Thursday, April 24, 2014

Disney Road Trip 101 | What's In Our Road Trip Bag?

As a kid, my family made an annual pilgrimage to Walt Disney World in our RV. We spent long hours in the motorhome and my mom and dad, being teachers, made sure that we had plenty of activities to keep us occupied during that time. Now I'm the mom (and former teacher) and in charge of helping the kids stay occupied and happy on the long ride to Disney.

After this last trip to Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, it occurred to me that others may find it helpful to know what we pack for the road trip. We live in the midwest, so getting anywhere Disney related is a long drive. Here's what we usually have in our "go bag."

First of all, I use a collapsable market bag. I found ours on Zulily, but before that we used an old diaper box. I think it's easier to see everything if you have a wide opening, and I get less frustrated if the bag isn't collapsing in on itself all the time.

Second, we need movies. I try and estimate how long the trip is for the littles by telling them in movie lengths; for example, "Today's trip is 4 movies long." This way we can track it together. I like to take movies that are enjoyable to listen to. Some of our favorites include: Fantasia, Fantasia 2000, Make Mine Music, The Jungle Book, and Ratatouille (mostly due to our Little Chef's obsession!).

Third, we need activities. This can get tricky. I try and cater to what the kids are into at the moment, so this varies. But some of the tried and true include:

Magnet activities and an dollar store cookie sheet including, story magnets, popsicle stick puzzles, and matching magnets; stickers (as long as you don't mind them all over the car seats!); coloring books and crayons; new books and small toys; car bingo and other assorted games. We also use the travel clips I posted about here if the ride begins to get tedious!

Fourth, make sure you have your lovies! We have had more than one instance where the special elephant or pillow had to be express mailed to our destination. (I have incredible friends who are willing to help out a forgetful mama!)

Lastly, we take lots and lots of snacks. In fact, we pack a snack bag for Doc (he eats A LOT these days), and a snack bag for the rest of us. We now have a fancy vehicle with a cool box, so we don't need to take a cooler just for the road. But we often have one with us anyway. I like cold carrots and apples on the road.

I'd love to hear about any items you take with you on the road too. Variety is the name of the game! Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Disney Park Map Project Round Up for Earth Day

Since it's Earth Day, I thought it would be nice to do a round up of all the Disney Park Map posts I've done in the last year or so. As we all know, Jimminy Cricket wants us all to be responsible with our resources and think about our environment! These projects are a fun Disney way to incorporate the three Rs into your Disney trips: reduce, reuse and recycle!

First up, make a Disney park map gift bag!

Or you could make some fun coasters from ceramic tiles and your Disney park maps.

You could use them as an insert for an insulated travel mug, so you always have a little Disney with you.

You could also insert a Disney park map into a three-ring binder for an instant Disney boost at work or at school!

You could decoupage an ornament for the holidays, or create this orb ornament.

You could decoupage a candle for your home (or a gift!) with Disney park maps too.

And finally, you could use your Disney park maps to make a block puzzle suitable for your coffee table or your next road trip box.

What ever you decide to do, we hope you remember to reduce, reuse and recycle those maps. Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Disney Morning Person T-shirts Now Available!

If your family is anything like mine, you find it difficult to get them going in the morning. Our teenager is the worst! In fact, I specifically had Doc in mind when I created this T-shirt design. It can take him a good long while to get moving in the morning, but on the days we are headed to Walt Disney World, he is up and raring to go; a model a morning person!

I thought this T-shirt would be terrific for those mornings we are up and at 'em bright and early, headed to the happiest place on Earth! This is a RedBubble design, so it comes in a multitude of sizes, fits AND colors, including sizes for the littlest of Disney fans! And if you like to surprise your family with a trip to Disney, these would be a great item to add to your big reveal! (And if you do, please be sure to tag me on Instagram or post a picture right here on the blog!) You can purchase this Disney Morning Person design right here. And if you so desire, you can put it on your phone case or your iPad!

