Blog, Food & Drink, Parenting, Travel, Uncategorized

Dining in Orlando, FL

Ask my kids the 4 main food groups and they will give you an Elf-style answer. Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corns, and Syrup. Disney World is their personal heaven. Not because of the rides or characters… Oh, no. It is because it is a confectioner’s paradise. Suckers, tubs of cotton candy, candied apples, chocolate chunk cookies, chocolate covered crispy treats, ganache covered everything… Plus, it all tastes 10x better when shaped like Mickey Mouse or served up in a Disney-themed container. I wouldn’t usually give in to so much sugar indulgence, but when I pay $100/person to get into the theme parks, and know a good sugar rush will help us maximize the hours in the day or help the kids better tolerate long waits for popular rides…it seems justifiable. #parentoftheyear

I do know that kid, (nor parent) can live on sugar alone, so we have actually had some other fine cuisine. Here are the highlights:

Be Our Guest Restaurant (Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom)- a fine mix of kid and adult-friendly French inspired selections. Croque Monsieurs, Pommes Frites, Vegetable Quiche, Braised Slow Cooked Pork, Quinoa Salad, and of course, fancy cupcakes! We tried the Master’s Cupcake (“Chocolate sponge cake topped with Lumiere’s special Grey Stuff”). The grey stuff tasted like a vanilla buttercream of sorts. The ambiance of this restaurant and extra courteous staff make this a great place to take a break from the activities of the day. There are three different dining rooms each with Beauty and the Beast inspired themes. We sat in the West Wing, where the magical rose is located. Caution-if your kids are Nervous Nellies, the West Wing may not be the best seating because thunder and lightning effects take place throughout the hour it takes to dine. For some reason, my kids kept asking if the castle was going to disappear. We reassured them that many more people had reservations after us, so no, the castle was not going to blow away in a storm.

Hollywood and Vine (Hollywood Studios, Character Experience)- So.Much.Food. First, the obvious perks of doing a character dining experience is skipping long lines to get guaranteed time and photo opps with favorite Disney characters. This is a Disney Junior breakfast and I’m telling you, more adults than kids know the words to the songs. Speaking of- there are great sing-alongs, dance time, and hugs.

Second thing to know, this is buffet dining. It’s important to remember, your young children do not comprehend how much money you have paid for them to have this encounter with Doc McStuffins, Jake, and others. They will not eat their worth in food and you have to be OK with that. There certainly is more food available at the breakfast buffet than reasonable to consume- even for an adult who takes two trips back to the line. Not that I would know…but if your kids are at all like mine, they will opt for a small dish of Fruit Loops, and maybe take a couple bites from a cinnamon roll. Perhaps three or four grapes. Expensive grapes, yes, but the memories will be priceless.

Something else worth mentioning here- The Star Wars Jedi Training for kids age 4-12 is at Hollywood Studios. I’d heard that some people will make reservations for breakfast at the park just so that they can get in early and sneak over to register for the Training. What we discovered is that this is not necessary. When we arrived an hour before the park opened, we were happy to discover there was a special park entrance line designated for people who just wanted to sign up for Jedi Training. We were able to enter the park early (before 9a), without the super early breakfast reservations (ours were at 9:40a). The attendants directed us exactly where to go, and we were able to get signed up with no issues at all. You still want to get there early, as spaces fill up quickly, but no need to try and “work the system” by doing breakfast reservations. Book breakfast just because it’s a fun experience.

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Not visiting any of the Disney Parks? No problem. Here is an awesome recommendation:

Cooper’s Hawk Winery (International Drive)- We first discovered this restaurant about a year ago while in the Chicago area. Award winning wines, flavorful food, and generous portions. See the picture of the child serving of spaghetti below and notice how the plate is literally bigger than my five year old. Something I really like about this restaurant is how they make a wine pairing suggestion with every single food item on the menu. They will also let you sample two wines per adult before, during, or after ordering your meal. I made reservations for 4p in order to take advantage of Happy Hour that is available throughout the restaurant. $5 wines and a great selection of appetizers, including Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos, and kettle cooked chips with Caramelized Bacon Onion Dip. the kid’s meals are finished with a chocolate dipped strawberry. I had some Lobster Bisque and a Peach Sangria. If the kids can be sugared up on this vacation, I can certainly have my fun, too!

Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation (Lake Buena Vista)- This is a buffet chain that serves health foods! Salads, soups, sandwiches, and pastas. Not many restaurants, let alone buffets, have the likes of Kale Salad, Vegan Chocolate Chip Muffins, Black Bean and Quinoa Chili, and Tuna Tarragon in the line up. There are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options available. Finally, guilt-free buffet dining…you know…after you’ve had your fill of sugar.

candy rush

To your health,

A.Lockhart

 

 

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Blog, Family, Travel, Uncategorized

My Orlando resort uses earth friendly products!

We’ve arrived! Orlando, Florida. Two preschoolers, my husband, my mom, and me. The goal for this trip is to relax, enjoy precious time with family, and also to share my experiences and recommendations with each of you!

