Dining on the Disney Wonder

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. And while this was the third time I have attended, this was the first that included Disney on both Land AND Sea. I was elated to learn that we would be boarding the newly re-imagined Disney Cruise Line Wonder for three fantastic nights! From the moment we stepped on the ship, my family and I felt like royalty which carried through to each of the three on-board restaurants we visited.

Unlike other cruise lines, your family will rotate to one restaurant (keeping your same table number and servers) each night providing you with three completely different dining experiences. In true Disney fashion, dinner was much more than delicious food. Walking into each restaurant, you are transported to another place whether it be to New Orleans at Tiana’s Place, under the sea at Triton’s or right into the middle of a Disney classic in progress at Animator’s Palate, each experience is unique and sprinkled with pixie dust.

Dining on the Disney Wonder

Tiana’s Place

Tiana's Place on Disney Wonder
Being from New Orleans, we are huge fans of Disney’s Princess and the Frog. Seeing your hometown, traditions and culture come to life in animation is truly magical. So we were excited to learn that our first night on board would be spent at Tiana’s Place! Walking through the door, you feel like you are in the middle of the movie from the decor to the entertainment. It’s just like Princess Tiana would have wanted! The jazz band played some of our New Orleans favorites and were even led by the alligator, Louis from the movie. The big finale was a traditional second line that got everyone involved and dancing. We felt right at home!

Tiana's Place table settings
 

Tianas Place Entertainment

Triton’s

While Princess Tiana is our favorite, Ariel comes in a close second. My youngest daughter is obsessed with mermaids so you can only imagine how excited she was to dine at Triton’s. Themed after Ariel’s father, King Triton, you are surrounded with serene ocean colors and regal decor.

Triton's Menu
Triton's table setting
We felt that this was the most upscale of the three dining rooms on the Wonder but the Cast Members still made the experience fun for the kids by surprising them with magic tricks table-side. We loved that our table servers followed us to each restaurant and we really loved telling them all about our adventures.

Animator’s Palate

Animator's Palate sign
Ever wish you could be in an animated film or wish you could be one of Disney’s esteemed Imagineers? Then Animator’s Palate is a must do on the Disney Wonder! The dining experience starts off just like any creative process….a blank canvas. The entire restaurant is themed in black and white and frames on the wall display primitive sketches of well known Disney characters. As the meal progresses, color is slowly added until the sketches comes to life in animated clips topped off with a visit from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (aka Mickey Mouse from Fantasia).

Animator's Palate dessert
Animator's Palate decor

If you are lucky enough to dine in Animator’s Palette more than once on your cruise, you get to become an official Animator! You create a character and through the magic of Disney, your creation comes to life on the walls set to some pretty catchy music. This was such a fun experience!

 

You won’t have a bad dining experience at any restaurant on the Disney Wonder! The themes are very well executed and the entertainment is so much fun for the kids. No stuffy restaurants here! I loved that we could sit down as a family each night, recap our adventures and plan for the day ahead.

We did not get a chance to dine at Palo, the 18 and over restaurant onboard the Wonder. If you’ve been, share your experience in the comments!

Dining on the Disney Wonder

Work Smart, Not Hard with Cascade Platinum Action Pacs

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Cascade. All opinions remain 100% my own.

Over the course of my life, my Dad has given many tidbits of advice. But the one that stands out the most (and I hear myself repeating to my own children) is, “Work Smart, Not Hard.” In my teen years, as most teenage girls do, I ignored most of his advice. But this one line really stuck with me before starting any project or homework assignment. Now, I still repeat this to myself before planning my day.

Cascade product line

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to watch this saying in action by learning how the scientists at Cascade developed the Cascade Platinum Action Pacs. This brand started over six decades ago and has been continually improving the product to provide the best consumer experience. Now you can work smart by skipping the sink (that’s right….NO pre-rinse or soak needed) and letting Cascade Platinum do the rest!

Cascade Platinum Action Pac

Of course, there are three things that contribute to the success of your dish load: the detergent, the dishwasher and the user.  Do you know how to properly load the dishwasher in order to give the detergent its best chance of success?

How to properly load the dishwasher

  1. Plates go on the bottom rack and should be separated by the prongs allowing water to reach each dish. Make sure the plates are not touching each other. Pro tip: Make sure tall items are not blocking the sprayer!
  2. Glasses should be placed on the top rack with the open side facing down.
  3. Utensils should be placed on the bottom rack in the provided holder but make sure there is space between each. If detergent can’t get to it, the utensil will not get clean!
  4. Don’t block the detergent dispenser with large bulky items.
  5. Place plastic items on the top rack to avoid melting.

