Friday, May 29, 2015

Soda Can Bracelets

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareYourSummer #CollectiveBias
At least once a month, my daughter and I spend a night crafting away. We love to make jewelry and other fun projects that she can proudly wear and tell everyone that she made it. I have been saving Coke cans for years with the intention of turning them into something fun and wearable and this last week we made these darling ribbon and Coke can bracelets. The ruffled one is my absolute favorite, I am going to have to make another one that is big enough for me. 

My favorite part of making this craft right now is that the Share A Coke Campaign is back for the summer, so we get to create cute bracelets out of bottles and cans that have the names of our loved ones on them. When I saw this Trendsetter can, I knew it was just asking to me made into a trendsetting bracelet. It is so much fun to be able to have a craft night while we share a Coke together, even my husband would doesn't craft kept sneaking into craft night for more Coke. 

To make soda can bracelets, you will need: 


  • Share A Coke Soda Can 
  • Hot glue or sewing machine 
  • Scissors
  • Ribbon 
  • a plastic Share A Coke Bottle 
  • rhinestones 


Cut the top off your soda can. and then cut a long strip of can, that is thinner than the ribbon you want to use. If you are making a child bracelet, one full strip around the can if big enough. If you are making a bracelet for an adult, then you will need to add an extra strip. I just hot glue an extra piece of soda can to make it long enough.
 Round the edges of your Coke Can strip. This will make it easier to thread through the ribbon.

 For a Ruffled Bracelet: 

Cut two strips of ribbon that are twice as long as your soda can strip. Place the wrong sides together and sew the ribbon together on the very edge. Repeat on the other side. Turn the ribbon tube right side out. I use a crochet hook to help turn the tube. 

 Slide the entire length of ribbon tube onto your soda can strip, letting it bunch up to get the entire thing on the soda can. Hot glue the ends of the can together and then sew the ends of the tub closed over the can. Move the bunches of ribbon around until it is evenly bunched around the whole bracelet.

 For a non-ruffled bracelet with plastic flower:

You will need two lengths of ribbon the same length or slightly longer than you strip of can. Hot glue the ribbon on either sides of the piece of can. The can is what gives the bracelet its shape and stability. I added a smaller ribbon to the center of the bracelet as well, but it isn't necessary. Wrap the bracelet into a circle and hot glue it together. Slice an empty 20 ounce Coke bottle down the side. Draw circles on the side of the bottle and then cut them out. Hot glue the circles together and finish the middle off with rhinestone.  Glue the plastic flower over the seam on the bracelet. 
We had so much fun making these bracelets together and my daughter absolutely loves them. We are going to do another soda can crafting night with my best friend so we can try out some fun new ways to make jewelry. I am so excited they brought the 20 ounce bottles with the names back! I never thought I would be able to find my name but was pleasantly surprised to find it at the first Walmart I checked. Walmart has new see through 20 ounce bins to make it easier to find the name you are looking for. You can check to see if they have your name here
It is so much fun to find a bottle with a friend's name on it, it makes me smile the whole time I drink the bottle thinking about them. If you are looking for a specific name, check this list of stores with a large selection of bottles. All the stores have the bottles, but these store have a larger quantity. 
Who do you want to Share A Coke with?
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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Homestyle Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

You know how it is: you're at the grocery store and walk by the same item 30 times and pretend you're not really looking at it, but deep down inside you really want it.

That item for me is often — strangely enough — broccoli. I know, it's weird. But I love broccoli and crave it. So any time I can find a meal in which to slip it, I'm all for it.

This homestyle chicken and broccoli casserole is a great use of broccoli. The dish reminds me of Sunday dinners growing up: it's tasty, filling and makes you feel good.

INGREDIENTS
2 chicken breasts, diced
2 cups broccoli, cut into small pieces
2 cups cooked rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup corn flakes, crushed
2 Tbsp butter, melted

PREPARATION

  1. Boil the chicken breasts until cooked through. Remove from the water and dice.
  2. Combine the chicken, broccoli, cooked rice, cream of chicken soup, cheese and mayonnaise in a 9x13 glass baking dish and mix well.
  3. Top the casserole with corn flakes and pour melted butter on top.
  4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

It's a super easy quick-fix meal and so satisfying. Plus, it may just get your kids to eat broccoli because the pieces are small and hidden in the midst of chicken and rice.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mini Lasagna Cups


Lasagna is a family favorite. But let's be honest: it can often be expensive to make, and can be time consuming to prepare. Plus, while I love lasagna, it can tend to be heavy and just sit in your stomach. How could it not with those giant noodles?

