Saving Up for Disney

Budgeting Tips for Your Entire Life!

June 28, 2016
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3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SweeterTogether #CollectiveBias

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How to Have a Budget-Friendly Summer

As the mom of four (from newborn to 12-years old) we don’t have a big budget for entertainment. Our summer days are simple, spent poolside with warm weather foods like grilled chicken, cold pasta salad and DREYER’S ice cream for dessert! Summer lazy days shouldn’t break the bank. Check out my budget-friendly summer activities everyone in the family can enjoy.

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Let’s Start with Dessert!

I’d start with dessert every day if I could but it just seems right in the summertime when the weather is warm and ice cream is just such a wonderfully refreshing treat!

I picked up DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Caramel Delight Light Ice Cream and DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Vanilla Light Ice Cream in the freezer section at Walmart this week for our summer kick-off.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

DREYER’S Ice Cream is a staple in our freezer because they are “Simply made, simply delicious” with no GMO ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors and is proudly made with fresh milk & cream with no rBST. And it just tastes SO good! Check out your local Walmart to see if DREYER’S Ice Cream will be hosting a store demo.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Keep It Simple with These Free Summer Family Activities

Kids don’t need every summer day to be scheduled out to the minute. Allow for plenty of free time for imaginative play and activities. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t come up with a calendar of ideas when boredom strikes. Nor should kids be on their electronics from dawn to dusk. This is my first summer with my kids as a new Stay-at-Home-Mom and I’m looking forward to planning fun and togetherness into our summer days.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

These are a few of the simple fun activities I have planned:

Library – Not just books to borrow, but our local library offers age-specific gatherings from story time, crafts, music and special events

Community – Check out your community calendar online to find out about special summer events like concerts or movies playing in the park.

DIY Camp at Home – Can’t afford to send the kids to camp? Here are some ideas for making your own “camps” at home.

Parks – Expand your horizons beyond the park down the street and take a day trip to a cool new park. Some have fun splash pads so bring a suit & towel!

Pool – Find out how much your community pool rates are for visitors. Even better: Work out a plan with a friend who has a pool! You bring a few new pool toys for them and they let you go swimming.

Staycation– Check out my list of summer staycation ideas that are easy on the budget!

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Pack a Picnic

Every kid loves a picnic, whether it be poolside, at the park or even on the floor of your living room! Keep the fare light and easy, like leftover grilled chicken, pasta salad and fresh summer fruit.

Use up leftovers with my recipe for budget-friendly pasta salad. A little of this, a little of that and you can have a tasty pasta salad that’s unique every time. With a few pantry staples and some leftover veggies, you can quickly whip up this family favorite that’s perfect for hot summer days. Top it with grilled chicken (either hot or cold) and it’s a full and delicious meal.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Start with a simple base of 1/2 cup olive oil, 6 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. Combine in a large bowl. Cook one box of pasta (I like bow tie) and rinse with cold water. Mix in with liquid.

Add your choices of the following ingredients:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Red onion, chopped
  • Grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Green onion, chopped
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Sliced olives
  • Black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Doesn’t that sound delicious (and easy?!)

How will you make Summer #SweeterTogether? Share your summer fun plans in the comments!

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June 23, 2016
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What’s New at LEGOLAND California?

Find out What's New at LEGOLAND California, including the innovative NINJAGO World

I was able to take my little guy for the day a few months ago and we were able to play in the park together and experienced the newest film, ‘The LEGO Movie 4D: A New Adventure’. However since baby girl has arrived, I’ve not been able to visit again. My mother-in-law was happy to take my son to LEGOLAND recently and they enjoyed the theme park and water parks on their visit. The new NINJAGO World area was all he could talk about and I can’t wait to experience it myself soon!

So what’s new at LEGOLAND California?

Find out What's New at LEGOLAND California, including the innovative NINJAGO World

CA.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Legoland California)

NINJAGO World

NINJAGO The Ride uses “cutting-edge Maestro hand gesture technology”. This enables guests to throw fire balls, shock waves, ice and lightning to defeat villains during the ride, collecting points along the way. Their scores are displayed when the quest is completed. Special effects like heat, smoke and wind are incorporated, giving guests an interactive 4D experience. My four-year old delightfully reenacted his hand gestures for me when he came home!

This ride is the center of NINJAGO World. In addition there are 22 new LEGO models, a retail outlet and and a dining option, Ninja Kitchen. LEGOLAND chefs serve up Asian street food like pork belly sandwiches on steamed Bao Buns with crispy pork belly, lemongrass chicken or baked sweet chili tofu.

Two 4D Films

My son and I were able to attend the red carpet premiere of ‘The LEGO Movie 4D: A New Adventure’, the fast-paced story of Emmet, Wyldstyle and friends from the popular feature-length movie. My son and I loved the humor and silly special effects (you will get wet!)

