Getting Ready for Disney Social Media Moms with Magic At Play Clothing from Kohl’s (Giveaway!)

DisneySMMoms2014

I’m so excited to be attending the Disney Social Media Moms Conference again this year! It’s an unbelievable opportunity to learn from industry experts while having fun at the happiest place on earth! This year the conference is at Disneyland and there have been hints that some of the speakers will include Maxine Clark; Build A Bear, Doug Bowman; Twitter and Donald Driver; Super Bowl Champion. An awesome speaker line-up, the opportunity to network with incredibly talented bloggers and social media experts AND the chance to play at the park with my family? Dream. Come. True.

Needless to say, my family and I can’t wait to go next week…but we need to start packing. Preparing for a family vacation to Disney combined with a conference can be tricky. We don’t want to forget any park essentials (water bottles, back pack, sunscreen) along with conference must-haves (laptop, camera, mobile chargers). Check out some preparation and packing tips I posted about our Disney World trip last year.

And then there’s the most important part…what to wear!

We like to show our #DisneySide at home with Disney-themed clothes featuring Princesses, our favorite movie characters and (of course) classic Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Wearing Disney-inspired clothes at Disneyland is a must, so we were thrilled to learn about Magic at Play, a clothing collaboration between Disney and Kohl’s that came out April 3, 2014. I was given a gift card to Kohl’s so I could check out the apparel line by Jumping Beans for infants, toddlers, boys sizes 4-7 and girls sizes 4-6x and share what I thought with you.

kohls disney clothes

Annie had so much fun, but admittedly had a hard time deciding which pieces to choose from because there were so many options available at Kohl’s in stores and online. In the end she selected three tops, a pair of shorts, leggings and a dress. We loved the blinged out Mickey shirt and the subtle hints of Minnie on the sundress. A major plus….many of the pieces go together, giving you more outfit options. Also, Kohl’s often offers many sales and coupons so you can maximize your dollars. When we went, the entire Magic at Play Jumping Beans clothing line was 30 percent off. We also had an addition 20 percent off coupon AND a $10.00 off coupon that you can use if you spend $30 in apparel for children. Saving money on cute clothes makes me so happy.

kohls annie

What do you think…pretty cool, right? Want to make your dollar stretch even further so you can get more from the collection? How about a giveaway for a $50.00 Kohl’s giftcard?!

A GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you Kohl’s for giving us a gift card to purchase Disney Jumping Bean apparel in order to review. No other compensation was received and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Share

How to Make the Best of a Rainy Vacation (Review of The Woodlands Resort)

The Woodlands community is just a short drive from where we live in Houston, but with the beautiful scenery…. it feels like a million miles away. When my family and I were recently invited by The Woodlands Resort for a visit over Spring Break, we were thrilled. We all really needed a break and we were curious to check out what new things will be unveiled at the resort this summer.  We were especially excited about the chance to play on the water slides and relax pool side with good food, live music and other entertainment they had planned for Spring Breakers of all ages.

 umbrella

Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. Mother nature – you can be cruel sometimes. It was cold and rainy during our entire two-day, one-night stay. Not ideal for outdoor fun…but we still got to enjoy the resort, find out about their renovations and we learned a couple of tricks about how to make the best of dreary weekend weather.

The Woodlands Resort is in the middle of a $60 million dollar expansion including the addition of a new building with 184 guest rooms …plus they are renovating their existing rooms. Check out the new look coming soon!

 woodlands resort rooms

They are adding a 900-foot lazy river that will wind around the property’s existing Waterscape pools and play area. We can’t wait for this new addition which will be ready in time for summer fun!

In addition to many other renovations and additions, a new steak house is being built to overlook the 18th green of Panther Trail Golf Course as well.

Even with all the new and exciting changes on the horizon, The Woodlands Resort is already a great place to relax with your family and friends. One of the things we enjoyed the most was the excellent customer service and even with the less then ideal weather conditions, we still had fun.

Tips for Making The Best of a Rainy Vacation

1. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em 

Swimming in rain

It’s hard for kids to be so close to beautiful pools and water slides and not dive in. While it was a chilly 60 degrees (that’s cold for Houston!) the  Woodlands Resort heated their smaller pool in the back. When the heavy rain slowed down (and there was no sign of thunder or lightening) we let the kids enjoy some time in the water. The nice staff members even let our kids go down the water slide in the front pool (which wasn’t heated – brrr!) once or twice so they could experience it!

2. Enjoy the Rhythm of the Rain

Our room had a balcony overlooking the Forest Oaks Waterscape. While we couldn’t enjoy lounging by the pool, we loved sitting on the balcony with a good book. Protected from the raindrops, we were able to enjoy the outdoors without getting wet.

3. Fun Indoors

photo 1-9

The Woodlands Resort moved some of the Spring Break activities they had planned by the pool inside one of their ballrooms including clowns, balloons, live music, games and a movie in the evening. We also played a family game of pool and shuffle board and enjoyed some live jazz music in the lobby. For moms and dads, there’s also a fitness facility and spa. (I definitely intend to take advantage of a massage the next time we visit the resort!) When we had enough of the indoors, the Woodlands Resort shuttle took us to nearby Market Street to enjoy some shopping and dinner at Tommy Bahamas restaurant.

