#HowDoYouHoliday – Enjoying Christmastime at Westfield

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Growing up in New York I’ve always loved walking around, sipping hot cocoa, and checking out the Christmas displays. When I moved to Florida the holidays here took a little getting used to. The weather is much warmer, there’s definitely no snow, and somehow Christmas would just sneak up on me without the feeling of “winter”. It left me asking around, #HowDoYouHoliday ?

Westfield

I’ve been trying to find fun ways to capture the holiday spirit without the cold weather. Especially now that I have Ryleigh I have been trying to fun fun events of the holidays so she can get just as much joy and excitement out of Christmas as I was able to as a kid (and as an adult!).

One of the things that we decided we were going to do each year was a photo with Santa. I was trying to find a place to take her this year and found a few events with a Santa photo opp. We tried one, and the photo didn’t come out to great. Ryleigh was scared and she refused to smile. She also wouldn’t even sit with Santa unless Mommy & Daddy sat with her. Should we try again?

westfieldWe were going to just keep the picture we took, assuming that Ryleigh was just at the age where she would be scared, and have a fun story to teller when she was older. Then we were told about the Mommy & Me event at Westfield Brandon (there were ones at Westfield Citrus Park & Countryside too). There were going to be live reindeer and crafts for the kiddos.

We decided to go and visit the reindeer & try our luck with Santa photos again.

When we arrived the reindeer were outside for viewing. Ryleigh was excited to see the reindeer and it was impossible to get a picture of her in front of them because she kept wanting to check them out.

Westfield

Inside there were kids making ornaments and decorating gingerbread cookies. Ryleigh was a bit too short to reach the tables the crafts and cookies were on so we checked out the awesome Christmas tree and decided it was time for Santa.

We used the fast pass line and it was such a great idea! You check in during your designated time and bypass the long wait. This was not only a time saver, but made waiting with a hungry toddler easy.

When we got to our turn Ryleigh was once again afraid to sit with Santa. She clenched my arm tightly and looked away. Mr & Mrs Claus knew her name and spoke gently to her, offering her a gingerbread cookie. That took away some fear and she eventually decided to sit on Mrs Claus’ lap.

There was a girl assisting the photographer that was amazing with Ryleigh, using a stuffed reindeer (i think) to get her to laugh and smile and finally look up for a picture without looking scared. They were all great with Ryleigh and I was so excited when I saw how the photo came out.

Westfield

We definitely got into the holiday spirit after spending some time at Westfield Brandon and can’t wait to send out our picture with Santa to friends and family. They have several packages to choose from and digital download is an option as well. You can even pre-pay for your package when booking a fast pass! Any time savers are great during all of the holiday hustle and bustle.

WestfieldAfter you get your kids’ pictures done (or if you are kid-free), make sure your fur babies get into the holiday spirit too! Westfield Brandon, Citrus Park, & Countryside are hosting Hounds for the Holidays: December 11th from 6:30 – 8:30pm. You can bring your four legged friends (well-behaved and leashed) to take photos with Santa! The first 50 pet-parents will receive a stocking full of treats for their pups.

There’s so much for everyone at the Westfield family of malls. Get into the holiday spirit, shop around, grab some lunch, and just have a great day out with the family. And don’t forget to tag your pictures with the hashtag #HowDoYouHoliday – you might even be featured on the Westfield page.

#HowDoYouHoliday
Ryleigh checking out her reflection – featured on the Westfield website

Are you planning on checking out Santa? What else do you love about Westfield?

 

*Thanks to my relationship with Westfield I was given a photo package with Santa & gift bag for Ryleigh in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. 

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Early Holiday Shopping with Westfield – And a Giveaway !

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a chance to post on the blog, life with a toddler has been keeping me quite busy. One thing I did make sure to make time for, however, was getting my holiday shopping done early.

#HowDoYouHoliday

I know there are a lot of people out there that wait until Black Friday, but I’ve tried venturing out during this big day of sales and it was always such a nightmare! Parking is always crazy, lines are way too long, and you can never get EVERYTHING on your list taken care of. Plus, most of the sales start on Thanksgiving now and I’d much rather spend that time with my family. Not to mention how horrendous shopping on Black Friday with a toddler in tow would be.

I decided to get my shopping done early and what better place to shop then the Westfield family of malls? They are clean, beautiful, have all the stores you could ever want to shop at, and they have great kid play areas for when the little one needs to get some energy out.

Need more reasons to shop at Westfield for holiday gifts early? Well I have some more for you!

  • From November 20 – 27 your local Westfield will have “Merry Makers” roaming around the mall decked out in holiday plaid tidings. They will be entertaining mall guests with holiday singing and dancing, as well as surprising shoppers with random gifts, coffee, or other surprises!
  • You can download the Westfield app to access holiday shopping discounts and special events. Who doesn’t love a good discount?
  • Need some gift ideas? Check out the Westfield Gift Guide – it’s sure to cover anyone on your list!

Want a little extra spending money for your holiday shopping? Or perhaps to treat yourself to something special for getting your shopping done early? I’m giving away a $100 gift card that’s good to use in ANY Westfield mall! Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Thanks to my relationship with FKQ & Westfield I was given a gift card for some of my own holiday shopping & a gift card to give away in exchange for my blog post. All opinions are my own. 

 

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Why My Family And I #SnackBrighter With Outshine

Living in Florida is hot and I often find myself craving a nice cool snack. This is especially true when chasing after my toddler outside that Florida heat! I always like being able to share a snack with Ryleigh, so when I was introduced to Outshine bars I was excited.

