Tips for Disney’s Pandora With A Preschooler

Disclosure: I was provided with free tickets and fastpasses for Walt Disney World, however all opinions are my own.

When people think of Disney’s Pandora, World of Avatar, they probably think it’s geared more towards adults, since the movie itself was more of a “grown up” film. However, don’t count out this unique land when visiting Walt Disney World with your preschooler. They may enjoy it more than you think! Here arr my top five tips for visiting Pandora with a preschooler:

5 Tips for visiting Disney's Pandora, World of Avatar with your preschooler

1.) Let them Explore: We decided when we arrived to not really have a plan (aside from wanting to ride the rides) and just kind of explored and walked around at Emma Kate’s pace. It was so much fun to see her running around playing with different interactive things like the drums, the spitting water fountains, and more. There is so much to stimulate a young mind, and I loved following her around!

2.) Ride the Navi River Journey: This ride is super tame, my bright color loving daughter loved every minute of it. She pointed out different animals and colors, and it held her attention the entire time. It’s also a great place to sit down and cool off on a hot day.

3.) Check out the adoptable banshees: Really, just check out the gift shop in its entirety. We spent about 20 minutes just walking around looking at all the cool merchandise, including the banshees. She picked up toys, talked to other kids, and generally just had a blast. All of the cast members were so friendly in the store and took time to talk to her as well.

pandora

 

4.) Point out the beauty: Because she was so excited and moving so quickly, it was easy for Emma Kate to miss things. Sometimes we had to back up and point out hidden details or fun plants and colors. Once she knew to look closely, it was fun to watch her look deeply into the plant life and point out unique things herself.

5.) Experience the fun food: Not only is the land itself fun and colorful, but so is the food! Be sure to grab a quick service meal or a snack while visiting Pandora. It brings having fun with your food to a whole new level! Plus, the frozen beverages taste really, really good.

My three year old had a blast visiting Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and I am so glad we decided to take her and just let her roam around. It was so fun to see what caught her attention versus having a strict schedule, and it allowed us to see the beauty and fun through her eyes.

Top 5 Things to Do After You Board the Carnival Vista

Disclosure: I was provided free cruise fare for myself and my husband from Carnival, however all opinions are my own, and these are my unbiased best embarkation day tips for boarding the Carnival Vista!

I have cruised several times, and have learned a few tricks about how to make the most out of the day we get on board (Embarkation day). However, my tips vary depending on which cruise and cruise line I am on, so check out my best tips for Embarkation day on the Carnival Vista below:

1.) Eat: It’s typically lunchtime when you get on board the ship, and since rooms aren’t ready yet, we may as well eat! It’s a great way to get in the vacation and relaxation mindset. There are a few places to choose from to eat on the Vista, which is great in helping to spread people out.

Pro tip: We opted for Pig and Anchor BBQ, because the majority of people will head to the buffet, AND, this place is only open on certain days! 

2.) Sky Ride: The sky ride is so, so popular, and as you can see from the photo below, only two people can ride at a time. It is the least crowded on embarkation day and on port days when people get off the ship. My tip is to try and go as soon as you get on board, as the line will get longer as the day goes on. How cool is this?!?

Pro tip: Either wear closed toed shoes or pack some in your carry on, as they are required for the Sky Ride.

3.) Dining Reservations: Sometimes you may not have the opportunity to get dining reservations at one of the three specialty locations on the Vista, but you can make them in person at the restaurants when you get on board the ship. We did this and were easily able to get reservations at the two spots we wanted to dine in. Perfect!

Pro Tip: Do this as soon as you get onboard (ok maybe after you grab some grub) for the best selection of times and dates!

4.) Swim: Eat a little lunch, then go for a swim or sunbathe right? That screams VACATION to me! As you can see from the pictures below, the pools were virtually empty on embarkation day (and no it wasn’t cold outside! It was Miami in November!) This is a wonderful time to grab a chair and a towel and soak it all in, or hop in the hot tub and enjoy the afternoon.

 

 

Pro Tip: pack your swimsuit in your carry on, you won’t have access to your luggage until later in the afternoon. 

