Category:

Entertainment

Entertainment is enjoyable from babies to adults. Whether you’re single, married, have kids or not movies, arts, sports and events bring people together.

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Nielsen. I have been compensated through the SheSavvy Influence Network. All opinions remain my own.

You all know that I love entertainment; television, music, movies and live productions are my jam. It’s always been my outlet since I was a child, the way I decompress. I just never knew how important it was to me until I was bedridden when I broke my leg in 2015. That’s when I realized entertainment keeps the mind agile, even when the body is immobile. But who decides what works and what doesn’t?

Have you ever heard of Nielsen, as in the Nielsen ratings?

Nielsen is the leader in TV, radio, and Internet measurement. I’ve always associated the name with television but it is so much more. They are the people who figure out what should be on television based on what the viewers want. Luckily, they understand that people who watch TV, listen to radio, and use the internet come from diverse backgrounds and that’s why they make sure to reach out to African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and other communities to ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Each culture’s experience is different and we can relate to shows differently. This is important.

In fact, Nielsen has been the leading global research company that provides consumer insights to businesses for 90 years and work in over 100 countries. They partner with real people to provide the science behind what’s next. They do research all over the world to find out what real people watch, listen to and buy.

 In today’s digital age, just like their work with TV and radio, Nielsen wants to better understand how people use their computers and mobile devices so that they can provide insights to those providers that give us the best user experience.

Like with television and radio, Nielsen does this with online panels, people just like you and I. This gives us an opportunity to voice our opinions and provide honest insights that can help improve our online experience. We can make our voices heard.

Being a member of the online panel is simple. You just sign up, fill out a registration survey, and download an app onto your computer(s) and/or mobile device(s). While your participation in a panel impacts the future of the Internet; it can also be rewarding! As soon as you download the app, you can start earning rewards like sweepstakes entries (for up to $1,000 per month!), gift cards and more.

So what is the Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel?

The Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel is our opportunity to be a part of the research Nielsen does. They analyze information from the panel to understand how people use their computers, tablets, and smartphones. Companies rely on this important research to make better decisions about the products and services they offer.

What are you signing up for as part of the Nielsen Computer and Mobile panel?

You will help Nielsen understand how people use the Internet by simply using the Internet on your computer or mobile device. By using the app, you’re signing up to become part of a “panel” and share your internet habits. Just be you, they want real feedback.

How does it work?

Sign up using your email address, fill out a registration survey, install the app on all your registered device(s) and start earning rewards. Simply, use your computer/ phone as you normally do and get rewarded for it. Even if you don’t use the Internet all day every day like me and only use the Internet once a month, your feedback still provides important insights.

What is in it for me? Does it cost money to participate in the Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel?

Absolutely not! In fact, you will be rewarded for participating. Active members receive sweepstakes entries for their registered computers – you could win up to $1,000 per month! For participating with a mobile device, you can earn points that can be redeemed for prizes or gift cards—up to $50 per year!

Your participation will never cost you anything and no one will try to sell you anything but it’s vital to shaping the future of the internet. It gives you the opportunity to represent your community with your voice.

How does Nielsen protect my privacy?

They are committed to protecting the data and personal information you share with them. They will NOT use such information to advertise, promote, or sell goods or services directly to you and we do not allow their clients to sell directly to you. So they will not be selling their panelists list. Panelist data is automatically encrypted to help ensure complete security. The information about you and your household for research purposes. However, as part of the panel, Nielsen might contact you about future research opportunities.

It’s a win-win, you use your devices as you normally would and you get to influence the future of the Internet while possibly earning some extra cash for yourself. Being part of the Nielsen panel is simple and safe, like getting rewards for walking or breathing.

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Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing the Broadway Tour, theater, Broadway, kids and the arts 

Have you watched Dirty Dancing the movie? Who hasn’t, right? But did you know that there is a Dirty Dancing Broadway tour? I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows me that our family is theater lovers. There is nothing quite as spectacular as a live production.

The original is one of the quintessential movies of my generation. There was something about the Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Garner dynamic that was so unbelievable but at the same time exactly what every teen girl/woman secretly hoped for; that they’d get the hot guy not just because he wanted to throw her in the back of his car and have his way with her but because he fell in love with her personality and that made her the most beautiful girl in the world. Doesn’t every woman want to be sexy but respected?

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Just in case you are not familiar with the story, here is the premise for Dirty Dancing:

The story takes place in the summer of 1963, 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman is about to learn some major life lessons and a thing or two about dancing. On holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, ‘Baby’ shows little interest in the resort activities and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles upon the staff quarters when an all-night dance party is in full swing.

Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing the Broadway Tour, theater, Broadway, kids and the arts 

Mesmerized by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, ‘Baby’ can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle the resort dance instructor. ‘Baby’s’ life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off with breathtaking consequences.

Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing the Broadway Tour, theater, Broadway, kids and the arts 

These two fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds come together in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their lives. It will be the “time of their lives”.

Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing the Broadway Tour, theater, Broadway, kids and the arts 

Even if you never saw Dirty Dancing, you can tell that the story is everything.

Dirty Dancing is an iconic love story on steroids with the best.soundtrack.ever! Honestly, Dirty Dancing was my best friend’s favorite movie and every time you spent the night (which was basically every weekend of our adolescents) we watched this movie.

Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing the Broadway Tour, theater, Broadway, kids and the arts 

I watch all of the movies from the 80’s with my daughters and its just as much fun now as when I watched them with my best friend back when I was a tween. So, imagine my delight when I found out that not only is there a live Broadway tour of Dirty Dancing but it is touring and coming to a theater near me (and probably you too!)

Dirty Dancing, Dirty Dancing the Broadway Tour, theater, Broadway, kids and the arts 

You heard me right! Dirty Dancing is back!

Exploding with heart-pounding music, breathtaking emotion, and sensationally sexy dancing. It’s been seen by millions worldwide and features 35 hit songs, including “Hungry Eyes, “Hey Baby”, “Do You Love Me?” and the the infamous, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”

We’re taking our girls to see it and we can’t wait! I have read amazing reviews and I can’t wait to see how they bring the story to life on stage in live theater. I’ll make sure to share my review with you after we see it so you can get the skinny on whether or not you should go see it in a city near you.

If you’ve seen Dirty Dancing on stage or even if you haven’t, I’d love to hear your thoughts on a stage adaptation.

 

Disclosure: I was provided tickets to experience Dirty Dancing on stage but all opinions and genuine love of theater are my own. 

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with the Atom Tickets app but all opinions are my own.

My family and I love to go to the movies. It’s a way to get away from life; like a mini vacation from the minutia of everyday life. Not saying our lives aren’t exciting or anything but, let’s be honest, we’re not exactly jumping out of airplanes over here.

It’s a quick, easy escape when we just don’t have the time or funds to jet off to someplace exotic because if you know me at all, you know, I am all about traveling the world. The wanderlust is strong with this freckled Mexican.

Anyways, there is something inherently fantastic about buying a ticket, sitting next to someone you love or (if you are like me when I was pregnant) going it completely alone. There was something beautifully relaxing and peaceful about being transported to a different space and time, even if for just a couple hours. It reminds me that possibilities are endless.

If you are a reader, you totally get what I am talking about. It’s about getting out of yourself and leaving all of your worries, stresses and adult responsibilities behind. It’s a vacation from reality and we all are in desperate need of one from time to time.

Friends, I was thrilled when I learned about the Atom Tickets app.

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Atom Tickets is a new movie ticketing platform where customers can buy movie tickets, pre-order concessions, invite friends without having to pay for them, easily discover new movies, browse trailers, read reviews, and plan their next night out at the movies, all from within the app. There are no paper tickets and no hassling with IOUs. Customers simply use their phone to purchase tickets and concessions and, upon arriving at the theater, skip the line at the box office and walk directly to the ticket attendant or concession counter, where they scan the QR code on their phone. For families, that means no more waiting in line with kids and no more waiting outside for others to arrive. This free app is available in Google Play and the Apple App Store.

 

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Let me tell you something about me, as much as I love going to the movies. I hate the rigmarole of getting there. It’s exhausting. First, you have to get the kids organized and out the door and with minimal bickering or tantrums and then you have to survive waiting in line for tickets and then another one for concessions. Dude, have you tried taking a preschooler to see an animated movie only to have him be so aggravated and tired by the time you get to about ½ hour in that they have an epic meltdown? It is not pretty.

 

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I like to eliminate the opportunity for things to go wrong; children to meltdown and whatever other plagues might want to befall me before I make it to my cinematic oasis so I love anything that makes that process less complicated. That’s what Atom Tickets does. It makes this mom’s life easier. So, if you are into things being easier, you may want to check them out.

atom tickets ,movies, power rangers movieAlso, if your children are like mine, they have been waiting for the Power Rangers movie to be released. I won’t lie, the Big Guy and I were pretty stoked, as well. We’re human we get invested in the shows our kids make us watch on repeat. I still have a special place in my heart for the Wiggles. Anthony…call me!

atom tickets ,movies, power rangers movieAnyways, if your kids want to see the Power Rangers Movie this is the best weekend because this weekend if you use the the Atom Tickets app for every 1 adult ticket that you purchase, you get 2 free childrens tickets. If you’re counting, that’s free movies with the kids! Just be sure to use the Promo Code FAMILYPOWER from April 14-April 16, 2017 upon checkout and voila, free movie!

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If you are looking for some quality family time on this three-day weekend, why not take the kids to see the Power Ranger Movie? Invite your friends and family, pre-order concessions, reserve your seats, purchase your tickets and then spend a relaxing day at the movies.

Have you ever tried the Atom Tickets app? What are you waiting for?

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13 reasons why, suicide, parenting teens, netflix bingeworthy

I just finished binge-watching the new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why and it was truly thought-provoking and intensely engaging. Without giving too much away because I hate to ruin a great Netflix binge for anyone, it is the perfect watch for teens and early twenty-somethings and anyone who loves them.

13 Reasons Why, in short, is about the things we do (and don’t do) and how it ripples and effects everyone around us. Contrary to how alone or self-centered life may feel, our choices and our actions (or lack thereof) can mean the difference between life or death.

You see, I do not say this as a judgment. I own the fact and freely admit that in my teens and early twenties, I was one of the most narcissistic, egocentric and selfish people I knew. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time. At the time, I thought I was great. Only in retrospect do I realize how truly self-absorbed I was. I was kind of an a-hole and honestly, I wouldn’t have been my friend.

