Sunday, April 27, 2014

Epcot Touring Plan

On our third day at Disney World we decided to go to Epcot.  Since we stayed at the Dolphin resort we had the option to either walk to Epcot or take the water taxi.  We chose to walk in the morning.  A short 15 minute walk and we were at the entrance to Epcot.  It was fantastic! 

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Some trips and tricks about Epcot

1.  The Layout.  Epcot is broken down into two parts, Future World and the World Showcase.  Future World contains quite a few of the rides and the large dome that is commonly associated with Epcot.  This part of Epcot also opens first.  The second part, World Showcase, opens at 11:00 am each day and features 11 countries.  Most countries have a restaurant, gift shop and attraction of some sort - whether that be a ride, a movie, an art gallery, etc.

2.  Time Management.  Try and maximize your time at Epcot by not going back and forth between Future World and World Showcase.  This way you won't spend a lot of time walking back and forth.

3.  Check out the food.  Each country has their own restaurant, so the food choices there are great!  A lot of the restaurants take reservations in advance, usually 180 days out from your trip.  Try and make reservations - otherwise you might not get a table.  Had it not been raining when we went to Epcot we would have enjoyed some food and beverages outdoors. 

4.  Future Ideas.  Epcot has a lot of great attractions throughout the year.  They have a garden show, food and wine festival and races just to name a few.  Sometime in the future we would like to go back and run in the Disney Princess race's.  How fun if we all dressed up!  I envision L in a cute runner's princess outfit, a tutu for me, a princely crown for C, and a full prince outfit for the hubby.  Wee!

5.  Rides.  Quite a few rides at Epcot seemed to have height requirements.  If you have a child that is a little older, check out Soarin' and the Test Track.  We will be doing those the next time around!

Our Touring Plan

8:00 Breakfast at Akershus with Belle (in Norway). 
This was one of the best things we did the whole time we were at Disney World.  I was HIGHLY recommend a character breakfast.  This one was fantastic.  I scheduled our breakfast for 8:00 am, which meant we were able to enter the park a full HOUR before anyone else.  It was so peaceful walking to breakfast without a large crowd.  This really gave us a chance to see the layout of Epcot before there were big crowds.  Back to the breakfast.  We were seated quickly and the buffet portion began.  On the buffet was yogurt, fresh fruit, fresh pastries, bagels, smoked fish and an assortment of cheeses.  What a great way to start our meal.  After we had given our drink orders, out came the family style breakfast food.  We had an egg bake, breakfast potatoes, sausage and bacon.  What did L, eat?  The chef at the restaurant personally came out and discussed with us what she could have.  He had Van's waffles that she was able to eat, along with the fresh fruit and bacon.  They only serve real maple syrup, so she was able to eat that too.  Win, win!  The family style food is also unlimited, so if you are still hungry, fill up!

One of the best parts of this breakfast is the fact that the princesses come directly to your table.  Here you have a great opportunity to talk with them, take pictures and get autographs.  Our little mister man even got his first kiss from someone other than his momma.  I suppose a princess will do.  : ) 

I noticed while eating, that a person at a different table was celebrating a birthday at this breakfast.  A cake was brought out to them, and the princesses helped sing happy birthday.  How fantastic would that be?!?!

9:30  The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Zero wait time.  Our next stop took us to a Nemo ride. Here the ride takes you on a journey through the story of Nemo.  At the end you have the opportunity to view large aquariums of fish.  A cute ride that L, enjoyed!

Turtle Talk with Crush.
Zero wait time.  We then walked into Turtle Talk with Crush.  In this activity you sit in a room with a large screen.  Crush, the turtle from Nemo, appears and you are able to talk with him and ask him questions.  Very cute and very fun!  L was a little disappointed she wasn't able to ask her question, but otherwise a very fun activity. 

 Epcot Character Spot
Zero wait time.  Next we journeyed over to the character spot to meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto again.  Cute interactions with the characters and little wait time!  If you want to meet Donald again, he is located in Mexico.

Explore the future world labs.
Zero wait time.  Next we checked out some of the Innovation spots in Future World.  These didn't hold L's attention very well, so we didn't spend a lot of time there!

World Showcase Opens.

11:00 Meet Mulan in China
5 minute wait time.  At 11:00 am the World Showcase opens and we headed straight in to meet Mulan.  She was very personable.  Another great meet and greet.  There are other princesses at Epcot (Belle, Aurora, Snow White and Jasmine) but we just meet Mulan.  Jasmine was not available to meet.  Aladdin was (more on that later).

