November 14, 2014

Product Review: Purex® Crystals Aromatherapy

Purex is at it again! Making excellent scented crystals to go into your wash load and allow your laundry to come out smelling great for weeks! Seriously!


Review
I received an 18 oz. bottle of Purex® Crystals Aromatherapy in the Well Being scent (pink bottle.) I'm not into "Aromatherapy" but taking for what it is - a laundry scent booster - it's an excellent product and does its job well. After washing, drying, folding and putting away our laundry that was freshly laundered using these crystals, the clothes smelled great! And not just for a day… even a week after putting it away, you could still smell the fresh scent. I could smell the scent of well being on my six-year-old daughter as she ran past me one day… after having worn her clothes for 6 hours already. So, this product works when it comes to scent boosting and keeping clothes smelling fresh. You can't go wrong using any type of Purex® Crystals!

Disney (or any Vacation) Packing Tip
Because the fresh sent stays locked into your clothing for so long, I'd suggest laundering your clothing using any Purex® Crystals product and then packing your clothes into your suitcase. Tuck in a few Purex® Crystal Dryer Sheets for extra freshness! You'll look, feel and smell fresh all vacation-long!

Disclaimer: I received a free bottle of Purex® Crystals Aromatherapy in exchange for a  product review. All opinions express are completely my own.

November 13, 2014

Juniper's Journey ~ Make A Wish Trip Report!

About a year ago, we shared with you Juniper's story - telling of her retinoblastoma diagnosis and journey undergoing treatments in hopes to become cancer-free. Earlier this year, we were happy to share the news that Juniper did indeed BEAT Cancer!! Juniper was the lucky recipient of a Make-A-Wish vacation to Disneyland. Below is their enjoyable trip report, written by her mother, Danielle.


I knew we were in for something special; but not in my wildest dreams could I have predicted what Make a Wish and Disney had in store for us...



"WHERE ARE WE?!?!", I squealed, throwing back the curtain in our Paradise Pier room that overlooked California Adventure Park.
"I don't know!", Juni replied.

Maybe it was the shock. Maybe it was there being no castle in view. Maybe it was her mom acting like a giddy 5-year old.

We had finally made it to Disneyland. I could recall the day I announced we were only 101 days out from our trip. I could recall the day we got the call she would qualify for a wish through Make a Wish. Worst of all, I could recall the day she was diagnosed with cancer that led us here. And now here we were. Here she was. One eye short, hair growing in a different shade & a different texture, but she was here. We were here, watching World of Color from our room with the soundtrack playing on the TV & eating our complimentary Mickey rice krispie treats.

The next day, Juniper was up with the sun. Literally. I couldn't bring myself to close the curtain on that beautiful view of California Adventure but with that meant there was nothing to block the intense California sun from blinding us all into waking up. We were very fortunate to run into a gal on her way to the parks. She was definitely a veteran. She told us all about the Disney Vacation Club, how many times she had been to the parks, her plans for the Hawaiian Aulani resort & best of all, she guided us to the gates because despite seeing them on a map a million times, when you're actually there, IT'S EASY TO GET LOST!! (& we did... multiple times.)

The very first thing we did? We stopped at the letter boxes just inside the gate to make sure our post cards to our friends made it in a timely fashion. But after that... the very first thing we did was stroll down Main Street, straight for that iconic castle. I think that's about the point it really hit home for the kids. Juni was pointing & squirming & yelling "THE CASTLE!! I SEE THE CASTLE!! SEE THE CASTLE?? I SEE THE CASTLE!" Three year olds are redundant like that.  ;)

Knowing the line would be busy, even during Magic Morning hour, we stopped at the Frozen Meet & Greet. I was right. The line was already down & around by Village Haus. This is where being a Wish Family has its largest perk. We showed the cast member our "Genie Pass," think of it like a Fast Pass without the return times & with no limits. We were directed to the exit where we ran into another wish family waiting to meet the Queen & Princess of Arendelle. Juniper was definitely a little overzealous & ran right past the first family to hug Anna. Whoops. What else can we expect? This was literally her first time meeting a character. This was her first time seeing Disneyland. This was ALL of our first time experiencing the magic this place just resonates in. It's understandable she didn't quite get the whole waiting in line thing…



After our first meet & greet, we decided to take in a ride. The only ride we ended up waiting in the cue for: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It's a classic. It's a familiar tale for the kids (as it's one of mommy's favorites). The line wasn't long at all. And it's something all the Disney World fans don't get to experience. ;D The girls were in love automatically. They are definitely ride fiends. 