4. Good Food and Conversation

 lunch

We had a late and lazy lunch in the resort’s dining room. With great views of the property…we enjoyed yummy chicken lettuce wraps. We laughed, acted silly and took our time enjoying our meal. This is a rare treat in our world of rushing from band practice to cheer leading and lacrosse in the evenings. It was really relaxing. Next time we might not even leave our room…we might just put on a good movie and order room service!

What are your tips for making the best of bad weather on vacation?

Many thanks to the Woodlands Resort for treating us to a nice stay at their resort. While some of our expenses were covered in order for us to review the property, all of the thoughts and opinions (and lazy Saturday afternoon) are all my own!

 

Share

What I’m Wearing This Fall: Soybu for Fitness and Fashion (Giveaway)

If you’ve followed some of my posts in the past about fitness, you know that I’m almost as addicted to work-out wear as I am to actually working out! One of my favorite fitness clothing companies is Soybu. Their apparel is so comfortable and fashionable and the Uptempo tank has become my go-to race tank for 5 and 10K’s.

The great thing about companies that offer high-quality fitness attire like Soybu is that they also make casual clothing. I wore my Soybu black and white infinity scarf all around Paris this summer and my latest dress, the Oasis is going to become my wardrobe staple this fall.

I was so excited to be given the opportunity to review this dress in Storm Heather at no cost by Soybu. The Oasis has the same comfortable, breathable feel to the material that I love about my tanks and pants and I love how versatile it is… I can easily dress it up or down.

Soybu dress Collage

Can you see the cute ruched ¾ length sleeves on this dress? I tried three different looks by pairing it with different shoes and accessories:

  • Paired with sand-colored patent leather sandals (Tory Burch) and an infinity scarf (Soybu), for a relaxed, fun and chic look. Perfect for running errands on a Saturday afternoon.
  • Paired with tan boots (Nine West) and a chunky turquois necklace for a western feel. Great for a Saturday night out with friends.
  • Paired with pink ballet shoes with a small heel (Repetto), black leggings and a long necklace makes the outfit a little more dressy but still fun. Nice for a work meeting or volunteering up at the school.

This dress is form fitting. I’m 4’10” and wearing the small. As you can see, it hits me at about the knee.

I’m definitely going to wear this when I attend the Blog Elevated social media conference in a couple weeks. I’m excited about the other possibilities about this dress (I’m thinking…layers!) that also comes in a colorful pattern called Japanese Mums.

You can get this dress online in sizes XS-XL for $58.00, but how would you like to win one for FREE for yourself?!

soybu logo

A Giveaway!

Score an Oasis dress in Storm Heather for you and enjoy the fall in style. Just leave a comment below about which of the three looks above is your favorite. I will select a winner at random on Saturday, September 21, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. CST.

More chances? You know it. Leave a separate comment for each that you do below.

  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I want to win a @soybu dress to enjoy the fall in style http://bit.ly/18eO3qA @jpatrickcomm”

Thank you, Soybu, for giving me the Oasis dress in order to review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts, opinions are my own.

Share

Sprint Tri Success! (Massage Envy Review and Giveaway)

I did it!

 photo-746

On Monday I finished my first Sprint Triathlon – a 400 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run event.

My friend, Tanya, and I have been training for most of the summer and I knew I still had SO much room for improvement, but I finished strong and…

It. Felt. Great.

DSC_0058

My swim was definitely my weakest link. I knew that going into it. I finished next to last (21st out of 22) in my age group (40-44 year old women). But then I picked up speed during transition and passed many people in the bike portion…moving up to 13th in my age group.

 DSC_0091

Then…the run.

It was one of the hottest runs I’ve ever done (it’s still summer in Houston!) and after the 12-mile bike ride my legs felt like bricks. I thought I was running close to 11 minute miles but I found out afterwards that my pace was 9:05! I finished the run in 8th place in my age group…11th place overall.

 DSC_0125

I’m hooked! Soon, I’m going to sign up for swim lessons and start working towards my next one.

People have asked me how I prepared. I didn’t follow any certain plan but two things I attribute to my success:

1. Having a friend to work out with. Working towards a common goal with Tanya helped me stay motivated, focused and made the process more fun. I couldn’t have done it without her.

2. Taking it a bit easy during the week before which included an hour-long massage!

I worked out intensely for an extended period of time, so taking it a bit easy the week before helped me regroup. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be treated to a massage by my friends at Massage Envy Spa in Houston. They treated me to a 60-minute massage at one of their 29 Houston locations. It was a great experience.

massage envy

The timing for their invitation was perfect. I had no idea how much I needed it until I was done! I thought I’d be in for a relaxing experience…which it was. But when you arrive at Massage Envy you fill out paperwork that helps them get to know your needs and what areas to work on. When they found out that I was preparing to race, they paired me up with a massage therapist, Melissa, who has experience with stretching and deep muscle massage.

The experience was almost like a combination of yoga, stretching and massage. She worked out the kinks in my shoulders (from leaning over on my bike’s aerobars), released the build-up of lactic acid in my legs and stretched out my muscles. It felt so good. I truly felt like she was helping my body heal and prepare for Monday’s event.

One of the reasons I don’t get massages more often is because of the cost. Massages at most spas can be very expensive but Massage Envy Spa offers member clients a monthly massage  for just $59.00, plus any additional massages for the month at just $39.00. While they offer massage at a discounted price, the visit for me was even better than I had experienced at some spas that charge two or three times the amount.

