Making Sweets With our Sweetie

Valentine’s Days seems to be a pretty popular holiday with our little one.

I don’t know if it is because of the hearts or all the pink and red (Lily’s favorite color), but she is a big fan.

One of her favorite things to do is bake (mostly because it involves sugar).

My Mom was shopping and came across a huge block of rice crispy treat that she thought we could cut into little shapes with cookie cutters.

We then bought lollipop sticks, cellophane bags and ribbon to make them into little rice crispy treat pops.

A few nights ago we sat down to make them and it turned out pretty well.


The cookie cutters did a good job just as long as you have an adult help push down the cutter and you might have to use a knife to cut around the outside edges.


What would a night of baking be without taking a little time to take a photo.


After the hearts were cut out, I then applied the icing and put the sticks into place. This is better for an adult to do because it could get really messy icing and you have to have a little finesse to get the stick in the heart without pushing it all the way through.


After the icing went on, then Lily got the pops back and added sprinkles.


We ended up having to let the icing harden overnight before putting it in the bags. (We tried one and the icing smudged a little.) I think they are going to turn out really cute. But, even if they don’t Lily still had a great time making them.

Do you have any fun Valentine’s Day activities? Leave your comments below.


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

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.










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.

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


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.



Fiction or Film: Mary Poppins


Photo courtesy of

“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

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.


Weekend Getaway: See What’s Jammin’

Last weekend we had the chance to go away on a much needed long weekend to one of our favorite getaway locations: Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Since I have been little we have been making an annual, sometimes semi-annual, pilgrimage to the land of the Amish and shoofly pie.

One of our go-to locations has been Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, Pennsylvania.


We love Yummie. Lily was a little unsure of him.

Situated along about two blocks, Kitchen Kettle is an adorable village that features a variety of shops carrying everything from Brighton jewelry, specialty meats and cheeses, cowboy boots, kitchen gadgets and more.

Our favorite place in the village is called The Jam & Relish Kitchen.


Get to jammin’.

There is no way to be confused as to what is sold in this store. The name says it all.

Anything that can be jammed, picked, marinated and jarred could be found inside of this delicious business.


Jars as far as the eye can see.

One of the best perks of the store is that you can taste it before you buy it. Free samples of everything from salsa to pickles to the Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy, Chow Chow can be spread on a provided cracker, tortilla chip or poked with a toothpick.


Hot pepper jelly is my absolute favorite. I made sure that I stocked up!

Prices are reasonable and you can get a variety of sizes in everything from a “I just want a little taste” size to “I gotta have it by the truckload” size.


Even Lily enjoyed sharing with Daddy!

If you have the opportunity to visit Kitchen Kettle I highly recommend stopping by. If you can’t make it out, you can also shop online.

What would you be tempted to try at the Jam & Relish Kitchen? Leave your comments below.








Muppets Take Over Disney World


Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

The Muppets’ presence is starting to grow at Walt Disney World. With the promise of a new experience at the Magic Kingdom and a new restaurant at Hollywood Studios, fans of the world famous characters should have a lot to look forward to this fall.

Magic Kingdom

The Muppets, featuring Sam Eagle, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and James Jefferson will come together in an original live show.

Situated right outside of The Hall of Presidents, the Muppets will talk to the audience about famous moments in history like the midnight ride of Paul Revere, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and more, according to Walt Disney World’s blog. There will be an original song and the madcap humor that has made the Muppets such loveable characters for many years.

“The Muppets Present … Great Moments in American History” will have an opening date of October of this year, with the rumor mill churning out it could be as early as Oct. 2.

Hollywood Studios


Photo courtesy of


With all of the changes taking place in Hollywood Studios with the addition of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land and the removal of the more “traditional Hollywood” sections of the park, it seemed like the former Pizza Planet restaurant was just hanging out on it’s own. It would not have been situated in the new Toy Story area, so it seemed like this theme had to go by the wayside.

Since MuppetVision 3D was right next to this restaurant, Disney decided to rename this area Muppet Courtyard and give the restaurant a new theme that would tie in with the newly dubbed area.

This is how PizzeRizzo was born.

At the helm of the restaurant will be the street wise rat, Rizzo who will offer guests a place to grab pizza and beverage while in a relaxed atmosphere that features a “cheesy” banquet room and a special booth just for his celebrity friends, according to Disney’s blog.

The word on the street is that the exterior of PizzeRizzo is making great progress and it looks like it will be ready for its fall debut.

Are you a Muppet fan and are looking forward to these new additions at Walt Disney World? Leave your comment below.






Packing Trick Makes the Process Easy

We just got back from a wonderful weekend away in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where we were able to do a little camping, spend time at an amusement park and to stop at a few of our favorite shops.

But, before we could leave, we had to do the major chore of packing.

I know a lot of people hate to pack, but honestly I don’t really mind it all that much.

Part of the reason for that might be because of a system I have when it comes to packing our Mousekatot’s suitcase.

One of the biggest tips I share in “Mousekatots” is to gather all your kids’ clothes together and sort them into piles based on the day. For example, since we were going to be gone Saturday and Sunday, I made sure I had outfits together for those two days, plus a backup outfit (you know how it is), two pairs of pajamas, swim gear and some clothes for the campfire (i.e. long sleeves and pants).


Sorting clothes into piles based on outfits makes packing a breeze.

When you have your pile, you need to also include any underwear, hair accessories, socks, etc. for that day.

Once you have your piles all sorted out then it is time to get out my favorite travel accessory, gallon sized, storage bags. (Make sure you choose the bags that have the zipper on the top to make your life easier.)


Fool-proof outfit planning.

Take your bags and write on them, in sharpie, either the day the outfit corresponds to or the purpose of the outfit (pajamas, swimming, campfire).

This way, whoever is helping you get the Mousekatot ready for the day will know what they are to wear. Just toss them the bag and let them get to work.

Another benefit of having everything in bags is that it packs easily in the suitcase, and doesn’t shift too much during travel. Just make sure that you press all the air out of the bag before your pile them in the suitcase.


It might not look like it, but it all fit in the suitcase, I swear!

I know this might seem a little wasteful to use all of these plastic bags, but I end up saving them and using them for the next trip. I just keep them out of reach of Lily so she can’t hurt herself.

What tips do you have for making packing for a weekend getaway a little easier? Share them in the comments below!