Tuesday, September 30, 2014

5 Must-See Attractions at Disney's Animal Kingdom

If you are visiting Disney World, each park has some must-see attractions that should not be missed. My kids love the Animal Kingdom at Disney World and I have listed our top 5 rides/shows that you will not want to miss. Some people do not have an entire day to devote to each park, and if you only have a small amount of time or are there on a extremely crowded day, hitting a few of the highlights will make your time seem very well-spent.

1) Kilimanjaroo Safari Expeditions-
Ride jeeps into the African savanna for some real-life encounters with animals such as lions, giraffes, rhinos, zebras and the list goes on. It is a wonderful attraction with such attention to every detail and probably the closest that most of us will ever be to a real African safari.
There are fast passes for this ride and I recommend getting on as the lines can get fairly long.

2) Festival of the Lion King-
A 30-minute Broadway-style musical show based on the music and characters from The Lion King. Even though it is 30 minutes in length, the action and colors will definitely keep the attention of younger children. My kids really enjoyed this show and asked to go back and see it again. 

3) Expedition Everest-
Cleverly themed Mt. Everest-inspired high-speed roller coaster with a fun twist: an encounter with a very realistic Yeti. This ride is not for young children or those who do not enjoy high-intensity rides; however, for thrill seekers, this is a must.
Fast passes are available and I highly encourage getting one or visit early in the day. 

4) Finding Nemo-The Musical-
This musical experience is definitely one of my favorites at any of the parks. The show is 30 minutes in length and fashioned on the Pixar film, Finding Nemo. I loved the positive energy and colorful artistry of the show and my kids enjoyed seeing their favorite characters come to life. 

5) Tree of Life-It's Tough To Be A Bug-
The Tree of Life is the centerpiece to the whole park and is so unique with the numerous animals carved into it. There are trails encircling the tree so that you can walk at your own pace to look at the carvings and take pictures. The show, It's Tough To Be A Bug is a 3-D movie based on the film, A Bug's Life. I really like the special effects involved with the movie, although I will say that my toddler was a bit afraid as were a few others in our showing.There are also fast passes available for the 3-D movie.

Trying to catch all of these attractions in one day does not have to be difficult as long as you take advantage of the fast passes and keep an eye on show times. I will have a list of slower-paced and less crowded attractions around the park in a later post.
If you are planning a trip to Disney, don't overlook this awesome park. It is a great one for younger kids and they will love the myriad of animals that can be viewed up close and personal.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Easy Chore Organization For Kids

Organizing chores for your kids can seem like a daunting task for many reasons. For starters, it may seem faster to just do it yourself and many times the kids are less than excited to participate. Plus, finding a good system is also an obstacle.
After many starts and stops, I decided on a chore card system for the kids and it seems to be working smoothly. I use index cards and an index card case with dividers. I make 4 sections: one for each child's chores, a section for tasks they can work on together and a division with a card for each child with the daily tasks they must complete.
My daughter is 8 and I will write out ten cards with various chores on each card. Each day, she picks out the first two cards and completes the tasks on those cards. Afterwards, they are filed in the back of her section. Her 10 tasks include: swiffer kitchen, vacuum great room, empty her trash, put away folded clothes, dustbuster stairs, dust coffee table, wipe down breakfast table, swiffer bathrooms, dustbuster couches, wipe down bathroom mirrors. I ask her to do 2 each day.

My son is 5 and he has less chores. Each day, he picks one card from his section and files it to the back. His 5 chores consist of: dustbuster great room, wipe down bathroom sink, refill napkin holder, dustbuster kitchen, empty trash can.

The tasks that my daughter must complete every day include: make her bed and pick up clothes and put them in her hamper. My son must put his clothes in the hamper each day. The tasks that they work on together are: putting toys away in their basement play area and cleaning up their rooms together.

I let them put a sticker on the back of the card when they complete the chore and after the accumulation of so many stickers, they can pick a prize. I have liked this system so far because the card case is compact and it isn't taking up much space or wall space to hang a chore chart. In addition, the kids have several age-appropriate chores to complete and it is simple for them to pick the next 1 or 2 cards in their section. I also like them to have jobs that they must learn to work on together. Implementing a chore system can be difficult to get rolling, but I feel once you get in the habit it can be a beneficial aspect of family life for everyone.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Crafty Apple Trees

As hard as I try, I am not particularly gifted when it comes to crafting. That is why this section is named, "For the Craft Impaired". My goal is to include easy, quick crafts that you can do with your kids that will not cost much, are simple to plan and don't require a ton of supplies.

My first craft experiment was to make apple trees with the kids arms/hands and then fingerprints for the apples.
1) They each traced their arms from the elbows to the hands and cut them out.
2)  After pasting them into place on another sheet of construction paper, we cut out green leaves for the tree and pasted them behind the fingers.
3) Using an inkpad, the kids put thumb and finger prints all over the "green" of their trees with little black stems. They wanted golden delicious apples hence the yellowish green apples!
4) They could always decorate them a little more, but otherwise, we are all done!

