21 Things to Do in Orlando for Halloween

I love this time of year when the weather cools down and we can spend long days outside. C’mon weather, please cool down.  Pretty please.  I love the opportunity to make special holiday memories with my family. But sometimes I can get a little carried away.  And when that happens I tend to drive myself and everyone around me nuts.  Here are 21 fun things to do this Halloween.  Pick a few and have a blast!

  1. Head to the pumpkin patch for a photo shoot.
  2. Visit Long & Scott Farms in Zellwood and attempt the corn maze.
  3. Visit Foxtail Coffee for a delicious pumpkin cold brew.
  4. Check out Zoo Boo Bash at the Central Florida Zoo (October 28th & 29th).
  5. Visit Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest for hayrides, pumpkins, petting zoo, and tons more.
  6. Pick a family theme for your Halloween costumes and get planning for trick or treating.
  7. Paint pumpkins with lots of fun patterns.
  8. Visit A Petrified Forest for some frightening fun.  
  9. Carve a pumpkin!
  10. Bake pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack.
  11. Get a flight of delicious fall ice cream flavors at Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream.
  12. Collect leaves on a walk for a fall leaf painting.   
  13. Send a Pumpkin Spice #momlibs to a fellow mama.  
  14. Visit the Halloween Howl in Winter Park (October 29th).
  15. Head to the Enzian Theater for a Kids Halloween Party and viewing of Hotel Transylvania 2 (October 22nd).  
  16. Eat perfect pumpkin croissants at Buttermilk Bakery.
  17. Make handprint vampires.
  18. Treat yourself to pumpkin pie gelati at Jeremiah’s Ice.
  19. Go for a run at the Mudwalk Spooky 5k (October 14th).
  20. Grab a blanket and head to Cranes Roost Sunset Cinema for a viewing of Hocus Pocus (October 14th).  
  21. Head to the RDV Sportsplex for a Spooky Skate that everyone will enjoy!

 

What’s on your October to-do list? Let us know in the comments below!

Moms who Rock: Stephanie Forshee

What’s one of your favorite instagrams to look at that’s just plain pretty?  For me, it’s Little Wild Bloom.  I first saw the flowers at Buttermilk Bakery and P is For Pie.  Cute little mason jars on the tables that added the perfect pop of color and whimsy to some of my favorite spaces.  And then one day a little red haired toddler started popping up in the instagram feed and I thought, well of course she’s a mom who rocks! I got to meet Owen and his mama and talk all about Little Wild Bloom, Orlando, and the mom life.

Stephanie Forshee, the brains behind Little Wild Bloom came to Orlando for the Disney College program and from there went on to hair school.  She works at Alchemy in College Park and you can hit her up there for a rad haircut.  Little Owen was born two years ago and after maternity leave she drastically cut back her time at the salon so she could be home to raise Owen. With more time on her hands she was looking for a new hobby and creative outlet.  She read about a flower farmer in Washington and everything clicked.  She already had an interest in gardening, a love of flowers, and a firm belief that she could learn anything she needed to on the internet (I agree!)  Things evolved naturally from there, Little Wild Bloom was born.

On the realization that she already knew some of the basics:

“I started playing around with flowers at home.  It seemed like a lot of the same concepts as hair, you know color, line, shape, and form.  So it was fun to see something I already knew transition to another medium.”

Once she was ready to launch her business, she reached out to P is for Pie and Buttermilk Bakery two local places she loved and asked if they’d be interested in bringing flowers into their space. Things grew organically from there.  Customers started noticing her flowers and she  booked her first wedding from someone who had seen her flowers at Buttermilk Bakery.  

On styling arrangements for her first client’s wedding:

“I got really lucky with my very first wedding it was a friend of a friend and she was very laid back. I was terrified.  But she was a gem so sweet and laid back.  We clicked and our styles clicked.  It was beautiful.”

On feeling the nerves:

“I get a littler nervous before every wedding because it’s someone’s biggest day. So I put a lot of pressure on that.”

She humbly notes that things have become much bigger than she expected.  But I’m not surprised!  Stephanie has a perfect lock on her aesthetic and she captures that all on her instagram.  Stephanie says most of her business comes from social media and word of mouth.  She’s excited to be expanding to doing even more weddings and putting her focus there.

On fitting things into the day:

“I’m in a really good stride.  The flowers are great because they can work around the schedule of the day.  So if it needs to be done during nap time or early morning or late night it’s pretty flexible in that regard.”

On farming flowers locally:

“You can actually grow flowers here in a garden to cut and they have a purpose.  I’m networking with other people who are growing to try and incorporate some locally grown something in every arrangement.  There has been a movement nationwide towards American grown flowers so you can see that trickling down here which is really exciting.  I definitely feel like even in the last six months there are more people interested in growing flowers here.”