‘LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS: The Book of Creativity’ is  the newest film that combines LEGO Nexo Knights in a 4D world of wind, water and smoke! This new 12 minute film was created especially for LEGOLAND Parks and LEGOLAND Discovery Center and is a way for children to interact with the NEXO KNIGHTS world. Guests can go on a quest of their own to discover six shields hidden across the Resort to unlock exclusive ‘power ups’ for the LEGO® NEXO KNIGHTS Merlok 2.0 mobile app. I’m sure my kids would love this one too!

I recommend Park Savers for purchasing discount LEGOLAND California tickets (affiliate link)

We received complimentary passes to experience NINJAGO World at LEGOLAND California. All thoughts and opinions as an official LEGOLAND Blogger are my own.

Legoland Blogger

June 20, 2016
14 Comments

Undercover Mama Nursing Tank Review and GIVEAWAY!

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

The little Mouseketeer is my third baby so she has three siblings in our blended family. With so many kiddos, we are always on the go and that means I’m often nursing her while out and about. As a nursing mom, I want to be able to modestly breastfeed my baby in public and not expose too much of myself. If I’m wearing a regular t-shirt, I have to hike up the tee revealing myself from waist to bra on one side! Nursing shirts can be expensive and why should I invest in buying new shirts when my pre-pregnancy shirts fit just fine?

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

Ugh, I hate showing off my postpartum belly every time I need to nurse the baby when I’m wearing my regular clothes!

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

I loved hearing about Undercover Mama because it converts any shirt into a nursing shirt. This nifty nursing tank attaches at the top to your nursing bra as a sort-of nursing “undershirt”. There are two ways to attach, depending upon the nursing bra you have. You simply slip your regular shirt over the top of the Undercover Mama. When you’re ready to breastfeed, unhook your nursing bra as normal and the slip it down along with the top edge of the Undercover Mama, then pull up your regular shirt. The Undercover Mama conceals your sides and you can nurse discretely without any added exposure!

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

There are two ways to attach the Undercover Mama to your nursing bra.

Review

I received an Undercover Mama to review and chose navy blue as a good neutral that could be worn under my darker t-shirts. The Undercover Mama is $24.99 each but a “value bundle” in choices of basic black and white are two for $40. I appreciate the ease of how the Undercover Mama works and how discrete I can nurse the baby without exposing my entire hip and side. I wore my navy blue Undercover Mama for several weeks to test it and one day I noticed that the hook on one side had fallen off. I was able to easily contact the company and they sent me a new tank (in white). I’ve been wearing this white Undercover Mama several times a week for a few weeks and haven’t had any issues. In fact, I now wear it any time I know I’ll be nursing in public. I’d absolutely purchase Undercover Mama! (their polka dot version is pretty cute!)

Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

What I Loved

  • No more flashing my “love handles”!
  • It was very easy to connect to my nursing bra.
  • The variety of colors available.
  • Can continue to wear with a regular bra as a layered tank after you are done nursing.

What I Didn’t Love

  • Despite ordering based on the sizing chart, my shirt was still a bit snug. The website does say that the Undercover Mama is intended to fit snugly but because it seemed to be on the smaller side, my navy blue tank tended to roll and bunch up at the bottom. My replacement white tank was one size larger and it fit much better.
  • I would have liked the fabric to be stretchier, especially around my hips.
  • Wearing two layers (the Undercover Mama underneath my regular tee) is a little warm during hot weather.
Find Out How This One Tank Top Can Save You Money!

Happy to nurse at the park without exposing any parts of me!

Undercover Mama Giveaway!

Would you like to try Undercover Mama for yourself? The prize is for one 1 nursing tank in winner’s choice of size and color ($24.99 Value). Check out the website to see all the colors available!

Photo Credit: Undercover Mama.com

Photo Credit: Undercover Mama.com

This contest is open to US Residents only. I will randomly choose the winner and Undercover Mama will ship the prize in your color and size choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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June 18, 2016
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DIY Handpainted Finding Dory T-Shirt

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

Even if you think you can’t paint, this DIY activity is easy! It’s totally do-able to create, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist! I painted Dory here but you can use any coloring page on hand with this fun technique.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

I like this technique of painting onto cotton fabric rather than directly onto the shirt for a variety of reasons. It’s quite a bit easier to apply fabric paint onto cotton rather than a knit fabric that stretches. Also because t-shirt knit stretches, the design won’t warp or crack this way. You can also blend colors easier on the cotton than on the knit.

