Wednesday, October 16, 2013

DISNEY with Little Princesses - 5 Best Tips!

Before our first trip to Disney World, I became crazy-overboard-planner - and I am NOT a detail-oriented woman. But with two little girls (almost-3 & 5), I knew I had to bring it big or go home! There are so many Disney tip pages (and entire websites) out there, so I'm only sharing information on a few things that are either not emphasized or were tips I found on only one site, that turned out to be winners:

1. Early Breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table - this ties in with another princessy item, Enchanted Tales with Belle. ETB gets insanely crowded later in the day, primarily because it is an event that takes a while to get through, so the crowd really builds up. Enchanted Tales is a relatively new attraction, so there wasn't too much information on it out there. I did read a tip about doing an early character breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table - primarily so that you could watch as each princess "arrived" at the Kingdom for the day, and also because you can then get done and out as soon as the park is opening up. We booked the 8:10 breakfast, and I loved watching my daughter's eyes light up as each princess was announced! Then, at 9 we headed out, and made a beeline for Enchanted Tales. Our group wasn't even the maximum capacity, and every child easily got a part to play in the production. The cast members also gave us extra privileges by allowing parents to freely move around the room to videotape their kids. Magical!

2. Finding Little Known Meet N Greets - my daughters are autograph fiends, which is easily the biggest Disney racket. Standing in line for 30 minutes to have a person in a costume give my kids an autograph? The girls were thrilled, so I'm not one to rain on their parade! For our second trip this year, we went after the harder to find characters. Two great ways to find them are (1) ask a cast member (any Disney employee) in the area - one lady gave us fantastic tips that helped us snag Peter Pan quickly, and (2) check out Kenny The Pirate's website, which I found to be most accurate in terms of locations and updated info.

3. Pick a Pearl at Epcot - Loved, loved, loved this! What a wonderful experience, and everyone I tell about it has no idea it exists. At the Japan pavilion at Epcot, inside the store there is a counter full of oysters. For approximately $15, a person can pick an oyster. The Disney employees make a big production out of opening the pearl - a crowd gathered to watch while the employee had my 5-year-old count down in Japanese. She then cracked open the oyster, pulled out the pearl to everyone's oohs and aahs, and then cleaned, measured, and bagged it. My daughter's face was shining by the end! I can't remember where I found this tip, but the person had also suggested buying a pearl holder pendent off of ebay - if you go to ebay and google "pearl carriage", a silver Cinderella's carriage to hold the pearl on a necklace goes for about $10. They have pearl holders there as well, but for much more. Amazing experience!

4. Tinkerbell Gifts - For months before going, I bought Disney Princess and Mickey related tees, trinkets, etc. from Party City, Target, Old Navy, and Walmart. I also found Tinkerbell images on-line which I downloaded and pasted onto Microsoft Word to make Tinkerbell stationery, on which I wrote poems for each day. When we arrived and then again at the end of each day, my daughters would find "Tinkerbell gifts" left for them in the room (I had them prepped the night before, then would throw them on the couch immediately after the girls exited the room for the day). Not only was it a fun way to end the day, but they really didn't ask to buy any of the overpriced souvenirs in the parks. Party City has the best options, with so many little body tattoos, plastic rings and bracelets, glow necklaces, etc. The glow necklaces and wands are great for nighttime events, like the fireworks show and electrical parade.

5. Pre-pay for Photopass - It's not always easy to find on the actual PhotoPass website, but if you pre-pay you can pay $120 for unlimited shots through the Disney PhotoPass photographers, as opposed to the $170 you would pay after your trip.

Not really a tip but a recommendation - we stayed at the Polynesian the first time around and at Art of Animation the second time. The Polynesian is a "premium" resort on-site, whereas Art of Animation is "value." Other than the (admittedly extremely convenient) proximity to the monorail at the Polynesian, we preferred the Art of Animation on every other level - accommodations, activities, dining, etc. The themed buildings are adorable. We stayed in a very reasonably priced Finding Nemo suite, with a bed that pulls down from the wall, replacing a table. So much more comfortable than a pull out couch, although they had one of those as well, in addition to another double bed - so the rooms can technically sleep 6. It was extremely clean, relatively new (opened last year), and has great pools and and a fun Little Mermaid splash pad area.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fancy Nancy Preschool Learning! Day One - the Mermaid Ballet and Tea for Two

I utterly, completely adore Fancy Nancy - the books have everything I need to keep my 5-year-old girly girl captivated, and then the new vocabulary is the HUGE cherry on top of the scrumptiously fancy pie. There are so many fun options for a Fancy Nancy Day, and ultimately we broke it up into two days. Day One went along with Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet and Fancy Nancy Tea for Two:

1. Dress Fancy - of course, dahling!
2. Word wall - we created a word wall in a corner of the playroom using Fancy Nancy wall clings that I ordered from Amazon. The plan is to decorate colored index cards with rhinestones and glitter and then write in sight words using an oh-so-fancy feathered pen. Can also easily be adapted for the younger crowd, using just alphabet letters.
3. A Handprint Tutu - I first saw this adorable ballerina handprint tutu on Meet the Dubiens. I had the tutu pinned for months before I finally made it - and honestly, I should have skipped the canvas and just used regular cardstock as the base, since I have zero room on my walls for more artwork. Still adorable to have, though!
4. A fancy schmancy snack of Polka Dot Milkshakes and Ballet Shoe Cookies, while we read the books buying Fancy glasses I bought from Party City. For the milkshakes, all you do is cut large marshmallows in half and stick the sticky side against the side of the mug. The thicker the shake, the better they stick! Then fill them up with your favorite strawberry milkshake recipe. As you can see, many of my marshmallows bobbed to the top of the drink, but the girls loved them regardless!

