Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Giveaway #6 - Just in time for Halloween! Safety Tats!!


Have we got a special "treat" for you and your kids this Halloween!!

Recently, I blogged about our vacation this past month to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida!  We had such an amazing time, and got to test out a few vacation-friendly products while we were out there.  One of these is the amazing Safety Tat! 

Safety Tats are innovative temporary tattoos that you can customize with anything from allergy information, to cell phone numbers.  They are easy to apply, and are so durable.  Even with all of our walking around in the sun, wearing sunblock and bug spray, and perspiring, and swimming, my daughter's Safety Tats stayed clear and legible, for up to two whole days!  They never smudged or smeared; unlike conventional temporary tattoos, and just flaked off on their own over time, with no staining whatsoever.  The print is large, the colors bold, and my husband and I felt better, knowing that our contact numbers were "branded" on our daughter, just in case we happened to get separated at the sprawling Disney parks.




Just in time for Halloween, all of our Green Organic readers can enjoy 10% off all orders over $15, placed before October 15th, 2009!  Just enter this CASEsensitive coupon code at checkout:

GreenOrganicMama

If that wasn't enough, one lucky Green Organic reader will win their own pack of Halloween-themed Safety Tats, complete with your own customized message!

To ensure our lucky winner gets their Safety Tats in time for Halloween, we're opening up this giveaway immediately, and running it through Columbus Day!

Thank you to everyone who entered! This giveaway has come to a close. Please click here to see the results of our Random.org drawing and to congratulate our winner!

Please be sure to read the complete rules:

To enter this contest, first visit SafetyTat.com and check out their wonderful designs. Then, come back here and please leave a comment below, letting our readers know which Halloween design you really like the most! Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so I may contact you if you're the lucky winner.

For additional entries, please first leave a comment about your favorite pick from the line of Halloween Safety Tats, and then do any of the following, for a maximum of 19 (nineteen!) total entries in this giveaway contest [please be sure to come back and leave a follow-up comment for each of these completed tasks, in order to be counted as an additional entry]:
  • Follow this blog with either our RSS feed, or with Google Friend Connect, by clicking the button on the right-hand column of this blog (or if you are already, leave a comment telling me so)
  • Follow this blog on FaceBook with NetworkedBlogs by clicking the link, or on the button on the right-hand column of this blog (or if you are already, leave a comment telling me so)
  • Follow me on Twitter @greenorganicmom (or if you are already, leave a comment telling me so)
  • Display our Green Organic Mama badge on your blog
  • Blog about this giveaway (and paste a direct link to your blog post in your comment)

  • FOR BONUS ENTRIES: Earn up to one additional BONUS entry each day, between now and 5:00PM EST on October 12, 2009, by Retweeting this giveaway daily! Remember to come back and leave a comment and a copy of your new Retweet each day, in order for your daily Retweet to be counted. [Maximum of one bonus Retweet entry each day, for a maximum of 14 for the length of the contest.]
By entering this contest, you have read and understand the rules and fine print of this contest:
  1. Contest ends Monday, October 12th, 2009 at 5:00PM EST.
  2. Contest open to U.S. residents.
  3. Giveaway prize consists of one (1) package of 24 (twenty-four) Safety Tat temporary tattoos,  to be awarded to one (1) randomly selected winner.
  4. Winner may select a "two-line" Safety Tat design, and provide up to two contact telephone numbers, to be printed the same on all 24 temporary tattoos.
  5. One (1) winner shall be chosen from the pool of valid comment entries, using Random.org
  6. Winner will be contacted via e-mail, and will provide a U.S. mailing address, along with telephone number(s) (see rule #4), which will then be provided to the giveaway sponsor, SafetyTat.com, for the purpose of custom-printing and directly mailing one giveaway prize to the winner.
  7. If Winner does not respond via e-mail within 48 hours of the prize drawing, another winner will be selected via Random.org, and new winner will be awarded the prize package.
  8. Approximate retail value of the prize pack: $19.95 USD.
  9. SafetyTat.com reserves the right to modify the prize package offering and quantities.
  10. Winner will be announced here on this blog, and on Twitter, and on FaceBook.
  11. No promotional consideration was paid for this post.
Good luck to everyone!! :)


Click here to be taken to the comments form to place your entry/entries.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review and Green Giveaway #5 - Nutriganics Organic Skin Care from The Body Shop!

*** Post Update - Since writing this post, I am now an independent consultant for Neal's Yard Remedies/NYR Organic Skin Care and Cosmetics ***

We're going to celebrate Columbus Day and the Canadian Thanksgiving the Green, Organic Way!

We have an amazing giveaway lined up!  On Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving, one lucky Green Organic reader will win an awesome gift pack from The Body Shop's new certified organic NUTRIGANICS skin care line! 

Like many of the products that have made The Body Shop products unique and loved by many, the Nutriganics line features "Community Trade" all-natural ingredients, like babassu nuts -- sourced from Brazil. What makes the Nutriganics line special is the use of organic ingredients; earning this French-made line of skin care the "ECOCERT" organic cosmetic certification. 

The Body Shop generously provided me with several samples of their new line to try out.  I admit, I've been a skin care product addict for many years.  I've always had dozens of half-used bottles of lotions, cleansers, and other skin treatments lining my bathroom and vanity (but I do eventually use them up) ;)  So, when The Body Shop told me about this fantastic line, using organic ingredients, I couldn't wait for the package to arrive!  This is what I got to try out:

The ingredient lists are bursting with fruit oils and flower extracts.  Not a paraben or artificial fragrance to be found.  All of the samples I tried smelled amazingly soft, light, and refreshing.   I'm Asian, in my early 30's, and have combination skin.  My T-zone does get oily during the day, as it always has, but I HAVE to put on moisturizer after I wash my face.  In my twenties, I used a lot of  "oil-free" skin care products, to try to avoid the occasional breakout, but ever since becoming a mom, my skin has been noticeably drier, and "oil-free" products just don't cut it anymore.  So, even with my crazy skin, I was very pleased with all of the Nutriganics products I received from The Body Shop.  I found the Day and Night creams absorbed quite well, and the Day cream worked just fine under my makeup.  The eye cream is very soothing, and absolutely no irritation whatsoever for this contact-lens wearer.

My favorite cream, however, is the Smoothing Serum.  OMG!  I never thought I'd find a "natural" alternative to Estée Lauder Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher, and I've foregone that beloved product for several years; shunning all of the artificial ingredients.  But the Nutriganics Smoothing Serum is a close substitute, and at about 1/3 the price!  I've been putting that on the drier parts of my face (mainly my cheeks) after washing, and before the day cream.  Works great!! 

I think I've also found a new favorite in the Foaming Facial Wash.  This one comes in a convenient foaming pump bottle.  Just a little bit goes a long way!  It has an amazing rich feel to it; unlike anything I've felt coming from a foaming wash.  I've been using it in the mornings, and also at the end of the day.  It does a great job of cleaning without the drying effect, and it even took off all my makeup cleanly.  The toner is also an amazing product.  I haven't been much of a toner fan most of my life, as most are so drying and burn my cheeks; or they are too gentle and don't do anything.  The Nutriganics Refreshing Toner is one that actually does work for me.  I tried taking off my makeup, after a long day at work, and it did a wonderful job, and really did leave my skin feeling refreshed, and not all alcohol-stung and dried-out.  I didn't have to apply moisturizer after the toner.  Amazing! :)

The packaging is all in convenient plastic pump bottles that are readily recyclable. And after four days of a strict regime of nothing but Nutriganics products on my face, I really do notice that my skin is softer, and my pores aren't so noticeable.  Thank you, Nutriganics and The Body Shop!


