Disney Cruise Kids Dining Options: Recreating Healthy Fun at Home!

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One thing that has always intrigued me about the Disney brand are their dining option…especially when it comes to kids dining.

So when I learned that we were going to get to be a part of a Disney Cruise, the first thing I wanted to learn more about was how they come up with their kids meals, how they keep them healthy while still making them fun, and how I could recreate that healthy fun at home!

Once on board, I got to hear first hand how the Disney Cruise Line does exactly that. Not only did the chefs at Lumiere’s lay out an amazing array of their kids’ dining offerings, but I got to hear from someone who has quite a bit of expereince when it comes to Disney Cruise kids cuisine: Marcy Galloway, the Disney Cruise Line specialist for the Disney Parks Moms Panel.
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Just take a look at all the different types of Disney Cruise dining options (and pay special attention to the end of the video to see whether or not kids really will eat what they serve…)

So what were the biggest takeaways for us when it comes to making healthy food fun at home?

Recreating Healthy Fun at Home with Disney Cruise Kids Dining:

1. Always encourage kids to try new things at every meal, just keep portions small and make sure there’s something else you know they’ll like on the same plate

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2. Keep food separated. Most kids don’t like their food to touch and it makes the plate more attractive to have distinct portions.

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3. Create fun shapes with kids’ food. While I’m not a proponent for over-indulging kids when it comes to mealtime by cutting of crusts and making things look like flowers, I will say that sometimes using a little creativity when it comes to presentation will get kids to try foods they normally wouldn’t, like fish & unique vegetables.

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4. Keep your kids’ plate balanced. Make sure every plate consists of a good protein, some veggies/fruit and a small complex carb.

Of course, having fun plates, Mickey shaped pasta and great activity sheets to keep the kids busy while they waited on dinner didn’t hurt either icon wink Disney Cruise Kids Dining Options: Recreating Healthy Fun at Home!

What question would you ask a Disney Chef about feeding your kids and getting them to try new things?

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Top 6 Frugal Family Tailgating Fun Tips

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photo courtesy TailgatersUnited.com

Have you ever considered tailgating with your entire family? Well look no further, I have the top 6 Frugal Family Fall Tailgating tips you’ll need to get the party started without breaking the bank!

Fall is here and that means it’s time for some of our favorite sports! Here are just a few ways to save on this unique style of fall, family fun:

1. Why not tailgate with other families at your kids’ sporting events?
Create great family memories with fun ways to involve the whole family (not to mention share the cost). Plan on getting to your kids’ games a little earlier or even go to a local high school football game with another family to start your own tradition!

2. If you are going to a pro event, take advantage of what local teams are already offering.
For example, here in Nashville, our pro hockey team (the Predators) offer a Plaza Party that begins 2 hours before every home game. There’s a great crowd that comes out, and on weekend games they have a band, kids activities, face painters and more. Many NFL & NBA teams do something similar.

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3. If you’re going to invest in tailgating gear, find multi-purpose items to spend your money on.
(for example my favorite piece is a folding chair that doubles as a cooler from Rakuten’s Buy.com)

*** On 10/11 only, click on Rakuten’s Buy.com HALLOWEEN PROMOTION where you get 15% back on your order in Rakuten Super Points PLUS another $5 off your order of $50 or more! ***

 Top 6 Frugal Family Tailgating Fun Tips Top 6 Frugal Family Tailgating Fun Tips

4. Use your stockpile to supply basics for your party food (drinks, meat, crackers, etc.), then build the rest of your menu around that.
Or pick items that will double duty. For instance, I had a lot of taco kits & barbeque sauce on hand already, so I bought a pork roast that I slow cooked with BBQ sauce and Coke that can double as BBQ pork sandwiches (with cole slaw) as well as BBQ pork tacos! (Recipes found in Ultimate SEC cookbook).

 Top 6 Frugal Family Tailgating Fun Tips Top 6 Frugal Family Tailgating Fun Tips

5. When you do plan the rest of your party food, pick a fun focal point:
A great dip in a football bowl, cups guests can take home, cupcakes with team logo, etc.

