Friday, January 31, 2014

My Super Bowl Menu {What Are YOU Making?}

This year my favorite team is playing in the Super Bowl (GO BRONCOS!) and we are having some people over for the big game.

For us, the Super Bowl means a free pass on food. It's really the one day that we eat "junk" for dinner! So, this year, my husband is making his awesome smoked ribs (I dream about these...literally, they are THAT good) and we're also having wings, because, well, duh. ;-)

I'm also making a plethora of dips. The only one I haven't posted yet is my corn dip (you can watch for that next week!). I'm also making all of these:

10 Minute Bean Dip

Simple Spinach Dip

And I need to figure out what to make for dessert.

Last year I made these Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Fudge Frosting.

I'm not sure what I'm going to make this year. I thought about my mom's Tri-Level Brownies:

And my Peanut Butter Brownie Cups because they are SO easy.

What are you making for the Super Bowl?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What's your favorite recent read?

You all know how much I love to read. I love keeping track of my books and my reading goals on Goodreads (you click to find my profile). 

So far this month I've read 15 books towards my goals for the year which sounds like a lot but I read really, really fast (like, I can usually finish a book in 1-2 nap times) and I tend to read in spurts. So, yes, I read a lot this month but probably in the next month or so I'll take a break and won't read much for awhile. I'm weird like that.

I wanted to share a couple of my favorite reads from this month. Incidentally, I recently did a post on my favorite books from 2013 (and I also have one from 2012) if you're interested. Just click the year to see those. 

I just finished this one up a couple of nights ago. I was really unsure going into it because Nicholas Sparks books can go either way. I love a good, happy, all loose ends tied up type of ending and you don't always get that with him. I shed some serious tears with this book but they were good tears. 

Oh, and I was also pretty unsure about the character that's a cowboy and into the rodeo since those things do not interest me at all, but it didn't detract from the story for me. It's a great love story, and I highly, highly recommend it. 

My sister in law loaned me this next book when I was recovering from my hysterectomy. I ended up reading it just in the last month and it was so good that I couldn't put it down once I'd started it. As soon as I'd finished it, I immediately got on Goodreads to see if the author had anything else (she doesn't, yet). You can read the book synopsis here.

This next book I haven't read yet but I purchased it yesterday and intend on starting it today. I saw the movie previews for Labor Day and thought it looked like a really great story, and then I heard it was based on a book. I checked Amazon and right now they have the Kindle version discounted to $4 so I thought I'd share it because I saw it on several of my Goodreads friends "to-read" lists!

Books can add up quickly and the best tip I've found is to earn points on Swagbucks. I use it like a search engine and I usually get 10-20 points per day using it that way. Every 450 points I cash out for a free Amazon gift card which I put on my Amazon account and use for my book addiction. If you'd like to learn how to do that I have a whole tutorial HERE.

Also, did you know you can loan some of your books from Amazon? Not all authors allow it, but some do. I wrote a tutorial on how to do that HERE if you'd like to check it out.

What book have you read recently and loved?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chores for Toddlers

I feel it's my duty as a mom of boys to raise them up right for their future wives. ;-)

I'm so lucky that I have a husband who helps me daily around the house. There is no chore that he won't do, and some he does a better job on than I do. For example, you will never see me iron anything because I am HORRIBLE at it. On Saturday nights, he asks if I need anything ironed for church the next morning.

There are so many chores that toddlers can help out with and I'm of the belief that if you start them off young, they will just always be used to doing things to help out. So, I've got some age appropriate chore ideas of my own below, and I'd love for you to leave your ideas in the comments!

Move the furniture!

When I'm vacuuming my guys will go in front of me and move things out of the way (like the ottoman in the family room, their chairs at the dining table etc) so that I can vacuum underneath them. They love when I give them individual tasks as well, like, "Brody, move the toy telescope" or "Brayden, grab the other vacuum attachment for me."

Arrange the pillows!

We have 11 decorative pillows in the family room that either get moved, used for a fort, tossed on the floor or otherwise displaced throughout the day. Each pillow has a specific place (they're different patterns) and at the end of the day, the boys get to put them back where they go.

Clear your plate!

After each meal, the kids clean off their plate, put it in the sink and put their milk back in the fridge. We don't leave plates around for mom to come clean up after!

Help with the dishwasher!

This is one of Brayden's favorites. He loves stacking up the kids plates and helping put silverware away. I always do the knives but he is great with the forks and spoons!

The playroom is YOUR room!