It was Tuesday. We rode Dumbo. Small World was down when we went to check it out per Juni's request. Splash Mountain broke while Big Sister Ember & Daddy were on the ride (sending Mommy into a panic). But best of all... Tuesday was the day of her Make a Wish meet up with Mickey & Minnie. If you didn't know, there's a private room called the Wish Lounge that is exclusively for these meet & greets. Wish families are welcome to come hang out in the air conditioning, watch a movie & have a snack. My favorite part of the Wish Lounge though was talking to the cast members. They were just treasure troves of information, experience & assistance. Our wish coordinators had accidentally double booked our World of Color VIP viewing at the same time as the Mickey's Halloween Party events. But the guest service cast members rearranged it. We'd be seeing World of Color from the VIP section Tuesday evening leaving us free to enjoy the Halloween parade & fireworks (also from the VIP viewing section) Wednesday evening.


Juniper's private meet was about 45 minutes long. How lucky can a kid get for full attention from Mickey & Minnie for a solid 45 minutes? They colored. They watched Monsters University. There was a lot of impromptu dance partying going on. Juni & Minnie read a book & cuddled on the sofa. It was magical. You couldn't take the smile off her face. I will admit it - I cried pretty hard after they left. I hadn't seen Juniper that happy since she started treatment. We've had some wonderful experiences over the last year; we went to a special family camp for kids dealing with cancer, we had an amazing Disneyland-themed birthday party to celebrate our upcoming trip, we had a wonderful send off party thrown by our favorite local donut shop & our Make a Wish volunteers. But nothing compared to that smile on her face when Minnie took her hands & they danced & twirled their dresses & hugged so many times I lost count.


The rest of the trip was fantastic. We met so many wonderful cast members who pulled out all the stops to make our trip as magical as possible. From free dole whip to VIP viewings to extra time with characters... I hope each & everyone of them know that they touched our family beyond words. Saying thank-you doesn't even begin to cover it. I sent a letter to Disney, name dropping all the wonderful folks who really stood out. But even that, I don't feel, was enough to show our immense gratitude to remind them that their job is important, even the street sweeper who stopped to chat with us while we were duck watching as the kids napped in their strollers. Even some guests were eager to hear Juniper's story, offer their support & hugs or let us use our Genie Pass without putting up a fuss. It really is the Happiest Place on Earth & I can see why.

I hadn't seen our family so carefree since Juni's diagnosis. Even as we return to normal post-Disney life, when I feel like we are all slipping back into a sad state; the kids are fighting or we are generally grumpy - I pull out our Disney photos. We watched the short snippets of video I took. We relish in the memories & more than anything, enjoy discussing the things we missed out on & what we are most excited to experience when we go BACK!



Other Stats from Juni's Make A Wish Vacation: 
  • Ride ridden the most: Haunted Mansion Holiday (3x)
  • Biggest Surprise Ride: Peter Pan's Flight. We didn't know what to expect but we were SO glad we took the recommendations.
  • Favorite Rides: Radiator Springs Racers (Mommy), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Big Sister), Small World (Juni), 
  • Character we met the most: Minnie Mouse (4), Pluto (3)
  • Ride We're Saddest We Missed: Jungle Cruise & the Paradise Pier water slide were closed.
  • Ride We Won't EVER Do Again: Finding Nemo Submarines (Mom had a panic attack afterwards :'( )
  • Number of Parades Seen: 3 (Pixar Play, Mickey's Costume Party, Soundsational)
  • Number of Times Watching World of Color: 1 at ground level, 2 times in hotel room
  • Favorite Food: Vegetarian Gumbo, Beignets & Mint Julep
  • Least Favorite Food: Flo's V8 CafĂ©
  • Most expensive meal: $67 on room service
  • Number of Times in the First Aid Building: 2
  • Number of Starbucks trips: 4 (Hey. We're from Seattle, remember? ;))
  • Room Number: 1318 
  • Number of Shirts Ruined by Chocolate Stains: 2.
  • Number of Times We Watched Princess BedTime Stories on Closed Circuit Resort TV: about a million
  • Number of Bottles of H2O We Used: 3 shampoos, 2 conditioners, 4 body washes (& smuggled 2 of each in the suit case for really bad Disney deprived days)
  • Goals for next trip: Stay in the parks later (Mommy), Meet Rapunzel (Big Sister), Be Tall Enough to Ride the 40 inch+ rides (Juni), Eat more food (Dad).
  • Daddy was the Rebel Spy on Star Tours.
  • Juni slept through the Pixar Play Parade until the very last two characters, McQueen & Mater.
  • The only ride Big Sister was genuinely scared on was Tower of Terror.
  • Mommy was so happy she splurged on the PhotoPass+ service.




