Disney DAY!!!!!!

Part two of five. Who’s ready for Disney???? This was the question asked on our second morning. Three hands went up with sheer excitement. Three you ask, but there are only two littles, the third was mine. I love Disney, and that love is trickling down to the girls. 

TIP: if you’ve never visited the park, we highly suggest you create an account with Disney and download their free app before you go. This has everything you could need to know at Disney, admission prices and virtual tickets, line wait times, show times, character locations, and menus. It also serves as a virtual photo booth, and map.

For our Disney adventure, we chose the three-day park hopper pass. It was more affordable and allowed us to see more in which ever park we wanted. But our first day would be Disneyland to see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle! We got a bit of a late start, shudder, for spring break crowds by arriving at 9:30 a.m. Not ideal if you are following the Unofficial Guide to Disney. TIP: If you’re headed to Disney, GET THIS BOOK. Follow the link, I’ll wait here…

Done, good. I’ll admit, our first day we didn’t rely on the book or the app. Which meant we didn’t use our time effectively or see all that we wanted.

But our first day at the part we had an agenda, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique! This is serious business if you have littles. Children, 12 and under – no they don’t offer it for adults (I asked ☹️), are transformed into their favourite princess, knight or pirate. So cool. In true Disney magic, children pick a hair style, makeup and manicure all completed by a fairy godmother in training. We opted for the castle package which included a custom bird- made dress – yes, you read that right…it is Disney afterall – cue Cinderella. The girls changed into their freshly made Elena of Avalor and Frozen Fever Elsa dresses and were escorted to the salon. Each girl chose the princess bun which came with the Mickey crystal tiara and hair clip.

The big cupcake was up first, while the little hung out, watched her sister get transformed and waited exceptionally patiently. Translation: someone forgot about her. Finally it was her turn. When the girls were finally presented to see themselves they said the magic words and the curtains were drawn back by birds. True Disney magic! The girls were then royally announced to the crowd and escorted to the royal photography room to have their photos done!

While the girls had their photos done a cast member presented us with a voucher to any ride of our pick because we had to wait. We chose the jungle cruise because it always has a line. We should have chosen Peter Pan because that line is always long. Lesson learned. Once the girls were done here, we were escorted to the Royal Hall. This is the venue where three princesses hang out daily. Front of the line service to see princesses when your daughters are dressed as princesses, pretty worth it. We met Snow White, Cinderella and Elena! If you’ve never met the princesses or characters, this is an experience. They interact with everyone and make each guest feel special. My girls were greeted as princess all day, they loved it. Pictures were taken and autographs signed. It really was the highlight of their entire Disney trip.  (In case you’re wondering, Mickey is a “perfect Gentlemen” as said by the big cupcake. As you can see, he greeted the girls with a bow when they entered his Studio Barn in Toon Town.)

Thankfully we captured many photos and took advantage of the professional photographers throughout the park. TIP:These cast members are usually found at the big sites and the big characters. They are easy to spot and will present you with a card after they take the photos. Take it. They get unobstructed photos of your children with characters and then you pick and choose the photos you want to download and print.

Our first day was spent at a leisurely pace, we rode a few rides, met some characters, but did not get to do all that we wanted.  We did take advantage of Splash Mountain’s FastPass system – TIP: check the unofficial guide for details on FastPass. The four year old declared she was riding in the very front, she’s a daredevil. As we plunged into the water below I heard screams echoing, then the biggest belly laugh. My four year old loved it, the six year old declared never to ride it again and was visibly trembling. Can’t win them all.

macaron1.jpgOur family is a bunch of foodies, not sure you caught on. The Big Cupcake had one food request, a Mickey Macaron from the Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street. So that is where lunch found us. This macaron is huge. She refused to share. Each season the flavours change, while we were there the flavour was raspberry rose. It was delicious. I tried the Mattahorn Macaroon. It is also huge! I didn’t finish it. It was a bit drier than I prefer macaroons, but still quiet good.

After a few more rides and dinner at the Carnation cafe (pretty good chicken, not good pasta) it was time for the electric parade. This year the Main Street Electric Parade is making a limited time comeback. It’s a very nostalgic parade for people who went as children in the early 90s. We tried to catch the fireworks, but alas, they were cancelled due to wind. The girls were pooped, so we made our way back to the Mickey and Friends parking structure and headed back to the hotel. The girls passed out.

