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Tuesday
Apr052011

Universal Orlando and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter delivers on the magic

Remember when I was considering banning Harry Potter? The character has seeped into every crack in our lives. We hear magic games being played upstairs behind locked doors. Who said you could lock that door?? We have the books on-hand and open at any possible reading moment. And one of our twins has started saying "quite" every possible moment. Like, "I'm quite sure".

Well, I didn't ban Harry - not really, but we are "taking a break" for now which is fine because...

The girls got to experience HARRY POTTER IN PERSON!

While we were in Florida recently we were guests of NBC Universal and received a day of passes to Universal Orlando. With two huge Harry Potter fans our first stop, of course, was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!!

{cue tears}

Universal Studios,Harry Potter,Wizarding World

No really, Em started tearing up at the park gate when she realized exactly where we were headed!

She has dreamed about this day, every day for months now.

I felt my heart grow huge watching the girls with their jaws dropped, their eyes sparkling.

I also felt an enormous amount of gratitude to the folks at Universal for putting together this incredible moment. For making it happen. And I can't wait to go back for more!

I can tell you, IF you have a Harry Potter fan in your house, the Wizarding World and Universal Studios is a MUST.

A MUST!

Look at this place!

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You first enter through Diagon Alley (or is it Hogsmead?) where there is everything from the Hogwarts Express and Honeydukes

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(with real Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans including vomit, earwax, and dirt!)

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to the 3 Broomsticks and Butterbeer.

Universal Studios,Harry Potter,Wizarding World,Butterbeer

There is a hefty wait at Ollivanders for wands.

And of course there was a line for...

Universal Studios,Harry Potter,Wizarding World,Hogwarts

 

Hogwarts Castle

The BEST RIDE EVER: The Forbidden Journey

The Forbidden Journey is one part ride, one part visual experience (like IMAX), and one part animatronics coming at you.

It's incredible and better than any roller coaster I've ever been on!

I don't have photos from on the ride because you really need to check all your goods into a locker. No really, check it. You'll be happier not worrying about it and enjoy the ride much more. And you want your full attention to enjoy this ride!

Now, even though there is a line, you will thoroughly enjoy the cue where you wind around the castle visiting with the portraits that come to life

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visiting with Dumbledore in his office

and finally catching up with Harry, Ron and Hermione before the mission

Hogwarts,Harry Potter

All in all it was a great build-up to a an amazing ride!

There are two other rides in the Wizarding World including Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge but we were mesmerized with just walking around.

Tips for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Look for the small fountain in the center area for rinsing out your mug of Butterbeer or bottle of Pumpkin Juice.

Chocolate Frogs at Honeydukes make great teacher gifts and buy a few packages of Bertie Botts because I can't find them anywhere now!

Head straight there when you first get into the part because they issue tickets just to get into the Wizarding World area! Or, you can try waiting and going later in the day around 4 or 5.

If you have an Express Pass for the parks it won't work yet for the Harry Potter rides. Check and see when that will change.

Magical Memories with Harry

Harry Potter taps into so many things that excite a child: magic, secrets, and the fight between good and evil. Universal Orlando has really brought Harry Potter to life and made it something our whole family could enjoy. And now every kid in the 2nd grade class at our elementary school is asking their parents to take them to the place that has vomit flavored jelly beans. No joke!

Sticking with the chocolate frog,

Janine

You might also like:

When the power goes out on your birthday

Disclosure: I received free park passes and express passes for our family as a guest of Universal Orlando. We also received a gift bag filled with things to keep our memories alive. All opinions expressed here are my own and we were truly awed by the park and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This post was neither reviewed nor approved prior to being published. My kids have not stopped talking about Universal Orlando since we got home.

Friday
Mar252011

MorningStar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs for breakfast, lunch or snack

mmmmmmmmm

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WOAH!!!

Where is this review going? Get your mind out of the gutter please.

Yes, I decided after much debate to use the photo above.

I took the photo.

It's representative of the product.

The fact that it *may* or may not make you think of other things is completely out of my control.

But if it entices you to buy MorningStar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs then I don't think anyone's going to have a problem with me/it/this post.

Also, you should totally buy them.

Why buy MorningStar veggie corn dogs?

Taste - these were deelish! I wouldn't say they tasted like hot dogs cause they aren't hot gos. They are also not greasy and heavy like 'real' hot dogs. They just tasted good and we ate them up! Maybe lighter, lower salt too. I had mine with honey mustard sauce. The Twofer liked ketchup. What will you use?

Convenience - pop them in the microwave for a few seconds and you have a quick and easy breakfast! They store nicely in the freezer too.

Snackability - I am always looking for new after-school snack ideas. The Twofer come home from school famished and could eat and eat right up until and through dinner if I let them! I need snacks that keep them focused on homework but don't ruin their appetite. These were perfect!

Also, at just 150 calories with 2.5 grams of fat, they are definitely better for you than real corn dogs. Those vegetarians may be onto something.

Janine

Disclosure: I revceived a box of MorningStar veggie corn dogs at no cost for the purpose of this review. They really tasted good. All opinions expressed here are my own as was the decision to use that fab photo (you know you love it). This post was neither reviewed nor approved prior to being published - duh - or I would have probably had a more professional photo!

Thursday
Mar242011

Hannah Montana Final Season on DVD!

