Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2017

Thanks to Disney, we received complimentary tickets to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. All opinions are my own.

Star Wars family costumes!

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2017

We are back from our magical vacation and Disney vlogs have started running on my YouTube channel! I will be running the usual recap videos, souvenir haul, taking a look at how we planned and what worked for us after the daily vacation vlogs are done running - but I first wanted to touch on Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, since October and these parties will soon be coming to a close!

First of all, it's worth a mention that... I did it! On a follow-up from my previous post, talking about a plan to maximize our time at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, I mentioned that this would be the first year that our family was in fully themed costumes! We had a lot of fun, it was neat going around at the party and having people express excitement at us when they saw our costumes, and I think the kids had a great time wearing them to meet Star Wars characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios the day before our party night as well!

Meeting BB-8 at Disney's Hollywood Studios

We did stick to the plan, and had a leisure day during our party day - with a character brunch at 'Ohana at 11:20am for breakfast/lunch, and then back to the resort to swim for a bit before it was party time. We wanted to go into the party with as much energy as possible, to make it as late into the evening as possible. This strategy did pay off, because we did make it until basically close and left Magic Kingdom at 11:30pm to head out to the bus area to catch a bus back to Art of Animation.

Later Party Times?

Our family is well acquainted with Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, in fact it's one of our family's favorite special holiday events to attend. However this year, there was one slight change from previous years that I was interested to see what effect, if any, it had on our party night. And that was the later times for both the Boo-to-You parades, and Hallowishes fireworks show.

We opted to go to the earlier Boo-to-You parade time, and watched again from the Frontierland area, just across from Country Bear Jamboree. Watching the parades from Frontierland has been a great fit for our family, because you are near the starting point of the parade and while it is dim in that particular area so that you can see the parade better, the lighting is still good enough for my camera (Canon g9x, which works great in low light, by the way!) to pick up good shots while we are watching the parade.

We had plenty of time to do some trick-or-treating and ride a few rides before the parade time. The one thing I did notice, is that it felt like we had less time to go from the parade to the Hallowishes fireworks this year. (Which we typically watch from Fantasyland, just to the side of the carousel.) After the parade was done, we were able to go over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to ride one ride, hit a few trick-or-treating spots in that area, and then had to head straight over to Fantasyland to grab a seat for the fireworks show.

This worked out just fine, I did notice it just felt like less time than previous years. After the fireworks, we had about an hour to ride a few more rides and grab some party specific treats before calling it a night.

How about those treats?

There was a great selection of special party treats to chose from this year at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and the one I knew I wanted to try for sure was the Pumpkin Cheesecake - and it did not disappoint!

The cheesecake had a light pumpkin coating, that was lighter than an icing and not as sugary, it worked as a great compliment to the cheesecake. The cheesecake itself was moist and had a good flavor to it, not overly powerful in the sweet or tart department.

Our family also tried the Candy Corn Ice Cream, and even my husband that isn't the biggest fan of candy corn took party and enjoyed finishing it off! I thought it had a great flavor, which again wasn't too strong - it should be noted that I am biased... I'm apparently one of the few people in the world that actually LIKES candy corn! I thought it was a fun take on a Halloween tradition, and I would get it again.

The last special party treat that we tried was one of the Haunted Mansion desserts. I ordered the raspberry version from Auntie Gravity's Galactic Goodies for brevity sake since we were already there to pick up the candy corn ice cream, but it was also one of the top two flavor versions of the treat I had hoped to try. We didn't test this one until the following day. (After carrying it home on the bus inside a ziplock container and placing it in our mini refrigerator at our resort.)

This treat was really great and the only change I would do in the future would be trying this one (or one of its four counterpart treats) earlier in the evening, so that it didn't have to be refrigerated. It was still great, but I suspect would be even better right on the spot in the park. Everyone in our family that tried this one really liked it, and next time if they have similar treats in subsequent years, I know we would like to try the Oreo version as well.

Party Night Wrap-up

We had a fun night that included lots of rides, lots of candy, and special Disney fun! The girls enjoyed seeing all of the characters in the parade, one of our favorites, and I still get goosebumps every time the theme park is lit up by the perimeter fireworks that go over at the end of Hallowishes.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party was a fantastic time, and I think that being able to dress up at the party really puts the experience over the top fun for us. I also think that going into our party night with a plan helped immensely! Having an idea of what order we wanted to do events in helped us to keep our night on track and see all of the things we were wanting to see on our party night.

Check out our vlog of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween!

All of the Disney blogs will be placed on one playlist to be able to watch them in sequence, you can check out our whole vacation here:

Wishing you lots of not-so-scary fun if you too are heading to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party this year!

