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Category: travels

  1. Thursday, October 11

    Fun Times in Anaheim

    We are not entirely sure how much longer we’ll be living in California, so we decided we should get a Disneyland trip under our belts just in case. We skipped school (parenting at its best!) and took three days last week to bop down to Anaheim for some fun! The trip was fast and exhausting, but I am sooooo glad we did it. With the exception of Owen (who just wanted to crawl around the hotel room instead of being dragged around amusement parks in record-breaking heat in a stroller), we all had a blast! And it was totally worth skipping school. 😉

    The Anaheim Visitor’s Bureau did a fantastic job helping to coordinate our trip. Thank you, Anaheim! I would love to share our experiences with you in case you decide to bop over to Anaheim yourselves!

    Howard Johnson at Disneyland
    The tourism board put us up at the HoJo Anaheim. It was the perfect spot for our family. Here are all the reasons we loved staying there:

    • We were in a 2 Queens Premium room and it was great for our family of five. Often when our family stays in just one hotel room, there is very little space for luggage, the pack n play, and the people…we just feel cramped. This room had plenty of space for everything, so everyone was comfortable the whole time.
    • We were spoiled with a room in the tower overlooking Disneyland Park, so we had front row seats to the nightly fireworks. Which was just plain awesome.
    • The Castaway Cove Water Playground was AWESOME. So well done, so much fun, the kids LOVED it.
    • The hotel is a very short walk to the Disneyland Park entrance, eliminating the need to park your car at the amusement park (which is a huge pain). Heaven.
    • Mimi’s Cafe is right across the street. We ate breakfast there a couple mornings and it was very family friendly. The night we arrived it was kind of late and we ordered take-out, turkey dinner for our whole family for $25! It was just what we needed.
    • The night we arrived the girls were beyond giddy. Cate exclaimed, “Mom! This hotel room is wonderful!” I replied, “So, you like it?” To which Cate replied, “No, Mom. {pause} I LOVE it.” Anna just kept repeating “Disneyland Fireworks! Disneyland Fireworks! Disneyland Fireworks!” It was all just so darn cute.

    Disneyland Park
    Of course we visited Disneyland – that was the original goal of the trip! A few quick notes on our visit this time around:

    • Cars Land at California Adventure Park is AWESOME. We didn’t even do any of the rides in Cars Land and we still loved it to pieces. It is beautiful, so well-done, you feel like you’re walking right through the movie. The Cozy Cone Motel served snacks that were all cone themed in cone-shaped containers. The whole area was created that way, with great attention to detail.

    • The World of Color show was really cool and the girls counted it as one of their favorite parts of the day. Be sure to get a fast pass early in the day for the show!
    • We ate dinner at Cafe Orleans that night. It was SOOOO nice to sit down in an air-conditioned restaurant and have someone serve us. We were really glad we took the time for a sit-down meal. The food was great, too. The pommes frites were DELISH.
    • Did you know about the parent swap option? Both Disney and Knott’s had this. If you have a baby in a stroller, when you get in line for a ride, you can request a parent swap pass. That way, one parent can wait in line with the kids, ride the ride, then when they get off, the other parent can get in the fast pass line and be able to ride as well. It was WONDERFUL and perfect for us, since Owen couldn’t go on any of the rides.

    • We were excited to discover that they are building a new princess area at Disneyland. Whenever we go to Disneyland, the girls see Sleeping Beauty’s castle and immediately ask where the princesses are. Well, the princesses are located in the back of the park, nowhere near the castle, so it’s always kind of a let down. But they are building a new princess area right next to the castle! It will be perfect and my girls can’t wait to visit Disneyland to see it when it’s done!
    • You may be wondering…was skipping school worth it? Was the park really less crowded? It was still busy. All of Australia happened to be there that day. But the lines were definitely not as long as on a high-traffic day, so it was worth it. I think going on a Tuesday would have been even better than a Monday. If anyone has tips of the best days and times of year to go with the least amount of crowds, please share!

