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When I was little I would eat Spaghetti-Os as often as my parents would let me. I could eat them for lunch and dinner, it didn’t really matter what time it was I loved Spaghetti-Os. I remember the orange stain it would leave in my school thermos, because I would eat them so much it would never come clean.

Of course, this was long before everyone started to become conscious of the ingredients in their foods and what they fed their kids. My mom still questions my almost all organic purchases and whole food ingredients when I make meals for the kids these days. She could be right because I would eat this stuff as much as I could and it didn’t seem to harm me? ... or did it? :/

While shopping at our favorite local market that just happens to be Italian, I came across the Anellini pasta and immediately knew what I wanted to make with them…well, two things; first the Spaghetti O’s and secondly I was going to make a chicken broth soup with these bad boys.

Anellini-pasta

Did you know that these wonderful little circles of yumminess were first introduced back in 1965? And they were marketed to parents as  “less messy” than spaghetti. More than 150 million cans of SpaghettiOs are sold each year! Just a quick glance at the ingredient list and it makes you wonder how this is called “food”.

The great thing is that not only is this recipe easy to whip together but its made with items you have on hand in the pantry!

I hope you enjoy!

Print Recipe
Spaghetti Os
Healthy and delicious Spaghetti Os, made from REAL ingredients with no high fructose corn syrup or ingredients you can’t pronounce. Healthy spaghetti os!
Prep Time 5 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Servings
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Servings
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, stir together all ingredients except the pasta. Bring to a boil, then lower and cook on low until the butter melts completely. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, throw in the pasta and cook until desired texture is reached. Drain, then pat dry with a towel. Pour the pasta into the sauce, and stir to combine. Serve. Before reheating any leftovers, stir and add a little milk of choice if needed.
Share this Recipe
Print Recipe
Spaghetti Os
Healthy and delicious Spaghetti Os, made from REAL ingredients with no high fructose corn syrup or ingredients you can’t pronounce. Healthy spaghetti os!
Prep Time 5 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Servings
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Servings
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, stir together all ingredients except the pasta. Bring to a boil, then lower and cook on low until the butter melts completely. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, throw in the pasta and cook until desired texture is reached. Drain, then pat dry with a towel. Pour the pasta into the sauce, and stir to combine. Serve. Before reheating any leftovers, stir and add a little milk of choice if needed.
Share this Recipe

Warning: This Chicken Gnocchi Soup is addictive!

South Florida hasn’t seen much rain these past few months, little ponds and canals near us on the golf course have dried up leaving just mud. When we heard the heavy rains come pouring down early this morning we both agreed it was a very much needed storm. The only downside is that John was set to golf at noon so that wasn’t going to happen with the constant down pour on the course.
soup7With a somewhat busy Sunday with hockey practice and the kids having a friend over (and it still raining pretty heavy) I thought we might want some warm creamy chicken gnocchi soup, just like Olive Gardens. I came across a recipe on Pinterest a while back that seemed pretty tasty and easy.

I had everything on the ingredients list in the fridge and pantry and plenty of time to cook with the kids being in the pool and hot tub, yes in the rain!

This is actually Chloe’s favorite soup and what she orders every time we go to Olive Garden. In fact, anytime we have to celebrate a special occasion for Chloe she picks Olive Gardens for this soup specifically. I had to kick her out of the kitchen while I making it so that she wasn’t trying to sneak a taste.

A very easy base on this creamy soup from start to finish with prep for the veggies and chicken I was done within an hour.

Olive Garden Copycat Chicken Gnocchi Soup

soup-final
INGREDIENTS

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded ( I use my Cuisinart Smart Stick 2)

1 Tbs olive oil

4 Tbs butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups milk

1 cup carrots, shredded

2 tsp parsley flakes

Salt and pepper for seasoning

1 package (16 ounces) mini potato gnocchi

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

soup2
We like this brand of Gnocchi best in our home
soup4
This is my secret chicken shredding tool. Makes it so quick and easy.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In large dutch oven or stock pot, melt butter and olive oil together.
  2. Add your onions, carrots and garlic and cook until onions become translucent.
  3. Whisk in your flour and let cook for a minute, slowly stir in your chicken broth and simmer until it starts to thicken up.
  4. Meanwhile in pan cook your gnocchi according to package directions, drain and set aside.
  5. Add your milk to your veggie and chicken broth mix and bring to a boil, stir in your seasonings.
  6. Once at a boil reduce heat and add your gnocchi, spinach and chicken simmering until heated through and thickened.
NOTES
  1. You can add celery to this recipe if desired, juts add about 1 cup chopped.
  2. If your soup is too thin for your liking add 1Tbs cornstarch mixed with 1Tbs cold water and stir into your soup until thickened. We prefer our soup a little thinner as you can see in the photos above (it’s great for dipping a fresh baguette)

