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Nashville Bachelorette Party

In less than two weeks one my little sisters will be getting married [insert wide eyed emoji face] -holy cow, say what?! I couldn’t be more excited for her as she found a good one. Since I can’t seem to put together words for the speech I need to give at the reception I might as well blog about the bachelorette party in Nashville instead, right? Close to the same thing? Hannah, the bride, is super laid back, but probably won’t let me sub this for the speech…sigh.  Love ya sis!

Anyhow, Nashville. I. Love. Nashville. Having only been twice, my bachelorette party and Hannah’s bachelorette party, my list of things I still want to do there is quite long.  Unfortunately when I had my bachelorette party my 3 sisters were all too young to go. Fast forward to 2018 and it is a different story. While this specific post will not cater to everyone’s taste, I do think that Music City has got something for everyone. I highly recommend utilizing Nashville Guru as a resource if you are thinking about visiting, they break things down by neighborhood so you can get a feel for what exists outside of Broadway and the “touristy” stops.  Nashville’s visitor’s bureau is pretty comprehensive too, I utilized their site when I first started researching places to stay.

You gotta sleep somewhere and boy oh boy are there lots of options -many that can get pretty steep in price.  Hotels, Airbnbs, Hostels, Bed and Breakfasts…Camping.  After much debate between a hotel within walking to distance to Broadway vs. an Airbnb, I decided to go with an Airbnb that was just outside of downtown.  The Airbnb was cheaper and absolutely adorable, which made our own decorating job a lot easier.

Disclosure: Please note that I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to contribute to my savings for a rainy day by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.   
Jessie, the hostess, was as sweet as could be responding to all of my questions without blinking an eye.  I’m actually really upset with myself because I missed the window to write a review on Airbnb.  Our experience was so positive that I want to contact Airbnb to see if they will make an exception and still allow me to write a glowing review.  Nashville Bachelorette Party Welcome SignNashville Airbnb Nashville Airbnb

Bachelorette Party Favors

Bachelorette Party Favors

*Note, these bachelorette party favor baskets were not included with the Airbnb in case you were wondering 🙂 -but Jessie did have a bottle of wine waiting for us in the fridge.  I found these cute baskets at Walmart and then just filled them with fun things.  The bride got a sash in her’s, purchased from Lauren Lash Designs, which came in the cutest package.

The rest of the ladies got their tanks which you’ll see in later pictures.  We ordered the black ones through http://www.fairyseason.com and the bride’s was custom ordered through an Etsy shop.  It looks like Fairy Season no longer carries them, but check out their other graphic tanks and you might be able to find something.  We got them at an unbelievable deal with a coupon code, but were also nervous because they were coming from China.  They ended up working out just fine, but I will say the tags differed between some of the shirts and the sizes were not all identical (one of the smalls actually looked like a large).  In either case, you can get what looks to be an identical version off Amazon too…
 I found the shot glasses and the Detox face masks at T.J. Maxx while all of the other items you can just grab at the store (Voss water, Starbucks Espresso, Mini Champagne bottles, and gum).

Bachelorette Party Favors

With 10 girls we had plenty of sleeping space; there were king beds in every room and the oversized couches downstairs were very comfortable as well.  We didn’t even have to get out the air mattresses.  Nashville AirbnbNashville Airbnb Nashville Airbnb Nashville Airbnb Nashville AirbnbAnother bonus was the available counter space that we had to get ready…with 10 girls that is a serious highlight.  You won’t get that at a hotel.  *Note -the house was filled with white towels, but there is a charge should there be makeup residue left on any of them.  This is made clear via signs that Jessie has left on the countertops, accompanied by complimentary makeup remover wipes.  -Just to make sure you have yourself covered -bring a big pack along for all the gals to share! Nashville Airbnb Nashville Airbnb

Nashville Airbnb

Nashville Airbnb

I’m no professional photographer so if my pictures above haven’t convinced you that this is a gem of a find, check out the video tour -seriously, how often do you get to preview the place you are going to stay like this?  I was assured by Jessie that the area was safe and got that vibe from other reviewers; however, when you look it up on Google Maps it may make you feel a little skeptical -I was.  I’m telling you all now -we felt very safe and just know that the pictures on Google Maps are out of date.  There are now similar homes populated all around Jessie’s (neighbors to the left were also very friendly) and some that are still going up.  I would live in one of these in a heartbeat!  There are also a handful of cute restaurants within walking distance that we did not take advantage of but probably should have in hindsight…next time!  So my advice is to check out the Airbnb options if you don’t mind taking an Uber of Lyft, there are all sorts of price ranges.  If you’d rather a hotel, check out one of the 2 links in the beginning of this post to get the ball running.

We stayed in Nashville Friday-Sunday and our first stop on Friday night was actually on top of one of the city’s hotels, The Westin Nashville.  For ease of reading, I’m going to list out our most notable stops below.

L27 Rooftop Lounge
Swanky rooftop lounge with an indoor and outdoor area, 27 levels up.
I was debating between L27, L.A. Jackson at the Thompson Hotel, and Rare Bird at the Noelle Hotel to kick off the night with something a little different.  The deciding factor was that L27 took 2 hour cabana reservations for parties of 10 or more in the outdoor area by their rooftop pool ($300 minimum spend -I include this info because I read some reviews about people being upset by this so just know that up front).  Of course, it started pouring 20 minutes before our reservation.  We showed up regardless and somehow managed to grab seating for all of us inside (no minimum there).  The rain stopped and we snapped a couple pictures outside too.

L27 Rooftop Lounge

The Westin Nashville

AJ’s Good Time Bar
Alan Jackson’s joint, a place to get your karaoke on.  There was a live band playing on the first floor, I remember jamming out to Wagon Wheel, but we probably spent most of our time on the 2nd floor singing along with fellow karaokers (if that is not a word, I just made it one).  We had some “serious” singers up there and then there was the girl who fell down and dropped the mic -not in our party to clarify.  Nonetheless, we belted out Lit’s My Own Worst Enemy and of course, sounded amazing doing so.

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
Can you really go to Broadway without stopping at the iconic Tootsie’s?  Nah, not if you want the Broadway experience.  This place is typically jam-packed if you end up here at the end of the night, you have to be okay with limited personal space, but the live music is so fun!

The Flipside
12 South – look this area up if you aren’t familiar with it, you can spend a weekend just exploring this stylish neighborhood.  The Flipside is a cute, retro diner that we popped into mid-Saturday morning for a couple brunchy drinks.  We had a reservation here too, it was one of the few places that I found allowing for reservations when I wasn’t sure if we’d be eating as well.  Originally I had us booked at the City Winery (their mimosa pictures looked a-m-a-z-i-n-g), but when I called to confirm, the lady I spoke with said I couldn’t make reservations if we weren’t also going to eat.  (I made casseroles on Friday night at like 4 AM as I got heckled by the girls about throwing random things into them -I’ll link those recipes here at a later date -they did turn out despite what we all predicted in the wee hours of Friday morning). The Flipside Nashville

In any case – The Flipside was a win and I’d go back again.  I made the reservations via email through Libby and she was friendly as can be.  We half wondered if our waiter was a little high, whether he was or not, he did a great job.  Flipside runs a special of 2 for 1 bellinis, mimosas, bloody mary’s, and sangria on Saturdays and if souped up bloody mary’s are your thing then you are in the right place…click here for proof.  They also serve items like platters of a 1/2 pound of bacon or AM Tots…so the casseroles weren’t an end all be all. Anyhow, adorable place -they have the floor length, garage type windows that open up, it is worth at least an hour of your time.

