Sparks of Magic

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?
 

Lunar New Year at Disneyland Resort

Disney, EntertainmentSarahComment
 

It's the year of the Rooster! Happy Chinese New Year! Disneyland Resort has been celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year from January 20th - February 5th!

 Photo: Sarah Brow

Photo: Sarah Brow

Here's a quick guide to what you'll find in the various areas:

Paradise Park

  • “Hurry Home New Year's Celebration”
  • Acrobats of China
  • Performance Corridor
  • Mulan’s New Year Procession
  • Face Painting
  • Kids Crafts

Market Places

  • Korea
  • China
  • Vietnam

Paradise Gardens

  • Paradise Garden Bandstand
  • Disney Characters in their Lunar New year attire
  • Artisans
  • Lucky Wishing Wall
  • Annual Pass Area

Paradise Park

 Photo: Sarah Brow

At Paradise Park you will find entertainment for the Lunar New Year Celebration, including the "Hurry Home – Lunar New Year Celebration!" 

This special World of Color nighttime spectacular, features Academy Award-winning composer, Tan Dun (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). 

Here's a look behind-the-scenes:

Performance Corridor

FullSizeRender.jpg

Within Paradise Park, you will also find the Performance Corridor, where kids get complimentary face-painting, make fun crafts, and can watch various acts, like the Acrobats of China and even Mulan's New Year Procession. 

market places

Enjoy bites and sips from the various cultures of China, Korea, and Vietnam. 

Paradise Gardens

In Paradise Gardens you can find some of your favorite Disney characters dressed in their Lunar New Year attire! Isn't Minnie gorgeous?!

Wishing wall and calligraphy

Here you can leave your New Year's wishes on the Wishing Wall and watch as the calligraphy artists draw your name.

Chinese Zodiac animal sign

Not sure what your Chinese zodiac animal sign is? No worries, look for the year you were born, to find out which animal you are. I am the Year of the Dragon and Camille is the Year of the Rooster!

disneyland AP (Annual Pass) Area

Are you a Disneyland Resort Annual Pass Holder? The AP area is open daily from 11:00am - 7:00pm.

The AP section is located in the back of Paradise gardens; show your annual pass to gain exclusive access to this area.

Ap Exclusives include:

  • Take your picture in front of the AP photo wall
  • Hang your wish on the wish wall
  • Receive a map of Lunar New Year events
  • AP sticker
  • Enter to win a trip to China!

Wishing you all the best Lunar New Year!

See ya real soon!
xo, Sarah
 

Rock the Dots in Everyday Minnie Style on National Polka Dot Day!

Disney, FashionSarahComment

If you're obsessed with Minnie, like many of us that are Disney fanatics, you'll be excited to know that January 22nd is National Polka Dot day!

In honor of the true wearer of polka dots, Minnie Mouse, my dear friend and Disney sister - Sarah, has so graciously shared her closet and curated some magical outfit inspiration for us! This is also a great time to announce that Sarah will be joining Sparks of Magic as my partner in crime, focusing on Disney Lifestyle! Yay! 


Minnie Mouse inspired outfits are not just for Disney Parks, so I put together some of my favorite looks to inspire Disney magic for your everyday lives.

 
 

The office look

Who says your office look has to be all business? Add a Minnie Mouse shirt to your business attire, like a pencil skirt or slacks, to add a little Disney magic to any outfit. Need to dress it up more? Top it off with a blazer!

Swing into spring!

The magic is in the details with this Minnie-inspired look. We paired a swing skirt with a polka dotted top, then finished it with a black cardigan. We added some touches of Disney magic with our Disney-inspired Minnie Mouse vans and Minnie Mouse earrings.

Yoo-hoo, Valentine!

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we put together a  look that is sure to charm your sweetheart.

When Minnie Mouse made her debut in 1928, her accessories included a tiny red flower hat, which inspired this vintage hat. We kept the vintage look going and paired it with a red vintage swing dress and of course Minnie Mouse-inspired wedges.

The Casual look

Minnie mouse is all about the bows so when I saw this scarf at disneyland I had to buy it. I paired it with a red jacket, inspired by Minnie Mouse's red dress for those chilly spring mornings.

Traveling this spring?

Travel in style with this Minnie Mouse-inspired casual look, so you can #rockthedots across the country! Minnie Mouse’s signature bow dazzles the front, and of course, we can’t forget about Mickey on this fun luggage piece!


We would love to hear about and see your favorite Minnie Mouse inspired looks! Share them on instagram with #rockthedots and #sparksofmagic!

xo, Sarah

I am a twenty-something entrepreneur, vintage model, newbie blogger and Disney enthusiast. I have always had a passion for all things Disney. Camille and I met working for Disney Baby in 2012, and instantly became best friends. We decided to collaborate for the #rockthedots campaign and look forward to working together in the future! 
 

To the Fools Who Dream

Thoughts, LifestyleCamilleComment
 

As we've closed the door to 2016 and ushered in newness, hope, and excitement for the year of 2017, like most I like to reflect on what transpired and how it has made me a better person because of it, good or bad.

Family Life

We had ups and downs. We laughed a lot. I cried a lot. We've fought. We've also racked up hospital visits from Lodi to Sacramento for both our daughter and my mom in law. We are grateful that both of them are with us and have their health. We traveled hundreds of miles roundtrip to experience Disney magic and visit with family and friends in Southern CA. We witnessed family members become one through marriage. We went on hot dates. Jeff and I have been married for 16 years, together for 17. We seriously thought I was pregnant for almost twelve hours last year... They were the second-longest twelve hours of my life.

The first longest twelve + hours was my labor with our eldest, who is now SIXTEEN. Repeat, we have a sixteen year old. On top of that, we officially now have THREE teenage daughters (13, 14 & 16). God help Jeff and the boys cause someone is always PMS-ing. LOL. Our final baby is in double digits. Our girls have signed up for PSATS. They still fight like cats and dogs. But they all have hearts of gold, even if they are sassy as hell.

Most importantly, at the end of the day, we have each other. 

 My Instagram #BestofNine in 2016

My Instagram #BestofNine in 2016

Work Life

The year of 2016 was somewhat of a whirlwind. I spent a full year at the same temporary job working in Human Resources. I ended the previous year working 2 part-time jobs after finishing my Bachelor's. Once I left retail in January 2016, I was solely part time at Delta, and eventually was placed full-time in March. When I began, I knew it was temporary, but there was possibility that I would land a permanent spot that would help me on my career path – I hoped it led me back to The Walt Disney Company. I grew in my role as a temp Administrative Assistant, advancing in skills and knowledge, moving up to an HR Specialist by July. I had some colleagues and my boss take me under their wings and became my mentors. By October of 2016, I started my Master's program in Organizational Leadership. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was settling. Unintentionally, my sights became set on being comfortable and having a stable "grown up" job to provide for our family. It was, in my mind, time to kind of let my creative and entrepreneurial spirit take a rest so that my husband could get a chance to have his creative freedom and break the burden of 24/7 commuting and never seeing him. He left Amazon in February and took on two design clients that still keep him busy; knowing that his mental and physical health are way better off I know that having a happy and healthy husband is better than one that is over worked, under paid, and not enjoying his life everyday. 

2016 started out fantastic in the sense that I started to fit some kind of mold that looking back, I made for myself. I was making grown up dollars and felt like this was something I could pursue for my entire life and be "okay." If you know me, you know I am not driven by money. I don't work for money. I work because I love what I do. Somehow along the way my goals took a back seat as I attempted to make waves and find my place at my current job. My temporary assignment was only supposed to be from Dec. 2015 - March 2016. It kept getting extended and the hope that there would be an opportunity for permanency was definitely prevalent, and continued to grow. I started to get comfortable and hold on to something that was only meant to be temporary. From the very beginning, I knew my job was temporary. Yet, eternal optimist that I am - I was holding out hope. It wasn't until November that I realized I was holding on to something that wasn't mine. There are some education codes that must be followed, and as a temporary employee, I cannot work more than 75% of the academic year... so in all honesty, my time is coming to an end. I won't even say timing was off, because I truly believe (it took a while to get that through my head) that my place is not to be permanent at the college. It's definitely not an easy thing to even sit here and write because let's be honest, I'm scared shitless.

What comes next? Well, I've had recruiters contact me in the last two months, I've had interviews. I've applied for jobs. I can't control anything outside of showing up and giving my best. What I can control is my response to the worst case scenario – not having a full time job outside the home and prepare for change. But is that really worst case? I mean, I have my health. I have my family. Jeff is still working. So, what will I fall back on? How will we really make ends meet? What if? How? Why?

And then, it hit me, like Glinda telling Dorothy – she had the power all along. Say whaaat?! LOL.

I already have the power.

