Sunday, September 6, 2015

First day of school

Kindergarten and Fourth grade! 2 Girl Scouts, 2 dance students. A fashionista and an artist. A future doctor and a future zoologist.
As I continuously pray for them to grow into beautiful women, I also pray God will show me how to be the mother they need. They are so alike and so different. I am also praying the Lord puts godly women into their lives. I miss the women we had in our life in Billings and look for women like that here.

I pray for their dad, to be the dad they need and the example of a man to look for when they grow up. That our marriage can be one they want for themselves.

Kindergarten according to Jessie: at free choice is when we play with the toys. And I like making Legos with my friend Dixon. He knows the Lego Movie. At school at my table we moved spots. Some of my friends go to a different color table. I stayed at the green table in a different spot. I don't know who's at my table. With the swing, people push you. Some kids call them baby swings. 

Both girls had a couple of great weeks to kick off the school year. I look forward to a blessed year with them!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Another Stitch Fix

I am LOVING Stitch Fix. No shopping. No deciding. Okay, well there is some deciding. But it's limited.

In my last box, I only kept one item due to the other selections not fitting (and in my awesome laundry skills, shrunk it after our Disney trip! Added more wash & wear items to my next request). This time I kept 3:

Madame Knit Tank (Papermoon). Very comfy, flowy. I can see myself wearing this top all year round as it looks great under a denim jacket. I've worn it a couple of times with a black maxi skirt, but it would also be great with jeans or black slacks. This top was $38.

Bernadette Lace Overlay Raglan Top (Market & Spruce). Soft jersey t-shirt, almost a baseball style. The lace makes it feminine without being too much. The sleeves are heather gray and the lace is off-white. This is another year-round top. I wore it to work with a pencil black skirt, but I think it would be great for a casual night out too. This top was $58, which is more than I usually spend on a single item, but I think I'll get my money's worth from it.

Garland Geo Print Maxi Skirt (Papermoon). Super soft fabric. My stylist recommended I wear it with the top I kept from my last box (which alas I shrunk), so I paired it with a simple black t. This is from their petite collection -- the one I got in my last box was WAY too big. This one fit great -- it works with my dressy sandals and my Tevas. The skirt was $58, which again is more than I usually spend, but let's face it, I WAS doing most of my clothing shopping at Wal-Mart & Target.

I also got some straight leg jeans and a small gold necklace. I liked the jeans, but they just didn't fit me right -- too loose in the waist and too tight in my legs. I am still hopeful they will be able to find jeans that will fit properly and as my next fix is scheduled for October, that's the perfect time to get a great pair of jeans. The necklace was okay. It didn't stand out as a *must have* so I sent it back.

As I stated before, this is a great service for me because I really don't like shopping. So when I go, I tend to go for the basics. This is helping find things I wouldn't normally select, or let's face it, FIND in small town SD.

This is not a sponsored post. I pay for all items on my own. However, this post does provide referral links for new sign ups which gives me a little credit to go towards my next box.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Disney Lessons #DaileyDisneyAdventure

We've been home for almost a month. Pictures are downloaded (working on what to print & a photo book). Starting to think about what vacation to take next, though it won't be even half as big as this one was. I learned a lot planning this trip, some lessons that are definitely transferable!

1. Plan, plan, plan. Then plan a little more. Disney World is HUGE. You cannot see it all so plan what you MUST see and/or do so you can be sure those get done. And plan those for times when everyone is fresh & fed & happy! Be sure to make those reservations as soon as possible. The week of our trip, Fast Passes for Dwarfs Mine Train, Toy Story Midway Mania and to meet Anna & Elsa were non-existent!

1.a. Use the MyDisneyExperience App. You can see & make/change/cancel reservations from this app. You can see & make/change your FastPasses. You can get directions to your next ride/event. You can find out how long the wait is at every attraction (and if no wait time is listed, the attraction is not running). You can see what or who (character meets!) is near by. I also had a print out of the Excel sheet schedule I had made, which was good for looking at the next day, but day off the MyDisneyExperince app was my bible -- especially by our last day when I really understood it. The map piece with GPS - I really wish I had understood this one long before the 2nd to last day. I also carried a paper map which was good for all of us to look at together to figure out our next stop.

2. Don't be afraid to veer from your schedule. Life happens, you get hungry at odd times or someone gets crabby & just needs out of the heat/sun. Will you miss something? Yes. But again, you can't do everything anyway. As long as it wasn't one of your MUST dos, be okay with it. We never did stay at any park for fireworks. We were all tired & done long before. (Of course we could see fireworks from our hotel so we didn't really miss them). Honestly, I wish we had taken more mid-day breaks, but at the time, it always felt like the hotel was just so far away and by the time we got back to the hotel, we were DONE and didn't want to leave.

3. Eat breakfast every day. Even if you don't normally. I can pin point 2 days that would have gone much smoother if we had gotten up 30 minutes earlier and eaten a hot breakfast. The protein bars just weren't enough.

3.a. Plan all your meals in advance. The days I thought it would be okay to "play it by ear" ended up being our most challenging days. Make reservations at any sit down restaurant you think you might want to try. If you need to make changes, you can always cancel the reservation on your app [just be aware that some restaurants require some advance notice, but you can check that on the app as well].

