Sparks of Magic

How We Manage Homeschooling Five Kids Plus Some Options to Get Started in California

FamilyCamilleComment

Well, we did it and took the leap this year, our journey to homeschooling has begun. I guess I shouldn't say that it’s just beginning, because I've homeschooled our kids off and on since our eldest (now a Senior) was in Kindergarten, but this is the first year that we have ALL FIVE of them home and WE are working together.

Did you get that? Yep. WE.

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Jeff and I are a team in pretty much everything, but until recently, school has always leaned more towards this Mama’s court. However, since I am also working from home and focusing heavily on our transition to Los Angeles, we decided to meet in the middle for the kids’ education for this season in life.

At the time of this post, we are home educating 2 in middle and 3 in high school, with one graduating in Spring 2019. I know that people see the fun perks, like school at Disneyland and other destinations, more time spent as a family for travel and 1:1 learning and have this glamorous idea of what it’s like to be a home educator. I love homeschooling, but to be fair if you are considering it, it is A LOT of hard work especially with older students and it is not an easy feat. They get on our nerves. They don’t get to do what they want. They literally eat up the entire house since they’re home all day. They can’t be on social media during school hours (oh yes, they love that part *total sarcasm*). They have to have a schedule. They also have to get dressed. Granted, we do have our lazy days in pajamas, because if you can - why not, however brushing teeth before coming to the table is always a must! Oh, and yes, they have to do work. Thankfully we have an amazing and supporting Education Specialist through our charter school, along with a great team of Special Education teachers for our kiddos that need extra help. When we look at the pros and cons, especially a mid-year relocation, it made the most sense to round them all up, strap on our teaching hats and buckle down to make it work!

Be prepared. Homeschooling will test your marriage. You need to compromise & work together.

Agreeing to Compromise

Let’s be honest, after almost two decades married we have come to understand the word “compromise” on many levels… but let me tell you - homeschooling will test your marriage. Jeff and I have always had differing opinions about homeschooling, and it never really made sense for our family until this year to have all of them home. Fun fact: Jeff was homeschooled his entire life. He is not too proud of that fact for more reasons than one, but mostly because he missed out on a normalized social aspect and his schooling was due to sheltering not academics or opportunity for advancement in the real world. Our kids are little social butterflies most of the time, so he was/is most concerned that this area of their lives would/will suffer. You see how I am still including the present? Because it still scares him, LOL.

I, on the other hand, think that homeschooling is amazing - no matter how many times I’ve sat at the table and cried over planning another week of studies or rearranging schedules to accommodate appointments, travel and other things to keep them on track. In full scorpio fashion, I am a ball of emotion and energy so I can get a little excited with my doomsday thinking if I forget something. You feel like (because you kind of do) have the responsibility of your children’s entire future on your shoulders, and while it scares the shit out of me, it also empowers me because I CAN do this and I AM doing it. It’s not perfect, I am not perfect and my kids are not perfect. However, I am always reassured that they are doing well and we are making it work. The opportunity and flexibility, the joy of seeing our kids “get it” when it comes to certain subjects that are naturally tough, especially after spending years in traditional school coming home confused as hell - to me, is worth the tears, frustration and hard work.

So, how on earth do we make it work for us? I decided to share some of the ways that have helped us over a few blog posts, but be mindful as your family will have different needs than ours. There are so many blogs and articles on homeschooling in CA, and I assume if you’re reading this we know each other in real life, so I would hope that my input actually means something to you. If you have questions, reach out! :) This post focuses more on the options available in California to get this series started.

Homeschool Options 

In the state of California, we have options when it comes to home education. This is simply a brief overview and list of those options and should not be the foundation of your decision-making process. Dependent on your area, seek out school options, call and email, meet their administrators in person and ASK QUESTIONS. YOU are the advocate for your children’s education, speak up and find out what will work for your family based on your children’s needs and learning styles. We have children that have Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and Section 504 accommodations and we have Support specialists and teachers that must follow the same mandated regulations as if they were in traditional school. We have always homeschooled through a public charter school so as a disclaimer for this and all future posts, my experience is the perspective of a public charter family in CA. Additional note: NOT ALL CHARTERS ARE THE SAME.

  1. Homeschool Program through Public Charter School: Just as it implies, you are enrolled in a public school and when you homeschool through this option, you are provided funding but you are also 100% responsible for using those funds appropriately for curriculum, enrichment and field trips. You work with an Education Specialist (ES, a Credentialed teacher) to plan your children’s path and they guide you on how to spend your funds. Funding amounts vary based on school, grade of student and location. Because this is public school, the purchase of religious products and services are prohibited. In our experiences, we meet in person or virtually with our ES every 20 school days or once per month.

  2. Homeschool Program through Private Schools: Many times this is an online or video program, additionally many programs are religious-based. As stated, this is private school, so it will also cost money to attend once accepted. For us personally, and with so many children, it is was not a viable financial option and we like the idea of them learning varying perspectives and having more flexibility in curriculum for each child.

  3. Independent Study through Public Charter or Private School: This is done through a public or private school location with varying ways of your student(s) receiving education. Some allow your student(s) to be onsite for an allotted amount of time and work from home the remainder. Some schools have scheduled classes to attend and they provide the curriculum. This option typically does not include any funding as curriculum provided covers CA standards based on grade level.

  4. Private School Affidavit (PSA): This is the option I am least familiar with, but you file with the state as a private home school to educate your own children. Based on CA Ed Code, there are filing dates, which are October 1-15th. More on that is here.

Ok, I know, that could be a lot to swallow if you’re just toying with the idea. However, once you decide the school option, there are still more areas to consider that include the age/grade of your child, their academic goals, learning styles and your desired time commitment. I am excited to embark on sharing our experiences here and touching on every one of those areas. I am grateful to live in a state that allows us options as parents to participate fully in our children’s education.

Do you homeschool? If not, have you considered homeschooling? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Toy Story 4 Teaser Trailer

Entertainment, DisneyCamilleComment

Just when you might have thought the adventures for Woody, Buzz and friends were over, we get a sneak peek into a new, big world that Woody finds himself in with his new kid, Bonnie.

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If you recall previous films in the franchise, a toy’s purpose is to be there for its child, so when Bonnie brings home a repurposed spork called “Forky,” things take a little turn and the poor guy seems to have a serious identity crisis! 

 ©️Disney•Pixar

©️Disney•Pixar

Forky, voiced by comedian Tony Hale, is convinced he doesn’t belong, I mean, he honestly looks like a cute Pinterest fail, and I can only imagine the level of comedy that will ensue as he tries to find his way in the toy room!

I’m excited to also share that the all-star cast that I grew up to love from 1995 is still voicing their respective characters in this fourth release. 

Here’s a sneak peek at the teaser trailer!  

Toy Story 4 and Forky debut in the US on June 21, 2019!  

Keep up with all the happenings online:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PixarToyStory/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/toystory

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ToyStory/

YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/user/DisneyPixar

Pixar films get you at the core, so I’m excited to see what they have for us in Toy Story 4!  

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Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo | San Mateo 2018

Events, Food, WellnessCamilleComment

Living gluten free in 2018 is so much easier than it was a decade ago, when I found out I could no longer partake in most of my favorite foods, including Disneyland churros. However, over the years I found other sensitivities to foods (dairy, soy, other grains) that affected more than just my gut, but also my mind and mental wellness.

Today, this lifestyle is becoming more typical for my family as we are shifting our mindset together to more whole foods, organic, mostly grain-free and always being extra careful about my daughter’s life threatening allergy to peanuts and legumes.

I was so excited to find out that there is an expo dedicated to connecting brands that offer all gluten free foods to consumers! With over ten sponsors and eighty (yes 80) gluten free brands, it will take two days to get through each booth and learn at the educational classes about living gluten free and allergen friendly, whether for yourself, your loved ones or to increase your awareness for others.

Check out the brands in attendance »

About the GFAF Expo

The event is two days:
November 17th & 18th, 2018
10 am - 3 pm both days.

Location: San Mateo County Event Center - Fiesta Hall
Parking is $12 per day (no in/out privileges)

Ticket Info

What do you get with your ticket?

