New York, New York – The City That Never Sleeps

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit New York City with my sister and nephew.  It has been a solid six years since I have been to New York, I used to go at least once a year but then life happened… husband… kids… yadda yadda!  My nephew is 20 years old and this was his first visit and boy did he have a BLAST!  We were only there for less than 48 hours, but believe it or not we got a ton done.  Oh and in between everything, we still had time to catch the re-plays of the Royal Wedding.  So happy for the Duke & Duchess of Sussex!

 We stayed at Hotel 32|32 – can we just talk about this amazing location for a minute?  I am admittedly a shop-a-holic, haha!  We were just a few blocks away from the largest Macy’s in the world (I mean seriously, just take my money lol)!!!  The 6 train was just feet outside of the hotel and the Empire State Building was also very close by.  This luxury boutique hotel was absolutely perfect for us!  We got a King Superior room, it had a King sized bed and a sleeper sofa with a full kitchen!  I don’t know if you are familiar with NYC hotels, but you’re lucky if you get an ounce of space, Hotel 32|32 was so spacious, and let me brag about how comfy too!  The bed was the perfect mix of firm and soft as well as the pillows.  A perfect location in a clean, spacious room… it doesn’t get any better!  Just a little tip, there is a little hole-in-the-wall deli literally 50 feet from the entrance of the hotel, it doesn’t look like much, but you should definitely go there for breakfast!  We got 3 breakfast sandwiches, I am talking about eggs, bacon and cheese on a challah roll… for like $8.50 TOTAL!  Can’t beat it!

 

My nephew like most college-aged kids wanted to visit all of the popular sneaker spots in the city.  Our first stop on a rainy Saturday was to Nike Soho, his face was priceless as we rode the elevator to all the many floors of Nike heaven.  I literally giggled the entire time!  I remember my first visit to NYC when I was just a tad older than him; it was really nice to experience all of the magic of NYC for the first time through his eyes.  We managed to also visit Stadium Goods – that in and of itself was an experience!  Let’s put it like this, all of the display sneakers are wrapped in plastic and once they bring out your size to try on, you can’t walk off of the carpet, lol.  The sneaker game is serious!  We also visited Flight Club – another one with serious sneaker game!

We definitely had to do the cliché “must-do’s” of New York!  We rode the train everywhere, the six was our best friend, we took it most out of any other train.  We stood in line in the middle of time square, in the rain, for day-of Broadway and off-Broadway show tickets.  We ended up seeing STOMP!  It was SO much FUN!!! I will never listen to sounds the same again.  And seriously, we got pimp seats – 10th row, orchestra center – it was worth waiting in the rain for the same-day tickets! The next surprise was really cool too because we actually got to meet and take a photo with  Alan Asuncion and Carlos Thomas – two of the stars from the show; we totally weren’t expecting that! They were very nice and humble.

 

Let’s have a moment of silence for Rice to Riches… #GetInMyBelly  Seriously, the BEST!!!  We loved it so much we went there twice on our short trip. Haha!  I ‘ve loved it ever since I saw it featured in the movie Hitch.

We ate pizza at 2 different places; the first place was in the lobby of the Arlo Hotel NoMad.  Now, I know you are thinking “what? pizza in the lobby of a hotel” Yassssss!!! And it was GOOD! I actually preferred it to other place we ate pizza that I won’t name because I was that disappointed in the flavor. But the pizza at the Arlo was the truth!  I am not going to lie, I wasn’t thrilled when I first saw the pizza because it is thick, like Chicago style pizza (which I really don’t care for, sorry Chi-town!) but hear me out… they cook it/heat it up in this table top oven and WOW!!!  It was the bomb-dot-com.  It had just enough crunch and just enough softness <insert drooling face here, lol>

 

 

We paid our respects at the World Trade Center.  The gaping holes in the grounds where the towers once stood are massive.  Every time I think of that day, I remember exactly where I was when I watched the second tower get hit on live TV; it was traumatizing.  It was such an important part of our history; there was no way we could visit New York, especially for my nephews first time and not visit.  I learned that they place roses next to the victims’ names on their birthdays every year.  It was beautiful and heart-breaking all at the same time.  Almost 17 years later and it is still so emotional.  I hope their souls are resting in peace.

  

What do you love most about New York City?

Key West Trip – Must See and Do!

Oh, Key West! I have to start by saying I am native to Florida, which  is actually kind of rare because most people who live here came from somewhere else.  The first time I ever visited Key West was in 2010; now, without fully giving away my age (I am in my 30’s) it’s pretty wild that I had never taken the time to explore this beautiful little town.

