Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Food, fun, and Disney...

Our trip is rapidly approaching and we are all getting quite excited. I'm really excited about all of our ADRs. (Advanced Dining Reservations) As soon as we found out that this trip was a possibility Caroline, my sister-in-law, and I began to build a master list of places we wanted to eat. We also began booking stuff for several different weeks because our timeshare reservation wasn't locked in, yet...and we wanted to make sure we got our top choices. The beauty of Disney is you can begin booking a 180 days out and then cancel if need be without penalty. They tweaked their ADR policy this fall but it's not a bad change. You now have to have a credit card on hold for certain reservations and if you don't give 24 hours notice they'll charge you $10 a head.) This applies to character dining and hard to secure reservations like Le Cellier at Epcot. (Which happens to be the hardest reservation to secure at Disney and the state of Florida! We managed to snag one!)

So, here's a list of the places we have reservations at for our trip:

Magic Kingdom
~Crystal Palace--This one will just be our family the first morning since we are arriving a day ahead of everyone else. We wanted to get in to the Magic Kingdom before the park opened and do something special since it was Avi-Kate's first trip. AG loved this character meal when we did it on our Christmas trip in 2010. I'm not going to lie I'm looking forward to eating the beignets again...almost as good as Cafe Du Monde. 
~Liberty Tree Tavern--Lunch reservation. This will be a return meal for us and Misty and a first trip for all of Andy's family. We did dinner last March and it was wonderful. Dinner is served family style and the lunch menu is a little different. So, we are all looking forward to this reservation.

~Via Napoli--Known for it's three wood burning pizza ovens this will be a first for the whole group. From the reviews we've read it looks fabulous.
~Le Cellier--Hardest reservation to secure at Disney and we managed to snag several for the week! We plan to hand off kids so that this is an adults only meal. Andy said if we are going to put down money for a good steak we plan to enjoy ourselves fully. :) I think we have two or three of these reservations so that we can make sure everyone gets to enjoy it.
~Rose and Crown and Akershus--Tommy and Caroline really wanted to eat at Akershus so while they are enjoying lunch there the rest of us are eating at The Rose and Crown in the UK. Andy and I decided that we wanted to wait to eat at Akershus because it is a Princess meal. If we are going to spend the bucks we want Avi-Kate to fully enjoy the meal. (Same reason why we are waiting to eat at Cinderella's Royal Table inside the castle. Probably in another year or two.) The Rose and Crown will be new to Misty, Gwen, and Nanny. We are all looking forward to it. The last time we ate their it was for the Candlelight Processional Package and we ended up with a TON of food. This time around we won't eat as much since we don't have a package. (Which isn't a bad thing since the portions are huge.)

Hollywood Studios
~Hollywood and Vine--This is a character meal and a buffet. We are doing this for the little ones in the group because we know how much AG and Ronnie will love to see all the Disney Junior characters.

Animal Kingdom
~None. We have just one day allocated for AK and since it closes earlier than the other parks we plan to go to Epcot that evening for our Via Napoli reservation. We don't really want to eat a HUGE meal before that reservation so we opted to not snag a table reservation in Animal Kingdom.

Resort Dining
~Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge--This will be our first meal all together once the rest of our group arrives. We'll hop over from our day at Magic Kingdom to meet up with everyone once they arrive in Orlando. Afterwards, we'll head back to our resort to get ready for our first park day all together. First for the whole group.
~Chef Mickey's at The Contemporary-- This is our last character meal of the trip and we opted for breakfast. This reservation falls on our last day and it will be a nice place to kick off our final day at Disney. Everyone can head off to their favorite places I'm sure most people will end up at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT and being next to the monorail is perfect.  I ate here as a small child but it has been years so it'll be new to me as well as the whole group.
~O'hanna at The Polynesian-- This is our last meal of the trip and we were able to snag a dinner reservation early in the evening. Perfect, so that people can leave and head back in to the parks or back to the resort to finish packing. We are all really looking forward to this meal since we have heard nothing but rave reviews about how amazing the food is.