 

I want to start off by saying that I don’t have anything against the teachers or administration with the exception of my kids last school they attended. The teachers were great and were only listening to the administration and as our friend, neighbor and former teacher at the school quickly found out when you don’t agree with the admin, you get fired. But in general I believe that educators, the real ones in the classrooms each day are under paid, controlled and stripped of their creativity and ultimately that leads to a poor overall experience for the kids and certainly not why the teacher chose the profession in the first place.

So back to the teacher who lives down the street, he wasn’t trying to show the students anything inappropriate, he didn’t use foul language in the classroom, he wasn’t impatient with the kids… none of that. He simply wanted to instill in them a love of reading and choose some classic novels that we all read as children in school at that same age and wanted to do it as a class discussion. Yep, that’s it.

According to the administration at the school, there is no time for this sort of thing in the classroom. They need to be practicing cold, short reads for their upcoming FSA (state testing). Anything outside of the practice tests and quizzes is a complete waste of valuable time.

You know what else is apparently a waste of time these days in school? Recess, socializing with friends on the playground or at lunch time, arts, music, drama, library visits … the list is long and it seems to get longer each year.

I can’t entirely say these were all the reason we decided to homeschool the kids because the truth is that we tried to homeschool our oldest many years ago when we lived in Costa Rica but she had been in the school system just a little too long and wasn’t open to the idea. Of course now many years later as a second year university student (straight A’s too) she says that if she could go back in time she would definitely want to be homeschooled.

nasa-kids
The kids at a homeschool class held at Kennedy Space Center (NASA).
emma-music
Emma during her guitar lessons.

Another big factor in our decision was that we barely got to see the kids. We would hurry them out the door in the morning to make it to school on time for 7am and then not pick them up until 3pm and with after school activities and dinner it was bed time before we knew it. I felt like it was a big flash and it was blazing past us. We are fortunate in that we work from home so homeschooling was an option without much adjust of the schedules, it just required a little more organization and communication between John and I.

I thought being a homeschool family would raise some questions in the community or among people we would encounter during our day while other kids were in school but we are given so much positive feedback and compliments that it’s so encouraging to continue down this path. Other parents don’t ask the same questions they did years ago…”aren’t you worried about socialization?” …. we are now asked “What curriculum are you guys using?”

I have met more homeschool family just out and around town during normal errand running than I ever realized were in my neighborhood.

So if I had to sum up our “why’s” on our choice to homeschool the top of the list would probably be the ability to spend the most time possible with our children, to teach them the morals and values we believe will shape and mold them into productive, compassionate, confident human beings that will one day contribute and make a difference in their own unique ways.

We’re not perfect and we don’t expect this journey to be either, I know there will be good days and bad days but i’m ready to take it on and watch the kids blossom and grow each day.

Not long ago we decided that we would like to try eliminating meat products from our meals at least 2-3 times per week, to start. If everything went well we could gradually take away other days. Mainly because this new type of cooking with just vegetarian or plant based recipes is a little different and can throw me off my schedule and game plan, fast.

One of the books we ordered based on reviews was Thug Kitchen. I had read a few pages online and we were both laughing and agreed that if we were going to pull off this new type of eating why not add a little humor in the kitchen with it. If you don’t have a copy of this book, you need one.

I will have to admit that my texture did not turn out quite like the photo in the recipe book but the taste was still good and we enjoyed the dinner, so I consider it a win!

Going forward I would not cook the split peas as long so that they don’t take on that mushy texture you see in my picture.

RECIPE: {Credit to ThugKitchen.com for this one}

Yellow Split Pea and Green Onion Lettuce Wraps

1-1/2 cups yellow split peas
3 cups of water
Salt

Dipping Sauce:
2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 to 2 tsp of your favorite hot sauce (we used Sriracha)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp of your favorite liquid sweetener (we used liquid stevia from Trader Joes)

Wraps:
2 tsp neutral-tasting oil (grape seed works)
1/2 cup chopped shallots or yellow onion
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 cup minced green onions
2/3 cups shredded carrot (use your box grater for this)
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1-1/2 tsp of soy sauce or tamari
1-1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 head of lettuce such as romaine or red leaf

Directions:

1. Rinse the peas well and then throw them in a medium pot with the water and a pinch of salt and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and let those little peas simmer until they are tender, 10 to 15 minutes (this is where I left them WAY too long so set your phone timer). Once the peas are done drain and rinse them.