The Flipside Nashville

Jack’d Up Truck
Two words – Monster. Truck….combined with a torrential downpour -Rain is a Good Thing!  If you aren’t a country music fan that sentence probably reads terribly, but if you are, you got me!  We hopped on this baby with the sun shining and about 20 minutes into our ride saw that rain was a coming.  Our driver (A+ by the way), got us to cover just before the rain started to pour down.  Jack’d Up Nashville

Winners Bar and Grill or Loser’s Bar 
He stopped us right outside of two bars: Winner’s and Loser’s Bar.  We went with Loser’s because the door guy was friendly and we heard about the Adult Capri Suns.  Yes, these do exist.  Loser’s gave us cover from the rain just long enough for us to decide that we wanted to embrace the big drops that showed no sign of leaving.  Luckily there was no lightening or this wouldn’t have been an option.  Believe it or not, this ended up being the highlight of the trip and an experience that I can confidently say none of us will forget.  When the ride ended the sun was shining and we were ringing out our hair, dumping water out of our shoes, and wiping smeared makeup from our faces…on a high, feeling happy as can be. You get the right group of people together and this is a must -rain or shine!  Alternate options:  Nashville Party Barge, Pontoon Saloon, Nashville Tractor, Nashville Party Wagon, Honky Tonk Party Express, Nashville Pedal Tavern, Sprocket Rocket, Country Music Crawler, and Nashville’s Party Porch.Loser’s Bar in Nashville

Saint Añejo
Yummy Mexican food, snazzy margaritas, and a stylish atmosphere -we had dinner reservations here Saturday night, but apparently their brunch is pretty good too. Thanks to one of the gals in our party I looked into this after she spoke highly of Tavern’s brunch and mentioned that the people that ran Tavern ran multiple other restaurants/bars.  I think it is safe to say that any of M Street’s joints are worth while.

Saint Añejo

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
We wanted to try and walk from Saint Añejo to Broadway and Flying Saucer was about a half way point so we decided to stop in.  If you like craft beer and low key, this place is for you.  They have multiple locations outside of Nashville as well. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

Luke’s 32 Bridge
We made our way to Broadway to finish off the rest of our night with some dancing.  Winding through the crowded street we didn’t really have an exact plan in mind, but were looking to scope out one of the many locations that are now owned by country stars…Jason Aldean’s Kitchen and Rooftop BarDierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row Nashville, FGL House, or Luke’s 32 Bridge.  We found our way to Luke’s and had an absolute blast.  A six floor establishment (yes, 6), we spent a small chunk of our time on the first level with the live band and then the majority of our time up top with the DJ who was AMAZING.  I wish us girls all woulda been back for the free street concert that Luke just put on for the Grand Opening, how fun was that I bet?!Luke’s 32 Bridge Luke’s 32 Bridge Luke’s 32 Bridge Luke’s 32 Bridge Luke’s 32 Bridge

So there ya have it, 2 nights and a day in Nashville for a girls getaway.  Hopefully this gives ya some ideas for your next trip, whether you are going for a bachelorette party or not.  These ideas do not even put a dent in the list of what Nashville has to offer, but it sure is a start.  Get yourself some good company to top it off.  I was lucky to get to go with such a great group of girls, most importantly the beautiful bride to be!

That’s my kind of night!

PS – I didn’t even hit on outfit ideas in this post and lord knows I know that is one of the most critical things so check back later this week for some inspiration!

DIY Mini Confetti Pumpkins

Cozied up with a hot cup of cider and an oversized hoodie, the smell of a bonfire outside, and pumpkins galore.  Fall is my favorite season hands down.  It seems to last about 1/2 as long as winter, fall, and spring but I’ll take what I can get!

Last weekend I took Jack out to Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch for our first orchard/pumpkin experience of fall.  I’m not sure which of us was more excited and I hope it always stays that way.  I say first experience knowing that we will make a trip to Negangard Pumpkin Patch for our actual pumpkins -BEST PRICES around!  Added bonus -family is good people.  Stops at The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur and Rader Family Farms in Normal could be on the list too.  Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana is another place I’d like to add to our list, but not sure if our busy month of October will allow for that one or not.  Each place has a reason for standing out from the crowd.

In my opinion the cider and the doughnuts are what make Curtis Orchard stand out, I’ve been a loyal customer of these items for as long as I can remember.  We added a few mini, white pumpkins to our list last weekend too or as Jack would say “punkins” :-).  Pumpkin carving, painting, decorating, whatever you may choose to do can get messy, and even messier when you have little kiddos wanting to help (as they should).  I like to try different things so I went on a small little hunt for something easy to do with kids and alas I came across Kelly’s Confetti Pumpkins on Cloudy Day Gray and fell in love.  They are so colorful!  Not your typical fall colors but sometimes ya gotta venture out more.

DIY Confetti Mini Pumpkins
Disclosure: Please note that I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to contribute to my savings for a rainy day by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

You can buy pre-made confetti like this…or this…or this.  Type something related to “confetti” in the search bar below and you’ll get tons of options to choose from.
While pre-made confetti would have been much more convenient we wanted to do the pumpkins day of -so, we made the confetti ourselves.  I grabbed some tissue paper from the Dollar Tree, similar to this.  You are also going to need some Mod Podge, which the Dollar Tree might actually have mini containers of if you make a stop there.  I had intended to use a circle punch to cut the tissue paper into little circles but turns out I forgot I threw it away a few months ago.  Maybe it worked out for the best, I’m not sure if tissue paper would be too thin to cut clean or not?!  Nothing a regular scissors can’t do though -you’ll note from the photo below that I did not go about this in any neat manner.  I just randomly folded the tissue paper and cut circles into it.  Don’t worry if your circles aren’t a perfect circle.  Mine were far from it, but you can’t really tell in the final product.

DIY Confetti Mini Pumpkins

To get the tissue paper confetti to stick to the pumpkin, you’ll need to paint a thin coat of Mod Podge onto the pumpkin.  I did this part and then the boys stuck the confetti onto the pumpkin.  While working on his pumpkin, Chase said “mommy, this project of yours was sure a good idea” -so there you have it, kid approved!

DIY Confetti Mini Pumpkins

Once all of the confetti is placed onto the pumpkin, let them dry.  Once dried you are gonna paint one more coat of the Mod Podge over the top -this flattens the confetti out and seals it.  Don’t worry if it looks like you have painted a coat of white paint over the top, it should dry clear.  Just make sure to even the coat out as smooth as possible.

