Nature Calls

Every once in awhile you just have to get away. You need a break from the day-to-day grind of mundane tasks.

Since it has been awhile since we have had a mini-vacation we decided to go camping for a weekend.

If you have read my previous post reviewing Old Millstream Campground you will know that I am a little timid when it comes to the great outdoors.

So we decided to stick with familiar territory and rent a cabin for a few days at a local campground. This way we won’t spend a lot of time driving to our destination and will be able to be close to home as well.

Since we are going to be leaving in a few weeks I have been trying to accumulate ideas and lists for what we need and things we can do while we are at the cabin.

Being that we aren’t going to be that far away, I have imposed a one backpack per person rule. (Lily will get two one with stuff she needs and the other one for fun stuff.) But, this makes me think that I am going to forget something. Luckily, there is a Walmart and grocery store close by.

I came across this really great website/blog called Beyond the Tent and they have this really great simple camping check list.

Simple Camping checklist

Photo courtesy of Beyondthetent.com

Our cabin also comes with a fire ring and grill so we are trying to find some different recipes to follow  that utilize our cast iron skillet and a griddle.

I am thinking campfire griddle cakes for breakfast and some kind of veggie foil packet for dinner, but I am still open to trying some different things.

The thing about us is that both Kev and I are vegetarians (Lily isn’t) so we are looking for some recipes that are sans meat.

While I didn’t find a lot of interesting Youtube videos about specifically vegetarian camping (minus the one included below), but there were a few interesting vegan camping videos like the one below.

Do you have any tired and true camping recipes. Feel free to share them below in the comments.


Heinz Happens

This past weekend we had the opportunity to take in another retro/vintage fair. This time it was hosted by the Heinz History Center. 


During the event admission was reduced and we decided to take advantage and explore all the museum had to offer. 

The museum is tailored to the history of southwestern Pennsylvania including area sports, businesses, the part the area played in country wide events and more. 

There is even an area dedicated to Pittsburgh’s most famous neighbor Fred Rogers and his neighborhood. 


The day was made even sweeter because I found this wonderful Samsonite train case for $12.


We had a wonderful weekend and might check out future Neighborhood Flea events this summer. 

Do you have any events that you are looking forward to this summer? Leave your comments below. 


Visiting the Mouse on a Mouse Sized Budget

savingmoney

Walt Disney created Disneyland with the principle that it was for everyone. That it would be a place that families could come together and enjoy the parks as a way of bonding.

Yes a Walt Disney World vacation can be expensive. You can spend a lot of money on a vacation, but it can also be done while being budget conscious as well.

Here are 10 money saving tips for your Walt Disney World vacation.

1. Be Seasonally Smart

If you are able to be flexible with when you can take your vacation, you might want to look at the off season. This is typically during the month of January. Bonus: if you go early enough in the month you will still be able to check out all the Christmas decorations at the parks and resorts.

2. Be Resort-ful 

Your resort choice can have a big impact on the final dollar amount of your trip. If you are looking at your resort as a place to just sleep and you plan on spending most of your time at the parks then you might want to stay at a value resort. While a rate for a value resort might hover around $120 a deluxe could be over $400.

3. Choose the Right Dining Plan

We are big supporters of the Disney Dining plan. For us it makes sense, but this isn’t the case for everyone. If you do decide that you are going to purchase a dining plan, you might want to buy the Quick Service dining plan that allows you two quick services, a snack and refillable drink mug. Also, remember that the snack can be any single serving item so you can get a pretty hefty snack and make it your lunch for the day.

4. Shop Around

There are plenty of travel agencies and vacation packages out there for Walt Disney World. Do your research and compare prices. Last year we were able to find a really awesome deal for the Beach Club Resort with tickets, dining plan and airfare through Southwest Vacations for a great price. This deal wasn’t found anywhere else.

5. Buy Gift Cards to pay off your vacation

A lot of grocery stores offer fuel perks for purchases that you make in the store. A lot of these places offer Disney gift cards. If you purchase the amount of gift cards that you need to pay off your trip you will get a lot of money back that you can use to get a bunch of free gas.

