LEGOLAND Florida: What to do when you're two

We've been wanting to take Miss Cupcake to a large theme park, but we weren't quite sure she was ready for the Disney experience.  She has recently developed a love for Legos, so we decided to make a quick trip to LEGOLAND Florida.  Teachers who are licensed in the state of Florida get a FREE 12-month pass, and children under the age of three get in free as well.  Both my dear hubby and Miss Cupcake fell into these catagories.  Before we went, I took a look around the website to see if the park was toddler-friendly.  Much to my delight, I discovered a What To Do When You're Two tab.  
This clearly outlined which rides and entertainment options would be appropriate for little ones.  
We printed out this page to take along with us to the park.

Miss Cupcake missed her morning nap due to the road trip and was beginning to drift off by the time we arrived.  However, she spunked right up when she was greeted by large LEGO sculptures near the entrance.  We decided to try the two-level carousel first.  The line appeared to be quite long, but it took less than fifteen minutes to get to the front.  There was even a fun, LEGO play center for the children to enjoy while their parents saved their place in line!  Miss Cupcake was very excited to have Mommy and Daddy both join her on the carousel.
There were plenty of rides appropriate for little ones, and Miss Cupcake even got to ride her very first "roller coaster".  
I was a bit nervous that this would frighten her.  However, she giggled and shouted "weeeeeeee" the entire time!
Another area of interest for Miss Cupcake was the safari ride.  She enjoyed pointing out all the LEGO animals that she spotted along the way.  This was a slow ride through the "jungle" that was quite relaxing for us all.
Lunch at LEGOLAND was also a hit!  Many reasonably priced healthy options, such as vegetables and rice, were available.  Miss Cupcake enjoyed a child's meal that included macaroni and cheese (her all-time favorite).
We walked through mini LEGO cities, watched a funny pirate show, met characters... and of course, played with LEGOs.  The day was positively lovely!
On a completely unrelated note, I finally gave in and tried palazzo pants.  
Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I recently discussed my reservations regarding this trend.  
However, I decided to snatch these flowy pants up during a recent visit to Target.  I am officially a lover of palazzo pants.  
They were cool, comfy, and absolutely perfect for a fun-packed day at LEGOLAND.

Vanilla ice cream with homemade fudge pieces recipe: Guest Blogger

__________________________________________________________________

About the Guest Blogger:
Nelc3 is a mother of two energetic boys and a blogger of all things delicious!
Follow her on Twitter and visit her blog for more great recipes.
__________________________________________________________________

Fudge is a firm favorite in our house...well it has to be as I have been practicing and practicing how to get it right! :)

Even so, before I started practicing, I have always loved it.  It's so creamy and smooth.  
I have been toying with a recipe and I know there is a myth about fudge being really hard to make, but it's not, honest.

Here's my recipe, it makes a delish, smooth fudge.  The tray never lasts more than 1 day, that's the sign of a good fudge!

Ingredients:



  • 397g can condensed milk
  • 150ml milk
  • 450g demerara sugar
  • 115g butter


  • You will also need...
    20cm square tin lined with baking parchment
    Step 1:
    Place the ingredients into a large non-stick saucepan and melt over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
    Step 2:
    Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously and scraping the base of the pan. Take care while the mixture boils and during stirring as the fudge will be VERY hot! To test its ready drop a little of the mixture into a jug of ice-cold water. A soft ball of fudge should form. Or check with a sugar thermometer if you have one (approx 118°C). 


    Step 3:
    Remove from the heat and beat the fudge until very thick and starting to set (about 10 minutes).  
    Step 4:
    Pour into the prepared tin and leave to cool before cutting into squares.
    Ice cream is so versatile. You can adapt it to almost any flavour you wish. Who doesn't love it?  

    It's also so much better home made, rather than shop bought.  Home made ice cream has four simple ingredients and then you can jazz it up with any other flavour you want.

    Here's my basic vanilla ice cream recipe, which you is delicious on it's own or you can add different flavours (e.g mint, strawberry, orange etc etc).  I'll be added my home made vanilla fudge to the vanilla ice cream.  This makes about 1.5 pints of ice cream.

    Vanilla ice cream (custard based) recipe:

    Ingredients:
    4 egg yolks
    4oz (100g) caster sugar
    1.5 pint (300ml) milk
    1.5 pint (300ml) double cream
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Pour the milk in a saucepan and slowly heat it to boiling point. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together and then still beating pour over the milk. Return the mixture to the pan and stirring constantly heat it until the mixture forms a film over the back of a wooden spoon. Do not let it boil or it will separate. 

