2014 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration – #DisneySMMoms


If you follow me on Twitter, you probably noticed a tremendous increase in tweets April 10-13.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 5th Annual Disney Social Media Moms Celebration and I couldn’t stop sharing about all I was learning and the fun I was having during the event. My family and I went last year to the celebration at Disney World and it was an incredible experience. This year it was held in California at Disneyland and it was just as amazing.

It’s an honor to be invited and there were so many wonderful opportunities this year. Some of the highlights for me included the chance to:

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Network with incredibly talented bloggers –This year I was thrilled to spend time with old friends and colleagues like Sara, Courtney, Debra, Amy, Jessica, Mitch, and meet new friends like Sami, Joey and TerriAnn. Being surrounded by the talent and enthusiasm of these (and many other) extraordinary bloggers/social media experts inspires me. The support I get from them is such a gift. Their friendship…priceless.

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Experience Disney Magic with my family – Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure are not to be missed. We loved some of our favorite attractions we first experienced at Disney World like Space Mountain and Tower of Terror as well as fun things unique to the parks in California like CarsLand and the California Screamin roller coaster. I’m putting the final touches on a separate post about life changing experiences at these two parks including delicious treats to eat – so be sure to check back soon to get the scoop!

Find out about what’s on the horizon from Disney – Speakers including Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Leanne Jakubowski, Director of Social Media/Public Relations, and Kathy Mangum, Executive Producer and Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering were awesome and gave us insight into what’s new and exciting at Disney including new cruise line itineraries and park attractions. Gary Buchanan, Social Media Manager of Disney Parks is an absolute hoot and along with keeping the event running at an exciting pace and taking care of “mousekeeping” issues he shared many insights about how to grow creatively by challenging yourself and the way you do things.

Learn from the Pros – I was completely in awe after hearing Doug Bowman, Creative Director at Twitter. He had a lot of great insight into the power of social media and I left the session inspired and empowered. Donald Driver, Former NFL player and author gave a truly motivational presentation and Maxine Clark, Founder of Build A Bear Workshop, impressed me with her message. I loved when she said “if you live your imagination , your ‘like’ will be a dream come true”. Did you know she started Build A Bear in her late 40’s? It’s never too to build something fabulous!

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Get to know more about exceptional brands – I enjoyed the chance to learn more about some of the event sponsors including American Tourister, Hanes, Taylor Morrison, Alamo, H20+ and Kohl’s as well as Disney programs, products and services; especially their Wild About Safety DVD series and The Magic of Healthy Living.

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A Run in The Park

Thanks to RunDisney and New Balance, I also had the incredible experience to run through the parks before they opened Sunday morning during the 2-mile fun run. Starting in Downtown Disney, we ran through Disneyland Park (and hello – through the castle!) then Disney California Adventure…with the finish line on Route 66 in CarsLand. More about this thrilling experience later!

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We also were treated to some special surprises including visits from Maleficent (I can’t wait for the movie to open May 30) and Elsa and Anna from Frozen. This was really cool because the line to see these two in the park runs more than  about 2 hours long!

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A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps

My friend, Sara Wellensiek with Mom Endeavors, won a Walk in Walt’s Footsteps VIP tour for 10 people and she invited me to join the group. What an unbelievable treat and experience. In addition to hearing more about Disney’s history and Walt’s vision – I was able to actually go in his apartment above the fire station on Main Street! Did you know that when Walt was in his apartment, he would light the lamp in the window so cast members would know he was there? After he passed away, they decided to keep the light on 24/7 in his memory. I was moved to tears being that close to where the magic started and hearing about the details of how Walt made his dream a reality. I’m so grateful to Sara for giving me this once in a lifetime experience. They offer this tour at Disneyland Park for an additional fee and if you have the time and money, I HIGHLY recommend it.



Bonus: I won a Nikon camera! I was so excited and then Gary Buchanan almost didn’t let it go when I RAN up to the stage to claim it. Gary, I promise I’m taking good care of it!

Be watching for more posts to follow with more Disney details soon!

I paid a con­fer­ence fee  to attend the 2014 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. My family and I received some complimentary and discounted items, but I did not receive compensation to attend and  was not required to write about my experience. As always, all opin­ions and expe­ri­ences are my own


Getting Ready for Disney Social Media Moms with Magic At Play Clothing from Kohl’s (Giveaway!)


I’m so excited to be attending the Disney Social Media Moms Conference again this year! It’s an unbelievable opportunity to learn from industry experts while having fun at the happiest place on earth! This year the conference is at Disneyland and there have been hints that some of the speakers will include Maxine Clark; Build A Bear, Doug Bowman; Twitter and Donald Driver; Super Bowl Champion. An awesome speaker line-up, the opportunity to network with incredibly talented bloggers and social media experts AND the chance to play at the park with my family? Dream. Come. True.

Needless to say, my family and I can’t wait to go next week…but we need to start packing. Preparing for a family vacation to Disney combined with a conference can be tricky. We don’t want to forget any park essentials (water bottles, back pack, sunscreen) along with conference must-haves (laptop, camera, mobile chargers). Check out some preparation and packing tips I posted about our Disney World trip last year.

And then there’s the most important part…what to wear!