But that’s the nature of the beast at that age. We all are this way. We don’t realize it. I was a good kid but my entire perspective shifted only around me. In a lot of ways, I was still a child only I was dealing with adult issues. That’s a hard time in life. I try to keep that in mind with my own children.

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13 Reasons Why is centered around Hannah Baker, a typical teen girl, who commits suicide.

Based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why follows teenager Clay Jensen as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Will Clay be one of them? If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, 13 Reasons Why weaves an intricate and heart-wrenching story of teenage life that will deeply affect viewers.

13 Reasons Why stars Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen (Goosebumps),Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker, Kate Walsh as Mrs. Baker (Private Practice), Brian D’Arcy James as Mr. Baker (Smash) , Derek Luke as Mr. Porter (Empire), Brandon Flynn as Justin Foley, Justin Prentice as Bryce Walker,Alisha Boe as Jessica Davis, Christian Navarro as Tony Padilla, Miles Heizer as Alex Standall (Parenthood) and Tommy Dorfman as Ryan Shaver.

Everyone left behind is wondering why Hannah killed herself. Her suicide leads to mass speculation because no obvious note was left. But before her death, Hannah recorded seven audio cassettes explaining the 13 reasons why she killed herself; each side of the tape tells a story of how 13 individuals did something or did nothing at all, contributing to her last moment of utter despair and loneliness.

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Per Hannah’s last request, the tapes are to be passed on to people until everyone has figured out why she did what she did. By the time the tapes mysteriously appear on Clay’s doorstep, two weeks have passed since Hannah’s suicide.

Clay listens to what is on those tapes to understand why Hannah ended her life but while listening to the tapes, he learns the truth behind what was really happening. He learns that even when you think what you’re doing is insignificant, it could mean everything to someone else. He learns that sometimes culpability is not just about what you did but about what you didn’t do and should have.

13 reasons why, suicide, parenting teens, netflix bingeworthy

Hannah exposes not only her truth but the secrets of her classmates who are, in her mind, responsible for her death. Each tape addresses a specific person who hurt her emotionally and physically. As a result, the students featured on the tapes become afraid for themselves and try to hide their secrets by any means necessary.

I thought 13 Reasons Why was very well-written and addressed a topic that needs to be addressed.

It is a fantastic series for parents to watch to remind us to stay in touch and keep checking in on our children, even when nothing seems wrong and a must-see for teens and anyone in their twenties because it reminds them that they are not alone and we all have these moments in our life.

13 reasons why, suicide, parenting teens, netflix bingeworthyThe thing is that if you are lucky enough to survive, you will see that in the grand scheme of your life, a series of small moments are just that. I know when they are compiling, especially on a young mind, they are heavy and all-consuming. But in 20 years, you will barely remember they ever happened.

13 reasons why, suicide, parenting teens, netflix bingeworthy

I think it’s also a great reminder to all that during moments of personal crisis, we need to be able to have someone to turn to; to talk to so we don’t feel so completely alone. Most importantly, it reminds us that our actions directly affect others, whether we want to believe it or not and when we see something happening that doesn’t sit well with us or that we feel we need to speak up about, we need to do what’s right and not just what’s easy because someone’s life may depend on our one second of courage.

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I highly recommend that everyone watch this show and that’s saying a lot as I am a Netflix stream team member and watch a lot of shows.

Have you seen 13 Reasons Why and what are your thoughts?

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Disney World, Walt Disney, Disney Secrets, Disney with kids, Type-A WDW,

Last week was our spring break and we decided on a Disney World vacation with kids. I planned and researched for months. You knew it was coming. After the Frozen party and the making of the  Elsa dress ( because I assure you there are none available to buy anywhere, not even at Disney World), it was time to go all in ..Disney World style. We love all things Disney.

The Big Guy and I have been to Disney World many times but never with children for an entire week. In fact, my first trip to Disney World was 15 years ago on our honeymoon. Believe me when I tell you that Disney World is not just for children. It can be as romantic and magical as you want it to be. It’s all in the planning.  But this trip was all about our girls so I wanted to make it magical for them not like last time.

Here are 25 top secret tips that every parent should know to rock their Disney World vacation with kids.

1. There is a fastpass+ in Beta for the “you can’t get a reservation for the next 8 months” Be Our Guest restaurant. Yep. That is right. It’s not advertised and you are welcome to wait in line on Stand by for a couple of hours if you prefer but if you don’t….check out this secret squirrel beta testing link to fastpass+ for Be Our Guest Reservations. The food is great and reasonably priced and the décor is gorgeous.

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This is what heat stroke looks like. You have been warned. Sun hats & sunscreen are a must in a four hour wait line.

 

2. If you are planning to see Anna and Elsa, they are in Norway at Epcot until the end of April 2014 and then they will move to the Magic Kingdom. If you want to see them at Epcot, plan on arriving when the park opens and plan on standing in line for a minimum of 3.5 to 4 hours. My husband ran to Epcot when the park opened and we still had to wait for 4 hours. Even if you do the princess breakfast at Askershus Royal Banquet Hall 1) Anna and Elsa are not included only princesses before 1993 and 2) you get no line privileges other than starting out in closer proximity. Also, wear lots of sunscreen and bring water. You will thank me when your child doesn’t have a heat stroke.

 

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3. Wait for Anna and Elsa to go to the Magic Kingdom and fastpass them. Fastpass is your friend. Here are more tips for having the best day at Magic Kingdom.

