaurant, and since we were on the Disney Dining Plan, we made sure to order a variety of items to share. Everything we ordered was absolutely delicious!

Here is what we ordered:

  • Appetizers

    • Soupe à l’oignon gratinée (French Onion Soup)
  • Main Dish

    • Filet de saumon mariné auvin blanc et citron

    • Jarret de porc braisé, spaetzels (Pork)
  • Dessert

    • Assiette de Sorbets du Jour
    • Meringue aux fruits rouges

The food was absolutely delicious! Since I have a food allergy, I got the opportunity to meet the chef! He was so kind and made sure I was at ease with all my menu choices, and even came after the meal to ask me how everything was. It’s the little extra pixie dust that Disney adds to the experience that gets me every time!

If you follow a vegan, gluten-free or other dietary restriction, I’d recommend looking into this restaurant as the chef was very accommodating and friendly!

Chefs de France, Pricing

Although not on the top tier of dining, it isn’t necessarily a budget-friendly dining location. If you want to experience French food on a budget, you might want to check out Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie  (menu) but the food and ambiance at Chef de France are absolutely worth the investment.

If you are on the 2018 dining plan, this meal is only one table service credit! 

Interested in more about the Dining Plan? Check out this post! 

If you are not on the Disney Dining Plan, the general pricing is as follows:

  • Appetizers: $9.00 – $17.00
  • Main Course: $18.99 – $35.99
  • Dessert: $9.75

Overall thoughts on Chefs de France

I loved this dining experience, I thought it was absolutely perfect for a romantic date or even a family meal. The ambiance of the restaurant really made it friendly for a wide range of experiences, it was definitely one of my favorite dining experiences in all of Epcot.

Other Epcot Dining Experiences to Consider

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World, and have questions about the new My Disney Experience App? Check out my friend Keri’s post with all the details on how to set up your account! 

The Question of the Day, What is your favorite Dining Location in Epcot? 

Why every Toddler Needs Kinetic Sand!

I was first introduced to Kinetic Sand while studying for my undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education. I remember a professor talking about how she’d used in a classroom with students to have them practice their letters in a way that children who are more tactile or hands-on learners – now that I have three toddlers of my own, I have a new appreciation for just how incredible this product is and why I think every mom needs to have some of this stuff in their closet of toddler friendly activities!

Before I get into my favorite benefits of Kinetic Sand, let me answer the question you are all asking.

What is Kinetic Sand?

Kinetic Sand is a product that can be molded without easily losing its shape. It has the texture of wet sand but is not messy and is non-toxic.  Since it is non-toxic it is great for children, but adult supervision is strongly recommended.

What’s so AMAZING about Kinetic Sand? 

Relaxing Texture 

Imagine you are playing with a sand-filled stress ball. This same sense of calm you receive while playing with the stress ball applies when playing with kinetic sand. This semi-mess-free activity will give your toddlers hours of quiet playtime. Just be sure to supervise your children while playing in the sand, because it definitely can get messy if you are not actively playing with your children.

Imaginative Play

Due to its moldability, Kinetic Sand is the perfect product for multiple role-playing experiences.

Does your child love trucks? Create a big sand pit for him or her to drive the trucks through.

Does your child love water? Check out this floating kinetic sand, it’s perfect for the water-loving toddler in your life.

Learning Letters? Practice writing your name in the sand.

Truly the possibilities are endless!

Fine Motor Skill Development

One of the things I love about Kinetic Sand is that your children will be learning and also strengthen skills without even knowing it. As your children mold and shape the sand they will be developing hand strength. You can also have your children create shapes, or practice scooping and pouring the sand, all these activities help them develop!

What are you waiting for? Go get some Kinetic Sand!

 

The Florida Everglades for Kids!

The Florida Everglades for Kids

As a family with three young children, we are always looking to create meaningful experiences for our children. That’s why in May of 2017 we decided to purchase an annual pass to the Florida Everglades National Parks. We have been having such a great time exploring the Everglades with our kids.

Today I am going to share two perfect trails to take your family on while you are out exploring the Florida Everglades if you want to explore more than two trails here are some additional recommendations that are perfect for families of all ages. 

The Ernest F. Coe visitor center is located all the way down in Florida City and can be accessed by taking the Florida Turnpike south until it merges with US 1. Once it merges with US 1 turn right onto Palm Drive (344th street) and follow the signs to the park.

Address:
40001 State Road 9336, Homestead FL, 33034 
Contact Number: 305-242-7700 

Park Website. 

Pinelands Trail 

Located roughly 7-miles from the visitor center, this trail was our first stop during our most recent visit to the Everglades. The trail is a little less than one mile long and will loop you through a path of pine trees, palmetto trees, and lovely wildflowers.

In 1992 when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, it left a large impact on the Pinelands. Many trees were bent and snapped, but many remained, this is because of their ability to bend.

Our girls enjoyed exploring this trail, and I appreciated the fact that it was short enough that our girls could easily navigate through it. I think if you really wanted too, you could take a stroller through this trail, but we opted to use the baby carrier

Mahogany Hammock Trail 

At roughly 20 miles into the park from the visitor center, this trail is quite the trek but certainly one you won’t want to miss.

This trail was so beautiful and the location of the largest living Mahogany tree in the United States, so be on the lookout.  At about a half of a mile, this trail is ideal for all ages and since it has a nice boardwalk, it is very stroller-friendly. We opted to take the baby carriers for this trail, but it is possible to use a stroller.

We also noticed several beautiful birds and plenty of photographers capturing stunning images.
It is important to note that there were no restrooms available at these two trails, so be sure to use the restroom either at the Gumbo Limbo trail or the visitor center.
We also like to pack plenty of water and snacks as food isn’t available for purchase in the park and hiking and exploring can build an appetite, especially in the littlest of explorers. – Looking for ideas on what to pack? Check out my lunch box essentials 
The Florida Everglades covers 1.5 million acres of land across three counties and there is so much to explore, I highly recommend a trip to the Florida Everglades with your family, you won’t regret it!

 

 

Looking for more things to do in Homestead, Florida?

 Here are three recommendations! 

  1. BEST MILKSHAKES EVER, at Robert is Here! 
  2. Visit an Animal Rescue Facility
  3. Just North of Homestead, you can visit the Everglades Exhibit inside Zoo Miami! 

Now go have an Adventure! 