  • Coupons from the best gluten-free & allergen-friendly brands

  • FREE samples from exhibitors- baked goods, pizza, healthy options & more

  • Discounted products available for purchase

  • Informative classes related to the gluten-free & allergen-friendly lifestyle

  • Free reusable bag to carry your goodies

  • The chance to meet your favorite brands, restaurants, authors & bloggers

Adults (Ages 13+):
$15 - 1 day or $25 weekend pass

Kids (Ages 3-12):
$5 - 1 day or $7 weekend pass

Family pass (2 adults and up to 6 kids) - Sunday only
$35

Purchase tickets »

Early bird promo code: ADVANCE for 20% off tickets through November 16, 2018!

Follow along with me on social @camilledashana (twitter & IG) and the hashtag #GFAFExpo - Hope to see you there!

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I will earn a small commission through each ticket purchased. I am attending this event as a media professional and will receive complimentary access to the Expo in order to report and share my experience with my readers.

Our Disney Dreamers Academy 2018 Experience

Family, Disney, TravelCamilleComment
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In March 2018, our third daughter was blessed with an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World thanks to Steve Harvey, Essence Magazine and Disney Parks. She applied for Disney Dreamers Academy in the fall of 2017, and just a few days before Christmas she was sent a congratulatory letter that she was accepted and could bring a guardian for the trip. We all knew it would be me, Jeff said he knows the boundaries when it comes to Disney magic. :)

Our trip was absolutely amazing. I've posted about it on Instagram and my personal Facebook, but have yet to sit down and journal the experience to the keyboard. I wholeheartedly went as a Mama, not an influencer, not a blogger. Sure, I took pictures and posted a few times, but my intent was not to capture and Instagram my way through because many times I miss a lot in that mode; I wanted to soak up the experience and be present with my girl.

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I am so glad I did.

It was a whirlwind, jam-packed week of laughter, learning, fun, tears, excitement and I could not be more proud and equally honored to have shared the moments with KeiLana and the other 99 teens and guardians in attendance. Along with the teens, we parents learned so much.

I was blessed with reconfirmation on direction in MY life. My mind and spiritual wellness were refreshed and renewed in walking my path. I was reminded that my journey is mine, as my children’s are theirs. While we are a team and work together to better our collective lives, still, at the end of the day I cannot walk their journey for them - and they cannot hinder me from walking mine.

We were told the event was a set up for us as parents. SURPRISE! We were also there because we needed to be. I can’t argue with that, I truly believe we are where we are supposed to be. I felt it. I made some new friends that I hope and believe will last as we watch our kids grow up and pursue their dreams, encouraging each other along the way.

The kids (and us parents) were reminded by Princeton Parker that our “what if’s” are often rooted in fear, that we hinder ourselves from moving forward in that mindset. Most of all, our daughter has found a tribe of likeminded peers; She is part of this amazing group of 100 that has chosen to be, not just exist.

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Who will you be?

If you want to BE - you must make a choice.

If you want to exist - you just have to breath.

– Princeton Parker

I will continue to share our experience here so stay tuned, there was so much to take in! For those that are in high school ages 13-19, applications for the Class of 2019 are currently open until October 31, 2018!

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Disclaimer: My daughter was selected by Steve Harvey Radio Network, Inc and Disney Destinations, LLC (“Disney”) to receive an all-expense paid trip (flight, hotel, food, Disney World admission) to Florida with a chaperone (me), based on her application to The Disney Dreamers Academy. No further compensation was given.

Clean Beauty - type:A Natural Deodorant Review

Reviews, WellnessCamilleComment

Growing up, I have always been extremely self-conscious about body odor, and it has taken me years to find products that a) work and b) don’t give me an allergic reaction. It wasn’t until my exposure to Mamavation and Shiftcon that I found products that helped with alleviating any skin issues, but most natural deodorants have yet to truly help with the odor for longer than a couple of hours.

Sweat is a natural process and helps our bodies eliminate toxins, therefore we should not be preventing the sweat ( like using anti-perspirants) from happening. I choose deodorant that helps absorb the sweat through natural ingredients and oils.

There are two formulas of type:A, “The Minimalist” which is fragrance-free, and I selected “The Visionary” which is described as having a Citron Crisp naturally scented with essential oils. The essential oils give the deodorant a nice touch, it is not too strong or overpowering and the consistency of the deodorant is just right, dries clear and doesn’t feel sticky or wet.

What I love about Type:A’s natural deodorant

Easy to apply - Many natural deodorants have a pasty consistency, making application messy and more difficult when on-the-go. Let’s be honest, the last thing I want to do is hand rub stuff under my armpits when applying mid-day. The tube is easy-to-use, has a soft silicone top and at 2.8 oz it is travel-friendly!

Great for sensitive skin - The first natural deodorant I switched to a couple of years ago was Tom’s of Maine. I chose it because it was natural and assumed it was gluten free. I quickly realized after a few weeks of itchy armpits that I was allergic to it because of the ‘hops’ - for some reason I did not put two and two together that it was wheat (duh me, beer and hops). It worked keeping odor at bay, so I just assumed I had a reaction to the razor from burns. Nope, it was the deodorant. Contrary to what some blogs I have read will say, gluten still effects me in cosmetics not just food. I get itchy and break out. It makes sense, our skin is the largest organ and we absorb anything we put onto it. Reminder, I am not a medical professional, so it is important that you listen to your body when it comes to allergies and consult with your doctor.

Non-Toxic, Aluminum, Paraben and Phthalate Free - As this lifestyle of green & overall wellness shift happens for me and my family, I am navigating towards purchasing products and supporting businesses that have a natural, non=toxic focus. Since I am not the only one with skin and allergy issues, it is important that I find products for all of our family that are free from unsafe chemicals and synthetics that contribute to a whole slew of health issues. type:A is transparent in its ingredients list on their website which is awesome. Additionally, type:A’s formula is 100% non-toxic using only plant-derived or safe synthetic ingredients.

Quick results - Honestly, it is the first deodorant that worked immediately. My first try I applied it prior to a workout and I was impressed (and yes I smelled my pits) and smiled. I’ve been using type:A daily for almost two months now and typically only have to apply it once per day (although our 100º weather in CA has amped the sweat so a refresh has been necessary over the summer). I carry one in my purse/backpack and was prepared for our most recent trip to the Happiest Place on Earth so that we could all stay fresh and happy!

I am so excited to have found a deodorant that keeps me fresh and without the worries of what my skin, and my family’s skin, is absorbing daily. I will continue to seek out non-toxic, safe products to add to my clean beauty routine!

Have you tried type:A? Do you have a favorite non-toxic deodorant? Let me know in the comments!

This post is sponsored by type:A Deodorant and contains affiliate links. I was provided with a free product for my test and review to share on my blog, however all opinions are my own magical thoughts. If you choose to purchase through these affiliate links, Sparks of Magic will earn a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting the magic!

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The Future of Sparks of Magic

ThoughtsCamilleComment

I am really excited to share that there are some changes going on here. The blog is getting a visual facelift, including the logo (thanks hubby) and a lot of things are happening in the background in relation to my content moving forward. 

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As my space here evolves on the internet to reflect my soul more, you will find that I'm going to be diving into all areas of magic within me - light & bright but also dark & heavy, it's who I am. I am learning to be more open about my life lessons and truths as an individual, partner, wife, mama, daughter, and friend.

The lifestyle content will still be here, the focus in that will be family, wellness and travel. Our goal as a family is to live well collectively and individually, and see the world together. We can't do all of that if we aren't in good health, so we'll be making some changes this year as we all heal our guts, minds and souls. 

I will still share our family's Disney adventures and whatever my heart fancies at the moment that is Disney-related. While Disney is not my main focus anymore, it will not go away.

All of my old content will remain in this space, just a shift in what you see moving forward is what will change. I will still partner with brands in the future, and I will disclose those partnerships so you know that if you purchase through my affiliate link or use my code you understand that I will receive a small commission. I appreciate each purchase because while this is something I absolutely love doing, it is time consuming and every little bit earned helps our family thrive more. I will only work with brands that share similar lifestyle values, showcasing products and/or services focused on eco-wellness and being family-friendly.

I am super grateful to have you on this journey with me and look forward to a new year and a lot of fun!

The Year of Healing: Hello, 2018.

Family, ThoughtsCamilleComment
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2017 shook me to my core, broke me and opened my heart in ways that I was not ready to experience, let alone imagine. I felt like I was repeatedly hit with a ton of bricks throughout the year and never enough time to get up and recover from the previous blow.

The past year, and my heart, seemed overwhelmed by loss:

  • I was laid off from a full time, well-paying and benefitted job that I loved.