 

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4. Speaking of fastpass, with the magic bands you are able to select 3 fastpasses per day. Take advantage of that feature. I suggest using them wisely on character meets and roller coasters. The  new Enchanted Tales with Belle is a must do for any Beauty and the Beast fan. The animatronic Lumiere was awesome.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Royal Table, Belle's Enchanted Tales, Walt Disney World, Beauty and the Beast

 

5. If not using the fastpass feature, hit the princesses and popular attractions first thing in the morning. It can mean the difference between a 15-minute wait and an hour and a half wait.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids,Disney World, Walt Disney, Disney Secrets, Disney with kids, Type-A WDW,Magic Kingdom, Flying Dumbo, FantasyLand, Cinderella's ROyal Table, Merry Go Round

 

6. Take advantage of “Magic hours”. If you are staying on Disney World grounds, you can qualify for extra magic hours which means the park is open an hour earlier or a couple hours later depending on the day and the park. I suggest using this tool when planning your stay. If you think it’s not worth it, look at the photo below with maybe 100 people in the park, at 9 am that would quickly become 85,000 people in the park that day.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Royal Table, Merry Go Round, Magic Kingdom, Magic Hours, Walt Disney World

 

7. Schedule your trip ahead of time using your MyDisneyExperience.com. Honestly, you will be able to make sure that you don’t miss a thing and if you are a Type-A mom like myself, you’ll be thrilled at how much easier your days go knowing when things start and where to go.

 

8. Download the Walt Disney World app. With this app, you will be able to make reservations and check availability. You will be able change fast passes. Several times we got to an attraction before our scheduled time and rode the ride and either saved our fastpass to go again or changed the fastpass for a different attraction.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Royal Table, Merry Go Round, Cinderella's castle, Walt Disney World, Happiest Place on Earth, Magic Kingdom

 

9. Schedule down time! I am so serious. Between the heat and all the walking, little ones ( and big ones too) will need naps or pool time. I took no less than 3 naps during our spring break.

 

10. Make sure to see the new for 2014 3 pm Disney Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom. It has all the princesses and princes and is sure to delight children of all ages.

 

11. Hit the Kilamanjaro Safari at the Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning. The animals will not be as active later in the day when the sun is high in the sky and beating down on them. They will be resting and hiding in the shade.

 

12. Make sure to see the Wishes nighttime spectacular. It truly is a magical experience and you will all get swept away in the moment.

 

13. Soarin is awesome! I love to fly and this felt like I was flying free as a bird. My girls loved it too but be sure to fastpass it because the stand by line was never under 180 minutes the whole time we were there.

 

14. Get the Memory Maker. You know all those photographers that are standing around asking to take your photos? Well, just spend $150 for the Memory Maker and you get to digitally download all of those photos and bonus, YOU Get to be in the photos!! No more being the photographer. Your kids will look back and know that mama was actually on vacation with them.

 

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15. Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Rockin Roller Coaster and Splash Mountain are all must rides for us. The kids will love it and you will LOVE the photos, especially if this is their first experience on the rides. The faces are priceless.

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Magic Kingdom,Memory Maker, Space Mountain

 

Disney World Vacation with Kids, Walt Disney World, Merry Go Round, tower of terror, MGM

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16. Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table is a once in a lifetime must for every little girl. Be warned it is pretty pricey for breakfast just under $200 for a family of four BUT to see my girls’ faces when the princesses came to our table was something totally worth the price. That magic and belief is a fleeting part of childhood so savor it and indulge while you can.

 

yal Table, Merry Go Round, Jasmine

 

17. Meet Mickey and have your photo taken with him. Firstly, Mickey’s mouth actually moves know. Holy high-tech animatronic head and it’s actually a tradition we’ve been doing since our honeymoon trip and it’s kind of cool to see how we’ve changed and the girls grow over the years.

 

18. Be sure to enjoy a Pineapple Dole Whip (sold at the Dole stand at the Magic Kingdom), a turkey leg or a funnel cake from the funnel cake cart at the Boardwalk. I also highly recommend taking your family to Restaurant Marrakesh in Morrocco at Epcot. The food is fantastic. My kids loved it because who doesn’t love sweet and savory together. There is a live belly dancing show every hour on the hour and it is amazing to watch and there is huge chance that your child will get pulled onto the dance floor. Have your cameras ready!

 

Disney World, The boardwalk, Seashore sweets, surrey bikes, The Boardwalk bakery

 

19. Spend an evening at the Boardwalk. Get a pepperoni pizza from the Boardwalk Pizza Window and grab a seat on the Boardwalk at sunset. Take a surrey bike ride, get a family caricature portrait sketched and watch the street performers. It’s lots of good clean fun and my kids always seem to get pulled into the shows, so have your camera ready.  When the Boardwalk is all lit up at night, it is absolutely magical. End the night with dessert from the Boardwalk bakery ( my favorite is the Tiramisu) or if ice cream is your preference, check out Seashore Sweets. Try saying that 3 times real fast.

 

20. Late night, Sushi at Kimonos in the Swan is fun for the entire family. First, enjoy some amazing sushi and follow that with some karaoke on the Kimono stage. But be warned, if there is a large convention in-house, you may have to wait awhile to get your food.

 

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21. The Flying Dumbo ride now has a gigantic indoor play area built into the line wait. It is amazing because kids are notorious for getting squeamish and whiney when in line for too long so how awesome that you get to the middle of the line and enter the play area. The hostess hands you a pager and you can play until it’s your turn to ride. Genius. Bravo Disney.