I used a pretty sparkly blue fabric paint for Dory so she’ll really shine in the light! Paint your Dory as simple or as realistic as you like.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

You’ll need:

  • T-shirt. This is a chance for you to use a tee that might have a stain on it as you’ll be able to “save” the shirt by placing an applique over the stain.
  • Coloring page printed out and resized as needed so your design will fit your shirt
  • A full color image of Dory to use for reference when painting
  • Scrap of white cotton
  • Sharpie Fine Point Marker
  • Fusible bond, like Heat’n Bond Lite Iron-on Adhesive
  • Disappearing ink pen, like this one from Dritz OR a pencil
  • Fabric paint in blue, white, black, yellow and red; I like the So Soft Fabric Paint Collection
  • Paint brushes in a variety of sizes; I use this Loew-Cornell Fabric Brush Set
  • Old dish and cup for water
  • Sharp scissors
  • Paper towel or old dishtowel (for wiping off brush between colors)
  • Iron
  • Optional, if you decide to sew the design down:
    • Thread in matching colors. Gutermann thread is my favorite brand as it’s strong (doesn’t break mid-project!), wide range of colors and holds up to wash and wear.
    • Bobbin thread in color to match the shirt
    • Sewing machine needle (jersey or Ballpoint Machine Needles give the best results for applique)

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

1.Place your printed coloring page on the window with a piece of tape and use your Sharpie to outline the outside edge of the design onto the reverse side of the paper. This will create a “mirror image”.

2. Place a piece of fusible bond (bumpy side down) onto the mirror image (backside that you just traced) and trace out Dory’s shape using a Sharpie marker (ball point pens or pencils will smudge or smear off onto your iron, so a Sharpie is best).

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

3. Iron out the wrinkles on your cotton fabric. Iron the fusible bond Dory (bumpy side down) onto the WRONG side of the fabric.

4. Cut out the Dory shape on the line.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

5. Place the Dory shape (fabric side up) onto your coloring page. Use your disappearing ink pen or pencil to lightly draw the details of Dory onto the cotton fabric.

6. Peel off the fusible bond backing.

7. Lay your shirt down and iron out any wrinkles in the design area. Lay your Dory shape down on the tee, make sure the design is placed where you want it. Iron on securely.

8. Optional: Using a straight stitch, sew with a small hem (1/4″) around the edge of the fabric, securing the Dory shape to the tee.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

9. Squeeze a small bit of each color of paint onto an old dish. Best to start off with small amounts because you can always add more paint if you need it. Mix colors if you need to get the right tones for shading.

10. Fill a cup with water and have an old towel or paper towel for brush swishing and cleaning in between colors. Don’t leave brushes sitting in water (bristles will bend). Clean them thoroughly in between colors, wipe on towel and lay flat to dry.

11. I like to start with the largest section of blue, adding shading and highlights by mixing the blue paint with black or white. I added the yellow next, then the black sections and saved the white areas for last. Fill in the red for the eyes. Go back in with the black paint on a very thin brush to add details like the rims around her eyes and in her mouth. Finish with the white on a thin brush, adding the catchlight in her eye. I also used black and white, thinned out with water to create shadows & highlights.

Your handpainted creation can be machine washed in cold water, with the shirt turned inside out.

Paint Your Own Finding Dory T-Shirt

Want to see all of the blogger Finding Dory posts? Check them out at Love Our Crazy Life!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links

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June 15, 2016
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How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? – Free Printable Checklist!

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost Me?

Planning a Disneyland vacation is more than just deciding between visiting Tomorrowland or Adventureland first. You need to find out how much a Disneyland vacation is going to cost! You need to figure out budget-wise if you’ll be able to afford the vacation of your dreams. If planned and budgeted right, I believe that most anyone can take a Disneyland vacation without going into crazy debt. There are a few factors, including planning ahead and estimating the cost before you make the reservations!

Do the Research

With the internet at your fingertips, it’s easy to do pre-vacation research to get a rough idea on costs. I’ve included the list of things that you’ll need to consider when travel planning and you can jot down the estimates as you do your research. Pin and print the free checklist of items for you to price out and research (keep reading for the link).

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

What’s Your Travel Style?

We all have a travel style. Is yours more on the frugal side (cheapest hotel, packing in all meals & snacks) or do you prefer to splurge on vacation (4-star hotel, special dining packages and tours). Or perhaps it’s a little of both (splurge on Character dining but pack in all snacks or cheapest hotel and extra Park day tickets). Check out this article on various ways you can Pinch Pennies or Break the Bank on your Disneyland vacation.

Paying Upfront or Using Credit?

If you plan on paying for your vacation in cash, take a close look at your budget and estimate where you can cut back in small ways to save. Once you know roughly how much you’ll be spending on the trip you can plot out the date of your vacation and figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to meet your goal. Figure out about how long it would take you to save your amount. Or work backwards and start with an approximate trip date and then figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to meet your goal.

Did you know that Disney offers a Disney Vacation Account program? This earmarks vacation money that you deposit into this special account and gives you a bonus amount towards your trip.

