Selfies from January 2016

I love that my iPhone has now automatically created a selfie folder! For “almost Wordless Wednesday”, here are my selfies from January. My inlaws were in town for 3 weeks, so there are a lot of family photos!:

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4 Ways to Save with Tropical Smoothie Cafe

So New Years has come and gone… have your resolutions stuck around?

I discovered over winter break (I work at a school, so I get 2 weeks off with the kiddos…) how often I crave smoothies when my schedule is loosey goosey. After a workout, instead of a meal, as a healthy dessert – I sure do like smoothies!

tropsmoo1Sometimes I remember to keep bananas in a bowl on the counter and berries frozen in the freezer, but sometimes it’s just not top of mind. That’s where Tropical Smoothie Cafe comes in. There’s one about 2 miles from my house, one near my daughter’s bi-weekly appointment at the Children’s Hospital, two on the way to my parents’ house a few hours away… it sure is convenient.

My favorite, go-to flavor of smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Cafe is Acai Berry Boost with acai, pomegranate, banana, blueberries and strawberries. It’s chock full of fresh, real fruit.

Now here’s my first tip:

  • At Tropical Smoothie Cafe, you control your sugar intake. If you look closely along the bottom of the menu, it says smoothies are “24 oz. and made with turbinado sugar unless otherwise noted or requested”. You can request a smaller, kids size cup on some flavors. I’ve heard from one of their employees that they prefer not to make them that way because it screws up their recipe amounts when blending different fruits together – but some will. Also, Splenda® is available instead of sugar, or you can ask them to use half the sugar. Or you can do what I do, and ask for NO sugar added. 

Here’s my second tip about dining out at Trop-Smoo (as my husband pretends is its cool nickname when he is being goofy):

And a third tip for you:

  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe offers Supplements and add-ins for their smoothies! You can add things like non-dairy Pea Protein, multivitamins, ground flax seed and much more! When my daughters or their friends have a sore throat, I offer to bring them a fruit-based smoothie with no sugar and added vitamins. It’s a great pick-me-up, and when you’re sick, 24 oz. seems huge, so you can usually drink 1/3 and keep the rest in the freezer for later. They usually ask for the jetty punch or sunrise sunset flavor.

Maybe your resolutions have nothing to do with food or health. In that case, they’re probably about money. And Tropical Smoothie comes through on that too.

  • Aside from the fact that their smoothies are TREMENDOUS, they also offer a reusable cup you can buy. Purchase a reusable handled plastic mug and SAVE $.50-$1 on your future purchases when you bring it back for a smoothie refill! It’s greener and saves you green at the same time!

Now, I know you weren’t expecting this, but I have a BONUS tip for you! Just because I’m talking about smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Cafe, you need to know that’s not all they offer!chicken

  • You can totally go to Tropical Smoothie and get a full meal! They have wraps, sandwiches, flatbreads, muffins and cookies. My husband loves a peanut butter smoothie and a blueberry muffin after a 6 mile run on Saturday morning. You can enjoy artisan tacos in falvors like Smoked Jalapeño Chicken or Thai Chili Steak. I’ve never tried their Rustic Turkey & Apple Club, but I want to next time I go! It has turkey, cheddar, gorgonzola, bacon, dijon honey mustard and house-made kale & apple slaw on thinly sliced seedilicious bread. That is right up my alley!! A little cheesy, a little crunchy, and a hearty bread! If you’re on the way to work in the morning and need a healthier breakfast, grab an Omelet Wrap or Peanut Butter Banana Crunch Flatbread. Yum-o! And if you’re looking for a vegetarian, hearty meal, sub the chicken in a sandwich for their “Beyond Meat“. Comparable protein and complete enjoyment from a next generation product.
Tropical smoothie and a muffin

Brian’s Saturday post-run crew: “Trop Smoo” every weekend! #jealous

I road tripped to see my mom just before Thanksgiving. I knew exactly where the two Tropical Smoothies were to stop for lunch along the way. That was the day I veered away from the norm and decided to try a limited edition smoothie flavor. I opted for the Chia Banana Boost with Peanut Butter, which they were suggesting as a drink-your-breakfast option. It had coconut, almonds, dates, cinnamon, whole grain oats, chia seeds & roasted banana with peanut butter. I told them I don’t like coconut, and I was assured it would taste more like banana with peanut butter, which it did. Of course I asked for zero sugar added.

I love this fast-casual chain full of fruit and flavor! If there isn’t one near you, you can open your own franchise. If there is one near you, I suggest you visit it again soon!

