Special Limited Princess Experience



Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World


If you will be visiting Walt Disney World next month, you will have the opportunity to participate in a new princess meet-and-greet that is exclusive to the month of October.

Starting Oct. 1 through Nov. 1, at the World of Disney store at Disney Springs, guests will have the opportunity to meet either Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, Tiana or another princess to have a “royal reception.”

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. guests will need to check in with a cast member who will tell you the wait time and return instructions. (This sounds like a Fastpass.)

When your time arrives, the guest will then return to the queue and prepare to meet their princess.

A Photopass photographer will be on hand to capture the magic.

This was first revealed on the official Disney Parks blog yesterday.

The announcement included a quote from Entertainment Show Director Tom Vazzana who said, “Cinderella had a wish for her and her fellow royal princesses to have a place to meet new friends. The Fairy Godmother was able to grant her this wish, and now, tucked away in a magical corner of World of Disney is a location befitting Cinderella’s request. A magical ‘royal hall’ was created complete with tapestries and images inspired by classic fairytales.”

This offering is very unique because typically guests have to purchase a park ticket or attend a character meal at one of the resorts in order to have interaction with a princess. Now, there is no charge to have the experience.

Even though Disney is saying that this experience is only for the month of October, my guess is that it will eventually be extended. By the sounds of it, it seems like they built a special area in the World of Disney store to accommodate these types of meet-and-greets. I don’t think they would build this area for just such a limited time.

If you are going to the “world” in October, will you be visiting this unique experience? Leave your comments below.

Want tips on how to get your child ready to meet the characters and how to deal with their apprehension? Pick up your copy of “Mousekatots” from Theme Park Press.



Tot Five: Be a Reading Rebel

This week is an important week when it comes to literacy and freedom. It’s banned book week!

This week celebrates and remembers all the different books that have been banned or challenged according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF).

According to OIF the top three reasons why the books have been challenged was because they contained content that was either “sexually explicit,” “offensive language” or were “unsuited to any age group.”

In the Amber household we like to be mild rebels and read some of the books that are included in the very extensive list.

Here are the Tot Five books that we have read that are on the list with the reasons why they were banned.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling


Photo courtesy of Scholastic

Yes, even Hogwarts’ favorite wizard wunderkind couldn’t escape being included on the banned books list.

Between the years of 1990-1998 the series was ranked number 48 on the list and between 2000 and 2007 it climbed all the way to number one.

There were several reasons as to why Potter made the list.

Parents were worried that Harry and his friends were setting a bad example by the way they behaved. They were often depicted as rule breakers and challenged authority on a regular basis (just ask Snape).

Others added that the books progressed into rather scary territory. While the beginning few dealt with good versus evil they started to get even more dark and the stakes became a lot higher. This included main and beloved characters being violently killed and featured intense battles where good people often died.

And of course a big sticking point for a lot of people was the books surrounded themselves in a world of magic.

Many felt it glorified witchcraft which many feel is inherently evil and might be confusing for children to enter this world of fantasy that centers around something that people might consider “evil.”

But, despite the fact that the book has been constantly challenged, it doesn’t seem to be slowing Harry down at all. Hey, if Voldermort can’t stop him, nothing can!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle


Photo courtesy of Amazon

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear” is the perfect example of how ridiculous this whole banned book principle actually is.

This book was included on the banned book list because a board member on the State Board of Education in Texas in 2010 confused the author with Bill Martin who wrote a book for adults called “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.”

It pays to do your homework, school board member!

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


Photo courtesy of Amazon

This book, originally published in 1967, was added to the banned book list because parents were upset that the main character, a boy named Max, intentionally caused trouble.

This shocked parents because they were used to children being portrayed as the perfect pinnacles of fresh faced youth, Dick and Jane. Now, you had a character who was a child that was acting like, well, a child.

People from the south were additionally upset because they felt that Max *spoilers* being sent to bed without any supper was a form of child abuse. (Apparently, they didn’t finish the book or they would have saw this was not the case.)