Thank you to everyone who entered! This giveaway has come to a close. Please click here to see the results of our Random.org drawing and to congratulate our winner!


Now here's your chance to win your very own Nutriganics products!  The Body Shop will be awarding one winner with all seven of the Nutriganics products; a prize pack worth $138 USD! 

Please be sure to read the complete rules:

To enter this contest, first visit TheBodyShop-USA.com and check out their wonderful line of products. Then, come back here and please leave a comment below, letting our readers know what product at The Body Shop you'd really like to try. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so I may contact you if you're the lucky winner.

For additional entries, please first leave a comment about a product you'd like to try from The Body Shop, and then do any of the following, for a maximum of 22 (twenty-two!) total entries in this giveaway contest [please be sure to come back and leave a follow-up comment for each of these completed tasks, in order to be counted as an additional entry]:

  • FOR BONUS ENTRIES: Earn up to one additional BONUS entry each day, between now and 5:00PM EST on October 12, 2009, by Retweeting this giveaway daily! Remember to come back and leave a comment and a copy of your new Retweet each day, in order for your daily Retweet to be counted. [Maximum of one bonus Retweet entry each day, for a maximum of 15 for the length of the contest.]
By entering this contest, you have read and understand the rules and fine print of this contest:
  1. Contest ends Monday, October 12th, 2009 at 5:00PM EST
  2. Contest open to U.S. residents, and Canadian residents
  3. Giveaway prize consists of one (1) Nutriganics skin care product prize package by The Body Shop, consisting of one (1) each of the following, to be awarded to one (1) randomly selected winner:
    • Nutriganics Smoothing Day Cream
    • Nutriganics Smoothing Night Cream
    • Nutriganics Smoothing Serum
    • Nutriganics Smoothing Eye Cream
    • Nutriganics Foaming Facial Wash
    • Nutriganics Refreshing Toner
    • Nutriganics Smoothing Mask
  4. One (1) winner shall be chosen from the pool of valid comment entries, using Random.org
  5. Winner will be contacted via e-mail, and will provide a U.S. or Canadian mailing address, which will then be provided to the giveaway sponsor, The Body Shop, for the purpose of directly mailing one giveaway prize to the winner.
  6. If Winner does not respond via e-mail within 48 hours of the prize drawing, another winner will be selected via Random.org, and new winner will be awarded the prize package.
  7. Approximate retail value of the prize pack: $138.00 USD.
  8. The Body Shop reserves the right to modify the prize package offering and quantities.
  9. Winner will be announced here on this blog, and on Twitter, and on FaceBook.
  10. No promotional consideration was paid for this post.
Good luck to everyone!! :)


Click here to be taken to the comments form to place your entry/entries.

The Green Organic Family Visits Walt Disney World - Part 4 - Disney's Hollywood Studios

We had such an amazing time the previous day at the Magic Kingdom.  Really, we could have spent another whole day there.  We didn't even make it over to the other side of the park.  With so much to see and so much walking around, we were certainly open to a slower pace the next day. We were headed off to Disney's Hollywood Studios, with plenty of opportunity for sit-down shows in the air conditioning.

Now, overall, I do have to say that this park is probably more geared toward older children.  There just didn't seem to be all that much that would appeal to the elementary-school (and younger) crowd, unless they watch a lot of Playhouse Disney (which we don't).

We did, however, enjoy another fun-filled (and also very noisy) character buffet lunch; this time at Hollywood & Vine.  The wait and crowd weren't anywhere near as crazy as those for the Crystal Palace Pooh and Friends buffet in the Magic Kingdom, but we were still in for a good time.  The characters at this restaurant were those from The Little Einsteins, and JoJo's Circus; not as popular as Pooh and Friends, but still lots of fun to have lunch with.  The food was sort-of the same as the Crystal Palace, with equally dried-out overcooked roast chicken.  The servers seemed much more frantic and overworked at this restaurant though, and did not give us the same amount of attention as those at the Crystal Palace.  For one thing, I immediately asked for a booster seat for the princess when we sat down.  Our drinks came and still no booster.  I then tried to watch for our server again, to remind her one more time.  She never did come back until our meal was almost over.  Our Crystal Palace server was always around when we needed her.  Our H&V server didn't explain the "walking path" of the characters to us either, so we had to figure that one out on our own.  We did get our pictures taken with each of the four characters, and enjoyed a few song-and-dance numbers, including Green Organic Girl's favorite song; the "Bear Cha-Cha-Cha" from "Bear in the Big Blue House".  All in all, I would definitely recommend The Crystal Palace, over Hollywood & Vine.  No doubt about it.

After lunch we made our way over to Jim Henson's Muppetvision 3-D.  Our guidebook stated that this attraction had a "Fear Factor" of "None".  WRONG!  Hubby and I are Muppet Show fans from years ago, but the poor little one wasn't familiar with the big brown yellow-eyed monster.  Umm... let's just say he makes a couple "unexpected" appearances, and I had a distraught child to calm down after this show was over.  Be forewarned.

After that fiasco, I was afraid to sit the little one down to another show.  The next one we had planned was The Voyage of The Little Mermaid.  I wasn't sure how scary this stage-version of Ursula would be.  But actually, this turned out to be one of our favorite sit-down shows, and now that Green Organic Girl has seen this shortened version, I can maybe try to sit her through the full-length DVD again.

We spent the rest of the day wandering the park; taking pictures with more Playhouse Disney characters (which are much more accessible than any of the other Character "Meet & Greets").   We also had a brief stop at the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" playground.  Mostly, we were just waiting for the next showing of Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage.  When we finally got in, it was definitely worth the wait.  Our daughter loved the puppet versions of the Little Einsteins, Pooh Bear, Handy Manny, and Mickey and Friends.  It's a very entertaining show; for both grown-ups and the little ones.  A word of warning though: you have to sit on the thinly carpeted floor. 

Now hubby won't forgive me if I don't mention just how awesome he thought the Aerosmith Rockin' Rollercoaster was, which he rode by himself, while the girls went shopping.  It was awesome.  There, I said it.  LOL!  He's pining for a T-shirt themed with that ride, which he never did buy.  Next time, dear... next time.

By late afternoon, we were all pretty tired, and decided to call it a day.  We headed back to the Old Key West resort, changed into our swimsuits, and headed over to the main pools at Hospitality House.  We had a fun time there; although I did clunk the back of my head going down the very twisty NOT-KID-FRIENDLY light house water slide.  Ouch.  My head hurt for three days after that.  Stick to the kiddie pool or the main pool with the little ones.  There are plenty of floating "noodles" to play with.  We also enjoyed a dip in the  very large hot tub (which is a nice comfortable level of warm). 

