Your Guide to the 2017 Cherry Blossom Festival

monument-600x450It’s that wonderful time of the year! Time for the Cherry Blossom Festival! Let’s get to the events!

Opening Ceremony
Warner Theatre, 513 13th Street, NW
5-6:30pm
Kick-off the 2017 National Cherry Blossom Festival by watching world-renowned performers. Opening Ceremony performers include Shigeyama Kyogen EL Squad ,
May J ,The 6821 Quintet

Blossom Kite Festival
Grounds of the Washington Monument near 17th Street NW and Constitution Avenue
Saturday, April 1st, 10am – 4:30pm
**SCHEDULE**
Competition Field
10:30-11:00am – Kite Ballets & Demonstrations
11:00am-1:00pm – Adult Kite Makers Competition
1:00-1:30pm – Soar into Spring Demonstrations
1:30-2:30pm – Hot Tricks Showdown
2:30-3:00pm – International Kite Demonstrations
3:00-4:00pm – Rokkaku Battle
4:00-4:15pm – Puzzle Rokkaku
4:15-4:30pm – Awards

Family Field
10:30-11:00am – Youth Kite Makers Practice Fly
11:00am- Noon – Youth Kite Makers Competition
Noon-12:30pm – Youth Kite Makers Awards
12:30-1:00pm – Mini Rokkaku Practice
1:00-1:30pm – Mini Rokkaku Challenge (ages 5-9)
1:30-2:00pm – Mini Rokkaku Challenge (ages 10-15)
2:00-3:00pm – Bol Races
3:00-4:30pm – Family Open Fly

Cinematsuri
Landmark’s E-Street Cinema at 555 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
Tickets are $13 per film
Times TBD
CineMatsuri 2017 is Washington DC’s first-ever Japanese film festival. Organized by the Japan-America Society of Washington DC, CineMatsuri showcases five of Japan’s most recent films, each in a different genre. All movies are shown in Japanese with English subtitles

Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk
National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, located at the intersection of Louisiana and New Jersey Avenues and D Street NW Washington, DC.
Saturday, April 1st, 9am – 12pm
This walk aims to bring awareness about what life was like for Japanese Americans during World War II. The walk will conclude with traditional Japanese and Palestinian folk dancing.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Southwest Waterfront – 600 Water Street, SW
Saturday, April 15th, 2pm – 9pm (Fireworks start at 8:30 PM)
This event is always a family favorite. It’s our favorite simply because it combines three of our favorite things – face painting, food, and crafts! There’s also live music, and of course, the big fireworks show to end the night.

Lantern Making Family Day at Yards Park
Yards Park – 355 Water Street, SE
Saturday, April 16th, 10am – 2pm
There will be two sessions of lantern making for children and adults, at 10:00 am and at 12:00 pm. As an official event of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the lantern making day will feature a variety of Japanese cultural activities, as well as a moon bounce for all children to enjoy.

SAAM Cherry Blossom Celebration
Smithsonian American Art Museum – 8th and G Streets, NW
Saturday, March 25th, 11:30am – 3pm
A taiko drumming performance kicks off the afternoon, followed by other traditional Japanese music and dance, face painting, and cherry-blossom themed crafts. Colleagues from the Freer|Sackler can help you make your own Japanese fan. Create a koinobori windsock at one of our crafting tables or check out the spring book corner with our friends from MLK Jr. Memorial Library.

Cherry Blossom Beer & Wine Festival
The Yards Lot H/I
Saturday, April 1st 1-4pm; 6-9pm/Sunday, April 2nd 1-4pm
Drink the District is back with the annual Cherry Blossom Beer & Wine Festival. TIckets are $19-$89 ($20 discount with promo code CAPRIV) and attendees can enjoy unlimited beer and wine, food trucks, and live entertainment all day.

Click here for more information and to buy tickets.

Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony
TIDAL BASIN AT Independence Avenue and 17th Street, SW
Sunday, April 2nd, 3:00pm – 5:00pm
The ceremony takes place at the newly dedicated Japanese Rock Garden. It includes traditional music by the Toho Koto Society of Washington, DC and songs by the Washington Japanese Choral Society. The Joint Armed Forces Color Guard of the Military District of Washington, DC presents the colors.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Constitution Avenue – From 7th to 17th streets, NW
Saturday, April 8th, 10am – Noon
The parade runs for 10 blocks along iconic Constitution Avenue featuring giant colorful helium balloons, elaborate floats, marching bands from across the country, and celebrity entertainers, and performers. Individual tickets start at $20. Group tickets are on sale as well. Get your tickets here. Standing along the Parade route from Constitution Avenue between 9th and 15th streets, NW is FREE and open to the public. Arrive early for the best views.

