Sharing my favorite salad dressing that I made for tonight’s dinner. A few friends are coming by to have pizza and salad. One of my favorite meals!
This vinaigrette is amazing, and foolproof. Seriously, anyone can make this and the results are always the same… YUM.
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, I normally use 1 heavy pinch of each
If you have a mortar and pestle, use here, but since my kitchen is packed away I used what I had! Which worked great! A fork and a Pyrex cup!
In the vessel, place salt and garlic, then mash the garlic enough that it starts to turn into a paste. Stir in vinegar and add pepper.
Whisk in olive oil one spoonful at a time until you form an emulsion.
I love using this dressing to dip pizza crust into. It’s just amazing.
Happy Fall! A few weeks ago I had made a mini challenge to lose 5lbs by October 1. If I make the goal, I will see a number I have been dying to see on the scale for a long time! Too long.
On a good note, I lost 1lb so far! But ..I have four lbs to lose before next Tuesday!! ARG! Six days.
I am having such an issue with this goal that it is upsetting me. 😥 Could stress affect weight loss? Anyone know? I have been feeling stressed, which is unlike me.
As I have talked about before, I have been prepping for the major renovations that should be kicking off next week. My role has been to deal with packing up the dining room, kitchen, bathroom and part of our TV/playroom; while we are all still living in them. We have a lot of stuff! All of the boxes have been stored in my house on the second floor and in our living room. Where we have to create a makeshift kitchen, playroom, and living room as soon as the guys show up. And we have to live this way until at least December..a birthday ruiner? Probably!! The packing has been on the heels of other family events that we haven’t rebounded from quite yet; and some I am trying to plan on our horizon. We still have to go out and shop appliances and materials! oye.
Also, I didn’t quite expect to stress out from both the girls full-time in school! Going through their backpacks at night is demanding. Between homework and papers; I don’t know about others being as bombarded with information from their schools, but holy crap the paperwork! Then add in the orientations, school or teacher emails, online class updates, Tuesday’s 3 hour curriculum night, and the upcoming 2 different day parent teacher meetings.. after school care, dance class…when do I NOT talk to my children about school?
Adding to this, I have been swamped with work, too. Over the Summer, my division changed one of our major security vendors, one of which I have worked with closely for almost 10 yrs! With this new change, I experienced a major lag in receiving project based proposals. But look what I got yesterday and have to process in five days..
And, on top of all this..long story I am making SUPER short. My whole family has been turned upside down over the past month or so. One of my Aunts, who is 82, has moved in with my parents. YEP. You heard me right. So, it’s been somewhat stressful for everyone in my family on a daily basis since she got here. I am hoping things will settle on this front soon as she will be a normal part of our family.
I guess, I need to take time to breath. Realize all these things will even out eventually, and focus one one day at a time. But, lemme tell ya, I am thankful I am not a stress eater!
Thanks for listening to me rant everyone! Cross your fingers for me to make this goal!
To Dining Plan or Not to Dining Plan?
If you are not familiar with the dining plan concept, Disney offers an exclusive meal plan if you book one of their Magic Your Way packages (staying on their property). While staying on property you can purchase this dining plan, unless exception offered, that can be used at any of the 100 food establishments listed on the dining list for snacks and meals at the four parks/downtown area. There are different dining plan packages for the types of meals they offer, quick service or table service meals, and your allocated number of snacks/meals per day depend on the level of plan you choose. Also, I believe this includes a free refillable resort mug that can be used daily. To use the plan, your “key to the world” card, your room key, acts as the credit card basically tracking your plan’s allocated meals/snacks, but it doesn’t include gratuity or alcohol, those are separate; which you can see on your purchase receipts. Anything unused is forfeited at the end. There is a comprehensive breakdown of this service on the Disney website here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/planning-guides/in-depth-advice/disney-dining-plan.
Most times it is best to opt into the dining plan if you plan on dining at some of the character dinners or signature restaurants which can be pricey on their own. Also, if you like to travel without thinking too much about things, like me, it’s a great service!
–>Last trip, we opted into the plan for the whole stay (8 days), because we got it for free with the package they were offering at the time, and figured it was a great service to have so we did not worry about much else but having fun at the parks. We went for the regular dining plan. This includes 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal, and 1 snack, per person per day. The snacks could be drinks or snack foods, which was a great thing to have on hand. The table service meals were an entrée and dessert if they were not buffet style restaurants.