What's my power? I already have a working set of skills that I continue to grow in everyday. I am already a business woman, entrepreneur and creative. I just set a lot of that aside so I could work full time at a job that gave me over a year of experience under my belt. I am grateful. The last year has been amazing, and I have made new friends that have taught me so much. It will not be easy to leave them, but I am really excited to get back to the magic that has been brewing within my heart the last few weeks.

We will be branching out How About Now Creative Co.'s brand management service into a separate business. Jeff will continue his design and photography work. My new venture I will include brand strategy and add business, leadership and lifestyle consulting as another component. I have a name that will be revealed soon, I've been working on the branding, business set up and strategy. I am taking necessary baby steps for everything to fall in to place as I am still working full time, but really they are huge leaps and bounds because in less than 90 days it will be our bread and butter. I will continue to blog here and partner with brands that fit for our family and readers. Additionally, we plan to travel more. Which is really exciting because I have yet to experience much of the world, and my dream and goal has always been to jet set with my hubby and kids.

What I lacked since first starting our business is sincere confidence in myself and listening to outside voices that wanted to put me into a box. Not to mention, because of those voices, I have put myself in a box. I was jaded along the way, experienced some heart ache with clients and some messes because I am not a financial guru - numbers have always scared me, and let's be real, sometimes I was self-sabotaging because I refused to charge my worth. I love people and I am in the business of seeing others thrive in their passion and crafts. That usually ended me in a hole financially or taken advantage of, often working way too many hours for minimum wage. And oh, don't forget the taxes. Gotta pay those. I have made a lot of mistakes, I have learned a lot of "what not to do" and I was not ready to get back up and try again. However, while I learned a lot in those first two years of business, ultimately it put me back into the 8-5 because I was not ready. This time I have a different perspective. This time, I am more than confident and I am honest with myself. I've dusted myself off and I am back at it again. I am going to be busy as hell as Mama, wife, student, full-time employee and entrepreneur. But – I love what I do. I love learning, helping brands, people and businesses. It is hard work, and I will be tired. There will be moments that I will want to give up, but I have chosen my path and I will keep moving forward. 

Jeff and I had a hot date in the final days of 2016. We went to see La-La-Land, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Oh my. It was phenomenal. I love musicals; Jeff doesn't. He loved it though, which makes me happy. I was inspired. I laughed. I cried. I was encouraged, and it seriously sealed the deal on how I would move forward with pursuing my dream and setting my goals. I love spoilers, mainly because I don't like surprises, it gives me anxiety. However, I won't spoil the film for you. I did link the trailer above.  Just go see it and be inspired. If you have a dream, it is worth your time. If you don't have a dream, you might be reminded of one that you let go. The music of the film has inspired me so much I already have a draft written for another post!

All that to say - My biggest reflections from 2016 was that irrespective of circumstances, I was able to learn, grow and soak up everything. This new year, I plan on doing my best but know I'll still make mistakes. I will keep learning from them, seeing growth, being successful, and seeing more of my family on a daily basis. I plan to receive the blessings and the trials of 2017 knowing that every experience is part of my journey. I am nervous about putting myself out there more. It's so much easier to coach someone and help them find their magic, and sometimes it's hard to see it within yourself. I call myself the Magic Maker, but at times I rarely take my own advice. I do give myself advice often, though. This is the year of consistency, follow through, and self-love. I cannot be true magic to others until I realize the magic within me. 

I encourage each of you to continue to dream, take steps towards those dreams and make some solid goals, buckle down and put in the time. It won't be easy, that much I can promise you.

But when you are working from the heart, everything seems to fall in to place.

I know that I will be able to help some of you with your goals through my new venture, too! I appreciate all of the support that I've gotten over the last two years, and I hope you continue to join me on my journey in the new year. I am excited to see my friends thrive, grow and experience new beginnings. I have some great vibes about 2017!

 

Holiday Traditions at Winter Fest 2016!

Entertainment, TravelCamilleComment

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Growing up in Southern California, winters were always fairly warm and we had to travel to get to snow, which was always a treat! Even though I am now a Northern California resident, I can often be found in Los Angeles and Orange County throughout the year, and holiday time is no different. There's something about seeing Christmas lights in palm trees that make me smile. :) I don't know if you can tell, but holiday season has always been my favorite time of year. I love everything about the holidays - the music, food (mostly the sweet treats), decorations, and LIGHTS!

 Image Courtesy of Winter Fest

Image Courtesy of Winter Fest

Our eldest daughter (MeiLani) will be turning sixteen around Christmastime (where has time gone?!). In light of this milestone, one of my best friends and I will pack up my daughter and her bestie to take an early girls' road trip to celebrate and partake in some fun. Mei has been a traveling girl since she was a baby, so she always up for an adventure. Southern California is one of her favorite destinations and she requested a special trip for her birthday and Christmas combined, so I am excited to share more memories with her at Winter Fest 2016. 

experiences

This will be our first time attending a Winter Fest event, so everything will be new! However, if you've attended before, you'll be happy to know that there are some experiences back by popular demand, along with many new experiences. After perusing the website, here are some that I am MOST excited to experience (to see all available experiences and shows click here):

  • Tree Lighting Ceremony - Nightly, on the dot at 5:30, the lights begin glowing on a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree. Christmas trees are my favorite.
  • Snowflake Summit - A 130 ft, 6 lane ice tubing slide and get this, UNLIMITED tubing is included with every admission ticket to Winter Fest. I am afraid of heights, and tall slides. However, I am excited to try this one out because I love tubing!
  • Meet & Greet with Santa - You can't experience a winter event without Jolly Old St. Nick! Let's hope I was good enough this year, I might need to slip him a candy cane to check my name! You'll be able to take pics with Santa, so have your cameras ready!
  • Candy Cane Carnival - Enjoy over a dozen holiday carnival rides, including a Holiday Ferris Wheel, Carousel, and try your hand at carnival games! 
  • Mistletoe Lounge - Enjoy holiday cocktails, craft brews or indulge in specialty coffees or try the popular Winter Fest hot chocolate (it wouldn't be a holiday event without hot chocolate)
  • Festival of Lights - Grab some hot chocolate or a speciality coffee from Mistletoe Lounge and stroll down a pathway illuminated with 2 million lights with your family and friends, to experience 10 holiday themed lands. One of our favorite family traditions is to look at Christmas lights with our kids, so this is right up our alley!
  • Snow Play - This area is free for everyone enjoy. I've already been told that I will be hit with a snowball, thanks to the real snow that will be blown in for the event. It's been a while since I made a snowman, hopefully someone will want to play with me.

With the awesome lineup of activities, like ice skating, snow play, ice tubing, and strolling through the Festival of Lights, I can guarantee that my birthday girl is going to have a lot of fun with her best friend. She's a big kid at heart, and already asked if I thought they'd let her in the bounce house, ha ha! I'm not quite sure about that, but we will definitely have a race around the outdoor ice skating rink.

Details

If you're looking for a fun date night, or special night to hang out with your teens (or kids of any age), take them to WinterFest 2016 in Orange County. The event is held at the OC Fair & Event Center, and will only be open from December 16, 2016 - January 1, 2017. Admission begins at $10 per child, $15 per adult and you can purchase tickets and wristbands on the Winter Fest website.

With over 20 different experiences, there is definitely something for everyone to enjoy, throughout the day. If you have younger children there are live action mini shows during the day, and a special place for snow tubing in the snow play area. If you want an extra special experience, you can reserve a Private VIP Cabana that can accommodate up to 10 guests.

I can't tell you how excited I am to experience Winter Fest 2016 and perhaps start a new road trippin' tradition for my entire family!

What are your favorite family holiday traditions?

This is a sponsored conversation, all images are via Winter Fest, and as always, the magic and opinions are 100% mine.

Holidays at Disneyland Park 2016

Entertainment, Travel, DisneyCamilleComment

It's here, it's here! 

 
  Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/  Disneyland Resort

Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

 

It's the merriest time of year at Disneyland Resort. From now until January 8, 2017, you can enjoy the holiday season at the Happiest Place on Earth!

Holidays are my favorite, and holidays at Disney Parks with my family and/or friends are the best. Here's what you can expect to see and experience at Disneyland Resort this holiday season.

"it's a small world" celebrates its 20th holiday presentation

 
 Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

 

If you know me at all, you know that "it's a small world" is my favorite attraction. I honestly love the song, as annoying as it may be to most people.  The holiday version intertwines "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls," adding the right amount of Christmas magic. Get ready to set sail on "The Merriest Attraction on Earth!"

 
 Here we are for the #Disneyland60 holiday fun!

Here we are for the #Disneyland60 holiday fun!

