Moments in Dining Out Together

Moments in Dining Out Together

If you’re anything like me, dinner time can be hit or miss. With the hustle and bustle of working full time and coming home and assuming the “homework dance,” while attempting to cook dinner with your spouse, whilst having a conversation, it gets pretty overwhelming. Sometimes, it’s nice to just say to cooking, “not today,” and plan for a night out.

via GIPHY

 

Whether we sit together at our own dinner table, or plan a special time out to eat together, there is something special about sharing a meal with your family. At the end of a long day, even if I do spend time in the kitchen, sitting down with my family brings comfort, peace and I love the interactions that ensue.

This past week I began a new year as part of Denny’s Ambassador Council, so it was a special treat to take the kids out (on a school night at that!), and share a family meal. My kids & I love our local Denny’s in Lodi (I-5 and Hwy 12); the staff is always very attentive, they take great care of us, and the experience is always wonderful.

I know that I’ve shared before that Kids Eat Free on Tuesday nights, and with a large family, we like to take advantage of the savings! We specifically went to Denny’s to try their newest menu “Red, White and Bacon!” Do you love bacon? Because my family LOOOOVES bacon (I won’t lie, I’m eating a gluten free bacon breakfast sandwich as I type). My kids freaked out when I told them the menu was all about bacon. They were immediately sold and the countdown to our Tuesday night excursion began.

For all of my bacon-loving movie fans, Denny’s “Red, White and Bacon” menu is a partnership with Twentieth Century Fox and their new film, Independence Day: Resurgence. 

Our kids are usually little angels when we go out. All of a sudden they remember their Ps and Qs, they are cordial with each other, and they share food! I often think we should go out more often for that alone! Unfortunately, the pocket book doesn’t always agree, so we get out when we can, and make it memorable with each experience.

If your kids can eat off the kids menu, let them. We encourage it, especially when we are looking to save a bit of money and honestly they get enough food, even as little tweens. Now, we do have a couple that can eat off the adult menu, so then we add an extra side (usually 99¢) from the kids’ menu.

Selecting their food is half the fun, as the kids’ menu changes just like the adult menu. Our kids still love to color and do the activities in the menu. I seriously hope they always keep their love for creating and handwriting, along with their childlike spirits! They are so fun!

The kid’s menu doesn’t have anything “new” but the activities, and you CAN substitute the new honey jalapeño bacon for regular bacon and it is delicious!

MOMENTS NEVER FORGOTTEN

I think my favorite times when we eat out include the conversation. The kids are always entertaining, and it is sweet to see how they are growing up into little adults. We will never get these moments back. Some days are absolutely trying as a parent, but nothing brings a smile to your face more than a stranger encouraging you and telling you how wonderful it is to see a large family enjoying meal OUTSIDE the home. I think it’s rare to see large families out and about, let alone confined in a restaurant. There was a time when we didn’t really go out because being outnumbered by toddlers and little ones isn’t always fun and games (for them it is, though). Ha. But they are growing up, and have almost mastered their inside voices that getting out is good for ALL of us, especially on those nights where my “not today” attitude is showing. Food brings us together, and it’s been blessing to have more opportunities to get out and dine together as a family. So, thank you Denny’s!

THE MENU

Some of the new and returning things that you’ll see in this limited edition menu include:

  • Red, White & Blue Slam® – It’s back! In honor of “Independence Day: Resurgence” this classic entree includes two fluffy blueberry buttermilk pancakes topped with strawberries, cream cheese icing, and whipped cream. Of course, a slam isn’t complete without two eggs cooked to order, hash browns, and your choice of two bacon strips or sausage links.
  • Honey Jalapeño Bacon Slam® – Everything that the Slam is known for – two eggs cooked to order, two buttermilk pancakes, hash browns, and thick-cut honey jalapeño bacon.
  • Triple Bacon Sampler – SIX strips of bacon!! Two strips each of honey jalapeño bacon, turkey bacon, and hickory smoked bacon, hash browns, two eggs cooked to order, and your choice of bread (don’t forget they have gluten free).
  • Honey Jalapeño Bacon Sriracha Burger – This is a Sriracha seasoned, hand pressed 100% beef patty topped with cheddar cheese, two strips of honey jalapeño bacon and creamy Sriracha sauce, served on Denny’s new brioche bun with a  side of French fries.
  • Loaded Bacon, Steak & Potato Skillet – note, this does not include honey jalapeno bacon, but it can be substituted!
  • Bacon Cheddar Tots – House-made shredded potatoes, bacon and cheddar cheese, served with sour cream for dipping! I bet this would actually taste good with ketchup. Or ranch. Or both. Just saying.
  • Maple Bacon Sundae – say WHAT?! I’ll have to go to Denny’s again, but on an empty stomach, because honestly by the time we got to dessert, I couldn’t look at anymore bacon. 🙂 It is on our “try next” list. This is exactly what it sounds like. Premium vanilla ice cream, maple syrup and crispy bacon.
  • Sweet Blueberry Sensations beverages
    • Lemon Berry Smoothie
    • Berry Blue Lemonade