Tour the countries.
Zero wait time.  We began our walk through each of the different countries.  Had the weather been nicer we would have stopped and had a cold beverage or snack at the different countries, but it was pretty rainy that day.  Each country usually offers a gift shop, an attraction of some kind (art gallery, ride, movie, etc) and a restaurant.  We browsed through there and continued on.

Meet Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco.
We were hoping to meet Jasmine and Aladdin here, but Jasmine was not available.  Aladdin said she was off on a magic carpet ride.  Aladdin was very friendly through.  I felt bad for L, she even wore her Jasmine shirt just to meet Jasmine.  Oh well.

Snacks in Germany.
Since we are of German heritage, we decided to have some snacks in Germany.  We had black forest cake, a wurst of some kind and some caramel popcorn.  Delicious!

Break time!
The rain was picked up quite a bit, so we decided to head back to the hotel and take a break.  We grabbed a light snack because we were still full from breakfast and rested in our hotel room for a bit.  This was well worth the time!

IllumiNations Reflections of Earth.
We used a FastPass+ for this.  The FastPass+ gets your preferred seating for the fireworks show.  The fireworks take place over the large pond that the WorldShowcase is centered around.  We had front row seats.  This was great!  The fireworks were spectacular.  During the show a large globe ascends out of the water and different scenes are shown on it while the fireworks and lasers are going off.  We all really enjoyed it.

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Epcot was great!  I enjoyed our time at the World Showcase.  I felt as though we could be more relaxed here since we had already met so many princesses at Magic Kingdom and at breakfast that morning.  The walk over along the boardwalk was also really nice.

Next up .... Animal Kingdom!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Magic Kingdom Touring Plan ~ Princess Edition

Our trip to Disney World was mainly centered our our daughter, L, and her LOVE of princesses.  She was SO EXCITED to meet all of the princesses and do see and do everything princess related.  To maximize our time there and to make sure we got to see everything we wanted to, we made a plan.  Here is a list of things to do before you go on your trip and while you are there.

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1.  Make A List.  As a family we sat down and went though the Disney World website and marked all of the rides and attractions we wanted to do.  We then prioritized them things we absolutely wanted to do and things that if we didn't get them, it'd be ok.  Our list pretty much ended up being do all things princess related, meet Mickey and Minnie and ride Dumbo.  Anything else was extra - but we got to do them because of planning.

2.  Pack Good Shoes.  This might sound silly, but according to a FitBit that was with us on our trip, we walked over 10 miles one day alone at the Magic Kingdom.  You'll also need good shoes so you can outrun all of the other people after the rope drop to make it to your starting point.  I turned this into a competition and boy it felt good to pass SO MANY people on our way to Enchanted Tales with Belle.  Literally some people walk in slow motion.  More on this later.

3.  Make A Touring Plan.  I read a lot of blogs on the Internet about touring plans (you can easily find them on pinterest or Googling touring plans for Disney World), checked out Kenny the Pirate, and sat down with the hubs to make our plan.  We looked at a map of Magic Kingdom and planned our the best route.  Everything I read, and what I would recommend, is to start in the back at New Fantasyland and work your way towards the front.  If you can outrun / walk the people back there you'll get on a ton of rides with no wait!  Literally we walked into Enchanted Tales with Belle, walked onto Dumbo, walked onto the Barnstormer roller coaster, waited 10 minutes for Ariel, and waited 10 minutes for Donald and Mickey.  IT WAS AWESOME!  So much accomplished in a short period of time!

4.  Set Up Your FastPass+.  Because we stayed at the Dolphin resort we were not able to set up our FastPass+ ahead of time.  We also did not have the wristbands that go along with it.  As I understand it, those were only available for people staying at certain Disney property resorts.  I believe they will be available for everyone soon.  We were able too (as would anyone with a valid ticket would) set up our FastPass+ inside the park.  When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, there were very friendly cast members waiting with I-Pads to set up your FastPass+ for you.  If you have the MagicBand, you can do this yourself before you leave for your trip.  However you get to use it - USE IT!  It was so nice to by-pass the lines for for 3 events.  Don't forget that your group doesn't all have to do every FastPass+ thing together.  For example, at Animal Kingdom I did not want to ride Expedition Everest, but the hubby did, so he got a FastPass for that, and myself and L got one for Bug's Life.  Anyway, pick the most important things to you, that you are not going to do first thing in the morning, and FastPass+ away!