By then, we were getting a bit hungry.  We had planned to eat right there at one of the resort restaurants, just steps from the pool.  There was a sit-down restaurant (Olivia's) and another burger shack.  Ugh... more burgers...  no thanks.  As I peered around, I noticed the dock to the shuttle boats right by us.  There was one boat to Downtown Disney every 20 minutes.  So that was our new plan -- take the shuttle boat to Downtown Disney and have dinner there.  We headed to the nearby change rooms and showered (thank you to the guest who left her complimentary bottles of H2O shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in our shower stall).  [BTW, all the resort guest rooms are stocked with H2O products! Complete with soaps stamped with mouse ears!].  Then we packed up our things and boarded the next boat.

Downtown Disney is so pretty at night; all lit up.  Even the giant helium balloon gets lit up at night, and passengers can enjoy a view of all the lights from 400 feet up in the air.  We had dinner at the express window at Bongo's Cuban restaurant, enjoying epanadas and Cuban steak sandwiches.  Then we made our way back to the boat docks, and enjoyed a scenic ride back to Old Key West, back to our room, and off to bed.

We were off to another exciting adventure and full day the next morning at Epcot!!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Review: Dangerous or Safe? by Cara Natterson, MD


Thank you again to the Penguin Group/Hudson Street Press for sending another fabulous book!  This one I just couldn't put down, as it deals with many of the very same issues that led our family to make greener, organic, and healthier choices. 

Dangerous or Safe?: Which Foods, Medicines, and Chemicals Really Put Your Kids at Risk (available Oct 8, 2009 from Hudson Street Press) is the third book by Dr. Cara Natterson; a California pediatrician and the mother of two young children.  I think this is the book that many of us parents have been waiting for; one from the perspective of a medical professional AND a parent, also raising her own children in the same fast-paced, bio-tech-heavy, and corner-cutting era that we are currently living in.

In "Dangerous or Safe?", Dr. Natterson discusses 25 of the top "hot-button" issues that she says were the ones keeping the parents of her patients up at night.  The book is broken up into subject areas, including food, drinks, our surroundings, things that we put on our bodies, and finally, medicines.  With such a wide-ranging number of topics to discuss, Dr. Natterson stays focused by presenting each issue in the same easy-to-follow format:
  1. What is the issue in question (vaccines, sunscreen, plastics, etc)?
  2. What is the scientific data (from medical journals and other sources, as translated into layman's terms)?
  3. What is the bottom line (after looking at all the available data and examining the issue from all sides)?
  4. What is in Dr. Natterson's home, and how does she deal with the issue as a mom?
Having focused on science courses throughout most of my academic career, I can really appreciate all the time and effort that went into researching for this book.  We're always hearing about the latest contradictory study, but Dr. Natterson gets past all the hype and gets to the bottom of each matter.  She's also not afraid to say that sometimes, the data is inconclusive, but she still errs on the side of caution, or sometimes she'll go with the flow.  As a mom, she realizes it's not practical to be wary of EVERYTHING, and sometimes we just have to "not lose sleep" over it.

While Dr. Natterson says that she does buy organic foods whenever possible and practical, and she briefly mentions the environmental impact of disposable diapers, I don't get the impression that Dr. Natterson is a "green mom".  In talking about organic produce, she mentions that she "focuses on thin-skinned and 'naked' foods", and can't wrap her mind/wallet around buying organic bananas.  I invite her then to buy a bunch of organic bananas and taste the difference (and then bake them in my recipe for Organic Banana Bread).

Overall, this is a great book, answering questions that you would want to ask a pediatrician/mom about potential health risks affecting your children.  I hope there are future editions coming, as there are many other "hot-button" issues on the minds of today's parents, and I certainly would love to hear what Dr. Natterson has to say about them.  Thank you to the Penguin Group and Dr. Natterson for putting at least one parent's mind a bit more at ease ;)



"Dangerous or Safe?" book image courtesy of Amazon.com.
One free copy of "Dangerous or Safe?" was provided for review.

No monetary compensation was paid for this post.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Cute and Practical Baby Shower Gift: The Diaper Cake


Today was a fun-filled day, as we celebrated with one of our dear friends, who is expecting her very first baby!

We gathered with about 40 of her closest friends and family at the Yacht Club of the Americas, and enjoyed a beautiful baby shower with views of the ocean, on a gorgeous sunny day in the Florida Keys. 

For me, this was the third baby shower I was attending, and I wanted to give something a little different.  Plenty of people would be gifting clothes, bottles, bibs, and wash cloths.  I was feeling brave and creative, and decided to attempt my very first diaper cake.

Now for the disclaimer: a diaper cake is NOT edible.  It's merely a creative way to display diapers, which have the tough job in life of containing... well... you know.  Please do not eat your diaper cake.

Thank goodness for the World Wide Web!  There is a wealth of information out there, all about how to make your own diaper cake.  The methodologies, styles, and themes are numerous -- with instructions for anything from diaper "cupcakes", to three- and five-tier cakes!  I checked out diaper cake "stores", including listings on eBay.  Unfortunately, the ratio between really ugly, tacky diaper cakes to good diaper cakes is about 20:1.  Just as you're building anything, you need to start with a good foundation.  So many diaper cakes out there look like they were just thrown together.  If you start with sloppy tiers, the finished product will show.  I tend to be very meticulous (*cough*Virgo*cough*, as my co-worker would say), and wanted to put in the extra effort to make mine turn out just right :)


As this was my first attempt, and I was a little too eager to get started, I didn't take the time to order any eco-friendlier disposable diapers (Seventh Generation, Huggies Pure and Natural, etc).  I also wasn't ready to commit to a whole batch of cloth diapers (which also work to make a cake), just in case this whole project blew up in my face.  LOL!  If I was successful with my first cake, I was planning to make more down the road, and use eco-friendly diapers and gift products as decor.  But for this very first one, this is what I used:
  • One case of 76 Size 2 Huggies diapers with Winnie the Pooh print
  • One 10oz/300mL Gerber NUK BPA-free baby bottle
  • One bottle Gerber Graduates Banana-flavored Puffs
  • 9 feet of 1.5"-wide decorative ribbon
  • 3 sizes of rubber bands (size 16, 33, and 117)
  • One 18" disposable decorative cookie tray (from GFS)
  • One clear cellophane "gift basket" bag
  • Double-sided Scotch tape
  • Parts of two packages of blue Pooh bear wash cloths and mini wash mitts
  • One Pooh Bear rattle
  • One set of a Pooh Bear hooded bath towel, with brush and comb
  • Two bendy straws
  • Two large paper clips
Tools:
  • Scissors
  • Butter knife
  • Extra pair of hands for bagging (hubby's will work fine)
The rest is super easy, as you'll see in the instructional video.  Just make yourself comfortable at a big table with lots of room to work, put on some music, or watch your favorite shows or a movie.  Then you take a diaper and a size 16 rubber band, and you roll.  And you roll.  And you roll.  I told hubby that this was actually very therapeutic.  LOL!

When it came time to choose a rolling method, I referred to the video.  Watch about 3 minutes into it.  I used this lady's "Method 2" of unfolding the diaper, and rolling the entire thing from front to back.  I also folded over, and tucked in the outside-facing end of the diaper, giving the roll a smoother appearance, with no trailing edges.