That's a lot of table meals, isn't it? Yes. However, we do this on purpose. After the last few trips we've realized that we enjoy our days best when we structure our day like this: something small for breakfast to grab on the way to the parks. (Unless we have a reservation that morning specifically for breakfast.) One table service meal for the day and the other meal is quick service. We don't really need to eat three full meals at Disney because portions are so large. We enjoy having a sit down meal to be able to rest and re-evaluate our game plan for the rest of the day. The other reality is that the kids probably wouldn't handle two full sit down meals a day every day since they are so little. Plus, sit down meals are more expensive so we save some money by not doing sit down meals multiple times a day. It also saves valuable park time that you can use to see more attractions. The other way we save money on our ADRs is by using the Tables in Wonderland card. It's offered to Florida residents and Annual Pass holders. It's like buying a Sam's membership for restaurants at Disney. It gives the cardholder and up to 10 guests 20% off ALL food and drinks. (Including alcohol.) It quickly pays for itself and we got our money out of it last year. We plan to secure another card for this year and put it to good use on this trip. Lastly, here's AG enjoying our breakfast at the Crystal Palace in 2010. 

Almost time to go...so much to do in the coming weeks to get ready! One thing is for sure we will be eating very well on this trip! :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thrifty Thursday...Friday Edition...

And this is why I coupon...I spent four dollars and some change on all the items in this photo. That's 13 12-packs and 4 Clean and Clear face washes for FOUR Dollars.

I actually did this transaction earlier in the month but am just now getting around to getting this up on the blog. I'm hoping to do some Thrifty Thursday posts and showcase what I've found. Potentially make it a link up party and everyone can show off their finds. I'll have to investigate. Anyways, CVS has been running specials where when you buy $30 in certain products you earn $10gift cards. Well, the week before I did this transaction I had earned $30 in CVS giftcards. So, with my $30, Extra Care Bucks (ECBs) from the week before, and coupons for the face wash I was able to buy all of this for $24 AND I earned $20 in CVS giftcards for next time. Thus, my total then became $4 and change. Not too shabby. :)

Normally I don't buy that many canned drinks at once, however, I knew we had several events coming up with the college family and AG's birthday that I needed to stock up for. Anyone else have any success couponing lately?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January bath time fun...

Well, in an effort to reorganize a few things for the new year I decided Avi-Kate needed to transition out of her infant tub. She sits very well unassisted, however, my concern was more AG in the bath tub with her. Not that he would intentionally hurt her it's just that he's a boy and part of the territory is rough/tumble. For my sake, it's easier to bathe them at the same time but I needed a way for her to be able to enjoy bath time and be somewhat protected from AG. I found this little gem of a bath seat on Amazon and ordered it. It has been fabulous! Both kids enjoy bath time together and the seat helps out mom and dad. I finally decided to move all the kid bath stuff in to the guest bathroom. I was tired of looking at it in my master bathroom tub! We'll see if we stick with this set up...the one thing I love about our bathroom tub is how deep it is. It makes it harder for little monkeys to climb out and contains splashes a tad better. Here's some photos from the month... 

Wordless Wednesday...G-Daddy Edition...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Oh, the adjustment. I knew that adding another child to the mix would take some adjusting when it came to getting back in to the swing of things...and I finally feel like I'm at a point where I'm regaining control of the house. Hallelujah!

We are finding our daily rhythm and I'm finding some comfort in that and being able to make the house look better. It can be so challenging when they are so little and on two different routines. Thankfully, Avi-Kate is now in a more predictable daily schedule...the perks of being on solids now. The biggest thing I'm trying to map out at the moment is a weekly cleaning schedule. I already have certain tendencies like changing the sheets. I prefer to do this task on Friday, so that we have clean sheets heading in to the weekend. Growing up my mom changed our sheets every two weeks, however, due to my allergies, that I developed in college, I now change my sheets once a week. Or vacuuming...I vacuum the floors almost every day. Now, keep in mind, we have a ranch so I don't have to mess with stairs, we have a large inside dog, and due to the fact that almost all of our rooms are hardwoods/tiles vacuuming is much faster than sweeping. So, I'm trying to see what else I want to do and where it fits in with what I'm already doing.

