Our Behind-the-Scenes Experience with the New Disney On Ice: Dare to Dream

For those of you who have followed along for a while, you probably know that my mom was a professional ice skater, and I basically grew up in an ice-skating rink. One of my fondest memories as a child was attending the big ice shows when they would come to town. My mom usually knew people, so she’d get us backstage passes, and we never took for granted mingling with the professional skaters and getting a behind-the-scenes look at the shows. As I’ve gotten older, I’m realized how lucky we were to be able to have these experiences and how much the ice-skating world has made such a mark on my heart.

Whenever Disney on Ice comes to town, we always make a point to attend. It’s kind of like going to Disney World- it’s just magical and you can FEEL the magic when you’re there. The smiles are priceless and the memories are too. So, when Feld Entertainment contacted me about a behind-the-scenes experience at Disney on Ice, there was zero hesitation! The best part… I got to bring my mom! After all of the years of her treating me to backstage passes, here I was getting to bring her! So amazing! With that, we headed down to Ellenton (a little over an hour from us) to get a sneak peek at the newest show Dare to Dream. Here’s a peek at our behind-the-scenes experience…

We first met the Feld staff and other bloggers/influencers with their kids in the hotel lobby and caravanned over to Feld Entertainment Studios. Once arriving, we started off with a little mat session of stretching and exercises with some of the hosts and skaters from the show! I believe this back area is where the staff let get to loose before a show. There are ping pong tables and some of the staffs lockers and looks like it’s a place they like to hang out (which the kids thought was cool). The kids thought the staff were the coolest people EVER! They were incredible with the kids, and the facility is top notch!

We were then treated to some Moana-themed snacks, in honor of the addition of Moana to the show lineup.

After our snack, we headed over to the costume area and got a hands-on presentation of some of the most elaborate, gorgeous costumes you could imagine. I mean, you see them from afar and think they’re gorgeous, but up close, they’re even more amazing. Corbin was stoked he got to hold “Maui’s hook” and Em was enamored by all of the gorgeous dresses.

After the costume designers answered a few questions and let the kids touch the props, we headed rinkside. There we got to chat with the director of the show and some of the skaters about what the new show was all about. We got to hear about technical aspects of the show, listen to some of the performers’ feedback and watch choreography practice! (My mom and I really enjoyed that!)

Next, we headed upstairs for an amazing, healthy Moana-inspired dinner, complete with crafts and goody bags for the kids! The coolest part… we got to chat one-on-one with Show Producer Nicole Feld. She was incredibly sweet and down-t0-earth and happily obliged to answer all of our questions.

After dinner was complete, we headed back down to the rink to watch the first ever public performance of Dare to Dream. It was amazing to experience being at this performance and seeing this incredible show before anyone else was able to see it! We were joined by families of the cast, crew and staff, and sat directly rinkside. As someone who has such a special appreciation for ice skating and the art of performing, this was an experience I was incredibly grateful to be a part of!

Included in the act were Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Frozen and the newest addition… Moana.

(Em dancing with her new bestie! lol She and Hollie Woodward‘s daughter Brielle were inseparable from the start!)

(Em and Corbin, after the show, excited to get on the ice!)

(with bloggers Hollie Woodward and Destiney Green)

The final cherry on the cake was after the show when we got to actually get on ice and skate with the hosts and performers. For my mom & I, this was certainly the highlight of our day. It was like a flashback to my childhood to be on the ice with my mom and all of these performers, but with the added bonus of having my own kids with me. It was heaven on earth.

If you’re looking for something fun, magical and heart-warming to do with your families, I’d highly encourage you to attend a Disney on Ice show. The newest show Dare to Dream is now touring. For a list of show dates/times and to find out when this show will be in your town, head here!

I hope you enjoyed this peek at our experience behind-the-scenes. Thanks for coming along with me! I hope you’ll get a chance to check it out for yourself when the show comes to a town near you! Got any questions? Comment below, and I’m happy to answer!

For links to any of our outfit details, shop below:

*Disney on Ice hosted and sponsored this event, but all opinions are 100% my own. There are also some affiliate links in this post, which means I get a small commission when you use my links to make purchases. Thanks, as always, for your support.

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The Quartz Countertops that I LUV, Why I Think White is Here to Stay & The Truth Behind Our Pretty Photos

Of all the questions I get on my social, some of the most frequent pertain to the countertops in my home… What are my opinions on quartz vs. granite, marble, etc? AND I’m asked ALL THE TIME how I have so much white in my house with little kids and how I keep it clean.