If you plan on using your credit card, certainly consider using a card that offers rewards. The Disney Visa is a good option or Southwest, if you’re needing airline miles. Just pay close attention to interest rates and work that amount into your budget if you aren’t going to pay off the debt right away.

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Vehicle has a full tank of gas and we’re on our way!

Travel Expenses

How are you going to get there? For us, Disneyland is just a 90-minute drive away, so gasoline is really our only expense. If you’re coming from farther away, the travel expenses are often the most costly part of your vacation. If you’re flying in, check out this article about flying to Disneyland from fellow blogger Leslie from Trips with Tykes. If a long drive is part of your travel plans, check out this post with Kid-Friendly Road Trip Tips for Driving to Disney.

Travel Expenses to Consider:

  • Shuttle cost to get your family to the airport
  • Airfare
  • Airline Baggage fees
  • Transportation to the hotel
  • Rental car
  • Gasoline
  • Overnight hotel stay if you are driving long distance, plus the cost of meals and kid’s entertainment for the drive

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Hotel

The great debate, will you stay on-site or off-site? Lots of consider here, including amenities, luxury or budget, proximity to the Parks and overall cost. I have reviews on all three Disneyland on-site hotels as well as a post from Traveling Mom with my 18 Valuable Reasons to Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel. For us, we love the close proximity, Magic Morning Hours and the amazing Disney pools.

On the flip-side, because the Disneyland Resort is in the center of the city, it’s very easy to find a reasonably priced and well-appointed hotel within walking distance of the Parks. We recently enjoyed our stay off-site at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel, which offers a free shuttle transport to the Parks.

If you choose a hotel that is not within walking distance, check out this article with brief coverage about transportation at the Disneyland Resort.

Hotel Options to Consider:

  • Cost per night
  • Location – Is it within walking distance or will you need to drive to the Parks each day?
  • Is complimentary breakfast available?
  • Parking or “resort” fees
  • Sales tax
  • Is there transportation available to the parks? Is it complimentary or is there a fee?

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Park Tickets

When pricing out tickets, know that the cost per day is lower the longer your stay. Park Savers offers discounted tickets that you can purchase ahead of your trip to save time (affiliate link). If you purchase 5-day Park Hopper passes from Park Savers, the cost is for a 4-day pass so you receive the fifth day for free!

Ticket Options to Consider:

  • Number of days
  • Number of tickets (kids 2 and under are free)
  • Would it be cheaper to purchase an Annual Pass?
  • Parking fees at the parks
  • Park Hopper or not?

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Meals & Dining

Placing Advance Dining Reservations at Disneyland is generally unnecessary so you can usually eat on a whim throughout the day. Though platters are pricey, they are also usually large so consider sharing meals (see this post about which meals are the best to share). Naturally the special dining packages and Character dining locations are going to be on the costly end but you also receive a fun plus with your meal. You can also bring in snacks with you if you prefer and that will help with costs. You can also request free ice water at any quick service restaurant to avoid having to buy drinks.

There are many establishments (from sit-down dining to fast food) in the walk able area just outside the Park gates if you want to leave for food. Think about how many meals you’ll be eating in the Park, if you’ll be leaving the Park to eat, if you’re going to do full-service or quick service and if you’ll be buying beverages throughout the day.

Dining Options to Consider:

  • Breakfast (eat at hotel or in the Park?)
  • Number of meals eaten in the Park
  • Number of meals purchased outside the Park
  • Snacks purchased in the Park
  • Snacks pre-bought and brought into the Park
  • Character dining meals
  • Beverages
  • Dining packages

Special Events

Throughout the year, Disneyland offers special events and tours as an “add-on” to your Park ticket. This might include Mickey’s Halloween Party (which includes an abbreviated day Park admission). There are also dozens of special tours, some that are offered year-round and others seasonally. Check the Disneyland website to verify cost and availability of these tours as they are required to be reserved ahead of your trip.

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

Pandora charms are my favorite souvenir

Souvenirs

Naturally, you’ll want something special to take home as a memento of your magical vacation. Work the cost of souvenirs into your budget to help resist overspending. Consider purchasing Disney gift cards up front for family members so that only a specified amount is spent per person on souvenirs. You’ll also need to decide if you want to pre-purchase the Disney PhotoPass or snap photos on your own camera.

  • Souvenier budget
  • Disney PhotoPass

Free Printable Research Checklist

Pin and print this FREE PRINTABLE CHECKLIST to help you plan your magical vacation!

How Much Will a Disneyland Vacation Cost? - Check out this Free Printable Checklist and check this link for tons of money saving ideas.

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June 13, 2016
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5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Yellow Loop. Today we are sharing ideas to help your family beat summer boredom.


When I think summer, I think about red, white and blue! It’s a season of patriotism, full of celebrating long days, warm sunshine, cool pools and time off to relax. Here are a few fun summer crafts for the kids that use art supplies that you probably already have on hand. I also included two fun “mom-projects” to make a patriotic outfit for the kids.

