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Monday, June 26, 2017

Summer Must Have: Ever-Ready PicNic Bag

I'm a stay-at-home-mom.  What this means is that come summer time I have to find ways to entertain not only my preschool-aged children (who were home with me most of the time during the school year) but my school-aged children as well (whom are used to spending 6+ hours at school).  It's hard.  I'm not going to lie.  Sometimes I just look in the mirror and thing "I'm going to go nuts today if I can't find something to do with these little minions".

Yes, we go to the pool (one officially scheduled time every Friday morning with friends and then occasionally we act spontaneously and visit our neighborhood HOA pool) and we go see the free movies at the local theater.  We are part of the Library's Summer Reading Program, so we go and pick out books and visit the library for their weekly events.  And of course, we do all of the usual errands and chores that I have to do as a stay-at-home-mom (household chores like the laundry and dishes, yard work like mowing, watering, and trimming, and life chores like getting groceries, vet visits, doctor appointments, etc).  But there are some times multiple days in a row when we have nothing scheduled and nothing that needs accomplishing.  I call these the "do nothing" days.

That first "do nothing" day is great.  We lay around, watch movies, read books, play games and just generally enjoy playing.  We make exciting breakfasts (french toast or cinnamon rolls), cook delicious lunches (like grilled cheese and soup, this is vastly different from our typical "left overs" or PBJ sandwich and fruit lunches), and we enjoy the relaxation of just being.

Then comes day two.  Oh, day two.  Why can't you be a repeat of day one?  We had such a fun time laying around relaxing... why can't you be just as nice day two, why?!?!?!  You guessed it... the kids are board.  They pick.  They fight.  They yell.  They don't sit still.  They beat stuff up.  They whine.  They generally annoy the living day-lights out of me.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.

On this cool Summer day we went down to the creek and had a PicNic in our pallet fort (that we had build previously).
On this occasion we threw our little chairs into the fort for some added adventure.
So how do we make day two (and day three) subsequently more exciting and entertaining?  How do we keep the kids from eating each other's faces off?  The answer is simple and your going to think I'm one of those ridiculous geniuses...

If your like me, trying to throw a picnic together spur of the moment is rough.  There's plates, napkins, utensils (ugh, there aren't any clean utensils?!?! who was in charge of the dishes today?!), drinks, food, etc... then when you get to your destination you find that the table is dirty, the wind is blowing, and there is no where to sit.  UGH!  A fun trip just turned stressful.  Everyone is grumpy and no one is enjoying the picnic.

The answer is the Ever-Ready PicNic Bag.  Yes, a picnic bag.  Sometimes you just need a spur of the moment picnic to get your kiddos and yourself some sanity.  We find that a lunch time picnic is the PERFECT activity for those lazy summer days that we don't have other activities planned.  With this picnic bag we can throw some random food items into a bag and run out the door.  Whether it be to the playground in our neighborhood, down the street to the riverside park, or across the city to the big park, this Ever-Ready PicNic Bag is essential.

Here's how to make your Ever-Ready PicNic Bag:

1. Collect the necessary items (these items may vary according to your own family's picnic needs):

  • PicNic Blanket (for those times you have a picnic on the ground).  We used to keep a rectangular weaved blanket in the bag for this purpose, but found that it absorbed growund moisture.  So now we like a round style picnic blanket with a vinyl top because that allows us to set the food in the middle and self-serve while we sit around the edge and not get wet from a moist ground.
  • Table Cloth (for those times you have a picnic at a table).  We use a vinyl top/cloth backed  reusable table cloth that is easy to wipe clean after each picnic.
  • Paper Cups (because sometimes its easier to just throw the entire jug of juice into the lunch bag and not give everyone individual drink choices)
  • Antibacterial Hand Wipes (these have saved us sooooo many times!  You never know when someone will touch duck poo or pick up a creepy crawly while your setting up for the picnic!)
  • Napkins (we put them into a big ziplock bag to keep them clean between trips)

  • Frisbees (to keep everyone occupied while I set up the picnic and while others finish eating)
  • Clothes Pins (to keep your tablecloth attached to the table on those windy days... And they double as plate support if your put your paper plate inside the frisbee!)
  • Plastic Utensils (we also put these into a big ziplock bag to keep them clean between picnics... we also like to throw some little packets of salt and pepper into this bag)
  • Face Wipes (because for some reason my children ALWAYS make a giant sticky face mess)
  • Paper Plates (again, in a big ziplock bag to keep them clean between picnic trips)
  • PicNic Baskets (these are an added fun item that my children love... They make picnics a little more special and make my kids feel like they are eating some kind of special meal when their snacks are put in these baskets)
  • Grocery Bags (to use a trash bags for everything you need to throw away after the picnic is over)
  • A Canvas bag (to keep it all in! Why Canvas?  So that you can pop it into the washing machine every now and then)

2. Pack it all into the Canvas Bag

It all fits perfectly :)
3. Put it by the door or hang it on your coat rack.  Bam!  Now all you have to do is pack some food and your ready to leave!

