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Creating Disney Inspired Costumes for CHEAP! | The Aristocats

The kids are back to school and our stores are being filled with a mixture of Halloween and Christmas all at once. It’s glorious, isn’t it? Our oldest daughter simply loves Halloween, and since we are a Disney family we like to create our Disney inspired costumes for CHEAP!

Featured in this blog post you will find how we put together our costumes for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party on a tiny budget.

The Easiest Halloween Costume Hack EVER

Let’s start with the EASIEST way to create a costume. Are you ready? Use items you already own. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of shopping, but oftentimes you can create a Disney inspired Halloween Costume with items you already own. Using this technique my husband put together his Thomas O’Malley costume for FREE!

Thomas O’Malley | FREE COSTUME

When bounding for Disney; especially for an event like the Halloween Party, you will want to stick to the prominent colors of the character. Thomas O’Malley is an Orange Alley Cat with a white belly and feet. His simple color scheme made creating his costume easy. My husband does have an orange shirt, but opted for comfort and went with the button-down plaid shirt and a moisture-wicking shirt underneath to keep him cool.

DIY | Do it Yourself

The Marie Costume was so much fun to put together. With just a few items from the craft store and an inexpensive dress from Walmart, we created a beautiful dress that was completely recognizable as Marie. The entire costume was put together for about $12.00!

Marie Costume | Under $15.00

To create the Marie costume; I first purchased a white t-shirt dress from Walmart. It was on sale for $7.97 when I purchased it. The brand is “Wonder Nation”.

Next, I purchased the pink tulle from Joanne Fabric ($2.97 for the roll). To create the bow, I wrapped the tulle around a DVD box about 3 times. Then I pinched the center and wrapped another piece of tulle around the middle to create the bow. It was almost too easy for how perfect it looked!

To finish the look; we added a pink bow to cat ear headband that we purchased at 5 Below.

Be a “Prime Mom”

If DIY isn’t really your thing; that’s totally fine! My original plan for the dutchess costume was to find a white shirt to wear with my white sparkle skirt*. [The one I’ve used for several other Disney inspired costumes] However; when my daughter’s Marie costume started looking so cute, I jumped on Amazon and ordered this dress* last minute. It was AMAZING!! The material is 95% spandex and 5% cotton. This made it breathable, stretchy and comfortable. While on Amazon be sure to pick up some Cat Ears*. It completes the look, and there are so many choices online for very reasonably priced.

If you are going to be a “Prime Mom”

Remember to purchase clothing you would actually wear again. I am a firm believer in only purchasing items you absolutely love and would wear again and again. Although a white dress isn’t my first choice, I can already see myself wearing it again for some star wars Disney Bounds, anniversary dinners and perhaps Easter at church. Don’t just purchase a dress for one day; make sure you are buying an item you love.

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HISTORY Miami Museum

It may be the back-to-school season, but there are still many great FREE things to do with your family before we all head back to school. History Miami Museum introduced the Summer Passport program for all children to have access to their museum!

About the Program

The program gives children in Miami-Dade access to the History Miami Museum until August 18, 2019. Not only are the children offered free admission, but up to 4 adults per child are also granted admission as well. I spoke with several people at the museum when we were there, and each of them gave rave reviews of the success of the program.

How to get your passport

Obtaining your passport is quick and easy. Just make your way to the museum, and passports are given at the ticket center. If you visit the museum at least 4 times you will receive a special prize.

If you’ve missed the passport promotion you can still access the museum for FREE once a month on their “Family Fun” days. Typically on the third Saturday of the month, but be sure to check the website for details.

About the Museum

The History Miami Museum is located just off of the Government Center stop from the Miami Metrorail. It was founded in 1940 but in 2011 it became accredited by the Smithsonian (read the full history here). There are two levels to this museum and each section is filled with amazing fossils and artifacts. There are engaging opportunities for children young and old throughout each exhibit. Young children will love to dress up and play, and the older ones will enjoy the scavenger hunt through the exhibits.

A museum in and of itself is an educational experience. However, the History Miami Museum has educational booklets available for children to use and bring the experience home as well. The books are available in three languages (English, Spanish & Creole). Inside each book, you will find a coloring page, scavenger hunt, and information on identifying the artifacts throughout the museum. (HOMESCHOOL MOM’S, where are you at? You know you love a great free workbook! )

Age-Appropriate for Young Children?

In my personal opinion, learning has no age and the earlier we start sharing museums and how to behave in them the better. You will need to use your discretion on what to read to your young ones, or perhaps move a little quicker through. However, I would always encourage you to let your children guide you and be open to conversations. You’d be amazed at the conversations you can have about history.

HOMESCHOOL MOMS, This is a great spot to take your 4th graders! It’s a unique experience as it focuses not only on Florida History but South Florida.

Stroller Friendly?

Yes. This museum is stroller friendly, but it’s not very large and with all the activities you might prefer to go stroller free.

Tips for Introducing Children to Museums.