We have a playroom adjacent to the family room. All of their toys and movies are kept there and now that they are 3 & 5, it's their responsibility to pick up after themselves. There is a ton of storage in there and everything has it's own place. They know where everything goes and if they want to play, then they have to keep the playroom neat. I don't allow many toys in their bedrooms because that is where they are supposed to sleep only, but what they do have in there, they have to keep picked up.


Each morning when the boys change into their clothing, they are responsible for taking their pajamas to the dirty clothes basket. When I do laundry, they love helping load the washer, move the clean clothing to the dryer and even fold small towels.

There are lots of other things the boys like to help out with. They always help me bring in the groceries and "cook" but these are the things they do most commonly.

What chores do your toddlers do? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mexican Turkey And Rice Bowls

I love ground turkey, as you might have noticed. I cook with it a LOT. I make burgers and meatballs, pasta dishes and tostadas with it. This recipe actually started out in homemade flour tortillas (in my head) and then when I went to pull ingredients for it, I had an epiphany that it should be served over a cilantro and green onion rice. 

This recipe is one of so many examples of why I love doing this whole "food blogging" thing. I love to create, dream up ideas and make cooking fun. It doesn't have to be complicated to feed your family well, and it doesn't have to be boring either. Take the things you love and reinvent them in new ways for a winning meal, every time.

Mexican Turkey & Rice Bowls
Serves: 6-8

3 cups white rice, cooked
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 Spanish (aka yellow) onion, diced
1 jalapeno minced (remove seeds/ribs)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lb all white ground turkey meat
6 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime
Zesty Avocado Dressing (recipe follows)
Toppings: Cheese, avocado, green onions, cilantro

Sauté onion in olive oil for about 7 minutes, until translucent and lightly golden. Add jalapeno and garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

Brown turkey in the same pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and ½ teaspoon cumin. While browning, cook your rice (I use 5 minute rice). Once browned, add onion mixture back into the pan. Add frozen corn kernels, the juice of half a lime and beans. Turn heat to medium low and warm through.

Once rice is cooked, stir in the juice of half of your lime, ¾ cups cilantro and ¾ of your chopped green onions. Reserve remaining cilantro and green onions for toppings.

Serve rice in a bowl topped with meat mixture, sauce and toppings.

Zesty Avocado Dressing
Recipe adapted from SkinnyTaste

1 cup buttermilk
1 avocado
½ a jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed
½ cup cilantro
½ tablespoon minced garlic
3 green onions, chopped
Juice of half a lime
1/8 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend to desired consistency. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Easy and Perfect Yeast Rolls

When I was little, we used to go visit my great-grandmothers house every couple of months. There were two things you could always count on her having: 3 bean salad and yeast rolls.

I don't have her original recipe, unfortunately, but I have been working on this recipe for months. I've made them so many times, I could probably do it in my sleep now. They are as close as I think I will ever come to recreating her amazing yeast rolls.

If you're intimidated by making bread, you need to try this recipe. I bet it will build your confidence! These are really, really easy and they don't take a full day to make. I'm going to include some notes that will hopefully make this process really smooth for you!

Perfect Yeast Rolls
Yield: About 3-4 dozen large dinner rolls

6-7 cups all purpose flour, plus some for dusting your board
2 large eggs
3/4 cup white sugar PLUS 2 teaspoons
5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups scalded and cooled milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons salt
Vegetable oil

Heat milk until warmed through. Remove from heat and let cool completely.  Also, melt butter separately, and remove from heat.

Note: Do not add hot milk (or butter) to this - it can kill the yeast.

Dissolve yeast in warm water with 2 teaspoons sugar. Let sit until frothy and bubbly.

Note: I let mine stand until it's bubbled up over double it's original size. I usually mix the yeast in a 2 cup liquid measuring up and let it stand until it's almost bubbled over the top. If your yeast doesn't bubble, throw it out and start over. Your water may have been too hot and killed it, or your yeast may have gone bad. Use warm water - not hot, not cold!

In a stand mixer, using a dough hook, combine milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 cups flour and yeast mixture thoroughly. It should be a loose consistency as pictured here:

Add eggs, salt and butter. Beat well. Next, add in 3 more cups of flour. If you need more, add 1/4 cup at a time until you reach this consistency:

Let dough stand in the mixer while you oil a large bowl, using vegetable oil on a paper towel to coat the bowl well.

Return to your mixer after letting the dough rest for a few minutes and beat it on medium for 3 minutes. Remove the dough and place it in your oiled bowl. Cover with a light tea towel and let it stand in the warmest part of your house.