November 12, 2014

Disney Trip Planning: Keeping Calm


For many Disney fanatics, Disney vacation planning goes on all year long. I start planning my next trip shortly after arriving home from Walt Disney World. And, I'm constantly on the look out for items that will make a Disney vacation more successful. Yes, I made a special trip to buy a bag to wear at Disney World, in a snow storm, 10 months before a trip.

With all of this planning, people can get very stressed the closer they get to their vacation. What if it rains while you are there? What if the crowds are too large? What if someone gets sick? I've talked to a lot of people who lose sleep before their upcoming trips. Here are a few ways to keep calm before your Walt Disney World vacation.

Make lists - Lists are a lifesaver for me when I'm planning my Walt Disney World vacations. I have a packing list on my phone year round that I add to anytime I think of something to new bring on our trips. Here are some lists that might make your life easier:
  • Packing List
  • Park to take list
  • Airplane (or car) to take list
  • Gifts list (who to buy for)
  • Addresses for postcards
  • Shows/Attractions that we don't want to miss
Start packing - I admit that I start pulling items weeks before our trips. I don't want to forget anything so packing early puts my mind at ease.

Create a countdown - My children are obviously just as excited for our Disney trips and can't wait for the big day. To help them keep track of when we are going, we create a simple paper chain with numbers of each link. Each day they remove a link to track our progress.

Take a deep breath - Keep in mind that no vacation is perfect and know that looking back you will remember the good and not the bad of your trip. You've done your best to plan, so relax and have fun!

How do you keep calm before your Disney trips? Share your great hints! (With my next trip approaching, I can use all the help I can get!)

Happy planning!
Amy

November 7, 2014

Free In-Park Games at Walt Disney World

Everyone knows that you can find amazing attractions in the Disney parks, but there are also some great, free activities that you can find in the parks. Adults and kids alike love these games that can be enjoyed trip after trip.

Magic Kingdom: Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

One of the most popular games in the Disney parks can be found in the Magic Kingdom. Guests join with Merlin by becoming junior sorcerers and help to fight evil forces who are attempting to steal the Crystal of the Magic Kingdom.

Players begin at either the Fire House next to Guest Relations on Main Street or behind Ye Old Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square. There they will be given a set of spell cards, a special map to the park and a Sorcerers Key Card. The key card helps activate different areas of the game, and the spells found on your cards help defeat evil. Hint: Each member of your party can pick-up a new pack of cards every day!

A Pirate's Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas

 
Head over to Adventureland and join Captain Jack Sparrow in five missions to look for hidden treasure! Young pirates are given a magic talisman (an RFID card) and a map to begin their missions. Each takes about 20 minutes to complete and have 4 or 5 stops. Here is how Disney explains each of these Seven Seas adventures:
  • Heads You Lose: Race against Captain Barbossa to steal the Treasure of the Pacific from a tribe of headhunters.
  • Guardian’s Curse: Lure an evil British Captain into a trap and lay claim to the Treasure of the Indian Ocean.
  • Haven Defense: Collect ingredients for a powerful spell to hide the secret Pirate port and reveal the Treasure of the Caribbean.
  • A King’s Ransom: Follow Jack’s clues to locate a pirate ship where the Treasure of the Arctic is hidden.
  • Blackbeard: Battle Blackbeard and win the Treasure of the Mediterranean.
Epcot: Phineas and Ferb: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure


Like its predecessor, Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, Agent P's World Showcase Adventure invites guests to become secret agents to stop the diabolical, evil (but always amusing) Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Guests are given clues on a flip phone and follow the clues that lead around World Showcase. Adventures take place in Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Japan, France and the United Kingdom. You can complete only one or all of the adventures.