4. Bring water & snacks in with you. I carried in 4 bottles of water & granola bars & fruit snacks. We still got in park snacks but it was nice to not spend $3 for water or have something to hold us over until we found a place to grab a snack. Maggie & I loved the Mickey ice cream bars & Jessie loved the strawberry bars. And any quick service restaurant or vendor with ice will give you a cup of ice or ice water for free.

4.a. I should have had Rocky or Maggie carry a small bag. I used a small messenger bag I got at the SHRM conference last year and I wouldn't carry anything bigger (it got quite heavy). If one of them had a small string backpack to carry the water it would have made my bag much lighter and would have been nice for all when we split up.

4.b. What else did I carry? Park map, lip balm, first aid stuff (band aids, ibuprofen, Tums, anti-nausea meds), autograph stuff, small bottle of sun block, ponchos (the $0.96 from Walmart kind), a print out of our schedule, park maps, external phone charger. And anything else the girls didn't want to carry. Though we did insist they carry any souvenir they wanted to purchase before the end of the day.

5. It is HOT. Unfortunately I didn't know how much the heat bothered Jessie. We brought some spray bottles but ended up also buying a mister there (the strap does make carrying it easier). Jessie had insisted on packing her umbrella and we should have taken that as a sign & let her take it to the parks. We took a lot of breaks. [Jessie recently said "Disney World is the funnest place in the world. And it is hot. It is the funnest place in the world and the hottest place in the world."]

6. Character autographs. Everything I read said the park autograph books weren't worth the price so I made some for the girls using plastic photo books, scrapbook paper and mini- clipboards. The girls used stickers to decorate the clipboards. I bought a variety pack of Sharpies. We would have been fine with black. These weren't a lot of work and the girls were/are happy with them, but after looking at the books in the park, I didn't really save that much money doing it myself. The photo/autograph books in the park came with pens and were really nice.

7. Money. Disney is expensive. I didn't think the souvenirs were overpriced, but the food, definitely. We decided ahead of time to not worry about money and we had saved and planned accordingly. The girls also had their own spending money (not that we didn't help them out from time to time). We rarely said no [though I did refuse to purchase the $30 "princess hat" and talked Jessie into some different princess accessories]. You could easily drive yourself crazy worrying about how much money you are spending while you are there. Disney makes it easy to purchase whatever you want by putting the ability to charge to your room on your MagicBand. I'm sure you could do Disney on a tight budget -- you are allowed to bring food and small coolers into the park or if you rented a car, you could go off site to eat. Though, taking the expense of parking and car rental into consideration, paying a little extra for food on site was a small price to pay for us.

8. PhotoPass. This is a free service offered by Disney. They have photographers EVERY WHERE. They will snap a couple of pictures and then scan your magic band and within a couple of hours, you can see your photos through the Disney website. You can also give them your camera/phone and they will snap a couple of pictures with your camera or step out of the way for you to take the same shot. If you pay in advance, you can get the MemoryMaker (you can also purchase while you are there, but pay a little more). We did not purchase the MemoryMaker, but you still get to see everything as they upload it all. Rocky was able to add the ride photos from Splash Mountain and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with his magic band. There was also a short video of the mine train ride with video from their ride. The only photo that didn't show up was the one from Maggie's pirate makeover. I'm glad I had thought to have her recreate it while we were in line for the Little Mermaid. You have 30 days to make any purchases from the PhotoPass -- including downloads or actual prints. I downloaded my favorites and will upload to Shutterfly to make photo books and calendars later.

9. Disney's Magical Express. One benefit to staying at a Disney resort was the free transportation, especially to and from the airport! We booked our tickets about 6 weeks out and sent that information to our travel agent who got us all set up. About a week later, we received our confirmation for the Magical Express, which included luggage tags so we could check luggage without having to pick it up at the airport [we still had to pay the airline baggage fee]. When we arrived in Orlando, we followed the signs to Ground Transportation and were able to get right on the bus. Our bus made 2 stops ahead of us, but we were to our hotel about an hour after we landed. A Disney Cast Member came out to greet us and get us checked in so we didn't need to go to the front desk. Our return was just as easy. We were automatically checked in for our flights & the boarding passes were hanging on our door on check out day. We were able to check our luggage and we're done with it until Sioux Falls. We were also able to go through the TSA pre-check line which meant we didn't have to remove our shoes, take anything out of our carry-one or go through the full-body scan machines.

10. Use a Disney Travel Agent. There are a lot of them out there and I know a few [after we booked, discovered a Facebook friend is one!] Our agent did almost everything for us. We talked about our MUST DOs and she got our dinner reservations and Jessie's Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique scheduled once the window opened (180 days in advance). I made the reservation for Maggie's Pirates League makeover and I was left with a great appreciation for what the travel agent does, especially as the Disney Cast Member was trying to get Maggie scheduled for the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique! The Disney travel agents are free for the travelers and are paid by Disney. Really the only thing she couldn't do was set our FastPasses for us.

11. Remember, it is just a vacation and you are there to have fun! When you are crabby, or the kids are crabby, just take a break. Getting a family photo isn't as important as getting your overheated daughter out of the sun [and I am speaking to myself here and am thankful my husband reminded me that I really didn't want a family photo with Jessie screaming "I'm hot."] Don't sacrifice your sanity in an effort to do "everything."

While this isn't a trip you take every year, we are starting to talk about when to go back, which tells me we all had a great time.