 

yal Table, Merry Go Round, Epcot, Festival of flowers

 

22. Plan your visit during the International Flower festival and it will make your walk around the countries while you snack and sip even more breathtaking and the kids will love the topiaries of the Disney characters.

 

23. Cool off at the new Casey Jr. splash pad in Fantasyland. It’s cute, it’s convenient and a welcome reprieve from the blistering Florida heat. Make sure the kids have swimsuits or a change of clothes on the day you visit the Magic Kingdom because they won’t want to miss the fun. If it rains and you take a day off of the parks, might I recommend bowling and pizza at Splitsville in Downtown Disney. It’s fun, indoors and very reasonably priced and the food is YUM!

 

24. Bonfire and s’ mores on the Boardwalk followed by a free outdoor movie by the pool under the stars.

 

DIsney World, La Nouba, Cirque du soleil

 

25. La Nouba is 110% worth the cost. My girls are 6 and 9 and they were enthralled with the entire experience. The trampolines and the diabolos were their favorite parts. Myself, the silk scarves and ariel ballet blow me away every single time.

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These are all things that I’ve learned over the years of visiting Disney World. The most important thing you can do at Disney World ( or anywhere for that matter) with your kids is just enjoy the moments, being there and remember not to sweat the small stuff because in the grand scheme of things…none of it matters. Make a plan but be flexible.

What is your best tip for having the best Walt Disney World Vacation with kids?

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Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Last night the Big Guy surprised the girls with tickets to see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, now playing in theaters. This should be no surprise to anybody who knows us because everyone knows that we are huge Disney fans but more importantly, this is one of our favorite Disney films.

I went to see Beauty and the Beast with big expectations.

I wasn’t sure that the movie could live up to the way I felt about the animated movie. I mean, I’ve loved that movie for 26 years. I won’t lie, Beauty and the Beast has a very special place in my heart. In a lot of ways, the Big Guy and I are very different but when we met, we both agreed that we loved Beauty and the Beast. It was one of the first things we had in common.

The Big Guy is an artist and he loved the original Beauty and Beast because it was animation at its finest. It was traditional Disney. He’s old school like that. I loved the original movie because it was an epic love story between a bookish, headstrong brunette with a wanderlust in her heart ( ahem) and a Beast who became beautiful on the inside as his true nature was revealed. I loved the story and the characters. I couldn’t wait to see how that parlayed into live action.

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I knew the cast was stellar and so was the directing. Bill Condon outdid anything I could have expected. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts. With this cast, how could you go wrong?

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told.

“Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within.

My family loves musicals and Beauty and the Beast did not let us down.

I’m listening to the soundtrack as I type this post. In fact, we’ve been listening to it since watching the movie last night. The original score by Alan Menken was stunning and new songs added a level of depth to the live-action movie that wasn’t there in the original. My favorite songs are Days in the Sun, Gaston, Be Our Guest, Something There and Evermore. If you weren’t in love with the Beast by this point in the movie, his very Les Miserable like solo Evermore would make you fall head over heels with this character.

 I absolutely loved the live-action Beauty and the Beast. Dare I say, even more so than the original. The story was just as beautiful but the cinematography was out of this world and there was something about the film that not only told you what was happening but was so masterfully written, acted and directed that it immersed you in the film. I felt the film.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Scene by scene, you fall in love with the Beast along with Belle.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

We get to know his soul and it is beautiful. Near the end, when the enchanted household items begin to turn into just household items, I felt the souls leave the pieces. I know it sounds crazy but it was that good. You felt it, you didn’t need to be led by the nose to the outcome.

 

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Emma Watson was the perfect Belle, for me. She is girl-next-door, smart and strong and she plays the part without being ostentatious. I feel like Watson’s Belle was right on the mark. Her understated reaction to everything balanced out Dan Stevens powerful presence as the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan as Lumiere and Cogsworth were marvelous. The Be Our Guest performance was nothing short of magical. I would have to say that it was so spectacular that it outdid the original in the wow department. I really didn’t think that was possible. Ewan McGregor’s delivery of Be Our Guest was reminiscent of Cabaret’s Vilkommen. Also, Disney fan alert, be on the lookout for the easter egg during the song.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Emma Thompson’s Mrs. Potts was spot on. She was just as wonderful as Angela Landsbury in the original but softer around the edges.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Luke Evans was the perfect Gaston. He was definitely more despicable than I remember. I guess there must be more redemption for animated characters because in that version I found his bumbling endearing. In the live-action film, I hated the character. Luke Evans played the part perfectly.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Josh Gad as LeFou was one of the highlights of the movie. I’ve loved Josh Gad since Book of Mormon (I told you we love our musicals) but Gad made LeFou endearing. In the animated movie, LeFou was annoying and a pest. In the live-action version, he was the voice of reason. He served as Gaston’s ignored moral compass. In the end, he did the right thing. His rendition of Gaston was one of the highlights of the film. Gad played LeFou with flawless delivery.

Beauty and the Beast, Disney, movie review, family review

Here are our reviews of Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast.

I love it! I would see it 100 more times and I just might because it was that magical to me and who can’t use a little more Disney magic in their life? The story was even more endearing to me than I remembered it being ( and I just watched the original over the past weekend to prep for the movie.)