On her favorite flowers:

“I  like texture and elements things you don’t necessarily see all the time.  I always incorporate greenery.  I like dahlias, they have lots of tones and colors.  Also, anemones – bright white with the black center. They are striking to look at.  I like things that are a little random and unexpected.

On the most surprising thing of starting this business:

“The support of people I don’t know and the community.  Getting recognized… ten years into Orlando and I didn’t feel community at first.  You meet a few people and then you realize everyone is so interconnected.  It’s a much smaller town than what it seems like at first.  There has been a surprising amount of support and excitement for something I’m excited about that you wouldn’t think everyone is excited about.”

As her business grows, so does little Owen.  Stephanie tells me about how they go everywhere together.  She delivers flowers wearing him on her back.  Owen goes to the flower shop and runs around.  She loves the perspective on life it gives him.  When we met, Owen was so sweet and well behaved.  But he did look longingly out the window the entire time.  Who could blame him?  Sit at a table and talk or head outside on a sunny day?  I’m not fooled on what sounds like more fun!

On Owen’s notoriety:

“People know Owen more than they know me.  He’s the little face of the flowers.”

On motherhood:

“It’s the best hardest thing.  He is an incredible little human.  So fun and expressive but big personality.  So it has been learning how to handle that and direct it rather than be overwhelmed by it.”

On their favorite things to do as a family:

“We like to be outside.  Anything outdoors whether that’s hiking or just digging in the dirt.  Being outside is where he is happiest.”

“When we need to recalibrate we take a step outside and get fresh air for both of us.”

On kids getting their hands dirty:

“It’s amazing how they thrive outside and in the dirt.  I love to think about how that will translate to them as they grow.”

On the challenges of making it all work:

“It’s (motherhood) all encompassing.  It’s hard to steal those moments for yourself and it’s been hard especially with running my own business and learning how to grow a business.  There have been moments where I feel like I’m doing well at one thing and not great at the other thing.  It’s hard to try to do both with equal fervor.”

On when other people weigh in:

“It’s surprising how many people have opinions about being a mom and what you should be doing and what the best thing to do is.  And no matter what you do someone else has a different strategy.  I just smile and nod at this point.  I try to warn every new mom ‘everyone’s going to tell you, you’re doing it wrong.’ Nobody can tell you the right answer.  Going with your gut is the biggest thing I’ve learned.  You can take in everyone’s advice but at the end of the day whatever works for your family is what works.”

On what works for their family:

“We’re very attachment parenting, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, all that stuff.  So we’re very attached all the time.  A couple hours here and there with Papa (daddy) is great to give me a break.”

On finding her parenting style:

“I read things and it all kept coming back to this is what feels the best for me.  It has worked out really well.  I’m sure there are moments where a different approach may have been more helpful but all in all we’ve done well with this style of parenting.”

As a wife, mother, and business owner it can be hard to find a moment to herself.  Stephanie says she steals minutes wherever she can to answer emails and let clients know she’s thinking of them and will follow up as soon as possible.  

On finding the drive to do more:

“Instagram is such an amazing place for inspiration.  So many amazing florists doing beautiful things.  To steal a few minutes and scroll through see such beautiful images and feel like okay I can do this.”

Stephanie and I commiserated on how much of a struggle the summer heat is with little ones who crave the outdoors.  She remarked that they try to get outside every morning and evening and make it through the day in between.  They love the Orlando Science Center for an indoor option that has enough space to run around.  Fingers crossed for an early Fall for all of us toddler moms.

On local favorite places:

“P is For Pie, Buttermilk Buttermilk Bakery, those are my spots around town.  And East End Market too. I feel like anywhere where they don’t give me the stink eye if my baby’s running around I’m into it.  We like Foxtail and there grassy area.  We love Owl’s Attic and Market on South too. Really like where Orlando’s heading right now there’s good stuff going on.” 

On why Orlando rocks:

“I feel like the community is strong right now and so into supporting local business and growing its identity aside from the theme parks.  And I am excited about it.  I love to talk about it now.  It’s funny to be a transplant somewhere and feel really passionate about it.  But this is my home and I’ve built a life here and I love that there’s a secret Orlando you can show people when they visit and show there’s really rad things here.” 

On how far she’s come as an Orlandoan:

“10 years ago I never would’ve expected that I would be immersed in the Orlando culture.  And now I’m lucky enough to know some of these small business owners and amazing people who are completely embedded in the community.  I never would’ve guessed that’s where I’d be.”

Have you found yourself branching out on a new path that just clicked?  Where do you go for inspiration on the internet?  Tell us your favorite spots!

Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know in the comments below!