Magic Kingdom #DaileyDisneyAdventure

The Magic Kingdom. The park most people think about when they think about Disney World. Cinderella's Castle, Main Street, Mickey Mouse.we had a day and a half here, our last day and a half. And I'm really happy this was the last; like a big finale, the build up, the big pay off. There's something for everyone here.

We began our 2nd to last day with some relaxation. We slept in, had a good breakfast at the hotel, played in the pool. We were the first ones at the pool and had it to ourselves for a while. It was nice to not have any place to be for a while and not be surrounded by a lot of people. We headed to the park for lunch. The girls loved taking the boat to the park [though I don't think we were took it back to the hotel].

We checked out Monster's Laugh Floor, which used the same technology as Turtle Talk with Crush. As we waited in line, we could text jokes in to be used in the show. They picked on people in the audience and each show is different, even different topics. We went twice.

We caught parts of a coupe of parades, but the girls just weren't interested in standing, in the sun. We rode the tea cups, It's a Small World, the Carousel and Stitch's Great Escape -- I'm pretty sure this was the Alien ride when I was last there. There was a short wait, so we decided to try it. I had read some bad reviews, but none mentioned that it was boring. I knew it would get dark and thought that might be enough to scare the girls. But even Jessie thought it was boring. As Maggie put it, nothing happened.

We met Merida, Tinker Bell and Ariel as a mermaid. We kept trying to talk Jessie into Splash Mountain, but she kept saying she didn't want to be splashed. I was able to use the app to get a Fast Pass for Rocky & Maggie after dinner. We ate at Be Our Guest. This was definitely for me! I really really wanted to try the "grey stuff" and it was delicious! We got to meet Beast after the meal. We also discovered that the thunder we assumed was part of the restaurant was actually part of a rain storm. And of course, for some reason I only brought 2 ponchos. So Maggie got one and Jessie & I shared one. We rode Its a Small World hoping the rain would let up before the fast pass time for Splash Mountain. The rain did not so we decided to head back to the hotel and try the ride the next day.

We got an early start on our last day as we had a 9 am appointment for Jessie at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. It was nice to be able to walk down Main Street without all the crowds. We were able to get family pictures with the Castle in the background. Then we split up and Jessie & I headed to the salon while Rocky & Maggie headed to Splash Mountain [and got on the very first car].

Jessie's time at the salon didn't take long and we met up with Rocky & Maggie at the Carousel where we saw the Evil Step Mother & Step Sisters. After, Maggie got her first real roller coaster ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (which she said was awesome) and Jessie wanted to see Its A Small World again. Then it was time for Maggie's pirate make over. We tried to do Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, but ran out of time. Jessie got Rocky to do the Teacups again.

Lunch was at Cinderella's Castle and then we split up again! Maggie decided she didn't want to meet Anna & Elsa so I suggested the Haunted Mansion for them [she wasn't a fan]. They then headed back to the hotel for a break. Jessie & I checked out Mickey's PhilharMagic 3-D show while we waited for our Anna & Elsa FastPass time. Then we headed back to the hotel for a break.

The break was perfect. Time to cool off & sit for awhile. We started with riding the train to tomorrowland. The girls decided they didn't want to meet any more characters, though a glimpse of Woody & Jessie from the train almost changed their minds. We headed to find something to eat and by the time we had eaten, it was raining again. This time I had brought ponchos for everyone! Maggie wanted to try Splash Mountain again, but it wasn't running. Monsters Laugh Floor was having technical difficulties, so we headed for Mickey's PhilharMagic and started looking for other inside attractions. After the 3D show ended, the Laugh Floor was back up so we decided to go there one last time and then do a little shopping on Main Street. Because of the rain, the shops were crazy crowded, but Maggie was able to spend a little more of her money. And Jessie finally got some cotton candy.

They were getting Main Street set up for a parade, but again, the girls weren't interested so we headed back to the hotel. A short bus ride back and we enjoyed hanging around the hotel the rest of the evening. We checked out the gift shop and arcade. Did some packing. Jessie was completely fast asleep by 9. It was a good day.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Character Meetings #DaileyDisneyAdventure

Jessie says this was the best part: getting everyone's autograph. 

Both girls were a little bit shy, but warmed up quickly to the idea of meeting characters.

My absolute favorite character meeting was the one that was completely unexpected: the wicked step sisters. We saw them as we were headed to the Carousel after Jessie's makeover. They were headed to get in line at the same time. Drucilla spotted Jessie and started talking to her. Jessie was shy, but in a very silly mood after the princess photographer so she got on board quickly. Drucilla even got her to agree to be their new maid since Cinderella left! I LOVED that Drucilla got down on Jessie's level, as did Anastasia and the Step Mother, and were completely in character. Even getting onto the carousel -- They were clumsy, loud, annoying, just like you would expect.

And the best part, to Jessie, meeting Elsa & Anna. Still in a very very silly mood. She played a little hide & seek with both and then started "melting" with Elsa. Anna was more playful, but it was exactly as you would expect!

I think the autograph books turned out pretty good (though I'm not sure how much I saved by not just buying them at Disney, especially as we're going to have to get photo albums for the girls as well).