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

Painting Fireworks

Using large pieces of fingerpaint paper, we created this patriotic firework art! We’re going to make several of these and use them on our table setting this Independence Day.

  • Empty cardboard roll from toilet paper or paper towel
  • Acrylic or poster paints in red and blue
  • Paintbrush
  • Palette, old dish or paper plate
  • White paper

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

Snip the end of a cardboard roll and bend the edges back to flare them out into a “starburst” shape. We used to different tones of blue in our project. Squeeze a bit of blue paint onto a paper plate and then paint the flared end of the roll with the paint (we tried dipping the roll into paint, but it doesn’t offer as much coverage). Press onto paper. Repeat with red paint, pressing on top of the blue firework design.

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

Patriotic Ribbon Wands

Hurray for the red, white and blue! Hand the kids these to wave during a parade or fireworks spectacular. You could also place a few of them into your lawn to decorate the yard or place one in a vase alongside a bouquet of flowers.

  • Flags on a stick (these were from the dollar section)
  • Varying lengths of ribbon in red, white and blue

Easy-peasy, just have kids tie the ribbons into individual knots, just under the flag.

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

Patriotic Napkin Rings

  • Empty cardboard roll from toilet paper or paper towel
  • Felt in red, white or blue, cut into strips 2″ wide
  • Extra felt to use for stars, circles, etc.
  • Hot glue (white glue will only soak into the felt and not stick)

Cut the cardboard into pieces about 2″ wide. Apply glue onto one of the felt strips and apply to the cardboard roll. Cut stars and shapes from the felt and glue on top of the roll. Roll up a cloth or paper napkin and slide into your napkin ring.

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

Stacked Stars Tee & Decoupage Pants

These are two for the moms to make and for the kids to wear! I love scrap-buster projects and this patriotic duo is easy to whip up on your sewing machine. I used a mix of patriotic prints, along with solid red, white and a lightweight denim fabric.

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

For the tee

Simply cut three stars out of fabric. Center the largest star in the middle of the tee and use a tight machine straight stitch to secure to the shirt. Stack the middle sized star on top, centering over the large star and sewn down. Repeat with the last star. Hand sew a white button to the center of the smallest star. The raw edge of the fabric will fray slightly when washed for a unique look.

5 Budget-friendly Patriotic Summer Crafts for Kids

For the jeans or pants

Using a seam ripper, carefully cut open the inside seam of a pair of pants. Cut out pieces of fusible bond (I use Heat’n Bond Lite Iron-on Adhesive) and iron onto various fabrics. Lay out the pant leg onto your ironing board and arrange the pieces onto the pants in a pattern that you like. Peel off the fusible bond backing and iron securely in place. Using a narrow zig-zag stitch, secure each piece to the pants. I used a lightweight denim fabric to sew stars on top of the patchwork design with a zig-zag satin stitch. Sew the seam closed on the pant leg when complete. I used a piece of bias tape at the hemline of the pants to enclose the bottom seam.

For more ways to beat summer boredom,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Yellow | Beating Summer Boredom Loop:

June 2, 2016
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Disneyland Resort Hotel Review – Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

 Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa - A Rustic Respite in the City

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa – A Rustic Respite in the City

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

Earlier this year we spent one overnight at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa for the first time. We’ve stayed many times at the other two Disneyland Resort hotels, the Paradise Pier Hotel and the original Disneyland Hotel. We were so excited to stay at this rustic respite since we’d walked through it a few times before, simply to admire the lobby. Fortunately our stay met all of our expectations, read on for the full review.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

Lobby & Check-in

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa lobby is as you would expect, grand! There are fantastic details at every turn, from the stained glass lamps, classic phones, pretty floral arrangements and sparkling diamond ‘D’ to celebrate Disneyland’s 60th anniversary. Alcoves around the main lobby are homey and inviting, including a rustic fireplace.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

Check-in desk at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

We checked in early on a Saturday morning and there were only a few ahead of us in line but they had a Cast Member asking us a few questions in advance. She then introduced us when we did get to the counter and let them know that we were there to celebrate an upcoming birthday. The Cast Member checking us in was able to write up a birthday button as well as celebration buttons for everyone in our group. While I went through the check-in process, my kids waited in front of a television, seated in tiny wooden rockers.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

Our room wasn’t ready yet, so they were able to hold our bags so we could venture into the parks. I was told that I would receive a text message when our room was ready (and I did!) Later in the day, we came back through the lobby to get into bathing suits and there was a man playing the piano in front of the towering stone fireplace. It certainly added even more charm to the grand, yet still cozy, feeling.

