Archive | June, 2013


Oh, instagram, how I love thee. Snap a photo, add an artsy filter, give it a clever caption. I love reading blogs, of course, but I find instagram to be just as entertaining.

My instagram feed is super random, but I try to fill it with something that fits into these three categories: pretty things, moments I want to remember, and fun things to share.

Here are a few of my latest photos:



Freshly cut peonies from our yard. They don’t last long, but they sure are magnificent when they are here!


Rainier cherries. De-lish.


We have had some crazy weather which has made for incredibly beautiful sunsets.



Father’s Day 2013. Daddy’s being a hero to more than just our family. He is pretty amazing.


Our first movie of the summer and it was SO CUTE! If you haven’t seen it yet, we give it a big thumbs up.



Nothing better than an iced latte in the afternoon. I mix a pod of decaf espresso, cold milk, a splash of vanilla and lots of ice. My friend makes hers with raw sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon and it’s delicious too.

P.S. Do you just adore the Beautiful Mess app? That’s where that cute chevron graphic came from, but I like the preset filters a lot too.


My youngest nephew turned one last weekend and his mama threw him a newsboy party. So clever and cute and totally right for this little newsie:


I could eat him. And the cake.


This is fun: instagram now has video. I posted my first one while in the empty car. You can click on the image to watch it.  Exciting stuff. And yes, my eyelashes are fake.

Yesterday I shared this photo of me working on a very long post at starbucks.


I said it was going to go up today, but I lied. I’m not done writing the novel yet, so it will wait until Monday. Do come back … I think you’ll enjoy it.

As part of the post, we’ll be offering a discount on The Blog Class and helping you set up and install your own blog at no extra cost {limited spots}. So if you’ve been wanting to start, grow, get better at blogging, Monday is your day.

Enjoy your weekend!


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summer essentials {freebie art print}

In the spirit of engaging my children in creative activities this summer {and let’s face it, keeping them occupied for more than four minutes}, I pulled out the paints yesterday. Painting is not that uncommon around here, but when I actually sat down with them to create, then it was really something special.


I am no painting expert, but I have always loved playing with watercolors. I have my own set of not-so-special paints and my own non-frayed brush and I don’t share. Sorry kids.


Over the course of an hour or two {with a few minimal distractions like making lunch four a houseful of kids and cleaning a half a bottle of elmer’s glue off the bathroom floor – you know, normal things} I was totally in to my artwork. I don’t paint often, but when I do, I always love it.


Since it turned out pretty cute, I scanned the finished painting and turned it into a printable art print for you. You can download the print below, then print on your favorite paper. I printed mine on matte photo paper to get the best image quality.


To download this print, I invite you to join the newest feature here at JDC: the archive


It’s our new way to organize all of the best freebies, templates, downloads and make it easier for you to find and access them. Simply click on the image above to join.



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how to make a dog bed out of a dropcloth

Our labradoodle, Atlas, needed a new bed.

He destroyed his first five so we took about a four month break before I decided to give him another try. A puppy needs a cozy place to rest, right?


Since he is a chewer, I didn’t want to invest much in this new dog bed so a painter’s drop cloth {cheap!} and some diy embellishment was the perfect combination.



canvas drop cloth / tape measure / scissors / pins /acrylic paint / paintbrush

{not shown: letter template, pencil, sandpaper, sewing machine, thread, dog bed insert}

STEP ONE // figure out your desired dimensions


I already had a dog bed insert {from the last bed he tore apart} so I based my measurements off of that. You’ll need four pieces total – one top piece, two bottom pieces that will overlap for an envelope closure, and one long strip for the sides.

STEP TWO // cut drop cloth to size


STEP THREE // embellish top with dog’s initial, name, stripes, etc.


I printed his name, cut out the letters and traced them onto the drop cloth.

STEP FOUR // paint and sand design


Just fill in the lettering with regular craft paint {or fabric paint for washable durability}. Lightly sand to give a slightly aged look.

STEP FIVE //  sew the bed together


Begin by overlapping the back for the envelope closure {this will allow you to insert the dog bed without having to sew a zipper}. If you cut your pieces using the pre-hemmed edge of the drop cloth, you won’t need to create your own hems.  Sew the overlapping pieces along the edge just to hold into place.


Next you’ll pin the side band right sides together to the bottom piece. Just line up the edges and pin around the diameter of the dog bed. At the corners, nicely fold the corners and pin.