#SnackBrighter

Outshine Fruit Bars are made with real fruit and real fruit juice. In fact there is more real fruit in the bars than any other ingredient. These bars are also made with no GMO ingredients!

Learn more about Outshine here: https://ooh.li/8d6ebff

I decided to try out two flavors: Creamy Coconut and Pineapple. I think I was feeling very tropical the day I chose my flavors.

#SnackBrighter

The creamy coconut is made with real coconut, has no high fructose corn syrup, is gluten-free, has no artificial colors or flavors, and is 120 calories.

I quickly fell in love with this bar. It was simple delicious!

#SnackBrighter

Pineapple was the other flavor I tried. These are made with real pineapples, are an excellent source of vitamin C, are fat-free, gluten free, have no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors or syrups, and are only 80 calories.

Both flavors taste amazing and I love that my daughter couldn’t get enough of them too – and she looked pretty cute eating them! Every time I opened one up she came running over for a taste. I like that I didn’t feel guilty letting her share with me because the are healthy alternatives to the traditional cold treats.

Want to buy yourself Outshine bars so you can #SnackBrighter too? Click here to find out where you can find these awesome snacks!

Other flavors of the Outshine Fruit Bars available are: grape, lemon, lime, mango, peach, pomegranate, raspberry, strawberry, and tangerine.

There are also seasonal flavors such as: black cherry & blood orange

What flavor would you like to #SnackBrighter with?

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Shark Days at Mote Aquarium

Mote Aquarium

The last time we visited Mote Aquarium was in June for the World Ocean’s Day Family Festival. Ryleigh had an absolute blast checking out all of the sea life and we learned of different ways we can help to keep our oceans healthy & thriving.

We were excited to learn about some more events at mote this past month for Shark Days. Shark Days at Mote ran from August 14 – August 20th. Some of the events during the week were CycleBar Sarasota’s ride for Mote, a film screening of Jaws, Sharks & Crafts for the kids, Sharks, Tales & Ales Science Cafe, and the Fins & Fun Family Festival. We attended the Family festival on Saturday Aug 20th.

We arrived at Mote around 11am and checked out the fish tanks located right after the entrance. Ryleigh loved pointing out the fish as she watched them swim about. We then decided to take a look at the Sharks – I mean we were there for Shark Days!

In the shark tank they had photographers taking pictures of the guests from inside the tank – a shark’s eye view. I thought this was a really fun idea! There was also a shark mascot roaming about, but we didn’t get a picture because Ryleigh was scared.

Shark Days

In the courtyard there was live music being performed by the Gummy Sharks and tables set up with different activities at each. There were coloring and craft stations, face painting, information about the Gills Club, education about how garbage gets into the oceans, and a really cool shark tracker. The shark tracker was able to show us the path that one shark had been swimming all over the ocean!!

Shark Days

There was also an area for kids to play corn hole and I loved that they had boards with varying levels of difficulty so that kids of all ages were able to join in. Raleigh was so excited to play that we wound up hanging out here for a while.

We headed back inside to cool off and stumbled upon a Mommy & Me class. The Mote staff was reading a book about a smiling shark and did an amazing job keeping the kids entertained. They then showed the kids some shark teeth and allowed them to touch it so they could see what it felt like. There were more activities after, but Ryleigh was getting a bit sleepy so we headed out, but stopped at the gift store first to get Ryleigh a book about creatures of the ocean.

We had an awesome time at the festival and can’t wait to plan our next visit to Mote!! We might just have to take a trip back on a Saturday during September! Every Saturday in September, Florida residents of all ages receive admission for $6! What a deal!!

Mote

What’s your favorite sea creature?

*Thanks to my relationship with Mote I was given two tickets to the aquarium in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are my own. 

 

 

 

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McDonald’s Food Changes – Now I won’t feel guilty eating fast food (sometimes)!

McDonald's Food Changes

Fast food. I’m going to guess most of us have had it from time to time. I have. And then I’ve always felt guilty. Not so much because I indulged in something thought to be unhealthy, but because I’ve always assumed most of it was artificial, or full of crap we don’t need in our bodies.

When I found out about all of the great food changes McDonald’s have made I slowly felt less guilty for the occasional indulgence.

McDonald's Food Changes
Unveiling new food announcements on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, at McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

So what food changes has McDonald’s made?

  1. Removed artificial preservatives from several of their food items (which also don’t have artificial colors or flavors). This includes their Chicken McNuggets.
  2. They have made a commitment to only serve chicken not treated by antibiotics important to human medicine.
  3. The pork sausage patties & omelets-style eggs served on McGriddles, bagel & biscuit sandwiches, and scrambled eggs on breakfast platters no longer have artificial preservatives.
  4. Speaking of eggs, McDonald’s made a commitment to source 100% cage-free eggs.
  5. New buns that no longer contain high fructose corn syrup.
  6. Changing the premium salad blend. They replaced iceberg lettuce with fresh romaine, baby spinach, and baby kale and added Tuscan red leaf lettuce and ribbon-cut carrots.
  7. The milk in its low aft milk jugs and Go-GURT low fat yogurt come from cows that are not treated with rbST (an artificial growth hormone).

All of these changes are amazing, and now I won’t feel guilty if I’ve had a super busy day, cranky baby, and just want to stop and pick up food on the way home instead of having to cook a meal.

Now I don’t have to feel like I am poisoning my child if I grab her some Chicken McNuggets! I also love the fact that the Happy Meals offer a side of apples or yogurt instead of fries.

What food changes are you most excited about?

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