That's where these mini lasagna cups come in. They are smaller and better portioned, which is great if you're watching your weight or trying to eat smarter. These mini lasagna cups also feature won ton wrappers instead of traditional noodles, which makes for a lighter meal and allows you to focus on all the other delicious flavors.

Not only are these mini lasagna cups fun for kids and adults to eat, but they are also super quick to prepare. They are a great first meal to teach a child since they have only a handful of easy ingredients and it all comes together easily.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb. ground pork sausage
24 won ton wrappers (2-inch, square)
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce (or spaghetti sauce)
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Garlic salt
Salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp parsley

PREPARATION

  1. Brown and crumble the sausage in a frying pan. Season with salt and pepper and garlic salt. For an extra kick add a bit of cayenne pepper. Drain fat.
  2. Combine sausage with 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce and mix well.
  3. Using nonstick spray, coat all holders in a standard muffin tin.
  4. Place a won ton wrapper in each muffin tin and press down lightly to make small bowl. Fill each bowl with 1 Tbsp ricotta cheese and lightly sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Add 1 Tbsp of the sausage/marinara sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  5. Repeat this process with another layer: won ton wrapper, ricotta, sausage/marinara and mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. The cheese should be melted and the won ton wrappers should be a golden brown.
  7. Top with parsley and serve.

Seriously, these are so good I don't know if I'll go back to traditional lasagna. And while they're not as easy to prepare as a Stouffer's Lasagna, they cook faster and I think taste better. I especially like the won ton wrappers instead of traditional noodles. Give it a try and make your kids happy.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Bag Essentials with a 15 Swim Suit Bag Tutorial

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Brita, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #BritaOnTheGo http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Summer is finally here for us. This week marks the last week of school and then we are looking forward to long days at the water park and splash pad. During a typical summer, we spent 2-3 days a week in the water, some of them impromptu trips. 

I have started carrying around a bag packed with the things we need to have a full day of fun without having to constantly run home. 

These are my summer bag musts haves:
1. A large tote. I love this tote because it is airy, has lots of room and is light weight. It is my dream summer bag.
2. A towel. I always carry a towel with us everywhere we go in the summer. If we head to the splash pad my daughter uses it after the water. If we head to the park it makes a perfect picnic blanket and I am not worried about it getting dirty.
3. Hats. Sun protection is essential when you spend so much time in it. I carry hats for me and both of my girls.
4. Healthy snacks. Nothing is worse than eating junk food during a day in the sun. Healthy snacks will keep you going longer and with more energy. I pack applesauce, nuts and granola bars.
5. A notebook and pen. I bring this for my daughter to draw in if we get stuck out and about, or I also use it to make lists while I watch my girls at the splash pad.
6. Tissues. I always make sure to carry tissues and wet wipes. You never know when you are going to need to clean up a spill.
7. A bite stick. One of the hazards of summer fun is mosquitoes. My girls can never leave the itchy bites alone, so I always carry one of these with me.
8. Sunscreen. I carry two types of sunscreen with me all the time: a tube of the cream and a sunscreen stick. I use the cream for all over and the stick for our faces. It allows us sun protection without worrying about sunscreen in baby eyes.
9. Hand Sanitizer. Nothing is more messy than playing at the park. I make sure to carry this with me for before snacks.
10. Headphones. As fun as the splash pad is, it can be noisy. Really noisy. Streaming some music can make for a relaxing afternoon for you as you watch your kids have a blast.
11. Stain Remover Wipes. Our favorite summer treat is to stop at the snow cone stand for some Tiger's Blood. While it is yummy, it can also stain. I keep these on hand just in case.
12. Headache medicine. I don't know about you, but summer sun can bring on headaches for me. It's best to knock it out early on than let it develop until you get home later.
13. Small first aid kit. I carry around bandages, ointment and tweezers for those park-time ouchies.

