A New Favorite: Low Fat Banana Bread

I am always anxious to try a new banana bread recipe and this one is a good one. The technique is a bit different as you roast the bananas (still in the peel) in the oven first and then let them cool. This brings out so much more flavor and sweetness that you can dramatically reduce the sugar and oil or butter needed. DRAMATICALLY. If you follow the recipe, you will get a yummy loaf of traditional banana bread without the high calorie content. Enjoy!

Low-Fat Banana Bread
Makes one 9x5 loaf

4 Large Ripe Bananas
2 Large Eggs
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 3/4 cups of All purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar (as opposed to the usual cup or cup and a half!!)
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs. vegetable oil (as opposed to the usual stick of butter!) 
2 ounces of low fat cream cheese (cut into 4 pieces and chilled)

Roast Bananas on a rimmed baking sheet at 325' for 20 minutes until the skins are completely black. Remove and set aside to cool. Leave oven on.
After bananas are completely cooled, peel and mash them. Measure 1 1/2 cups. Discard any excess or save for future use. (Mine had quite a bit of liquid but it turned out great!)

Whisk Eggs and Vanilla in a small bowl. Using an electric mixer on med. low, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt together until combined. Add oil and cream cheese slowly, one piece at a time. Mix until the cream cheese incorporates and resembles small pea-sized bits. Slowly add egg mixture while mixing and then add bananas and beat 30 seconds.

Scrape batter into a greased loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes until golden brown. Cool for ten minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Store in the Fridge for a few days.
The recipe advised us to wait an hour and let it cool. We did not. :)

**Adapted from Cook's Country Magazine


Our Disney Trip (and Tips!) - Part Three - Don't Miss and Link Love

Things I would not miss (especially for a child's first trip to Disney)
(Many of these are Magic Kingdom Based so if anyone has any tips about other parks, feel free to include them in the comments!)

* Arriving as close to possible to "Rope Drop" at the park. There is a special kind of excitement that cannot be duplicated at this point in the day at Disney. Not to mention, you can hop on over to rides you most want to ride and catch them before EVERYONE else. At this time of year, rope drop is usually around 8am or 9am but check this Disney Site for exact information and times. (Oh, and grab a Times Guide when you pick up a map at the front of the park. This Times Guide will list show times and give helpful info as to where and when you can find certain characters!)
* Getting Lucy her first pair of mouse ears! Right in the Magic Kingdom Town Square, there is a little shop called The Chapeau Hat Shoppe (right next to the candy shop--smells divine!) where you can purchase the standard mouse ears and have them embroidered or you can even design your own mouse ears! We chose to have the standard black mouse ears (in the infant size--because they are generously sized!) and had the traditional script font of her name. This cost about $15.00 total for the hat and the embroidery at the time when we went earlier this month. I considered it my own souvenir because I was more excited about it than Lucy was--but she ended up loving them and still wants to wear them!
* I know I mentioned this yesterday but taking some time out to sit in the shade and share a Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar. This was one of the things that Lance remembered from his childhood (not me, I was allergic to dairy!) and we just had to do with Lucy. She loved it as much as we did and it was sweet and simple.(well simple.. except that we spent almost $6.00 on Ice Cream-- but hey, it's vacation, right?! One treat like that a day is to be expected, I guess! And it was worth it!) I almost enjoyed this trip more than any other because we HAD to take it slow and just enjoy every little moment.
* The Fireworks Show When we first arrived and realized the fireworks weren't until 10PM, we thought the kids would never last that long.. but they did (thanks to a hefty nap) and once the fireworks began, everyone forgot how tired they were. I have heard several people say that if you can get there early-- the tables at Casey's Hot Dogs on Main Street are a great place to watch the fireworks show. They take down the umbrellas and supposedly the view is fantastic. I don't know for sure because we were late getting there but try it and let me know!
* Riding the Train around the park in the hottest part of the day. The train lets off in Frontierland (right near Splash Mountain!) and Main Street, USA and it was a terrific way to rest and cool off for a little bit. It's kind of a good break for mom and dad since the kids have so much to look at.
* Take the Pictures you want to take! This may seem obvious, but I kept my camera very handy and not the in the bottom of the bag so that I didn't miss anything.
* Try the Town Square Theatre on Main Street for Mickey or the Princesses but book a Character Meal for the one you "must" see. 
We got a fast pass for Mickey while we waited to see Cinderella. Although, I will say this, we did not see Minnie Mouse. We asked several cast members when she would be there with them and they all kind of knowingly smiled and said "Hmmm.. we NEVER know when she will show up!" (So coy!) Of all the different times I heard how the "cast members are there to help and make your day perfect" this surprised me. So at one point, the man out front said that Minnie was in there with Mickey so we went in and apparently he was misinformed. Clearly Minnie is in the CIA. We didn't book a character meal but Lucy did not seem to miss Minnie once we saw a statue of her. Ha! Love that kid.
* Call the Front Desk and ask if Mousekeeping can clean your room in the morning before lunch time on days you will be going out to the park and returning after lunch. I did not do this and I wish I had. We returned back to our room both days to put Lucy down only to discover that housekeeping was just about to clean our room. we had to decline the service and just request clean towels. Not such a big deal, but I will ask in advance next time. I'm sure they will work with guests on this. 