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne


Photo courtesy of tvtropes.org

Filed under the category of “you have to be kidding me,” “Winnie-the-Pooh” was banned throughout random areas of the United States because talking animals are an insult to God.

Some places in Turkey and the United Kingdom have banned it because they felt Piglet was offensive to Muslims, and other places felt the book revolves around Nazism. (I have no idea how Nazis play into “Winnie-the-Pooh”).

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum


Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed

We haven’t read this book together yet, but it is on my list so I wanted to include it.

Originally published in 1928, it ended up being banned by all public libraries in Chicago based on its “ungodly” influence because it depicted women in strong leadership roles.

In 1957 the Detroit Public Library banned the book for having “no value for children of today.”

Yes, how dare we use this antiquated book to teach our daughters to be grow into strong women, leaders. (That was dripping with sarcasm, just to be clear.)

As you can see, banning books is ridiculous. I believe that parents should set their own limits for what media they want their children to consume, this includes what books they read.

There are some books that deal with adult material that I would not feel comfortable letting my young child read, but I believe that decision should be mine and should not be left up to institutions. Banning books is a slippery slope.

What are your thoughts about banning books. Leave them in the comments below.










Getting to Know: DiVine


Walt Disney World is known for employing a variety of unique characters that make the resort the popular destination it is.

Previously we looked at the Dapper Dans and now let’s take a look, we will have to look real close, at one of the unique characters found in Animal Kingdom, DiVine.


Photo courtesy of FlickRiver.com

Hanging out in the jungles of Animal Kingdom, towering over guests and hidden among the trees is DiVine, a very talented cast member who is dressed in camouflage of vines and makeup that interacts with guests by moving slightly and surprising guests.

She has to have perfect balance because she uses two sets of stilts to make her so tall.

Big Fat Panda has a video on his YouTube channel that shows DiVine at work:

Have you had the opportunity to see DiVine in action? Leave your comments below.


FestiFall Fun

Like I said in a previous blog post, autumn is my season because I love everything that it has to offer.

One of the highlights in our area during autumn are the various festivals that happen in the area. Local churches and historical sights often are the hosting locations for these festivals.

Albert Gallatin, the former Secretary of Treasury of the United States, built a home in the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania.


Beautiful Friendship Hill.


Here he spent a lot of time and this is also the final resting place of his wife, Sophia.

This place is called Friendship Hill and serves as a museum and tourist destination.

Each year Friendship Hill, which is also a national park, hosts FestiFall during autumn.

The event transports visitors back in time to the period of when Albert Gallatin would have roamed the halls of Friendship Hill.

Volunteers in period costumes, a fife and drum corps, frontier wedding and foods and crafts from the period were an important part of the festival.

When we first arrived we looked around the area to try and take everything in.

The first thing we came across were the volunteers cooking a huge pot of bean soup.

I would love to have the recipe.

This seemed to be the popular place as the line was really long and I saw so many people walking around with the little white cups full of soup.

We decided to indulge in some molasses cookies and apple cider. Lily didn’t want to try the cider, but loved the cookies, which was a little big of a surprise given how picky she is.

Another recipe that I need to find.

The cookies were firm, but still soft and with a slightly sweet with a little bit of spice. She ate the whole cookie (even though she had to finish it up in the car.)

One of the events that was really cute was the frontier wedding that occurred in the gazebo that is part of the grounds and overlooks the Monongahela river.

The reenactment was cute, I just wish that it would have used mics so we could have heard what was going on better.

After the wedding the West Virginia University fife and drum corps performed period appropriate music. They were really great and Lily enjoyed listening to the drums.

WVU Fife and Drum Corps.

There were also lots of different booths selling a variety of things and there were three different children’s tents that had arts and crafts, making applesauce and dip candles. We decided to save this for when she gets older.

All in all we had a wonderful time at FestiFall and we are looking forward to going next year.

Lily said that her favorite part of our “Adventure Saturday” was going to FestiFall, especially the cookie. I think a close second for Lily was playing in the leaves.

We loved picking out our favorite leaves.

As cheesy as this sounds, my favorite part of the weekend was spending time together as a family. I know that recently we haven’t been able to spend very much time as a family. I know that Lily is growing up so fast and we try to capture every memory and make every day special.