 

*this post contains affiliate links*

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Matheson Hammock Park, Coral Gables Florida

This post contains affiliate links. 

 

I have lived in Florida all of my life, and even though I enjoy a day at the beach I hardly ever go – especially now that I have three beautiful toddlers in my life. For the past two years one of the awesome Mom’s in my tribe has been telling us to take the kids to Matheson Hammock Park to play in the ocean, and since my sister was going to be in town I finally said YES, and we had the BEST time!

Matheson Hammock Park
 is absolutely perfect for young families!  

About Matheson Hammock Park: 

“In 1930, William J. Matheson and his son Hugh donated approximately 85 acres of tropical hardwood hammock forest off Old Cutler Road to Dade County, to be used and maintained as a botanical garden. Referred as “Matheson Botanical Hammock”, it was the original extent of Matheson Hammock Park, which was also the first public park to be established in Dade County. 

In 1934-35, Dade County purchased an additional 420 acres of lands adjacent to Matheson Hammock Park, increasing its size to over 500 acres. Matheson Hammock opened in 1930 by the county’s first director of public parks, A. D. Barnes, and designed by landscape architect William Lyman Phillip; today it is owned and managed by Miami-Dade County.” – directly from this website  

 

Address 
9610 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, FL 33156

What to Expect:

Located in beautiful Coral Gables Florida, Matheson Hammocks Park has a fully functional marina, kite-boarding, and sailing assessability and what makes it so perfect for young families or new swimmers is the man-made atoll pool. This style of pool is filled naturally by Biscayne Bay and is very shallow, warm and the best part – no waves to knock little ones down.

There was a lifeguard on duty while we were there, which made this momma of three feel a little extra safe while swimming. At one time there was a nice restaurant but after some hurricane damage the restaurant is currently closed, that being said you will need to bring plenty of food and water.  

With stunning views of the Miami Beach skyline, you and your family will love having a picnic under the palm trees. Get ideas on what to pack in your lunchbox here.  

Be sure to bring $5.00 cash with you if you are coming on a weekday of $7.00 if visiting on a holiday or during the weekend, and have an AMAZING day soaking up some vitamin D.

Tips for a perfect day at the beach! 

  • Bring a Wagon to carry all your belongings, we have this collapsible one that is perfect for the beach and will fit into most vehicles with no problem!
  • Bring a water bottle that squirts water to wash off your hands before eating.
  • Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen, we LOVE Babyganics mineral-based sunscreen.

 

 

If the Ocean is calling you, but the large crowds of south beach are not, 

 

 you will definitely want to check out Matheson Hammock Park. 
 
PIN FOR LATER 

Le Cellier Steakhouse, Epcot

About Le Cellier Steakhouse

Tucked away in the Canadian Pavilion is a beautiful garden, with a waterfall and the most delicious steakhouse you’ll find on Disney Property.  Le Cellier Steakhouse has been high on my husband’s bucket list of Disney Restaurants to try, so for our 8th Wedding Anniversary, we thought we’d give it a try, and the food and the experience did not disappoint!

The theming was so perfect, you felt as though you were entering into a wine cellar with the dim lights and beautiful architecture. When you are seated, you will be seated in one of the provinces of Canada, so look for some specific details in the section you are seated.

Menu Options

The attention to detail at Walt Disney World is remarkable when we were seated and handed our menu’s I literally almost cried when I saw that our menus were personalized with “Happy Anniversary” at the top and an image of Cinderella and Prince Charming Dancing – this was so special to me because Cinderella is my FAVORITE Princess.

There were so many delicious options, and not everything on the menu was steak.  We tried the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup as an appetizer and it was delicious! – Highly recommend this! 

 

How much does it cost? 

 
If you are on the Disney dining plan, your meal will cost 2 table-service credits.
If you not on the dining plan, adult meals are between $35-$55*
Reservations can be made 180 days in advance by calling 
(407) WDW-DINE or  (407) 939-3463
*DVC and Passholder Discounts are available.


Is it worth 2-Table Service Credits? 

Personally, I wouldn’t use two table service credits for this meal. There are other dining experiences that I’d love to try and so I think I’d pass on this restaurant. The food, atmosphere, and service were impeccable, I just think I wouldn’t use two credits on it.

If you LOVE steak and wine or are celebrating something special – absolutely! It was such a romantic experience and our server gave us an adorable chocolate to share and one to take home for later, so if you are on your honeymoon, or celebrating something special you might want to consider this dining experience.

Bottom line, it depends on the type of experience you wish to have.

Is Le Cellier Kid Friendly? 

We took our three-month-old with us, and it was okay for a young baby but I wouldn’t recommend bringing toddlers to this restaurant.  With the romantic lighting and atmosphere, my kids would struggle to sit still (or at all). Given the price tag, I’d recommend leaving the kids with family or a babysitter for your dining.
Overall, I’d recommend this restaurant for a celebration or a date but would not for just a meal in the parks – there are so many other quick options that are delicious and less expensive.
 
 
Happy Disney Planning! 
 
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Visiting the Everglades Outpost Rescue Center in Homestead Florida

This post contains affiliate links. 
 
For Christmas this year we asked that people limit the number of toys given to our children, and try to find ways to create memories with them, we even opted not to give our children a Christmas gift, but to allow them to buy a gift for each other.  It was such a fun Christmas, and we are still going through some of the experiences we were gifted.

One of them was a Groupon for The Everglades Outpost in Homestead Florida.

About The Everglades Outpost
 
In 1991 Bob Freer and his wife Barbara opened their home as a rescue for wild animals. This non-profit rescue center is available for Florida-native and non-native animals.  The outpost believes in the dignity of every animal, and that is why they work hard to support and care for the animals.

If possible, the animals are released back into the wild, but if not they are loved and cared for at The Outpost. – Read more Here.

Address
35601 SW 192 Ave
Homestead, FL 33034
305-247-8000

The Outpost is open from 10AM – 6 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Appointments can be scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday. 


Membership Pricing
One-Day: $15.00 for adults; $10;00 for children and 5 years and younger are FREE

Check Groupon for tickets, at one time there were some available for 38% off

 

What to Expect at the Everglades Outpost
You can expect to meet friendly volunteers eager to share their love for the animals with all the visitors. You can expect to see a whole bunch of Alligators, some wolves, tigers and a cute little zebra.