5.  Bring Your Plan With You.  I had a hard copy of our plan printed out and in my purse the whole trip.  I saw some people with their plans on an electronic device, and others using the My Disney Experience App.  However you chose to do it, don't forget it!  I saved mine to my google drive also, so I would have a back up copy if necessary.

6.  Download the My Disney Experience App.  This app was fantastic.  I used it the most for ride wait times.  While I had a specific plan, there was a few times we flipped flopped a couple of attractions with each other because the wait time was shorter at one ride than other.  The maps on here are also amazing.  We were looking for our restaurant for diner one night and were able to walk right to it using the map.  You can also record your touring plan on there and it keeps track of your restaurant reservations and FastPass schedules.  So handy and FREE!

7.  Look Up When Extra Magic Hours Are At Each Park.  I researched, using Disney World's website when the extra magic hours were for each park.  It worked best for us to go to Magic Kingdom when it opened an hour earlier in the morning.  Going on a day when it was open late wasn't going to work out so well with a 4 year old and a baby.  I also liked the extra magic hours in the morning because that meant the night time parades and fireworks were earlier.  Again, do what works best for your family, but research when they are!


Here is the plan we followed for our first day at the Magic Kingdom.  Keep in mind we made use of the extra magic hours in the morning.  These worked the best for our family since our kiddos do better getting up early than staying up super late.  You'll have to make the best choice for your family.  I'll also include rough time estimates do you know how long things took.

7:00     Take the shuttle from your hotel to Magic Kingdom.  The first shuttle left our hotel an hour before the park opened.  We were not the first ones there when we arrived.  Go through the bag check and then you arrive at the gates where you can wait for the rope drop.  At this point there were cast members there to help us set up our FastPass+'s.  We waited in line to enter the park.  We did not push to the middle to see the welcome show.  If we would have been in the middle of the entrance area with a good view of the show, we would have been behind a TON of people trying to get into the park.  In my mind, racing to the back was a giant competition that I needed to win.  I'm a little competitive.  Plus you want to beat all of the slower walkers to the back of the park.

7:45     The welcome show begins.  A train arrives bringing Mickey and friends to the park.  It's cute and all, but not something I needed to see when I have bigger things to get too.  It's up to you.  YouTube a video of it to decide if you want a front row seat, or if you can listen to it and get yourself ready for a foot race.

8:00     Mickey opens the park and they 'drop the rope' and let you in.  The race is on!  Weave your way to the back of the park.  Go straight down Main Street USA through the castle and to the right back to New Fantasyland.  You'll be glad you did.  My parents might not have been so glad when they didn't get breakfast and I didn't build in potty breaks, but it all worked out.  I'll list the rides we did next in order along with the approximate wait times and a quick description of it.

Enchanted Tales with Belle
Zero wait because we hustled back there.  They only take in a few people at a time, so get there first!  The wait times later in the day were 60 minutes or more.  This was cute.  The basic idea is that you are putting on a show for Belle, recreating the day her and the Beast fell in love.  Each kid there can participate in the story.  L got to be Chip.  She was so excited!  You practice, then perform for Belle.  At the end you get to meet Belle and have your picture with her.

Ariels' Grotto
Next, head right over to Ariels Grotto and ride the ride.  Zero wait time.  We walked right on.  You ride in a clam shell and go through the story of the Little Mermaid.  It's pretty cute!

Meet Ariel
10 minute wait time.  Walk out of Ariel's Grotto and go to the next stop, the Ariel meet and greet.  She was so friendly and L got her picture with her.

***Quick potty and coffee break at Gaston's Place***

Ride Dumbo
2 minute wait time.  So much fun!  If there is a longer wait during the day, there is a play area between the 2 Dumbo rides now where you can wait and play.  We walked basically right on (we had to wait for the ride to end before we could get on).

Barnstormer Roller Coaster
5 minute wait time.  I'm not a roller coaster person, but this one was ok because it's a kiddie coaster.  L liked it!

Meet Donald and Goofy
10 minute wait time.  When you arrive at the meet and greet tent, you have a choice between Donald and Goofy and Minnie and Daisy.  We decided on Donald and Goofy first.  Wait a great meet and greet!  L asked Donald to 'shake his booty' for her, and he did!  So cute to see them both shakin' their tale feathers.

