Monday, June 30, 2014

102 Ways to Save Money for and at Walt Disney World by Lou Mongello {Review & Giveaway}

This review for 102 Ways to Save Money for and at Walt Disney World by Lou Mongello is part of a Magical Blogorail sponsored campaign. Copies of the book were received free of charge for a review. Opinions are those of the reviewer and do not represent those of the author.  Your opinion may vary.

When I think of people who are known to be Disney Experts, Lou Mongello is one of the first people that comes to mind.  Lou has been a Disney fan his whole life.  He's logged over a hundred Disney vacations and is an internationally known Disney expert and historian.  He's been podcasting for almost a decade and has written several books, including 102 Ways to Save Money for and at Walt Disney World. When I have a question about Disney, Lou is the one I turn to for answers!

In the 102 Ways to Save Money for and at Walt Disney World book, you will get exactly what the title says: 102 ways to save money!  This book is for all families or individuals planning a trip to Walt Disney World.  Even if you have been a dozen times and think you have it all figured out- I guarantee you'll find something new in this book that will help you save money!  I did!  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Review

  Today I get to welcome my friend and fellow Magical Blogorail buddy, Heidi!  Heidi is the owner/ author of Heidi's Head.  She inspires me each time I visit her blog with her passion for faith, family and Disney!  Today she is sharing her love of Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort.  I've visited this resort before, but have never had the chance to stay there.  Thanks Heidi for this awesome review! :)

I'm so excited to be able to join Beth here at a Disney Mom's Thoughts and share some of MY thoughts on Port Orleans Riverside. It is definitely one of my family's favorite Disney resorts, and has become our home away from home since it's one of the only resorts on Disney property that will accommodate a family of 5.
Our first experience with Port Orleans Riverside was in May of 2011. We had plans to spend a week in the Orlando area on business, so we decided to go down a few days early and stay on Disney property (for the first time ever). After talking with a Disney travel agent, we decided that Port Orleans Riverside would be our best option. We enjoyed those few days so much that we made plans to go back again in January of 2012. And, we stayed there for the third time in December of 2013.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Celebrate 20 Years of "The Lion King" with Wet Seal

HAKUNA MATATA!  This summer is all about Simba and The Lion King.  It's been 20 years since "The Lion King" was released.

To celebrate this anniversary, Wet Seal has launched a fashion-forward collection of apparel and accessories including tanks and tees, dresses and leggings, beanies and scarves to totes and cell phone cases that incorporate artwork pulled from the Disney archives. The price points span from $11.99-36.99 and will be available in Wet Seal stores and www.wetseal.com beginning TODAY! 

What products would you like to help share your love of Simba and The Lion King?

Disney Freebie Friday: Hidden Mickeys

While Hidden Mickeys are "free," it helps if you have paid for theme park admission to find some of the best ones!  So, what are "Hidden Mickeys?"  According to Steven Barrett, the Hidden Mickey Guy, it's "a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by the Imagineers and artists to blend into the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas." 
Hidden Mickeys can be in the traditional three circle shape of Mickey, ºoº , or it can be a profile silhouette of Mickey's head.  There are some "Hidden Mickeys" that aren't even Mickey at all!  
You can find these Hidden Mickeys all over Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  In fact, they are in all Disney parks, Disney property and Disney movies!  Google it.  It's amazing!
Hidden Mickey at Disney's Hilton Head Resort
One of my favorite Disney books, by Steven M Barrett is Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide To Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets, 6th ed.  This book will help you locate most of the Hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney World.  Later this summer I'll be providing a review of this book!  

So while you are waiting in line for an attraction, walking down the sidewalks or eating a meal, look around.  You can entertain yourself and pass the time for FREE by looking for Hidden Mickeys!