DIY Confetti Mini Pumpkins

Once the second layer of Mod Podge is dried you’ve got some cheerful pumpkins to display :-). There are endless options for how you could design these whether that be mixing up your color choices or using a different shape from a circle.  I’d love to see what you come up with if you give this a shot!

DIY Confetti Mini Pumpkins

Aren’t they just so playful?!  Go on now and try them out, it’ll brighten your day :-).

 

Grandma Bartz’s Glazed Apple Slice Bars

It’s 10AM and she’s ready for dessert, to top off the doughnut she had for breakfast an hour or two earlier with a cup of coffee.  My sweet Grandma Bartz, a woman with a heart of gold.  At 96 she swears that sugary treats are one of her secrets to a long and healthy life.  Naturally, this must be why I am the way I am, lurking for a dessert after every meal that I have and for snacks in between!  It has recently dawned on me that I think I get my itch to bake from her too, she is an AMAZING baker.  The smell of her homemade bread -omg!  And her banana cream pie -has me scraping my plate clean every time.  Another one of my all time favorites that she bakes are her Glazed Apple Bars which I’ll be sharing with you in this post!  Despite the 90+ degree temps we’ve been sweating through this week, fall is just around the corner and these are the perfect dessert to whip up for party or get together.  We’ve had a stressful week at work…only to increase through Friday…the office needed something.  I made these last night and brought them in for some emotional eating -sometimes ya just gotta!  Note: it is perfectly acceptable to bake these up and hog them for yourself at home too!   

Grandma Bartz's Glazed Apple Bars

Before I proceed with the recipe…can I just tell you that I bought two bags of apples at our local grocery store last night only to get home and realize 45 minutes later that I had left them there?!  Good news is I found out the dough holds up well while waiting extra long for the apples to be prepped :-).

There are 3 components to this recipe: 1) the crust, 2) the filling, and 3) the glaze.  I’m breaking the ingredients up accordingly below.

Crust
1 Cup Shortening
1 TBSP Sugar
1 TSP Salt
2 Cups Flour
1/3 Cup Milk
1 Egg Yolk (beaten)

Filling
8 Medium McINtosh Apples (sliced)
1 Cup Sugar
1 TBSP Flour
Cinnamon (to sprinkle on top of the above ingredients once mixed)
Butter (this is for on top of 2nd layer of dough)
Egg White (this is for on top of 2nd layer of dough)

Frosting
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 TBSP Butter
1.5 TSP Vanilla
3 TBSP Milk
1 TSP Cinnamon

Start by mixing the crust ingredients together to form your dough, I use a standup mixer to do this.  My 2 year old helped me with the dough and thought his handprint was pretty cool…me, I think it is adorable :-).  He’s so little, yet getting so big at the same time!Making dough with kids

Anyhow!  After you have your dough formed in a ball, roll it out with a rolling pin.  You are  going to half it; 1 half is going to be the bottom of your bars and the other half is eventually going to go on top.  I used a 9×13 pan, my grandma uses a cookie sheet.  I also put parchment paper down in the pan before pressing my first layer of dough into it. This is not necessary, but makes the bars less messy.  Just use some cooking spray if you opt out of the parchment paper.  Set your second layer of dough to the side while you mix up your filling.

Slice your apples up into very thin slices and then mix together all filling ingredients in a bowl.  Once mixed, spread the filling out onto the 1st layer of dough that you put in the pan.  (Yes – I made 2 batches!)  Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top and a little bit of brown sugar if ya want. Sliced apples for apple bars

Then spread your second layer of dough on top of your filling.  Brush the top of your dough with butter, beaten egg white, and a little cinnamon.  No need to measure this, just use as much as you want.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and spread with powdered sugar glaze.  For your glaze, literally just mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and it will be ready to go.  Then eat, eat, eat away!  These are so yummy, the perfect amount of sweet without being too overpowering.  Plus the apples make them healthy 😉 …this is a joke, but hey -some fruit is better than no fruit, am I right?!Grandma Bartz's Glazed Apple Bars

The perfect amount of sweetness also makes them a little dangerous…it is easy to eat a lot of them without feeling sick on sweets right away….Worth It!!!

Grandma Bartz’s Glazed Apple Bars

Hope ya’ll enjoy this family recipe!!!

Magic Kingdom in a Day -with Toddlers!

Earlier this summer we took a nice little family drive to Florida and spent a few days on St. Pete Beach.  If you missed out on either of my most recent travel posts, by “little drive” I mean 19 hours -I can just feel the envy oozing from everyone right now.  That being said, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that I wanted to add a day at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to end our trip before heading back to Illinois…our 17.5 hour drive back to the lovely state of corn.  You guys -it was totally worth it. Yep, I know some of you think I’m crazy and yes, I was flat out told before we went on vacation that I was crazy…okay, not flat out told (except by my husband of course) but I easily picked up that vibe from others as well, despite polite conversation.  Is experiencing Disney this way for everyone?  Absolutely not.  However, for us it did just the trick for what we needed and maybe it could for you too.

Magic Kingdom at Night

So let’s get a few questions and answers out of the way before diving into our day at Magic Kingdom.

  1. Why Disney?  “It is the most magical place on Earth.”  No, really.  Not to mention our boys love pretty much anything that is Disney related.  Are there going to be breakdowns?  Yes.  Will it be hot?  Will it rain?  Will there be some type of weather to get in your way?  There is a good chance.  Isn’t that kind of the case no matter where you are or what you do though?  Disney World is swarming with people and I found it comforting to feel like I was in the same company…meaning I giggled when I heard another couple bickering or sympathized when I saw another kid crying.  I like to think that people did the same when they saw our family doing these things!
  2. Your kids are 2 and 4, why even bother going?  See comment just above -they love all things Disney.  I know the chances of them remembering everything from this day are slim, but I will remember the looks on their faces as they took in everything with amazement.  Memories for parents are important too!
  3. It is SO expensive, how do you justify?  No joke there, Walt Disney World IS expensive and if there were one reason as to why I wouldn’t go -this would be the one.  However, if you can find a way to make it work financially then I have no other reasons (for my little fam at least).  Plan ahead and save whether you are doing it through your own savings account or utilizing a payment plan through Disney.  *Bonus* – toddlers under 3 years old are free.  We took advantage of the opportunity to go to Disney as a family of 4, but only had to pay for a family of 3, totaling $373.83.  We also nixed things like character dining experiences and professional photos.  Lastly, we didn’t stay at a Disney Resort Hotel -though you can find some of these at reasonable prices.
  4. Where did we stay?  B Resort & Spa which is a Disney Springs Resort Area Hotel so not a Disney Resort Hotel, but close enough.  Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels have buses that run to and from all of the parks which was convenient.  One of the other nice perks is the Disney Extra Magic Hours -extended hours of the park before and after normal park hours.  With the resort fee included we paid $163.88 for a night, pretty darn reasonable for Disney I think.  So our 2 largest expenses of the trip totaled $537.71.
    B Resort & Spa

Loved our room here -spacious, modern, clean, and the boys were welcomed with a stuffed frog -bonus.Waiting at the shuttle pick for DisneyOn our way to the bus stop to go to Magic Kingdom, so excited!
Bus Scheulde for Disney

Patient boys – well, at this point :-).
Waiting for their Disney Bus

 

5.  Why only 1 day?  Well, we did not plan ahead as I previously suggested hence we were not saving for Disney by any means.  Ticket prices do go down the more days you choose to go, but in the grand scheme of things this wasn’t helpful for our specific situation.  Being that we were already going to be within driving distance, we opted for 1 day to fit within our budget needs.  Some day we will do the whole shebang -when it is planned well in advance!