I mentioned earlier that it’s important to introduce children how to behave at a museum from a young age. Here are a few things I remind my children when entering a museum.

LOOK FIRST. Sometimes museums will have hands-on experiences for children. However, not ALL exhibits are meant to be handled. We like to remind our girls to look first and if mommy says it’s okay – then you can touch it.

Hands behind your back. We have found that this helps relieve some of the temptation to lean on an exhibit and touch something you shouldn’t.

Walk

Whisper Voices

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3 Things I wish I knew before flying to Malaysia

You’ve seen the Batu Caves on the Amazing Race, perhaps you’ve dreamed of climbing all 272 steps to the top and now you are booking a flight to Malaysia! Here are Three Things I wish I knew before flying to Malaysia.

Lesson 1: Pesticide spray upon landing?

Before leaving for Malaysia, my husband and I had about 30-45 minutes of sleep. I’m typically NOT a last-minute packer, but for this trip… I was. Our flight path was Fort Lauderdale to New York, New York to Qatar, Qatar to Malaysia. The total travel time was close to thirty hours. So, by the time we landed in Malaysia we were exhausted!

I woke up to an announcement that they would be spraying the cabin with a spray with pesticide prior to descent into the airport. 😳 A few minutes later, the crew walked up and down the aisle with cans of pesticide. This was a completely new experience for me, but upon researching it when we arrived I learned that it was something typical for this airport.

This is done in accordance with International Health Regulations to prevent an epidemic. It is a mix of bug spray and disinfectant spray. I was thankful to be sitting in a middle seat so I didn’t get too much of it on me; but honestly. It didn’t have a strong smell. It was just such a new experience for me.

Lesson 2: Hot Water with Dinner?

After a long hot day of exploring and walking through Malaysia, we made our way to The Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. When we arrived we ordered water. Our waiter confirmed several times with us and then brought us our water. Upon receipt of our large cup of boiled water, we realized just why our waiter wanted to confirm with us so many times.

It is common practice for Asians to drink warm water. This is for digestion and the release of toxins. So, if you are heading to an Asian country and prefer cold water at a restaurant you might want to ask for a bottle of water. 😉

Lesson 3: Budget-Friendly

When traveling to Malaysia from the United States your flight will easily be the most expensive part of your budget. When we first began looking at flights we were able to find them for less than $1,000 per ticket. Unfortunately, we delayed and ended up paying close to $1,500 per ticket 😒.

However, once you arrive you will find the accommodations, transportation, food, and experiences to be very affordable. We were in Malaysia for a conference that was being hosted in the Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar. Our room included a daily breakfast, and the entire week (7 nights) in an executive suite was less than $900 USD. If we had been traveling through Malaysia on our own and not for work. We would have most likely chosen an airBNB*. These type of accommodations are readily available for as little as $17-30 USD per night at some epic locations. With markets and restaurants all throughout the city and a Starbucks at almost every turn, an Airbnb would be a great idea to save even more money on your trip.

GET $55.00 OFF YOUR FIRST STAY IN AIRBNB

Let’s Chat

I love to chat about your travel experiences. What are some lessons you’ve learned when traveling to a new country?

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Gold Coast Railroad Museum

Just before you read the entrance to the zoo, you will see a couple of signs for the Gold Coast Railroad Museum. This cute little non-profit organization is packed with charm and history. It opened in the summer of 1956 and continues to be a unique location for rail enthusiasts of all ages to explore.

Read the full history here. 

Hours and Pricing

At the time of this post, the hours are from 10a – 4p Monday through Friday and 11a – 4p on Saturdays and Sunday. The cost to enter the museum is $8.00 for adults and $6.00 for children ages 2-12.

FREE FIRST SATURDAY

The museum offers free entrance on the first Saturday of the month. My sister was in town visiting on the first Saturday of July so our family decided to go check out the museum on that day. If you are planning to head over to the museum on one of the free admission days, go early. When we first arrived the trains were fairly empty so we were able to explore, take some fun photos and take our time. As the day went on the museum did fill up.

What to Expect

There are several rows of trains, some of them you can go inside and some of them you are only able to view through the window. For example the Presidential Pullman Passenger Car “Ferdinand Magellan”. This is truly a must-see at the museum. It is the only passenger railcar to be designated as a National Historic Landmark. In order to preserve the car for future generations, you can only view the car on a guided tour.

Train Rides are also available on the weekends for just a few dollars a person. You can select from a small “link” train to one of the speed trains.

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Minimalistic Diaper Bag Essentials | Mom of 3

My Minimalistic Diaper Bag Journey

If you want to skip out on my journey and just get the minimalism scroll down towards the end.😉 

I have a mom friend who is always pouring words of love and kindness into my life. She is a fellow mom of three (under three) and has always been nothing but kind to me. (Love you, Jen!) One of the things she always encourages me with is my ability to get everything I need for my girls into one backpack.