I used the bottle of Gerber Puffs as my bottom support mechanism, and held the diapers in place with not just one, but two size 33 rubber bands.  It dawned on me that the diaper rolls might stand up straighter if there were in fact two rubber bands holding the tier together.  So that's what I did: instead of one giant rubber band ring holding all of the diapers together in one tier around the middle, I spaced out two giant rubber bands one inch apart, around the middle section of each tier.  It worked like a charm!  No bulging, and the second rubber band also served as a backup, in case the other one gave out.

Just follow the instructions, and depending on the size of your diapers, and the circumference of the bottle you use in the middle as your stabilizer, you may end up needing more or less to make each tier look full and round and uniform.  The instructor in the video used a 64-pack.  I used 72 of a 76 pack.  Just don't short yourself on diapers, as that will make for a sloppy, lopsided-looking cake.  Also remember to try to get the print to face out, in the same direction, and the seams facing in.  My pack of Pooh diapers also came with two different print designs, and I alternated each roll with one of each design.

When it came time to do the top tier, I inserted the NUK bottle on top of the Gerber Puffs bottle.  It worked great!  The Gerber Puffs bottle has a nice flat top; giving the baby bottle a nice wide base to stand on.  As you can see, the hollow in the middle became the home for the Pooh Bear rattle to sit, and peek out of.

The ribbon I secured with double-sided tape; easy enough.  The hooded towel was the trickiest part; I actually cut a triangle-shaped piece of cardboard, left over from some of the wash cloth packaging, and used that to hold the shape of the hood.  I then tried about a half-dozen times to neatly stuff the rest of the towel under the bottom tier of the cake, and up inside the middle, underneath the Gerber Puffs bottle.  It was tricky, as I didn't want the cake to start looking off-keel. It took a few tries, but I got it to work :)

The middle tier is actually covered with Pooh-print wash cloths -- four of them.  I thought it was cute how that turned out; almost like a fondant ;)  I overlapped the wash cloths, and this is where the butter knife came into play.  I used the flat, rounded top of the knife to help tuck in the bottom edges of the wash cloth, under the second tier.  The top edges were also tucked in, to keep them from shifting.

The two little mini wash mitts were stuffed with more wash cloths, to give them a little shape.  I carefully folded over the bottom edges of the wash mitts, and secured them each with one large paper clip.  I then slid each onto a trimmed plastic bendy straw, inserted into the bottom tier of the cake.  Then came the brush and comb, which were already tied together with ribbon, and I just slid the comb's base into one of the upper tier rubber bands to hold it in place.

Hubby helped me get the whole thing in the cellophane bag, which incidentally, just barely fit!  I slid the greeting card in behind the hood of the wash cloth, secured the top of the bag with another rubber band, and tied it off with the last bit of ribbon.  Et voilà!  About six hours later, my very first diaper cake!





It was a hit, and my friend loved it!  I was told that other people were complimenting on it as well.  It was such a fun project, and I'm so glad it turned out as well as it did, and it will be enjoyed :)

I've already started on the next one, which I'm just making for fun, and will probably sell on eBay, unless somebody else I know is having a baby girl anytime soon ;)  This one is being made with Huggies Pure and Natural diapers, made from organic cotton.  This next one should come together a bit faster than six hours, now that I have one under my belt.

Hope you'll consider making one for the next baby shower you go to :)


Friday, September 25, 2009

Our Over The Top Award!

 

A big thank you to my new friend Angela over at The Suburban Jungle, for awarding GreenOrganicMama.com the "Over The Top" blog award!  WOOHOO :)  Angela's blog is definitely "Over The Top"; recounting her hilarious "jungle" adventures.

Here are the rules for the Over the Top Award:
Use only ONE word to answer the following questions! You may copy and change the answers to suit you and pass it on. Once you have filed it out be sure to pass it on to 6 of your favorite bloggers. Alert them that they have been awarded! Have fun!
Uh oh... a 35-question pop quiz!!  ACK!  Feels like I'm back in school again.  Okay, here we go...

1. Where is your cell phone? Nearby
2. Your hair? Flat
3. Your mother? Retired
4. Your father? Ditto
5. Your favorite food? Sushi
6. Your dream last night? Forgot
7. Your favorite drink? Tea
8. Your dream/goal? Wealthy
9. What room are you in? Family
10. Your hobby? Cooking
11. Your fear? Unknown
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Lexus
13. Where were you last night? Bed
14. Something that you aren’t? Trendy
15. Muffins? Fattening
16. Wish list item? Edward
17. Where did you grow up? Canada
18. Last thing you did? Type
19. What are you wearing? Jeans
20. Your TV? LCD
21. Your pets? 3
22. Friends? Funny
23. Your life? Green
24. Your mood? Tired
25. Missing someone? Aunt
26. Vehicle? Caravan
27. Something you’re not wearing? Pajamas
28. Your favorite store? Amazon
29. Your favorite color? Green
30. When was the last time you laughed? 6:20PM
31. Last time you cried? Forgot
32. Your best friend? Many
33. One place that I go to over and over? Publix
34. One person who emails me regularly? Cousin
35. Favorite place to eat? Chinatown

And now, the final rule: pass this award along to six other "Over The Top" bloggers!

It's so hard to choose, as there are so many wonderful bloggers out there! (My Google Reader is exploding with their feeds... LOL!).  If I have to choose, these are my six, in no particular order:

  1. Mommy? I'm Hungry! (Rachelle is always cooking up something yummy!)
  2. A Hen's Nest (I love her hen icon. Lots of fun things on Henrietta's blog.)
  3. Making Lemonade (Carrie doesn't let life drag her down... When life hands you lemons...)
  4. Energizer Bunny's Mommy Reports (Love her adorable blog theme, and the family-friendly reviews and giveaways)
  5. Bloggerstop.net (We have to award at least one guy. Divya Sai a wealth of Blogger technical know-how.)
  6. Hip Organic Mama (I'm glad to call Annie a friend. She is the amazing wonder behind "Annie's Buying Club"; our source of organic produce shares here in South Florida! Annie truly is "Super Woman"; raising four children, running the buying club, and she still has time to blog, and be a friend) :)
Wish I could have picked more than six!  There are so many "Over The Top" bloggers out there.  Please keep up the great work :)

And thanks again to Angela at The Suburban Jungle :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Green Organic Family Visits Walt Disney World - Part 3 - The Magic Kingdom


It's Magic Kingdom Day!! WOOHOO!!

Perfect timing, too.  We had planned to go to the Magic Kingdom on the Sunday after we arrived, as it just happened to be the same day that we, as resort guests, could enjoy three extra hours of fun after the park's regular closing time of 8PM.  A friend of mine recounted her visit the previous year, with her daughter who was then three years old.  As long as she had a nice long nap, back at the hotel, in the middle of the day, her daughter was good to go all the way until the late closing time.  So that was our game plan, too, and it worked!  It was a long, exhausting day, but this was probably my daughter's favorite of all the parks.

Just a few more hints and suggestions before we venture off.  The first: wear comfy shoes.  I saw many people in flip flops, and I was there in my Keen Bali sandals, which are normally very comfortable.  But with all the walking around, in backless shoes, my legs and feet were so tired and achy by the end of the day.  The rest of the trip, I was in my favorite pair of New Balance running shoes, and hubby was in sneakers as well.  With all the walking around in the hot Florida sun, wearing sandals won't do all that much to keep you cool.