** We were hosted at this event. All opinions are my own.

Friday, October 6, 2017

5 Ways to Maximize your time at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party!

It's "Boo to You" season, and our family is excited about heading back to Walt Disney World Resort for some Fall Fun with Mickey and friends!

Split stay! So two sets of MagicBands. Those rose gold ears though! 

We're looking forward to some new experiences on the trip, like seeing the all new Pandora area at Disney's Animal Kingdom and trying the new character breakfast at Trattoria al Forno that features Ariel, Eric, Rapunzel, and Flynn! We'll also be staying at Art of Animation, that will be a first for our family, and I'm excited to see what the girls think about the The Little Mermaid rooms there, as it will be their first time seeing those!

We will be doing some returning favorites on this trip too though, and one of those is going to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party!

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

We attended Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party on Halloween Night, in both 2014 and 2015! Last year, we returned to Walt Disney World Resort during the Christmas season so we could try out Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party! (Which is also a great time - check out why we loved that party as well HERE!) Our family LOVES dressing up in costumes, trick or treating in the park, and all things Halloween - so to say we are excited about returning during Halloween time at Disney would be an understatement!

Check out some of our previous Halloween trips on YouTube!

2014 -

2015 -

Ariel was obviously a very important character for us in 2015!

Maximizing our time at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

This year, we have a plan in place to maximize our time at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party! We are attending the party one night - and here is our plan for having a SPOOKtacular time at the party!

1. We are taking it easy during the day on Party Day!

This one can vary depending on size of your party, ages of the people in your group, how many days you'll be at Walt Disney World Resort, and so on... but we've found for our family in particular, dedicating our party date to the party is what works best for us! We like to take some time to explore our resort, do some shopping at Disney Springs, and have a bite to eat at a character meal. We will not be going into a theme park during the day and instead opting to waiting until party time, so that we can make it as far into the evening as possible!

Historically, guests have been able to enter the parks at 4pm with party tickets, and it sounds like that should be the case this year as well. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party officially kicks off at 7pm and ends at midnight. And most years, we have been able to make it until the very end of the party - even when the girls were ages 2 & 4 and used to much earlier bedtimes!

Natalie "Letting it Go" before the party in 2014!

This year the girls will be ages 5 and 7 on party night, and we will have a plan in place to meet their current preferences of activities, which leads me to my next point...

2. Have a plan, but be flexible!

We will plan ahead of time by looking up the Mickey's Boo-to-You Parade times (this year will be at 9:15pm and 11:15pm, a bit later than it usually has been), Hallowishes Fireworks (10:15pm), and Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular (8:15pm, 10:45pm, & 12:00am) - to chose the times that I think will be the best for us to try to attend for each event.

Our family likes to go do "an event", something like meeting a character, riding a ride, or seeing one of the party special events, and then going to do some trick or treating. The girls don't eat a ton of candy (and trust me, you can walk away with a TON) - but there is something very special about trick or treating in the middle of Magic Kingdom, so we try to make the most of our experience and fill our bags up throughout the night!

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014!

3. Meeting Characters

Character meet and greets were a VERY important part of our Disney experience when the girls were extremely small, you could say that our trips basically revolved around meeting the characters when they were preschoolers! Now seeing their favorite characters is still important, but we've found that riding particular rides have started making the list of "must dos" when we visit the theme parks as well! The holiday parties offer the opportunity to meet specific characters that are not available in the parks at other times of year or during regular theme park hours - so if one of these characters is on your "must see" list, then I would make sure to keep that in mind when doing your party planning.

We try to meet 1-2 of the party characters during the party time, to keep our evening balanced doing a variety of activities. This year, I see Moana being very close to the top of the list on our "must see" characters. In previous years, we knew that Tarzan, previously in Adventureland during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, would be a must see - because my older daughter went through quite a Tarzan phase! If you are able, lining up early before party time is often recommended for "must see" characters and occasionally characters may even start greeting before the official party start time.

Mulan, meet Tarzan. 

I always struggle with where to place waiting for the special characters into our schedule, but I will say that order of importance will differ by family. I know for our family, probably our top event at the party will be Mickey's Boo-to-You Parade, so I will time our character greets to either have us well done with the meet and greet prior to parade start time, or lining up afterwards. Hallowishes Fireworks are also AH-mazing, and the perimeter fireworks that go off during these fireworks are one of my all-time favorite Disney experiences, it is sure to not be missed by us either... which leaves lining up early party time, trying to squeeze meeting a character in between the parade and fireworks (which would not be optimal for us), or waiting until the end. This decision I will likely make on the fly, whether we chose beginning or end of the party based on crowd levels and dispositions of our party that day... however what I tend to do is ask the kids what their one or two MUST SEE characters are for the evening and plan around those!