 

Since the attraction is celebrating its 20th holiday season, you might notice "Hidden 20s" sprinkled throughout. This will give my competitive kids some extra motivation to ride with me this season - whoever finds the most hidden 20s will get a churro! :) 

Fun facts:

  • It took nearly three dozen cast members 35 days to install the exterior and 18 days for the interior decor
  • There are over 400,000 lights that illuminate the plaza from the exterior to the trees, shops, and topiaries
  • The happy clock in the front dons a Santa hat and every quarter hour, there is a 3D-projection show presented by Siemens
  • Inside, your senses will awaken to whiffs of peppermint and fresh pine

Jack's back - haunted mansion holiday

 Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

 
 Image © Paul Brinegar/Disneyland Resort

Image © Paul Brinegar/Disneyland Resort

 

What's this?! Jack Skellington and his friends have taken over the Haunted Mansion. In traditional holiday fashion, we watch the Nightmare Before Christmas right after Halloween to usher in the holiday. Half of the fun is looking at all of the intricate details within the ride, and who doesn't love seeing Zero flying around!

"believe...in holiday magic" fireworks

 
  Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

 

Cozy up on Main Street, U.S.A., with a cup of hot chocolate to see the fireworks light up the night over Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle. This is my favorite way to end the night, and not to mention one of the best things is the snowfall finale. I believe in Holiday magic... do you?

Hop onto the Jingle Cruise

 
  Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

Image © Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

 

If you thought sailing on the Jungle Cruise was fun, wait until you see it spruced up for the holiday season. The Skipper is still full of jokes, and the ambience is merry and bright!

what are you waiting for?

If you're like me and like to plan last minute trips, make sure to check out Get Away Today (affiliate link) and save on an awesome vacation package to the Merriest Place on Earth! I am so excited to spend some time at Disneyland Resort this Holiday Season with some of my favorite people on earth!

Which attraction or experience are you looking forward to the most?

When Festivities Take Over Your Breakfast

FoodCamilleComment

The day after Halloween ushers in Christmas in our home. Traditionally, we don't put our tree up until after Thanksgiving, but the holiday music and scents of Christmas and winter fill the air early. I may or may not have broken that tradition of holiday music and started listening back in September. :) 

The holiday season means flavors are infused in everything and you can literally taste Christmas with every bite. We love celebrating the holidays and all the amazing flavors that come with it. In conjunction with my partnership with Denny's, I invite you to try the new buttermilk pancakes infused with seasonal flavors! If you are not a pancake fan, don't fret, because there is something for everyone! My kids enjoy the Holiday Cookie Milk Shake, and enjoy seeing their favorite friends from Rudolph ™ on the Kid's Menu.

There are four new festive pancake breakfasts that you can enjoy until January 4, 2017 (each breakfast is served with two eggs and hash browns, with a choice of two strips of bacon or sausage links):

  • Salted Caramel & Banana Cream Pancake Breakfast - GUYS! There are shortbread cookie pieces in this buttermilk pancake concoction, along with vanilla cream, fresh bananas, and salted caramel sauce!
  • Pumpkin Cream Pancake Breakfast - These pumpkin pancakes are layered and topped with pumpkin cream!
  • Sticky Bun Pancake Breakfast - Imagine the flavor in these buttermilk pancakes with glazed pecans cooked inside, topped with sweet cinnamon and cream cheese icing... yum.
  • Rudolph™ Pancake Breakfast - Who doesn't love to see a familiar face in their food? Kids will be tickled to see Rudolph served hot with turkey bacon antlers, topped with vanilla cream, and chocolate eyes and nose! 
 Denny's Pumpkin Pancake Breakfast (Image © Denny's)

Denny's Pumpkin Pancake Breakfast (Image © Denny's)

Not in the mood for a full pancake breakfast? Denny's has you covered to enjoy the seasonal flavors and offers Red Velvet Pancake Puppies (a favorite of my daughter!), a Turkey & Dressing Dinner, and a new Holiday Cookie Milk Shake.

  • The Red Velvet Pancake Puppies are filled with white chocolate chips and tossed in powdered sugar - don't forget the cream cheese icing for dipping!
  • The Turkey & Dressing Dinner includes carved, premium turkey breast and served with stuffing, turkey gravy and cranberry sauce with a choice of two sides and dinner bread.
  • The Holiday Cookie Milk Shake is a new vanilla ice cream shake blended with cookie butter and topped with whipped cream and shortbread pieces!
 Red Velvet Pancake Puppies (Image © Denny's)

Red Velvet Pancake Puppies (Image © Denny's)

If you are not in the mood for baking, you can order and pick up a traditional Denny's Pumpkin or Pecan pie whole, or by the slice, for family gatherings. Save your energy for holiday shopping and let Denny's treat you by making the dessert! If you'll be hitting the road for the holidays, remember that Denny's is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week - even Thanksgiving and Christmas, and if you happen to dine on a Tuesday night with the kids, they eat free!

Sadly for me, I cannot try any of the items since they don't have gluten free options (even the milkshake *crying inside*), but if I could, I'd be all over that Sticky Bun Pancake Breakfast! :) I'll be enjoying Denny's classic hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and my gluten free breakfast sandwich! 

Which item entices you the most this season? 

This conversation was sponsored by Denny's, as I am a member of the 2016 Denny's Diner Ambassador Council. All thoughts and opinions are magical and always mine. :)

It's the Climb

Family, TravelCamilleComment

Family day trips are great, especially when you get to be out in the open, consumed by nature. Okay, that totally does not sound like me. I am not a hiker. I do not enjoy lounging in the forest. I appreciate it all from a distance, but it isn't my "go-to" idea of F U N.

 
 

However, I have an active family, and they L O V E nature trails, hikes, forests and oceans and I love them to pieces for it. So, I go. I'm mostly afraid of being eaten by a wild animal, being taken by the ocean, or one of my children falling off the edge of a trail. I will tell you that the more I participate, it is slowly growing on me. Don't let me see signs about bears or other wildlife because I will turn right around and go back to my car.

Our most recent adventure was to the East Bay at Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area. We met up with one of our favorite people, Jeff's cousin, Melissa, who happens to be one of my dearest friends since I was 18. She is always good to hang out with our crazy fun family; always ready for an adventure with the Kimble-Walls! :) 

 
 

I learn a lot about myself on trips like this, like how strong I really am - even when I think I am going to keel over or am scared of some random sound in the bushes. I also realize how important moments spent as an entire family unit are to my kids. I am making a more conscious effort to reserve off days for doing things that they enjoy. I treasure the memories that I have with my parents and brother as we traveled, whether it be camping, hanging at the beach, or exploring new cities and states together. Being such a large family is not the easiest thing when you want to see the world, but we are committing to explore as much as we can together. That's the beauty of it, we get to do it together. Before long, our eldest will be in college (yikes, just 2 more years), and our youngest a high schooler. Time is going by so quickly, and I don't want to miss out on an experience with them.

 
 
 

Having kids sometimes feels like an uphill battle, but just like on our hiking trip, in life there are a lot of sweet, precious moments and at the end, when you look down and back, you see how far you got and feel pretty proud that no one fell off; even though we might have bickered on the way up and/or some of us complained - we made it. Together. You see, getting to the top is just part of it. It's the climb that makes us stronger, brings us together, and shows us new things. This truth is something we try to show our kids, not just tell them. Giving them hands on experience to relate to life will help them grow as teens and adults. Getting to where you want to go isn't easy work. It's uphill, it can be a battle, it can be exhausting, but it is so satisfying. Enjoy these moments while you can.

Guardians of the Galaxy Will Return!

EntertainmentCamilleComment
 Image © Courtesy Disney/MARVEL

Image © Courtesy Disney/MARVEL

Remember that E P I C film - Guardians of the Galaxy? Well MARVEL Studios is back at it, and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 arrives next spring. I would seriously be lying if I said I wasn't excited, because I am...

I have so many questions. What has that adorable Baby Groot has been up to, where will Star Lord and Gamora be heading next (any updates on their romance!) and are Drax and Racoon BFF's? There is so much to find out. I'm looking forward to more awesome tunes, kick ass scenes, dance moves, and humor with the occasional moments where I pretend I'm not crying. LOL.

Here's a look at the first poster release and sneak peek trailer. Make sure to check out the film May 5, 2017! 

Stay up-to-date and follow GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 online!

Mark your calendars because GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is in theaters May 5, 2017! 

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Finish off September with FREE Pancakes for the Kids & a Great Cause!

FoodCamilleComment

The season of fall has arrived! I'm always excited for cooler weather and warm drinks like hot chocolate, especially with a nice fluffy stack of pancakes. My sister swears by Denny's amazing hot chocolate so I am going to be trying it myself soon. I consider myself a hot cocoa connoisseur, so we will see about that. :) I'm always up for a challenge!