Fully Packed and Ready to Go!

Ok, so I'm not really the genius that came up with the Ever-Ready PicNic Bag... I have to give credit to my own mother, who always had a picnic bag ready when we were growing up.  When I had children of my own and my little family moved 6 hours away she sent me plenty of love and advice, plus she made me my very own Ever-Ready PicNic Bag.  I've kept it stocked all these years and it has truly been a life saver every Summer!

Do you have your own version of an Ever-Ready PicNic Bag?  We also have a bag for the pool (fully ready with all the necessities) and a tub of stuff for the beach (always packed and ready to go!).  What other Summer necessities does your family rely on?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Top 5 Best Restaurants at Universal's City Walk

Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say about CityWalk at TripAdvisor

After a long day of endless miles walking around Universal's theme parks, or perhaps after a relaxed day laying around your Orlando Resort, there is nothing quite like taking in the exciting night life and tasty dinner options at Universal's City Walk.  Having been there countless times on numerous vacations, I have put together this list of the Top 5 BEST Restaurants that are sure to tantalize your taste buds:

1. The CowFish
This is my family's top pick for dinner at CityWalk.  We have even wished we had one closer to home.  My 5 year old says that this is his favorite restaurant of all time and it is the one place he requests each time we visit Orlando.  Their menu boasts some fun twists on the classics.  Whether your interested in classic sushi or if your love burgers and fries, this is the place for you.  The owner's ability to envision how any dish can be turned into a sushi roll is miraculous.   Here, you can get a classic pulled pork bbq sandwich complete with slaw and shoelace fries (like my husband), a classic cheeseburger (hold everything but add bacon, like my 13 year old orders), fried shrimp sushi bento boxes (like my 5 year old), or classic salmon sushi with candied ginger and wasabi (like I order).  Where else can your whole family eat like kings exactly catered to their own tastes?!
Read More About The CowFish on TripAdvisor

2. Bob Marley- A Tribute to Freedom
I'm a sucker for Jamaican food.  There is something about the fresh ingredients and spicy jerk seasoning that really make my mouth water.  This restaurant not only boasts classic Jamaican dishes, but also gives visitors a spectacular atmosphere.  Complete with live entertainment, partially outdoor seating, and an "everyting is erie" attitude, this is definitely the place to be after a long day.  For starters, get their Blue Mountain Jerk Chicken Dip which is sure to wet your appetite while you listen to the smooth reggae band.  For your dinner, try my favorite the Sun is Shining Chicken Curry.  The perfect blend of chicken vegetables and rice will have you singing the Island's praises.  Or if you want something a little different, try the Belly Full Beef Patties.  Their zesty warm interiors are absolutely authentic!  Whatever you do, make sure to order one of the many Rum drinks offered on their specialty drink menu.
Find Out More About Bob Marley A Tribute To Freedom on TripAdvisor

3. Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
One of CityWalk's newer establishments, the Chocolate Emporium is the PERFECT place for either a delicious meal OR the most delectable dessert.  My recommendation is to try one of the other awesome restaurants on this list for dinner and then head over to the Chocolate Emporium for dessert!  Whether your into milkshakes, desserts of chocolate explosion, peanut butter, brownies, ice cream, or totally unique concoctions of epic dessert proportion, this is the place for you!  With a separate dessert line on the left side of the building, this is a great place to stop off and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Find Out More About The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium on TripAdvisor

4. Antojitos
Looking for something familiar but still exotic?  Check out Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food.  The menu is sure to have items you are familiar with as well as fun and exciting dishes that will excite you.  Start your meal with a classic Margarita or my favorite the "skinny" (a great blend of tequila, lime, and syrup) while you enjoy some chips and queso and listen to the live serenading of the mariachi band.  Then move on to a filling dinner of your choice (if your like me you'll pick the tequila marinaded steak tacos called "Carne" on the menu).
Read more about Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food on TripAdvisor

5. Red Oven Pizza Bakery
If your family is looking for something a little more familiar, check out Red Oven Pizza Bakery.  A hit with the kids, this pizza place is sure to fill your tummies and satisfy your tastes.  All their pizzas are stone baked in an open fire oven, so they get that authentic Italian taste.  Enjoy the pizza quickly by using the take-out window or sit down and enjoy the night life while you wait table-side.
Find Out More About Red Oven Pizza Bakery on TripAdvisor
Are you headed to Universal's City Walk?  Have you tried any of these spectacular restaurants?  Share your thoughts, opinions and favorite orders below.

Summer Must Have: Ever-Ready PicNic Bag

I'm a stay-at-home-mom.  What this means is that come summer time I have to find ways to entertain not only my preschool-aged children (...