Today I am going to share a little bit about my journey to a more minimalistic approach to diaper bags, and give love and encouragement to all you amazing mommy’s out there just trying to figure out what you should take with you!

DIAPER BAG| First Baby

With my first baby, I carried a large diaper bag. It was always full and pretty heavy. My oldest daughter had severe acid reflux, so I definitely have no regrets with the number of clothes, burp cloths, and blankets that I would bring. However, if I had to pack the bag over again as a new mom, I’d probably leave out the full and complete first aid kit complete with thermometer, tylonal and other baby medications – unless I was going to be out when she needed her reflux medication.

DIAPER BAG | Second Baby

When my second daughter was born; and I had a 14 month old toddler to chase I began the journey towards a “hands free” diaper bag. I never quite found the perfect diaper backpack, because at the time they were fairly new on the market and didn’t seem to be comfortable. So, I settled for my husbands college Puma backpack. We literally used this bag until it fell into pieces.

DIAPER BAG | 3 YOUNG CHILDREN

Now that I’ve taken you down a little journey; here are my essentials for on the go with my girls. First things first, you simply MUST have a comfortable bag. I bag of choice is a backpack. I prefer a backpack because I am working really hard on my posture and I find that I tend to slouch more when I use a shoulder bag or cross-body. However, if backpacks aren’t your thing, grab an awesome bag that YOU love!

*This post does contain affiliate links. If you decide to purchase anything from my link, it will cost nothing extra for you but my family will receive a small commission. Thanks a million for your support of this blog. *

My Essentials

Not included in the bag, but always with us would be our water bottles. My favorite bottles are these camelbak water bottles; and I am usually able to find great deals on them at places like Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls and TJMaxx.

What are your essentials?

Let’s chat about your diaper bag journey? Did you start a minimalist or are you also a recovering over-packer? I’d love to connect with you!

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Which Beach Body Program is Right for me? | Autumn Calabrese Edition

Okay, Autumn… you win. I didn’t want to believe that the Beach Body Programs would really be as amazing as seen on Instagram – but they are. They really are… Congrats. ⭐️

**Disclaimer** I am not a Beach Body Coach. I’m just a mom sharing her personal thoughts on these three programs. 😉 If you are interested in finding a Beach Body Coach, leave a comment and I can direct you to a couple of amazing ones!

Programs I’ve Completed

I’ve officially completed 2 programs and I got almost 70 days into 80 Day Obsession before leaving on a cruise,…

21 Day Fix | The Original

I first complete the original 21 Day Fix back in January of 2017. The first time through the program, I found myself completely motivated and on track with everything for the first two weeks. By week 3 I was struggling – but I finished it!

 READ ABOUT MY RESULTS HERE. 

I tried many times to complete the program again, and never made it beyond week 1. I believe this is because in the original 21 day fix, you complete the same workout videos on the same days for 3 weeks in a row. It became really boring, and I literally couldn’t do it… #21dayfixfail

80 Day Obsession

In September of 2018, my youngest daughter turned 2 and I was still carrying the extra weight (perhaps plus some😉) from my pregnancy. (Welcome Baby # 3) I decided to give the 80 Obsession a try. I made it through about 70 days and then I went on a cruise.

September 2018 | Start of 80 Day Obsession

21 Day Fix Real Time

Right after finishing Transform 20  I decided to give the 21 Day Fix Real Time a try! I’d heard great things about the program so I went for it! I LOVED the program.

Materials Needed for Each Program

If you are on a budget but want to try one of the programs you will probably want to start with the original 21-day fix.

21 Day Fix

Materials Needed*:

  • Yoga Mat
  • Weights

21 Day Fix | Real Time

  • Yoga Mat
  • Weights
  • Exercise Bands

80 Day Obsession

  • Yoga Mat
  • Weights
  • Excise Bands
  • Discs

Program Recommendations

The easiest of the programs is going to be the original 21-day fix. You get into a routine with the meal plans and the same workouts each week. If you are really structured or are trying to get into a fitness routine, this might be the best one for you.

After completing 80 Day Obsession and 21 Day Fix Real time, I have to say 80 Day Obsession might be easier than 21 ay fix Real Time… Crazy to say it – but with 80 Day obsession you complete weights in reps and the workouts will take you about an hour. 21 Day Fix Real Time you are doing many of the same moves but for an entire minute. I was much sorer after completing the 21DF Real Time workouts than 80 Day obsession.😱

If time is an concern, stick with the 21 day fix program. Each workout is only 30 minutes and you are going to get results (if you stick to the program).

I loved 21 Day Fix Real Time and am excited to move onto 21 Day Fix Extreme! Be sure to keep up with my workouts in my Instastories and let me know in the comments below, when do you work out?

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*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.

Our Summer Routine | 3 Kids 5 and Under

Summer is here! For many people, it means a more relaxed routine. Your kids can sleep in a little longer stay up a little later. Travel, and lots of other fun things. However, there is another group and that is those like me. Those who have spent the last 4 or 5 years living the dream… ☺️#stayathomemom #momlife

We’ve set our own schedules, schedules that fit our needs as a stay at home mom and now we are approaching August and we’ve got to start getting ourselves and our kids ready for the transition into a full day of school.

