Celebrate a Birthday with Carnival Cruise Lines

On July 16th, it happened.  Even though I attempted to flee the Country in hopes this day would not come, I was unsuccessful.  Forty found me.  FORTY.  What?  Wasn’t I just turning 21 like a year ago?  Despite my hesitation about this milestone, it turned out to be the best birthday ever (except for my 9th birthday when I had a party at McDonald’s and got a purple boombox from my Grandma…that was pretty rad).

My hubby (in cahoots with Carnival Cruise Lines) was a Rockstar and deserves all the props for making me feel like a Queen on my special day.  Here are some ways you can help a loved one celebrate their birthday while aboard the Carnival Dream.

1.  Decorate the Cabin: Cleverly hide some decorations from a local party supply store and deck out your stateroom with balloons, streamers, banners and signs.  Some Carnival ships offer this service for a fee if you cannot seem to hide the decor in your carry on bag.

2.  Breakfast in Bed: Order room service the night before so you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast in bed instead fighting the crowds at the breakfast buffet.

3.  Spa Appointment: The Carnival Dream has a lovely “Cloud 9″ spa which offers services for women, men and children, too.  My hubby surprised me with a morning massage and facial. It was a great way to start the day!

4.  Bucket List Excursion: Following my spa treatment, we headed off to swim with the Stingrays in Grand Cayman.  It was just the right touch of adventure and relaxation to make for a memorable birthday.

5.  Signature Dining at the On-board Steakhouse: While the regular dining options are fantastic, the steakhouse is a whole other level of exquisite.  Make a reservation and let them know you have a birthday being celebrated at your table.

6.  What’s a birthday without cake? Special decorated cakes can be ordered at the Steakhouse and I can tell you that it was delicious! A whole cake was delivered to my table complete with candles and of course the obligatory birthday song.

7.  Roses Are Red. And yellow, white and pink, too!  A dozen multicolored roses can be purchased on board (the Carnival Dream offers this at the Cherry On Top shop) and delivered to your stateroom.

8.  Send a Gift: Not on board with your loved one? You can still arrange to have a gift sent the their stateroom to let  them know you are thinking of them on their special day.  One of my best friends sent me a Carnival Sweatshirt which was much needed at the chilly theater on board.

9. Make a Memory: Professional photographers are on hand several nights on all Carnival ships.  I absolutely loved having a professional shot taken of my precious family. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Turns out, 40 is not so bad after all.

Sprinkled with Pixie Dust and Inspiration at #DisneySMMoms Day One

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy.  While I paid a conference fee to attend, portions of the conference costs were offset by sponsors.  All opinions remain 100% mine.

In 2009, I was so honored to be invited to attend the very 1st Disney Social Media Moms.  The experience was amazing (epic if you count sleeping in Cinderella’s Castle) so you can imagine my excitement to be invited to return for the 5th Anniversary celebration!  Instead of traveling East this time, I would have to head West to Disneyland.

Because I have never been to Disneyland, I knew I had to take along my family this time as they couldn’t join me in 2009.  I just had to share this new adventure with them because I knew it would be an experience like no other.  And it did not disappoint.

After our flight was delayed, we finally landed in Los Angeles but unfortunately we missed the opening reception.  The kids couldn’t wait to get started, so we took the opportunity to walk around the Disneyland Resort and grab a very late dinner.  As full of energy as the kids were, the travel caught up to them and they were ready for bed.  Until they saw the headboard light up! Magical!

Ready to hit the ground running, Friday was the main conference day.  While the family went exploring Disneyland, Hanes made sure I got off to a comfortable start by sponsoring a delicious breakfast.  Fueled up, my brain was ready to be inspired by a host of speakers.

From Donald Driver (Former NFL Player and Author) to Maxine Clark (Founder, Build-A-Bear Workshop), the speakers were full of great advice on being an entrepreneur and stoking the fire that lies within.  As the day progressed, we heard from more speakers that turned their passion into profit including the now infamous, Grumpy Cat.