Well, I could go on and on about EVERYTHING that was my favorite but I will stop there and just say, enjoy every second of it! Remember your kids will be kids and don't expect them to act like adults. If YOU don't feel like standing in line in the heat for 35 minutes... don't expect them to do it without a small amount of possibly uncharacteristic whining. :) I can't tell you how disappointing it was to hear some smarmy Dad or Mom (not Lucy's of course.. most of the time. Ha!) make some ill-tempered comment about how much "fun" they weren't having. AND, I saw one Mother riding the Tea Cups with her 5 year old daughter while TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE!!!!! I almost said, "Hey! Hang up your phone and take a mental photograph of this moment! Soon she'll be 21 and gone!!!" Well, Not really. Okay. Whew, Soapbox over. Clearly that struck a cord with me.

And Now, for the Link Love!!! These are helpful blogs, articles and links that helped us plan!!!

If you have any others, please share them!!

1. The Mom's Panel Advice (Great tool on the Disney Website!) Ask them anything, but first search to see if someone already has! I certainly wore out this website!
2. MouseSavers Subscribe to their email updates!
3. UnderCover Tourist (For ticket Deals!)
4. Traveling with Little Ones (From the Disney Parks Website)
5. AllEars
6. Check out this Disney Junior Site for Printable Coloring Sheets to get your kiddos excited on the way there!!
7. The Couponing to Disney Blog's Disney Training Articles helped me a lot as well!
8. Affording The Mouse
9. DIS Unplugged Disney Blog
10. Chip and Co (I didn't utilize this one as much but perhaps I could have.)

My Little Hawaiian Mousketeer

Fun with Dad on the Carousel!


Our Disney Trip (and Tips!) - Part Two - Traveling with Littles

 *I apologize in advance for the many details! Most of this might be obvious to many, but I hope this helps someone in some way at some point!     
 Disney World is one of those great places where there really is something for everyone. Though I'm not sure how much of our trip Lucy will remember later in life, I do not regret taking her at this age. We have some wonderful pictures and memories! Growing up in Florida, I was able to go to Disney several times; however this was my first trip to Disney as a parent and it was a completely different experience. Here are a few things that I learned along the way.

1. Plan ahead as much as possible. This might seem obvious, but it's true. The Disney website is a lot of help in this area. You can pretty much find out about every single ride, shop and restaurant in each park by doing a little digging.
Dining: **Also, AllEars has a great tool on their sight containing menus from most of the restaurants as well. We did research ahead of time to get an idea of a few different places we might like to eat each day, and made sure they were reasonable and had options for the kids.
**If you think you might want to do any table service meals, MAKE RESERVATIONS as soon as possible. **Also, put the Disney Reservation Number(1-407-939-3463) in your cell-phone in case you need to make any changes while in the area. 

Rides and Attractions: Try to map out what you plan to do each day building in plenty of time for breaks, rest, meals, etc. (It may take more time than you think.)
**This Disney Tool was a great help to us in planning to take little ones. We were able to find out which rides were appropriate and which might be too scary. Also, which rides have height requirements. You can also customize your own maps here!