Who Is Performing:

    98 Degrees member and “Dancing with the Stars” winner Drew Lachey
    Grammy nominated country singer Jo Dee Messina
    DC-native DJ Kool of the 1996 chart topping single “Let Me Clear My Throat”
    Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields
    Brian Justin Crum, breakout star from the most recent season of “America’s Got Talent”
    Washington Redskins Cheerleaders
    Winners of the 2017 Sing Into Spring competition

Cherry Blast!
Dock 5 at Union Market, 1309 5th Street NE, Washington DC
Friday, April 14th, 7-11pm
Immerse yourself in DC’s vibrant Tokyo night market as Dock 5 at Union Market will be transformed into a busy streetscape that highlights Japan’s dynamic culture and ambiance.

You can expect:
Night Market: A hustling-bustling, communal marketplace lined with an array of food and artisan vendors – curated by acclaimed Chef Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto.
Music Stage: Vibe to the pulsating sounds of live artists and DJs performing all night long.
Interactive Art Showcase: A spectacular display of works by DC-based artists inspired by Japanese culture and the spirit of the cherry blossoms.
eSports Lounge: A high-tech arcade exhibiting the dynamic live-action of competitive play from the world’s hottest and fastest growing sports sector.
VIP Lounge: An exclusive lounge providing an elevated experience for 200 guests including open bar with special cocktail pairings and curated Tokyo street food (VIP ticket required).

Anacostia River Festival
Anacostia Park – 1900 Anacostia Drive, SE
Sunday, April 9th, 1-5pm
Head out to the Anacostia River to enjoy canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, bike riding, and nature walks.

Japanese Jazz Series at Blues Alley
1073 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
April 18-20, 8pm & 10pm
Celebrating Cherry Blossoms! Enjoy the music of young Japanese jazz artists at Blues Alley, performing as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival! Purchase tickets here.

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5 Things I learned about IUGR – IUGR Awareness Day 2017

Last Spring when I was sitting in the doctors office having an anatomy scan, I thought nothing of the fact that Isabella was measuring small. It was her belly that they said was tiny, but I just thought it was the fact that her dad was slender and perhaps she was taking after him.

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Early that summer my wonderful mfm (maternal fetal medicine) doctor sat me down and explained that the baby had Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) and that I would have to start coming in weekly at 28 weeks for her to be measured because of this. He explained that many times IUGR babies have to be taken early because they thrive better on the outside than they do on the inside. I seriously sat there like a deer in headlights just smiling and nodding as if I understood what he was talking about. I had no clue what intrauterine growth restriction was. I didn’t even know what questions to ask. At the time I had complete placenta previa, so I just added IUGR onto the pile of other things I needed to worry about.

I’m very happy to say that we made it to 35 weeks before scans started getting wonky and Isabella wasn’t as reactive as they wanted her to be. When she was born she weighed 4.4lbs and was 17 inches. Compare that to her sister who at 37 weeks was born 7.2lbs and 21 inches. Even though I had a wonderful doctor, I still didn’t know much about IUGR or what it meant for my baby.After having Isabella I still needed to sort through so many emotions and figure out some things. Here is what I have discovered on my journey.

AN IUGR DIAGNOSIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD

I know it’s scary. The doctor throws words out there to you like preemie, stillbirth, NICU. I just want to tell you to breathe and believe. Pray on it. Give it to God. And by all means, please follow your instincts. If measurements seem off to you, if you feel like your baby that usually kicks 20 times an hour now only kicks 10 times an hour, go get checked. Ignore any looks you may get form doctors or nurses. Be in control of your own pregnancy.It is important that you and your doctors are proactive. And if you have a doctor that isn’t well versed in IUGR, find one that is. If you can’t because you live in a super small town, join an IUGR group online so that you can have a support system and you can find out helpful information from others that have been where you are. It is because of prayer and super proactive doctors that I believe Isabella is here today.

IUGR IS STILL A MYSTERY

The medical community still doesn’t have a solid answer as to what causes IUGR. IUGR occurs in about 3% of pregnancies. It can be caused by placenta problems, poor nutrition, chromosomal abnormalities, unhealthy lifestyle of the mother… the list goes on and on. There is not one thing that doctors can look to and say yes, this is what is causing 3% of babies born to have IUGR! In my particular case, after Isabella was born I was told that my placenta was pretty small and that is thought to be the reason why she has the diagnosis.