Once you pin the side piece all the way around the dog bed bottom, just pin the end pieces of the side piece together and stitch right sides together. Then sew all the way around the diameter of the bed. It will look like this:


Next step is to add the top piece.


Put your top piece face down on the bottom {right sides together}. Pin along the edges.


Now sew it all together – going around twice for a reinforced stitch.


STEP SIX // turn right side out and stuff the dog bed





Our sweet/crazy puppy loves it.


So much, in fact, that he left his mark on day two.


Dumb dog.

Any tips for a chew-happy dog are greatly appreciated …

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surviving summer with a little bit of organization

I read the best post by Jen Hatmaker the other day about how to not go crazy during the summer months with kids at home.  She’s brilliant and funny and wise and even shared a few practical tips for surviving summer and enjoying it.  She offers a “few structural ideas for us Mediocre Mamas who want this season to be fun and memorable, but who also live in the real world where not every solitary day is pinnable … These are loose structures, because for me, complicated systems are basically an invitation to fail more“.  Amen and amen.

I generally avoid structuring my time because I don’t want to feel constrained to a schedule. I like the freedom to make and change plans on a whim. But I’ll be the first to admit that I know my kids would do better/pester each other less/wander aimlessly claiming boredom less frequently if I were more like the Pinterest-moms who have summer calendars and daily schedules and a fishbowl with activities on colorful little pieces of paper that their kids can choose from when they find themselves bored.

The ironic thing is that I design an organizational system – one that I love and find cute enough to post on my refrigerator.  I begin each month motivated and excited to organize and fill in all the details and then forget about it by about day three.

No more, I say. I must embrace the structure. At least a little bit. I know, beyond know it will make my life less chaotic to have our meals planned out and chores clearly marked. I know my kids will love having a daily plan {even if it is loose so we can change things up when other fun activities arise} and it will help us all enjoy our summer just a bit more. And maybe a little less pestering? I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot.

Sorry for the novel. All I’m trying to say is that 1. I’m a bit embarrassed that I create these great organizational tools and don’t fully use them and 2. I’m going to start fully using them.

So, want to see what’s new for JDC | monthly in July?

Oh, good. Because it’s pretty cute.

JDC | monthly is a monthly subscription of printable paper goods.

As always, here’s what’s included:

* monthly calendar
* weekly calendar
* menu calendars
* chore charts
* shopping list
* grocery lists
* note cards
* scripture memory cards
* art print
* a project tutorial with printable templates

The art print would work great for a punch of summery color in the kitchen, but I like it for a child’s bedroom or playroom, too.

For the project in July, there are a bunch of different packaging labels.


Use them for labeling canning jars,

packaging up treats for a party,

or sending snacks with your kids to summer camp.

I like projects that are simple, inexpensive and doable. I guess I like an organization system to be the same. Thankfully JDC | Monthly is about as easy as it comes … simply download the pdf, print on your favorite paper and fill in the details.

I would love for you to be part of JDC | Monthly and enjoy all of these goodies! The cost is $9.99 per month and your first month is free. You are welcome to give it a try. If it’s not the right fit, you can cancel at any time.

Plus, all JDC | Monthly members receive 50% off all printables in the shop.


Make your month organized and become a JDC | Monthly member!


When you sign up you will be directed to the current month’s link immediately. Billing is done on a 30 day cycle {so if you join on the 15th, you will be billed the following month on the 15th}. On the 22nd of each month, you will receive an email with the link to download the collection of pdfs, as well as the project tutorial.


Off to go fill in my calendars and assign the kids some chores. Wish me luck …

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our living room with the finished shingled fireplace

The best way for us to decorate our home is in phases – not always well-planned out, carefully calculated steps – more of a fluid figure-it-out-as-we-go type of decorating. Like you, we’re constrained by budget and thoughts of resale value and functionality for our young family.  We like a neutral space with lots of texture and a mix of traditional and country, eclectic and industrial, but you can’t really get that by ordering everything out of one catalog. It has taken us seven years of living in this home to get our living room to this point – a place where the room really feels collected and layered and like us. There are still a few things we’d like to do in here: wide-plank wood floors would look amazing, and a giant chandelier would be dreamy, maybe some more art on the walls and a larger rug. But those things will come. Or maybe they won’t. Either way, we have enjoyed the process of creating a space that’s personal and pretty, comfortable and welcoming, even if has taken a few years.