I do like and dislike the plan. Of course, why else would I bring this up, right?
The plan was great overall. It was perfect for my children. Though it was a lot of eating for us, for my husband and I. In retrospect, we realized we were eating way more than being on normal vacation or every day life. It doesn’t seem all that much, 2 meals and a snack per day. It seemed logical..eating full meals twice a day and then a snack is more than enough for all four of us, but then well, it’s vacation..you get munchy..you add on top of that all the indulging treats like, MICKEY BARS, ice creams, cotton candy, beignets, pretzels, French pastries, etc, and then alcoholic drinks.. it ends up a lot! No amount of us busting our butts walking around those parks for 10-14 hours a day was enough to burn those calories!
So NOT happening this time!!!
–>For this trip, we are opting into the dining plan for 5 out of the 11 days, during the first half of the trip. Since we are splitting time at 2 resorts we can use it for half or all the trip. We will be using the plan for those character dinners the girls loved, and to the places we wanted to go last time and couldn’t. Honestly, I think the dining plan is great for the character dinners-that is if you or your family like that type of thing. The prices of these dinners normally on their own are sort of out of whack, in my opinion, so using the plan seemed right then and this time, too.
We already booked our dining reservations* for 6 locations, using one off plan later in our trip. We are going to a few new restaurants, and back to two our girls liked a lot. The other places we dined were ok last time, but the two they enjoyed the most are on the agenda up front. We went to a fun restaurant every night last trip, with only two being character dinners. The first night we went to The Crystal Palace to meet Winnie the Pooh and all his friends for dinner at the Magic Kingdom (I didn’t enjoy this place at ALL! But they had a blast and we finished eating in time to catch the fireworks nearby.). Then a few days later we went to the Arkershus Banquet Hall to meet all the Princesses in Norway at EPCOT, which we all liked a lot. When I had talked about Disney with them upon our return home, they claimed that was their favorite restaurant on that trip, Arkershus. They were part of the Princess parade and got to meet ALL their favorite princesses in one spot, and even had a photo shoot with Belle. So, how can I deny them that for this trip?
Our Dining Reservations:
-Dinner at O’hana
-Dinner at Chef Mickey’s
-Breakfast at Tusker House
-Dinner at Arkershus Banquet Hall (repeat)
-Dinner at Boma (repeat)
-and off the dining plan: dinner at 50’s Prime Time Cafe- cause my kids are obsessed with milk shakes. I mean OBSESSED! Plus, we can hit up Fantasmic right after, which wasn’t open when we were there last! It is an attraction we think they will absolutely love!
I am looking forward to the restaurants we have never been to; and ALSO, I am looking forward to Starbucks in the parks, like I keep mentioning ..does anyone know if you can use snack options there? ha
Thanks for reading!
*YES! RESERVATIONS! If you haven’t been to Disney in a long time, things have changed a lot. And I mean A LOT! The first couple of times I went it wasn’t a big thing for us to stay on property or to even eat at the parks, but now that I have children, it is all-consuming and a priority. Everything involving booking a trip to Disney is about the timing! Time of year to go. Time of day to fly. Timing on making dining reservations. Timing on ride lines. Timing on events. Timing to meet characters! Timing! Things book up super fast and if you don’t have your options put together you lose out..well, your kids lose out! Which is the worst.
I’ve got the Disney bug pretty fierce this go around! -no, it’s really bad. Every free chance I get I am researching and pinning Disney related ideas trying to figuring out how to trump the Christmas present presentation from last time. Also, with life so hectically disrupted over the past month or more, I think it’s compounding my desire to escape into this trip!
… Or maybe it’s cause plainly put…I NEED A VACATION! Either way.
Just seeing my children’s expressions when they realize we are going again will be amazing. Oh, I cannot wait!
Trip Details thus far: As the title of this post states the flights and resorts have been booked..and I’d like to say and PAID FOR! YES!
We booked our flights along with the resorts a month ago, and paid them off immediately. JetBlue had great direct flight times, and the price was just right! Last week, we booked and paid for a town car to pick up/drop off each way! The girls are going to be so excited! And we will be too, well relieved. Our biggest concern using a service is the car seats for the kids. We contacted this company who offered, without us asking, to use our girls’ car seats to the airport, they’ll store them for us during the trip, and set them up for the way back home. Pheeew!