 Top 6 Frugal Family Tailgating Fun Tips Top 6 Frugal Family Tailgating Fun Tips

6. Have games for the kids to keep them busy while the big game is going on…even if you’re just ‘tailgating’ at home! (flag football, cornhole, etc)

What are your favorite ways to tailgate with your family, especially when kids are involved?

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Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post, but only for things I’d buy myself!

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Fall Fun Ebates Live Chat September 18, 2012

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We’re having a Fall Fun LIVE CHAT tonight, September 18, 2012 at 9 pm EST/8 pm CST in the Ebates Savvy Living community.

If you’re as excited as I am for fall and want to hear how other families celebrate the season, then please join us!

So join me, Ebates and some of our other fabulous Savvy Living Community Leaders on Thursday night, September 18 at 9 pm EST/8 pm CST.

Just visit the Ebates savvy living community to participate!

Hopefully by now, you’ve already joined Ebates and are getting cash back on all your online shopping.

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Free Labor Day Fun?

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Gaylord Opryland Summer Fun with Shrek package may surprise you

Gaylord Opryland Summerfest is here!
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The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention center really stepped it up when they created the Summer Fun with Shrek & Friends package!

When we were first introduced to the Dreamworks collaboration last year at the hotel, we were delighted to see the incorporated some character experiences into Opryland for the kids, but they still didn’t feel like they were part of the Opryland family just yet.

However, this summer was an ENTIRELY different story! Not only did they pack a TON of fun into a short amount of time, but each of the character interactions were well thought out from a kids’ point of view, not just an executive’s!

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First of all, we got to stay in one of the newly remodeled Delta rooms. We’ve never stayed in the Delta before and with so much of the Shrek & Friends going on in the Delta atrium, we loved this location!

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I think it’s safe to say the kids liked the room too icon wink Gaylord Opryland Summer Fun with Shrek package may surprise you

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Upon arrival, each child received either Shrek or Fiona ears, along with a scavenger hunt guide, crayons and a coloring book, so even when you’re enjoying your atrium view with a beverage, the kids still have something to do!

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The first stop on our adventure shortly after we got situated was the Princess Fiona Cookie Castle Decorating. You can read my entire post about our creations, but this was the perfect activity to both get in the Shrek spirit that got us all working and laughing together!

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From there we moved out to the Magnolia Pool for some fun at the Madagascar Crack-a-lackin pool party! I do have to say that it was rather crowded and forgot that this was not a kids’ only pool. While there were plenty of games and poolside activities for everyone to enjoy (limbo, freeze dance, etc), adults could (& did!) participate too, especially in the karaoke….which turned more into “Nashville Star” than poolside fun.

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We didn’t have long at the pool before coming in for dinner at Paisano’s (the have an AMAZING gluten free personal pizza…you just have to ask for it. Very reasonable – I’d come back just to eat that!). And then we had to make our way back to get ready for the parade of characters!

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I suggest lining up a half hour early, otherwise you won’t get to borrow a costume for this event. Though it seemed like a little much to have to stand in line and wait for, the kids ended up loving it! Each character marches in the parade and each has it’s own costume elements that they hand out to the kids marching with them. Britton really wanted to be Puss ‘n Boots (I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the sword)…

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And Kariss of course wanted to dress like a princess and march with Fiona…

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The kids & characters marched all throughout the Delta atrium, eventually ending up just outside the Shrek character greeting area alongside the Delta river. Some of the kids in the parade even got to toss out gold, chocolate coins to the spectators!

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While it was a bit of a pain to coordinate, it seemed well worth it in the end. They even had their own band leaders for the march! (Yes, that’s my son sandwiched between them & Po in the picture below).

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But no rest for the weary. NO! We had to immediately go back out to the pool for the evening edition of the Crack-a-lackin pool party and what turned out to be one of the kids’ favorite parts of the weekend, swimming in the dark and watching a movie under the stars:

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I kept thinking they wouldn’t make it through the whole movie, but they did. (Of course the free popcorn and proximity to the swimming pool helped!). After coming back for showers and chocolate on the pillows, her highness finally seemed ready to settle down for the night.