Our next Disneyland day was day three. TIP: We suggest spreading out your three days to allow for a day of rest in between. That way people don’t get cranky and tired. Disney is work. Again we made a late start, but again, it wasn’t that big of a deal for us. The one thing we learned, follow the Tour lines App schedule. You can print these off and take them with you as well. We popped into the park, picked up the stroller and immediately walked into Minnie Mouse. Got into line and 10 minutes later the girls were hobnobbing with the royal mouse.

Once finished with the visit we opened the app and optimized our schedule. It sent us to our first ride, dumbo. We literally walked into line and waited 10 minutes. Then we saw the line for Rapunzel – Big Cupcake’s favourite princess. We excitedly got into line, she was leaving, #fail, but Jasmine and Al were going to make an appearance so we waited it out. That was when we decided to optimize our time and start sending others to wait in other lines. We knew Tink would have a line, and Rapunzel was due back in the same location in 1 hour, so we dispersed the troops and conquered a couple of things on our to do list. The girls managed to see their must-see characters, and take in some rides with  a lot of help from the app. Win-Win for everyone. The App/tour plans were really an awesome find. It plans everything for you, and takes away a lot of the headache. TIP: Plus with the app, you can optimize based on current crowd levels as people like us were inputting line times and actual wait times.

Just a note of caution, as said before: Peter Pan ride is always busy. Get to the park early, and do this ride first. Kyle ended up waiting in line for 40 minutes while I took the girls to Mickey Soundstage parade. The girls and I got a break and only had to wait ten minutes when we met up.

While the girls watched the Parade, we realized just how much the littles love Disney and how awesome Disney is: from the little Cupcake yelling to Mary Poppins and getting acknowledged with a big wave and smile, to the Big Cupcake waving and smiling at Princess Rapunzel, Disney outdoes themselves and really is a magical place. As a parent, the smiles and memories made during this trip outweighed the crowds and the line wait time. TIP: During the lines, we saw many people playing Heads Up on their phones and other computer games. We chose to amuse ourselves by looking for the Hidden Mickey’s. Our girls loved it, they got absorbed in the scenery and saw things we never saw before. For us it worked. the girls found over 60 hidden Mickey’s in the park, including the Haunted Mansion place setting and the Jungle Cruise ropes.

At the end of the day the girls were once again pooped but insisted on staying for the fireworks. The show went on but was shut down early due to wind. But the girls saw the best part – Tinkerbell flying over the castle! The littlest cupcake loves Tink, and I’m pretty sure Tink heard her yelling out her name as she flew over the castle. It is something she is still talking about.

Two days at Disneyland was awesome, but up next is our trip to DCA (Disney California Adventure), American Girl and Breakfast with Mickey. Stay tuned and have a magical day.

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Fun on Spring Break

We did it, we went to Disneyland for Spring break and survived. There was some concerns about busy days, over stimulating and crowds, but we managed and we had a whole lot of fun doing it. We will be doing that again. This is part 1 of a 5 part series.

We arrived at LAX in the evening on Saturday night. We chose to stay in Newport Beach because our family has a timeshare that worked at a hotel in that suburb. It was a great choice for our family, but meant up early to drive to the park each day. But also made us really slow down, plan and get away from the Disney traffic.

Let’s talk Newport. Newport is the a cool place. It is a coastal southern city in California in Orange County. You know what that means…the Real Housewives of Orange County, the OC, and Arrested Development. Sadly, we did not see any celebrities, but we understood why they live in the area. It is gorgeous, lush, posh and so Californian.

Our first day we slept in a bit and made a stop for lunch at one of our family favorite spots, Panera Bread. We first learned about Panera when a family friend lived in North Carolina. Since then, any time we are in the United States, we dine at Panera at least once. We had Mac and cheese, which is really one of our family favorites, turkey chili and sandwiches. It was delicious and filling. After lunch we had to pick up breakfast items and snacks because we knew we’d be eating breakfast at the hotel and bringing snacks with us to the park.

We checked out Pavilion’s Grocery Store. It was cool market and like most stores in the states, had a liquor store on site. We picked up fruit, veggies and wide variety of snacks that we can’t get here in Canada. Most of it junk food, but its vacation and we always enjoy trying the stuff we don’t have access too at home.