Why I Created a Summer Routine

Since I find myself preparing for life with my two oldest in school for the majority of each day, and I am a creature who prefers consistency (as does my middle child) I decided to be very intentional with our time and scheduling this summer.

I began this journey on June 1st and have seen so many positive results with my children’s eating habits, sleeping and even behavior (read: less fighting, more playing together)

A little about me…

If you are new to my little corner of the internet, Hello! I’m Erin. I’m a stay-at-home mom to three amazing kiddos! After years of being kid-free, we were blessed with three girls. We’ve made it through the baby years, and are moving up to school-aged kids. Prayers accepted. 😉

A day in my life…

In September of 2018, I started teaching with VIPKID and I absolutely love it. Since I teach part-time with VIPKID, I get up at 5:22 each morning and prepare for classes. I teach from 6-7:30 on a full teaching day or 6:30-7:30 on a more typical weekday.

At 7:15 a.m. my children start waking up. My AMAZING husband will greet them, help them brush their teeth and play with them while he gets ready for work and I finish teaching.

From 7:30 – 8:30 in the morning, the girls are going through their morning routine, of getting dressed and eating breakfast. I typically drink 20 ounces of water and then around 8:30 a.m. the girls can have their first screen time of the day.

From 8:30 – 9:30 I allow the girls to have a little bit of screen time while I get a workout in. I do my workouts at home and have been loving the beach body programs. I’m not a Beach Body Coach and I don’t drink their shakes, I just truly enjoy the programs.

 Check out my results from Transform 20 

Around 9:30 a.m. the girls are typically hungry again so I feed them a snack and I also keep myself some brunch.

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. No more screen time. The girls can play dress up, read stories, play games or play with toys. They can do anything that want, except watch Television. Between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. the girls will eat lunch and have some more time with their toys.

Afternoon our afternoons are usually pretty much the same as our morning with the exception of an afternoon movie and snack. My girls have really been into watching movies as a family, so in the afternoon I usually snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie with the girls before starting dinner.

One thing we’ve started enforcing this summer is pre-dinner clean up. Since the girls are spending a significant amount of time playing with toys my house can get pretty messy with toys. Each evening while I cook dinner the girls will have to clean everything up.

Dinner is served around 6:00 p.m. and then we finish cleaning up their room, clean the kitchen, sweep and mop the floors (every single night) and jump in bed for story time around 7:30 p.m.

It’s not perfect I’m sure but it’s what has been working for us. Our girls are waking up happier, I’m not feeding them snacks all day long and I absolutely love hearing them play (together).

My house is a mess, and my kids are happy. What more could a mom ask for?

Erin | StorybookErin.com

What’s your Summer Routine like?

I’d love to hear what your summer routine is like. What types of food your kids are loving, any fun trips you have coming up! Let’s chat!

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TRANSFORM 20 | Review & My Results

Full disclosure, I am not a Beach Body Coach. These are my genuine thoughts and results from the Transform 20 program. If you are interested in purchasing the program, I can direct you to some friends who are affiliated with Beach Body.

About TRANSFORM 20

Transform 20 was developed by Fitness Trainer Shaun T. One thing I’ve noticed about Shaun T’s programs, is that he works hard to create programs that are efficient. He does a variety of types of programs, but the Transform 20 is the shortest time commitment per day and the results are great!

Transform 20 has three levels

  1. Commit (2 weeks)
  2. Climb (2 weeks)
  3. Conquer (2 weeks)

Each day you will have a 20 minute workout, with a warm up three “transformers” and a cool down. Each day you track your transformers and at the end of the program you will be amazed at how far you can succeed.

My Personal Results

I’ve decided to break this down into two parts. The first being visual and scale victories and the second being non-scale victories.

Scale and Measurements

The bad news is, the scale went up. During this program, I did my best to stick with the eating plan but the fact is I could have done better and the scale showed that. So, I went up by 2 lbs.

Even though I gained 2 lbs throughout this program, I lost 1.5 inches.

So, I call it a win.

Non-Scale Measurements

My non-scale victories for this program far outweighed the disappointment of gaining 2 pounds. At the end of this program, I felt so strong. I felt physically strong as well as mentally strong.

5 Reasons I loved it (from a Mom’s perspective)

  1. Only 20 minutes
  2. QUICK transitions
  3. No equipment needed for beginners
  4. Built in rest day
  5. FUN

Since the program is only 20 minutes, you can put on an episode of Paw Patrol and get to work. Before the episode is done, you are already cooling off. This is PERFECT for mom’s with little ones.

I also loved that I didn’t need any equipment. No equipment means no set up and no clean up.

If Paw Patrol isn’t capturing the attention of your kids, let them join you! My girls fell in love with the high-energy of the program and we truly had fun doing it together.