The four step journey to being #OrlandoAF

Newbie

Whatever brought you to Orlando you’re 100% questioning the decision.  It’s hot as hell, the traffic is insane, and there are chain restaurants everywhere.  The people are kind of cool though.

It’s alright, for now.

You can get where you need to go without getting lost on the toll roads.  You know what time you really need to leave to get somewhere on time. You found a favorite pizza place.  You love the food trucks, the nightlife, and the pub crawls.  You still think you’ll need to move in a few years to advance in your career, go to grad school, or find your soulmate.  But you’re pretty sure that #orlandodoesntsuck.

Oh this place is my jam I’m here to stay.

You know the difference between Thornton Park, Audubon Park, and College Park.  You know the Milk District from Mills50.  You know which Farmer’s Market you like best and when to go.  You know it’s worth it to make the drive to Winter Garden every once in a while and check things out.  You’ve been to a UCF Football tailgate and even gone inside the stadium to watch a game once or twice.  You can’t be friends with people who aren’t sure they want to stay here for the long haul because you’re tired of making friends who move away.

OrlandoAF 

You love Orlando and find pride in everything we do.  You have an Orlando City Soccer magnet on your car even though you don’t even like sports.  You tell people how many years you’ve been here.  Especially if it has been more than 10 years.  You cheer on every new trend that comes to town.  Poke bowls?  You love it.  Cookie dough cafe?  You’re there. You share it on Facebook.  Let your big city friends know Orlando’s right there with them (albeit six months to two years behind.) You share every ‘Best of’ list you see that highlights Orlando.  When you meet someone who just moved to Orlando you start rattling off everywhere they should eat, shop, and visit.  You get annoyed when you hear someone say there’s nothing in Orlando but theme parks and chain restaurants.  You start a blog just so you can talk about everything you love in the City Beautiful.  You’re #OrlandoAF

Moms who Rock: Bonnie Lewis

“My entire vision for owning my own business was that single mom or not, this kid deserves a soccer mom.  I want to be at every school function.  I want to pick him up when school ends. I want to be at soccer.  Money was not my motivating factor.  My motivating factor was time.”

When you meet Bonnie Lewis, she looks impossibly chic in the most effortless way.  And then when you compliment her outfit, she tells you she made it.  When you talk to her about sewing she’ll casually slide in that she traveled the world working for Ralph Lauren’s advertising campaigns and fashion shoots for ten years.  And in the less than five minutes it takes to tell you all that, you want to know everything about her.

Bonnie calls herself a ‘gig’ tailor and tells about her adventures traveling on photo shoots all over.  She’s unfazed when she says it and not bragging one bit.  She had been traveling non-stop for ten years when she was blessed with the news that she was pregnant.  At the time she lived in NYC and her boyfriend, and son’s father, lived on an island off the coast of Georgia.  Knowing her professional life would not suit her life as a mom, she made the move to Georgia and little Nicholas made his debut into the world.  When Nicholas was just a year old, Bonnie and Nicholas’ dad decided they were better as friends than partners.  So as a newly single mom, she moved to Orlando to be close to family.  In a new city with limited opportunities to match her professional life, she had big decisions to make.  

She took big uncertainties and turned them into big opportunities, launching one successful business after another.  Along the way she met the man of her dreams and has launched the company she always dreamed of, Common Sewing, which turns beginners into efficient makers. Bonnie is truly the answer to every one of us out there that have ever said, “I wish I knew how to sew.”  Now eight years old, Nichols is still the driving force behind every decision Bonnie makes.

On fitting clothes to the Ralph Lauren Models:

“I fitted the samples or built special samples for the images.  I’m the person that makes you think clothing actually fits models and that something is wrong with you.  Really, there’s not that much difference between them and us except for the team (photoshop, makeup, lighting, etc).”

Bonnie’s brother is a mechanical engineer that builds props for Disney.  She began her Orlando career by building out the soft goods department of his company.  

On what she learned working for her brother:

“It was a lot of hard work but it was a blessing.  It let me see that I could hire people to take a lot of the labor off my hands.  I learned I could serve a client well.  And I could have freedom.”

Eventually she was ready to start her own company, Bonnie B. Tailor.  She had Disney contracts and set up a textile design and fabrication workroom in her church. She went from hiring contract sewers to taking on a full-time team.  Things were growing steadily until in March 2016, she took on an order that was more than she bargained for.  Everything that could go wrong did.  The order was huge and they wouldn’t get paid until they delivered.  With money flowing out to pay for supplies and staff, things began to look bleak.  A look at the books made her realize she needed to do something.  

On Bonnie B. Tailor almost tanking:

“Best thing that ever happened to me.”

