Oh yes, it is that time of year again...the time of year when I actually don't mind checking my mailbox. Why? Well, because instead of having a mailbox filled with only bills (or junk!) it is usually filled with holiday cards from family and friends.

I love Christmas cards! And don't tell my husband, but I have been keeping our Christmas cards for a few years now. Well, at least all the ones with photos on them! I can't help it- I just love seeing how kids and families grow and change from year to year.

This week I am working on our family's Christmas cards. That is always a challenge with two boys who DO NOT like to sit still for the camera. Or if I get them both sitting then one isn't looking at the camera, or one isn't smiling, or there is SOMETHING going on! I usually take around 100 pictures and then just try to pick the one that isn't TOO terrible! However, once I have that perfect picture I can then find the perfect card.

Where to find that perfect card? Well, that part is easy- Shutterfly, of course! If you have not checked out Shutterfly before then GO NOW! Run, don't walk! Shutterfly not only has some fantastic holiday card designs, but they have other products that make great gifts- not just for the holidays, but for birthdays, Mothers & Fathers Day, or you can even use Shutterfly to make birth announcements or party invitations! Shutterfly has SO many great designs for holiday cards that you will definitely find one that is perfect for you! I love to be able to put a great picture (or two or three) on my cards- and Shutterfly has the most options out there!

I've been using Shutterfly for several years now. I like that I can upload my pictures to one location and then share with my family and friends AND I can make fun products. Calendars are a great gift, especially this time of year! Who wouldn't love a personalized calendar with new pictures to view every month!

Are you planning a holiday party or cookie swap this year? If so, definitely check out the invitations that Shutterfly has to offer- what a way to make a great first impression for your guests!

Now I need to work on getting that great picture so I can upload and use one of Shutterfly's awesome designs for this year's Christmas card. And while I'm at it I think I'm going to order up some holiday gifts. The grandparents never complain that they have too many pictures of their grandkids!

Wow! I guess I disappeared off the face of the earth! That is what happens when life gets in the way, I suppose!

So, summer was wonderful. We spent a lot of time at Sesame Place, various playgrounds, the shore, and just having fun! September came, and Nicholas started his last year of preschool. He loves it, and I'm sure he'd be there every day if he could! We're fortunate to have a great program through the Rec Department and it makes it quite affordable as well. The kids learn a lot, have lots of fun field trips, and have a ton of in class activities.

In October Mr. Erik turned two! He had a Thomas the Tank celebration and we now own about a bazillion trains and tracks. Hey- it keeps two little boys happy and busy! Erik at his 2 year WCV was about 29 pounds and 36 a little above average, but a lot smaller than Nicholas was. Erik is now wearing clothes that Nicholas wore around 18 months of age.

November...well, we're still in November! Thanksgiving was wonderful. I love me some turkey! We put up our Christmas tree this past weekend as well and decorated outside. I should probably work on buying the kids some presents to put under that tree. Normally I've started at this point, but I think I only have 2 things so far! I'm slacking!

Well, hopefully I can keep up a little better. No promises, but I will try!



Our start on Wednesday was an early one- we had an 8:00am reservation at Tusker House for the Donald Safari Breakfast. Out of all of our character meals, I think this one was my favorite! I really enjoyed the atmosphere, the food was better than most of the other buffets (especially for breakfast), and they had the kids get up for a parade around the restaurant, which Nicholas had a blast doing! I definitely plan on eating here again!


The first stop after breakfast was It's Tough to Be a Bug. Erik really didn't care for the show (or the 3D glasses) but of course Nicholas got a big kick out of it! Our group then split up and the little kids (with their parents) all headed over to DinoLand USA where we rode Triceratop Spin (a hit for all the kids) and then let the boys run out some energy in the Boneyard.

I then checked the map and saw that Nicholas was tall enough for the ride Dinosaur. So, while Ken hung out with Erik, I took Nicholas over. We immediately were approached by a Cast Member who asked if we had a Fast Pass. I let her know we didn't, and she then said we were being picked as a "Magical Family" and we got instant access to the ride- even bypassed the Fast Pass line! Unfortunately, the ride really scared Nicholas! It was completely in the dark and he clung to me for dear life! I have to admit, it was a bumpy ride and had I been on it before I would not have taken him!