The environment was relaxing (the tranquil water-fall room was so peaceful!), the staff was knowledgable, experienced and caring (they asked me questions about the race and cheered me on…even the folks who worked at the front desk!) and Melissa (my massage therapist) was a pro.

 photo-745

Thank you, Melissa, for taking my health in your hands and taking good care of me last week. I know that I was better prepared for my big day because of your help!

Whether you are preparing for an athletic event, have a problem area that needs addressing or just want to relax and nurture your body and soul, I highly recommend Massage Envy Spa. A great day to go to Massage Envy would be September 18, 2013 when the 29 Houston-area Massage Envy Spas will donate $10 from every one-hour massage or facial to the Arthritis Foundation during their Healing Hands for Arthritis Event.

A Giveaway!

How would you like to be treated to a free massage? Thanks to Massage Envy, one Still Living The Dream reader in Houston will score a free 1-hour massage. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me why you need to relax. One person will be selected at random on Wednesday, September 11, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. CST to receive a massage at one of Massage Envy Spa’s 29 Houston locations.

Do you follow me?

Yes? Well, you rock! For every one below you score an additional entry. (If you don’t already do one or all below then no worries. You can still get extra entries by signing up. Just leave a separate comment for each that you do.

  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I need to relax with a free massage from @MassageEnvyHou http://bit.ly/1dGDQva @jpatrickcomm”

Thank you to Massage Envy Spa Houston for sponsoring this review and giveaway and offering me and one Still Living The Dream reader a complimentary massage. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Share

My Kids Make Me Smile! – A #FABsmile Giveaway!

Summer is almost over which is really bittersweet. While it will be good for the kids to get back to a routine and I personally love the fall season in general, I also enjoy the extra time I get to spend with my kids during the long break from school.

With less than two weeks until school starts, I decided to take the kids on a last soiree to enjoy the sun and sand in Galveston last weekend. While I was packing I asked my kids Jackson and Annie, to bring me their toothbrushes. When they finally brought them to me, I was shocked. The condition of these brushes made it clear to me that they were being used way past their “expiration” date. Matted down bristles with reminents of old toothpaste caked on the bottom. Um – gross.

The American Dental Association recommends flossing every day and changing out your toothbrush every three months. Clearly these were way older than three months and there wasn’t even a bit of floss to be found in the kid’s bathroom. Pretty weird that they didn’t tell me we were out, right?!

Not my best “Mother of the Year” moment! But in my defense, it is hard to remember to change toothbrushes out regularly….right?

Luckily I had heard about a unique program that makes it easy for you to have floss and new toothbrushes on hand. My friends at FlossandBrush.com provided me with a free kit which included a new toothbrush and roll of floss for each of my family members to try out. The clean teeth gods must have been looking out for me because the package of dental goodness arrived the day before we left for our overnight trip!

For just $1.00 per month, per person, FlossandBrush.com ships a box of fresh, quality toothbrushes and floss to your home every quarter. Shipping is only $1.00 per person, but orders of three or more brushes ship for free!

You don’t have to think about when it’s time to get a new brush or count on the kids to tell you when you are out of floss, they just arrive. They offer four different packages including one for adults, one for youth and one for small children that each include an age-appropriate toothbrush and mint, waxed floss…plus a package for $2.00 a month that also includes a carbamide peroxide whitening gel with potassium nitrate (which helps eliminate sensitivity) that can be used with your own tray or one you can purchase separetely from them. By the way Still Living The Dream readers can purchase a whitening tray from FlossandBrush.com for 25 percent off! Just use code “tray25″ when you check out. You can find the whitening trays online here.

photo-737

We received GUM brand toothbrushes (all in different colors which makes it easy to know which one belongs to each of us) and 60 yards of minty floss.

 photo-736

Seeing my kids smile makes me happy. Knowing that because of FlossandBrush.com I might have a chance at winning Mother of the Year (or at least regarding good oral hygiene!) NEXT year makes me feel like a better parent.

A Giveaway!

How would you like to win a FlossandBrush.com Prize Package worth $107.00?! One, lucky Still Living The Dream reader will receive both a free annual FAB  membership (quarterly toothbrush and floss delivered to your door) AND a free annual FAB plus White4Life Membership (FAB’s professional grade whitening gel to be used in a custom whitening tray provided by you).

Entering is Easy!

First:

1. Sign up for FlossandBrush.com’s mailing list.

Then:

2. Visit FAB’s Pinterest page and repin an image for any one of the Smile Boards and include the #FABsmile hashtag and a description in your pin that explains why the image makes you smile. In order to enter you must sign up for the mailing list and share your photo link in the comments section of  this post. A winner will be chosen randomly on August 23, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. CST.

I received three regular FAB memberships as well as a FAB plus Whitening Gel Package in order to review for this post. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions (and clean teeth!) are my own.

Share

A Tea Party in the Country with Cadbury Blue Bunny Ice Cream Bars

Have you been Living The Dream this summer?

For me, it’s been one of the most activity-filled summers in a long time. We started before school even let out with a dream trip to Disney World. As soon as summer break started, we hit the road for a weekend trip to San Antonio for fun at Sea World and Aquatica. Then I went to Paris with my mom and sisters….an incredible adventure. Barely through customs back in the states, my family and I went to Galveston for a week to visit with Ed’s side of the family and Annie and I just returned from a girl’s weekend trip to Austin.