The girls were thrilled when this review package came in the mail:

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Hannah Montana Lives Forever

 

Click here to Buy on Amazon:  Hannah Montana Forever: Final Season

This special 2-Disc DVD set released March 8th covers the final season of the Disney Channel's popular show starring Miley Cirus as...Miley Stewart and her rockstar alter-ego, Hannah Montana. The DVD set has an exclusive alrenate ending plus lots of other extras including cast goodbyes and a special memory book!

Hannah's lessons make for a great gift

As we've seen Miley grow up and wrestle with having "the best of both worlds", each episode contains a little lesson for us all. Sometimes silly, sometimes serious, the secret that Miley hides and the way she has to balance both parts of her life offer a lot for a tween girls who is starting to struggle with finding out who she is among her friends and school mates. This is why I think kids fell in love with the show.

Even a rockstar makes mistakes, gets in trouble, fights with friends, and more.

Janine

Disclosure: I received the Hannah Montana Forever: Final Season 2-disc set at no charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed here are my own and this post was neither approved nor reviewed prior to being published. Also, I have often found myself sitting and vegging in front of the TV with the girls watching a marathon of Hannah Montana episodes. If I didn't actually like the show, I would not have accepted a 2-disc set! Granted, it's not for everyone - especially those with boys, but you never know! They might enjoy it too! Also, some links are affiliate links.

Monday
Mar212011

Disney Hospitality for Every Prince, Princess and Bride

Having just returned from the amazing Disney Social Media Moms Celebration I am reminded of why I became an easy fan of Disney. One word: hospitality

Disney does hospitality like know other

 

 who else offers pint-sized fancy furniture?

I've stayed in some truly amazing, award-winning (even 5-star) hotels in my life including
Mena House Oberoi
Mount Kenya safari club
Intercontinental Sydney

The service in these places is impeccable for sure, but hospitality is different than service.
According to the dictionary app on my iPad, hospitality means,

"the friendly reception and treatment of guests and others."


The key word for me is friendly.

Everyone is friendly at Disney.

The woman at the first night's dinner who remembered my family from last year's event welcomed me back.

The staff who help with crowd control at the rides, monorail, and those directing us to our special events all had smiles and seemed genuinely happy to, well, make it easier for us to get around!

The housekeeping people who cheerfully extended our check out time to 1:00 pm so we could enjoy the last morning at the parks.

Every single Disney employee that referred to the girls as, "Princess" which they questioned, but secretly LOVED.

The bell hop who hand-wrote our Magical Express bus passes so we could quickly hop on the waiting bus did so without the slightest hesitation.

It has me thinking more and more about the couple we met who got married at Disney and returned to renew their vows. And I totally get it.

Wedded bliss at Disney

One event we attended as part of this conference was held at the Wedding Pavillion at the Grand Floridian.

 

 Disney Wedding Pavilion at Grand Floridian

We saw first-hand how beautiful the space is. We got a peek at the new line of Disney wedding dresses from designer Alfred Angelo. And we got to hear more about Disney couture weddings from wedding expert, David Tutera from the show, 'My Fair Wedding'.

Having planned my own wedding, I know the amount of details that goes intoevdnt the smallest piece. Having now been exposed to the Disney level of excellence in all things including hospitality, I only wish there had been a Disney wedding option in Baltimore in 1998. You just know a Disney wedding would go off without a hitch, and more importantly for the bride, without a headache.

Plus, who wouldn't want to drive off in the sunset with their new husband in this?

Disney,wedding,cinderella,coach,carriage

I'm working on getting at least one friend to marry at Disney... Hint hint.

Janine

Disclosure: I received a discounted stay at the Grand Floridian as well as free park tickets, some meals, entertainment, and a bag of goodies through my participation in the Disney Social Media Moms conference. All opinions expressed here are my own and this post was neither reviewed nor approved prior to being published. We loved Disney before this conference and have had many magical moments on our own trips.

Monday
Mar142011

Secret ingredient to applying screen covers to iPhones and iPads

Have you ever tried to apply the plastic screen covers to a smart phone or iPad?

What's your trick?

Here's what most people I know do...

"I take it to the Apple store and make someone there do it!"

Seriously? There has to be a better way and I think I may have found it.

3M Natural View screen protectors

I was recently sent 3M Natural View screen protectors to review for my iPad.

My first thought was how am I going to get it on there all by myself?

But the benefits were too good not to try:

less glare

scratch resistant

stay clean edges

less smudging from all the Angry Bird games the girls play

3M Has the Secret Weapon...Tape!

See the video created by 3M engineers on how to apply their screen protectors

 

And, it works!

Less bubbles and lint!

I received a set of 3M Natural View screen protectors for my iPad to review and I did NOT watch this video. However, the squeegee (that helps push bubbles out) is built right in to the packaging and made it really easy to do it myself!

So far I've noticed a little less smudging but it's not completely smudge-proof. I don't think anything is though. I have noticed less reflection, and the edges really do repel dirt! Magic? I have no idea - but considering I think so many 3M products (post-it notes, removable tape) are magic I wouldn't be surprised.

Janine

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of 3M and received a Natural View Screen Protector to facilitate my review and a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate. All opinions expressed here are my own and this post was neither approved nor reviewed prior to being published.