Mallory Square is great for people watching – there are tons of people putting on shows whether it is acrobatic cats (yes, feline cats) or someone singing or ripping you off for a $10 coconut, there is so much to see and do down there.  One thing that surprised me was the amount of kids that were there.  Key West has never struck as a “kid-friendly” destination but there were a lot of families and they seemed to be having a good time.

I am sure you have all heard about the amazing sunsets in Key West.  They are just magical!! I recorded a time lapse video of the sunset – it is worth the watch.  You can see the video here. Note, don’t look directly into the sun or you will see spots for a while after, haha.

If you are in search of a beach experience, I do not recommend Key West.  The beaches are beautiful to look at and sit near, however, there are a lot of rocks.  Maybe I have been spoiled with the beautiful Atlantic Ocean in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, along with The Gulf Coast in Naples.  I just personally didn’t care for the beach in Key West.

One of my favorite hidden gems in Key West is Better Than Sex!  Wait! What?  YES!!! It is a dessert restaurant – first things first, how genius is it to have a restaurant that only serves dessert? Yes please!  All of the desserts and drinks are seductively named and they totally live up to the hype.  I have to go there every time I visit the Keys.  Before they moved locations, the restaurant was very dark; I mean so dark that they gave you mini flashlights so you could see the menu.  They really set the tone with the ambience.  While their new location is still quite dim, you can actually see the person/people you are with.

Here are some of my favorites:

   

 

What are your favorite things to do in Key West?

Spring Break 2018 in Walt Disney World

If you keep up with my blog, you know that I travel alone with my kids a lot.  This year for Spring Break was no different!  We decided to go to Walt Disney World, shocking, I know, lol.  We were there for 3 days and visited Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Blizzard Beach.

Now, I know what you are thinking “Disney during Spring Break? No thanks!” because of the crowds.  But honestly, it wasn’t that bad!  It was crowded but probably not any more crowded than a normal weekend (even though we were there during the week).  It was a “different” crowd though – there were people that were clearly unfamiliar with the parks so they would stop and look around a lot.  But that didn’t bother me at all!  I actually kind of like the idea of seeing people experience Disney for the first time, it’s well, magical! Pun totally intended.

I was still able to get fast passes to some of the best rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan at Magic Kingdom.  We also got a fast pass for the Na’vi River Journey at Animal Kingdom.  The Avatar Flight of Passage of course was unavailable – but it is normally unavailable anyway, so no biggie.  And as I mentioned, I was alone with my kids – my daughter isn’t tall enough yet for it, so no baby swapping for us!

We stayed at Bahama Bay Resort in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 4 bed condo – that was nothing short of amazing!  It had a full sized kitchen that allowed me to cook breakfast and dinner every night that we were there.  I was able to go Grocery shopping at Publix which was just a short 5 minute drive away and stock up on all of our goodies.  The resort had a splash pad that my kids just LOVED!  It was really a home away from home experience.  I also liked that it was in more of a residential neighborhood, so it gave me the feeling of not really being a “tourist” which I liked a lot.  But yet we were so close to all of the action!

One of our favorite places to eat in Orlando is Texas Roadhouse  (the fresh baked rolls, OMG! – Try them with ranch dressing, don’t judge, just try it!) which was just 10 minutes away on the 192.  If you are familiar with Orlando at all, you know the 192 is one of the main roadways and it is very close to Bahama Bay Resort.  Animal Kingdom and Blizzard Beach were also just a 20 minute car ride.

  

Our experience at Blizzard Beach was SO. MUCH. FUN.  I cannot express what a good time we had there.  Right before our trip, I upgraded our annual passes to the Platinum Plus because it includes the Water Parks and has no blackouts.  Boy, am I happy that I did that!!  I can’t wait to go back to the water parks.  My son did an epic backflip on the zip line attraction – I am pretty sure it was unplanned but it was amazing!  You can enjoy a little video clip of it below:

If you want to see more of our fun videos, be sure to check us out on YouTube here.

How did you spend your spring break?

 

Kidlo Kids Educational App

My kids have been lucky enough to partner with Kidlo to try out their Award Winning educational app for kids and toddlers; I have to say, it has been nothing short of amazing!  My toddlers (ages 5 and 3) love to “play” with this app. I say play in quotations because while they are playing, they are really learning – which I LOVE!

It’s been said so many times that we should limit screen time, and I agree, too much stimulation isn’t good.  But when they do get screen time, I prefer them to be on an app that is providing both education and fun.  I also like that it is safe for them to be on without my supervision because I know that nothing inappropriate will pop up.  That is comforting for me as a Mom.