So, while this room will undoubtedly go through more changes, I’m so pleased with this current phase and excited to welcome you into our living room.


The fireplace really became the focal point with the new shingled/stone surround {you can see the before here and the step-by-steps of the shingles and stone work here and here}.


Like I mentioned last time, I created a custom stain for the shingles to give it a slightly faded, naturally weathered look. I was nervous about covering the natural beauty of the cedar shakes, but it was the right decision for the space as it tones down the wood color and lets the stone be the star. There’s a lot of texture happening on that fireplace and it’s not a look for everyone. Thankfully, we love it and it gives our living room the dose of creativity and personality it needed.


The chesterfield sofa is amazing – so comfortable and a very durable oatmeal-colored fabric.


This room is right off of the kitchen and so it is our everyday living and entertaining space.

jdc-living-room-full    living-room-from-up-above

We’re just about ready to tear up that carpet – it is showing it’s age. And I’d like to replace the tile and extend the hearth to span the entire fireplace surround.  Non-essentials that may or may not make our to-do list.



living-room-with-shingled-fireplace-back-of-chairs   shingled-fireplace-in-living-room


sofa: andella home
tufted chairs: ethan allen
coffee table: wisteria
mirrored side tables: target {similar}
metal side table: urban outfitters
glass lamps & shades: target {no longer available}
pharmacy floor lamp: target
jute rug: ikea
stag head: restoration hardware
floral & black & white made by me
yellow trellis: zgallerie {no longer available}
linen and blue on chairs: target
striped throw: ikea
curtains: ikea
paint color: wind’s breath by behr paint


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fireplace makeover {part two}

Last time we left off with the fireplace makeover progress looking like this:


Cedar shingles along the top portion of the fireplace, a new chunkier mantle, decisions to be made for the fireplace surround.

What probably would have looked best is something really simple and flat to balance out the texture up top, something like concrete, which would have looked really modern and sleek. But that’s not what we chose.

Instead, we went with more neutral texture in the form of stone.


Again, we did the work ourselves {actually Ryan and two of our very wonderful friends} and it was surprisingly DIYable.

We bought our manufactured stone product and all of the supplies at a local stone supplier.


There were many different colors and textures to choose from, but we went with a manufactured stone veneer called Country Ledgestone in Echo Ridge by Boral.


To prep the fireplace surround, first Ryan installed cement board, then stapled on a special wire mesh for the stone veneer. He then covered the wire with a thin coat of mortar, let it dry and then started placing stones using more mortar as glue.


The stones came with corner pieces and lots of varying sizes of straight pieces. Putting the pieces together was like one gigantic puzzle. Lots of picking and choosing through the stones, breaking them into the right sizes and trying to get a good mix of sizes, colors and seam placement.




Didn’t they do a fabulous job! We were so excited with how it all came together.

Next came my part: painting. I repainted the lower portion of the living room walls a lighter gray/white called wind’s breath {behr paint from home depot}. We loved the dark slate color that has been there for a few years, but it was time to lighten up.  The mantle and bookshelves received several coats of a custom-matched oil-based white.


And this is where the fireplace has stayed for the past six months. 90% done. The shingles were great in their natural state, but with the gray stone, they appeared especially orangy/brown. There is so much texture and something about it just wasn’t sitting well with me. We talked about a few different options for the shingles and what we wanted was for them to look like the naturally weathered gray shingles we love.  So I grabbed some sample pots of stain and tested them on a few spare shingles to see what would look best.


All three were fine, but {of course} Ryan and I had different favorites and our friends were all pretty mixed in their votes, too.

The one of the left was out, the dark was too dark, the light too opaque, but then Ryan had the genius idea to mix the two together and see what happened.


Thankfully, we were both sold.

So this past weekend, I climbed up very high on a ladder and stained those shingles.


{via my instagram}

It was stinky, it took forever, I messed up once and had to go to the hardware store twice mid-project, but it is now DONE!

Come back friday for our fireplace reveal with a tour of the current living room arrangement. I’m so so happy with how it has turned out.

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free printable diy summer iphone covers

Summer officially begins this week which means it’s time to update our iphone covers.


These nautical-inspired covers slip in perfectly to a clear iphone case and make it oh so easy to switch it up when the mood strikes.