(Our master bathroom, featuring Ella by Cambria Quartz)

To the first question… We have had granite countertops before and now have 2 different brands of quartz countertops in our home. We started our renovations in the kitchen a couple years ago and selected our white quartz, based mostly on price and our budget. I wanted something mostly solid white, with very simple veining. The style I selected fit the bill for this, and I was pretty happy with it when installed. (More on this later…)

If you don’t know a lot about quartz, there are 2 main reasons it has become so popular…

1- It’s beautiful. To me, granite can look overly flecked and uniform. Because of the way quartz is manufactured, the patterns are all completely unique. I had the pleasure of visiting the Cambria Quartz production plant in Minnesota, and watching the materials being made was mesmerizing, to say the least. The creations are gorgeous, ornate and full of character. It has the look of marble, and {almost} everyone LUVs marble. But unlike marble…

2- Quartz is super low maintenance! Granite and marble both require regular maintenance and need to be sealed regularly, as they are extremely porous. Quartz is typically pretty stain repellent and naturally impervious to acidic substances. While real marble is absolutely gorgeous aesthetically, if you are going to choose this material for your home, you must be completely open to the idea that stains and etching could be inevitable. Quartz requires zero sealing and is more likely to maintain its original character, as it is highly durable.

I often follow the second question (about how I have so much white with kids) by reminding my followers that what you see is not always what you get when it comes to a bloggers’ photos. Typically I’m photographing a space that is freshly cleaned, and for every clean space that’s being photographed, there’s typically a mound of laundry or some other type of mess hiding just behind that space. Having said that, I believe there is something to be said for light surfaces, in terms of keeping them clean. The granite countertops we previously had were a dark blend of blacks and metallics, and quite honestly, you’d never even know if they were dirty, because they hid EVERYTHING. While some may find this idea nice, the thought of what lurked beneath what meets the eye always gave me the heeby jeebies. When a surface in my home is dirty, I know. I can feel confident when food touches my countertops that they’re not bacteria-ridden, both because I keep them cleaner (because they are white) and because they aren’t porous.

So to prove to you my point that bloggers’ photos are not always an accurate depiction for what everyday life looks like, I’m going to show you some staged photos of my kids’ bathroom vanities and then show you what they look like more often than not…

Here’s how my daughter’s bathroom came together. The color we selected is Ella.

OK, now let’s be real… Here’s a more accurate depiction of how her bathroom typically looks. Em’s daily rituals are as bright as her personality. She likes to come home from school and add a rainbow of hair chalk to her hair. She usually has the hamster on her countertops while she brushes her teeth. And, despite the fact that she’s 8 years old, she LUVs applying makeup.

I mean, you can be afraid of white surfaces all day long. But for me… what’s scarier is thinking about what my kids put on their countertops (ahem… hamster butt) and not being able to see if they are actually clean. Non-porous sounds pretty good, when you think of it this way, huh?!

Corbin, on the other hand, is a certified neat-freak, like his mama. He doesn’t like anything to be dirty. But one thing that seems to linger is toothpaste residue. (Someone tell me why children always get more toothpaste on the countertops and in their sinks than their actual toothbrushes?!) AND, like Em, there’s often an animal on the counter. He has had a fish here for the last year, that just passed, rest his soul. But the kids put the dog on the counter to drink water out of the sink and Em tends to bring her hamster in here as well. So, again, I really like that their surfaces are non-porous. Here’s what his vanity area looks like when I typically photograph it for my social…

And what it more frequently looks like…

 

So, as you can see, non-porous is the key when suspicious bacterias could be lurking on your surfaces. (Ahem, dog on counter and then toothbrush in mouth…)

While I would have LUV’d to do unique designs in each of our bathrooms, we decided to keep a unified look throughout the house, for both resale value and budgetary reasons. We used white shaker cabinets through our kitchen, bathrooms & laundry room and simply chose different hardware and finishes, to make each space a little unique from the other. Like I mentioned before, we chose a quartz countertop brand based on price when we first did our kitchen, and the bathroom renovations came a year later. After a year of using our kitchen quartz (not Cambria), I wasn’t completely happy with the durability of them. They do, in fact, scratch a little and they have become a little more dull than I had hoped. So when we went to select the quartz for our bathroom renovations, I went with the brand I had coveted from the beginning… Cambria. Cambria’s cutting-edge technologies make their designs more durable and higher-quality than all of their competitors. Some key notes I learned about Cambria when visiting their facility last winter…

  • Cambria is American-made!
  • Cambria is a quartz surface product made of 93% pure, natural quartz- one of the hardest and most common minerals on Earth.
  • Cambria offers more variation than any other quartz manufacturer. (AND, recently introduced a matte finish material into their product line as well.)
  • It is non-porous, scratch and stain resistant, maintenance free and never needs sealing! Liquids and bacterias are never absorbed.
  • Cambria invests extensively in research and development, delivering the most technologically advanced surfaces available in the market.

