Category Archives: tips & tricks

5 Tips for Disney World with Little Ones

We’re baaack! From Disney World that is!

I did not intend to have such a long break from the blog, but life got a bit crazy(ier) here for a bit. It’s not exactly slowing down now, but I did find a few minutes to sit and write.
We just spent a week in sunny Florida after surprising the kids with a dream trip to the amazing Walt Disney World parks. If you missed it, there’s a video up on my Facebook Page of us telling the kids. They were surprised for sure. It was a lot of fun!

While there, we learned a few tricks for visiting Disney World with small kids, so I figured I should share them with you!

1. How to Wear Magic Bands
When you go in the gate at each park, you’ll have to scan your band AND your finger print. The best way to do this is to have your band on your left wrist due to the set up. For adults, it’s not a huge deal to wear your band on the right wrist and cross your left arm over to scan the finger. That’s what I did because I wear my Fitbit on my left arm. However, for little kids that crisscrossing arms and reaching up to get their little fingers flat on the scanner is tough! So definitely make sure you get their bands on their left wrists. You also have to use the same finger each time, so if you mess it up the first day, you’ll be crisscrossing little arms all week.

For even smaller kids (our 3 year old), parents can carry or wear the child’s band and even use their own fingerprint for scanning. The bands are sizeable to fit small kids, but our little one kept taking hers off, so I wore it to avoid it being lost. I just turned hers backwards on my wrist so there was no confusion about which one belonged to who (they were the same color).

2. Baby Carrier – A MUST Have!

little girl riding in carrier on dad's back
Invest in a quality baby carrier if any of your kids are under the age of 5, maybe even two, depending on how many littles you have. This was a lifesaver for us. Between our 2 carriers (We actually only used 1 for most of the trip) and a double stroller, we pulled off multiple 12+ hour days. One kid could nap on my husband’s back while another kid or two (or three lol) rode in the stroller.

3. Snacks for Bus Lines
We stayed on resort (best decision ever!! I’m so glad I listened to my husband on that one!), so we rode the Disney buses to and from the parks each day. It worked out great for us! However, if you stay until closing or watch a late show, there’s a good chance you will have a long wait in a crazy, possibly confusing, line. Bring snacks for the kids while you wait! If you’re out of snacks by then, stop on your way out and buy a popcorn. There will be plenty of little ones crying, so save yourself some sanity. 🙂

4. Stay on resort!

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Seriously. Yes, I know it can be more expensive. Yes, it’s totally worth it. We arrived Sunday afternoon and did not move our van all week. No gas being used, no fighting traffic at 8 a.m., no paying for parking, etc. However, if you do choose to drive your own vehicle to one of the parks while staying on resort, you get free parking. By far though, the best part of staying on resort was being able to split up our party. When the boys wanted to stay for a 5:00 show that the girls cared nothing about watching (and were starting to meltdown anyway), I packed them up, headed back to the hotel on the bus, and ordered pizza that arrived even before the boys were back. On Friday morning when the girls had 9:00 appointments to be transformed into princesses – the boys got to sleep in and met us for lunch at Epcot. If we had stayed off resort, we’d have had to all stay together all day, every day. That would have meant the boys missing out on some fun stuff or all of us dealing with really overtired little girls for hours.

5. Bring snacks
Staying on resort, we had a meal plan that included snacks. However, it was still helpful to have our own snacks on hand. I brought some little ziploc bags with us each day that were filled with crackers, veggie chips, trail mix, etc. As I mentioned above, these were great for waiting in bus lines, but they were also very helpful in restaurants as we waited for seating or food, in the hotel room in the morning before we grabbed breakfast, etc. Bigger kids are fine waiting until a meal arrives at the table. Our 16 month old doesn’t understand that as well. 🙂

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This is just a small list of the things my husband and I have discussed that made our trip easier. Are you wanting to take your large family or multiple little ones to Disney World? Feel free to email me any questions or leave them in the comments!

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You can freeze that?

Want to know a secret about me? I freeze everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but a lot of stuff. I have two freezers, and I use them both to their full potential. I often get into conversations about cooking or groceries and mention having something in my freezer when the person I’m speaking too gives me a strange look and says, “You can freeze that?” I often have leftovers, a freezer meal or two, cookie dough, and maybe some muffins or homemade burritos waiting to be devoured, but here are a few other things you may not have thought about keeping in your freezer.