A full tutorial is on this diy iphone cover post, but it’s pretty simple: print the free templates on cardstock or photo paper, cut around the edges, cut out a hole for the camera and pop into your clear cover.


I have created two templates: one for the iphone 4s


And another for the iphone 5


To download these freebies, I invite you to join the newest feature here at JDC: the archive


It’s our new way to organize all of the best freebies, templates, downloads and make it easier for you to find and access them. Simply click on the image above to join.

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a fireplace makeover {part one}

I’ve been holding out on you.

Last November we finally tackled our fireplace and gave it a makeover.

I completely love it.

Except like with most projects we do, indecision on the final detail set in and then life just kept going. Which brings us to today – seven months later – with a nearly completed fireplace makeover.

I was going to wait until the whole thing was finished and do a big TA DA! Before & After! but I’m thinking maybe some in-the-process photos are just as fun as the big reveal. And by posting this today, it will hopefully give me the motivation to get this last step finished so I can share the completed look {hopefully next week}.

First, let me remind you of what our fireplace has looked like for the past six years.

Except pretend the tv is not there because it only lived up there for a few months before we came to our senses and realized that it was way to huge and obnoxious to hang front and center in our main living room.

A few things about the fireplace:

It was fine.

But we never could understand the little notches on either side, or the niche in the center and we didn’t like the tile surround. The mantle was fine, maybe a little more detailed than I would choose, but it looked a bit funky with all those extra corners on the dry wall.

We brainstormed for months about what to do to make the fireplace either stand out and become the focal point of the room, or blend in and simplify things.


Finally, one day last November, with our brothers and sisters-in-laws over for a leisurely saturday afternoon, we decided on a whim to just tear the fireplace apart. Don’t worry – we had a plan – but we didn’t know until that afternoon that we were actually going to do that plan.


Down came the mantle.


Out came the tile. The guys decided it was just easier to cut the tile out and re-drywall. Pulling off the tile would have damaged the drywall so much they probably would have had to replace it anyway.


We already put the two built-ins on either side of the fireplace, and we just wanted a chunky, clean mantle to run across the fireplace visually joining all three sections together. Ryan built a simple box, then added a top piece and trimmed it out with pre-made molding.


Nothing fancy, but it gave us the substantial mantle we wanted.

Next came the kinda crazy part: we decided to wrap the top portion of the fireplace wall with cedar shingles. We were thinking we’d do wide horizontal planks, but when our friend suggested shingles, we both instantly loved the idea.  It’s totally unexpected, adds lots of texture, but still remains slightly neutral and gives us a sort of cottagy/outdoorsy look.

Random, for sure, but this room needed something interesting.

To get started, Ryan attached cedar strips of wood {lath} directly to the wall where the shingles would be nailed in.


Once those were up along one side, we couldn’t help ourselves and started nailing in a few shingles just to make sure we loved it.


{this was day two. Ryan’s brother & sister-in-law went home, my aunt & uncle came over. It was a revolving door of helpers}.

Yes! Love! So they kept going … filling in that terrible niche and wrapping the chimney with those little boards.


Later that night when family had gone home, a few neighbor friends stopped by to see the progress and we somehow talked them into helping.


These final three worked late into the evening and finished up the shingles. I’m not exactly sure what their system was, but they were quick. I think we had two compressors and two nail guns going at a time.


When we decided to go with shingles, Ryan jokingly suggested mounting an elk head and I thought it was a brilliant idea. He was so shocked, he ordered one right away before I could change my mind.


The stag head came from Restoration Hardware and is resin that looks like cast iron.


We were so excited with how it turned out.

Once the shingles were up, we had to decide what to do with the fireplace surround.

        I’ll call that Fireplace Makeover part two.  Stay tuned …

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displaying jewelry

 I was just having a conversation with my darling sister-in-law about how to navigate looking stylish when you don’t have a clue what stylish is. My best tip: throw on a piece of colorful, chunky jewelry. I’m not really sure if that qualifies as stylish, but it seems easy enough to me. As a girl who wears a whole lot of jeans + cardigans, somehow I feel a bit more put together when I slip on a necklace.

Jewelry-collecting is new to me. I don’t wear a lot and on most days all you’ll see me wearing is my wedding ring, a white watch and my favorite dainty necklace with my kids’ initials.