So, in a nutshell, Cambria leads the way in technological advances, when it comes to quartz countertops, and seeing with my own eyes how it is made, I really was able to see what makes it the best. All of that aside, I can speak through experience that it really is superior when it comes to quartz countertops. Our kitchen quartz (not Cambria) has scratched, chipped and stained. Something I never thought would happen. We’ve now had Cambria in our bathrooms and laundry room for more than a year and have not seen one scratch, one stain or one imperfection. (This post may be sponsored, but that is a fact and my own experience and 100% truthful!)

Having said all of this, our “white’ish” Cambria quartz countertops have been one of the best design decisions I have made in our home. Again, I LUV that I can always see if they are dirty and I LUV the versatility of the design. In my next home, maybe I’ll go outside my comfort zone with a little color (who knows?!). But I’ve been extremely happy with how cohesive the designs in our home feel. I’m guessing white is going to stick around a while. It’s versatile; (You can change out the hardware and/or decor and have a different look.) It’s bright and beautiful; and I think it’s here to stay.

Got any other questions about my experience with the countertops in my home? Just ask!

Shop the items in my bathroom (and similar):

Shop the items in my kids’ bathrooms (and similar):

* This blog post was sponsored, but it was arranged a year AFTER having chosen Cambria for our home on our own. This experience has 100% been our own, and I agreed to do this collaboration because of my positive experience with the brand.

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A Personal “Journal” Entry… A Stamp on My Passport 8/4/17

I’ve never really shared anything personal on here before, but I’ve woken up today with a deep yearning to speak my story and zero idea with how to do it. God has spoken to my heart, and what I heard was that sharing my passions is great, but sharing my real story could be a lot more important. You see, I think of life as one big passport. And our major ups and downs are stamps that God puts on our pages. And they don’t go away; they just accumulate to a book of adventures and stories and memories. And documenting them can sometimes give us something enriching to look back on after those times have passed; been lived and enjoyed and processed. So here I am. Writing this personal “journal entry” in this world that I usually only share the “good”, “the beautiful”, and the “exciting”. But there are more stamps on my passport. And I feel like this one needs to be documented. For me, and me only. And if this story touches just one other person or gives one other person that ability to see things from a different perspective or help them feel more inclined to share their own story, than that is all the more reason God has put this stamp on my pages… So here goes nothin.

Yesterday was a rough day. As I’m typing this, I really can’t believe I’m putting this out there. But I’ve expressed before that sometimes the best way for me to process things is to be completely transparent. With a large network here (and I’m extremely grateful for that) sometimes I have a hard time talking to people one-on-one about things, as it can be hard to rehash things that are hard over and over. But sometimes if I feel like if everyone already knows the personal parts of my life, it makes it easier for me to deal  with pain openly and not feel like I have to process it alone. I’ve done a lot of psychological evaluation on myself, and I think I’ve come to understand why I am this way. And I accept it and just try to do whatever feels right in the moment when it comes to this platform, despite the opinion I’m certain I’ll get from others. This is, after all, MY page to share my story and my thoughts. So, here I am…

Anyway, I’ve had a long several months on a journey of discovering my own personal health, all the while trying to decide if it was God’s will for us to have one more baby. We’d been “officially” out of the game for almost 5 years. (You can speculate what that means.) For more than 4 years, I had never looked back on that decision. After having one girl and one boy, I’d always felt “done”. God had given us everything we possibly needed to complete this family, and “complete” I have always felt. Until about year 4 years later when I started to realize that my littlest was off to full-time school soon. I started to process this thought, and with each passing day, I started second-guessing that big decision we’d made at such a young age. You see, my husband and I met when I was a freshman in highschool. We’ve dated since I was a freshman in college, and we got married and had children before most of our friends. We were still pretty young when we had our children. (I had my daughter at 25, and my son at 28.) So looking back on this this decision that we were “done”,  I’m now thinking we were merely babies just starting life. So skip 4 years later, we decided to put ourselves back in and see where it led us. I’ll skip a lot of the details {for now}, but after what feels like an extremely long journey… it’s been about a week now that I’ve found out I was finally pregnant.