For many moms, this craft is super simple, but the kids enjoyed doing it and I have a keepsake of their hands and finger/thumbprints. Plus, it is a nice little fall decoration.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

M&M Cookies

I love these cookies and have been making them forever. When I was little, my mom always made them and let me help and now I enjoy making these cookies for my own kids. It is so easy to coordinate them to whatever holiday is around the corner with the various holiday-colored M&Ms.

M&M Cookies
Makes about 5-6 dozen

1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups M&Ms
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1. Blend shortening and sugars in a large bowl.
2. Beat in the vanilla and eggs.
3. Mix together the dry ingredients.
4. Add to the sugar mixture, blending well.
5. Stir in 2 cups of candies.
6. Drop by teaspoon on an ungreased baking sheet.
7. Decorate the tops with the remaining candy.
8. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees or until golden brown. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FREE Thanksgiving Activity Ebook

Thanksgiving is such a terrific time of counting blessings, but it is also a fairly overlooked holiday in the shadows of Halloween fun and Christmas hoopla. I created this ebook to offer some fun activities leading up to Thanksgiving to celebrate this important holiday. It is refreshing to see the kids get excited about a holiday that does not involve obscene amounts of candy or presents and Christmas music overload.

The ebook is FREE and can be found on Smashwords in various formats or on Barnes and Noble or Apple iTunes store.
Barnes and Noble

Check out my ebook store with other titles:http://theeveryday-mom.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

Monday, September 22, 2014

Italian Potatoes

Great-tasting side dish that is quick and easy to prepare. My kids love this dish so it is a surefire way to get them to eat some veggies.

4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup creamy Italian salad dressing
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs

1. Toss potatoes with dressing, salt and pepper.
2. Place in a greased 13X9X2 inch baking pan.
3. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.
4. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.
5. Uncover and bake 20 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

20 Family Movie Night Films

Watching movies together as a family can create lasting memories of childhood. A family movie night is a great opportunity to introduce your child to some classic, wholesome entertainment. Some of the movies on this list are newer, but most have withstood the test of time and continue to entertain generations of children. I did not include any of the newer Disney cartoon movies, but some of the older classic Disney films are on the list.

1) Mary Poppins- The Disney version creates a much more chipper Mary Poppins than the one portrayed in the original book.
2) Benji- I loved this movie as a kid and always wanted a dog just like Benji.
3) The Parent Trap- The original Hayley Mills version is really fun even if as an adult you are wondering how this situation ever happened.
4) Dolphin Tale- A feel-good movie for everyone
5) The Muppet Movie- I watched the original so many times as a kid and I still loving hearing Rainbow Connection.
6) Jumanji- This is just a fun movie to watch!
7) Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory- The original with Gene Wilder is one of my favorite movies. Who wouldn't want to run rampant in a crazy candy factory?
8) Annie- I was 7 when this movie came out and I think I saw it about 10 times at the theater.
9) Pollyanna- An oldie, but goodie!
10) Goonies- One of my favorites in middle school- every family should enjoy this buddy movie together.
11) Swiss Family Robinson- Shipwrecked, pirates, having a treehouse to live in- what kid would not like this movie??
12) Night at the Museum- I just love this one!
13) National Velvet- A treasure of a movie and one that all ages can enjoy. Most kids won't know who Elizabeth Taylor was, but it is interesting to watch her in the movie as a pre-teen.
14) Charlotte's Web- Read the book together and then enjoy the movie.
15) E.T.- Enough said- I still cry every time.
16) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang- Classic car tale
17) The Sandlot- Fun baseball movie
18) Home Alone- Great movie of the 90s
19) The Adventures of Milo and Otis- Touching tale of friendship
20) The Wizard of Oz- While the witch and flying monkeys have been known to scare some little ones, this timeless classic is one to definitely watch with your children.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

FREE Music Resource: DSO Kids

Learning about music can be a very enriching experience for children. Classical music, in particular, has been shown to have many worthwhile benefits for young minds. Knowing about the orchestra, famous composers and a wide range of instruments are all helpful for training kids in music study. One website that does a fantastic job of incorporating these components is DSO kids. DSO is a kid-friendly site of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. There are numerous games and listening activities focusing on famous composers spanning several centuries, music theory, and instruments of the orchestra. These games can be played by early elementary students with some parental help and by older elementary and middle school students on their own. My kids have learned a lot from using this website and they especially like hearing the different instruments.
Check out this wonderful resource for helping to introduce your child to the world of classical music.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

5 FREE Things To Do In The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge Area

The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is chock full of activities and fun family adventures. The good news is that there are quite a few FREE places to check out. I have highlighted 5 below.