THE GUILT IS REAL

After Isabella was born I felt so much guilt. I felt like it was totally my fault that she was born so small. My body failed her. I downright wailed after holding her for the first time. She weighed nothing; light as a feather, she was. And that broke my heart. If you are faced with an IUGR diagnosis, please keep this in your mind and carry it in your heart – Itrauterine Growth Restriction is oftentimes ideopathic. There was nothing I personally did to cause it. I had zero control over the formation of the placenta. Sometimes life just happens, and it makes us sad especially because we can’t control it, but God is always in control. However, I’m not going to tell you not to be sad. Be sad. Be angry. But don’t stay there.

EVERY IUGR BABY IS DIFFERENT

Today Isabella is 6 months old and weighs 14lbs. Currently I know another 6 month old IUGR baby that is 17lbs, and another that is 12lbs. You can’t guess where your baby will be in the next few months, never mind the next few years! I never in a million years would’ve guessed that we would need size 3 months clothing for as long as we have. Johanna literally grew along with her age – at 3 months she needed 3 month clothing, at 6 months she needed 6 months clothing, etc. Isabella was in preemie clothing for 2 months, nb for 2 months, and has been hanging out between 0-3 and 3 month clothing (depending on the brand) since then. We legit recycle the same 6 onesies and 3 pair of pants every week. It’s frustrating for sure, but I’m just happy that she is following her own growth curve.

Some IUGR babies will have issues whether in the beginning or as they get older. Others will never have issues. It is very common for IUGR babies to deal with gastrointestinal issues, and Isabella is no exception. She has been in pain for majority of her short life. It’s not continuous, thank God, but when it hits… it’s hard for her screams to not tear me down. Some of it is a milk protein allergy. Unfortunately the formula that can help her best with this,neocate, is astronomical in price and insurance rarely covers it. We now have her on Alimentum, which is still pricey, but not as bad. She still has boughts of pain, but not as often or intense. Her digestive system is just not that awesome yet and even with medication her acid reflux is terrible. We’re praying on it.

IUGR BABIES ARE FIGHTERS! SO PLEASE DON’T COMPARE THEM TO OTHERS.

Join any IUGR support group and you will often hear mama’s say that their babies are feisty! Every once in a while you have a mom that says hers is super chill,but feisty is usually what we call them. Not only are they feisty, but they are fighters. I have never met a baby as determined as Isabella is, and I’m sure many IUGR moms could say the same. I don’t know if it’s their small size, or maybe they have experienced more in utero than we will ever understand, but they definitely have the heart of champions. It is important for you to know this and for you not to go comparing them to other full term,normal size babies. I know you probably will anyway, but don’t let it mean anything. Every once in a while I’ll ask the ladies in my baby group how much their baby weighs, and I pay close attention to what their babies are doing developmentally . I don’t let it stick in my mind to torment me though. Isabella is her own person and even if she wasn’t an IUGR baby, she would still develop at her own pace. She did lag behind in responding to us calling her name and making eye contact, but she got there, in her own timing. But I bet you she could out roll any baby any time any day! That girl has discovered that she can roll anywhere she wants to go and she is all about it. It makes me giggle and I love it!She is not sitting up on her own for minutes at a time nor pulling herself around the floor like her sister was at this age, but that’s quite alright. She’ll get there when she’s ready.

Babies are a blessing, period. But I’ve discovered that most pregnancies do not go as smoothly in real life as they do in the movies.If you are currently dealing with an IUGR diagnosis, I really pray that this has been beneficial for you. I pray it has brought you some comfort and that you know if God did it for me, he can do it for you.To read more about our IUGR journey you can read this post here that I will continue to update with facts about IUGR as I learn them.

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Discovering Home

One of the things that Johanna and I love to do on a Saturday is explore our city. Thing is, it’s been a few years since we have moved from DC, yet that is the city we continue to explore.

I am a Maryland/DC girl. Born in DC, raised a couple of years in DC, then to MD, but spending 6 days a week in DC because that’s where I went to school and where my mom worked. When I moved back after college I went back to DC, then MD, then DC, and finally back to MD again. I am much more a city girl than a suburb girl, but Maryland costs a million dollars less than DC for a house, so it just made more sense for my family since we aren’t, well, millionaires. Thing is, embarrassing as it is, I don’t know much about Maryland at ALL.