14.  Hair brush, hair ties and bobby pins. Inevitably, at some point during the day, I will get sick of my hair being on my neck. I love having what I need to sweep it up.
15. A wet bag for wet clothes. Check out the tutorial below.
16. A deck of cards. My daughter and I love to sit next to the pool and play cards. War is a great game to teach greater than and less than.
17. Swimsuits. I pretty much always carry the littles' swimsuits with me. That way we can make impromptu splash pad stops.
18. Brita Filtered Water Bottle. This is my go-to water bottle for staying hydrated on the go. It has an easy sip straw that even my one year old can use, so it is the perfect water bottle choice for our whole family. I love the hard-sided design so that I am not worry that it is going to get squished open in my bag. The best part of the water bottle? It has the clean, filtered taste of bottled water without having to buy a new bottle every time. The water bottle has a filter that your water is run through to make sure it tastes clean and free from chlorine and other taste-changing minerals found in tap water. I actually found my water bottle in the home improvement section of Walmart with the other water filters. 

Wet Swimsuit Bag Tutorial

Nothing can put a bigger damper on your summer bag than a wet swimsuit. I don't want to throw it in my bag because then everything else will end up soaked, but if I don't put it in my bag it can easily get left behind in the hustle of trying to get home from the splash pad or water park.

This easy-to-make wet bag can be whipped up in less than 15 minutes and is perfect for bringing home that wet swim suit, or anything else that is wet, like a blown-out baby outfit. I even love to use mine for travel. It is handy for carrying shampoo and other toiletries that could open and make a mess.

 You will need: 


  • fabric 
  • waterproof material (I like using a shower curtain or bed cover)
  • pins
  • ribbon


I didn't give exact dimensions for the bag because you can really make this any size. I just made sure my fabric was rectangular to give me the shape I wanted in a finished bag. Cut the waterproof material to be the same size as your fabric. Lay the waterproof material on top of the wrong side of the material. Fold your fabric over about 1/4 of an inch and then fold it over again about 3/4 of an inch. Pin. Repeat for the opposite side.


Sew the tops down, making sure to leave plenty of room to thread a ribbon through. Then fold the bag in half, wrong sides together and pin. Sew up the sides, but make sure to not sew all way to the top, so there is room in the casing for the ribbon to go through.


Turn the bag right side out.


Using a safety pin, thread a piece of ribbon through the bag. When you reach the hole of the other side, thread it into the other side of the bag. Tie the ribbon together. Repeat on the other side.


Simply pull both sides of ribbon to cinch the bag closed and your wet bag is finished! I love mine and we use it all the time!


I can't wait to spend our entire summer outside and in the water. All our summer bag essentials make it so we can be outside as much as possible without having to run home. I love that this bag helps keep us not only on the go but healthy while doing it. I can fill my Brita filtered water bottle anywhere, even at the park drinking fountains and have great tasting water that keeps us healthy and hydrated in the summer heat.


What is essential in your summer bag? 
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Friday, May 22, 2015

Copycat Chili's Skillet Queso



 Saying we are obsessed with Skillet Queso in our house, would be an understatement. It is one of the only things that every single person in our family loves. Normally I am fighting one of the kids to eat or my husband is eating something that he doesn't love, but not with this. It is delicious and full of flavor. We were seriously eating at Chili's once a week before we discovered the amazing combination of cheese and Hormel No Bean Chili. I didn't even know No Bean Chili existed until a couple of years ago and now I always keep it on hand to satisfy our queso cravings.
This recipe can be whipped up in just a few minutes and it is full of delicious flavors. It is our go to party food and it seems we can hardly watch a sports event without it.

 You will need: 


  • 16 ounces of Velveeta 2% Milk (This is about half a box) 
  • 1 Can Hormel No Bean Chili 
  • http://amzn.to/2oz1RMFCast Iron Skillet 
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

Cut up the cheese into small sections. Add the cheese and milk into a saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Stir frequently until the cheese starts to melt. Add the spice and lime juice and stir well and then add the chili, stirring until everything is well combined and melted. I like to use the 2% Velveeta instead of the original because not only does the cheese melt better but it also has less fat than the original version.
 Serve immediately with chips. We also love to serve it with a cup of salsa so everyone can switch up their flavors a little bit.
What is your favorite party snack?

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Silly Face Magnet Board


One of the biggest hits of the travel basket I put together for our long road trip, was the silly faces board. My daughter loved dressing up the faces with mustaches, google eyes and most of all drawing of the faces with a dry erase markers. I printed a bunch of different 5x7s, pretty much anybody that I had close head shots of, so she had pictures of her parents, grandparents and some of her aunts and  uncles to play around with. She loved having the variety of people. If you don't already have a stash of pictures, just take a close up picture of each person you want to include and print a 5x7.