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hollywood Studios #DaileyDisneyAdventure

The only day we really set an alarm. I had set up a Fast Pass for 8 - 9 am at Toy Story Mania so we wanted to be sure to be at the park when it opened. This is one of THE most popular rides at Walt Disney World so I assumed there might be a wait even with the Fast Pass. We got to the bus stop at our hotel around 7 and waited. And waited. And waited. The bus finally showed up at 7:40 [as we had watched 3 busses for Animal Kingdom come & go]. There were a lot of others waiting with us AND a full bus showed up. We were the first on and still stood for the ride. So our day at Hollywood Studios was off to a rough start. And I was once again wishing we had started with a hearty breakfast.

We got to the park a little after opening and headed straight to Toy Story Mania. A short wait & we were in. This ride really lived up to the hype. Playing 3D arcade games hosted by different Toy Story characters while riding around to each different game was a blast. Even Jessie loved it.

We then went in search of breakfast and a place to sit and decide what to do next. We had quite a few options of what we wanted to do. We saw the MuppetVision 3D and Star Tours [ended up doing both of those twice]. The Muppets' show was the same show I saw back in the 90s (hello, Disney, definitely time for an update!), but the theater was cool and dark and never had more than a 10 minute wait to get in.
Star Tours was cool. And honestly the best part about the Star Wars Weekend. The girls weren't interested in watching any of the parades [sitting in the hot sun watching stuff go by? Not for them!] we did see a lot of characters walking around, but Darth Vader was the only one I recognized. Rocky wasn't interested in any of the character meets or special events. It might have been better to do this park a different day with less crowds as we probably would have gotten the Star Wars effect: the gift shop with the Star Wars toys wasn't going anywhere!! The girls both enjoyed Star Tours, which I was surprised Jessie liked it as I thought the motion ride would have really bugged her. And in our 2nd go around, she was the rebel spy [to Maggie's delight]. Maggie & Jessie each designed their own droid (like R2D2) and Maggie made her own light saber. Jessie picked out one and Rocky got a blaster (which he plans to paint to look like a "real" one).
And by going on a Star Wars weekend, we ended up missing the Beauty & the Beast show as I didn't realize it was only in the morning.

We had lunch at Pizza Planet & the girls enjoyed the arcade. Next stop was the Frozen Sing Along. Jessie sang along to every song and was grinning ear to ear through the entire show.  Some ice cream and then we split up so Jessie could see the Disney Junior show and Rocky & Maggie went to the Animation Station to see how movies are drawn and how they change -- Mushu was the host. I thought it was a drawing lesson, but I think Maggie enjoyed it. We ended the day with the Little Mermaid puppet show and then back to the hotel. Overall I think the day was a success. We missed the Indiana Jones show and The Great Movie Ride, which probably disappointed me than the others -- both were more for Rocky and me than the girls, so perhaps on the next trip.
That night Rocky & I went out and the girls enjoyed the evening at the Cub's Den, a kid watch spot and had a blast!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dining with Princesses #DaileyDisneyAdventure

One of the best things about going to Disney World is the food! I know not everyone likes the food [overpriced, nothing special], but I enjoyed it. The prices were a bit crazy, but you aren't just paying for the food, you are paying for the experience and, of course, the opportunity to meet a lot of characters in a short amount of time without standing in a lot of lines.

Each meal was carefully choreographed so that each character visited each table and spent a few minutes. Even Maggie, who stated she didn't care about meeting the princesses, had fun and jumped up for pictures! We ended up with four character meals, though I'm not sure I would count the meal at Beast's Castle as we only met him after the meal.

Our original plan had only one princess meal: at Cinderella's Castle on Jessie's birthday, because, well, Jessie! We had made reservations at 'Ohana, but as I was looking at details, our meal there was an evening meal and they didn't have the Lilo & Stitch characters there. When there wasn't a breakfast available there, I looked for other options. I did check with Maggie to be sure she would be okay with 2 princess meals. I was able to make these reservations via the My Disney Experience App.

We had Saturday breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. This was our first opportunity to meet the princesses. We got there early so ended up spending time hanging around the area waiting. If you have a reservation, you are able to get into the park early, but the only benefit is really for pictures and we headed straight for the banquet hall. The girls enjoyed watching a squirrel attempt to steal someone's baggie of trail mix they had left in their stroller. I wish I had been able to get an earlier reservation so we could have taken a few minutes afterwards to get a family picture with Mickey Mouse -- next time!

We were greeted by Belle [and this ended up being the only time we met Belle] and got a nice picture of the girls with her. The meal here was a buffet of continental breakfast items with a few Norwegian choices and the wait staff brought a "hot plate" to our table, which included scrambled eggs, cheesy hash browns [YAY!], bacon and sausage. And of course, the drinks of your choice. The food was good and I enjoyed trying some of the Norwegian options [cheese & meat]. Jessie was very excited to see Cinderella, who was the first princess to come to our table. We brought a photo mat for these princesses to sign, so it was nice to not have to carry around both autograph books this day, especially as we were headed to a water park after this! Jessie was still a little shy around the princesses, but jumped up faster than when we met Mickey & the gang. We also got to meet Aurora, Snow White & Ariel. They had a little princess parade where the kids followed the princesses through the castle, and Maggie gamely went with Jessie. The princesses were all very personable and very much in character. Ariel was my favorite, she was the most animated and even commented on my red hair! Jessie got a card signed by all the princesses and a cupcake with candle for her birthday.

This was a fun experience. The castle was neat [though not from any particular movie] with lots of "period" decorations -- thick, wavy glass in the windows that both girls commented on and lots of banners overhead. I think we all liked the food, but it was typical breakfast food.