Kids are back in school, holidays are coming soon (yes, I know it's only September, but I can't help it). And every year, Denny's teams up with non-profit organization, No Kid Hungry, a company that partners with local schools and communities in helping to end child hunger in America. To date, Denny's has donated $3.3 million to the organization, assisting children throughout America. This year was the sixth year of participation on behalf of the restaurant and its team. 

With the launch of the new fluffier pancakes this summer, and for the month of September, Denny's offers free pancakes to its littlest fans every day from 4 pm - 10 pm, with the purchase of an adult entree. This gives kids (who happen to be the toughest critics) the opportunity to see how Denny's new recipe stacks up.

Along with the promotion, For every $1 donated, Denny's and No Kid Hungry will provide 10 healthy meals to a child in need. Not only does the organization provide meals, but they give assistance with meal planning and budgeting for families.

 Image © No Kid Hungry

Image © No Kid Hungry

Specifically in California, 1 in 4 children struggle with hunger... that's 25% of children. That is not okay. However, thanks to No Kid Hungry and 18 of its partners in CA, the goal is to satisfy and fill the tummies of our state's children. Our kids' school district offers free and reduced lunch for eligible families, and free breakfast for all children. Giving kids the nutrients and energy needed to function for the day is important and benefits them, but also their classmates and teachers. It's hard to focus when you're hungry (or like my kids - hangry), so I can't even imagine a child not having the basic needs of food fulfilled just to get through a school day.

 Image © No Kid Hungry

Image © No Kid Hungry

If you're not able to visit your local Denny's in September to donate, you can visit dennysnokidhungry.com and if you'd like to be part of the yearlong movement, Denny's will be donating $1 for every hashtag #ShareYourSlam on Twitter and Instagram.

Get your kids involved, too! We participated last year as well, and my boys were eager to help make sure kids were not going hungry. You can read that here.

 Image © No Kid Hungry

Image © No Kid Hungry

About No Kid Hungry®

No child should go hungry in America, but 1 in 5 kids will face hunger this year. Using proven, practical solutions, No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger today by ensuring that kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast and families learn the skills they need to shop and cook on a budget. When we all work together, we can make sure kids get the healthy food they need. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Join us at NoKidHungry.org.

This conversation was sponsored by Denny's in an ongoing partnership to bring awareness to the needs of hungry children in America, as I am a member of Denny's Diner Ambassador Council. All thoughts and opinions are magical and always mine. :)

A Whirlwind Day at Disney Social Media Moms Celebration | On the Road at Disneyland Resort

Disney, EntertainmentCamilleComment
 

August 24th was an exceptional and magical whirlwind. I was invited to attend a special one day event: Disney Social Media Moms Celebration: On the Road at Disneyland Resort (you can check out the event using #DisneySMMCDLR). Just in time to experience the final weeks of Disneyland Resort's 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration. 

I love to catch up with old friends and make new ones, and Disney events bring all kinds of magic to the party, too! We enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast, were gifted with lots of fun, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park admission, Disneyland 60th swag; but most importantly to me, I left with my heart absolutely overflowing, and my mind blown by the Disney team, and surprise guests, who both inspired and empowered us to keep moving forward as moms and entrepreneurs.

NEW! and Coming Soon to Disney Parks

One of my favorite experiences about Disney influencer events is all of the magic that we get to hear about behind the scenes. There is so much to say about each, but I will just touch on the highlights. Thank you to Michele Himmelberg, Director of Public Relations - Disneyland Resort, for sharing all of the upcoming fun. Let's start with the holiday season that is almost upon us!

In case you missed it, Disneyland is currently undergoing spook-tacular Halloween season enhancements! The Haunted Mansion is currently closed, as Sandy Claws does his annual decorating. Don't fret though, because doors will open for the ghoulish attraction with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme on September 9th.

 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

This will also be the FINAL Halloween at Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. For me, it is bittersweet. I will always love TOT, but I am looking forward to the new attraction in 2017. I highly suggest that you visit before TOT becomes Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission Breakout! The attraction will close its doors in January 2017.

GUYS - We were given complimentary FAST PASS tickets to experience the new enhancements of one of our family's favorite attractions, which is now Soarin' Around the World. Personally, I loved the new version and it gave me the travel bug! I've never been outside of the US, so flying over the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France might have gotten me a little teary eyed. It's beautiful. All of imagery coupled with the different scents :) within the attraction are pretty awesome! My girls rated it 5 stars! I will be honest, I was sad that I did not get to see Frozen - Live at the Hyperion, but it is on my "to-do" for my next trip!

 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

Disney's Frozen – November ushers in my favorite holiday of all time - Christmas! In time for winter season, you will find Disney's Frozen - Live at the Hyperion at Disney California Adventure Park. If you're on the East coast, Frozen Ever After is the new attraction at Walt Disney World, and if you're setting sail, Frozen - A Musical Spectacular will be featured this fall on Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder.

 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

Disney's MOANA – If you know me, you also know that our family has a serious love for the islands of the Pacific. We loved Disney's Lilo & Stitch franchise, and honestly I think MOANA will be one of my favorite princesses. The film will be released 11/23/16, the weekend of my 35th birthday!

We were treated to exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, and it was AMAZING. We were not able to take any photos or have our technology out, otherwise a very kind security guard would kindly remind and potentially remove us. All I can share with you, is that this is a MUST SEE film. I'm not talking about just a film for 2016, but a must-see for a lifetime. The themes of empowerment, following your heart, learning about who your ancestors were and who you are meant to be, are extremely strong in the film. 

We heard from Amy Smeed, the first female co-head of animation on a feature film and was interesting to hear how the animation process and story is developed. The amounts of research that the Studios put in to really capture the essence of the cultures presented is more than commendable. I am so happy that Auli'i Cravalho was cast as Moana. A native to Hawai'i, she truly embodies the Aloha spirit and she brings so much life and vibrance to her character. 

 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

Disney Cruise Line – I've not had the pleasure to set sail with DCL yet, but we found out that the fleet will be adding two new cruise ships soon: one in 2021; another in 2023. They will also return to Galveston, Texas in 2017, with sailings to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. For West coast cruisers, the Disney Wonder will return to San Diego in September and October 2017 for sailings to Baja and the Mexican Riviera.

 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

PandoraThe World of AVATAR – Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom is preparing for the opening of a new, beautiful world based on James Cameron's AVATAR, in 2017. It has been amazing to watch the ideas for this magical place take shape over the last few years. I had my first peek at Pandora's arrival when I explored Disney23 Expo in 2013. Then, when I worked the D23 Expo in 2015 with Imagineering, I was in even more awe as we walked through the exhibit and saw the creations and mini replicas of what was to come. The concept art is breathtaking. I can't wait to ride down the Na'vi River.

Social Media Tips

Disneyland60 Swag.png

What's a social media conference without touching on social media?! As always, Disney "does it better" and offered us insider tips on how they manage their conversations and content for the public, and gave insight on putting that into action for our own brands and blogs. The theme for me was really to work towards adding more video content to my blog and social media platforms. Before we get into the tips, make sure you bookmark: Disney Parks Blog - it is the ultimate site for Disney Parks news and events! The team is active on social media as well, so stay connected!

Here are highlights from our speakers and Disney team members:

Erin Glover (Social Media Director, Disneyland) is always fun to learn from. She is engaging, witty, and extremely knowledgeable. I had the pleasure of learning the basics about the process a couple of years ago, and I was excited to learn more. This time around, I really honed in on her tips for syndicating and sharing content. Many times, I write and then that's it. When I was doing work for other companies on social media, I ended up neglecting my own social media channels. Did you know that there are over 100 authors for the Disney Parks Blog?! That's a lot of writing! My ultimate takeaway: Syndicate, Integrate and Share. Ask myself, "how can I optimize my content to work well for each specific channel?"

Victoria Lim (Managing Editor, Disney Parks) shared on maximizing digital content through apps. I'm not a huge fan of being in front of the camera, but I do see the value and importance of it with my content. This was the first time I'd heard Victoria share, in real life (I've followed her presentations via social media)  and I was happy to hear her tips and tricks on video. My daughters are obsessed with video, and will be helping me get my booty in gear with producing for my blog. Some of the apps that Victoria talked about were Magisto, Videolicious, Quik, and WeVideo. My ultimate takeaway: Be ready to film content. Don't go TMZ style [when videotaping]. Have a steady shot. 

Surprise Guests

Drumroll, please... we were treated to chat with Tiffani Thiessen, (aka Kelly Kapowski - for you Saved by the Bell fans) and Ginger Zee (ABC News & Good Morning America). Listening to Tiffani and Ginger speak on motherhood, working outside (and inside) the home, balancing their passions and everything else was awe-inspiring. It was an honor to hear their stories and I left empowered as a mom with many hats. 