Plus, I’ve been training for a sprint triathlon in September with my friend Tanya and I joined a runner’s group to start training for a half-marathon in the fall! I have so much swirling around in my head to share with you and now that summer is winding down…sigh….I can finally sit down and gather my thoughts!

Starting with….Tea Time at the Lake Made Sweeter with Cadbury and Blue Bunny!

photo-727

What better way to spend a lazy July weekend in the hot summer sun than with girl friends, big floppy hats, ice-cold sweet peach tea and Cadbury Blue Bunny ice cream bars? Cadbury sent us some free sweet treats to try and so Annie and I brought them with us when we joined her four friends and their moms at a friend’s country house in Austin for the weekend.

cadbury getting ready

After an afternoon of kid-led yoga and swimming in the pool with a beautiful hill country view behind us we had high tea 7-year-old style! Moms and kids got gussied up in big, colorful floppy hats and we sipped on sweet, peach tea properly… with pinkies up! We took some fun photos on the lawn….then things got a little less proper and a lot more fun…with Cadbury ice-cream bars!

cadbury hat photos

Blue Bunny ice cream (a brand I love for their reduced fat but still yummy products!) partnered with Cadbury (hello – chocolate, I love you!) to create two, new premium ice cream bars; Royal Dark and English Toffee, which joined the already delicious Caramello and vanilla chocolate bars. These mini bars are the perfect size for a sweet snack and are unbelievably delicious (and a better choice with reduced fat ice cream.) For those of you, like me, who count Weight Watchers points…the Points Plus values of these bars are 4, with the exception of the English Toffee was is 5 PP.

cadbury tea party2

The kids loved them! All four flavors were a hit, but the classic Vanilla Chocolate stood out with the younger crew. The moms loved the English Toffee, Royal Dark and Caramello (vanilla ice cream mixed with carmel sauce and covered in mil chocolate). My favorite was the Royal Dark but I gladly enjoyed an English Toffee for seconds and snuck in a Caramello later when no one was looking…sshhhh!

If you want to take it up a notch, Blue Bunny has some great ideas and recipes about how to turn your Cadbury ice cream bars into an even more decadent treat on their website. Check out this one for the Caramello Raspberry Mousse bars. Um – hello? Yes, please!

Our tea party was the perfect mix of proper and pretty and good old-fashioned messy summer fun. You don’t need much to make summer-time memories with your little ones that will last a lifetime. Grab your daughter’s dress up clothes and tea set, mix up some tea and pass out the ice cream bars to friends and family. The rest just sort of happens on it’s own. It’s the kind of fun I remember as a child. Laughing away the afternoon with your little girl…it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Have a SWEET Summer! Love, Jenn and Annie

Have a SWEET Summer! Love, Jenn and Annie

I received a tea party kit from Cadbury and MomSelect. No other compensation was received and all thoughts, opinions and chocolatey kid smiles are my own!

Share

Summer Road Trips with Savings From Shell Fuel Rewards Network

Are  you taking a family vacation this summer?

StillLivingTheDream DisneyWorldTangled

Since we just took a big one in May to Disney World and I’m going on a once in a lifetime trip abroad to Paris with my mom and sisters this summer, we plan on taking several short getaways within driving distance while the kids are out of school.

Call us old school, but we like to pack up the ol’ family truckster (mini van) and hit the road Griswold style. In addition to saving money on plane tickets, you can create a lot of memories when traveling in the car. Spending time together on the road can be a great family bonding experience as you navigate road maps, plan on road side stops for food and quickie sight seeing (gotta see the world’s largest ball of string if you’re passing by, right?!) and play travel games like “I Spy” and the oldie but goodie license plate game.

We now even laugh about those constant and annoying backseat cries of  ”are we there yet?” or “Annie’s touching me!” from the kids on our trip to Colorado and South Dakota last summer.

It’s a rite of passage for kids to complain about long stretches of time spent confined to a small space with just one’s siblings and parents….the very thing you’ll remember with fondness later in life.

StillLivingTheDream Aquatica

Luckily our home base of Houston is also close to many places that are great for a weekend getaway…especially the Hill Country. We take a trip to San Antonio several times a year and especially love the River Walk and SeaWorld and Aquatica. In fact, we just got back from attending a mini blogging conference called AdventureCon hosted by SeaWorld. While I learned more about mobile apps and photography, Ed and the kids enjoyed time in the parks. When I was finished I joined them for time in the sun and water and to enjoy the new SeaWorld show, Pet’s Ahoy. We just love Aquatica and SeaWorld and going to these parks is always on our Summer Family Bucket List.

StillLivingTheDream fuel rewards network logo

While traveling by car is less expensive then plane, gas is certainly an expense. I’m always looking for ways to save money and I recently heard about The Shell Fuel Rewards Network program that helps people pay less for gas. I received a loaded Fuel Rewards Network Card so I could experience the savings and how the program works.