Rooms

The rooms at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel face the lobby. I thought that the noise from below might carry up into the rooms, but we couldn’t hear any noise. In fact the room was very quiet, even thought it was overlooking the front of the hotel and valet area. We had a small balcony with a table and chairs to get fresh air outside and we were able to catch a view of the Monorail as it drove by.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

Decor in the rooms doesn’t scream Disney but there are subtle details like the Bambi print on the shower curtain and a picture on the wall of the dwarf’s cottage from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The room was nicely sized, with enough room for our family of five to spread out. We were only there overnight so luggage was minimal (just one big bag) but I can see that space might have been tighter if we’d been staying longer. We were given a bunk bed set-up, alongside a queen bed. There was also a desk against the wall, dresser, closet, sink area and a separate toilet/shower space. In the evening when we returned from the parks, we found a roll-out bed had been made up for our preschooler and each pillow had a chocolate treat!

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

I liked having the sink area separate from the bathroom so we weren’t on top of each other getting ready in the morning. A nice supply of h2O spa products was a plus, including foot rub and after-sun gel. You can be sure these top-notch toiletries came home with me after the trip! My husband appreciated having a coffee maker in the room as well.

Dining

We’ve eaten at Storyteller’s Cafe twice (once for lunch and another time, for the dinner buffet). It’s definitely a favorite of ours (read my review on Storyteller’s Cafe here).

Storyteller's Cafe at Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

Napa Rose is a fancier dining restaurant so we’ve yet to dine here. There is also Whitewater Snacks which is close-by the pool area and would be a good choice for a quick grab and go meal. Disney’s Grand Californian is very close to the Downtown Disney District and lots of other dining choices. For our morning at the park, we were able to walk into the Downtown Disney District and grab breakfast sandwiches from La Brea Bakery Express.

Pool Area

Just like at the Disneyland Hotel, spending time at Disney’s Grand Californian pool area can easily be an all-day affair! We arrived at the pool midday and couldn’t secure a lounge chair because they were all taken. I’d definitely recommend arriving early if you want a place to rest because I ended up having to sit on a brick wall in the shade while my family was swimming.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

The three pools are beautiful and unique. However they are spread out so you can’t just post yourself in one place if you’re trying to keep an eye on the kids. Fortunately there are very diligent lifeguards there to remind kids about running poolside and keeping a close eye on all the activity.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

The twisty slide was a highlight here, of course! I appreciated the amenities here, like ample bathrooms, cold water and cups, swim diapers for babies and life vests for kids. See also my overview on all the pools at the Disneyland Resort Hotels as well as this post on Traveling Mom about what you can expect at Disneyland Resort pools.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

Bottom Line

As with the other hotels at the Disneyland Resort, we felt that our stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa really added to the magic of our vacation. We loved the easy access and guest-only private entrance to Disney California Adventure park. This made swinging back to the hotel for lunch and a swim a simple mid-day break. The Cast Members were efficient and helpful anytime we requested assistance. Our room and all of the hotel was well-kept and clean. Yes, this is the most expensive of the three Disneyland Resort hotels but it easily became a fast favorite of the area hotels simply because of the location. Will we stay here again? Yes, for a one-night splurge we will stay again!

See my other posts about the Disneyland Resort hotels, Paradise Pier Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel (click the thumbnail images below). I also have a post on Traveling Mom about the 18 Valuable Reasons To Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel.

Disneyland Hotel - Classic, Classy and Character-Kissed  Disneyland Resort Hotel Review - Paradise Pier Hotel  PIN-18 Valuable Reasons

I received a complimentary stay at Disney’s Californian Hotel & Spa. As always, opinions are my own.

Have you stayed at any of the Disneyland Resort hotels? Which is your favorite and why? Share with me below in the comments!

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May 25, 2016
Comments Off on 10 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas for Summer with Kids

10 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas for Summer with Kids

10 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas for Summer with Kids

Summer is coming and I need a bag-of-tricks ready to keep my four kids occupied all summer. I’ve come up with a few staycation ideas that I know my kids will love and remember! As much as I’d love to run away to Walt Disney World right now, sometimes it’s just not in the budget for a big family vacation. The ultimate summer-on-a-budget staycation is easy on the wallet and still full of fun! It just takes a little creativity and planning.

This is the first year that I’ll be spending at home with the kids as a SAHM. I’m equally excited about being able to relax and also worried that I’m going to have four bored kids on my hands after the first week at home! My plan is to get the kids on board and schedule special at-home events on the calendar. Some of these activities could be spread out over the course of the week, leading up to the “big day”. It really gives everyone something to look forward to and not focus on what we “can’t” do (take a vacation).

Here are my 10 budget-friendly staycation ideas!

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Art & Craft Show

Kids love to get crafty and it doesn’t have to be pricey. You probably already have some craft supplies laying around that you could dig out. Set up an area outside where you can get messy and creative.