SparksofMagic DisneySMMCDLR Guests.png

As moms, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have everything "just right." Honestly, when is it ever up to our standards and/or expectations? I'm contemplating these statements more and more since being home from this event, and I am excited to share my thoughts on them soon.

 Thank you to my friend Jindy of   FlowersCroon.com   for the awesome picture!

Thank you to my friend Jindy of FlowersCroon.com for the awesome picture!

The entire day was such a treat. I was exhausted, inspired and bursting at the seams with excitement. I was blessed to not only be invited, but to have the ability to take the day off and make the 300+ mile drive down with my husband and two of our girls! We all had a fantastic time. I always look forward to participating in Disney events as opportunities arise. I hope there are many more in my future! Thank you to the Disney events team for including me!

I was hosted at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On the Road at Disneyland Resort and my family received complimentary park admission and a swag bag. I paid for all travel costs incurred. All thoughts expressed are my own and I'd like to think they are pretty magical. Follow the fun on social media to see the many bloggers that experienced #DisneySMMCDLR! 

 

The Fluffier, The Better!

FoodCamilleComment

Pancakes. PANCAKES. P A N C A K E S.

I love them. My kids love them. I think most people love them. 

Know what I don't love about them? Making them. Maybe it's just me, but making pancakes can be messy. I feel like I can't make them fast enough for this little army of mine. On the rare occasion that I am energized enough to wake up early to cook pancakes for a family of seven, I do enjoy it, but it has to be in the quiet of the morning. I just wish I had a pancake machine.

Since I'm gluten free, I make my pancakes from scratch, but since it takes a while longer to get my stuff together, the hubby and kids now opt to make pancakes (that "just add water" stuff) on their own. I am okay with it, as long as they clean up their messes and make sure the glutenous particles have left the building before I need to use the kitchen.

While it's special and sweet that they enjoy making a big mess in my kitchen, I really would rather them head to our #1 pancake spot, Denny's for their fill of gluten (sans the mess).

 Sticky Bun Pancake Breakfast - Image © Denny's

Sticky Bun Pancake Breakfast - Image © Denny's

For many people, there is nostalgia in home-made breakfasts, like pancakes. With that in mind, Denny's has recreated their pancake, which is 50% fluffier and packed with a home-made cakey flavor, than ever before. Using real eggs, fresh buttermilk and a hint of vanilla, they are hand whipping the goodness into fluffy, tasty clouds for their guests. I think it's awesome, though I won't be partaking in the pancake party, I will continue to advocate for those of us that have allergies, because it just plain sucks having to watch everyone devour fluffy pancakes while you eat an English muffin. I hope Denny's hears my cries at some point and perhaps offers some gluten free cakes in the future.

Denny's has also expanded its current pancake offerings to include four limited-time Signature Builds: The Sticky Bun Pancake Breakfast, Strawberries and Cream Pancake Breakfast, Double Berry Banana Pancake Breakfast, and Peanut Butter Cup Pancake Breakfast.

While I am extremely excited to see the faces of my kids as they chow down on The Sticky Bun Pancake Breakfast, I will be honest as I am equally nervous of the Peanut Butter Cup Pancake Breakfast, due to the severe peanut allergy that my daughter has (she also happens to be the serious lover of pancakes). The nice thing is, because I frequent the same Denny's I can chat with the manager and the team regarding their kitchen practices in making sure she has a safe dining experience with this new addition to the menu. 

 Strawberries and Cream Pancake Breakfast - Image © Denny's

Strawberries and Cream Pancake Breakfast - Image © Denny's

If I could eat any of these new builds, it would be Strawberries and Cream or Double Berry Banana. There's just something about fruit and whipped cream that makes me happy inside. For the first time, Denny's will be offering these Signature Builds as junior size for the kiddos. If you're looking for extra ways to save and enjoy a family meal, head to Denny's on Tuesday nights, as kids eat free. 

Denny's pancake party isn't just in the restaurants, you can experience the fun on social media, too! Dine at Denny's and you can use the fun Snapchat filters to tell your friends and followers that you're having a pancake party, participate in Facebook Live events and you can always find entertainment on Denny's YouTube channel. Denny's also has a "Pancake Rejection Simulator" application where guests have to break the news to family members, telling them that their homemade pancakes are now second best (insert nervous emoticon here). All in all, it's in good fun and great flavor, so enjoy the limited-time tastes and experience. 

Make sure to check out the menu online and go have a pancake party at your local Denny's, with your favorite people! Remember, Denny's serves breakfast ALL DAY!

This conversation was sponsored by Denny's in an ongoing partnership to bring you the newest menus and special offerings, as I am a member of Denny's Diner Ambassador Council. All thoughts and opinions are magical and mine. :)

Finding Where You Belong - Disney's Queen of Katwe

Disney, EntertainmentCamilleComment
 Image © Disney

Image © Disney

When Lupita Nyong'o takes the screen, she is absolutely mesmerizing. Whether in human form or in CG form (like in Star Wars: The Force Awakens), her characters have depth, insight, and wisdom. Even though she is not the focal character of this film, I know I can count on her role having a lasting impression. Nyong'o plays Harriet, the mother of Phiona. The film introduces Madina Nalwanga as Phiona, and also stars David Oyelowo.

Disney's biopic - QUEEN OF KATWE, is a story that tells of the triumphs and trials of a young girl, as she navigates her way through adolescence in Kampala, Uganda. Her family sells vegetables to make ends meet, and she eventually becomes mentored by a man that teaches her the strategic game of chess.

I get really caught up in these heartfelt type of films, I am drawn into the stories and tend to find something relatable that I hold onto. With QUEEN OF KATWE, I was moved by the theme of "finding where you belong," as Phiona works towards understanding her place in the world, gains the support of family and community, and explores the world, thanks to her newfound love - chess. 

It's not an easy thing, to find where you belong. For many of us, it takes many years to realize their purpose and plan in life. I always encourage people to hold on to what makes them happy, and find things that they enjoy. We only live life once, and when opportunity knocks, or gives us some options to explore what we love and what we are good at, we should feel some sort of obligation to follow our hearts.

Seriously, grab some tissues before you even watch the trailer.

Disney's Queen of Katwe will be released September 23, 2016.

Like QUEEN OF KATWE on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QueenOfKatwe/   

Follow QUEEN OF KATWE on Twitter: https://twitter.com/queenofkatwe 

Saying No to the Summer Bod

Food, WellnessCamilleComment

Growing up, I never knew there was a difference between my winter body and summer body, mainly because I am not the type of person that jumps at the chance to lay on the beach, or go for a hike, or strip down to barely there and get into water, either. Mind you, I enjoy looking at the beach or admiring the forest - in pictures. I used to love being in the water when I was younger, and even swimming IN the ocean, especially Hawai'i. Until - FISH.

Once I was old enough to realize they are IN THERE WITH ME - Nope.

No lakes, no oceans, sure as hell no rivers and whatever is growing in there can stay in there. I resolved to only eat fish, they are not my friends - they are in fact food (sorry Nemo, but Bruce was wrong, LOL).

In Northern California, we have long summers. So, even getting a late start on priming our bodies to enjoy the heat of the sun, wearing the allowable allocation of the most minimal amounts of clothing, tends to last longer that other regions of the nation. Granted, not everyone follows the same allocation of clothing to the body, but hey, do you. It's mid-July, but believe me summer is still going strong till October. I'm getting a later start, but better late than never, right?

Forget the summer bod, focus on your lifetime bod

The last few weeks I've been hitting the ground running, in hopes to get my booty in shape for the summer, but with a reasonable goal to reach by my 35th birthday in November. I lovingly call it "Fly by 35." Now, I am all about loving one's self, so for those of you thinking, "girl you're already fly, love yourself," THANK YOU. I know. AND I am going to continue to love myself by making sure I am still running around by ages 50 and 60 because I have a lot to do with my life, like hopefully chase after my grandkids and great-grandkids. You know I want to be able to run down Main Street U.S.A. with each of them, for their first trip. I'm just early-prepping my aging body to withstand the future adventures. That's how I see it anyway.

Then I began to think about it, and I realized that I don't want a summer bod, I want a lifetime bod. I've said it in previous posts, it's easier said than done. My weight fluctuates and my life circumstances change so I put workouts on the back burner, or even at times if food money was slim, I eat the crap to give the good stuff to the kids, or I just don't eat at all. It's a sacrifice as a parent, right? But that's not healthy either and I plan on being around for a while, so I decided that I needed to get in gear. I'm sharing my work-in-progress plan of staying on track with a lifetime bod. I'm not getting any younger, and L O V E countdowns, so my first goal is to see how I can stay on track up to my 35th birthday.