Here’s the skinny about the Fuel Rewards Network Program:

  1. To earn up to 75 cents a gallon (for up to 20 gallons of gas per vehicle/per visit) at Shell stations, you start by signing up at fuelrewards.com.
  2. You can get your card online (they mail it you) or you can get it at a participating Shell station.
  3. You must activate the card online before using

You save money per gallon by presenting the card when you:

  1. make purchases for convenience store products, car washes and auto services at Shell stations
  2. dine at more than 10,000 participating restaurants (you earn 10 cents a gallon for every $50 you spend!) We were excited to find out that one of our favorite restaurants close to home participates. You can view the entire list and search by zipcode online at fuelrewards.com.
  3. shop online at 700+ stores including Best Buy and Gap (earn 5 cents a gallon for every $50 you spend plus some merchants offer two to time times rewards to save you even more!)

We signed up and are earning rewards with purchases and almost to a rewards savings of $2.50 off a gallon. Last time I filled the minivan up when almost on empty, I put in 18.2 gallons and gas was $3.28 a gallon.

With the fuel rewards network savings, I will only pay 78 cents a gallon; a total of $14.20 for a FULL tank of gas. This would normally cost $59.70 – a savings of $45.50!

Since your card resets back to zero after you fill up (whether it’s 1 or 20 gallons) it’s best that you go with a low tank.  Some people even bring a gas can to fill up as well if they can’t  hit 20 gallons by filling up their tank. Smart!

The Fuel Rewards Network is also offered at Shell in ADDITION to the Kroger rewards program which is awesome and will save you even more cash! You can use the mobile app to check your reward balance so you can see how far you are to reaching maximum savings!

With the Fuel Rewards Network program, I can afford more weekend road trips to SeaWorld and other fun places! Since it started in 2012, customers have saved about $68 million in savings at Shell. Are you one of them? How else do you save money for road trips with your family?

I was given a pre-loaded Fuel Rewards Network card in order to review for this post but received no other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Share

How To Prepare For A Magical Disney World Adventure

StillLivingTheDream MickeyMouse

I recently visited Disney World with my two kids and husband. As a Disney Social Media Moms Conference attendee, I was invited to some special event experiences during the official event but we extended our stay so we could experience Disney together as a family afterwards as well. Because I hadn’t been to Disney in 20 years and my 7 year-old daughter and 11 year-old son had never been, we had a lot of questions when packing for our trip. We wanted to get the most out of every magical second at the parks! I think we did a pretty good job but like any vacation…we learned a couple things along the way as well.

I plan to cover a lot of what I learned including some behind the scenes fun and giveaways in upcoming posts but I just received the following note from Still Living The Dream reader, Jennifer Evans. Jennifer saw my first follow-up post about my trip to Disney and since she is planning a trip with her husband, Mark, and 10-year-old son, Cole, soon (see their cute photo below), she had some questions. I thought it would be fun to answer them here so anyone else planning a trip and wondering about the same things could hear how I responded.

 StillLivingTheDream Evans family

Dear Still Living the Dream,

I’m headed to Disneyworld with my husband and our fearless, active 10 year old son. I haven’t been to Disney in 20 years, and our son has never been. So, consider us rookies. We’re staying in a condo 3 minutes away (so off site), and we’ve purchased Magic your Way Park Hopper + Water Park combo passes for 5 days. I’ve been reading the Unofficial Guide and taken notes from friends, checked out the Disney site for traffic info to try and select the best days for the various parks. I think we’re fairly prepared for that. But, I have some questions for you:

Question: What do you carry with you? I like to travel light. Do I bring a small wristlet? A backpack? Do we put everything in a locker every day and just cram wallet necessities in pockets? What about your phones?

Answer: I am the same way! I didn’t want to be slowed down with a lot of “stuff” while walking around in the parks BUT I also wanted to save money on things like bottled water. Since we don’t have stroller age children whatever we wanted to bring with us we needed to carry ourselves….all day. We ended up bringing a backpack which my husband usually carried and I had a small, cross-body purse. I just had my cell phone, lip gloss, cash/credit cards, park tickets and fast passes…very light. Ed carried our camera, water bottles, snacks, etc. We never got a locker. The park is very backpack friendly. I can’t think of a ride where we couldn’t bring it on with us. Some people like to put their cell phone in a plastic ziplock in case the bag gets wet like on Splash Mountain, but we didn’t and we were fine.

Question: Did you find it was helpful or annoying to bring your own snacks and waters with you? I’m a bit of a princess, so I don’t want to gauge myself on prices but I also don’t want me or my husband to feel like a packhorse. 

DSCN05582013-05-13-07_19_

Answer: The first thing you need to know is that EVERYONE is a princess at Disney World so get ready to be treated like one while you are there! Disney allows you to bring in water/food just know that whatever you bring, you have to keep up with. I have to admit, I was envious of some of the folks with strollers because they could cart around a little more. We packed pretty light, but since we didn’t want to pay for  bottled water (which left us more money to spend on Dole Whip and Mickey ice cream bars), we brought one or two water bottles with us and filled them up all day long for free! Many of the kiosk or quick dining restaurants were kind enough to fill them up for us but we also used drinking fountains as well. We also brought along snacks like goldfish, pretzels, granola bars, trail mix, fruit snacks, etc. We’d munch on those throughout the day in addition to getting a couple park snacks and/or meals from kiosks. (Hint: you have to try the fish and chips at the UK at Epcot!)