But with so many affordable and colorful pieces out there, it’s fun to go a little crazy every once in a while.

To store my small collection of jewels {none of them precious, by the way}, a simple linen-covered cork board does the trick. I stapled the fabric to the board, adding in upholstery tacks along the perimeter because don’t you think upholstery tacks make everything look fancier?! The necklaces are hung on t-pins purchased at the office supply store.

Bracelets and cocktail rings overflow from a vintage silver bowl.

Having the pieces out makes me excited to wear them.

And hopefully look a bit more stylish in my jeans + cardigan uniform.

Do you have a favorite way to store jewelry?

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be still {the newest print in the shop}

Some people find peace in the wilderness. Some find it running or painting or singing or while sitting in a church pew.

I find it at the sea.


It just dawned on me that three of my most favorite places are located on the edge of the ocean.

Amidst the chaos of the everyday, there is something so peaceful about sitting on the shore, watching the waves flow in and out, in and out, in and out. The vastness of the water, the mysteries it holds, the power and beauty, the way it sparkles with the sun and responds to the wind – all of it does something to my soul.


It calms me down. It makes me take a breath. It reminds me of how small I am in the big scheme of things. It kinda forces me to put things into perspective.


Most of all, I am reminded of God’s glorious faithfulness.

The one who created the waters, who holds it all together, who perfectly orchestrates the tide and sustains the underwater world, surely He is worthy of trusting.

God is our shelter and our strength.
When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.
So why run and hide?
No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.
When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.
When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.
Even in heavy winds and huge waves,
or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.

Come, gaze, fix your eyes on what the Eternal can do.
Amazing, He has worked desolation here on this battlefield, earth.
God can stop wars anywhere in the world.
He can make scrap of all weapons: snap bows, shatter spears,
and burn shields.
“Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God”.
{psalm 46:1-3, 8-10 from The Voice bible}


I need this reminder so much. Every day, it seems.


Be still. And know.

Chill out, Emily. Calm down, take a breath, stop worrying and trying to do it yourself. Remember what He’s done for you, what He promises you, what He says about you.

Be still and know.


So until I go on the next vacation or permanently move to the ocean {wouldn’t that be lovely!} I’ll daily look at this art print and find my soul.


This new print is available now.

Click here to add one to your home.

{sign up below to be added to our email list and you will receive a discount code for 15% off your order}

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our best tips and tricks for staying, navigating, saving and enjoying disneyland

We’ve only taken our family to disneyland once, so we are by no means experts, but I thought I’d share a few of our best tips mostly because it was really helpful for me to read tips from other blogosphere families while planning our trip.

First things first, a disneyland vacation is, by nature, expensive.

You can certainly do things to cut costs, but I’ll just be up front and honest and say that we spent a pretty penny on this trip. I mean, the price of park admission tickets alone cost more than our grocery bill for an entire month! But we planned our trip with the opinion that we wanted to go and experience it all and not be overly concerned with how much everything cost.

We did what we could to not spend more than necessary, but if you’re looking for tips on going to disneyland on a tight budget, I may not be your girl.

Yikes. I hope that doesn’t make me sound incredibly snobby. Hopefully you get what I’m saying.

I’ll break up this post into a few sections: stay & play and probably throw in a few random thoughts at the end.

// STAY //

All my life I wanted to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. So did my mom. We decided to just go for it.


Staying at the hotel was magical. You feel like you walk into a disney bubble and remain there for your entire trip. Each day we woke up early, walked from our hotel through downtown disney and entered the park an hour before the general population {that’s one of the best perks of staying at a disney resort: magic mornings where you get in 1 hour early}. At the end of the day, we just walked a few minutes back to our hotel. No hassle of shuttles or parking or realizing there is a real world outside the walls of disneyland.

We had two rooms with two queen size beds each and a door that joined the two rooms. It was fun to notice all of the disney details {mouse ears in the carpet design, mickey’s gloved hand holding the bathroom sconce, the disney font on the hot and cold bath knobs}. All of it was just magical.


The rooms and public areas were super nice, the pool has water slides and complimentary life jackets and life guards {oh, and poolside drinks and comfy lounge chairs}.

We found our best deal through Costco travel which included our hotel room, park admission, character dining meal, magic mornings, lanyards and a disney gift card for about the same price as booking just the room and admission through the disney website.