    Remove the pan from the heat, leave it until cold and then stir in the cream and vanilla.

    Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and set it to churn. Once the mixture is at it's desired consistency you can add your chosen flavouring (fruit, crumbled biscuits etc)

    If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can do this part by hand.  Pour into a contain with a lid. Put it in the freezer. Let it be for about an hour. Take it out and stir it, until the ice crystals break down and disappear. Return to the freezer for another few hours. Take out of the freezer and stir again.

    Depending on your consistency, you may need to repeat this stir and refreezing a few times.  

    Here's my finished product!
    You can, of course, add any additional flavour to the vanilla ice cream.  I've made a mint ice cream and a strawberry ice cream.  They were both delicious (so I've been told, I never got to try it!!)

    Enjoy!






    Gnocchi a la Divya: Guest Blogger

    __________________________________________________________________
    About the Guest Blogger:
    Divya is a lifestyle blogger- which includes everything from reviews to political debates.
    Read more from Divya on her blog.
    Be sure to follow her on Twitter & Facebook!
    __________________________________________________________________             
          Ingredients:
    500g packet of gnocchi
    250g mascarpone (or Philadelphia)
    Butter
    300g spinach
    Salt to taste
    Nutmeg
            Cheese


    Method:
    • Place the gnocchi in a pan of boiling water and cook until the gnocchi rises.
    • Put the frozen spinach under warm water and roughly chop.
    • Drain the gnocchi well and add butter to the pan.
    • Add the spinach to the pan and lightly cook.
    • Slowly stir in the mascarpone until melted. Once the mascarpone has melted, add the cooked gnocchi.
    • Add salt and nutmeg to taste.
    • Pour into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle cheese over the top.
    • Cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat, or until cheese is golden brown.
    • Serve immediately, with warm garlic bread and salad. 


    Berry-Banana Oatmeal Ball Recipe (4 ingredients)

    Family, Faith and DIY graciously invited Miss Cupcake to a lovely little party this morning. 
    (Click here to see more about this indoor "garden" party)
    My little lady never turns down an opportunity to put on a party dress, so she was thrilled to attend!  
    We decided that it would be fun to bring along a snack to share with friends.  

    These Berry-Banana Oatmeal Balls are super simply, healthy, and toddler-friendly.  
    In fact, they only require four ingredients!

    You will need:
    3 ripe bananas
    1 Cup of strawberries
    1 Cup of blueberries
    2 Cups of rolled oats

    Instructions:
    Cut the bananas and berries into small pieces and squish with a fork
    Mix in the rolled oats
    Form the mixture into balls and place on a cookie sheet
    Bake on 350 °F for 10-15 minutes (until lightly brown)

    J
    As with all yummy snacks, these are so much better when shared with friends!

    Easy Baked Kale Chip Recipe (3 Ingredients)

    Photo Credit: Kasey Shuler

    If you are looking for a low-calerie snack, this may just be your answer!
    These simple baked kale chips are so delicious that you just can't stop at one.
    They are great for parties or a healthy afternoon snack.
    The best part... they are Miss Cupcake approved.  She can't get enough!

    Ingredients:
    1 bunch of kale (or 2-3 handfuls of pre-cut kale)
    1 tablespoon of olive oil
    1 teaspoon of seasoned salt

    Instructions:
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
    Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
    Cut or tear kale into bit size pieces and remove any stems
    Wash and dry kale
    Sprinkle with olive oil and seasoned salt
    Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned

    Major guilt-free yumminess!

    5 Way To Help Your Autistic Child Thrive In School

    Photo Credit: hepingting

    1. Teach Your Child how to use the playground effectively
    You can help your child with autism with the basics of playground  routines by visiting playgrounds together or with siblings and friends, and practicing some of the expected behaviors.  Since many people are of the notion that "kids just know these things" (proper playground behaviors) it's important to understand that playground behaviors may not mean the same thing in the mind of a child with autism  A few key skills include:
    • Teach your child to stand in line (slide down the slide, then go to the back of the slide and wait your turn)
    • Teach your child to swing (learn to pump rather than wait for an adult to push)
    • Teach your child safe and fun climbing techniques (always have two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand on the climbing structure, etc.)
    • Teach your child how to ask an adult for help when needed.
    2. Maintain and Monitor a Routine with the Child
    I can not begin to emphasize how much routines have helped students with autism excel in and out of the classroom. The most important key here is for parents to establish and maintain a routine and plan. This plan must be communicated with their child’s teacher and reinforced at home.  As autistic children and adults often struggle with anxiety and worry, parents can help assuage feelings of angst by adhering to a daily regimen.
    For example, each day a parent or caregiver can review homework assignments with their child in a specific order to maintain routine and predictability.  If a child needs less one-on-one support, then a parent can establish a routine of where and when a child should complete their homework each day.  Oftentimes, autistic students respond well to lists and visual organizers. Parents can help foster success by providing their child with a daily academic checklist.  This checklist can include tasks such as: complete homework, put all materials in the correct class folders, make sure materials for tomorrow are in my book bag, and so forth.