Note: If you need your dough to rise faster, set it on your dryer, and turn the dryer on. I do this all the time! Also, you can let it rise in front of a warm fire or in your oven with the oven OFF but the light on. Otherwise, I just set it in my laundry room where the sun is the warmest.

Let your dough rise until doubled in bulk. This usually takes a couple of hours.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. I cut my dough in half and shape each half into long logs, then cut pieces and shape them. Once you've done that, let dough rest for at least 15 minutes on greased baking sheets.

Note: I've let mine rest, cut, for up to 2 hours without problems.

Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes, or until just done. Do not over bake!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Brayden's 5th Birthday!

I can't believe I'm writing this.

My baby is FIVE!

Five years ago, some of you may have started reading my blog. Brayden was born on January 13, 2009 and shortly after his birth, he was transferred to another hospital and then flown via helicopter to Arkansas Children's Hospital. You guys flooded my blog with sweet comments, prayers, sent me emails, and even sent emails through the hospital that were printed out and hand delivered to us. 

I still have all of them.

If you've ever wondered if prayer really makes any difference, I'm here to tell you how much it can change. Your prayers gave Chris, myself, and our families such a peace and calmness that can only come from God. We made it through the most difficult time of our lives in part because of your prayers. Your messages of encouragement still make me cry. How special "internet" friends can be.

And here we are, five whole years later. When I look at the picture above I can still feel every emotion from that day. And now, I look at my big healthy boy and I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.

We made a decision a couple of years ago to just do family parties while the boys are young. It's so much easier for everyone, plus my kids birthdays are in November and January, so right around all of the holidays. 

We let them pick where they want to go and what they want to do, and our whole family (those that live here...about 15 or so people) get together to celebrate.

Brayden picked Chuck E Cheese followed by lunch at Red Robin, so that's what we did. He had a blast playing all of the games and then going to eat at his favorite restaurant. My mom made his cupcakes and they were so cute (and tasty!).

When we came home, the boys got to crack into a piñata! Brayden kept asking if he could have one for his birthday so my mom surprised him with one!

On his actual birthday, he wanted to go where he could "throw the peanuts on the floor" so we took him to Coltons. My parents and my brother, sister in law and niece joined us and we had so much fun. I'm so thankful to have my family close by and that we all get along so well!

On the way home we made a pit stop to take a picture with the birthday boy at the exact time he was born:

Thank you to everyone who tweeted him birthday wishes. He felt so loved! =)

I want to share this verse with any of you who might be struggling with something in your lives right now.

Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Favorite Reads from 2013

Check out my Favorite Reads from 2012 here and some other recommendations here.

I LOVE to read which is probably something you already know by this point (especially if you're on twitter - I love talking about books there! You can find me here!). Last year I did a post of my favorite reads from 2012 and I wanted to continue that tradition this year.

By far and away, my favorite book was actually a trilogy called The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. The books titles are The Clockwork Angel, The Clockwork Prince and The Clockwork Princess.

If you've heard of The Mortal Instruments, this is the trilogy that preludes it, however, you don't have to read them in combination with TMI. It won't matter if you haven't read her other books are have already done so. There are a few overlapping characters but the main protagonist in this trilogy is Tessa who is only mentioned (not even by name) once in TMI series.

I do not hand out 5 stars to very many books, but I did give books 1 and 2 in this trilogy a 5 (book three earned 4 stars because I wasn't completely keen on the ending, even though it fit well with the story).

The Infernal Devices deals with Shadowhunters and Downworlders and centers around Tessa Gray, an orphaned teenager who is trying to figure out how she belongs in this world. If you're a fan of TMI, you'll love that Magnus Bane appears throughout this trilogy as well.

Going in a completely different direction, we have another 5 star book called Sempre by JM Darhower. This book caught me totally off guard. It's about a modern day girl, living here in the US that is a second generation slave. This is a fictional book about a very real subject that I had no idea existed. It touched me so much that I wrote this post called "Slavery: Our Girls Are Not For Sale".

It's a great book that deals with a very real, very heavy subject in the best way possible. I didn't realize it at the time, but this book will have a sequel which was just released last month and I can't wait to read it.

Here is the Goodreads synopsis:

Haven Antonelli and Carmine DeMarco had vastly different childhoods. Haven, a second-generation slave, grew up isolated in the middle of the desert, her days full of hard work and terrifying abuse. Carmine, born into a wealthy Mafia family, lived a life of privilege, never having to answer for anything he did.

