Friday, October 24, 2014

Or House is Halloween Dress-Up Crazy!

I love all the holidays, but getting a chance to be someone else, real or fanciful, now that is my kind of holiday!

I know things have been quiet around here, but my time has been taken up with family and their school activities. Right now it has all been around dress-up and decking these kids out for their various parties and events. Am I the only one who does multiple costumes each year? With all the great costume possibilities I am not sure how to choose only one!

This year has given me the chance to create a family costume, have the kids pick out their dream costume and let me help create some special pieces to go with their imaginative ideas. Hopefully all the projects get finished in time. I still have one Tin Man's heart to sew.


This year the annual elementary school carnival has a superhero theme, so of course, costumes are involved. My son has his own personalized cape from Etsy, but since he really loves Captain America, I made him a simple mask and this Captain America shield out of felt.

Superhero masks are very easy to make. I highly suggest creating a pattern with freezer paper, ironing it to felt and then cutting it out. The freezer paper stencil can be used multiple times and will give the masks not only stability while cutting, but will also keep them uniform.


Since I was pretty sure this would be the last year I could convince my family to go in for the whole family costume, I let my daughter also pick out a costume to fit her personality. She is old enough to have a strong costume preference for her upcoming parties. She really admires the elegance and beauty of Audrey Hepburn (Or "Headburn", as my daughter says), so we went for this adorable Breakfast at Tiffany's inspired costume from Chasing Fireflies.

I just couldn't resist!


Our group costumes will be for The Wizard of Oz with Audrey as Dorothy, my oldest as the Tin Man and the baby will be dressed up as the Cowardly Lion. His costume is my favorite! It was another Etsy find. The whole body suit and hood were comparable in price to the costume sites, but the costume is neither itchy nor sheds fuzz. I made the mistake of buying him a store model this Summer and the thing didn't stop shedding.

Weather dependent, I would like to go as Glenda. But, I don't want to spoil all the Halloween day excitement, so this Dorothy costume (from a great Etsy seamstress) is the only sneak peak I will give. I just hope the weather will cooperate and I can set up a photo shoot like last year to show off our group look.


Lastly, my son decided for his class party to go as Sir Owen. This was another Chasing Fireflies find and I love not only the detail, but the personalization that I opted to have done with the cape. From his boot covers to his flowing cape, my son was able to get in character effortlessly.

So why all the costumes? Well, besides needing a little boost to our dress-up box with the kids both having a massive growth spurt this past Summer, I completely understood the trouble they had deciding on a costume. Do you remember the world of possibilities that Halloween opened up to you as a child?

To be a princess waiting to be found by her prince, or a peacock in all his splendor. We don't do scary around here for Halloween, but we do let our imaginations soar and our costume fantasies become reality.

How does your family decide what to be for Halloween?

Andrea
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Get Rewarded for Rocking Low Calorie Drinks with Platinum Points!

This low calorie drinks shop for #PlatinumPoints has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. 


Okay, I am not the only person to say it, but it often goes unsaid. Water, day in and day out, glass after glass can get a little.... boring.


Yeah. 8 glasses of water a day is my goal. Seems like I am always running here or there and forget to drink. So I grab a soda... I grab a coffee that would be more accurately described as sugar and milk with an afterthought of caffeine. But what I really should be drinking is water. I know that and also know all those other tempting drinks give me unwanted calories that I am currently trying to avoid.

Ah, but my sweet tooth calls...

So I am working hard to rock the low calorie drinks and have found a way to even be rewarded for my sweet changes. With a little help from Crystal Light and some sweet motivation from #PlatinumPoints and Miranda Lambert, sipping my way to my daily water goal has never tasted so good!



When hitting the beverage aisle at my local Walmart I noticed something different about Crystal Light. Not only was it not in the large powder packs of my past, but the flavors were more my style. I grabbed liquid drops in both Strawberry Lemonade and Strawberry Green Tea. The selection of flavors available is great.

Green tea and strawberry? I think I have found my new daily favorite.