The second topic here is sun protection.  You'll notice in later photos that my daughter and I are in pink long-sleeve hoodies.  Those are "Sun Smart", moisture-wicking, sun-blocking tops from L. L. Bean.  They are so lightweight, and offer an amazing equivalent to SPF 50.  I forgot to pack those in our day pack during our first day at the Magic Kingdom, but I did buy those specifically for our trip.  They are fantastic; doubling as sun protection for your arms, and keeping the chill off when indoors in the air conditioning   They wash up very easily, and they air dry fast.  I highly recommend these.  Just order a size up, as they do fit a little snug.  Green Organic Girl is a tall size 4, but she's wearing a 5-6 in those pictures.  That's also a Sun Smart hat on my head.  Very comfortable to wear.

As for the rest of your body, don't forget to slather on the sunblock, at least 20 minutes before heading outside, and reapply every couple hours; especially after excessive perspiration.  I was trying to find a less pasty-white alternative to California Baby for Green Organic Girl, so we tested out Mustela's  Bebe/Enfant SPF 50 High Protection Sun Lotion.  Mustela is made in France, and is a bit pricey, but it was the alternative I was looking for.  It does go on a little thick and white, but it's much easier to work into the skin than California Baby.  For the grown-ups, I have yet to find a "natural" sunscreen that works as well as Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer, so unfortunately, we had to go "conventional" on that one.  Ultra Sheer works exactly as the name says -- it absorbs well, it's not greasy, and doesn't leave a film.  On our lips, we used Kiss My Face SPF 15 lip balm in strawberry (Green Organic Girl's favorite).  Kiss My Face held up very well in my purse, in the blazing sun.  That's more than I can say for a lot of lip balms on the market.  My Burt's Bees Hand Salve turned to mush, traveling alongside in the same purse.  When the sun started to go down, we spritzed ourselves with JASON "Quit Bugging Me!" natural insect repellent.  It's a nice, non-greasy spray, that is also free of DEET and parabens.  It's not quite as effective as the conventionals (OFF! Skintastic, Avon Skin So Soft, etc), but it's a good natural substitute.

One final touch before heading out the door:

We're very fortunate to have a child who is wary of strangers, and one who also doesn't like to wander away from mom and dad.  Still, Disney World is a HUGE place, and kids get lost every day.  I saw quite a few little ones wearing teddy bear/puppy dog backpacks, with built-in harnesses, and what can only be described as a leash. I guess that would be suitable for very adventurous toddlers, but not what I had in mind.  I remembered reading about various child ID products in a magazine before, and one of them was the Safety Tat.  This is an ingenious product!  These are very durable temporary tattoos, that you can easily customize with anything from allergy information, to your cell phone number.  [Here's a picture of us riding the giant helium balloon in Downtown Disney, and Green Organic Girl modeling one of her Safety Tats.]  We ordered ours with mine and hubby's cell phone numbers.  The print is clear and easy to read, and the tattoos come in all sorts of neat designs.  They're quick and easy to apply, with no smudging and no staining, and the tattoos stayed legible for about two days, before flaking off by themselves.  Heaven forbid that our daughter get lost, and end up crying and screaming unintelligibly at a Disney Cast Member, trying desperately to reunite this child with her just-as-distraught crying and screaming parents.  This way, we had some peace of mind that she was at least "carrying" our contact info.  Highly recommended. 

Now that we're all protected from the sun and "branded", it was time to head out the door!  Hubby's research had indicated that it may sometimes take up to an hour to travel by shuttle bus from our location in the Old Key West resort to the Magic Kingdom.  Not wanting to miss the 9AM opening, we got up quite early.  We caught the Magic Kingdom shuttle bus, with an extremely friendly driver named Pat.  She was so nice, and very welcoming.  Imagine the Fairy Godmother at the driver's seat of this bus, and that's Pat.  LOL!  She ended up being the only driver we had during our whole visit, who did actually chat with passengers, and not just rely on the push-button computer and automated voice alerts.  Pat told us some stories, as we passed through the Disney grounds, and really engaged everybody on board.  Less than 20 minutes later, we had arrived!

"When you're ready to come back, head for Bus Stop Number Nine.  Let me hear everybody say "Nine"!"

"NINE!" we all shouted back in unison.

Now, I know all of you are smart enough to know that there are certain items that Mickey Mouse probably wouldn't want you to carry into his kingdom.  Just to be sure, there is a security screening at each park entrance.  There's usually a bit of a line, so help speed things up by having all bags unzipped and open and ready for inspection, as you place them on the tables. 

We ended up waiting about 45 minutes for the park to open, but at about 8:50AM, there was an opening song and dance to watch, right above the front gates!  I won't ruin the surprise, but it was very enjoyable :)

Once the gates open, everybody flooded in.  The Magic Kingdom lives up to its name.  There is so much to see and do, and we certainly weren't able to cover the whole grounds in one day.  Do pick up a map on your way in, along with the day's schedule of events (parades, closing fireworks display, etc), and do this at every park.  Also, as we went in early September, which is the typical slower season, some of the attractions, and even shops and carts, were closed and/or undergoing renovations. 

On the day that we were there, Mickey's Toon Town wasn't scheduled to open until 10:00AM (an hour after the park opening), so do plan for things like that.  There wasn't much of a wait anywhere we went, until later in the day.  Even then, I think we waited about 20 minutes to ride Dumbo.  Most of the other ride attendants just waved us on through.

A tip for those who've never been to Disney World before:

The line of people you see, waiting for a ride, can sometimes be VERY deceptive!  Several of the rides and attractions throughout the parks have waiting areas outside of their buildings.  Then once you get inside, you find yourself still standing in a line that weaves back and forth, and back and forth.  You're exhausted by the time you get to the actual "front" of the line.  The nice thing is that Disney offers a service called "Fast Pass".  It's free, and included in your park admission.  For some rides, you'll see ticket machines just off the main entrance to an attraction.  You insert your park ticket (and there are usually Disney Cast Members standing there, available to help you), and you'll get another ticket in return. This is your Fast Pass ticket.  On it, it will give you a specified time and window to return to this ride, while you go off and do other things (let's say, come back between 1:50 and 2:50PM).  You then come back between 1:50 and 2:50, and enter the designated shorter "Fast Pass" line, where there is a minimal wait. It's a neat thing, very handy, and apparently, not many park guests take advantage of it (although there are a set number of these that will be given out each day, so get yours early).

We had a great time riding the "must do" rides: the teacups, It's A Small World, Dumbo, etc.  I have to say that our absolute favorite was the Mickey's Philharmagic 3-D show.  We watched that twice, to the little one's delight.  She still talks about it, even now that we're home.  LOL!

Oh, a quick note about stroller parking:

You'll find designated "Stroller Parking" areas, very close to the exits of most rides and attractions.  We always kept valuables on us at all times, but we felt quite safe leaving our stroller unattended (as did  hundreds of other parents).  Just be sure you can easily identify your own stroller from a distance (tie something decorative to it), as there will be rows and rows of them, and yours might have been moved by an attendant while you were on a ride.  And as I mentioned before, if it looks like it might rain, drape a cover over your stroller before walking away.