I have been asked a few times since our trip if staying at the Disneyland Hotel {or the Disney Grand} is worth it and while I say wholeheartedly yes, it really depends on what you want from your trip. This was a splurge, for sure, but also a dream fulfilled and it made our stay even more enjoyable. And, honestly, the early admission makes it worth it.

// PLAY //

You can purchase park-hopper tickets {where you get to go from disneyland to california adventure and then back again} but we bought one-park-per-day passes. I didn’t think we would need to go from place to place. This was a good decision for our family as it saved on the cost and we were very happy in one park per day.

I had not been to disneyland since the invention of Fast Passes and I was a little unsure of how the whole thing worked. But it actually makes a lot of sense and saved us a ton of waiting in long lines for the most popular rides. Just google ‘disneyland fastpass’ if you want more in-depth info and fancy tricks for getting maximum use. Or just figure it out when you get there {that was our route}.

The park was crowded while we were there, but we planned our trip for after spring break and before summer break to try to avoid the busiest times. For most rides, we waited no longer than 30 minutes and the time really goes by quickly as there is so much to see. I was worried my kids would be so bored in line, but that was not the case at all. I decided {with prompting from my dear husband} to stay off instagram during our trip and I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet moments we had as a family while waiting in line. I am so glad I ignored my phone and just enjoyed the moment.

I expected that we would split up a lot – two adults with the older boys, two with the little ones, but we mostly stayed together all three days. The three boys could go on most everything and Audrey was so happy to either go on a smaller nearby ride with one adult or we would wait and watch for her brothers to crash down splash mountain or do the loop-de-loop on California Screamin’.

Another concern I had was that the age difference would be hard – how do you keep a 9 year old boy and 3 year old girl happy at the same time? Um, I was so wrong to worry. That is part of the magic of disney … everything is enjoyable to everyone {okay, maybe not it’s a small world}.

WATCH THE PARADES! My favorite, by far, of all things disney. The boys were resistant at first {a parade instead of rides?!}, but they ended up being mesmerized. You can’t help but dance and clap and smile through the whole thing.


We spent two days in disneyland and one in California Adventure. Three days was perfect for our young family, but I maybe would have done California Adventure twice and disneyland once. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe not.

This was my first time at C.A. and it was just as amazing as I remember my first trip to disneyland. I was thinking it would not be anything as wonderful as the original disneyland, but it is! The rides are great, the lands are just as imaginative {Bug’s land is adorable, Car’s land feels like you walked into the movie}. It is definitely worth the trip.

The most popular ride at C.A. is Radiator Springs Racers – which is darling and all, but the wait was ridiculous. People wait in line for two hours just to get a fastpass where they then have to come back later and wait again to get on the ride! We decided to just wait in the regular standby line despite the fact that it was posted as a 75 minute wait. It was actually about 90 minutes. Shockingly, that 90 minutes went pretty quick – there is much to see and pleasant music and vendors walking through the lines with popcorn or water or soda. The ride was fun, I’m glad we did it, but was not worth the wait.


One of the great things about everyone clamoring to get on the racers ride was that other rides had very, very short wait times. We walked on the big roller coaster 3 times in a row. We did the river rafting ride twice in a row {it was so much fun} and while we were waiting for the cars ride, my mom took Audrey all through A Bug’s Land and did all of the cute little kid rides.

You can view height restrictions online ahead of time and I was pleasantly surprised by how many rides the kids could go on. I think the older boys could do everything {they are 9 and 7}, our five year old only missed a few and Audrey {3} wasn’t too thrilled with crazy rides anyway, so she was happy to stick with the sweet things like the teacups and minnie’s house in Toon Town.

// EXTRAS //

You can download the disney parks app {called Mobile Magic} and get all sorts of good navigating info. It gives you maps, wait times, restaurants – totally worth downloading {plus, it’s free}.

Kids love all of the trinkets and stuffed animals and hats and balloons disneyland has to offer. Each of our kids got to choose a couple of little souvenirs and most of those were purchased at the World of Disney store in downtown disney {maybe it saved a few dollars? not sure. But that store is enormous and has a great selection}.  Our oldest two went back to the park one night after dinner with Ryan and they got to build their own light sabers at the Star Wars store in Tomorrowland. For two boys who love all things jedi, this was a dream come true. Surprisingly, the light sabers were only a few more dollars than the ones they have from Target.