I’m going to have a Tropical Smoothie Cafe contest coming up very soon. Remember where you read this because you might be quizzed on it later… *hint, hint, wink*

(This post was not a paid ad. I love smoothies from Tropical Smoothie!)

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Dinner at Dishoom, London

Just weeks before I visited London in June, my cousin’s wife was there with their daughter. I asked for suggestions about places to eat and things to do, and she recommended Dishoom. She called it “Indian food,” and after all four of us loved our meal at Sanaa (twice), we figured it was worth a shot.

map to dishoom kings crossDishoom describes themselves as paying “loving homage to the Irani cafés that were once part of the fabric of life in Bombay.” There is more than one Dishoom location, and we chose the King’s Cross location for dinner after a day in The British Museum. Luckily, my Google maps were choosing to load that day, so I could find the way from the train station to the restaurant. We almost didn’t make it, because the front door is not visible from the street. You have to walk around the side of a large (office?) building.

Kings Cross Station harry potter

Kings Cross Station

interactive birdcage art piece identified flying object

“Identified Flying Object” interactive birdcage art piece outside the station (DD2 inside)

Dishoom kings cross location

Dishoom – we found it!

We hadn’t eaten much that day, and had done a lot of walking, so we were ready to share a family-style feast! We were seated upstairs – the stairs are behind the clock in this photo:

dishoom interior

The four of us went through the menu, and since we were a little concerned with our pronunciations and the server understanding us, I started a notepad file on my phone and listed all the items we wanted to order. We got: lamb samosa, vegetable samosa, black daal, cheese naan, rice, calamari, chicken ruby, gunpowder potatoes, murgh malai, far far and 2 drinks for Brian. The samosas were yummy, the daal was amazing, the calamari my husband and kids liked so much they ordered a second portion (they were small, tapas-like sizes), and I loved the gunpowder potatoes but they were too spicy for Brian.

dishoom far far menu

See the description of Far Far?

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Here’s what Far Far looks like! It tasted like unsalted Bugles

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dishoom black daal

This daal was the best I’ve ever had, with creamy undertones!

IMG_2145 murgh malai dishoom chicken

The teen daughters enjoyed it! YOLO they said, about ordering the Far Far…

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Here’s a peek at some of the architecture:

Godown industrial building london IMG_2136

Through the window we could just make out a ping pong tournament

Through the window we could just make out a heated ping pong match

Aqua leather booths

Aqua leather booths

Bartender below us in the Permit Room

Bartender below us in the Permit Room chopping an ice block

It was trendy, funky, comfortable and fun. Although we all kind of wanted dessert eventually, we were full as we were leaving. We asked one of the hostesses if she could recommend a good place to have dessert in a couple hours. She recommended Flesh and Buns. “It’s near Matilda,” she said. “Matilda the musical?” I asked. “We actually have tickets to see that show on Wednesday. We’ll have to go to Flesh and Buns for dinner that night.”

 

10704222_10153285720715923_4313730862484977527_oThen – get this – she gave us 4 coupons to come back to Dishoom for breakfast and get a free drink! So two days later we were back for naan stuffed with eggs, sausage and other goodies! The runny egg yolks were really dark, almost orange. Farm fresh! My mango banana lassi was delicious!

She told us about the Flesh and Buns menu and said to ask for her boyfriend, Casper, one of the bartenders. And we did… but that meal is a story for a different time!

fleshandbuns london

 

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Currently, Jan 2016

Current Book – I just read “Three Little Words” by Ashley Rhodes-Courter. I probably won’t have time to look for my next book for about 2 weeks.

Current Guilty Pleasure – homemade chocolate mint brownies. But there’s only one left!

Current Drink – water

Current Favorite Blog – Outdoorsy Diva

Current Song – Still into you, Paramore

Current Wish-List – less tension with DD2

Current Needs – a nap

Current Triumph – Got the golf tournament web page live at work

Current Indulgence – dinner dates with my husband

Current Outfit – skirt, sweater, tights, heels

Current Banes of My Existence – my daughter’s girlfriend’s cat scratching Brian’s chair

Current Excitement – it’s a brand new year!

