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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Disney Secrets and Surprises!

Let's face it, Walt Disney World (WDW) is a magical place, but it's not so magical during the months leading up to FINALLY standing in front of Cinderella's castle. The planning can be down-right stressful.

Nowadays, it's not just about buying tickets and showing up to see Mickey and friends, there's also added pressure of picking Fast Passes, booking character dining experiences and deciding if you should surprise your kids or not. All that means lots and lots of researching and Pinterest pinning to make it the best adventure ever!

I started planning eight months before we headed out the door for my daughter's first trip to WDW and Orlando. During those months, I learned some tricks of the trade from friends, family and strangers on the Internet --- now I'm here to share it with you!

January 2015


First, I would like to tell you about my favorite Walt Disney World blog/website -- WDW Prep School --- you HAVE to visit this site! They do a fantastic job in helping you organize your trip. They will tell you what times of the year are less crowded, what parks open when and how to navigate the process of planning an amazing journey. Once you pick which month you plan on going, you can sign up to get updates regarding that particular month --- including if magic hours are added/taken away, which rides are closed for renovations ... etc. It's a great way to keep up with the latest information.


I really wanted to surprise my little girl on her fifth birthday -- I had to keep our Disney vacay top-secret for EIGHT months! And, like many parents, we expect nothing but happy tears, squealing, smiling and joy when we finally get to let the secret go. 

But, that apparently is NOT the case for some families! All you have to do is search for "Disney Surprises Gone Bad" and you'll see some hysterical videos of kids crying non-stop after finding out the truth. Not all kids can handle big surprises on short notices. Disney can be overwhelming for youngsters --- they can get anxious about meeting characters or flying for the first time. In one video I saw, the kids thought they were visiting the other mouse (Chuck E. Cheese), but that promise was suddenly broken while driving toward Magic Kingdom -- boy were they upset! 

All you need is a sad reaction after your bank account is depleted and you've had sleepless nights of creating the perfect itinerary -- which may involve setting your alarm at midnight several nights in a row to book Fast Passes.

I decided to reveal my secret a few weeks before hitting the road to give my daughter some time for it to sink in. 

Here's the scavenger hunt I made for her birthday party. Click here on Dropbox for a FREE copy of the clues! I made a boy and girl version for the last clue!

All you have to do is print out and put Cinderella on the stairs, Elsa in the freezer, Rapunzel in the bathroom, Figero on a bed and the last clue at the fireplace.

Clue One:
Cinderella lost her slipper on the stairs at the Ball. Go down the hall, but don't fall.

Clue Two:
Elsa doesn't mind the cold. Go where things are frozen -- be bold!

Clue Three:
Oh no! Rapunzel's hair is a Tangled rat's nest! Put your brain to the test ---
what would help her look her best?

Clue Four:
Figaro is in your house -- she's sleeping -- be quiet as a mouse.
She likes to sleep in comfy beds, that's what Minnie Mouse said.

Clue Five:
"Some people are worth melting for."
Olaf said near the fire.
Anna was fading and they were under the wire.
Where were they when she started to tire?

Here's a basket with your last tip --
We leave in two weeks for a magical trip!
Happy 5th Birthday to our awesome gal,
We can't wait for you to meet all the Disney pals!

The last clue had a basket of fun
Disney themed gifts for our road trip.
(stickers, autograph scrapbook, hair brush, pen ... etc)

Her reaction = Priceless!
After the BIG reveal, she asked, "So, where's my next clue?"
I guess she liked the scavenger hunt too.


Yep, you read this right. If you book an early morning Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) package (Princess or Knight) at Magic Kingdom, you get put on a VIP list to get in before the crowd busts through those gates. You show the folks at the gate your reservation and they look it up and let you in!