ENTER THE SPECIAL SWEEPSTAKES

For a limited time, Denny’s and Twentieth Century Fox are inviting you to participate in a fun sweepstakes, with the grand prize being whisked away to the red carpet for the Hollywood premier of Independence Day: Resurgence!

You can enter by posting a photo of a person that you’d want fighting alongside of you, should we ever encounter an alien invasion! Use the hashtag #IDRSweepstakes on Twitter and Instagram and be entered to win an all-inclusive trip to the Hollywood premier!

Are you enticed by the deliciousness of bacon? I’m not sure how well you can fight off aliens on a full stomach, but at that point I don’t think you’d care. 🙂

Spread Magic

This yummy conversation was sponsored by Denny’s in an ongoing partnership to bring you the newest menus and special offerings, I am a  member of Denny’s Diner Ambassador Council. All thoughts and opinions are magical and mine. 🙂

Back at it Again!

Back at it Again!

Well, it’s the second quarter of 2016, and it has been an eventful year, thus far. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might have seen what I’ve been up to outside of work and family (surprisingly not too much, especially in the writing area). The past three months have been extremely busy and unfortunately, Sparks of Magic was put on the back burner as I worked, at one point 3 jobs, and maintained my sanity on the home front as mama, wife, and everything in between.

I’m relieved and so excited to say that I am pretty much settled into one full time job and our little business is doing great with my hubby taking the reigns on that!

Here’s a fairly quick recap of our family’s last three months:

December:

Christmas!! We made an epic Christmas card (That I never sent out, aside from social media) dedicated to our family’s favorite franchise: Star Wars. The holiday season was great to us. We were blessed with extra family time and I transitioned out of working multiple jobs. to just one. Yay! And as you can see below, my degree came in the mail! I finished my Bachelors program at the end of November.

January:

I honestly can’t remember January, aside from celebrating my mom’s birthday, working, and staying afloat! This month almost everyone got the flu, it’s kind of all a haze. 🙂

February:

Big changes, the hubby had a job change mid-month, and we began to officially plan our spring break excursion to Southern CA to see family, and our favorite Mouse. 🙂

March:

Spring Break finally rolled around, and the happenings included visits with family and friends in Los Angeles, a whirlwind day at Disneyland Resort, and, unfortunately, the hospital. Thankfully our daughter is doing well, and back at living life 110% full of energy and sass. 🙂 Jeff and the kids that were in good health, spent a night at the beach with the in-laws. We had a blast, but think we need a “do-over” at the Happiest Place on Earth with no wheelchairs or ice packs involved!

So, what’s up for the future?

Sparks of Magic: A lot of fun! In addition to picking up momentum here, I’ll be linking to my writing that can be found on other fabulous sites like Disney Moms of Color, DisneyExaminer, Entertainment New Media Network, and The Blogorail!

I will be attending at least two conferences this year (ConnectHER and ENMN) that I can’t wait to update you on and some ambassadorships/partnerships will be revealed soon! While I will continue to partner with brands that compliment my site and offer value to my readers, my writing will remain transparent and I plan on writing more from my heart. I’m excited for what is in store.

HAN Creative Co: We are thrilled to dive into offering workshops and expand some of our photography and event services. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, you can visit our business site: www.hancreativeco.com. We are currently taking a few design/small business clients over the next month, you can subscribe to our newsletter that will launch this quarter.