Recently my husband and I spent a Saturday in Annapolis, MD for an early valentines day date. We had such a good time that we thought we would bring Johanna with us next time, so that’s just what we did. I discovered that I really do love Maryland. It’s beautiful! I’m glad we’re finally enjoying our own backyard. And you know what? I decided to vlog our day. Watch as we get up, get ready and try our best to make it out the door to enjoy main street in Annapolis. Don’t forget to thumbs up and subscribe!

 

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My Tiniest Heartbreak- IUGR

When I first really saw Isabella, I cried. A wave of guilt rushed over me cutting my visit with her short. After 10 minutes with the baby I gave birth to just 24 hours before, I asked my husband to wheel me back to my room and I cried.

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When I was about 22 weeks I was informed that Isabella was small. No big deal was made about it, just that she was small and they would keep an eye on her. Since they were already keeping an eye on my placenta due to placenta previa, it wasn’t much of a big deal. Then one day my doctor casually told me that she was IUGR and sometimes that meant having the baby as early as 28 weeks because they tend to thrive better outside of the uterus at a certain point. Scary stuff. Thankfully my doctor was so laid back and chill that I didn’t have a major panic attack, but I was worried. I kept wondering what the heck IUGR was? According to the American Pregnancy Association:

The most common definition of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is a fetal weight that is below the 10th percentile for gestational age as determined through an ultrasound. This can also be called small-for gestational age (SGA) or fetal growth restriction.

There is no one solid thing that accounts for IUGR, but the American Pregnancy Association lists these as conditions that could put one at greater risk factors:

The thing is, I had none of this at the time. However, during my pregnancy I went from having low blood pressure to having preeclampsia, and when Isabella was born we found out that she had a very small placenta.

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I’ll never forget looking at her wrinkly skin and tiny 4lb frame. I knew in my head that we were blessed. Yes, there were other babies much smaller and yes, she was healthy except for her size, but man. This was my baby and I felt guilty for my baby that was in my body being so tiny. Did I not eat enough protein? Was there something else I could’ve done to help her? I was crazy in denial about her size while pregnant. This kid moved so much and I could see her butt shifting across my belly when she moved. I thought she couldn’t possibly be as tiny as they said she was and ultrasound techs are often wrong, right? Not in this case.

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Because she was able to breathe on her own and her blood sugar and body temperature were fine, she only stayed in the NICU for 1 week. Our goal after that was just helping her gain weight. When I was pregnant with her she went from the 2nd percentile, to the 5th, then finally the 8th. Today she is in the 12th percentile, so still very tiny for her age. It no longer kills me on the inside when someone makes a remark about how tiny she is, but in the beginning it crushed me. And sometimes I’m still sad that she looks like a 2 month old when she’s actually 5 months old, but what can I do? We feed her when she’s hungry, giving her an extra half teaspoon of formula with every bottle (per the pediatricians instructions) and we wait. I’m apart of some wonderful IUGR communities on facebook and one thing I know is that you can’t predict how your child is going to turn out in a few months, not even in a few years. Everyone’s IUGR baby is different. Some of them stay tiny forever, others have mental delays. Some are normal on the charts now and are doing exceptionally well. All we can do is pray and try to help her reach her full potential as best we can. I can say that Isabella is passing every test and meeting every milestone, even exceeding some of them (rolling over at 2.5 weeks? Check!). Today she is fascinated with trying to dance like her big sister. I am beyond thankful for her progress. Every time I get sad it is ushered out by all the thankfulness I feel.

For more information on IUGR Please visit the American Pregnancy Association
For support wth your IUGR diagnosis you can join this awesome facebook group.
To keep up with my tribe, please follow me on instagram and facebook.

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This is How We Disney – Planning Advice

When I first started planning for Disney I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. However, as the process continued, I learned so much about Disney. I know it will help me anytime we want to go back there, and I can help family and friends plan as well. I learned a lot along the way, and I would like to share that with you.

When to Plan

If you want to go to Disney, start planning now. It’s never too early to start planning You have some people that plan 3 years ahead of time. That’s not me at all, but I do recommend that you start 1 year before you want to go. Learn Disney. Ask yourself what it is that you want to do most. Do you want to see all of the princesses? Is it more important that you do all of the rides? Do you care for seeing the shows? Are you seeking out the Fab 5 or all things Star Wars? Knowing the answers to questions like these will help you decide which parks you want to go to and how you want to spend your time there. If you know what you want to do, but aren’t really sure how to make that happen, I suggest you go to the Disney website and take a look at what each park has to offer. Then I would pay for a subscription to Touring Plans. Touring Plans can help you greatly with every part of your planning. There are even schedules you can copy. For instance, we used the princess schedules to get an idea of how we should spend our time. I tweaked it a lot, but having a blueprint was very helpful.Plus Touring Plans seems to be more up-to-date than the Disney website when it comes to which shows are showing when, which rides are closed, and even on how long wait times are for rides!

