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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Our first trip to Disney World! Serena sings at Epcot!


A few months ago Serena informed us that her and her church choir were invited to sing at Epcot's candlelight processional. We had no plans this year to go to Disney World with 3 small children under 6. In fact the mere thought of waiting in long lines in the Florida heat sounded a lot like torture to me. However there was no way I was going to miss my big girl singing at Disney World! No way no how! Not to mention the event was going to be in late November so the weather was going to be nice in Orlando. H and I decided that we were just going to have to go this year, and that is what we did on November 25th. We woke up at the crack of dawn that day and made the almost 3 hour drive with the little ones thinking we were going to Naples. We surprised them just as we were approaching the sign. It was sooo foggy that they couldn't see anything so the enthusiasm was a bit anti-climatic, but oh well. They were happy once they were there. 

Just look at this fog! 

Before going, trying to figure out Disney seemed challenging and overwhelming at first. I kept hearing about fast passes. Do we pay for fast passes? How do fast passes work? Were we going to have to wait 1 to 2 hours in lines just to ride a few rides? How the heck are we going to keep our kids entertained for that long? Is it going to be hot? Is it going to be cold? Do I bring one stroller, two strollers, or a double stroller? Can I bring food in? I had a lot of questions!

Luckily my planner husband informed me of the my Disney app and scheduled the fast passes and I joined a Disney mom Facebook group that I was able to read here and there before our trip. Let me back up and explain the candlelight processional first. It's a holiday event held at Epcot every year that tells the story of Christmas by a celebrity narrator, and accompanied by a 50 piece orchestra and massed choir. You do not need a special event ticket to attend, but you can enjoy guaranteed seating by purchasing a candlelight dining package. We ended up booking a candlelight dining package at restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco just to be on the safe side. 

Next year if Serena plans on singing again we probably won't book a dining package so we could sample more foods and desserts from the different worlds instead. The dining package was pretty expensive but the food was really really good complete with music and belly dancing. Mariam even got up to dance at one point. She loves to dance in public this kid. We made our reservation early so we'd have plenty of time to walk to the gardens theater. We showed up just as the line was getting long but only waited about 15 minutes before they started letting us in for the 5pm show. We had really good seats up front right before the reserved seating. I really enjoyed the show and Serena really loved being a part of it though she said it was really hot in the robes and the stage lights shining on her. The music was fantastic and we can't wait to do it again. I'm going to back up now and answer some of the questions and concerns I had in case you're reading this and you have small children, and if you're reading this--you probably do have small children because it's mainly a mommy blog haha!


 Do you pay for fast passes and how do they work? No you don't pay for them. You can schedule 3 at a time. We figured out a really good system that worked for us. We went during a busy time (the weekend after Thanksgiving) but still never waited in line for more than 15-20 minutes. Most of our wait times were only about 10 minutes. What you want to do is get there as soon as it opens. If you're not a morning person. I'm sorry but get your butt up anyways or you're going to miss out on a bunch of good rides. We accomplished a lot before noon. So what we did is if one of the lines for rides we had fast passes on was short then we would cancel the fast pass and book something else. It's really pretty simple. Get the app. Use the app. Makes your life easier. I thought it was really cool that each ride lists the wait times for standby and fast passes.

Do you have to wait 1 to 2 hours in lines just to get on a ride? No, but it's possible you might....if you enjoy waiting in long lines for a ride. In the words of that famous meme: "Ain't nobody got time for dat!" I'm sorry but I'm not waiting hours in line for a 10 minute ride, much less with several children in tow. No thanks! I'd much rather miss out and do something else. 

How the heck do you keep your kids entertained in a long line? Again, we didn't have to wait more than 10-15 minutes, but that one 20 minute line was a bit challenging. I had actually stopped at Dollar Tree a few days before to buy them a few coloring books and projects but of course I forgot to bring them. When my toddler or 5 year old weren't trying to run away they were entertained by what was around them. A lot of the lines have interactive things along the way and there is much for their small eyes to take in.

Is it going to be hot? Is it going to be cold? We went November 25th on a Saturday and it was really cold in the morning. Bring a heavy sweater or light weight jacket. Basically dress in layers because around 1 pm that day I was sweating! When that suns hits you watch out. As the sun goes down during this time it gets cold again. I'll tell you what, during the afternoon when the sun was the hottest, I really thought about the die hard Disney fans that come out in summer. Holy bajeebus, how do they not roast! I imagine it gets wicked hot.