I’ve felt like the Earth had literally tilted its axis and put everything just perfectly in place for me. I’ve literally felt like the luckiest girl in the world. And yesterday I woke up and had to face the realization that this baby wasn’t going to make it to earth this go-round with me. I know I was SUPER early on, and I can only imagine how other women must feel after being much further along. But to me, I was already so invested. So attached. So insanely happy. So, here I am this morning. We’re packing up to go to the beach. And all those things (minus one) I still have to be perfectly happy about and grateful for. I still feel “complete” in so many other senses of the word. But this lingering pain in my heart is so hard to process and so hard to understand and I find myself constantly questioning where to go next. I’m emotionally exhausted, yet all of the questions remain and cannot be ignored or replaced with other emotions. I’m 100% aware that “whatever will be, will be” and that “it is in God’s hands” and “everything happens for a reason”. So, no offense, but please spare me the cliches. I’m probably the biggest believer of this knowledge. And that knowing is definitely helping me accept this position I’m in and will help me move forward. But today, at this moment, I just need to feel. Feel this pain and yet still reflect on the blessings that are right in front of me. Maybe that’s why we ironically had this beach weekend planned for today? When this first started happening yesterday, I was so upset. How could this happen right before our beach trip? This trip was going to be so perfect. Watching our babies play on the sand, holding my husband’s hand with one hand and the blossoming baby in my womb with the other. EVERYTHING was literally perfect in my world. But today, my reality has changed. Yet I still have these 2 beautiful babies in front of me to be so extremely thankful for. I have a husband who has been so incredibly selfless on this journey with me, taking every single step without question. Because he knows my heart and holds it so carefully in his hands. He’d literally do anything to make me happy, and this process has taught me that more than ever.

So, I’m going to pack up our suitcases and our car and head to our own little paradise 30 minutes away, process my pain, all the while thanking God for this place I’m at in life. And I won’t ignore the sadness in my heart, but I also won’t let another opportunity for a stamp on my passport to go by without being in the moment of it. This last weekend before my youngest baby goes to Kindergarten and my big girl goes to THIRD GRADE!? What?! I don’t know how I got here so fast, but it’s been so much amazing, and I don’t want these moments to go by without appreciating the time I have with the babies God HAS given me. Right here in front of me.

Before I could do it, though, I needed to put this out there. To acknowledge the truth of this moment in this time of my life. So here it is, raw and real. If you’re still with me, thanks for letting me open up about this very real experience in my life. If not, that’s OK. This “stamp” was more for my documenting than anyone else’s. And it will always be here in my pages. Part of me.*Please forgive any grammatical errors. The words were coming quickly, and not overly-checked.

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Setting Up for Summer… Our New Outdoor Furniture with LexMod

Our back”yard” space has needed some affection for quite some time. Our garage is detached in the back of our home, and the space in between the main home and our garage isn’t all that big. In addition, our pool takes up a good deal of that space. So… being strategic with the furniture is crucial.

We decided on a different set-up than we had before, and opted for a larger dining table (the previous one only sat 4) as we are constantly entertaining and usually need more seats. I fell in LUV with this set from LexMod Furniture. I’m still waiting on some lounges as well, but I can tell you I’m so smitten with this set that I could scream it from the rooftops! I wanted light and neutral and weather-proof, and this set totally fits the bill. It’s already been rained on several times and the water just repels right off of it. It’s also easy to wipe clean and the seating is large and comfortable.

I added a striped rug, my favorite tree and these insanely affordable lanterns. (I’m telling you these are triple the price anywhere else!) Globe lights are a must IMO for any outdoor dining space! They create the perfect ambiance for an outdoor mealtime experience, and this lantern is the perfect touch for my modern farmhouse decor.

I hope you like what we’ve done with the space! As our lounges arrive, you may see we do some rearranging, so keep an eye here to see how the space evolves with the addition of those pieces. Cheers to summer living and time with the people we LUV the most! Let me know what you think in the comments! xxoo

Shop our outdoor space:

*I worked with LexMod on this post, and items were sponsored, but opinions are all my own and 100% true. Affiliate links are also included in this post, and I receive a small commission when you purchase any of the items I have suggested. Thanks for your support!

