Monday, May 9, 2011

DIY - Bowling Ball Caterpillar For Your Garden

I took 5 bowling balls that I picked up at yard sales and spray painted them green. I then took different colored paint pens and made spots on each of the balls. I added a face to the front ball and drilled two small holes above the eyes. I bent wire hangers to look like antennaes and spray painted them yellow. I stuck them in the drilled holes (I filled the holes with a little hot glue to help the antennaes stay in place). I laid him in front of some hosta and a little fence we have in the back yard. He has made a fun and colorful addition to our yard! Everyone has loved our new little creature!

Disney Virgins

We just got back from a seven day vacation to Florida! This was the first time we have ever taken a "big" trip as a family. I have been itching to get away and thought a Disney vacation would be fun. I split the vacation up between Disney World and Cocoa Beach. Our kids have never seen the ocean so I knew that splitting the time up would bring tons of new experiences and it would be cheaper than spending all 7 days at Disney!

Of course, trying to stick to a budget was very important to me. I wanted to have an enjoyable vacation and not have to spend tons of money to do it. One thing I found out right away was that I was going to plan this vacation on my own - without the help of a travel agent. The travel agent put different packages together for me, but in every one, I was paying for something I knew we weren't going to use. So........... I started my own travel planning journey! The first thing I did was search for flights. I checked rates daily to see if they would go down and I was able to get 4 round trip tickets with baggage claim and seats that we picked for $1050 (taxes and fees included)! Next, was lodging. There are tons of Disney hotels/resorts all around Disney World, but I found them to be a bit pricey. I was able to find Marriott hotels close to Disney and right on the beach in Cocoa Beach! Since we have a Marriott card and had some "earned" points we hadn't used, we had a few of our nights already paid for. I also decided to rent a car. You can use trams and taxis and shuttles, but we really found the car rental prices reasonable (our full size car was $140 for the entire week, plus a full tank of gas when we returned it). We loved the flexibility that it gave us. We didn't have to work around shuttle times or wait on someone else to get us where we wanted to go.

Now, I had all the major "stuff" lined up, so my next mission was to talk to every single human being who I knew had been to Disney. They were the best resource about what to do and what not to do. By doing that, I found out what parks were best for our family.

Our first day there, we spent at Downtown Disney. This is not a park. It is like an outdoor mall in the sense that you walk around from place to place. There are stores, Lego displays, an awesome dinosaur restaurant, Bippity Boppity Boutique is there (there is also one in Magic Kingdom). This was a great place to spend our first day there. We were able to see some things at an easy pace and get ready for our next few days at the parks. We also bought our tickets for the parks so we didn't have to waste any time waiting in line at the parks. I was able to get Gabrielle an appointment at the Bippity Boppity Boutique for that morning we were there. It cost $70, but I was so happy we did it. Your daughter goes into this "princess salon" and gets "made-up" by "Fairy Godmothers In-Training". Depending on what package you get, they get their nails and hair done. They get make-up put on and they can also get a full princess outfit as well (that package was around $180). You have to call ahead to make a reservation for this. You can't just walk in and expect to get in. Here are some great pointers if you decide to do this: #1 - Do it as early in the day as possible. This gives you the rest of the day to explore without having to worry about getting back for an appointment. #2 - We were so happy we did it in Downtown Disney and not in Magic Kingdom because that would have taken up a lot of time that we would have otherwise wanted to spend exploring the park. #3 - Don't expect your daughter to be laughing and smiling throughout the whole thing. Gabrielle was so overwhelmed with it all that she was so quiet and not really smiling during her session. But, the rest of the day, she was so proud of the way she looked! #4 - Take lots of pictures or record it. Your daughter will love to see them after it is all said and done (Gabrielle smiles the entire time she watches the recording).

The following day, we spent at Magic Kingdom. We were there right when they opened and we didn't leave until 10:30 that night (there is a lighted parade at night and a fireworks show)! It is important to grab the maps and the list of shows right as you enter the park. This will tell you where you can find characters to sign your autograph books (we bought these at Downtown Disney so we didn't have to waste time at the park) and also when the show times are. That way, you can plan your day around that. I do have to say that each show was a major production, you should not miss the shows or parades. You should also know which rides you want to ride because you should get a Fast Past for them right away to ensure you can ride them. There are also Fast Passes for some of the character greetings. This way, you don't have to stand in long lines for all of them. Remember to enjoy this. Don't let the long lines or anything else put you in a bad mood. You are in the most magical place ever! ENJOY it!

The next day we spent at Hollywood Studios. Again, we were there from open to close. Landen is a huge Star Wars fan so as soon as we got through the doors, we headed to the Star Wars Jedi sign up (as you enter the park, go left, towards the Star Wars ride and you should see the sign for the Jedi training). We got there just in time to get him signed up for the last show of the day. He was going to be on stage fighting Darth Vader!!! There are shows all day, but they fill up fast so if you have a Star Wars fanatic, make sure you do this the first thing. The stunt show at Hollywood Studios was fantastic! We all loved it! The Beauty and the Beast show was like a short Broadway production - beautiful! Again, there are character signing spots all over.

After this day, we got in our car and drove about an hour to Cocoa Beach. We got to our hotel, put our suits on and headed to the beach. If you have room, pack some sand toys so you don't have to pay for them there. We found a grocery store nearby and bought food to make in the room and to take to the beach while we were there. We hunted for shells and the kids actually got to hold a tiny sea horse that got pushed onto shore. We all had a wonderful time and none of us wanted to come home. Matt and I are already talking about where we are going next.......... on a budget.

Here are some tips that helped save money and time and are great for Disney virgins:

1. Take a cooler for water and snacks. Remember, you will be there all day and the prices are high at the stands and restaurants.
2. Bring or rent a stroller. You will need it. Even Landen (8) needed to ride in the stroller for a little break.

3. Pick up the maps and show times right at the beginning of the entrance. You need these! They tell you when all the shows and parades are and they are all phenomenal!

4. Get a Fast Pass for whatever you can.

5. Buy your tickets ahead of time so you don't waste time in lines waiting for tickets.

6. Talk to everyone you know who has been there. They can give you great insight.

7. Get a spot early for the parades!!! It is horrible if your kids can't see and you have to hold them the entire time!

8. SUNSCREEN! Take it and reapply all day!

9. Do the rides! We found that the parks did not have tons of rides and the ones that they did have, were perfect for younger kids.

10. We thought that Landen was the oldest (8) we would take our kids to these two parks. If he was any older, we don't think it would have been as "magical" for him.

11. Wear tennis shoes and comfortable clothes. You will be hot and walking all day. One night we had to sprint from one end of the park to the other to get to a show we didn't want to miss.

Enjoy the trip! It goes by way too fast! It truly is "magical"!

"Handmade" Mother's Day Gift

I came up with the cutest idea for a "handmade" Mother's Day gift that moms can use and/or keep as a keepsake.

I bought different colored fabric paints and I got white dish towels at Target on clearance. I had each child pick out a color and then I painted their hand and put it on the towel. I then added a stem and flower pot. I did one towel for each child. You could also do one entire family on a towel and have a pot full of flowers!