    Knott’s Berry Farm
    We spent half a day at Knott’s Berry Farm and it was great! More relaxing than Disneyland and WAY less crowded (we didn’t have to wait in any lines and could ride some of the rides over and over again). Our family is planning to dress up as Peanuts characters for Halloween, so seeing the Peanuts characters walking around got the girls pumped for their costumes. And Owen, our dog lover, LOVED meeting Snoopy in person. I also really liked how all the kids rides were in one place, Camp Snoopy. It was fun for the kids to hit ride after ride after ride. We had lunch at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, where the chicken and biscuits were deeee-licious. The girls really enjoyed their jello appetizer…perhaps a little too much. 😉

    Medieval Times
    After Knott’s, we headed over to Medieval Times for dinner. Nate and I had never been and weren’t sure what to expect. It was a middle school dream of mine to go to Medieval Times, so the dream was finally coming alive! 😉 We really weren’t sure what the girls would think, especially since Anna is scared of the dark. Welllll…every last member of our little family loved it, even Owen! We arrived and got to meet the Princess Catalina. It was like Anna was meeting her greatest hero. She was super shy but reached out for her hand, which she held for our photo. The princess was so gracious and sweet to the girls, which Nate and I greatly appreciated. When it was finally time for the festivities to begin, we were seated and the lights went down. There was no silverware, but our loyal server snuck a few pieces so I could feed the baby. The food was great and there’s something about ripping into your food with with your hands that really gets you in the mood to cheer on dueling knights.

    Okay, seriously, our kids LOVED every minute of the dinner and show. They ate the food, they cheered wildly, Owen kept clapping and pointing. At one point when the Red Knight (our knight) was fighting, Cate was literally trembling as she cheered him on. Anna fell for the blue knight, even though he was from the other side of the kingdom. After it was all over, you could meet the knights and royalty for autographs. Anna wanted to meet the blue knight, but she got shy, wouldn’t look at him or the camera, and when Nate told him how she cheered him on and liked a winner, Anna kicked Nate in the shins. A first crush if we’ve ever seen one!

    Discovery Science Center
    On the day we drove home, we spent the morning at the Discovery Science Center. Again, the kids loved it. Owen was happy because he could finally crawl around and explore somewhere! The exhibits were really fun and well done and we could have easily spent the entire day there. They have different “adventures” for different age levels at the various exhibits and they were tailored very well for our girls. There is a dinosaur exhibit outdoors where you get these cool magic wands and go on an adventure, looking for discoveries. The girls loved it. There is also a pretend grocery store where you learn how to shop with the environment in mind. I actually really loved the grocery store. I feel like the way we shop for food really does have an environmental impact, so I loved that they were helping the kids to learn to think that way, too.

    Yes, we did a LOT. Arrived Sunday night. Monday at Disneyland. Tuesday morning at the water playground at the hotel. Lunch and afternoon at Knott’s. Dinner at Medieval Times. Wednesday morning at Discover Science, then hit the road for home. We could have easily spent a day or two at each place we visited, so we packed a lot in just a few short days. But, like I said, it was a BLAST and I am so glad we did it! I think the girls were in Fun Heaven.

    Big thanks again to the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau for helping coordinate so much of our trip. They are a fantastic resource! And I highly recommend staying in Anaheim for a Southern California family vacation. Easy access to Disneyland is a huge plus, and Anaheim is smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles and San Diego, which have so much to offer. Fun family times!

    In the interest of full disclosure, Disneyland provided us with two passes and some vouchers to go towards a meal. Anaheim provided us with our hotel accommodations, additional Disneyland passes, admission to the other venues and two meals. We paid for our own transportation costs and additional meals. All opinions are my own!

  2. Sunday, September 30

    Week 297 Menu

    This week is going to be a FUN one for the Maynards! Today we are hopping in the car and heading to Anaheim! We’ve got some fun days ahead of us and the trip will be fast and furious. I can’t wait!

    Given the travel plans, our menu is definitely in vacation mode!

    – Dinner in Disneyland!

    – Lunch at Knotts Berry Farm
    – Dinner at Medieval Times

    – Dinner on the road, driving home

    – Spaghetti and veggies from CSA bag

    – Chicken Pot Pie (I can’t wait to share this recipe with you, it’s easy, fast and delicious! Post coming soon…had to wait for the cookbook it’s from to publish, which happens 10/1.)

    Stefania’s Braised Chicken (didn’t get to it last week)

    – Leftovers or Waffles

    You know the drill…please share your menu for the week! Thank you, everyone!

  3. Wednesday, August 8

    A Peek at Martha Stewart’s Offices

    While I was in New York City last week, I had the chance to visit the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) offices. Just like my trip to America’s Test Kitchen, it was really fun and interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at a place that produces so much amazing content.

    This was just a hallway. Who knew hallways could be so pretty? Owen was a charmer the entire time and several people mentioned he should go into modeling. Welcome to New York, Owen!