You will need: 


  • 5x7 Straight On Head Shots of Family Members
  • A Way to Laminate
  • Mustache Stickers
  • Google Eye
  • Other Stickers, Construction Paper or Dry Erase Markers
  • Magnet Tape
  • Magnet
  • Cookie Sheet to use as a magnet board 

 After you print your 5x7s, make sure to laminate each picture. I have an at home laminator and I absolutely love it! It made the whole travel basket a breeze to make. This is the one I have. Have each picture laminated will prevent finger prints all over the pictures and also will allow your kids to draw on the picture with dry erase markers. After each picture is laminated, add several strips of magnetic tape to the back of each one to hold them on the board.

Add magnets to the back of google eyes and mustaches. For the mustaches, I found a bunch of mustache stickers, stuck them on a piece of thin cardboard and then cut them out and added magnet to the back of the cardboard. I also added pipe cleaners, pop poms and piece of construction paper so she could dress each person up even more.
I store all of the pieces, including dry erase markers in a binder pouch in my travel basket of games. You can find my other play mats here including a free printable car map, ocean play mat and farm play mat.

How do you keep your kids busy on road trips?
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Coconut Chicken with Two Mango Salsas


Summer is just around the corner and nothing says summer quite like light meals. I can only do so many salads before I'm craving something with substance. Normally I turn to my grill, but it has been raining like crazy around here lately, so I haven't been able to even do that.

But what says light and summer like fruit? It's delicious and sweet, but often seen as more of a dessert than a main course. But could it be a main course? Absolutely!

Enter Coconut Chicken with Two Mango Salsas. It's like child's food meets a grown-up taste palate. Why two mango salsas? Having lived in South Texas for a number of years I grew to appreciate a variety of salsas at a meal.

So, here you have it: a meal that's playful, light and incredibly tasty.

INGREDIENTS
Chicken Strips
6-10 chicken tenders
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 cup cashews
½ cup coconut flakes, sweetened
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp pepper

Mango Salsa - Pico de Gallo Style
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4-5 green onions, sliced
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp finely shredded lime peel
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper.

Smooth Mango Salsa
1 mangos, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp honey
1½ limes, juiced
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic
2 green onions, chopped

DIRECTIONS
Chicken Tender Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Toast the cashews in a pan over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Place the cashews and coconut flakes in a food processor and mix until the ingredients have crumbled together and look about the consistency of bread crumbs.
  4. Combine the cashew/coconut mixture with the flour, Panko bread crumbs, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika, salt, cayenne and pepper. Mix well in a flat glass dish.
  5. Beat the two eggs in a separate bowl.
  6. One at a time, take the chicken tenders and lightly dip in the dry spice/cashew mix. Place in the egg and return to the spice/cashew mix, pressing the mix into the chicken.
  7. Place each chicken tender on a sprayed cooking sheet.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the outside turns a nice golden brown.


Mango Salsa Preparation

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine. The end results should look like a brightly colored pico de gallo, with large chunks.


Smooth Mango Salsa Preparation

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend on high for a couple minutes until it takes on a salsa-like consistency. There shouldn't be any large chunks, but it also shouldn't turn into a sauce.

This meal works well when each salsa is placed in a small bowl. Serve with tortilla chips and alternate dipping the chicken strips and/or chips between the salsas. It's a flavor experience that will leave your sweet tooth satisfied.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

15 Ways to Reduce Allergens in Your Home


I try to be very aware of the allergens in my house. With a daughter who suffers from extreme eczema and my own asthma, I want as few things in my house that will make either of these conditions worse. Here are some of the things that I do regularly to make sure my house is as free of dust, mites and pollen as possible.

Dust before you vacuum. When you dust you are moving a lot of allergens in your house around. If you dust and then vacuum, you are going to pick up a lot more allergens than if you vacuum and then dust.


Wash all of your bedding regularly. Everyone knows they should be washing their sheets reguarly but you need to be washing your blankets and pillows on a regular basis too, You spend a lot of time in your bed, there is a lot of time for allergens to acrue. I try to wash my pillows at least once a quarter. It is also good to allow your bed to air out for a little while before you make it each day.