We like to show our #DisneySide at home with Disney-themed clothes featuring Princesses, our favorite movie characters and (of course) classic Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Wearing Disney-inspired clothes at Disneyland is a must, so we were thrilled to learn about Magic at Play, a clothing collaboration between Disney and Kohl’s that came out April 3, 2014. I was given a gift card to Kohl’s so I could check out the apparel line by Jumping Beans for infants, toddlers, boys sizes 4-7 and girls sizes 4-6x and share what I thought with you.

kohls disney clothes

Annie had so much fun, but admittedly had a hard time deciding which pieces to choose from because there were so many options available at Kohl’s in stores and online. In the end she selected three tops, a pair of shorts, leggings and a dress. We loved the blinged out Mickey shirt and the subtle hints of Minnie on the sundress. A major plus….many of the pieces go together, giving you more outfit options. Also, Kohl’s often offers many sales and coupons so you can maximize your dollars. When we went, the entire Magic at Play Jumping Beans clothing line was 30 percent off. We also had an addition 20 percent off coupon AND a $10.00 off coupon that you can use if you spend $30 in apparel for children. Saving money on cute clothes makes me so happy.

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What do you think…pretty cool, right? Want to make your dollar stretch even further so you can get more from the collection? How about a giveaway for a $50.00 Kohl’s giftcard?!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you Kohl’s for giving us a gift card to purchase Disney Jumping Bean apparel in order to review. No other compensation was received and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Show Your #DisneySide – A Magical @Home Celebration!

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Some of our most treasured and fabulous family moments together have been associated with Disney. In 2012 we went on a cruise aboard the Disney Magic out of Galveston and in 2013 we took our first trip to DisneyWorld in Florida. Both experiences were out of this world spectacular. Disney brings out the child (and fun) in all of us. Even Ed and I let go of the worries and self-conscienceness that often come along with growing up through the magic Disney creates.

The good news is you don’t have to travel far and wide or spend a lot of money to show your #Disney Side. Recently I received a celebration kit from Disney Parks and Mom Select in order to host a magical DisneySide @Home Celebration for several of Annie’s friends and their moms right at our house. We had a wonderful time sharing our love for Disney, getting creative with arts and crafts, enjoying good food, singing, dancing and just acting silly.

How to Throw A #DisneySide Party

Photo Booth


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Our friends were immediately swept up in the fun the minute they walked through the door. We set up a photo booth in the living room complete with fun costumes and props, a backdrop and face painting. The kids (and moms) felt like celebrities dressed in boas and hats as one of our fabulous moms took pictures and another painted faces. Soon, the kids wanted a turn behind the scenes and got in on the picture taking and face painting as well!

How to create a photo booth at your party:

  1. Find a fun sheet like ours with pink and white polka dots to hang from the wall
  2. Gather fun props from around the house like hats, boas and jewelry. We also went to our local craft store to buy inexpensive wooden props on sticks and a wooden picture frame that we painted like Mickey Mouse on one side and Minnie on the other!
  3. Designate a face painter – designs don’t have to be fancy.
  4. Pick someone to play photographer


Print photos right away to send home with your guests….a great souvenir! We used our HP Envy printer with 5×7 HP photo paper and the DisneySide templates on HP Photo Creations. So easy and very cute!

Cookie Decorating Contest

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I pre-made sugar cookies with Mickey Mouse cookie cutters so the girls could get creative with decorations. We awarded prizes for the most original and fun cookies! Annie and I put Disney stickers on to-go containers so they could take home their personalized treats to enjoy long after the party ended.



Annie loves to sing and a Karaoke machine was the #1 item on her Christmas wish list this year. Luckily Santa delivered and the girls at the party could have spent the entire time singing and dancing. The Frozen sound track was a favorite and even though the weather was warm in Houston, they sang “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and “Let It Go” like it was below freezing! We added a disco ball light to make the room even more festive!


T-Shirt Decorating Contest 


Plain white Hanes t-shirts were transformed into Disney works of art after our guests went to work with some fabric markers.  I printed some Disney character silhouttes from the computer and cut patterns out of card stock so they could trace them and then decorate any way they wanted. Then they all signed the back of each other’s shirts…a perfect keepsake from a fabulous day with friends!

BINGO, Disney style!

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The girls loved playing #DisneySide BINGO. They showed their Disney knowledge by identifying Disney Parks, Attractions, Characters and Resorts. At one point, several girls needed Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom to get five in a row. You could hear the cheering from down the street!

How do you show your #DisneySide? Do you have party tips and tricks to share? Let me know in the comments section! For more ideas about how to throw your own @Home Celebration, check out my #DisneySide Pinterest board!

As a hostess for Disney Parks and Mom Select, I received an awesome American Tourister Disney Suitcase packed with a celebration kit with some of the products mentioned in this post for free in order to hold a magical Disney Side @Home Celebration event for my guests. As always, the opinions expressed here are my own.