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Chopped veggies
I have ziploc bags bell peppers, onions, and celery chopped and ready for use in my freezer at all times. If a recipe calls for half an onion (or one of the others), I cut up the rest and store it in the freezer. These are great for later recipes, pizzas, or omelets. I have also stored leftover diced tomatoes, onions, and peppers all in the same bag for quick omelets! I cook a lot, so this is a great time saver for me.

Broth/Stock Starters
I always have a bag in my freezer where I dump carrot, onion, celery, etc. extras. The last carrot that’s on the verge of going into the trash? Toss it in. The celery that’s not quite crunchy? Toss it in. Then when I have some deer bones or cook a whole chicken, I have everything I need to make my own broth.

Broth
When I make a batch of chicken or deer broth, I divide it into bags of 2 cups each and freeze it. It helps to lay the bags flat, as they take up less room frozen that way.

Fruit
Buy up those end of season, too ripe to last more than a couple of days fruits, and chop them up to freeze! Those are great for smoothies! Bananas too ripe but you don’t have time to bake? Put the whole thing in the freezer. When you’re ready to make banana bread (or another tasty treat), just thaw it and squeeze it into your mix.

Potatoes
Sometimes I buy lots of potatoes, and then our week gets crazy, and I have to rearrange my meal plan. Instead of having sprouting potatoes, peel and cut them to whatever size you like and blanch them. Then they can be frozen without fear of having a bag full of brown potatoes in the freezer.

Beans
I don’t remember the last time I bought canned beans. Raw beans are cheaper, easy to cook, and usually healthier. I’ve found bulk cooking to be easiest with beans. I like to cook a few different kinds and then store them in 2 cup quantities (most cans are 15 oz.). These are great for chili, soups, quesadillas, crockpot recipes, etc., pretty much any recipe you would use canned beans for.

Cheese
We love cheese and use tons of shredded cheese. I buy a lot when it’s on sale, and I toss the extra bags into our extra freezer.

Milk
This is the one most people give me strange looks about. We use a lot of milk. We are 25 miles from Kroger, and the smaller stores nearby are much more expensive, so this saves us a lot of money. I buy 5-6 gallons every 2 weeks, most in half gallon jugs.  I’ve found those thaw better. Those little circles on the sides of the milk jugs? When the milk expands during freezing, those pop out, so the plastic doesn’t crack. After the milk is thawed, shake it to mix it back up, and it’s good to go.

Bread
This is another one some people are weirded out by. There are a few tricks to it though. First, really cheap bread doesn’t freeze/thaw well. Second, it is best to not leave it frozen for long periods of time, though it would probably last longer if it was double-bagged. Ours is usually never frozen more than a couple of weeks, so I haven’t tried doubling up the bags.

Eggs
This isn’t something I freeze regularly, but on a few occasions I’ve been given more eggs than we could use in a reasonable time. I first crack them into muffin tins, stir a little to break up the yolks, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. When they are frozen, I pop them out of the muffin pans into ziploc bags. I will say, I’ve only used frozen eggs in baking. They might do fine for breakfast eggs, but I have no experience with that.

Is there anything you freeze to save time or money? I’d love to hear about it!

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Filed under Food & Drink, grocery shopping, saving money, tips & tricks

My Holiday Survival Kit

This time of year is crazy for my family. I can’t even count the number of times my husband has said, “Everything just sped up when we got back from Cincinnati (our vacation at the beginning of September).” And he’s exactly right.

Soccer started the next week. Then my husband started working a lot of overtime. Family pictures, Halloween, trying to organize our new house, church events, a trip to the pumpkin patch, birthday parties, and lots of other things quickly filled our family calendar. Sound familiar? This past week after we finished another round of family pictures, this time for the church directory, I mentioned to a friend I finally felt like I could breathe for a few days!

Now we are moving into the season of Thanksgiving, homeschool group events, more birthdays, our wedding anniversary, more crazy overtime hours for my husband, lots of shopping, children’s plays at church, and Christmas. (As I type this I am reminded that I am supposed to go to the eye doctor’s office to pick up my husband’s contact today. Ha! It never ends.)