Kidlo provides Math, Reading, Phonics and so much more!  I would definitely rate this app in my top 3 for kids “must-have” apps.  There are songs and kid-friendly activities that really holds their attention.

My daughter (the 3 year old) struggles with the alphabet.  Can she sing the song? Yes.  Can she recognize letters in front of her? No.  Both of my kids are very different, and that’s ok.  My son could spell his name at age 2 and could tell me all the planets in the solar system at age 3 – not joking.  I love that the Kidlo “Learn English” app provides my daughter with songs about each letter in the alphabet and it’s not one song per letter,  I heard at least 3 different songs on just the letter E alone.  I love it!  I know that in time, she will recognize and know her letters very soon with the help of Kidlo.

My 5 year old will be entering Kindergarten this coming school year.  We are going on vacation this week for Spring Break and I am happy that we have the Kidlo app at our fingertips so he can continue to practice his addition and subtraction even while we are away.  The trick is on him though because while he is having fun, he is also learning all while we are on vacation! Mom win! Regardless of age or skill level, there is something for toddlers at all stages of their educational development.

My one suggestion for Kidlo would be to add a desktop version.  While apps are amazing and so accessible (believe me I love this), I think it is also a good idea to have a desktop version so kids can practice using a mouse and keyboard.  Just my opinion!  Disclaimer – We did not try the coding app yet, but it is next on the list.  We have downloaded it and will be “playing” with that very soon as well.  The English and Math apps are great.

What are your favorite kid friendly, educational apps?

Thank you to Kidlo for allowing us to try out these apps.  We have thoroughly enjoyed them and are looking forward to continuing to use them for our fun and education.

You can download these awesome apps here:

Kidlo English App: English Learning For Kids

Math Games: Kindergarten Math Games For Kids

Coding Game: Kidlo Coding Games      

Traveling Alone With Kids For Spring Break

More often than not, my friends ask me how I travel alone with my kids all of the time.  Most of our Disney trips are just my kids (ages 5 and 3) and I.  To me, it is work but I just do it.  My husband has a crazy work schedule and isn’t able to travel with us that often.  So, do my kids suffer because of that? Or do I take the bull by the horns and just make it happen?  I choose the latter.

Just yesterday though, I had a “situation”.  Spring Break is coming up for my kiddos and I have been on the fence trying to decide what to do with them.  I asked my son (5 years old) where he wanted to go.  He said “to China to climb the Great Wall”.  Er, um, lol, I don’t think so buddy.  So I decided on a Disney Cruise.  We took one last year and absolutely LOVED it!  I will write another blog just on that one, I promise.  So, I went ahead and booked the Disney Cruise… then called back 20 minutes later and cancelled.

Why?  Well, I freaked out about being on a ship and traveling internationally alone with my kids.  I mean, full blown, crying, shaking, anxiety, panic attack!  I am normally a rational person, but for whatever reason unknown to me, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of going on a cruise alone with my small children.  My mind went to the craziest places of my brain.  I thought “what if something happened to me? My kids wouldn’t know how to get help”.  Disney, of course, was super great about it and was able to help me.  After cancelling, I literally felt the blood and heat return to my body.  Was it just an irrational thought?  My intuition? Buyers remorse? Or just downright crazy? I guess I will never know.

  

Now I am back to square one trying to decide where to go and what to do for Spring Break, lol.  And to be honest, I am a Floridian through and through – it’s kind of cold right now!  I need the ocean to be a good 85 degrees, lol.  Where are you going for Spring Break? I need some ideas!  Do you travel alone with your children?

  

Here are my Top 10 tips for traveling alone with small kids to Disney:

  1. Go with the flow.  I like to have the idea of a plan, but it is important to let things unfold.
  2. Pack snacks! Lots of snacks!
  3. Take time to explore and let them play; don’t rush
  4. Don’t forget sunblock
  5. Take lots of photos
  6. Even though my kids are 5 and 3, I think a stroller is needed. It is also a good place to store things like a bag with cups, water and snacks.
  7. Take naps!  My kids still nap, so we go early in the morning, break for a nap and return to the park after
  8. Make dining reservations.  Quick service is difficult when I am by myself so Table Service is always a better option for me.
  9. Do character meetings and get a break from the sun… win-win!
  10. Last but not least, HAVE FUN!

Our First Visit to the Kennedy Space Center

 

 

 

 

 

Being a native Floridian, it is so bizarre that in my 30+ years I have never visited the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.  I am not entirely sure why we never visited, not even as a kid on a field trip.  Lucky for me, I gave birth to a little boy who loves all things transportation – planes, trains, automobiles and well… space shuttles!