This attraction is not a zoo, as the animals have mostly been rescued or have been found injured. Around 12:00 p.m. on weekends, there is an informational session and show with the Alligators.

There are also a few picnic tables around the facilities and guests are allowed to bring snacks – just remember, please do not to feed the animals.  

After our visit to the Everglades Outpost, we went across the street to Robert is Here for a Milkshake!

If you are looking for more things to do in the area, I suggest you check out Robert is Here for the most delicious milkshake you’ve ever tasted and perhaps some hiking on the trails in the Everglades National Park – here are some of our favorite trails to explore!  

Now go live an Adventurous Story! 

Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast, Trattoria al Forno

Ever since Disney Parks Blog announced the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast I have been wanting to go and take my girls. My oldest daughter is a HUGE Rapunzel fan, and her younger sisters have just fallen in love with Ariel so this restaurant was the perfect fit for our family. 
 

About the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast

This character breakfast in the newest one available in the Disney parks, and just opened in April of 2017.  Located just outside of the Epcot Resorts on the Boardwalk, this breakfast is the perfect option for guests who want to experience Disney magic without the cost of a park ticket. 

Reservations at Trattoria al Forno

Breakfast reservations begin at 7:30 a.m., and end at 11:00 a.m.
 
Pricing: 
  • 1 table service credit on the Disney Dining Plan 
  • $15-20 per child
  • $15-34 per adult 

 

Since this is a fairly new character dining reservations are recommended and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit.
 

Dining reservations can be made by calling: (407) 939-5277 

 

The Food at Trattoria al Forno

The food was quite good and very filling, we each got something different off the menu and shared with each other. One of my favorite things about the restaurant is the uniquely themed pastries. 

You can check the full menu here. 

 

Do I recommend Trattoria al Forno

 
Yes, absolutely. 

Unlike the Akershus restaurant in Epcot, this dining experience has both Prince and Princesses, making it an ideal restaurant for families with both young boys and girls. 

Review of Akershus. 

 

What to Expect at the Bon Voyage Breakfast 

 

Each of the characters will come to your table to sign autographs, take photos and converse with you. My daughters were especially excited to be interacting with Flynn Rider and Prince Eric.  This was a new experience for them, and they still giggle about meeting the prince’s when going through their book of signatures. 
 
After you eat breakfast, make sure you leave a little extra time in your schedule to explore the Boardwalk. There are so many fun things to do on the Boardwalk with your family or you can enter into Epcot in the International Gateway.  
 

Frugal Tip*

Although there is a small gift shop just outside the restaurant, you can purchase your outfits ahead of time and save a significant amount of money. 

Planning a Disney Trip? 

Join my FREE Disney Facebook Group! 

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* This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase it will cost nothing extra for you but a small percentage will go to support our family.

Secrets for planning a Successful Disney Vacation

Are you subscribed to my Youtube Channel

I recently posted my first ever PLAN WITH ME video featuring my Erin Condren Life Planner and shared 3 of my best tips for planning an epic Disney vacation! 
Our most recent Disney vacation was absolutely perfect, zero complaints and millions of memories! If you want to see some of the footage from our trip and see how I use my Erin Condren Life Planner for memory keeping, please check out my Youtube Video. 
Tip 1: Plan in Advance! 

Planning a Disney Vacation can be pretty overwhelming, that’s why I feel it is important to plan well enough in advance that you can do some research and decide what you want to accomplish during your trip. 
Some important dates to keep in mind, 
Another thing to consider is the Disney Dining Plan and if it is a right fit for you and your group. We decided to go with the Disney Dining Plan for our last trip, but there are a few things to consider before committing too it.  You can read more about the Dining plan on this post if you are interested. 

Tip 2: Consider a Travel Agent 
Did you know that it is absolutely FREE to use a Travel Agent? It’s a common misconception that you have to pay a fee for using a travel agent and for that reason many people plan on their own. It is possible to plan an epic Disney vacation on your own, but a travel agent who is in-the-know can really help you. 
Our travel agent helped us with:
  • Countless questions about the Dining Plan 
  • Fast Pass+ reservations
  • Countless questions about hotels
  • Discount Monitoring 
  • General Advice 
  • Surprise gift in the mail a week before we left 

I am not a travel agent, but the one we used was fabulous! Find her here. 

Tip 3: Don’t over commit and over plan 
It is so easy to rush around the parks trying to go on the most rides, see the most shows and eat the most snacks – and those things are all fun! But, have you ever just taken a leisurely stroll down Main Street, USA? Walked around the World Showcase and had conversations with the cast members? There are so many beautiful details, and magical experiences to be had! 
Just a few we had: 
  • Ride the Trolly down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom
  • Walking with Mary Poppins, chatting about tea 
  • Ride the Nemo Ride 3x in a row 
  • Cotton Candy gift from a cast member 
When you have a little wiggle room in your schedule you open yourselves up to so much opportunity. 
Happy Planning! 



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Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, is it right for you?

This post may contain affiliate Links

I often hear the criticism that Epcot is for adults only, and people are shocked when I tell them that it is actually my favorite park to take the girls too! There are so many things to do in Epcot that are appropriate for all ages, including my new favorite breakfast location, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

About Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Located inside the Epcot theme park, just outside of the new Frozen Ride (formerly maelstrom) you will find the entrance to the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. When you enter the banquet hall you are greeted by a Princess and a photo pass cast member. So make sure you have your autograph books and magic bands ready to scan.

After your royal greeting, you will be ushered to a table and greeted by a waiter to take your beverage order.

We had an 8:00 a.m. breakfast reservation, so we had the opportunity to enter the park one hour before the park opened and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. This was a unique breakfast because it was partially buffet and partially family style.

Breakfast Menu Options 

 
On the buffet, there was plenty of fresh fruit, yogurts, cheeses, salmon and other Norwegian style cuisines.  Serves to the table was a large platter of eggs, biscuits, bacon, and sausage. Even though this was family style, you could request more of any of the items you desired.

What to expect when meeting the Princesses? 

Every few minutes the princesses come to the table and invite the children to join them in a parade through the restaurant. My four-year-old was in heaven. She literally couldn’t contain her excitement, and if I’m being honest, her excitement made me love the whole experience even more. My 1-year-old was more concerned with eating, and my two-year-old is quite shy so instead of going on the parade with the princesses, she would find a quiet spot and dance to the music.