What does this mean for you? Your little one is not only looking soooooo incredibly adorable, but when your appointment is done, you're already at Cindrella's castle -- giving you a head start to meet Elsa, Anna, Cinderella and Rapunzel. Because we didn't stay at a Disney Resort, we had the disadvantage of waiting an extra 30 days to book Fast Passes and by that time the Elsa/Anna ones were gone. But, since we got in MK early, we were third in line!!! What!!! It was awesome! And then, we scooted next door to see Cinderella and Rapunzel -- easy peasy. 

You have no idea how much pressure was lifted off my shoulders after that! My girl would have been devastated if we didn't meet them! Whew! And, as a bonus, because of her BBB glamour look, WDW workers called her Princess ALL day long-- it was so cute to see her smiling every time that happened. 

 Seriously -- we watched (while tucked away at Cinderella's Castle)
the wave of people coming towards us on Main Street once MK opened.
If you look closely, you can see the human chain of
WDW employees keeping the crowd behind them.
 I felt like I was in a horror movie --- waiting for zombies to show up and attack. 

 We were saved by our very own human chain of workers to lead us from Cinderella's Castle, around the carousel and toward Elsa, Anna, Cinderella and Rapunzel.


To add to your typical vacay packing pile, you may want to make room in your luggage for a few more items to make your excursion even more special.

LITTLE GIFTS -- Before your trip, go to the dollar store or a party store and stock up on fun items that are sure to make your kid(s) smile. I got some glow-in-the-dark items and surprised my girl at the night-time parade. You may also want to see if they have rain ponchos -- much cheaper outside of the parks! A lot of dollar stores sell Disney themed items you can stock up on for the journey and maybe even make a surprise basket to put in the hotel room.

AUTOGRAPH PAPER/PENS -- Instead of buying an autograph book, I got a small scrapbook and took the pages to the park. I also brought several permanent markers (the big ones are good for the characters with big hands/gloves) and regular pens. After the trip, we glued the pictures from the character meet and greets next to the autographs -- she took the mini scrapbook to school and loved showing off her experience.

FOOD -- Pack a backpack with snacks! Yes, you can bring your own snacks into the parks which is a HUGE money saver! I liked having snack bags of animal crackers on hand for the times when we were waiting in long lines -- it's a great way to re-energize your clan. According to the WDW website, you can also bring in regular food (food that doesn't need to be heated), but there are strict details on coolers so check out the FAQ page on the official website.

EXTRA SOCKS/SHOES -- My feet needed refreshing air for a bit, so I put on flip-flops while we had lunch or during down time. It gave my feet a second wind ... ha. 

DISNEY GIFT CARDS -- Buy Disney gift cards for the kids before your trip. This gives them each a budget of what they can spend -- that way you don't break the bank each time you pass a store -- and there are tons of them! We decided to spend the gift cards at Downtown Disney the day before going to the parks so we would have to lug the very expensive souvenirs around the park! If you know you're going to Disney before holidays and birthdays --- ask friends and family for gift cards instead of toys.

CASH -- If you book a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointment, be sure to bring cash to tip your Fairy Godmother-in training -- they take credit cards for the up-do and make-up, but not for tips!

PHONE CHARGER -- this is something I didn't really think about until we got to the park. I didn't take into account how much I would be using my phone. I used it to take pictures/videos, send those said pictures to the grandparents, change Fast Passes on the "My Disney Experience" app, check email while waiting in long lines and to upload "in-your-face-I'm-at-Disney" amazing pictures on social media. It can't be that hard to find a plug around WDW where you can re-charge during lunch or it may be worth it to invest into a portable charger. You may need it at the end of the day in case you get separated from your group. 

ID BRACELETS -- Speaking of getting lost, if you have young children, you may want to consider tagging them -- no, not on social media sites -- I'm talking about actually tagging them with your cell number. Before you head to the tattoo shop, search the Internet for less permanent options. You can buy or make ID bracelets with your cell phone number on them so if your kid gets lost, all they have to do is show their bracelet to security, a Disney worker or another mom with a cell phone to get you reunited. If you're looking to buy  -- these are good ones ... Mabel's Labels 411 ID Bracelets. 