Common Sewing had been bubbling in her mind for ten years.  She cites that rough patch for Bonnie B. as the boot kick to her butt that she needed to get it off the ground.  

On what held her back:

“I had the materials, the 12 sewing machines. I had the studio ready.  I was just so scared of the weight of my passion to teach people to sew. I didn’t go in there. I didn’t plan lessons.”

Threatened with losing her business she got moving.  She was quick to action and not about to fail. The first Common Sewing lesson was held in July 2016.  She started by teaching a four class series.  Just one year later, Bonnie is now running Common Sewing full-time.   As for Bonnie B. Tailor?  They did complete that disastrous order and got the business back afloat. Bonnie is now in process of turning over that business to her staff.  

On empowering her staff to become business owners:

“That’s been really fun to watch.  Tailors are not compensated well.  And these are two incredibly talented, focused, hardworking women.  And they’re great people.  They have a hope for a much better quality of life not being my employee.”  

On how Common Sewing works:

“I have many layers of purpose in Common Sewing.  My mission statement is I want to bring sewing back into our lifestyle in a way that’s relevant, sustainable, and easy.  That’s all I do.  I teach very very basic lessons.  The six lessons will teach you all the skills to be a maker or a mender, upcycler, or designer and you get six cute projects.  But I walk you through the lessons with little rhyme schemes and memorization tools about what to do.”  

On why she’s passionate about teaching others to sew:

“We live in textiles.  We are all creative beings.  We all have unique bodies that do not fit into size categories.  And we all want to express ourselves authentically as ourselves.  I want people to know how to change things to fit their bodies or make things to fit their lifestyles.  I have a lot of passion for people and how they live in their textiles.”

On taking responsibility for our consumption:

“Textiles are the most underused of the most reusable resource we have.  Textiles do not need to be thrown away.  They can be reused into millions of things.  We put 15 million tons of textiles in the landfill every single year.  And that doesn’t include what we ship overseas, that’s American landfills.  That’s coming because we are over consuming and treating our clothes as disposable.  We don’t know how to fix our clothes.  We don’t want to take them to the dry cleaner to fix because it would cost more than what we paid for them.”

When Bonnie talks about preserving our planet, she’s looking out for her son.  And for my children.  And for future generations after that.  She wants to gift people with the ability to steward what we create.  And to be good stewards to our Earth.  

On what’s next for Common Sewing:

“It’s designed to reach the nation. I’m building out a program that equips and enables teachers to start their own businesses.  I want it to be available and bless more people.  Help a single mother learn how to sew and start a business out of her home.  I’m teaching them to be a teacher.  Training up teachers to bless the people in their community.”

In addition, she’s developing the program and documentation so it’s accessible nationwide.  She’s experimenting with webinars and working on a subscription nationwide for the Common Box.  Each box has one lesson that you can do at your kitchen table.  It has a variety of methods to reach each type of learner: PDFs, videos, and tutorials running live you can log in to do with a teacher via web.

Now a family of three, Nicholas, Brian, and Bonnie are very involved in their church and Nicholas’ school activities.  Nicholas loves playing sports, especially soccer.  Every night they have dinner as a family.  And on the weekends they head outdoors for bike riding, paddle boarding, and camping.  They love spending time with family and keep an eye out for local events to enjoy together.

On co-parenting in a blended family:

“Our family life is pretty wonderful for a blended family.  I married the man of my dreams.  His dad and I are great friends.  We have so much love and respect for each other.  He married the woman of his dreams.  I love his wife.  He loves my husband.  And Nicholas calls all of us his parents.  And we support and celebrate that.  So we have a really unique family life.  I won’t say it got there without effort.  We were blessed with four people who function more on goodwill.  And we love Nicholas like crazy.  But it did take work.”

P.S.  Nicholas spends the summer with his dad in Georgia. When Bonnie and I met for the interview he was heading up to Martha’s Vineyard (can I be Nicholas, please?)

On dating as a single mom:

“Internet. Advanced search. I don’t have time to ‘date date’. No time for meetups. I did not flirt in the grocery store.  I am not going to cruise my church.  It’s just not who I am.  I had a vision that I didn’t want my son to grow up in a single parent home and I was willing to do the work.  I didn’t go into internet dating blind, I read every book on the market.  Even ones I laughed at in college. My purpose was to find the man of my dreams, fall in love organically, and use the technology at hand that would let me date while Nicholas was in bed.”

On meeting her husband for their first date:

“He walked around the corner and I recognized him from his picture and it was like to me, the quality of light on the street changed.  It was like there was a shift in the atmosphere and all of the sudden where it was sunset there was a strange glow over the street.  And I was just a puddle.  All of my cool was gone.  I was just a droopy puddle waiting to have a drink with my future husband.”

