Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Why we love American Girl Luciana Vega Girl of the Year 2018


American Girl 2018 Girl of the Year

American Girl's 2018 Girl of the Year is here and we LOVE her! I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone that has been following our channel for a while, since both of my girls enjoy doing science - and especially Isabella loves space and technology... this collection was going to be RIGHT up our alley! Luciana Vega is a girl that is into science and technology, and she loves SPACE!

Luciana Vega loves Space

As a bonus, Luciana's story has her going to SPACE CAMP in Huntsville, Alabama!! As you'll also probably remember, we moved to Huntsville, Alabama just this past summer! We became members of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (on the same property as Space Camp) shortly after arriving, and I'm also a prior Space Camp alum!



We are just in the beginning of reading Luciana's book, but her collection has us hooked! Our family had been hoping for a STEM based American Girl doll for years, and we are happy to finally have one! We purchased about half of the collection on release day, and I think with birthday money, money they earn throughout the year, and AG Rewards certificates - we will likely end up with most, if not all, of the collection by year's end!



Luciana is a cute doll, and as Isabella pointed out - looks a lot like her! She has dark hair, dark eyes, and a medium complexion. Her purple hair streak is sewn in, so that means it isn't removable. The girls like the hair streak and it actually isn't that noticeable with her hair down.



One of Isabella's favorite parts of the collection were the iridescent pieces - the girl and doll sized iridescent backpack - and Luciana's iridescent meet boots! I don't think Isabella had ever seen anything iridescent prior to this collection coming out, so now we know she's a fan! 

Favorite part of the Luciana Vega collection

My favorite part of Luciana's collection has to be the blue jumpsuit though. It's so perfect for any Space Camp alumni or aspiring Space Camp attendee - it is just quintessential to the experience. I actually still have my blue jumpsuit from when I attended over 20 years ago! 



This collection was a complete home run for our family and I truly hope that American Girl has a lot of excitement from customers over the year for this collection, because I hope to see more STEM or STEAM oriented doll items in the future!





** This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Best Videos of the Year - 10 Top Viewed Videos

It's time for another end of the year round up! 2017 was an interesting year for our family, and we went through a lot of changes! One thing that didn't change, was some of our most popular videos! Which ones carried over from last year? Check out our 10 Top Viewed Videos of 2016 to find out!

Here were our best videos - view wise - for 2017! And I'll try to follow up in a future blog post with my favorite videos of 2017, which may not always be the same as the highest viewed! Check out my favorites of 2016 here!

In reverse order working down to number 1... here are our top viewed videos of 2017!!

10. Magic Kingdom on Halloween (2015)

This video would probably make it into my top 25 video favorites that I've made too. From our second year going to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World. This is one of those neat videos that didn't make the Top 10 Viewed videos last year, and is actually an older video from a 2015 trip... but it "took off" in the middle of this year, as I call it when an older video picks up speed after being more dormant for a while and started garnering more views in the middle of the year. Especially right before Halloween. We had a great time that night! I love seeing how little the girls are too!



9. Kid's Road Trip Boredom Busters!

I love when I can make videos that people find helpful and I think this one hit that mark - Kid's Road Trip Boredom Busters - where I shared some of (many) activities that we use while traveling to entertain and this one made it into our top ten videos this year!



8. MagicBand 2.0 Review and Comparison

Ok, so this is a cool one. We did a MagicBand review on the new style MagicBand 2.0 bands that came out in 2017, with a comparison to the old style and showing both styles side by side on the girls wrists. I figured it would be a helpful video to many, and I think it was.... but, to toot my own horn for a minute - I found out from a friend that DISNEY actually was using my video internally and the developers of the MagicBands themselves were using a clip from my video at conferences... uhm, HOW COOL?!? Not just that they were using a clip from it - but that they had seen it at all!! The imagineers of the bands themselves!! Definitely a Disney geeking out moment for me!!




7. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the Castle Experience

This is such a fun one!! Our 2016 Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience, where the girls both had their hair and makeup done together for the first time! This is probably one of my favorite Disney memories too, and I'm looking forward to them doing this hopefully at least one more time together! (Before they are too cool for school and all that good stuff!)



6. American Girl Shopping Surprise! 

We took a quick trip to the American Girl store in Michigan where I surprised Natalie with the trip there, and shared it in a Shop with Us video. We used up some gift certificates and rewards certificates we had for American Girl. It become our sixth highest viewed video of the year!



5. Christmas morning 2016! 

Our Christmas videos have started becoming some of our higher viewed videos, and Christmas morning was our 5th highest viewed video for the year!



4. Walt Disney World & Disney Cruise Surprise!

Everyone loves a good surprise! Last year we surprised the girls with the news of going to Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2017 with a big surprise box! It was a lot of fun, and also one of our higher viewed videos for the year! Since I started squealing in the car when I got the email invitation back to 2018 and they were in the car (while we were AT Walt Disney World on our October trip, none the less!) - they already knew about our upcoming trip... so no surprise box at Christmas this year. Sorry guys! I was really excited when I got that email!!



3.  Disney Dream Embarkation Day

Our very first cruise aboard the Disney Dream continues to garner views and new viewers find our videos from that trip every day!! We are especially excited to be going BACK on the Disney Dream in February 2018, for Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2018! It is a beautiful ship, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to do and see some things that we missed on our previous trip - mainly a trip down the AquaDuck waterslide and dinner in the Enchanted Garden restaurant!



2. Natalie's 5th Birthday

The second highest viewed video of the year was Natalie's 5th birthday video! I think especially our younger viewers love seeing what the girls get for special occasions and seeing them open gifts. Our birthday videos have become quick favorites!



1. American Girl Surprise!


WOW!! Coming in again at #1 this year - American Girl Surprise! was our top viewed video for the year! Accumulating 563,683 additional views in 2017, it did slow down a bit from its previous year's view count... but for a video that I couldn't have guessed would take off THAT much, it has been a huge boost to my channel these past three years. I'm so glad that so many people enjoyed it! Will it still be #1 for 2018? Can't wait to find out!



Thanks for watching this year! And I hope you have a happy and safe new year!



** This was not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dealing with the Loss of a Pet - Kids & Grief

We recently shared on Instagram, the loss of our older male cat - Yoda. Yoda had been with my husband and I since he was a kitten, and he was technically my husband's cat. He was a spunky cat that loved to hide and pounce on people's feet when he was younger. He especially seemed to not care for me taking some of my husband's attention. Although in the later years, he took to me more and somewhat "adopted" me after my cat, Luna, was gone.



Luna passed away a few years ago, and after that time Yoda started coming around me more, sitting on my lap while I edited videos and having more interest in what the kids were up to. As he aged, he mellowed out and spent less time trying to hide to attack people's feet. He was definitely a member of the family and the kids took to him too.

Cats and Aging


Just one of those natural parts of life, Yoda had started getting older and we'd noticed a slight decline in his ability to jump onto furniture and get up and down the stairs. We went on vacation in October of this past year, and when we got back it was visibly noticeable that something was amiss with Yoda. He was acting off and had started drooling, a thick, clear drool. After giving it a day or two to subside it wasn't getting any better, so we headed to the vet.

The vet gave him a thorough check-up, and while under anesthesia checked out his mouth area. They couldn't find any tooth decay or issues, so they decided that it was some kind of infection in his throat and gave him antibiotics to help clear it up. We expected that would be the resolution of the issue, but it wasn't.

He was better for a week or so, but the started to rapidly decline. The drool turned to thicker drool, the drool eventually became blood tinged - and towards the end the drool even had a dark red blood color. (And horrible smell, which apparently is from the iron in the blood.) There was nothing visibly wrong with him, other than it had started to affect his interest and ability in eating, and he was starting to lay around more. The vet didn't find any additional cause for his condition.

