Pancakes For Beginners

This is not the recipe for the best pancakes you will ever eat (at least I kind of hope not), this is a basic recipe and more importantly, some simple tips for cooking pancakes. This is for people who curse at their griddles and can’t figure out why their pancakes never work. This is for people who have all but given up. 😉

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter (melt it before you start mixing your ingredients so it cools slightly)

Instructions

  1. Mix your dry ingredients.
  2. Add your wet ingredients, making sure to not over stir your batter.

Cooking Your Pancakes

  • Get your griddle or non stick frying pan to the right temperature. I put mine on a little over medium heat and let it warm up while I make my batter. ***Test your griddle or pan to make sure it’s the right temperature by splashing just a little bit of water on it. If the water droplets “dance” on the pan it’s a good heat for cooking pancakes. If the water evaporates right away, the pan is too hot. ***
  • I spray my pan with cooking spray right before I drop the batter in the pan because my “non stick” frying pan has a tendency to stick. If your pan or griddle is better than mine, feel free to skip this step.
  • Drop some batter into the pan. The smaller the pancake, the easier to flip and the faster it’ll cook, so if you struggle with pancakes, you might want to start with silver dollar size.
  • *** Don’t try to flip your pancake too soon. Wait until your pancake starts to “bubble” before you flip it. 

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    Bubbles and my sticky non-stick pan.
  • *** Don’t smush your pancakes once you flip them. It’ll make them dense, aka, like hockey pucks.*** Let them cook on the other side for about two minutes and you should hopefully have some pretty decent pancakes.

I hope these tips and tricks help you impress your family with a delicious pancake breakfast. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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A Love Story

Since it was Father’s Day yesterday, and my five year wedding anniversary on Friday, I wanted to write a love story about my husband. The problem is, which love story should I write? With five years of marriage, two kids, ten years together, and over twenty years of friendship, there are a lot of stories to choose from.

I could write about the first time we kissed. In college, at a party. There was alcohol involved and he cut our makeout session short. He had to get up early the next morning to sing in the choir at church.

Or I could talk about the time early in our relationship when I went to Disney World with my family. I missed him so much I called him while I was riding Maelstrom (RIP Maelstrom) and provided him with colorful commentary for the entire ride. There might have been alcohol involved with that one as well.

Or the time on New Year’s Eve, where he pulled me off the couch to dance to “I Only Have Eyes For You”. He whispered the lyrics into my ear while we slow danced. No small feat given the thirteen inch height difference between us.

Then there are the obvious stories I could tell, our wedding day, driving through McDonald’s after the ceremony because we had both been too busy and nervous to eat anything beforehand. The births of our children, when our daughter came out covered in meconium (her own poop, pregnancy is so gross) my husband exclaimed, “She’s beautiful!” and I thought he was crazy because she was literally covered in s**t.

And then there are countless other stories I could tell. Stories of him patiently cleaning our daughter’s toe after she’s picked the nail down to nothing. Of him spending hours reading the same five books to our son, because those are his favorites. So many stories of his selflessness, as a husband, son, and father. Stories of his passion as an artist and a friend.

There are thousands of love stories this man has given me. A new one every day.

 

 

 

 

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review

AKA: Why Animal Kingdom Lodge is the best hotel ever…. unless you’re my mom.

Sigh. Last year my family and I were at Disney World, celebrating my mom’s sixty-fifth birthday and having an awesome time. This year, my family and I are deep cleaning our house. Which is great, I love getting the house in shape, but I’d rather be at Disney World. But since I’m not, I’ll take a break from all the cleaning to reminisce and write about Disney World.

Today I thought I’d talk about Animal Kingdom Lodge and why it’s an awesome hotel for some, but not all. I was blown away by the hotel, and would gladly stay there any time. My mom, on the other hand was a little underwhelmed. Since I’d rather end this post on a happy note, I’ll start with why my was less enthusiastic than I was.

My Mom’s Cons:

Animals 😦 Sad but true, my mom was underwhelmed by the animals at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I chalk this one up to reality not meeting expectation. I’ve talked a bit about the importance of expectations before, and my mom is a good example of being disappointed when expectations aren’t met. To be fair, the promotional pictures for the hotel do quite a good job of upselling the animal experience. My mom was expecting it to be more naturalistic, like you are waking up in Africa and can see savannah for miles and miles. In reality, you see other hotel room balconies, a well worn road that the keepers use, and (if you’re looking close enough) feeders and barriers.