  • Local craft stores frequently mail out 50% coupons or you could search for one online or shop the dollar store for cheap crafting supplies.
  • Give everyone a sketch book and have a thirty minute session where you draw the portrait of the person next to you (this is sure to induce giggles!)
  • Save your glass jars from jelly or spaghetti sauce and use acrylic or glass paints to decorate.
  • Make pipe cleaner sculptures.
  • Use torn pieces of tissue paper and a glue stick on velum paper to make “stained glass” images.
  • Using clean paint brushes and bucket of water outside, have kids quickly “paint” a picture on the sidewalk and see if everyone else can guess what it is before it evaporates!
  • Recreate a famous painting in your own style.
  • Pull out cheap watercolor trays and paint a scene from your backyard.
  • Rainy day? Set up a still life on the table and have everyone draw the same scene then compare your pictures.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines and “mod podge” the images onto wooden frames or boxes.
  • Make paper bag puppet and have kids create a puppet show with their creations.
  • On the last day, display everyone’s artwork in the house and hang a handcrafted blue ribbon on each kid’s best work!
Art night for a staycation with the kids {Saving up for Disney}

Oh sure, honey, it looks JUST like me!

Under the Big Top

After we went to the circus (the animal-free variety) a few years ago, my kids were fascinated with the tricks and skills they saw.  Lots of great activity here to get you off the couch!

  • Dress up like a clown in old over-sized clothing and costumes.
  • A strip of blue masking tape on the patio makes an acceptable “tight rope”.
  • See who can keep multiple hula hoops going at the same time (one around your neck and one around your arm?!).
  • Practice balancing a balloon on your nose…and then walk the tight rope!
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard.
  • Paint each child’s face like a circus animal
  • Enjoy a snack of peanuts and popcorn

Go Camping

Camping is cheap and fun {Saving up for Disney}

  • Local campsites have inexpensive overnight fees and you could try to catch your dinner in the lake!
  • Take a walk with flashlights to explore the sights and sounds after nightfall.
  • If you don’t want to stray too far from home, camp in your backyard instead. Pitch a tent, barbecue dinner over coals, roast marshmallows and fall asleep under the stars.
  • Or simply roll out the sleeping bags in the living room and “camp” in the house under the comfort of your ceiling fan!

Get wet!! Free ideas for summer fun {Saving up for Disney}

Get Wet 

  • If you don’t have your own pool, perhaps a family member or friend will let you “borrow” theirs for the day (especially if you volunteer to bring everyone dinner!)
  • Our local YMCA has a great zero-entry pool, water slide and play area for just a few dollars per person. Check at your local pools and find out when open-swim time is available.
  • High schools often open their pools in the summer for a nominal fee.
  • Wash the car, there is always an opportunity for a soapy sponge fight there.
  • Or just set the sprinklers or spray the hose and run through the water, every kid loves that!
  • I’m not crazy about water balloons because of the mess they leave behind, but sponges soaked in water are perfect for a good super-soaking!

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A Night at the Movies…in Your Living Room

  • Pull out an old favorite and host a themed movie evening complete with handcrafted posters, costumes and a themed dinner around the film. (ie: Watching Mulan? Make Chinese stir fry and rice).
  • Pull out the floor pillows, pop up some kernels and settle down together after the sun has set.
  • Give the kids a task of recreating a favorite film in their own interpretation. Come up with a script and costumes and present it to parents!

Backyard carnival fun for summer {Saving up for Disney}

Backyard Carnival 

Gather up stuff from around the house for game play in the yard. Kids love to get in the silly spirit!

  • Craft blue ribbons for the winners of the contests.
  • Empty 2-liter soda bottles and a ball for a knock ’em down game. Or fill 2-liter bottles with water and use them for ring toss.
  • Toss a ball into a bowl or a coffee can.
  • Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest.
  • Pull out the face paint for added fun!
  • Have a mini-pie eating contest.
  • Serve hot dogs and potato chips outside, followed up with root beer floats.

Make sweet treats for inexpensive fun {Saving up for Disney}

Sweet Treats

If you have a budding baker on your hands (or simply kids who love sweets!), this is a fun way to get creative and maybe a little messy.

  • A bucket of vanilla ice cream, a few toppings and candy from the dollar store and you can all have amazing sundaes!
  • Or find a recipe online for making your own ice cream.
  • Find a delectable over-the-top recipe on Pinterest and make it for dessert.
  • Bake cupcakes and have fun creatively decorating them.
  • Spoon frosting into plastic baggies and snip off the corner for quick and easy pastry bags.
  • Make a summer-time themed “gingerbread house” that requires no baking with graham crackers, store bought frosting and candies.

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Fort City

When it’s too hot to play outside, take refuge in the house under a homemade fort!

  • Sofa pillows and blankets are fair game for fort making inside.
  • Pull out the dining room chairs, drape sheets and use binder clips to hold them up.
  • If you want to get fancy, a string of twinkle lights would be fabulous.
  • If you have a few cardboard boxes, take the time to paint and decorate them, cutting out windows and a door flap.
  • I think a quiet evening of reading is in order under your forts because horseplay would make your city fall down!