***Here is where we changed plans.  I had a FastPass+ to meet Rapunzel and Snow White.  Instead of staying and going back through the line and meeting Minnie and Daisy, we went and met Rapunzel and Snow White.  We chose to come back and meet Minnie in a little bit.  The line for Minnie and Daisy was a little long and I was worried about missing our FastPass+ window. 

Meet Rapunzel and visiting princess (Used FastPass+) at Princess Fairytale Hall
Zero wait time.  Another good meet and greet.  Rapunzel was very friendly and talked a lot about Pascal to L.  The visiting princess was Snow White.  She was great too!  Be prepared when you walk out of Princess Fairytale Hall there is a big gift shop just waiting for you : )

Meet Minnie and Daisy at Pete's Big Top Silly Circus at the end of New Fantasyland
15 minute wait time.  L has had a little stuffed Minnie Mouse doll since she was really little.  We brought her along to Disney, because she goes everywhere with us, and she was able to show the real Minnie, her Minnie.  What a special moment.  Minnie Mouse was super sweet and L was so excited to meet her.  Again, big ole gift shop waiting for you on your way out  : )

It's a Small World
Wait time was too long because the ride was broken down, so we abandoned plans and rode the carousel.  We rode Small World on our second day there.  We would have went on it, if the ride was not broken at the time.

Prince Charming's Regal Carousel
Zero wait time.  Fun carousel ride!

 Meet Cinderella and Visiting Princess (Used FastPass+) at Princess Fairytale Hall
Zero wait time.  We met Cinderella, L's absolute favorite, and Aurora next.  This was the best meet and greet.  Cinderella even recorded a quick message for a disabled girl my Mom works with.  So sweet and thoughtful.

Check on lunch.  We had planned on eating at Belle's restaurant, but the wait time was over an hour.  I wanted to take a break in the afternoon, and waiting over an hour to eat would have taken that break away, so we changed plans, and decided not to eat there.

Meet Tiana
10 minute wait time.  I had not planned on meeting Tiana now, but we saw her and the line wasn't too long, so we waited and got to meet her.  She is one of the sassier princesses, but L enjoyed the meet and greet non the less.

Break and Lunch
We rode the shuttle back to our hotel and ate lunch there.  We also took a couple hour break.  The baby crawled around the hotel room, L watched a little TV and played on the I-pad, and the hubby and I just relaxed.  This was much needed.  The morning was so fun and so stimulating that it was nice to take a little break.


Ride Aladdin's Magic Carpet
10 minute wait time.  Super fun ride.  Very similar to Dumbo, but still fun.  Beware of the camel, he spits water when it's warmer out, and he might just get you.

 Meet Jasmine and Aladdin
I had planned to Jasmine and Aladdin now, but due to rainy weather, the meet and greet was canceled.  Just know that if it is rainy, some of the outdoor meet and greets will be moved, or canceled.  We did meet Jasmine on our second day at Magic Kingdom

We ate an early dinner at The Plaza on Main Street USA.  Cute restaurant, that offered allergy friendly food.  The interior could use some updating, but the food was good and it was very conveniently located.

Meet Micky using FastPass+
After dinner we headed back to the front of Magic Kingdom and met Mickey.  At this meet and greet, Mickey actually talks to you and for us, performed a magic trick, along with spinning and dancing with L.  This was worth using the FastPass+ on.  We knew we wanted to meet Mickey, and the wait time to meet him was over 30 minutes.

*** Now would be a good time to split up your group.  Some people need to get a spot for the Electrical parade and Wishes (the fireworks show) and the rest can go meet Merida.  The best spot to view the parade is on the corner near the Plaza restaurant, or across the street.  You are basically on the turn of the street and have a great view of the castle and of the parade.

Meet Merida
Wait time 25 minutes.  This was one of the longest wait times.  I had not planned on waiting so long, but there was some sort of issue with the meet and greet and it took longer than expected.  Very nice princess and meet and greet.

Watch the Electrical Parade
Again, sit on the corner near the Plaza restaurant and enjoy this parade.  So many characters are part of the show.  If you are looking to save some money, purchase glow sticks before you leave for your vacation and bring them with you.  Then when your babies are asking you to purchase them in the park, you have some to pass out.  You'll save a ton of money!

