Happy Thanksgiving From the Sena Family!

November 20th, 2010

Dear Readers — I’ll be taking some time off from the blog this next week to spend time with my family. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving week with your family as well!

I’ll see you back here after the holiday with lots of great stuff to share. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Celebrating the Holidays at Disneyland!

November 20th, 2010

We’re all huge Disneyland fans in our family, and I can tell you, the only thing more fun than spending a day at The Magic Kingdom (and California Adventure — I have to have my Soarin’ Over California fix!) is exploring the parks during the holidays.

(By the way, as you can see, I have no problem looking as ridiculous as possible when it comes to either Disneyland or the holidays…)

Well, there is one thing that’s even more fun — going with my brother, Lee, who hasn’t been to Disneyland since he was a kid, and my sis-in-law, Anya, our 6-year-old nephew, Christian, and our 18-month-old niece, Valentina, who have NEVER been there! Seeing all the Disney magic through the eyes of young kids is a great way to get into the holiday spirit.

Now, in case you didn’t know, Team Sena has been in the World Series spirit, big time. And what better place to celebrate the Giants’ big win than at our favorite place?

(See those shirts on my husband, Randy, and my son, Matt, above?) Apparently we weren’t alone. It was fun to walk around the park and see how many families were wearing their Giants gear after the big win. (And the guys had to pick the ORANGE tea cup, of course.)

So what did we do to celebrate the big win? At Disney’s Holiday Mom Blogger Event,

we created, with the help of Disney’s wonderf

ul camera crew and Disney ambassador Danielle DuBois (who is a total sweetie — and so knowledgeable about all things Disney), a fun video:

After that, Matt (who is such a Disney fan he asks for “behind the scenes” books about Disneyland for Christmas) interviewed Danielle about the Holidays at Disneyland Resort:

Of course, actually visiting attractions like the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World was the best part. They’re both completely decked out for the holidays — along with Main Street (amazing Christmas tree!), New Orleans Square and, well, everywhere else! Check out this video:

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle looks SO gorgeous and magical at night, and it was fun to see the kids’ eyes light up when they saw the fireworks over the castle. (And did I mention the SNOW that follows the fireworks? Christian ran to catch the snow as it fell. Very cool.)

And the Disneyland holiday parade, featuring Santa, of course, is a fantasy come true, with wooden soldiers, all your favorite characters and more.

Matt is 14, so he’s into Space Mountain, Indiana Jones and the Haunted Mansion. He pays so much attention to the Haunted Mansion, and how it differs between the “regular” version and the Haunted Holiday version, that he can tell you what items in the mansion got moved each year and what replaced them! Impressive.

And I’m happy to report that we took Christian to the Haunted Mansion (with a bit of a warning up front about the scary part at the beginning), and he LOVED it. (Thanks to the folks at Disneyland, by the way, for providing some of the great pics, here. It’s so much fun to add them to the shots my family took so you can see more cool stuff. Guests aren’t permitted to take flash pictures in the Haunted Mansion, so it’s fun to get to share this photo.)

Now, I like all the attractions, but what really made my socks go up and down this year was a particular treat you can only get at a certain time of year…

Over at Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square, Chef Martha L. Sigala creates the most mouth-watering Mickey Mouse cinnamon beignets with an incredible eggnog sauce. Forget the calories. (Hey, you’ll burn ‘em off walking around the parks, right?) You can’t miss these beignets.

And Chef Sigala has even been kind enough to share her recipe for the beignets (although you’ll want to go to Cafe Orleans to have them with that fabulous eggnog sauce, trust me):

You’ll want to spend plenty of time in New Orleans Square this time of year. Little Valentina loves any kind of live music, and this is a great place to take a break, enjoy a meal (we recommend the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, which Christian scarfed up), and listen to the music.

And New Orleans Square is decorated SO beautifully for the holidays. It’s a don’t-miss “land” for me this time of year.

All the lights and ornaments will dazzle the little ones, too. It was such a treat to see all the babies’ and toddlers’ eyes light up as their parents strolled through this area of the park.

Not to be outdone, California Adventure is in the holiday spirit as well, and Santa is busy greeting kids over at the Paradise Pier Boardwalk.