Cinderella's Royal Table was the 2nd birthday event for Jessie [first was the Bibbiti-Bobbidi-Boutique and third was meeting Elsa & Anna]. This was one I had asked the travel agent specifically for. In my research, I assumed we would end up seeing the same princesses as before, and mostly did. But eating right in Cinderella's Castle? it is definitely worth it. Plus, we had a princess and a pirate to dine with!

We were greeted here by Cinderella, of course, AND the photographer there was the same photographer that did Jessie's princess portraits -- he remembered her and got a cute shot of her hugging Cinderella [couldn't talk her into the photo without me]. This was not a buffet, but limited menu selection [girls couldn't choose from nuggets or burgers!] 

This meal started with an appetizer of hummus and a spinach salad while the girls were brought grapes and cheese. I chose the braised short ribs for my meal with mashed parsnips & potatoes.

While we ate, the carefully choreographed dance of the princesses visit went on. Here the princesses were announced with a little back story [as if that was needed!] and instead of Belle, we met Jasmine. Aurora was the most playful here [covering Rocky's eyes when she got to our table & earning the title of Rocky's girlfriend the rest of the day] though Snow White had to check to see if Pirate Maggie gave the pirate at another table a black eye [thus earning her place as Maggie's favorite, at least for the day!].

Dessert was also included. The girls had ice cream and Rocky had cheesecake. I chose the special (below) "The clock strikes twelve": white chocolate mousse covered in a dark chocolate. This was the only pre-planned meal that didn't bring Jessie a card & candle in her dessert -- which she didn't even notice. I liked that they acknowledged her birthday, but it wasn't too over-the-top as to be annoying to Maggie. I think she got a little jealous by the end but handled it very well.

Overall, both meals are definitely worth it. Keep in mind, you aren't just paying for food, but for the opportunity to meet a lot of characters in a short amount of time with no lines. I would definitely do one or both again, but next time I would chose different meal. I do wish they had more princess rotations: Tiana, Rapunzel, Anna , Elsa, Merida, Mulan; plenty to choose from! We ended up meeting Ariel 3 times on this trip [we had to meet her in her grotto where she's a mermaid] and missed Tiana, Rapunzel & Mulan as we were tired of waiting in lines.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique #DaileyDisneyAdventure

When we first started talking about going to Disney, I knew we would have to take Jessie to the "Princess Hair Salon," especially after we decided we would be at Disney on her birthday. We scheduled her appointment for that day, which was our last day there. Every other day, if we asked her what her favorite part of that day was, she would proclaim "the hair salon!"

We had a 9 am appointment, so we were allowed in the park early. It was so nice to be able to walk down Main Street with no crowds [and get that family photo with Cinderella's Castle in the background -- a must get photo]!

We were a little early so we spent time looking through some shops that were open (Maggie & Rocky headed towards Splash Mountain in hopes of avoiding a long wait). Jessie found a necklace with her name on it. We put on her Cinderella dress and headed to the salon! I am glad we decided to bring her own dress. While the dresses there were beautiful, Jessie didn't seem interested and was happy with her own.

Once we checked in, we didn't have to wait long. Our Fairy Godmother in Training was very sweet (and Jessie was very shy) and Jessie was very good -- she sat still and took it all in. They keep the girls turned away from the mirror so they get a big reveal moment.

She got to pick out her eye shadow colors and got sparkly nail polish -- and we got to take it all home -- also included a comb, sash and a draw string bag. It didn't take long to do her hair (lots of teasing to get the "bun").

Hair and make up done, her Fairy Godmother in Training got her a new birthday button, her sash ready and then sprinkled her with magic dust, ready for her big reveal.
She swiveled Jessie's chair and Jessie was so excited to see herself. She giggled and bounced with excitement in her seat. The photographer got some great shots of Jessie seeing herself for the first time.

We then went back to the princess gift shop for her photo session. She was a little shy with the photographers, but one (Lowell) got down on her level and got her to giggle and be silly and be comfortable. He got some really cute shots of her.

This was such a great experience.  Every cast member was friendly and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing.This was so worth it -- everything came down to the look on her face when she was turned around. And every so often through out the day, she would ask "Mom, did you let me do this because you knew it would make me happy?" Of course!

Epcot #DaileyDisneyAdventure

Epcot is kind of a strange park. It doesn't have a lot of thrill rides -- it feels more adult than the other parks. I personally was looking forward to walking through the World Showcase Pavilions and trying out foods from the different countries. In hindsight, I should have planned our food a little better this day. Jessie, especially, needed a bit more than the protein bar I gave her at the hotel and she had a bit of a melt down after we left The Seas with Nemo & Friends. More on that later.
In an effort to check out the monorail, we took the boat over to the Contemporary and then road the monorail -- Mistake #1. This added WAY too much time to our travel time. The girls enjoyed riding it and it was nice to get a little mini-tour of Epcot when we arrived, but we had to switch trains and it didn't seem to add anything to the trip. I think we all would have been fine with skipping this.

At Epcot, we looked for a spot to have breakfast and grabbed coffee and cupcakes at Starbucks. We then headed towards The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Jessie noticed the Water Artist and we stopped to watch him for a little while. He even invited Maggie to help him finish Minnie's bow!

