Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our Disney Best of 2013

I can't believe 2013 is almost over.  It's been a fun, full year for our family.  Between work & school, soccer, t-ball, basketball, trips to the lake, the beach, New York and DC, visits with grandparents, birthday parties, church events and spending time with friends, there wasn't a lot of time for much more!  
Sadly, we did not make a trip to any of the Disney parks.  We tried really hard to book a Disney Cruise, but there were no rooms left for the week we had available... we'll save that for another year!  So, our best Disney memories from 2013 did not involve a trip to Anaheim, Orlando or Castaway Cay, but did involve a lot of our own creative FUN! 

In January we celebrated C-man's 4th birthday with a Woody themed birthday party complete with cake, cupcakes, snacks, games, photo ops, and more.  We had a lot of fun and started thinking of the them for his 5th birthday party the next week!  (Which will be Star Wars!) 

 In June our family took a trip to Hilton Head, SC.  While we did not stay at Disney's Hilton Head Resort, we did spend an afternoon wandering around the property.  It was beautiful and one day we do hope to stay longer!

In July, my husband and I took a group of youth from church to New York City and Washington DC.  While in NYC, we visited the Disney Store in Times Square and spent an evening watching The Lion King on Broadway.  Both were highlights of my trip, since I am a "Disney Nerd!"

In September, we celebrated Big E's first birthday with a Finding Nemo Party.  We spent the afternoon with family eating lots of food and playing outside.   It was the perfect day for our little one and Nemo was the perfect companion!  (Party #2 will be a Dumbo themed!)

On Halloween this year, we decided to go with a Star Wars theme.  While I am fully aware that Star Wars is Disney now, it's still hard for me to feel my #DisneySide dressed as Princess Leia!  I was really pushing for something "more Disney" like 101 Dalmatians as Cruella and the puppies or Snow White and the Dwarfs, but C-man was persistent on being Luke Skywalker!  At least we have outfits for the birthday party next month...

Another highlight of 2013 came at the theatre!  We thoroughly enjoyed the three Disney movies we were able to see a the movie theatre- Monsters University, Frozen and Saving Mr. Banks.  I was able to take C-man to see the cartoons and Jonathan and I actually had a date night to see Saving Mr. Banks on opening night!  While all three were great movies, Saving Mr. Banks was by far my favorite!  I need to see it again with a notebook in hand... and a box of Kleenex! ;)

image from Disney.com
image from Disney.com
image from Disney.com
So, what were the Disney Highlights of your 2013?  I'd love to hear!

Bring on 2014 that will include a Star Wars 5th Birthday, a Dumbo 2nd Birthday, a trip to Walt Disney World and hopefully I'll win out and we can be Cruella and the puppies for Halloween!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Make Car Rides to Disney FUN!

For our family, it’s about a 10 hour drive from our front door to Walt Disney World. We try to only drive interstates and we try to make as few stops as possible for gas, food, restrooms and stretches! The faster we get there, the faster we begin playing in our happy place. The only downside is we are all in the car together for 10 hours!

Here are some of the distractions we use for the boys during our travels. Some of these can also be used on a plane trip! 
  • I always pack goody bags for the boys with Disney themed games, books, coloring books, movies, snacks, etc. You can see an example above. I have put everything in the bag at the start of the trip and I have slowly given the treats as we travel. Both worked fine for us. 
  • When you do have to stop, make it a multi-purpose stop! Get gas, snacks, and use the restroom all at the same time. Stop for lunch and let the kids run around on the playground if you are eating fast food or in the grass at a rest stop for a picnic. 
  • Play group games in the car: I spy, car bingo, the ABC game, the color game, or the license tag game. Include as many family members as possible. 
  • Make a Disney themed playlist or CD for the car ride. 
  • Watch a Disney movie in the car or listen to a Disney book on CD. 
  • If your kids are older, bring a hand held game system for them to play or download Disney themed games onto the iPad, Kindle or whatever tablet or phone you own.
  • Consider making some sort of “payment” or reward system for good behavior. Pay the kids with play money that can be cashed in and used for souvenirs at the destination. Or clip clothespins with each kids name on the sun visor and remove when they misbehave. Reward the kids at each stop who still have their clip up. 
For additional ideas search on Pinterest for “Car Trip”, “Car Travel with Kids”, etc. or see what I have pinned here!