Our special treat this day was a character buffet lunch at the Crystal Palace with Pooh and Friends, and I  would recommend this particular lunch to any family with little ones  We had made advance reservations, and even ordered a special allergy-free "vegan" chocolate birthday cake for our now four-year-old big girl!  The Disney Dining line was really helpful in going through the available character meal options with us, and answering all sorts of questions.  The first rep I spoke to, explained that you can always order a "Celebrate Today" cake at most of the restaurants.  No need to order in advance... just tell the host/hostess, and they will bring one out to your table.  However, as I have a milk allergy, the dining rep gave me the number to the "Cakes" line.  Yes, Disney has a phone number just for cakes.  LOL!  That rep was also very helpful; taking down our reservation number, and placing an order for a vegan cake to be delivered to the Crystal Palace for our scheduled lunch.  However, even if you don't order a special cake, the servers will still bring you a free birthday cupcake, complete with a candle to blow out :)  The gentleman next to us was celebrating his 60th birthday with his wife, and he got a cupcake.  LOL ;)

Now, even though we had reservations, when we arrived, there was still a massive line and crowd waiting outside.  What the Crystal Palace would like you to do is to send ONE member of your party to the check-in line out front, where a host with a wireless tablet computer will check your party in.  Your whole party is then sent over to the holding pen... er... waiting area, outside the main doors.  One by one, you'll see servers pop out the door, carrying white tickets and announcing, "Winnie the Pooh and Friends would like to welcome the Smith family! Party of four!".  It was a long wait... probably 20 minutes from our scheduled lunch time of 1:10PM.  It was crowded in the holding pen.  We were hungry.  I also have a weird hyphenated Chinese- and German last name, and I was afraid somebody had already called out and mispronounced it, and we missed it.  The princess was also carrying a giant "mouse ears" balloon (which incidentally, you can ONLY buy on Main Street USA, despite asking several gift shop clerks all around the park where I could find one, and they all said they weren't sure.  BTW, these mouse ears balloons are $10 each.  Yes, you heard me right. Cash only, please).  That giant balloon was blowing around and bumping into other hungry, waiting people (sorry, if that was my kid's balloon that hit you in the face).

Finally, Winnie the Pooh was ready to have lunch with us!  We were led to a table with brightly colored mouse-head shaped metallic confetti sprinkled all over it, and a big curl of ribbon, for our special birthday girl.  The server was very nice, and pointed out the walking route that the costumed characters would take, to make their rounds to every table.  Piglet was already out and about, and Tigger was not far behind.  There were typically two characters on the floor at a time.  The characters were all very nice (though silent), and took their time with each party.  They aim to please.  Accompanying the characters is usually one "handler", who can tell you how soon until it's your turn, and can hold a camera for you to take a shot of your whole group, too.  The timing worked out well, and we had a chance to sit and take pictures with all of Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and Pooh.  In fact, Pooh was just around the corner, when we finished our meal and we were ready for our cake.  My husband asked the "handler", and our server to bring out the chocolate cake as Pooh approached.  The timing couldn't have been better :)

Now before I critique the buffet, let me explain that my parents spent 30 years working in one of Canada's top golf and country clubs.  My dad was the executive chef.  He put out A LOT of buffets.  The one at the Crystal Palace wasn't bad.  Again, as I mentioned before, the chef came out and personally toured the buffet with me, to point out any potential allergens, and offered to cook me separate side dishes at no extra charge.  There was a nice variety of things; a big salad bar, lots of desserts, a soft-serve ice cream machine, and a wide variety of hot food.  There was a carving station with pork loin and flank steak.  Unfortunately, that was probably the worst flank steak I've ever had.  Dry, dry, dry.  The roast chicken was dry and stringy, too.  (Disney, you're more than welcome to try out my Fall-Off-The-Bone roast chicken recipes).  But I did enjoy the salmon, and the curry noodles with black sesame seeds were wonderful!  I could have eaten three plates of just those noodles.  LOL!  There was also a "kids' station", open to all diners, with standards like mac and cheese, steamed broccoli, and chicken nuggets.  Unfortunately, our little one was just too excited to have something decent to eat.  I think she had all of a dill pickle, a bite of salmon, and some tomato salad.  I was very disappointed to see her full plate of food go to waste.  All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience, although I think we'd want to try something different next time.  $100 is a lot for a lunch.

After lunch, we watched the afternoon parade, which was full of floats, musicians, and dancers.  Quite loud, and a bit crowded, though.  I can't imagine what the crowds would be like during peak season.  We then headed back to our resort for some much-needed naps, to recharge camera batteries, and to unload memory cards into our laptops, ready for the evening.

When we returned to the park, the crowds were a little heavier, but we managed to see Philharmagic again, ride the Small World one more time, and got not-too-bad seats to see the end-of-the-night "Wishes" fireworks and lights show.  As the $7-per-order-of-hotdog-and-fries vendor told me, make sure you have a clear view of the castle, and that's the best way to see the fireworks show.  It was just amazing!  Totally beats out any 4th of July/Canada Day display I've ever seen.  And they do this every night!!  Wow!!

And when the fireworks were done, we still had three hours to play because of Magic Hours!  WOOHOO :)  We had the most wonderful time at the Magic Kingdom.  It's definitely the most "little kid friendly" of all the Disney World parks.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Winner of Green Giveaway #4!

Our Green Giveaway #4 has come to a close!

Many thanks to the fabulous eco-minded team at Kids Konserve and all of our green readers for entering, following, and tweeting all about this eco-friendly giveaway and the other waste-reducing products from Kids Konserve!

As promised, one lucky winner has been selected, and will enjoy one of these wonderful, reusable Food Kozies of their very own, to make their back-to-school lunch-packing a little greener :)

Here are the results from our Random.org drawing:

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

5

Timestamp: 2009-09-20 21:04:57 UTC


Congratulations to #5 - Rachelle @ Mommy? I'm Hungry!  Please check your e-mail, and we'll make arrangements to get your Food Kozy out to you :)  Be sure to click on the Mommy? I'm Hungry blog badge on the right, and check out all Rachelle's amazing recipes!!





For all of our readers, you can still order your very own Food Kozy, and other great waste-reducing reusable lunchtime products!  Kids Konserve's online store is offering a Back-to-School sale!  Enjoy 25% off their Food Kozies!  Even better, place your order before 10/31/09, and use this coupon code for 15% off your whole order!


Coupon Code:


GREENORGANIC



Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Green Organic Family Visits Walt Disney World - Part 2 - Downtown Disney, and Our Guide to Dining, Shopping, and Traveling Around Disney World

Continued from Part 1

From Old Key West to Downtown Disney
Sometime Saturday morning, the three of us all awoke to the warm glow of the morning sun, peeking through the shutters. We were actually here in Disney World :) Time to get up and have some fun!

I opened up all of the curtains and shutters, and swung open the bedroom and living room doors leading out to the balcony. Wow! We couldn't see the pond when it was dark outside, so this was our first look at everything in daylight. Two sets of jets were positioned at opposite ends of the pond, shooting water high up in the air. Ibis birds were having breakfast down below. There was tropical greenery everywhere. So peaceful :) Green Organic Girl and I enjoyed our breakfast on the patio table and chairs, and took in the view. It wasn't long before we caught glimpses of the Disney shuttle buses, painted with images of mouse ears balloons, making their rounds. The little one was getting really excited, and so were we :)

After showering, and first coaxing the little one into the jacuzzi tub, and then later trying to convince her she had enough fun and it was time to get out, we got dressed, put on our sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats, packed our drinks and snacks, and off we went to Downtown Disney! We had a special lunch reserved at the brand new T-Rex restaurant; owned by the same people who run the Rain Forest Cafés. As we were running a little late, we decided to take our own car to nearby Downtown Disney, instead of the shuttles.