    My first impression of the offices was light. Lots and lots of light. The offices occupy one floor of a building in Chelsea and there are windows all around. It feels open and airy and would be a great place to get the creative juices flowing. Martha’s office is on the corner overlooking the Hudson river and Chelsea Piers. Her office wasn’t huge and I probably wouldn’t have even guessed it was hers unless they told me. Sadly, Martha wasn’t there…she was busy getting ready to speak as the BlogHer keynote that morning (which I barely made in time! Three cheers for crazy NY taxi drivers!).

    I have really loved being a part of Martha’s Circle. It has provided some wonderful opportunities and I have loved every single person that I have worked with at MSLO. So I wasn’t surprised that everyone we met along the way was friendly and nice.

    The Everyday Food team was no exception. They were delightful and fun to talk to. We had a great conversation and they were excited because they were visited by baby Owen AND a cute little dog all in the same day. Puppies and babies…nothing better. Of course the team was cooking and I learned that there are only 13 employees who work on the Everyday Food magazine each month. That seriously blows me away.

    I had the chance to see the test kitchens and the craft room, all of which were stocked with all kinds of goodies. While we were hanging out in the Living kitchen, two pans of brownies came out of the oven. It was everything I could do to not stick my hand in the pan and run for the hills.

    The rooftop patio was a lovely escape, a great place to eat lunch, if you can tear yourself away from work, of course! The summer interns were enjoying a last-day-of-work breakfast, which Owen and I helped ourselves to (yea for east coast bagels!).

    While I was chatting with folks, I learned about Martha’s American Made Awards, which she announced later that day at BlogHer. American Made is a program where Martha and her editors recognize 10 “American Makers,” talented and inspiring entrepreneurs doing beautiful work.

    In addition to the 10, there will be an 11th American Maker who will have the chance to win the Audience Choice Award. Anyone who has a small business, shop or Etsy shop and is doing innovative, high-quality work can nominate themselves (or you can nominate someone you know who fits that category!) for the Audience Choice Award. The deadline to submit for the Audience Choice Award is August 25. You really should get on this because…

    The 11th American Maker will be honored at the American Made event in New York City’s Grand Cetral Terminal in October (Martha will be there!), will appear in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine and will receive $10,000 to further his or her business! Super cool! I KNOW that many of you fit the category, so hop to it!

    I am so happy I got a chance to see Martha’s offices. It was a great visit! Thank you, Martha and friends!

  4. Thursday, July 26

    A Visit to the America’s Test Kitchen!

    On Monday, I had the chance pop up to Boston with my daughter Cate, my niece Abby and my sister-in-law Jessica for a tour of America’s Test Kitchen. Yes, the test kitchen! It was great fun to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the kitchens and Cate has decided that she wants to work there when she grows up (Jess and I are in the same boat!).

    First off, the location is totally unmarked…we felt like Harry Potter at King’s Cross Station (thanks for that awesome analogy, Steph!). Everyone was super friendly and it looked like a totally normal office. Well, a totally normal office buried in cookbooks and kitchen equipment.

    The first stop on our tour: the library.

    They have over 4,000 cookbooks in the library, which is ever evolving and growing. The library has its own color-coded system and is pretty amazing. In the center of the library is a huge table, which is where all the taste testing happens. That table is why I want to work there. You’re sitting at your desk working when suddenly there is a call to test something. Trying out food is part of your job. Does it get better than that? Steph told us there has to be at least 21 people in a taste test for it to be legit. I would happily volunteer!

    We saw a photo shoot in action and I was supremely jealous of their assortment of boards and wood doors they use for shoots.

    Then it was on to the kitchens! There are two kitchens – a smaller one (which has about a million ovens, so it’s not really all that small) and a big one. The big one is THE kitchen, the one where they film the show. They film an entire season of the show in just three weeks in the spring. When filming is happening, all the prep work happens in the small kitchen while the main kitchen remains pristine for the cameras.

    The kitchens are all abuzz with test cooks working on various recipes and projects. There is a post-it note system, so cooks can mark the equipment they are using, and there is kitchen gear galore everywhere you look. Most of the cooks began as interns and have culinary school backgrounds.

    I had the chance to chat with test cook Dan for a bit about what he was working on that morning. They had cooked up a bunch of turkey breasts and were going to inject them with various amounts of sodium to determine the perfect level of saltiness in turkey. It was pretty awesome that there was a pile of needles among Dan’s equipment. Cooking doesn’t get much more precise (or science nerdy!) than that! Dan said with the needles things had officially entered the realm of weird. Love it.