After the parade, the princesses come to each of the tables and chat, sign autographs, and pose for photos. They didn’t rush when they visit your table. During our breakfast hour, we saw each of the princesses once and were able to participate in two parades.

 What Princesses will I meet? 

As always, the princesses can change without notice. – But, the princesses we met while we were there were:

  • Belle, Beauty and the Beast
  • Princess, Aurora, Sleeping Beauty
  • Ariel, The Little Mermaid
  • Cinderella
  • Snow White

Do I recommend this for all-ages or only toddlers girls? 


I think the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is a great option if you have someone in your party who absolutely LOVES the classic Princesses. The breakfast menu had something that everyone in our party would enjoy. Even my picky preschooler found something yummy. Plus, you can take photos with your favorite princesses.

You can meet the princesses throughout the parks, but often times the lines are long and it’s just fun to combine the princesses in with a mealtime.

If you aren’t a fan of princesses and all things girly, I’d skip this. The price point is a little expensive for the type of food, but the atmosphere and character interaction is worth it if you have a Disney Princess fan in your group.

Breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall was absolutely a highlight of the trip for my girls.

How much does it cost? 

If you are on the 2018 dining plan, this meal is only 1 table service credit. This is a great option for meeting the princesses, especially since Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom is two table service credits.

Adults are 59.99
Children 3-9 are 35.00

Reservations are recommended and can be made 180 days in advance on this website. 

Check out my thoughts on it here. 

FRUGAL TIP: 
Purchase your Costumes online prior to going to Walt Disney World. 

 

SHARING IS CARING 
 
 

 

Achieve your Fitbit Step Goal without leaving home!

Get your steps in

I see you. You’re frustrated that you aren’t hitting your fitness goals because you are a stay-at-home or work-at-home mom. I have three little ones at home with and only a double stroller. So I was finding it impossible to hit my step goal on a regular basis. Like you, I was frustrated.

Then I turned to my favorite FREE platform for workout routines and started WALKING in my living room! By following two 15-minute walking routines I can achieve my step goal. As a bonus, my girls all enjoy the fitness routine with me! Here are two videos I’ve been loving on Youtube that help me reach my step goal, and encourage healthy habits with my girls! This first is about 15 minutes and at the end, you’ve walked 1 mile.

The second workout is also 15 minutes and one mile long.
Adding these walking routines to my day lifts my spirits and inspires me to keep chasing my fitness goals!

What are your favorite ways to reach a fitness goal?

Here are my picks for exercising at home and three options to purchase your own Fitbit*. 
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*this post contains affiliate links. 

Affordable Disney Inspired Jewelry!

A few weeks ago I shared the news that I am a brand rep for the Etsy shop Cajun Keepsakes, and I shared a little about the shop owner and some of the products I have from her shop.  (You can catch up on that post here).

Today, I wanted to share some of her adorable Disney inspired pieces. All her pieces are affordable and can be customized to say pretty much anything, so if you’ve got a favorite Disney quote here is your chance to wear it with pride.

I currently only have one Disney inspired piece from her shop, but have my eyes on a couple more pieces.

This darling Mickey necklace with my Blog Name stamped on it was so comfortable and proved to be a big conversation starter especially with cast members and people in lines. You can pick this beautiful necklace up from Cajun Keepsakes for about $7.00, use the code STORYBOOKERIN for additional savings at checkout!

I love this so much, it looked cute with everything from dresses to t-shirts. If you are a fan of the Mouse, go grab one of these necklaces, you won’t be sorry!

There are a few more Disney inspired pieces in her shop that you might like. 
These Lava Rock bracelets with a little Mickey bead are $10.00 and can be used with your favorite essential oils. 

These Princess Bangles are a subtle and inspiring way to share your love for the Princesses. They remind me of some of the bracelets I’ve seen in the Disney Parks. They are $7.00.

If Disney inspired jewelry isn’t your thing, she has lots of other family and motherhood inspired pieces all at affordable prices.  Be sure to use the code STORYBOOKERIN at checkout for a discount.

This code is not an affiliate link, all proceeds go directly to Kelli and her beautiful family. The code will expire April 26, 2018, and is valid for 10% off your purchase of $5.00 or more.

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FAT-SHAMED at Davids Bridal!

Fat-Shamed

I have the great honor of standing up next to my future sister in law as she and my brother in law exchange their wedding vows this Spring. I didn’t imagine the struggle finding the perfect bridesmaid dress would be nor did I anticipate being fat-shamed at one of the most known bridal shops around.
 
David’s Bridal, this is for you…
on behalf of every other curvy girl who has to deal with your store and employees.
 

An Open Letter, My Story

Dear Davids Bridal,

Have you ever tried to make an appointment on your own site? 5 redundant steps with the last one being a second confirmation of the appointment?  I arrived at my local Davids Bridal and was greeted by two girls who seemed quite annoyed at my existence. When they couldn’t find my appointment, I was told I’d have to wait – the two girls then proceeded to talk about their personal plans and lives while still trying to gather information from me – After a few moments one girl says to me…
“do you have the brides phone number of not?!” 
I responded with
 “I was waiting for your personal conversation to end so I could give it to you” 

After a few minutes, I was greeted by a third (annoyed) employee. Every other word out of her mouth was how she wasn’t working the next day, and she’d had a rough day. She brought me the dresses I’d requested and then disappeared. Thankfully, I had my husband there to help me try everything on so I could make a decision and leave. The appointment was quite tense and the employee made no effort to assist in helping me find a dress.

Every time she came to me, her words were negative
“your back doesn’t look good in that dress”
 
 “are you sure you like that?”
 

 it just didn’t end, and I was feeling overwhelmed with her negativity.

To make the situation worse, I wasn’t able to get into one of the dresses that was the exact same size and material as all the previous dresses (that had been loose), so I asked her to verify that the dress was labeled correctly. 

Her response was quite sharp, and she says
“Yes, that’s the size. I didn’t bring you the wrong one”. 
 
 her sharp response frustrated me because she just wasn’t listening.
So when she brought a larger size of the dress, I showed her how the one she originally brought me was 4+ inches smaller than the other dresses of the same material, and it HAD to be mismarked.
 