I'm hoping to get things in place and have my improved routine in place in the next week or so. I'd love to have a few weeks under my belt before we leave town and head to Disney at the first of March. I'll post my plans once I finalize them. :) 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Daybook January 17th

Outside my window: An overcast afternoon. It rained this morning and we are suppose to get another wave later this evening. Unusual for this time of year is how mild the temps have been over all. We have a random cold day here or there but nothing like what it normally is. This time last year we were snowed in I believe...

I'm thinking:  I need to do some stuff around the house tonight, work on some housekeeping organization, and make a final to do list for AG's birthday party this weekend. 

I'm wondering: Oh, so many things at the moment. Ideas for the house, cleaning/organizing, getting TOT School up and going for AG, etc.

I'm praying: That AG would decide to be fully potty trained tomorrow on his birthday. (Sigh) One can hope right? :) But really...I'm at the end of my rope on this one and really don't know what else there is to do that we haven't tried. Why he can pee on the potty without problems but can't poop I have no idea. I keep reminding myself that this isn't a big deal it's more of just frustration because I know he's capable. So, I focus and pray that God would give me the strength to see that glorious day when he finally decides to be big boy all the time. 

And of course I'm always praying for The Needham Crew. Pray for them as Piper is in the middle of engrafting. She had a bone marrow transplant a few short weeks ago and her body is in the process of trying to recover/begin to produce new bone marrow.

I'm thankful: For the safe arrivals of Avi-Kate's best friends. Annie arrived on Thursday and Amelia arrived on Sunday. Avi-Kate has about 7 months  and a good 11-13lbs on them at the moment. However, before we know it they'll be racing after each other and chasing their older siblings. So now the pairings are: Briggs and Amelia, Emma and Annie, and then AG and Avi-Kate. I'm so blessed that Ginny, Julie, and I have been able to experience this together twice. 

I'm hearing: A quiet house and the whir of the fan in the kitchen. Something to relish because there are many a day when I don't get moments to blog mid-day these days. 

From the Kitchen: I've joined the world of freezer cooking since having kids and being even more serious about it after the arrival of Avi-Kate. This week we are living off stuff we already had purchased last week and or freezer meals. We've run out for a few random items but nothing big. It's kind of nice to not have to cook every single day. I don't do mega freezer days where I spend several days cooking an entire month's worth of food. Rather, I cook in bulk when I can and when things are on sale. Most weeks I stock one item in the freezer. Meat isn't on sale this week so that's why I'm living off what we've got stockpiled. 

I'm reading: Nothing at the moment. I realized last night that I have yet to borrow anything for January on my Kindle for free...I need to do that. Just need time to find something. I love that with Amazon Prime you can borrow a book a month for free. 

One of my favorite things: Finalizing last minute details for Disney. Yippee! I need to do some work in my notebook now that I have all of our Dining Reservations finalized. 

I'm creating: I need to do some TOT School prep. I honestly just need to spend half a weekend getting everything the way I want it and doing some planning. I've got lots of ideas it is now just a matter of making them happen. 

Around the house: I have been busy, busy cleaning out and reorganizing. I finally feel like I can breathe and make headway on reclaiming my house after having a second baby. Life is just hard with small kids and adjusting to two is hard. (Not that my children are difficult, rather, it's just been hard to adjust to two very different schedules and they have different needs.) I've had to re-examine time management, the way I do things, etc. Plus, Avi-Kate is finally (knock on wood) in a consistent day to day routine and napping at the same times daily. Hallelujah! So, needless to say, I'm happy to be getting things back on track. 

A few plans for the week: Finishing up stuff around the house in preparation for AG's birthday party this weekend. I need to finish Avi-Kate's 7 month pics. I started them yesterday and she was not having it and so I'll finish them later this week. I also am going to do some cousin pictures this weekend when Ronnie and Delia come up. Should be fun. Tomorrow is AG's birthday and we are going to take him out to eat...I think he has requested Chick-fil-A. :o) I'm thinking maybe we'll go pick up a sweet treat from Honeymoon or Jandy's on our way home. We'll see. 