3 Things that Will Help Me Stay on Track for a Lifetime Bod

1. Food

Being allergic to a lot of things means my food intake is already limited. However, I am not allergic to chocolate (thankfully) but that also means that I have to limit what I'm not allergic to (chocolate) in order to balance my gut with my muscles. Regardless, I have to eat. When you're working out, expending energy, you need to intake energy in the form of foods and supplements. For work and home I switch up between morning protein shakes, fruits and raw veggies and I usually will eat leftovers from dinner that week. I haven't gotten into the meal prep craze so I take baby steps. One meal at a time, literally.

When it's time to head out the door for a family meal, there are a few spots that I can count on to customize meals that fit my lifestyle and allergies. Aside from Disneyland, one of my favorite places to grab a bite (at any hour of the day), is Denny's. Breakfast, Lunch, or  Dinner, I know that I can jump in a booth and enjoy a meal that satisfies my tummy and keeps me under calories.

 Image © Denny's

Image © Denny's

Even if you don't have allergies to deal with, maybe you're just monitoring your caloric intake or looking for healthier options, Denny's Fit Fare Menu is a perfect place to start. There are four categories for Fit Fare: Lean, Light, Protein and Fiber.

They offer breakfast options like The Fit Slam (Lean, Light & Protein) is egg whites scrambled with spinach and grape tomatoes, bacon and an English Muffin; Banana Pecan Pancake Breakfast (Lean and Fiber) which sounds amazing - glazed pecans cooked into the wheat pancakes, fresh banana slices, egg whites and two strips of turkey bacon; and finally the Fit Fare Veggie Skillet (Light & Protein) - who says you can't have veggies for breakfast?! 

BONUS: For the gluten free customer, they offer gluten free English muffins! Throw the scrambled eggs, into the muffin and layer the bacon (hold the grape tomatoes, or get them on the side), and you have an awesome breakfast sandwich. You can even add a slice of cheese just to make sure it all stays in there together! I love cheese, so regardless of what kind of body I have cheese stays.

I’ll be more excited about the lunch, if Denny’s begins to carry gluten free hamburger buns, because their Chicken Avocado Sandwich is mouthwatering. Denny’s also offers a Cali Jack Burger (Protein & Fiber) and Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad (Lean & Light) for the lunch options. I could always just “bring my own bun” which wouldn’t be a first. :)

 Fit Fare Alaska Salmon Image © Denny's

Fit Fare Alaska Salmon Image © Denny's

Dinner time is always a fun time because typically I have the whole family with me, so I tend to either share a meal with the hubby, or just have something light. I don’t like to eat a ton in the evenings, especially restaurant food, it’s heavy on my gut. I can definitely see myself eating off the Dinner options, because FISH. Remember my love for fish - on my plate? Denny’s has two delicious options of seafood - Tilapia Ranchero and a new dish, Alaska Salmon. Want red meat? Then the new Sirloin Steak is your best option.

When I’m not eating at Disneyland, Denny’s or trying out some cool new restaurant (I wish I did this one more), I’ll be toting my work lunch full of whatever delicious cuisine that my hubby and or kids prepared the night before! Or, I’ll be eating a gluten free cupcake. LOL.

2. Exercise

Eating right is only a portion of getting that lifetime bod. Movement is extremely important. I’ve realized after transitioning from retail to an office environment, sitting at my desk 8+ hours of the day works against my goals of maintaining a hot mama bod. I’m excited to say that I’ve been consistent in exercising either through walking, running, and/or my Nike Training Club workout app the last few weeks. On a good day, I do "two-a-days" which makes me feel super accomplished.

I’ve shared my excitement over the app in a previous post, and I swear it just keeps getting better! With one of the most recent updates, I am able to schedule my workout plan and time frame. This app also works in sync with the Nike+ Running app. I decided to create a workout plan for the month of July, just to test the waters. I’ve had some times that I had to edit my plan, because I didn’t have time, or was too sore, and the app allows that freedom to switch and add workouts.

3. Rest & Recover

I’m honestly having the hardest time with resting. My brain goes a billion miles per hour, there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done. Even if I skip a workout I am not resting, I’m doing something else. It’s important to allow your body to recover, realign and rest. Some of the ways that I’ve found to just relax my mind is by playing a game on my iPhone, or listening to an audio book.

My current rest obsession is Disney's Emoji Blitz. :) It's a cute little game and you play to earn Disney Emojis for your keyboard. H E L L O - Disney Emojis. Having conversations with your crew are more fun with Disney magic.

In case you want to try it out, my awesome friend Mindy wrote all about it over on her blog This FairyTale Life. If you haven't downloaded the game yet, you should. It's adorable and quite therapeutic! 

When you are consistently working out, make sure you are taking the proper time to let your body recover, especially if you are really starting new or have been stagnant for a long time. You will feel it, maybe not immediately, but usually the next day or two. Go hard or go home, yes, but don’t hurt yourself!

All in all, I’m learning to mindful of my body and my spirit. On days that I just don’t want to workout or feel like I need to get that entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s in my mouth, I have to remind myself that I only get one body, so I need to love and care for it on a daily basis, always look to maintaining it for future use. This might look different for everyone, we all are unique. There's no right size or shape. We should work on being fulfilled, happy and whole inside and out. I want to be around for a long time. I know that my hubby and kids want that, too. There’s a lot that I haven’t experienced in life, but I’m hopeful that these eyes will be able to see things, my feet will be able to take me to far off places and that my hands will be able to create magic for a long time. Happy and healthy. That's my goal.

Will you join me in saying "no" to the summer bod and work towards maintaining a lifetime bod? :)

This conversation was sponsored by Denny's in an ongoing partnership to bring you the newest menus and special offerings, as I am a member of Denny's Diner Ambassador Council. All thoughts and opinions are magical and mine. :)

Magic Moments: Travel Planning Fun with Get Away Today!

Travel, Family, EntertainmentCamilleComment

I'm extremely excited to announce that I am a partner with Get Away Today travel! When Jeff and I only had 2 girls, we booked vacations through Get Away Today, and as our family grew, family travel took the back burner. It is unfortunate, as traveling is really fun, especially with kids! Thankfully we've hit the road quite a few times since, and are looking to expand our travel borders in the near future.

I used to want to be a travel agent, my mom worked for a travel agency when I was younger, and it was always fun to go visit her at her office and see all the images of tropical locations and scenery on the walls. I never really paid attention to what she actually did, it was just fun to visit and dream of being in one of those exotic places as I waited for her to get off work.

Fast forward to today, Jeff and I have five kids of our own and we are learning that "organized travel" is extremely important. When I say "organized" I mean, planned, and plotted, making sure we stretch every dollar and get bang for our bucks. We used to lean towards spontaneous, as in "let's go next month" type of travel, and that can get expensive and is somewhat stressful. As our income has always fluctuated, it has been challenging to really save for anything, let alone a full blown family trip with bells and whistles! When doing spontaneous travel, a family vacation was never long enough, lasting only 2 -3 days in southern CA with the kids to visit family and sometimes Disneyland (our happy place). 

About Get Away Today

Get Away Today takes the guesswork out of booking a full vacation package. They have awesome benefits, like a layaway plan and Peace of Mind travel insurance, which is a plus when you're really saving towards a family vacation. The downpayment for travel is $125, which includes a nonrefundable $50 layaway fee. The trip needs to be paid in full within two weeks of travel (many other sites require it from 30-45 days prior). 

When I became a partner with Get Away Today, I was so excited to finally get back to booking and saving. Our family will get to experience more travel in the near future, especially as I am have embarked on a new journey in my career, so saving is a little easier. Work hard, play hard, right?!

 Hurry, this offer ends 6/26/16 for travel through December 31, 2016.

Hurry, this offer ends 6/26/16 for travel through December 31, 2016.

Book with Get Away Today

So what does this mean for you, my readers, family and friends? Well, if you choose to book through Get Away Today Vacations, you will receive a $10 credit towards any 2 night stay (use code "SPARKS" when booking) and I will earn a small commission for referring you. Stay tuned for special offers throughout the year, like Adults pay Kids Price at Disneyland, which is going on until June 26, 2016. I'll keep you updated and look forward to hearing your travel stories, too!

We just booked our Fall vacation and cannot wait to share our experience with you!

Magic Moments: Games and Learning with Kids - Scrabble x Disney

Family, Disney, EntertainmentCamilleComment

Naturally, we love Disney games at our house. I purchased the Scrabble "Disney Theme Park Edition" game last year, but I never made the time to sit and play with the kids. I know, that's terrible, but that's the facts. My intention is to change the fact that moments with the kids are few, at least when it comes to organized games or activities. Half the time I'm lucky my dinner table is cleared of "life" so we can sit down and enjoy dinner together, let alone a board game!