Do I bring one stroller, two strollers, or a double stroller? We brought 2 strollers. One for my 2 year old and one for my 4 year old. I know how my 4 year old gets having to take long walks so she needed one for sure. She used it every chance she got too lemme tell you. I pushed one and H pushed another. It worked out great. A double stroller can get pretty hard to navigate among the large crowds. 

Can I bring food in? Yes! I was happy to hear this because my girls like to snack. We brought small halo mandarins, apples, ritz crackers, wheat thins and water. They really came in handy!

Our experience at Epcot was pretty great. Due to having to drop Serena off to her group at a certain time and then meeting back up with H and a couple of the girl's, I didn't get to see all of the park, but what I did see was pretty amazing. Even though I had read up on the park. Seeing it in person is so much different than I imagined. I really enjoyed the different worlds and wish I could have seen all of them. I would love to go back and explore the shops and just eat and drink--preferably with no kids in tow. Speaking of kids. Let me just warn you now since nobody warned me. Disney World is wonderful, dreamy, basically all that and a bag of chips, but don't expect your children to behave any different then they normally do anywhere else. Boy was I in for a rude surprise because I walked in with the expectation that they were going to be little angels because it's the happiest place on earth and they were going to be so happy! Ha! Mariam tried to run away like 4 times. Ava tried to squirm out of the lines several times. A few little tantrums were thrown in for good measure. Taking several small children under 6 to Disney can be overwhelming but despite the stress at times, it's still worth it!


The rides were fun for the whole family and it was neat to find out that Epcot is also sustainable. They have several large greenhouses (2.5 million sq ft) which not only produce much of the food for Epcot inhabitants, but has been forefront of experiments with high tech and high yield indoor plant growing techniques. The living with the land ride takes you through some of this. 


We didn't get to ride a ton of rides due to our dining plans and Serena's performance, but I'd have to say my favorite was Spaceship earth. It's a great one for the whole family and even though Ava was a bit nervous of rides that spent some time in the dark, she actually loved this one! Layla and Mariam also really enjoyed the gran fiesta tour. We stayed till closing and the next day went to Magic Kingdom. I'll be doing a separate post on that. 

Have a great day!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday cards made easy with Minted!



If  you've ever been on the hunt for invitations, I'm sure you've heard of Minted. They are the 
crème de la crème of personalized invitations and stationery. Aside from that they also have home decor, art, gifts, and more!

I recently had the opportunity to try Minted.com for the first time and I am impressed! It's been several years since we've sent out Holiday photo cards and I didn't want to miss that boat again this year. We normally take our own family pictures, but this year we had our family pictures taken by the vary talented fine art portraiture photographer Caitlyn Bom. We had our pictures taken by the beach earlier this year and have a few of the shots hanging in our house. We absolutely wanted to share a photo with our close friends and family so holiday cards are going out for sure. 


Minted.com has really just thought about everything in the ordering process. Not only is it easy to filter the cards based on your photos, price, or printing, there is also a wide variety of customization once you select the card. From suggestions to adding postage to complimenting your design or adding recipient addressing, they've thought of it all! Having numerous birthday parties year round with 4 children, I've used a few different photo card services and I have to say Minted.com is by far the easiest and most user friendly experience I've ever had. The ordering process was so fast and simple. The part that took the longest was just picking a card. It was really hard to choose because they are all so beautiful!

The cards came with free envelopes and you can choose from several color accompanying linings such as gold, glitter gold, silver foil at an additional cost. You can also easily move your personalized text around and pick different fonts. I'm just really impressed by Minted. They were kind enough to offer me a chance to shop around and one of the things I selected were holiday cards. I went with a simple holiday foil pressed card.

I'm completely addicted to foil gold, shiny gold. Anything gold!


I debated between uploading a picture of just the girls, or all of us. I settled on just the girls. Our families would have loved either one for sure, but there's something so sweet about just seeing children on cards. It really is the secret ingredient in holiday cards. Getting your children to pose for a family picture is not always that simple. In fact sometimes they act completely silly and you just have to roll with it. Check out Minted's article for a creating a great funny kid holiday card here.

I can't wait to get my cards in! Once I do I'll be sure to share them in a separate post. Have a great weekend!


Thank you Minted for sponsoring this post. All wording, and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday talk: Catching up edition

I never got around to sharing Mariam's 5th birthday pictures, Serena's 15th birthday pictures or Thanksgiving pictures--which thankfully too much time hasn't passed since then. There just isn't enough hours in the day! I'm going to need longer days around here. Instead of writing individual posts at this point, I'm just going to combine everything and catch ya'll up on the latest.