1) The Smoky Mountains National Park- Duh!! This beautiful expanse of park providing the scenic backdrop for the area seems like a no-brainer, but quite a few visitors to the area never step foot in the actual park. We took a narrated tour in to the park and our guide told us that it is approximated that half of all visitors to the area don't actually go to the national park. Cades Cove, Clingman's Dome and Sugarlands Visitor Center are just a few of the highlights to visit while in the park.

2) Visit The Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge. This mega-store features anything and everything Christmas. The kids will love perusing the many displays and enjoying the Christmas spirit all year long. Across the street, The Inn at Christmas Place is a Christmas-themed hotel that is also fun to explore and check out the displays.

3) Stroll the streets of Gatlinburg. Taking a walk down the quaint streets of Gatlinburg is great for people-watching and checking out the fun trinket shops and candy-making stores. Head on over to the riverwalk along the Little Pigeon River, right off the main drag in Gatlinburg. A little quieter stroll and lovely scenery.

4)  Old Mill/Patriot's Park. The Old Mill Shopping District features the Old Mill itself, which sits along the Little Pigeon River,and some cute shops including the Old Mill's general store. I enjoy the restaurant at The Old Mill, although this is not free, it is definitely tasty. Walking around the grounds is free, but if you want to take a tour of the inside of the mill, there is a small fee.  Patriot Park is next to the Mill and is a nice park featuring displays pertaining to American heritage and patriotism. It was a perfect place to let the kids run off some energy.

5) Drive the Arts and Craft Loop. This loop has a plethora of handmade arts and crafts from local artisans. Take the loop and check out painting, pottery, wood crafts, leather crafting, candles, glass-blowing, basket weaving, quilting and more. There is no fee to just take the loop and stop to watch the artisans at work; however, if you don't wish to drive it yourself, there are trolleys available for a nominal fee that will take you along the loop.

The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area has so many fun family activities- many of which are free or very budget-friendly. Take some time to check them out on your next trip to the Smokies.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Crock of Brats

Cooking brats in the slow cooker makes for a hearty fall meal. Add some bread and a salad and you have a full dinner. Not everyone in our family likes sauerkraut, so I do not add it to the slow cooker, but heat some up before the brats are done to add to individual plates.

Crockpot of Brats
6 servings

5 brats
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can sauerkraut, rinsed and well-drained
1/3 cup diced onion
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. In a large skillet, brown bratwurst on all sides and slice into 1-inch pieces.
2. In a 5-quart crockpot, combine the remaining ingredients; stir in the brats.
3. Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on HIGH or until the potatoes are tender.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

5 Educational Science DVDs for Kids

Educational DVDs do not have to be
dry and boring. There are many entertaining shows with high-quality educational content to be found. I incorporate watching them within our homeschool day or in the car on long trips. In fact, sometimes the kids will ask to watch one of these videos rather than a mainstream cartoon. I have chosen five science based videos that we use often and are relatively inexpensive.

1) Popular Mechanics for Kids-
This was a series in the late 1990s and early 2000s based on the Popular Mechanics magazine. The main goal of the show is explaining how things work with the help of the two kid stars who travel around to try new things out. Since the series was fairly long-running, there are lots of episodes. I purchased the whole series for a very reasonable cost. Some of the episodes focus on roller coasters, zoos, alligators/swamps, lightning, toys/games and spaceships. My kids LOVE this show- it is definitely one of their favorites and it appeals to a large age range of children.

2) Magic School Bus-
The popular series of books were made into educational cartoons in the 1990s. Each episode focuses on a particular science topic and follows the adventures of Ms. Frizzle and class. With episodes ranging from seeds to lost in space to ants to energy, there is always something new to learn. I bought the entire series and the kids will watch them all again and again. This series was targeted towards the elementary age range.

3) Animal Atlas-
If your kids like animals and zoology, they will really enjoy this series and learn quite a bit. The DVDs pretty much cover almost any species of animal imaginable and are great for elementary aged kids as well as preschoolers.

4) The Science of Disney Imagineering
The Disney magic is on display in these engaging videos about what goes on behind the scenes in creating the special Disney effects. Each DVD focuses on a different concept from electricity to friction and gravity to name a few. The series is aimed at a higher elementary level to middle school.

5) Moody Science Classics
If you are looking for a Christian-based science series, Moody may be the right pick for you. These classic DVDs are dated, but are wonderfully made and stand the test of time. The topics range the entire gamut of science-related concepts all with the Creator as the central theme and focus.

