Category Archives: foodie

Shopping, Sake and Pixie Dust: Disney WITHOUT the Kids

Is it any wonder that Disney –World, Land or any other incarnation–  is truly the most magical place on earth? After all, they’ve cornered the market on Pixie Dust and all the world’s Imagineers hang out there.

Just when I thought I knew my “Disney Magic” inside and out, they go and hit me with a “Jasmine” and show me a whole new world. A world with no strollers, where nap time is a choice rather than a self-preservation tacit and you can become a kid again with out a kid in tow.

Recently Disney hosted my family and I at the Disney Yacht Club Resort and in the parks at Disney World as part of the annual Animal Kingdom, a wondrous place transports you to several exotic locations around the globe all without having left Florida.

Here are a few of my favorite KID FREE things to do at Animal Kingdom;

  • Shop. Shocking I know, but not having a child begging for their 10th pair of Mikey Ears leaves you the freedom to really explore the shops and in the case of this park, the Bazaar-like kiosks and treasure filled outposts. Stunning holiday ornaments were on clearance! Tip: If you’re staying at a Disney hotel property, you can have your finds sent back to your room and not have to lug them back to your room.
  • Ride anything you want to and nothing you don’t. Expedition Everest… did that!
  • Slow down and enjoy the scenery
  • Eat, drink and be merry. The food choices when you don’t have to make sure there are chicken nuggets (obviously I’m used to this culinary caveat) are amazing. I recommend the sushi and sparkling Sake at Yak & YetiTip: Find out what time the parade hits the streets and make an advanced reservation with a table on the second floor near the windows. Here you can take in all the sites without being stuck in the crowd.
  • Let yourself go. Dance with the drummers, ride that ride three times in a row and really enjoy the magic!

 

Beautiful architectural details on a door in "Asia"
Beautiful architectural details on a door in “Asia”
Sushi at Yak & Yeti
Sushi at Yak & Yeti

 

 

Be a kid again and let the wonder take you over!
Be a kid again and let the wonder take you over!

 

A great video to embarrass the kids with when you get home is the BEST souvenir EVER!!

Disclosure: My family and I were provided accommodations and park admissions free or at a discounted rate as part of my participation in the Disney and Chevrolet sponsored Traveling Mom retreat . As always are my opinions are authentic and my own , because you deserve nothing less!

No Matter Where You are: Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

It’s Fat Tuesday Mon Ami! The one magical day in the year where gluttony is celebrated in its many forms, both tasty and tasteless. In my early twenties I made my first pilgrimage to the Crescent City. I was captivated by the art, the song, the mood of this one-of-a-kind city. Okay, I might have been wooed by a Hurricane too. Sadly it would be many years before I’d venture back to this Spanish Moss laden Brigadoon. Unfortunately it would be a post Catrina trip. Even years removed from the ravages of Catrina and her aftermath, NOLA still bears the scars.

No matter the time -nor distance- between The Cornstalk Hotel, Muriel’s on Jackson Square, Preservation Hall and I, I’ve always managed to keep a bit of NOLA with me. Partly through photographs, but mostly through food. That is the beauty of Fat Tuesday, no matter where you are you can make your own “New Orleans”.  What follows are some links to just a few of my favorite recipes and traditions for Mardi Gras.

Oh and by the way, if you think a trip to NOLA is out of the question because you’ve got offspring in tow. Think again, and check out this great piece on Family-Friendly New Orleans. Note: I’d still steer clear of Bourbon with the babies. <—see what I did there?

Mardi Gras at Casa DiPaola this year

Shrimp & Grits (this version from Bon Appetite puts an egg on top, not traditional per se but I’m always one for putting and egg on it)

Muffuletta (note: Party Blueprints is a great place for all things food and fun. I’d totally live there if I could)

Forgotten Jambalaya (BONUS this one is a slow cooker recipe!)

Gorgonzola & Pear Tart (While not Cajun, Chef Gus Martin at Muriel’s on Jackson Square makes this slice of heaven that keeps me coming back. If I could get my hands on his recipe… I’d never share!)

Let the good times roll!

 

 

Souper EASY Zuppa Zucchini: Freeze Some Summer Lovin’

Do you garden? Even if you don’t, if you hit any local farmer’s markets it’s likely you’ve seen a few zillion zucchini around. This gorgeous green gourd (yep, a squash is a gourd gang) is my summertime muse. I can’t get enough of the stuff. Then winter swoops in, like a bad breakup, and steals the zucchini from me. So I devised a pot to save me some lovin’ for the cold days ahead. I concocted zucchini alchemy in my kitchen by transforming my “Zuppa Zucchini” into warm mugs of zen whenever I want it.