    Here is a peak into the pantry.

    Steph told us that there are two grocery shoppers for the kitchens and that they spend over $500,000 per year on groceries. That is a lot of cooking! She also said they mostly shop at regular supermarkets so they are sure to get ingredients that are readily available to people all over the country. In fact, all the equipment and food that is used in the test kitchens is home kitchen sized. The only pieces of equipment that are industrial are the hoods in the kitchen, the fridge and the dishwasher, but everything else is what any of us might buy or use at home.

    Owen was not happy that I passed him off to Cate to take a photo of the scores and scores of organized-by-color dishes.

    If I were to choose one word to describe the folks at America’s Test Kitchen it would be resourceful. I cannot believe what they produce with just 120 employees…8-12 cookbooks per year, 2 magazines, 2 television shows, a radio show…the list goes on and on. It blows me away the amount of quality work they produce in that four-story building in Brookline, MA. Plus, see where those cars are parked?

    That’s the alley behind the building, which also happens to be where they film all the grilling segments for the show.  They just clear the cars out and turn it into a studio. Resourceful, no?

    We had a great time learning all about the test kitchens and even got to meet Christopher Kimball as we were leaving! Yes, he’s very tall and, yes, he was wearing a bow tie!

    To end the trip we ate lunch at Cutty’s in Brookline, a cafe started by a test cook. And that lunch was mmm mmm good, of COURSE.

    A warm and sincere THANK YOU to our friends at America’s Test Kitchen for a great morning!

    And if you haven’t checked out this infographic on how a recipe is developed by America’s Test Kitchen, you have to click here and check it out. It’s fascinating and pretty much explains why their recipes always come out so wonderfully!

  5. Wednesday, July 25

    Better Than Cannoli

    You know what’s better than a cannoli? A good, old-fashioned lightning and thunder storm on Cape Cod. Whenever there is a storm during our annual Cape week, I feel like it’s a little gift from Mother Nature.

    Here are a few shots of the lightning from last night. It was amazing and, of course, pictures never quite capture the majesty.

    Next to a good storm, however, not much beats this.

    Oh, ricotta-filled-cannoli-with-mini-chocolate-chips from Modern Pastry, how I love thee. (And, yeah, yeah, you like Mike’s better…we’ll just have to agree to disagree.) We won’t talk about how much cannoli I ate in a 24-hour period. Seriously, I’ll never confess!

  6. Friday, June 8

    Ah, Carmel…

    I know I told you that I was going to share the best chocolate ice cream ever today, but, well, I hopped in my car yesterday and went to Carmel. Just like that. I mean, I had a friend to visit, but it was a last minute trip. And I’m so glad we did it because we got to watch this sunset over Pebble Beach…

    …and eat this food for dinner at Little Napoli.

    P.S. If you ever get yourself to Little Napoli (which you should), that cannelloni tricolore is amazing. Just sayin’.

    And so, my friends, the ice cream recipe will come next week. Have a wonderful weekend!

  7. Sunday, May 6

    Week 276 Menu

    Today I am on a plane…flying home…from this place

    Owen and I got to go to Miami for a few days to attend the Mom 2.0 Summit with my DailyBuzz Moms team. It was a blast…especially the closing night party at the Versace Mansion. Yup, Owen has been to a party at the Versace Mansion. How many 7-month olds can say that? Too bad I’ve ruined Cinco de Mayo for him for the rest of his life…don’t think he’ll ever be able to top it!

    It’s really hard to think about a menu right now, but I’m pretty sure that we’re going to have to eat dinner this week!

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas
    – Guacamole

    – Lasagna

    – Leftovers

    Oriental Chicken Salad

    – Eat out

    – If the weather is nice, grilling! I’m thinking brats and hot dogs
    – Fresh fruit and baked beans

    – Scrambled Eggs

    Wow! I did it! I planned a menu. The Miami heat didn’t completely fry my brain. You know the drill…time to share your menu for the week. Thank you all and have a great week!

  8. Friday, August 5

    Arcangeli Artichoke Bread…One of the Best Foods on Earth

    Just a quick post today about some of the best bread this side of, well, anywhere.