I think my favorite speaker was Gary Buchanan, Social Media Manager for Disney Parks who I believe has the #1 most enviable job on Earth.  I can’t even describe how much fun this man has doing his job and it is truly inspiring.  Through Gary, we got a sneak peek at how the Disney Parks Blog is run and how the content is created.  I know it goes without saying, but the creativity within his team is endless.

Following a few special character sightings, we were off to enjoy the parks with our families and friends.  Honestly, networking with the enthusiastic attendees is one of the best parts of the Disney Social Media Moms Conference!  To close out the day, we were treated to VIP seating for the “World of Color” which was truly spectacular.

Stay tuned for more Pixie Dust on Day Two!

Walk of Shame is Perfect “Girls Night In” Movie

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

I am fortunate enough to live in the same City where I grew up.  I’m a New Orleans girl….heart and soul.  Because I haven’t moved around much, I have been able to keep in touch with many childhood friends.  But as life went on, our schedules got busier and we had less and less time to connect.  But I am so thankful for these friendships that have stood the test of time. When we do find time to visit, it’s like no time has passed at all and we pick up right where we left off.

We make a point to set a date about every three months and this time we decided on a “Girls Night In.”  Being that I had just attended the “Walk of Shame” premiere and it was being released On Demand, I knew it was the perfect suggestion.  Even though the girls didn’t know why, I told them that the movie has a yellow theme and that they should showcase the color in their wardrobe or accessories. Meanwhile, I got the house ready with yellow tablecloths and themed food and beverage for my two old friends.

Getting comfy on the couch, we easily downloaded the movie from iTunes and were ready to roll!  Before long, we were laughing and having a great time!  About the movie:

The outrageous comedy WALK OF SHAME stars Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect) as a resourceful reporter whose one-night stand with a handsome stranger (James Marsden of Anchorman 2) leaves her stranded the next morning in downtown Los Angeles without a phone, car, ID, or money – and only 8 hours before the most important job interview of her career.

We could totally relate to Elizabeth Banks’ character who, no matter how hard she tries to do the right thing, can’t seem to catch a break.  My friends and I are all turning 40 this year, so the idea that sometimes life throws you lemons and you just can’t make lemonade.  It’s just a part of life.
The film made us forget our worries, relax, have fun and realize that our lives aren’t nearly that bad!  Spending the two hours laughing with true friends was definitely good for the soul.  Learn more from the Walk of Shame Facebook page.

“Walk of Shame” Anything But Shameful

My weekly activities generally include going to work, helping kids with homework, bringing my girls to dance class and of course, blogging.  But my average week was given an upgrade when I had the opportunity to cover the red carpet premiere of Walk of Shame, a new movie starring Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden.
The outrageous comedy WALK OF SHAME stars Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect) as a resourceful reporter whose one-night stand with a handsome stranger (James Marsden of Anchorman 2) leaves her stranded the next morning in downtown Los Angeles without a phone, car, ID, or money – and only 8 hours before the most important job interview of her career.
I may have been slightly (ok, extremely) intimidated to be standing next to entertainment giants such as EOnline! and US Weekly, but I was elated to have my own little spot on the runway.
I had a great time chatting with Writer/Director Steve Brill and Lead Actress, Elizabeth Banks.  They both expressed such a love for the movie and stressed that we should forget our worries, relax and have fun.  After seeing the movie, I can certainly see why!  I don’t want to reveal too much about the movie, but I can tell you that I was in stitches!