Question: We have our 3 credit card like passes – Do we get lanyards for them when we arrive? Should I buy some now?

Answer: I saw many people with lanyards and it’s not a bad idea; however, we kept our park passes in my small cross-body sling purse. If you think you might be into pin trading (and it’s SO fun you need to read about pin trading from my Disney Cruise post) then you can get an attachment for the bottom to hold your cards. I was just afraid of carrying them around and maybe losing them because once you are in the park, you don’t really need them again.

Question: We arrive in the middle of the day on day #1, so our plan is to head over to a park for the afternoon and evening. Do we just show up at the gate, or is there something I should do ahead of time?

DSC_00212013-05-09-11_40_

Answer: We arrived in the middle of the day, too and headed straight over to Epcot after checking into the hotel. We had 7-day park hopper tickets and we just went straight to the gate. If there’s any problem at any park entrance (Jackson had a problem with getting in one day – the ticket scanner wasn’t reading it right) then there’s a ton of people that will help you right then and there. Hint: Be ready to go through bag check prior to the ticket gate at each park. It goes by pretty quickly, but it’s an additional stop for those carrying in any kind of bag.

Question: Our daily plan based on our family’s style is to get there early and plow through until early afternoon, go home & chill, then hit another park that aft/eve. Does this sound good to you?

Answer: That is EXACTLY what we did. Here’s the beauty of park hopper tickets and why I highly recommend them. You can get up and go to one park in the morning (perhaps one that is open earlier or that has something you want to do in the AM like a breakfast character dining experience) then take a break around 1 or 2 ish (we’d go back to the hotel and rest and/or take a dip in the pool) and go to another park in the evening ( to see the fireworks, an evening show or to a park that has a later closing time). One day we actually did THREE parks in one day (because we are crazy like that).

DSC_03912013-05-10-21_29_

One of the best days was when we decided to go to Magic Kingdom in the evening. We were staying at the Contemporary during that part of our trip which is right by Magic Kingdom (we stayed at the Pop Century during the second half of our vacation). We decided spur of the moment because we weren’t tired to go to Magic Kingdom at 9:00 p.m. We hadn’t yet been to that park and we walked in right as the fireworks started. Standing on Main Street with the stores all lit up and the fireworks above the castle  - it was UNBELIEVABLE. We all just held hands and smiled and just took it all in. After that a lot of people, especially those with small children, were leaving the park….so we went to ride Space Mountain. No lines! We rode several other rides in Tomorrowland, all very quickly because the park had thinned out. At 10:00 we went back to Main Street in time to see the Electric Parade, then we hit a store or two and left. It was such an incredible couple of hours…we experienced so much in such a short period of time at Magic Kingdom at night and could not have done it if we didn’t have park hopper tickets.

Question: What is 1 useful thing you learned that you don’t find in the books?

Answer: How about three?!

1. If you are on a budget, one good idea is to buy Disney gift cards. They are accepted everywhere at Disney and we used ours like it was a debit card. We kept track of what was left on each and knew that when it was gone, it was gone! It helped us keep souvenir and snack purchases to a minimum.

 DSCN05302013-05-12-17_17_

2. If you think you want to pin trade (and you have time before your trip) go to ebay to buy some trader pins in bulk. You can get them for about $1.00 or less a pin (they cost about $4.00-$5.00 each when bought at the park in sets and from $9.95 on up for single pins!) Bulk lots are random, you can’t choose what you get…but because you are trading them, it doesn’t matter if your 10-year old son starts off with a bunch of Princess pins! Just be sure to research the seller to make sure he/she has good feedback and is selling authentic pins.

3. I’m going to do a whole post on this but you have to try Dole Whip while you are there. If you are a beer drinker – try the grapefruit beer at Epcot. And the orange bird from when we were little? He’s back! You can score a Citrus Swirl (frozen orange juice and vanilla ice cream) treat and even buy an orange bird souvenir sipper cup to take back home. (We bought three!)

Question: Which Disney app do you like best?

Answer: We used the My Disney Experience App, a great way to Explore Walt Disney World Resort on an interactive, GPS-enabled map. Through this app you can:

  1. View FASTPASS return times for the park you’re in.
  2. Get wait times for attractions and showtimes for fireworks and parades.
  3. Know what’s close or starting soon with Here & Now.
  4. Find Character greeting locations and times.
  5. Add activities to your Wish List.
  6. Browse restaurant menus and make dining reservations.
  7. Share plans with others through Family & Friends.
  8. Keep reservations and activities organized in My Plans

But Disney JUST released their newest (and super cool) app called Story. We literally found out about it while at the conference. This free app isn’t about navigating the parks, it’s for anyone/anywhere. It allows you to pull images from your iPhone’s photo gallery and edit them within an album that you can make into a story with captions and different themes…one of which is Disney so you can totally share photos of your family at the park with friends back home on facebook or through email. I’m going to explain the app in full detail in a future post but you can read more about it and download the Story app here.

Question: Are there affordable taxis at the entrances, in case we don’t want to wait for our shuttle?

Answer: That is one thing I don’t know about because we stayed on Disney property. There are many benefits to staying at a Disney resort and the biggest one is transportation. We had so many options depending on where we were going. We loved the monorail when we stayed at the Contemporary Resort but found the buses to Pop Century and to other parks where so efficient. We never waited in line very long….it made getting around so easy.