I hope you and your family enjoy this t-shirt and all it's possibilities. Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DIY Disney Scrapbook Layout | Anatomy of a Disney Enthusiast



You all know I am a Disney scrapbooker, and I am absolutely in love with this Disney Enthusiast layout! Partially because I designed the entire thing; partially because Doc has never been scrapped so perfectly! My inspiration for this layout came from a very clever resume I saw via Pinterest. I knew that I wanted to do this for Doc at the very least, I am still hoping to get it done for all of us Disney fanatics in the cottage! Maybe I'll select one of us each trip for this treatment. It wasn't too hard to do and it's a fun surprise in the midst of my project life layouts.

Here's how I did it. I work in Photoshop CS5 (If you know a student who can purchase this for you, you can same a bundle!). I took a photo of Doc that showed his entire body and converted it to black and white. I then used the marquee tool to create the white boxes. Once I had them in place I used my custom shape tool and my brushed to create the smaller icons. You can find my Disney Mountain Range Digital Brushes here, free for personal use. You can find my Disney Snacks Digital Brushes here, also free for personal use. If you can't find the custom shape you are looking for, simply google "free custom shapes photoshop" and a whole host of options should come up.

If you decide to do this too, I'd love to see what you come up with. Send me and link, tag me on Instagram, or leave me a comment here. Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

DIY Disney's Main Street Bakery French Toast Loaf

We are huge fans of the Main Street Bakery. Many a snack credit has been used there for many a wonderful and sugary snack! I must admit, I have never actually had this French Toast Loaf there, I tend toward the chocolate croissants, every time. But this was a fairly simple and very delicious way to bring a little of that Disney magic to the breakfast table between visits.

I found this recipe on Allears.net, one of our all time favorite sites for trip planning. What you may not know, is that they also have large selection of Disney recipes too! It's definitely worth checking out.

As for this recipe, it's clearly written as a scaled down version of a larger "park-size" recipe. Next time, I would go with only 4-6 oz. of butter (1 to 1 1/2 sticks), about 6 oz. (or 1 Cup) of brown sugar, and 6-8 oz. of heavy cream. I used half and half and just eye-balled about a cup, but I know it was less than this recipe called for. And I always go heavy on the vanilla. Everything is better when it's doubled! I was a little concerned that there wouldn't be enough cinnamon flavor, but it was actually perfect. And be sure to keep a pan underneath it in the oven. We had a major incident with burning butter that required us to clean the oven! Always something!

That said, this French Toast Loaf was delicious and the family all raved about it. Ours didn't stay together enough for it to be turned out of the pan, so we served it like you would a lasagne. No one had a problem with it! It's very sweet, so it might be best served as part of a brunch with sweet and savory offerings, or reserved as a special occasion breakfast. It will certainly find a place in the regular rotation here at the cottage!

Here's the original recipe with my changes in parenthesis:


Ingredients:

12 slices day-old white bread; preferably a homestyle white, not Wonder Bread
type

8 oz. butter, chilled and sliced (reduce to 1 to 1-1/2 sticks)

Brown sugar batch:

9 oz, light brown sugar (reduce to 1 cup)
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together and set aside.

Batter:

10 oz. heavy cream (reduce to 1 cup)
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla (increase to 1 tsp or more)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together and refrigerate until ready to use. (we let it sit in the refrigerator overnight)

Method:

Liberally spray a loaf pan with Pam or other vegetable spray. Layer three slices day old bread on bottom of pan. Sprinkle 1/3 brown sugar mixture on top of bread, then layer 1/3 of the butter. Repeat these steps two more times. Top off with three more slices of bread (should have a total of 12 slices of bread). Press down with hand to compact bread into loaf pan.

Slowly pour 16 oz. of batter over top of loaf, covering completely. This may take a little time, to allow it to fully absorb into bread and flow into spaces at bottom. (Take
your time here and pour into corners. Lift bread at corners a little to get into bottom quicker if you want.)

Place loaf pan on some paper towel in case of overflow. Cover top of loaf with parchment paper and wrap top tightly with aluminum foil. Place in refrigerator and allow to sit overnight.