5.) Relax: You have eaten, done the sky ride, gotten your dining reservations and gone for a swim, now its time to think about nothing else because you are on vacation on this gorgeous ship! Enjoy the ship and all the entertainment, dining, and fun she has to offer. There truly is something for everyone when you board the Carnival Vista.

board the carnival vista

Christmas Recap 2017

Happy January guys! I can’t believe it’s now 2018. How many of you are still forgetting and writing 2017 on everything? Hand raise! We had a great Christmas, but just like every year it flew by so fast and I want it back! Here are a few of my favorites photos and things we did.

The Friday before, Emma Kate had PJ day at school and obviously had to show them off.

Saturday we made reindeer food and fudge.

Christmas eve we went to church along with my mom and dad. 

Love singing Silent Night with just out voices and the candles. So beautiful. 

After church, we hit up PDQ. I know it’s not very traditional, but we knew we were going to be cooking all the things that night and the next day so I was not up for cooking again for lunch.

Bobby cooked pork chops for dinner and mom was in charge of bread, which is terrifying because she always burns it. So she sat in front of my oven to make sure she didn’t. Bless it. 

We made cookies for Santa and left them by the tree with some milk. 

We read the Christmas story from the Bible and the Night Before Christmas. My sister’s plane arrived just in time for her to get to join in and tell Emma Kate good night.

My mom, dad, and sister left to go to their house, then Santa came!

On Christmas morning, I made EK sit at the top of the stairs and wait just like I used to do. She was a trooper even though she didn’t really understand ha.

She ran downstairs to see that Santa came, and was so excited! She even had gifts in her stocking.

This is my FAVORITE Christmas photo from the day. Sums it all up perfectly. 

Happy girl loved her “doctor things”

Self timer for the win!

We got ready then drove down to my parents new house for the day. It was my first time seeing it with furniture and I love it!

Emma Kate even has her own room.

Also, Santa made a visit to Grammy and Papa’s house, too.

Bobby also got in on the gift action. (and he got me a laptop!)

Maybe a future career?

The weather was in the low 70’s and perfect.

We had our big meal at lunch, and it was delicious.

Santa even left Emma Kate a cupcake.

Self timer again! 

Lunch goodness.

Christmas day is also my moms birthday so we had a cake, of course!

Emma Kate learned how to “drive” papa’s golf cart.

The sign of a good day, asleep int he car by 7:30. We drove home and were so sad it was all over, but thankful for the great memories!

I hope you had a great Christmas with your loved ones. I’m already looking forward to next year.

My 7 Favorite Things About the Carnival Vista

Disclosure: I sailed for free on the Carnival Vista, however all opinions are my own.

I have been on several cruises, and really enjoy being out on the water, and having the ability to visit several destinations in one trip. Another things I really enjoy about cruises is exploring what basically amounts to a floating city.

As soon as I heard about Carnival’s newest ship, the Vista, I couldn’t wait to get on her and explore. After spending six nights on this beauty, I came up with seven of my favorite (there were many more though!) things about the ship to share with you.

1.) Anytime Dining: There are some days when you are out in a port, having a blast, and you just aren’t ready to go back to the ship to make your early dining time. Never fear, anytime dining is here! Just show up at the podium on the ship when you are ready to eat, and you are given a ticket and sent down to the dining room when your table is ready. We always ate between 6:00-7:00, and never had to wait. We could take our time getting dressed, no rushing around, and no stress. It was a great way to enjoy dinner and we loved the option! You could even request a certain server or section if you wanted to do so.

2.) Fahrenheit 55 Steakhouse: I have heard people rave about this restaurant, so I was pumped to try it out on our first night. (Bonus: if you dine there the first night you get a FREE bottle of house wine, or 50% off any bottle of wine!) It’s beautifully decorated, the staff was amazing, the food is plentiful, and it’s a very peaceful relaxed place. It was a top notch experience I recommend to everyone who sails. If you are looking for a fun “date night” or a little extra pampering with delicious food, don’t miss this one.

3.) Friendly Staff: With anything in life, dealing with staff anywhere you go can be hit or miss. It can be especially frustrating when you are going to be dealing with the same people over and over again, like on a cruise. I was SO pleasantly surprised with the staff, and in particular our stateroom hostess. She showed up the day we got on the ship and introduced herself to us, asked if we needed anything (I asked for an extra blanket which was delivered immediately) and she also noticed that we had a cord running across the floor for my husbands fan. She didn’t want us to trip so she brought an extension cord and taped it down to the floor for us. Seriously above and beyond, she could have just not done anything. We always had ice in our room, and I loved coming back at night to the turn down service and a fun towel animal. She always spoke to us when we saw her int he hallway, and was just generally a sweet pleasant person (as were all the staff we encountered!)