When do you workout?

When do you like to workout? I like to workout in the morning. After my workouts I always like to check in on Instagram – are we friends?

Getting Started with Bi-Weekly Grocery Shopping

GROCERY SHOPPING

Grocery Shopping can be such a chore. It doesn’t matter if you are a single person shopping for one or shopping for a family. Grocery shopping is something that connects us all. For many years, grocery shopping was that once a week chore that I simply dreaded – even before kids.

I’m not exactly a master chef and let’s face it – I’d rather be doing other things with my time. (Sound like you?)

In November of 2018, my husband and I were chatting about our grocery routine. It’s hard for me to go by myself, it’s hard for us to take all three girls, and it was just such a stressful situation.

When all three girls contracted the flu, it had been days of zero sleep, take out and no groceries… That’s when I said to my husband we have to try this Walmart Grocery everyone talks about.

So, we did.

I’ve been using it ever since. In January of 2019, we started our bi-weekly grocery shopping journey and haven’t looked back. I am still fairly new on this journey, but it’s a journey nonetheless and after many requests on my instagram account, I am sharing my tips and lessons learned so far!

WHY I SHOP BI-WEEKLY

Anytime we are making a significant life change, and let’s be honest grocery shopping is a big part of our lives we should know WHY. Why am I switching the way I shop?  

I find when I can attach purpose to something, I am more committed. Here are a few of our families reasons for bi-weekly grocery shopping.

  1. TIME SAVING
  2. MONEY SAVING
  3. SANITY SAVING

Time Saving

For our family, grocery shopping for the week took about 2 hours out of our weekend. Between the driving to the store, shopping and coming home it was about 2 hours. It meant that on either Saturday or Sunday I we would have to plan that time to be at the grocery store.

Since moving to bi-weekly grocery shopping, I am only spending time in the grocery store 2x a month instead of 4x.

A word of caution; the first couple of times you shop this way you might find you miscalculated your needs. We used to run out of essential items ALL.THE.TIME!

Money Saving

Initially, you might not see how this will save you money. However, if you stick with it you will find that the less you are in the grocery store the less often you throw additional items into your cart.

I used to get trapped by the “stock up and save” technique. Truly, all that ended up happening was me having an abundance of items I didn’t really want or need.

Sanity Saving

I promise you, I’m a much happier person know I don’t have to shop for groceries every weekend.

Perfect for Pinning 😉

TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED

Now that I have established my why I challenge you to take some time to establish your why. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve clearly considered it. So, think about your personal schedule and family needs, perhaps this will work out well for you!

  1. USE A CALENDAR
  2. MEAL PLAN EVERYTHING
  3. BUY A LITTLE EXTRA

Use a Calendar

It does not matter what planner you use, just use a system that you know you will keep up with. My husband does literally EVERYTHING digitally, I am more of a paper and pencil type of gal. My favorite planner is the *Erin Condren but I’ve also used free ones printed from the internet and this one from *Amazon. At less than $7.00 it’s a great pocket-size option.

Once you’ve selected your calendar, use the month view to plan out your meals. Make sure you plan every single meal. This includes any snacks for your family or snacks you might need to take to a child’s sporting event or school function. Plan everything out. Visually seeing your two weeks can help you get a realistic idea of the amount of food you need. Trust me, it’s more than you realized.

Meal Plan

I really enjoy following Amanda from The Fundamental Home. I’ve gained so many good tips and tricks for stretching my budget from her. One of the things I learned from her was making a list of everything you know how to cook. I have a very simple list on google docs. Every time I try a new recipe that works out, I just add it. Then, when I’m planning our menu, I have a list of ideas readily available. When I heard her say that on a video, my mind was literally blown. Such a simple idea and a helpful tip!

If you want to be successful with bi-weekly grocery shopping, you need to make a meal plan and stick to it. Discipline is essential to your success with this.

Buy a Little Extra

Even if you are meticulously planning out your meals, there is always room for error. The first couple of times we did our grocery shopping this way we ran out of essential ingredients such as milk, bread, and eggs. This would cause us to go to the store, see a deal and fill our carts with random things we didn’t exactly need. Buying a little extra will help your budget in the long run.

WHAT ABOUT FRUIT AND VEGETABLES?

A common question I get on my Instagram is what I do about fresh fruit and vegetables. I haven’t found a way to keep my strawberries and bananas fresh for two weeks, but I have found that there are certain items that will definitely last.

Items like; apples, carrots, and cabbage will typically last two weeks.

Items like; lettuce, berries, and bananas typically won’t last.

To decrease the amount of waste, I only purchase those types of items for one week and then for the second week we eat many frozen vegetables, frozen fruit and apples.