Watch the Wishes Fireworks Show
Unfortunately, we did not get to see the fireworks show.  It started to downpour so we decided to leave.  The rain did not let up until late into the night, so this ended up being the right choice.  According to some Magic Kingdom workers, the fireworks are pre-loaded and must be shot off every night because of this.  They will shoot them off, it just may be very late into the night.

Race the crowd back to the shuttles and head back to your hotel
Just be aware that everyone will be leaving the park at one time and you might need to wait for your shuttle bus.  We actually ran to the bus station because we saw the bus coming and made it!

There you have it!  One day at the Magic Kingdom - princess style!  I'll be posting day 2 at Magic Kingdom complete with Dole Whips, meeting Jasmine and lots of non-princess activities, and our touring plans at Epcot and Animal Kingdom soon!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Allergy Free Disney Vacation!

In early February we took a family vacation to DisneyWorld!  We were so excited.  Our little lady (L) had just turned 4 and was BEYOND excited to meet all of the princesses.  Our little mister (C) was just about one, and while we didn't really know where we were going, he was excited!  Me, I was a little nervous.  A week away from home trying to figure out how to be a meat-eating, gluten-free vegan was going to be a lot of work.   So I started making a plan.  Once I got planning I just kept going and going!  We have touring plans, meal plans, list of foods we could eat at restaurants, etc.  But, because of all that planning, we had a fantastic vacation!

Here are a list of things that we found to be extremely important when planning an Disney vacation with allergies!

1.  PLAN.  Planning is so important to your trip.  I researched the restaurants at all of the Disney parks we would be visiting to find out which ones had meals that were allergy friendly, or that could be modified to be allergy friendly.  I've included the list that I researched.  I actually found that most of Disney is pretty allergy friendly!

2.  MAKE RESERVATIONS.  One of the perks of going to Disney is that you can make reservations for your meals.  Some of these meals may cost a little more than picking up a snack at a quick service or counter service restaurant (a restaurant where you are not served, but pick up your food front a counter).  When I made the reservations online for our meals, there was an option to select what allergies your family has.  Then when you arrive at the restaurant for your reservation, you are handed a special ticket that says allergy on it.  This is given to your server, who takes it to the chef.  Then the chef PERSONALLY COMES OUT to talk to you about the menu and what foods you will be able to eat.  THIS WAS AMAZING!  Most of the time I had a plan in mind as to what L would eat, but the chef was able to answer any questions I had.  For example, what type of oil are the french fries cooked in, what is in your rice pilaf, are your vegetables cooked in butter or steamed?  All of the chefs we met with were very friendly and very willing to help us.  This was worth the extra money we may have spent to be certain L was not getting any food she should not have.

3.  GO TO A GROCERY STORE.   This was a very important part of our trip.  Since we flew to Florida, I only packed enough snacks for the plane ride down.  We were staying in Florida a week, and I knew I would not have enough luggage space to haul a bunch of food with us.  We found a local grocery store (in our case Publix, but Winn Dixie, a Super Target, Super Walmart, etc would have worked), and stocked up on essentials.  This was so I always knew I had a snack in case L or C would get a case of the hangries (hungry and angry).  The hangries is not fun and often needs to be taken care of quickly! When we went to the grocery store we purchased: GoGo squeeze applesauce, veggie straws, rice chex, formula, diapers, bananas, apples, bottled water, carrots, pop for mom and dad, and some pre-cut fruit.  I would now add to the list some rice cakes.  Our hotel on Disney property (The Dolphin) had a refrigerator in the room which was fantastic.

4.  TAKE A FEW THINGS WITH YOU.  I find breakfast to be one of the hardest meals for L to eat out.  Between the eggs, pastries, french toast and omelets, we are usually let with fresh fruit and maybe a slice of bacon that she can eat.  Since I knew we would be eating breakfast in our room most days, I planned ahead and made a double batch of the The Best Homemade Granola Bars before we left.  I cut the bars and individually wrapped with in Saran wrap and put them into our check luggage on the plane.  This was L's breakfast pretty much every morning and sometimes a snack at night.  In fact, the whole family ate a few of them when were hungry at night and needed just a little something.  I think next time I could make a triple batch and they would all get eaten.