2. While the peas are cooking, mix together all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl.

3. Grab a big wok or skillet and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until they start to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger and green onions and let it all cook together for another 30 seconds. Add the split peas and carrots, toss, then add the rice vinegar and soy sauce. Let that simmer together for another 30 seconds while you stir. Add the toasted sesame oil and then turn off the heat.

4. Serve the filling warm or at room temperature with a bunch of lettuce leaves to use as leafy tortillas. Keep the dipping sauce on the side for extra yumminess.

Enjoy!

{Road Trip}
We made a very last minute trip West across Florida to visit with my Aunt and family who were in town visiting from Eastern Canada. Being that it was last minute we didn’t have a lot of time to plan and prepare. With a quick look at hotels available I began to realize that there wasn’t much available and it was a little pricey. I found a new property that Marriott opened under their Fairfield Inn brand and it was just 3 weeks old! Reasonably priced considering the location to the beach and the amenities available we felt it was a good deal, especially since we booked it for same-day arrival.

My next google search was for a place to grab dinner knowing once we made the 4 hour drive we would all be starving. Closest to the hotel (walking distance) was a place called Palm Pavilion and with a 4-star rating and over 430+ reviews, I figured it would be a good choice.

The drive wasn’t terrible but it was much longer than I had really anticipated. We got stuck in traffic just outside of Tampa and it added an extra 40 minutes onto our already long drive. My suggestion to anyone making the drive would be to plan it outside of evening rush hour traffic and to keep your stress levels low.

Arriving to the Clearwater Beach area we passed the Clearwater Aquarium where Hope and Winter the dolphins reside. The Hollywood film “Dolphin Tale 1 & 2” were filmed there and feature the dolphins still living at the aquarium. I had made a mental note of the location so that if all went well in the morning we could plan a quick visit with the kids.

Clearwater_Memorial_Causeway_(7673421282)
Photo Courtesy of Wikiwand.com

I was pretty impressed with the drive over the Clearwater Causeway, it was really pretty and the water was beautiful. The first thing we all noticed driving into the main strip area was the stores and shopping. There seemed to be a store for everything and a great place to enjoy an evening strolling the beachside with family or friends.

Our hotel was about 1.5 miles from the causeway and was directly across from the beach just as described online. The only downside to this property was that there was no self-parking, only valet options at an additional $20/night. The young man at valet was really friendly and welcomed us to the hotel and area. He told us they offered complimentary shuttle with their 6 passenger golf cart to the beach, Palm Pavilion and Frenchie’s on the Beach restaurants. That was a nice perk although the hotel was across the street and a nice walk but I could see families with young children wanting to use the shuttle service.

DINNER 

After checking in we headed over to the valet and jumped onto the shuttle and was taken to the Palm Pavilion restaurant as we had planned before leaving the house earlier. We asked the shuttle drive “Edwin” what he recommended to eat and he actually suggested we eat at Frenchie’s but seeing that we were starving and their average wait time being 45 minutes – 1hr we would never make it through the wait time. Emma gets “HANGRY” big time!

palm-pavilion-beachsidePalm Pavilion was right on the beach and seems to offer live music each night of the week. A generous outside bar seating area and large patio overlooking the ocean and beach for dining, where we were seated. It was busy for a Thursday night and our server was a friendly young man named “CT”. I had no clue what I wanted to eat and I made the terrible mistake of just picking what sounded good from the menu rather than asking what they recommend or their signature dish.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing and a Shrimp Taco. Pretty basic, right?
Well John ordered the exact items with the exception of the shrimp taco, he had the mahi taco. Big mistake! The salad arrived and it was bagged salad thrown in a bowl and topped with canned mandarin oranges and two tiny grape tomatoes. The chicken listed on the menu was supposedly Teriyaki seasoned… when it arrived, it was a huge chunk of sliced deli meat! I don’t know if I was just shocked that they actually served a slab of deli meat on my salad or that perhaps I was expecting an actual breast of chicken, or diced chicken… something other than what arrived. I couldn’t eat it although I tried. John managed to choke his down but was not enjoying his dinner at all. The kids didn’t seem to complain about their food, pretty basic kids meal choices like burger, chicken tenders and fries.

A fairly expensive dinner considering the quality of the food and just “okay” service I probably wouldn’t recommend this restaurant for anything other than drinks on the beach.

