2016 Disneyland Diamond Celebration Recap

I'm back! Last week I went to Disneyland for training and to experience the Disneyland Diamond Celebration. I missed my hubby and babies, but it was an amazing getaway.  Does it look like I had some fun? I don't like taking pictures, (Hence why I am a photographer - I get to be behind the camera!) but I LOVE me some Disney Characters!
Just hanging with my friends..
I was lucky enough to stay at Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa. It was beautiful and definitely has earned the status of "grand!" My favorite part about this resort was its vicinity to the parks. It has it's very own entrance into California Adventure for its guests to use! AWESOME...

Disneyland's Grand Californian Resort & Spa's lobby & stained glass entrance
The special 60th Anniversary entertainment of course was awesome. "Paint the Night", "World of Color - Celebrate" and the "Disneyland Forever Fireworks" alone were worth the trip.

Paint the Night parade & World of Color - Celebrate!
Now are you ready to be jealous? I toured both Walt Disney's personal apartment AND the Disneyland Dream Suite! It was amazing. 

Dream Suite Entrance
Disney never disappoints. I experienced amazing lodging, delicious food, fun rides, once in a lifetime entertainment, and even received an intriguing and inspirational history lesson. I can't wait to go back.

Two of my favorite rides : The Tea Cups & The Hunted Mansion
Mickey Waffles - Yum
Walt & Mickey
Have you been to Disneyland? Are you thinking about visiting soon? Contact me at belleofmyownball@gmail.com, I can help!


Homemade Granola Cereal

Beautiful sea of delicious, crunchy, granola.
I miss cereal. What I mean is that I miss cereal that isn't the best for me. I miss the crunch. I found this awesome recipe and it has become a stable in the Swaim household. It is also freezer friendly which I LOVE!
Author: Belle of My Own Ball 

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup steel cut oats
  • 1½ cups raw chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews) I used almonds and pecans because that is what I had on hand.
  • ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
  • ½ cup ground flax seed
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp ginger
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 T coconut oil
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. In a microwave safe bowl, heat coconut oil is melted.
  4. Add honey and mix well.
  5. Add vanilla.
  6. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix. Make sure the dry ingredients are well coated. 
  7. Spread evenly onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (No need to stir.)
  9. Remove from oven, let cool, and then break apart.
  10. Store in the freezer, unless you plan to eat it all within a few days. 

Now, like all granola, this is not a low calorie cereal recipe, but a healthy one! Nuts, ground flax seed, rolled oats, OH MY!

Portion control. I need that.
I store ours in the freezer because I know we/I won't shouldn't eat all of it within a few days. Store it in a huge mason jar or plastic storage bags. In order to keep myself from over indulging, I portion out individual containers for a quick grab to go with a yogurt parfait.
Delicious granola on top of my yogurt parfait!
 How do you eat your granola?


Getting Back On Track After A Vacation

We have all been there. We go on vacation and our healthy routines are disrupted. We might not get our usual work out in (Although I did manage to walk 15,000+ steps per day ALL 4 days spent in Disneyland!) or partake in food we have been trying to avoid. 

But now you are back. It's time to tell ourselves that what happened on vacation stays on vacation. 

In the past I've had a difficult time getting back on track after a week of some indulging. It just didn't happen. All of my hard work would go down the drain and I would gain weight back. 

I am NOT going to let it happen this time. I'm ready to be back on my routine. My mind knows that a week of vacation is not going to derail my success because I am not going to allow it. I enjoyed my time in Disneyland and don't feel the slightest regret over anything I consumed because I know I will be back on track tomorrow. 

Now… Below are 4 things that I did today to make sure I was ready to get back on track tomorrow. I actually do these things every night now, not just when I come back from vacation. 

1. Make sure to have a stocked kitchen with healthy foods. 
2. Do a little meal prep and pack lunches so the excuse to go out for fast food during lunch is null and void. 
3. Throw a packed gym bag in your car the night before. 
4. Set out water bottle, tea tumbler, vitamins, lunch bag or really anything needed to start the day off right the night before. 

Healthy lifestyles are planned, especially when you are a working mom. Not having a game plan would make it easier for me to drop my kids off and get a Starbucks coffee and sandwich in the am followed by a fast food lunch because I was not prepared. Planning with the intention of being healthy is going to help me reach my goals. 

What do you do to keep yourself on track to a healthy lifestyle especially after a vacation?


Star Wars Valentine's Day Treat

This is the first Valentine's Day where I will be sending cards and a treat to school for Kellen! I'm so excited! (I thought this day would never come!)

This year I decided to design the cards myself. Since I love Star Wars and feel that it is never too early to share your fandom with your kids, I came up with this Yoda Bomb card. Isn't Yoda the cutest?

You can't have a Valentine's Day card without a treat so to continue on with the Star Wars theme, I made light sabers out of pretzel rods and chocolate. They are affordable, easy to make, and most importantly, DELICIOUS. Here are all the supplies I used.

If you have never made chocolate covered pretzels, it is seriously the easiest treat to make. I always use the candy coating that comes in the microwaveable tray and this time I colored it green to make the rods look more like light sabers.