On May 2nd, the movie will be released in select theaters and VOD.  To celebrate, I will be donning my best yellow dress (you will understand why when you see the movie) and hosting a Girls’ Night In to watch the release and spend some time laughing with friends.  To join the party, follow Elizabeth Banks on Twitter while using the hashtag #WalkOfShame and she will be live chatting during the premiere at 8pmEST.
Want a sneak peek?  Check out the trailer below:

Top 5 Disney Tips from a Travel Agent

With Summer right around the corner, no doubt you are starting to plan your family vacations. If you are thinking about heading to Disney World, check out these tips from a Mom who also happens to be a Travel Agent:

1.  Slow Down.  If you have small children,  getting to the park at opening is not really that important if you are visiting on a lightly attended day.  Let the kids wake up at a reasonable time, stay at the park through lunchtime and return to the hotel for some down time or even a nap.  Head back to the park around 4pm when its not so hot and lines start to shorten.  If you plan to stay for the fireworks, don’t immediately try to exit the park with the masses but stay a few minutes until the crowd thins.

2.  Plan Ahead. Subscribe to a touring website such as www.touringplans.com for up to date closures and park crowd expectancy.  Use this website to track crowd levels and visit the least busy park for that day.  This tool will also tell you about any special events happening at parks which usually boost crowds up.  We also love the Disney World Wait Times App to determine which rides have the shortest lines.

3.  Consider the Dining Plan.  The Disney dining plan is well worth the extra money if you plan on doing character dining.  Most character dining will only cost you one table service meal on your dining plan and saves a lot of money.  In one trip we did Chef Mickey’s, Ohana and the Princess Storybook breakfast at Epcot on our dining plan.

4.  Location, Location, Location. If you plan on spending most of your time at the Magic Kingdom, consider staying at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge or Contemporary hotels.  You can save considerable time getting to the park by using the boat or monorail.  Also, if you have smaller children and hate leaving the parks after the fireworks you can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks displays from the beach at your hotel.

5.  Take to the Water.  If visiting Disney during warm months, the Water Park & More option is well worth the few extra dollars to add it to your Magic Your Way ticket.  Both of the water parks offer excellent kids areas and in my opinion are pretty great as far as water parks go.

DISNEY DEALS

Now, for some Pixie Dust!  Right now Disney World is offering up to 30% off rooms at select Disney World Resort Hotels for stays 3/14-4/12 and 4/20-6/15/2014.  Save even more by upgrading to a room and ticket package with a minimum 4-Day Magic your Way ticket package and get one more ticket day FREE!

Ready to wear your Mouse Ears?  Call Mom & Travel Consultant for Travel Central Vacations, Rachelle Noullet at 504-487-7574 or email at rachelletravels at gmail dot com.

See ya real soon!

Join me for a Shari’s Berries Twitter Party #RAOBerries

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy.  While it is part of a compensated campaign, all opinions remain 100% mine.

Did you know that February 10-16 is Random Acts of Kindness Week?  What a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your family by spreading the love to neighbors, friends and even strangers.  As a Mom of two girls, I plan to use the Random Acts of Kindness Week as a teaching tool to show them what a difference they can make in the lives of others.

SharisLogo

To celebrate, join us for the Shari’s Berries #RAOBerries (Random Acts of Berries) Twitter Party on Monday, February 10th at 9pm ET to kick off first day of Random Acts of Kindness Week! Not only will there be sweet prizes, but you’ll also get to GIVE prizes to a special someone and brighten their day!  It’s so much better to give than receive!

Want to get a head start? Plan your random act of kindness by checking out what’s available at Shari’s Berries.  You can’t go wrong with a basket of comforting cookies, or a box of chocolate-dipped berries and right now you can get 20% off their Valentine’s Day collection with code SWOON.

Twitter Party Details

What: Shari’s Berries Random Acts of Berries Twitter Party
When: Monday, February 10 from 9-10 p.m. EST (8 CT & 6 PT)
Who To Follow:
Brand: @SharisBerries
Co-Hosts: @JollyMom @StacieInAtlanta
Blogger Panelists: @crissy @7onashoestring @BridgetteLA @ThriftyChicMom @GoGrowGo
Rules: For the Official Rules click HERE

Join Me for the Personal Creations #SweetestThing Twitter Party!