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A Boho-Inspired, Cactus & Succulents-Themed Bridal Shower

My brother-in-law is getting married! And I had the pleasure of throwing a bridal shower for his BEAUTIFUL future bride. True to my LUV of simple cacti and succulents, deciding on a theme for the shower was super simple. Here’s a peek at what it looked like and how you can create the same look…

I bought the this blank hanging sign in the Target Dollar Spot and wrote a welcome note on it with a gold Sharpie. Then I just hung it in front of the wreath on my door. Welcome in…

Recreate this tablescape:

I got the Love Never Fails sign and the faux oranges at Hobby Lobby. (I also added some real tangerines to the tables.)

My Mother-in-law is the cakeboss in our family and she made this gorgeous cake creation. We added faux succulents to the top and put the cake on a turquoise cakestand.

The bride’s sister made this adorable tray of donut “rings”. 🙂

I bought this large serving bowl and made an easy salad in it of mixed greens, strawberries, sliced almonds and dried cranberries. Super easy and looks pretty! 🙂

I’m all about easy, so I bought premade chicken salad from Costco and added them to croissants. Easy peasy… just like I like. I threw them on this pretty turquoise and silver platter. The “Mr.” & “Mrs.” toothpicks were purchased at Target as well.

Shop some of these decorations and serving pieces:

Shop my dining room and kitchen tables/chairs:

   We had everyone write their best wishes and/or advice to the bride & groom. We got these sheets in the seasonal department, but here are some adorable advice coasters you could use for this.

We served sangria & mimosas and used pretty buckets for the bottles.

The bride’s sister put together a cute candy station for favors. (I linked some candy bags you could use in the carousel above, in this post.)

She also put together these cute prizes for some of the games we played.

My favorite item the bride was gifted (it was not from me) was this adorable hat with our last name. Not sure if this is the same one, but click the hyperlink, if you’re interested… I know I want one for myself! 🙂

The afternoon was perfect, filled with lots of love and happiness, and came together perfectly with a little teamwork. I’m so excited to have another sister, and I hope she enjoyed the day as much as I did. 🙂

Feel free to Pin any of the images you see, if you’d like to plan a similar party in the future. Hope you enjoyed! xxoo

*Photo credit to Britt Ambrester of Nostalgic Heart Photography for some of the photos in this post.

**Some affiliate links were used in this blog post, which means I receive a small commission if you purchase some of the items I have listed. This is how I pay for my time, so I hope you’ll purchase through the links I have attached. As always, I wouldn’t link something if I didn’t LUV it myself. Thanks for your support!

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The Brand New, Family-Friendly Rustic, Modern Resort in Orlando We LUV Big Time

Being from Central Florida is kind of like being on a permanent vacation. Here in Tampa, we live only about a half hour from the beach and only about an hour and fifteen minutes from Orlando and all of the big theme parks. We also lived in Orlando prior to having children, so we’ve spent a lot of time at the local resorts. Having experienced so many of the Disney and Universal Orlando resorts, we’ve really had a chance to figure out what we like/don’t like, what’s best with kids and the best ways to accommodate your budget.

We recently had learned that Loews Hotels had just opened a brand new resort as one of their Universal Orlando properties. If you don’t know already know this, just like Disney has on-site resort hotels, so does Universal. And having spent some time in the hospitality industry in Orlando, I know very well that Loews properties have an exceptional standard of luxury, while still being affordable and very kid-friendly. I’d previously spent time at some of their other properties like Portofino Bay, the Hard Rock Hotel & the Royal Pacific Hotel, but had seen that Loews had recently opened 2 new resorts, including Cabana Bay Beach Resort and the one I had my eye on… Sapphire Falls Resort.

My daughter’s birthday was coming up, and she’s suggested a weekend in Orlando, in lieu of a birthday party. (Uhhh… yes, please!)  Let me think… a bunch of kids and a stinky bounce house, or cocktails by the pool and family time away… no brainer. And let’s get real, at the cost of birthday parties these days, we could have a little weekend away for almost the same price. Since my birthday is only a week after my daughter’s, we enlisted the company of our best friends (mine and my daughter’s happen to be in the same family) and we hopped online to pick our resort destination…

(*Let’s pause for a personal admission: So… I was torn with whether to bring my nice DSLR camera or not. I typically take my photos for the blog with my camera, but I really wanted you guys to get an organic look at the resort, as we were seeing it, and sometimes the camera can “spruce” things up a bit. When my friend and I started researching online which resort we wanted to stay at, we went straight to Google Image to find REAL pictures people had posted at the resort. You can find plenty of stock photos on the resort’s website, but since the resort is so new, I wanted you guys to get a real feel of our experience with quick photos I snapped throughout our trip. I hope these photos do just that for you, but feel free to check out the Sapphire Falls website to see a beautiful array of photos. This is a great video of the resort as well, as posted by the Orlando Sentinel.)