Do you have any plans to attend a fall festival this year? Leave your comments below.

Date Night Spotlight: California Grill



Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

While the focus of Mousekatots is usually on toddlers and spending time as a family, but sometimes it is nice for Mom and Dad to sneak away for a little alone time and romance.

In my opinion, one of the most romantic places for dinner in Walt Disney World is the California Grill situated atop the Contemporary Resort.

Themed like a trendy casual California restaurant with floor to ceiling windows that offer a view of Magic Kingdom including Cinderella’s Castle.

As a bonus when the castle’s fireworks show is happening, you can either go outside on the balcony to watch the performance or you can sit at your table to watch the show while the music is piped into the room.

In addition to the atmosphere, the food is excellent and on par with any other fine dining restaurant in the United States.


Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

California Grill hosts brunch on Sundays and dinner daily.

The brunch is Sundays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes several buffet items like hardwood-smoked salmon, shrimp tempura, kale and apple salad, California rolls with jumbo lump crabmeat, and more. Guests will also be able to order an entrée choice that is prepared in the kitchen including blueberry pancakes, eggs Benedict, grilled hanger steak and more.

The brunch also has a variety of both soft beverages and spirits including wines from their extensive wine list.

The cost for brunch is a hefty $80 for adults (children 3-11 are $48).

Dinner is a completely plated dinner that has the air of class and sophistication.

There are several courses to choose from that feature selections for all different types of pallets including rotisserie chicken flatbread, roasted bone marrow, duck liver pate, a variety of sushi, chef’s selection cheese board, Florida swordfish, coconut vegetable curry, seafood ramen, chocolate pudding cake, banana buzz and more.

Dinner can range from $36 to $69 per adult ($9 to $18 per child).

Included the costs for children even though I said that this place is perfect for date night, just in case you were interested, because the cost seems a little steep for the younger crowd.

There is  a dress code for the restaurant. Men can wear khakis, dress pants, jeans, dress shorts and collard shirts. Sports coats are optional.

The ladies can wear capris pants, dresses, slacks, jeans, skirts and dress shorts.

Items that are not permitted include swimsuits, swim coverups, hats for men, cut-offs, torn clothes, T-shirts with offensive language and/or graphics.

We have only had the opportunity to enjoy dinner at California Grill once before they had the latest remodel. It was an amazing experience so I can only imagine what the dining experience is like now.

Does California Grill make your list of places to try for date night? Leave a message in the comments below.


Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World





Tot Five: It’s Fall Y’All


Fall is my favorite season out of the whole year. I love Halloween, sweatshirts, the changing of the leaves and pumpkin spice everything.

Fall is also the perfect time to go out on a lot of family outings to enjoy all this season has to offer.

Here are our Tot Five ways to enjoy Fall with your family.

1. Go Pumpkin Picking


This is a no-brainer. Taking your toddler to pick their own pumpkin from a pumpkin patch is so much and makes great photos. Plus, your toddler will enjoy getting a little dirty. No doubt they will want to try and find the biggest pumpkin in the whole patch.

2. Go Apple Picking

Going hand-in-hand with picking a pumpkin is apple picking. A lot of places have both of these options in the same location. You get to have fun when you get home eating them and cooking with them. Crockpot applesauce is a great way to make use of all the tons of apples that end up picking.

3. Go to a Day at the Farm


We are very lucky where we live because we are surrounded by many farms that offer wonderful kids days at the farm. A lot of these places have the aforementioned pumpkin picking with a lot more different fun activities including hay rides, no too scary haunted houses, scarecrows and more.

4. Fall Themed Crafts at Home

Pinterest is full of a bunch of ideas to create fall crafts with your Mousekatots. Some of our favorites include a paper plate candy apple, an apple mask and tissue paper trees.

Just by doing a quick search through Pinterest, you can find several ideas to help pass the chilly evenings.

5. Corn Maze

Corn mazes can be so much fun with all age groups.

The younger tots will need to be carried, but ones that are a little older will have a blast leading the pack through the various twists and turns of the maze.