Current Mood – turning wounds into wisdom

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Flying over Leeds Castle

When our family ventured to London last June, we researched fun things to do with TEENS beforehand. Traveling with older teenagers is not like traveling with tiny children – but they aren’t quite like traveling with a set of contemporaries either.

adventure-GoApefamilyOne of the fun adventures my husband stumbled across online was Go Ape, a tree-top adventure that lets you “get in touch with your inner Tarzan.” Their course includes a high ropes course adventure with a zip line at the end of each challenge. Our family had done a ropes course at Dollywood, but certainly not in treetops near a castle! And it did not include ziplining. (After only three years, Dollywood removed the two-acre Adventure Mountain multi-level rope course, so don’t go looking for it now…)

While at Dollywood, I found myself gripping the ropes tighter than I thought I would, getting a little anxiety about falling despite the harness and safety wire. It was still an enjoyable trip, though, so when Brian recommended taking a train to Kent for the day and trying the Go Ape course, followed by a castle tour and hedge maze large enough to actually get a little lost in, we were all excited about it.

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

We prepped by reading their website. The text and photos promised breathtaking views of the beautiful area surrounding Leeds Castle (near Maidstone), and “obstacles that will get the hairs on the back of neck bristling”. It also said the high ropes courses were approximately 40 feet above the forest floor and zip wires were over 800 feet in length – and my favorite part “leap off our Tarzan Swing and tackle our crossings whilst enjoying some of Britain’s most breathtaking scenery“.

Gorgeous castle grounds

Gorgeous castle grounds

raffi apeAlso thanks to the website, we knew how to get there, how early to arrive before our scheduled flight time, and what to wear - something you don’t mind getting grubby that covers your stomach and an emergency rain jacket. Appropriate close-toed footwear with soles with good grips - no sandals or slip-off shoes. Long hair should be tied back. And they recommended gloves, so I grabbed a pair of those $1 stretchy Target gloves for each of us. (I was the only one who wore them. I thought they were to avoid rope burn, but they were really to prepare for bad weather – and we had GORGEOUS weather!)

You can bring scaredy-cat friends who don’t want to participate to enjoy the forest grounds and take photos for you. You can also bring little ones: the Tree Top Junior Adventure includes up to an hour of exploring the tree tops for 6 – 12 year olds to enjoy.

We arrived right on time, locked up our belongings, signed insurance waivers, and got fit into our safety harnesses.

Brian steps into his safety harness

Brian steps into his safety harness

An adventure begins with a safety briefing. There was a group of teens there celebrating a friend’s birthday, and we had our safety talk together. That was nice, because you could see the information repeated a few times so it would sink in despite your excitement.

Then there are a couple of easy obstacles to try near the start, so the safety person can make sure you are doing them correctly, and so someone can back out if they are too uncomfortable.

Then you are led by signs through the forest from obstacle to obstacle, climbing at the start of each one, and meeting the ground after each one with a fun zipline down!

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

All of us enjoying the course

All of us enjoying the course

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD2 wanted me to take photos and videos of her throughout the course, but my hands were shakey from the height and from gripping so hard, and I was worried I would drop her iPhone! That didn’t stop her from making her own videos and taking selfies up high in the treetops without fear.

teen happy on ropes course

At one point my nervousness got the best of me. I ziplined down to the ground and took photos for a few minutes, and then finished up the course with the rest of the family. I just needed to feel solid ground for a few minutes, and my daughters applauded me when I stuck with it and climbed back up! #gotMyBack

Here are some more visuals of our tree-top Go Ape adventure:

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She smiled more on this morning of our trip than any other time!

teen on Go Ape ropes course

“I’m so glad we did this instead of Harry Potter, mom!”

wendyselfiefamily

Aliceropescourse

familyfinishedcourseGoApe

At the end we all received certificates of completion, as a memento to the fun you just survived. Just a short walk from the course is Leeds Castle, known as the Queen’s Castle and “the loveliest castle in the world“, where we planned to have a picnic lunch.

Enjoying the walk to the castle

My family walking to Leeds Castle on a gorgeous summer day in the UK

With peacocks roaming and sheep wandering, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten away from it all! I loved much of the art inside the castle as well.

castle1 IMG_2333 castlegrounds3 IMG_2336 castlegrounds IMG_2331

Outside the castle an animal show geared towards young children was going on. We went into the hedge maze while many of the other guests are occupied. It’s NOT an easy maze.

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couple in hedge maze near leeds castle

The maze ends in the center, where you take steps down to an underground grotto!

Grotto near Leeds castle

In the grotto

On our way back to the meet the shuttle to our train, we spotted pre-wedding photos happening on the castle grounds. The castle was closing as the wedding caterer arrived.

wedding at leeds castle, kent, uk

This was certainly one of the best days of our London vacation in the summer of 2015! We had active time and passive time, we worked individually and as a team, we got exercise and enjoyed the amazing beauty around us. If you take a family trip nearby, I recommend a day trip to Kent, Leeds Castle and the GoApe treetop zipline adventure for sure!

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