5.  EAT WHEN YOU FIND ALLERGY FREE STUFF.  We arrived at Disney in the middle of the afternoon, so instead of going to a park, we decided to check out Downtown Disney and lounge by our hotel pool.  When walking through Downtown Disney we discovered BabyCakes NYC.  A completely vegan and gluten free restaurant with desserts.  L was almost overwhelmed by the choices!  I don't think we have ever been to a place where there is more than one choice for her.  We had just finished a late lunch, but picked up a cupcake for her while we were there.  She was in heaven!

I also found a stand at Animal Kingdom that offered a TON of allergy friendly foods. While you should be prepared to pay quite a bit for a small treat, it was nice to know that while we were at that park, there was always a snack L could have.  They offered Enjoy Life Brownie Bites, BabyCakes NYC Cupcakes and Vegan / Gluten Free Granola Bars. 

Here is a list of the places we ate at and the food that L was able to eat.

1.  Bodies All American.  L shared a chicken wrap with the hubby.  She ate the chicken, but had her eye on the BabyCakes NYC bakery the whole time!

2.  BabyCakes NYC.  L had a vanilla cupcake with pink frosting and loved it!  All of the food there is vegan and gluten free.  We asked about nuts also, and nut flour is NOT used in their cupcakes.  Wahoo!

1. The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street.   This was a hidden gem of a restaurant I found while making reservations.  It was one of the few reservation accepted restaurants that wasn't terribly expensive.  At this restaurant the chef came out and presented with a book that included all of the ingredients in their food.  I was able to look through the menu and pick out the food best suited for L.  She ended up getting the kids grilled chicken, french fries and fresh fruit for dessert.  The chicken was really good!  Plus, she got a light up Ariel cup there too.  What more do you need?!

2.  Cinderella's Royal Table.  Since L is a HUGE princess fan I knew we needed to eat with the princesses.  I made a reservation to Cinderella's Royal Table as soon as we knew we were headed to Disney.  The only time I could get was 2:40 in the afternoon, but it worked.  Here, the chef came out to great us and discussed what L could eat.  We settled on the roasted chicken leg, rice pilaf, and broccolinni.  She also had a few of my sweet potato fries.  For dessert, they offered a raspberry sorbet that was allergy friendly!

3.  Aloha Isle.  We stopped here for the famous Dole Whip.  I've made this at home (frozen pineapple, soy milk, and a little bit of sugar) but we wanted to try it here for a snack.  When I asked at the counter whether or not the Dole Whip was vegan, I was given the allergy book and able to look through it!  Yay!  I ordered the orange and pineapple.  The orange is made with coconut oil and the pineapple is not.  What a delicious treat.  I did not check the ingredients in the floats or other offerings, just the whip. 

4.  Starbucks.  Our last day at Disney we were all struggling a little bit (well mom and dad anyway) so we decided to stop for a coffee at the Starby's on Main Street USA.  L is a big fan of coffee shops (she's been going since she was born) so she knows what she can get.  While I got my traditional grande non-fat 3 splenda misto, L had a fruit cup and apple juice.  Not a bad morning snack!

5.  Prince Eric's Village Market.  We did not eat here, but I wanted to include it in my list of allergy restaurants.  L was not hungry when we went passed this in New Fantasyland (I think she was too excited to ride Dumbo) but they have a lot of healthy options here.  Carrots, hummus and fruit are just some of the offerings.  This would be a great stop for a quick pick me up!

1.  Flame Tree BBQ.  We had lunch here during our rainy day at Animal Kingdom.  L had the grilled chicken sandwich (no bun) and carrots.  They offer a dessert with the kids meal (a cookie) but when I indicated that was not going to work for us, they gave her grapes instead.

2.  Garden Kiosk.  Here is where we found a lot of allergy friendly food.  Vegan and gluten free granola bars, cupcakes, etc.  As I said before, just be prepared to spend a lot of money.  I think for 2 of the Enjoy Life Brownie Bites you could buy a whole package at a grocery store, but it is nice to have options!  L had a 4 pack of mini cupcakes and loved them.  She ate the whole thing!  (no judgement on nutrition please, we were on vacation!)

1.  Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.  At the last minute I made an 8:05 reservation here for breakfast with the princesses.  After looking at the menu I knew this would probably be a fruit and meat only breakfast for L, but I also knew how much she would love meeting with and seeing the princesses.  This actually turned out to be a very allergy friendly meal!  Again we were greeted by the chef who told me they serve Van's waffles and 100% pure maple syrup.  Wahoo!  2 waffles, syrup, fruit and some bacon later we had one happy princesses.  The rest of the buffet was really good too.  Pastries, smoked fish, yogurt, eggs and hash browns.  This was one of our favorite things that we did on our trip and would definitely do again!