And keep reading to see my favorite Crystal Light mix-ins to kick up the low calorie fun another notch!


These little liquid squeeze packs are perfect for me to take and use throughout my busy day. In fact, since they are so small and don’t need refrigeration, I can slip one into my purse and add a little low calorie flavor to my day as needed.

Whether it is a squeeze in my water bottle, or an addition to my water while eating out, I love being able to control what my water tastes like.





The Crystal Light liquid has transformed my morning water glasses into something delicious.


And as for those sweet rewards? Well, Crystal Light has teamed up with Miranda Lambert to create #PlatinumPoints where you can rock the low calorie water enhancers and your love of Miranda Lambert for some sweet rewards.

Look in the electronics department of your local Walmart for a special in-store display with details, or head over to the Platinum Points Loyalty Program to get started. Get yourself registered and check out the complete list of ways to earn points. 


Welcome to Platinum Points! Earn rewards by purchasing Crystal Light products! At the end of the program, we'll randomly select one winner. All purchases must be made by December 31, 2014, receipts submissions must be submitted by November 15, 2014, and points redemptions must be submitted by January 15, 2015. See Official Rules for details.


Since nothing makes me feel better than to relax with a sweet beverage and listen to some good music, I picked up Miranda Lambert's Platinum CD and mixed up a simple Crystal Light Strawberry Lemonade. 

I rock the Strawberry Lemonade by replacing my usual ice cubes with frozen fruit. They keep my drink cold and are a low calorie treat to eat after my drink is gone.


And if I am not listening to music, my rare moments of downtime (during those rare toddler naps, or while the older kids are at school) I try to browse craft and sewing books to be inspired for my next big project. Right now I am getting ideas for birthday parties and holiday celebrations. I just adore adding a personal touch to my parties.

And I like personalizing my Crystal Light, too! Here are ideas for putting your own spin on your favorite Crystal Light flavors without adding a ton of calories:
  • Frozen Berries
  • Frozen Melon Balls
  • Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Substitute Coconut Water for the Water
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Lemon Slices


So after stocking my purse and pantry with my favorite Crystal Light flavors and getting some new tunes, I already have several hundred points to put towards some fun Melissa Lambert swag. Neat, right?

And I am happy to report that getting my daily water hasn't been a chore. In fact, it has never been sweeter! 

What is your favorite Crystal Light flavor? How would you personalize your glass?

Andrea
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Easy Felt Bat Hair Clips


We are in full Halloween countdown in my house. Costumes have arrived and finishing touches have been made. Somehow I was able to convince my kids to indulge their Mother in one more Halloween night family costume... though both kids chose their own costume for school activities.

I just love Halloween. Not just the costumes and sweet treats, but all the decorations and fun.

So besides costumes my kids each have Halloween outfits, but I still needed a clip or Halloween inspired bow to finish off my daughter's outfit.

Why not just make one?


Yes, I love working with felt because it is inexpensive and fast to work with. Recently though, I got smarter about using and cutting felt. If you don't already use freezer paper for your designs, you should be!

Freezer paper is perfect for drawing (or tracing) images and outlines on. It also is fabulous for stabilizing the wool felt.

Just iron the freezer paper stencil lightly to the felt and cut it out.


 the best part is the stencils can be used over and over. Just apply with heat and the freezer paper easily pulls away from the felt or fabric afterwards.

I stitched the two pieces of felt together with white embroidery floss. and then used my hot glue gun to attach an alligator clip to the back.


Does it get much easier than that?

Now my daughter is ready for Halloween, and I may have to whip up a few more for our friends.




Andrea
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

5-Hour Energy - Yummification Winners Announced!

This post was sponsored by 5-hour ENERGY® with samples, a gift card, information about the "Yummification" video contest , and an additional gift pack provided by the makers of 5-hour ENERGY®. All opinions and experiences are mine alone.


Do you remember when I mixed up my own little Pineapple Coconut Splash in the name of 5-Hour Energy's Yummification contest?

Well, the winners have been announced and I wanted to share all the delicious and creative recipes that caught the eye of the judges!