We ate our meals and treats at the park {see this post}, but we also packed a bunch of healthy snacks with us. It was nice to have individual packs of nuts, trailmix, goldfish crackers, granola bars to sustain the snack munchies and also avoid spending a million dollars on food that doesn’t fill you up.

If you have little ones, strollers are a must. We brought two and we’re so glad we had them. Not only do they give tired legs a rest, but it’s nice to have a place to store extra bottles of water or sweatshirts for later. You can park your stroller and leave all your stuff in it while you wait for a ride. Just bring a small bag or backpack to keep your wallet/phone/camera in while you go on the rides. I brought a small messenger bag {see it hanging on the back of the stroller?} that worked great.


This last tip is totally up to your personal preference, but as much as I read about the benefits of having a mapped-out plan for what rides to go on first and where to stop to use the bathroom and when the optimal time is to visit certain attractions, we are just not that type of family. We went with only the itinerary to do as many rides as the kids wanted and stay as long as they were having a good time and linger in the lands they found most imaginative.  We walked aimlessly at times and with purpose at others.  Our main goal was to have fun and I think it’s safe to say, we all had the most amazing trip.

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what we ate in disneyland

Since we generally care about what we eat and what we feed our children, I was a little concerned with what our food options would be in Disneyland.

I mean, we all know they sell delicious treats {frozen lemonade! dole whips! macaroons!} and don’t get me wrong, I could live off of such goodness. But a few real, sustaining meals every now and again are kinda necessary when you’re walking miles in the warm sun pushing overflowing strollers and carrying five year olds on your back.


We actually ate pretty well at Disneyland. Lots of junk, for sure, but we had a few great meals as well.

Let’s start with that corn dog up there on the left. It. Was. Amazing. Not good for you, but totally worth it.

Each morning we walked through Downtown Disney to get to the parks and so we stopped at jamba juice or la brea bakery for quick, healthy-ish breakfasts. We did the same one evening for dinner – taking a break from Disneyland and grabbing a grilled panini from a sandwich shop in Downtown Disney.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for {and want to save a little bit on the cost of your meal}, walking the few minutes to Downtown Disney is a great way to go.

Ryan had heard that the Monte Cristo sandwich at Cafe Orleans in Disneyland was a must-have. So on our second day, we stopped for a nice sit-down lunch. It actually became one of our favorite memories of the trip. Sitting in the shade, letting the kids rest and color and chill for an hour – it was perfect. Ryan ordered the most decadent sandwich ever {that’s it on the bottom left} and I had the chunky salad {middle right} which was so good. The kid meal options were things like grilled chicken with spaghetti and broccoli or homemade mac & cheese {so good!} with fruit and veggies on the side. It was nice to feed our kids more than chicken nuggets or corn dogs.

I thought I would stick to a one-treat-per-day rule for the kids to save their teeth, our money and to avoid the inevitable can I have that! each time we passed a street vendor. However, I learned two things: 1. only one treat is impossible when grandma and grandpa are with you and 2. treats are fun. So we bought two bags of cotton candy and split it between all of us rather than one for each of us, or we split a frozen lemonade, or broke the pretzel into sharable pieces. By having only a little of each treat, it meant we could try more throughout the day.

Part of our disneyland package included a character dining experience at Goofy’s Kitchen at Disneyland Hotel. We ate their buffet dinner which was really not that great and neither were the desserts, but the kids though it was so much fun to help themselves to whatever they wanted {see No.2’s dessert plate on the middle left}. The draw of Goofy’s Kitchen is that favorite characters {Minnie Mouse, Chip, Pluto} and some more obscure ones {the Fairy Godmother, the Mad Hatter} visit each table and pose for photos. It would have cost our family of 8 about $250 for the meal, which was totally not worth it, but because it was free, it was a really fun thing to do.

California Adventure boasts Disney’s only Starbucks and I’m not sure why, but a tall, decaf, extra hot, one pump mocha just tastes better while sipping it from a disney parks cup.

The yummiest of all the treats we ate was ice cream from Ghiradelli in California Adventure. Ryan went all out and brought us back waffle cones dipped in chocolate filled with the creamiest ice cream ever. We sat on the sidewalk watching the Pixar parade making total drippy messes of ourselves and relished every second of it.

So did we eat well? Maybe not. But we made fun memories with the food and treats we did have.