The Nemo ride was okay (Jessie got a little scared in the dark parts), but the best part was when we got close to the end and realized we were seeing REAL fish as well. The girls LOVED this part of Epcot and probably would have been happy to spend all day here. The Sea Base is 5.7 million gallon aquarium. They loved watching all the fish, looking for the rays, manatees and dolphins. We missed the dolphin show -- the overhead speakers were a little hard to understand so we weren't sure where to go to watch. We did catch the tail end. 

We were also able to catch Turtle Talk with Crush while we were at Sea Base. This was really cool. Live talking with a cartoon character? The kids sat up front to really interact with Crush [Maggie wanted to go again because she couldn't think of a question the first time around and wanted to ask him something!]. The technology involved in a show like this is simply amazing [and we saw the technology again at the Magic Kingdom]. Crush even got annoyed when someone's cell phone went off!

We started walking around a bit trying to decide where to go next. Jessie wanted to be able to go right up next to some of the flowers and that's when the meltdown started. We ended up in the Land Pavillion where Rocky and Maggie were able to check out the Timon & Pumbaa Circle of Life [Maggie said it was boring] while I got them a Fast Pass for Soarin' [awesome per Maggie]. I got Jessie some food and we chilled for a bit and decided what she wanted to do next -- meet Alice in Wonderland.

We headed to the International part of Epcot and found Alice. We were the last people in line before her break -- a wonderful cast member, who had probably turned others away, let us stay in line for this time frame. Jessie was so excited [and I didn't realize she liked Alice so much], but very shy. She entertained the people ahead of us in line a bit -- after the meltdown, I was surprised she was in such a good mood. She did take a picture with Alice and got autographs for herself and Maggie, but she wouldn't talk to Alice. Same thing happened with Mary Poppins, though we almost didn't get a photo there! We met up with Rocky & Maggie in England and then headed to France for ice cream at L'Artisan des Glaces! We each got a cone to enjoy and then I got to start my Wine Walk! My post about the wines is on Fine Wines on a Budget.
Maggie decided she wanted to try to meet Aladdin and Jasmine, so we headed over to Morocco and ended up waiting about 35 minutes as they had just gone on break when we got there. We were all tired, hungry, hot and a little crabby at this point. The girls waffled on whether or not they wanted to meet them and whether or not they would get autographs or photos. In the end, Maggie got nice photos with them. We found a place to get slushies in Japan and then to Italy for my 2nd wine tasting and some lunch. Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar was the only thing open at 3 p.m. in Italy. The food (and wine!) was good, but the adult portions were VERY small. The kid's portions were almost twice the size. I had a panini with fontina and salami that was served with a wedge ceaser salad -- probably the best ceaser salad I've ever had.  I also enjoyed the Chardonnay, Tenuta Di Nozzole Le Bruniche.

After deciding we were done meeting characters, we took the boat back to Future World to check out Journey into Imagination with Figment and Spaceship Earth. The girls enjoyed Figment, especially the interactive part at the end where they had the opportunity to jump and play where it was air conditioned! Spaceship Earth was almost exactly as I remembered it 15+ years ago. But the interactive play was new to me [maybe we skipped it as I was with friends]. And Maggie is now happy to tell people that the attraction is "a little outdated."

Epcot wasn't very crowded, which was a huge plus for us [none of us enjoy large crowds] and the bus ride back to the hotel was quick and much easier than attempting the monorail had been! I'm not sure I could have done much more planning to make our day smoother, other than nail down where and when to eat! We were still hungry when we got back to the hotel and I believe this was the night we ordered in pizza -- gotta love room service! [which I must say our room service delivery was top notch. I don't want to call him the delivery guy because his presence was much more than that. He treated our pizza delivery as if he were serving in the fine dining restaurant.]

And I did get my family picture [even if Jessie doesn't look thrilled -- at least she wasn't crying and it is pretty much her facial expression in all the family photos from the trip].

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Breakfast at Chef Mickey's #DaileyDisneyAdventure

Our first "official" Disney event was breakfast at Chef Mickey's. We were able to take the boat from our hotel to the Contemporay Hotel. It was a short ride and a beautiful morning.

This is a buffet with lots of great choices, including the infamous Mickey Mouse Waffles. I think my favorite was the cheesy hashbrowns! Good coffee. And of course, the main, only, reason for this meal was to meet Mickey Mouse & friends. 

The characters go around the room and visit each table individually. This "dance" is amazingly organized. No one is missed. 

Jessie was a bit shy to start and we have a few pictures with Rocky's arm "protecting" her. She soon warmed up and really seemed to enjoy it.

Our meal ended with a little "happy birthday" celebration: a cupcake with a candle & Mickey Mouse candy and a card signed by all the characters. It was the first of many.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Animal Kingdom #DaileyDisneyAdventure

I think the Animal Kingdom was the park Maggie looked forward to the most. I knew the safari would be a huge hit, and I was right. We got a bit of a late start on the park as we had breakfast at Chef Mickey's and had decided to drop a few things off at our room so we did a bit of backtracking. We still got to the park with time left on our Kilimanjaro Safari Fast Past. There was a bit of a line, so I was happy to use the Fast Past. Maggie and Jessie were both thrilled to see so many different animals so close up! Maggie thought it was so neat to see the lion sitting on what seemed to be Pride Rock. We even got to see a baby black rhino just one day old. Maggie and Rocky attempted to keep track of which animals we saw for the Wilderness Explorer badges, but as Maggie kind of lost interest, we just enjoyed the ride.