First Place ($50,000 prize): “Pomelimelade” by Tim Merlau, Los Angeles, CA
This winning submission mixes a Pomegranate 5-hour ENERGY® shot with limeade, and then takes us on a musical journey through all that can be accomplished over several hours (spoiler alert:  it’s a lot). 


You have to check out their clever and unique video. I can see why he won, and I will have to try out this winning combination. I think it will make you want to have a "Pomelimelade" as well. 




And the 2nd and 3rd place winners are:

       Second Place ($30,000 prize): “Ramalamadingdong” by Mark Golembeski, Los Angeles, CA
o   The second place video helps us turn that 2:30 feeling frown upside down by mixing a 5-hour ENERGY® shot with lemonade.  This video has it all: a clown, a puppy, a guy in a tutu, and much more. 
o   “Ramalamadingdong”
§  1 glass Lemonade
§  1 shot of Berry 5-hour ENERGY® 

·         Third Place ($10,000 prize): “Arnold Power” by Zac Sheorn, Lugoff, SC
o   The third place winner reminds us that you don’t have to be good at sports, but mixing a Pink Lemonade 5-hour ENERGY® shot with decaffeinated iced tea helps keep you refreshed while practicing.  And practicing. 
o   “Arnold Power”
§  1 glass Decaf Iced Tea
§  1 shot of Pink Lemonade 5-hour ENERGY® 

Check it all out on the 5-hour Energy site: 
 http://5hourenergy.com/yummification

Now, what do you plan to mix with your 5-hour ENERGY?

Andrea
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Outlander Boxset Giveaway - Own the Complete Set! (October 15 -31)

If you are an Outlander fan or have always wanted to start reading the series, you won't want to miss out on this fabulous giveaway!