Speaking as a mom who’s always on the lookout for the perfect Christmas-card photo, I know you can just picture the wonderful shot you’ll have of your child on Santa’s lap in this beautiful setting. I love the Victorian style of Santa’s coat and vest. (Well done, Mrs. Claus!)

Our family has certain “musts” when we visit Disneyland, and that includes the Enchanted Tiki Room. No, the birds and flowers
aren’t decked out in holiday finery, but when you’re with a toddler who makes bird noises whenever she sees any bird, how can you resist?

Even the waiting area outside the entrance is fun, with flowers, water and even fire attractions to entertain you while you wait for the doors to open. Here’s Valentina waiting, with her Uncle Randy, for the show to begin. Yep. She’s lovin’ life.

Of course, there’s plenty to do for teens, too. (Just ask Matt, AKA “Mr. Fast Pass.” His record on Space Mountain in one day — so far, anyway: five times.) And as you can see, the Disney characters are happy to pose for those great shots with kids of all ages. Here’s Matt and Goofy. (It’s now Matt’s Facebook photo.)

Speaking of photos… Here’s something really cool to look forward to in the new year:

In 2011 (starting around late January), Disney guests will become the stars of a nightly spectacular when photos taken in the park during the day become larger-than-life projections, right in the park. At Disneyland, the façade of “It’s a Small World” will be the canvas for the show. (At Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, the guest photos will be projected on Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom.)

In both locations, Disney PhotoPass photographers will capture guests’ memories during the day, and as many as 500 photos will be used in each location every day. The nighttime show will use the latest in high- intensity projection technology to create vivid visuals.

The company also has launched a website for sharing and viewing memories, and it’s available now. Upload your photos, videos and text memories at DisneyParks.com/Memories. You can even categorize your memories by theme, emotion and location.

The website (also available soon in Spanish and French) has a simple-to-use interface for uploading, viewing and searching Disney memories. The functionality also will be part of the Disney Parks pages on Facebook, YouTube and MySpace. Check it out, then upload your family’s memories!

At the end of our day, souvenirs in hand (gotta get that Disneyland tree ornament each year), great family holiday  memories in our heads — and tons of great photos in our camera — we headed home with tired feet, snoozing kids and happy hearts…

…and visions of Mickey Mouse Beignets with Eggnog Sauce dancing in our heads.

CARS 2 — A Sneak Peek

November 18th, 2010

I’m wishing my son could be seven years old again because he’d go nuts for CARS 2. (Why did they make the title all caps? I haven’t a clue.)

Thought I’d share the just-released teaser trailer trailer with all of you who have kids this age. (Although, heck, we’re still huge Disney/Pixar fans in our family and we’ll definitely see it!)

The film doesn’t hit theaters until June 24, 2011. But it’s fun to get a peek. (And who doesn’t like Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen?)

Want more? Check out the CARS Facebook page.

Feed Your Family For Less

November 17th, 2010

With the holidays right around the corner, many of us will be searching for ways to take a bit of the sting out of our grocery bill.

Grocio.com is a new grocery-savings website that provides the latest information on sales at local stores along with an easy coupon-matching service for shoppers.

The process is simple:  Type in your grocery list and up pops a bunch of printable coupons for the items on that list. You can save your selections for future use so you don’t need to keep re-typing them.

Founder Gerald Buckley is a father of four young children and knows firsthand how expensive groceries can be. So he launched Grocio to help give other families a break on their food bill. Check out the site’s video demo.

Great idea, Gerald! We can all use a little help with the grocery bill — especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner.

Who Can Wait for Wordless Wednesday When Your Favorite Toddler Just Discovered Surf Dudes?

November 15th, 2010

Thanks, Kind Target Customer

November 11th, 2010

It had been one of those days.

Dishwasher problems. The contractor working on our deck railing took a chunk out of the deck. Long work day.

And then I ran to Target to get a bunch of stuff, and the cashier stashed, on the rack under my cart, the plastic box, raisin bread and vitamins I purchased. (He put the bread and the vitamins inside the box.)

As he did that I said to myself “don’t forget that stuff when you get to the car.”

You guessed it. I got home, unloaded everything and realized I was short one plastic box, a loaf of raisin bread and my One-a-Day for Women. I’d left the cart in the parking-lot cart-drop-off area. Someone was probably headed home with a plan to make raisin-bread French toast tomorrow, I figured…

But maybe not.

I called Target and asked for Customer Service.