Run the exhaust fan when you shower. This is a hard one for me because I love it when the bathroom is warm and humid when I step out of the shower, but running the fan helps control moisture in the bathroom which will in turn prevent mold.

Wash all linens in your house. Dust doesn't just acrue on the fabric in the bed room. Make sure you are washing drapes, pillows and blankets on your couches and vacuuming your couches regularly to keep allergens down.



Don't over fill your washing machine. If you fill your washing machine too full, your clothes aren't getting properly cleaned leaving allergens all over them.

Hang your towels and other damp clothes to dry before tossing them in the hamper. Leaving damp clothes in a heap is just asking for mold to grow.

 Make sure you are washing your shower curtain and replacing your liner on a regular basis. This can be a great place for mold to grow. If you find mold, kill it with a mixture of water and bleach.

Replace cracked tiles or disintegrating caulk to keep mold from growing in your bathroom.

Use hardwoods or tile throughout the home especially in bathrooms, kitchen and dining areas where allergens love to accumulate. I see carpeted bathrooms all the time and it is honestly creating another place for mold to grow.


Have a mat on both sides of your doors, so that people can't wipe their feet well before they enter you home. Have people remove their shoes when they first enter your home to prevent allergens from being tracked all over the place.

Toss cutting boards after they get grooves or cracks in them so that germs and allergens can't collect where you prepare your food.

Keep food tightly covered to prevent pests, if you see bugs in your house especially roaches it might be time to call in professional help. Roaches bring all sort of allergens with them.

Replace your air filters often. Make sure you are replacing your air filters at least as often as the manufacturer recommends.

Swap out cleaners for free and simple versions. Watch the amount of chemicals you are using and limit there where possible.


Clean your floors often. You floors contain most of the bacteria in your house. Clean your floors with a free and clear cleaner like Bona to keep allergens under control without introducing harsh chemicals.

As someone with asthma using very gentle cleaners is really important to me. I have tried cleaners that have full on set off asthma attacks. Up until recently we have just been using water and vinegar to clean our floors so I wouldn't have an asthma attack. Bona, reccently introduced a free and simple floor cleaner, Bona Free and Simple Hardwood floor cleaner that has been certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. This certification made me willing to try and I love the results! My floors are so much cleaner and I don't have to worry about the product making me sick. The bonus? It removes 93.3% of allergens on the floor, making the entire house healthier too. Right now if you sign up for the Bona mailing list you can get a $3.00 off coupon!

What do you do to remove allergens from your home?


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Monday, May 18, 2015

Where to SPLURGE and Where to SAVE at Disneyland


In preparation for our latest trip to Disneyland I read just about every article I could find. I found so many great tips, but almost all of them talked about how to save every single penny. While we wanted an affordable trip, we also wanted to find a couple of items on which to splurge. I talked to family members and past cast members and found some amazing things to spend our money on and make the magic go farther. There are also places that we worked to save every penny.

Here is my list of where to SPLURGE and where to SAVE while you are at Disneyland.

Where to Splurge


The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
This was one of our favorite things we splurged on our latest trip. A fairy godmother does your little girl's hair in one of four styles. Each style has a special extra that goes with it. My little girl chose the bun style which came with a rhinestone tiara and a sparkly Mickey Mouse hair clip. After they are finished with their hair they apply a small amount of makeup, a rhinestone gem on the girl's face and glitter nail polish. Each girl is given a sash to wear and then there is a big reveal moment where they show the little girl what they look like in the mirror. At the end of the appointment they give your little girl everything they used — the brush, comb, makeup pallet, bottle of nail polish and leftover gems, all in a cute drawstring backpack for them to carry around.

The price starts at about $60 and goes up from there, but with everything you get and how much fun our daughter had I would do it again for sure. The boutique fills up very quickly so make sure to make a reservation before you go.


Ariel's Grotto
I am not sure that my husband and I would have ever decided to do a character dining experience, but my parents really wanted to. We ate at Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure. The food was absolutely delicious and we were able to eat outside, right on the water. The girls were given crowns and stickers to decorate with while we waited for our food. Then the princesses came around right to our table.