Crowds 😦 Okay, so usually when we stay at Disney World we stay at Old Key West Resort which is the largest resort at Disney World in terms of square footage, and has the least amount of rooms. Which means it’s a sprawling, spread out, very quiet resort. Animal Kingdom Lodge has much more of a bustling hotel feel to it. My mom prefers the quiet hotels.

Location 😦 Animal Kingdom Lodge is a tad further from the parks (besides Animal Kingdom), and the only form of transportation is bus which gets tiresome. Especially after staying at the Grand Californian Resort at Disneyland the year before last. Walking from your hotel directly into the park will spoil you pretty quick.

My Pros:

Animals! I was blown away with the animal encounters! I was expecting to see the occasional zebra, or oxen in the distance, but we saw so many animals throughout the day. There was one ostrich that would keep coming by our balcony, strutting her stuff, I loved starting the day, drinking my coffee, watching her do her thing. And the animals are all over the place. Tortoises and birds outside the window of the restaurant, flamingos by the pool, if you are an animal lover (or have an animal obsessed kid) the animals are a lot of fun.

IMG_5394
My favorite ostrich down on the right.

Food! Everyone in my family agreed that the food at Animal Kingdom Lodge was delicious. The hotel has a signature restaurant (i.e. fancy), a buffet, a more casual sit down restaurant, a quick service restaurant, a lounge, and two pool bars that also serve a limited menu of food. And the food was goooood. There is a great mix of safer options (hamburgers, chicken nuggets, etc) and more adventurous, African inspired dishes. The best dish I had there was also the simplest, the bread service at The Victoria Falls Lounge. The lounge is a fun place to grab a drink, located between two floors, and overlooking the buffet. It was a nice place to unwind after a busy day of traveling. Listening to the African drumming didn’t hurt either.

Activities! This right here is why I’d go back to Animal Kingdom Lodge over and over again. The resort offers a whole slew of activities. It’s great for people who want to do something besides the parks. Most of the activities are geared towards kids, but there are several for adults only, some of which include wine ;). A lot of the activities were educational as well which I appreciated. My daughter actually chose to hang out at the hotel over the parks an afternoon or two, so that she could take part in more of the activities. She helped make enrichments for the animals, learned about conservation, how to track animals in the wild, and about Africa itself, she got her face painted by two sweet women from Kenya, and got to decorate a cake. All of these were free activities that added an extra layer to our stay.

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Not pictured; the mountain of candy rocks and sprinkles she covered it in.

In my humble opinion, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a breathtaking resort that is great for families who don’t want to spend all of their time in the parks, and don’t mind the extra hustle and bustle. It would be a waste to stay there and not explore all that it has to offer. Gorgeous pools, artwork around every corner, rocking chairs in quiet nooks for watching the sunset over the savanna, it has so much to offer. I can’t wait to go back some day!

 

 

 

 

 

Five Tips For Taking Babies And Toddlers To Disney

Suffice it to say, I’m a big fan of the Disney Parks. For me, it is always a good time to visit. Holidays, summer vacation, rain, sun, if I’m there, I’m happy. So I’ve never really understood when people talk about the “right time” to take their kids to the parks. It’s always the right time! Of course, I don’t go to Disneyland or Disney World for my kids, I go for myself. My kids are just lucky to have a Disney crazed mom, haha. But I understand that if you aren’t Disney crazy, the idea of bringing a baby or a toddler can seem pretty daunting. Which is why I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks for doing just that.

1. Expectations

I think this is my number one tip for any Disney trip, know what you’re getting into before you are in it, and you’ll enjoy your vacation more. For example, if you are traveling with a little one, but you are planning on being in the parks from open to close and riding Space Mountain five times in a row, well, your expectations might be very different from your reality and you might end up disappointed.

Taking a little one to Disney can be SO MUCH FUN! And you appreciate what the parks have to offer on a whole new level. Character experiences, shows, slower rides, are all things I didn’t fully appreciate until I was with my babies.