In preparation for our trip, I downloaded the official NASA, KSC app.  I was able to plan out our day and read all about the attractions that we might want to visit and see.  We arrived right at 9am when the park opened, we wanted to be sure to beat the crowd.

It was most important to me that we see the space shuttle Atlantis, so we headed there first.  The space shuttle is HUGE! It had to be at least the size of a three story building (or bigger).  It was surreal to look at a shuttle that had been to outer space and back; and there it was right in front of our eyes in real-life.  It is so close, you can almost touch it.

Another area within the Atlantis building that was so touching to me, was the memorial for the Challenger and Columbia.  I can remember watching the launch of the Challenger as a kid in school.  It was such a traumatizing experience to see in real-time.  Seeing a piece of the panel and being able to read about the brave men and women aboard that mission was very emotional.  It was a very somber, yet proud feeling.  I had a moment of silence for our fallen heroes.  There is also a memorial wall for each astronaut, with personal items and photos.

On a lighter note, we had lunch with astronaut Sam Durrance.  We didn’t know what to expect considering our kids are 5 and 3 years old.  They were both SO into it! #nerdalert #proudmommoment My son asked Mr. Durrance if he had ever been to Mars, it was cute.  Mr. Durrance was so polite in saying that he (my son) could be the first astronaut on Mars – his eyes lit up with excitement and optimism.  I think as a parent, it is our job to nourish and develop the curiosity in our children;  allow them to dream big and know that anything they can imagine is indeed possible.

KSC had so much to spark wonder and our inner child curiosity.  There is a Rocket Garden with massive sized rockets, a Journey to Mars and also one of our other favorites was the bus tour to the restricted areas.  We were able to see launch pads 39 and 40 and see the huge building that houses the rockets.  That is the closest we could get to the launch pads.  Watching it on television just doesn’t do any justice to showing the enormous size.  The bus tour also takes us to the moon area where you actually get to touch a piece of the moon!

We really enjoyed our time at KSC and would recommend it to all ages.  If planned out correctly, you can complete the entire complex in a day.  I highly recommend taking the opportunity to have lunch with an astronaut; the prices are affordable… and honestly, when else will you be able to meet and hang out with a real astronaut?!

Have you ever been to KSC?  If so, what was your favorite attraction? Sound off in the comments!

Yummy Avocado Toast

 

Avocado toast is EVERYTHING! Can I get an amen?  It’s such an easy and healthy, delicious meal.  When I was pregnant with my son just under six years ago, I would wake up in the middle of the night (to pee, of course) and I would be starving! I didn’t want to eat anything unhealthy but I needed something to fulfil my craving; avocado toast was my go-to, middle of the night, meal.  And if we’re being honest, that was before the millennials made avocado toast a “cool” thing… I think to think of myself as a trendsetter, lol.

When you slice open a ripe Haas avocado and it is so pretty, doesn’t it make the avocado toast taste that much better?  I am sure you have all seen the memes about how avocados are hard, then ready for like two seconds, then overripe haha.  Well, this avocado was just perfect!  I guess I had good timing?

My kids loved the taste and asked for more… meanwhile they “don’t like” avocados.  Whatever works right? The best part about it, you can make avocado toast for any meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner, middle of the night snack, you name it!  I bet you’re hungry now right?  Let’s get right to the recipe:

Yummy Avocado Toast

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • One 8-ounce ripe avocado, halved, pitted and peeled (I like Hass the best)
  • Fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices whole grain or whole wheat bread
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or unsalted butter, softened
  • Flaky sea salt, for serving
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Instructions

  1. Mash the avocado with a fork in a shallow bowl until chunky. Season with fine salt and black pepper.
  2. Toast the bread until browned and crisp. Lightly rub 1 side of each slice with the cut side of the garlic until fragrant; discard the garlic. Lightly brush the toasts with oil, and season with fine salt and pepper. Divide the mashed avocado evenly among the toasts, and top with more flaky sea salt, more black pepper and red pepper flakes if using.
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I added an over-medium egg on top; it was the perfect addition to this already perfect meal.  I especially like enjoying avocado toast at brunch, I would say that is my favorite meal at a bunch spread.  I saw a shirt in Target that said “you are the avocado to my toast”; it was so cute, I need it in my life.  Target is a whole other subject, don’t get me started on my favorite store! Ha! That will be another blog post.

Do you have a favorite avocado toast recipe? If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments.  Sound off!

Mickey Mouse Pancakes

 

This morning my kids asked for Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes.  Who am I to say no? After all, I agreed that it was a great idea!  The last time we attempted to make them, it wasn’t easy.  But this time, I am happy to announce that they were a success!  The difference was oiling the cookie cutter, go figure!