If you look at the left foot in this picture (her right foot), you can see a green bracelet. It's one of those rubber ones you get for free at community events. I super glued a Mabel's Label and used permanent marker to put my cell number on it, then wove it in her shoe laces/Velcro strap. 
It was a perfect place because it didn't bother her while walking around.



* Take a picture of your kid(s) before going into the park, just in case you need to tell security what they are wearing.

* Take a picture of the parking sign so you can find your car later. On a side note, if you're parking at Magic Kingdom, shoot for the Woody, Aladdin, Jafar or Zurg front lots. These are across the street from the monorail or ferry entrance. That way, at the end of the day, you don't have to take the tram to get back to your car.

* Take a picture of your Photo Passes from the Disney photographers. This advice came from our very sweet Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Fairy Godmother-in training. She told us to take a picture of the code on the back. I know I ended up with three cards in my pocket and was worried about losing them. If you capture the code, you can still see and buy your pictures online later!

The back of a Disney Photo Pass card


We rented a stroller and it was well worth the money! 

* You won't hear "I'm tired" over and over and over again and again and again.
* You have a place to put your jackets, water bottles, snacks ... etc.
* Your kid(s) can relax and eat a snack while walking to the next ride. It's also nice for them to have a place to sit while waiting on the parades.

* There are designated stroller parking areas and sometimes they are a long walk from the ride you want to go on. My husband would drop us off at the ride and catch up with us.
* Sometimes it's tough navigating through the crowds.
* You can't take the strollers out of the park, so you better be ready to carry some very sleepy kid(s) to the car. If you rent a stroller for more than one day, you show your receipt to get a different stroller the next day.

Stroller Advice:
* If you're feeling creative, you can make your own FREE stroller tag. Disney will provide a handwritten one, but it's nice to stand out and my daughter thought it was cool. I made a few copies to use on different park days. Click here for the WDW Prep School free tags!

* Buy or bring a balloon to attach to your stroller because while you're on a ride, workers move the strollers around. If you have a balloon, it's easy to spot. 

Yep, this cost $10 to $12, but it was worth it to find our "carriage" later!
See our stroller? 
This is why a balloon is a good idea!
You really don't want to waste time searching for your stroller!


* When booking your initial three Fast Passes, try to make them early in the day because after those are used, you will get another free one. Once that one is used, you get another and so on. The downside, the free ones can not be booked on your "My Disney Experience" app, you have to find a kiosk at the park and sometimes wait in line.

* If you're planning on going to the parade, I suggest grabbing lunch or dinner and then find a good spot early. We went in January, but missed the afternoon parade because all the street spots were taken an hour before it started!

* Don't be shy to hand over your camera to the Photo Pass photographers. They will take a professional picture with their cam and another one with your camera or phone. They don't mind! While meeting the characters, you're allowed to take your own pictures and I found the photographers very patient. I took pictures with my good camera and cell phone camera each time!

Overall, we had a MAGICAL time -- I loved seeing my daughter gleam each time she was called a Princess and I can still picture her getting shy while meeting her idol -- Queen Elsa. 

I hope this blog will help you make wonderful memories too! 


Feel free to pin!


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Monday, September 23, 2013

Legos -- to go!

Let's get real for a second. Kids love Legos, but parents don't (all the time). The little pieces get lost all over the house and it's not exactly fun when you step on one of the little sharp shapes -- surprise, you found another Lego!

Well, I found a solution on Pinterest that seems to be working for my little one. It's a wooden Lego storage box with a play area attached on top! Once she's done, the Legos go back into their new cozy (and portable) home, so we don't endure any more Lego tragedies.  

I started off making one for my nephew for his birthday, but quickly got signed up to make one for my daughter, other nieces/nephews and relatives.