Loss of a Pet


Yoda eventually succumbed to his illness when he became too weak to even hold up his head. I knew that it would be the end when I woke up that morning he made low whimpering sounds and had no interest in moving. I gave him gentle pets, told him to close his eyes and find Luna.

This is the last picture I took of him, just a few days prior. When I took the picture, I felt like it would be the last one I would take of him - and it was.



Telling the Kids about Pet Loss


One of the big questions I was asked after the fact on Instagram, was "how did the kids take it"? The girls are ages 6 years old and 8 years old right now, so old enough to be aware of what's happened and older than when Luna passed. I decided that taking them each aside separately and talking to them directly was the best route.

I used clear language that I hoped they would understand and told them that Yoda was gone. They knew he had gotten really sick and had noticed how badly it had gotten recently, so they understood he was too sick to go on.

They did really well with the news, all things considered. They did know that he had been sick, so I think knowing he wasn't continuing to worsen or suffer was some comfort. Their reactions were actually the reverse of what I thought they would be... Isabella is my natural animal lover and tended to be around Yoda more, so I thought she would take it harder - but after some consideration, she said, "That is good and bad at the same time. At least he isn't still suffering being sick." And after a long pause.... "Can we get a dog?" HA! Almost 8 year olds! So she'll be fine.

Natalie just turned 6 years old, and she never really did much with Yoda so I wasn't sure how much effect it would be on her. However Natalie does love being dramatic, so it was about 30 minutes of wailing after I told her, but we eventually got her calmed down by showing her old pictures of Yoda when he was a kitten and "oh so cute", and by then she had absorbed the news.

We will miss our little buddy! Here are some of my favorite pictures of Luna & Yoda together!






** This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, December 8, 2017

HUGE Star Wars: The Last Jedi Prize Pack Giveaway!!

Our family is super excited about the new Star Wars movie and finding out the next sequence in this Star Wars saga! Isabella has gotten into "Forces of Destiny" lately, so I'm looking forward to her seeing the new movies at some point, and I know my husband and I will be at the theater on December 15th for a Star Wars date night!

Check out this awesome giveaway opportunity below that I'm a part of with The Hopping Bloggers!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi FINALLY hits theaters December 15th. Episode VIII is highly anticipated as fans want to know answers to many questions. Who are Rey's parents, what has Luke been up to, and so much more. Will we find the answers? We hope so! To help celebrate this release, The Hopping Bloggers have come together to bring our readers a fantastic Star Wars giveaway worth over $300!  


The Star Wars: The Last Jedi Prize Pack Includes:

Not all prizes are pictured. Products subject to change based upon availability.

About Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

See Star Wars: The Last Jedi in Theaters 12/15!

Connect with Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Social

Like STAR WARS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/starwarsmovies/ Follow STAR WARS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/starwars Follow STAR WARS on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/StarWarsMovies/ Follow STAR WARS on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/starwars Visit the official STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI website: http://www.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi #TheLastJedi | #StarWars


Enter to win this Star Wars: The Last Jedi Prize Pack using the form below. GOOD LUCK!

The Star Wars: The Last Jedi Prize Pack Includes:


** This is a group giveaway through The Hopping Bloggers. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Disney DIY Craft: MagicBand Wreath

You went, you had a magical time, you have all of the pictures and memories... now what do you do with all of the MagicBands when you get home?!?



MagicBands from Walt Disney World




MagicBands are the magical "keys" to the world when you're at Walt Disney World. They open your room for you, you can charge to them, and you swipe them to get in the parks and use FastPasses. If you're anything like us, you enjoy getting a different color MagicBand on each trip - but with a family of four, the total number of bands starts to add up fairly quickly if each person choses a different color band for each Walt Disney World trip!