BalboaWe spent the rest of day exploring the area and made our way to Balboa Island. We even passed the Original Banana Stand (Arrested Development reference). It is quaint and very coastal feeling with small homes, harbour-side restaurants and a even a seaside fair/amusement area. To get to Balboa Island, you need to take a ferry. This shocked our family when Joan (GPS) demanded we board a ferry. There was a resounding shocked “ferry” exclaimed in our vehicle when this was declared. Regardless, we actually put our trust in Joan and made our way across the inlet on a three car ferry.

Ruby'sWhile exploring Balboa Island we made a quick trip to the beach so the cupcakes could find some shells. The tide was coming and the lil’ cupcake was a victim, or so she demonstrated. Apparently surf and a tired and hungry little four year old, don’t mix. We whisked a cold little girl up to the pier to watch the sea lions stealing fish from the people fishing off the pier and to eat dinner at Ruby’s on the Pier. Ruby’s is a 50’s diner that serves classic American fair. Burgers, malts, milkshakes and fries. Food was ok, nothing spectacular. But it was nice to watch the sunset as we ate dinner on a pier.

Our first day wasn’t too crazy, and the girls made a great haul on seashells, but we needed to get back to the hotel and go to bed, because the next day is DISNEY DAY!!!!

You don’t win friends with salad…

Simpson saladSpinach is a constant staple in our shopping cart and fridge. We throw spinach into everything, smoothies, soups, pastas, and of course salad. A few months ago, my vegetarian friend/colleague, said she never met anyone who likes salad’s as much as me. this coming from a plant eater. Until that moment, I never really thought about it, but I do like salad. We can all like salad, and make friends, with the right salad…so take that Bart, Homer and Marg!

Salads are easy to make, throw some greens and veggies into a bowl, add some dressing, TADA, salad – a boring salad, but still a salad. We all know, we don’t get boring around here, we take things to the next level. Today’s lunch salad is delicious, has a bunch of green and colour and exceptionally flavourful, even in winter. Confession time, and also sad: an ingredient was left on the counter at home: the AVOCADO. Insert <sad crying face> here, but the salad was still good, just missed the creaminess.

Fruited Spinach Chicken Salad

1 Chicken breast grilled with salt, pepper and Montreal chicken rub
1 cup leafy greens (Spinach in this case)
1 cup cucumbers, sliced and diced
1/4 of an avocado, diced
1/2 cup pineapple (frozen is fine)
1/2 cup blueberries

1. Slice chicken, cucumbers, and avocado, throw all ingredients into a bowl. Enjoy!

Some of you may be wondering, where’s the dressing???? Honestly, this salad does not need dressing, the juice from the pineapple and blueberries, and the creaminess from the avocado is enough to boost the flavour of this salad. And ok, confession number two, the first time this salad was made, the dressing was left at home…on the counter as well. But hey, this salad really doesn’t need a dressing, and we’re all saving on calories. Win-win. Also realized, this salad is low in carbs, gluten free and dairy free. Triple Win!

This is a great salad to take to work, keep the spinach separate from the pineapple and blueberries, or your spinach will be a sad wilty mess thanks to the acid in the pineapple. Another reason this is a great take to work salad, if your a mom, your kids won’t eat all the juicy fruity goodness out of your bowl. Yeah, that happened a couple times in our house.

Note: Temptation to pay homage to Thug Kitchen was high in writing this post and recipe. But we’ll leave the colourful language to those two superstars.

Happy Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday. The day to eat all the pancakes. Whether you are celebrating Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, you have to eat dinner, and what is fast, delicious and cheap? Pancakes.

We love pancakes. And they are not just for breakfast. In the past we’ve made, pancake balls using the cake pop maker…those were a huge success, we’ve made shaped pancakes, regular pancakes, and most recently the little cupcake ventured to a Crepe class at Williams-Sonoma. Which ever way you slice a pancake, we love them. Some weekends, we will make a big batch of pancakes, toss them in the fridge for the week. This makes for a super quick breakfast, by tossing a few in a toaster and away we go. Instant, homemade freeze/fridge pancakes.

The foodie kids love traditional pancakes, but sometimes I can get them to agree to a seasonal flavour; gingerbread for Christmas, Cinnamon Roll, apple pie, egg nog, chia, or sprinkle.