In other news: I decided this fall that I wanted to start running and train for a race. My big goal is to train for a half marathon at Disney. (My sister-in-law, Caroline, also has this goal...we are reclaiming bodies post-baby #2. And we've given serious thought to running together and enjoying Disney a few days solo just the two of us! We'll see what end up doing.) So, right now I'm working on a 5K and I'm hoping in a month to run my first race at Berry. Part of my Christmas present was to be fitted for running shoes and they have made all the difference in the world! Anyways, I'm a few weeks in and really loving it. I'll keep you posted...Happy Tuesday.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What a crew...

We hosted this crowd for dinner on Wednesday night...and it was marvelous. It's crazy to think that when we started this back in 2009 we would have four to six students show up. It's amazing to see how the Lord has blessed this and used this group in big and small ways to minister to us and to each other. They are such a blessing to us. We are humbled that we get to love them daily.

Looking forward to lots of fun and many memories this semester. Andy and the boys, excuse me--I mean men, are starting a Man Night twice a month. The girls and I will keep up with our weekly Grey's Anatomy/dessert/gab fest that we love so much.

I always put quotes on the chalkboards in the kitchen that relate to Family Dinner. This month I stumbled upon the following:

"And thank you for a house full of people I love. Amen." ~ Terri Guillments

"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduced yourself to, had life not done it for you." ~Kendall Hailey

I feel like those two pretty much sum things up rather nicely...

Well, hot dog...

...Andy found my camera battery charger moments ago. Pictures and updates coming very, very soon. Once my battery is charged. :)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Flowers, lots of flowers...

...are in our future. 

This last March we escaped for a few days down to Disney and while we were there we were impressed by all of the gorgeous flowers for the annual Flower and Garden Festival. The whole time we were there we kept saying:

-How much Andy's mom would LOVE to see these flowers. (She's an avid gardner and loves to putter in her yard.)
-How much we LOVED the weather in March. Andy said after experiencing March weather he had no desire for us to ever do a summer Disney trip because he didn't want to fight with the heat and crowds. It really was perfect...High 70s to low 80s during the day and slightly cooler at night. Low crowd levels.

Well, we returned, had a baby, and began to talk to Andy's mom about how much she would love it. :) Long story short there was a week of her timeshare that we need to use ASAP. So, we decided to investigate what a week long Disney trip might look like with the entire Edwards clan for March 2012. We put in our request and waited to see if it would be met. This fall, Nanny got the phone call telling her that they were able to meet it and that our week would be the first full week in March.

So, we are headed to Disney in less than fifty days to see the kick-off of EPCOT's Flower and Garden Festival. I'm beyond excited. I can't wait! I've been working with Andy's sister, Caroline, for months now as we map out everything and plan it. I've discovered that in order to save money and make your trip as enjoyable as possible you have to plan, plan, plan. The prep work you do beforehand goes a LONG way in making your trip wonderful. (To be honest, I love planning Disney trips. I enjoy it.) Now, I will say that there are people that map everything out down to what rides they ride each minute of the day. I am not one of those people. I prefer to have a basic plan for the day and then fill it in as we go. This works really, really well for where we are at in life with small children. It gives us the freedom to change it up and be flexible. Plus, half of the fun of going to Disney with children is to experience it from your child's eyes. So, it makes sense to tailor our trip to the things that they love.

In the coming weeks I'll share our plans, what a basic day plan looks like for us, some of the tricks of the trade, etc. In the mean time, I've been trying to reorganize a bunch of stuff for the start of the new year and I have somehow misplaced my camera battery charger. I'm hoping I come across it this weekend. I have lots of pictures to upload and share. Plus, I need to take Avi-Kate's 7 month pictures. And in other news I meant to post several things during the second half of this week but time got away from me. My two dear friends from college, who live here in town, were/are over due. Avi-Kate's playmates will both be here by the end of the weekend. Anne Grace was born yesterday and Amelia Louise should not be too far behind her. I'm so blessed that we've all been pregnant together not once but twice. I love that our kids are close in ages. It's pretty amazing. All right. This post is long enough...I'll share more soon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tot School...