Heat oven to 325ยบ F. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until internal temperature in center of loaf is 160 degrees. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Place a plate on top of loaf pan and invert to remove from pan. Cut into 7 slices and serve.

Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

DIY Dumbo Inspired Knitted Socks

Even though we are finally finding our way to warmer weather, I'm still knitting cozy Disney inspired socks. Some of my best knitting time is on a road trip while the littles are buckled into their seats with no where to go! These adorable Dumbo inspired socks were knit on our recent road trip to Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort. I love them so much, but this particular pair was a sock knitting adventure for me!

I had never attempted toe-up socks prior to knitting these. I always knit mine from the cuff down, simply because that's how I learned to do it. But when I saw this super cute pattern from Urki Gurki (I know, don't you love it??), I knew it was time to learn how to knit a toe-up sock. After all, I knew how to do it the other way; how hard could it be? And for the most part, it was pretty simple.

The pattern was easy to follow, the two-color knitting was easy enough to do, but the heel. OH! the heel! I knit, ripped out and re-knit that heel four times! I finally managed to get it knit because I needed these Dumbo socks in my life. Who wouldn't? But don't ask me to knit a pair for you because these socks are going in the looky-what-I-did-hall-of-fame, never to be knit again! Well, maybe not never; I think I'll try a different, (ahem, less complicated!) toe-up pattern next time, just to get the hang of this type of heel. Maybe then I could conquer these socks again. We'll see. For now, I'm just thrilled they are off the needles and in the sock drawer! Knitting these socks for a full month had me dreaming about them. Time for something much less complicated.

If you want all the knitty-gritty details on these socks and how I knit them, you can check out my ravelry page. You can also find the pattern there. Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Scrapbooking Disney | It's A Small World Kid's Room Mural

 
My regular readers will know all about my favorite room in the cottage. I managed to turn Little Chef's and Minnie's room into a Mary Blair love affair and tribute to It's A Small World. I knew I would want to document the progress of the mural, so I took daily photos as I was painting it. I love how this scrapbook layout tells the story. I again used the Project Mouse kit: Fantasy from Brittney at britt-ish designs and Krista at sahlin studio. Their It's A Small World embellishments and word art were perfect for this layout! The only thing I created were the number buttons. If you want the story on how I created the mural, you can check out the original mural blog post here.

I can't wait to have this fully documented in the scrapbook for the kids! Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sitting with Grandmother Willow: Nicole of Designs by Nicolina

As part of our on-going series, Sitting with Grandmother Willow, I am happy to introduce Nicole of Designs by Nicolina, an Etsy shop and blog. My favorite art print of hers is this fantastic Carousel of Progress subway art! But there is so much more to see.

This series of blog posts highlights artists and bloggers of all stripes with one thing in common: a passion for Disney! I hope you will enjoy getting to know Nicole as much as I have. A big thanks to her for taking the time to interview with us! And be sure to visit her blog and her Etsy shop for a wonderful selection of Disney themed art prints, invitations, and paper goods!





Disney By The Numbers (with apologies to Harper's):


# of trips you have made: too many to count! My great grandparents lived about 20 min away so we would go every year when we went to visit them. Every year until I was about 7, and then we have been going about every other/every 2 years since. Although this past year we went twice!
Date of first trip: 1991
Date of next trip: TBD hoping sometime in 2015 maybe Spring time
# of Resorts stayed in: most recently we stayed at Saratoga Springs, I am sure we stayed at a few others when I was little. But since my parents and inlaws have time share we usually stay at the Bonnet Creek Wyndham or the Marriott by Seaworld
Usual # in your travel party: usually anywhere from 4-7
Pairs of mouse ears in your cottage: only 1! When I was little my parents didn't think I would keep them on, but I did get a pair of sparkly Minnie ears this spring!

WDW or Disneyland (or other)? WDW

How do you usually travel to Disney? usually we drive, although this past time we flew and used magical express, and that was pretty nice too!