So what kind are we having for dinner tonight, not sure. That’s planning for you. Ha. We are trying to convince the kids to have roasted chicken and vegetable crepes. We made them last year with cauliflower, spinach, ricotta, mushrooms and chicken. They were delicious. I’ll report back with an edit at the bottom when we decide. Edit: the adults were vetoed, we had pancakes with turkey bacon and LOTS of fruit.

For now, our stand by pancake recipe. This is our family favorite. These yield fluffy delicious pancakes.

cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk of your choice
2 Tbsp cooking oil 

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture; set aside.
  2. In another medium mixing bowl combine the egg, milk, and cooking oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just till moistened (batter should be lumpy).
  3. Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes on each side or till pancakes are golden brown, turning to second sides when pancakes have bubbly surfaces and edges are slightly dry.

*Tip* For standard-size pancakes, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet. For dollar-size pancakes, pour about 1 tablespoon batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet.

This recipe will yield 8 to 10 standard-size pancakes or 36 dollar-size pancakes.

Enjoy!

Dr. Seuss inspired breakkie

Sometimes inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Today’s breakfast comes from Dr. Seuss’ famous Green Eggs and Ham. Bear with me, it will be delicious…have I EVER steered you wrong?

For all you Brussel sprout haters, take cover. This post is about Brussel sprouts…for breakfast. But really these little nugget cabbages are so full of good for you nutrients and fiber, you’d be a fool not to try it. Plus they are sautéed and roasted. The best of both worlds. In our house Brussel sprouts are a regular occurrence in our fridge. Like most kids, I use to hate those things! Like gag me at the dinner table, hated. It took me over 20 years to try them. I roasted them and was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. So do me a solid, try them. If you don’t like them…I will never make you try them again. I will give you substitutes for the little green cabbage.

Unfortunately, this recipe only focuses on the greens and eggs, but I am confident you could throw in a bit of bacon or ham and have a true Greens, Egg, and Ham plate. Because really bacon goes well for breakfast, and actually pairs amazingly with Brussel sprouts.

This recipe is for one serving, but would be increased to feed multiple people.

Greens and Eggs

1 tsp coconut oil
½ cup chopped mini potatoes
1 cup chopped Brussel sprouts
1 tsp Three Onion Dip
1 tsp Roasted Garlic Aioli Dip Mix (or 1 garlic clove)
Salt and pepper
2 eggs
½ tsp Chimichurri mix

  1. Pre-heat over to 375F. Heat pan on low to medium heat, melt coconut oil.
  2. Chop potatoes in quarters and Brussel sprouts in half.
  3. Toss potatoes into pan, toss with oil, frying them for 5 minutes. Careful not to burn them.
  4. Toss in chopped up Brussel Sprouts. Toss with potatoes for 5 more minutes. Again careful not to burn.
  5. Sprinkle with Three Onion Dip, Roasted Garlic, salt and pepper, toss to distribute. (Could substitute with 1 tsp of SPG)
  6. When potatoes and Brussel sprouts begin to brown slightly, make a well in the middle of the mixture and crack eggs in the middle. Transfer the pan to the pre-heated oven, cook for another 8 -10 minutes. This will produce a semi runny – hard egg.
  7. While your pan is in the oven, prepare ½ tsp Chimichurri mix with 2 Tbsp of water.
  8. Remove from oven and slide onto a plate, top with Chimichurri mix and enjoy. You could also add a bit of Sriracha if you like it spicy.

***If using bacon, heat your fry pan and cook chopped bacon for 6 minutes before tossing in the potatoes. The bacon grease will substitute the coconut oil.

Family movie night

Our family is heading to Disneyland in March for Spring break. And we are excited. However, it became apparent that the Disney education in our house has been lacking. Which is extremely surprising considering my affinity to all things Disney, and my immense knowledge of Disney. Too the point that I surprise myself when I know obscure facts about Disney – I have no clue how I know so much.

Regardless, we decided weekly Disney movie nights were in order. And not just the Princess movies, but the Disney classic movies. I actually own many that are still in the original VHS movie package. Gulp. So we headed off to our local value village to find a VHS player.

With our family movie watching nights we tend to go for a simple supper, and we’re not talking pizza, we’re talking appie night. We do a mix of frozen and homemade appies, anything from frozen Mexican appies to quiche. Basically whatever is in your grocery frozen section that looks good to the girls that day. However, a guarantee item, Brie with baguette, and a homemade charcuterie board. Also just a note, as this post was being developed, my husband tagged me in a post regarding veggie charcuterie boards…interesting, and maybe for the next movie night. Up the veggie content!