6.  Of all the theme parks, why Magic Kingdom?  Best fit for the boys in terms of the amount of attractions for their age and height range. Plus, it has the iconic castle.  I think they would have really enjoyed Animal Kingdom too, but we had to make a choice.  Luckily Toy Story Land wasn’t open so I didn’t have to battle with the decision to go to Hollywood Studios too.Disney's Magic Kingdom

So how in the world do you see all of Magic Kingdom in a 1 day?  Well, we didn’t.  Hello, 2 toddlers = not possible and even if we didn’t have 2 toddlers, I’m still not sure that is possible.  How do you make the most of Magic Kingdom in 1 day?  Have a game plan ahead of time.  Do your research to familiarize yourself with the park and have a list of your “must see” stops.  I cannot stress this enough.  With so much to take in and being in somewhat of a time crunch, I think some sort of rough itinerary is the best way to go.  You might not stick to the itinerary, but at least you have it as a starting point.  I’ve compiled a list of the resources that I found most helpful in planning below:

  • Park Hours – Confirm opening and closing times -and then compare those to your Disney Extra Magic Hours if you have them.  For us, this meant we could be at the park from 9AM (or 8AM taking into account their opening procedures)-10PM and then 10PM-1AM for the extra magic hours.  Know your plan for transportation before the day of.
  • Online Map *Hint use the filters to avoid being overwhelmed looking at the map!  You can also get a printable map here.  We used a combo of these maps as well as the map that can be found in the Disney App.
  • FastPass+; more details here.  This is your way to skip the lines!  Depending on your hotel, you can book these anywhere from 30-60 days in advance.  In our case…like 5-10 days considering we didn’t buy our tickets until last minute!  Basically you can pick a time frame for up to three attractions that you want to be able to go to without waiting in a line.  Once you are at the park and have used all three, you can pick three more whether you do that by the Disney App or at a station there.  We picked Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight.  I can say all of these were great decisions because they all had lines of 50 minutes plus almost the whole time we were there.  I also will say that we sadly missed Peter Pan’s Flight (one of my favorite memories as a little girl) because we did deviate from our rough itinerary to get much needed naps.  That’s another thing to keep at the forefront of your mind, it likely is not going to go all as planned…but hey, we also missed the rain by doing this.  I’ll note that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is another good idea for the FastPass.  The passes for this were already all taken by the time we made our selections and the wait for this ride was ALWAYS an hour plus with the exception of right at opening and during the Extra Magic Hours.
  • Disney Parks Moms Panel -This is an online resource to get answers from real moms about all things related to a Disney vacation.  You can search by topic or simply type your question into a search bar – I was AMAZED at the amount of information here.  If you can’t find the answer in a FAQ section that you are looking at, check this site out and chances are you can find it here.  People ask things from whether or not they will have enough time to get from the airport to a dinner reservation, to advice on keepsakes for children, to utilizing gym facilities at another hotel if their hotel does not already provide them.  I can immediately think of 3 moms that I know that could probably serve on this panel.  If you are one of these magical moms and not a novice like me –Disney’s 2019 Panelist Search looks to be just around the corner!
  • My Disney Experience Mobile App – Genius.  You’ve probably already noticed that I mentioned their app multiple times already -it is a lifesaver.  The Disney App at Disney World served my needs like Google does on a daily basis, it has all of your answers.  Want to know how long the wait is for a ride?  Got it.  Want to reschedule a FastPass?  Done.  Want an interactive map?  Okay.  Feel like ordering food?  Why not?!  Seriously, download this if you are going.  The only negative thing I will say is I felt like it drained my phone battery which was unfortunate for picture taking…then again picture taking was just hard in general.  Disney is one of those experiences where you truly want to experience it with your kids rather than seeing it all from behind a screen…a constant battle (for me at least).  Someone who works for Disney right now is saying “that is why we can take the pictures for you!”  Also, genius -we just weren’t willing to fork over the money this time around!
  • My Tips – Bring a double stroller and a cooler with drinks/snacks -these were huge for us.

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Utilizing the resources above with about a 10 day window of planning, our day for toddlers at Magic Kingdom ended up as follows:

Walked into the park just after opening and did the following:

  1. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  2. Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  3. Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station
  4. The Barnstormer
  5. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (FastPass+)
  6. Mad Tea Party
    Teacups at Disney!Teacups at Disney
  7. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (FastPass+)
  8. Mickey’s PhilharMagic  (This is an indoor show and in 80-90 degree weather the air conditioning feels wonderful!)
  9. Ice Cream Time  (We were starting to hit a wall here, I had made lunch reservations at T-REX Restaurant in Disney Springs with the thought we’d leave the park, go eat lunch, and then head to the hotel so the boys could get an afternoon nap before going back to the park).  Jack fell asleep in the double stroller about this time so we decided that I’d do one more ride with Chase while Ben hung out with Jack.  Of course, Jack woke up while we were in line, Ben got him popcorn, and then he proceeded to dump it all out -yay!)
  10. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  11. Snack Time & Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire  (We grabbed a Mickey pretzel for our walk out and this performance happened to be taking place at the castle so we watched while we finished up our snack…then it was time to go…boys were tired, sweaty, and hot…Ben and I were arguing over the right transportation to get on (hate to say it, but he was right).Mickey Pretzel at Disney
  12. Boys napped at hotel (It happened to down pour about this time so it worked out perfect that we were inside).
  13. Fireworks at the Castle  (I was adamant about seeing these…Ben probably would’ve been okay with just staying at the hotel the rest of the night but I was able to drag him back to the park where it was already crazy busy around the castle…no moving room, hot temps, kids that wanted picked up, and empty stomachs -I’m thankful Ben was a trooper with me on this one.  I’m more thankful to the little girl who was standing next to us who told her mom “he looks just like Mr. Incredible” -referring to Ben, I think this was just enough to perk him up for the wait until the firework show went off -which was amazing :-))
  14. Late dinner
  15. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid (Repeat Ride -park was about to close under the regular park hours and this was supposed to only have a 15 minute wait…unfortunately there were some technical difficulties with the ride so it took more like 40 minutes).
  16. Tomorrowland Speedway  (Our Extra Magic Hours kicked in here, we maybe waited five minutes)After hours at Tomorrowland Speedway
  17. Pirates of the Caribbean  (Same with this one -about a ten minute wait – – take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours if you can!!)

At this point it was after 11PM…Jack was overdue for bed, Chase still had some energy, Ben…was ready to go, me…”the wait for Peter Pan is only 15 minutes now…”  We went back to the hotel :-).