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Yet we didn’t get much sleep before it was time to wake and enjoy our Shrek Feast:

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and of course study under Master Wu at the Kung Fu Panda Academy of Awesomeness (my personal favorite of the entire weekend):

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The kids sure were sad to go…

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…but not without first getting our free bowl of special ingredient noodle soup they earned for being such brave dragon warriors!

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The great thing about Gaylord Opryland for us is that it’s practically right in our backyard in Nashville, yet it offers us an affordable way for our family to escape for a weekend and truly feel like we’ve taken a vacation…even though we’ve never left our hometown! More importantly, the kids love it and as a parent, there’s little else you can ask for than that icon wink Gaylord Opryland Summer Fun with Shrek package may surprise you

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You know we’ll be back, will you?

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Kung Fu Panda Academy of Awesomeness at Opryland

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Have you heard of the Kung Fu Panda Academy of Awesomeness at Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Resort in Nashville, TN yet? If not you (& your kids) are missing out!

During our recent “Summer Fun with Shrek & Friends” weekend at Opryland, we ended our stay with a trip to the Kung Fu Panda Academy of Awesomeness. Not knowing what to expect, I simply hoped it would be a fun way to cap off what had been a thoroughly enjoyable quick family getaway.

It turned out to be our favorite part of the weekend!

The “Academy of Awesomeness” was held in the Opryland Events Center (if you’re familiar with the property, this is where they showcased “ICE!” last year).

When we first walked in, we were greeted by employees in classic Kung Fu Panda gear who provided name tags for the kids. But then we saw a simple line of white folding chairs in front of a big screen.

I immediately thought this was going to be lame.

But then Po himself greeted us with a video opening that quickly captured our attention…and just as we were on the edge of our seats, the screen lifted to reveal a HUGE academy complete with pagoda!
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The kids were then greeted by “Master Wu”, who artfully (& comically) took the kids through a Kung Fu adventure! Britton even got to go on stage to help:

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As you can see, he totally mastered all the poses taught by Master Wu. When it came time to change activities, Master Wu rang the gong:

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If I remember correctly, there were about 5 stations they guided the kids through, each representing a different character trait such as excellence, teamwork, and the like. I want to say this arts & craft project represented creativity, but I can’t promise that:

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Kung Fu Panda himself, Po, even made an appearance at the end to watch the academy students perform their Kung Fu poses before ‘graduation’.

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And of course what would graduation be without a headband and commemorative certificate?!

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Kids also got to work together to carry an oversized dumpling bag with larger than life chopsticks and compete with Po on his Kinect game. The entire experience lasted about an hour and 45 minutes and was capped off with a (free) commemorative photo of your child’s ‘graduation’ picture with Po & Mater Wu. In addition, we learned at the end that if we took the certificate to one of 6 restaurants at Opryland, they would receive a free bowl of “Secret Ingredient Noodle Soup”!

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The experience itself is $39.95 per child, but if you book on a Sunday through the remainder of the summer and use the code POGO, you’ll get the experience buy one, get one free!

If you want to get an even more up close & personal look, just check out this video montage I made of the entire experience (forgive the laughing in the background – this truly kept me in stitches!)

Has anyone else spend the summer with Shrek & Friends yet? They’ve also extended their Flash Sale, so you can book rooms online for as little as $129 right now!
Special thanks to the folks at Gaylord Opryland resort who allowed us to experience this activity with our kids so I could share this with you!

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Free Summer Fun on a Budget: Talk of the Town July 24, 2012

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It’s still summer, but school is right around the corner! So if you want to continue some summer fun on a budget while still encouraging the kids to learn and play, I’ve got some free summer fun you can take advantage of right in your home and around Nashville!

NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather
I shared these tips on Talk of the Town on July 24, 2012, so if you watched the show and missed any of the details, here you go:

I wanted to make sure I accomplished a few very important things with my kids over the summer: learn more about music, get comfortable on the computer, teach them tennis and read more.