Both now seventeen, a twist of fate causes their worlds to collide, making them question everything they ever believed. Entangled in a web of secrets and lies, they learn that while different on the surface, they have more in common than anyone would think.

If you're wanting some light and not paranormal, I would highly suggest Northanger Alibi, book 2 of The Jane Austen Diaries. The books are can be read out of order and I didn't realize this was the second book of a series when I read it, and the fact that I hadn't read the first one didn't affect anything.

This is a lighthearted, modern retelling of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Here is the Goodreads synopsis:

The Russo family and Seattle, Washington, are no match for Claire Hart and her savvy knowledge of all things vampire-related. Thanks to her obsession with the Twilight series, if there is anyone who would know a vampire when she saw one, it's Claire. And she's positive totally hot Tony Russo is a vampire - she just has to prove it!

In this modern retelling of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, follow Claire's hilarious journey on her first summer adventure away from home, where she learns everything isn't what it seems, and that in some instances, reality is way better than anything she'd ever find in a book.

This book was so cute that I immediately bought the next one...and couldn't even finish it because it was so bad! You never know what you're going to get with these series but this particular book was very cute.

And my list wouldn't be complete without a Nicholas Sparks book. It seems like every year I read one book of his and this year, it was The Last Song.

It was so, so good. And I will also admit to having watched the movie with Miley Cyrus back when she was normal and dating Liam. Those were the good old days.

Anyway, if you need a Nicholas Sparks fix (and who doesn't?) I highly recommend this book. I don't want to give anything away but I don't tend to like books with sad endings, so I try to steer away from those. This book had a perfect ending in my eyes.

Last but not least, I have to mention The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.

This was a hard one for me. In fact, I only gave it a 3 when I rated it on Goodreads, but this book has stuck with me since I read it. As soon as I started reading it, I knew exactly where the author was going to end up. And I cried my way through this book. I normally would never, ever recommend a sad book but this book is SO much more than that. Its a gut-wrenching story about a girl named Hazel who has terminal cancer. 

John Green's writing style is just so me. It's exactly how I talk in my head but rarely do I verbalize. I am about to start reading my second John Green book and I hope it will make my favorite for 2014 list!

What are your favorite books from 2013?

Friday, January 10, 2014

The New Year and a Whole Lotta Snow

Things are finally slowing down and I'm getting a chance to catch up here. Chris moved his iMac into my office so I'm loving blogging from this gigantic screen! I always blog from my little macbook with it's teeny tiny screen. My eyesight is terrible even with my glasses on half the time, and I'm amazed at how much easier it is to work off of this computer.

Anyway, for the first time in possibly ever, Chris and I went out on New Years Eve. My parents kept the boys and we had a nice dinner followed by going to see Anchor Man 2. Chris is a big Will Ferrell fan. After dinner we picked up my favorite dessert (Italian Chocolate Cake from Johnny Carinos) and headed home because we didn't want to be out on the road with all of the crazies.

The next morning, while everyone else was reaffirming their diet commitments, I indulged in this:

It was every bit as decadent as it looks. We have this little local coffee shop on our idyllic town square that I absolutely love. I enjoyed this huge hot chocolate along with a prosciutto sandwich. It was heavenly. 

If you've been absent from Twitter, the news or life in general, you might have missed that some of us have been hit with some major snow and ice. Now, don't laugh if you live somewhere up North or heaven forbid, Canada. Our measly couple of inches is probably nothing for you, but for us it's a huge deal. School has been shut down and if you want to buy bread or milk you're out of luck! We don't have the kind of snow plow equipment needed to take care of the roads here because we don't generally get that much snow or ice. 

I love to look at it, but boy do I hate to drive on the stuff. I left the house out of desperation on Wednesday and slid just trying to get down the driveway! 

My awesome husband surprised me big time this Christmas with a new mixer. As you might've guessed, I bake on average, at least 3 times per week. I looooove to bake. I've been drooling over the KitchenAid Professional series mixers and asked for a glass bowl for the mixer I already had for Christmas. He surprised me with a whole new, much larger, much more powerful mixer with a glass bowl. He scored a huge deal on black Friday and I've been enjoying breaking it in.

This is a regular sized batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough. It barely takes up 1/5 of the bowl!

The kids and I were stuck at home again yesterday because there was still ice on the road and I'm a chicken when it comes to ice, so I decided to introduce them to this:

Brayden got to ride Star Tours at Disneyworld and he kept asking about C3PO, so I broke out the Star Wars dvd's. We had a great time and Chris was just thankful I didn't force him to watch the too! ;-)

I hope everyone is staying warm, enjoying the New Year and looking forward to a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Honey Cookies

I love honey. It's sort of like some weird, unrelated, second runner up, way behind chocolate type love, but I love it. Coincidentally, I also really love tea, and nothing goes better with a cup of hot tea than a honey cookie.