However, his fear did not stop Nicholas from riding Expedition Everest! I was SHOCKED, especially because Nicholas does not like riding Vapor Trail at Sesame Place, which is a tame roller coaster in comparison! And after Expedition Everest he went on Kali River Rapids. We then had a quick break for lunch before going to see Festival of the Lion King. Both of my boys LOVED the show! (On a side note- our last trip we took Nicholas, then age 2, to see Finding Nemo- The Musical, and he loved it! So I recommend both shows!)

To finish up our trip to Animal Kingdom we went on the Kilimanjaro Safari. Erik was SUPER excited about this, and everyone enjoyed spotting the various animals. It was a great way to end our day before heading back to the pool for some relaxation.




On Tuesday we headed to Magic Kingdom in the early afternoon after relaxing at the pool in the morning. When we arrived it was shortly before the afternoon parade, so we quickly grabbed a good seat to watch. The boys sat in the shade of the stroller, but were right at the curb, so several of the characters came right up to them!
After the parade we headed to Tomorrowland where we got in line for Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor- we needed the air conditioning! Nicholas enjoyed the show and Erik was all smilesas well. Next up was Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, which I would say became Nicholas' favorite ride. I think he rode this 3 or 4 times while we were there! Upon exiting the ride I spied Buzz Lightyear himself. I got in line with the boys and both of them were VERY excited! Erik doesn't know many Disney characters, but he knows "Buzz Buzz!" And I had just taken Nicholas to see Toy Story 3 the day before our trip, so he was pumped!


We then spent a few more hours riding a few more rides before our dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table. Yes, all the young children in our party are boys, but my sister-in-law Megan and I decided we wanted the princess dinner! And in my opinion- TOTALLY worth it! Upon entering the castle we were greeted by Cinderella and our entire group had our picture taken with her. Then throughout our meal we had visits to our table from Belle (Beauty & the Beast), Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Ariel (Little Mermaid), and Snow White.



And the meal itself- absolutely delicious! I had a BLT salad followed by prime rib (which was cooked perfectly), grilled asparagus, and roasted potatoes. Despite this being one of the more expensive meals, I do feel that the quality and quantity of food was worth it. I would dine there again, and hopefully one day I will have a little girl to enjoy the princesses with!
Unfortunately, after dinner and a few more rides the boys were too exhausted to stay for the fireworks. So we headed back to the condo and called it a night!

Monday morning was our first day in the park and we headed to EPCOT! Of course Nicholas immediately wanted to ride Spaceship Earth. We also rode The Seas with Nemo and Friends and then checked out the aqarium. It was VERY hot out, so the boys decided to relax in the stroller while we took a leisurely walk to lunch. We walked through the 'countries' and took some pictures, met Marie from the Aristocats along with Jasmine and Aladdin.


Lunch was at Biergarten in Germany. We had eaten there on our trip in 2008 and Ken requested we go there again. Poor Nicholas was super tired and ended up falling asleep on Ken's lap. Erik was enjoying the German cuisine- often with a sausage in each hand!

Here is a picture of me and my boys in front of the Biergarten. Their German Mickey shirts were made by my friend Faith of Sassy Kat Creations. In fact, she made several shirts for the boys for our trip!


After lunch we decided to head back to the condo so the kids could nap. However, Nicholas' nap after lunch and Erik's nap as we walked to the car were apparantly enough for them, so we just played in the pool and had dinner before heading back to EPCOT for the Illuminations fireworks show.
As we pulled into our parking space it decided to start raining. Nothing heavy, but a bit more than a drizzle. Once back inside the park we rode Spaceship Earth again (Nicholas really like that ride!) and then found spots to watch the fireworks. Erik was a bit freaked out by the noise, but still enjoyed the show. We decided to walk around before heading out so we could avoid traffic. Our first day at Disney was a bit laid back, but we still had a TON of fun!
We waited so long for our family trip to Walt Disney World and now it is all over! We had a GREAT trip and Nicholas is already asking when we are going back!