We are going for 11 days to really enjoy ourselves, and just as last time, we are splitting our time in half at two very different resorts. The first is The Contemporary’s Bay Lake Towers (Park View) and the other is the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jumbo House Savanna View). Last Disney trip we split our time at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Port Orleans, French Quarter. Very different resorts, but we enjoyed them both for what they were.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge: Back during the Christmas holidays of 2003, my husband and I took a trip to Disney World where we stayed off property and rented a car. Since we had the car, he decided on our last day in Disney to venture and check out the newer resorts on Disney property. It was fun to see all the specific themed holiday decorations. I loved it. He took me to the Wilderness Lodge and then the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Both amazingly beautiful resorts, but when I walked in to the AKL I didn’t want to leave! The theme was executed perfectly, the attention to detail at these resorts is amazing.
When we planned our first family trip, I requested the AKL. Thank goodness I did, because it ended up a great resort for my family. Which led me to requesting it this time around for a longer stay. It is logical, the resort was such a treat for all of us, why not go back for longer?
The Jumbo House side restaurant, Boma, is a lot of fun. They set up buffet style, but there are a lot of foods that I never heard of (and a lot of staple foods too) that were delicious, AND they carry the wines I like-some South African white wines. We dined there for our first dinner at Disney. The experience was great, and it was the same during that whole trip. I am part of a family with two family members that have food allergies, my husband and oldest daughter, and even though while making the dining reservations we marked the reservations with allergies and so on, naturally, I was really apprehensive on how eating around Disney was going to go. No matter how many stories or things people tell you, the experience you have first hand is the experience. But it was all amazing. Of course, it’s Disney! The wait staff immediately talked to us about what dining in Disney with allergies is about, then within seconds the executive chef paid us a visit at our table to discuss the allergens and then took us on a tour of everything they were serving telling us what is safe or not. Surprisingly enough, every restaurant we went to had the same mode of operation, and each chef was happy to talk with us and made us feel secure. I mean, that is incredible right? They must talk to at least 20 families a day or MORE, but yet, I still felt they were attentive and cared about our situation. 🙂
Back to the hotel. The hotel was just beautiful, and had a lot of places inside the hotel and outside for viewing animals. Plus, we had a great view from our hotel room too, and the grounds were so pretty during the day and lit up at night. They have a fire pit set up outside with rocking chairs, and at night under the stars, it was so peaceful. They have another fireplace set up inside, which was great when it got chilly outside! They had night viewing safari which we all had a lot of fun with. My kids had a blast no matter what there, which surprised me cause it’s not as Disneyesque as the other themed resorts, but they had a lot of fun activities for them.
Port Orleans, French Quarter: After a lot of research, and recommendations, my husband and I ended up booking the second half of our trip here. We found the staff super nice and hilarious, and were at times a highlight of our mornings. Especially the older gentlemen opening our door. My daughters loved him, maybe cause for a high-five he would give them colored beads and coins? Maybe 😛
We had a wonderful time at this resort, a lot of memories were made. The girls loved skipping down the streets because they were themed after the ones you’d find in New Orleans..small, with the cast iron horse ties. They also loved the pool area, it has a giant reptile slide, where they mustered up their courage to slide down it alone. We loved the grounds, too, as we had a garden view, and could easily walk to the bus, resort’s dining area and the pool. On our last day we discovered we were also near the river. But, the resort was under renovations at the time, so some amenities were not accessible, which was sort of a bummer, but aside from that, it was a nice resort. But even if they had the renovations going on, we didn’t spend all that much time at the resort because we just were out from morning till late night, just going to the resort to sleep and maybe swim in the morning. So, it was definitely ok.
The girls, also, loved both resorts, which was great; and I am crossing my fingers they think this for the Contemporary, too, because it is least themed resort. Not that they need a theme, but themed resorts are fun. Also, this resort was a choice of my husband’s that I couldn’t deny. He stayed there as a child, and feels nostalgic to go back; and, also because he wanted to be able to use the monorail more on this trip.
I’ve never been thrilled walking through the Contemporary, so I am slightly bummed- VERY SLIGHLTY. I think it’s beautiful, and am not opposed to seeing what it is all about because I have heard good things so far. It does have some great amenities for us, like one of our character meals will be there, then with the accessibility of the monorail, the walking distance to the Magic Kingdom, if we wanted to walk…and with the fireworks visible from our room. I am excited for that, especially the very first night after we land and have dinner, we can end it snuggled together on our balcony watching the show!
It’s all about making memories!