OutlanderGiveaway

The best selling book series, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon has recently been made into a t.v. series on Starz! In celebration of that several bloggers and authors have joined together to bring you the complete book series!!
~~~~~~~~
Be sure to follow and visit the sponsors - Taking Time for Mommy Books and Movies, RhiReading, The Stuff Of Success, Mama's Got Flair, Bookswagger, The Crafty Cauldron, Generations of Savings, Adventures in All Things Food, Notes from the Loft, and Devyn's Thoughts.

This giveaway is open to US residents 18+. It ends 10/31/14 @ 11:59 PM EST. Fill out the form below to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Andrea
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How Did Exaltria Skin Care Fit into my past 30 Days? My Final Results

This #30Days2BetterSkin Exaltria Skin Care shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions and experiences are mine alone.



As I mentioned in my previous post, my skin has really started to show my age. Crows feet, smile lines, uneven skin tone and larger pores... yeah, it doesn't bounce back like when I was 18. And this 36-year old can add to the fun sleepless nights as a Mom and probably not drinking as much water as I need.



Whew! Confessions are good for the soul. Aren't they?

Well, I introduced you all to the #30Days2BetterSkin challenge in my previous post, Skin Care from the Inside Out with Exaltria, and I am excited to say that my month long challenge has ended. Or, I should say I hit the one month mark, but more about that later.

In my before photo, which is completely bare faced, you can see that I have combination skin, dry in patches, oily in others. I have fine lines and blotchy skin. I am good about minimizing my sun exposure and use an SPF moisturizer daily, but the effects of the sun-filled days of teens are showing.

My challenge was to make simple changes in my day to help my skin look it's best. Here is what I promised to do:
  1. Healthy eating to start my day
  2. Drink 8 glasses of water daily
  3. Work up a sweat for 30 minutes a day
  4. Wash my face twice daily
  5. Take Exaltria daily
So I started my challenge not knowing what to expect. 


The first 2 weeks were the hardest. Hardest to remember to do everything I promised, as well as the hardest on my skin. It was a little drier than usual and areas around my T-zone peeled. Not a big deal, it reminded me of any new topical face creams I tried as a teen from the dermatologist. Everything has a transition period.

During this time I posted on Instagram and Facebook about my journey, but my day starts out with a healthy breakfast. My favorite includes a scrambled egg with my choice of vegetable, fresh fruit and a little Coconut Yogurt. Here is one of my favorites, a morning asparagus scramble.

Morning Asparagus Scramble
(Single Serving)

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3-4 Asparagus stalks, cut into 1/2 inch slices on a diagonal
  • 1 large egg
  • splash of milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat up the olive oil in a small pan. Add the sliced asparagus and saute till tender crisp over medium heat. Then scramble the egg with a splash milk and pour over the softened asparagus. Cook eggs through and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!



Then I have my morning vitamins, one Exaltria pill and start drinking my water. Remember, my goal is to drink 8 glass of water every day. The first 5 are the easiest, but if I don't start early it is hard to squeeze in the last few.


After getting my kids on the bus for school I can push the stroller a little farther and work on getting 30 minutes of brisk walking in. Walking is my exercise of choice because I can do it with the baby. He loves our morning walks!  I was also motivated to finally buy a Fitbit Flex and start tracking my overall activity and steps for the day.

A simple visual reminder always helps me stay on track. And I am a competitive person so earning my step or calorie badges is fun for me.


Along with my walk, regular household chores and the daily life, I keep my water bottle handy. This one has a built-in filter so I can refill anywhere. Taste is a big reason I often don't drink water. The filter has really helped with that.


And then of course I have been washing my face morning and night. Yeah, it seems like a simple thing to do, but sometimes those simple things make all the difference. I know as a teen and into my 20's it didn't always happen twice a day. Too busy to bother, you know?

Not all the lines are gone, but I am happy to say that my skin now looks more hydrated and the tone is more even on my previous problem areas. I would like to hope that my pores, especially around the apple of my cheeks, are less noticeable. For just a 30 day commitment, that isn't too bad.


So how did Exaltria fit in to my day? It was just one more step and a good reminder that there is a lot I wasn't doing for my skin before. It is too easy to overlook the simple things that can be done on a daily basis to help me look my best. And after 30 days these are all good habits that I want to keep going with.

What is Exaltria? It is a natural dietary supplement for skin that works from the inside out. At 25 the body can stop producing molecular acid, which slows or even stops the skin's ability to restore elasticity. One pill of Exaltria a day can help and help you maintain young healthy looking skin. You can purchase Exaltria on Amazon.com and start your own #30Days2BetterSkin Challenge.

What healthy skin routine do you have? Any secrets to share?

Andrea
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bad Day, Ending with Good Eats - Creamed Spinach and Egg Pizza