How To Prepare For A Magical Disney World Adventure

StillLivingTheDream MickeyMouse

I recently visited Disney World with my two kids and husband. As a Disney Social Media Moms Conference attendee, I was invited to some special event experiences during the official event but we extended our stay so we could experience Disney together as a family afterwards as well. Because I hadn’t been to Disney in 20 years and my 7 year-old daughter and 11 year-old son had never been, we had a lot of questions when packing for our trip. We wanted to get the most out of every magical second at the parks! I think we did a pretty good job but like any vacation…we learned a couple things along the way as well.

I plan to cover a lot of what I learned including some behind the scenes fun and giveaways in upcoming posts but I just received the following note from Still Living The Dream reader, Jennifer Evans. Jennifer saw my first follow-up post about my trip to Disney and since she is planning a trip with her husband, Mark, and 10-year-old son, Cole, soon (see their cute photo below), she had some questions. I thought it would be fun to answer them here so anyone else planning a trip and wondering about the same things could hear how I responded.

 StillLivingTheDream Evans family

Dear Still Living the Dream,

I’m headed to Disneyworld with my husband and our fearless, active 10 year old son. I haven’t been to Disney in 20 years, and our son has never been. So, consider us rookies. We’re staying in a condo 3 minutes away (so off site), and we’ve purchased Magic your Way Park Hopper + Water Park combo passes for 5 days. I’ve been reading the Unofficial Guide and taken notes from friends, checked out the Disney site for traffic info to try and select the best days for the various parks. I think we’re fairly prepared for that. But, I have some questions for you:

Question: What do you carry with you? I like to travel light. Do I bring a small wristlet? A backpack? Do we put everything in a locker every day and just cram wallet necessities in pockets? What about your phones?

Answer: I am the same way! I didn’t want to be slowed down with a lot of “stuff” while walking around in the parks BUT I also wanted to save money on things like bottled water. Since we don’t have stroller age children whatever we wanted to bring with us we needed to carry ourselves….all day. We ended up bringing a backpack which my husband usually carried and I had a small, cross-body purse. I just had my cell phone, lip gloss, cash/credit cards, park tickets and fast passes…very light. Ed carried our camera, water bottles, snacks, etc. We never got a locker. The park is very backpack friendly. I can’t think of a ride where we couldn’t bring it on with us. Some people like to put their cell phone in a plastic ziplock in case the bag gets wet like on Splash Mountain, but we didn’t and we were fine.

Question: Did you find it was helpful or annoying to bring your own snacks and waters with you? I’m a bit of a princess, so I don’t want to gauge myself on prices but I also don’t want me or my husband to feel like a packhorse. 


Answer: The first thing you need to know is that EVERYONE is a princess at Disney World so get ready to be treated like one while you are there! Disney allows you to bring in water/food just know that whatever you bring, you have to keep up with. I have to admit, I was envious of some of the folks with strollers because they could cart around a little more. We packed pretty light, but since we didn’t want to pay for  bottled water (which left us more money to spend on Dole Whip and Mickey ice cream bars), we brought one or two water bottles with us and filled them up all day long for free! Many of the kiosk or quick dining restaurants were kind enough to fill them up for us but we also used drinking fountains as well. We also brought along snacks like goldfish, pretzels, granola bars, trail mix, fruit snacks, etc. We’d munch on those throughout the day in addition to getting a couple park snacks and/or meals from kiosks. (Hint: you have to try the fish and chips at the UK at Epcot!)

Question: We have our 3 credit card like passes – Do we get lanyards for them when we arrive? Should I buy some now?

Answer: I saw many people with lanyards and it’s not a bad idea; however, we kept our park passes in my small cross-body sling purse. If you think you might be into pin trading (and it’s SO fun you need to read about pin trading from my Disney Cruise post) then you can get an attachment for the bottom to hold your cards. I was just afraid of carrying them around and maybe losing them because once you are in the park, you don’t really need them again.

Question: We arrive in the middle of the day on day #1, so our plan is to head over to a park for the afternoon and evening. Do we just show up at the gate, or is there something I should do ahead of time?


Answer: We arrived in the middle of the day, too and headed straight over to Epcot after checking into the hotel. We had 7-day park hopper tickets and we just went straight to the gate. If there’s any problem at any park entrance (Jackson had a problem with getting in one day – the ticket scanner wasn’t reading it right) then there’s a ton of people that will help you right then and there. Hint: Be ready to go through bag check prior to the ticket gate at each park. It goes by pretty quickly, but it’s an additional stop for those carrying in any kind of bag.

Question: Our daily plan based on our family’s style is to get there early and plow through until early afternoon, go home & chill, then hit another park that aft/eve. Does this sound good to you?

Answer: That is EXACTLY what we did. Here’s the beauty of park hopper tickets and why I highly recommend them. You can get up and go to one park in the morning (perhaps one that is open earlier or that has something you want to do in the AM like a breakfast character dining experience) then take a break around 1 or 2 ish (we’d go back to the hotel and rest and/or take a dip in the pool) and go to another park in the evening ( to see the fireworks, an evening show or to a park that has a later closing time). One day we actually did THREE parks in one day (because we are crazy like that).