  • Loss of my second dad (Father-in-law) hit hard, unexpected and filled me with emotions that I still cannot fully express. I still struggle with how to grieve, when to grieve, and how to move forward. Over eighteen years of memories remain in my heart, including those now cherished most, are of caring for him in his final weeks, days, hours - it will always be bittersweet.
  • Missing out on opportunities that I swore were for me, so I set my heart on them only to receive rejection after rejection.
  • Loss of my Grandmother-in-law, a woman that always remembered me, encouraged me and prayed for me & my family, even when her mind started to fade and couldn't remember her own children's names.
  • Loss of my naivety of the world we have always lived in regarding race and religion. This loss was not bad in the sense of the aforementioned situations, because a veil was lifted from my eyes and mind, but it was like ripping off flesh from a wound I didn’t even know I had. This loss was a good one, but painful nonetheless.

My eyes, heart and mind were wide open - to everything and to everyone’s pain but my own. I always dove in to be a fixer, to see other people happy, to help heal their hurts. At first, I saw the various losses for myself and pushed it aside so I could deal with the situations at hand because things had to be done. I mean, hello - I am “The Magic Maker.” I set myself up daily with high expectations and in the last year seemingly felt like I failed most of the time.

I felt guilt day in and day out because I never felt  like what I did was enough. I never felt like I was enough as a mom, caregiver, daughter. I never felt like I was enough for my husband. Granted, these are all things that I told myself, none of them are true. But I convinced myself that this was the case. I had to be more. I had to be better. I was so focused on pleasing other people that I didn’t realize that they weren’t asking me to do any of that.

The stress I experienced began to manifest in my body physically and overwhelmed my already riddled mind with more anxiety and depression.

I stopped writing. I stopped running. I stopped caring on the inside and no matter how hard I tried to fake it, I just couldn't make it. 

Contrary to some people’s beliefs, depression is not a choice. I didn’t wake up and choose to go completely dark. I do try to find the magic in everything, but this time and at that point the reality of my life seemed to only have been touched by darkness.

I felt there was no other way. I began to close my heart. Even though I visited Disneyland as often as I did and even met Kerry Washington (OMG), I still couldn’t shake feeling so broken.

Then, I began reading and listening. I figured if I couldn't write, I could at least maybe listen, keep learning and somehow figure out how to heal. There are few people in my life that I have felt truly listened and held conversation with me and my fast moving mind and my late Dad was one of them. When I was unable to chat with my blood Daddy, he was there for me as if I were one of his own kids. He knew me since I was 17, which is half of my life. Even in his final hours he was chatting it up with his kids, throwing out gold nuggets of wisdom. What he told my youngest sis is one that will stay with me forever. He always focused on love, the importance of giving it and receiving it. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. It’s all about love. It’s all we need. It is the core of our being and existence.

Essentially, and for lack of butchering his words, I will paraphrase, but he told her teach her kids to love themselves. To be comfortable in their own skin, love wholeheartedly and fully.

Once Dad passed away I found myself having conversations with him and they have been little chats that I treasure and have taken to heart. Month two of his passing, I woke up with a strange sense of peace (it has come and gone, but this day it was clearly a moment I remember and feel). It was the first time I woke up and forgot about the previous night terrors and overwhelming sadness that my heart had been feeling.

I remembered and then before I could become sad again, my heart heard, “Remember what I told Joy? That’s for you, too sweetie... You must love YOU.”

Oh. I see...slowly but surely...*lightbulb*

I need to love myself.

That’s how our kids will learn to love themselves. I can’t teach something I don’t know or experience. It was then that I realized I was in desperate need of some self love and care. Just like Dad, that's all he said. He didn't give me a long speech or make me feel like I was doing anything terrible. It was a gentle, loving reminder to take care of my own heart. I was clearly not doing that.

I was broken inside, trying to help other people pick up the pieces of their lives. Yet, my oxygen mask wasn’t fully on. I knew that at some point I had to change how I was living. I am so thankful that even through his heartbreak and grief, my husband saw my needs and suggested that maybe it was time that I seek counsel. So, I began therapy. I started journaling, saving my thoughts to sort out offline. I started running again and even occasionally went to the gym. Those things helped, but it really was conversation, sorting out my thoughts, allowing myself to feel and be okay to not be okay without guilt or stigma for seeking help.

With the prompting of a sweet friend , I chose a word that I want to use to set precedence for this new year. Initially, I chose “manifestation.” I was desperately seeking resolve, closure, new things, and seeing dreams and goals come to fruition. Almost as quickly as I envisioned “Manifestation,” the word “healing” came to mind and I knew that is what my goal would be for this year. The word kind of picked me. From there, my friend reminded me that I needed to cultivate the soil so that things could grow and I would see that manifestation in the end. I am continuously learning to enjoy this journey, to accept both the light and dark magic that surrounds me (more on that in an upcoming post), embrace and feel the emotions that surface but let them pass through.

I’m learning to be more open with myself and with that kind of comes a “no more bullsh*t” type of feeling that has seemed to surface. My time is no longer to be wasted worrying about what others think or how I should perform or live my life. It’s wasted time and energy, and no one has time for that. I’m learning to say “no,” and move on without guilt. It’s not always easy, but my heart and soul feel so much better to just move forward.

As I heal, as I write more and seek genuine interactions with others during my time here on earth, I am reminded that I am a spiritual being simply experiencing humanity. All of this will fade away. My soul, my existence will live on just as my Dad’s before me. Every moment is one that I am learning to feel – and let go. Life here is truly about the journey. I’m hugging and loving my hubby and babies tighter. I’m appreciating the moments that I will never get back. I’m learning to love myself and be okay to let go of perfection. I’m learning how to let go of needing to control, and letting those that love me do just that - love me hard. Sometimes we forget to allow others in, to let them love us and see us at our most vulnerable point. As a highly sensitive and emotional person, I never thought that I was repressing anything... until it was almost too late.

As a side-note, don’t mistake my revelation as me being a doormat for other people’s negativity because I’m here for the love. I still won’t take bullsh*t. I can and will love from afar if I must. I prefer closeness and hugs, but remember, this is my year of healing, I won’t knowingly allow myself to be subjected to that nonsense.

Friends, here's to a legit 2018, filled with all kinds of magic, love, continuous learning, good health, and most of all a road to the healing of my soul, allowing newness to manifest in ways that I couldn't have imagined for myself. 

Are You Color Blind?

CamilleComment
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I’ve been thinking of conversations with people in my life about “living while black,” and to be honest, if another person tells me they don’t see me as black… That they don’t see my “color…” That I’m “not like other black people…” Or my favorite (insert eye roll) “you’re only half,” as if I am supposed to just ignore half of my being. Let’s try and pretend the “one drop rule” doesn’t exist. Even though my kids are a quarter black, they’re black. They will always be black, and we choose to teach them to embrace it. So, I just can’t. Not today. Not ever again. I’m doing my best to remain open, love all, and expand myself. But when it comes to this, I will no longer accept or tolerate ignorance. You are not ignorant when you make those comments and dismiss me when I explain how that makes me feel. At that point, you CHOOSE not to see ME.

On a brighter note, I often have shared how accepted and loved I was by my late Dad, Steve, and while most people probably assume my comments of him accepting me for who I am is simply because I am his daughter in law, it’s not – I am referring to him loving me regardless of my skin color. Caring for him in his final weeks of life, I was only reassured of that love and my heart is filled with gratitude to have those moments. Dad was anything but ignorant. Even in his final days, he was learning and growing.

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How did I get so lucky to have two amazing Dads? Both so different in looks, but both so full of love for their children and other people’s children – regardless of what they look like. My Dad Steve loved me, for ME. I never for a second doubted that. I’m heartbroken that I have lost such an amazing man, white ally, friend and father who truly accepted me regardless of what I looked like. He saw me… as his beautiful, free-spirited, biracial daughter, but never made me feel any less because of it. Like my blood Daddy, he encouraged me to think I could do great things, that nothing was impossible. Yet, he was aware of my reality and that I would have to work harder than someone with less melanin, that his grandkids would also share that reality. He never tried to act like he understood my feelings on issues of race but always listened attentively, never made me feel like I was overreacting, never dismissed me or my emotions, and always reassured me of the love he had for me and his multiracial grandchildren. He always wanted to learn more, grow more, to know how he could be a voice and how he could make things even just a little better.