We decided to walk around for a little and headed down the street towards the stores, which were all for the most part open and busy about 9:30pm on a Thursday evening. Not something we are use to in our part of Palm Beach. I had promised the kids dessert because I wasn’t giving Palm Pavilion another penny of our money. We had seen several families pass us and they had ice creams and milkshakes all from a place that had “Ice and Cream Creamery” written on the side of the cups.

I thought that would be a good sign of a place to grab something sweet. We found it about 4 blocks away and it had a huge line out the door and down the sidewalk!!! What was this place we all thought. A big sign on the window read “$3 hand spun milkshakes” Well, the price was right and the line said it must be good. We waited about 10 minutes and finally made our way inside.
Ice and Cream Clearwater Beach, FL

A big success, the kids ordered a Nutella milkshake and Smurf cone and we had a banana milkshake and my boring vanilla. They were pretty good, a good treat for the $3 each!

We headed back to the hotel on foot while enjoying our shakes and even stumbled across a nice little cigar store with comfy outdoor seating. John would have stayed and enjoyed the basketball game but we were all pretty tired at that point.

cigar store clearwater beach, flMORNING IN CLEARWATER BEACH

We had a night of heavy rain and it made for a cloudy overcast morning. Our hotel stay came with complimentary hot breakfast in the lobby so we enjoyed a nice start to the day with a good selection of typical breakfast items. As a family of 4 this complimentary breakfast is perfect, that would have easily cost us $50 or more to eat out.

We met with my family at our hotel pool and the kids enjoyed playing while we sat on the deck and watched. There was plenty of seating for both relaxing and sun tanning, it was a great spot although the pool overlooked a neighboring parking lot for rental condos across the street. Perhaps once the trees fill in over time it will provide a little more privacy for hotel guests. Check out time for the hotel was 12 noon so that was convenient if you wanted to look around or have a lazy morning.

Being a short trip and having limited time to visit, we left the hotel and parked at the main beach area and wandered around a little with the kids. We looked in Ron Jon Surf Shop and the kids got a t-shirt and a few small things and we then agreed we would let them run around at the big park on the beach before getting back in the car.

clearwater beach playground

Overall, we enjoyed our very quick trip to Clearwater Beach and would definitely return again with a little more time to explore the area. I think the kids enjoyed the day too but it was a REALLY long drive. I certainly am not looking forward to that again.

Islamorada, Florida  What a TRIP!

Our recent visit to Islamorada in the Florida Keys was such a huge success. We were all very sad to leave, Islamorada provided us with 5 days of some of the best R&R we’ve had in a long time.

We choose to stay at Cheeca Lodge because they are just the very best accommodations when visiting Islamorada. For a family, there is really something for everyone. The hotel grounds are lush with tropical foliage and we love the walking paths that are lit in the evenings with tiki lanterns, it’s so pretty.

 

Upon our arrival with Cheeca Lodge, we were greeted by the front desk staff and a glass of champagne and fresh fruit water for the kiddos. The ambiance sets the tone for the terrific visit ahead.

cheeca-roomWe lucked out and got the 700 building which is a short walk down the tropical path to both the adult pool and the family pool located Ocean front. The rooms at Cheeca are larger than your average double queen room at other hotels. The bathroom offers both a sunken tub and separate shower, which is great when you are traveling with the kids. Our son loved the bubble baths after a long day in the sun and sand. The balcony is screened in and has a small bistro table with chairs so that you can enjoy your morning or evening on the patio watching the tropical birds and even iguanas running around. The screen helps with the bugs – it is the South and the bugs can be fierce but the screen is perfect. We brought a deck of cards and enjoyed playing gin-rummy outside after dinner.

fishing-jackThe kids all found their own little slice of heaven at the hotel. Our youngest loves Camp Cheeca, while our son hits the pier for some fishing. The hotel provides fishing poles and you can purchase your bait right there on property, so it’s convenient for Mom and Dad. We practically had to drag our son off the pier for lunch and dinner. It’s perfect for the kids because it’s safe and there are a ton of other kids from all over the world fishing. Our son met many other boys from as far away as the UK and others from Alabama.

Camp Cheeca is great for kids aged 5 and up, they spend the day playing in the sun and water and offer arts and crafts such as coconut painting. My daughter loved camp so much she didn’t want to leave when it was time for us to pick her up. There are endless activities for the kids if they decide to not do Camp, from paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, bike riding, swimming and tennis. All complimentary and included in your daily resort fee.