What ideas do you have for keeping your kids occupied as you travel to Walt Disney World?
Love Our Disney

Friday, December 20, 2013

Disney Holiday Cookie Swap Hop: Gingerbread Creations

Lisa and James from "Home Is Where The Mouse Is" is hosting a Holiday Cookie Swap at their blog this week.  I thought this was such a fun, creative idea and it gives us all a longer "to do" list for this season.  Already, there are some amazing posts linked up!
I knew I wanted to participate so I asked my 4 year old son what he wanted to make.  Of course he said gingerbread men!  He loves making these each year and it always reminds me of the gingerbread displays at Walt Disney World.  In addition to the gingerbread men, we found a Mickey themed gingerbread house at Cracker Barrel too!

So, here are the ingredients needed for our cookies: Betty Crocker cookie mix, 1 egg and 1 stick of butter!  I'm not quite ready to conquer the Walt Disney World gingerbread cookie recipe... maybe next week! ;)
For the gingerbread house, all we needed to do was open the box!  Everything we needed was included: 4 wall panels, 2 roof panels, icing pouch, 3 bags of candies, a plastic base tray and 4 paper windows with Mickey and Minnie peeking out!  The directions were easy to follow and the house was pretty easy to make.
 Below you can see our finished gingerbread men and gingerbread house!  After making the cookies, C-man decided we would not use any icing.  He was pleased with our cookie shapes without icing: Mickey Mouse, Gingerbread Men, Snowmen and Christmas Trees.  I think he was tired of icing and decorating the house!  I put the house together, and did all the icing.  C-man helped put on all the candy pieces.  It was a fun afternoon.

Thanks for the hop James and Lisa!  It's been fun! :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tiggerific Tuesday Trivia: Christmas at Disneyland

Did you know on Main Street USA at Disneyland there are:
  • 812 bows that take 7, 410 feet or 1.4 miles of ribbon to make?
  • 2,365 ornaments on the Christmas tree?
  • 79,000 ornaments all throughout Main Street?
  • 2,015 feet of garland used?
  • 10,395 lights used to decorate Main Street?
Thanks to Disney Parks Blog for these facts!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Magical Blogorail Green: Disney's Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Welcome to those of you joining me from Walt Disney World: Not Just for Kids and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

I am so happy to share with you one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World during the Christmas season.   A few years ago, I shared with you the history of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios on the Streets of America.  Today, I'm going to share 
some tips for viewing The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights so you can enjoy it to it's fullest!

  • Arrive early if you want to see the "flipping of the light switch" to turn on the Osborne lights.  Usually around 6:00pm, the lights will be turned on.  A lucky family may be chosen to turn on the lights and some Disney characters may make an appearance to help with this task!
  • If you don't like crowds, don't arrive for the "flipping of the light switch!"  This area of the park can get very crowded during the holidays.  If you want to see the lights with fewer crowds, try visiting while Fantasmic! is showing.
  • If you plan to see Fantasmic! and you want to see the lights with fewer crowds, head to the lights after Fantasmic!  The park will stay open for about an hour after the official park closing.  This way you can see the lights and hopefully get some great photos of the lights without as many people!
  • Purchase "Glow with the Show" ears for $25 to be a part of the show.  New in 2013, these Mickey Ears will blink and light up in sync with the music!
  • The imagineers who help create this amazing display always hide some Mickey's in the lights.  Keep your eye's open for some creative "Hidden Mickey's" in the lights.
  • In 1995, when Disney was unpacking the Christmas lights from the Osborne family, a cat made of lights from the previous Halloween made it's way into the light box. The imagineers decided to keep it in the display and move it around each year for guests to try to find!  Be on the lookout for the Halloween cat. (It is a side view of the cat arching his back!)