On the biggest thing she does different than she thought she would:

“I thought my son would eat all organic.  I really did.  Because I love holistic nutrition and I’m very nutrition conscious.  Heck no, it’s like chicken fingers and french fries every day.  We cook dinner at home.  But he’s not going to eat [the healthy stuff.] I’m sure there are moms out there that would say otherwise and that it’s a cop out.  But he eats very differently than I thought when pregnant.”  

On how she builds in time for herself:

“I run every day.  And it’s just 30 minutes, I don’t run far or fast.  It is absolutely a stress release and it’s absolutely a meditation.  My husband and I work with each other to give each other alone time.”

On how she sets boundaries for her work schedule:

“I don’t work past 4pm.  Work one workshop at night when Brian and Nicholas are at Trail Life (like Boy Scouts).  I hire other teachers to teach the workshops because I’m very convicted that it’s not worth it.  Common Sewing is not worth more than my family.  I work in the daytime because I’ve got a purpose.  I am pushing into it.”  

On how her family is evolving:

“We became a family two years ago.  And we really enjoy doing everything together.  Now we’re giving each other grace, like my husband is an avid reader and since becoming a dad he hasn’t read a book.  Brian needs to check every now and again to just read.  So I’ll make a plan with Nicholas.  It’s new for our family to give each other alone time.  But we’re finding a lot of pleasure in that too.”

What have you always wanted to do that you’ve been too scared to act on?  What big risk have you taken that paid off in spades.  Tell us in the comments!

Bonnie’s list of must-do’s:
Food: The Sanctum Cafe, Downtown Credo, Bulla Gastrobar, Rusteak, The Dinner Party Project  
Entertainment: Timucua White House, Paddleboarding on Lake Ivanhoe and Wekiva, Blizzard Beach
Camping: Westgate River Ranch, Amelia Island
Newest out of town getaway: Boca Grande, she calls it an outdoor wonderland that’s a tiny island, half fancy resort and half nature preserve.  
Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know!

Moms who Rock: Kristen Manieri

Kristen Manieri, photo by Roberto Gonzalez

“There’s a lot to be said about how we can bring a level of intention and creation on how we’re being, how we’re showing up and how we’re consciously generating relationships in our life.”

Have you ever googled date night ideas to avoid the monotonous dinner and a movie?  If you did that in Orlando you probably stumbled upon Orlando Date Night Guide, a tremendous resource of ideas and suggestions.  Kristen Manieri, the site’s founder, sat down with me to chat about all things date night, mom life, and local Orlando.  I walked away inspired by the amount of intention and thoughtfulness Kristen puts into every facet of her life.  After you read this, I guarantee you will also be thinking of ways to add purpose to everything you do.

After her move to Orlando from Toronto in 2006, she was waiting on resident status and unable to work.  Kristen had a PR/event planning background and thrived while busy so she began freelance writing (unpaid) to fill her days.  Around the same time, she wrote Great Dates Orlando which became a newsletter and then blog.  Admittedly a little backwards from the norm!  

Along the way Kristen gained her residency status and began a paid freelance writing career.  All the while she kept up with Orlando Date Night Guide and noticed her following was growing.  In 2014 she took a leap to make it her full time job and has never looked back.  In 2016 she launched the Date Night Discovery Club, a monthly subscription service that delivers date ideas to your door.  And in 2017, she announced that Date Night Guide will expand on a national scale.  She’s committed to creating a community of bloggers that lift each other up.  

She and her husband Marc have been together for 15 years.  They have two daughters, Elizabeth (turning 9) and Aly (7).  She runs down the list of non-negotiables in their house: weekly date nights, quarterly getaways, and family time including date nights with their kids.  They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.

On why she started Great Dates Orlando:

“We were new to the city, I love exploring and new adventures.  We didn’t have kids yet and were looking for fun things to do.  And especially fun things to do on a budget since that was 2007 and things were starting to go down the sewer.  We needed to get creative on how we spent our money.”

On women supporting other women:

“Figuring out a way to do what I love and on a schedule I love is really the holy grail for any mom. I don’t think most moms want to give up working.  I love working. But I don’t want to work 60 hours a week I want to pick them up at school every day.  I’ve found an almost near balance of work, home, kids, and my husband.  I’m very inspired to teach people that wherever they live, here’s how I did it and you can too.”  

On the biggest lesson she’s learned running her business:

“I’m great at starting new things.  When it gets hard I start thinking I shouldn’t have done it, it isn’t meant to be.  Forcing myself to stick with it past that uncomfortable stage, that’s been incredibly eye opening to me.”

On what’s next:

“I have a lot to say about the value of tending to your relationship (friends, spouse, family).  The intentionality that you can bring to upgrading any relationship through quality time, daily doses of affection.  Those haven’t been talked about on Date Night Guide and is the next genesis of where to head.”