Our short trip to Disney was perfect for us.  I think if we would have left the park earlier in the afternoon we could have had a dinner at normal hours and we did miss a few attractions that I know the kids would have loved…but really, in their little minds they are content.  They went to Disney World where Mickey Mouse lives and got to see all his friends!  I look forward to going back with my fam when the boys are both older and for longer, but that is probably a ways a way -so I will happily wait as the time goes by way faster than I want it to.

 

 

 

 

Raspberry Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Ever wonder what type of response you would get from a 4 year old if you were to ask what his or her hobbies are?  Me either, until this past Monday.  My son brought home a paper with some questions from his part-time preschool to fill out together, Facts About Me it was called.  It took less than 5 minutes and had boxes for us to fill answers in to questions like favorite color or what he wants to be when he grows up, which on Monday happened to be a policeman.  I loved this answer, but at the same time thought in the back of my end, “oh God, I will be a nervous wreck!”  In either case, one of the other boxes was titled “hobbies.”  I asked Chase, “so what do you like to do, what are your hobbies?”  I waited for him to ask “what are hobbies?”  Took about a half a second.  “Things you like to do,” I said.  So he slowly started to list his hobbies…”play tag, build and make designs, play with my daddy…” -yes, I will not lie, I was thinking “awww how sweet…but what about me?!”  Chase continued on as if he had read my mind and next said “eat cake with my mommy, spend time with my family, be with friends, and ride my bike.”  YES -he thinks enough of me to add me to his hobbies!  But oh my gosh, the thing he chooses to say is “eat cake” …what does this say about me?  …I guess I eat a lot of cake…I like to think I bake it more than I eat it…but maybe I’ll just take the hint.  In either case, I was kinda smitten with this answer, it made me laugh for sure.

In all seriousness, whenever I bake, the boys are usually begging to help and we had just come off a weekend where I had baked a cake for my sister’s bridal shower.  (I’ve got a few goodies to share with you on that in the coming weeks -she is going to be such a gorgeous bride!)  There was some leftover cake from the shower which Jack and Chase have had their fair share of, I assume this is partly where Chase’s answer came from being fresh on his mind.  I wonder if he will say the same thing in 12 years?

Anyhow, thanks to Chase, I’m sharing with you today how I made this Raspberry Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache.  I hadn’t planned to, but now I feel like it was meant to be…plus it has been a hot minute since I last posted on this little blog of mine.Raspberry Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache

First things first -give yourself two days to make this.  I’ve decided that is my standard now if I’m going to be stacking cakes, the whole process goes much more smoothly and it helps reduce my stress level so I don’t turn into as much of a crazy woman.  On the first day/night get your cakes made and on the second day/night do the frosting.

Night 1 for the cake you are going to need the following:

And then you are going to get baking!

  1. Preheat oven to the temperature on directions of cake box.
  2. Cut out circles of parchment paper to fit inside your cake pan(s) and spray with cooking spray.
  3. Mix together all of your ingredients.  I used a standing mixer and I did one cake mix box at a time, which will give you enough to fill two 8 inch cake pans. If you choose to do this too, you are going to half all of the ingredients above for each batch with the exception of the Jell-O pudding -just pick one Jell-O pudding box to use for each batch (this will give your cake layers a slightly different flavor, adding more depth to the cake).  Note:  Do not add the ingredients listed on the cake mix boxes in addition to the ingredients above -you are only using the cake mix.  The milk is acting as a substitute for the water, the butter for the oil, and then you are using extra eggs.
  4. Bake cake in the oven per the instruction time on the cake box.  I always put the minimum time on my timer and then continue to poke the cake with a fork or toothpick until it comes clean.
  5. Set cakes on cooling rack to cool completely and then wrap each with 1) saran wrap, 2) aluminum foil, and 3) in a plastic baggie.  Your cakes can now go into the freezer until you are ready to start frosting.

Night 2 go ahead and pull your cakes out of the freezer and for the fillings, I want to point you over to evilshenanigans for the raspberry curd that I used between the first two layers and then the chocolate ganache for in between the top two layers.  I followed her instructions for these almost to a T.  I tried to take a shortcut on the raspberry curd because I’m all about taking shortcuts in baking (hence utilizing the boxed cake mixes), but this did not go well.  I thought I could maybe just mash some raspberries up, mix them with a little bit of sugar, and use this for one of the in between layers -nope.  The consistency is just not right for stacking cakes.  Begrudgingly I went the route of boiling all of the ingredients that the recipe called for and ended up with a result that I was much happier with.  (I used a food processor rather than a blender and I also skipped the straining part…again, this was just me wanting to speed things up a bit!  Keep in mind that both the curd and the ganache will need to cool before you can begin spreading it unless you want a mess of a cake.  I started making the raspberry buttercream while I waited.  Then mini mason jar parfaits and trying to come up with a couple bridal shower games that didn’t totally blow kept me busy…I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to fill your time…Netflix…kids…a bottle of wine…maybe just a nice moment of complete silence?  Just giving you a heads up so you know you won’t be able to walk right out the door with this cake once the fillings are made.  I’ve had this happen too many times to count (homemade cheesecake).  Once cooled and once you’ve unwrapped your cakes, you can divide and spread however you want in between stacking your cakes.  I favored the chocolate ganache using that one twice and still had enough left over for another layer if I had wanted to.

For the raspberry buttercream, I want to direct you over to Glorious Treats.  I followed her instructions pretty closely too, other than the raspberries.  I just grabbed a handful of these and smashed them with a fork.  I slowly added to my already mixed buttercream and taste tested until I got the hint of flavor I wanted.  I ended up going with another handful of raspberries.  Special thanks to these two bloggers for giving me the building parts to my cake!  To frost the cake with the buttercream I just used a regular old butter knife, a decorating turntable, and a cake icing smoother.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made from clicking on the two previous links but really any brand of these 2 items should do the trick!  I frosted one layer using my butter knife while spinning the decorating turntable, wiped the sides even using the cake icing smoother, and then placed the cake back into the fridge for about 20 minutes.  I had intended to put a heavy coat of frosting on for the final coat to fluff the cake up a bit, but then decided I kind of liked the naked look of the caked.  Typically I only see naked cakes with white frosting so I wasn’t sure how the pink tint would look but it works for me!  I simply repeated the steps I took with the first layer of frosting and then topped with parts of a Mixed Pink and Cream Mum and Dahlia Bush by Ashland that I bought from Michaels and tore apart.  The flowers and pumpkin both had long stems so they were easy to stick into the cake and stayed in place perfect.  I chose this for a topper because it matched the garland that I had bought to decorate for my sister’s shower perfectly.  I think you can still get the garland online, but the flowers and pumpkin are now only available in store -they are so pretty!

So there you have it, a Raspberry Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache, perfect for a fall bridal or baby shower.  Change the cake topper out on this one and it could be adapted for any occasion.  This is probably the most moist cake I’ve ever made…sorry if you have a problem with the word “moist” but there really is no other way to describe it -see for yourself!  Yum!!!