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I was recently introduced to Man Crates and the great gifts they offer for men. They ship cool gifts for those hard-to-buy-for guys in a crate with a crowbar to open it. Really fun idea! It got me thinking about the things I do and use in an effort to calm some of the chaos. I like to simplify things, but not at the expense of having fun and enjoying this time of year. For example, this year we did a double birthday party for two of our kiddos – complete with two themes! I also have little things and traditions I keep to give us calm moments and fun memories.

The first of my holiday must-haves is our Amazon Prime membership. Oh my, whoever thought of that was a genius. We live over twenty miles from the nearest Wal-Mart, almost 40 to the nearest Target. I have 4 kids under the age of 5 that still take naps. Amazon Prime is my BFF. Last year my husband’s Christmas gift arrived on December 23rd at 6:30 p.m. I’m not joking. I tend to be a last minute shopper. It takes time to decide on the perfect gift! Amazon Prime saves me. I use it to buy everything from gifts to toilet paper. (Seriously, their subscribe & save option is awesome. Delivered right to my door, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting and running out with guests here.) Right now there are two boxes downstairs from Amazon – one with a gift for my son and one containing a part for my husband’s truck.

The second must have on my list: hot chocolate with a peppermint candy cane. When the days get hectic and exhausting I love to sink into my bed or a comfy chair with a cup during nap time or after putting the kids to bed. Sometimes it’s from a box and sometimes it’s homemade. I’m not too picky on what kind. The candy cane is a must though. It makes it a bit more fun and festive, and luxurious maybe?

Number three on my holiday survival kit list: Crockpots. Yes, that’s plural. I can cook supper for my family in one while I’m shopping or wrapping gifts, and cook that potluck dish in another crockpot, or a side dish for our own table. Or a dessert. Or a meal to go in the freezer for a hectic night when I won’t have time to cook! The possibilities are endless. Having multiple crockpots take multitasking to a new level. Last week my husband came home and found me using three crockpots and a stock pot at the same time. I might have a problem.

Another item on my must-have list this holiday season is my meal planning calendar! Every two weeks I sit down and write on the monthly calendar any events we have that will keep me busy during the day. Those days I know to schedule crockpot meals. I told you I’m addicted. 🙂 I also put down any church dinners, evenings we will have guests, be eating out, etc. Then I plan what meals I will cook. I post that on the front of my refrigerator. That way I don’t have to rush in from the boys’ Christmas program at church and try to throw a meal together at 7:30 at night, and I’m not scrambling to figure out what I have ingredients to cook for our small group Thanksgiving meal.

The fifth and final, absolute must-have on my list: Christmas morning breakfast at my Big Mama’s house. (Yes, that’s really what we call my grandma.) I haven’t missed a single one in the 27 years I’ve been on this Earth. Biscuits, gravy, eggs, sausage, and lots more spread on folding tables end-to-end in her kitchen and living room, surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, babies, friends, some years neighbors and relatives of relatives, and usually a puppy or two under the table waiting on someone to drop a bite of food! It is my favorite part of Christmas. I’m so thankful I get to share it with my husband and children.

So now I want to know, what would you put in your holiday survival kit?

Also, is it bad that 4 of my 5 involve food?

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I Put Peanut Butter on my TV

Today I put peanut butter and bathroom cleaner on my plasma tv.

No, I haven’t lost my mind, though I almost did when I saw that my four year old had stretched his bubble gum across the screen of our 42-inch plasma television. Yes, this post is about bubble gum removal. I have no idea what the boy thought he was doing, but his reasoning was, “I was trying to have fun by myself.” How is this the same kid that was out of bed, dressed, and making his bed at 6:45 this morning? I have no idea. Nevertheless, bubble gum is not an easy thing to remove from any surface, much less that of a television screen.

After my attempts to pull off the larger pieces were only somewhat successful, I decided to consult my trusty friend Google.
I found this helpful article on ehow.com.

The article said I would need creamy peanut butter {check}, bathroom cleaner in a spray bottle {check}, and a clean microfiber cloth {check}.

That’s right. With a little creamy peanut butter, a spray bottle of bathroom cleaner, and microfiber cloth, you can remove smeared gum from a plasma tv screen. Some of the worst spots did require smearing the peanut butter in really good with the cloth prior to wipe off, and a few tiny spots had to be scratched off with my fingernail, but overall it was a pretty simple process. Thank goodness for the Internet!

I didn’t get a before picture, but here is a during and after of the process.

 

tv screen

 

television after gum was removed

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Filed under daily adventures, food, funny, raising boys, tips & tricks