Here's what you need:
Wooden box (or tray)
Paint (I used Acrylic) & Paint Brushes
Lego Building Plate
Scissors (or some type of tool to cute plate)
Paint Pens
Hot Glue Gun
Legos (optional)

I got this at Hobby Lobby, but many craft stores have wooden boxes or trays. The medium sized box is $7.99, but got them for $4.79 using a 40% off coupon on the Hobby Lobby App. Large boxes are $9.99, but $5.99 with coupon!! 
I bought the plates at a Lego store --- these run anywhere from $4.99 to $14.99 depending on size.  I think I saw these for sale at Target too.


1. Paint the boxes (I did two layers of paint). Let dry overnight.
2. Write on the boxes with paint pens.
3. Cut the building plates (or get your hubby to do this with tools like I did). Make sure you round the edges so they aren't sharp. 
4. Hot glue the plate to the box. This is kinda tricky because the glue tends to get hard before the entire plate is on. 
5. Add Legos.
6. Watch kids open up their gift and smile!

For my niece, I added glitter paint (the same color green) to the inside to give it a little bling-bling!

My girl decided to add her own special masterpiece to the inside! 

I think my girl uses her Lego box about three times a week and the Legos NEVER get lost!


Feel free to pin!


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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chalkboard Craze!

It seems like everywhere you turn nowadays, you see chalkboards. I think Pinterest has increased the popularity big time -- that's how I became a fan! 

PROJECT 1: Chalkboard Transformation

My daughter's artwork!

This was my very first chalkboard project. I found an old chalkboard (you know, the green kind where if it gets scratched you can see the particle board below) at Goodwill for three bucks! 

I painted the frame white and painted three coats of chalkboard paint (see below for the kind I used) directly on the ole green chalkboard. If you do this, make sure what you are painting on is smooth because it makes writing on it so much easier!

PROJECT 2: Chalkboard Picture Frame

After my first project, I just HAD to find more ways to use up all that chalkboard paint! 

I ended up finding a square unfinished piece of wood (I believe at Hobby Lobby), did a little sanding (no much, really) and added primer paint that I found in the basement. I then added three coats of chalkboard paint ... three seems to be the magic number for chalkboard paint!

As for the accessories, I cut out flags from a yellowed book I never wanted to read again (and plan on using for other projects) and added scrapbook letters to the flags. The scrapbook letters were white at first, so I used permanent marker to fix that (see below)! 

I then very carefully hot glued the flags to a string and attached the string to the back. The small clothes pins were painted and also hot glued to the wood.

I love changing out the pictures and adding personal messages!

PROJECT 3: Chalkboard Wedding Gift

This was a wedding gift for my friend. 

Instead of using a piece of wood, I decided to try out a cardboard-like square and painted it (yes, three times) with chalkboard paint. I think it looks cute, but chalk didn't work on it, so I had to do the date with a paint marker to look like chalk. Next time around, I would use the unfinished wood like the previous project. 

I believe I bought all my supplies at Hobby Lobby. For the accessories, I bought the already cut flags and stamped their initials on it. Used clips and string to hang them -- and used hot glue to secure the string on the back.

I hot glued the clips to the frame and put scrapbook paper in the clips (can be replaced with pictures from their wedding day).

The "V" was painted with Annie Sloan Paint and hot glued onto the frame too. Again, next time, I would use a piece of wood as the frame instead of cardboard.

PROJECT 4: Chalkboard First Day of School Sign

I promise I'm not getting any royalties from Hobby Lobby, but once again --- that's where I got this chalkboard. It also came with the ribbon attached and was less than six bucks (you can get if for less with your Hobby Lobby App which usually has a 40% off coupon)! The expensive part was buying the chalkboard markers --- those came at a $10.99 price tag for four markers -- YIKES! But, they look so much better than regular chalk.

The cool thing is --- we can erase and use every school year (or at least until she stops letting me take first day of school pictures of her -- sniff sniff).

PROJECT 5: Giving Chalkboards a Special Touch

I believe we sent this picture to grandparents!
If you just don't have the patience or time to make your own chalkboard from scratch, you can always buy them already made and then add your very own special touches. Most craft stores have a section of already painted wood art (like the ladybug, flower and butterfly you see in the picture). Just paint the frame whatever color you want and hot glue those pre-made pieces of art to the board -- done! 