This post is more than just a memoir of who my Dad was in this life, but a call to action in hopes that maybe it will inspire you to stand up and speak out, to love others more – like he did. Start within your own families and circles. Commit to learning and growing, being better for yourself, your children, and others.

White friends & family, I beg you, please don’t be color-blind. And if you have been and want to open your eyes, ask questions, read, and put in the work. Mamademics has amazing resources and articles on advocacy and being part of the change. The answers are there if you really want to find them. With the current state of our nation, and the fact that some people are just now coming to grips that racism is still rampant, baffles me. Why? Because a large majority of our nation is color-blind. They might not be out marching with torches or wearing a hood, but they are everywhere. They’re teaching our children in our schools, “serving and protecting” on our forces, and the sad reality, for some – share a family name.

We need help.

White supremacy never left because you pretend that you’re color-blind in order to absolve yourself.
— Danielle, Mamademics

White people hold the ball in their courts, they always have, from the very beginning of our nation. The intent from the beginning was domination and supremacy. We know that justice for all did not include anyone other than the white male. Today, we take the stand and fight for rights and equality, but our nation was built on the backs and blood of people of color.

We want peace. We want to live, we want to be who we are without fear for our lives. You know, sometimes kids are taught that they are not to start a fight, but they sure as hell can finish it. Well, we can try and defend ourselves, but even then it comes with a price – usually our lives. Now what? We definitely didn’t start this fight and we are tired. We defend and fight back daily in our minds (which most of the time is a battle ignored in and of itself), our homes, in the streets with our black and brown brothers and sisters, in our offices, in our paychecks – or lack there of. We can’t end this alone, it’s always been in your hands.

As my family member, friend, reader, acquaintance, fellow human being, I’m asking you this:

Will you be part of the solution to finish this fight once and for all?

I know many of you might be thinking it’s taking on the world and the thought might even overwhelm you (it should because there is A LOT), perhaps because you think you don’t know those brown and black bodies in the news, and don’t see how this all affects you. Your privilege is showing.

So could you at least muster up enough f*cks to give for me? Still not sure? How about for my kids?

SparksofMagic-WallKids2017.jpg

If you can’t answer that with a yes, save me the time of weeding out those who are silent in my networks and hit “unfriend.” Seriously. Open your eyes. Don’t be silent. Teach your kids to love AND teach them about the realities of life for so many other people that don’t look like them. Love is great, it’s a starting point, but action is needed. People of color are not just being broken down, we are being destroyed – one by one – and it started many years ago, and continues in full force today.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s time to wake up!

Freedom in Release

Thoughts, Family, WellnessCamilleComment
Ocean-PointReyes.jpeg

It’s been way too long since I’ve written from the heart, and I look forward to sharing more. I’m in the middle of rebranding the blog both in design and focus. It’s something I’ve talked about since the beginning of the year but just haven’t gotten to it. As our family’s life has shifted dramatically in the past couple of months, it seems like the most appropriate time to shift in my space on the web.

Even in darkness I know there is beautiful magic and I appreciate the magic so much more going through this seemingly dark period in my life, after my dad-in-love’s passing. I think that’s what Dad continues to show me.

We live and love through our journey and must find that magic to hold onto.

It’s not easy by any means and every bit is a learning and growing experience.

Let Go

One of the things I am slowly learning, is to let go and free myself. In order for me to truly be free I have to allow others the same freedom. I must let go all the way, and that includes releasing others of my expectations. Why? Because it keeps me bound in my mind. I begin to worry about things that aren’t necessary to worry about. I want to be free. I liken this to being at the beach and I want to truly feel the warmth of the sun, the coolness of the water; I’ve gotta get up and go in. But if I’m holding the hands of people that aren’t willing to feel those things with me, and waiting for them, I am still bound. I’m not free because I won’t release their hand. Essentially, I have to let go.

Your Freedom is Your Own

I have to free myself from how I think they should be, live, respond, believe, or feel, in my mind. I also can’t live in fear for others because their journey is not mine. I can’t do that for my kids or husband , my best friends or my family. I’m not abandoning them by any means, I’m simply opening myself to let go. I’m still there, but I’m in the water. I’m experiencing my freedom. For others, their freedom is on the sand because perhaps they feel trapped by the water. I can’t be mad that they don’t feel free in the water. Why would I want someone with me if they’re in fear? Let’s say they physically decide to go with me in the water, but they are now trapped in their own minds, too. Their lessons and learning aren’t the same as what I need.

Will we eventually be in the same place and share the same emotion? Perhaps, and if not, I have to be okay. I have to appreciate them on the sand, or in the air, or in their car, haha. I have to appreciate that our journeys will always be that – OUR OWN. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different.

Release Others

We have to get to a place where we are looking at how we are living and release ourselves and others from expectations. Does it hurt sometimes? Sure it does, it can be scary feeling as if we are alone wherever we are, but we must allow ourselves to feel the hurt, and just let it pass through. We can’t dwell and we must focus on our own hearts because they also have to live and learn and grow in theirs.

Keep loving friends, keep living and spreading your magic. Let others splash in the water or roll in the sand. Let them experience and grow in their freedom how they need to. Love and appreciate where they are because they are learning and growing, just in a different way.

I'm going to ShiftCon 2018 & You Should, Too!

Food, Travel, EventsCamilleComment

As a ShiftCon influencer & volunteer, I have been given free admission to ShiftCon 2018. This post contains my affiliate link for event ticket purchases. All opinions are mine.

 © ShiftCon

© ShiftCon

I am really excited to share that I will be at ShiftCon in Irvine, CA, February 1 -3, 2018. I know it seems so far away, but I have to tell you how ecstatic I am because I have been dying to go since I first heard about this event in 2015. 

If you are a social media influencer and/or blogger that wants to be part of the movement of shifting perspectives, then this conference is totally for you!

Shifters prize themselves as being part of something bigger than themselves. We are a community with a mission to change the world. It's a focus on wellness, green and sustainable products and technology. – ShiftCon
 © ShiftCon

© ShiftCon

Ok, so what is ShiftCon?

It is an eco-wellness social influencer's dream. It is a conference filled with the community of like-minded people that want to create a more sustainable earth and work with brands that bring value to their lives and their audience's lives. I've been following the event on social media for the last two years, gawking at all of the fun, but also the wealth of knowledge that is shared by the numerous experts in the fields of health, food, wellness, communications, legislation, social media and healing.

See past speakers here.

 © ShiftCon

© ShiftCon

Join us for three days of learning, growing and life-changing experiences! There are two influencer/blogger options when you purchase your tickets. The ELITE track gives you access on Thursday to an additional 9 workshops, totaling 24 workshops! The Influencer/Blogger track gives you access beginning Friday to 15 workshops.

ShiftCon - Sparks of Magic.jpg

In addition to all of the learning, there will be a lot of fun! There's an expo hall where over 40 brands will be showcasing their products and services. You'll go home with 2 swag bags and be fed a reception meal, 2 lunches and 2 breakfasts, plus featured snacks and refreshments!

 © ShiftCon

© ShiftCon

 © Hotel Irvine

© Hotel Irvine

Location, Location, Location.

The event will be held at Hotel Irvine, and the rate is $179 per night. Book early and know that when you reserve your room, a one night's hotel fee will be charged to your card for reservation.

Will I see you at ShiftCon? I hope so! Make sure to say hi! I look forward to learning, growing and shifting with all of you! Get your tickets now!


A Magical Mama's Day Gift Guide

Fashion, DisneyCamilleComment

If you're anything like me, you love getting and giving gifts. I also really love shopping and supporting small business. So, I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite Magic Makers that are crafting away and supporting their families!

As a work from home mama, I can't tell you how awesome it is to know that I have support in my endeavors because juggling businesses, blog, kids, marriage, and school can be rough. There are many days when I just want to lay on the floor... But, because of my amazing hubby, kids and tribe of friends that are family, I press on. 

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Black Loop. Today we are sharing gift ideas for Mother's Day.

With Mother's Day just around the corner, I was thinking of what I would love to open for the special occasion, and came up with a few of my top magical gifts that would support small businesses run by Mamas, meaning quality products for me and pixie dust pay for a mama-preneur on Mother's Day. A win for everyone!

There are so many awesome women that are movers and shakers, and while I can't list them all, I am sure that you will find something for the magical mama in your life (or for yourself) amongst this list! 

Already picked out your gifts to give for Mother's Day? You know what they say.

Treat. yo. self.