And boy, am I going to try to bat a thousand with them this time around!
Stay tuned for more info on our trip!
*****Oh, one more thing!! I missed good PORTABLE coffee on our last trip. YES, another reason why I am slightly more excited with this trip than before is, and, of course some of you knew I was going to bring this up. Starbucks is open at the Disney Parks! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS…espresso every morning like normal! (Did you hear that Chris?? STARBUCKS, not DD! Not even Disney wants to run on Dunkin’s! Yup, you lost this coffee wars officially.)
As we are wrapping up from the girls’ birthday bash, I am onto the next project phase in my life …packing up the four major rooms of my house, in their entirety!! ..the kitchen, bathroom, dining room and TV room! As you guessed it, the house renovations are around the corner and I started working on getting everything stored away yesterday, and will probably continue tonight into the weekend. My Mom and Sister will be swinging by at the end of the week to help me further, too. Thank GOD! It is a lot of work and I only got through two shelves of my dining room closet!! It is a huge closet, in my defense. ARG! —-> But I am not going to talk about that right now, cause I am also in the midst of planning our next trip to DISNEY WORLD! YAAAHHH!
We have done a ton of planning and prepping for this trip so far, and have a lot more to do, but let me start this category of my blog off with some back story.
My favorite part of this trip’s planning is that our two girls have no clue about this vacation yet, well technically; this will be their big gift from Santa this Christmas!
We had repeated this type of ‘secret’ before in 2011, some of you might remember it was for our first Disney family trip in 2012 that I photo posted back when I started this blog. We had convinced our oldest, who was at the magical age of 6 at the time, to ask Santa for a trip for the family to Disney World. Which she thought was the best idea she had ever come up with (hah). For some reason I had told my children, “When you are six, it is an even more magical age to interact with Santa, and he can give you any gift you really really would like. Like say…a trip to Disney World!”..power of persuasion people!
And that is what Santa gave the girls! A gift box was left in front of the Christmas tree, a humongous box!, filled with all the things they needed for a perfect Winter vacation in Disney. Whatever you can think of it was in that box. I went nuts, I mean, Santa was very generous!! The box was wrapped in candy cane striped paper that had giant black Mickey Mouse heads adorning every side at the center. The box’s lid was tricked out. When the girls removed the lid from the box, a massive amount of Mickey Mouse colored streamers with hanging Mickey Mouse cut outs spilled down. They thought that was the coolest thing! Everything in the box was in a Disney wrap theme of some sort. There were small toys of all types inside (a lot with blinking lights!), a 2012 Mickey calendar, some custom designed shirts with embroidered characters and names, store-bought clothes, handmade Mickey, Minnie and Disney Princess sculpted hairclips and hair bands, Cars 2 the Movie, airplane snacks for the flights there and back, homemade coloring books with Minnie Mouse themed crayons and coloring pencils, bubbles, Disney plushes, Mickey and Minnie silver necklaces and rings, faux park tickets, maps with itineraries, and on top of it all was a special letter from Mickey made out to the girls!
Now, our youngest just turned 6 a couple of weeks ago…. that magical age. Which means Santa has to be creative with the present again this year.
We have booked flights, made dinner reservations and started some small projects so far, which I will touch upon in my next Disney related blog. Planning this trip further on here will be a perfect distraction as we get in the thick of construction. I created a Disney category tab on my homepage so you can share in the insanity of planning this trip! I love to share the things I do, because I hope it will spark others who are creative with ideas like it does for me, and, they can share their experiences and such back.
Have an awesome week guys!
Keep an eye open for the next trip planning installment!
You will need to make a batch of Rice Krispies Treats.
The recipe is as follows:
3 tbsp butter
1 10oz package of marshmallows
6 cups of dry Rice Krispies
In a large sauce pan, melt the butter slowly, add in the marshmallows, and melt completely. Add in the cereal and mix well.
Then you need to have a lightly greased wax paper covered baking sheet to spread out the mixture to cool. I used my hands, greased with cooking spray, to flatten and mold the cereal across the sheet.
To make the Nigiri style sushi, the fish on top of the rice, start by taking a handful of the cereal mixture and molding it into shape.
Once the shapes are formed, take a candy fish and place on top. Taking a fruit roll up, cut into strips, surround the fish to keep it in place.