What's your favorite Hidden Mickey?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Disney's Saratoga Springs Review

One of my dear Disney friends is Melissa from Rolling with the Magic (Disney on Wheels).  Melissa and I "met" through the Magical Blogorail and I was lucky enough to meet her in person several years ago at Walt Disney World.  I liked her before we met in person and I like her even more since we've met!  Melissa writes about Disney from a very unique perspective as she is a wheelchair user.  She has stayed at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort in the past and was willing to write a review for "A Disney Mom's Thoughts" this week!  Thanks Melissa for this awesome review- one day I hope to stay here! 

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is a Victorian inspired resort located near Downtown Disney. While is is a DVC resort it's open to anyone. My husband and I rented points and stayed at Saratoga Springs a few years ago and had a really great time. There are of course some cons to the resort but we thought the pros outweighed them.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Disney's Old Key West Review


Today I'm happy to welcome another Alabamian to my blog!  Mike, aka "DisneyDad", from Growing Up Disney is here to share about his experiences at Old Key West Resort at Walt Disney World.  While I have not met Mike in person, I feel a strong connection to him since we are both from Alabama and have ties to Auburn.  His daughter, Amy, and I have been online Disney friends for several years now.  I hope one day to 1) meet the Growing Up Disney family in person and 2) to be able to stay at Old Key West!

Thanks to Mike for sharing these thoughts on this awesome resort.  When I read part of this post to my husband, who is not at all the Disney nut that I am, he even commented on how cool it sounded and said, "maybe we'll try it out some time!"  A girl can only wish!

If you look on Walt Disney World’s website, you won’t find the "Disney Vacation Club" resort listed. The name and logo have long been changed. Disney Vacation Club at Walt Disney World Resort was the original name for Disney’s Old Key West Resort until the second Vacation Club resort was built at Vero Beach and The Disney Vacation Club became a family of resorts. (The original 3-mountain logo is seen above. You can see the current logo and find out more information at www.disneyvacationclub.com)
Opened in 1991, Disney’s Old Key West Resort (OKW) was the first Disney Vacation Club property at Walt Disney World. It is quiet and laid back much like the town in the Florida Keys for which it is named. It has the ambiance of the turn-of-the-century buildings of Key West. We fell in love with it the first time we saw it in 1992. Although Old Key West has grown since we first visited, as construction on all the units was not completed until later, it has still managed to maintain its Key West charm. The resort is built around the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course that goes around and through Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and OKW.
Check-in is at the Hospitality House. Here you will also find a sitting room called Papa’s Den. (Hey, this is Key West after all so Hemmingway must be somewhere.) From there you can wander to the main pool area (there are 3 other pools each with a whirlpool spa) complete with a kid’s pool, hot tub, sauna, and a big sandcastle slide. The exercise room - R.E.S.T. Beach Recreation Department - is near the pool as is the Electric Eel game room. At Hank's Rent 'N Return, you can rent bikes, surreys, and watercraft. The Community Hall is also where activities are held daily.
There are 49 buildings housing 761 villas. OKW has the largest rooms of all the DVC resorts. These accommodations are Deluxe Studio, One, Two and Three Bedroom villas. The Studio is 390 sq ft with 2 queen beds and a small kitchenette with microwave, toaster, coffeemaker, under-counter refrigerator and a wet bar sink and sleeps 4. The One Bedroom Villa is 942 sq ft with a king bed, bath with a large Jacuzzi tub, full kitchen, laundry room, and a queen sleeper sofa in the living room and sleeps 4. The Two Bedroom Villa is 1395 sq ft and sleeps 8. The Two Bedroom Villas are either a lock-off comprised of a One Bedroom Villa plus a Studio or a dedicated Two Bedroom Villa. The two-story, three bedroom, four bath Grand Villa is 2375 sq ft and sleeps 12. The master bedroom has a king bed and bath with Jacuzzi tub, the second bedroom has 2 queen beds and private bath, the third bedroom has 2 full beds and private bath, and the living room has a queen sleeper sofa with the fourth bath off the hall. It has a large full kitchen and a dining room with a table for eight.
If you want to cook, all but the Studios have a full kitchen (but who wants to cook on vacation?) and the Conch Flats General Store at the Hospitality House has some basic groceries. You can order in advance and have many more grocery items delivered to your villa if you can’t or don’t want to shop at a local grocer. Olivia’s is the resort’s table service restaurant or there is Good’s Food to Go for fast food and the Gurgling Suitcase for your adult beverages. Seasonally, there is also a snack bar and arcade at the Turtle Pond pool.
We have now stayed in all of the different accommodations. If it is just my wife and I, we normally stay in a one bedroom. When we have our family with us, we reserve a two bedroom villa. We had never stayed in the three bedroom Grand Villa until 2010 when we celebrated my granddaughter’s first birthday. It is a very spacious open floor plan that was great for celebrating a birthday. When we first walked in I turned and asked my wife “can we keep it?” We’ve kept our DVC for over 21 years now and intend on having it quite a while longer.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Her Universe and Marvel {Press Release}

