Jetsettin’: Back to Florida!

It’s been almost a month since we have gotten back from Florida and I’m just now writing about it. It’s a mixture of jet lag, a little bit of Ittybot sickness, and a lot of denial. I didn’t want the vacation to end!

As soon as we landed, we headed straight to Chipotle and Target. They were everything I had been dreaming of for the past 2 years. Ittybot was a big fan of Chipotle – I was a very proud mama at that moment. We spent about 1 hr to 1.5 hrs in Target and spent $200 on who knows what. The true Target experience!

We landed a day earlier than the family so we stayed with some close friends in Orlando. It was great to see familiar faces and it really felt like we never left. I feel so blessed that we have garnered such quality friendships in the short 2.5 years that we were there. Wish we could see them more often 😦

The next day, the family arrived at MCO and I couldn’t be more excited. We see our family quite often via Skype (thank goodness for modern technology) but it’s just not the same. I thought Ittybot would be a little startled by their overwhelming excitement to see him but he was probably just as excited as they were!

After a quick bite to eat, we headed over to the sprawling 2 building beach house on Anna Maria Island. Per usual, the family chose an amazing home to spend the next 5 days of bonding together.

Pool between the two buildings where we gathered to play :)
Pool between the two buildings where we gathered to play 🙂

There was a little apprehension about the tropical storm that was heading towards the gulf but after living in Florida for a couple years we weren’t even phased. We knew there would be heavy storms for a couple hrs and the sun would soon shine again.

Anna Maria Island, Florida

We ended up having an amazing time on the beach, Siesta Key Beach, and we took a couple pontoons over to the Anclote sandbar. And I can’t forget the pool that was situated between the two buildings. That’s where we gathered most of the time – other than the kitchen of course!

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Speaking of food, the family basically stocked up for the end of days. Let me remind you that we were staying there for 5 days. I’m talking 7 bottles of fish sauce and 5-6 bottles of soy sauce. WHAT!? They like to go overboard on the grocery shopping but I really can’t complain. Amazing home cooked meals fo’ days! No matter where I have traditional Lao food, nothing beats mama’s home cooked meals. On the days we felt like getting out, we ventured out for some awesome food nearby.

All you can eat - Cooter's
All you can eat crab legs at Cooter’s in Clearwater Beach.
Midnight snack dim sum.
Midnight snack, dim sum.
Korea House in Orlando, FL
Korea House in Orlando, FL

We spent their remaining couple days in Orlando; where we did Downtown Disney, Outlet Malls, and even more pool time. We loved watching Ittybot interact with his cousins. He absolutely adores them. Makes me sad that he can’t see them more often.

Downtown Disney
We had such a large group they gave us our own boat. That’s how we roll.

After the family left, we had an extra week in Orlando to meet up with friends and do lots, I mean LOTS, of shopping. It is my favorite past time after all. We ended up having to pick up another luggage to bring all my new goodies home. And it was well worth it!

We stayed at the Marriott Vacation Club and I don’t know why we haven’t taken advantage of them sooner! There was a kitchen and laundry machines in the room for us to utilize and being a small family, it helped us out tremendously! There was a small grocery store on site where we could pick up milk, drinks, and snacks. The boys enjoyed the arcade and the many, many pools on the grounds. We definitely would stay with them again whenever possible!

Our friends brought us to King Cajun Crawfish and oh my goodness it was SO amazing. So good we had to go back again before we left. Spicy and messy is the only way to go and they delivered!

Could go back again and again!
Could go back again and again!

We had such a good time back in the states that we booked tickets back before we even left. It does help that there was an amazing deal that fell on our lap and we had to jump on it.

I tried to keep this blog post as brief as possible because the vlogs basically say it all. Check out the playlist below!!

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Jetsettin’: Shanghai 2015

The Mr. was given the opportunity to do a business trip to Shanghai and Sanya. I refused to be home alone for two weeks with the little hellion so we tagged along.

We flew a direct flight via KLM. While KLM wasn’t terrible, I still prefer my beloved Emirates. It was a little cramped compared to Emirates and space is valuable during a 10+ hr direct flight with a toddler. The food, however, on KLM was much better. I mean, it’s still plane food but it was much tastier than what you get on Emirates. What was most annoying was that we were stuck on the plane for over an hr because they had issues getting the cargo door open. Little man was getting pretty restless at this point!

Big boy in his first flight as a paying passenger!
Big boy in his first flight as a paying passenger!

We touched down in Shanghai around 11am due to the delays. After being robbed blind by the cabbie (we were charged CNY 450 for a CNY 160 cab ride AND he DEMANDED a CNY50 tip) we made it to Holiday Inn Pudong Kanqiao. I must say, Holiday Inn has stepped up their game. It was a much nicer hotel than I expected. They had a pool that jetted off the side of the hotel and had a glass bottom! (Note: glass bottoms are kind of a thing in China as you will see in future posts.) The Mr had overnight shifts and we wanted to stay on his schedule so we could see his handsome face more. That was kind of tough, but we made it work.

Photo courtesy of IHG.com
Photo courtesy of IHG.com

Our hotel was literally next door to a mall which was very convenient for me 🙂 They had several chain restaurants that were delish. Ajisen was probably our favorite even though it’s technically a Japanese ramen shop. Food was inexpensive and their lychee drink was to die for!

Check out the size of that spoon!
Check out the size of that spoon!

I had hopes of going to dinner at the Oriental Pearl Tower for their rotating restaurant. Unfortunately, everyone said that the buffet wasn’t worth it and we got there a little too late. In the end, we decided to go up the tower and do the sky deck. To do the Space Module, upper sphere, lower sphere, and Shanghai Municipal History Museum will cost you CNY 220 (~35 USD). If you’re not interested in going to the tip top, you can opt for the other option which allows you to enter the main/lower spheres and the museum for CNY 180 (29 USD). The glass bottom terrace was spectacular. We were standing above the bustling city of Shanghai watching cars weave in and out of traffic. Ittybot has nerves of steel (or just simply didn’t comprehend the predicament he was in) and ran around with no care in the world. Oh, to be young without a care in the world!