That’s when she said it… words that hurt me so deeply and have rung in my ears for over a week. Words that put me in tears for hours, words that no one should ever have to hear. 
“You don’t know how big you are” 
I took a deep breath and responded with,
“WE ARE DONE TALKING!” 
Once in the dress that was now about 3 sizes too large, I asked her why the size she originally bought was $129.00 and the one I was wearing was 189.00.
She grabbed the tag from the dress I’d questioned and says…
“Oh, this is a Junior Bridesmaids dress. 
That’s why it’s cheaper”
(EXCUSE ME????)
She THEN proceeded to tell me that someone ELSE must have put it in the wrong place.
She Never took responsibility for bringing me the wrong dress
and she never apologized for her words.
I got dressed, grabbed my husband and left in tears.
Davids Bridal, you are the worst of the worst.
I hope I never have to set foot in your store again.
– – –
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Your guide to the Epcot Festival of the Arts with kids

Walt Disney World brought back the Festival of the Arts for the second year, and it is SO much fun for adults AND kids! There a few days left in the Festival so I thought I’d share some of our favorite activities you should definitely check out at the Festival! 

The Festival Ends on February 19th, 2018! 
So you don’t want to miss it! 


Paint By Number! 
I found this activity to be so nostalgic, I remember painting by number as a child and now that my girls are getting older it’s becoming one of our favorite activities. 
Seriously, how exciting is it to paint a GIANT Canvas IN DISNEY WORLD? 

We absolutely loved this activity and the free postcard given when you exited was an added bonus to the excitement. 
Artful Photo-Ops
These were so much fun and rarely had a line so you could take lots of fun photos as a family or however you want. 

Kid Cot Stations 
There were custom stamps for the kids to collect in the countries in addition to the traditional stamps you can collect in the kid cot locations. 
Art Walk 
Inside your FREE Festival of the Arts Passport, you are led on a little tour of the countries filling your passport with images found when rubbing a crayon over the template. This was a lot of fun for the girls, our two-year-old especially loved this!
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your family and head on over to Epcot for some Art filled fun! There were so many other things to do at this festival these were just the ones we did with our girls and found perfect for families of all ages.

The question of the day: Did you attend the festival, what was your favorite part? 

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Is the 2018 Disney Dining Plan right for you?

I just got home from the most magical week at Walt Disney World, and am so excited to share some Disney content!

I’m a Florida Resident, and also an annual pass holder so since I’m semi-local to Walt Disney World, we don’t often stay more than a few days at a time.  This year we decided that we would do an entire week, and check out the dining plan, and I am so happy that we did, you do have to be staying on property for more than one night (I think three nights is the minimum), but when you consider the perks of staying on property it is worth it!

The dining plan we purchased had the following credits and was only $75.50 per night. 

  • 1 – Table Service (per night of stay)
    • Includes alcoholic beverage for guests over 21
  • 1 – Quick Service (per night of stay)
    • Includes alcoholic beverage for guests over 21 
  • 2 – Snack Credits (per night of stay)
I personally found the dining plan to be absolutely worth it. We just spent a week in Disney with our three kids, and never had to purchase any food – everything was paid for in advance! 
If you are on the fence about the dining plan, here are a couple of things to think about. 
  • Are there enough table service restaurants that you have been wanting to try to fill your vacation?
Long before our vacation, I had a list of places we wanted to try with our family, and when we were 180 days before the trip, I started making my reservations. 
  • Are you willing to sacrifice park time for a sit-down reservation? 
I have small children, so a sit-down meal out of the sun was perfect for our family. But, you might not want to sacrifice the 60-90 minutes out of your day for the dining. (There is a quick-service only dining plan you could look into). 
  • Do you want to try all the snacks? 
Disney is known for some creative and yummy snacks, these snacks can be quite expensive so we personally don’t typically buy a lot of snacks while we are there. On the dining plan, there are two snacks per day included. We had so many snack credits left over that we actually we able to bring a whole bunch of treats home to share. 
  • Do you like to have a Beer (or wine) with your meal? 
Something new that is included with the dining plan in 2018 is the inclusion of a specialty beverage with both the quick-service and the table-service meals. I am not a big beer drinker or wine, but it was nice to have that available. 
Favorite Snacks tried
  • Carrot Cake Cookie
This is only available inside Hollywood Studios, and is ABSOLUTELY delicious! 
  • Caramel-Covered Pop-Corn
This is only available in the Werthers Store in Epcot, SO GOOD! A large bag is considered a snack credit and fed our whole family of five. We loved it so much we brought home 3 bags! 
  • Starbucks Beverages 
All sizes are included, so get a venti of your favorite beverage. 
  • Cookies the size of your face!
Available at Big Top Treats inside the Magic Kingdom, this cookie was so much fun!
Overall, we loved the Dining Plan and would absolutely do it again for a future trip! I’d love to hear from you, have you tried the dining plan? What snacks did you try? 
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Our Pinkalicious Birthday Party on a Budget!

PINK, PINK, PINK!

I’m not going to lie when my daughter told me she wanted a Pinkalicious party I was ecstatic! I fell in love with the story Pinkalicious when I was in college, and actually hosted a pink-themed tea party! This year we decided that instead of a BIG party with all her friends, we would have a simple celebration at the zoo with our friends, and then have a special Disney day with her cousin.

Thanks to some bargain shopping at our local Walmart, and an unused tablecloth from her  Tangled party we put together the decorations for the party for less than $10.00!

To add to the theme, we included some of the stories around the food table.

Our daughter picked a menu of hot dogs, fries,  macaroni and cheese and of course
PINK CUPCAKES!
FRUGAL TIP: Bake your own cupcakes! 

 If you can’t get enough Pinkalicious, be sure to check out the 
PBS Kids App for the new TV Series that 
just released and our girls LOVE it!

PIN FOR LATER!


My Running Story.

“RUNNING IS THE WORST” 

You’ve said it, you’ve heard it, but do you really believe that running is the worst?
I used to believe that.
In fact, I spent most of my life believe that.
This is me before I ran, and then again while training for my second Marathon!
A post shared by Erin ✨ (@storybookerin) on

 

So how does someone go from the girl on the left, 
to the girl on the right? 
How does one go from absolutely hating running
to obsessing over running? 
 

It started with a walk

…that turned into a run.