Fangirls Assemble! Her Universe and Marvel Team Up to Launch the Ultimate Fangirl Fashion Apparel Line. 
 New York, NY (June 19, 2014) — Her Universe™, the leader in female genre merchandise, announced today a breakthrough collaboration with Marvel Entertainment and Disney Consumer Products to create a fashionable collection of empowering Super Hero apparel for the ever-growing female fan base of Marvel comics, films and television series. The Marvel by Her Universe line of "geek couture" is premiering with an action-packed assortment of Captain America fashion items along with fan favorite Marvel characters on fashion tops, tanks, dresses, cardigans, hoodies, skirts, leggings and more that will inspire fangirls of all ages to channel their inner Super Hero.
Along with Spider-Man and Avenger characters like Loki, Thor and Iron Man, there are also strong female characters such as Black Widow, Elektra, She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel being spotlighted in their own comics and Marvel's new "Characters and Creators" initiative which aims to speak directly to an audience of women and girls, the Marvel by Her Universe line will celebrate this effort by creating fashion forward products exclusively for the female Marvel fan.
"At Marvel we actively seek innovative opportunities to leverage our iconic characters in the marketplace and expand our storytelling to a larger audience," said Paul Gitter, senior vice president, licensing, Marvel at Disney Consumer Products. "This collaboration with Her Universe presents our brand in exciting new ways at retail while reinforcing Marvel's values of empowerment and strength amongst our female demographic."

Actress and entrepreneur, Ashley Eckstein, who launched Her Universe with her business partner, The Araca Group, in 2010, is well-known to sci-fi fans as the voice of Dagger on the animated series, Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man.
"I am so excited to announce that we have joined forces with Marvel for a Her Universe line of apparel," said Eckstein. "The fans have been asking us to make Marvel merchandise and it's been on my wish list for a long time! There are so many compelling characters in the Marvel Universe and it is a dream come true to be able to collaborate with Marvel and design with these celebrated Super Heroes and villains!"

"As long time devoted fans of the Marvel Universe," added Michael Rego, Chief Executive Officer of The Araca Group, "we feel incredibly humbled to work alongside this most iconic brand – 'Nuff said!'"
Marvel apparel and accessories from the Her Universe collection will be available in the U.S. at both HerUniverse.com and through national retail outlets such as Hot Topic and online with ThinkGeek.com. Throughout the year, Marvel merchandise will also be available at select conventions including San Diego Comic-Con.

Listen to Her Universe Founder, Ashley Eckstein, talk about Fangirls and Marvel on "The Nerdist Comics Panel" podcastSaturday June 21st at http://www.nerdist.com/podcast_channel/nerdist-comics-panel-channel/.


About Her Universe
Her Universe was launched in 2010 by actress and entrepreneur Ashley Eckstein and The Araca Group, a leading theatrical production and brand management company. Ashley and Araca created Her Universe to address the expanding market of female sci-fi and fantasy fans. They entered their first agreement with Lucas Licensing to develop and produce a line of female-centered Star Wars apparel and accessories. The success of that line was followed up with a collection for BBC Worldwide for Doctor Who, CBS Consumer Products for Star Trek and AMC for The Walking Dead. You can learn more about Her Universe and purchase the current line of fangirl apparel and accessories by going towww.heruniverse.com and by following Eckstein & Her Universe on Facebook (facebook.com/HerUniverse) and Twitter (twitter.com/HerUniverse).