The Walls: For our family, we are putting it into the universe to spend more time together and travel as a family more. Whether it is a day trip or weekend getaway, we want to see the world – together. Bits and pieces of our documentation will be found both here on Sparks and on our business site. We are encouraging the kids to write more, and are setting up a place for them to do some of their own blogging and journaling of their lives and experiences on family trips. All in good time. 🙂

I want to thank those of you that have checked in with me to make sure I’m A-OK since my quarter-long blog hiatus. I appreciate all of you and cannot wait to be back in the groove of things again. I hope your 2016 is treating you fabulously!

Spread Magic

 

A Very Mickey Christmas

A Very Mickey Christmas

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Yellow Loop! Today we are sharing our Favorite Holiday Movies and TV Specials.

I have an affinity for all things Disney and Christmastime is no different. Even prior to getting married and having a family, my husband and I grew up with Disney and holidays coinciding. Naturally, when the time came, we introduced Disney magic and our kids have also grown to love the cherished stories of Mickey and Friends, too!

This was a few years ago, I haven't gotten a picture of them all sitting still together with their hot cocoa since! :)  This was a few years ago, I haven’t gotten a picture of them all sitting still together with their hot cocoa since! 🙂

One of our favorite pastimes includes family movie nights that leave us with peppermint hot chocolate hangovers and sweet dreams full of magic and the Christmas spirit! In fact, we just recently had one of those nights and it was so fun being home to snuggle with my favorite people and enjoy a Disney holiday fix.

Our first holiday movie that we watched this season was Its A Wonderful Life. It’s my husband’s favorite non-Disney holiday film, and I pretty much cried most of it. It’s a great film, but my favorites are Disney so we decided to start out with Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas!

Image © The Walt Disney Company Image © The Walt Disney Company

We love Disney’s holiday films, especially when they feature more than one story. Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas includes three stories, each special with a unique lesson teaching the spirit of Christmas, giving, friendship, family, and love. This special film anthology was released in 1999, and has been a favorite of mine ever since!

Image © The Walt Disney Company Image © The Walt Disney Company

Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas is a hilarious holiday take starring Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, as they are wishing to have Christmas every day and then realizing that Christmas is more than just presents and yummy food, but about cherishing time with loved ones and appreciating the season to spread joy and love with others.

Image © The Walt Disney Company Image © The Walt Disney Company

The next film, A Very Goofy Christmas, is probably our children’s least favorite film in the series, because they have never really been huge fans of Goofy’s son, Max. They often chatter about Max’s bad attitude and disrespect towards his dad, Goofy. Max does tend to have an attitude of entitlement (assuming it is because of his teenage years) and the kids recognize this as something we’ve really worked on teaching them – the importance of gratefulness and positivity. However, that being said, this specific film is always a good reminder for them to be grateful and have a good attitude even if things don’t go their way. We laugh together as we watch Goofy spread Christmas cheer and blessings to others in the film. Max eventually realizes the spirit of Christmas is about believing and sharing the joy and cheer with others.

Image © The Walt Disney Company Image © The Walt Disney Company

The final story is one of selflessness and love. This one is Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of Magi, a retelling of the classic story where a man gives the love of his life a special treasure by selling his most prized possession. Ironically, this woman gives up her most prized possession to compliment the man’s item. While their gifts end up being “useless” it is the idea of the priceless time and thought, and act of love by giving up what they love for the person they love.

I really appreciate that the films touch on topics that we can discuss with our kids, it is far more than entertainment and with everything that we watch, we attempt to share what we learned or took away from the stories.

In this day and age, it is important to have these discussions with our kids, in order to foster a home environment that has open communication and is founded on love, learning and growing together.

If you have yet to see Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas, I highly suggest it! We will definitely be watching it again, in addition to the sequel, Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas, this weekend!

 


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Yellow | Favorite Holiday Movies + TV Specials Loop:

 

How a Family of Seven Can Eat At #DennysDiners for Under $25!

How a Family of Seven Can Eat At #DennysDiners for Under $25!

When you think of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s always nice to have a night out with the family, especially when you know that you won’t be spending a ton of money! I made a plan to budget some money for a family dinner night at Denny’s, with a goal of spending less than $25 before the tip, for all of seven us.