  • If you arrive to see the lights and there is no Christmas music playing, stick around! Every 10 minutes, the lights will dance in sync to the music. The songs you will hear are:
    • Jingle Bells by Barbra Streisand
    • Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano
    • A Mad Russian’s Christmas by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
    • Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
    • Parade of the Wooden Soldiers by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops
    • Christmas Is Starting Now by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
    • I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas by the Plain White T’s
    • Winter Wonderland arranged by Dan Stamper
  • Another fun feature of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is the snow!  Even if it's 80 degrees outside, Disney will make it snow from time to time on the Streets of America!  If you want to experience the snow, hang out a while and see if it starts "snowing" from the rooftops!
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Disney Living.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

3rd Stop ~ Disney Living
4th Stop ~ A World View

Win a Set of Mickey Ornaments and a Countdown Calendar! Happy Holidays #HoHoHo Giveaway Hop

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!!  

To help us all get even more into the Christmas spirit, I'm hosting a Christmas giveaway as part of the Happy Holidays Giveaway Blog Hop!  Once you enter this giveaway, I encourage you to hop along and enter everyone else's awesome giveaways. 
Two things our family loves at Christmas is our Disney themed ornaments and our Advent calendars.  So, I thought it was perfect when I found both of these items to give away!  One lucky winner will receive a Disney themed Holiday Countdown Calendar and a Set of Three Mickey Themed Ornaments from "A Disney Mom's Thoughts."

Enter the Disney-themed Happy Holidays Giveaway Blog Hop today through December 26th, 2013.   

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Magical Mouse Schoolhouse Review

Many months ago, I received a copy of the book "Magical Mouse Schoolhouse~ Learn While You Play at Walt Disney World Resort" by my friend Jodi from Magical Mouse Schoolhouse. In this awesome book, you and your kids can actually learn while enjoying facts and trivia about Walt Disney World! Jodi offers 80 different activities for you to do.

The book is divided into different sections: Magic Kingdom Park, Epoct, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Blizzard Beach, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and the last section is MORE!  In each section there are chapters.  Each chapter is about a specific attraction or experience in the park.  The chapters offer unique history, facts and tidbits about the attraction.  At the end of each chapter is "today's takeaway."  Each takeaway has the area or subject in school where it would be taught.  These takeaways are broad enough that older students could do them on their own while younger students could experience them with the help of parents or older siblings.  As Jodi mentions in the introduction, "I encourage you to consider our activities and work with them to fit the needs of your child."

Being a former teacher, I think this book is outstanding!  It's creative, fun, informative and educational.   It's really a win win for students and educators whether in a traditional classroom or a homeschool classroom.  

Whoever said Walt Disney World is "just a vacation" has not read this book!  You can definitely "Learn While You Play At Walt Disney World!"  

To order you own copy of Magical Mouse Schoolhouse, visit Amazon.   If you can't wait to get your hands on your own copy, you can visit Jodi's site: Magical Mouse Schoolhouse and begin your Disney learning adventure today!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kill, Refurb, Marry: Thrill Rides at Walt Disney World

You know, I always hate "killing" anything that is Disney.  I mean, I truly love Disney.  However, when it comes to Mission:SPACE at Epcot, it must die.  It's been around for a decade now and according to wikipedia, "Several people have been taken to local hospitals for chest pain and nausea after riding.  Most who complained of these symptoms were over 55 years old.  Two people have died after completing the ride, although due to pre-existing conditions — one, a 4-year-old boy, with an undiagnosed heart condition, and the other, a 49-year-old woman, from a stroke due to high blood pressure."   If two have died, it's a thrill ride that must be on my "kill list!"

As for a refurb, I have to go with Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  While I do love this ride, as I get older, I just can't handle it anymore.  At first I wanted to refurb it so that it wouldn't make me sick, but that's not fair to the youngsters who can still handle the motion, turns, speed and thrills this attractions offers.  So, I'll refurb it and fix the broken Yeti! 