As a wife, blogger & mom who has never homeschooled (or thought anything of the sort was possible), my ideas for how to structure summer learning, yet make it fun, didn’t exactly come together as quickly as I would have liked. But then I discovered I could accomplish several of these objectives with just one program: QuaverMusic.com

I was excited to find this learning resources in our local community – QuaverMusic.com has developed a new program for teaching kids about music using the latest technology (and fun kids will appreciate!). Quaver himself is a bit of a mad scientist (think Bill Nye the science guy, but for music!) who is obviously passionate about passing on his love for music to kids. There is an entire DVD system designed for music educators and homeschool parents, but there are also amazing YouTube videos and free activities on their website where kids can not only learn about general music & theory, but also create their own music!

If you’re on the go but stuck inside, I’ve found that doing an App search on my smart phone will turn up a lot of great free educational games for school aged kids, including everything from Sight Words to Math games!

Of course, if you want to get the kids out of the house to learn and play, I’ve found a lot of great free summer fun around town too!

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is always free for children 18 & under. If you are a Bank of America card holder, you can also get in free the first weekend of every month (same program applies for The Country Music Hall of Fame).

If you want to get outside, check out the great TN parks. If you want to cool off, head to the Cumberland Park splash pad downtown. To get in touch with nature, head to Edwin Warner park closer to Bellevue/Belle Meade and explore their free Nature Center (you can also get free guided tours with reservations).

If the heat’s got you beat and you want to continue learning about TN in air conditioning, head to the TN State Museum where the permanent exhibits and Military Museum are ALWAYS free! Of course, the TN Public libraries are offering great storytimes, concerts and more throughout the summer (just consult with your local branch). And don’t forget the fabulous puppet theater at the main branch downtown!

Do you have a budding fireman on your hands? Most fire stations will give tours with advance notice (and kids will usually get a cool fire hat & sticker too!)

*Monkey’s Treehouse in Bellevue is also free from 5:30-7pm tonight (July 24)

I’ll also be teaching a Savings Nation Grocery Workshop from 6:30-8pm tonight at Grace Christian Academy in Leiper’s Fork. For more information or to find out how to book your own workshop, contact me.


 Free Summer Fun on a Budget: Talk of the Town July 24, 2012

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Talk of the Town watch Sami live July 24, 2012

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Watch me on Talk of the Town LIVE this Tuesday, July 24, 2012! Just tune in to NewsChannel 5 in Nashville at 11am to hear me share how you can still take advantage of sun (free!) Summer Fun on a Budget before school starts…and help the kids learn something along the way too!

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Dollywood Vacation marks 100,000 miles of Honda Odyssey Family Fun!

On the way to our Dollywood Vacation cabin yesterday, we hit the 100,000 mile mark in our Honda Odyssey! Can you believe we’ve marked 100,000 miles of family fun in our mini-van?

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We’re here for the season re-opening of Dollywood and to ride America’s first wing coaster, Wild Eagle!

We came in a night early to relax in the Smoky Mountains at a Dollywood vacation cabin, and I am so glad we did. Just look at our view!

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I’ll update you later and let you know if I survive the Wild Eagle!

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Opryland Family Fun Night with Shrek & Friends

We got to take part in the Dreamworks Experience when it first debuted at Gaylord Opryland Resort last November, but when we were invited to the new Family Fun Night with Shrek & Friends, we were excited to check out this new offering.

This one night extravaganza was a great 24 hour getaway where the kids got to meet, dance and play with some of their favorite Dreamworks characters, but more importantly, our family got to spend great quality time together! While the kids would probably say they liked the dance party best (& getting to spread blankets out on the dance floor to watch a movie before going to bed), I would argue that having a Shrek themed breakfast delivered to my room was the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.

Don’t worry if you missed it – there will be more Dreamworks Experiences coming this Spring Break & summer (I’ve even heard there are birthday party packages for the Dreamworks lover in your family!). Of course, you can count on me to keep you posted on the best deals to take advantage of these getaways icon smile Opryland Family Fun Night with Shrek & Friends

Here are a few of our favorite pics from the Shrek & Friends weekend:

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