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? But I’m happy to report that not only was it possible, three of us even ended up eating off the regular menu, not the $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu! Every family is different and you must take into consideration any food allergies, or picky eaters. But once you get that squared away, it’s pretty easy! Here are four easy tips on making your dollar stretch when you want to eat out at Denny’s.

1. Find out when your local Denny’s has “Kids Eat Free” night.

Our Denny’s “Kids Eat Free” night is on Tuesday nights from 4 pm – 10 pm. The requirement for kids (13 and under) eating free is that one (1) adult purchases an entree $4 or more. Their meal does not include drinks. And the adult entree order can be from of the $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu.

You should also know that one adult entree entitles ALL of the children in your party to eat for free; this is the real deal, not a one-for-one special that many other places have. Obviously, since our kids outnumber us by 3, it’s really nice and budget-friendly.

2. Plan your meal ahead of time with the kids.

Because I was challenging my wallet, I wanted to make sure there were no hiccups or “add ons” when ordering. This means, our kids didn’t order drinks, just had water. I know, terrible, right? They’re used to it because we typically don’t drink soda or juice at home. Every once in a while they’ll get a Shirley Temple or hot cocoa when we eat out, but that is not often.

They also understood that they couldn’t add a million extra sides to their meal because each one costs extra. Instead of each of them tacking on french fries, we just ordered one big side order for $2 and they shared it. I should have clarified with our server if their extra sides were covered, but forgot to ask.

Having your kids be part of the challenge is also fun because they try to figure out how much they can eat, or order within that monetary amount. You help them become decision makers and understand the value of money and what it can or can’t buy. Luckily, for us, we ate when they got free meals, so ultimately it didn’t matter as long as they ate from the kids’ menu.

3. The $2 $4 $6 $8 Value Menu

For the kids that don’t get enough in their tummies off the kids’ menu, you can order from the $2 $4 $6 $8 value menu. My eldest (14) ordered the $6 Eggs in a Basket and she had so much food, she ended up bringing her hash browns home. When we realized the kids would eat for free, my husband and I deviated from ordering from the value menu, mine for allergy reasons; him, because he really wanted the Super Bird ($9.69) sandwich, haha.

You should also note that when you order from the value menu there are no substitutions, not even for allergy reasons. I think that is something they should consider in the future, considering the price of the gluten-free english muffin is the same price as the side of toast slices they’d use for the sandwich. In the end it didn’t even matter because they were out of stock on the bread (even after calling ahead of time to confirm they had some), so I just ate chicken sausage, egg whites, and hash browns.

Here’s a glimpse at the menu, there is a lot that you can choose from and even if your entire family at from the value menu you can still save!

4. Use coupons!

Denny’s often does advertising through coupons in the paper or daily mail. Additionally, make sure to sign up at Dennys.com for rewards and you get a 20% off coupon. Since we recently participated in the Denny’s No Kid Hungry initiative, we had a $5 off $20 coupon which came in handy for this trip.

Okay, so our grand total (not including the tip) was $24.04! That’s pretty awesome for feeding all seven of us!

The kids are excited about the new holiday menu, including a holiday spirited milkshake and Rudolph pancakes! Stay tuned for our next adventure! 🙂

 


This is a sponsored conversation through my partnership with Denny’s. All opinions shared are mine and hopefully added some magic to your day!

A Conversation About Charity, Over Ice Cream Shakes

A Conversation About Charity, Over Ice Cream Shakes

It’s the last week of school before my kids will have their first quarter, two-week break. During this final week, my boys have 1/2 day sessions all week. In an effort to spice things up, and keep my sanity, I thought it would be a fun surprise to take them out on a little dessert date before we started homework. I met with both of their teachers in the morning for parent conferences, and I’m happy to report that they are both doing well. So, I whisked them away and we went on a Mommy/Sons date to Denny’s! As brand ambassador, I make it a point to visit my local Denny’s and chat with them about any promotions. In this case, I was prepared to discuss Denny’s joint effort with No Kid Hungry. 


The minute we walked into Denny’s they stood in amazement at all of the campaign fliers posted, signs on the table, and walls full of people’s names. What simply started out as a fun dessert date with my boys turned into much more, as I shared with them the campaign I was working on with Denny’s and No Kid Hungry.