In the year 2012, my husband and I decided we’d lived our unhealthy lifestyle for long enough, and we were going to walk each morning before work. So, at 5:30 a.m. each day we got up and went for a walk around a nearby golf course. We started to lose some weight, and then one cool March morning an older large man ran by us.
I was so humiliated and inspired at the same time, so I took off running and I haven’t stopped since. I went to work and told a co-worker that I’d run a little bit that morning and didn’t hate it. So, what did she do? Encouraged me to sign up for the Everest Challenge at Disney! (Read all about it here)
After the Everest Challenge, I got serious about learning to run and the research began. I’d like to say that I figured our running pretty quickly, but the truth is, I didn’t. When I first started running, I would run, run, run until I just couldn’t run anymore and then I’d walk really slow trying to catch my breath. It worked and helped motivate me to keep training and through it all, I continued to lose weight!
In February of 2013, I ran my first half marathon than in April I ran my second and fully solidified my love of running!
5 years later, I’ve run 11 half marathons, 2 marathons, 2 10ks and countless 5k’s! Many of these races I’ve run while pregnant with one of our three girls and I’ve learned SO many things!
So, here are the things I tell people who have seen my love of running develop and how I encourage them on their journey.
 

HOW TO START YOUR RUNNING LOVE-STORY

Before you begin your running journey, I think it is important to set some goals.  Is your goal to run a 5k, run a mile? Maybe you want to run a Full Marathon! Set that goal, write it down and put it somewhere you will see it.
When I first started running, I had the numbers 26.2 written on a post-it in my office, I’d look at it every single day, and then in January of 2015 I hit that goal and it was awesome!
The second thing I tell people is to look into the Run-Walk-Run method of running. Developed by Olympian Jeff Galloway, the Run-Walk method is perfect for any level runner. – Find out more about the Run-Walk Method on this post.
Lastly, find accountability!  If you don’t have someone physically with you to run, try reaching out online. The running community online is so supportive! Track your fitness with apps and get social! I’ve found some amazing friends in the running community on instagram and twitter and i’d love to connect with you too!!
My Favorite apps for tracking fitness include:
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How to make money while working out!

Last week I made $10.00, just by sharing my workouts online! 


Too good to be true?  It’s not! 
In January of 2017, I ran across a blog post introducing the app Achievement. This is a FREE app, that pays YOU for working out! Since I was doing the 21-day fix at the time, I thought I’d give the app a try and you know what? it worked! My husband was the first to cash out, but I wasn’t surprised because he bikes to work every day, so obviously, he was earning more points than I was. 
How the app works

This application is basically like participating in a big market research, and health companies fund the app which in turn gives you financial incentives for making healthy choices!

How to earn points 

  • Connect your favorite health apps and work out as per usual. 
    • I have the following connected: 
      • Garmin
      • FitBit
      • MyFitnessPal
    • List of apps that you can connect here
How many points to cash out? 
You need 10,000 points to cash out at $10.00. The money is redeemable in Giftrocket or Paypal. 
How long did it take to cash out? 
It took me 1 year to earn enough points to cash out, and my husband about 8 months. 
There are ways to earn more points, by doing surveys and referring friends, we just simply didn’t do those things! 
So what are you waiting for? Let’s make some money JUST by tracking your exercise with your favorite device! 


*Use my link and we both get a point bonus!* 


Where to find affordable custom Jewelry!



I’ve been a loyal Etsy shopper for many years, in fact, it is one of the first places I go when looking for a custom piece. I love the idea of Etsy, I like to think of it as going to a craft show in my PJ’s. I get to support families and small businesses without leaving the comfort of my own home. 

About a month ago I ordered my first custom piece from the Etsy Shop #CajunKeepsakes and OH.M.GOODNESS! Kelli is amazing! Not only are her pieces beautifully done, but she is so assessable on Instagram that you can work with her so effortlessly to get anything you want hand stamped onto the piece of your choice. 

Cajun Keepsakes opened in April of 2016 and has made over 1200 sales on Etsy! She is a hard-working wife and mom. She opened her shop to create beautiful pieces specifically for moms to keep a little piece of their babies close to their heart, and in turn make some money to provide for her son. 

As a mom of the three most incredible girls in the world, I so appreciate the inspiration and motivation of her shop. 

I am so excited to be working with Kelli for the next three months to share all the unique and affordable pieces she has to offer. Her pieces are all so affordable, with pieces ranging from as little as $3.00 – $15.00! In addition to her amazingly affordable prices, she has given the readers of StorybookErin.com a discount code to use! 


The code expires 4/26/18 and is good for 10% off the purchase of 5.00 or more. 

Code: STORYBOOKERIN



A post shared by Erin ✨ (@storybookerin) on

This particular piece is part of her Valentines Day Collection and is currently sold out, but she does have some other great costume key chains and necklaces! Be sure to order by Feb. 1st!

How to stay warm before a race at Disney

Marathon Weekend 2018 was once again a very cold one at Walt Disney World, and my sweet friend spent the week before the race running around grabbing the most epic layers to keep us warm before the race.

So how does one dress when it is in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s at the start of the race?

Layers.
Beautiful, crazy layers! 

Being a Miami girl, I was pretty cold for more of the race, so I kept almost all my layers for 14 miles and then eventually had to ditch them.

Where to buy layers?
We found all our layers at Walmart for less than $10.00, and let me tell you, it was worth every penny!
What happens to the layers after you toss them?
RunDisney gathers the layers and donates them to local charities.  
Do you toss all your layers? 
No, I always keep my hat and gloves. 
I stuff them into an elastic on my running belt and keep them for the next race. 

Are you a Disney Mom or Disney Blogger?

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More RunDisney Posts

Should I take my Preschooler to Hollywood Studios?

Hollywood Studios is currently going through some major changes and with the new Toy Story section scheduled to open in the summer of 2018 and the new Star Wars land opening in 2019 you might question if you should even take your young family to Hollywood Studios at all.

Here are a few things to consider when planning your trip to Walt Disney World.

  1. Does someone in my party love all things Star Wars?
  2. Do my children like to meet the characters? 
  3. Do we enjoy watching live-action shows? 
  4. Any thrill-seeking adults in the party? 

If you answered yes to most of the questions, you probably want to consider adding a day HWS and here is why.