Raspberry Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache.

Happy beginning of fall everyone!

 

Family Trip to St. Pete Beach, Florida

It has been about a month now since we took our first family vacation to St. Pete Beach, Florida so I figure I need to get around to writing this post before I start to forget things.  My husband and I were just in St. Louis this weekend so I had a little bit of time to get started on this in the car.  At the rate I’m going, you can expect the post for St. Louis in another month…maybe!  Anyhow, our trip to St. Pete Beach was actually the first family vacation that we have taken as a family of four lasting longer than a weekend.

St. Pete Beach Florida Family Vacation
I know, I know, I’ve got a real sweet tan line from a previous day, but everyone else looks cute 🙂 so we are going with it.

Why St. Pete Beach?  We had narrowed our options to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina or somewhere in Florida along a beach.  It just so happened that one day I opened my email and there was a deal from TravelZoo for the Sirata Beach Resort which was priced significantly lower in comparison to some of the other resorts we had been considering.  For $109 a night, we were able to book a room with 2 queen beds, daily breakfast for two, and two complimentary beach chairs.  The resort fee per night was also discounted to $10 per day plus tax rather than $39 per day plus tax.  The resort has been undergoing construction due to renovations and will continue to be until the end of October, 2018 from what I read last.

The thought of construction going on at the hotel made me a little nervous, but the deal advertised that minimal noise could be expected and that one pool and one full-service restaurant would always be available regardless of the time we stayed.  I was also attracted to the idea that all of the room renovations were complete and advertised by Sirata as the “newest rooms on St. Pete Beach.”  This statement is actually kinda what sold me on booking.  So in a nutshell we chose St. Pete Beach because 1) location directly on the beach, 2) price point, and 3) comfort of knowing we’d be staying in a brand new room.

We had to make the decision of whether we were going to fly or drive. A flight would have been approximately 3.5 hours whereas driving straight through with no stops maps out at about 16 hours.  Flights are actually really reasonable out of Peoria, Illinois.  Just looking today for the month of August there are tickets anywhere between $50 something to $190 not including any taxes or extras.  I want to say we could have gotten flights at $60 something (one-way) for when we went; however, we drove.  Close your eyeballs, I know what you are thinking.  If you want to know how that drive went, check out my post here on Surviving a Road Trip with Toddlers!  For the remainder of this post I’m going to outline the places that we experienced as a part of our vacation.  Hopefully some of this information is helpful to other families that may be traveling to the same area.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Dothan, Alabama

Okay, I know probably most everyone who reads this has had a Krispy Kreme Doughnut before, but I felt like I had to include this stop nevertheless.  Four years ago we used to live just down the street from a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.  Prior to that I had only had the Krispy Kremes that you get at the store or through a fundraiser.  They do not compare to what you can get fresh from an actual store front.  Chase wasn’t old enough to eat doughnuts when we lived by one and Jack wasn’t even born yet.  Naturally, we felt it our parent duty to give the boys the experience of a Krispy Kreme doughnut, fresh at the store.  After driving for 11 hours through the night into the morning, we decided to make a stop in Dothan, Alabama.  Pictured below, Chase stares in awe at all the different kinds to choose from…  Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Let’s be real though, just like with their ice cream, the choice is always chocolate with sprinkles.  Happy little faces here!  Note: I got the doughnut holes and they do not have the same freshness that the regular doughnuts have, mistake on my end here.  The regular ones are warm and melt in your mouth.  At this point in the trip I’d also had a strong combination of Sugar Free Redbull, Starbucks Double Espresso, and other coffees along the way.  The last thing I needed was something sweet.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

I left wishing I had an egg sandwich, but the little doughnut lovers in our life were happy and that was all that mattered :-).  Aren’t these hats perfect for kiddos?  Another cool thing about eating at an actual Krispy Kreme is you get to watch the doughnuts being made.  The boys were entertained watching the doughnuts go through the different machines getting formed into circles and topped with glaze.

You can’t leave the Krispy Kreme in Dothan without getting a picture with Sheriff Sam.  I wasn’t really sure what this was all about, but before we got back into our car I had to run inside to throw some trash away.  A woman asked me if I knew what I had just taken a picture of with my son …for a minute I was thinking I was about to be told I had done something innappropriate.  Well, it turns out Dothan is known as the “Peanut Capital of the World” and she wanted me to “spread the word” -so here I am!  I did a quick Google search and quickly found out that there are anywhere between 30 to over 60 of these throughout Dothan, referred to as “Peanuts Around Town” and “Peanut Parade,” Emily Wood wrote for Deep South Magazine that “Artist Wes Hardin provided the skills that created this unique law enforcer, placed in honor of Sam C. Searcy.”  You can even find maps for download to go on a scavenger hunt for all of the peanuts.  Who woulda known?

Now we can proudly say that we have been to the area where about 1/2 of the peanuts produced in the U.S. are made per the Alabama Peanut Producer’s Association.  Woot, woot!

Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay, Florida

This is the hotel that we landed at in Tampa Bay, Florida after driving for approximately 19 hours with a few stops (like Krispy Kreme along the way).  We made the reservation the day of after tracking where we could stop that wasn’t going to have rain (we wanted to find a place where we could swim outside if possible).  We almost stopped in Tallahassee, Florida to stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton but opted not to only because it was going to be pouring there.  If we ever stay In Tallahassee in the future this is the hotel I will book though -rooftop pool, Starbucks, and fun decor.  That being said, I would stay at the Grandy Hyatt Tampa Bay again in a heartbeat.  The drive up to the hotel is lined with palm trees and a large fountain that light up at night, immediately you feel like you are on vacation.  I took Jack for a walk by the fountain at night and he loved watching the water fountain change colors.  After checking-in, we popped up to our room for about 15 minutes to get changed for the pool.  Our room was the perfect size, crisp and clean, and had Starbucks and Tazo tea in the room -bonus points.  We didn’t make use of the 1823 Kitchen & Bar but we passed through it on our way out to the pool and it looked nice.  The hotel offers multiple other options for dining including a couple with beautiful views -just take a peak here.  When we go to the pool the temperature was a little warm, but other than that it was perfect for us.  They had noodles for kids (and adults) and a pool bar.  After a long day we grabbed a couple of adult beverages and the bartender was sweet to offer our kiddos frozen virgin daiquiris, with our permission of course.

Someone looks a little tired here after his swim…adding this to my pile of favorite pictures, those blue eyes get me every darn time.  I have to be careful when I say that out loud because Chase insists he has green eyes (his favorite color).

The hotel is landscaped beautifully.  The pool area had a nice setup with electronic fire pits for at night and music was always playing.  This was the path from the pool to an area where you can look out over the Bay.  Only bad thing about this was the mosquitoes were terrible but there were signs warning about this inside.  The hotel offered free bug spray, but we neglected to grab any.

Pretty sure Jack is scratching bug bites right now -we stayed here about a minute tops before we realized we were going to get eaten alive if we stayed any longer without bug spray.