When to Go

This was easy for us to decide because we knew we wanted to go for Johanna’s birthday, but it may not be as easy for you. Take into consideration your budget – Can you afford to go during the high seasons, or should you wait until the off season to go? Do you want to go for one of the big Disney celebrations like Halloween and Christmas? If so and you plan to do all the things that come with that (the parties and special events) that’s going to take more $$$. Do you hate summer? Then you may want to consider not going between May – September. Is swimming a must for you? We found that you could swim in the coldest month (January), but everyday is not a guaranteed swim day like it is after February. Do you want late nights at the park? If so, winter is not for you. The parks close earlier in the winter than they do the rest of the year. However, January is the cheapest time to go, so if your budget is the biggest determining factor, take that into major consideration. It did not suck at all to go in January. The weather was perfect for us (66-80 degrees). We didn’t get all hot, sweaty, and disgusting while bouncing from ride to ride, the parks aren’t as full, and Johanna was still able to swim. If you go in the summer expect the exact opposite. If you’re ok with that, then have a great time! Stay cool, get some frogg toggs cooling towels and stay hydrated.

Where to Stay

I already touched on this earlier this week, but I will reiterate that if you are a family with less than 5 members, and your kids are Disney obsessed, I would definitely consider staying at one of the POP resorts because they scream DISNEY. However, my number 1 resort choice would be Art of Animation, and they have suites! If your kids could care less about how Disney the room is, Port Orleans Riverside was awesome! But if you can afford it, definitely consider the more luxurious resorts. Their more spacious, grand, and on the monorail system making it easier to get to the parks. Keep this question in mind when you are making your decision – How much time will we spend in the room, at the resort? If you don’t have resort days built into your schedule and you will simply be going back to the room to shower and sleep, then staying at the grandest resort will probably be a waste of your money.

Also, I think it’s important for you to know that the resorts do allow early check-in when they can. Of course it’s easier in the off season than it is in the thick of the high season, but it does not hurt to request an early check in. We did, letting them know we would get there at 11, and as I mentioned in the resort post, there was a room available, just not the one we wanted. The one we wanted became available at 1. That gave us time to eat, and see a bit of the resort.

The Dining Plan

We got the dining plan, but not the deluxe dining plan. I can’t ever see us getting the deluxe. It’s just way too much food! The regular dining plan was too much food for us, although on paper it does not look like it will be. What people don’t tell you is that alot of the restaurants are buffets, quite a few give you healthy portions, and only a couple give you regular sized portions. I promise you that if we ate breakfast we still weren’t necessarily hungry at dinnertime. We ate only because we didn’t want the money we spent on the dining plan to go to waste. Here is what our plan included:

  • 1 Quick Service Meal (entrée and non-alcoholic drink)
  • 1 Table Service Meal (entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic drink or full buffet meal)
  • 2 Snacks
  • 1 Resort Refillable Mug per person

When we got out plan it seemed to be a mixture of the old and new. We got 2 snack credits a day (which is new), but we still got a dessert with our Quick Service entree (which is old). The refillable mugs can be used at any of the resorts, and even if you don’t have the dining plan you can buy your own mug at the resorts. As I mentioned before snacks can really fill you up as well, so don’t ever think you’ll go hungry eating a snack. If you aren’t interested in doing character meals, I think going without the dining planning and simply paying out of pocket, or getting the Quick Service dining plan will be sufficient for you. The QS dining plan includes:

  • 2 Quick Service Meals (entrée and non-alcoholic drink)
  • 2 Snacks
  • 1 Resort Refillable Mug per person

That is more than enough!

Fast Passes

My biggest advice is to use your fast passes as early as you can with the rides that run out of fast passes first, like Frozen Ever After. Once you have used your 3 fastpass+ reservations, you can get one additional FastPass reservation at a time on the day of your visit.