One of the kids' favorite games to play with my parents is Scrabble. When I saw that Disney had their own version (of course), I had to pick it up. The game is just as magical as you would think it to be, with a twist of pixie dust added. You get extra points for using Disney words and/or phrases, which is perfect for us Disney-loving people.

Playing board games can be a fun treat at home, or on-the-go! Consider packing one or two for your next road trip or family vacation. You'll be making memories on vacation, even in your "down time."

Learning: Scrabble is a fun word game that really is perfect for kids, regardless of age! When we first started playing with my parents a few years ago, the kids usually teamed up with an adult. Today, they play on their own and they're increasing their vocabulary as we have them look up words in the dictionary and thesaurus. Granted, when playing with younger kids, each turn takes a little longer than if we played with all adults, but it really is a fun game to play together as a family. The kids learn to be resourceful with a dictionary, and we all have a fun time learning new words and realizing how big our imaginations can be when we accidentally create words. The game gives us all practice in patience, teamwork, comprehension, and exercising our creative brain muscles.

In the box: This special Disney edition comes with some fun pixie dust! Aside from the board, 4 wooden tile holder and 100 tiles, you receive a cute little pouch with the castle graphic & fireworks. The bag has a velcro closure, which is great since it lays flat in the box. The tiles are imprinted with the letters and point value in blue. Unlike classic Scrabble, there are also 26 Magic cards that come with it, fully decked out with Disney graphics, and special instructions enhancing game play. I think it's a pretty awesome game to have in our collection, and one that we will play for years to come. We also have monopoly, but let's be honest that game takes days to end. This is perfect for a family game night before or after a Disney movie, of course!

Where to buy it: I honestly can't remember where I purchased my version, but after looking at Amazon, it's slim pickings. The only ones are available for a minimum of $100 for the Disney Theme Park Edition. If you're a mega Disney fan, it might be something you'd consider. For me, I know I didn't pay that much, so I'm thinking in the range of $50 max. You might be able to get it in store at Target or Walmart. Sometimes your local hallmark will have special edition board games.

I'm sure you know by now, that we will try anything that is Disney themed at least once, and I'm happy to report that this game will be one we will be taking on road trips to play in the hotel!

Do you have a favorite Disney themed or classic board game?

Realizing Why I Write and How I am Moving Forward

Thoughts, FamilyCamilleComment

I woke up from my sleep in tears. Literally. I had a dream full of emotion, it was bittersweet and I was cut to the core in the midst because, for some reason I was in my dream, KNOWING that I was only dreaming. I was being reunited with some of my dear Disney friends at a celebration of some sorts; we shed tears of happiness, caught up on moments missed and chatted about our different paths in life. I was so overwhelmed this morning as I wiped away what was left of the moments that never really happened. 

My brain runs like a motor that has a broken off switch.

I told myself, "Self, you better get up this morning and do some writing." I'm not sure what writing has to do with my emotional dream, but I do know that writing helps me to process everything that goes on in this crazy-beautiful, ADHD head of mine (wide eyed awake, or asleep). I've also noticed that since I've been on a writing hiatus, my brain feels like it might explode since I'm not releasing anything mentally. 

Hitting "publish" offers a different kind of satisfaction and solace than just having a verbal conversation. I don't have a huge audience of readers here, so for me, this entire process has been about a release. Believe me, I LOVE to talk. However, I tend to convey my thoughts better through written form. I write about things that are important to me (family, fun, life), and I also have sponsored content that I create for brands. I'm blessed with the opportunities that I do have, but at the end of the day, this space is still for me and anyone else that is seeking to find some magic in their lives.

My world outside of Sparks of Magic is very R E A L.

I know that life is not perfect, but I choose to be positive about most of it, which includes my writing and my visual imagery for my blog and social spaces. I like pretty things but I have a messy house more often than not. I can't stop my kids from loving crappy junk food or wearing mismatch socks. They also tend to be angels in public and I have no idea where I get them from when they are at home. My husband and I are seriously best friends but you also should know that we drive each other crazy (which is where we got our crazy kids).

I live a daily battle with anxiety and depression that I don't usually talk about outside of my immediate family and close circle of friends. I love people. I love connecting with others. I work full time in human resources and at times find that I take on the emotional stresses of colleagues and students on campus. Sometimes I just can't help it because I care. I cry in my office with students and new hires that are trying to survive working to support their families, I celebrate with them when they are getting their first job or retiring from years of service. I cry all the time. Happy. Sad. Frustrated. Elated. Mad. Confused. It's just what happens. If only I shed water weight like I shed tears.

There is this perception that bloggers have a picture perfect life.

I will never attest to that, and the bloggers that I know will be the first to tell you that is not true. Perhaps you're reading the wrong blogs if that is the expectation. We tend to joke about being "Martha Stewart" in the kitchen as the epitome of the perfectly marketed domestic lifestyle. No. That is her BRAND. Real Life is meant to be lived. Life is messy. Life is hard and most of us work our asses off to get where we are. I might not have buckets of money pouring in from my sporadic content, but do you know what I do have? Enough. The universe takes care of me and my family, and things come along when they do, WHEN they are meant to happen. 

There is A LOT of hard work to put into having a successful blog, and I give MAD PROPS to my peeps that are doing it SO WELL. (I am going to need to compile a list of some of the diamonds in the blogging game, people that are raw, real, and some of the best). I just don't have the same desire or time to put into growing my blog; I had to come to that realization and not beat myself up over it. Over the course of past the year, and during my hiatus I really wanted to understand myself, set some goals for my life, and figure out why I couldn't seem to stick to the consistency needed to build my Sparks brand the way that I can totally envision. Then, it hit me.

B E I N G a "full-time blogger" is not my calling, and I am realizing it is not my desire.

Let it be known, if you don't know me already, my career passion lies in working for a brand that has existed for decades. If you remember the early stages of Sparks of Magic, it began as a Disney-focused blog. It was a means to an end. It gave me comfort to write about the magic I experienced, and long to have back, when I worked for The Walt Disney Company. I truly believe that Disney is my destiny. I put it out in the universe years ago, and my journey keeps moving in that direction. No matter where I am job-wise, since leaving Disney, it has always been my goal/dream/destiny to go back. I worked hard to finish my Bachelors Degree last year and am studying for my GMAT to apply for my MBA program. There have been times that I've wanted to give up, mainly because a career with Disney includes a 300 mile relocation for my family of seven, not to mention a much higher cost of living; then, I look at my kids.

Kids don’t do as we say, they do as we do.

I've grown up with a passion and drive to follow my heart. I work 24-7 for myself and my family and I don't ever want to be in a place where I am settling. I pursue my goals and take necessary steps towards achieving them for myself, but also for my kids. What better role model would they have than one that birthed them, loves and cares for them, and will always be here to support them?  My husband and I parent in a very transparent way, our kids might "know too much" for a lot of people's standards and opinions, but we are gearing them up to live a very real life for themselves. We can't keep them bubbled up and they need to know that you succeed when you give it your all, and then some. They also need to understand that success is different for everyone. They also need to understand that mistakes and failure are part of the journey. Determination and working through failures and mistakes towards our goals gives us learning experiences that we wouldn't have any other way.

All that to say?

I guess I no longer feel like I need to be something that I am not meant to be.

Granted, in just 2 years time, I have been able to do some really awesome things with Sparks of Magic. If I compare my success to another blogger's or my journey to another person's, it is easy to say I haven't achieved much. Sometimes I forget how far I have come in a short amount of time. I can't forget that, and I am encouraging each of you to remember where you started, where you are and where you are heading.

Today, I am working on propelling myself to where I know I belong. My blog will continue to serve a purpose, and it might not fully support us financially, but it does help. It might not be the top blog in any specific category, I may never win any awards, but you know what? That's okay. I am choosing to move forward and focus on what my blog IS: It is a place that spreads magic, big and small, to anyone that stops by. Sometimes I feel it helps me more, but I love to inspire, and sometimes we CAN inspire ourselves. I will continue to write here and share the awesome and not so awesome things that I face, like sassy teenagers, fun-filled family trips, thoughts on real-life situations, dreams and aspirations, and obviously a whole lot of pixie dust. I also will continue to write for brands that have values that align with mine.

For whatever reason, I am now realizing that I just have a different mindset. I guess that's what it comes down to, my perspective. I feel like I needed to express the justification for not being as consistent as I would like. I still can't pinpoint what my dream has to do with this, aside from being inspired as my friends continue to inspire me hundreds of miles away, to just keep writing. Kinda like Dory. So, I think you'll be seeing "me" more with this new mindset. Hey now, two blog posts in a week. See, progress already. :) Thanks for hearing my heart.