With several restaurant options on property from Sushi to Italian you don’t have to go far to enjoy a nice meal with the family. The resort also offers kids night out so that parents can enjoy a romantic dinner over looking the ocean.

cheeca-sushiWe dined our first night at Nikai Sushi, it’s on the roof top of the hotel and has a breath taking view of the ocean, the warm breeze and delicious food made the first night a perfect way to kick off the vacation.

For those of you who know us, breakfast is one of our favorite meals of the day. Our kids are breakfast connoisseurs — and it was unanimous that Cheeca has a really great breakfast buffet. view-from-breakfastThe tables overlook the beachfront and if you’ve not seen a Islamorada morning on the water, you must put it on your bucket list. The ocean is calm and glassy and the sun shining on the water is such an amazing way to start your day. I also love that breakfast is available until 11:30am so if you aren’t an early riser, you don’t have to rush to breakfast!

family-pool-cheeca

 

 

 

 

 

I found myself a nice little shady spot around the family pool that I could relax and catch up on my favorite magazines. The staff at the pool were so friendly and accommodating, they made sure you had everything you needed from ice cold water to fresh towels. They have a great little menu poolside that includes a kids section, they take your order and deliver it to your chairs poolside. Our favorite was the fish tacos and goat cheese salad. Yum!


DAY 2: Adventuring around Islamorada

We had planned a boat rental for the day so that we could do a little snorkeling and the boys could do a little off shore fishing. Thanks to the help of the folks at Keys Boat Rental located at Smuggler’s Cove we had a perfect little 19ft Angler for the day. With the help of the bait shop at Smuggler’s, we were setup for fishing and a great map of the best snorkeling off Islamorada. We picked Hen and Chicken Reef because it was directly out of the channel and slightly to the North. We tied up on the buoy and the kids jumped into the beautiful blue waters. Immediately they were greeted by a school of parrot fish wearing bright yellow lipstick, our youngest was thrilled that they were all around her.

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Our next stop on our boat adventure was to the Islamorada Sand Bar, where you can anchor and wander around the sand bar looking for star fish, small fish and of course take in the sights and sounds of other boaters parked next to you. We happened to come in next to a group celebrating a wedding from North Carolina and joined in on a game of Sand Bar Baseball… It was a riot!

To keep everyone in our boat happy (the fisher boy) we headed out of the sand bar after a few hours of relaxing and went straight out about 1/4 mile to a 15-18ft depth to drop our fishing poles. We had frozen shrimp for our bait, per the suggestion of the Smuggler’s bait shop owner. There were plenty of bites but unfortunately we didn’t catch anything. I like to think that we fed the fish on our way back into the marina 😉

It’s all good though, everyone on the day trip had a great time and did something they each enjoyed.

Upon returning the boat to the Smuggler’s Cove marina, we were met at the dock by a gentleman who helped us tie up and as part of the rental you are responsible for the gas on return. The whole day on the boat cost us a whopping $15!!! Yep, that’s right. An entire adventure on the water in our own boat …. total cost: $250 for the full day 8am-5pm and the gas: $15 = $260!

I love when a great plan comes together…

We were pretty wiped out from the full day in the hot sun so we decided to grab a pizza on the way back into the hotel. There is a little restaurant just on the other side of the road from Cheeca called “Tower of Pizza” they offer a great little menu from pizza to Italian dishes. We ordered pizza and their chicken parmesan and it was a huge amount of food that was very tasty. They will deliver to Cheeca too, but picking up is just across the street. You can actually walk out the front gate of the hotel and it’s just to your South. They offer dine-in tables too if you want to eat in.

Day 3: Pool side fun and birthday dinner celebration

We set this day to be a “nothing” day. Meaning, we had zero plans except for dinner at 6pm. Our youngest pleaded to do the half day PM camp and our son of course wanted to be loaded up with bait and left to fish at the pier, ALL DAY LONG. I found a spot poolside and our oldest joined me with a book. Knowing the kids were having a great time, it was really nice that I could truly relax and enjoy some time in the sun. I actually closed my eyes for a little poolside nap for about 20 minutes. When was the last time you napped ocean front ? Exactly. 

Around 3pm we pried our son off the pier and the 4 of us grabbed some bikes from the guest adventure house and rode to the ice cream shop just outside the resort. Our youngest isn’t the best at riding just yet so we wanted to do this while she was enjoying camp. The main street can get a little busy outside the resort, but there are sidewalks some of the way. The bikes were great, they had little baskets on the front for all our wallets and waters. The little ice cream shop was cute and offered a great selection. My husband rode a little further while we were enjoying our ice creams to his favorite little cigar shop just North of the resort called “Cigars in the Keys”, the family owned shop has a great selection of cigars and the pricing is very reasonable. We sent a few hotel guests to the shop once they smelled the cigar my husband enjoyed on the beach later that afternoon. Check them out!