6. Go for buffets (especially if you have a Mousekatot under 3)

Buffets are the way to go when you are trying to get the most bang for your buck in Walt Disney World. These are often character meals and you get a wide variety of food that will most likely please everyone in your party, Also, if you have anyone under the age of 3 they will get to eat for free with the purchase of an adult meal.

7. Assess the Park Hopper

For an added fee Walt Disney World offers guests the opportunity to add onto their ticket a park hopper which lets them visit as many parks as they want in one day. This means that with out the Park Hopper you can only visit one park each day. If you think that you would only be interested in visiting one park each day only, then skip the added cost and opt out of the park hopper.

8. Take Off Days 

If you are staying for a long period of time you might want to skip buying tickets to the parks every day and spend a few days at the hotel pool or visiting Disney Springs. These are either free or included with the price already and can save you some extra change.

9. Rent DVC Points

Walt Disney World has a “timeshare” program called the Disney Vacation Club. Instead of buying a particular property, DVC members purchase points that can be used at any of the DVC resorts. When a member can’t use their points they have the option to rent out their points through a third party company. If you are someone that wants to stay at a deluxe resort this may be a way of doing this that will save a little bit of money.

10. Order in

If you plan on being at Walt Disney World for a week or more you might want to have groceries delivered to your room. This way you can eat your breakfast before heading out and this can save you some money. Places like GardenGrocer.com or even Amazon Prime can deliver groceries right to your resort. You just need your name and the address for the resort and the groceries will be waiting for you at the front desk.

These are just a few tips for you to save money on your Walt Disney World vacation. Just like everything else you need to find out what works best for your family and adjust accordingly.

For more tips on saving money and planning your Walt Disney World vacation with toddlers pick up a copy of Mousekatots available as both paperback and ebook.

mousekatots


Finding Fun in the Simple Things

Lily Smore 2

Having access to the Internet is both a blessing and a curse at the same time.

While you are able to find plenty of suggestions on how to make the perfect birthday party for your one year old, it can also hurt because you don’t think that you can ever measure up to what you see on the screen.

Being a parent is hard enough you don’t need this added pressure of unrealistic expectations to add to it.

It was a year ago that I read an article about how this mother wanted to have a “1970s Summer.”

This meant more time outside and allowing kids to just be kids.

Like letting children get all sticky sweet from sugar loaded Popsicles minus the organic and no sugar added variety.

Letting them stay up too late to go outside and catch lightening bugs and camp in the backyard.

We started to do this last year by enjoying smores by the fire pit and doing indoor camping and letting her eat too much ice cream.

We plan on doing this again this year.

So when I was on Pinterest, ironic, isn’t it, I found a lot of places that had lists of things to do over the summer with your children.

Here is a list that I really like from Natural Beach Living.

100-Summer

What ideas do you have for spending the summer with your little Mousekatots? Leave your comments below.


Worth the Money: Disney Dining Plan

BeachesandCream

One of the biggest questions people have when they start planning their Disney vacation is if they should purchase the Disney Dining plan.

It seams for most people there is no middle ground. You either love the plan or you think it is a waste of money.

We have been traveling to Disney almost annually since 2007. I would say for eight out of 10 of those trips we have purchased the dining plan and the only reason why we didn’t purchase it those two times is because our stay was too short to qualify for the dining plan. So I bet you can guess which camp we are in when it comes to the dining plan.

Speaking of qualifications, in order to be able to purchase the dining plan you must be staying on Disney property, in one of the Disney owned resorts, and have purchased at least two days worth of park tickets. So if you are just going to be visiting Disney for a few days and will only visit the parks once, then you will not be able to get the dining plan.

Another big consideration for people is the cost of the dining plan.

Disney has three tiers of dining plans.

The first is the quick service plan. This entitles each person to two quick service meals (which is a place where you walk up to the counter and order) and two snacks (any single serve item is considered a snack. This includes the vegetarian chili at Columbia Harbor House in the Magic Kingdom and the Smuckers Uncrustables.) You also get a refillable mug that you can use for unlimited beverages at your resort only.