It was just a short drive from Old Key West. As we approached, we could see the giant Planet Hollywood globe in the distance. The entire Downtown Disney area is open to the public, with plenty of free parking, and all sorts of things to see and do. You can ride a merry-go-round, then go up 400 feet in a giant helium balloon and enjoy a spectacular view of the Downtown Disney area, the waterways, and the gorgeous Saratoga Springs resort, then have your choice of numerous restaurants for dinner, and finally, finish off your evening with a show at Cirque du Soleil. Just like the Disney parks themselves, there is something there for everyone.

As the whole Disney experience was new to our whole family, I decided to do some prep work in advance. One extremely helpful tool was none other than YouTube. Many families have uploaded their own videos, and I was able to preview a lot of the attractions, including the T-Rex restaurant. I wanted to be sure it wasn't too scary, before booking a table.


When we finally arrived at T-Rex, we had a fantastic time. The restaurant and gift shop are open to the public. You're very welcome to wander around, taking pictures, and they even encourage you to touch the animatronic creatures. There were still a few dozen or so empty tables when we arrived at our reserved time, but they filled up quickly. The menu had a lot of choices, and was very family-friendly. The prices were a little on the high side, but it was worth the entertainment factor. I don't want to spoil any surprises, but I will tell you that this is a LOUD restaurant. Not just from the sound effects, but mostly because it is actually not that big inside, and the tables are very close together. Combine that with a gift shop and lots of people running around, and it makes for a rather noisy dining experience. I still think it's worth at least a walk through the facilities :) As a bonus, as vacation club guests, we were eligible for 15% off our meal (more on dining and discounts later).


We spent the rest of the day meandering around the Downtown Disney area; riding the merry-go-round in the Marketplace area, visiting the massive gift shop, watching the giant helium balloon, as it traveled up and down, and eventually going on a ride ourselves. There's just so much to see and do. Be sure to set aside some time to visit this area of the property.

As our first day concluded, it was time to prepare for the next very busy four days, where we were planning to visit each of the four Disney World parks. As Disney resort guests, we were given another perk: Magic Hours. Each park has a special designated day where they either open early, or close late, and give resort guests extra time to play. We called ahead to see which parks had Magic Hours when, and planned our days accordingly: Magic Kingdom on Sunday, Hollywood Studios on Monday, Epcot on Tuesday, and Animal Kingdom on Wednesday. But first, a little more pre-planning...


Getting Around

I do commend Disney for having a fabulous mass-transportation network of their own.  Shuttle buses run to and from the airport, the cruise ship port, and within the resorts and the parks themselves.  There's also the monorail and small ferry boats.  As resort guests, we could take advantage of both free parking, and these shuttle services. We were able to park our car and pretty much just leave it there the whole time we stayed.  About every 20 minutes, we could take a shuttle wherever we needed to go.  However, the smell of the exhaust indicated that the current active fleet of 232 shuttle buses (as indicated by one of our drivers) run on conventional petroleum.  Our driver said that as the tourist season peaks, they'll soon go to 400 shuttle buses.  400 buses every day, and they don't use a cleaner fuel source?  I can't imagine that Disney doesn't fry up enough French fries every day to make at least some biodiesel.

Also, be aware that there is a lot of walking distance between the shuttle bus stops and the gates. Even if you do decide to drive your own car, you have to then board a shuttle from your parking lot to the park entryway. Don't plan on leaving things in the car, just in case you may need it later in the day. It's a long haul back to your car.

So, before heading to the parks, if you don't already own one, invest in an umbrella stroller, or be prepared to pay $15 a day to rent one.  Not only is your little one going to get tired from walking, it'll serve as a good spot for him to nap, and to stow things like a small cooler bag with your own drinks.  You can have anything you want to drink at Disney; as long as it's fountain water, coffee, or a Coke product.  Kids meals do come with milk or apple juice, but we brought our own organic versions of Organic Valley aseptic individual milk servings, and Apple and Eve juice boxes.  Disney's park rules say "No Coolers", but I saw plenty of people pushing double strollers around with a child in one seat and a large soft-sided cooler in the other.  Just leave the adult beverages at home ;)

Our Combi stroller also held our little L.L. Bean junior backpack, with a few of the princess' toys, a travel pack of Seventh Generation alcohol-free wipes, toilet seat covers (more on that later), and baggies of our favorite dry snacks.  Under the stroller, in the basket, we stowed our L.L. Bean rain jackets, and a rain shield for the stroller itself.  Be prepared for rain.  This is Florida, after all.  It can be sunny one minute, and then a torrential downpour the next.  Also, as my hubby learned the hard way, if you see any ominous dark clouds, even small ones, cover the stroller with the rain shield before we all walk into a gift shop.

Shopping


As a mom, I am happy to report that toys are not outrageously expensive (like food) at the Disney gift shops.  A stuffed toy can be had for $15.  My daughter, who loves trucks, trains, and cars, picked out a Tonka fire engine that makes sounds for $20.  Our favorite thing was the "Build Your Own Mr. Potato-Head" station, found in a couple of the larger gift shops.  For $20, you could fill a small box with all sorts of Potato-Head parts, including the potato itself, if you don't already own one.  There were all sorts of Disney-themed pieces, including mouse ears, and Star Wars themed pieces as well.  Just be aware that some of the stores are huge... I mean MASSIVE... and they may have multiple entrances.  There is similar merchandise to be found in most of the stores, but there are themed items within each park as well, that you may not find elsewhere.

I made a point of signing up for the Disney Chase Rewards Visa card before we left. This card not only offers rewards certificates for Disney merchandise, but it also offers things like 10% off purchases of $50 or more at Disney stores. However, as there were slightly different offerings in the various gift shops, my total purchases didn't always amount to $50 or more to qualify for the discount. It wasn't until we did our big “souvenirs for friends” roundup that we finally qualified for 10% off.

I was extremely pleased to see that Disney's gift shops had offerings like T-shirts made from organic cotton, and even pencils, with the top end bent and formed in the outline of mouse ears, made from recycled materials. The Animal Kingdom even had plush Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls made from organic materials. My own souvenirs included a license plate frame, USA-made from 100% recycled plastic, and featuring a green set of mouse ears, and a “Love Your World” message. I also chose a “Conservation Hero” pin at the Animal Kingdom, that benefits the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. Those pins can be purchased for a donation of any amount of your choosing.

With all the toys, clothing, and even household items and gifts to choose from, one might worry about having to carry all this stuff throughout the parks. Disney has already thought of a solution for that. There is no charge for resort guests to have their purchases delivered directly back to their own resort's gift shop, for later pickup. For guests not staying on property, each park has a package pick-up location near the park's entrance.

When You Have to Go...

A note about potties:  this is Disney we're talking about, and while the restrooms are plentiful, accessible, and easy to find, a public restroom is a public restroom; they've been used by many, MANY people.  Even Disney with its full-time bathroom attendants couldn't quite keep up with the cleaning.  While they aren't the most eco-friendly option, I always carry around "Potty Toppers" for the little one.  These are thick plastic-coated disposable one-time-use covers that are water-resistant (unlike the 1-ply paper covers in each stall).  This time, I had to go with the "germophobe mom" side of me, rather than the "eco-friendly" side.