Mama & Little® Silicone Jewelry • If I had access to these pretty little pieces when I was toting around my babies, it would have been a lifesaver. I can't tell you how many broken pieces of jewelry I've endured from curious little hands and mouths. The jewelry is food-grade silicon and BPA free. These are perfect gifts for new mamas, aunties, and anyone that holds babies! 

Custom Wood Signs & Graphics by EllieJoy Boutique • This little shop on Etsy is owned and operated by Rachel, who also happens to be my cousin! She's an Air Force Chaplain's wife, mama to five and graphic designer. We both began design around the same time in the early 2000s. 

I'm super excited for Rach's new venture and wanted to share that she does custom work outside of what is listed in Etsy, so check out her work and follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook, too!

LILLIAN & CO Bracelets • These are beautiful statements to wear. As a mama who dares to live my dream, these are perfect mantras and reminders on a daily basis to live in our magic and spread it far and wide. With twelve (12) different sayings, you're sure to find one that is perfect for the Mama in your life. I found this little gem of a company on Instagram one day, and drool over the pieces often. They stack perfect with other bangles and watches! I am hoping that the "Go Live Your Dream" bracelet graces my wrist soon. :)

Spireside Candles (formerly Anthology Candles) • Handmade in the USA, these are whimsically inspired candles and wax melts. I fell in love with their product branding and photos on Instagram! Pineapple Whip is on my wish list, along with Main Street Bakery and The Confectionary. I know, I know so much sugar. :)

For more Mother's Day Gift Guides, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Black | Mother's Day Gift Guides Loop:

Recap: Disney Food & Wine as an AP Holder

Disney, Entertainment, FoodSarahComment
 ©Sarah Brow

©Sarah Brow

Did you get a chance to visit Disney’s California Adventure Park is the Food and Wine Festival

I wanted to share my recent experience as an Annual Passport (AP) holder. Throughout the year Disneyland Resort has special events and often have exclusive experiences for AP holders. The AP Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Sip and Savor pass was a great purchase & experience, so I look forward to more AP events in the future! It was a great way to really get the most out of The Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival experience.

The AP Food and Wine festival Sip and Savor Pass was $45, including tax, and consisted of 8 coupons.

 ©Sarah Brow

©Sarah Brow

With over ten festival marketplaces there was definitely something for everyone. Like many AP events, alcoholic beverages are a separate fee. Even then, I knew that I had to try the Mimosa Flight, located at The Uncork California Marketplace.

The Mimosa Flight included a Pear Mimosa, Apricot Mimosa, and Mango Mimosa. My favorite? The pear!

 ©Sarah Brow

©Sarah Brow

If Mimosas weren't your thing, there was a Beer Garden located in the Paradise Grill Marketplace. You know, if you prefer drink like Gaston. :)

WHAT I ATE

Nuts and Cheese | Brie toast with fig and mint with roasted California almond crumble

I Heart Artichokes | Fried Artichoke Carbonara with Garlic Aioli & smoked bacon

Bacon Twist | Baby iceberg and heirloom tomato wedge with peppered bacon and blue cheese dressing & Smoked bacon mac & cheese with barbecue-seasoned crispy onions

Off the Cob | Sweet corn nuggets with beef chili, spring onions and sour cream

Sweet & Sourdough | White cheddar lager soup topped with bacon, served in a mini Boudin Sourdough Boule

LA Style | Chicken Teriyaki slider with spicy Dole® pineapple jam & Korean barbecue beef short rib tacos with Kimchi slaw

It was really hard deciding what my favorite food was, but my top 3 favorite bites were:

  1. Sweet corn nuggets, from Off the Cob
  2. Chicken Teriyaki sliders, from LA Style
  3. Fried Artichoke Carbonara, from I Heart Artichokes

Pass holders also received a special AP button at each marketplace location, with a Sip and Savor Pass redemption.

The AP corner included a special photo opportunity, a Festival handout, a free Food and Wine Festival button (the design changed weekly) and of course you can't forget limited time merchandise!

Did you attend Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, too? We would love to know what your favorite bites were from the Food and Wine Festival! Please share your thoughts with us!
See ya real soon!

xo, Sarah

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Official Teaser Trailer

Entertainment, DisneyCamilleComment
 © Disney/Lucasfilm

© Disney/Lucasfilm

I don't know about you, but we are counting down to December 15, 2017. Disney has just released the official teaser trailer and poster for Episode VIII.

See for yourself.

"Breathe. Just breathe." – Luke Skywalker

If you remember, we last saw Finn under glass like Snow White, poor guy. I want him to wake up so badly. It's just so eerie to see him laying there STILL. He'd better not die on us. Although, my daughter reminded me that this film picks up from the last one and he was just injured. Let's hope she's right. 

From the trailer, Poe Dameron is running from something, with our favorite droid, BB-8. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in the film. He's a bad ass pilot. Oh, and BB-8 is a little smart hunk of technology. He brings so much humor. Lucasfilm always does a great job of bringing EVERY character to life.

We also all know Kylo Ren is just a ball of crazy and we don't trust him, so I have no idea what to expect with him in this next film aside from bad things.

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Um. ALL tears when I saw General Organa's silhouette. For reals. I will be bringing a box of tissues (most likely Star Wars themed) to the theater.

And now, the cliffhanger.

OMG. What hell did Luke just say?! Did you catch it? At the very end. Go back and rewind. I will not be a putting that out into the universe. 

 © Disney/Lucasfilm

© Disney/Lucasfilm

I have so. many. questions.

Sound off, Magic Makers. What are your thoughts?!

May the Force be with us all!

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny

Entertainment, DisneyCamilleComment
 ©Disney/Lucasfilm

©Disney/Lucasfilm

Star Wars fans rejoice because Disney and Lucasfilm have announced a new animated shorts series that celebrates the stories of iconic heroes throughout the Star Wars universe. Fans will be delighted to see key heroines of the films: Rey, Jyn Erso, Sabine Wren, Princess Leia, Ahsoka Tano. There are books, toys and even a TV special that will be following later this year!

"Star Wars Forces of Destiny is for anyone who has been inspired by Leia's heroism, Rey's courage, or Ahsoka's tenacity," – Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm

About the Series

Narrated by Lupita Wyong'o (Maz Kanata), the Disney YouTube channel will launch the animated shorts in July 2017. 

What's extra exciting, is that the series will remain true to the Star Wars canon, so fans will have an opportunity to see, as Kathleen Kennedy stated, "small moments and everyday decisions that shape who these characters are." It's important for us to remember that even small decisions impact our destinies, and our kids need to understand that, too! We can't wait to watch them together.

 ©Disney/Lucasfilm

©Disney/Lucasfilm

 ©Disney/Lucasfilm

©Disney/Lucasfilm

Adventure Figures

Joining Disney and Lucasfilm on this venture is Hasbro, showcasing newly created 'Adventure Figures' (think dolls + action figures). If you watched the Star Wars Celebration live stream | Day 2, they revealed the 11" figures to Daisy Ridley (Rey), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano) and Tiya Sircar (Sabine Wren)!

 ©Disney/Lucasfilm/Hasbro

©Disney/Lucasfilm/Hasbro

It is so important that our kids can run down toy aisles with strong female character representation, and more options that don't involve a beach outfit, stilettos, or shopping bag. I was not a fan of dolls growing up and I loathed dress-up dolls. In addition to the fabulous heroines we will see other favorite heroes, sidekicks and villains in the consumer products line. 

Star Wars Forces of Destiny Sparks of Magic.jpg

The figures will hit the shelves in August 2017, along with a global launch of bedding, toys, books, and apparel. OH, Did I also mention that Hasbro will roll out Star Wars Forces of Destiny role play and accessories? You'll find Rey's Extendable Staff and a new electronic Jedi Power Lightsaber toy. I'm most excited about that staff, and I'm sure my kiddos will be thrilled!

Will you be watching Star Wars: Force of Destiny this summer?

Spring Break at Dillon Beach, CA

Travel, FamilyCamilleComment

Spring break has come and gone. 

We spent our family vacation in Dillon Beach on Bodega Bay, CA with my husband's family. Every year, they rent a home that sits midway up the mountain of Oceana Drive. IT IS GORGEOUS. 

This quaint little beach town is about 30 minutes west of Petaluma, CA but approximately two hours from us (Lodi). As a SoCal girl, the first thing I will tell you is that this is a cold beach. I usually pitch a fuss about having to wear a jacket on the shore. I know, such a baby. However, our kids love it though and somehow manage to still dip their toes (or depending on which kid) or whole body into the freezing water. 