They colored and ordered their Oreo blaster shakes. They also had fun testing out the Dreamworks COLOR app with the new HOME, Dinotrux, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman kids’ menu. We talked a lot about food, and after all of their questions, I shared my part in the No Kids Hungry campaign. Sometimes I forget that inquiring minds want to know what I’m up to, and it was actually a proud moment for me because they understood the importance of the campaign.

For our family, we’ve been blessed to have huge support system with family members that lend a helping hand if we ever need it. I told them that not all kids have that luxury, and as a family that is blessed to receive help when we need it, we should pay it forward and do what we can to help others in need. I broke down the donation monetary amounts for them (it was a fun little math lesson), and told them that $1 provides up to 10 meals, and $10 provided up to 100! They thought that was pretty awesome, and immediately asked if we could participate… because, “kids are hungry and it’s not right for them to be if everyone just helps.” My eldest son had a sad look on his face and said he wished he didn’t spend all his birthday money (way back in April) because he would give $10 to donate for 100 meals. I reassured him that we can’t go backwards in time, only forward. So they can be mindful and grateful for all that they get to eat, and be willing to share what they have with others.

As I shared in my previous post for this initial campaign, my kids thankfully have never gone hungry for lack of food. The many times they are hungry, is usually due to a picky palate, not because they don’t have anything to eat. This campaign really reminded me of the luxuries afforded to us that so many don’t have.

Did you know that if you dine in the restaurant and donate $3, you’ll get coupons in return, well over the amount of your donation, for future dining? My boys were most excited to write their names on the wall, knowing we helped to give 30 meals to other kids today. They are both very tender hearted and simply can’t imagine the thought of not being able to eat when they need it most.

Kids are so active, and the lack of nutrition truly affects their moods, retaining information and is a determining factor in their behavior. This cause is so important for that reason alone. We are talking about the future of our country – the minds of our children.

If you’re not able to get to a Denny’s location, you’re always welcome to donate directly through my fundraising link; there’s still time to support the cause in ending child hunger in America. I hope you’ll join me and my family, Denny’s and No Kid Hungry as we work to bring awareness to this nationwide issue of child hunger.

This conversation was sponsored by Denny’s. While I have been compensated to share my thoughts and help bring awareness to the No Kid Hungry campaign, All thoughts and opinions shared are mine.

 

Another First Day.

Another First Day.

It’s barely 9 am and today has already been emotional. 

No, we didn’t have any fights or frustrations; this morning went very well. If you have kids, you know that what might seem as a simple act of walking out the door, ON TIME, with kids in tow, really is an accomplishment. 

With our five kids, someone is bound to be in tears over the last bowl of cereal being eaten, forgetting to put their shirt in the dryer, or fighting over the bathroom, hair brushes, or socks!

I know that as the nervousness of a new environment fades, and they become more comfortable with their new school schedule, we might see a more typical morning at home – madness. Ha ha!

I loved seeing them walk together, help each other find things so they weren’t late, and I’m grateful to have been here with them this morning to not only witness the angelic behavior, but to love on them and usher them into their newest journey.

I began the school drop offs at 7 am and was home by 8:15 am. Three schools later, and hugs with my five babies, I went back to my car with a sense of relief. I have been counting down to them going back to school, tired of hearing the “I’m boooooored” chant for days on end. But, even after all of that, in that moment alone, as I began to drive away, I let out a huge sigh and began to cry.

Talk about emo. 🙂

Today is a day of firsts; we now have a freshman in high school. We also have two 7th graders, and both of our boys are now “uppers” at the elementary school. As we move forward in life, we always have firsts and I want them to know it’s okay to be nervous, but they should be excited to learn new things, grow in new ways and experience life with a new perspective.

It’s so weird hearing my 7th grade baby girl  talk about her extracurricular activities for her college applications; she wants to go to Stanford or UCLA, so she’s diving in and signing up for Science Olympiad and deciding what else she will pursue. Sometimes I want to say “STOP GROWING UP!” But, I know, this isn’t Neverland.

I guess to keep it short and sweet, I am making it a point to remind myself that they will grow up. But as they do, I will keep stashing these memories like today away. When I’m feeling frustrated or stressed, I will pull these memories out and remember that I am not promised to have them tomorrow, and pretty soon, I will have my last “first” with them.

Have your kids gone back to school? Please tell me I am not the only crying mother. 🙂