Such a pretty view though, right?!  Minus yet another picture with my raccoon eyes…nobody bothered to tell me my mascara had went crazy while we were in the pool.  Living with this and posting the picture anyway, the cutie pie in this picture with the water make up for it!

I was hoping to grab a late dinner at one of the places with a Bay view…but we were exhausted having not slept at all the night before.  That called for pizza delivery to the hotel.  I’m surprised that we didn’t fall asleep before it came, we were all pretty close!

Westshore Pizza in Tampa, Florida

We ordered from Westshore Pizza, which is a New York style pizza place.  The chain seems pretty popular in the area with multiple locations.  We went with it to try something different as there aren’t any locations around our hometown.  Pretty simple night in, just a pepperoni pizza and some chicken wings.  Then we slept hard after telling a few bedtime secrets.

Snuggles

We got up and headed to St. Pete Beach the next day in no hurry as our check-in wasn’t until later at our next hotel.  That being said, we didn’t even see 1/2 of what the Grand Hyatt had to offer but we would definitely return.  It looked like they held a lot of events there too.

Horse and Jockey in South Pasadena ,Florida

We drove into St. Pete Beach and tried to check-in at the Sirata Beach Resort early which didn’t quite work out.  We were, however, given access to the pool and were told we’d get a text when a room was ready.  Hoping to have a room to change in soon, we decided to go grab lunch nearby.  We drove around until we found something that looked promising and wound up at the Horse and Jockey, it looked like your standard sports bar joint from the outside with a British spin.  We walked in, were greeted with a friendly face and a cheering crowd -and quickly realized there was a soccer game on TV that people must have specifically came to the bar for.  Ben ordered a burger, the boys mac and cheese, and I ordered an omelette.  Our food was about what you would expect from a bar, especially the omelette.  We heard that they had just started serving breakfast within the last week to accommodate the early games on TV.  This may have been part of the reason it took our food forever to come out.  My omelette came out first -and that took at least 30 minutes.  Not wanting to be rude, I held off on eating mine for awhile but it got to the point that mine was going to get cold if I didn’t eat -so I went ahead, giving Jack bites along the way.  Everyone else’s food finally came out and it was fine.  Our server was very friendly when he got our drinks, but then he kind of disappeared and didn’t acknowledge how long we had to wait.  I think we were there for about 2 hours and had expected it to be a 1 hour stop.

I spent a good many years serving -and know that at one point or another I served tables that had to wait to darn long -so I get it and can empathize.  I’m not going to complain too much, but just giving an honest review.  I do want to point out that a younger gentleman stopped by our table multiple times right when I was starting to think “ok, was our order even put in?” -he introduced himself as the owner’s son and asked how long we had been waiting, apologizing the whole time.  He was sweating and I could tell that he was running around trying to do the best that he absolutely could -more importantly that he cared, wanting to make sure our table was happy.  He saved our experience here and insisted on giving the boys free dessert to take home.  Overall, I’ve got to think they are doing something right.  It was a sports bar full of people that looked to be regulars from around town and not just a tourist stop.  When we left people were dancing and singing happily in response to whoever won the game -can you tell I know ZIP about soccer?!

Sirata Beach Resort

After leaving Horse and Jockey we still hadn’t received a text to check-in early which was a bummer -it would’ve been much more convenient to have a room to “re-group” in with the kids prior to making our way to the beach/pool area but we worked it out regardless.  We headed to the beach where the boys saw the ocean for the first time.  I snapped a ton of pictures and videos of this and will treasure these for years and years to come.  Growing up I fell in love with the ocean on our family vacations.  Being able to experience its beauty with my own little family is something that I had looked forward to for a long time -and continue to look forward to doing again and again in the future.  The sand in your toes, the slow rolling waves, the sunsets, just the sound…are all things that we don’t get to experience on a day to day basis in Central Illinois.  I often wonder if the ocean would lose its “awe factor” if we lived closer to one…you hear that happens, that people take it for granted…for some reason I feel like I wouldn’t.

St. Pete Beach

After taking in our initial ocean views, we made our way back towards the hotel and found a place to sit while the boys played in the sand with their beach toys.

The boys loved playing in the sand and for a short time they argued over who got to swing in the hammock pictured below.  Of course, it made no sense to them to utilize the sister hammock directly across from this one to give them each their own space…I also got a kick out of watching 2 older women trying to get on and off these, it was obvious they had been indulging in a few adult beverages prior.  Seagulls kept landing on the top of these wood posts and both boys would “rawr” at them trying to scare them away.

Playing in the sand at Sirata Beach Resort
Playing in the sand at Sirata Beach Resort

Hotel check-in finally came around 4 as advertised -the boys were wiped out from all the sun and caught a ride back to the car.  While Ben was unpacking our bags, they squealed with delight over the little lizards running back and forth in the grass next to our parking space.

Hotel check-in
Sirata Beach Resort

Our hotel room was what I expected -for the most part.  We had a room with a door entrance leading directly outside whereas there were other rooms with door entrances within the main building.  The main building area was cleaner than the outdoor area (to be expected), but I would have preferred one of the indoor rooms -not a huge deal.  Our bedroom area looked just like the pictures online of the newly renovated rooms, isn’t the “Play More” text a nice touch?  I thought this was super cute. The floors looked brand new as did our small vanity area.  I didn’t feel that the bathroom looked newly renovated, there was rust all along the ceiling which made me feel a little dirty but I pick my battles I suppose.  On the topic of bathrooms, the bathroom outside by the pool (women’s, I can’t speak for the men’s) was disgusting the day I went into it.  It brought me back to a night or two spent at Kam’s back in college…anyone who went to UIUC will know what I’m talking about.  *However, I found a single family bathroom inside which was spotless -I used that the rest of our stay.  Setting these couple of things that didn’t meet my standards for cleanliness aside, I was satisfied with the accommodations.  I’ve got to note that I definitely have a messy house more than a clean house, but it is my own mess which makes it a little more bearable.  We had nice beds, a good pool setup, and we were seconds to the beach which is what really mattered on this vacation.  Our boys have really turned into swimmers this summer and the pool is where they wanted to be all of the time.  There was one afternoon where it started to rain and the pool cleared out.  There wasn’t any lightening or thunder so we took advantage of the extra space as you can see in the video below!

 

Rum Runners Bar & Grille

You can see part of Rum Runners Bar & Grille in the background of the above video.  The day we got here there was a guy playing live music to the left -one of my favorite things in life and the place was hoppin’ with people.  They had a long menu of tropical drinks posted on the wall and of course it just so happened that I ordered the one that came in a huge Malibu bucket -oops.  It seemed like a lot of juice so I was okay! 

Rum Runners Bar & Grille

One night we sat and had dinner here with the friendliest couple -they were from another area of Florida and said they were just getting away for the weekend.  They were older than us and adored our kids.  After further conversation, we learned that he had lost his daughter a few years ago on this date in a freak car accident.  We also learned that she had lost twins minutes after giving birth to them.  They kept expressing how much they just loved to be around “life” and how you can’t take anything for granted.  It was one of those moments where things were really put into perspective for us.  -Like who gives a damn if the hotel bathroom is dirty?  Or if it takes my food an hour to come out?  I’ll take that any day over what this couple had endured.  Yet here they were, living and celebrating life with such grace, despite their hardships.  I think we both left dinner that night feeling a little different than what we had before.