To make the Maki Roll type of sushi, the wrapped roll, take some cereal in your hand and shape it into a marshmallow puff..not a circle and not a square. Make sure these pieces are bite sized. Once shaped, cover the outside with the fruit roll up and then add in the jellied candies in by pressing them firmly into the center while holding the whole treat in your hand.
I saved a few date night’s worth of sushi grass for this project, which is where I got what you are seeing in these photos. Real easy to wash!
For those that are dairy intolerant, I made marshmallow sushi bites in both the Nigiri and Maki roll style. Same application of the candy, just on a marshmallow!
To complete the look of sushi, for my daughters’ birthday, where we used the candy sushi, I added a touch of more whimsy by using packaged cake snacks cut into thirds to mimic more Maki Rolls.
This project was so much fun to do and everyone really enjoyed it!
Happy birthday to my September girls!
We celebrated the girls this weekend with a super fun birthday theme, a Kokeshi Birthday!
The girls had one request for their birthday party this year, well two. One was that they wanted a jumpy house, and the other was to have Chinese food! Which is how I came up with the Kokeshi theme. I know, Chinese food is clearly not Japanese, but I claimed the day Asian to make it work! Which for those that know me, know this party theme is right up my alley! I was happy the girls were as excited about the theme I came up with as I was!
A Kokeshi Theme Birthday
The Invitation: Luckily, as I’ve mentioned before, my husband is an artist and we have been making the girls’ birthday invitations for them since their very first one. It is a treat for us and for them, since I save them as a a memento for them every year. I love looking back at the invitations past.
So the invitation. I gave my husband very little instruction. I said, “the girls need to look like Kokeshi dolls” and this is what he came up with:
Then before sending them off I had stamped a Geisha on the envelopes!
The Decor: The basis for the decor was to keep it simple. The color scheme was blue and green with natural bamboo accents. For the tables I chose white table covers topping them with bamboo mats. Then on top of the tables, I chose to fill large glasses vase we already owned with raw Thai rice (smells good!) and a colorful paper parasol stuck in the rice to keep it secure; and also, to give some shade if needed for the guests at the tables without an umbrella.
On the beverage table I used a white cover as well, then placed a colorful parasol laying on its side to decorate the space and to shade the beverages. It worked out real well.
For hanging decor, I reused some paper fans from Easter that were colorful and got a few white tissue balls and tissue streamers to decorate the house and the fence. My husband made signs and enlarged Kokeshi daughters for me to hang up as well. It came out great, and the yard was perfect!
The Food: The girls one big desire for this party was Chinese food. So my husband and I thought putting a Chinese Buffet together would be great, and easy! Which is what we did. We ordered all the great appetizer/finger foods we could think of: Chicken wings, Chicken fingers, Spare ribs, Peking raviolis, Fried shrimp, Veg Fried Rice, Veg Lo Mein, Crab rangoon, hu siang Broccoli, and a bunch of other things that I can’t think of right now. The restaurant supplied us with fortune cookies, all the sauces, and chopsticks.
The Cake and Treats!: This is where I had a lot of fun! We made Candy Sushi (click link to find out how we did that) of all types and it was a blast making them.
Then we figured instead of buying a massive cake like we have in the past, which we end up having around the house for a week, that I would make cupcakes. Which is what I did. One daughter wanted vanilla and the other chocolate. Then I decorated them simply with a little of my vanilla frosting and then topped them with a colorful cocktail umbrella. Keeping with an Asian feel. They came out great!
The Girls’ Outfits: For the start of the party, I had the girls wear Geisha styled / Asian styled costumes. It was a great way to tie in the theme and make the girls feel special.
Pinata Time: The best part of the day was the pinata, ONLY because a sledgehammer made an appearance. YES, sledgehammer. The pinata was made so well that no child nor adult could crack it open..and we all tried! But we had a great time trying! Here are some pics of the event.
Face Painting and Geisha Hair dos: This year I opted out of doing a craft, only because a jumpy house was going to be the focal point of all the children, but my mother in law offered to face paint. She is amazing, and I definitely recommend her for your party too. Look her up here.
Then I made a small station for hair and makeup. I had made chopsticks for the updos and had a lipliner and eyeliner for makeup. The girls could choose to put their hair up, and if they didn’t get face painted, I painted on eyes and lips to mimic the Geisha style. It was cute and fun for the girls of all ages.
All the fun we had! I love my family and friends tremendously, and thank each and every one of you guys for a fantastic day! xoxoxo!
xoxoxox thanks for reading!