Sapphire Falls is a brand new Loews Hotel property that opened last July. From the moment you enter the hotel, it’s obvious how brand-spankin’ new the resort is because it even smells fresh and new! The sheets still feel extra crisp, and everything just feels exceptionally clean and shiny. (That’s obviously the clean freak in me talking.)

The check-in process was seamless, and our kids enjoyed the oversized lobby with fun seating and “beach balls” (as they called them) on the ceiling. I just admired the gorgeous mix of rustic and modern decor, the beautiful use of marble with reclaimed wood and midcentury modern furniture mixed with farmhouse style. I mean- whoever designed this space hit the nail on the head with the perfect blend of styles. I can DEFINITELY see why they said the decor of this resort would speak to me!


Near the elevators, there are these huge bay windows with a panoramic view of the pool. The kids could not WAIT to get down there and check out the scenery. We had dinner reservations our first night off-property, so we had a couple hours to chill and check out what the resort had to offer. So, we went down by the pool so my friend Val and I could have a margarita (duh!) and the kids could take down some ice cream and french fries (parenting at it’s finest).

There’s an area of tables and chairs by the pool (you can see behind the kids in the photo above), where you can order food and there are several things for the kids to do. So Val & I enjoyed a few moments without kids yelling “Mom”, which was FABULOUS. They were occupied, we could see them, and we actually felt like we were on vacation. (Winning.) There is an adorable firepit area with sand, so the kids built sandcastles, and then they’d splash around in the little splash area (the kids LOVED this), coming back intermittently for bites of french fries and ice cream the amazing staff brought by. Truth of the story… an amazing staff member named Christian heard the boys fighting with the girls over a broken sandcastle and noticed that us Moms were so enjoying our “break”. So he brought ice cream over to the kids (with our permission) making them promise they’d get along. They took the bait, and we enjoyed a few more moments of quiet before heading up to get ready for dinner.

Let me briefly talk about the insane room we stayed in… (Thank you Loews Hotels!) We arrived to a suite, which was INCREDIBLE having 5 kids with us. The decor was amazing! (Can I just say I’m OBSESSED with the lighting throughout this entire property?!) The beds were comfy, and we LOVED that we had a separate bathroom the kids could use, a living and dining space the kids could play in while we could relax and get ready in our own room, and the wet bar and fridge to stock our wine {cough}… I mean… food and juice boxes. 😉 The kids favorite part… we had a doorbell. Kids are easily entertained.

Our master bathroom had a barn door, which I know you’d all agree with me was just the cutest thing ever. Even cooler… the kids had a separate tub/shower than our large walk-in shower. I’m a little spoiled after our bathroom renovation, so I still LUV to have a really large shower when we’re away from home.

Plus,the view from our room of the river to City Walk was gorgeous!

Which brings me to my next point… You can actually take the riverboat to all of the Universal theme parks and the City Walk area. On the last day there, we actually took the boat to lunch before checking out, and it was so convenient! Not having to fight (or pay) for parking was an added perk, but the fact that the kids also enjoyed the ride was an added bonus.

When you’re ready to go back, you just look for the sign to Loews Sapphire Falls, and jump back on…

Day two brought a lot of fun! We hung by the pool and actually rented a cabana to decorate for my daughter’s birthday and have a place we could set up the pack and play for the baby. We had the space for the whole day, with our own waiter and chairs. I would say if you have a big group, it’s worth every penny, if your vacation budget allows it. When you (or your kids) need a break from the sun, you can lounge and watch TV (or in our husbands’ cases- sports). Whether or not you have a cabana, the pool is HUGE and has tons of seating all around! I highly recommend the Grapefruit margarita and the fish tacos. 🙂

Lastly, I HAVE to tell y’all about the amazing dinner experience we had on property. The resort has a few charming restaurants including The New Dutch Trading Company that is a grab-and-go type foodery that has the most AMAZING farmhouse decor. Can we talk about this black and white patterned tile?! Again.. the lighting!

There’s also Strong Water Tavern (which we didn’t get a chance to try), but again, the decor is fabulous and it looks like it would be a great place to check out sans-kids for a relaxing date night. Apparently they serve up vintage rums (by your own rum specialist) a ceviche bar and a patio overlooking the lagoon. Sounds amazing.