But back to the charcuterie board, for a long time this was a foreign concept, we had heard about them, but never executed them. Then a restaurant opened near our home, we tried it. We fell in love, and obviously thought, we can create this at home with the help of deli centers, cheese stores and grocery stores.

The basics of a charcuterie board is meat, cheese, and condiments, in as little as 10 minutes you can have a beautiful board to enjoy with your family. How do you know what to put where? What to buy? How much to buy…here are some tips to keep your charcuterie board game on point!

Meat: as a guideline 2 ounces per person is suggested. Now if you have littles partaking in the charcuterie you’ll have to judge their appetites. We generally add an extra ounce for them. For our family of four, we generally prepare five ounces from a selection of three meats. We tend to go with salami, prosciutto, and chorizo. But the options are limitless, pate is a great texture change for a charcuterie board, so is smoked salmon, sausage, calabrese, ham, or mortadella. Pick a few of your favourites, and one that you’ve never tried before.

If you plan on preparing a charcuterie board for a party, because really how swanky and easy is that, up the meat to about five ounces per person.

Cheese: Choose one to two cheese. Usually a soft and a hard cheese are a great choice. Some great choices are, of course, brie, goat cheese, bocconcini, double smoked Applewood cheddar, Spanish manchengo, parmigiana-Reggiano or any of your favourite cheeses.

Bread and crackers: Keep it simple. Bread and crackers are the vehicles on which the cheese and meat enter your mouth! You don’t need to get all fancy with the breads as you don’t want to take away from the taste of the meat or cheese. We serve ours with water crackers and a nice French demi-baguette – perfect size for sharing with a family of four. The baguette also comes in handy with scooping up the mounds of melted brie.

Condiments: These will pull your board together, and they can enhance your board with acid and sweetness. We like to use a Sweet and Spicy mustard or a stone ground mustard and a cranberry relish. Olives, pickles or tomatoes add a nice acidic touch, nuts give a crunch, and fresh and dried fruit give a nice sweet balance to the board.
A charcuterie board is all about being simple and creative. Be adventurous, add chocolate, compound butters, or nut butters. It’s all about good simple food.

MIA and Perfection

perfectionI am human. I struggle. I’ve been missing. Not because life has been busy, that’s a constant, but due to my own perfection. I didn’t feel like I had anything good to write. That my posts weren’t good enough, they weren’t perfect. What if you judged me for the comma splice, or the misuse of the comma, or some other grammar error? This plagues me as writer, but I am not perfect, I am human.

This is something that I struggle with every day. I don’t know if it’s my trait as a Virgo, or just a symptom of my insecurity. Probably a little bit of both. I tried to keep this blog happy, because I feel this world could use more positives, but this is life. It is not all unicorns, rainbows, and lollipops. (And for those people that judged my use of the Oxford comma. You can take my “dangling comma” and shove it where the sun don’t shine. I like the Oxford comma.) There are days when things are hard, days were my bad mom status runs rampant. Today alone I forgot the snow pants for daycare, I missed a note in the agenda and forgot to send the oldest with three trinkets for paint day and I lost part of my breakfast – again. This was the first two hours of me being up. Yes, I fail. I think we all fail at some point, but every minute, hour and day is a new opportunity to try again.

I’ve had a lot of failures in the kitchen too. I made a carrot ginger soup that was a clear miss. I may have ruined my kids on ever eating carrot ginger soup again. I’ve also messed up muffins, either dry, burnt, flat, or forgot ingredients. It happens. Mistakes happen. Accidents happen. I sayI am not.jpg this to my kid and I accept it, but when it comes to me, I am so hard on myself. Those mess ups are hard to forget, I am not sure why, but I replay them. I replay them and punish myself for them…but those mess ups do not define me or you. We are so much more than our failures.

This is a pretty vulnerable post for me. And it’s a struggle to push publish, but I know I am not alone, and who ever stumbles across this post, you are not alone either. We are all figuring it out as we go. We all fail, a glimpse on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, is just that – a glimpse. Photos are shot in multiples with filters and sometimes posed. That is not life. Life is messy, chaotic, unpredictable, and imperfect, which is perfect.