This plan costs $48.19 for adults and $20.88 for children ages 3 to 9 per day.

The next step up is the regular (base) dining plan.

What is included in this plan is one quick service, one table service (which includes soft drink, entree and dessert) and one snack each day. This tier also includes the refillable mug.

The cost of this plan is $69.35 for adults and $24.95 for children ages 3 to 9 per day.

The top tier is the Deluxe Dining Plan includes three meals (your choice of either quick service or tables service), two snacks and refillable mug.

The price of this plan is $106.68 for adults and $38.75 for kids ages 3 to 9.

There are a lot of different options available for different prices and budgets.

In my opinion, I think the dining plan is worth it for adults. If you have a child who is a picky eater or doesn’t eat that much you might want to skip the dining plan.

The greatest thing is that you can order anything off the meal including the most expensive items and you can enjoy some of the best character dining experiences that would end up costing almost $60 for just one meal.

Do you prefer to use the dining plan or do you pay out of pocket? Leave your comments below.


Smokey the Square

If there is something that a lot of people know about me is that I am not outdoorsy.

Actually, that might be putting it lightly. I hate bugs. I am terrified of snakes and I think bears are lurking around every corner just waiting to eat me like a tasty cake.

In actually, in my deep down, I know that these things are very least likely to be a threat to me, so I am trying my best to step out of my comfort zone again and try to go my version of camping.

We recently booked a stay for a weekend at a local campground next month. We booked a cabin with a bathroom because I am still not that adventurous when it comes to camping.

Indoor Camping

Our first attempt at indoor camping.

Last fall we had our first foray into camping when we stayed in a cabin at Old Mill Stream Campground in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

OldMillStream1

Located right next to an adorable family amusement park, Dutch Wonderland, Old Mill Stream is a smaller campground but is big on charm.

The cabins are really clean and spacious and were a perfect option for our very excited toddler.

There was a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining area with a futon and lots of space.

Outside each cabin had a grill, fire ring and picnic table.

My only complaint, which is really minor, was that there wasn’t a TV in the bedroom. For a person that needs to have the TV on to sleep it was a little of an inconvenience. We were able to hook up our tablets and stream Netflix overnight, so it ended up working out alright.

However, the scenery couldn’t be beat with a sweet little creek running behind the campground, to pie deliveries by the Amish, to receiving a discount at the neighboring amusement park.

In addition to the cabins there are RV hook ups, tent camping sites and you can even spend the night in a tepee.

OldMillStream2 I would highly recommend this campsite for those both experienced in camping as well novices.

The setting is peaceful and the coziness of the campground makes you remember the simple summer pleasures.

Do you and your family go camping? If so, what do you look for in a campground? Leave your comments below.


Life Gets in the Way

Things have been very busy recently, which has caused some radio silence on Mousekatots. Both of our jobs have been requiring some extra work so I have been too tired at the end of the day to do much of anything except to try to prop my eyes open to watch some TV.

But, last weekend we had a lot of fun going shopping and Lily was able to use her chore money to buy an Ariel doll that she had been eyeing up at the Disney Store. She was so proud!

Then, yesterday evening it was my mom’s birthday so we had a wonderful celebration full of dinner, cake and presents.

Here are some photos from our fun weekend and birthday:

Friday

Since I have Fridays off it is usually spent at either the Library or doing things around the house. Since this past Friday was pretty rainy and gloomy we stayed home and put our hair in curlers, made “dino chips” and counted our coins to see if we had enough money to buy our Ariel doll.

 

Saturday

On Saturday we went to our favorite restaurant for breakfast, did shopping at the mall, including get Lily her Ariel doll and having fun in the Disney Store, tried a new Mediterranean restaurant and watched “Sing.”

 

Wednesday

Like I said earlier, Wednesday was my Mom’s birthday and we celebrated by going out for dinner, having cake and opening presents. Everyone had fun, but I think Lily enjoyed herself the most.

Did you have a fun weekend or exciting week so far? Leave your comments below.