2. Be Flexible if the Plan needs Re-Tweaking (or to be thrown out all together!)
This did not come as a surprise to us at all but we definitely needed to have "Plan-B" mentality on us most of the time.
We only planned to do one park over two days in a row because 1)we wanted to take it slow and enjoy our first trip and 2) we had a limited amount of time. The first day went great, the second day it POURED down rain.. so we packed everybody up and took a trip to IKEA and the Mall. Not at all what we planned, but it worked just fine and we all had fun together.. (which was the point anyway.) Then on Wed. we went back to finish the Magic Kingdom and the weather was absolutely perfect. All that to say, I wouldn't have originally planned to do it that way, but bad weather or not, a day thrown in there to just get up a little later and be a little more relaxed did everyone a lot of good. I think when we go back I would purposely build in a day just to hang around the hotel pool and enjoy the resorts. They are so nice!

This goes along with the 2nd point, but don't try to do TOO much with little ones. Especially toddlers or younger. They will be tired and frustrated and so will you. Remember that Disney or no Disney, they have basic needs and they are used to eating and sleeping regularly. We had a MUCH better time when we left after lunch, went back to the hotel, let them rest (and us too!) and then traveled back before or after Dinner. You will know how your child (children) are and what they can and cannot handle, so plan that accordingly. Just be prepared for the fact that they may do either a little better or a little worse than you imagine. And, have fun! We rode rides in FantasyLand for the majority of one whole day but that was what Lucy absolutely loved. Take time to sit in a shady spot and share Mickey Ice Cream Bars together! (But do it towards the later part of the day, cause you'll probably be out of wet wipes after!!)

*I know this has been a bunch of information but I hope it has been helpful. Come back tomorrow for Part 3: Things I wouldn't Miss and More Helpful Links!


Our Disney Trip (and Tips!) - Part One

Where do I begin?!?
I will say this, all the hours of planning and researching; the saving of little bits of money here and there-- it was all 100% worth it to constantly see this look on Lucy's face...

(She was pointing at the Mad Hatter's Teacups -- even though we had been on them SEVERAL times!)

       I utilized several blogs, websites and online tools (which I will gladly share) to gain information as we planned our trip. Most of these were helpful once we decided when to go and where to stay and for how long. 
    We arrived in Orlando on Sunday afternoon, got checked in and then went to the Downtown Disney area for dinner and a little fun. We walked around and then visited the World of Disney Character Store. (Which is huge, by the way.. the largest Disney Store in the Resort. It's TWELVE rooms of fun stuff to look at kept us and the kids busy for awhile.)

Where to Stay:
Like any other aspect, this depends on several things, but most importantly your budget. Because of the structure of our trip, we had the opportunity to spend half of it within the Disney Resort and half off the property at an Embassy Suites so we were able to compare different aspects of each.  We traveled with some friends of ours and we were able to get a very good deal on two rooms in the moderate resort. We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort on the Alligator Bayou Side. It was very relaxing with a "Deep South" Feel. The main pool area was beautifully done with a playground and water slide. One of our favorite aspects though, was the River Boat Ferry that took us from our hotel, down the river to Downtown Disney.. very charming.
 The bridge from our building to the main lobby area, ferry landing, restaurants, etc.

the view from our front door

Here's an article on the benefits of staying "On Property" at Disney. The owner of this particular blog has an entire Disney Training Section which I found to be extremely helpful.

All that being said, the two nights we stayed off site were very nice as well. We were only a couple miles away, drove right in, (paid parking: $14.00 a day) and then rode the shuttle and the Monorail right up to the front gate of the Magic Kingdom. Both were fun experiences. (The Embassy Suites offered a shuttle but the times weren't often enough for us so we drove and it worked out fine.)

**Keep in mind the importance of the ease of transportation if you are traveling with small children. For us, leaving mid-day for a nice long nap made all the difference in the world for Lucy, and by extension, her parents. :) Coming back at night was so fun since we were fresh and ready for round two! 

Come back tomorrow for "Traveling with Littles"


Where We've Been and What We've Been Doing...

We have just returned from the "Happiest Place on Earth" and we are currently undergoing what can only be described as Vacation Detox. HA! Lucy is getting reacquainted with obeying and we are all getting reacquainted with eating right and having non-vacation responsibilities-- but it sure was fun!

I am planning a couple of different posts sharing our pictures and a bit of information I learned which you may find helpful if you are planning a similar vacation with your toddler.. but in the mean time, enjoy the above glimpse into Lucy's first look at Cinderella's Castle! She was enthralled!