Mariam turned 5!

Our 3rd baby turned 5 on November 5th! Originally I was going to throw her a big party, but with big sister's birthday just one week later--who also wanted a party, it was just going to be too difficult for me to pull off. I can throw parties together successfully at the last minute, but I've been so exhausted lately and there was just too much going on in life. Serena convinced Mariam we should just do something low-key, just the family, and she was happy with the idea. For her pictures, I bought one single lilac balloon and cut some flowers from my lawn and attached them with tape. For the number 5, I first made a 5 out of floral wire and twisted the same type of flowers around the wire. I cut out small pieces of wire to serve as clips on some pieces of the flowers. Floral wire is a great thing to keep in your craft box year round. There are a lot of things you can make with it.


Serena turned 15!


I can't believe she's 15! Our girl is so big. We have been blessed with an amazing teenager and I'm just so thankful for her! We didn't really do a theme--since she's a big girl, but we did have a color scheme. She wanted white, caribbean blue and silver. The decorative highlight were the big 36 inch white balloons. Those were the first items purchased and I worked around that. I'll link the sources below. I originally had planned on having 8 balloons floating above the pool, but Party City forgot to blow one up and one popped on the way home. It was quite an adventure getting them home along with several small ones I purchased. I had to make 2 trips since I didn't want to crowd them in my SUV. 


Right before I was ready to get them in the pool, I attached silver foil tassels to them. I purchased the tassels on Etsy, but next time I'll just get them from Target. They had similar ones but more full and already assembled. Plus they were cheaper! You must be wondering what is holding them in the pool. Originally I had planned on buying balloon weights but I would have needed two each. Instead I cut 6 fabric squares out, made 4 holes and placed rocks inside. I had also cut 4 holes by each corner to tie the balloon string through. It worked like a charm! I had several other decor I had purchased but didn't get any good individual pictures of them. Serena had a great time at her pool party with her friends and I'm so glad she enjoyed herself. 

36 inch party balloons: Wrapping me up
Silver foil tissue tassel kit: Paper supply station
Silver foil "party" sign: Shop Celebration Lane

FHJ Baby turns 5!

Time sure does fly. Thankful for another year in business and getting to do what I love. It's not easy trying to juggle a family of 6 and run a business, but I've hung in there. The past two years have definitely been challenging with Ava still not sleeping through the night, but hopefully she will one day. I'm also so proud to announce that one of my products was featured in another magazine! Pregnancy & Newborn magazine featured one of the bibs in their November issue.

FHJ Baby bib: Charlotte white lace

Thanksgiving 2017!

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving on our own again with no family. No relatives were in town and we thought we wouldn't put any pressure on ourselves by inviting any friends. With our family size, we really are our own party sometimes ha-ha! We did a traditional turkey with all the fixings and I'm happy to say we just threw out the last of our turkey last night. One can only eat turkey for so may days amiright?!


I made an apple pie as I always make every Thanksgiving, but this time I made a decorative lattice top. It was soooo much easier than I thought it was going to be and it turned out great!


H cooked 90% of Thanksgiving dinner including some delicious sourdough bread from scratch. Like the yeast starter and everything. He's gotten really good at breads now. 


I think I've covered the highlights in the past few months. We just wrapped up our first trip to Disney World this past weekend so I'll be writing about our trip this week.

Have a great Tuesday!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cozy with Chrissy's knee high socks


I don't know about you, but I hate walking around barefoot on my hardwood floors. Other than my feet being cold, I don't like feeling crumbs on my feet! Sometimes I feel like an old lady when I come home from whatever activity the girl's had me driving them too, and I get to step out of my clothes, put on some yoga pants, a t-shirt, my robe and a nice warm pair of socks. I know my husband just loves that look. Kidding, but I guess he doesn't mind it. Haha!

When Chrissy's knee high socks reached out earlier this year to review a few of their socks, I couldn't say no. After all, I am a sock lover and my girls are too. Ranging from funky to chic, their knee socks offer a variety of different feels that will suit any taste and style. Chrissy's boasts hundreds of uniquely stylish socks for purchase online here. They have a large inventory and socks for the whole family! I love how soft and warm they are. I wear socks around the house for comfort so their solid dark pink socks were great for me and adorable. I love pink. 


These grey ones went perfect with Layla's school outfit today. Because they were long they can double as tights. They also fit my 15 year old.


Aside from just something cozy to wear around the house, a pair of knee high socks are the perfect finishing touch to a fall ensemble so be sure to check out their website and see all their options. 