My definite Marry for the day is Rock 'N' Roller Coaster.  I LOVE this ride!  I love the speed, the twists and turns and the music blasting in my ears!  Being a child of the 80's, the tunes from Aerosmith are perfect.  And, this is still an attraction that doesn't make me sick.  While I can't ride this attraction back to back like I used to, I can ride it multiple times during the day.  It's definitely one of my top attractions at Walt Disney World.

So, which "thrill rides" would you Kill, Refurb and Marry?

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Journey to the Magic" Book Review

Recently I was given a complimentary copy of the book "Journey to the Magic" by Natalie Henley to review.  This is a very creative book for children ages 2-6 who are planning for a trip to Walt Disney World.  The book is full of beautiful pictures from all four of the WDW parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. This book is written in rhymes,  which I believe will help hold young children's attention.  Between the writing and the photographs, this book is a great introduction to children planning a trip to Walt Disney World.

After reading about the four parks and looking at the beautiful pictures, the book then becomes an interactive tool for your child.

  • In the "Planning Your Trip To Disney World" section your child can write down what they want to see, do and eat while on their WDW vacation.  
  • The "Packing List" section allows your child to plan what they want and need to pack for the vacation.   I like that it has a checklist and additional space to fill in your own items.
  • In the "Travel Activities" section, your child can draw pictures and play games to help pass the time during travel.
  • Next you'll find the "Character Signature" section where there are multiple pages to have your favorite friends sign your book!
  • The "World Showcase" activities will help keep children engaged in an area of WDW that is sometimes "boring" to young children.
  • In the "Favorite Photos" section, your child can add their own photos once they get home.
  • Finally, the "You Personal Story" section gives your child an opportunity to write their own memories from the vacation.  If they are too young to write, have them dictate the story and write it for them. 
What an awesome tool to help children prepare for a trip to Walt Disney World, engage during the trip and continue to relive the memories long after the trip is over.  

You can order your own copy of "Journey to the Magic" from Amazon.

More about author Natalie Henley:
Natalie Henley enjoys spending time with her family and friends in the Disney parks. Wanting to help others experience the parks has become a passion. She currently owns two Disney-themed websites, TheDisneyMoms.com and MeetTheMagic.com, which help people plan for their vacation to Disney.

Natalie also authors Strategies for Paying for Disney, a book which helps people plan for, save for and experience their most magical vacation to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Personalized Disney Christmas Ornaments from Dixie MidWest

I love Christmas.  I love Disney.  I LOVE Disney Christmas ornaments!  So when I was asked to review a custom made Disney ornament from Dixie MidWest a few weeks ago I was ecstatic!  Two of my loves coming together.

I quickly went to their web site and searched for the Disney Ornaments.  There were princesses, the Fab 5 and Planes ornaments.  All were so cute, but I personally fell in love with the Mickey themed one!  

I decided to use a photo from our "no kids allowed" trip back in February of 2012.  Since our youngest has not been to a Disney park yet, I decided to not use a picture of the boys.  This is just for me!  And, since I decided this ornament was just for me, I chose to use my blog's name in the personalization area.    

Once my order was placed, the turnaround time was amazing!  Within 5 days I had my personalized ornament in my mailbox.  I was very impressed with the packaging too.  Being a metal ornament, I wasn't expecting elaborate packing.  However, I could tell they took great care in packing this ornament for me.  The envelope was a "bubble" envelope and the ornament was wrapped in cardboard and additional wrapping.  There was no way this was going to get damaged during shipping... unless it fell off the truck and got run over.  Even then, I don't think it would have been damaged too bad!

I was impressed from the start with Dixie MidWest.  They were easy to work with, the selections were great, the turnaround time was impressive and the packaging was wonderful.  I look forward to doing more business with them in the future!

Now, it's your turn!  Head over to Dixie MidWest and pick out the perfect Disney gifts for your friends and family this Christmas.  You can choose from Disney & Star Wars themed ornaments, mouse pads, luggage tags, coffee mugs, iPhone cases, picture frames, compact mirrors, and personalized dog tags.  If you don't want a Disney themed gift, they have plenty of others to choose from!

And, they have a cute FREE Disney Countdown Calendar you can download! :)

Don't forget to visit their social media sites: