Planning a Disney Side @Home Celebration!

Disclaimer: I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

My email congratulating me on being selected!
Back in December, I found out about the Disney Side @Home Celebration opportunity through my Disney groups on Facebook and Twitter.  I quickly read over some brief descriptions of the program and decided it sounded right up my alley.  I applied to be selected as a host and was thrilled to receive an email in the beginning of January that I was selected and would be receiving my box soon!  Last week, I received my box of goodies and have been anxious to plan a great party!

It arrived!
So what is Disney Side @Home Celebration?  Disney Parks teams up with BSM Media and a variety of sponsors to send individuals some awesome free products to host a Disney party at your house.  In exchange, we agree to host a party by the end of February and share our experiences on our social media outlets - blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.  I have been following many experienced "social media moms" who do these kind of events on a regular basis, but this is a first for me!

I was so excited to open it, but waited for Brody to go to bed because I knew he'd want to rip into everything!
So what goodies were in the box?  Some really awesome products!  Based on the questionnaire I submitted in my application, I was selected to host a Cars themed preschool party - perfect for my preschool boy!  There were so many goodies that I decided to capture them in a picture for now and will talk more about them as I plan and host my celebration.  (P.S. - Notice the Mickey cake pan???  How exciting is that for this novice cake decorator and Disney fan?!?)

Some really amazing items!
And when will this party take place?  Well, those of you who know me personally know that within the next two weeks we are moving into a new house and due to have a new baby.  Some of you think I'm crazy to have applied and be selected for this, but I couldn't pass up a Disney opportunity!  With that in mind, we're planning a get together on Feb. 28 for some of Brody's friends to come and play.  I think Brody will enjoy the time celebrating with his friends in his new house and it will also be great for him to have a day devoted to Brody with so much attention focused on the arrival of his new baby brother.

A little bit closer view of some of the goodies in our kit!

I can't wait to host my party next month!  Look for more blog posts as the date draws closer about planning for the party and, of course, a summary of the party afterwards.  A big thank you to all the sponsors for being a part of such an amazing opportunity for us Disney fans to show our #DisneySide!

Disclaimer: I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own. 

Where it all began. . .

My husband has long tried to figure out where my Disney obsession began.  As a child and young adult, I was lucky enough to travel with my parents and family to Walt Disney World for 3 trips - and clearly each one made a lasting impression!  Right now, we're actually staying with my parents for a few weeks while we wait to move into our new house.  The other night, I was exploring in the basement and found some Disney memorabilia from my childhood that started a flood of great memories.  Below are just a few items that I discovered and the memories associated with each.

My nursery was Bambi and these were the decorations from that.  That's also my first pair of mouse ears!

What kid doesn't love seeing their name on Mickey ears??
A souvenir from one of my favorite memories from my first Disney trip - the character breakfast on the Empress Lilly.
Just a few of the photo books capturing all the Disney memories from childhood.
What started YOUR love of Disney?  A movie, a song, a trip, a relative?  No matter what began a love of Disney, most would probably agree that once you're hooked, life without the mouse is pretty hard to imagine!

Remy Champagne Brunch Review

When Dan and I traveled on the Disney Dream last April for our adult getaway to celebrate my 30th birthday, one of the "splurges" I was pretty insistent in experiencing was the Champagne Brunch at Remy.  Remy is one of two adult-only restaurants on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.  While Palo is known for Northern Italian cuisine, Remy is inspired by the Disney movie Ratatouille and serves primarily French dishes.  The Champagne Brunch was a $50 up charge per person and only included your initial taste of champagne.  For a full champagne pairing, there was an additional $25 charge per person.  I opted for the full experience, while Dan (not being a big champagne fan), worked with the sommelier to create a wine pairing for his brunch menu.

The champagne brunch is only offered on "at sea" days on the cruise ships which means that on our four day cruise there was only one serving of this unique experience.  Upon entering Remy, guests are escorted as a group to the wine room where you are surrounded by beautiful bottles of wine with Disney / Pixar labels - many of which signed by John Lasseter.  In this room, guests are given their first taste of champagne and meet with the chef who explains the menu for the brunch and then the sommelier reviews the champagne pairings for the morning.

Menu from April 2014
Guests then make their way to their tables and the dining extravaganza begins.  I always think that I should take pictures of each course AFTER I have finished my meal.  That is certainly true at a restaurant like Remy.  You are truly dining on a work of art - both from a taste and visual point of view.  I did however, remember to take a picture of the menu.  All I can say about each course is WOW!  I'm not shy when it comes to food, so the unfamiliar menu didn't scare me off at all.  Dan, however, is another story,  He was worried about so many "fancy" and "unusual" dishes on the menu, but he gave them a go and enjoyed them as well.

If you are sailing on the Dream or Fantasy, I would recommend trying Remy at least once.  I think Palo is more universally appealing to all taste palates (and is definitely cheaper), but Remy is something to experience.  Recently, the Disney Parks Blog released information about new dining experiences at Remy that may also interest you on your next Disney Cruise Line vacation!  Bon Appetite!

Disney Junior Play 'n Dine (aka Preschool Heaven!)

If you are a Disney loving parent with a Disney loving preschooler at home, you have probably memorized just about every Disney Junior episode out there.  From Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to Jake and the Neverland Pirates to Sofia the First, these shows captivate the hearts and young minds of children - and I'll admit - even are fun for the adults to watch too!  When planning our trip to Disney with Brody, we knew that anything Disney Junior was a must do.  That meant that breakfast at Disney's Hollywood Studios Hollywood and Vine Restaurant was a no brainer!

Brody dressed as Jake for his breakfast!
Each day, Hollywood and Vine offers Disney Junior Play 'n Dine for breakfast and lunch.  Similar to most other character meals, this is once again a buffet.  And since we were there for breakfast, it was again similar to what you would expect to find on breakfast buffets. . .Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, meats, fruits, yogurt, etc.  The food was good and hot, but it's the entertainment here that you don't want to miss if you have a Disney Junior fan in your house.

Enjoying a piece of watermelon while watching the characters around the restaurant.
This breakfast had the best character interaction I've experienced at a character meal in my time at Disney.  I know that some of this can vary day to day depending on the staffing at the restaurant, but I feel that the Disney Junior Play 'n Dine recognizes that they are catering to an impatient audience that doesn't sit well for long periods of time.  There were more dance and party breaks then I care to count and each one featured the characters actively engaging with the kids as they danced and sang along to their favorite Disney Junior songs. 

Marching around the restaurant with Jake- pretending we were pirates!  Arghhh!

The characters currently featured there (as of November 2014) are Jake, Sofia, Doc McStuffins, and Handy Manny.  Brody is not a Handy Manny fan, but was thrilled to meet everyone else.  In fact, he spent the rest of the day commenting on how pretty he throughout Sofia was!  We didn't get a chance to have Doc McStuffins visit our table because we had FP+ reservations for the Frozen Sing-A-Long show at 10:15 and the earliest time I could get for our breakfast reservation was 9:15.  This is one character meal that you definitely want to plan for the full 90 minute experience.  With the dance breaks and extensive character interactions, the characters take their time making their way through the restaurant - which I appreciate. 

Jake visited our table to say hi!

"Why yes Princess Sofia, you may kiss my hand!"
This is a character meal you don't want to miss if you have a preschooler traveling with you to Disney on your next trip!  Enjoy the fun, music, and laughter as the kids have a great time!!

Brody's Top 10 List for WDW - Part 2

My last post featured #6 - 10 in Brody's recommendations for the best attractions in Disney World for a toddler and / or preschooler.  Here is Part Two!

5.    Meeting Characters - Whether it was at a character breakfast or in the parks, Brody loved meeting some of his favorite characters.  This can be tough to judge on your first visit to Disney with little ones.  I think Brody was more comfortable since he met a lot of characters last year on the Disney Cruise and our short 3 day visit to Disney World.  We didn't have to wait in long princess waits, but did wait several times up to 30 minutes to meet some of his favorites like Woody and Buzz.  If you know your kids will enjoy it, and they're not big enough to ride many rides yet, think about using some of your FP+ reservations for these meet and greets.

Giving Minnie kisses at Epcot Character Spot

Saying "hi" to Mickey and Minnie at Adventurer's Outpost in Animal Kingdom

4.    Talking to Mickey at Town Square Theatre - This was a new experience for me this time and it was AWESOME!  Brody met the talking Mickey on Day 4 of our trip.  He was amazed after meeting Mickey a few other times who couldn't talk.  Mickey also took his time and was very interactive.

Thrilled to talk, sing, and spin around with Mickey at Town Square Theatre!
3.    Cinderella's Castle - Or the "Disney Castle" if you're Brody.  He's talked about the castle for months leading up to the trip as he knows it from the beginning of Disney movies.  His face was priceless as we started walking down Main Street USA and he ran up to the castle several times to give it a hug!

Seeing Cinderella's Castle when you start down Main Street USA = Priceless!

2.    Riding Disney Transportation - Who would have thought that the part of the trip that most adults find to be the biggest pain, would turn out to be among Brody's favorites?  Maybe it's because of a lack of public transportation where we live, but Brody was fascinated by the busses and the monorail.  He would get so excited when we told him it was time to ride on a bus and also loved waiting at the bus stops.  He would ask what seemed like a million questions about where each bus was going while  we waited for ours.  He is still talking about the busses and how much fun they were!

1.    Dumbo The Flying Elephant - A Magic Kingdom classic, this ride was Brody's favorite.  He loved going "way up high" and the "way down low."  It's perfectly designed for the preschool set and we must have rode it at least a half dozen times.  I was excited to see him loving this ride as one of my favorite memories from my first Disney trip in 1989 was riding Dumbo with my grandmother.  Sharing old memories and creating new are a big part of what makes a Disney vacation so memorable.

One of our many rides on Dumbo
So that's it!  Brody's recommendations for the toddler and preschool set.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask him - he talks about his Disney trip almost every day!!

Brody's Top 10 List for WDW - Part I

This post today is written by Brody.  One of the most common questions I see on the DisBoards, Twitter, Facebook, etc. is "What attractions are best for my toddler / preschooler?"  Of course, every kid is different, but here are the things we found in Disney that caused Brody's face to light up.  He wanted to do each of them multiple times and still talks about them even though we've been home for a month.  Who says a 2YO doesn't remember Disney?  Today's post will feature #6-10 and his top 5 will be revealed in the next post (he's only two and can't post too much in one day!)

10.  Watching Animals from Our Room at Animal Kingdom Lodge - It was definitely worth the money to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge with Brody.  He loved waking up and returning to his room each afternoon and evening to look for animals.  The Sunset Savannah is the best for animal viewing at Kidani Village if you are planning to stay here on your next trip.

I spy zebras, giraffes, and okapi - oh my!

9.    Disney Jr. Live On Stage - The "big four" from Disney Junior appear on stage as puppets in one magical story - Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  This is totally designed for preschoolers in mind.  Everyone sits on the floor and the expectation is for kids to dance, sing, and play as the show takes place at Hollywood Studios.

One of my favorites - Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Mesmerized by Disney Junior

8.    Toy Story Mania - Another Hollywood Studios attraction!  Brody was too little to wear the 3D glasses and to really play the midway games effectively, but that didn't stop him from loving the surroundings of Andy's Room and interacting with his favorite Toy Story characters during the ride.  Long lines are the norm here, so be sure to secure a ride with your FP+.

You can catch up with Woody and Buzz across from Toy Story Mania
7.    Prince Charming Regal Carousel - This one surprised me.  We've been to other places with carousels and Brody really wasn't interested.  But every time we passed by the carousel at Magic Kingdom, we had to pause to "ride the horses."  Another great feature of this ride - a lot people can ride each time which means that even when the line looks long, it moves quick.

6.    Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin - Another Magic Kingdom ride.  Brody loves Buzz Lightyear and we were able to ride this multiple times since it's not as long of a wait as Toy Story Mania.  Brody tried his best to get Zurg, but was still a little small to fully participate in the ride.  He had a great time though and would ask to go back.

Buzz Lightyear giving final instructions as we begin our mission
Stay tuned in a few days for the Top Five from Brody's experience!

Hello 2015!

Every new year should begin with some resolutions, right?  Well, here are the ones that I'm looking to keep in the coming year.  Besides the typical Disney reviews and tips, my readers (all 10 of you!) will be able to help me stay accountable on the progress I report with each of these.

  • Maintain balance between wife, mom, daughter, Kristi, and Assistant Principal.  Juggling multiple roles can be exhausting and I want to do my best to prioritize and make time for each of these important responsibilities in my life.
  • Run a half-marathon.  After the pregnancy, I've decided to set an ambitious training goal to force me to get off the couch and back into shape.  My plan is the Wine and Dine Half-Marathon in November.  Which leads me to Resolution #3. . .
  • Somewhere Disney.  If you know anything about me by now, you know that I need to feed my Disney addiction with a yearly trip.  Dan and I are celebrating our 5 year anniversary this year and are planning either a long weekend getaway to the Food and Wine Festival in November or a short DCL trip in October. 
  • Continue blogging and interacting with the social media community.  2014 was a first for me with beginning a blog and actually using Twitter.  I've had an amazing time connecting through these outlets and hope to build my skills and followers in the year to come.  If you don't currently follow me on Twitter, please do @dsnyrunrgrl.  I've also applied to host a #DisneySide @ Home Celebration and submitted my interest to be selected for the #DisneySMMoms On the Road Conference - fingers crossed!  And hopefully I'll make it past R2 in the Disney Parks Moms Panel Search this Fall.

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