Fast Pass+ is basically a reservation system that allows you to reserve a time on a ride or an attraction at the theme parks. You have one hour from the time of your reservation to use your fast pass. If you make a reservation to ride Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train at8:30am you have until 9:30am to use your fast pass. If you find yourself running behind you can cancel your fast pass in hopes of booking later. If you miss your window of time, that’s it, you can’t jump in the fast pass line for that ride, you just have to wait. I suggest you show up 5 minutes early for your fast pass.

For more information on the fastpass+ system, go here.

Last Piece of Advice

Have fun! Do the things you normally wouldn’t do. Have a silhouette of your children made. Go to the parades! Enjoy the shows. They are all apart of the magic. Disney is so much more than rides. It’s the experiences and the encounters that really make it magical. Stay late for a fireworks show, meet new people, try something different to eat at Epcot. While you are there let yourself enjoy it! The time goes by so fast, and you’re so exhausted in the end. You might as well make some magical memories while you’re there. Oh, and get memory maker. You don’t have to get it every time, but if it’s your first visit, just do it. DO IT! There’s nothing like seeing Johanna’s face the first time she was on 7 Dwarf’s Mine Train. Nothing like it.

The posts this week were in no way intended to be an end all be all on how to do Disney. There are plenty of websites that offer that. It was supposed to give you a snapshot of how we did Disney, what worked for us, and what did not. I hope you enjoyed checking it out as much as I enjoyed reliving it! I feel very blessed that the Lord has blessed my husband and I with the opportunity to share Disney with our kids.Happy plannig! Have a magical time, and if there are any questions I can answer for you, please feel free to ask!

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This Is How We Disney – Do You Believe in Magic?

Now, we all know that Disney is Magical. You can feel it as soon as you see the castle, or the first character. But we wanted to make it even more magical for Johanna on her birthday.If you have a princess, you have to make an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB).

The BBB is located inside the infamous Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom with a second location in Disney Springs. It is a salon for princesses (and knights too!) to get all glammed up. It is owned by the Fairy Godmother of all Fairy Godmother’s and the Fairy Godmothers in Training are the ones that service the kids who range in age from 3-12. This was Johanna’s favorite experience on her birthday, and here’s how we made it happen.

We learned that reservations could be made 180 days in advance (by calling 407-939-7895). That was a little tricky because I was trying to get our precious Cinderella’s Royal Table reservations at the same time, but it worked out. As soon as I made the reservation at BBB the fairy godmother magically transferred me over to dining reservations and I was able to make our CRT reservations to begin right after Johanna would be done with her makeover. We were given a couple of instructions after making our reservations:

  • Hair must be clean. Washed, and ready to go.
  • Nails must be free of nail polish
  • The child must be between the ages of 3 and 12
  • A credit card is needed to make your reservation. You must cancel within 24 hours of your reservation or a cancellation fee will be applied.

Upon arriving at BBB we were asked if Johanna was going to buy a dress there or if she had brought her own. It just so happened that she wanted to be Belle for trunk or treat this past fall, so we brought that dress with us to Disney. They asked us which package we would be getting. Here were our choices:

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We went with the Crown Package. Johanna simply didn’t need all of the other stuff in the other packages. She also went with the traditional Fairy-tale Princess hairdo. FYI, The Knight Package is $19.95 plus tax and includes hair styling with colorful gel and confetti as well as a sword and shield.

They showed us to a dressing room where she could change, then we came out and waited for her Fairy Godmother to be ready. While it was packed in there, we did not have to wait long. Her Fairy Godmother was wonderful. I think it is important for my Black readers to know that her Fairy Godmother was not Black and she did her hair just fine! Scouring around the internet I found that whether or not they could do ethnic hair well was a concern for many, not just myself. I did blow dry and quickly flat iron Johanna’s hair the night before to make it more manageable though!

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When Johanna is in a new situation with someone she does not know, or heck, sometimes even with people she does know, she can be very shy and look shell shocked. Her Fairy Godmother was so wonderful. She talked to her the whole time and was very sweet. I must also say that the appointment flew by! I think from the time we walked to the desk to the time we left was maybe 45. When we went to check out Johanna was over the moon about all the products she got to keep, her tote, and her sash.

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When you leave your appointment you can head right across the way for a photo-shoot. It was so professional and really made our princess feel important. After photos there we looked for a Disney cast member to take a couple of pictures with the castle in the background.