 4.) Cloud 9 Spa: We were fortunate to be in a spa stateroom on the ship, so our room was literally a hope skip and a jump from the Cloud 9 spa. We really enjoyed using the thermal suite, the heated tile lounge chairs, and we also visited the gym numerous times and found it to be spacious with lots of equipment. While we did not get any spa services while on board, there was a huge menu to choose from and always something going on.

Carnival Vista

5.) Serenity Adults Only Area: Aaahhh. Now you are speaking my language. Our room happened to also be super close to the adults only area which has two hot tubs, a bar, salad bar, and lots of comfy lounge chairs and what amounts to some private clam shell bed complete with throw pillows. This was a great, quiet escape form the hustle and bustle of the main parts of the ship, and we spent part of a port day and literally all day of our last sea day on this deck. If you want to nap or read a good book, this is definitely the place to do it. A couple of things to note though: The salad bar is only open on sea days, and the “clam shell beds” I mentioned (pictured below) get scooped up VERY quickly on sea days. I went out at 7:45 am to snag one and it was the last one, but totally worth it!

Carnival Vista

6.) Ship Water: I know this sounds bizarre, but I CAN’T be the only person who has thought about this, so I had to add it in to my favorites. Confession, I’m really weird about water. Like, really weird. I do not like lukewarm water or water the has a taste. I have been on other cruise lines and at restaurants where the tap water tastes awful, and so I was super nervous about being dehydrated during the cruise. So much in fact, that we ordered THREE cases of water to be delivered to our room so we wouldn’t die of thirst (dramatic, I know.) It ended up being a totally unfounded fear because the water on the ship tasted delicious and we only ended up using one case of water (for port days).

7.) Hand Washing: My husband and I are a bit of germaphobes (hey, we have a very germ-y three year old so it’s a necessity). I have heard awful stories of sickness sweeping through cruise ships and I for one did not want to be sick on my vacation. We boarded armed with hand sanitizer and Lysol spray. I found one of my favorite ship things in buffet. Not only do they have hand sanitizing stations everywhere, but they had hand washing stations. You just put your hands in the holes, not touching anything, and water and soap sprays out and washes your hands for you. It takes about 15 seconds, but it’s pretty cool and made me feel super clean. Kudos to Carnival for having different options and for keeping everyone safe from the spread of germs!

Carnival Vista

The Carnival Vista has so many great things about it that it was hard to narrow down to just seven, so be sure to check it out for yourself and find your favorites!

Merry Christmas 2017

From my family to yours, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas with those you love.

Luke 2 New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus

 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 

Holiday Like This at Universal Orlando Resort

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Universal Orlando Resort, however all opinions are my own.

It’s always fun to Visit Universal Orlando Resort, but if you want a little “extra” something, be sure visit for the holidays. There are so many fun decorative touches throughout the parks as well as special shows and events you won’t want to miss. It’s just the perfect thing to get you in the holiday spirit!

1.) Universal’s Holiday Parade Featuring Macy’s: If you have any Mischievous Minion fans in your house, this parade is not to be missed. There are adorable floats with your favorite Despicable Me characters as well as those from Shrek and Madagascar. Don’t forget about the Macy’s balloons flying high in the sky! There’s singing, their’s dancing, and a lot of smiling (trust me on this one!) Be sure to catch the action
Dec. 18 – Jan. 6 at 8 pm.

2.) The parks all decked out for the holidays: Going from attraction to attraction at a Universal Orlando Resort theme park is a blast, but it’s even better when there is Christmas music in the background, beautiful lights, and garland everywhere you look. That little bit of extra magic was really fun to see and kept us smiling all day long.

3.) Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular at Islands of Adventure:

Seuss landing was adorably decorated and full of whimsy. I could have just walked around looking at the decorations all day! But, there is even more to see with a live retelling of the classic tale “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” featuring music recorded by Mannheim Steamroller.

You can even meet the green guy himself after the show. There is also a character breakfast with the Grinch, but it’s a separate ticketed event.

4.) Christmas at Hogwarts: This was definitely a highlight of our trip, and I’m so glad we went back into Islands of Adventure to see it. Walking through Hogsmeade all decorated for the holidays was cute, but the projection show took the cake.