So yes –  Rum Runners Bar & Grille was a winner.  There are plenty of other options in the area to grab drinks and snacks at a “regular” price to have handy at the beach.  You can rack your bill up quickly at the Grille if you aren’t paying attention.  We did a combo of Rum Runners Bar & Grille, things we had already brought with us, and then utilized a store across the street during the day.  Pictured below is part of what Rum Runners Bar & Grille looks like on the other side of the pool.  There is beach seating, you’ll see one of the hammocks that I referenced earlier, and then you are staring right at the ocean. Jack would get to this spot every day and either say “me so tired” or “me so hot” …or a combination of the two over and over again.  I would then carry him the rest of the way to our spot, I couldn’t resist him in his Hawaiian shirt.

St. Pete Beach TimeYep, Chase has one too.  Both of their favorite colors.  These were the complimentary beach chairs that we got -it was extra for the umbrellas, but worth it for the kids.  As you might assume, you needed to get out there early for front row seating.

St. Pete Beach Family Vacation

 

Compass Grille

This was the other onsite restaurant that we visited at Sirata Beach Resort hotel.  Compass Grille serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We came here on the first morning that we woke up at the hotel and used our 2 breakfast vouchers that came with our TravelZoo deal.  The restaurant was clean and we were taken care of right away.  They had a nicely laid out breakfast buffet with the likes of eggs, french toast, bacon, oatmeal, assorted pastries, bread, fruit, etc.  For anyone that knows me, breakfast is easily my favorite meal of the day and I’d be perfectly content eating breakfast food for my lunch and dinner meals on any given day.  It filled us up, but we didn’t return again.  Picture after breakfast before a morning swim, say cheese!

Sirata Beach Resort in St. Pete BeachSwimming!!

Sirata Beach Resort Pool with the familyAnd more swimming, the boys favorite place!

Sirata Beach Resort Pool with the family
St. Pete Beach Family Vacation

And the beach..my favorite place!

St. Pete Beach Family Vacation

Snack Shack at the Postcard Inn on the Beach

We stopped by this little joint on our last day at St. Pete Beach for lunch.  A friend recommended the breakfast at the Boathouse Kitchen & Bar which is also on the Postcard Inn hotel property.  We didn’t make it for breakfast -but if we ever go back I’d like to check it out -it is adorable inside!  This was within walking distance from our hotel, but I didn’t suggest that to my group…if you look below it is a good thing I didn’t…happy, happy faces here!!!  But hey, I’m still soaking in the ocean view behind them.

Snack Shack at the Postcard Inn on the BeachThese guys cheered up when they got to climb up and down the huge chairs in front of the Snack Shack after lunch. Perfect picture opportunity.  Chase is also slowly starting to become my designated picture taker for Ben and I.  We have some hilarious live photos that he took of us on the beach, but those aren’t going to make the blog post.

Postcard Inn on the Beach
Postcard Inn on the Beach

Pictured below…believe it or not these two are in timeout after multiple episodes at and on the way home from the Snack Shack at the Postcard Inn on the Beach.  While in said timeout they made a fort and forget they were even in trouble…

Sirata Beach Resort

Level 11 Rooftop Lounge

Level 11 Rooftop Lounge with my boys
Outfits linked below and all on sale! *I can earn a commission from any purchases made by clicking on these affiliate links -but at no additional cost to you!

Okay, this was easily one of my favorite parts of the trip!  Our neighbors had recommended Spinners Rooftop Revolving Bistro and Lounge, which is a restaurant that revolves on top of the Grand Plaza Hotel (located next door to the Sirata Beach Resort).  On our last night at the beach we decided last minute to try it out, but there was a loooong wait.  We asked if we were allowed to go up to the next floor to Level 11 Rooftop Lounge and were told yes.  I wasn’t really sure if the vibe was suited for toddlers and when we came off of the elevator I was a little worried -no kids in sight…but then I saw the view and I did not care. 

After about 5 minutes we lucked out and a table of 2 left, Ben snagged the table and then the boys just sat in our laps.

Level 11 Rooftop LoungeAdmiring the St. Pete Beach sunsetBreathtakingly beautiful, the boys even enjoyed the view. Also – I did see a few other kids after we sat down, though they were quite a bit older.  We decided to just grab a small bite to eat and 1 drink, then grab a full meal somewhere else where the boys would like the food…like a peanut butter sandwich.  Level 11 Rooftop Lounge is an Artisan Bistro Bar open from 3PM to 1AM serving smaller plates along with yummy drinks -great choices for adults, maybe not for small picky eaters.  We ordered the Sky Sliders described as “pulled pork roasted in chipotle, raspberries & roasted garlic with BBQ sauce, applewood bacon and white cheddar mac ‘n cheese on Hawaiian rolls.”  For me, that is a lot of meat on 1 sandwich…plus the mac ‘n cheese…let me tell you, it was delicious and the best thing I ate the whole vacation!  I’m not sure how I missed their Dessert Flight consisting of “Vanilla bean crème brûlée, Kahlua espresso crème brûlée & Chocolate key lime mousse” …oh. my. gosh!  Had I read that when I was there…you know I would have ordered it.
View from Level 11 Rooftop Lounge on St. Pete BeachChase’s picture taking skills again.  I can only ask strangers to take pictures of us as a whole group so many times…we need a selfie stick.  Ben (“Santa”) actually got me one for Christmas as a stocking stuffer a couple of years ago…for $1 at Walmart…it didn’t work…
At Level 11 Rooftop Lounge on St. Pete BeachBottom line, if you go to St. Pete Beach -make it a point to go to Level 11 Rooftop Lounge.  The view, the music, the food, being with my favorite people -it was a perfect last night.

McDonald’s

…and then this happened…yep, McDonald’s for the win. This picture cracks me up, late night eating at its best!

Late night McDonald's for the Kiddos

The following morning we got up early to head to Disney for 1 day.  Looking forward to sharing that experience when I get around to it!  We stayed on property for the most part while at St. Pete Beach, but if we ever return a day trip to Treasure Island and Ana Maria Island will be on the itinerary as these were both recommended by friends.  I also want to note that the Sirata Beach Resort was recommended by multiple people before we left Illinois and one of my good friends actually stayed there the week after we did and had an amazing experience with some girlfriends from what I hear.  We also heard from the couple that we had dinner with that Tradewinds was a nice place to stay…we could see the different water activities available there from our hotel.  Also worth mentioning is the Don Cesar -get your fancy pants on for this one.  It was the first hotel that we saw when we got to St. Pete Beach and it is immaculate (also recommended by a friend back home).  I’ve left lots of details out so feel free to comment with any questions that you may have about St. Pete Beach or the Sirata Beach Resort and I’ll be happy to respond based off of my experience -which overall was very positive!

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