Following these easy tips will allow Cascade Platinum to do the rest and minimize your time in the kitchen. Work smart, not hard!

 

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration: Take 3 (Day 1)

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. While I did pay a fee to attend the conference, our stay was greatly reduced.

I will admit that the very first Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was truly a magical experience. Spending the night in Cinderella’s Castle is not something you easily forget. After all, I am totally a princess now and wear my glass slippers everywhere I go. The second #DSMMC sent us West to Disneyland and my family and I loved seeing a totally different Disney. But, third time’s a charm, right? I was over the moon excited to receive the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Land and Sea invitation!

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Badge

After surprising my kids on Christmas with the news of visiting the Mouse, we had to wait 45 long agonizing days before boarding the plane. But the anticipation was well worth it when we pulled up to the Disney Port Orleans Riverside Resort! Being from New Orleans, we have never stayed at this resort because we thought it would be too much like home.  And it was….but in a really cool way. In typical Disney fashion, every detail was well planned and beautifully executed from the Plantation style exterior to the horse and carriage rides at night.

Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort

Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort

Our first conference day began by taking in the sights and smells of many different countries on the newly imaged Soarin’ ride in EPCOT which was truly breathtaking. After the excitement, we headed to a buffet breakfast and to hear about new initiatives from conference sponsors: Alamo, Hanes, and GoGo squeeZ (represented by Olympic Champion, Dominique Dawes) and perused the Expo where I got to taste the new limited edition Beauty and the Beast tea from Twinings, check out the Beauty and the Beast inspired items being sold on HSN, and even snap a photo with the infamous magical rose.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast Twinings Tea

By the power of Pixie Dust, I was able to snag an ADR for the “Be Our Guest” lunch and my family and I continued the Beauty and the Beast themed day! What I loved about this restaurant is that you order at the counter but then are free to take a seat and relax while your food is brought to you by a Cast Member. Plus, the menu was much more robust that a typical counter service meal and really very tasty!

Disney's Be Our Guest Restaurant

Using our Fast Pass+, we hit all of our favorite (and new) rides in the park. It was easy to come to a consensus and we all loved the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train the best which we rode three times consecutively. Thanks to Disney’s Express Transportation, we hopped over to Hollywood Studios to attend more Disney Social Media Moms Celebration magic.

Disney's PizzeRizzo Restaurant

Dinner was served (thanks, Alamo!) in the new PizzeRizzo (a New York Italian style restaurant) owned by the Muppet, Rizzo. This two story eatery even features an Italian wedding reception hall which already has a reception in progress you are free to crash! Following dinner, we were treated to special VIP seating for the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show which was out of this world (pun intended). Even to this non Star Wars family, we were literally blown away by this show so I am going to save my story for a dedicated post on the topic in order to do it justice.

Energized but exhausted by the day’s activities, we headed back to the Port Orleans Riverside to get a good night’s sleep before boarding the Disney Cruise Line’s Wonder. Stay tuned for our adventures at sea!

The Best $15 I Spent at Walt Disney World

A few days ago, my family and I returned from an epic adventure at the Disney Social Media Mom Celebration. As part of the event, I gained inside access to upcoming Disney movies, resort and park news which I can’t wait to share with you (posts coming soon). The conference agenda was jam packed with pixie dust which only left us a few hours to explore Disney World on our own. Armed with our Fast Pass+, I set out to maximize the fun in a minimal amount of time and in the process, I found an invaluable resource you must know about.

Disney’s Express Bus Transportation is hands down the best $15 I have ever spent at the parks.

Disney's Express Bus Transportation

Because we had only a few hours in the parks, we intended to hit EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios in a single day. Ambitious? Maybe. But we did it thanks to the Express Transportation service! So why is this service arguably the best $15 I have ever spent at Disney World? Let me break it down.

On the first morning, I simply asked our Disney resort concierge to add the Express Transportation tickets right to our Magic Bands. The cost is just $15 per person per day (and $24 per person for extended stays).  Because the service does not begin till 10am, you will make your way to the park and go through security as usual. When entering our first park of the day, EPCOT, we stopped at Guest Services to inquire about the Express Transportation schedule and location for pick up. The buses run every 30 minutes but you want to get the daily schedule so you are not wasting precious park time waiting for the next bus to arrive.