We headed to our dinner reservations at Lazy Days which is about 3 miles South of the hotel. The restaurant is an open air space that offers an upstairs dining experience both inside and out overlooking the ocean and they recently opened the beachfront dining which has tables directly on the beach. We reserved a few weeks in advance because they do get busy and there is always a wait for the outside tables. The menu is typical Keys entrees; seafood, steak and lots of conch! They offer a daily chef special that has at least a dozen entrees to choose from. My husband and I started with their recommendation of Oysters Rockefeller and they were really good. Lots of sauce and cheese! We both chose entrees from the chef specials, I had the blackened rib-eye and he had the snapper sautéed in a key lime butter. Large portions and delicious flavor on both our meals. The kids ordered from the kids menu which offered a great selection such as steak, chicken, fish and burgers. They both had the steak and it came with fries. Our oldest had the Filet and she said it was really good too.

We passed on desert because we were so full, there was just no space left — I had spotted a Starbucks that was newly opened the previous day on our way back from the boat rental and we thought a little after dinner coffee was the perfect way to end the day. The Starbucks is located in the Post Card Inn parking lot.

DAY 4: More relaxing and Camp Cheeca

We pretty much did absolutely nothing on this last day of our trip. Camp, fishing, relaxing poolside, eating and sunbathing.

After another perfect breakfast buffet on the water, I hit the chairs to enjoy my magazines and the kids were off to their pier fishing and camp activities. The weather was perfect, although hotter and more humid than the previous days, the pool was the fix for that.

Around 3pm we decided to head out on the kayaks and take in the view of the resort and neighboring properties. I’m not sure if you watch Bloodline the netflix TV series, but it’s filmed next door to the Cheeca Lodge at a place called the Moorings. It’s a great show filmed in Islamorada and if you watch it, you can easily point out many spots featured in the show. From the kayak you can paddle along the beach and see the resort and the main house where the tv series takes place. Just off the beach is an old tree that broke off during a lightning storm and settled in the water. It’s now home to many little creatures and fish that you can see in the foot of water. We saw several Rock Lobster and the tiniest little tropical fish. Bring your snorkel mask if you’ve got one, you can have a lot of fun out there.

When we returned to our room that afternoon, we were greeted by a delightful tray filled with fresh fruits, cheese and a bottle of champagne and sparkling waters. The card attached was thanking us for our stay and was signed from Bob, the new general manager of the hotel. It’s this type of first class guest service that makes Cheeca Lodge the best accommodations in Islamorada. During our week stay, the room was always clean, fresh towels upon our return from the beach and even a turn down service with shell shaped chocolates on our pillows. Fresh bottled water for us in our room each day, complimentary. It really is the little things that make your stay that much more enjoyable.

Our last night we dined at one of our favorite spots, the Lorelei restaurant. It’s waterfront dining is situated on the Florida Bay “Back Country” and offers the most amazing sunset dinners. The food at lorelei’s is excellent. Our favorites is their conch chowder, fish tacos and their chef prepared daily fish entree. michaeltrixxEach night there is live music, some of the best in The Keys. A few nights a week they offer a magic show by a gentleman named Michael Trixx — he is a former rock band bassist and his magic show is outstanding. It happens just after sunset and the lighting and specials effects with his show are not to be missed. My kids look forward to the show every time we visit.

The cons of this trip… having to leave!

 

You’ve heard us say before that sometimes the best getaways are the ones in our very own backyard. Well we got invited to visit our local mini golf – family fun center called Lighthouse Cove. This tropical fishing village-themed, 36-hole miniature golf course featuring dramatic sea life, boats, waterfalls, caves and more. While playing you get to experience the history of Jupiter on one of their two courses.

lighthouse-cove-adventure

With summer vacation coming up, we’re sure you’re looking for great activities around town to enjoy some quality family time.  We were invited to check out this local hot spot and we were so happy to have spent an evening with them. You’ll find Lighthouse Cove at 617 N A1A, right by Jupiter Beach Road.

When we arrived there, it was pretty busy and we could tell that the staff definitely had their hands full. Despite how busy they were, the staff was still incredibly friendly and helpful. They made the process of getting set up with golf balls and putters very easy.