Have a great Thursday! I'm so glad tomorrow is Friday. Can't wait for the kids to be on their Thanksgiving break. 

Disclosure: I was provided with the products. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The most simple baked brie en croute ever!


My 4 year old is currently throwing a tantrum and my 2 year old is looking at her wondering what is up. I figured now is a good time as any to finish sharing a delicious and simple appetizer with you all. I need to mentally detach myself for a minute. 

Two weekends ago I made a simple baked brie with raspberry preserves for a gathering and it was delicious. All you need is a few ingredients and it rates low on the difficulty scale and high on the delivery scale. I fell in love with baked brie when my neighbor made it for one of our gatherings last year.

Ingredients

* Wheel of brie cheese (7-8 ounce size)
* 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry
* Whatever you might want to add such as orange marmalade, raspberry preserves, honey, jelly, or nuts
* 1 egg for brushing the pastry before baking.
* A little bit of flour (about 2 tbs)


Instructions

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lay out a piece of parchment paper on your work surface and dust it a little with flour.


Step 2: Lay your thawed puff pastry sheet on the parchment paper and just stretch it out a little bit with your rolling pin. The idea here is to just make it a little thinner and wider.


Step 3: Place brie right in the center and slather your jelly, marmalde, or what have you all over the cheese wheel. I used smuckers raspberry preserve. 


Step 4: Wrap your brie with the puff pastry. All I did was fold each corner over the cheese. It's hard to make it perfect so at the end just close it as best as you can. It will come out looking great however you do it. 


Step 4: Brush the pastry all over with egg, transfer brie on parchment paper over to baking sheet  and pop it in the oven for 35-40 minutes. You want it to be golden brown. 

Step 5: Let the baked brie cool for about 5 minutes and transfer to serving platter. 


There you have it. Easy peasy. I find baked brie is best served with water crackers. You can also add grapes and nuts. Some people even drizzle honey over the puff pastry. With thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner it's a fantastic appetizer to bring to your gatherings.

Have a great Thursday!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ava's simple & pretty 2nd birthday party!


I've been meaning to blog about Ava's 2nd birthday party since September when it happened. Yet it's about to be November. Well! Better late then never right?!

This year I wanted to do something small again for Ava, but invite close friends and have it at the house. With this year being crazy busy and just entering the second month of having 3 in school, I didn't have a lot of time to spend on it. She's not big into characters or has too many favorite objects, but she is into farm animals. I did some research and felt like a girly farm based birthday party was going to be too much of a hassle at this stage in my life. I decided to go with a theme utilizing a few things I had already and just go from there. I find it's easiest to plan a party by finding one decor piece you really love and building it from there. 

With Ava, I had a pink, gold, and white tassel I had gotten back in 2015 and decided that those were the colors I was going to use. I also drew inspiration from the party fashion blogger Rachel Parcell threw for her little one. I loved the floral details!

The first things I purchased for the party were Meri Meri gold foiled kraft placemats, glitter candles, birchwood forks and pink paper plates.  


I searched high and low for a green leaf garland but could not find one I liked! I ended up making it myself based off a tutorial from The House That Lars Built


I prepared the garland ahead of time and added fresh pink roses about an hour before the party started. 


I like to say that it's all in the details. As you can see, there's nothing too elaborate on the table, but it's the tiny details such as the pop of pink, scallops on the place mats, and the cutlery that made all the difference. 


For her cake I went with a simple 9 inch round cake from Publix. the baker gave me a little funny look when I told him I just wanted a plain white cake with no decorations, but he didn't know what I had in mind. I found an adorable gold glitter cake topper off Etsy and just added a rose with a little bit of greenery.


I loved the way everything came out! This party was definitely one of my easiest to plan and not expensive either. For food we ordered pizza, and snacks were: veggies, fruit, and chips. I'm not crazy about having tons of sweets around when I throw a party. For drinks we had water, fresh squeezed limeade, wine and cocktails. All in all Ava had a great time and it was nice sharing her birthday with her little friends. 

Gold foiled scalloped place mats: Amazon

Fancy birchwood forks: Shop Celebration Lane

Meri Meri gold glitter candles: Shop Celebration Lane

Pink paper plates: Shop Celebration Lane

Cake topper: Glitter Topper

Green Crepe Paper (color moss): Amazon

Pink, gold, white tassel: Love Pretty Details

Gold glitter happy birthday banner: Hobby Lobby


Have a great Monday!