I booked this trip back in September of 2015, just after “Balloons in the Sky blog” was born, knowing that my friend Heidi and I would want to be writing about our travel adventures. We enjoy providing recommendations on the best places to stay while touring the world. (For example, check out one of our first posts about Cinque Terre, Italy, her recent posts on Hawaii 1, 2, and 3) and the Kalahari.)

Today, from the field, I give you my shout out for accommodations in Orlando, FL. We are staying at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. It is a pretty large complex located within the Disney Parks, though it is not an official Disney Resort. I chose this location because it has suites available. We are staying in a two bedroom/two bathroom unit, equipped with full kitchen, and in-unit laundry facility. Perfect for families. (After being rained on for a couple hours while at Disney World yesterday and then spending the rest of the humid day in those same clothes- we were especially happy to have a washer and dryer available… There was no way I wanted to throw those clothes back in the suitcase!)

Our flight arrived to Orlando at 7:55p EST on Monday 2/22. By the time we got our rental car (ALAMO rocks!) and squeezed in a quick trip to Target for groceries (yes, I’m ambitious), it was 10p before we got to the resort. Apparently the WBC reservation systems had bad outages earlier in the day. We were later told that some guests experienced delays of up to 5 hours checking in to their rooms. I was the only person in line at 10p and the total check-in time took me about 30 min due to the residual effects of the outage. Kedo, Guest Check-in, was extremely courteous throughout the process, making appropriate small talk, and using humor, while trying to move things along. The following day we received a personal call from the resort manager apologizing for any inconveniences caused by the system outage. I thought this was a nice gesture.

The kids were hungry for a bedtime snack when we arrived. The simple act of satiating them with some grapes turned into a test of hotel responsiveness… So, I go to rinse the grapes and in true April Fool’s Day style the sprayer on the kitchen sink shoots two feet in the air and then water proceeded to spray everywhere. In a matter of about five seconds I had an impromptu shower and a good laugh. I called the front desk at 11p. She offered to send someone up right away or I could wait until morning. Since we were all awake anyway I told her to go ahead and send someone up. Within 30 minutes we had a new sprayer nozzle installed. Prompt service from Eric and Manje!

sink

An important thing to highlight is the toiletries. I believe the quality of the hotel toiletries says a lot about the quality of the hotel. The particular brand used here is called Eartherapy. It’s made in Australia. Since I’ve been more concerned about what goes on my skin these days, I did a little research and was pleased to discover that these products are biodegradable, paraben-free, and contain EcoPure which is described as an “organic based additive.” The packaging is biodegradable and recyclable. The ingredient label does list “fragrance,” with the body lotion smelling like cinnamon. The shampoo and conditioner smell like Eucalyptus while the bar soap has a pine smell.

products

Another huge bonus of our resort is the Aqualine jet tub available in the Master Bedroom. This turned out to be a great way to end the day upon return from Walt Disney World. The “Happiest Place on Earth” can take a toll on the legs and feet. (According the the health app on my phone we walked just over 16,000 steps, or 7.31 miles over the course of 12 hours…oh, and because of the rain, the stroller we rented got soaked so was of little use in chauffeuring the girls around for the first half of the day which meant that my husband and I carried 40 extra pounds each for several hours.) You’ll never hear me complaining about paying for a gym membership. I use it and it comes in handy in unexpected ways!

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Stay tuned for more info on our adventures in Orlando!

A.Lockhart

M is for Mickey!

M is Mickey Mouse!

 

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Blog, Travel

Kalahari

Have you ever been to the Kalahari? I’m talking the Wisconsin Dells version. It is AMAZING! We try to get there 1-2 times a year, and typically always in the winter for sure. This year, we brought along three other families for a fun-filled weekend. Here are the details:

  1. Four (4) families shared two (2) Royal African Queen Suites. We enjoyed two bedrooms (one with 1 king bed, one with 2 queen beds), two bathrooms, and a large living/dining area – as well as a mini fridge and micro wave.
  2. Each suite has a fireplace and a balcony.
  3. Each suite was big enough to house all 4 families (15 of us!) for pizza dinner and hours of fun.
  4. There was enough to do to easily entertain everyone. From the water park (with everything from a toddler pool, to a roller-coaster water slide, to a swim up bar), to the Indoor Theme Park (helllooooo Go Carts, Rock Climbing, Laser Tag, and Arcade Games!), to the numerous options for food, snacks, and shopping – we were set. Feel like seeing a movie? You can do that too!

Over all – if you haven’t tried it – you are missing out on some awesome fun, and some awesome memories!

In Fun,

H Bloomer

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Blog, Health and Wellness, Home & Garden, Recipes, Uncategorized

Pre-vacation cleaning

My household is getting ready for a week of vacation. In preparation, I have spent time trying to fit two week’s worth of activity into one! There is always so much to do before leaving. Maybe some people can just pack and go. I’m not one of those people. A perfectionist of sorts, I like to have the house cleaned from top to bottom before departure. This is in addition to wrapping up all my work responsibilities, packing, last minute shopping, and laundry. I absolutely love returning to a clean house.