Some of the fun things they enjoy include digging holes, hiking up the mountain, and rolling down the massive sand dune. 

If you plan a trip to Dillon Beach you should know a few things:

It was amazing time spent just revelling in the beauty of the coast and closeness of our loved ones. We are forever grateful for the memories we get to make with our babies, and that they get to grow up appreciating these moments of family, creation and fun.

Pictures say a thousand words, so I will leave you with Jeff's amazing visuals.

Other sights & experiences in the area:

What are some of your favorite spring break excursions?

Five Reasons to Attend Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival

Food, Entertainment, DisneyCamilleComment
 

Disney + Food and Wine?

Sign. Me. Up.

Fantasia © Disney; Image via GIPHY

It doesn't take much to get me excited about visiting Disneyland Resort (DLR), but the notion of amazing eats and adult drinks has me absolutely elated. I didn't have the chance to visit DLR for last year's event, and sadly this year I will not be eating and drinking my way around Disneyland California Adventure Park (DCA), but my bestie, Sarah will be so stay tuned because she will be reporting on her fun soon!

Are you a food and/or wine enthusiast with a love for magic? You will want to mark your calendar for this year's Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, now through April 16, 2017. There are just two weeks left of this event, so make it a date night (or day) and head to DCA! There are so many activities for all ages, so feel free to bring the kiddos!

Bonus, if you're an Annual Passport holder, make sure to check out AP Corner for limited edition experiences and treats. 

 Images © Disneyland Resort

Images © Disneyland Resort

5 Reasons you need to visit
Disney California Adventure
Food & Wine Festival

1| Food & Wine

Need I say more? There are so many ways to enjoy the cuisine and beverages available during the Food & Wine Festival. For those of us that have food allergies or restrictions, they also offer gluten-free and vegetarian at many locations! I heard there is a Mimosa Flight and I am all about that life. Peruse the park, eat, drink and be merry. Very merry. :) 

2| Festival Marketplaces

There are over a dozen marketplaces open daily that will offer complementing cuisine to the Festival-inspired menus throughout the theme park's restaurants and eateries. We have picky eaters & food allergies in our house, so knowing the amount of options available to all of my kids (and me) is important.

 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

3| "In the Kitchen" with Celebrity Chefs (Saturdays)

So many amazing celebrity chefs have been scheduled to appear since opening on March 10th!

Here's the lineup for the last two weekends. Visit Disneyland.com/foodandwine to purchase your tickets!

Saturday, April 8 – 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Cat Cora
Cat Cora’s Kitchen

Saturday, April 15 – 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Jet Tila
Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen

Event Location and Price
Festival Showplace, Stage 17 in Hollywood Land
$99.00 per person, plus tax and gratuities for servers
 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

4| The Signature Events

You know Disney does it big, so they have an amazing schedule of activities and opportunities for pretty much everyone in your group. 

Sweet Sundays sound like an amazing way to spend a lazy Sunday - learning how to make sweet treats, and then eating them! This is a 90-minute culinary demonstration that includes a light breakfast and sparkling toast!

Winemaster & Brewmaster Dinners (Thursdays) offer a four-course meal, paired with either wine or beer. Courses are created by the Disney Executive Chef Team and you'll have an opportunity to hear from the winemakers and brewmasters about the pairings! 

*Signature Events require separate ticketed admission to enter Disney California Adventure Park. 

 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

5| Junior Chef experience

Who wouldn't want to cook with Chef Goofy?! I seriously wish this was around when I was young! Kids ages 3 to 11 are invited to get their cooking groove on with Chef Goofy and the Jammin' Chefs, and you can't forget sous chefs, Chip 'n Dale. Get hands on cooking experience and go home with a yummy treat! This musical program will happen daily in Paradise Park, near Golden Zephyr. Space is limited and is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Don't miss out on a chance to hang with some of Disney's celebrities!

Alright, magic makers, if you've got the time and the budget agrees, clear your calendar for a day to enjoy the Disney Food & Wine Festival, it would be a wonderful time spent, especially if your family is getting ready to relax for spring break! Feeling extra spontaneous? Make it a weekend and book a trip with my travel partner - Get Away Today. Use my code "SPARKS" to get $10 off a 2 night package.

Happy spring!

So, what do you say? Will you be making your way to experience Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival?
 

Girls' Guide to a Hands-On San Francisco Adventure

Lifestyle, Fashion, TravelCamilleComment

I was hosted by Dagne Dover for an exclusive event.

There was no compensation, just great community, good drinks, crafts, and a lot of fun! All opinions are mine.

Ever in need of a quick pick me up that portals you to a new space and environment to enjoy something different? Do you have a love affair with crafting with your hands? I love taking trips. They can be anytime of day, for an hour, 24 hours or a week. I also love crafting and making things.

I am pretty sure that getting out of your everyday environment refreshes your spirit and soothes your soul. So, what better way to do that, than with one of your favorite people? I recently had the pleasure of making a fun girls' Sunday adventure with my little sister. Not only was it a lot of fun, it was budget friendly!

1. Take Public Transportation and/or a private driving service (uber or lyft)

As much as I love driving (it brings clarity), the event we were attending at The WorkshopSF, courtesy of Dagne Dover, was in the evening and I am not fancy with night driving. That being said, I did some research on taking the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) realized it would save me a ton of stress and a couple hours of night driving, plus it was cheaper than parking once in the City. Since we are in the Greater Stockton Area, we parked at the Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station, which is about an hour or so from us. You can find the closest station to you on their website, which is a lifesaver once you are in the City!

We arrived in Dublin pleasantly surprised that we did not have to pay for parking on a Sunday. So, it only cost us $12.30 each (round trip) to Union Square, San Francisco. Irrespective of random fear, and the nightmares that I have previously had about people falling on the BART tracks, I put on my big girl pants and hopped (literally, I was not trying to fall through the crack) onto the car. My sister was definitely amused, but she loves me.

For those of you that might be hesitant about public transportation, I have to say that BART is pretty swell. My next adventure will be to take our entire clan on a family trip to SF via the BART system. Woohoo! Mentally preparing for that one.

Once we were in the City, thanks to BART, we had Lyft pick us up to drop us off to our destination. When we left for the evening, we called for an Uber car to return us to Union Square. 

IMG_0028.JPG

2. Find food. because, food.

Just as our pink mustache car dropped us off at the location, we realized we were a tad early and this super cute Mexican restaurant across the street pretty much called our names. At that moment we also realized we were really hungry. The question was, "should we have margaritas before the event?"

Hello, Green Chile Kitchen

As you can see, the food looks gorgeous. It tasted even better. Joy had a burrito - potentially the Chile Verde (I was too busy thinking about my meal I forgot what she ate, but it was around $11) and I had a Pulled Pork Quinoa dinner bowl ($16). If you are gluten free, this is an amazing little spot. The ambience was quaint, refreshing and super chill. They were very accommodating with knowing my allergy and I slept well and most importantly - pain free, score! This restaurant is definitely family-friendly and I can see the kids enjoying the space and drinking water out of mason jars like little adults.

Exploring the City is half of the fun, so make sure you research restaurants prior to your trip, or do as we did and be surprised.

WorkshopSF-Sparks-of-Magic.jpg

3. Find an Event at workshopsf.

For us, we had an event planned in advance, but for you - if you're crafty, or secretly want to be, check out WorkshopSF because they have a TON of awesome DIY workshops. Past workshops include sewing bootcamps, screen printing, iPhone and photography, metal smithing and jewelry making!

 Seriously, the coolest work space that I have seen.

Seriously, the coolest work space that I have seen.

Our fun for the evening consisted of fashion, terrarium making and cocktails. We learned from Jenny Lennick about terrarium making basics. She did a wonderful job keeping us busy and confident in our terrarium making skills. It was really easy and fun. I chose to create a tiny-sized terrarium with three little succulents and moss. Oh, and hello R2 :) 

 The Force is strong with this little one.

The Force is strong with this little one.

 Joy makes a mean Gold Rush!

Joy makes a mean Gold Rush!

Dagne-Dover-Gold-Rush-Cocktail-Sparks-of-Magic.jpg

I love a good cocktail. We made the Gold Rush, which is extremely simple and contains only three ingredients: honey simple syrup, bourbon and lemon juice. SO GOOD. I passed on the Moscow Mule, because, beer (wheat), but I was happy with the Gold Rush. 