DSCN07072013-05-13-19_21_

One last bit of advice:

Have fun and enjoy the time with your family…avoid trying to do and see everything! Have a plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from it when you are having fun and in the moment.  Some of the best moments were those we spent “off our itinerary”….watching the sunset on the lake at Epcot, running into Belle and having a quick impromptu visit, sharing a box of fish and chips at the UK sitting on the curb and people watching….

I’ll never forget my trip to Disney. I hope yours is just as magical!

Readers: Are you going to Disney this summer? What questions do you have? Have you been already? What is your biggest piece of advice for those who have never been?

I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. I paid a fee to attend which included the opportunity to participate in conference activities, stay at a hotel and experience Disney World. I was not asked nor expected to write a post about my experiences. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Share

New Salads at Chick-fil-A (Nutritional Facts and Review)

My family loves Chick-fil-A. There’s really something on the menu for everyone. Even when I first started my weight loss journey last summer I was able to enjoy eating there guilt-free (I loved getting the grilled nuggets with a fruit cup and diet lemonade!)

StillLivingTheDream Chickfila

Now I’m a lifetime Weight Watchers member, but I still pay close attention to the choices I make when I go out to eat. I was very excited to hear that last month, Chick-fil-A came out with three new salads and a wrap. I’ve learned through my journey that sometimes restaurants offer salads that aren’t really healthy (at some places, you’re almost better off choosing something fried from the menu!) or if they are low in calories and fat, they don’t taste good. So I was really happy when Chick-fil-A invited me and my friends to come to the restaurant to learn more about the new items and their restaurant so we could see how they measured up.

The three new Chick-Fil-A salads include the Cobb Salad, Asian Salad and Grilled Market Salad. We learned that produce is delivered each morning to Chick-fil-A and that they make their salads several times a day from scratch in their kitchen. Chick-fil-A did away with the iceberg lettuce bed they once used to build their salads and now use an organic romaine sweet mix lettuce for all the salads. (YUM!)

Since they were introduced, the Cobb Salad has been the leader in sales so far with the Market Salad closely following in second place. Here is the break down of what is in each salad, nutritional information and what we thought!

StillLivingTheDream ChickfilaCobb

1. Cobb Salad: 430 calories, 22 grams fat, 21 grams carbs, 5 grams fiber, 39 grams protein (Weight Watchers 11 PP)

Contains fried chicken nuggets, romaine lettuce mix, shredded red cabbage and carrots, roasted corn kernels, shredded blend of Monterrey jack and cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, diced egg and grape tomatoes.

You can top the salad with a packet of charred tomato crispy red bell peppers (add 80 calories, 6 grams of fat, 6 grams carbs, 1 gram fiber and 1 gram protein which is 2 Weight Watcher PP).

They suggest using the Avocado Lime Ranch dressing which packs on a whopping 310 calories, 32 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs, 0 grams fiber and 1 gram of protein for just a 2 ounce packet (9 Weight Watcher PP)! The Buttermilk Ranch dressing (another popular Cobb salad dressing) isn’t much better with 280 calories, 30 grams fat, 2 grams carb, 0 gram fiber, 1 gram protein (8 Weight Watcher PP). Neither is the Spicy Dressing containing 270 calories, 27 grams fat, 4 grams carb, 0 gram fiber and 1 gram protein (7 Weight Watcher PP).

The verdict: Moms who selected this salad loved the taste. We suggest using the Fat Free Honey Mustard dressing which is a better option with only 100 calories, 0 grams fat, 23 grams carb, 1 gram fiber and 0 gram protein (2 Weight Watcher PP). Karen did this and said it was delicious!

Note: We really like that Chick-Fil-A uses 100 percent refined peanut oil and a pressure cooker instead of an open fryer for their fried food. They also clean out the oil after every three batches and hand bread each nugget.

StillLivingTheDream ChickfilaAsian

2. Asian Salad: 330 calories, 13 grams fat, 24 gram carb, 5 grams fiber, 29 gram protein (8 Weight Watcher PP)

Contains fried chicken nuggets, shredded red and green cabbage, carrots and mandarin orange segments.

You can top the salad with Chinese garlic and ginger wontons (70 calories, 4 grams fat, 8 grams carb, 0 grams fiber, 2 grams protein which is 2 Weight Watchers PP) and honey Thai almonds (40 calories, 3 grams fat, 3 grams carb, 1 gram fiber and 1 gram protein (1 Weight Watchers PP). They also suggest the Honey Sesame dressing 170 calories, 12 grams fat, 16 grams carb, 0 gram fiber, 1 gram protein (5 Weight Watcher PP).

The verdict: This salad is delicious! The dressing really makes the salad great so we don’t recommend using an alternative…if you want to cut down calories/fat try using only half the Sesame dressing packet…a little goes a long way! The wontons and almonds are great, too (Patti said she loved eating the almonds right out of the bag…they have a great little kick to them!)

StillLivingTheDream ChickfilaMarket

3. Market Salad: 180 calories, 4 grams fat, 24 grams carbs, 5 grams fiber, 29 grams protein (6 Weight Watchers PP)

Contains grilled chicken strips, shredded red cabbage and carrots, crumbled blue cheese, red and green apple bits, strawberries and blueberries.