While most New Orleanians have their focus set on Mardi Gras, don’t get thrown in the dog house by forgetting Valentine’s Day!  With just two weeks left to go, it’s time to start thinking about those sweet things that make your loved ones feel special.

Come join us on Tuesday, February 4th from 8-9pm ET for the Personal Creations #SweetestThing Twitter Party. The party will be hosted by two of my favorite bloggers @StacieinAtlanta and @JollyMom but I (@BridgetteLA) will be joining as a panelist along with @ThriftyChicMom @TheShoppingMama @Crissy and @7onastoestring. We’ll be talking all things LOVE and sharing gift ideas perfect for your Valentine. It will be a great place to get some ideas from Personal Creations that will definitely help you woo your loved one!  What’s the sweetest thing of all? The prizes, of course! We’ll be giving away over fifteen prizes throughout the hour!

Twitter Party Details

What: Personal Creations Sweetest Thing Twitter Party
When: Tuesday, February 4 from 8-9 p.m. EST (7 CT & 5 PT)
Who To Follow:
Brand: @PCGifts
Co-Hosts: @JollyMom @StacieInAtlanta
Blogger Panelists: @crissy @7onashoestring @BridgetteLA @ThriftyChicMom @TheShoppingMama

Hope to see you there!

Reconnecting at the Beau Rivage Biloxi

This review was written by the Experimental Mommy.  While travel expenses were provided, all opinions remain 100% mine.

With two daughters involved in many different activities, my husband and I are able to get some quality time with each other about, um…..never.  Quite honestly, I think the last time we spent the night together away from the kids was at least four years ago.  Sad but true.  So, I could not have been more excited to head to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS for some time to relax and reconnect.

With many kisses and hugs (and thank yous to my parents for watching the kids), we headed out the door for a quick road trip to the State next door.  The Beau Rivage sits majestically on the Gulf of Mexico, reaches 32 stories and employs more than 3,800 people.  Upon entering the hotel and casino, it is easy to see why this is one of the most popular attractions on the Gulf Coast.

First step: check in.  We were told to head to the VIP check in desk which was filled with complimentary water, tea and coffee.  The staff was very friendly and got us into our room in no time.  We headed up to the 25th floor to discover we had one heck of an amazing view!

Our room was very spacious and included a King size bed with double pillow top mattress, a 32″ flat screen TV, free Internet access and a sitting area with table and chairs.  I will say that the huge bed looked very inviting to this Mom who is constantly on the go (the thought of taking a non-interrupted nap was almost too hard to pass up).

Alas, hubby and I headed to our couples massage appointment at The Spa at Beau Rivage.  Now, I have had a few massages in my lifetime, but this was hubby’s first time.  His anxiety over it only made me giggle which made for quite an interesting appointment.  Our massage therapists were wonderful and made us both relax and enjoy the experience.  The Spa was beautiful and no detail was forgotten.  My favorite part was that there is a co-ed area with lounge chairs overlooking the pool where you can have room service bring you anything your heart desires.  And you know what?  It was quiet and no one asked me to take them to the potty or get them a drink.  #winning

After we were nice and relaxed, we decided to catch the Saints playoff game from our cozy room.  Since the Saints lost, I think all of the good from our massages went out the window and our blood pressure skyrocketed.  But it sure was nice to watch the ENTIRE game together without interruption.

All that screaming cheering during the game worked up an appetite so we headed to Stalla, one of the casual restaurants in Beau Rivage, for a bite to eat.  About the restaurant:

Stalla, Beau Rivage’s new Italian restaurant, creates just the right recipe for an evening of classic Italian food: a reasonably priced menu of gourmet selections paired with premium Italian wines and excellent, attentive service.