Walmart Grocery

In November of 2018, I switched to Walmart Grocery. I was previously shopping at Aldi and found amazing deals. However, I just can’t beat the convenience of Walmart Grocery. I can take my time at home picking out my groceries, creating a meal plan and then order the groceries online. The groceries are loaded into my car and the whole process takes less than an hour. I cannot say enough good things about Walmart Grocery. Anytime I have been given an item that was poor quality, I have been refunded for the purchase (without going back into the store) and if an item I ordered is out of stock, it is substituted with an equal or better item.

I truly love Walmart Grocery! If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it. With this affiliate link, we both get $10.00 off our groceries.

STORYBOOKERIN ON YOUTUBE

If you are interested in more of what types of items I buy plus the meals I typically make, head over to this short video.

THANK YOU

Thanks for stopping by my little piece of the internet. I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite meals to make for your family?

With Kindness, Storybook Erin

Chattanooga Zoo

Should I Visit the Chattanooga Zoo?

When planning a visit to the Chattanooga area, you won’t see many advertisements for the Zoo. In fact, upon my research for things to do I had to look to see if there was a Zoo. So one might question, if the zoo worth it, or should I plan a visit elsewhere?

Yes. You should absolutely visit the Chattanooga Zoo and here are a few reasons why.

5 Reasons to Visit Chattanooga Zoo

SAVE ME ON PINTEREST!

NUMBER ONE: BUDGET-FRIENDLY 

The Chattanooga Zoo is the perfect frugal and educational outdoor experience for families or groups of all sizes. If you are visiting the area and only have one day, I recommend the one day ticket. At only 10.95 for adults and 7.95 for children (3-12). It’s a great deal!

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FRUGAL TIP: Check on reciprocal membership discounts.

Since I am a member of Zoo Miami, I had reciprocal membership to the Chattanooga Zoo and received 50% off of my admission ticket. I know several museum memberships, as well as aquarium memberships, have this type of program. You never know, you might find a discount!

[This post contains affiliate links]

Another place to check for admission discounts before heading to the Chattanooga Zoo is Groupon.

NUMBER TWO: SENSORY INCLUSIVE

I’m sure you’ve already noticed from my above statement, that this Zoo is very family friendly. This includes guests with sensory needs. Guests can now enjoy the zoo in a way that is comfortable for them. Read more about it on their facebook page!

NUMBER THREE: ZOOKEEPER CHATS

At the Chattanooga Zoo there are multiple opportunities to speak with a zookeeper and learn about the animals. The day I visited the zoo, we went to the Chimpanzee Training. It was such a unique experience. The zookeepers shared how they use daily play to help the chimpanzees be more prepared for when they need medical care or treatment. Playtime included teeth brushing, checking heart-rates and other imaginative play. This was just one of the many unique zookeeper chats throughout the day. I visited the zoo on a Sunday and there were 5 scheduled from that day. Starting at 10:30 in the morning and ending around 3:00 p.m.

NUMBER FOUR: WALKABLE

Chattanooga Zoo is perfect for guests who want to experience the zoo but don’t have a lot of time. Yes, you could certainly spend the entire day going from Zookeeper chat to Zookeeper chat and doing some of the other experiences. However, if you are a family looking for something to do in the morning before naptime or an adult (like me) who wanted to see as much of Chattanooga as possible in the one day I visited this zoo is perfect! It is also small enough that guests with older toddlers and preschoolers to walk without the need for a stroller!

NUMBER FIVE: GREAT LOCAL PLAYGROUND

As a mom of three little ones, I am always looking for great playgrounds! When I visited the Zoo, there wasn’t an open playground inside the zoo. However, there was an adorable play area for children 0-2 under construction. Even though there wasn’t a playground inside the zoo, there was a huge park and aquatic center that shared a parking lot with the zoo. Warner Park is the perfect spot for a pre or post zoo picnic lunch!

Getting to the Zoo

My favorite way to navigate a new city is with google maps. Just plug the address into your favorite navigation system and you are on your way!

SOURCE

Upcoming Events!

The Chattanooga Zoo frequently hosts themed events for guests to enjoy a unique experience at their zoo. I’ve included a quick look at the upcoming events for 2019. Be sure to check their website for additional details for each one.

Chattanooga Zoo Events Page
SOURCE

THANK YOU

I hope you found this post helpful as you plan your visit to Chattanooga! I’m always looking for more Zoo’s to visit, leave a comment below. What’s your favorite Zoo?

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UPDATED | 10 Stroller Recommendations for Walt Disney World

UPDATED | Stroller Policy Announcement

The internet is buzzing this morning with the latest from Walt Disney World! As of May 1st, 2019 there are three major changes to the Walt Disney World Parks. One of which is the size of strollers. You can read about other two changes here.

What does the Policy Say?

[This post contains affiliate links]

Thoughts from a Mom of 3 Stroller-Age Children

As a mom of three children ages 5 and under, I must admit I had an initial panic when I heard there were new guidelines for stroller size. Strollers are important for a successful (full day) at Disney. I’ve been known to ditch the stroller a time or two, ultimately I beleive that strollers are an important piece of equipement at Walt Disney World.