I took part in a collab with Jen, from Happily Organized Chaos, and we each did our own DIY. Check out her Disney DIY Craft for a Mickey lighted topiary!

How to Make the Wreath




This may be the easiest wreath you'll ever make!

All you need to get started is:
- Wreath base, I use the wire ones from Hobby Lobby
- Twine
- Pretty ribbon, mine is again from Hobby Lobby
- Safety Pins
- MagicBands

To start, I'm just wrapping the ribbon around the wire frame to cover the wires. You do not need to use the loop wreath technique that I use for my burlap wreathes, although you could definitely make a  MagicBand wreath that way - this way is truly great for any beginner or someone who has never made a wreath before. Just wrap the ribbon around!



From there, you're going to position the MagicBands on the wreath, I suggest using safety pins through one of the holes to hold it in place! Then make a pretty wreath bow - and viola! You're done!

Check out how easy it was to make in my video:


And be sure to stop by and tell Jen from Happily Organized Chaos "hello" as well!

If you want to know more about MagicBands, here's my review comparing the "new" style bands, to the "old" style bands! 





** This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Building Creativity with Mayka World Toy Building Block Tape

We recently had an opportunity to try Mayka World Toy Building Block Tape, and the girls went crazy finding new places to build up their building blocks! This is a sponsored campaign, all opinions are my own.

Mayka World Toy Building Block Tape


Mayka World Toy Building Block Tape is available at Toys'R'Us, Target, and Wal-Mart, and is a flexible that has a sticky back so that you can make building block creations almost anywhere! You can even stick it upside down! We purchased a number of rolls of Mayka World Toy Building Tape, and set to work figuring out how we would use it.

Isabella's Bedroom Makeover




The first project we took on with the tape was redoing Isabella's footboard on her bed. Her bed frame came from a convertible crib, so it was a crib that Natalie used when she was a baby. My kids loved chewing on furniture when they were teething for some reason, so the ends of the footboard had some teeth marks from when the frame was used as a crib.



We set out to not only cover these up, but also make the flat ledge on the floorboard some usable (and fun!) space for Isabella in her room! We used two different colors of green along the footboard to resemble a garden, and she made a pet garden for her favorite Legos! I love that the tape is easy to remove when she decides she wants a different color, and in moving and re-positioning the tape, we didn't have any issues with it leaving behind residue or taking off the furniture finish.

Building Outside of the Box




Other plans we have the building block tape, are making travel containers with Mayka tape on one surface and a place to hold their building blocks in the enclosed area.




I also added a small piece of the building block tape to Natalie's lightswitch, so that she could decorated her switch!




We also thought it would be neat to cover a doll sized table, and make the dolls a Lego table! The possibilities are endless!

This building block tape would be a great stocking stuffer or great addition to a birthday gift, if you're giving a building set you could include a roll of tape. My girls are ages 6 and 7, and I think this product would appeal to a wide age range, basically if you're into building blocks - you're going to love this product because it opens up so many options!

Thanks to Mom Select and Mayka World for the opportunity to check this awesome gift idea out!




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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Disney Cruise Planning: Countdown to our next cruise aboard the Disney Dream

83 days... but who's counting? Well, we are actually! We were excited to learn while we were at Walt Disney World in October 2017, that we were invited back to Disney Social Media Mom Celebration 2017. (You can check out a recap of our 2017 Disney SMMC experience HERE.) And after the initial squealing died down... the planning began!



2018 Disney Social Media Mom Celebration


The 2018 Disney Social Media Mom Celebration will again be a land and sea adventure, with three days at Walt Disney World and three days at sea, aboard the Disney Dream! Our family was especially excited to find out we would be cruising again, as we have had such a great time on our past cruises! They are a wonderful relaxing vacation for the whole family - and the kids love it because they get to feel very independent by getting to chose how much time they want to spend in the Kid's Clubs onboard and at Castaway Cay.