    If ever you are driving up the coast of California between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, be sure to take the 5 minute jaunt off of Route 1 to Pescadero. Arcangeli market sells this artichoke bread, which is heavenly. Seriously. The bread itself is wonderful, the artichokes are delicious, and there’s this salty garlic topping on the bread that puts it over the top.

    Plus, I love Pescadero. It’s small, it’s quaint, it’s beautiful.

    You’re welcome.

  9. Friday, July 29

    Edgewood Eats

    This past Monday I went to Edgewood Eats for dinner. And ate delicious food. And had a blast. And went home happy.

    You may be wondering what Edgewood Eats is. Every Monday, a bunch of gourmet food trucks from around the Bay Area come to an old, nearly-abandoned shopping plaza (that has a real-live, totally awesome wig store, by the way) to serve food from 5-8 pm. Everyone brings blankets and chairs and just sits down on the sidewalk to eat. There is always a great variety of food and lots of people to see.

    And, yes, it’s every bit as wonderful as you’re imagining.

    I went with two friends on Monday, so we each got food from different trucks and then divided the spoils between us. And stuffed ourselves silly with Thai, barbecue and Mexican food. And reluctantly resisted all of the other amazing foods that were available (Vietnamese, curry, seafood, Filipino, desserts and more desserts).

    If you live anywhere near Palo Alto, I highly recommend trying it out Edgewood Eats some Monday night. I also recommend going early if you can. We got there at around 7 and the lines were unreal and the trucks were starting to run out of food. I think if you get there closer to 5 the lines should be shorter. Obviuosly there is high demand…I’m campaigning for Edgewood Eats twice a week! 🙂 (P.S. Edgewood Eats will be on Tuesday nights starting in October and will just be once a month throughout the winter. Be sure to follow them on Facebook to get the latest news and find out which trucks will be there each week.)

    If you don’t live anywhere near Palo Alto, go out and find your own fun, local food find this weekend. And tell us about it. Because someone reading will live near you and want to know about it!

  10. Tuesday, July 5

    Fun in the City

    Last week Nate and I had the chance to go on a little date in San Francisco. SHN kindly provided us with press passses to see the Broadway production of Billy Elliott at the Orpheum Theater. With my sister visiting we had free babysitting (thanks, Anne!) and jumped at the chance.

    We went into the city early (one of the great benefits of free babysitting) to grab dinner at Citizen’s Band.

    It’s like a diner, only California style. You know, artsy ambience, seasonal menu, locally-sourced ingredients…but they serve classic comfort food. It was a great combo and we enjoyed everything we ate.

    First off, you need to make sure to request the bread while you wait for your food. In fact, request it more than once. SO good. But be warned…a homeless person just might walk into the restaurant and ask you for a slice. For real.

    To make sure we got some veggies in, we ordered a simple mixed greens salad. It was just that – simple and light and I was glad we ordered it.

    Nate’s dinner was essentially breakfast…an over-the-top protein-packed mountain man breakfast. I believe they called it “Shake ‘n’ Bake.” See? The names of the food are as cute as the counter stools. Anyway, the dish came with breaded slow-cooked pork, some fancy sausage, hash browns, asparagus and a fried egg, because why not throw an egg on there? Needless to say Nate was full for about 3 days, but he said the combo of everything together was really great.

    We had heard that their hamburger was awesome, but the fried chicken was calling my name. When the waiter said they were more known for the chicken, my decision was made. The chicken was yummy. The breading was salty but in a really good way. Oh, goodness, in a very good way. The gravy was fabulous, and the greens and mashed potatoes were the perfect complement.

    Of course we had to get dessert.

    Nate ordered the sour cream cheesecake, topped with fancy dancy almonds and blueberry sauce. The cheesecake was YUMMY with a great, thick crust. I had to get the chocolate mousse cake because I’m pretty much unable to order anything else if chocolate mousse is on the menu. The cake layers were great, the mousse was awesome, and the chocolate ganache had this thin salty layer on the outside that was heavenly. (Yes, in addition to chocolate mousse, I’m also kind of in love with salt.)

    Dinner was great. I’m so glad we went.

    You may be wondering, “How was Billy Elliot?” Well…it was fun. The movie is loads better. I mean, that movie is just so good. It made sense that the play was turned into a musical since the story is about dancing, but it totally changed the whole mood and feel of the story. Nate and I thought it just couldn’t compete with how powerful the movie was. BUT…it was a fun show with some pretty great tap routines incorporated. All in all, an enjoyable evening!

    If only we could get into the city for dinner and a show every week!