    3. Be Patient
    One of the things I often hear from caregivers and parents is that “my child takes too long”. This is not to say that the child should not do his/her best to get a task done at a certain time. However, it is important to understand that a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may behave in specific ways because of a delay in development in an area of developing. While this is not always convinent and sometimes not possible, it helps to plan a few minutes before an activity to give that child extra room to get ready. So, plan an extra 10 or so minutes before and after your activity. At school we call this extra time transition. These few extra minutes before and after each lesson help prepare the autistic child for the new lesson/activity.

    4. Be proactive in helping your child with interpreting social cues
    Since children with autism are slower in learning to interpret what others are thinking and feeling, subtle social cues—whether a smile, a wink, or a grimace—may have little meaning. To a child who misses these cues, “Come here” always means the same thing, whether the speaker is smiling and extending her arms for a hug or frowning with their hands on their hips. Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world is quite bewildering place for an autistic child. To compound the problem, people with autism have difficulty seeing things from another person’s perspective. Most 5-year-olds understand that other people have different information, feelings, and goals than they have. A person with autism may lack such understanding. This inability leaves them unable to predict or understand other people’s actions. There are lots of books and videos available with social situations that parents can utilize to help their child. Turn it into a game, like “name that face” or “what I am I thinking”. Take your child to a playground and have them observe how other typical kids interacts while explaining what’s happening as both of you watch.

    5. Be prepared for fixations
    While this may not fit neatly into everyone’s daily schedule and life, it is important for parents to be open to the unexpected. One of the ways in which autism affects children is by causing them to become fixated with particular objects, places, and people. Hence, parents should be prepared to be spontaneous. Your child will learn new things at school every day, and they will often become obsessed about something. As a teacher, I have seen my autistic students become greatly fixated on everything from an individual to the lessons. Parents should be open and aware because there will be times when these obsessions become intense and change quickly. These obsessions may vary by days and weeks. Today it may be one thing, tomorrow it may be something entirely different. As someone who works with autistic children five days a week, I understand how this may become frustrating and overwhelming at times for parents. However, the joy comes in understanding the innocence of these fixations. Although parents may be tempted to be annoyed, autistic children are not doing this to be mean or spiteful. It is simply their way of showing us that they are unique human beings who, despite their differences, are attempting to relate to the world around them. When sending your autistic child to school, be prepared for the fixations that are likely to occur.

    "If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn."
    - Ignacio Estrada
    __________________________________________________________________

    Meet the Guest Blogger:
    Alvin (otherwise know on Skinny Latte Mommy as "My Dear Hubby") is currently a teacher at a private South Florida school for both typical and special needs children and provides individual behavioral therapy to autistic children. He has a Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education and a Master's in Behavior Analysis. He is presently preparing to sit the Board Certified Behavior Analysis license exam.
    _________________________________________________________________

    Additional Resources:
    ASD Vacations LLC: ASD Vacations LLC consults with families to help overcome the unique situations related to vacationing with an autistic child. They work with families to provide appropriate support and special arrangements that may be needed.
    Asperger's Community: The purpose of this website is to assist Aspergers groups so as to enable them to better help people with Autism and Aspergers.
    AutismAsperger.netAutismAsperger.net serves to build greater awareness of the autism spectrum and in particular, Asperger Syndrome. It joins other websites with this same focus and will work together with them toward strengthening our community of people on the autism spectrum.
    Autism After 16: This website arose out of the desire to help adults with ASD and their families make sense of the morass of information and misinformation out there. Autism After 16 is dedicated to providing information and analysis of adult autism issues, with the emphasis on analysis. Anyone can Google “autism + adults” and discover a vast array of programs, documents, and products. Our intention here is to try to help adults with ASD and their families make sense of what’s out there.
    Autism Blogs Directory:A diverse directory of autism blogs 
    Autism and Boyscouts: This site was created to give information to parents of autistic children considering if Scouting is right for their child and for Scout Leaders and Volunteers (Scouters) who have autistic children in their unit.
    Autism Parenting SolutionsProviding practical solutions to parents of children with autism from parents of children with autism.
    Autism Support GroupsA helping hand on demand.
    Autism Women's Network: The mission of the Autism Women's Network is to provide effective supports to autistic women and girls of all ages through a sense of community, advocacy and resources.
    Awe in Autism: Through original works of art, music, literature, poetry, photography and video, as well as many other resources, aweinautism.org seeks to provide inspiration and encouragement to those impacted by autism.