The Big Guy, who I told you is an artist, an animation traditionalist and this is his favorite Disney animated film, said that he loved the live-action film but still prefers the animated one. He said he didn’t like some of the creative license that, he felt, deviated from the original. I thought it filled in the gaps nicely. Then again, I am all about the story because I am a writer and he is more about the animation.

Bella, my just turned 12-year-old, is with me. She said she LOVED the movie and she can’t wait to see it again. Her favorite part was the Be Our Guest sequence and she loves Emma Watson as Belle. She loves the pageantry of Beauty and the Beast and she said that she loved absolutely everything about it.

Gabs, my sweet 9-year-old, said she loved the movie but she isn’t ready to say whether or not she loves it more than the original. She’s my analyzer, she likes to weigh her options. However, she’s promised me a video interview that I will add later today.

Overall, our family emphatically agrees that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live-action film is a must see.

It’s the perfect movie for all ages. The only warning I have is if you are taking really small children, there are a couple times that the Beast roars really loudly and it may startle toddlers/preschoolers but other than that, be prepared to be wowed by the magic. And you might as well get the soundtrack now because you will be wanting to play it non-stop afterward.

If you’ve seen both Beauty and the Beast versions which is your favorite and why?

 

 

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Google Chromecast audio, 12th birthday

Disclosure: I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Do you love music? I think most people do. I feel like there should be a soundtrack to life and for each milestone, there should be a designated song playing in the background always. I think the world would be a better place if music was just always running in the background.

It probably has something to do with the way I grew up. My parents are both very big music lovers and there was always some kind of music playing in the house when I was growing up. Whether it was Mexican music playing softly in the background during dinner while my dad told us stories of growing up in Mexico, nursery rhymes playing when one of the children was small of soft jazz playing as my dad held my mom and swayed through the house on any given Sunday, music was always playing. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.

We do the same at our house. But instead of playing music on huge speakers we use portable speakers and instead of blasting a boom box in one room of the house, we now have Google Chromecast which makes it easy and affordable to play our music from our devices in any room, or multiple rooms in the house.

 

Google Chromecast audio, 12th birthday

 

Google Chromecast Audio is available at Best Buy. Google Chromecast Audio enables you to play music on your speakers, new or old, wirelessly from your phone, laptop or tablet.  Because Chromecast Audio uses WiFi instead of Bluetooth, you can stream crystal clear hi res sound. It is the best of all worlds and makes the transition from the boom box to your tech devices effortless. Because Chromecast Audio uses WiFi instead of Bluetooth, you can stream crystal clear hi res sound on your new or old speakers.

Listen to your favorite tunes on your speaker/

By using your phone, it’s easy to play, pause, or change the volume from anywhere in the home. And while streaming, you can still text or call without interrupting what’s playing or draining your battery.

1)      Crystal clear sound, powered by the cloud     Use Chromecast Audio to stream over Wi-Fi which has many advantages over Bluetooth including higher sound quality.

2)      Enjoy hundreds of your favorite audio apps

Stream millions of songs, radio stations, and podcasts through apps like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music, and Google Play Music. Find more at chromecast.com/apps

3) Play music everywhere with Multi-room

Now you can easily fill every room in your home with synchronous music. Simply group Chromecast Audio devices together so you can listen to the same song on multiple speakers making curating the best life soundtrack that much easier.

Google Chromecast audio, 12th birthday

What would be the top three songs on the soundtrack for your life and why?

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Netflix, cheater, cheating, binge-worthy shows

Are you a cheater? Have you ever told the person that you love the most a lie to satisfy your own id? I think most of us have, right? At first you think, who’s it going to hurt. Don’t ask; don’t tell. More like take the junk to the grave. If you’re going to cheat, the least you can do is keep it to yourself. Telling your partner that you’ve cheated is not going to help them at all. You did the crime, now do the time. Live with your guilt.

You see, this is why the Big Guy and I can’t ever do the Netflix and chill thing. He is all about the chill part but not about the Netflix binge part. I’m a closer. I like to pick my show and then binge it to the end. I am nothing if not committed to finishing my shows. So sometimes, I have to cheat.

He knows I do it. We don’t discuss it. It’s not a big deal. We are open about it. I am just not built to be a once-in-awhile show watcher. We’ve actually just given up trying because it’s just too frustrating and someone always gets hurt so we’ve decided it’s just easier if he does him and I do me.

Netflix, cheater, cheating, binge-worthy shows

For example, we started watching One Day at a Time Together but he likes to savor the moments and draw out the season. I am more of a wham! Bam! Thank you ma’am! Kind of a gal so he falls asleep and I watch until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. Needless to say, I finished the series in a weekend and he still hasn’t caught up. It really was THAT good.

Then there was A Series of Unfortunate Events that we just couldn’t agree on a time to watch it so I watched it with the girls and he watched it while we were at ballet. We all agreed that the show was definitely cheat worthy because we all loved it.

Netflix, cheater, cheating, binge-worthy shows

But then there are shows like the Santa Clarita Diet that we all must watch together. It’s the kind of show that brings us back together and reminds us of why we fell in love in the first place, because we just get each other completely.

I’d definitely hide a body for him and I’m pretty sure he’d do just about anything in his power to keep me from turning into a zombie. I mean, I’m pretty difficult just when I’m hangry. I’d never cheat on him by watching the Santa Clarita Diet alone.