In EPCOT, the pick up location is near Guest Relations by Spaceship Earth. Just look for the signs and check in with the cast member who will scan your Magic Band. You will promptly be escorted backstage and onto an Express Transportation Bus which uses behind the scene roads to get to your destination quicker than using the regular park transportation. Another plus? You are dropped off inside your desired park allowing you to skip the long walk and security lines.

No lines. No crowded buses. Shorter commute. Less walking. No security lines. Faster to the fun! BEST.SERVICE.EVER.

We were literally the only people on the bus which allowed tired eyes to take a quick nap and rejuvenate. The Express Transportation dropped us off inside Magic Kingdom near Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin which was made it super easy to get to our “Be Our Guest” reservation in plenty of time. Again, don’t forget to ask the bus schedule when you arrive at the park if you plan to hitch another ride that day.

Disney's Express Transportation

After hitting all of our favorite rides in Magic Kingdom, we headed back to the Express Transportation pick up, checked in and were on our way to Hollywood Studios (again being the only family on the bus). The bus dropped us off right behind Tower of Terror allowing us to again skip security lines and head straight to the magic.

If you have Park Hopper passes and plan to hit multiple parks in one day, the Express Transportation is WELL WORTH THE PRICE. A few final notes:

  • Since the buses drop you off inside the parks, you will miss the “grand entrances” to each park (for example, walking down Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle). If those photo opportunities are important to you, be aware that you will have to double back to see them.
  • Because you are behind the magic when you are escorted to your bus, photos and video are discouraged.

If you are looking for a way to pack more fun into a Disney vacation, definitely consider the Express Transportation option! We found it to be truly magical!

Its All About the Choreplay

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Mr. Clean. All opinions are 100% mine.

Given the fact that my New Orleans Saints were not in the Superbowl, the best part of the experience was definitely the commercials. A few made me chuckle but the one that made all of us laugh out loud was the commercial in the third quarter by Mr. Clean. In case you missed the hilarity, take a minute to view it below. I’ll wait.

Can we agree that few things are sexier than a man who cleans? In fact, men who do more than a third of the housework are significantly more likely to get some action from their significant other. Guys, it’s all about the choreplay. And with Valentine’s Day around the corner, I think this is sound advice!

Choreplay Kit

Want to gently encourage your man to take on more of the workload? Post a picture of the “cleaner of your dreams” on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using #MrClean and the brand could surprise your man with a Choreplay Kit to up his game! Want more chances to win? Enter below to win a Mr. Clean Choreplay Kit!

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Making Spirits Bright with Aflac Holiday Helpers

This post is sponsored by Aflac. I was compensated for writing it, but all opinions are 100% mine.

As the song goes, the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year!” For my family and I, this usually holds true. But what happens when it’s not? Unfortunately, a good friend of mine lost her mother to cancer (at the young age of 57) just a few months before Christmas and her pain was truly palpable. Watching my friend, her husband and their four beautiful daughters suffer such a great loss made me wish that there was something I could do to help them enjoy the holidays. Struggling to provide a “normal” Christmas for their daughters while dealing with grief and medical expenses was proving to be challenging for this sweet family so I was truly blessed when chosen to be one of Aflac’s Holiday Helpers!

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-11-29-49-amThe ripple effect of the financial burden caused by an unplanned health event can be especially compounded around the holidays and is the inspiration behind the #AflacHolidayHelpers program. By reaching out to families who may have needed help getting into the holiday spirit, decorating their homes, preparing holiday meals or shopping for loved ones, Aflac wants to help with the things most families take for granted but can be significantly impacted by out-of- pocket costs associated with an unexpected health event.

Understanding that this financial burden can cause stress during the holidays, Aflac provided me with a grant to bring some holiday cheer to Kristi and her family. Her mother truly loved the holidays and always made sure the magic of Christmas was alive in all of her grandchildren by decorating gingerbread houses, fulfilling Christmas wishes and instilling the true meaning of Christmas by singing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas Day. So, I thought it fitting to use my grant to help create special family memories for Kristi and her four young daughters.

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I planned a special day I hoped they would enjoy but kept the details a secret. The anticipation on their faces when I picked them up from their home was totally and completely worth it! The following 20 minute ride was full of guessing games, laughter and excitement. Pulling up to the first surprise elicited squeals of joy when it was revealed that they would all enjoy Hot Chocolate Pedicures from a local luxurious spa. We spent the next two hours drinking hot chocolate, listening to Christmas music and being pampered with cocoa scrubs, cocoa oil, hot stone massage and beautiful painted piggies.

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Before heading to our next secret location, Santa’s helpers arrived with special gifts. A little bird told Santa that the girls really wanted a certain gaming console for Christmas and he delivered in a big way! Santa did not forget Kristi and her husband and surprised them with gift cards for massages and home improvements. With that, we packed the sleigh and started on our way to the next surprise.