Preston walking over Shanghai :)
Preston walking over Shanghai 🙂

We loved YuYuan tourist mart so much that we went there 2 days in a row! It costs about CNY 88-100 to get there but another wife that joined the trip and I insisted that we go both days. Haha. The bazaar sits just adjacent to the famous Yu Garden but we enjoyed the crowded shopping so much we never made to the gardens. To be standing in such a loud and crowded bazaar was a daunting task since I had Ittybot but we conquered and came out on top. The aromas of the food stalls was intoxicating, in a good way! Windows upon windows of beautiful silks, garments, and adorable knick knacks makes time vanish right before your eyes.

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We made a quick stop at the Jing An temple. For the price of CNY 50 (8 USD) you can bypass the intricate doors and witness the stunning, old world Chinese architecture.

Jing An Temple
Jing An Temple

We also had the opportunity to explore the bund area a couple nights. The Shanghai skyline is impeccable. The Chinese like their lights and they do them so well. To be standing there in front of the skyline was unreal. I thought I’d only see it in movies! I could literally stand there for hours and just let time pass by as I reflect on this blessed and amazing life I lead.

The view of the Shanghai Skyline from The Bund.
The view of the Shanghai Skyline from The Bund.
The Bots in front of the impeccable Shanghai Skyline!
The Bots in front of the impeccable Shanghai Skyline!

Despite the fact that this was a business trip for The Mr, his overnight shifts allowed him to have some time to sightsee with us. He was exhausted, as you would imagine. We had a great time in Shanghai. It’s an amazing city with a lot to offer. We are glad we got to see Shanghai in all it’s glory and Ittybot has another magnet and postcard to add to his growing collection!

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Foodie Friday! : Van Buuren

One of my favorite restaurants in Leiden, Netherlands is “Van Buuren”. Fun fact: the restaurant is owned by the famous DJ Armin Van Buuren who hails from Leiden.

We decided on Van Buuren as the dinner location for our ladies night because I was craving some steak.

While the steak is on the smaller side in American standards, it comes with an AMAZING herb salad on top and potatoes on the side. Can’t forget the chimichurri sauce. YUM. The dish will run you 19.75 which I think is a little steep but not so bad if you treat yourself once in a while.

listed on the menu as: STEAK-SUKADE-USA-180 GRAM -  With chimicurri & a Herbsalad
listed on the menu as: STEAK-SUKADE-USA-180 GRAM –
With chimicurri & a Herbsalad

For dessert, I always get the tiramisu because it is one of my all time favorite desserts. I was so excited that they have plated it differently and it is ADORABLE. I was a little bummed that the jar wasn’t for keeps 😦

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Obviously, I would recommend this restaurant to others because we find ourselves going back again and again. However, if you are looking for a larger, fattier steak, this place probably won’t satisfy your hunger.

Bonus: On Sundays, they have a 13 euro house steak special!

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Foodie Friday: Tatortot Hotdish

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You can take the girl out of the midwest, but you can’t take the midwest out of the girl.

I know it’s been quite some time since I’ve done a foodie Friday post. Up until Dubai, I was eating salads all the time. Not too exciting, huh?

Well, vacation is over, diet/fitness has been put on hold until after Thanksgiving week. I mean, c’mon I don’t like to set myself up for failure.

Thanksgiving in the Bot household isn’t complete without some tatortot hotdish action. At first glance, you think, “these people just throw a bunch of stuff that tastes good together”. Um…yep, that’s about right!

The salty, crunch to the tatortots greets your tastebuds than you get savoriness of the ground beef and vegetables. Mmmm. I like to top off my tatortot hotdish with LOTS of green onions and a dab of sour cream. Completely optional, but you’re missing out if you don’t try it at least once.

Again, I’m not one to measure out ingredients so this is a rough recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 can Corn
  • 1 can Peas
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom
  • 1 can Cream of corn
  • Tatortots
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar
  • Green Onions
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Optional: Sour Cream

1. Brown your ground beef. Salt and pepper to taste

2. Drain and transfer your ground beef to a casserole dish.

3. Add your peas, corn, cream of mushroom, and cream of corn

4. Add half a cup of grated cheddar. Optional: Add 1/2 cup of sour cream

5. Mix.

6. Salt and Pepper to taste

7. Layer frozen tatortots on top.

8. Throw it in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour or until the tatortots are slightly browned.

9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 min.

10. Top it off with a little more salt and pepper! Optional: Here is where you can add your chopped green onions and a dab of sour cream.

11. Devour tatortot hotdish.

SO EASY. Enjoy!

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Eternal Foodie Newbie : Green Onions fo’ DAYS!

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This may be old news to a lot of people but considering that the kitchen is still pretty foreign to me, this is an amazing discovery. Well, I discovered this over a year ago but I just haven’t shared my discovery to the world yet.

It’s simple, once you chop off the green part of the green onions, throw it in a jar or cup and let it grow (singing “let it gRow” in my head right now, get it? GET IT!?)

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See those two stems in the front? You can already see it starting to regrow. And that’s only after a couple hours! Mind.Blown. Tip: once your new stem grows in, peel off that outer layer to the old stem and change out the water. Otherwise, that stench will make you tear up.

Now, I don’t do this more than 3 times on a single stem (I’m using the word “stem” here but there’s probably a more legit term) because to me, it starts getting difficult to take care of after a couple times. BUT many of you do have more patience than I do so LET IT GROW!

I just love Frozen.

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