Anyway, I wanted to make a few different cookie recipes along with your average, everybody makes them kind of cookies this Christmas, and these Honey Cookies were a stand out.

I hope you try them and more importantly, I hope you love them as much as I do.

Honey Cookies
Adapted from found on
Yield: 24-28 cookies

3/4 cups Crisco
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup honey (I love local, raw honey but use whatever you prefer)
1 large egg at room temp
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, soda and salt.

Cream shortening and sugar together for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add honey, eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour in two batches. Mix until combined. Use a 1" scoop and place on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake about 12 minutes or until just done. Cool on a rack.

Enjoy with a cup of English breakfast while sitting near a fireplace.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Disney World with Toddlers: My Recommendations for Planning a Successful Trip

I've been working on this post for several weeks now, and I'm sure I still missed something, so don't hesitate to leave your comments, tips and questions in the comments!

Pre-Planning: Sites and Apps You Need to Know

There are so many great planning websites out there, as well as apps that make your trip run smoothly. So, where do you start?

1.) Pick the time of year you want to go and then consult the crowd calendars on  I used these calendars to pick the week we were going (which was at a 4) and the parks for each day.

2.) Read up on the planning resources at WDW Prep School. Shannon has a TON of great information! You can find all sorts of resources on her site.

3.) Install a couple of different WDW Wait Time Apps. Below are some of my favorites. I did subscribe to Touring Plans but ended up not using it.

4.) Do use the official Disney app (pictured below, it's the blue background with the white Mickey). It keeps all of your reservations and reference numbers in one spot and plots everything out by the day.

5.) This isn't an app but DO print off a countdown calendar for your toddler! No need to spend a bunch of time or money making one - I've done the work for you. Just click here to print out your Disney World OR DisneyLand calendar. 

If you missed my post on Dining At Disney, click here to see where to eat (and where NOT to eat!).


Do buy your tickets before your trip. I bought mine at our AAA office (they have them cheaper than the park sells them for). We also got a free Diamond Lot parking pass. The Diamond Lots are with the handicap parking. We always got a parking spot right up front!

Different people view this different ways but we knew we wouldn't be doing more than 1 park per day, so we just bought base tickets. You can upgrade for a fee to the Park Hopper tickets, which will let you enter multiple parks per day. I had our trip planned out so that we visited each park 1 day except Magic Kingdom which we visited twice (the first and last day of our trip). Do consider that going from park to park isn't quick or very easy. You're probably going to spend at least 45 minutes leaving Park A and getting to the parking lot of Park B.

Tip: Keep a folder with you that has all of your reservations printed off, including your ticket receipt, your flight info, hotel info, car rental AS WELL AS crowd calendars, parade viewing maps and extra stroller tags (mentioned below). A lot of sites recommend a binder, but they are too cumbersome! 

Offsite or Onsite?

This seems to be the number one question I see being asked. It was my number one question as well! The last time I was in Disney World was when I was 10 (we visited DisneyLand more frequently) and we stayed at the Contemporary resort. The great thing is that it has direct monorail access. The not so great thing is that Chef Mickey takes place downstairs, and the Contemporary is built like an Embassy Suites - one big square with all the rooms having open access to the downstairs. That means it gets realllllly loud every morning at 6 or 7. 

This time, Chris and I decided to stay offsite. We ended up being able to book a condo at a resort with our credit card points. Since we didn't really plan on taking this trip until about 2 months before we went, we did our best to keep expenses to a minimum. We had a 3 bedroom condo which worked out well for our family. If you are looking for a condo resort I wouldn't really recommend the one we stayed at, but I would recommend Bonnet Creek. It's by far the closest resort to WDW and I've heard great things about it.

However, after experiencing being both on and offsite, my recommendation would be to stay onsite. Next time, I think we will look at the Art of Animation resort because I like the room setup better than the other onsite hotels. They have a separate bedroom and living space. If having everyone in your family stay in one room with 2 beds is not an issue, then I'd pick one of the 3 hotels with monorail access (Polynesian, Contemporary or Grand Floridian). 

Tip: You can take a soft sided ice chest into the park filled with your own drinks and snacks! Take advantage of this because everything inside those doors tends to be expensive! 