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Pulling up at a historic hotel in New Orleans dressed in it’s holiday best, the girls knew exactly what that meant….we were going to a Teddy Bear Tea! The lobby of the hotel is spectacular and immediately puts you in the holiday spirit. Kristi shared with me that her Mom always wanted to take her granddaughters to this Teddy Bear Tea so the experience was absolutely perfect. We dined on delicious tea party finger foods, drank tea (and more hot chocolate), took pictures with Santa and left with a collectable stuffed teddy bear.

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With our bellies full, we packed into the car and started our journey home. It was great to hear the girls talk about the fun they had and hear everyone laughing and just simply enjoying being together. I was truly honored to be able to provide some Christmas magic during this difficult time for Kristi and her girls. And while nothing can replace her Mom, I hope I was able to provide new family memories that will last a lifetime.

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Thank you, Aflac, for allowing me this incredible experience. One of the perks of this blog is connecting with companies who truly have a heart. Aflac knows that the holiday season can be a particularly challenging time for people without supplemental insurance who may be dealing with the aftermath of a serious accident or health event. That’s why Aflac pays cash when policyholders are sick or hurt so they can focus on recovery. Make sure to check out Aflac’s new ad, “Ski Patrol,” which takes a light-hearted approach to highlighting how life often throws you the unexpected that can ultimately impact you and your family’s lifestyle. To learn more about Aflac, visit www.aflac.com/lifestyle

Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York. Z161385B Exp 1/18.

 

Cuties are Coming!

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with McDonald’s. All opinions remain 100% mine.

I would love to tell you that each and every evening when my family arrives home from school or work, we sit down together for a well planned, technology-free, delicious dinner together. But, that would be a total lie. The reality is that we are a family of four on the go running from school to work and from dance class to the gymnastics mat. Because my husband and I work full time and have two daughters highly involved in extra-curricular activities, dinner can be a challenge. Luckily, there is a McDonald’s exactly halfway between their school and the dance studio.

McDonald's Happy Meal with Cuties

While convenience is of the utmost importance, I still want to be sure that I am feeding my girls a balanced meal to help get them through their busy schedules. I loved when McDonald’s introduced apple slices as a Happy Meal option in 2004 and now I am thrilled to learn that Cuties® will be available for a limited time this Spring both in Happy Meals and a la carte! Because we are often eating in the car on the way from one activity to another, I love that my daughters can slip the Cutie in their backpack and have fruit as a snack between classes.

Cuties California Clementines

Did you know that Cuties are an excellent source of vitamin C and deliver 1⁄4 cup of fruit? Plus, the Cuties offered at McDonald’s are supplied by Sun Pacific, a family-owned fruit grower in California and they generally take less than two weeks to arrive at the store once harvested in the field.

While our busy lives call for much planning and organization, I am thankful to have options such as McDonald’s Happy Meal with Cuties that won’t break the bank. In fact, participating McDonald’s in the New Orleans area are offering Happy Meals for just $2.99! See you at the drive-thru!

Cuties® is a registered trademark of Sun Pacific.

Take a Vacation Everyday with Pfister

This post was written by Jennifer of Experimental Mommy in partnership with Pfister. All opinions remain 100% honest.

Every day, I take a vacation. It only lasts about 15 minutes, but I make sure it happens every single day. It’s my “me” time. Time when I don’t have to think about my job, which child needs attention, whose homework isn’t done yet, the next night’s dinner, or what the dog has gotten into and destroyed.  The location isn’t tropical, adventuresome, or scenic. But, it is luxurious, and I don’t have to go far to get there.

It’s my shower.

I love my shower. I love everything about it. It’s my place to literally wash off the day’s events and get myself completely relaxed and refreshed. I spend a long time just standing under the water and not thinking about one thing except for how relaxing it is. So, when I was offered the chance to make my shower even better, I was thrilled.

After receiving Pfister’s Bronson Shower in Brushed Nickel, I could not wait to get it out of the box and installed. I had to wait a bit for my husband to get back in town from an extended work leave but once he got home, I became the loving (nagging) wife because I couldn’t wait to use it. After installation, we both agreed it was a major upgrade from our previous standard shower head that got the job done but was much less aesthetically pleasing than what Pfister had to offer. We both loved how the shower head has both square angles and rounded curves that go together beautifully.

shower head

That night, I made a beeline for the bathroom and was tempted to just watch the water come out of the shower for a long time. I know it sounds strange, but the Pfister shower just looks like it would be amazing. And it is. The Raincan showerhead gives you more coverage and provides you with an endless, relaxing flow of water that is not too soft or too hard, it is just right. I wanted to turn my little 15 minute shower vacation into a permanent residence, but the to-do list and the threat of pruney skin prevented me.