Does My Stroller Fit?

My friend Keri did a post not too long ago asking our group of Disney Mom’s what stroller they recommend for Walt Disney World. In that post, I recommended the City Select I love my City Select, It’s absolutely perfect for a family with mulitple children. However, when I saw the dimensions, I knew it was likely not going to be suitable for the new guidelines. The guidelines state that the stroller must not be longer than 52 inches and wider than 31 inches.   So, does my favorite stroller fit with the new guidelines? Yes – but barely.

I measured my stroller the old fashion way (with a tape measurer) and my favorite stroller is almost too big for Walt Disney World. It measured at exactly 52 inches long.

Double Stroller Recommendations

Since my City Select is a little on the large side, and if I’m being honest it can be tricky to maneuver with large crowds, here are some options for strollers that fit the new WDW Stroller Guidelines.

BOB Revolution Flex Duallie 2.0 

If I had to pick an absolutely favorite double stroller for maneuverability, it’d be the BOB brand. I trained for my first Marathon with a BOB stroller and the quality of this stroller is absolutely worth the investment.

SOURCE

phil&teds Dot Compact Inline City Stroller with Double Kit

I found this stroller while search “slim double stroller” on Amazon. It fits well under the new stroller guidelines but has very limited storage space. I think it would be perfect if you have smaller children, but I’m not sure an older child would fit comfortably in this stroller. It’s worth a look – the reviews are mixed. |UPDATE: Jennifer from https://lovedwellshere.com/ has this stroller and says it surprisingly has more storage than you’d think and recommends it to other moms!

The MacLaren Twin Triumph 

If you are looking for a more simple umbrella type stroller for two, you might check out this one. I love that the canopy has a UPF50+ sun canopy. As we all know, protection from the sun in the Florida heat is so important. Especially for our little ones.

Chicco BravoFor2 Standing/Sitting Double Stroller

This stroller was released just after I had my third baby. I didn’t purchase it because it didn’t have enough reviews. Would you believe I still think about this stroller?  I don’t regret purchasing my City Select for a minute but I do seem to have a silly fascination with this stroller. It just looks so amazing! Perfect for families with older and younger children who still need a stroller for little rests. This stroller would not work if two of your children needed to nap at the same time.

This post focused a lot on double strollers. Simply because the new policy has really affected those of us who still require a double stroller for the parks. If you double stroller is too large for the parks. I might also recommend a single stroller and a great baby carrier.

When we traveled to the parks with an infant and 2 year old we typically only took one stroller and our favorite baby carrier. The Lillibaby is amazingly comfortable and even has a zipper pocked large enough for your phone, a snack and a small wallet. It’s perfect for being hands free!

Mom’s Favorite Single Strollers

Here are several options for single strollers!

The City Mini is one of the top recommendations among my mom friends. It’s even the stroller my sister purchased when she was expecting her first. It’s lightweight, easy to steer and comes in adorable colors!

BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 Jogging Stroller

Graco Strollers in general are great because of their amazing storage.

Baby Trend Falcon Jogger Stroller  

Baby Trend is known for their affordable options. At less than 200 dollars, this is a great alternative to some of the more expensive jogging style strollers.

I certainly couldn’t do a stroller recommendations list without mentioning the UPPAbaby CRUZ  these strollers are so sleek and beautiful. It’s a little on the pricy side, but a stroller is an investment for many years. You want to purchase one that lasts.

Umbrella strollers are perfect for families who don’t need a lot of space for diapers and supplies. But, do require a place for an older child to sit and rest for a bit during a long fun day at the parks!

Thank You

Thank you for reading, I do hope you found this post helpful as you plan your trip to Walt Disney World! W

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More Great Content!

The Walt Disney World 4 park Challenge | Ultimate List of tips!

The Walt Disney World 4-Park Challenge

I first heard of the WDW 4 park challenge when I was watching some of my favorite vloggers (The Wayts World). This awesome family had decided to conquer all four parks in 1 day and vlog the journey for all of us to see.

As our annual passes were about to expire in December of 2016 my husband and I booked a quick 2 day trip to Walt Disney World. We’d just recently welcomed our third daughter and even though it probably wasn’t ideal for us to complete the challenge, I had too!

[*This post contains affiliate links]

Check out Part 1

4 Park Challenge History

I’ve done some research around the internet and found a post from The Main Street Mouse. This post explains the story of how two friends accomplished the most epic day, visiting all four parks and riding the properties 62 rides. You can read one of the Orlando news articles here.  The Main Street Mouse gives several options for completing the challenge. However, in my opinion, with the opening of Pandora, Toy Story Land and the much-anticipated opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (August 2019) the original challenge seems impossible. Not that I don’t want to try it,…it just seems like quite a task! 😉

Our 4 Park Challenge Experience

My husband and I completed the 4 park challenge with our infant in December of 2016. We followed the same guidelines The Wayts World used. 1 Ride, 1 Snack, 1 Photo in each park. This challenge is exactly as the word says “a challenge”. My husband and I were fortunate enough to attempt this challenge during the few months that Walt Disney World was piloting the “Disney Express Transportation“. This meant, that my husband and I only had to go through security 1 time and that we were able to travel through back-stage Disney to get from park to park. This service was really affordable ($15 per person), and probably the best option for families wishing to park hop. Sadly, express transportation is no longer available, but it was worth every penny! We did complete the challenge, and it was literally one of the most memorable Disney experiences I’ve ever had.