Walking into Stalla, you can smell the wood burning oven and immediately get a cozy feel from the decor and lighting.  The only thing I didn’t like about the restaurant is the seating for couples.  We were having such a great time reconnecting and talking about things we never have time to discuss.  But the seating for tables of two are along a wall and very close together making it very easy to hear the conversation next to you.  That being said, the food was A-MAZING.  Hubby and I opted for an appetizer of blue crab cakes which we devoured in a short amount of time.  I finally decided on the Beef Tenderloin which had a port wine reduction giving it a very unique and tasty flavor…almost sweet.  LOVE.

The next morning, we had a take-out breakfast from The Roasted Bean which had some great options including fresh fruit, yogurt, bagels, biscuit sandwiches and more.  We loved being able to enjoy a quiet breakfast while watching the calmness of the Gulf.  While we hated to leave, we did miss our kiddos and were ready to head home for some hugs and kisses. The Beau Rivage Biloxi was the perfect getaway for my husband and I.

Quotes to Inspire Your 2014

With the turning of the calendar, we have a chance to create a new beginning.  Here are a few quotes to inspire your journey:

1.  To begin, take that first step.

2.  Surround yourself with the right people.

 

3.  Put the past behind you.

4.  Let go of your fears.

5.  Just do it.

See more inspirational quotes on my Pinterest Board!  Happy New Year!

Top 10 Places To Visit in New Orleans With Kids

This post is brought to you by CableMover, however all opinions remain 100% mine.  Check out my post on the CableMover blog!

When you think of New Orleans, chances are that images of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street and general debauchery come to mind.  But, did you know that New Orleans is a very kid-friendly City?  As a New Orleans native, I have grown up here and am now raising my own children in this wonderful place that I am proud to call home.  In a City rich with tradition and culture, your kids will never be bored.  Here are my Top 10 Places to Visit in New Orleans with Kids:

10.  Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium:  If you have a bug lover in your home, buzz by this unique museum where you will look at, learn about and even eat insects!  The 4-D animated movie at the end of the tour is always a fan favorite.

9.  Roll on the River on the Natchez:  The last authentic Steamboat to travel the Mighty Mississippi, the two hour tour offers scenic views along with delicious food (and kids will love the calliope).

8.  City Park Storyland: Relive your childhood by taking your own kids to play in, around and on 25 larger than life storybook sculptures.  Be sure to visit the Amusement Park just next door and take a ride on the restored antique wooden carousel.

7.  Audubon Aquarium of the Americas:  Meet the penguins, sea otters, jellyfish, and white alligator that are proud to call New Orleans home.  Many interactive exhibits including petting stingrays and feeding parakeets are sure to delight your little ones!

6.  Cafe du Monde:  All of this sightseeing is sure to work up an appetite!  Don’t miss the sugary beignets that natives can’t get enough of.

5.  Take a ride on a Streetcar:  For kids that are train lovers, this is a great way to inexpensively see the beautiful and historic homes of the Garden District.

4. New Orleans Museum of Art: This museum has recently made great strides in making art accessible to little ones!  Join fun adventures such as StoryQuest which will both teach and entertain the kids.

3.  Louisiana Children’s Museum:  Looking for a hands-on interactive adventure?  Learn all about NOLA culture in a wonderland of fun at this museum.

2.  Audubon Zoo: Ranked among the country’s best for innovation and entertainment value, the Audubon Zoo is not to be missed.  Lions, tigers, elephants, sea lions, giraffes and my personal favorite, the orangutans are all asking for you!

1.  Mardi Gras:  Yes, I said Mardi Gras!  The two week long celebration is actually quite kid-friendly!  Choosing a spot to watch the parades is key (and an article all by itself), but your kids will never forget the lights, music, throws, costumes and sense of community you will only find in New Orleans.  And don’t forget to eat some King Cake, too!

Have I convinced you to visit or perhaps move to New Orleans?  If you are in the process of moving, check out this great free service, CableMoverwhich will help you find the best deals on bundled services for TV, Internet and telephone service in your new area.  Come share your City’s Top 10 on CableMover’s Facebook page and connect with them on Twitter for more tips!