Moments in Dining Out Together

Thoughts, Family, FoodCamilleComment

If you're anything like me, dinner time can be hit or miss. With the hustle and bustle of working full time and coming home and assuming the "homework dance," while attempting to cook dinner with your spouse, whilst having a conversation, it gets pretty overwhelming. Sometimes, it's nice to just say to cooking, "not today," and plan for a night out.

Whether we sit together at our own dinner table, or plan a special time out to eat together, there is something special about sharing a meal with your family. At the end of a long day, even if I do spend time in the kitchen, sitting down with my family brings comfort, peace and I love the interactions that ensue.

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This past week I began a new year as part of Denny's Ambassador Council, so it was a special treat to take the kids out (on a school night at that!), and share a family meal. My kids & I love our local Denny's in Lodi (I-5 and Hwy 12); the staff is always very attentive, they take great care of us, and the experience is always wonderful.

I know that I've shared before that Kids Eat Free on Tuesday nights, and with a large family, we like to take advantage of the savings! We specifically went to Denny's to try their newest menu "Red, White and Bacon!" Do you love bacon? Because my family LOOOOVES bacon (I won't lie, I'm eating a gluten free bacon breakfast sandwich as I type). My kids freaked out when I told them the menu was all about bacon. They were immediately sold and the countdown to our Tuesday night excursion began.

For all of my bacon-loving movie fans, Denny's "Red, White and Bacon" menu is a partnership with Twentieth Century Fox and their new film, Independence Day: Resurgence. 

Our kids are usually little angels when we go out. All of a sudden they remember their Ps and Qs, they are cordial with each other, and they share food! I often think we should go out more often for that alone! Unfortunately, the pocket book doesn't always agree, so we get out when we can, and make it memorable with each experience. 

If your kids can eat off the kids menu, let them. We encourage it, especially when we are looking to save a bit of money and honestly they get enough food, even as little tweens. Now, we do have a couple that can eat off the adult menu, so then we add an extra side (usually 99¢) from the kids' menu.

Selecting their food is half the fun, as the kids' menu changes just like the adult menu. Our kids still love to color and do the activities in the menu. I seriously hope they always keep their love for creating and handwriting, along with their childlike spirits! They are so fun!

The kid's menu doesn't have anything "new" but the activities, and you CAN substitute the new honey jalapeño bacon for regular bacon and it is delicious!

MOMENTS NEVER FORGOTTEN

I think my favorite times when we eat out include the conversation. The kids are always entertaining, and it is sweet to see how they are growing up into little adults. We will never get these moments back. Some days are absolutely trying as a parent, but nothing brings a smile to your face more than a stranger encouraging you and telling you how wonderful it is to see a large family enjoying meal OUTSIDE the home. I think it's rare to see large families out and about, let alone confined in a restaurant. There was a time when we didn't really go out because being outnumbered by toddlers and little ones isn't always fun and games (for them it is, though). Ha. But they are growing up, and have almost mastered their inside voices that getting out is good for ALL of us, especially on those nights where my "not today" attitude is showing. Food brings us together, and it's been blessing to have more opportunities to get out and dine together as a family. So, thank you Denny's! 

THE MENU

Some of the new and returning things that you'll see in this limited edition menu include:

  • Red, White & Blue Slam® - It's back! In honor of "Independence Day: Resurgence" this classic entree includes two fluffy blueberry buttermilk pancakes topped with strawberries, cream cheese icing, and whipped cream. Of course, a slam isn't complete without two eggs cooked to order, hash browns, and your choice of two bacon strips or sausage links.
  • Honey Jalapeño Bacon Slam® - Everything that the Slam is known for – two eggs cooked to order, two buttermilk pancakes, hash browns, and thick-cut honey jalapeño bacon.
  • Triple Bacon Sampler - SIX strips of bacon!! Two strips each of honey jalapeño bacon, turkey bacon, and hickory smoked bacon, hash browns, two eggs cooked to order, and your choice of bread (don't forget they have gluten free).
  • Honey Jalapeño Bacon Sriracha Burger - This is a Sriracha seasoned, hand pressed 100% beef patty topped with cheddar cheese, two strips of honey jalapeño bacon and creamy Sriracha sauce, served on Denny's new brioche bun with a  side of French fries.
  • Loaded Bacon, Steak & Potato Skillet - note, this does not include honey jalapeno bacon, but it can be substituted!
  • Bacon Cheddar Tots - House-made shredded potatoes, bacon and cheddar cheese, served with sour cream for dipping! I bet this would actually taste good with ketchup. Or ranch. Or both. Just saying.
  • Maple Bacon Sundae - say WHAT?! I'll have to go to Denny's again, but on an empty stomach, because honestly by the time we got to dessert, I couldn't look at anymore bacon. :) It is on our "try next" list. This is exactly what it sounds like. Premium vanilla ice cream, maple syrup and crispy bacon.  
  • Sweet Blueberry Sensations beverages
    • Lemon Berry Smoothie
    • Berry Blue Lemonade

ENTER THE SPECIAL SWEEPSTAKES

For a limited time, Denny's and Twentieth Century Fox are inviting you to participate in a fun sweepstakes, with the grand prize being whisked away to the red carpet for the Hollywood premier of Independence Day: Resurgence!

You can enter by posting a photo of a person that you'd want fighting alongside of you, should we ever encounter an alien invasion! Use the hashtag #IDRSweepstakes on Twitter and Instagram and be entered to win an all-inclusive trip to the Hollywood premier!

Are you enticed by the deliciousness of bacon? I'm not sure how well you can fight off aliens on a full stomach, but at that point I don't think you'd care. :)

This yummy conversation was sponsored by Denny's in an ongoing partnership to bring you the newest menus and special offerings, I am a  member of Denny's Diner Ambassador Council. All thoughts and opinions are magical and mine. :)

Back at it Again!

Travel, Family, EntertainmentCamilleComment

Well, it's the second quarter of 2016, and it has been an eventful year, thus far. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might have seen what I've been up to outside of work and family (surprisingly not too much, especially in the writing area). The past three months have been extremely busy and unfortunately, Sparks of Magic was put on the back burner as I worked, at one point 3 jobs, and maintained my sanity on the home front as mama, wife, and everything in between.

I'm relieved and so excited to say that I am pretty much settled into one full time job and our little business is doing great with my hubby taking the reigns on that! 

Here's a fairly quick recap of our family's last three months:

December:

image.jpg

Christmas!! We made an epic Christmas card (That I never sent out, aside from social media) dedicated to our family's favorite franchise: Star Wars. The holiday season was great to us. We were blessed with extra family time and I transitioned out of working multiple jobs. to just one. Yay! And as you can see below, my degree came in the mail! I finished my Bachelors program at the end of November. 

January:

I honestly can't remember January, aside from celebrating my mom's birthday, working, and staying afloat! This month almost everyone got the flu, it's kind of all a haze. :)

February:

Big changes, the hubby had a job change mid-month, and we began to officially plan our spring break excursion to Southern CA to see family, and our favorite Mouse. :)

March:

Spring Break finally rolled around, and the happenings included visits with family and friends in Los Angeles, a whirlwind day at Disneyland Resort, and, unfortunately, the hospital. Thankfully our daughter is doing well, and back at living life 110% full of energy and sass. :) Jeff and the kids that were in good health, spent a night at the beach with the in-laws. We had a blast, but think we need a "do-over" at the Happiest Place on Earth with no wheelchairs or ice packs involved!

So, what's up for the future?

Sparks of Magic: A lot of fun! In addition to picking up momentum here, I'll be linking to my writing that can be found on other fabulous sites like Disney Moms of Color, DisneyExaminer, Entertainment New Media Network, and The Blogorail!

I will be attending at least two conferences this year (ConnectHER and ENMN) that I can't wait to update you on and some ambassadorships/partnerships will be revealed soon! While I will continue to partner with brands that compliment my site and offer value to my readers, my writing will remain transparent and I plan on writing more from my heart. I'm excited for what is in store.

HAN Creative Co: We are thrilled to dive into offering workshops and expand some of our photography and event services. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, you can visit our business site: www.hancreativeco.com. We are currently taking a few design/small business clients over the next month, you can subscribe to our newsletter that will launch this quarter.

The Walls: For our family, we are putting it into the universe to spend more time together and travel as a family more. Whether it is a day trip or weekend getaway, we want to see the world - together. Bits and pieces of our documentation will be found both here on Sparks and on our business site. We are encouraging the kids to write more, and are setting up a place for them to do some of their own blogging and journaling of their lives and experiences on family trips. All in good time. :)

I want to thank those of you that have checked in with me to make sure I'm A-OK since my quarter-long blog hiatus. I appreciate all of you and cannot wait to be back in the groove of things again. I hope your 2016 is treating you fabulously!