Of course I have to laugh, my week seemed to rival Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but it was a childhood favorite of mine and has been on my mind as I dealt with family life gone wrong.

But back to my fabulous week...

It was a crazy mix of internet connection issues, a new puppy, a rambunctious & climbing toddler and older kids bent of breaking out the old school tantrums. Yeah, I think those days happen to everyone, right? Let's just call it a collective family funk, shall we?

Well, it wasn't pretty and our patience as parents was tried over and over. We missed our date night in lieu of a fabulous night of discipline and tears. Not Hallmark moments, for sure!


The unfortunate consequence of all the insanity (and sleepless nights) was a complete inability to carve out time for cooking. So we ate out.

I don't think my husband or I were made to eat out more than once in a blue moon. We started to feel the "blech" of too much sodium and processed foods. Yeah, I really do notice. Am I the only one that is so excited to get back into the kitchen after a vacation or long stretch eating out?

So for my first chance back to my "happy place" was for simple comfort food. These Creamed Spinach and Egg Pizzas were easy but from scratch. What more could I want?

Oh, and you know I am always looking for another great egg recipe. My hen count is up to almost 20!


Okay, I totally paired it with a favorite micro brew... which made it even better.


I started by wilting my spinach and creating a rue. Don't be intimidated. A rue is just butter, flour and a splash of milk. It colors slightly, thickens and becomes fragrant. Just don't step away while you are working. You don't want it to burn.


With just a little milk added, it will thicken and start to bubble. That is when you can add the other ingredients.


I thinned the rue with milk, a little cream cheese, freshly grated Parmesan, minced garlic, a dash of nutmeg and my wilted and chopped spinach. Season to taste and this part is good to go. If you like a little heat, go ahead and throw a few crushed pepper flakes into the mix.

For this dish I went with my standard whole wheat pizza crust recipe, which I throw into the bread machine to knead and proof. It takes about an hour and then just needed to be shaped, brushed with olive oil before pre-baking  and then topped.

Why pre-bake? I was worried about the creamed spinach keeping the crust in the middle from being cooked through and crisp enough. This is my own personal thing.


Creamed Spinach and Egg Pizza

You Will Need:

2 lbs. baby spinach
1 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
2/3 c. milk
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
dash of grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese + more for sprinkling on top of the pizzas
Whole Wheat pizza dough
4 large eggs
1 c. Mozzarella Cheese, grated

Bring your pizza dough to room temperature if refrigerated. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees with your pizza stone, if you have one.

Begin by wilting your baby spinach in a large pot of simmering water. It doesn't take long, just let it soften down. Keep adding to the pot until all the spinach is wilted. Squeeze dry and roughly chop.

Then start on your rue. Melt the butter in a frying pan and quickly whisk in the flour. Let it color slightly and become fragrant. Then stir in the milk, cream cheese, nutmeg, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Let the bechamel start to bubble and thicken. Then stir in the 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese and chopped spinach. Remove from the heat.

Divide the pizza dough into 4 portions and shape your small crusts. Brush with olive oil and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and spoon on a spoonful or two of creamed spinach, making a well in the center to break your eggs into. Then top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and a dash of salt and pepper. Bake for 9-12 minutes until the egg is set as you desire.

Enjoy!

Andrea
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Creating a Sleeping Beauty - worthy Spa Party

This Sleeping Beauty -worthy Spa Party shop, inspired by the Sleeping Beauty Blu-Ray release, has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DisneyBeauties


This year my daughter turned 5, quietly. 

It was a crazy time of year, school supplies and clothes shopping, the beginning of school to prepare for and Summer was coming to an end. I just couldn't get friends together and orchestrate a big party for her just then. There were not enough hours in my day. But sometimes good things are worth waiting for.

With my daughter now gone for the afternoon, I have missed our special time together. She is learning and growing at such a fantastic pace and I am so proud of her. She really deserved a celebration. So I decided that the Sleeping Beauty DVD release was the perfect occasion to throw a Sleeping Beauty worthy Spa Party ...and secret belated birthday bash for my little girl.

No, really, throwing a party can be easy!

With two now in school and my toddler underfoot, I wanted to make the party memorable, but also easy on me. So I turned to Walmart to pick up all our party essentials plus the Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition DVD Gift set, that would be the centerpiece of our celebration. 


We headed into Walmart to pick up everything we needed for the party. I told my daughter that we were getting together for a Royal Spa Party, but didn't let on that it was also to celebrate her 5th birthday. She helped me shop and had no idea what I had up my sleeve! 

We found the Sleeping Beauty DVD back in the electronics section and my daughter was so excited we were getting a copy. The movie was my favorite growing up and she hadn't watched it yet. I was thrilled for the chance to show it to her and all her friends.