My little “vacation” is made even more relaxing knowing that Pfister products carry the Pfister Forever Warranty that covers function and finish for life. In addition to that, the Pforever Seal means the durable all metal construction has an advanced ceramic disc valve with a never leak guarantee! My husband and I are looking forward to eventually changing out the shower in our children’s bathroom to something even better from Pfister. In short, Pfister faucets are Pfantastic!

12 Days of Beauty for Your Holiday Hair

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Neutrogena. All opinions remain 100% mine.

On top of the dry, cold, windy weather of winter, the holiday season is full of fun and festive ways to torture my hair. Office party? Sleek hair with a professional twist. Secret Santa party with friends? Curly updo! Caroling with Church group? Lots of hairspray to combat fly-aways. While the hair products are necessary to make sure my hair stays party ready, I am glad Neutrogena offers rescue for hair that been put to the test.

After a particularly busy week consisting of several hair style changes, I was thankful to have the opportunity to try the Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo. With all of the product I used, I was happy to read that the Anti-Residue Shampoo instantly removes up to 90% of dulling residue caused by styling products. Simply use this treatment once a week and then return to your normal shampoo. After using, my hair felt squeaky clean and was no longer weighted down by a week’s worth of styling products.

neutrogena
With my hair being residue free, it was the perfect time to repair the damage caused by constant blow drying, straightening and curling. Fortunately, I had the Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask in my arsenal! Perfect for extra dry or over-processed hair, the mask saturates thirsty locks with intense moisturization. After shampooing, apply product (concentrating on ends) and leave for 3-5 minutes before rinsing. Repeat about once a week or as needed to leave your hair silky and smooth.

Both of these products left my hair soft, shiny and ready for the next round of holiday parties! The products worked so well together that I will be bundling them and giving them to friends for Christmas. If you would like to try these products for yourself, enter my giveaway below:

Want to see more of the best Neutrogena holiday picks? Check out Elle Sees blog and social channels (Instagram: @ellesees;  Twitter: @elleseesyou; Facebook: Elle Sees Blog).
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Improving my Cooking Skills with Morton Salt’s #NextDoorChef

This post was written by Experimental Mommy in partnership with Morton Salt. All opinions are 100% my own.

Being a New Orleans native, I am truly spoiled with the number of quality restaurants in my backyard. I have heard of acclaimed local chef Nina Compton‘s new restaurant, Compere Lapin, but regrettably, I have not yet made it there to sample the fare.  Imagine my surprise when this past Monday, I got the chance to meet Chef Compton in a literal backyard restaurant!

Next Door Chef: New Orleans
Have you heard of Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef? I was fortunate enough to join a number of guests at the filming of the next episode which was set right here in New Orleans. In this episode, a New Orleans resident is paired with Chef Compton to learn how to prepare a remarkable meal using different types of salt. The local’s home (and backyard) was transformed into a fully decorated pop-up restaurant and we were served an amazing meal along with tips on how to transform our own home cooked meals to gourmet dishes by using the correct type of salt.

Different Types of Morton Salt
At the event, I learned more about the benefits of using Morton Kosher and Sea Salt, versus the standard table salt when cooking. Did you know that you should use Morton Kosher Salt when rimming drink glasses like the Americano cocktail we sampled at the event? Or use Morton Coarse Sea Salt to add an artistic “pop” you and your dinner guests can see and taste? The larger than table salt crystals provide contrasting texture.  Turns out a lot of us are using table salt for almost all cooking purposes, which is a huge miss in the kitchen. But don’t forget to use the conversion chart if you decide to try out other types of Morton Salt in your recipes!

Next Door Chef cocktail
I can’t wait to share more about the cuisine we sampled and the tips we learned, but because I know you are all prepping for holiday cooking, make sure you check out Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef: Chicago (aired on November 10th) which was focused on improving your cooking techniques for the holidays. The second installment set in Nashville will debut in the Spring but I am super excited that the summer episode will showcase my hometown, New Orleans, which is known for amazing Cajun/Creole inspired cuisine.

salted charbroiled oysters
In the meantime, if you decide to host your own “Next Door Chef” party or have a recipe idea using Kosher or sea salt, post your photos on social media using #NextDoorChef.