About Marvel Entertainment, LLC

Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world's most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media over seventy years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing and publishing. For more information, visit marvel.com.© MARVEL

About Disney Consumer Products
Disney Consumer Products (DCP) is the business segment of The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) that delivers innovative and engaging product experiences across thousands of categories from toys and apparel to books and fine art. As the world's largest licensor, DCP inspires the imaginations of people around the world by bringing the magic of Disney into consumers' homes with products they can enjoy year-round. DCP is comprised of three business units: Licensing, Publishing and Disney Store. The Licensing business is aligned around five strategic brand priorities: Disney Media, Classics & Entertainment, Disney & Pixar Animation Studios, Disney Princess & Disney Fairies, Lucasfilm and Marvel. Disney Publishing Worldwide (DPW) is the world's largest publisher of children's books, magazines, and digital products and also includes an English language learning business, consisting of over 40 Disney English learning centers across China and a supplemental learning book program. DPW's growing library of digital products includes best-selling eBook titles and original apps that leverage Disney content in innovative ways. The Disney Store retail chain operates across North America, Europe and Japan with more than 350 stores worldwide and is known for providing consumers with high-quality, unique products. Disney's official shopping portals online are www.DisneyStore.com and www.DisneyStore.co.uk. For more information, please visit Disney Consumer Products www.DisneyConsumerProducts.com or follow us at www.YouTube.com/DisneyLiving, www.Facebook.com/DisneyLiving,www.Twitter.com/DisneyLiving and www.Pinterest.com/DisneyLiving andwww.Instagram.com/DisneyLiving.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Walt Disney World Freebie Friday: Kidcot Fun Stops

At Epcot, children can participate in a FREE activity at each of the 11 countries in the World Showcase.  Find the fun stop area and ask a cast member for a complimentary Duffy Bear cardboard puppet.  At the Kidcot Fun Stop, kids can color, decorate and personalize their Duffy Bear.  Encourage your kids to talk to the cast member and ask how to say "hello" in each country, or how to write their name in that countries respective language (Japan and China).  Cast members will also add a stamp of Duffy from each country.

Where to Find Kidcot Fun Stops:
  • Mexico Pavilion (near Animales Fantasticos)
  • Norway Pavilion (at The Puffin’s Roost)
  • China Pavilion (near the exit of Reflections of China)
  • Germany Pavilion (at Volkunst)
  • Italy Pavilion (outside, near La Bottega Italiana)
  • American Adventure Pavilion (outside, near Heritage Manor Gifts)
  • Japan Pavilion (in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery)
  • Morocco Pavilion (at the Marketplace in the Medina)
  • France Pavilion (at Souvenirs de France)
  • United Kingdom Pavilion (at The Toy Soldier)
  • Canada Pavilion (at the exit of O Canada!)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Walt Disney World Freebie Friday: Club Cool

image from wdwnews.com
One of my favorite FREE things to do inside Epcot is to visit Club Cool.  Coca-Cola sponsors this area in Future World.  Inside, you can sample FREE Coca-Cola flavors from around the world.  The flavors include Fanta (Europe), VeguitaBeta (Japan), Fanta Melon Frosty (Thailand), Bibo (South Africa), Sparberry (Africa), Guarana Kuat (Brazil), Inca Kola (Peru), and Beverly (Italy).   You can also purchase Coke merchandise here.