Netflix, cheater, cheating, binge-worthy shows

 

But then again, I won’t lie, when House of Cards returns this May, I won’t even pretend that I’m not doing it. The simple fact is that I will be cheating my way through it within a weekend. But don’t feel too bad for the Big Guy, I’ll be doing the Netflixing but we’ll be doing the chillin’ together. He’s the only one I ever want to Netflix and Chill with. I mean come on, I’m a show cheater not a real one.

What Netflix show can you not help but cheating and watching ahead on? Come on you can tell me, I won’t tell anyone.

Disclosure: This post was not compensated though I am a member of the Stream Team. All opinions and binge watching habits are my own.

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Gabriela McBride, American Girl, GIveaway, Girl Mom

My girls are growing up fast. Faster than I could have ever imagined back when they were learning to crawl backwards and walk then talk. Everything used to feel like it took an eternity. Now, everything is so fast. Now, I’m the one saying, “Wait up! Stop this train. I want to get off.”

The girls are no longer toddlers and preschoolers but elementary aged girls headed straight for that awkward in-between age. You know that time where kids look like puppies with overgrown paws? You know they are going to eventually grow into themselves but they still have that dang baby face that you just want to smother them with kisses. That is until they roll their eyes at you. I swear I spend a lot of time talking about rolling eyeballs on this blog lately. My mom used to wish a daughter “just like” me on me when I was a teen. Now, I get it. I’ll have two.

Anyways, in a lot of ways they are growing up. They can do a lot of stuff on their own. Heck, I even let them play outside in the yard with no supervision these days. (why yes, I am a recovering helicopter mom.) They have their own phones and they can have real conversations about the world but, in many ways, they are still my babies.

I love seeing them develop into the kind of people they are going to be someday. I see interests and issues that they love and support. They are thinkers and doers and that makes me proud. One loves to write and the other draw. One loves to dance and the other do gymnastics. They are similar but so different. Their personalities are really emerging at this age and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. I feel like one day I will be able to say, I was there when.

One minute they are making music.lys and the next they are playing with American Girl dolls. One minute they are telling me, “No mom, I can do it myself.” And the next, they are coming in hot for mommy time. Hey, I’ll take it. I’m not complaining. I know these moments are fleeting. Yes, even the eye rolls. I’m sure one day, I will even miss those.

So, I really appreciate it when there are toys that they can play with and love but at the same time love and learn from. It’s rare that you find that because toys these days are either strictly for flexing the brain or completely pointless other than wasting your money and maybe giving your kids a few hours of entertainment. Yes, I realize those smiles are priceless.

I’ve always been a fan of dolls. Maybe because I’m a girl. Maybe because I have girls or maybe I just like the idea of a toy that teaches a child to be nurturing and compassionate; a “toy” that teaches your child to care for something else. It’s even more so when it is relateable to the child. Shared physical traits or, in the case of American Girl dolls which have their own backstory, shared interests and books to elaborate on that kinship.

This year’s American Girl of the Year is Gabriela McBride. Gabriela (the doll) is a quiet and creative girl growing up in a family of artists. In her story, Gabriela struggles with stuttering, but uses the power of poetry to find her voice and gain the confidence to make a difference in her community. I can relate to this because I was a clutterer and writing has always been my way of expressing myself.

Gabriela McBride, American Girl, GIveaway, Girl MomThe first book Gabriela, hits shelves in January and tells the story of a quiet and creative girl growing up in a family of artists. Gabriela inherited a love of the arts from her parents, especially her mother, but spoken word poetry is becoming her own passion. Although Gabriela often finds herself in a battle with her own words because of her stuttering, she discovers that her poetry, filled with wit and honesty, helps her speech flow more easily and gives her the confidence to find her voice to help save her beloved community arts center from being torn down.

As many of you know, I have my own Gabi who also happens to be a creative. She dances and loves to scribble on her drawing pad or in her journal and when she’s not doing that, she is making music.lys. You see, my Gabi is also a quiet girl who is an old soul. She is very observant and loves anything artistic and animals, more than just about anything else. She’s quite shy when around new people but through music.ly, she has opened up by being able to express herself without someone looking directly at her and she has been blossoming. Her music.lys are pretty hilarious. I just love seeing her enjoy herself and double bonus when she and her sister do them together because that means they are not bickering, as they so often do lately.

 

Gabriela McBride, American Girl, GIveaway, Girl Mom

The 18”Gabriela doll has curly dark-brown hair and warm brown eyes. The first thing my daughters said when they saw her was, “Look mama, she looks like you!” It’s true, we both have some pretty awesome curly hair and warm chocolate eyes. Only, I wish I was a dancer.

My Gabi fell in love with Gabriela McBride the moment she saw her. She loves that Gabriela is musically inclined and has cool accessories that she can use further personalize her experience to Gabriela like the performance case and the creative studio.

The performance case has everything Gabriela needs to set a performance or mix music. The case includes a laptop with a retractable cord for her drum pad and microphone, as well as 3 reversible and interchangeable screens. The drum pad can be plugged into the computer for sound mixing and comes with drumsticks. The case also includes a stylish pair of stylish rhinestone headphones so she can tune everybody out and prepare for a performance.