Do you have any tips for trips? Always do Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning, then schedule your FastPass for the Safari or get straight in line. The time we got there at rope drop was the best!

Do you have a favorite place to eat while in Disney? We LOVE the quick service place in Mexico, and Pinocchio's has been my favorite since I was little, love the view of It's A Small World. But my husband can't get enough LeFou's Brew so the past few times Gaston's has been at the top of the list!

What is your absolute DON'T MISS attraction? Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest (even though we got stuck at the top the last time we went), Magic Kingdom - Big Thunder Mountain & Peter Pan, Epcot - Malstrom and Hollywood - Tower of Terror

Stage shows, yes or no? YES!

Parades, yes or no? If I catch myself on one sure, but usually we run and get on a ride while everyone is watching!

Best Fast Pass to get: Peter Pan! That line is forever!

Favorite park: MAGIC KINGDOM

One piece of advice you'd give a novice about WDW/DL: Take break days, if you are going for 7 days take some time to enjoy Downtown Disney and your resort

How do you create extra magic for your family? We watch or listen to Disney movies and songs leading up to the trip and new outfits! Haha

How can we connect with you?
Instagram @nicoliaw
Twitter @designsnicolina
Facebook facebook.com/designsbynicolina

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Trip Report | Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort

Let me start by saying this was quite possibly the best Disney vacation Mr. Photos From The Parks and I have had since the kids have arrived in our lives. I actually felt like I had a vacation. It's been a couple years since I could say that! Why was it so great? I think there were several things that made us wish we had bought into this resort at the beginning.

From our very arrival, we loved the atmosphere of this resort. Mr. Photos grew up vacationing on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and it immediately felt very much like home. As many of you know, I grew up vacationing in Fort Wilderness, before there was anything more than the Magic Kingdom & River Country (and eventually Epcot). This resort took me back to how it used to feel spending our days as a family at Fort Wilderness. There was lots of down time and plenty to do if you weren't in the parks. We did most of it then and loved it. Hilton Head brought all of that back for me.

The pace of this resort also made our stay wonderful. We are used to our Disney vacations being of the fast-paced, non-stop, I'll-sleep-when-I-get-home variety. It's just not possible to do that here. The pace on the island was easy. If we slept in, no matter. If we missed the storyteller, he'd be back in an hour. If we wanted to eat later, no ADRs to worry about. The kids did as they wished and no one bothered to worry about it. It was such a delight!

Additionally, this resort is small, roughly 15 acres. To give you are reference point, Disney's Boardwalk Inn Resort encompasses 45 acres. The entirety of the Hilton Head Island Resort has roughly the same footprint as both areas of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. That's it. There are only 31 cottages here (with extremely spacious units), one pool and central activities area, as well as a few things to do at the check-in area. It's incredibly walkable with plenty to do without ever leaving the resort. But it's also easy to walk all around the Shelter Cove area, visiting several shops and restaurants.


The units were undergoing a major rehab while we were there. The color schemes were all updated to much more soothing blue/taupe/white theme. We had all new appliances as well as a full-size washer and dryer. This is the view of our main living area in the 2-bedroom villa. We had plenty of room to spread out even with all our baby/kid paraphernalia! There were several full sized closets as well as a mudroom for all our jackets, shoes, hats and stroller! That alone was a selling point for me! And although we didn't need it, both of these sofas fold out into beds. We could have easily slept 4 more people in our villa. It was more than enough room for us.

Disney also has a beach house and private beach area that is quite easy to get to. We drove, but Disney offers transportation, and there is also a very nice bike path for access. We had cool weather while we were there, but it didn't keep us from enjoying the beach and the amenities at the beach house. With the arcade and the beach, we were happy to spend the afternoon playing.

So, should you stay at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort? I say absolutely! If you are looking for a relaxing place to get away from it all, this is just the place you are looking for. Less hustle and bustle but still all the comforts of Disney you've come to love and expect. And for those of you who like seeing it all in one place, I've created a PDF fact sheet for the resort. Enjoy!


Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!