2. Rider Swap

But don’t think that you have to miss out on thrill rides just because you’re with your little one. As long as you have another adult with you, you guys have lots of ways to ride Splash Mountain or Tower of Terror (my two favorites). Sure, there are single rider lines and Fast Passes, but a lot of people don’t know about another option specifically for grown ups with little ones, Rider Swap.

The way it works, go up to your favorite big kid ride with your whole family and tell the attendant that you’d like to do Rider Swap. Follow their instructions (my husband didn’t once and he said he feared for his life due to the look I gave him, I do not doubt this) which will be some variant of one of you goes on the ride then, and the other one gets to skip the line when the first one is done riding. The best thing about Rider Swap, and what sets it apart from the single rider lines, is that it’s good for at least two people! So if you are a family of four, no one has to ride alone and one of you gets to ride twice! Use this in conjunction with Fast Passes and barely spend any time in line!

3. Down Time

Happy baby means happy parents right? And well rested baby equals happy baby? If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, I would definitely recommend building in some down time into your day. Babies and toddlers need rest and even if they aren’t sleeping, the stimuli of the Disney Parks can be a bit much if they don’t have a break from it.

What works best for me and mine, is going to the park early in the morning. If you have a little one chances are you aren’t sleeping in anyways, so why not enjoy the parks in the morning when the sun isn’t as hot and lots of other visitors are still sleeping in? We stay in the park until just around lunch time and then we go back to the hotel for a few hours of relaxation, napping for our youngest. Then, we head back to the parks for the evening. This works great for us because we avoid the parks in the middle of the day, when they are the busiest and the hottest, and it gives us time to recharge and regroup, so we aren’t dragging and miserable when it’s time for fireworks.

If you can’t get back to the hotel, try to find some calm things to do inside the parks. Maybe a nice sit down lunch reservation, or just find a quiet corner to people watch. When she was tiny, my daughter would fall asleep in her stroller, so my husband and I took it as an opportunity to get margaritas and people watch.

Or you could always try…..

4. Baby Centers

I’ve professed my love for the Baby Centers before, and I’m sure I will again. I love them so much. These could be a great place take a breather and stay inside the park.

Seriously, if you are traveling to Disneyland or Disney World with a baby or toddler, make note of where the Baby Center is in the park, it could just save your life. Alright, that’s a little dramatic, but I’m guessing you’ll be glad you did. They are a great place to feed your little one, rock your little one, or buy that tube of diaper rash cream you forgot to pack. Sometimes I go there just to have a quiet, air conditioned breather with my kiddo.

5. Strollers, Leashes and Carriers, Oh My!

Carriers – If your little one isn’t walking, pack a good baby carrier. One that is easy to put on and take off, easy to get your baby in and out of, and doesn’t take up to much space. You can’t take a stroller in lines, and holding a baby for forty five minutes while waiting to get on Pirates gets old really fast.

Leashes – Okay, I never, ever wanted to put a leash on my kid. The idea horrified me. But, then I was planning on taking my eighteen month old to Disneyland and I changed my mind. She didn’t like being in her stroller that much, she liked to run, and I didn’t want to lose her, so, baby leash.

Word of advice, don’t wait until you get to the Disney to introduce it. The first time I put one on my daughter was at a bookstore. She laid flat on her stomach and refused to move. It was a fun experience. We ended up introducing it to her like a new snuggly friend, she started wanting to wear it around the house, holding it’s tail. By the time we went to Disneyland, a month later, it was smooth sailing.

Strollers – Bring a stroller. Last year I ended up renting one of the hard plastic Disney strollers…. for my seven year old. It was late, she was tired, but we both wanted to see the new Pandora land at night. Animal Kingdom is a big park so, I got her a stroller and speed walked to Pandora. She loved it, I loved it, and Pandora is not to be missed, especially at night. My point is, you are going to want a stroller.

I like to pack a decent umbrella stroller that’s easy to operate. Especially at Disney World, you spend a lot of time taking transportation to and from the parks, and it’s a lot easier with a stroller that folds easy.