We had the pleasure of dining at the Amatista Cookhouse on property our last evening at the resort. Let me just say, I may not be a “foodie” per se, but I consider myself a connoisseur of restaurant decor and ambiance, and I can spot a winner when I see one. From the food, to the service (thank you to our server Michael for the friendly and wonderful service) to the ridiculously amazing decor (think your favorite beach restaurant meets Restoration Hardware), everything was top notch. I HIGHLY recommend the sofrito and my husband said I should make sure to mention the crab cakes. (I can’t speak for them though, because he didn’t share. I’m not kidding.)

We finished our night by the firepit I mentioned. The staff sold little s’mores kits, so the kids enjoyed making s’mores and playing in the sand, while us “grown-ups” enjoyed sitting around the fire over a glass of wine.

My only complaint I have about our trip, was that it had to end. I can assure you we will be back. Luckily, we’re close enough we can make this a recurring event. So the only question is… when shall we go back? 🙂

If you have any questions at all about the resort or my suggestions for things you should do while in Orlando, don’t hesitate to comment below! I’d also LUV to know what your favorite things to do in Orlando are, or where you might like us to explore next… We’re ready for another adventure! 🙂 Thanks for everything Loews Hotels! You have a friend in me. #LuvBecTravels

*Disclosure: This blog post was sponsored by Loews Hotels and Sapphire Falls Resort. That means that I made arrangements with the resort prior to our stay. I hope you trust that I would never let that get in the way of sharing my very own opinions and would never convey feelings that were not 100% my own. Thank you again for reading and hope you enjoy!

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My Spring/Summer Reading List…

While on vacation last week, I finally got the chance to read a book that was gifted to me several months ago, but I just hadn’t made the time to read. They say, “Timing is everything”, and I think this was no exception to that rule. I haven’t made the time to read a whole lot of anything lately, other than blogs. So, after enjoying this book so very much on my trip, I’ve decided I need to read the next book by the same author and possibly some others. So, I’ve compiled a list of books that I find appealing, all that can be purchased through Amazon, and I’m committing to watching a little less TV this spring/summer and a little more time to knocking out some of my reading list. In case you’re interested, I’ve linked some of the books I’m considering below…

(Link to the book you see in the photograph.)

(Link to the mattress you see in the photograph.)

(Link to the sweater you see in the photograph.)

*Disclaimer: Some of the product links on this site are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase something from these links Luv, Bec receives a commission. I hope you trust that I would never let that get in the way of sharing my favorite products with you. Thank you again for reading and hope you enjoy!

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LUV is in the Air {Valentine’s Gift Guide for HER}

If your Valentine’s wish list hints have been a little too subtle OR you’re just stumped as to what to get that lucky lady in your life for LUV Day… there’s still a little bit of time left, and I’ve got you covered. Here are some of the items I have, LUV OR want for myself. With any of these, you’re sure to score major points this Valentine’s Day.

I’m currently obsessing over this jewelry designer and absolutely LUV’ing stackable rings. Jewelry is never a bad idea. Here are some of my favs rings that are sure to steal any gals heart…

And handbags… never a bad idea:

Other items I’m LUV’ing, including some items I’m currently swooning over for the home:

If you’re looking for your Valentine OR you want to treat yourself… hopefully you’ve found some inspiration. Happy LUV Day!

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Reliving Our Trip to The Oscars with World Market

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cost Plus World Market and contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

Three years ago, we had the amazing experience of attending The Oscars. If you consider my bucket list… there’s nothing I’d have ranked higher… and it happened. To date, it was the most amazing night of my life, and one I know my husband and I will never forget. Each year since, I try to make viewing the event from home super special. Whether sitting and watching it with my husband, kids or girlfriends, I always make a big deal of cuddling up on our sofa with fancy cocktails and appetizers & hor d’oeuvres and reliving the night that is forever ingrained in my memory.

This year, I had the honor of working with Cost Plus World Market to create the perfect night at home. If you, too, enjoy watching The Oscars (or any of the award shows), I’m showing you the items I used to create the perfect setting… (And if any of y’all are interested in seeing some photos from our night at The Oscars, stay tuned to the bottom of this blog post. But don’t skip yet, because I’m giving you some good tips for your own Oscar viewing experience first!)

Did y’all know that World Market has food? I mean, you see me regularly link their items for the home, but this opportunity really gave me the chance to dive into the Food & Beverage section of their website and see all of the options they had to offer for Easy Entertaining. (Side bar, to any of my local Tampa/Clearwater friends… a little birdie told me there may be a World Market store coming locally to us! I cannot confirm this 100%. But if this rumor is true, I know I’ll definitely be doing some of my food and entertaining shopping here if/when this should happen. I am thoroughly impressed after trying out their food delivery services!)