My kids had a great time working through the clues in Agent P's Adventure. I thought it was a great way to keep them entertained as we toured World Showcase. (And, as always, a great way for them to spend time with my husband while I snuck away to shop.)

Animal Kingdom: Wilderness Explorers


Over in the Animal Kingdom, kids can join their favorite Up friends, Dug ("Squirrel!") and Russel on a Boy Scout style expedition to collect badges (stickers) throughout the park. Register near the bridge from the Oasis to Discovery Island and complete puzzles and games to fill your Wilderness Explorers Handbook. It's a great, educational and fun game for families. (Editor's Note: Kids may jump in and become a "Wilderness Explorer" at any of the stations - most stations have Handbooks to hand out. Badges can be completed as you come upon the stations - no specific order is needed. Complete as many or as little badges as you like each day!)

My family loves these free interactive games at Walt Disney World. They are great to break up a busy day and give the kids some time to explore. Have you tried any of these games? Which did you like best?

Happy planning!
Amy

November 6, 2014

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Feast
Before Big Hero 6 begins, Disney's newest animated short, Feast, is shown. It's a cute story about a dog and his need for feeling satisfied (through food.) You see a romance evolve through the eyes of the dog, and life play out. One would think the dog is only concerned about his stomach, but we learn that this beloved pup also has concerns for the well-being of his human companion. Any viewer would see that food isn't the only thing we should feast on… but feast on life as well!


Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 is an enjoyable action-adventure comedy about child robotics prodigy Hiro, who seeks vengeance after losing his older brother. Hiro develops a companionship with Baymax, a robot his older brother built. Hiro learns a few life-lessons, and there's a neat message each of us can take away from the movie.



Age Appropriateness
Big Hero 6 is rated PG. My opinion is that children aged 7 years old and up will appreciate and enjoy it. There are a few intense moments which could upset or frighten younger children. My kids are 4 and 6, and while they weren't frightened, they said they didn't like the 'scary' parts.

Baymax
The character sure to please everyone is Baymax! He draws several parallels to Olaf - white, huggable, silly, can do no wrong, no skull… or bones. Baymax brings humor to the story with several laugh-out-loud moments… you'll love his "fist bump." Baymax also cleverly figures out how to stay with Hiro always… you'll figure out what I mean, after you see the movie - but it might just bring a tear to your eye.

Hint - Stay through the Credits!
Be sure to stay through the credits. Yes, there is an extra (hilarious) scene at the end… but even more heart-warming are the 'scenes' you'll see depicted throughout the credits! You see what happens in the coming months after the storyline of the movie has concluded.

Recommended? Yes!
No, it's not going to be as insanely as popular as Frozen, but Big Hero 6 will stand on its own and it certainly is a must-see. It's very humorous and geared more towards older children. And the message to not fight evil with evil, but fight evil with good is certainly apparent in this film. Kids and adults will enjoy it!


Special thanks to the Walt Disney Studios and the Owens Group for the complimentary advanced screening of this excellent film!

November 4, 2014

Customize Your Magic Bands!

Are your daughters fighting over who gets the pink band? Has your collection of Magic Bands grown to one of every color? Or do you want a color that isn’t currently available? I have a solution for you, Customize your Magic Bands!
After several trips my husband & I have quite the collection of Magic Bands. We are also running out of colors that we want & don’t already have. I decided to set out on a new adventure to change them up!
I started by taping the grey area around the Magic Band with painters tape. (Tip: Even if you plan on removing the grey area for smaller wrists, leave it on until you are done. It gives you an area that isn’t being painted to hold on to.)

Next, I painted the entire pink area with two coats of purple nail polish. The nail polish didn’t look smooth. It was kind of bumpy & rough looking. But I went ahead with the plan & covered it in two coats of glitter nail polish. Let me tell you!! You can’t even tell the first two layers weren’t so great looking! Then I decided to make the Mickey head POP by painting it a different color. I started by painting it white & then covering with one layer of pink. To finish, I covered it with two layers of clear top coat. I took my Magic Band outside in the sunlight to see how the glitter looked and I fell IN LOVE! It is so sparkly & definitely just what this princess was looking for!