On favorite Orlando dates right now:

“I love all the main streets that have popped up Audobon Park, Thorton Park, College Park, and Downtown South.  It used to just be Park Avenue but now there’s all these little pockets.  You really can just park the car and explore.”

On their most recent date night:

“We spent the night downtown at Lake Eola this past weekend.  Went for dinner at the Stubborn Mule and then walking around the lake.  We love the Farmer’s Market on Sunday and like to do yoga.  But not when it’s this hot.”

On being a proud Orlandoan:

“We are just getting Orlando people to fall in love with the city themselves.  Never had to sell Orlando as a destination to people who don’t live here.  But now there’s a sense of I want to live here, I’m choosing to live here. We have a lot and a lot of people who are creating really amazing things.”

The longer we talk the more I admire what she’s doing.  She’s authentic to her mission.  She just wants everyone (including herself) to have the best relationship possible with their spouse.  In ten years of blogging that concept has only become clearer to her.  She’s spreading a gospel of connecting with your loved one and committing to coming back to one another.  And she does it without sounding remotely preachy.

Kristen believes in rituals and little moments to add depth and sweetness. She tells a beautiful story of a ritual she has with her girls, squeezing their hands three times for I love you.  And she glows when she tells me about the other day when her daughter squeezed her hand ten times and said, “I just said I love you so much I can’t even stand it.”  

On her favorite things to do as a family:

“The girls are great at restaurants. We love going out to eat with them.  We also love hiking at Lake Lotus park.  It’s all boardwalks through the park and great to go exploring.”

Kristen’s tips for a successful restaurant visit include bringing a workbook to keep the kids occupied and drawing a hard line against phones or tablets to distract them. As a mom with a toddler and infant I was both stunned and instantly hopeful hearing this that one day I’d be able to look forward to taking my kids out to eat!  

On raising little foodies:

“We’ve slowly eliminated the kids menu from their lives.  They want an elevated meal too.  That’s what we’re eating.  We tend to buy whole entrees and share. Eating out with them is a real joy since they like real food.”

On the most surprising thing about being a mom:

“How much self care is critical.  Honestly when you’re doing the birthing classes that’s what they should be teaching.  Someone should take you aside and tell you how important it is to nap or spend a day by yourself once a month.  If you’re not taking care of yourself you’re not taking care of anybody.  A resentful overwhelmed teetering on the brink of insanity mother isn’t great.  We’re already going to beat ourselves up.  Those moments are less and less when we practice self care.”

On how she makes time for self-care:

“I’m up at 5 am (yes she goes to bed early – by 9:30pm) and have two hours to meditate, journal, and exercise.  Once I have those two hours to myself, I can give myself away the whole rest of the day.  I’ve done my part.  That’s mandatory.”

On simple steps to starting your self-care routine:

“Make a list of 10 things you can do to nourish yourself when you have a break or kids are sleeping.  I could do five sun salutations, write ten things in my gratitude journal, meditate, drink a glass of water, or just take a few deep breaths.  And then keep that list handy to avoid mindlessly checking Facebook and missing your window.”

On when you stray the course from your routine:

“I’m only ever 80% on course on how to nourish myself.  Checking in, being able to do a body scan, see how you’re doing and take a break ensures you come back to your habits.  You have to stay the course long enough to relish the benefits of it so when you go off course you don’t want to be there.  On course shouldn’t feel like work.  On course is so in alignment, your best version of yourself that it’s off course that is uncomfortable.”

On how she handles mom guilt:

“I’ve gotten really good at taking stock in the quality of our time as a family.  We are not wired for happiness, our brains are built for survival.  A happy memory doesn’t serve us.  You have to wire your children for happiness.  When you’re having a happy day saying ‘I’m having such a happy day.  Aren’t you having a happy day?’ and even giving them the words, joy, euphoria, wistful.  So many ways to describe a happy day. When [mom guilt] happens I take stock and know we’ve had these quality moments.  I can quickly access that in my mind.  If it’s not there then we need to add more quality time.”

What can you do to take care of yourself today?  How can you add depth to your relationships?  Tell us in the comments how you’re elevating the quality of your life.

 

Throughout our talk Kristen mentioned several podcast and book suggestions.  I’ve listed below as resources:
On following your creative passion: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast
On creativity and the realization that obstacles abound for us all: Linda Siversten’s Beautiful Writers Podcast
On when to quit and when to stick:  The Dip a book by Seth Godin
On raising children wired for happiness: Raising Happiness a book by Christine Carter Ph.D
Know a ‘Mom Who Rocks’ who should be featured?  Let us know in the comments below!