4. Get our costume on to get our party on!

Our family LOVES to dress up in costumes? Did I mention that?? I know some families do not dress up at all or go with Halloween t-shirts, you will see the full range of clothing on Halloween party nights... for our family, being able to dress up and fully immerse ourselves in the experience is a bit part of the fun! I mean, when else am I going to be able to run around Walt Disney World in a green wig?

Wearing a green wig inside Cinderella's Royal Table, ya'll!

In 2014, it was our first Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween experience, and my husband & I dressed as Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head. I couldn't quite talk the kids into doing the full matching thing... so we had an Elsa and Mulan that year trick-or-treating with us!

Then in 2015, we return on Halloween night to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween as Anger and Disgust from Inside Out, which had recently been released! Again, I couldn't quite get the kids to buy in on family costumes - though I got OH-SO-CLOSE.... they went trick-or-treating as Anna and Elsa. (Oh Frozen, you did have a stronghold on our house for quite some time...)

As Disgust and Anger in 2015!

THIS year... 2017. I've done it! We will be in a full family themed costumes! Inspired by Star Wars, which my girls have taken a liking to (yes, we are DEFINITELY counting down the days until the new Galaxy's Edge area opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios!!) we will be attending Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party as Han Solo, Princess Leia, Rey, and BB-8! (Insert squealing... lots and lots of squealing!) Stay tuned for pictures, because I think they will be classics!


5. Take time out to have a treat

What's a Halloween party without a treat?! And Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party will have plenty of treats this year! I'm looking forward to trying the Pumpkin Cheesecake Dome from Main Street Bakery or Gaston's Tavern...

Photo Courtesy: Disney Parks

... these delightfully spooky Haunted Mansion desserts at one of four locations throughout Magic Kingdom, I'm aiming for the Oreo filled one from Aloha Isle or raspberry filled one from Auntie Gravity's Galactic Goodies...

Photo Courtesy: Disney Parks

... and some Candy Corn ice cream that can also be found at Auntie Gravity's Galactic Goodies! YUM!

Photo Courtesy: Disney Parks

Boo to you, and you, and you... Happy Halloween!

So that is our family's plan to maximize our time at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and have a SPOOKtacular time at the most magical place on Earth! I'm looking forward to sharing our experience on YouTube after we return, and Disney vlogs will run in sequence until the end of the trip!

After all of the vlogs have been uploaded, check back here for a playlist to view them all at one time!

** We received complimentary tickets to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Wellie Wishers: Garden Fun App + Giveaway!

Thank you to Mattel for sending us this app to test out and share with our viewers!

Wellie Wishers: Garden Fun

Our family is excited to share our thoughts on an all new kid's app from American Girl developed by XCube, "Wellie Wishers: Garden Fun"! It releases on October 4, 2017 and is available through the app store for iOS and Android. This new interactive game lets you go into the world of the Wellie Wishers and play games in the garden!

The app was designed with ages 6 through 8 in mind, and my girls had a great time testing it out! Natalie is 5 years old (soon to be 6 in November!) and Isabella is 7 years old, and the Wellie Wishers have been a big hit in our household since they were first introduced! We own all five dolls - Willa, Ashlyn, Camille, Kendall, and Emerson, and the girls enjoy changing their outfits, putting on plays on the stage, and having tea parties with their dolls. 

Now, in the new Wellie Wisher: Garden Fun app, the fun can be on the go with us! And they can change the outfits on the Wellie Wishers, take care of Carrot the pet rabbit, have a tea party, and complete hidden treasure games that are interwoven with fun storylines within the app. 

Isabella's favorite part of the app was the "Find Hidden Treasures" search and find games, and collecting the acorns to unlock new areas and animals. Natalie loved the personalization and playing dress-up in the app, she especially enjoyed putting different costumes on the characters. 

The app is free to download with in-app purchases available. There were occasional ads that popped up during game play for other American Girl apps, and these could be clicked down by hitting an "X" button in the corner. The full play pack to unlock all of the games and features is $9.99, and you can also purchase just portions of the dress-up packs or search and find games for prices as low as $2.99.

This app will be great for our upcoming travels and the girls really loved how interactive it was, especially since we have read all of the Wellie Wisher books and many elements from the storylines in the books were seen in the app as well.

Check out our video review of Wellie Wishers: Garden Fun!

Look in the app store on your mobile phone or iPad, and the Wellie Wishers: Garden Fun app is available for download now!