Our trip started on Sunday, June 20. Twelve of us heading from Philadelphia to sunny Orlando. My in-laws generously took the whole family to Disney as part of our Christmas present. They left earlier in the day on a different airline, so that left the rest of us...7 adults and 3 kids. Surprisingly we all got through airport security smoothly and had an easy flight to Orlando. I sat with Erik (who slept for part of the flight) and Ken sat with Nicholas (who thinks sleep is for the weak!) Also part of our group were Ken's brother Mike, his wife Melissa, and their son Michael, Ken's sister Megan and her boyfriend James, and Ken's sister Joann. So, we arrived in Orlando and were greeted by rain. Go figure- Central Florida is notorious for the afternoon showers in the summer! My mother-in-law and father-in-law came to pick us up from the airport and headed to the condo. We stayed at the Sheraton Vistana Villages, and we quickly unpacked and headed to TGIFridays for dinner. It had been a LONG day, so after dinner we headed back and the guys stayed with the little boys, while the girls went to do some grocery shopping for the week. And then off to bed for us to start our busy, fun-filled week!

Check out my other posts to see how our week turned out!

Monday- EPCOT

Tuesday- Magic Kingdom

Wednesday- Animal Kingdom

Thursday- Disney Hollywood Studio

Friday- Lazy Day

Saturday- Magic Kingdom

Yes, I'm a bit behind on my book reviews! I'm going to try to catch up on a few this weekend!

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane was an excellent read. It is a psychological thriller that tells the story of a mental institution on- you guessed it- Shutter Island. This book has great characters that pulled me in quickly. With these types of stories I often try to "figure it out" and was pleasantly surprised with the ending! I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm curious to see how closely it follows the book.

Last year I posted this blog about discounted summer movies. Well, it is that time again! Last year I never made it to any of the movies- I had an infant and the movies showing weren't exactly up Nicholas' alley. THIS year is a different story. There are a LOT of movies that Nicholas enjoys already, so I am hoping to take advantage.

The first theater in my area is AMC and their Summer Movie Camp. On Tuesday mornings throughout the summer (starting June 15 through August 10) for $1 (which is donated to charity) you can take your kids to see some great movies. Check the link for the complete list, but I know I want to take Nicholas to see Shrek the 3rd, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda. And for $4 you can purchase a KidsPack concession combo. With or without the snacks this is still a bargain! If you have one child you could go to all 9 movies this summer for under $20.

The next theater in my area is the Regal Entertainment Group. Their summer movie program is the Free Family Film Fest. As you probably guessed by the title- it is FREE! Regal has theaters in 37 states, so I hope there is one near you! The movies for the Free Family Film Fest vary by theater, so check yours to see what is available. These movies show on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and I know at the theaters near me they are showing some older, classic kids films- movies from MY childhood. Some of those are Muppets Take Manhattan and ET. The Free Family Film Fest starts this Tuesday, June 8!

Now, in my area there is not a participating Cinemark theater, but they offer the Summer Movie Clubhouse. Again, the movies vary by theater, but I saw titles such as Monsters Vs. Aliens, Surf's Up, and Madagascar 2. There are 10 weeks worth of movies and if you buy all ten shows in advance it is $5 (that's $0.50 a movie!) or they are $1 each at the door.

These movie options are a great way to spend a rainy day (or a SUPER HOT day) inside (with air-conditioning) on a budget! So, what movie do YOU want to see?

I've been slacking, I know! I can't believe it has been almost a month since I've blogged. SLACKER...I admit! We've been keeping busy, so I am going to try to get some posts together to update!

On a good note, last night I finished book number 20 for the year! My goal is 40 books this year, and I'm halfway through my books and not quite halfway through the year, so I am right on target!

The warm weather is upon us here in Philly, and the boys and I have been keeping busy. In the past month we've been to the zoo and countless trips to the playground and Sesame Place. And keep an eye out for a future blog about some more summer fun I have in store!
Ok, you need to ACT FAST! As in, you have a little over 4 hours from now to enter, BUT...if you go check out my friend Hope's blog- Treasures of Hope, she is giving away your choice of a Kitchen Aid Mixer OR an Amazon Kindle for Mother's Day. How awesome is that! So, quickly run over there and check her out!