2/26/16

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!

2/24/16

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 

Ingredients:
  • 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
Directions:
  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?

2/4/16

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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