So honest truth, I’m not much of a cook. I LUV good, healthy food. But I REALLY LUV good, healthy, EASY food. So World Market’s Gourmet Delivered foods make entertaining super easy, super tasty, and you’re sure to have a spread that looks pretty too! I ordered the Perfect Picnic Antipasti Selection, and let me tell you… it is DELICIOUS! The flavors are complex and rich, and the kit arrived to my door, refrigerated, within a couple days. I added some grapes to the spread, threw them on this gorgeous marble cutting board with copper handle (which matches my new kitchen table gorgeously) and this large, slate cheese board that comes with 3 pieces of stone chalk, making it perfect for labeling foods or writing something festive! I LUV that I can order this set (for no more than it would cost me to round these foods up at the grocery store) and it arrives to my door without ever leaving the house. I can throw it on the boards, and I have an instant party (would also be great for a picnic or date night OR VALENTINE’S DAY). Like I said… easy. Here’s a couple photos to give you an idea of how it arrived.

When it’s time for the show, I’ll plug in a set of frosted bulb string lights for that Hollywood kinda feel and we’ll dim the lights to make it extra cozy.

I usually set the food up right in front of the sofa, so we can be really lazy and don’t have to miss a second of the show. Or the red carpet… because let’s get real, that’s my favorite part.

Even if the kids don’t make it up late enough to watch the show with us, I really like to include them in the fun. I remember coming home from LA that year, bringing them their “Best Sister” & “Best Brother” Oscar trophies and telling them all about our amazing weekend. The kids still like to talk about how “Mommy and Daddy met the people in the TV”. This year, I let the kids pop their own popcorn with this retro popcorn popper. My daughter and her friend had a blast pouring the kernels into the machine and watching it pop. Even if they can’t be up for the show, I LUV taking out their trophies and reminiscing as we watch the preshow and hang out together.

I’m so excited for this year’s show, and hope you have found some bit of inspiration today to use in your own plans for this award season. Let me know how you celebrate The Oscars and what you’re most excited about this season… (I, personally, cannot wait to see what’s trending on the red carpet!)

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Oh… and as, promised… a few shots from our night at The Oscars… Forgive the poor quality of the photos. These were snapped on my older iphone before my blogging days. 😉

    

Thanks for stopping by and reliving this wonderful night with me! Can’t wait to see how you celebrate this year!

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Easy, Guilt-Free Mini Banana Muffins {You Can Make with Ingredients Usually in Your Home}

Yesterday, I posted on my Instagram stories my easy, guilt-free peanut butter, banana mini muffins, and got TONS of questions about them! So, I’m sharing the complete recipe with you here! Feel free to Pin it for easy reference, by clicking on the “Pin it” icon at the very bottom of the post. If you LUV it as much as we do, you’ll probably make these a staple in your home. The substance of these muffins is the bananas (You want really ripe bananas, so I usually make this recipe when I have overly ripe bananas laying around that haven’t been eaten.) and peanut butter. (You can probably make these with any nut butter of your preference, if you have allergies or want to go with a healthier option.) I also stated in my stories that there are several options for using your overly ripe bananas, so don’t throw them away! Peel them and freeze them for use in your smoothies or make 2-step banana pancakes.  Anywho… these muffins are delicious and perfect for snacking and satisfying your sweet tooth! They’re flour-free and oh so yummy!

As I said in my stories, if I have enough to, I always double or triple this recipe, because my family pops them like candy and we tend to go through them quickly. If you triple the recipe and use a mini muffin tray, you can stretch this recipe to make around 60 mini-muffins, give or take a little.

Recipe (again, you can double or triple this, but this is the single recipe):

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix…

1 banana

1/4 tsp. baking soda

pinch of salt

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 egg

3 tbsp. honey

1/2 cup peanut butter

Mix all ingredients, and when the mixture is nice and smooth, add dairy, nut & soy-free mini chocolate chips. Mix again until they’re evenly distributed.

I spray my muffin tin(s) with coconut oil spray so they don’t stick and then scoop the mixture into the muffin cavity about 3/4 full.

(I try to use organic options whenever possible.)

Bake for 7-9 minutes, depending on your oven.

And voila…

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Make these before a playdate, get-together or just to have for the week so you can snack on them or give them to your family for breakfast. You can also alter the recipe by skipping the chocolate chips and adding blueberries if you use a regular-sized muffin tray. Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy and LUV them as much as we do!

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