Thinking of making an appointment at the Boutique? Here are a couple of words of advice:

  • Buy your own dress for your princess to wear. It’s cheaper!
  • Purchase Memory maker. Photopass photographers are in BBB taking shots of your little one during their whole transformation and upload them right away to your my Disney experience account.
  • Go early or midday so that your little one can experience what it feels like to be a princess. After the makeover every single cast member at the park greeted Johanna with “hello princess!”. Super cute.
  • Don’t be afraid to go to the Disney Springs location. We did the location at the castle because it made sense since we had CRT reservations. However, there are extra perks at the DS location, such as Build-a-Tiara, which allows patrons to select a crown in the color of their choice and add individually priced jewels to it. There’s also Build-a-Wand which allows patrons to build a wand with beautiful accents. Then there’s Build-a-Jewel-Box which allows them to fill a pink satchel or jewel box with princess jewelry. To top it all off, your little one can virtually try on a collection of Disney Princess gowns and accessories, and watch themselves transform into their favorite princess with the help of a Magic Mirror.
  • Not feeling Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? Your little one could also get a transformation at the Pirates League or Harmony Barber Shop.
  • Is your princess too young for BBB? That’s ok. Have her wear a princess dress to the park because there are face painting stations throughout where they will do princess makeup for her.

Don’t forget, if you’re celebrating a birthday, let the agent know when you book your stay, and also when you check in. Sometimes they will lightly decorate the rooms or leave autographed character photos in the room for the birthday girl/boy. This didn’t happen for us, but I do know that it has happened for others.At check-in they’ll give you a birthday button and your little one will be wished happy birthday wherever they go. Also, when the button is worn they usually also give you a free cupcake at your table service meal.

If you have any questions about the BBB experience, please do not hesitate to ask me. It was truly magical, even for me. If you have experienced the BBB, I would love to hear how your experience was!

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This is How We Disney – All the Food!

When you’re going to Disney, ya gotta eat. All that walking you do, you have to refuel. Once we had our resort picked out and figured out which parks we wanted to do and when, we had to decided on meals. If you are staying at Disney you can book your meals 180 days in advance of your arrival.That sounded so crazy to me. Who makes dining reservations 180 days advance? You do, if you want to actually be able to get in to the restaurant of your choice, especially if you want to go on a specific day and around a specific time.

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Let me start with Dining at Port Orleans Riverside. I will tell you that we have no idea what table service food there is like. We seriously only at quick service food there, and it was good. There were burgers, pizza, fried seafood, an awesome little salad spot, and a sandwich area. There was also an area with just treats.We don’t have any regrets.

We knew we wanted to make Johanna’s 6th birthday extra special, so picking the right restaurant was key. Based upon her love for princesses, we narrowed down our options to Akershus at Epcot and Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT) at Magic Kingdom. After much thought we chose CRT because at the time we were not sure if we were going to Epcot, but we knew that Magic Kingdom would be, well, magical, for her birthday.

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CRT is expensive. When I called to book I didn’t have the dining plan yet. I had pay (yes pay in advance) $200 for 3 of us to eat. While that did include the tip, It was still a very expensive meal for such a little person. The plus was that she was guaranteed to meet 5 princesses, including the Princess of all Princesses, Cinderella (who she doesn’t care about at all mind you) and she would get to eat in the castle. What little girl wouldn’t love that? Once we found out we were going to Epcot I did make a reservation at Akershus, but we ended up cancelling it and here’s why. There is no guarantee of which princesses will be where for either restaurant. I believe the only given is that Cinderella will be at CRT and not at Akershus. In hindsight, I would’ve chosen Akershus for the princess experience because the food choices are much better than at CRT and Johanna could care less that she was eating inside the castle. Also, if you get the dining plan, CRT is 2 table credits. Not worth it. We went to CRT on Thursday and found out taht the exact same princesses minus Cinederella were going to be at Akershus on Friday, when we had our reservation. Because of that, we switched our reservation to Via Napoli.

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I had heard wonderful things about the pizza at Via Napoli, but wouldn’t you know, pizza isn’t what I ordered. My husband and Johanna got pizza and raved about it. I got Candele, which is stick pasta, sausage ragu, polpettine meathballs, mozzarella, and ricotta. It was so friggin good. So good! But it wasn’t the best meal I had while there.

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The best meal goes to 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios. Oh my goodness! 50’s Prime Time is American comfort food in a 50’s kitchen/dining room. Johanna stayed boring and ordered chicken nuggets, but my husband and I ordered A Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes which includes fried Chicken, Pot Roast, and meatloaf. When I tell you that is some of the best fried chicken I ever had! And that pot roast was super tender and flavorful. Even the meatloaf was yummy. And our waiter? Was super awesome. He not only had our area of the dining room sing happy birthday to Johanna, but he also has another family he was serving do the same. And although the specialty drinks are not a part of the dining plan, he brought Johanna one anyway and gave her an extra dessert for her birthday. He made it so special for her and we were so thankful. Also, when they call you to seat you, they call your name out like your mom would when she’s calling you to dinner. Love it!