Something you might find of interest is what I am using since going on my chemical reduction spree. My all-purpose cleaner of choice is a water-vinegar-essential oil combo.

What you need:

All-Purpose Spray Bottle (Target had a 32oz bottle in stock)

12 oz water

12 oz vinegar

10-15 drops of essential oil (lavender, lemon, grapefruit are all great choices)

Directions:

Combine ingredients and shake vigorously a few times prior to each use. Clean away as usual!

According to Livestrong.com, “Common white and cider vinegar have a 5 percent acidity, which is why they make effective cleansers and home remedies.”

When used in conjunction with baking soda (as an abrasive) I’ve found it to be very effective at cleaning and freshening. Particularly useful for attacking scum buildup in sinks, bathrooms, shower stalls, etc. It is also fun to use this combo because it is reminiscent of a 6th grade science experiment the way that it fizzes and bubbles. It’s the little things in life that bring such joy.

Happy Healthy Cleaning! So.excited.for.vacation!!

A.Lockhart

 

 

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Beauty, Blog, Health and Wellness, Recipes

I never thought it possible

Like most of you probably do, I buy my toothpaste from the store. Why wouldn’t I? It’s cheap, convenient, and probably created in a lab somewhere by a brilliant chemist who is trained in molecular compounds. I’m sure there’s some special formula derived from the periodic table of the elements used to create this minty-smile brightening- paste. Or gel. Sometimes it’s a gel. Miraculous nonetheless. Too advanced for me.

Or is it?!

If you’ve been reading my posts lately you understand that I’m developing a hunger for knowledge regarding the safety (or rather lack thereof) of personal care products. Harmful chemicals are abundant among us. Lurking in inoxious everyday places like shampoo, hand soap, eye shadow, detergent, and yes, toothpaste.

As a result of my newfound knowledge, I’ve been taking slow, but steady measures to reduce my exposure to chemicals. It’s a challenge. I’m always up for a good challenge. Game on! Last week, a friend upped the ante for me. Casually dropping a statement into our beauty product conversation about how she makes her own toothpaste. I was like, “Whaaaat?!” The idea of making my own toothpaste was sort of mind blowing.

Well, it turns out to not be so complicated. I didn’t even follow an exact recipe. I did a little browsing on Pinterest to determine what other DIY-ers were doing and went from there.

Making my Own Toothpaste

To make my own toothpaste, I used Coconut Oil, Baking Soda, finely ground Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, and Peppermint Essential Oil. I had everything on hand except the essential oil. A quick Google search pointed me to the only retail store in town that currently carries essential oil. It’s available from a number of places online, but I was too eager to wait for delivery.

I started with a heaping Tablespoon of Coconut Oil and added the Baking Soda until the consistency resembled the stuff I squish from a tube. A fork was my elaborate mixing tool. I used just a pinch of the Sea Salt to add minerals to my recipe. This was not consistently listed in other people’s recipes, but adding minerals just seemed like a good idea. I’d read a different article about the health benefits of sea salt so decided to roll with it. Super scientific.

The Peppermint Oil is 100% pure so I started with just 3 drops and kept mixing/tasting until I felt I had reached the desired taste. I’m sure everyone’s preference is a little different here, so add however much you want. Voila! I am now a natural health and beauty chemist making my own chemical-free toothpaste.

toothpaste final

For more interesting info on the benefits of eliminating, or reducing your exposure to fluoride, I’ve got another great link for you called the 50 Reasons to Oppose Fluoridation.

(Not to be confused with being anti-Florida) because I’m not. Stay tuned for my next series of posts in which I will highlight the adventures of traveling to Orlando with two preschoolers, my husband, and my mom.

To your health!

A.Lockhart

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Omnifest!

Who here likes movies? I do! Last Friday, we went to see the Humpback Whale Omni Movie at the Science Museum of Minnesota – and it was fantastic.

Both of the kids found it fascinating. The movie was around 45 minutes long, and extremely educational, beautiful, and fun. We bought tickets ahead of time, and arrived and got in line about 15 minutes prior to show-start which was perfect. We went to the 5pm show, but they have daytime and evening shows, all week and weekend long.

Right now, the Science Museum is having Omnifest through March 3, 2016. I’d love to get in a few more shows, and you should too! Check out what they have playing, by clicking here.

Enjoy!

H Bloomer

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Blog, Family

Love

On February 14th, likely the most expensive made-up holiday of all time, how can one not write about Love?

Over the years my husband and I have done a variety of things on Valentines Day – from enjoying the day with our favorite kiddos ever, to cooking dinner and watching a movie, to having a date night if it works for our schedules.

This year, we happen to be having a date night – not because it is Valentines Day – but because it was a convenient weekend where we were able to get a babysitter, and we didn’t have any plans! I think we are trying out a new place to grab some grub (and I’ll be sure to tell you how it was in a future post).

However, I’d like this post to focus on one of my absolutely favorite bible passages about True Love. I fail at this type of love, daily, sometimes hourly. It is so reassuring to know we have a Savior who doesn’t ever fail at it!

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

H Bloomer

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