Gabriela loves nothing more than to dance, create and dream in the studio at her community center, much like my Gabriella and her beloved ballet studio. The creative studio comes with a metal barre that’s perfect for practicing moves from her ballet board and a reversible backdrop with the interior and exterior of the studio. It also comes with a water bottle, because every dancer needs to stay hydrated and a soft yellow towel because every dancer knows after a hard class, you sweat. Your tiny dancer or future YouTube, music.ly or funimate star will adore these add-ons for Gabriela.

Additional Gabriela products and books will be available starting this spring and, for the first time ever, the Girl of the Year collection will be available for a full 12 months and beyond!

To connect both boys and girls with Gabby’s inspiring message, American Girl is partnering with Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and leader in comprehensive educational materials, to create and distribute Express Yourself, a custom curriculum program that teaches 3rd-5th grade students how to use poetry as a tool for self-expression. The free materials will be available on www.scholastic.com starting March 1, 2017, and include teacher lessons and corresponding classroom activities, a poetry poster, plus parent tips and learning ideas to do at home. In addition, to celebrate National Poetry Month, the program also features a poetry contest for students that will run throughout the month of April. The Express Yourself program will encourage all students to find their creative voices and share their own personal stories, while building confidence along the way.

To learn more about Gabriela and the Girl of the Year line, go to americangirl.com, Facebook at facebook.com/americangirl, Twitter at twitter.com/american_girl, Pinterest at pinterest.com/agofficial, and American Girl’s Instagram page at instagram.com/americangirlbrand.

Gabriela McBride, American Girl, GIveaway, Girl MomI was provided a doll for review by American Girl and they are letting me give one away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment on who your favorite American Girl doll is and why below in the comments section and enter via the rafflecopter entry.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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family fun night, Trolls, Dreamworks, movie night, Trolls party, family

This post is sponsored by DreamWorks. All opinions about Trolls are my own.

Does your family have a designated “family fun night”? Friday is our happy, relax, “no homework and we get to sleep in the next morning,” get your happy on night. The only thing we need for a successful family night is for our family (with the occasional cameos of our favorite friends) to be together. We’re simple and it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy on Friday nights. Usually, footie pajamas, good food, a movie and some music are just what the occasion calls for. We are big fans of the spontaneous dance party. We have no shame in our family night game. Sing. Dance. Laugh. Repeat!

We usually like to keep the movie light and happy, something we can all enjoy without anyone ending up in mommy’s bed. We’ve been waiting for DreamWorks’ Trolls to come out on DVD and Blu-ray since we saw it in the theater. Trolls have had a special place in my heart since I was a child and the movie did not disappoint. It has a catchy soundtrack that’s so much fun to sing-a-long with. I should know because we’ve been singing along with it in the car for weeks. The characters in the film are vibrant and fun enough to keep even the most discerning little ones entertained and the themes are perfect for a family fun night; no Trolls left behind and family is everything. After all, being with the people we love really is where our happy place originates.

But the real key to a good “family fun night” – besides the movie of course – are the snacks. We don’t want anything too serious or labor-intensive, after all, it is Friday! At our house, once we’re all in our favorite jumper jammies, we like to put some music on and dance around while we wait for our pizza to arrive because everybody loves pizza. You know us, we’re cooler than a pack of peppermints.

Trolls, Dreamworks, movie night, Trolls party

Next, while we’re still dancing and usually by this time laughing our heads off at one another because some of us have moves and some of us…not so much, I like to throw together some snacks. Our favorites are a simple fruit tray and a veggie tray because not only are they good for you, they are easy to make and fun to dip. Also, since we are about to see a movie we need snacks like iced animal crackers, Cheez-its and popcorn. You would be astonished at how easy it is to assemble this small feast and how happy it makes all of us.

Trolls, Dreamworks, movie night, Trolls party

Once we’ve all got our bellies sufficiently filled, then we settle in with fuzzy blankets on the sectional and start the feature film. Depending on how long it takes the girls to get the table cleared off, there may or not be time for yet another family fun night spontaneous party. I must say this is infinitely more fun when your children’s friends are also spending the night. There is something special about 8-11-year-old girls on sugar that kicks family fun night up about 20 notches. Sing. Dance. Laugh. Repeat!

Trolls, Dreamworks, movie night, Trolls party

If you are looking for “family fun night” games, I suggest these, sure-to-make-everyone-in-the-house-happy activities. I promise everyone will be smiling, except for maybe the kid who gets a dog food jelly bean or the one who draws the ingredients blue popsicle and salami for her smoothie challenge, but even then our kids were smiling. 1) Bean boozled 2) the Smoothie Challenge 3) Pie in the face. And if you are looking for the perfect “family fun night” movie to watch, look no further.

Trolls, Dreamworks, movie night, Trolls party

DreamWorks’ Trolls Party Edition on Blu-ray and DVD, with the Party Mode bonus feature is available to own on Feb. 7th, DreamWorks’ Trolls Party Edition includes a never-before-seen sing-along, dance-along “Party Mode.” It’s packed with fun, colorful extras perfect for your family movie night!

Trolls, Dreamworks, movie night, Trolls party

Bonus, loads of your favorite actors/ actresses make an appearance in Troll form. Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, James Cordon, Zooey Deschanel and, my family’s favorite songstress, Gwen Stefani just to name a few. It’s like the perfect Carpool Karaoke cast. And did I mention some of the Trolls poop cupcakes and glitter. I mean, c’mon, what more can you want from a feel good family movie? Sing. Dance. Laugh. Repeat!

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