One of the best days was when we decided to go to Magic Kingdom in the evening. We were staying at the Contemporary during that part of our trip which is right by Magic Kingdom (we stayed at the Pop Century during the second half of our vacation). We decided spur of the moment because we weren’t tired to go to Magic Kingdom at 9:00 p.m. We hadn’t yet been to that park and we walked in right as the fireworks started. Standing on Main Street with the stores all lit up and the fireworks above the castle  – it was UNBELIEVABLE. We all just held hands and smiled and just took it all in. After that a lot of people, especially those with small children, were leaving the park….so we went to ride Space Mountain. No lines! We rode several other rides in Tomorrowland, all very quickly because the park had thinned out. At 10:00 we went back to Main Street in time to see the Electric Parade, then we hit a store or two and left. It was such an incredible couple of hours…we experienced so much in such a short period of time at Magic Kingdom at night and could not have done it if we didn’t have park hopper tickets.

Question: What is 1 useful thing you learned that you don’t find in the books?

Answer: How about three?!

1. If you are on a budget, one good idea is to buy Disney gift cards. They are accepted everywhere at Disney and we used ours like it was a debit card. We kept track of what was left on each and knew that when it was gone, it was gone! It helped us keep souvenir and snack purchases to a minimum.


2. If you think you want to pin trade (and you have time before your trip) go to ebay to buy some trader pins in bulk. You can get them for about $1.00 or less a pin (they cost about $4.00-$5.00 each when bought at the park in sets and from $9.95 on up for single pins!) Bulk lots are random, you can’t choose what you get…but because you are trading them, it doesn’t matter if your 10-year old son starts off with a bunch of Princess pins! Just be sure to research the seller to make sure he/she has good feedback and is selling authentic pins.

3. I’m going to do a whole post on this but you have to try Dole Whip while you are there. If you are a beer drinker – try the grapefruit beer at Epcot. And the orange bird from when we were little? He’s back! You can score a Citrus Swirl (frozen orange juice and vanilla ice cream) treat and even buy an orange bird souvenir sipper cup to take back home. (We bought three!)

Question: Which Disney app do you like best?

Answer: We used the My Disney Experience App, a great way to Explore Walt Disney World Resort on an interactive, GPS-enabled map. Through this app you can:

  1. View FASTPASS return times for the park you’re in.
  2. Get wait times for attractions and showtimes for fireworks and parades.
  3. Know what’s close or starting soon with Here & Now.
  4. Find Character greeting locations and times.
  5. Add activities to your Wish List.
  6. Browse restaurant menus and make dining reservations.
  7. Share plans with others through Family & Friends.
  8. Keep reservations and activities organized in My Plans

But Disney JUST released their newest (and super cool) app called Story. We literally found out about it while at the conference. This free app isn’t about navigating the parks, it’s for anyone/anywhere. It allows you to pull images from your iPhone’s photo gallery and edit them within an album that you can make into a story with captions and different themes…one of which is Disney so you can totally share photos of your family at the park with friends back home on facebook or through email. I’m going to explain the app in full detail in a future post but you can read more about it and download the Story app here.

Question: Are there affordable taxis at the entrances, in case we don’t want to wait for our shuttle?

Answer: That is one thing I don’t know about because we stayed on Disney property. There are many benefits to staying at a Disney resort and the biggest one is transportation. We had so many options depending on where we were going. We loved the monorail when we stayed at the Contemporary Resort but found the buses to Pop Century and to other parks where so efficient. We never waited in line very long….it made getting around so easy.


One last bit of advice:

Have fun and enjoy the time with your family…avoid trying to do and see everything! Have a plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from it when you are having fun and in the moment.  Some of the best moments were those we spent “off our itinerary”….watching the sunset on the lake at Epcot, running into Belle and having a quick impromptu visit, sharing a box of fish and chips at the UK sitting on the curb and people watching….

I’ll never forget my trip to Disney. I hope yours is just as magical!

Readers: Are you going to Disney this summer? What questions do you have? Have you been already? What is your biggest piece of advice for those who have never been?

I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. I paid a fee to attend which included the opportunity to participate in conference activities, stay at a hotel and experience Disney World. I was not asked nor expected to write a post about my experiences. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Tears of Joy at Walt Disney World

family in front of castle

For the last week my family and I have been in Florida. I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference and then we extended our stay after the conference so we could play at all the Disney parks.

I have a lot to share with you including news about fun things on the horizon from Disney, tips for bloggers and social media professionals, advice about how to make the most of a fabulous Disney family vacation, restaurant and resort reviews and much more.

We got back last night…so bittersweet. There’s no place like home but the magic of Disney is so incredible you just don’t want it all to end.

But we are back to reality today and I have thousands of pictures to sort through and so many notes to organize from our trip plus work to catch up on while I was away. The kids went back to school this morning and there will be missed school work to catch up with for them as well, swim practice to attend and a meet tomorrow morning plus many other end of year activities and events.

Life is going to get crazy busy.

But before I dive in head first…I want to share this with you. The biggest take-away from our trip.

Tears of joy.

Admittedly, I’m an emotional gal. I laugh and cry openly as I experience emotions and events that touch me in my life. I laughed a lot on our trip to Disney. As a family, we shared so many special moments of pure silliness and abandoned the illusion of “cool” (matching family t-shirts rock!) and just soaked in the moments of joy and happiness as they came. Truly living life in the moment is really living the dream and it doesn’t happen a lot for me.

And I cried.

chris and ali

First during the conference when I heard Chris Powell, trainer and transformation specialist on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, speak about making the choice to make your health a priority. He is helping transform so many people’s lives and is so inspirational.

Then I cried again when I met Ali Vincent, winner of the show The Biggest Loser whose mantra “Believe it. Be it.” helped her lose 112 pounds and she is now inspiring people all over the world that they can achieve their weight loss goals as well on the Live Well Network.

To attend the conference at this time of my life when health has become a focus for me and then to have Disney focus so much of the conference on good health was incredibly special and very emotional. My life has changed drastically since last July. Losing almost 60 pounds and making exercise a daily habit has allowed me to change my perspective and live my life in such a different, more positive way.

Much more about these two incredible people and my experiences with RunDisney later. I promise.

But first….

When the conference ended and my family played at Magic Kingdom, I cried again. Twice.

 jack with belle

The first time was when we experienced Enchanted Tales of Belle, the attraction at the new Fantasyland. During this experience kids are selected from the group to act out certain parts of the story with Belle herself. Annie was Maurice and she shivered with “cold” while holding on to a prop that looked like she was in the Beast’s dungeon. Jackson was the Beast himself. With a red cape he growled (a bit reluctantly) at different parts of the show and then at the end he danced with Belle.

Jackson is 11 and while he enjoyed it he is also at that age when he is starting to get self-conscience and a bit shy. But watching my little boy dance with Belle brought back memories of when he was a toddler and would dance around the room with me while we watched Sleeping Beauty. He was my prince then and he is today. I’m so proud of the young man he growing up to be. I cried with happiness at the memory but also the knowledge that I am so blessed to be his mom. I love this boy with all my heart and soul.

And Annie.

annie with cindy collage

My 7-year-old daughter who loves Cinderella more than anything in the world. When we met Cindy at the Magic Kingdom and got her autograph it was so magical.

step sisters

Then she met the evil step-sisters and step-mom as well – which was SO fun (Disney characters REALLY get into character at the parks…they do it so well!) But the Celebrate A Dream Come True parade at 3:00 p.m. when all the characters, dancers and floats go down Main Street was incredible.

Maybe it was because it was the last day of our trip and we left the park right after the parade, but I was overcome with emotion. Annie and Jackson sat on the curb, ice cream from their Mickey bars dribbling down their chins…laughing and joking around while waiting for the parade to start. All the characters were fun to see; Stitch, Mary Poppins, Ariel – we love them all.

cropped cindy parade

But half-way through I saw Annie starting to waving wildly as Cinderella’s float came in to view. The evil step-sisters and mom danced around…interacting with the crowd and then the fairy godmother, perched at the top of the float looked right at Annie and blew her a kiss. Annie “caught” it and sent it right back and then she gasped as Cindy and her Prince floated by. Annie looked up with wide eyes and smiled and then looked back at me. For just a moment, we didn’t say a word among the thousands of other park visitors screaming and jumping and waving. But a conversation was taking place in the silence between us. I could literally hear her thoughts – that she was in total disbelief at all that was taking place…and then she hugged me.

Tears are running down my face right now as I write this….as much as they were when it all happened.

It is the magic of Disney that just cannot be duplicated and really can’t be explained. But I’m so thankful that I have this feeling in my heart I know I will never forget.

walking away

My kids asked me if I was ok as we left the park hand-in-hand after the parade ended for the last time (tears were still streaming down my face and I’m not a pretty crier!) I told them I was more than ok. I was happier than I could imagine or remember being in a long time.

Thank you Belle for dancing with my son.

Thank you Cinderella, Fairy Godmother, Lady Tremaine, Drizella and Anastasia; for making us believe we stepped right into your story.

And Thank you Walt Disney, for having a dream and sharing your world with us.

I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. I paid a fee to attend which included the opportunity to participate in conference activities, stay at a hotel and experience Disney World; however, my family and I stayed later at our own expense. I was not asked nor expected to write a post about  my experiences. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 




Preparing For DisneyWorld – #PackMoreFun for #DisneySMMoms

disney badge

This is happening! We are going to DisneyWorld the day after tomorrow… just “two more sleeps” in kid countdown talk. My family and I are thrilled to be invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Conference this year. It will be an unbelievable experience; especially for my children who have never been to Disney. When we went on a Disney Cruise last year they were amazed about the Disney magic and that is just a touch of pixie dust compared to what they are going to experience later this week.

But first, we must pack. And I have to admit, the task is overwhelming. Disney and American Tourister have made it a little more manageable and colorful by giving each of the attendees a Colora Spinner 20 inch bag; the official luggage of DisneyWorld Resort and Disneyland. They come in hot orange, pink and green and they are so fun!


We got an orange one and besides being able to spot our bag from across the room at baggage claim, it’s easy to roll and packs a lot. We are going to need it. Most of my fellow blogger attendees have already packed. I’m still in pre-loading mode! Here is a glimpse of a few items I’m taking:



Running Clothes – I always pack work-out clothes whenever I travel but while at the conference we will be running as a group at the ESPN track with the folks from Run Disney and Ali Vincent – winner from the TV Show The Biggest Loser! I’m giddy about this opportunity as you know running is my passion right now. I’ve got my copy of The Runner’s Guide to Walt DisneyWorld by Krista Albrecht and Megan Biller. A great resource for running official races held by Disney. I’m preparing for the Princess Half-Marathon in February right now!


Gear to battle the elements – We’ve got a big hat for Ed (his bald head gets a little red when he’s out in the sun!) and plastic rain ponchos just in case it rains. (These were only $1.00 at Academy and will be great for spotting each other as they are bright yellow…we are hoping we won’t need them, though.) Plenty of sunscreen and bug repellant are also going in our bag (we have many travel size products so we can pack a new one in our day pack at the park to save room!)


Matching Family Shirts – I know, I know. I just had to do it, though. Even my 11-year-old said we needed them! I had them made up at our local t-shirt shop and can’t wait to wear them.


Cinderella outfit for Annie – Every princess needs a dress and Annie’s favorite is Cindy. We don’t know too much about the conference agenda yet, but we did find out we will be attending the regal celebration to officially welcome Merida into the Disney Princess royal court. We are so excited about the chance to see all 11 princesses together and Annie can’t wait to channel her inner-Cinderella in full costume!


Pins for trading – We got the pin trading bug on the Disney Cruise and the kids are so excited to carry on the tradition of trading pins with staff and other guests at the park.


Magical Express luggage tagsDisney is amazing. When you stay at the resort (we are staying at the Contemporary and then transferring to Pop Century after the conference) they transport you from the airport to the hotel and you don’t even have to stop at baggage claim to get your checked luggage! They do it for you and have them delivered to your room. Talk about a stress-free way to travel with kids!

What are you favorite things to pack for a family DisneyWorld vacation? Any tips for a newbie like good places at the parks to eat or must see attractions or rides? I want to hear your tips!

I purchased a ticket to the Disney Social Media Moms Conference which includes tickets to parks and other activities. No compensation was received and no expectation of a post is required. I just want to share some tips I learn along the way and the fun things I do while on vacation with my family after the conference ends!


Dear Cinderella, We’re Coming To Disney!

Just 9 days until we leave for Disney World to meet up with the Disney Social Media Moms Conference Gang. We are beyond excited and thrilled…it will be the first time for my kids to experience Disney World and I haven’t been in 20 years!

I can’t wait to meet these amazing people; the presenters, conference organizers and the other fabulous attendees.

My 7-year-old daughter? She just wants to meet Cinderella.

Cinderella is her favorite princess and to say she loves her is an understatement.

When she heard that we were going to Disney World (home of Cinderella’s castle!) the first person she wanted to tell was…you guessed it, Cinderella. So she ran upstairs singing “sing sweet nightingale”  and came down with this letter.

annie's cinderella letter

annie's cinderella letter page two

Let me translate!

Dear Cinderella,

I am your big fan and I am coming to Disney World. I can’t wait to spend a day with you in the castle. Oh and can you send a letter back? See you.

Pretty cute, right? She asked me to mail it right away so that Cinderella would have time to write her back.

Uh oh.

Luckily Andrea Lawrence Updyke, another one of the bloggers who will be going to the conference, heard about an address you could send letters to and receive a message back in the mail! Just three weeks after Annie sent Cinderella her letter, she got this postcard in the mail.



She has it tucked away securely in her “secret” drawer of special treasures for safe-keeping.

Thank you, Disney….for sharing the magic and making MY Princess a happy, happy girl! (Cinderella – we’ll see you in 9 days!)

If you have a prince or princess that wants to write to his or her favorite character, this is the address we sent our letter to. Just be sure to take a photo or scan it before you mail it!

Walt Disney World Communications 
P.O. Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

I am writing this post entirely from my own experience … not on behalf of Disney. I cannot guarantee that you’ll get a response back…(but I hope you do!)


Disney Shake It Up I <3 Dance CD Review

My daughter, Annie is 7 years old and loves to dance.

And she loves the Disney Channel show, Shake It Up.

So when a dance music CD with tunes from the show came out, she was extremely excited. And by excited, I mean jumping up and down wildly when it came in the mail. She was able to get it under control for this photo, though – because she’s “all grown-up” like that.


Shake It Up: I <3 Dance features 12 dance tracks including songs by Bella Thorne and Zendaya (stars of Shake It Up) as well as fellow Disney stars Selena Gomez, Bridgit Mendler, Roshon Fegan and Caroline Sunshine, in addition to up-and-coming stars Coco Jones, McClain Sisters and more.

Annie’s favorite?

Contagious Love. Hands down.

But all of the songs will be familiar to you if you are a fan of the show. They are all from the third season of the show and include:

  1. Contagious Love
  2. This Is My Dance Floor
  3. Beat of My Drum
  4. Blow The System
  5. AfterParty
  6. Holla At the DJ
  7. These Boots Are Made for Walking
  8. Sharp As A Razor
  9. Future Sounds Like Us
  10. I Can Do Better
  11. Shake It Up Theme Song
  12. Bonus Track: We’re Dancing

ShakeItUp_I_3Dance cover

We’ve been listening to the CD in the car and even I’ve been guilty of singing along! Unfortunately, we all dance a little better than we sing…but that’s not stopping us.

The Shake It Up: I <3 Dance soundtrack is currently available for $9.99 on both iTunes and Amazon.com. Annie gives it two thumbs up. What do you think?

Thank you to Child’s Play Communications for providing us a copy of the CD to review. All thoughts and opinions (and crazy dance moves) are our own.



Easter and Mantels and Disney…Oh My!

Happy Easter! Yes, I know it’s a little late – but I wanted to share my Easter mantel with you before I take it down.

 easter mantel

Remember that Robin’s Egg Blue paint/ 4-alarm crafting emergency I talked about in this post? There’s the finished product in the photo to the left. All glittery and tied up with a bow!

Annie made the blue glove bunny in the photo on the right. So cute!

And see those green, blue and purple “bowls”/baskets? Here’s the skinny on those. They are doilies that I bought at Michael’s and were on sale for 50 cents a piece. I used a solution of sugar and water and shaped them over a small blown up balloon until they dried. Presto – a cute little basket. The best part? Now that Easter’s over all I have to do it rinse them out in the sink then wash them and I have cloth doilies to use for another project or decoration. Seriously – brilliant!

I have a feeling the white coffee filter wreath I made at Christmas is going to be around for awhile. I’ve changed out the bow three times to fit the holiday/season. It’s such an easy decoration.

I can’t wait to modify it for my next mantel display theme….Disney!

disney badge

I was invited to attend this year’s Disney Social Media Moms conference in Orlando. I am so excited I can’t stand it. It is such an honor to be able to go and I can’t wait to meet the speakers and participants. I’ve already had the awesome opportunity to be a guest on Disney Mentor Moms and to share my life lessons on the fabulous Rene Syler’s blog, Good Enough Mother.

I know I’m going to learn so much and I’m beyond thrilled to be able to take my family along with me to experience Disney World (Life List Number 19!)


We shared our big news to the kids on Easter through a scavenger hunt. Clues led them to a big poster, Mickey Mouse t-shirts, signs for their bedroom doors and a countdown display.  They were completely surprised and are so excited to be going to Disney World for the first time. It’s been a blessing to have this to look forward to as we have faced some challenges this season we’ve struggled with at school.

Annie is in awe of Cinderella and can’t wait to meet her “at her own house!” – the castle at Magic Kingdom! She’s already written her a letter to tell her we are coming to see her!

We’ve been pouring over information about visiting each of the four parks at Disney World. It can be a bit overwhelming to plan a visit – there is so much to see and do!!

Have you been to Disney World? What is your best advice for planning a vacation at the happiest place on earth? Anything we have to see or do? Do you have tips to making the most of each day at each park? What is your favorite memory of your Disney vacation? Come on, share! I want to hear it all!!

I paid a conference fee to attend Disney’s Social Media Moms Conference in May. I was not asked to post about the trip nor have I received any compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


10 Things To Do To Prepare For A Magical Cruise With Disney

The Patricks in Costa Maya with The Disney Magic behind us!

Recently I posted the top reasons why I loved taking a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic in October. I got a lot of responses from readers and friends who want to experience the same magical moments and have booked a Disney cruise after the new year, but now want tips about what to bring!

Hopefully after reading my list (and because of the great specials they are running right now like kids sail free) you are inspired to take a Disney cruise with your family soon as well.

If so, then you’re likely to have several questions about what to pack and how to prepare for a magical experience at sea. Below are some of the things I’m glad a friend told me (or I wish I had known before boarding). I truly believe you could show up on board with only a toothbrush and a bathing suit and have a spectacular time; however, there are some things that made our trip even better. Here’s the skinny!

Note: these tips were compiled from our experience aboard The Disney Magic to the Western Caribbean which is currently running out of the Port of Galveston; however, I believe most (if not all) could apply to any of Disney’s four ships and their many destinations. 

Uvero Beach Club in Costa Maya

  • Bring an underwater camera– We used a disposable camera for our port excursions at the beach and snorkeling and were so glad to have it. Even if you don’t take it in the water with you, you’ll be happy that you didn’t bring along your expensive camera because it could get wet, lost or stolen while you are enjoying the different activities off the ship.

    Annie's signed pillowcase

  • Pillowcase for character signings– This is a great inexpensive yet memorable souvenir for the little ones. Buy and bring pillowcases for your kids. You can have them monogrammed or embroidered with the trip date or child’s name or they can just be plain. Drop the pillowcase off at guest services the first or second day of your cruise along with sharpies (just black or several colors) and they will get the characters to sign them and then deliver to your stateroom by the end of the cruise. How cool is that?!!! When your kids get home they can rest their heads on their signed pillowcases and have sweet dreams about their magical Disney cruise!
  • Trading pins– If you have been to a Disney park, you probably know about this popular activity that they also do on the Disney cruises. People buy different Disney lanyards and get Disney themed pins to put on them and then they trade pins with other guests and Disney employees. On the cruise, they had a Captain’s pin trading event and my kids really wanted to participate; however, we hadn’t brought anything with us. So we purchased a new lanyard and several pins at the gift shop on board. This can be a pretty pricey way to do it if you are just starting out because pins typically start at $9.95 each (although they did have some starter kits and pin sets that were a bit less expensive).  I recommend you go online (ebay has them for sale in big lots for less than $1.00 a pin!) and put something together to bring with you. This could be a great way to tell your kids about the adventure they will be taking…present them with their “starter” trading pin collection! *Worth the spurge – a special Disney cruise pin you can ONLY get on board – don’t let your kids trade this one!

    Special Event - Tea with Alice in Wonderland!

  • Special events on board– Every day you’ll get a new “Navigator” delivered to your room with the next day’s activities listed. Almost everything is open for everyone but there was one event, Tea With Alice, that you had to RSVP ahead of time for as space was limited. When we learned about the event we went to guest services to sign up, but it already had a waiting list. We ended up getting in (YAY!) but I recommend that when you visit guest services the first day to give them your pillowcase, ask them about special events and sign up right away.

    Dolphin Extreme Swim and Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman

  • Book port excursions through Disney – There are many different excursions you can select from in each port and sign up for through Disney. While you can hold off and sign up on board OR go about it by yourself and find an excursion on your own ahead of time or when you get to each port,  I highly recommend that you book it through Disney ahead of time. Here’s why. 1. Many of the popular excursions will fill up quickly 2. If you book your excursion through Disney, they’ll refund your money if your visit to the port or that specific excursion cancels due to weather (we had two of ours cancel because of a tropical storm) 3. The crew knows who is going on an excursion booked through them and will make sure you are back on board. *Be looking for a review of the port excursions we did in Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Costa Maya in a separate post soon!
  • Dress up for formal night…it’s worth it. – My family is very casual and it took some creativity to get us all formal outfits for formal and semi-formal dining nights on board. We borrowed some ties, belts and jackets, we got one of Annie’s dresses at a second-hand shop and we splurged on a couple new items to get us spiffied up! We joked about the hassle (and how funny it was that we mainly just have shorts, t shirts and flip flops in our closets – but hey, we live in Houston and my husband and I both work from home so we don’t get gussied up very often!) But that made it all the more special when we did. Seeing us all dressed up made my heart happy and it made my list of top ten moments! (And we have a Christmas card picture…bonus!)
  • Bring your work-out gear. What?! I’m supposed to be on vacation, right? Well, I threw my running gear in the suitcase anyway and I’m so glad I did. I ate a lot of great food (including decadent desserts!) during the week and I felt a little less guilty because I worked out each morning. But really, working out in the exercise room was a lot of fun (the treadmills look out over the ocean!) and watching the sunrise on deck 4 while I ran first thing in the morning made my list of top ten moments. You never know what will turn out to be the highlight of your trip!

    Kids outside our (undecorated!) stateroom.

  • Bring a highlighter (for your daily itinerary), tape (to hang things your kids make in kid’s club on door) and plastic ziplocks(for keeping track of small stuff you collect while on vacation.) Again, I’m on vacation! Why am I packing a mini office?! If you like to stay organized, the highlighter is important! You have so many activities to pick from, I would highlight those we absolutely didn’t want to miss on the daily navigator each day. We wish we had packed tape. The kids made a lot of cute art in the kid’s clubs and it would have been perfect to have been able to put them on our stateroom door. Many people actually bring decorations WITH them to put on their door and I would have made two black circles with each of the kid’s names on them to make Mickey Mouse ears on the front door had I known (the stateroom number is the perfect Mickey head shape!). Taping up their art throughout the week would have been so cool and would have helped kept the stateroom more organized as well! We used ziplocks to bring home some beach sand (I’m making a Christmas ornament with it!) and other small souvenirs that could get lost.

    Kids celebrating Halloween on The Disney Magic

  • Pack Costumes/Outfits for special theme nights like Pirates In The Caribbean. – We went on our cruise right before Halloween, so they had a costume party one night. They also had Pirates In The Caribbean night where everyone dressed up like pirates (even grown-ups ya’ll!) And if you have a little girl, princesses costumes are a must for character encounters (I love the pictures of Annie dressed up as Jasmine with all the princesses!) and just about any day on the ship. It’s super  fun to participate in these dress-up moments…you’ll be glad you brought the costumes along – even if it’s just an eye patch and bandanna!

    Jackson and Annie with two actors on The Disney Magic

  • Don’t skip the evening shows – You’re likely to be extremely tired by the end of the day but if you can make it, the Broadway-style Disney shows are so worth staying up for. Give little ones a nap earlier in the day or have everyone take a mid-day rest so you can see for yourself why shows like Twice-Charmed, Villains Tonight and Dreams – An Enchanted Classic are so awesome (fireworks on stage? yup – that just happened!) The actors are extremely talented, the sets and costumes are beautiful and the music is…well – don’t be surprised if you start singing along.
Are you going on a cruise and have a question? Have you been on a Disney Cruise and have a tip to share? Come on, give us the 411 – we want to know!
The Disney Magic will be sailing out of the Port of Galveston in Texas from now until May 2013 and they are offering a special where kids under 17 years old can sail FREE on most six and eight day cruises from January 4, 2013 until March 1, 2013!
My family and I  were invited as guests of Disney on a 7-Day Caribbean Cruise aboard The Disney Magic. While most of our trip expenses were covered, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.