Enter to win a Wellie Wisher

To celebrate this new app being released, I've partnered with Mattel to bring you a fun GIVEAWAY! Enter below to win a Wellie Wisher doll chosen at random. One winner will receive a Wellie Wisher doll! 

If you've been loving the Wellie Wishers as much as we do, this app is sure to be a hit in your household as well!

** This post was done in collaboration with Mattel/American Girl, some items were received complimentary for purposes of testing. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Holiday Decorating with At Home Stores

Thanks to At Home Stores for giving my house a festive makeover for the holidays!

Holiday Room Refresh

Now that the holiday season is quickly approaching, I've started thinking towards not only how I'll decorate, but also figuring out what type of decor works best in our new home, refreshing certain rooms in the house on a budget, and fun ideas for teacher or hostess gifts!

To get started for Fall, I found some great pieces to refresh our dining room, and create a table centerpiece that will be perfect for Thanksgiving! I also love that the tray is versatile and can be reused for other purposes in all seasons!

The LED lighted lantern was $14.99 and the ceramic pumpkin was $7.99. The wood tray was $24.99 and I will reuse it throughout other seasons as well!

You can check out the Fall centerpiece being put together on YouTube!

Winter Decor

The Christmas season is one of my favorite times of year, and decorating my home is a big part of that! This year I'm planning on continuing on with a whimsical gingerbread and snowman theme for our smaller tree. On my trip to At Home, I found all kinds of wonderful holiday decor items that would go perfectly with that room!

Throw pillows are some of my favorite items to pick up to refresh a room, and At Home has a great selection of pillows at every day low prices! I picked these two holiday pillows to make our couch more festive, and each were only $14.99!

I thought the snowman pillow was really unique because of its vertical orientation, and if you'll notice I even reused the Thanksgiving centerpiece tray from above, to become a great coffee or cocoa tray during the colder months!

Gift Giving

Giving gifts is another fun part of the holiday season and one that I look forward to finding special items that I think friends and family will love. I found a great selection of hostess or teacher gift items at At Home for really reasonable prices - everything I picked out was priced at $9.99 or less!

They have such a large selection of gift items that the options really are endless! This year, I gravitated towards more whimsical items and also especially loved their Winter Garden line! I even managed to find a mug, with one of my favorite holiday sentiments on it!

These ornaments and small signs are also great to use as hanging tags or to give as a small gift!

Check out my picks for hostess and teacher gifts under $15 on YouTube!

I'm looking forward to the holiday season and I love everything that I found at At Home to begin preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Check out At Home's website to find the store closest to you!

** This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Halloween Mantel Makeover from At Home Stores #AtHomeFinds

Thanks to At Home for giving my mantel a Halloween makeover! 

The holidays are upon us once again! We are getting settled into our new home and this will be our first holiday season decorating our house in Alabama! I have been looking forward to the holidays and I always enjoy seeing a bit of festive decor around the house for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and December.

This year, a big project was to tackle the mantel on the fireplace! It is a more traditional mantel than we've had at the past few houses, but with it being a smaller size than our previous fireplace settings and not taking up the whole wall - I wanted to make sure it sparkled and had plenty of its own personality!


Decorating with At Home

I found everything I needed at At Home for this awesome mantel transformation, and we are all ready for Halloween hosting now!

After: Halloween Ready!

At Home has a variety of decor pieces in all sorts of styles, at everyday low prices! So you can refresh an area of your home, without breaking the bank! I made over this mantel for under $75 and I think it totally changed the feel of the room. It feels festive and fun now!

Prices ranged from $1.99 for the spider webbing, $8.99 for accent decor, and $12.99 for the Haunted House Ticket pillow!

What I Used

I already had a burlap wreath base made from previous Fall seasons, that I used to affix the "Flying Lessons" sign onto the top of it - to become my mantel centerpiece. I thought this sign was great - and reminds me of Harry Potter for some reason!

To go along with the flying lessons theme, this sparkly orange broom jumped right out at me in the Halloween aisle, and I knew I had to incorporate it into the decor somehow! I wanted to add some color to the bottom of the mantel area, since the hearth is at the floor level and darker, the broom worked great to bring the eye down to the lower level. The orange pillow also works great against the black tiles on the fireplace!

I added in two types of garland across the mantel to brighten it up - a purple, orange, and black flag garland hanging from the front and a glittery beaded garland laying across the top.

Check out more of my At Home Halloween mantel makeover on YouTube!

You can browse through more great At Home Finds, locate the store nearest you, and more - at At Home's website. I'm loving the space and we are now Halloween ready at our house!