Let’s start with the recipe for awesome…

Ingredients

2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp butter (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped roughly
2 pounds of Zucchini, trimmed (removing the skin is optional here)
2 1/2 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 1/4 light cream or half&half
Salt, pepper and dried oregano (to taste)
Shaved Parmesan or Asiago cheese (optional)

Cooking

Heat oil and butter in a large sauce pot (an enameled cast iron Dutch Oven works best, really it does make a difference) until it starts to foam up a bit. Don’t let it burn though! Add in the onion, cook it through, stirring frequently (about 5 minutes) just until it’s softened but not brown. Add in zucchini and your spices (to taste). Cook them over a medium flame (or heat) for 10 minutes. Pour your stock over the veg and bring to a boil. Now lower your heat by half, put the lid on the pot and let it groove for about 30 minutes, string it now and then so it doesn’t get lonely.

Remove your soup from the heat and let it chill out a bit. Puree in a food process until smooth, then press rough a sieve into your pot.

Now, you can heat this up and enjoy it now. OR you can break out a muffin tin. NO we are not making muffins.. well unless you want to make them and bringing some over for me! Fill your muffin tins 3/4 of the way full with soup. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it atop your soup so as to force out the air. Then cover you plastic wrap with foil. Pop those puppies in the freezer over night.

Remove them the next day, run a little warm water across the bottoms and then whack that tray on a hard surface. Now you’ve got little hockey pucks of frozen zuppa AWESOME. Simply pop them in a mug and zap them in the microwave or pile a few into a pot with a splash of stock and warm them up stove-side to feed the family.

You’ll be thanking me all winter long when you’re noshing these tasty treats!

Family Travel: Savannah, Shrimp & Residence Inn… Oh My!

Being a big family has never kept us rooted at home. Given the opportunity, we pick up and go! Planes, trains and automobiles? We’ve done that. This summer we set out to explore the Gulf Coast. The adventure began with taking the kids, and even our car, along on the Amtrak Auto Train to Florida’s glimmering shores. Waving a fond farewell to Florida, we hit the road, landing in Savannah, Georgia.

If I had to use one word to sum up our stay in Savannah it would have to be, Magical.

To be honest, choosing to stay in Savannah was more a strategy than a burning desire to see the place before I die. The logic? The kids could only last a maximum of eight hours in the car before a hierarchy emerged and people started to be marked for elimination. Not good. So Savannah it was. Lucky for me -card carrying member of the Residence Moms Club- there were a few Residence Inns (RI) to choose from. Little did I know what amazing stay we’d have at the the RI Historic District.

From the moment we pulled up in front of the charming brick building -nestled amongst art museums, city trolley tour stops and historic landmarks- we were made to feel like family. A friendly valet welcomed us, helped with bags and made the kids giggle (a very “luxury property” touch). The desk staff got us checked in, in a jiffy, then gave us a mini tour of the property, from the fire pit crowning the sparking pool and courtyard, to the full dining area and bar, the place as an “Old South” feel and true Southern Hospitality.Obviously the kids loved the pool most of all. That and they Eggs Florentine, grits and fresh waffles at the free breakfast bar. My kids love to eat. I enjoyed having a full kitchen (hello, eating out with a family of 6 can break the bank) stocked with groceries that the RI staff picked up for me and had delivered to our room, swoon.

The staff were so much more than hospitality workers, they became our personal tour guides, recommending places the locals go to eat, indulging my obsession with Johnny Mercer and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and pointing us to an awesome dolphin tour. We got to see WILD baby dolphins!

My absolute favorite part of our visit to Savannah (other than the Shrimp and Grits at The Boar’s Head Grill and Tavern on the Riverwalk) was the afternoon we spent at Bonaventure Cemetery. Yes, I drug my kids into a cemetery as a family activity, don’t judge. In the visitor’s center, most people grab a map and go, in a rush to go find the Bird Girl. We lingered, and boy was it worth it. We met a lovely Southern Gentleman, a  member of the historical society and a treasure. He entertained us with an oral history of Savannah in a way no book or website could. We learned about the founding of the city, why the cemetery is laid out the way it is, how it was inclusive of several religions at a time when this was a rarity in the south. Some of the stories he told us were simply jaw-dropping. Like the one about his 200 year old obelisk that made it’s way into the Georgia soil all the way from France.