Cruise Prep and Planning


This will be our third Disney cruise, and our second cruise aboard the Disney Dream! The exciting thing is, they've added a number of wonderful new things, like the Beauty and the Beast stage show (our YouTube friend Allison just got a chance to get a sneak peak of the show, you can check out her review HERE), and we will also get another chance to catch things we missed on our first voyage - like the AquaDuck, believe it or not! And eating in the Enchanted Garden restaurant. (We had reservations at Palo on the night that our rotation went to that dining room.)



I'm planning on sharing a detailed Cruise Packing List, coming up soon... with some suggested items that we always like to bring along, and also what I've seen suggested that I found we could leave at home. What does planning look like at 83 days out?

Here are the things I'm focusing on right now!

Fish Extender


This will be our first time participating in a "Fish Extender" aboard a Disney Cruise. These started out as a fun  exchange between a few people aboard an early sailing, and turned into a mass organized thing that has become somewhat tradition with veteran cruisers. On our previous cruises, I didn't sign up for a Fish Extender Group (yes, I said "sign up" - there are typically Facebook groups for each sailing on a Disney Cruise which we join and within in those, they generally host or have a link to a "Fish Extender Group" that divides and then pairs people up with whom to exchange gifts) - I felt like I wanted to just focus on the cruise itself. Which was more than enough, I promise!

Now that we've been on a few cruises, I thought it would be a fun extra thing for the girls to take part in, to bring along small gifts for fellow shipmates, and in return potentially receive surprises back in our Fish Extender. The actual Fish Extender, is the hanging bag that is left outside a hook by your stateroom and can hold mail or other fun things left for you. These are completely optional of course, but a fun thing to participate in just like decorating your stateroom door.



Fish Extender Planning


At 83 days out, my plans for the next few weeks are to get our actual fabric bag, "Fish Extender", ordered from an Etsy vendor - so that it will arrive in plenty of time before our cruise. I've also already spent time researching fish extender gifts and have started narrowing down our choices with those. So I will as begin ordering those items, so that I know those things will be here in plenty of time before we leave as well.

My goal is to leave half of a suitcase available for fish extender items, although most things that we will be bringing along won't be too big or bulky. It never hurts to have extra room for souvenirs too though!

Disney Vacation Planning - What Else Will I Buy?


Since we've been on other cruises before, I don't have too many other items that I need to purchase pre-cruise. I will stock up on Bonine and Kid's Dramamine, preventative sea sickness medicine to bring along "just in case". I'll check our suntan lotion to make sure it is all well within the expiration date, and make a little travel wellness kit, with items such as bandaids, ibuprofen, sinus medicine, and other frequently used medicinal items. I'll also start taking note of what kind of travel items we may be running low on or need to replace, like special lotions or body washes that we like to have in travel size


Clothing wise, since we live in a warmer climate now - we are pretty covered for warm weather clothing. I may pick up one or two special outfits for the conference portion, and an extra Disney shirt or two for the girls. One thing we do tend to do right before a Walt Disney World trip is buy newer tennis shoes and spend a few weeks breaking those in at home before we go, so we have newer shoes with good support - but not brand new, along with a few other specific planning items to going to Walt Disney World. I'll save the rest of those tips for a Walt Disney World planning post though.



Seeing Good Friends


Planning aside... One of the best parts about getting to go to conferences like Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, is seeing the friends we know in the social media community! Our friends from Jones Family Travels will also be at Disney SMMC again this year, and we're looking forward to meet up with our fellow YouTube buddies! They are also avid cruisers and own a travel agency, so they KNOW travel! They also are easy going and love to have a fun time, so we always have fun when we get together!

Check out some of their cruising videos here:


All in all, it will be an awesome vacation, with lots of awesome people. I'm looking forward to sharing our preparation process and experience that we have while we are there! Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is truly a unique event with lots of surprises along the way, and I can't wait to see what they have in store for us this year!



** This post was sponsored. All opinions are my own.