My tip is to have your camera ready when your family starts to taste the different flavors!  Some are definitely photo worthy! :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kill, Refurb, Marry~ Epcot Pre Shows

It's time for another "game" of Kill, Refurb, Marry- Epcot Style!  This month's topic is Epcot Pre Shows.  At first I had a hard time even thinking of three pre shows.  But after some talking with my husband and YouTube searching, I decided on my three...  plus one!
Kill~ Test Track
This was easy for me... Disney Imagineers have already taken care of it!  I guess after all these years of seeing these people choose the course our test car will take has worn on me.  I found myself actually turned around backwards looking at the pictures of "real" test tracks on the wall!  I have not been on the new and improved Test Track.  It was still being refurbished when we were there last.

For those of you who didn't get a chance to see this pre show video, here it is from Inside the Magic.



Refurb: Universe of Energy

The only reason I didn't kill this one is because I love Ellen Degeneres!  I think this hokey show is way too dated.  Most kids don't even know who Ellen Degeneres, Bill Nye or Alex Trebek are.  But, the addition of those three many years ago improved this attraction so much- in my opinion!  So because I love you, Ellen, I won't kill you... you just need a refurb!

Here is a pre show video from Disney Video Dude.

Marry: Voices of Liberty
I could sit and listen to this group sing all day!  I love a good a cappella group and Voices of Liberty are outstanding.  They sing Patriotic songs that all ages know and love.  I think hearing these songs, sung by these voices, wearing these outfits, with the acoustics of the Rotunda make this the best pre show at Epcot.   If I could be a cast member, I may want to be in this group! 
 Here is a quick video I made on one trip of them singing part of "Rocky Top."

Honorable Mention 
Marry: Honey I Shrunk the Audience- 
True Colors 
I honestly don't even know if this pre show is still used.  It's been several years since I've seen Honey I Shrunk the Audience, and I refuse to watch Captain EO which took it's place in 2010.  But, because this song and video still make me tear up, it gets Honorable Mention for marry!  Enjoy this video from jambajuiced.

Monday, June 9, 2014

#DestinationSummer WDW Animal Kingdom {#Sponsored}

My last stop on the Kohl's #DestinationSummer Road Trip is Animal Kingdom.  This park is the newest park at Walt Disney World.  It opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998.  This is currently the fourth visited theme park in America and is Walt Disney World's largest park at over 500 acres.  Animal Kingdom is going through some changes right now as they are expanding to include "imaginary creatures" based on James Cameron's movie Avatar.  
image from wdwnews.com
At Animal Kingdom, there are plenty of "must do" attractions to fill your summer days!  Here are just a few of our favorites:
  • Dinosaur- This attraction isn't for the very young or those scared of dinosaurs or the dark!  While I love it, my boys will hate it because it is scary for kids.
  • Expedition Everest- I love this roller coaster, even though it makes me sick!  If you enjoy thrills, speed and great theming on an attraction, this is for you!
  • Tree of Life Discovery Trails- These trails are the best way to slow down, cool off and rest.  There is so much detail in "The Tree of Life" we often miss and you can see more live animals!
  • Kali River Rapids- On a hot summer day, this is the best way to cool off at Animal Kingdom.  You're guaranteed to get wet, very wet, on this ride!
image from wdwnews.com
  • Kilimanjaro Safari- This is my favorite attraction at Animal Kingdom.  If you can imagine just a bit, you will really feel like you're in Africa!
  • Festival of the Lion King- This show is my favorite stage show at Walt Disney World.  It's indoors, interactive and great for all ages!
When you are packing for your Walt Disney World vacation, think about the summer heat.  It gets really hot in Orlando during the summer months.  We found it's best to pack moisture wicking clothing.  We found some great shirts for dad at Kohl's.  These Nike Dri-Fit shirts will be perfect for a day at Animal Kingdom.  
I think the most important part of a Disney vacation is preserving your memories.  That is one of the reasons I started this blog!  You don't have to start your own blog to save your vacation memories, but you can grab some great frames and picture albums on your next Kohl's trip! 

Thanks for joining me on our tour of Walt Disney World as a part of Kohl's #DestinationSummer!  The next stop is Bella Vida by Letty, a blogger from Florida who writes about travel, food, experiences and events!