How did it end up in Bonaventure, and why? Well it was purchased by a local businessman who wanted to save the particular plot it resides on, for the day he meets his eternal rest. Where does one go to purchase a several ton marble obelisk from France? Why, eBay of course! True story.

Bonaventure was also the perfect place for me to hone my very-amateur photography skills.

From encounters with wild dolphins to a not-so-spooky walking ghost tour, amazing eats to quaint cobblestone streets, Savannah is a magical place imbued with true Southern hospitality, steeped in history and the perfect place for a family adventure!

 

Disclosure: Our stay at the Residence Inn in Savannah was compensated as part of my participation in the Residence Inn Moms Club. I was under no obligation to give this property a favorable review. As ALWAYS my opinions are my own. That said, you should stay at this property, words really can not describe how wonderful our stay was. 

Lauderdale By The Sea: Not the Lauderdale You’re Thinking

I was 19. It was Spring. We had a car and Ft. Lauderdale wasn’t that far from the Naval training facility in Orlando. So, this California girl took her first trip to an East Coast beach. Really, what teenager with a car, a paycheck and a swimsuit wouldn’t go? It was a weekend to remember.

Fast forward more years than I care to count.  Traveling Mom reached out to me to ask if I’d like to bring the brood “down the shore” to cover the annual Family Fun Week events in Lauderdale By The Sea. Florida. My first thought? Oh heck no, what if I left my “mark” in Lauderdale and they found out?! Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic. It was more of a “Hmm” moment. I couldn’t fit the picture of my kids into my memories of the Ft. Lauderdale I knew. Ah, but you see I wasn’t exactly paying attention to the offer. Did you know that Ft. Lauderdale and Lauderdale By The Sea (LBTS) are two different places, close on a map but worlds away?

I sure didn’t.

LBTS is an adorable little village, harkening back to the golden days of giant floral print shirts, women in cat-eye glasses and The Flamingo Kid. Dotting the nearly pristine shoreline are boutique hotels like the Tropic Seas, where we spent one wonderful night and a day tromping the 50 yards from the front door of our brightly painted room to the shore.

During Family Fun week, the village is chocked full of great activities and discounts that make the stay that much more memorable.

The kids can take skim-boarding classes at Alley Oop Skim, have a blast at a chocolate making demonstration at Kilwin’s, or fish from the pier in the annual fishing competition. The whole family can explore the wonderful world of “Crush” and company on a Sea Turtle walk (best for older kids). Many of the shops and vendors offer discounts for families who have purchased the Family Fun Week Discount Card. There are also tons of FREE activities, from live music to movies, and more.

The food? Amazing! We enjoyed an amazing breakfast at Athena By The Sea <—um… imported Feta. HELLO. AWESOME.

The best part of our visit was our stay at the charming, homey and simply sublime, Beachside Village Resort. A slice of The Cape in South Florida, staying here was more like coming home to visit family than staying at a resort. The rooms are each inspired by cities on Cape Cod, decorated in bright white and infused with welcoming style and outstanding amenities. With two pools, a welcoming fire pit, shaded outdoor seating and even grills for you to fire up, this place has it all. PLUS it’s only a hop across the street from the beach!

As grand as all that sounds -and is- the very best part of the stay is the people who run the place. Talk about family-friendly! They treat you like their own. Every need anticipated and met. The owner of the resort also owns three of the villages best eateries and he welcomes you to dine with his “family” by providing a free breakfast at The Village Grille. Ah but dinner at this place is simply mouth watering, a perfect marriage of foodie-fabu and family-friendly.

The sushi at The Village Sushi bar was OUTSTANDING (and my family is a bunch of sushi snobs)

If you’re looking for lots highrise luxury hotels or hopping night life, this isn’t the beach town for you. However, if you’re looking for great beaches, friendly people, businesses that do it right when it comes to family fun, or even an awesome place for your family dog to vacay (this place is the picture of dog-friendly), Lauderdale By The Sea is where you need to be planing your next Florida stay!

Want to learn and see more about LBTS? Visit the LTBSevents page on Pinterest!

 

Disclosure: I was invited, through my affiliation with Traveling Mom, to visit Lauderdale By The Sea during their Family Fun Week promotions. I was compensated for my honest review. AS ALWAYS, my opinions are my own, because YOU deserve no less!  

 

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