Things to Consider

The Weather

This is Florida. Our weather is quite unpredictable. In Summer the weather will be hot. You will want to be sure you have lathered up in Sunscreen, are properly hydrated and even have cool comfortable clothes for the day. You will also want to consider if there is any rain in the forecast. Fall and Winter the weather isn’t quite as hot as the summer months, but the weather can vary in extreme temperatures so you will want to be prepared with some layers. Spring is a beautiful time to visit the Disney Parks. The weather is usually warm but not quite hot and the mornings are a little cool. Not enough for the need of layers, but comfortable. For a more detailed and informative post about crowds and weather expectations by each month, check out my friend Keri’s post.

Nutrition and Hydration

When completing this challenge, you will be walking about 20 miles in one day. That’s a lot of walking! You will want to be sure to have a water bottle, snacks and your meals planned out for the day.

Park Hours and Park Order

Be familiar with the Disney Park hours before attempting the challenge and have a plan. If you are staying on property, be sure to use the Extra Magic Hours to your advantage. Many people like to start the day atAnimal Kingdom and then head towards Hollywood Studios from there. It doesn’t matter what order you attempt the challenge, but be mindful of park hours. It’s a good idea to consider starting at the park that opens the earliest and ending the day at the park that is open the latest. Typically the Magic Kingdom. You will want to have the My Disney Experience App downloaded on your phone.

Something to consider is that Animal Kingdom is the farthest park as it is not connected to any of the others. You can easily walk from Hollywood Studios to Epcot and there is a monorail that takes you from The Magic Kingdom to Epcot. It is for that reason that many people check Animal Kingdom off thier list first

How much should I budget?

Park Hopper Ticket: $169.00 (Florida Residents $139.00) Ticket prices do change without notice. Be sure to check the Walt Disney World website for the most up to date prices. Money-Saving Hack: You can purchase Walt Disney World Gift cards from Target with your Red Card and save 5%. You can also purchase a discounted gift card with your wholesale membership to store like BJ’s and Costco. This is will only save a few dollars at a time, but every little bit helps when saving for a trip like this.

Meals and Snacks: Each snack is roughly between $4.00 – $7.00, and a meal will cost between $10.00 -$15.00 at quick service locations.

How should I schedule my FastPass+

Since there were specific rides we wanted to ride in The Magic Kingdom (our last park) we scheduled them there. I know many people like to schedule theirs for the middle of the day. In all honesty, I think it’s important to pick a couple of rides or perhaps your favorite park and schedule those fast passes.

4 Park Challenge | Experiences of Others

Taryn and her family attempted the challenge in June of 2018. I loved how raw and honest Taryn is about the challenge. It is important to realize that there are many variables that come into effect when attempting the challenge. One must consider the weather, crowd levels, and your own personal health. Although Taryn didn’t complete the 4 park challenge how she anticipated, the Lau family did manage to visit all four parks. Read all about their experience here!

Jill completed the challenge in March of 2019 with her husband and 3 year old son. She recommends comfortable walking shoes as she logged 12 miles on her fitbit! She also gave some tips for getting the most out of your fastpass. She scheduled each her fastpasses on the MyDisneyExperience app one at a time while she was in the park. It worked like a dream, you won’t believe how much they got done by 9:00 p.m.! Check out her post here!

This husband and wife team accomplished the challenge, quite by accident. They simply wanted to make the most of their 1 day at Disney! Such a fun read. I love that they completed the 4 park challenge on their first ever day at Walt Disney World! First Trip Goals!

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Let’s Chat

Comment below if you’ve done the 4 Park Challenge, or if you are planning to do it soon!

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

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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?

 

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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?

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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! 

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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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Love Disney, Planning a Trip?

You are invited to join my FREE Facebook Group! This group is perfect for Disney Fans, guests planning a trip to Disney and Disney Bloggers!

Join our Disney Ohana!

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

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. Your purchase helps support our family and keep this website running.

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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!

StorybookErin.com 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.

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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*Affiliate Link.

 

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.

* This post may contain affiliate links, I appreciate your support of StorybookErin.com *

 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!

Shop for the basics on Amazon! 

StorybookErin, 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.

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! 

This post may contain affiliate links, it costs nothing extra to use my link but I may receive a small commission with your purchase. I thank you in advance for your support.

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!

_ _ _

Shop Animal Kingdom Products! 

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Want more Animal Kingdom Fun?

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.

 

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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

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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.

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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. 
 
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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?

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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