** This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back to School in Style!

Back to School in Style

It's back to school time! One of our favorite things to do around back to school is to freshen up our wardrobe! The girls each have their individual style, and they love to mix & match pieces on their own to come up with unique outfits that really display their personality!

Natalie tends to be more girly in her dressing, while Bella has streaks where she loves dresses - but then other times likes to be a little sporty as well!

This X-Temp raglan tee is perfect for Fall days as they start to get a little brisker but you still need to keep cool while being active, and just by coincidence happens to be Alabama colors!

Staying cool and comfy has definitely taken a higher priority here in the Alabama heat, and since they have recess every day, durability is important too! When we are freshening up our wardrobes for the new school year, I like to get a few "special" outfits, this year were our Eleanor Rose dresses, some great play wear, like tops and skorts from Cat and Jack at Target - and comfortable undergarments that will last throughout the school year, like our favorite Hanes socks and underwear.

Our family has used Hanes undergarments for years and we recently tried the Hanes X-Temp line,  our whole family has found something to love. The X-Temp socks work great for my hot natured feet, and Bella really likes the sporty hipsters. My husband has worn Hanes tagless tees under his work shirts for years, and Natalie's favorite socks are her heart covered ComfortBlend socks!

Check out the Giveaway

Comfortable undergarments, durable enough to last through PE, recess, and after school play are key! Our family love Hanes undergarments and X-temp products - and we are excited to partner with Hanes to bring you a giveaway to go back to school with style AND comfort!

Enter to win a Hanes Prize Pack that includes:
 - $50 Hanes Visa Gift Card
 - 3 Back-to-School styles from Hanes in your size

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Styles may include selections from Hanes X-Temp and FreshIQ technologies which help to keep you cool and fresh all day long!

Hope you have a great start to back to school and don't forget you can enter to win daily until September 8, 2017!

** This post is sponsored by Hanes. All items included in giveaway will be shipped directly from Hanes. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Celebrating our Anniversary with Family Fun!

August is our anniversary month and this year my husband and I will be celebrating 12 years of marriage together! We enjoy celebrating with the kids and doing fun family activities that will be memorable for them as well, to commemorate dates like anniversaries. This one is a special one, because we are planning on returning to the Opryland hotel in Nashville where we were married and showing it to the kids for the first time ever! Excited is a complete understatement!!

Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, Photo courtesy: Opryland

Due to my husband's work travel schedule and the Great American Eclipse (which is happening the day after our *actual* wedding anniversary and happens to pass right over Nashville!) - we were originally planning on booking a stay at Opryland closer to our anniversary date but then realized that planning for a weekend that there wasn't a once in a lifetime solar event which caused hotel rooms to be twice the cost, probably was the more feasible way to go. So we now are planning our overnight stay for the beginning of September! That's alright though, because it gives me more time to plan!

We did take the kids up for a quick day trip to the American Girl store in Franklin, Tennessee for the first time since that is something we said we would do that in August, and they got a chance to check that out. We will also have some school activities over the next few weekends in addition to my husband's work schedule keeping him busy, so I anticipate the next few weeks will fly by!

Check out a video of our first trip to the Franklin, TN American Girl store here:

When we do go on our road trip to Nashville, we are hoping to not only check out Opryland - which if you've never been there is a super cool resort hotel with restaurants, entreatment, waterfalls, and even a river - inside the interior of the resort... but also take the girls to see some sites around the Nashville area. We haven't been to their zoo before and there are also a number of cool landmarks and buildings in downtown Nashville to see as well.

Since it's our anniversary, I would love to get pictures taken on the same Delta Landing that we had our wedding on, and be able to recreate that with the girls as close as possible. That has been a goal for the past few years to get that photo of our entire family in the same spot that we were married in and I would love to have that framed in our new home!

Also, to encourage some family bonding time, I'm bringing along a game on our anniversary trip that was sent to us to try out called "Personalogy", which is a family fun card game which is a great discovery game for the entire family! When it arrived, Bella was interested in it right away, immediately opened it and started asking questions! She loved hearing everyone's guesses as to what her answers would be, then she found the adult cards and they took turns guessing what my favorites as a child were!

We've already had a number of laughs playing Personalogy together and I'm looking forward to bringing it to Opryland with us to celebrate our anniversary as a family while discovering more about each other at the same time!

Personalogy is available on Amazon and is a great travel game the entire family can play!

You can check us out playing it in a day in the life here... I also figure out how to clean the pool for the first time ever on my own!

This may turn out to be one of my favorite anniversaries ever, since we are finally returning to where my husband and I were married and will be able to share it with the girls! I'm excited to share their reactions and will be sure to vlog the entire trip!

** I received compensation and complimentary products shown in this post in return for posting a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.