Shows are done every few minutes, and the projection on the castle is breathtaking. Seriously, the pictures don’t do it justice. Trust me, you do NOT want to miss this!

Universal Orlando Resort

5.) On Site Hotel Decorations: 

We had the privilege of staying at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which was also very much in the holiday spirit. There was a huge tree in the lobby as well as an adorable village make of candy and desserts. They will also be having Christmas character meals, so be sure to call for more information if you will be there over Christmas. The other in site hotels have their own decorations as well. It would make for a fun evening to go visit them all!

These special holiday events and happenings are going on now through January 6th at Universal Orlando Resort. Which one are you most excited about?

 

 

Westfield Shopping Spree Giveaway

It’s time to get serious about your holiday shopping! If you live in the Tampa area, you can also check out all the fun holiday offerings at the Westfield malls in Brandon, Citrus Park, and Countryside.

Of course the thing every child wants to do is visit Santa! You can come tell him what you want for Christmas through Christmas Eve. You can even get a fastpass (shorter, faster line) by purchasing your photo package in advance online. (visit each mall’s website for a complete list of hours). 

Emma Kate was SO pumped to meet Santa and tell him what she wanted for Christmas. The photographers were great, and the set up was super cute, too. I was not expecting to see Mrs. Claus so that was a fun treat! Our photos were ready instantly to take home with us, no waiting around. 

There are last minute/extended hours shopping from December 15-24 at the malls. Also, be sure to check out the website for more details on discounts and special events.





Not sure what to get that special someone on your list? A Westfield gift card makes a great gift, because then they can pick out what THEY like best!

westfield

Who wants a chance to WIN a $100 Westfield gift card? Just follow the rafflecoptor directions below. I will announce a winner on the 12th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, however all opinions are my own.

Winter’s Wonderland & Sea of Lights Holiday Events

Living in Florida, we have learned that there is so much to see in and do, especially around the holidays. Something that is new to us is Winter’s Wonderland & Sea of Lights Holiday Events at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We were invited to come check out the aquarium and learn about the holiday events that you and your family can enjoy this year.

Emma Kate loves animals, so she was pumped to see the turtles, otters, sharks, and in particular, the dolphins, like Winter and Hope of Dolphin Tale fame. We met some super sweet volunteers who gave us so much information about the animals that call the aquarium home, and the rescue and release process for some of them. I in particular love their mission:

“We believe in preserving our marine life and environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in education, research, rescue, rehabilitation, and release.”



There were so many adorable animals at the aquarium that for one reason or another can’t survive in the wild, and while some will live there permanently, there are some that are able to be released back into their natural habitats which is so awesome.

Ok, so moving on to the awesome activities going on for the holidays! So in addition to touring the aquarium, you can also do these things on select dates:

    • 11/24-12/23 – Come see Winter Claus: Guests have the opportunity to meet Winter Claus (set-up in Spectrum Theater)
    • 12/15, 12/16, 12/22, 12/23 – Stay Late: The aquarium is staying open late until 9 p.m. This way guests can best enjoy the lights, see Winter Claus, enjoy free cookies and enjoy a “Sea of Lights” 45 minute boat ride! (Sea of Lights will run from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. on select dates with $9.99 admission starting after 4 p.m. The Sea of Lights Boat Cruise will take you around Clearwater Bay to see the holiday lights by boat!)
    • 12/27-12/30 – Meet and Greet: Actors from the Dolphin Tale movies will be at the aquarium to meet guests. (<—-awesome!)

  • Don’t miss out on Experiencing Winter Wonderland with lights and décor all around the aquarium. There are also special santa dive presentations at Mavis’s Rescue Hideaway.winter's wonderlandAnyone recognize the above office from a certain dolphin related movie?

You can also purchase 20 oz. Coca-Cola products in the park like Coke, Sprite, and Dasani water to enjoy during your visit to the aquarium.

marine aquarium


I highly recommend taking your family to enjoy the special holiday offerings at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium this year!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored, however all opinions are my own.

Thanksgiving 2017

This year, I hosted Thanksgiving at my house. It was just us and my parents, but we ended up with enough food to feed a small army, and ate leftovers all weekend. It was nice and relaxing, and I’m glad I got to spend time with my family.

Thursday morning I started cooking and getting ready, and soon my parents arrived with the turkey, an it was time for the parade.

It was also time for mimosas!