4. Last but not least, travel in style.

The entire reason we attended this event was to check out the awesome Dagne Dover handbag collection. I haven't had the pleasure of having my own Dagne yet, but I definitely have been drooling over them for a while now. Based out of NYC, the company was founded by Melissa Mash, Jessy Dover, and Deepa Gandhi. It was really cool to see Melissa at the event, she's so down to earth and I enjoyed chatting about how the bags are game changers.

I shared with her that I am all too familiar with the "two bag schlep" that inspired the Signature tote, as a graduate student and working professional. I carried books, food, and other things along with me in one bag in addition to a fully stocked purse (hey, mama of five. You can never be too prepared. Although I recently found my kids' socks in my bag at work (mind you, I no longer have toddlers or "little kids" so please tell me what this is about). 

 The lovely Melissa Mash, CEO of Dagne Dover

The lovely Melissa Mash, CEO of Dagne Dover

If you know me, you know that I love a good handbag, clutch, wallet, or anything that helps me to organize my massively chaotic life and responsibilities and feel like I look adorable doing it.

Dagne has recently released its 365 collection, which is "designed for a life in motion" - guys they also have a sweet backpack called Dakota. It would be perfect for a day trip to San Francisco, perhaps to a visit at The Walt Disney Family Museum, just saying. The Landon Carryall is also perfect for a field trip with the kiddos, and yoga or gym session.

 Image via Dagne Dover - The Dakota Backpack comes in 3 colors

Image via Dagne Dover - The Dakota Backpack comes in 3 colors

 Image via Dagne Dover - The Landon Carryall - comes in 3 sizes and four main colors (availability varies) 

Image via Dagne Dover - The Landon Carryall - comes in 3 sizes and four main colors (availability varies) 

 Image via Dagne Dover - The Essentials Clutch Wallet comes in 10 colors!

Image via Dagne Dover - The Essentials Clutch Wallet comes in 10 colors!

I also love the Essentials Clutch Wallet, it would be the perfect go-to for a quick run to the store, or to keep as an everyday wallet when I need to hop out the car and leave my tote in the trunk. The Signature collection is made from coated canvas so it will hold up to spills and frills.

For a client meeting or a coffee-house work session that would involve some homework or blogging, they have beautiful options with a new set of leather styles. I am crushing on this Simone Satchel. The leather is gorgeous and the hand is amazing. The quality of the bags, the philosophy of the company and the options in colors and styles is pretty awesome.

Thank you Dagne Dover for such a wonderful event!


No matter how you decide to spend the day in the City, make sure you've figured out your transportation (or suck it up and just drive), keep your hangry in check by exploring local restaurants, plan a fun activity or attend an event, and make sure you're keeping your day stress free by having a handbag or clutch that looks great and keeps you organized on-the-go.

Magic Makers: A Coffee Chat with Auli'i Cravalho #MoanaBluRay

Disney, Entertainment, ThoughtsCamilleComment
 

I've been toying with the idea of interviews for the blog, focusing on people that are movers and shakers - ultimately, they are Magic Makers in my book, inspiring to many. I see it fitting to begin my first article with a well-known name and face, a young lady is who is as beautiful inside as she is on the outside: Auli'i Cravalho

I was invited to participate in the Moana PR Tour for the Blu-Ray & DVD release, and would be interviewing Auli'i Cravalho, the voice actress for the character "Moana." I had never attended a press junket before, and I went in with way too many assumptions. Long story short, I was prepared to maybe ask one question because I honestly assumed there would be a lot of journalists asking much more intriguing questions, and I probably wouldn't get a word in otherwise.

I arrived at the gorgeous Fairmont San Francisco a couple of hours early so I could scope out where I'd be going before Jeff & MeiLani left me (I tend to get lost). They ended up coming with me upstairs since it was only going to be 30 minutes of interview time so they were right outside the room.

I met two other freelancers, and we found out that this truly was a big press day & event, but it was not a big press room or a bunch of crazy journalists, like you'd see on Scandal in the White House Press Room. We were going to have some quality time with Auli'i, just the four of us. 

H E L L O. 

My excitement levels jumped a few notches because I really had no idea it would be such a close encounter. My inner child was freaking out, and then I literally thought "shit, I should have brought more questions." However, what happened next was an insightful, candid, and sweet conversation that I will never forget...

Thoughts from Auli'i

AuliiCravalho-Moana-Sparks of Magic

I will start first on how this sixteen year old has an amazing heart, is down to earth, wise, curious, humble and has a bubbly spirit. I knew the minute she walked in, that we'd have a fun time. She is truly an old, sweet soul sprinkled with the heart of a child, and it was an honor to spend some time with her talking about life, the movie, and her future.

Fun Facts:

  • Auli'i has music flowing in her blood, through her rich Puerto Rican, Portuguese & Hawaiian heritage.
  • She's pretty sure her strong vocals come from screaming as a child
  • She never had music or voice lessons until she became Moana
  • She has no intentions of watching her performance on the Oscars
  • She loves history, science & butterflies :)
  • She is a Junior in high school & would love to visit colleges in SF

On Moana

When asked what she appreciates the most about the character, Moana, or what resonates most with her, she mentioned the strength of Moana and being the heroine of her own story. Since Moana has no love interest in the film, it truly is about finding out who she is on her own, above anything else. I appreciate the direction that Disney took with this film, to encourage and empower our youth (kids and adults, too) to look inward first. 

As for similarities, Auli'i shared that she had a lot in common with Moana, growing up on the island of Hawai'i, with pigs and chickens - you know, like Pua and Hei Hei! She also paddled as part of her all-Hawaiian school's canoe club, and has a loving family. 

Auli'i appreciates the journey that Moana takes to figure out who she is. Moana's strength and resilience, and curiosity to find out who she is will always be inspiring. 

On Empowering Others

The next burning question began, "Did you ever in a million years think ..." to which Auli'i quickly interjected "Noooo..." and caused us all to roar with laughter. Her demeanor in that moment reminded us that she has not lost that sixteen year old spark!

Auli'i was only fourteen (14), when she landed the role of Moana. When asked if she ready for that? In a sense of - being ready to be a role model to people everywhere, of all ages? She said to a certain degree, yes. She knew the importance of the film, because of how important Moana was to her. However, she had no idea just how much this would empower people of all ages. She had us chuckling though, as she expressed her disdain for dishes and chores, which isn't surprising because who likes that? Although now I tell my kids, "See, even Auli'i has to do chores." LOL.

On Life, Hopes & Dreams

I asked Auli'i, courtesy of my daughter KaiLeia (14), what the theme song of her life is/would be. She smiled, and pondered for a moment. Then replied, "Moon River." She loves Audrey Hepburn and said that the song is full of hope and talks about dreams and while they might not happen quickly, it is about that journey. If you haven't heard "Moon River," and listened to the lyrics. Heck, if you haven't seen Breakfast at Tiffany's, you should add it to your "must watch" list. 

One of my favorite parts of our conversation focused on hopes and dreams, and the idea of truly knowing who you are. We began chatting about if she ever envisioned her life, how it is today - singing live at the Oscars, preparing for a new show, empowering so many, and she shared that while she is a role model, she is not perfect or complete. Her journey always continues. She will never be complete.

Aulii-Quote-Moana-SparksofMagic

So, how do we get to the point where we "just know" that we are complete? We don't. There are no absolutes and "we are not a complete person ever & we are never to stop growing." What we can do is explore and take a journey for ourselves, which Auli'i says "doesn't have to be across a vast ocean like Moana." It is merely listening to the voice you have inside, to be brave enough to see what else is out there and available to you. Finding who you are might be about leaving everything you know, but "the person you become is worth it." 

What's Next?

Auli'i will be starring in an NBC Pilot called Drama High, and will be playing the role of Lilette. She shared that this project is about youth coming together from all walks of life to express themselves through theater. 

We can only imagine the amounts of singing, and other talent that will be involved with this theatrical production. According to Deadline, the show, brought to us by Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights) and Jeffrey Sellers (Hamilton), is based on the true story of high school drama teacher, Lou Volpes – as told via the book Drama High, written by one of Mr. Volpe's former students, Michael Sokolove.  