**HOT TIP** There are a bajillion strollers in the parks at any given time. They all look alike, and the cast members will move them to make room for more. Decorate your stroller to make it easier to find. We tie curling ribbon around the handles and wrap Mardi Gras beads. Festive and easy to find.

**BONUS TIP**

Lines are boring. Babies and toddlers will probably let you know exactly how boring they think they are. Pack (or buy) something that will distract them in line. For my daughter, it was one of those light up spinning toys that we bought in desperation after we spent a miserable thirty minutes trying to keep her entertained in line for the Jungle Cruise. For my son we came prepared with one of those misting fans.

An Ode To Motherhood

AKA My Latest Trip To Costco

In honor of Mother’s Day coming up, I thought I’d share with you my latest adventure as a Hot Mess Mom.

Yesterday started out so well. I woke up in a great mood, ready to take on the world. I figured, since it was such a good day, I should go to Costco. It’s been on my list of things to do. So while everyone is eating breakfast, I text my mom and start planning my day. We decide to go to Costco together, because the more the merrier, and we decide on meeting there at 1pm, after my mom’s pilates lesson and after my son has had a nap and lunch.

I ask my son (who is one and a half) if that would be fun and he gets super excited. He went with me on my last Costco run and fell in love with the place. He loves to eat so he was all about the free samples. My daughter, who is in second grade, starts to pout. “I wish I was going to Costco”. No problem, I’m thinking, confident in my parenting and planning skills. So I text my mom, she’s ok with pushing it back until my daughter is out of school. My day is set, my kids are happy, go me.

The day continues to be smooth sailing. My husband and I both get some work done, and some cleaning. My son is his usual chipper self. I manage to stick to my new exercise routine which I’ve been doing now for a whopping three days straight! I’m feeling so good, I even decide to wear a dress just for the hell of it. No special occasion, just wearing a dress to take my kids shopping. Like one of those moms who is put together and stuff.

Three o clock rolls around. I get my son into the minivan and we go to pick up my daughter. We get there a little early, so I let my little guy roam around in the grass near where my daughter is let out. He’s having fun, dressed in the matching outfit my mom bought for him. He has fun, for a minute. But then the bell rings and he no longer wants to be in the grass. He wants to be climbing the stairs where a hundred kids are running past, eager to leave school for the day. I calmly tell him we can’t do that, it’s not safe, and I pick him up and sit on a bench to wait for my other kiddo.

He does not want to do this. He makes this known by not only screaming, blood curdling screams, but by arching his back as far as he can. I’m doing my best to hold him and calm him down, but the cute matching outfit my mom got him is made out of a slippery material and it is not easy. He’s flailing, kicking, screaming, and I am no longer feeling like a put together mom. People are looking, he’s still screaming, and my daughter is running late.

She saunters over after what felt like twenty minutes and the first thing she says; “I don’t wanna go to Costco anymore. I’m too tired.”

At this point I am so far from a put together mom. I can feel my jaw clench and my ears get red. I stand up, carrying my son like an unruly sack of potatoes, and through gritted teeth tell my daughter to keep up with me. I stomp back to the van with my two bewildered children in tow.

My daughter asks why I took the van. I told her it was because we were going to Costco, but honestly, my voice was probably so shrill at this point that only dogs could hear it. I get everyone in the car and buckled, and drive, in silence, to Costco.

Once we got there everything was fine. The very first free sample was cake, so the kids were instantly appeased, and as soon as I entered the store I was greeted by a large display of already mixed margaritas on sale. It’s as if Costco knew.

Sopapilla Recipe

Fun story, when I was pregnant the first time I was nauseous for roughly the first five and a half months. It wasn’t fun. One day I woke up with an intense craving for sopapillas, so I went out for lunch with my mom and future mother in law. I asked the incredibly kind waitress for extra sopapillas and she delivered. I explained that it was the first time food tasted good in months, and she brought me more. When we paid the check, she brought me a to go box filled with even more sopapillas! I burst into tears, because I was so touched, and because pregnancy hormones are fun.