You can add harvest nut granola (60 calories, 3 grams fat, 8 grams carbs, 1 gram fiber and 1 gram protein which is 2 Weight Watchers PP) and roasted nut blend (80 calories, 8 grams fat, 3 grams carbs, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein which is 2 Weight Watcher PP). They suggest the Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette dressing (230 calories, 19 fat grams, 16 grams carbs, 0 grams fiber and 0 grams protein which is 7 Weight Watchers PP).

The verdict: This is the healthiest option of the three and also very delicious. They use the normal chicken filets (not the chargrilled chicken) without breading. We especially loved the organic blueberries and strawberries. Angie liked the salad without the toppings. I wanted a little more flavor and crunch but not as much calories/fat, so I  added  half a packet of the nut blend and granola. You could also just pick one of the two and add the whole packet.

The Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette was a little high in fat and calories/carbs so I used the Reduced Fat Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette instead (110 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 20 grams carbs, o grams fiber and o grams fiber which – only 3 Weight Watchers points) and it complimented the fruity taste of the salad perfectly. In fact, I only used half the packet of dressing!

Susan loved it with the Fat Free Honey Mustard dressing but said she was excited to try it again with one of their lower fat dipping sauces.

Another dressing option for any of the salads is the light Italian dressing with only 25 calories, 1.5 fat grams, 3 grams carbs, 0 gram fiber and 0 gram protein, only 1 Weight Watchers PP….BUT – in our opinion, what it lacks in fat/calories it also lacks in taste!

Wrap It Up….

We were impressed with the new line-up and love all the choices we can make to tailor it to our own taste and nutritional needs. Chick-fil-A is very accommodating and often make changes to menu items at their customers request. Angie said she would love the market salad chicken served hot instead of cold…which they said they would absolutely do. Love this about Chick-fil-A!

While we didn’t get to sample the new wrap…we did learn some interesting information. They once had three wraps but now just offer one. They use flaxseed oil in their tortillas instead of seeds offering health benefits but also giving the wrap more flexibility so it will roll without breaking. Nice touch! They also got rid of the tomatoes which made the wrap soggy (but I bet if you wanted them added, they would!)

What do you think about the new salads at Chick-fil-A? Have you tried the new wrap? Are you happy about the changes they are making? Let me know!

I was invited to attend a lunch to try out the new salads at Chick-fil-A. I did not receive any compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Share

Allergy Control with Aerus Lux Guardian Air Purifier

I had so much fun recently at Disney World. While there, I noticed that just one thing was missing.

My sniffles.

Maybe it was all that Disney Magic and Pixie Dust…but a week in Florida and I was symptom-free.

I’m back in Texas now…suffering from post-vacation blues AND sinus pressure. Clearly, I’m allergic to Houston!

Starting with the big, ol’, beautiful oak tree in my front yard, I have several environmental allergies I’m trying to contend with. Getting my allergies under control, #52 on my Life List, has been something I’ve been working on for several years now with weekly allergy shots. They are helping, but I still suffer from sinus pressure, congestion and other symptoms.

StillLivingTheDream Aerus LuxGuardian

Almost exactly a year ago, I did a review of the Lux Guardian Air Platinum air purifier by Aerus. It has been proven to be a really good solution for dealing with pollen and other allergens we track in from the outside in addition to the dust in the air. I was sad to give it back when my review ended. As I mentioned, it’s definitely an investment in your health. I’m starting to see that it might be a good one for me to make.

I called Nancy to see if any changes had been made to the unit since I last got to try it out. She said it got a spiffy makeover with a new stainless steel outside cover but while it looks cooler, it still works the same. Aerus (started as Electolux) has been helping people eliminate household dust, mold spores, pollen and pet dander since 1924.

How the Lux Guardian works:

  • Airborne particles enter the unit by the UV lamp.
  • UV light strikes the titanium dioxide coated particle filter creating a photo-catalytic oxidation reaction.
  • Ion brushes enrich the air with negative ions.
  • The HepaSilent particle filter traps microscopic particles while allowing pure air to pass through.
  • A powerful motor pulls the newly cleaned air out of the Guardian Air.
  • Clean air is reintroduced into the room.

What I like about it:

  • It’s Energy Star Certified - using 23 to 80 watts…no more than a lightbulb. I can run the machine all day!
  • It’s made to last but comes with a one year warranty just in case!
  • It’s easy to use and the filter only needs to be changed every year.
  • It covers up to 2,000 square feet.
  • It’s recognized by the FDA as a Class II Medical Device and recommended by doctors

A friend of mine has the air purifier swears by it. Her son suffered from asthma for several years and after just a short time using the Lux Guardian air filtration system, he is now completely symptom-free and off medication. Impressive!

 StilLivingTheDream LuxAngel

They also make a smaller purifier called the Lux Guardian Angel which is perfect for a bedroom. The filter on this purifier only needs to be replaced every three to five years. I like that this one has a place to add essential oils which makes the room smell pretty while it’s cleaning the air.

If you want to learn more about the company and air purifier you can visit Aerus but for special pricing and details, be sure to contact Nancy at 713-898-4245 or email nwahmhoff@gmail.com.

Do you suffer from allergies? What do you do to ease symptoms?

I used a loaner Lux Guardian air filtration system for several weeks in order to review the product to see if I wanted to purchase it. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

Share