2.  Coral Reef Restaurant.  While I canceled our reservation here (we were full from breakfast), there were a lot of allergy friendly choices, so I wanted to include it on my list.  It's worth checking out if you need a restaurant at Epcot!

Our hotel had quite a few restaurant choices that we took advantage of.  After a long day at Disney it was nice to come back to our hotel and either order room service or walk down to the restaurant and grab something to eat.  All of the hotels have fabulous restaurants, so I'm sure you could find something to work for where you are staying.  Just plan ahead!

1.  Picabu.  This buffet / cafeteria style restaurant was great.  It was rice bowls with different meat options that L could eat.  They also offered a small selection of groceries.  Chips, cookies, etc.

2.  Garden  Grove @ the Swan.  This character meal, was probably one of the least allergy friendly places we were at.  While the staff was very nice, the chef did not come out to greet us and we had a difficult time finding the right food for L.  We settled on a chicken breast and steamed vegetables.  The vegetables came out with butter on them, so we had to send them back and they were replaced with steamed vegetables.  Not a big deal, but still an inconvenience.  For dessert she was offered fresh fruit which was nice.  Both L and C enjoying meeting Pluto and Goofy here.

3.  Room Service.  This worked so well when both babies were tired and eating at a sit down restaurant just wasn't going to work.  L often had the hamburger (no bun), tater tots or fruit. 

So after our adventure to Disney I would say everything worked out really well!  Just remember to:

1.  Plan ahead.
2.  Ask questions.
3.  Take advantage when you find allergy friendly food.
4.  Take food with you.
5.  Go to a grocery store.

Any questions - just ask!   I'll be publishing our touring plan later!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Beef Stew with Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Brrrrrr it's cold here!  The temperatures have dropped lately and we have a new blanket of fresh snow on the ground.  We enjoyed spending some time outside yesterday making 'paw prints' and snow angels in the snow.  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday!

My parents recently came down for a visit.  After a day filled with Christmas shopping we headed home and had homemade beef stew and cranberry sauce.  It was a hit!  The was actually the second time I've made this dish in the last week.  It was adult and baby approved!

The one thing I really like about this dish is that it is customizable.  Don't like mushroom - don't add um!  Not a fan of green beans - take um out!  Love love love carrots - add more!

To get started, brown your stew meat.  We cheated and purchased pre-cut stew meat from the grocery store.  You could cut up your own bottom round roast if you wanted too.  I used about 1.5 pounds.

 Once the meat has browned, add your beef broth, veggies and spices.  Let it simmer for about an hour.

While the meat is working chop up your potatoes.  After the meat has simmered for about an hour, add your potatoes and let it continue to work for another 20 minutes.

That's it!  It really couldn't be easier or more delicious!

We made a homemade cranberry sauce to go with it and let me tell you, I don't think I'll be buying from the can again.  This was SO EASY and SO YUMMY!  I dipped my meat in the cranberry sauce and it was fantastic!

 To make the sauce, put one container of cranberries in a pot, along with 1/2 cup sugar, zest of one orange and juice of one orange.  Let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until the cranberries pop and are soft.  So amazing!

Beef Stew
Recipe from Allergy Free Recipes Book

Free of:  Dairy, Wheat, Corn, Peas, Eggs and Nuts!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 pounds stew meat cut into pieces
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
28 ounces beef broth (about 2 cans) Make sure this is gluten free!  Some kinds are not.
1 can sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 red bell pepper chopped
10 green beans chopped
3-4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped

1.  Heat oil in a large saucepan.  Add beef and cook until the meat begins to caramelize and the juices evaporate.  

2.  Add caraway seeds, salt, pepper and thyme.

3.  Add beef broth and stir to scrap up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

4.  Add mushrooms, carrots, pepper and green beans.  Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer 1 hour.

5.  Add potatoes and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

6.  Serve and enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Sauce 
Recipe modified from the Food Network

Free Of:  Wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, corn and peas!

1 package cranberries (about 12 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of one orange
Juice of one orange

1.  Put all ingredients together in a medium sized sauce pan.

2.  Simmer over medium heat 15-20 minutes or until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens.

3.  Serve warm or cold!