We ended up settling with the 18-hole game, which is only $11.99 plus tax. They offer a few discounts for seniors, military, and children under five years old. If you plan on staying there for a long time, you can buy 36 holes for $13.99 or get unlimited play for $16.00 plus tax. They also have two different 18-hole courses, Lost Lagoon or Paradise Falls. Both courses looked like fun, but we ended up choosing Lost Lagoon because it looked slightly more challenging. If you have any really little children, I would recommend going with Paradise Falls because it’s stroller accessible. The entire facility is very well maintained and clean. I really liked that they brought a local aspect to the design of their courses by including the Jupiter lighthouse.

Lighthouse Cove Adventure Golf is a great spot for both kids and adults alike. While we were there we saw several kids leaving from a birthday party hosted there. After some research online, I found that they offer a few different birthday party packages, which can be great for any parents looking to plan their child’s birthday party. However, this is also a really great spot for adults. The courses are fun but challenging enough to still keep adults entertained.

Looking to grab a bite to eat and enjoy mini golf? No problem! There is also The Burger Shack and 3 Scoops Ice Cream at Lighthouse Cove. They have premium burgers, beer, a children’s menu and take-out. If you want to top off the night with something sweet, try out 3 Scoops Ice Cream. The ice cream shop sells 16 flavors of premium ice cream, milkshakes, iced coffees, soda floats, and more.

Overall, I would recommend Lighthouse Cove Adventure Golf for anyone looking to have a fun-filled time with friends and family. For more information, visit their site here.

Looking for more reviews of businesses here in Jupiter? Keep an eye on this blog for more upcoming reviews of small businesses in our community.

We are HUGE Harry Potter fans in this house so naturally being Florida residents it only made sense for us to purchase annual passes so that we could enjoy the Harry Potter attractions year-round. I was very surprised when I looked up the pricing for the passes, it was reasonable.

For my family of 5 the total cost on the passes per year was $250 each AND if we paid in full rather than take the monthly payment option that was offered, they would throw in 3 additions months of access for no extra cost. So we have passes for the next 15 months!

We’ve been to Universal Studios in Hollywood, California and it was “ok”… I get that it’s old and run down but I found it to be really old and needing some TLC. Let’s say I wasn’t terribly impressed and wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back on our next LA visit.

With that in mind I was a little nervous about our new purchase, I’d heard great things about Universal Studios Orlando but what if it was the same run-down experience as we’d had before?

We started planning on first visit within a few days of buying the passes. A perk of having the passes is that it comes with annual pass holder discounts, even on hotel stays. We visited the website and found a 50’s theme hotel “resort” Cabana Bay Resort that seem to offer something for everyone in the family. Bowling, arcades, fitness center, GIANT swimming pool, lazy river, food court and best of all FAMILY SUITES! Hurray!

Prices were a little higher than what we would typically like but it was peak season and we were traveling last minute. The family suite on the main floor overlooking the main pool was $329 per night. The many amenities at the hotel made up for the high room rate, at least in my opinion!

The staff were helpful and friendly when booking and explained that we could check-in anytime on the day of our arrival and if the room wasn’t ready we could keep our belongings in the car and enjoy the hotel until the room was prepared. With so much to do at the hotel, you really want to maximize your time and get to experience it all.

ROAD TRIP!

Our drive went well, no hiccups along the way (thank you Florida Turnpike) and we arrived to the hotel about 1pm. It was really well decorated and my husband thought it was hilarious that the outside of the hotel reminded him of the 50’s, they even had old cars parked out front as if they were really guest cars. Super Fun!

To our amazement, our room was ready early and they allowed us to check-in. The hotel lobby was big and very open and there was a big Universal Studio’s gift shop with so much cool stuff to look at. They even had a ticket kiosk that you could purchase tickets to the parks right there rather than waiting at Guest Services at the park. Our annual passes had to be picked up at the park however, but that wasn’t such a big deal.

Our room was BIG, it had a mini fridge, microwave, sink with disposable cutlery and plates and even a small coffee maker. The counter had stools so the kids could enjoy a snack or breakfast if you wanted to purchase groceries and bring them with you. Opposite the mini kitchen was the livingroom area with two arm chairs and a nice size couch and flat screen TV. Perfect for the family to relax.

The bathroom in the family suite is divided into two areas, the sink being the divider, the toilet behind one door and the shower on the other side with door. So we can speed up the time it takes to get ready in the morning!

Being a large family and having a tall husband (6’4″) it’s important that we have a large bed. The queen beds in the room were perfect for him. Comfy pillows and nice mattresses too! There is also another flat screen TV mounted to the wall so you can watch your show while the kids are in the living room watching their programs. There is a sliding door that separates the rooms so that noise isn’t a factor.