I loved that there was no rush for the princesses to leave. They took their time with each table and we were able to get autographs, pictures and chat with each one. In the time we were there, we saw five princesses: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, Belle and Ariel. I felt like the service was spectacular. We ordered spaghetti for our six-year-old daughter, and I forgot to ask if there was going to be cheese on it. When they brought her the plate it was covered with cheese. When she looked visibly disappointed with her food, the waiter asked the problem and immediately brought her another plate without cheese. I loved that they went out of their way to make her experience a good one. I have to say my favorite part was the dessert plates: each person got a small assortment of desserts and they were all so good.

Treats
When we are in Disneyland, we let each person pick one treat to have in the days we are there. My daughter picked a churro, her Disneyland must have. My husband and I each had a Dole Whip. (If I am being totally honest, I may have snuck off for another Dole Whip.....shh...)

Photos
I don't know about you, but as the designated picture taker in my family, I am often not in our vacation photos. It might be worth it to you to have the Disney photographers take your pictures all over the park. I would suggest that you not buy any of the photos in the park but wait until you get home. When you get home you can load up ALL of the photos they took in the same online account and then get a CD copy of every photo for about $75.

Building a light saber
If you are a Star Wars fan then check out the gift shop at the end of the Star Tours ride. They have a long Build Your Own Light Saber display with all of the different light saber parts. You can pick and chose which parts you want and create your own light saber. Both my husband and my dad built one as their souvenirs and they are awesome. They light up and make sounds when they hit together.

Where to Save 

Food
Don't plan on eating every meal in the park. Be smart about the food you purchase. We bring a LOT of snacks and water bottles with us into the park and snack all day long and then eat one meal in the park. We bring snacks like trail mix, beef jerky and dried fruit to give us a break from the sugar overload. I did end up buying kid packs while we were there. We found them at a food place by the Pirates ride for about $6. They had juice, yogurt, goldfish, apples, carrots and a banana in them. Obviously you can get all of that for way cheaper at a grocery store, but it felt like a good, healthier bang for our buck in the park.

Even if you don't bring your own food, you can always leave the park for lunch and/or dinner and go somewhere else. Once you've purchased a parking pass, you can go back and park again later that day without any trouble (other than trying to remember where you parked). This may seem like a hassle, but truthfully your most productive park hours are the first few hours after the park opens, and the few hours before the park closes. The rest of the day can be busy, hot and involve a lot of waiting in line. Leaving the park for awhile can provide a relaxing break, allow you to purchase less expensive (and often healthier) food, and come back re-energized to tackle more rides.


Photos
Photos can be a place to save as well. You are more than welcome to take pictures of just about everything with your own camera. If you are able to get some good shots with your family this might just be a good place to save your money. When we met with the characters, the Disneyland photographer was always more than willing to take a couple with my camera too. That ended up saving us a bundle. I would compare the photos you take with the photos the Disneyland photographer takes and see which you want as the memory of your trip.

Souvenirs
One of the biggest ways I saved money on souvenirs this last trip was to bring them with us. I hit up our local dollar store in the weeks before we went and I found coloring books, crayons, buckets and shovels, water guns, stickers, small white boards and figures that were all Frozen. I was able to buy a ton of the little trinket-type souvenirs for $1 a piece. If you want to bring back souvenirs from the park itself, I wrote an entire post about the Free and Cheap souvenirs you can find in Disneyland. For our kids, we set a $25 budget per kid for souvenirs and made them wait until the last day to buy. We window shopped in the days before, but we didn't actually purchase until the last day. That made sure they weren't going to find something else they wanted more later. Both of my girls ended up getting the Disney Babies stuffed animals and they love them.

Strollers
It is worth it to bring your own stroller to the park. Add the price of renting a stroller each day that you are there together and it can be pretty expensive. We loved having our own stroller because not only did we not have to rent one, but it was easy to spot since it didn't look like all the other rental strollers. It was also nice to have a place to store all of our snacks in the bottom compartment.

Small Necessities
On one of the days we were at the park we discovered our one-year-old daughter was cutting a molar. She was miserable and I didn't have any medicine with me. The baby center had some baby medicine, but it was very pricey. I made sure to have medicine with me the next day. If you can remember things like medicine, sunscreen, baby wipes and the like you can save yourself oodles.


The most important part of our splurging and saving this last trip is that we had a budget for everything. We truly got to enjoy our trip without the stress and sticker shock of how expensive Disneyland can be.

If you are thinking of planning a trip to Disneyland check out Get Away Today's California Vacation deals. Use the code Housewife15 to get $10 off your trip!

Where would you splurge?
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