If you have done any shopping in your local Walmart lately, you might have noticed that the costume section is bursting at the seams with great Disney items. My idea was to make each little girl attending our party feel like a princess, so I picked up a costume for each guest in a variety of characters. My daughter wanted to go as Aurora and asked each of her friends who they wanted to be for the party. I loved that there were so many Walmart exclusive costumes with lockets at a great price. 


I also found many small Spa themed items to go in the girls' goodie bags. From heart toe separators and finger nail polish to lip gloss and princess candy bracelets, there was plenty to keep all the little princesses looking their best.


For a treat, I skipped the typical cake and went for a quick Fairy Godmother Puffed Rice Treat. I used strawberry marshmallows to make them pink, sprinkled the treats with candy sprinkles before cutting them out with a star cookie cutter. Adding on a cookie pop stick, they were ready to grant the kids' sweet wishes. ...and as an added bonus, they were already in individual servings.


My daughter's big request for the party was fresh flowers. Now, I had to agree that most spas put a lot of effort into the decorations and these pink roses were perfect for our main table. 

The Fairy Godmother wands were the centerpiece for my table and I decorated the rest with princess stand-ups and bottles of matching nail polish, feather boas, and marked each place at the table with a Sleeping Beauty coloring sheet and boxes of crayons or markers.

Princesses love to color.


To keep with our Disney princess theme, I found an assortment of items from American Greetings for the party. From plates to cups and decorations, my favorite was the pack of invitations and thank you post cards. It is such a nice idea to make it easy to teach proper manners to my little host. Those cards were easy for her to fill out, with help, to thank her guests for coming to our party and for the wonderful gifts they brought. 

Did you know you can save $3 with any $10 purchase of Disney-themed American Greetings Celebrations supplies at Walmart? The coupons were right in the party section and coupons are available in-store through October 31st.



My side table I used for all the plates, napkins, glittery wands and the goodie bags. It is nice to keep the main table free for sitting and eating.


My buffet held snacks, drinks and later our food which I had delivered during the party. I wanted to spend as much time enjoying the kids and not serving food. Having a simple buffet means everyone could help themselves.

Of course any self respecting spa offers refreshing lemon water, I had pink lemonade for the princesses, and healthy salads and pita wraps were available for everyone as well.

Because I didn't have time to move everything out of my kitchen/dining area for the party, I chose to use existing pictures for my theme. I taped a Sleeping Beauty silhouette over an already existing picture and then decorated another frame with cut-outs of the 3 fairies from the movie. I love how it turned out and it was so simple.


And since my piano is just there in the dining area... of course I had to decorate it as well! You can see all the costumes hanging by the entryway to greet guests, and more Sleeping Beauty silhouettes and princess stand-ups were used here as well. 


Once the guests started to arrive the house was a whirl of activity! Some girls were shy about getting dressed up at first, though all of them were excited to pick out their own costume to take home. (Instant Princess Halloween costumes!) The girls were much more interested in the crafts and activities than checking out the food. I found a large bag of self-sticking jewels for their crowns so no messy glue was needed.

At this age adorning things is still more important than adorning themselves, so creating the perfect princess crown was serious business!


Then I put on Sleeping Beauty for all the parents, princesses and even the little princes, to enjoy. I just let the DVD keep playing throughout the party so kids and parents had a chance to watch whenever they wanted.

How long has it been since you watched Sleeping Beauty? 

Most of the adults agreed that we didn't remember all of the scenes in the movie, just the key moments. It is such a classic, now that I own it I know I will be watching it over and over until I have it memorized.


The kids loved the movie and our Sleeping Beauty-worthy Spa Party was the perfect chance to get together with friends, princesses and little princes alike. 


It was also a perfect way to celebrate my daughter's 5th birthday. She was shocked when her friends arrived with birthday gifts and well wishes. Many of the gifts included more Disney princess items to her delight.

Because planning and throwing a memorable party doesn't have to be a lot of work, here is a great Party Planning Checklist to use for your next big birthday bash. My rule is keep it organized, keep it simple and get help when possible. My favorite help is food delivery, to be sure! 

Here is a recap slideshow of the fun:

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Our Sleeping Beauty -worthy Spa Party #DisneyBeauties #shop #flipagram We enjoyed a Sleeping Beauty - worthy Spa Party (and belated birthday) for my daughter and her friends. Come check out the fun on the blog today. #DisneyBeauties #shop #party #Disney made with @flipagram ♫ Music: Taylor Swift - Red

I don't know how many years I have left of princess parties, fairy wands and glittery finger nail polish, but I know, at least for one night, I was able to celebrate my little #DisneyBeauties the way they should be celebrated.



Do you have a favorite Disney Princess? 

When was the last time you watched Sleeping Beauty?

Andrea
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