Unless you are from New Mexico, you might not know what a sopapilla is. My spell checker has apparently never heard of them either. Well guys, I’m about to blow your mind. This recipe is insanely easy to make, and sopapillas are so versatile you could eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. Sopapillas are puffy fried dough. Think funnel cake but not necessarily sweet and puffier. Or a Chalupa shell but again, puffier. The word, sopapilla, roughly translates to “little pillow”, so, puffy. 😉

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Add the oil and water.
  3. Mix with a fork or your hands until the dough is uniform. It should be wet enough to not flake apart, but dry enough to not stick to your hands. IMG_1846
  4. Cover the dough and leave it to set for at least one hour. *In my experience, the longer I leave my dough alone, the better it puffs up when frying. I tend to make my dough in the morning, put it in the fridge, and fry it up for dinner.*
  5. Heat up your oil for frying. The deeper the oil, the puffier the sopapilla, so use a deep fryer, or the deepest frying pan you have.
  6. While the oil is heating, it’s time to roll out your sopapillas. Flour your surface, and grab a small (like 1 inch in diameter) ball of the dough. Roll it in the flour a little bit to make it easier to roll out.
  7. Roll it out nice and thin, about 1/8 of an inch.
  8. When your oil is ready (375°F) fry those puppies up. I find it works best to fry one at a time. IMG_1853

Sopapillas are best eaten immediately, not that you’re going to want to wait. And they really are super versatile! Because they are essentially little pillows of fried dough, they are great for stuffing! So stuff them with eggs, hash browns and bacon for breakfast, or beans, rice and meat for lunch or dinner. Pair them with some vanilla ice cream and cinnamon sugar and you’ve got dessert. Or just drizzle some honey on them.

Enjoy! IMG_1859

Five Unusual Things To Pack To Disney World

Hi! Planning a trip to Disney World this summer? First of all, congratulations! You’re going to have a great time! Second of all, I’m totally jealous, but it’s okay, I’ll get over it. Third of all, you are probably wondering about what to pack to make your vacation smooth and relaxing. Let me help!

There are tons of lists out there about what to pack on a Disney World vacation, honestly it can be a little overwhelming, and if you packed everything mentioned on every list out there you wouldn’t have room left in your hotel room to turn around. This is a list of things you might be wondering, “hmm, should I pack that?” that I think you should. Everything on this list has saved me money and headaches.

1. Water Misters

These things are awesome because they serve multiple functions. True, they keep you cool, which is their main function, but they also keep the kids entertained. Buying one at the parks will cost you almost $20. I picked up several at Walgreen’s for about $5 a piece. They’re also compact and don’t take up a lot of suitcase space. You can get them from Amazon here.

2. Rain Ponchos

It rains in Florida. A lot. And I’m not talking a gentle afternoon shower. When it rains, it pours. I have been caught in a fair share of downpours. When I didn’t pack ponchos it resulted in shivering kids, shelling out $15 for a single poncho and a grumpy me. Last time I packed a ten pack of ponchos and was so happy I did. The ponchos were super compact so I could keep several in my backpack at any given time. And if it started to rain, I wasn’t frantically having to find a vendor that was selling them. *Bonus item; water shoes are also VERY nice to have.

3. Groceries

Did you know you can have groceries delivered to your hotel? You can order them months in advance and have them waiting for you! If you are staying at a Disney hotel, there is a small service fee, but I still saved a lot of money going this route. I would suggest not going overboard, but getting some things that are quick and easy for breakfasts and lunches can be very convenient.

Things I order; cereal, granola bars, and bagels for breakfast, lunch meat (if your hotel room has a small fridge), peanut butter and jelly for lunches, fresh fruit, snacks and water. There are several different services you can use, I used Garden Grocer and was surprised at how easy it was. They even have an app so I could do the entire thing from my phone.

4. A Good Water Bottle

Look, you don’t want to get dehydrated on vacation, Disney doesn’t want you to get dehydrated on vacation. There are lots of options in the parks to keep you hydrated. Water fountains, bottled water, courtesy cups of water and even water stations during the busiest and hottest times. I like having a good, insulated water bottle with me at all times.

5. Ziploc Bags

Here are some things I used Ziploc bags for on my last Disney trip; snacks, coins for the pressed penny machines, wet ponchos, phones and wallets during water rides, park maps, things I didn’t want to leak like sunscreen and diaper cream. Seriously, so helpful.

So those are five things I always pack to Disney World. What are your must have items?