“Did anyone turn in a plastic box with a…”

“With a loaf of raisin bread and some vitamins?” the guy said. “Got it right here behind the counter.”

How nice to be able to share with my teenager my little tale about the nice person who brought my little box of goodies back into the store.

Sometimes that’s all it takes, I told Matt, to turn “one of those days” into a pretty darned good day.

To the very kind person in the Target parking lot… Thanks.

Sesame Street Helps Children — and Their Parents — Grieve

November 9th, 2010

“When Families Grieve,” an Emmy-nominated, prime-time television special featuring Katie Couric and the Sesame Street Muppets, will be re-airing on PBS, in honor of Veteran’s Day, this Thursday. (Please check local listings for times.)

The special, produced by Sesame Workshop, presents families’ personal stories about coping with the death of a parent, as well as strategies that have helped these families move forward. Thanks to Sesame Street for tackling a tough topic an providing age-appropriate help for families. Here’s a sample clip:

You Child Can Win a Trip to NYC and $2,500 U.S. Savings Bond

November 8th, 2010

Does your first- through twelfth-grader love to write? Here’s a great opportunity for kids to win a a trip to New York City and money for college.

Olive Garden is holding its 15th-annual Pasta Tales essay-writing contest. This year, they’re asking students to “Describe how furthering your education beyond high school will help make your dreams come true.”  The contest grand prize is a three-day trip to New York City and a $2,500 savings bond.

The contest will give students in the U.S. and Canada the opportunity to share their stories in essays of 50 to 250 words.  Entry forms and complete rules are available on Olive Garden’s website and at local Olive Garden restaurants.

In addition to Olive Garden’s Pasta Tales grand prize of a three-day trip to New York City, including dinner at the Olive Garden in Times Square and a $2,500 savings bond, winners will be named in each grade category and awarded a $500 savings bond and a family dinner at their local Olive Garden restaurant.

Entries must include the writer’s first and last name, complete address, phone number, grade, date of birth and a statement that the work is his or her own.  Entries must be submitted either online or postmarked by Jan. 21, 2011 and sent to Pasta Tales, PMB 2000, 6278 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33308-1916.

Submissions will be judged based on creativity, adherence to theme, organization, grammar, punctuation and spelling by the Quill and Scroll Society of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Iowa, with winners selected by Olive Garden.

She’s Size 12 — And That’s Just Fine

November 4th, 2010

If you have a teen or tween daughter, you’ll want to check out a wonderful new essay on weight, weight loss and body image over on lemondrop.com.

Writer Stacy Lipson, who was a recent guest writer here for “I Was Bullied As a Kid,” tells it like it is when it comes to feeling fat in high school, doing restrictive dieting, gaining, feeling pressured from others…

And then she read a book that changed how she looked at her body: Size 12 is Not Fat, by Meg Cabot and started looking at herself in a new light.

I’m a Stacy Lipson fan. I love not only her writing but also her honesty and her willingness to put herself out there for her readers.

Check out this essay. Then share it with your daughter.

From the Mouths of Babes…

November 2nd, 2010

I asked my Twitter buddies with young kids to share with me some of their favorite “kid quotes.” When my son, Matt, was between ages 2 and about 5, I wrote down a lot of the funny or sweet things he said, and now I’m so glad I did.

This is a great keepsake, not only for parents, but for your kids to share with their kids one day. Check out these gems:

Mom to 2 year old: “Did you just pee pee on the floor?” 2-year-old: “Nope. My underpants just cried.”

2 year old during prayers: “Please, God, help me get Mommy and Daddy to let me watch more T.V. Amen.”

2 year during prayers, “Thank you, God, for Honey Nut Cheerios.”

7 year old: “Mommy, I love you. You are pure like gold.”

3 year old: Mom, how did I get into your tummy?” Mom: “Daddy helped put you there.” 3 year old: Did Daddy help me get out?” Mom: “Not so much.”

5 year old: “Mom, what’s Heaven again?” Mom: “That’s where Grandpa is with God and all the other people who have died.” 5 year old: “God DIED?

5 year old: “Why is there a hole in this bench?” Mom: “What’s the bench made of?” 5 year old: “Wood!” Mom: “Where do we get wood?” 5 year old: “Home Depot!”

3 year old: “Mom, thanks for marrying someone I like so much.”