Here is the recipe:

Mickey Mouse Pancakes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • •1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • •3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • •1 teaspoon salt
  • •1 tablespoon white sugar
  • •1 1/4 cups milk
  • •1 egg
  • •3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • •1 Mickey Mouse cookie cutter or mold

Instructions

  1. Step 1 - In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.
  2. Step 2 - Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Grease the cookie cutter or mold. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle in the center of the mold (fill to desired thickness). Brown and remove the mold, flip and brown the other side.
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That’s it! Believe me, it is as easy as it sounds.  The trick is to make sure you grease the cookie cutter or mold so that it doesn’t stick while trying to remove it.  It is also very important to note that you don’t want to use a lot of grease on the pan or it will make the pancakes oily.

Kids and husband approved Mickey Mouse pancakes!  My husband said they were the “best pancakes he’s ever eaten; even better than the restaurants”.  That’s quite a compliment!  We added fresh blueberries to ours since they are in season and go well together with pancakes.

Give them a try and let us know what you think in the comments.

Source: Good Old Fashioned Pancakes – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/21014/good-old-fashioned-pancakes/?internalSource=hub%20recipe&referringContentType=search%20results&clickId=cardslot%201

 

Free Interactive Games at Walt Disney World: Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Did you know that they are FREE interactive games at the Walt Disney World Parks?  I didn’t… until recently!  As you may have guessed, I consider myself to be somewhat of a Disney connoisseur, so I was surprised that these games existed and I didn’t even have a clue.

Recently I played the Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom game and had so much fun!  First things first, you will have to go to the Fire House near the front gate of the Magic Kingdom park; there, you will be able to register for the game and get your first set of playing cards.  These aren’t any regular playing cards either, they are magical, spell casting cards!

Once you get all set up and get the instructions on how to play, you set off on a mission to save Magic Kingdom!  The gist of the game is, you go to the magical portals that, by the way, looks like a regular wall or shopping window until you scan your magicband then the magic begins! You will be given step by step instructions on what to do… I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone, so I will leave it at that.

This game is fun for kids of all ages and adults alike.  I saw all age ranges having a go at the chance to save Magic Kingdom.  Some people take this game quite seriously; they had notebooks full of cast spelling cards! Meanwhile, I hardly knew this existed, LOL.  Then of course as I strolled through the Emporium, I saw the packs of cards for purchase; I imagine they must be hard-to-get or limited edition cards because the game is free to play and you can go back to the fire house for more cards if you’d like.

There is also a similar Pirates game, I believe that one is a treasure hunt though.  I will definitely look into playing that one on my next trip to Magic Kingdom!  The game is linked to your MagicBand for a year and a half, so you can pick up right where you left off on your next visit to WDW.  Also, you must use the same MagicBand that you initially registered with because the game does not transfer from band to band.

Have you ever played Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom or the Pirates game? Are there any other free games to play at WDW that I have missed? Sound off in the comments!

 

The “Threenager” Woes:

Let’s start with the definition:

Threenager – Three-nāj-er (noun):

A 3-year-old child, going on 18 that has emotional outbursts and an attitude of that of a teenager.

 

I cannot be the only person going through the “Threenager” phase! Whoever came up with “terrible twos” just hadn’t hit the threes yet! My word… it’s tough! My daughter tells me practically every night
don’t talk to me ever again”… haha ok. Insert eye-rolling emoji here.

 

My friends and I have chatted about this lovely stage in our babes’ lives; one friend said her son tells her “Mommy you’re not my best friend anymore”.   I think it’s cute… to an extent. We definitely have to pick and choose our battles as parents; and honestly, half of the time I walk away (and giggle to myself). I love to see her personality although it can be trying at times.

 

6 Signs that you have a Threenager:

  1. Nap time… what is this nap time you speak of? No matter how tired they are, they will never ever want to take a nap.
  2. They have selective hearing. Often the voice they hear isn’t yours.
  3. Commanding is an understatement – they are downright bossy!
  4. Glitter shoes anyone? With every-single-outfit.
  5. Independence overload!
  6. ATTITUDE! Expect an outburst or temper tantrum at any given moment.

 

Thankfully, this phase is just for a season. I feel like I can hear wine glasses clinking around the world as I speak… Mommies unite! I wouldn’t trade my little threenager for the world. I love every stage of this “parenting thing”, trials and all. It’s wild how fast time goes! In a blink of an eye, they will be all grown up and I will probably be longing for those attitude-y, “don’t ever talk to me again” comments.

 

Can you relate? Do you have a Threenager?  Please tell me I’m not alone!