Another fave of ours was Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. Crystal Palace almost didn’t make it on our list because Johanna isn’t a big Pooh fan at all, but hubby and I are! We love him! And I’m so happy we did it because it was our best character interaction experience. She even got to hold Piglets hand in a parade around our side of the dining room! All of the characters were as sweet as you would imagine they would be, and the food. The FOOD! We went just in time to experience breakfast AND lunch (11:15 reservation), but we only ate breakfast because it was plentiful and we were still full from the day before. My husband loved the breakfast lasagna and I loved this egg-sausage combo thing they had going on.

We at at Cosmic Ray’s one night for a quick service meal and it brought back great memories from the last time I was there in my early 20s! The burgers are still as yummy as they were back then.

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I must mention that we LOVED the pizza at Blaze in Disney Springs and were over the moon when we learned that they have a few in our state. Can’t wait to visit them again!

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Also, my favorite snack credit was that gigantic cinnamon roll from Gaston’s Tavern at Magic Kingdom. Not only was it hot and tasty, but all 3 of us were able to eat off of it.

Here are more restaurants that were recommended to me (QS – Quick Service/SC – Snack Credit/TS – Table Service):

Magic Kingdom

  • Mini kitchen sink dessert in MK (sc)
  • The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (sc)
  • Liberty Tree (ts)
  • Columbia Harbour House (qs)
  • Skipper Canteen (MK)

Epcot

  • Electric Umbrella (qs) – Epcot
  • Lotus Blossom Eggrolls or potstickers (sc)
  • Chips and guacamole in Mexico (sc)
  • Anything from the bakeries in France and Norway (sc)
  • The Caramel Shop in Germany (sc)
  •  Garden Grill (ts and character meal – Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale)
  • Rose and Crown (ts). Get a 7:30-7:45 reservation so you can watch Illuminations after your meal

Hollywood Studios

  • Hollywood and Vine only because you can meet Doc, Sofia the First, Jake, and Handy (ts)
  • Sci Fi Dine In for good burgers (ts)
  • Starring Rolls (sn)
  • ABC Commissary (qs)

Animal Kingdom

  • Tusker House (ts)
  • Rum Dole Whip (sc)
  • Flametree (qs)
  • Yak & Yeti (qs)
  • Boma (ts)

Outside the Parks

  • 1900 Park Faire (ts – character dining: evil stepsisters) – Grand Floridian Resort
  • Chef Mickey for the character interaction (ts – the fab five) – Contemporary Resort
  • Ohana (ts – Lilo and Stitch and friends) – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe (ts) – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

My advice:

If you’re on the dining plan, order the most expensive item on the menu for your meal. Get the biggest bang for your buck. That’s the only thing that will make the dining plan worth it.

Use the dining plan calculator to see if it is really worth it for you to get the plan. It wouldn’t have been for us because we just don’t eat enough for it. In fact, we had to spend $170 more to make it worth it. However, with the stay, play, dine package , we ended up paying $20 less for the trip in total with the plan, so it worked out.

Double check that all of your dining reservations are actually listed on your account. Crystal Palace somehow fell off of ours and they had to go through some backdoor server to find it. It was a mess.If you don’t see your reservation call in to make sure they link it and follow up within 24 hours to make sure it was done!

Typcially the food at Character dining is not amazing, but the pay off is that you get to meet many characters at once, which is important if you plan on getting autographs or photos. Decide earlier which ones you are willing to stand in line to see, which ones you want to skip, and which ones you would like to get close and personal with in a dining situation.

Figure out where you may want to use your snack credits ahead of time (you can go here for more suggestions). You don’t have to have a schedule, but just have it in the back of your head so you don’t wander around aimlessly and just keep getting popcorn or nuts because you’re not sure where you can use your snack credit.

Figure out your reservations at least a week before your 180 days. It’ll make things go super smooth when you can make your reservations.

You have to call to make Cinderella’s Royal Table Reservations ((407) 939-3463). You cannot make them from your disney account.

Again, you can make reservations 180 days before your stay. Go to the Disney dining website  at 6 a.m. Eastern time, ordo phone reservations at 7 a.m.

For more information on dining, go here.

What is your absolute favorite thing to eat at Disney?

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