For the rest of her visit in SF, Auli'i had her heart set on a bread bowl full of San Francisco's clam chowder and exploring museums, enjoying the city, and perhaps visiting some college campuses. Compared to Hawai'i and New York, she said SF has just enough hustle & bustle for her, plus the weather is colder so she can wear jackets, scarves, and mittens!

Auli'i shared that her family would be traveling from Hawai'i to visit her this weekend in San Francisco before heading to New York to film for three weeks. I hope she gets a nice relaxing family time and special moments before her travels. She has a great support system, and I hope that as she continues to thrive in the entertainment industry her family bond just keeps getting stronger!

Aulii Cravalho - MeiLani - Sparks of Magic
Aulii Cravalho - MeiLani - Sparks of Magic 2

Speaking of family, mine waited outside for me! After our interview, Auli'i made a quick surprise stop in the hall to say "hi" to my eldest, MeiLani - who is also 16, and they took some pictures. While she said adults are fun and all, she was pretty excited to see another teenager! I know that MeiLani will remember that moment for a lifetime.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to chat with Auli'i and share laughter, happy tears and hugs. Our family looks forward to watching her in Drama High and follow this bright star as she continues to spread her magic in the world!

You can follow Auli'i on her adventures via her Instagram – @auliicravalho!

MOANA Blu-Ray/DVD +Digital HD

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Make sure to catch more fun outtakes and features exclusive to the MOANA Blu-Ray/DVD, including more interviews with the cast of characters, musicians, writers and directors. We digitally downloaded the film on iTunes early, and our kids (ages 10-16) have watched it already a dozen times! 

MOANA Blu-Ray/DVD will be available in stores beginning Tuesday, March 7, 2017! Start planning that movie night!! 

Well, Mahalo for reading my experience, I had a blast & hope you enjoyed it, too!

As Maui would say, You're welcome. :) 

Like MOANA on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/disneymoana

Follow MOANA on Twitter: https://twitter.com/disneymoana

Follow Disney Animation on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/disneyanimation/

Visit Disney Animation on Tumblr: http://disneyanimation.tumblr.com/

Visit the official MOANA website here: http://movies.disney.com/moana

 

Star Wars Movie Night Fun!

Disney, EntertainmentCamilleComment
 
Welcome to this month's Blogorail Teal loop. Today we are sharing fun ideas for a Star Wars themed movie night.

The Star Wars franchise is a pretty popular thing at our house. We geek out together over Star Wars and have themed parties, movie nights, and infuse the Force into pretty much any and everything we can. If you saw our Christmas picture a couple years ago, you know that we like to have fun together. 

In order to stay away from re-inventing any wheels, because honestly who has time for that?! I'll share a few fun activities and food ideas that we have created over the years that would make for a whole lot of fun for your next Star Wars themed movie night or event!

1| pick a MOVIE

First things, first. Which movie are you going to watch? I am going to focus only on the live-action films, not any animated features or shows. There are seven main films that are available for purchase and/or download today:

  • Episode I - The Phantom Menace
  • Episode II - Attack of the Clones
  • Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
  • Episode IV - A New Hope
  • Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
  • Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Soon, we will be able to add Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to the mix (set in between Episodes III & IV. But, for now, we have Episodes I-VII).

Being the nut that I am, when presented with this opportunity to write about a Star Wars themed movie night, I wanted to write about the made for TV film, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. Why? Because they are cuddly and cute, feisty and fearless. Also, it has been ages since I've seen it (released in 1985) and I thought it would be fun to introduce the kids to the world of the Wookies.

 Photo © Lucasfilm

Photo © Lucasfilm

Sadly, after a ton of searching, we found that both Ewoks films (Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor) were removed from the Star Wars Canon and now the only places you can watch them are on sketchy online sites or youtube... unless you have a VHS player and score one at a thrift store. You can also order a copy of the films from Amazon for the price of a really cute handbag. I happened to see a combo release DVD on Amazon, new for $189. Say what?! Well, my grand idea was somewhat thwarted, but I will admit that I found a YouTube link for Battle for Endor. It was not great quality, but it did the job.

Wicket is probably my favorite creature ever. If I didn't already have a name for my future French bulldog puppy, I'd name it Wicket. LOL. 

So, first things first, pick a movie that everyone agrees on, or make it a marathon and watch them all! From there, you can choose to cater your party food, activities and decor to that specific show.

2| Food & Drinks

Disclaimer, I am not a food blogger, but you knew that. I am an "ooooh that recipe pin on Pinterest looks amazing" or, "those cupcakes might be do-able," type of person. I also have numerous Pinterest fails, but you will never see them because I ate them and forgot to post the pictures. C'est la vie.

 When Daddy is a photographer and designer plus a Star Wars fanatic, you have to make epic birthday invitations. :) 

When Daddy is a photographer and designer plus a Star Wars fanatic, you have to make epic birthday invitations. :) 

Here is an example of some delicious treats that I made for our son's "Episode X" Star Wars themed Dark Side party.

Pick easy and quick foods, nothing too crazy, because you don't want to be so exhausted from cooking in the kitchen that you fall asleep watching the movie!

The chocolate dipped pretzel light sabers and Chewbacca chow were quick, easy and just enough salty and sweet! Here are the recipes!

Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

  • Pretzel Rods
  • CandiQuik White Chocolate
  • Food Coloring
  • Wax paper

Depending on how many light saber options, you know, dark or light side, will determine how many bowls of coloring that you need.

  1. Melt the chocolate according to the package instructions
  2. Add food coloring to create the hue you want
  3. dip your pretzel rods and lay flat on wax paper to dry

Chewbacca Chow (aka muddy buddies or puppy chow by chex)

Easy-peasy, right? That's how I like it. 

You're going to need to wash down all of the delicious treats, so one of our family favorite beverages is Boba Fett Soda. Coffee mate no longer sells the Star Wars themed bottles, but you can still use the Italian Crème Soda flavor!

3| Dress like the Force

Grab your favorite Star Wars pajamas. You can find them almost anywhere nowadays. For our family Christmas picture we bought pjs from Kohl's and Target. 

And there you have it! A fairly quick and easy way to add the Force to your next Star Wars themed movie or party night! 


For Star Wars movie night ideas, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of Magical Blogorail Teal | Movie Night | Star Wars Loop:
 

Return of The Main Street Electrical Parade

Entertainment, DisneyCamilleComment
 
 Photo © Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

Photo © Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

 Photo © Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

Photo © Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

I grew up watching the Main Street Electrical Parade and cried when it left Disneyland Park in 1996. Then, I rejoiced when it came back for a run at Disney California Adventure in 2001, just in time for our first daughter to experience the magic. Then, it left again in 2010.

Guys – I am crying again because it just came back to Disneyland Park and it will run through Sunday,  June 18, 2017.

I happened to watch the parade with Sarah last weekend, we had a long day and got to Disneyland late, but managed to squeeze into a spot near Pixie Hollow for the viewing. It wasn't a terrible view, I felt the surrounding of trees framed some of my photos well. However, next trip we are going to try out  one of the Dining Packages (Blue Bayou (sit down) or Aladdin's Oasis (grab-n-go)). I'm pretty sure I need that gluten free Monte Cristo, but we shall see what the hubby says about that. LOL.

 Photo © Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

Photo © Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

The Blue Fairy and Casey Jr. Train floats are not part of this parade (sad face, Blue Fairy was my favorite), but they've added Tinkerbell and some Pixie Hollow fairies. However, they did have the original introduction train with Goofy at the wheel, pulling a giant drum that lights up, "Disneyland Presents...The Main Street Electrical Parade."

Check out Disney Parks' YouTube channel for videos on attractions and upcoming events! 

Annual Passholders

Are you an Annual Passholder? Disneyland is running its AP Days at Disneyland Park event now through March 9, 2017; Visit daily from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM (AP Welcome Center at Tomorrowland Starcade). Historical video screenings will be at 5:00 PM, 6:30 PM and 8:00 PM daily (Main Street Opera House). 

Side Note: Passholders must present a valid Annual Passport to receive benefits.

Guests begin to line up along Main Street U.S.A. a couple of hours before in order to catch a glimpse of the electric lights, so be prepared. It should also be noted that the parade may be cancelled due to weather, so check the forecast before your visit!

 Photo © Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

Photo © Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

Sweet Treats

Not only is the parade magical, but the themed food is, too! Grab some hot chocolate and a treat.

Here are some adorable caramel and chocolate dipped caterpillar marshmallow sticks and snail cake pops!! 

Are you excited about the return of this Disneyland classic?