    You & Me (and a crying baby) Keeping the romance alive


    Photo Credit: JBYLER Photography renamed Imagery Elixir

    Caring for a baby is one of the most physically and emotionally draining (yet rewarding) jobs on the planet.  Sleep and privacy become quite scarce after the arrival of your little bundle of joy.  The uninterrupted conversations and romantic dinners tend to become a distant memory.  The weekend getaways often turn out more stressful than relaxing.  However, a baby does not have to mean the decline of romance in your marriage.  In fact, the joint task of raising a child together can be an enriching experience.  There are a few things to keep in mind when attempting to keep a close relationship with your spouse while navigating the winding road of parenthood.  

    Set aside time alone with your spouse.  Depending on your situation, this may take a significant amount of planning.  My dear hubby and I have always lived hundreds of miles away from family.  I am one of those helicopter moms who rarely leaves their baby with a sitter.  However, we have come up with ways to still have "date nights" in our current situation.  After Cupcake goes to sleep at night, we often enjoy dinner and a movie together...at home.  Obviously, this is not quite the same as going out on an actual date, but in a pinch it works!  

    Remind yourself why you fell in love.  When you have not slept in days and your spouse has spit up on their shirt (this will happen), it is easy to forget what a truly fabulous person you have married.  When you start taking each other for granted, it is often beneficial to think back to the things that first attracted you to them when you met.  It is also fun include your spouse in this by reminiscing on your first dates or looking through old photos together.  

    Don't feel guilty for focusing on your relationship.  As a new parent, it is easy to feel guilty about focusing on anything other than the tiny human that you have been entrusted with.  However, the greatest gift that you can give your child is a loving relationship between their parents.  Investing time and effort into your marriage is anything but selfish.

    Communicate throughout the day. While it may be fun to text cute photos of your little love to your spouse throughout the day, it is also important to communicate in a loving manner.  Send them a text telling them what you love about them or leave an encouraging note in their car.  Let them know that you still see them as your lover and friend.  

    Do things for each other.  One thing that has been very helpful in my relationship since having a baby was our "Things For Each Other" lists.  We each wrote down a list of things that the other could do that would make us feel appreciated and loved.  This list included things that cost money, such as flowers, and things that did not cost money, such as waking up an extra night with the baby.  Each week we would randomly pick something off the list to do for the other.  This was one of the best things we did for our relationship after having a baby.

    Appreciate each other's need for alone time. Privacy is non-existing after having a baby.  The constant presence of another can be quite exhausting.  It is vital that each of you have the opportunity to have alone or leisure time on a regular basis.  This can be done by periodically staying home with the baby while the other goes out.  It will only make your together time more valuable and appreciated.

    Find baby-friendly activities you can enjoy together.  During the first few months after our baby arrived, we began running together.  The stroller ride was soothing to our little one, and we enjoyed the time together.  It was a great activity that included the baby, and it brought us together as couple.  There are many similar activities that can include a baby with a little effort... and it is worth the effort.

    Don't take your exhaustion out on your spouse.  Bringing home a newborn and exhaustion go hand in hand.  You will inevitably feel grumpy and overwhelmed.  Try to keep in mind that you spouse is likely feeling the same way.  Many new mothers experience feelings of resentment because they feel that they are doing most of the work (such as waking up multiple times a night to breastfeed).  It is much more beneficial to explain how you are feeling or ask for help than to snap at your spouse or blame them for your exhaustion.

    Remember it won't last forever.  While eighteen years may sound like an eternity, your baby will eventually grow up and leave home (hopefullyJ).  Think of keeping the romance alive as a long term investment.  With a little effort and determination your marriage can survive the ups and down of parenthood and grow stronger during the process.