...coming to our dining room!

Well, my original plan was thrown out the window...AG was suppose to start preschool last week at the Child Development Center at Berry. (CDC) The biggest requirement for enrollment that they be 100% potty trained and they be at least 3 years old. Well, we toured last spring, signed the papers, and paid the deposit. In late August we began potty training hardcore so that we'd have it down pat by January. Well my friends, that did not happen. AG is completely potty trained when it comes to peeing but pooping on the potty just isn't happening on a daily basis. (It's not that he can't or hasn't...it's that he just flat out doesn't want to.) This is when Andy likes to remind me that I wanted a redhead child and thus, implying, the stubborn streak that comes with being redheaded! Ha. You name it and we've tried it.

So, where does that leave us? Since Plan A is on hold we are moving to Plan B. The new plan is that AG will, Lord willing, enroll in August. (I might be bald if August comes and he's not off to school!) In the mean time AG and I are going to begin Tot School. AKA a special time two or three days a week for us to sit down together and work together. I'm thinking we'll do it in the morning when Avi-Kate takes her nap...we'll see once we get started if I need to tweak it. This won't necessarily be 'school' but rather time during the week for us to casually explore numbers, patterns, colors, shapes, themes, books, letters, etc. Most of this will be geared towards whatever is going on/he's interested in. (For all my fellow teachers...maybe I'm more Reggio Emilia than I thought I'd be! My preschool professor in college spent an entire semester on Reggio instead of teaching us all the different theories of preschool instruction...which makes me laugh that I'm even writing about this eight years after the fact...) Exploration and simple instruction. Nothing heavy, in depth, or involved.

The name Tot School comes from this little gem of a website I stumbled upon two years ago...you can take a look here. I'm in the process right now of some cleaning and organizing. Once we get past AG's birthday next week we'll get started on Tot School. (This should give us several weeks at it before we head to Disney for a week...spring break?!? Ha.) I'll post our simple plans and what we are doing once we begin. Be on the lookout...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

This and that...

Goodness gracious I feel like I've been playing catch-up for months and trying to keep my head above water. We finally seem to be finding a rhythm with two children and Avi-Kate is on a much more predictable schedule thanks to eating solids.

Anyways, the blog seems to have suffered in all the chaos that was this fall/holiday season and I've been constantly going back and post-dating stuff. In the middle of all of that I've been brainstorming ideas and things that I'm going to add to the blog on a weekly/monthly basis. Funny, right? Can't seem to keep up with the bare bones updates let's just throw in something else to keep up with! It gets even funnier...I'm in the process of creating a second blog with Andy's help. We've been working on it since the fall but had to take a break during the holidays. I was hoping to have it up and going by now but that's life...so it should be up and going in the very near future. :)

In the mean time the kids are growing like weeds and changing every day. Life is never dull with the two of them...I know I say that all the time but it's true. AG will be 3 in two weeks and I can't believe it. I'll blink and he'll be in high school getting ready for college. (Where does the time go?!?)

In the next few days be on the look out for:

-Goals for the year
-Disney update
-Daybook Entry (haven't done one of those in who knows how long...)
-New Years Eve Post with pics
-A belated Christmas house tour (because I normally do this before Christmas but again the chaos that was got the best of me...)
-Avi-Kate's 7 month pics (once I take them)
-52 Recipes Update...I've gone over my goal but dropped the ball in blogging them!

And a few other things that are currently swirling around in my head...but you'll have to stay tuned. This week is shaping up to be a busy week but full of happy moments. AG has his first Kindermusik class of the semester and our college students return tomorrow. They'll be over several times this week and for that we are all excited...it's been quiet without them these last few weeks. I'm off to fold some laundry and do some planning for the week ahead...