For more #DestinationSummer posts and summer-time road trip ideas, visit the Kohl's Pinterest board.

This content is sponsored by Kohl’s as a part of their #DestinationSummer campaign.

Happy Birthday Donald Duck~ Birthday Party Favors


Happy 80th Birthday Donald Duck!
To help celebrate his birthday, C-man and I decided to make a craft that could double as a party favor- if you were to actually throw a Donald Duck themed birthday party! :)  This was really easy!

You'll need:
  • clean glass baby food jars with lids
  • blue paint
  • paintbrush
  • yellow or gold ribbon, rickrack, etc.
  • red felt with sticky back
  • black felt
  • scissors
  • glue
  • white candy- m&m's, sixlets, jellybeans, etc.  Party City has a good selection.
First paint the lids blue.  If I were to do this again, I think I may glue a thin black ribbon around the side of the lid since Donald has a black band around his hat.  While the paint is drying, do the next steps.
Glue the yellow ribbon or rickrack around the center of the jar.  I used a hot glue gun, but I think tacky glue would work well too- and it would be better for children to use.
 Using scissors, cut out a red bow tie shape from the red sticky back felt and stick it under the rickrack. 
Once the lid is dry, cut a small strip of black felt and glue it to the center of the lid.  Fill the jar with white candy, screw the lid on and you are done!


C-man says we are going to do candy jars like this for the rest of the Fab Five... if so, I'll be sharing! ;)  


Thanks for stopping by!  Please visit my other friends who are helping celebrate Donald's Birthday today!



Sunday, June 8, 2014

#DestinationSummer Disney's Hollywood Studios {#Sponsored}

Disney's Hollywood Studios is the next stop on the Kohl's #DestinationSummer Road Trip with A Disney Mom's Thoughts.  Disney's Hollywood Studios was the third addition to the Walt Disney World Resort.  This park opened on May 1, 1989 as Disney MGM Studios.  In 2008, the park changed it's name to the current Disney's Hollywood Studios.  There are mixed feelings about this park in the Disney community.  Some love it while others feel it needs a total overhaul. 
Sorcerer Hat image from wdwnews.com
I believe there are plenty of summer "must dos" at Hollywood Studios!  Since Star Tours (the Star Wars ride) and Toy Story Mania are high on our families must do list, our boys will be wearing t-shirts from Kohl's to show just how much we love these characters and attractions!
Some other favorite experiences at Hollywood Studios are:
  • Tower of Terror.  This free falling elevator ride is a must do for thrill seekers or Twilight Zone fans!
  • Rock'n'Roller Coaster.  This is my favorite thrill ride on Walt Disney World property.  I love the 80s music from Aerosmith blasting in my ears, the speed of the coaster and the twist, turns and loops!
  • The Magic of Disney Animation.  This indoor, air conditioned attraction is full of fun for kids of all ages.  You can draw your own character, learn how animation is done and meet your favorite characters.
  • One Man's Dream.  This is a beautiful bit of history telling about Walt Disney's life.  This is a must do for any Disney fan!
Star Wars Weekends image from wdwnews.com
  • Star Wars Weekends.  This event is only during weekends in May and June, but for Star Wars fans, it's a must!  Enjoy character meets, special parades, interviews with the actors and more!
  • Fantasmic.  This nighttime show features characters, battles, water, lasers, movie clips, fireworks and pyrotechnics.  It's a great way to end your summer day at Hollywood Studios!
Hollywood Studios also has some of my favorite restaurants on property.  Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant, Hollywood & Vine, The Hollywood Brown Derby and 50's Prime Time Cafe are all great family restaurants at Hollywood Studios...  Don't forget to wear your Mickey watch so you won't be late for your reservations!
Tomorrow will feature the final stop at Walt Disney World- Animal Kingdom.

For more #destinationsummer posts and summer-time road trip ideas, visit the Kohl's Pinterest board.

This content is sponsored by Kohl’s as a part of their #DestinationSummer campaign.