A word of caution, make sure your little one’s shoes are tied tight. You don’t want to loose a shoe and have to retrace your steps through the maze to find a lost shoe. (Been there.)

Do you have any plans this fall? Leave your comments below.


Stitch Gets His Escape


Photo courtesy of YouTube

It looks like Stich may finally get his escape.

Yesterday, Walt Disney World announced that “Stich’s Great Escape,” located in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom will be switching to a “seasonal schedule” starting Oct. 2.

What this means, according to Disney’s website, is the attraction will be open Nov. 19-26 and Dec. 17-Jan. 2.

What does this mean for the future of everyone’s favorite, chili dog eating, blue alien? Well, it doesn’t look good.

Typically when an attraction goes into seasonal operation, think of all the attractions at the defunct Wonders of Life Pavilion at Epcot, it means the end is neigh.

Couple this with the rumors that have been swirling about Stitch being converted into a “Wreck it Ralph” themed attraction, it looks like the attraction could close for good after Jan. 2.

The location of “Stitch” has been many different things since the park opened.

It started as Flight to the Moon at the opening of the park, went to Mission to Mars (which was similar), then it was turned into ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (a huge flub for Disney) and then finally Stitch.


Photo courtesy of  Disney World


For one reason or another “Stitch” has not been a hit with guests.

The show, which is a less terrifying and more family friendly version of ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, seats guests in a round with a harness that comes down on the shoulders, which is why there is a 40 inch height limit.

The show centers around an audio animatronic Stich in the center. The lights will also go off and Stitch will bounce around the room on the harnesses and burp in your face. (Gross, I know.)

It still remains what will end up happening with the future of the attraction come the beginning of 2017, or if it will be missed like other recently closed attractions like Malestrom or the re-theming of Tower of Terror in Disneyland.

Will you be sad if you can’t enjoy this attraction on your upcoming trip to Walt Disney World? Leave your comments below.

For more tips on which Walt Disney World attractions would be the perfect fit for your toddler, pick up your copy of “Mousekatots,” available through Theme Park Press.




Just Call Me Mrs. Hughes

The other morning we were going through our usual routine, Kevin was putting the dishes away, I was getting ready for work and Lily was buried under the covers in our bed watching VeggieTales.

Suddenly, we heard a “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Come here!”

We both go into the bedroom thinking that maybe she had hurt herself, but there she was watching her tablet, snuggled under the covers. She looks over at us and says, “Can I have my juice? In a sippy cup? The owl one?”

It was at this point that Kevin looked at me and said, “You know this is just like Downton Abbey. She is the upstairs and we are the downstairs.”

And I realized no truer words have been said. Here are the ways your toddler is the upstairs staff of Downton Abbey while you, the parents, are the group that live downstairs.


Photo courtesy of Paste Magazine

You are always on call

It doesn’t matter what time it is or what you are doing, when Lady or Lord Toddler, the true master of the house calls, then you need to respond and react to their demands.

All they need is a little bell to ring anytime they need something.


Photo courtesy of Readbreatherelax.com


Lord help you if you make a mistake

There is a fine line that you have to walk when you are in servitude to Lord or Lady Toddler.

If said orange juice is in the ghost cup and they wanted the owl cup, be prepared for a Countess level throw down.

Instead of throwing you shade, like the Dowager Countess of Grantham, it will be a full on, temper tantrum.


Remember your place

Just remember your place.

While your toddler ranks in the upstairs level of society, you will forever be in the downstairs group. making sure all of their needs are meet.

Everything from fetching toys under the couch to wiping bottoms falls to those downstairs.

However, you wouldn’t trade it for the world.



What Have I Gotten Myself Into

This weekend ended up being pretty low key, which was nice considering last weekend we had our getaway.

Friday was nice and relaxing and I visited one of my favorite TV shows, “The Office,” while I wrote Saturday’s blog and enjoyed a little glass of wine. (It had been a long week.)


Saturday we had planned to run a few errands locally and went out to breakfast to one of our favorite breakfast places in the mountains, Braddocks.