It was really hot, so we got some ice cream while waiting for the Festival of the Lion King! I had set up a Fast Pass, but the wait time was short, so we thought we'd use our Fast Pass on something else and went in. To start, our seats weren't very good, but as the show was about to start, we were able to move up so there was no one sitting in front of us! The girls enjoyed the show. Jessie liked the "circus monkey-men" (acrobats dressed like monkeys who did tricks during "Hakuna Matata"). Maggie liked the show, but wished Pumbaa and Simba weren't animatronic.

We had lunch at the Rainforest Cafe, which both girls thought was too loud with the passing "thunderstorms," but they both ate most of their lunch. Maggie and Rocky went on a spinning/flying ride called TriceraTop Spin. I couldn't talk Jessie into it, so we just waited in the shade [it's too hot, Mom]. Maggie liked the ride because you could control if you went up or down.

Next up was "It's Tough to be a Bug" in the Tree of Life. Maggie thought it was neat and Jessie liked most of it, but some was scary. We also went to "Finding Nemo: The Musical" I think this was my favorite part of the Animal Kingdom. It was a puppet show with the puppeteers actually in the show and not just operating the puppets. The musical was fun, colorful, toe tapping, humming the songs later type of show.  

Overall, I think the Animal Kingdom was fun, though I wish it had been cooler. We left soon after Finding Nemo to hit the pool. We missed some of the "big" rides (though Jessie probably wouldn't have wanted to go one the splash ride), but we didn't have the energy to go to yet another area. I think this park would benefit from a railroad to get you from one side to the other. We saw a few characters in passing, but the girls weren't in the mood to wait in line for anything else. The pool was a welcome relief to us all.

There are a lot of "extra to-dos" at this park (like the Wilderness Explorers -- plus the girls didn't really want to talk to strangers/cast members) and I think those are probably there for people who have been there before as it just felt like work to us.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Wilderness Lodge - A Review #DaileyDisneyAdventure

When we worked with our travel agent Samantha last fall, I asked for a variety of options and for her opinions on them. She gave us options in each price range and I did some research on my own. Some of the factors I took into consideration as we looked included:
Maggie checks out the bed in relief of FINALLY getting to Disney.
  • Proximity to parks
  • Size of the rooms
  • Discount percentage
  • Cost (over all and per day)
After looking at our options, we decided on the Wilderness Lodge. The final decision came down to proximity to the parks [Wilderness Lodge is near the Magic Kingdom and Epcot] and room size. The Wilderness Lodge is a Deluxe Resort and if we were going to have 4 of us in one room for 7 nights, I wanted a little room to move. 

The Wilderness Lodge has boats every 20 minutes to Magic Kingdom and the Contemporary and buses every 20 minutes to all the parks. We ended up using a combination of every type of travel, including the monorail, but next time we'll only use that if we are at a hotel on the monorail. It just ended up taking too much time.

This is a beautiful hotel. As with everything at Walt Disney World, once you get to your stop, you kind of forget there is an outside world. The resort has the "wilderness" feel, right down to a smell of leather throughout the hotel. 

Our room was very nice. 2 queen sized beds and a small balcony, that I was at first disappointed it overlooked the parking lot. Until that night when we heard some loud crashes -- just as we were starting to think about calling the front desk, we realized it was the fireworks: we were able to see the highest fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. So, even though we never actually went to a park to watch fireworks, we got to see/hear them every night!

Beautiful landscaping surrounds the hotel. A wide variety of flowers and plants. Lots of rabbits that Jessie had to look for each time we headed to the boat dock. We didn't see half of it I'm sure. We spent our first evening just wandering around.

The girls were, of course, happy to see the pool. We ended up spending a lot of time in the pool, which was a nice way to cool off after spending time in the parks. The pools had life vests for little ones to wear [even Maggie wore one a couple of times] and Jessie got brave enough to let go and "swim" on her own many times. The main pool had a small slide. They also had a splash park, but Maggie was too tall and Jessie wasn't interested in the splashing. They had a smaller 24 hour pool hidden away with jets coming from the bottom. Both girls enjoyed attempting to swim through the jetted water. The water in both pools was incredibly warm, but cooling enough to make it nice.

The hotel had a beach area with soft sand. We weren't able to go into the water, but it was a nice area to play and watch a nightly movie. We never stayed for a full movie, but Jessie & I did watch enough of "Maleficent" for me to be curious to see the entire film.

The hotel had 3 restaurants: 1 "quick service" Roaring Forks, 1 mid-level Whispering Canyon Cafe, and 1 Fine Dining Artist Point. We ate quite a bit at Roaring Forks, which was like a fast food restaurant, though we did have to wait a little bit. The food was good and I really enjoyed my chocolate waffles one morning! We purchased refillable mugs there, but after discovering they were ONLY good at the resorts, I wished we had only purchased 2 to share rather than 1 for each of us. We just didn't spend enough time in our hotel to make that worthwhile.

Rocky and I had dinner one night at Whispering Canyon Cafe and, while the food was good, there is nothing "whispering" about this restaurant. They encourage everyone to be loud and to "play along" with singing happy birthday, sending ketchup to the table that requests "more ketchup." and for a couple out for a date night, this was the wrong choice. After eating, we did go over to Artist Point for a drink and the atmosphere was much more what we had been looking for. 