Family Game Night {Saving up for Disney}

Board Game Bonanza

One of our favorite family events is gathering around a few board games for a fun evening of competition and laughs.

  • Borrow some games that you don’t have from friends or family so you have a nice variety for all ages and host a game day at home.
  • Simple sandwiches make a great meal and have plenty to snack on between turns.
  • Write out your own Pictionary or Charades game ideas.
  • Find “Minute to Win It” games on Pinterest that use items from around the house.

MMHasbro7

An Elegant Evening

  • Every kid has a dress up box or can at least borrow something fun from mom and dad for the evening.
  • Time to pull out the sequins, get glamorous and have a fancy night at home.
  • Light a few candles at the table and elevate even the most boring weekday dinner.
  • Serve up a Shirley Temple in a fancy glass and the kids will feel so special!

Hope this list of ideas starts you on your way towards a memorable summer staycation! 

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May 23, 2016
Comments Off on Minnie Mouse Hair Bow GIVEAWAY!

Minnie Mouse Hair Bow GIVEAWAY!

Minnie Mouse Hair Bow GIVEAWAY!

I’ve been an Etsy seller for 9 years so I love supporting small business. Though I’m currently on a shop break during my “maternity leave” from selling my appliqued tees, I’m still scoping out Etsy for unique Disney-inspired products. I ran across these adorable puffy Minnie Mouse hair bows from A Fancy Finish and totally fell in love!

Rachael sews these up herself and has graciously offered a giveaway, read on!

Minnie Mouse Hair Bow GIVEAWAY!  Minnie Mouse Hair Bow GIVEAWAY!

Minnie Mouse Hair Bow GIVEAWAY!

photo credit-Rachael Hixon

This over sized bow is perfect for a day in the Park. Here are my reasons why these Minnie Mouse hair bows are great:

  1. As much as I love Mouse-Ear headbands, there are a few reasons why I won’t wear them (they risk falling off, they squeeze the sides of my head a bit too much and cause a headache and they don’t hold my hair back)
  2. It’s just at home on my head as it is on my daughter, meaning it’s appropriate for all ages (so long as you have adequate amounts of hair for it!)
  3. It has a hair elastic so my hair is back in a pony tail and off my face.
  4. It has Minnie dots, my favorite!
  5. You can wear it with a hat! Unlike Mouse-Ear headbands or even Mouse-Ear hats that don’t shade your face, you can pair the Minnie Mouse hair bow with a hat.
  6. The hair elastic is replaceable. Rachael has cleverly created a snap in the center of the bow so the elastic can be replaced, so clever! (you can see the snap, shown in image below)

Minnie Mouse Hair Bow GIVEAWAY!

Would you like one of these A Fancy Finish Minnie Mouse hair bows for yourself? Here’s the giveaway.

A Fancy Finish on Etsy

A Fancy Finish on Instagram

A Fancy Finish on Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway open to US/Canada residents. Rafflecopter will randomly choose the winner. I will email you and you’ll have three days to respond. If you do not respond I will choose a new winner. I will mail the bow to the winner.

 

May 19, 2016
Comments Off on New Saving Up for Disney Blog Affiliate – Gymboree!

New Saving Up for Disney Blog Affiliate – Gymboree!

A word about my affiliates: I only have affiliate links for items that I’ve actually used and want to share with my readers. Please know that by shopping through my affiliate links, you help support me and my blog. Thank you so much!

My nephew, son and daughter all in Gymboree

My nephew, son and daughter all in Gymboree

I’ve been a Gymboree customer since my 12-year old boy was born! I’ve always loved the design, quality and price. The Gymboree clothes that his older brother wore were handed down to him, then to my nephew and now my 4-year old is wearing them! They really do last and last. My kids are regularly dressed head to toe in Gymboree, from pajamas, socks and underpants, shirts and shorts and even shoes and accessories.

My son wearing a shirt that his brother wore 9 years ago!

My son wearing a shirt that his brother wore 9 years ago!

I was so excited to have a stepdaughter and have a reason to shop the precious Gymboree girl’s line! Have you ever shopped and received Gymbucks? They are a great way to save even more on high-quality Gymboree clothing.

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Loved this polka dot Gymboree ensemble from a few years ago

And now I have a new baby girl who is already outfitted in Gymboree…I bought items for her the week I found out I was having a girl. She has a few adorable outfits waiting for her in the closet that I just couldn’t resist buying!

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Brand new Gymboree for the brand new baby!

I’m so happy to announce that Gymboree is a new affiliate on my blog. If you are so inclined to shop Gymboree, I’d appreciate if you clicked my link to help support my blog in a small way.

Gymboree Children's Clothing