Star Wars

  • The Star Wars Launch Bay is a unique place in Hollywood Studios to see movie replica’s, meet star wars specific characters, and interact with Storm Troopers. 
  • Captain Phasma leads the March of the First Order through Hollywood Studios on the hour for most of the day
  • Star Wars Specific shows on the main stage, and ending the night with the Galaxy in the Stars fireworks show
  • Star Tours Ride, height requirement of 40 inches
  • Jedi Training Academy
    • Ages 4-12
    • Must register for this activity, registration is limited (information here
Unique Characters
At Hollywood Studios, there are lots of characters at Hollywood Studios both in secret, not published locations, and proper meet and greet locations. 
In Hollywood Studios, you can expect to see in a proper meet in greet:
  • Disney Junior Characters
    • Sophia the First
    • Jake the Neverland Pirate
    • Doc McStuffins
  • Fab-Five
    • Sorcerer Mickey 
    • Red Carpet Minnie
    • Pluto
  • Star Wars 
    • Chewbacca
    • Kylo Ren
    • BB-8
  • Olaf 
  • Pixar
    • Buzz and Woody
    • Cruz Remirez
In pop-up locations I’ve  seen the following characters:
  • Chip & Dale
  • Goofy
Live-Action Shows

The shows at Hollywood Studios are a lot of fun, some of our family favorites include:
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Disney Junior
  • Indiana Jones 
Thrill Rides
If there are thrill-seekers in your party, you won’t want to skip Hollywood Studios. HWS is home of my favorite roller coaster, (Rock’n Roller Coaster) and the fabulous Hollywood Tour Hotel’s Tower of Terror. 
Be sure to ask a cast member about rider swap for the thrill rides. 
Perhaps it is because Hollywood Studios is where my husband asked me to be his wife 10 years ago, but I love the theme park so much and feel it is worth considering when planning your trip to Disney.

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5 Selfies to take inside the Magic Kingdom

Let’s Take a Selfie!

In an age of independence, we have traded in our high-quality photos for the perfect selfie… I love the way the girls over at What’s up Mom’s captured this concept in thier “Livin’ for the Share” parody.

Since I am known to take a few (too many) selfies to share on Social Media, I thought i’d give my top 5 selfies to take while inside the Magic Kingdom. Please note, you are not permitted to use a selfie stick on Disney property, so be sure to leave those at home.

SELFIE #1 – Transportation

On your transport of choice to the Magic Kingdom. Do you take the bus to the Magic Kingdom? Perhaps you ride on the Highway in the Sky? Maybe the boat?
No matter how to enter the Magic Kingdom, take a selfie! Capture the excitement of your crew as you approach the happiest place on earth!

SELFIE # 2 – Favorite Ride!

My favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom is Space Mountain. Since I had three babies in three years, I wasn’t able to ride it for quite a while. As soon as I was finally able to ride it again, I took that selfie! Sadly it’s a little blurry because of the low-lighting inside the ride. It’s still one of my favorite selfies i’ve ever taken in Magic Kingdom though!

Follow my Disney Bestie for adorable Disney Bounds! 

SELFIE # 3 – The Indian on Mainstreet

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been taking photos with and of the Indian on Mainstreet USA. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to look up the reason for the 2 Indians inside The Magic Kingdom. When the Magic Kingdom first opened, this statue was placed outside of the two locations you could purchase Tobacco. In the year 2,000 The Walt Disney Company stopped selling Tobacco inside Magic Kingdom Park, but the statues have remained as part of the charm on Mainstreet USA.

SELFIE 4 – Your Crew!

Each time you go to Disney it is potentially with a different Disney crew take a selfie with your crew to capture the memories from that specific day!
This is the day our daughters all got thier first haircuts on Mainstreet USA! Such an adorable and fun experience for kids! Read all about the Harmony Barbarshop and what to expect here! 

SELFIE 5 – The Castle

This photo was taken during the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon. (Read about the race here)


@StorybookErin on instagram! If you are still in the mood to take some selfies, head on over to the Purple Wall and take a selfie! Join the 25,000+ other photos on Instagram with the Hashtag of #purplewall

*Edit: The Purple Wall just got a new paint job, totally gives me Spaceship Earth Vibes. Anyone else?

 
What are YOUR favorite selfies to take inside
Magic Kingdom? 
Are you a Disney Fan or Blogger? 
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Authentic Mexican Food in Epcot: San Angel Inn Restaurante

Every Disney Fan has a bucket list of their own, maybe it’s to stay in the Grand Floridian and watch the fireworks from your balcony in your pj’s, perhaps it’s eating around the world in Epcot. One of my bucket list items was to eat at the San Angel Inn Restaurante at Epcot, and after the 2018 Disney Marathon, my husband treated me to lunch there. 

The San Angel Inn is considered a hidden gem of Epcot, simply because it is located inside the Mexican Pavilion, beyond all the little shops right next to the Three Caballeros  Gran Fiesta Tour. This restaurant has been on my bucket list for quite some time simply because the Mexican Pavilion is one of my favorite pavilions in the World Showcase, and every time I ride the “Donald Duck” ride, I am curious about what it’d be like to eat at the restaurant that you see from the ride. 

The Ambiance

As you approach the reservation desk at this restaurant, you will notice a unique charm. Even though you are inside a building, the atmosphere is as if you are dining outside on a cool evening in Mexico. The lights a dim, and the vibe is very relaxed. 

Due to the dim lights, this is not a restaurant I would take my young family too. It is more of a date-night, or adults only Disney trip type of restaurant. 

The Food

The food was very good, and the portions were large. My husband and I ordered 1 appetizer and one meal to share, and we still had plenty of leftovers. This is also a Gluten Free and Vegan-Friendly option, you just have to request a menu from your server. 

We ordered:


Combinación Mexicana

  • Braised short rib with a chile pasilla sauce over poblano-corn rajas | Enchiladas Verdes de Pollo with corn tortilla-stuffed with pulled chicken topped with melted Chihuahua cheese, queso fresco, and crema Mexicana | Chile Poblano stuffed with black beans and queso Chihuahua with chipotle-tomato sauce

Tostadas de Pollo

Crispy corn tortilla smothered with black beans and topped with chipotle chicken. Garnished with crema Mexicana and queso fresco, avocado, and tomatillo sauce

Blood Orange Margarita 

Tequila, orange liqueur, sweet-tart mix of blood orange juice topped with wildberry foam on the rocks with Tajin chili powder rim
Blood Orange Margarita 

I wasn’t exactly a fan of the Margarita, but I wasn’t surprised about that because I very rarely drink any alcohol. 

The Tostadas de Pollo was absolutely delicious, very fresh and tasty.

The combination platter was also very good, I really enjoyed the ribs – they really had a nice spice to them! 