Melt the candy coating in the microwave in the tray provided, add your oil-based food coloring until it reaches the color you want, and finally coat your pretzel. I find that using a spoon to spread the chocolate makes the process quicker.

Place the coated pretzels on wax paper covered cookie sheets and BAM, done. EASY. After they are dry, (takes about 20 minutes) package or store in an airtight container.

Kellen thought they were delicious and is very excited to take them to school Friday. What special treats are you making for Valentine's Day?


January Goal Recap & February Goals

Greetings fitness seekers!

I can't believe we are starting the second week of February. January flew by!

I don't know about you, BUT my January was FAR from perfect.

When the new year rolls around and resolutions are cast, you set out to conquer and sometimes it just doesn't pan out exactly like you had hoped.

I did pack lunch EVERYDAY I worked and that makes me happy.

I didn't however meet my 10,000 steps per day goal. I did reach 247,030 steps or 80%. I'll take it, BUT need to improve in February.

I reached my calorie goals 62% of the days in January. In the past, the first time I would go over my calorie goals I would just quit. This time it was different.

Instead of sitting here depressed that I didn't meet my goal like I have in the past, I told myself that  life happens, acknowledged that I went over, and just kept going. Progress over perfection.

Even with not being perfect 100% of the time I was still able to lose 16.2 pounds in January.

These are the weekly goals I worked on in January and have decided to work on them again in February. If you like the card below, check out Cathy Zielske's FIT class, here.

How did your January go? What are your goals for February?


Pottermore Announcement Excitement

I am still riding the Harry Potter high since attending Universal's, A Celebration of Harry Potter so bear with me as I write just one more blog post about the experience… this week.

One of the perks of being part of the celebration was being the first to hear a HUGE announcement made by Pottermore. For those who don't know what Pottermore is head over there right NOW.

J.K. Rowling launched the website in 2011 just before the release of the final movie. It is an online community where you can explore the Harry Potter series.

Finished the series and going thru withdrawal? Pottermore is the place to go. Read new tidbits about the characters in the series from J.K. Rowling herself. As you can see, I am a fan.

At the celebration, Evanna Lynch, the actress who portrayed Luna Lovegood, made the announcement that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, and Durmstrang Institute are NOT the only wizard schools!

At the celebration, the crowd went absolutely wild. You could feel the excitement.

She introduced us to four more schools, Mahoutokoro in Japan, Uagadou in Africa, Castelobruxo in Brazil, and finally Ilvermorny in North America.

Harry Potter fans rejoice! I can't wait to learn more about these schools, especially Ilvermorny! (She hasn't released any details for Ilvermorny yet!)

I really hope J.K. Rowling releases a series for each of these new schools! One can hope right?

Now the real question? Which school would you want to attend? (As a foreign exchange student of course! Hogwarts for life!)



Universal's 2016 A Celebration of Harry Potter - Recap!

Kierstyn and I just got home from our trip to Universal for their annual A Celebration of Harry Potter. It was the best girls trip ever!

Friday we made sure we were on the first shuttle to Universal at 7am. It was still dark and cold! We arrived and made our way to the entrance and were one of the first people in line.

They opened the park at 8am and the mad dash began to Diagon Alley. It was a sea of wizards, witches, and even some muggles as far as the eye could see.

This was our very first trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We both had heard and read about it's awesomeness, BUT were not truly prepared for the level of awesomeness. You really do feel like you are in the books/movies. The attention to detail is simply amazing.

Before we explored Diagon Alley we made sure to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, twice, BUT then it was on and the photography madness began. We both took photos of EVERYTHING.

After much exploring, we rode the Hogwart's Express to Hogsmead. We partook in the three Harry Potter themed rides available there, Dragon Challenge, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

In what felt like the blink of an eye the evening rolled around and we attended the opening night ceremony and exclusive evening event at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The next two days were a flurry of Harry Potter activities. We attended exclusive Talent Q&A sessions, panels and demonstrations, the Harry Potter Expo, and film tribute.

We ate delicious treats like cauldron cakes, and butterbeer ice cream. We drank butterbeer in all of its forms; cold, warm and frozen.  We dined at iconic locals such as The Three Broomsticks and The Leaky Cauldron.

Even after experiencing all of these activities and delicious food and treats, my favorite part of the trip has to be the Harry Potter fans we met and how they brought Kierstyn out of her shell.

At the very beginning of the trip Kierstyn would admire costumes from afar. She would be near fans discussing the books and movies and not join in.

After about a day or so it was completely different. She would see an awesome costume, tell them she thought that it was AND even asked for a picture with them. She shared her fandom with the people around her. She struck up conversations on her own. She even fangirled with an 11 year old from Brazil! It was mostly done in hand gestures and huge smiles, but fun nonetheless. As a parent that was neat to see.

For me personally, all of the above was amazing. We toured the parks, drank our weight in butterbeer, and fangirled, but what will stand out in my mind is Kiery reading her favorite Harry Potter fan fiction to me every night after an exciting day of events at the parks. Oh how the roles have been reversed.

What activities do you participate in or trips do you take to build bonds and make memories with your kids?

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