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what I wore in Disneyland

I may be the vainest person around, but one of the things I thought obsessively about and did the most research on before we left for disneyland was what should i wear?

I know, how ridiculous.

But bear with me for a moment.

Disneyland in May can be hot, so you don’t want to wear too much. But you’re holding your kids, getting on and off rides, sitting on the sidewalk to watch parades, so you don’t want to wear too little.

You walk all day so you want to wear the right shoes, and while running shoes might be the most practical, they may not be the most fashionable.

Comfort ranks high on importance, but there will be a million favorite photos snapped so you want to be cute, too {see? I’m vain}.

I scoured my closet and bought a few new things to fill in the gaps to fit with my disneyland fashion criteria: stylish comfort, easy layers, loose fitting {read: as little visible evidence of sweat as possible}.

Here’s what I came up with for our three days in Disneyland.



We woke at 3:45am {insane} and took the first flight to Orange County. I wanted to be comfortable and warm so layering a sweater and scarf was perfect.


During the day, I removed the sweater and scarf and was very comfortable in the dress and leggings. I never would have worn this dress to the park without the leggings – too much risk for exposure.


sources | dress – Old Navy, sweater and leggings – Target, sandals – b.o.c, scarf – murabelle



We woke up early and spent our second day in Disneyland. Layering this light sweater was perfect. And even though I’m not a big fan of shorts, these were comfortable, not too short and still mildly stylish.


sources | sweater – banana republic factory store, shorts  – gap, blouse – borrowed from my friend about 3 years ago and I never gave it back. Oops. belt – target, sandals – b.o.c


The sandals were not something I would have normally chosen, but I waited until the last minute and had limited stores to choose from. These actually turned out to be really comfortable and they are pretty cute. Not sure if I’ll wear them much more, but they served me well for this trip.



It was a little cooler {mid 70’s} on our third day so I decided to wear jeans. Again, I layered a light cardigan for the morning and evening.


I was not sure about the jeans {nothing worse than soaking wet denim} but you really don’t get all that wet at disneyland or california adventure. And I wasn’t too hot either.


The shoes were a new purchase for me and a bit of a stray from my normal ballet flats. I’m happy about these and will probably get plenty of use out of them.

sources | jeans – joe’s jeans boyfriend, top  – banana factory, sweater – target, shoes – aerosoles

These three outfits plus a swim suit, cover up, pj’s and unmentionables was all I packed. I’m normally a way-over-packer because I like having options for each day, but this time I only had these and it worked out great.

If you are planning a trip to disneyland and struggling with what to wear, here are my tips:

1. Wear shoes that are comfortable. You don’t need to wear tennis shoes {unless you love yours} – there are lots of good options with support and cushy soles that are more fashionable than your running shoes.

2. Layer a light sweater over your tank/shirt/dress.

3. Dresses are good because they are light and airy, but just be sure you can bend over without showing the world more than they want to see.

4. feel cute. You’ll be happier with your photos later.

Any other disney fashion tips you want to add?

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the happiest place on earth

They claim it’s the happiest place on earth.


They are so right.

Our family plus my mom & sugar-daddy {that’s code for the best stepdad ever} spent a few days in disneyland two weeks ago. I just love everything about disneyland and could not wait to experience it through the eyes of my own children.


It was a very full trip – you don’t sleep much when you’re in the magical world of disney – but every single moment was so worth it.

happy in disneyland

happy in disneyland 2

very happy in disneyland

I don’t think any of us stopped smiling.


Except maybe No. 1 who after sitting through it once, affectionately referred to the It’s A Small World ride as the dreaded tower of doom.


The kids were so excited to meet their favorite Disney characters, we ate all sorts of terribly unhealthy, but oh-so-worth-it food and from the oldest to the youngest, we all had the time of our lives on the rides.

Our favorite of all {especially the older boys} was the california screamin’ roller coaster in California Adventure. Want to take a ride with us?

That’s my head on the left and Ryan on the right. No. 1 & No. 2 are in front of us {daredevils} and grandpa is the videographer and the screamer.

{I might be screaming a little bit too}.

We seriously had the best family vacation we’ve ever taken and memories that will always be some of our favorites.



Coming up this week: what I wore to disneyland, our favorite places to eat and some helpful disney tips to save you time and only a teeny bit of money.

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