The Cost
In all honesty, I felt this restaurant was a little over-priced for what the food is. 
Yes, the food was delicious.
Yes, the ambiance was everything I thought it’d be. 
Unfortunately, I just felt like I would have been just as happy at the Taco Stand just outside the Pavilion. 

If this restaurant is on your bucket list, or you are looking for a place to escape the Florida heat in the summertime, you might want to check it out. But, if you just want to satisfy a craving for some great Mexican food without breaking the bank, you might want to check out La Cantina de San Angel (Menu) It is the quick service stand located right across from the Pavilion. I craved their nachos so much during my third pregnancy! 😉 
Heading into my favorite Pavilion!

You might Also like…
Best Rides for Babies in Epcot! 
Star Wars Half Marathon – Race Recap

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Is Robert is Here really the Disney World of Fruit Stands?

After your visit to the Everglades National Park in Homestead, you are not going to want to miss Robert is Here.  Located not too far from the entrance to the park you will find a pretty hoppin’ fruit stand.

Yes, you read that right. A “hoppin’ fruit stand”. The Palm Beach Post refers to this fruit stand as “The Disney World of fruit stands” and after spending a few hours there with my family, I have to say I completely agree!

A Brief History of Robert is Here
Robert is Here is a family-owned fruit stand that has been around for over 50 years. In the early days, it was a young man with a desire to sell a few fruits and vegetables that has grown into a premier destination in South Florida.

A destination perfect for families, couples, or friends. You can read more about the history of Robert and his family in his biography, it is certainly going on my list of books to read!

Location and Operating Hours 

8:00a – 7:00p
Closed: Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Easter Sunday 1p-7p

19200 SW 344 Street
Homestead, FL 33034

So what makes this place so MAGICAL and why should I take a trip to Homestead to check it out?


I visited Robert is here with my family on a Saturday evening, about 5 o’clock, and here are some things I experienced, and memories made… 
There were cars parked everywhere.
Live Music blasting. 
Families laughing.
Children playing. 
Robert serving guests, answering questions. 
An entire fruit stand of strangers singing happy birthday, because Robert asked us too. 
There were smiles and giggles, and memories being made all around me. 
Photos lined the walls of the fruit stand. 
The best and most unique milkshakes I’d ever tasted being served. 
Fresh Fruit.
Fresh Vegetables. 
A Splash Pad.
Play area.
Picnic Tables. 
Petting Zoo. 
There were people collecting Memories, 
not things and it was beautiful. 
The Palm Beach post got it right when they compared this place to the Happiest Place on Earth. The next time you visit South Florida, take a trip down to Homestead and have a milkshake with Robert and his family, you won’t be sorry. 
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What to do in the Everglades with Children

Well, we survived our first Camping trip with the girls

After a cup of coffee and some lunch at a nearby Burger King, we headed home. 
We’d been home for roughly 5-minutes before my husband announces that 
we are going to the Everglades! 
So, we packed a lunch box, grabbed some water and headed over to the Everglades National Park. Back in May, when we visited Shark Valley, we became pass holders for the Everglades National Park, but due to Hurricane Irma, we hadn’t had an opportunity to go visit. 
The Ernest F. Coe visitor center is located all the way down in Florida City, and can be accessed by taking the Florida Turnpike south until it merges with US 1. Once it merges with US 1 turn right onto Palm Drive (344th street) and follow the signs to the park.  
Address:40001 State Road 9336, Homestead FL, 33034 
Contact Number: 305-242-7700 
Once you arrive at the Visitor Center, be sure to take your time walking through the exhibits as there are special collections that rotate and other educational opportunities! You will also want to get your Visitor Center Stamp and talk to the Park Ranger about becoming a Jr. Ranger
We asked the Park Ranger to recommend a couple of trails for our family to explore, and then headed out for an adventure! 
Since we were arriving at the park in the late afternoon, the park ranger recommended two trails for our family to explore, both trails were paved and had plenty of animals for the girls to see. 
The first trail we explore was the Gumbo Limbo  Trail. This trail was a little less than a mile and completely paved, perfect for even the smallest of travelers. We didn’t see very many animals on this trail, but it was full of beautiful trees, and the girls really enjoyed it! 
What is a Gumbo Limbo? 
A tree! 
Native to South Florida, this tree is known as the “tourist” tree because of its red bark that can appear to look like peeled sun-burned skin. 
The second trail we explored was the Anhinga Trail.  Located right next to the Gumbo Limbo Trail, this short trail was a combination of both boardwalk and pavement. While exploring this trail, we got face-to-face with an Alligator and even got the chance to see some baby gators. 
Another fun thing to do is the FREE trolley ride, every weekend until April 29 in 2018 you can ride a trolley. The city of Homestead has created a program to offer free public transportation to Everglades and Biscayne national parks with its “Gateway to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks”.  This is the first of it’s kind, and a great way to see National parks in one day! 
For More Information Call: (305)224-4457
Food is limited in the Everglades National Park, and guests are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, and if your kids are anything like mine, they are going to build up a pretty big appetite so you might want to pack some extra snacks.  😉  
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The Florida Everglades covers over 1.5 million acres of land and stretches over 3 counties. These parks are certainly ones you will want to explore again and again! 

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Did I meet my goal at the 2018 Disney Marathon?

If you’ve been on Instagram for 1/2 a second, you most likely saw too many a few photos from the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon! Today, I’m going to share photos from all along the course.
**SPOILER ALERT** I had so much fun at the WDW Marathon, and can’t wait to run it again!

The Course! 

Bundled up at the Start! 

Twinning is Winning! 

Miles 1-3

The first 5k really seemed to fly by, I started the race with my friend Stephanie and we were sticking to a run-walk interval of 30/30.

Stephanie and I parted ways just after the ticket and transportation center (between mile 3 and 4) because she needed to use the bathroom. 

Miles 4-7
Here is where we enter into the Magic Kingdom, I wanted to run with my friend and I was doing pretty well with my timing so when I saw some short lines of characters, I decided to get some fun photos! 

Running from the sweepers! 

The third *evil* step sister 😉 

 Miles 7-12

I saw my chEAR squad at the Grand Floridian, got a hug from my husband and kept on running. I had take my sweet time through the Magic Kingdom and knew I needed to make up some time while the weather was still cool and I was feeling good.

My daughters have recently been obsessed with Mary Poppins, so a photo with the Penguins was a MUST DO for me!