While I didn't subscribe to the Pinterest trend of custom Mickey Mouse shirts for each day of our trip (and more power to you if you want to do that - I think it's super cute!) I did want to have a custom autograph book made for each of my boys.

I let them pick their favorite character and then ordered them from someone way more crafty than I am on Etsy. 

Tip: My friend Melissa shared this tip with me and she was 100% right. Take a clickable sharpie pen for the characters to use. They don't have their own pens and these pens are much easier for them to use!

Fast passes stumped me. I really didn't understand how they worked at first. It was one of those things I meant to read up on but ran out of time. So here is the cliff notes version.

Most rides (every ride, possibly) has 2 lines: a "stand by" line and a "fast pass line." You've probably heard that some rides have notoriously long lines, Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios being the most infamous. I checked my wait time apps every day, several times a day before our trip just to get an idea of what lines were long and Toy Story was always a minimum of an hour wait!

So here's how it works. There are machines nearby the rides that you can scan your park ticket or band with and it will give you a fast pass. Above the machines is a return time. So, in the picture below, Chris got our fast passes at 9am and the return to the ride time was between 10:10 and 11:10 am. During that time frame, we return to the ride and enter the fast pass line. So instead of waiting the stand by time of 90 minutes (what it was when we got there) we waited about 10 minutes.

You can only have ONE fast pass per person (ticket) out at any time. Once you enter the fast pass return time (so, in this case, 10:10am) you can get another fast pass for a ride.

There are also some fast passes for meeting characters. You just have to read the sign over the machines to know.

Tip: Have a little one that is too small for a ride? Ask the cast member who stands at the line entry for a Rider Swap. Send Parent A with your child that is big enough (or by themselves!) on the ride, and when their done you get to get in the Fast Pass line without a Fast Pass by using your Rider Swap ticket. You can even take your taller child with you again!

It's easy to spend a fortune on Disney souvenirs. A lot of things are ridiculously priced but some are fairly reasonable. The only must have that was on my list would be Mickey ears! You can find them at the Le Chapeau on Main Street. You can also order them online but that takes some of the fun out of it. 

We didn't do Tinker Bell gifts but a lot of my friends have and their kids loved it! If you have no idea what I'm talking about check out this link.

Tip: Buy your ears at an odd time of day. We went around 3pm, walked right in, had no wait and then ran across the street to the Emporium while they were being embroidered. 15 minutes later, they were ready!

We also purchased some cool Sully and Mike sweatshirts that the boys LOVE, swords from Pirates of the Caribbean, light sabers from Star Tours, and several other things. We tried to make our souvenirs something that would bring back fun memories from their favorite rides or spots, and something that they would get a lot of use out of. 

Stoller Rentals:

Why did I want to rent a stroller when I have a perfectly good one at home?

Well, there are a few reasons. One, we rented an SUV. We have enough experience with car rentals to know that what they tell you that you're getting is almost never what you end up with. So, we expected a Jeep Grand Cherokee and ended up with an SUV half that size. So, had we brought our own double stroller along with our luggage, it never would have fit in the car.

Also, I once took my Maclaren on a trip to Lake Tahoe. When it got there, they had ripped half the handle off of my stroller. That was a costly lesson.

Another thought I had was what if someone were to steal my stroller? I would have taken our BOB and I can't imagine having to replace it. 

So, we decided to rent. We used Magic Strollers because several of my twitter friends had used them and recommended them. It costs $25 for the first day and $12 every day thereafter to rent a Citi Mini Double (single strollers are even less). We also purchased insurance (I think it was $25?) in case it was lost, stollen or damaged. The best part is that they brought it to our resort and they picked it up. 

You might be thinking, what about the strollers at Disney? I wouldn't recommend them. I saw more than one argument ensue between parents who didn't want to push the blasted things. They were awkward, large and appeared very difficult to navigate. Also, the cast members will move the strollers around and you can just take any of the regular Disney ones from whatever ride you left. I've heard horror stories of people having their things removed by cast members because they needed a stroller and they had to go to lost and found to retrieve their items. 

Tip: Most stroller rentals (including the ones at the parks I believe) come with a 4*6 clear plastic tag holder. You can make your own and put it in the holder to identify your stroller. I made one for us that had a bright red and white chevron background and a black and white Mickey head with our last name on it. It really stood out and separated our stroller from the others. You can also tie a balloon to the stroller which helps it stand out in a crowd!
My Other Disney Posts:

How we told our kids we are going to Disney!
Magic Kingdom Overview
Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios
Epcot, Downtown Disney and the Beach

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