My mother once told me that the Hong Kong Disney Land has child-height toilets and sinks.  Not our Disney World in Orlando, however.  If your child is potty-trained, be prepared to have to lift your child up and hold them in place while they go.  Then try to find a dry counter top for your child to lean over while he or she washes their hands.  I found that even in the handicapped stalls, the toilet paper, sinks, and paper towels would have been very difficult for someone in a wheelchair to reach.  Also, it appears that every public toilet on Disney property is one of the automatic flushing types.  I hate those.  Not only do they go off at the most inappropriate time (if at all), they then spray toilet water all over the place.  Just disgusting.  Are you listening, Disney?  Your guests prefer not to be sprayed head to toe in toilet water.  Until they fix that, step away quickly, and take your child with you!!

Dining at Disney World is Expensive

There's no other way to put it.  We were forewarned by several Disney fan blog sites, but be prepared for some sticker shock.  We're talking $28 for a hamburger-and-fries dinner for two adults and one child.  Those adorable ice cream bars dipped in chocolate, shaped like Mickey Mouse's head will cost you $4.  Each.

As I mentioned in Part 1, our family was very fortunate to be staying on the property in a villa with a full kitchen in the Old Key West resort, and were able to have some meals and snacks in our own room.  The kitchen came fully equipped with a full-size fridge, cook top, toaster, microwave, dishwasher, dishes, cutlery, and even baking pans and a blender.  The gift shop at Old Key West is also stocked with cartons of eggs, milk, yogurt, cheeses, cold cuts, peanut butter, cereal, and other basic items.  You'll also find a multitude of grocery stores and even gas stations that sell grocery items nearby. 

We planned some meals, like breakfast, to be eaten in our room. We brought along my soy milk, my dairy-free Earth Balance margarine, breads, cereals, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, juice, bottled water, and some other snacks, along with our beloved Keurig coffee maker and favorite K-cups of tea and coffee, and voila!  Breakfast and quick snacks were at hand.  This was especially helpful, as any parent will know, it's near impossible to get a child to sit down and eat a decent meal.  We were prepared to accommodate the little princess, and let her have something simple to get going in the morning, and then stop a few hours later for a snack.  Doing that saved time and money and food, as we didn't have to head to a restaurant and sit down to a big breakfast that the little one would only nibble on.

When it does come time for a meal, if you're looking to do something special, like a character buffet, or if you want some place very popular, like Le Cellier in Epcot, be sure to call the Disney dining line and make advance reservations.  You can make reservations up to 90 days in advance (180 days for resort guests).  Even during our preparation for our "off-season" visit, we had a heck of a time trying to get into character buffets; even for the less popular characters.  Do keep calling though, as people regularly book several things at the same time, and then later finalize their decisions, and start canceling others.  Don't worry if you can't get reservations.  There are still plenty of places to eat, on and off property, and they aren't all sit-down restaurants either.  Some of the "express" counters share a kitchen with the sit-down restaurant next door, and you'll get the exact same food out of both places.  You won't starve.  You'll pay a pretty penny, but you won't starve ;)  I'll go into more detail about the locations we dined at while staying on property as I discuss each visit to each park.

I should also mention at this time that I suffer from a milk allergy, so I really have to watch what I eat. But Disney is very accommodating of allergies.  For the times when we were eating out, we made sure to let the reservations agent know that we had someone in our party with a specific food allergy. When we later arrived for character buffets, the chefs personally came out and met with me, and walked me through the buffet, pointing out do's and don'ts. They even offered to make me separate servings of veggies and pasta at no additional charge. The lovely little chocolate cake that we had with Pooh Bear was even a dairy-free vegan cake, that we had requested in advance (with an additional charge). It was delicious :) We had dinner at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney one evening, and I really wanted the mushroom penne pasta, but it was in a cream sauce. Not a problem at all. The server made a special note, and the chef prepared a dish just for me, without the cream. No extra charge for that either. It was nice to be able to enjoy my meals and not have to worry about an allergic reaction later in the day. However, all this fun-filled dining was not cheap. By the time we paid for the special birthday cake, the Pooh and Friends character buffet at the Magic Kingdom's Crystal Palace came to over $100 (including a 15% resort discount, tax, and tip). The next day, we went to Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios, to dine with the Little Einsteins, Jojo, and Lion, and that bill, sans cake, and sans discount, was another $100. Did I also mention that these were LUNCHES?  Yes... $100 lunches.  As Scar says, “Be prepared!!”.

While dining on the property can be expensive, Disney itself does offer some dining savings. One method is in the form of a "Dining Program", but for our family, it just didn't seem to work out.  First, you have to buy into this meal plan for EVERY member of your family, and for EVERY day of your stay on Disney property.  The meal plan also includes dessert, which we don't eat.  We do sometimes order appetizers, but those aren't included in the plan.  We also regularly get two adult entrées, and just share with the little one.  She is rarely ever hungry enough for her own kid's meal.  So for us, we opted not to get the meal plan, and in the end, it did work out in our favor.  But do look at your own family's eating habits and do the math before you decide.

Even though we opted out of the dining plan, we still did receive some dining discount perks. As Disney resort guests, we were given a pocket guide that listed various locations throughout the park that offered discounts, ranging from 10% to 20% off meals (mostly lunches) on the property. The T-Rex restaurant is one of them (giving us 15% off by presenting our room key to the server). Be sure to ask for the discount specifically, as the servers juggle a lot of tables, and don't always remember to adjust your bill accordingly.

And remember the little cooler and ice pack you brought along in your stroller? Bring along some baggies or reusable containers, and pack up your leftovers for snacking later on.

Of course, this is the Green Organic Mama blog, and we haven't yet covered organic food. Sadly, we didn't come across any; unless it was hiding in some of the more upscale “signature” restaurants. Burgers, fries, hot dogs, packaged apples, grapes, carrot sticks, and pretzels are the standard fare. Only one time did I come across soy milk, and it was Silk (read: NOT organic), and it was only in the Seasons cafeteria in the Land Pavillion at Epcot. I vaguely remember an episode of “Dinner: Impossible” on the Food Network, and I thought Disney had some hydroponic vegetable gardens of their own, right on property. I would have liked to have toured those. Disney is definitely lacking in the organic offerings department. I did, however, like the fact that they used biodegradable paper drinking straws in the Animal Kingdom... just in case an animal gets fed one. It would have been nice to see biodegradable disposable plates and cutlery throughout the parks. Then maybe they can open another ride... the Build Your Own Compost Heap Extravaganza!

You're On Vacation... Relax!

Just looking at the park maps on paper, doesn't really give you any kind of perspective at all about how big the places actually are. My aching feet will tell you that it's not a small world after all.

Especially when traveling with small children, have a general plan, but be prepared for delays and deviations. Also be prepared to head back to your hotel for a nap in the afternoon. You're all going to need it... trust me! Prior to our trip, my hubby kept shaking his head, every time I mentioned that “N” word. But once we got there, he realized just how much we all needed to stop and rest, and recharge our batteries in the middle of the day.







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