That night, the girls went to the Cub's Den, a childcare center right on site. The cost is $15/kid/hour and a 2 hour minimum. The girls LOVED it. They got to play with all sorts of Disney toys, had dinner, watched a couple of Disney shows. It was a nice night away for all of us!

The gift shop here had a lot of non-gift shop items -- grocery store items for your room. We didn't even go in the gift shop until one of our last days, but I really wish I had known we could get a pint of milk or yogurt there! It would have been really nice for a quick breakfast. As it was, I did use Garden Grocer to deliver some grocery items to us. It was nice to be able to have 24 bottles of water, chips, power bars, sunblock!, delivered to our hotel and not have to worry about carrying it on or paying too much within the park. I received a text when our order was at our hotel and the bell service brought it to our room. We were missing an item initially, but it was delivered the next day when I sent them an email to let them know. I HIGHLY recommend this service. I will definitely use it again if/when we return to Orlando.

Overall, we really enjoyed staying at this hotel. This hotel matched "us" -- it wasn't too flashly, it was cozy and homey. The staff was friendly and helpful; the 2 issues we had with our room were taken care of fairly quickly. We liked that it was closer to Magic Kingdom than we originally thought and the boat ride there was very quick. The buses were great [with the exception of the one to Hollywood Studios that was 40 minutes late AND full -- on Star Wars weekend of all times]. We would definitely stay at this hotel again. We decided the only thing that would have made it perfect would have been if it were on the monorail, but we're even a little iffy on that thought.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pirates League Review #DaileyDisneyAdventure

Maggie did not want to be a princess. As I knew she would probably like some sort of dress-up, and I knew a friend's daughter had gotten a mermaid make over once, I started looking for the other options. My search took me to "The Pirates League." So I asked Maggie and she thought she would like it and so we made reservations.  
Maggie decided she wanted to be the Pirate Empress (nothing to girly for this one!). Her package came with a t-shirt. We didn't have to wait very long once her name was called. The staff were all in "pirate" mode, with accents and lots of "yo ho" and "arrr". After getting into her t-shirt, the pirate took her to get her pirate name (even though Maggie is an option). She got to roll some dice which determined her pirate name "Kate Shimskull."

Then it was time for the actual make over. She got some eye make-up, a little glitter and some tattoos. A head scarf, eye patch & earring topped off her look. Her pirate make over guide then guided her through the pirate oath and got Maggie to say "Yo Ho!"

With her look complete, we were then led to a secret door where she was given her sword & sheath and a special gift which we aren't allowed to talk about ;)

The final step was to get a copy of her pirate oath with her pirate name printed on it & signed by Captain Jack Sparrow. We then attempted to ride Pirates of the Carribean, but it was experiencing technical difficulties so we decided to try again later (though then opted to not go when Haunted Mansion was not a hit).
Overall, this was a fantastic experience. I love that they have an option for those that are not interested in princesses but still want to do a dress up. I also love that this is open to ANYONE, even adults -- I didn't actually see any adults there. There are 2 "girly" options: Maggie's Pirate Empress and a Mermaid. They also have costume options, but I think Maggie was happy with the t-shirt options. Maggie really had fun and I enjoyed watching her. Total cost, with tax, was $77.

Maggie's thoughts: So I liked how they gave me a t-shirt & bandana with an eye patch and face jewels. I also got a doubloon but I won't say where I got it because it's a secret. I really liked how you get your pirate name. You go to this chest with dice in it and you have to turn it 3 times with a wheel like from a ship. My pirate name is Kate Shimskull.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bring it To Disney

I am not a crafty person. I can do some simple ones and have been fairly successful at finding things the Girl Scouts like to do. As we have been planning our Disney trip, I've been doing some Pinterest stalking for planning ideas. I have seen a lot of "make your Disney trip more magical" and "how to save money at Disney." Most of which involve a lot of craftiness on the part of Mom (because, let's face it, most Dads probably aren't a. Stalking Pinterest or b. Trying to make a Disney vacation "more" magical). I'm not sure why *I* (or any parent) needs to make Disney, of all places, MORE magical. Perhaps the internet age has made us all more competitive. I just know my parents would have never dreamed of making ANY trip more magical. And our 2 trips to Disneyland (at ages 3 and 13) were about as magical as those trips got in the 70s and 80s (I do not have a lot of memories of either trip).

But knowing my girls and wanting to do a little bit more as I am having fun planning this trip, I let my crafty side out, a little.

The girls are very excited about meeting a lot of characters so I knew they would be interested in getting autographs and I'm not a fan of autograph books (or guest books for that matter) so I looked for other ways to do this so we can incorporate the signatures into our photos somewhat. I combined a couple of ideas.  *Get a cheap, plastic photo album. *Get some scrapbook paper & cut it to fit in the album. *Get some Disney style alphabet stickers (I got mine at Michael's). *I bought some small clipboards for the girls to keep their paper secure & to have a hard writing surface for the characters. I also bought some Disney character stickers for the girls to use to decorate their photo albums and clipboards.

I also knew I wanted at least one family photo where we are wearing matching t-shirts -- hopefully in front of Cinderella's castle. has a LOT of options that are fairly affordable and customizable. Now I probably could have done these on my own (or asked Rocky to), but paying someone else $5 was a small price and I think my time is worth more than that! 10 days until we leave. And 5 days left of work. I think we are all looking forward to our first family vacation, that doesn't involve visiting anyone.