I knew I wanted glitter on ALL of my bands, but I didn’t want them to all be identical. For my next band I went searching dollar stores for Disney temporary tattoos. I had a pack of princess tattoos that had 3 small Flora, Fauna, & Merriweather tattoos that were the perfect size.

I started by taping the grey area of my Magic Band again. This time, I also added another layer of tape diagonally. I put each piece end to end then removed every other one to create stripes when painted. I removed the tape from every other section (making note of the sections I wanted to place the tattoos when finished) & painted three layers of white nail polish. I let it dry over night and applied the tattoos just as you would on skin. I removed the tape from the green stripes & painted two coats of gold glitter polish. I also repeated the same process as the first band to make the Mickey head pink. And again, I covered the entire band with 2 coats of clear top coat. Before removing the tape from the entire band, I used a knife to cut anywhere that the tattoo over lapped the colored area of the band & the grey outer edge.


Here are all four of the bands I have done so far. Two more sets will be arriving at my door in the next few weeks, & I’m already planning what to try next!!
~Catie

October 28, 2014

Giveaway: Mickey Tote Bag & "Hidden Mickeys" Book!

Our last Fall giveaway is sponsored by Missy Logan - a wonderful Disney Vacation Planner with Mickey Adventures. Up for grabs this week is a Mickey Canvas Tote Bag and Steve Barrett's latest Hidden Mickeys book!


Missy is no stranger to WDW Hints, in fact, we interviewed her last Summer! In addition to the Disney favorites she's already told us… she told us some new favorites!

Favorite month to visit: February!
Favorite hint to share with others: Ship a box ahead of time with snacks to resort.
Favorite Land: I love Fantasyland especially since it's been redone!
Favorite Show: The Lion King Show in AK.

Giveaway!!

Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for a chance at winning these great prizes! This giveaway begins at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, October 29 (2014) and ends at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, November 4th. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older and a resident of the United States. Good luck!


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October 18, 2014

Giveaway: You could WIN an Autographed Copy of The Unofficial Guide to WDW!

Sponsoring this week's giveaway is one of our very own writers, Danielle Netta! Not only has she written for us for over a year, she recently became a Disney Vacation Planner with Mickey Adventures!

Danielle is a pretty big fan of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and she recently interviewed Len Testa (co-author of the UOG) and would like to give away an autographed copy of this book to one of our readers!!



Danielle's Disney Favorites include:

Resort: Animal Kingdom Lodge, it's the first deluxe I ever stayed in and I've stayed there a few times now. I love the whole experience, the look of the thatched roof, the art, the beautiful lobby, the people, the animals and the exotic spicy smells emanating from the restaurants.

Attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean, for a number of reasons. I can remember going on this on my first trip when I was almost three and for years had a souvenir book (I will one day either find it or buy it on Ebay!) But mostly because it reminds me of my dad, it was his favorite and he wanted to retire here and be a pirate!

Restaurant: Favorite restaurant is Be Our Guest. I'm a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast and feel totally immersed in this experience. I love the way it looks, the service is outstanding and the food is delicious. However, my favorite meal is at Le Cellier, some Cheddar Cheese Soup with pretzel breadsticks and the petit filet.

Snack: I'll never turn down a Dole Whip Float.

Character: Tough question. I've always loved Mickey, because he started it all, but I have a soft spot for Donald and his temper. I also love Tink because she's a feisty little one, Stitch for his badness levels and I've grown to love Carl Frederickson from Up because he reminds me of my grandfather.

All time favorite: My favorite thing in all of WDW is the Main Street Electrical Light Parade. My father and I shared a love of this parade (I remember one trip he made us watch it TWICE!). I love the music and the floats. Even when we weren't in Disney, I'd put on the music and it would make him dance. I can never miss this parade when I'm there. It's very sentimental.

Hint: Check out the lesser-known tours available, like Behind the Seeds for some additional magic, a tour like this is only $20 for a little extra magic.


Giveaway
To enter for a chance at winning an autographed copy of The Unofficial Guide to WDW, simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Entrants much be 18 years of age or older and a resident of the United States. This giveaway begins at 12:01 a.m. (eastern) on Sunday, Oct. 19 (2014) and runs through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25th. Good luck!!

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