Overall, we were really impressed with the size of the rooms.

We enjoyed the pool for a few hours and got changed and headed to the food court to fuel up before heading to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. The food court had so many choices, from tradition American cuisine to Asian and Cuban dishes. The kids liked the pasta/pizza station and split a large cheese pizza which was actually very tasty. Most hotels have terrible pizza!

I really loved that they had a salad bar. So many toppings for my salad from proteins to seeds and veggies. It was all fresh and looked fantastic. I filled a large bowl with all my favorites and was impressed with the cost $8.00 for a hefty salad creation.

With our belly’s full we headed out the food court doors to the bus stop in the hotel front parking lot. The bus was waiting and we hopped right on. The drive from the hotel to the park is literally 4 minutes, but taking the hotel bus avoids parking and it drops you right at the entrance to City Walk.

There were so many restaurants and shops to look at on City Walk that you would really need to allow yourselves at least an hour to see it all. All the major stores from Rayban to Billabong. We saw a few cute things we wanted to stop and look at.

The restaurants are great, you’ve got Bubba Gump’s, Cowfish which is an American sushi fusion place that is decorated adorably. They have a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville which would be a lot of fun with friends or just for drinks. They had live music and I believe it’s every day, all day!

We finally made our way into the park gate and I immediately noticed a big difference from this park to the one we visited in Los Angeles. It was immaculate and clean and a real theme park. It would put it’s sister park on the other Coast to shame. Sorry Los Angeles 😉

Want to know where our first stop at Island’s of Adventure was? Stay tuned for our next blog….

Why we love Magic Bullet Nutribullet

We. cannot. live. without. this. machine. PERIOD.
Many years ago we were the proud owners of a Jack Lalanne Juicer, at the time it was really the only affordable option for healthy living and juicing. It was a pain in the butt to clean and I always felt like we got such a small amount of juice for so much fruit and veggies. I disliked it so much that it never got used and ended up collecting dust and eventually either going to the church donation center or being given to a friend, either way it was gone.

I think our friend Mark from Ventura California introduced us to the Nutribullet, in fact I’m sure of it. John went on a surprise visit for his 25th sober birthday and Mark was using it to make his special morning coffee recipe. John fell in love with the coffee being made that way and called to tell me all about. Mark also made smoothies and other yummy stuff in it so I grabbed the costco membership card and headed over to pick one up.

It was love at first spin <3

I remember making a berry smoothie and it was so quick and easy and tasty too! Best part, no mess! Rinsed the blade and threw the cup in the dishwasher and boom! Healthy snack and I felt great.

Of course the next step was to find as many nutribullet recipes on pinterest as I could for every member of our household. Chloe with the nuts allergies, Emma doesn’t like blueberries, Jack doesn’t like anything with a green color to it. I quickly realized that I could hide a decent amount of leafy greens in Jack’s smoothies and by adding frozen berries he never would figure it out. Mom Score!

We use the Nutribullet so much in our home that when we left for our road trip it went with us. Coffee, smoothies at the hotel, quick snack ideas while on the road… you name it, we did it!

After a tremendous amount of use and abuse sadly our first nutribullet died. It was a good stretch of about 2 solid years of use, 3-5 times a day. I made nut milk too so it took a beating.

Thank goodness for our Amazon Prime membership because this was a free next day delivery,  and let me tell you that it was a rough 24 hours. I even contemplated going to Tropical Smoothie to get my fix for the day, it was that bad.

With the new machines arrival there were a few upgrades to the look, mostly the color but the cups and size were all the same. It has an impressive selection of cups for both travel in the car and even a screw on lid that you can safely transport in a bag or car without having to worry about spills. I sometimes make a smoothie to take to the beach or pool and never worry about spills in the bag. You can also order replacement parts from Amazon or direct from the Nutribullet website.

One of my favorite smoothie recipes:

green-smoothie

Lean Green

Ingredients
2 slices of melon (i like cantaloupe)
Handful of fresh mint leaves
1/2 bag of fresh spinach (2 cups or so)
1/2 mango (I prefer 1/2 cup of frozen mango)
Quarter of a cucumber
4 oz of apple juice (I use Simply Apple juice brand)
2 tbsp of plain yoghurt (greek)
Ice Cubes

Put the spinach in the blender. Blend until it’s reduced. Add everything else. Blend together.

You can always look at our Pinterest board for more recipe ideas, there are tons of them on there and plenty for even the pickiest tastebuds.