Orlando is everyone’s favorite punchline. And I love it.

I think I’ve mentioned that I love Orlando?  And even though there’s a zillion cool reasons to love this town we’re always sort of a joke in the cultural zeitgeist.  And I don’t mean just because we’re in Florida.  I started noticing how often we’re the punchline in my favorite shows and movies.  I could be offended but really I love a good ol’ shoutout to my city.  So here are my top favorite pop culture Orlando references. 

Pretty Woman  

I watch Pretty Woman every time I see it on TV.  Every. Single. Time.  But as with most movies I catch on on cable, I never actually watch it start to finish.  A couple years back I met up with a few girlfriends at the Enzian for their Cult Classics night when they were playing Pretty Woman.  And would you believe that right in the intro there’s an Orlando shout out?  As the movie opens cops are on scene at the homicide of a dead hooker.  Two tacky tourists look on to take pictures.  Can you guess where they’re from?  Orlando!  (You’ll hear it at 5:50 in) The audience roared with laughter and applause. 

The Book of Mormon

I really hadn’t researched much into The Book of Mormon before we went to Bob Carr to see it.  It was one of those shows I thought we had to go see because there was so much hype.  Also I have very fond memories of watching Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Baseketball when I was a kid (South Park too lest I be outcasted!)

In The Book of Mormon, LDS missionaries prepare to be sent on their missions across the globe.  I am so glad I had no idea what was coming because the full effect of the punchline for Elder Price revealing he hopes he’s placed in Orlando with an epic Orlando banner unfurling on stage was everything.  I couldn’t find video of it, but here’s the song!

The Minions Movie

This is a mommy blog after all so I had to include my favorite yellow blobs, the minions.  I didn’t get their appeal before I saw this movie but after close to one hundred viewings, I’m sold.  In The Minions Movie, Bob, Stewart, and Kevin in search of a supervillian leader head to Villiancon, the largest gathering of criminals anywhere.  And where else would it be but Orlando?  It’s set before Disney so they arrive to a one-road swamp town.  And don’t worry they do find a supervillain to follow, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock).  The lady-power supervillian with a sidekick husband (John Hamm, yes please!) really set my love into overdrive.

Hotwives of Orlando

A general rule my friends know when conversing with me is that 9 out of 10 times I will relate everything back to the Real Housewives.  Imagine my delight when a parody premiered called The Hotwives of Orlando!  The show happens to hit on every amazing Housewives cliche and reminds you that telling people to ‘calm down’ can lead to a full-scale catfight that lasts a whole season.

Fresh off the Boat

Based off Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh off the Boat is a family comedy on ABC that documents his Taiwanese family’s move from Chinatown in D.C. to Orlando.  It’s set in the mid-90’s and such a great show about family and culture-clash.  As I went down the Wikipedia rabbit-hole reading up on Huang for this blog post I became obsessed.  I’m now sure I need to read his books, follow him on twitter, and set up a google alert with his name so I can keep tabs on his many controversies.

Orange is the New Black

I fully jumped on the OITNB bandwagon the second it premiered.  My book club read the novel.  And back in the pre-kiddo days I’m sure we even binge watched the season in a day.  On the show the guards often play just as integral parts of the stories as the inmates.  One guard, CO Bennett gets very involved with an inmate and we learn that he has a fake leg.  Flashbacks show us that CO Bennett is an army vet, so it’s easy to connect the dots that he lost his leg in Afghanistan in combat.  Not so, good friends.  It’s later revealed that he lost it because of an infection that he got in a hot tub.  In Orlando.

Identity Thief

Melissa McCarthy steals Jason Bateman’s identity and he goes to find her and get it back.  The movie turns into a road trip buddy comedy after he finds her, in Winter Park.   It’s painfully obvious the movie wasn’t filmed in Winter Park.  But did they even google it?  There’s a scene with a salon that is borderline offensive because the Florida cliche tacky salon is incredibly anti-Winter Park.  #howdareyou

Sisters

I thought Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s Sisters movie was adorable and funny.  The two polar opposite sisters head back to Orlando to help sell their family home.  They decide to have one epic party before it sells. Just like every other Orlando moment on this list, I do not think one second of this was filmed in Central Florida.  They do hit up a Big Lots at one point and that made it easy to pretend they were here.  Once again, my research for this list led me fully down an internet rabbit hole.  This movie is based on real Orlandoan sisters Paula Pell and Patty DeLaCruz.  Pell is a writer for SNL and wrote the screenplay.  So cool right?  

I know there are so many more Orlando moments in pop culture that I’m missing.  What should I add to the next round-up for this list?  

 

My Orlando Love Story

This June marks fifteen years for me in Central Florida. My favorite memories through the years are wrapped up in good food, great friends, and lots of love.  I’ve grown so much and right by my side this city has too. 

