Sparks of Magic

Family

The Year of Healing: Hello, 2018.

Family, ThoughtsCamilleComment
Beach 2 (1 of 1).jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need to love myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Break at Dillon Beach, CA

Travel, FamilyCamilleComment

Spring break has come and gone. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other sights & experiences in the area:

What are some of your favorite spring break excursions?

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!

 

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.

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 

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?

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. :)

Coming Soon // Very Bad Day

EntertainmentCamilleComment

Join the Cooper family as they experience a day in the life of their son Alexander! Disney’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” follows 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) as he experiences the most terrible and horrible day of his young life—and soon learns that he’s not alone when his mom (Jennifer Garner), dad (Steve Carell), brother (Dylan Minnette) and sister (Kerris Dorsey) all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.