Recently we were realizing that we were relying too much on our iPhones as a way to entertain Lily while we were out at restaurants and going in the car.

So we have tried to pull back with the phones and tried to come up with alternatives for ways to entertain her when we are out at the restaurant. (In a future blog entry I will share what we pack in our “adventure kit.”) But, you can never go wrong with plastic dinosaurs. Lily’s favorite is T-Rex.

Lily enjoyed her pancakes that had a little chocolate included.


After breakfast is when the wheels really started to come off.

I have a confession.

I may have gotten in way over my head.

A couple of weeks ago when we were at Joann’s Lily saw this pattern for a dress that looked a lot like Princess Elena.

Photo courtesy of McCalls

Now, a person with my sewing ability (which is I can sew but I typically make things by just eyeballing it) would just say, “Oh honey, how about Mommy just goes to the Disney Store and buy you the costume?)

But, not me. I was like, “Sure honey! How hard can it be?”

Well, my first hiccup came when I tried to read the back of the envelope to see what I needed to get. I had no idea what I needed to buy.

Kevin shows the sewing project that he feels would be up to his speed.

Luckily in the middle of a Hobby Lobby I was able to figure out what I needed. I tried to get all the material and notions that I needed, but I couldn’t find everything. So we decided to travel to the next county to go to a Joann’s where I hope they would have everything that I would need.

Luckily they did and I was able to finish my shopping for the costume.

Unfortunately, this means that I am now locked into making the costume.

I keep on saying to myself, how hard can it be to make this costume? They make instructions. There is a pattern to follow, so it can’t be that hard! (Famous last words, I know.)

Saturday night we decided to stay in because the weather seemed a little gloomy so we had grilled cheese with tomato soup while we watched “Mary Poppins.”

Sunday I felt a little under the weather so we ended up not doing too much.

I just felt like I bit off a little more than I could chew because not only did I decide to make Lily’s costume, but I also decided that I was going to make princess themed bows to go with her outfits at Walt Disney World. I always seem to take on all of these projects before we go on vacation. Oh well, it will get done. (If you have a moment, please say a prayer for me.)

What adventures did you go on this weekend? Leave your comments below.


Fiction or Film: Mary Poppins


Photo courtesy of movies.disney.com

“As soon as the shape was inside the gate the wind seemed to catch her up into the air and fling her at the house. It was as though it had flung her first at the gate, waited for her to open it, and then had lifted and thrown her, bag and all, at the front door. The watching children heard a terrific bang, and as she landed the whole house shook.” — “Mary Poppins” P.L. Travers

This is how Mary Poppins was first introduced into the lives of the Banks family on Cherry Tree Lane.

If you are like me and have grown up watching the film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, you are very familiar with the tale that Walt Disney and the Sherman Brothers wove.

After reading the first book that the film is based off of “Mary Poppins,” it is clear to see that the two are very different. Part of this is because the film takes bits and pieces from the other books in the series as well.

The Film


Mary takes the children Jane and Michael on many adventures with her close friend Bert. They travel through chalk drawings to have a horse race and tea, visit Uncle Albert for a tea party on the ceiling and feed birds with the bird woman while rescuing their father, Mr. Banks for the cold reality of adulthood.

The cheery musical features several songs by the famous Sherman Brothers like “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Jolly Holiday,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Supercalifraglisticexpialidocious” and more.

The Book


Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

The book is so different. First off there are four Banks children, Jane and Michael and two baby twins, Barbara and John.

The character of Mary Poppins is a little more cold and strict than what she is portrayed as in the film. This was a point of contention with Travers about the film,

In the film Bert plays a bigger role than what he has in the book. In the book he is only in one chapter, where he and just Mary go through one of his chalk drawings for tea.

There are also two other adventures that involve a compass that allows Poppins and the children to travel to different destinations and an unusual night at the zoo.

The book is composed of different vignettes that really don’t flow into a story but are almost stand alone stories.

Which is Better

In my opinion the film is better. While the film has a lot of heart and fun, the book lacks a little warmth. I understand that it was written in a different time so things change.

Have you read the books and seen the movies? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.