3/21/16

Why you should make your Disney dining reservations 180 days in advance!


Last week I mentioned that I made our dining reservations for our next Walt Disney World vacation - 180 days in advance. Since then numerous people have asked me, "Why the heck do you have to reserve your dining reservations so early?"

Here is why... The ideal time to start planning your Disney vacation is 7-8 months in advance, at the very least, 200 days in advance. At 180 days before arrival you can make your dining reservations. Why the heck is it so important to make dining reservations at 180 days? Well..
  1. Restaurants do completely book up. The more popular restaurants, such as character dining spots or restaurants like Be Our Guest, or 'Ohana will sometimes even book up before the 180th day. You say.. what? How can this be? On the 180th day before your arrival you can start booking dining reservations for your ENTIRE vacation. (or for 10 days out) So for instance, someone who arrives just one day before you do has already had access to dining reservation times during your vacation. Now do you see how this could cause a problem with availability? BUT this is not a huge deal if you plan ahead!
  2. Dining times. Booking early will ensure you are not eating dinner at 8pm or during times when you wanted to be watching a parade or show. This is especially important for us with a toddler and preschooler who are use to eating at 5pm. They would be extremely grumpy if I was only able to secure late dinner times. No thanks, I like my kids happy and fed early!
Now, a few other reasons why you should book your Disney vacation early besides dining reservations...
  1. A layaway vacation! When you book your Disney vacation you only have to put down a $200.00 deposit. Your final payment is not due until 30 days before you travel! Why not make payments without finance charges? (In increments of $20.00 or more.)
  2. Fastpasses can be made 60 days before your arrival if you are staying onsite. (30 days before if you are not.) It is important to get these as soon as you can, especially for the more popular rides and attractions. If you wait you might still be able to get fastpasses but they might not be for the most desirable times or later in the day which will impede on your ability to get more after your first three are used!
  3. The excitement! The anticipation of going on our Disney vacations is something I really look forward to and enjoy. We participate in a countdown and activities to get us ready and excited for the trip. BEWARE of telling your kids too early though, Kellen heard us talking about our trip one day by accident after I made our fastpasses at 60 days and spent the next 60 days asking me EVERYDAY if were leaving for Disney TODAY. There is nothing wrong with being excited without the kids knowing for awhile!
I hope I have adequately explained why it is important to snatch up those dining reservations at 180 days and to book your overall trip as soon as you can! If you have questions or would like help planning your next magical vacation contact me today!

3/17/16

Homemade Taco Seasoning

We eat a ton of Mexican food in our house. It is my husband's favorite and for me it is EASY and FAST to prepare. I am all about food that is easy and fast, especially if it delicious too! I don't want to spend the entire evening in the kitchen cooking! I would much rather be spending time with my family! If I am super awesome, (which is only sometimes) I prepare a couple pounds of meat on Sunday evening to use throughout the week.

In the past we used store bought seasoning packets. This all came to a halt on one fateful day when I forgot to buy a packet during my grocery run and was too busy lazy to go back to the store. I researched and played around with a few recipes and came up with the one below. It tastes great and I use a ton of it!


Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (use 1/2 tsp if your family is spicy sensitive- this is a thing ya know!)
Directions:

Measure all of the above in a container of your choice and shake or stir, with a lid securing on of course! Don't laugh, I have had a seasoning explosion in the past! I have learned from my mistake and now use a small glass container with a very strong lid. Mason jars work great for this! Most of the time I also double the recipe. Saves me time in the long run.

After browning a pound of your meat of choice, add 1-2 tablespoons of the prepared seasoning and 1/4 cup of water. Let the water reduce, just like you would with a normal seasoning packet.

This is so easy. You will never have to run out because you forgot to pick up a taco seasoning packet again! Plus, you can't beat the fact that it has no additives! The applications of meat seasoned with this homemade taco seasoning are limitless. Salsa chicken, nachos (pachos for us since we use mini bell peppers instead of chips), taco soup, tacos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, tostadas, Mexican pizzas- I could go on and on! Are you hungry yet? Give it a try and let me know what you think!

 
 
 

3/4/16

Freezer Smoothie Packets


Mornings. I am NOT a morning person. Getting out the door with a toddler and preschooler (who basically pack a suitcase to go to grandma's EVERY morning) and remembering everything can be difficult, and most of the time I forget to eat breakfast or I tell myself, eh I will have a cup of coffee. I mean isn't it enough that I remember my packed lunch?

Yes, yes I know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yada, yada. It wakes up your metabolism, yada, yada. Please don't take my yadas as me not knowing this is truth. I do. I understand and know that I NEED to eat breakfast, BUT the busy mom in me finds reasons excuses not to.

How have I eliminated my morning excuses? The answer? Premade breakfasts. Easy grab and go options. My absolute favorites? Smoothie packets, breakfast burritos, and yogurt parfaits. Delicious, nutritious, and EASY/FAST to make.

Today I am going to focus on the smoothie packet.

Ingredients:
  • Bananas
  • Frozen Fruit (or fresh) of your choice
  • Spinach + water for blending (Spinach cubes are optional!)
  • Freezer safe baggies
  • On day of consumption:
    •  Liquid of choice (milk, almond milk, juice, green tea) about 1/2 to 1 cup depending on how thick you like your smoothies!
    • Optional: Greek Yogurt (1/4 of a cup) for a touch of protein
Directions:
First! Make the spinach cubes! Dump a bag of fresh spinach with just enough water to blend. Pour awesome green goo into an ice cube tray and freeze! I wrote above that these are optional, BUT I say why not? You don't taste them and it is a great way to sneak a little green into breakfast. My kids call them Hulk Smoothies!

Spinach Cubes
Next. Slice the bananas. I put half of a sliced banana into each packet. (My kids love helping stuff smoothie packets!) Every Swaim smoothie is made with banana. They add creaminess and just enough sweetness such that no additional sweetener is needed!
Add half a cup of your favorite frozen fruit. When fresh fruit is plentiful in the summer I freeze my own, BUT over the winter I buy huge bags of frozen fruit from Sam's Club.
Banana & Mango
Finally add one frozen spinach cube!
Seal and freeze... ahhhhhhh..... I can just see my morning excuses flying out the window.
Freezer ready packets!
On the morning of blending I grab a packet from the freezer and add my liquid. Depending on how thick you like your smoothies 1/2 to 1 cup will do the trick. As far as what kind of liquid, that is up to you. I use green tea (unsweetened, brewed at home), but almond milk, regular milk, or juice will also work. Most of the time I also add a little Greek yogurt. (about 1/4 of a cup for the protein and added creaminess) 5 minutes or less and you have your smoothie!
Yummmmm....
Pour into a cup and off you go!
Now...  This packet is for ONE smoothie. If you are making multiple servings then just grab more packets! EASY....
What kind of breakfast prep do you do?


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