Bella is one smart cookie. She knows when the turkey is being cut, every year!

After we ate, everyone but me napped (what’s new) and we watched football.

The next day Emma Kate and I went shopping with my parents while Bobby was at work.

Is it just me or does she look way too grown in that picture?!? Anyway, Saturday we went to the playground, and found a turtle (we are VERY exciting people).

That night we met one of EK’s friends from school at our local outdoor mall for the dancing lights and a kids sing along show.

She has a BLAST and we were all worn out after. On Sunday, Emma Kate and I went for a stroller run to the playground while Bobby was at work, and then we met up with my parents at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, but more on that in another post. Anyone recognize that office from a certain movie about a dolphin?

We had a great holiday, and I hope you did, too! Now, on to my favorite…Christmas!

 

Halloween 2017 Recap

Happy November! Just like pretty much every other month this year, October flew. Now it’s on to baking and turkeys and Christmas carols and Hallmark movies. Ok, so maybe I have already started watching Hallmark movies. I just can’t help it guys. They suck me in to this sappy vortex of holiday cheer. Anyway, before I get completely sucked into the holiday madness, I wanted to recap our Halloween. Now that we live in Tampa, there is TONS to do for Halloween, so we ended up doing 4 events plus the main event Halloween night. Let’s take a look:

Friday, Emma Kate’s preschool had a parade and trunk or treat. Through a communications mix up (grumble grumble) I didn’t know about it until the day before. Thankfully I found out because the first think Emma Kate did was look for me when her class walked out to do the parade. I also would have felt horrible if she was the only one not in a costume. Thankfully the #MomFail was avoided, and she paraded her little heart out and got her first taste of 2017 Halloween candy goodness.

When we got home from school, she was conveniently able to stay in her costume because we had our neighborhood trunk or treat to attend. Emma Kate perfected her manners with “trick or treats” and “thank you’s” but was getting confused with the candy part. Some people put it in her basket, some tell her to pick what she wants, so she ended up just grabbing candy herself every time. Oops.

She also got her face painted for the very first time. It was short lived because we went home ten minutes later, took a bath and went to bed, but I’m still so glad we did it because she was SO excited and sat so still while the lady worked. Too cute for words.

Saturday my parents went with us to a nearby fall festival. They had a trunk or treat, and also businesses had booths set up and also had candy. There was also a carnival but we conveniently skipped that part. I have heard way too many news stories lately of rides breaking down and people falling from them or dying. Anything that can be put up or taken down in a matter of hours is not considered safe in this mama’s book. It ended up raining but we stayed anyway. Emma Kate was super cute and brave going form table to table and getting candy.

Sunday afternoon we headed to the local outlet mall for another fall festival. Same thing, the businesses had tables selling things and also buckets of candy. Like we really needed more, right? They also had “Disney characters” (I use this term very loosely) wandering about and singing (the incorrect) words to songs from their movies. It was a gorgeous weekend so a perfect one to be out and about though.

Then Tuesday night, the main event. The second I walked into her classroom to pick her up from school she came running over saying “I want to go trick or treating!” I had to convince her to eat dinner and wait until the sun went down, but we were finally dressed and ready to take on the neighborhood. Funny story about this costume…I always assumed she would be Elsa, or Cinderella, or Moana for Halloween since we already have those costumes. Last Thursday she got in the car after school and declared she wanted to be a pumpkin…Say WHAT?!? She was so sweet and serious, so I hurried home, got on Amazon, and praise Jesus for prime. It arrived Monday, and she was a sweet little pumpkin for Halloween.

Of course, the first door we go to a teenage boy opens it and jumps out wearing a scary wolf head thing…terrified EK and she didn’t want to ring doorbells alone anymore. Thanks kid. She got the hang of which houses to go to (“mommy they don’t have lights on so we go to the next one”) and wanted to keep going to more and more houses. I’m glad we brought the stroller because she ended up in it some and poor thing got so tired she could barely stand up and fell down several times.

After dumping out her haul and looking at her candy, it was time for bed. She passed out immediately and then wanted candy for breakfast. I was sure to hide most of it while she was at school. Thankfully shes young enough that she won’t know!

Bobby and I ended the evening with a tradition, watching Hocus Pocus.

I call Halloween 2017 a huge success, and can’t wait to see what kind of fun we can find next year.

QOTD: What did you/your kids dress up as for Halloween?