It’s 2002 and I’m visiting for freshman orientation at UCF. We have dinner at Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ before dad drops me off at the dorm to spend the night. I discover new friends and the freedom of being on my own.  And I discover Tijuana Flats.  Life is never the same.

It’s 2003 and I have found my footing and great friends.  The Student Union smells like Subway sandwich bread.  We eat sweet chicken teriyaki subs on the deck quickly before the squirrels attack.  We spend birthdays at the Olive Garden and Kobe Steakhouse.

It’s 2004 and I’m a server at Pebbles Winter Park.  I toss nutty cheesy salads tableside to the well to dos of Orlando who serve as the board of directors for the nonprofits I’ll work for later.  On Sundays I work doubles and when there’s a lull we sneak over to Aloma Bowl and bowl a few frames.

It’s 2005 and I meet friends for dinner at Dexter’s and Chili’s.  I graduate from UCF and celebrate with friends and family at P.F. Changs.

It’s 2006 and I work at Second Harvest Food Bank by day and as a waitress at Don Pepe’s Habana Grill in Altamonte at night. I want to eat Cuban food every meal for the rest of my life.  

It’s 2007 and I spend my nights at Crummer Business School at Rollins College. I pick up quick dinners at Tropical Smoothie and the Rollins cafeteria.  

It’s 2008 and I’m working at Kids House in Sanford.  I spend lunch breaks at Yabi Sushi and That Deli!  On Halloween, after a failed attempt to go downtown, my BFF and I find Bobby G’s a dive bar in Altamonte. We spend many Friday nights there over the next few years.  Years later someone points out to me that it’s a Steelers bar.  I don’t do sports so I never noticed.

It’s 2009 and I start dating a very cute MBA classmate.  We spend a beach day in Cocoa and chow down at Slow and Low BBQ. We do dinner before a movie at Café Murano in Altamonte.  We spend an hour chatting in line outside Boston’s Fish House.  

It’s 2010 and time for graduation.  I celebrate with family at Hot Olives and then we meet up with friends at Stardust Lounge for dancing and lots of drinks.  We take day trips to the West Coast to eat at the Old Salty Dog  and the Dali Museum.

It’s 2011 and together with my cute boyfriend we start the short-lived food blog, Danie & Reidy Bon Appetity.  We cover Hawkers, Winter Park Fish Co., Hamburger Mary’s, and Junior Colombian Burger before we quit (food blogging, not eating – of course).  

It’s 2012 and we visit the Maitland Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings for crepes before we spend a leisurely afternoon at the Mall at Millenia or take in a movie.  We meet friends for dinner at Prato and the Pharmacy.  Life is effortless and the city is ours to explore.  

It’s 2013 and we run away to Key Largo and elope.  We celebrate the next night at home with our best friends at Luma on Park Avenue.

It’s 2014 and our daughter is born.  We stop at Donuts To Go on the way home for a treat.  We celebrate Violet later in the year with family and friends at Hamilton’s Kitchen and photos on the lawn of the Alfond Inn.

It’s 2015 and I’m offered a job at Orlando Shakes.  Proximity to Pig Floyd’s makes it a no brainer.  The sweetness turns one and we celebrate with a party at home catered by Tijuana Flats.

It’s 2016 and we’ve traded brunches for breakfasts.  We spend afternoons at the park and then go to Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream for a treat.  We have dinner at Zona Fresca where they don’t side eye us for the mountain of rice our two year old gets on the floor.

It’s 2017 and I’m nine months pregnant in January.  A week before our little boy arrives, friends come over to celebrate my birthday and we binge on Banana Dream cake from TooJay’s Deli, assorted goodies from Buttermilk Bakery, and the best cookies of all time from Gideon’s Bakehouse.  Simon arrives and our world is turned upside down in the best chaos.  We pick up Foxtail Coffee before taking our toddler to Disney.  We have quick lunch dates at Hunger Street Tacos.  On Sunday mornings we still go to the Farmer’s Market but spend most of the time pushing Violet on the swings.  We take a break to eat popsicles and walk around the lake.  We are flourishing.  Orlando is flourishing.  We’re just starting to scratch the surface.  

Note:  Any restaurants without links are no longer open (Sad).

Five Favorite Kid Friendly Spots in Orlando

I love to eat.  It’s been so fun to see the food scene in Orlando develop over the last several years.  What has been less fun as I’ve had kids is how stressful going out to eat can be.  I don’t pretend to be raising children who have perfect manners all the time and can go anywhere. Sometimes my toddler has a meltdown at the table or throws food or refuses to eat anything except french fries for dinner.  Here are my top five spots where that’s perfectly acceptable:  Read More »