Monday, September 8, 2014

5 Tips for Saving Money on Eating Out

Most people enjoy eating out, but with the economy sluggish, it can be an expense that many families just can not afford on a regular basis. While it would be nice to have a home cooked meal every day, the fact is that in today's fast-paced society, there are many days where dinner comes at a restaurant table. So, how can you still work in the growing expense of eating out with kids? We do not eat out as much as we have in the past, but I have tried to stick to some "restaurant rules" to keep costs down while still enjoying a meal out. Of course, there are special occasions, but for the routine restaurant  trip, I really attempt to stick to a budget.
Here are a few tips I try to follow:

1) Check out the kids' eat free deals and/or coupons/Groupons/Entertainment books first before deciding where to go. Unless it is someone's birthday meal and they have carte blanche in the decision about where they want to eat, try to go for one of the places where you know there is going to be a savings. Case in point, we recently had dinner at Steak-N-Shake for $12 for a family of four. The kids got a free meal since it was kids' eat free on the weekends and we had a coupon for the hamburger and fries meal that I usually get. Plus, we had a coupon for buy one, get one free milkshakes so my husband and I were both able to get full-size milkshakes. That is a huge savings! There are several websites dedicated to helping you find the best deals for eating out with kids.

2) Drink water. It's great for you and your digestion and it's free. Think about how much that glass of soda is going to cost you, especially when half of it is filled with ice. And, I love soda pop, but when eating out it is very rare that I would actually purchase one. Anymore, a beverage in most restaurants will cost at least $2-$3, multiply that times every person in your family, each time you eat out and it can seriously add up.

3) Stay clear of desserts and appetizers in addition to a full meal. If you are ordering a meal, cutting out a $5-$8 add-on like an appetizer and/or  dessert will save a lot of money. I know so many people that order the appetizer in addition to their meal and then barely eat a bite of the actual entree since they filled up on the first course. Obviously, there are exceptions, but we do not routinely go out as a family and order a bunch of additional things besides our main meal.

4) In the same breath, embrace the appetizer. Many times, appetizers are fairly large and can actually be the preferred choice to the entrees. In that case, why not order an appetizer as your meal. It will no doubt be cheaper. My daughter and I will sometimes split a larger appetizer and we still can not eat it all, but it saved us from purchasing two separate meals.

5) This is completely dependent on the place you are eating and the ages of your kids, but when at all feasible, have them split a meal. With my children's ages, there are still restaurants where the kids' portions are fairly large. After I realized that neither of them were able to eat more than half of their own meals, I started having them share. There were certain places where the kids' meal consisted of 3-4 large chicken tenders and a whole plate of fries and cup of fruit and my toddler/preschooler was in no way able to eat the whole meal.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Simple Bread Pudding

If you like bread pudding and want a simple recipe that will only take minutes to prepare, then this is the recipe for you. I am not a fan of raisins in my bread pudding, but they could easily be added. Caramel topping or vanilla flavored whipped topping goes very well with this bread pudding.

6-8 servings
6 slices day-old bread ( I like to use a brown sugar cinnamon bread)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Break bread into small pieces  and place in a lightly greased 8-inch baking pan.
2. Drizzle melted butter over the bread.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, beat until well mixed.
4. Pour over bread and lightly push down  with a fork until the bread is covered.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes  or until the top lightly springs back with tapped.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

ASTC Passport Program: Museum Centers For Cheap

A great way to gain access to hundreds of museums nationwide is thru the ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) passport program. Purchase a pass at one of the participating centers for free or reduced admission to other centers throughout the country. This is an excellent resource for traveling families.
We purchase our passes through a center in Florida, which is very reasonably priced for a family. We more than get our money's worth. One trip to a larger science museum and your pass just payed for itself.

Find a complete list of participating centers at:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

3 Tips for Organizing Photos

So, you've got tons of pictures saved to your digital camera and phone. Will they sit in picture purgatory forever or be unceremoniously deleted a year down the road? When I first had kids, I decided to make a concerted effort to keep pictures printed off or organized for future use. I scrapbook so it does force me to keep things in a somewhat orderly fashion, but I've found a few other ways to store or showcase my pictures.

1) Show off your pictures in a digital photo frame. Take your photo card and use a digital photo frame to scroll through the photos. It can be displayed for guests to view and is a nice way to have a constant reminder in your living room of favorite memories.

2) I print off my pictures through an inexpensive photo printing service and store them in an accordion file for later use. I always try to separate them in the files by holidays and events. It makes it much easier once I am ready to scrapbook them or put them in an album.

3) Make online photo books. There are plenty of options for photo books from elaborate and costly to simple and inexpensive. For quick picture organizing, you can utilize a ready-made template to place the pictures for you. I might make a simple book focusing on Christmas pictures or fall events and it doesn't take longer than a half hour or so to put together plus they make excellent gifts.

Take the time to organize and enjoy your pictures! Photos are wonderful for triggering happy memories. It is a great gift for your kids to someday have pictures of their childhoods. They are not being enjoyed by anyone if they sit on your phone in photo no-man's land never to be fully appreciated. Finding old pictures from your childhood is always such a treat and having a full album or book with photos is priceless!