Feel free to pin!



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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Busy Bag Bargain - Part 2

My first "Busy Bag Bargain" post was SOOOOOOO popular (I'm assuming a thank you card needs to be sent to Pinterest for that), I decided to blog again about our most recent Busy Bag swap.

For the newbies, a Busy Bag is just that ... it's a bag to keep your little one busy while you're out-and-about or for those times when you just need to get laundry done (we've all been there, right??!).

These bags are simple to make on your own, but here's a secret ... if you include your friends in an actual swap, you will rack up with multiple great (and cheap) games/learning tools for your wee one.

Let's get straight to the bags! We had nine moms participate, so we each ended up with nine bags. Here's a look at what we took home!

#1 - Felt Scenes

This is the one I made. I got the idea on Pinterest (imagine that) and ended up making three felt scenes per bag with all the fix'ins. I'm not gonna lie, this wasn't an easy or quick project and ended with a few blisters, but I think they turned out great (if I may say so myself). And, if you're wondering ... I didn't use any templates (with the exception of my hubby making one for the lobster -- that was a tough one for me!).

If you look closely, you will notice I used the leftover blue from the top of the water to make a sky on the tree scene. The leaves were cut out of leftover felt from making the fish. 

The tree, water and ice cream cone are glued on using a hot glue gun.
Here's where my honesty comes in. I did cut "sprinkles" from the extra felt (not pictured), which worked out great, but I "felt" (get it), like it needed more. I threw in some sparkly balls to give this one texture (yeah right, I was just tired of cutting! That' s another reason why you see flower buttons on the tree scene - ha!) 

 #2- Felt Pizza with Menu Cards

Another mom endured (and survived) some felt cutting. This is a felt pizza with dough, sauce and a whole lot of yumming look'in fix'ins (cheese, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and peppers). What I like about this one, it comes with menus that teach kids how to count. Order up!

  #3- Name Spelling Sign

These are great for those trying to learn how to spell their name. It's basically a paper strip with cut-outs (you could laminate). All you have to do is write their name on the cut-outs and glue them on. You could also put magnets on the back of the loose letters and stick the strip to the fridge or a metal cookie sheet to make it easier. 

This one also comes with a nifty pocket on the back!

#4- Fabulous Frogs

This is another great counting game. My daughter LOVES playing with the froggies. This mom got the idea from another blog (click here for the "Walking By the Way" instructions). It's pretty much card stock, stamps and frogs! 

#5- Alphabet and Number Tracing/Matching

This one is so cool because there are many options (which means keeping hands and minds busy).  On one side, your kids can practice tracing letters and their name. On the other, it's all about numbers. It's laminated, so the fun can keep going and going and going. 

But, wait ... there's MORE! This mom also included foam cut-outs (with magnets on the back) of letters and numbers. You can put the laminated sheet on a metal cookie sheet too for a matching game ... how genius!

#6- Pasta Sorting

This is, not only, a mix and match coloring pasta project, it's also a mix and match the type of pasta project. It's a BOGO! Some cups have Yellow, Orange and Green written on them and other cups have the actual pasta taped to them. This mom had so much leftover pasta, she ended up using the extra as a dish during our swap!

#7- Magnet Strips

Every kid likes magnets, right??!! This one is a magnet strip glued to a popsicle stick. Using paper clips, they can color coordinate or you can tell them a pattern to re-create.

#8- Threading Beads

Beads are always popular too! And, what makes this one better, it comes with cool pipe cleaners to entertain for hours. Kids can either match the beads to the pipe cleaners or create their own designs!

#9- Paint Color Matching

This is a great bag for those learning colors (and shades of color). Go to your local painting store and grab some free paint paper samples. Cut out colors to match the background and glue to clothespins. Easy Peasy!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this second addition of my "Busy Bag Bargain" post. To read my first post, please click here!

Feel free to pin! 


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