Many of the ideas from Pinkalicious Learning Day could work here too, particularly the M&M math, crown-making, and snack ideas!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bang Bang Chicken Kabobs

I'm becoming the queen of finding easy and delicious recipes. Yeah, I said it. Please address me as Your Highness henceforth . . .

These are absolutely fabulous - I found this through Pinterest, which linked to the blog of the brilliant mind over at CenterCutCook.com. ANY recipe incorporating Sriracha is fine by us!

Bang Bang Chicken Kabobs
adapted from CenterCutCook.com

Ingredients
1.5 lbs chicken, cut into bite-size pieces (I always use tenderloins, so much easier to cut)
1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 white or yellow onion, cut into chunks
Bamboo wood skewers, soaked for 15 mins
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 c mayonnaise, divided
1/2 c Thai sweet chili sauce, divided
Sriracha, to taste (I used about 12 drops)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil


Directions:
1. Marinate chicken in a mixture of 1/4 c mayo, 1/4 c Thai sweet chili sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. I marinate overnight, but try for a minimum of 2 hours. The original recipe doesn't call for marination, so if you don't have the time, still make this - it's well worth it!
2. Skewer your chicken, and separately, your onions and bell peppers.
3. Whisk together the remaining mayo and sweet chili sauce.
3. Preheat a grill pan to medium-high heat and add oil. Add your skewers, rotating constantly to help the pieces cook on all sides. Baste the veggies 2-3x with the mayo/chili mixture. When veggies are tender, remove them.
4. When chicken is almost cooked, baste on all sides with the mayo/chili mixture. I had to take the chicken off the skewers near the end to ensure the center cooked through - I would still start out on the skewers, since it did keep the middle of the chicken chunks from getting dried out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Pizza Pops!

Cutest. Things. Ever. And easiest! The genius baker over at The Decorated Cookie made these using a round cookie cutter, and I've had this pinned forever, planning to wow my daughters with them. With Valentine's Day approaching, I'm in full heart-food mood . . .as in shaped, not heart-healthy. And now I feel bad and unhealthy.

Moving on. The possibilities for these pops are endless, or as endless as the types of cookie cutters you have! And it really could not be easier to make these. I used refrigerated pizza dough this time around, but will probably make my own next time since my youngest wasn't wild about the Pillsbury dough. This recipe made 7 decent-sized pizza pops.

Valentine's Pizza Pops (adapted from The Decorated Cookie)
Ingredients:
Refrigerated pizza dough (I used Pillsbury Classic, since that's all my grocery store carries)
Lollipop sticks
Cookie cutter
Toppings of choice (I used marinara sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, and small sliced grape tomatoes)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425, and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Unroll pizza dough on a floured surface, and use cookie cutter to punch out shapes from the dough.
3. Insert lollipop stick about halfway into the dough and place on tray.
4. Add toppings.
5. Bake for 9-11 minutes until top begins to brown.




Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Easy Cocoa Panna Cotta

Nothing this good should be this easy to make, unless it has zero calories. Which it never, ever does. I found this at The Italian Dish, and pretty much made it as is. So great for company - I make it the day before, and it looks much more complicated than it is! I'm excited to experiment with different flavors! I had made another version using mango puree, that I found at Naina's Recipes, which has a slightly different process, using buttermilk in place of the milk and some of the heavy cream. My husband really liked that version too. I'm able to fill about 7 parfait glasses with this:

Cocoa Panna Cotta

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c whole milk
4 tsp unflavored powder gelatin
4 1/2 c heavy cream
2 Tbsp cocoa powder (can double it if you prefer it very chocolatey! I used Hershey's cocoa powder)
3/4 c sugar
 pinch of salt
Chocolate bars for garnish (optional but pretty!)

Directions:
Pour milk into a medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. Turn on medium heat and stir milk just until gelatin dissolves. Do NOT let the milk boil, at any point.
Add the cream, sugar, and salt. Whisk in the cocoa powder, and continue whisking until the sugar completely dissolves, which takes only a few minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool completely - it's helpful to pour it into another heat-resistant dish to speed up the cooling down process. Stir mixture frequently during cooling off period to prevent a skin from forming. Pour mixture into parfait glasses, ramekins, martini glasses, or whatever you'd like to present them in!
Cover and refrigerate until chilled- I use glad press n' seal to cover the glasses.
For garnish, use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate curls onto the tops. I've also used sprinkles, for my daughters.