Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tiny House Bedroom

It's been almost a year since we've moved into our tiny home. 
We have made quite a few changes and continue to do so to make living as a family in a tiny home more convenient and comfortable. 
The one bedroom we have has seen the most changes so far. We've tried various sleeping arrangements over the past year and I'm pretty pleased with our latest changes.

You remember when we first moved in the bedroom was completely filled up by a queen size bed.
Alaya slept in a pack n' play next to the bed so between those two beds you couldn't hardly move around the room let alone store any toys in there. 

Next we had two twin mattresses on the floor that we would spread out on the floor at night and the three of us would spread out and sleep together on the 2 mattresses (Alaya still in her pack n' play).
A few toys could be stored in there with this setup as well as a dresser.

And NOW...

Alaya has graduated to a toddler bed and her brother sleeps on a foldout bed which works perfectly because it can be stored away during the day leaving plenty of room for them to play and ALL of their toys are stored in the corner of the room. 
Also notice we tore out the old carpet and put in new flooring!
If you're wondering where I sleep, my husband and I have overstuffed futon in the living room we share.
I love this set up so much better than our previous sleeping arrangements because I no longer have to store all of their toys in the living room and there's much more room for them to play!

So when we start to feel cramped or need a little space from one another, I can just send them to play in their room!
It's working out perfectly so far.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Why You Should Stay At A Disney Resort


What better family-friendly vacation is there than Disney World!!?
We went this past December and had the best of time!!
We went back on forth with so many decisions regarding our vacations ..do we fly or drive? Do we stay at Disney Resort or cheap hotel? Do we rent a car or no? Keep in mind we wanted to do our family vacation on a budget and in the end we discovered that staying at a Disney Resort actually saved us money in the long run so I thought I would share with you how and why you should consider staying at a Disney Resort too!

By staying in a Disney Resort we were able to not have to worry about the cost of shuttle services, buying individual magic bands, parking costs, gas, and more!! Not to mention the CONVENIENCE of staying at a resort and all the perks it has. You're about to hear the word convenience used a ridiculous amount of times in this book-long blog post. Don't say I didn't warn you!

WHY WE FLEW

Since we live in Iowa, it was a huge deal for us to travel that far for a vacation.
We went back and forth whether we wanted to drive or fly and I am SO glad we decided to fly. 
It would've been at least a 20 hour drive nonstop to Florida, and with 2 toddlers, driving nonstop wasn't possible the 20 hours would've turned into 2 days of traveling down and another 2 days back. We decided flying would be better for our sanity and actually cheaper (yes cheaper!!) because we didn't have to stay in hotels & buy extra food those 4 days of traveling . We preferred to have those 4 days actually in Florida so we opted for a 2 hour flight verses the endless hours of driving. And depending on when you buy your airline tickets, sometimes they have really good deals. I saw roundtrip tickets from St. Louis, MO to Orlando, Fl for as low as $99/person. You can't drive that far for that cheap!! Unfortunately I missed this deal but we paid around $150/each which was still very reasonable! It also helped that our youngest was 1 and could sit in our lap and ride free so we only had to buy 3 tickets. 

Since we weren't driving, we then had to decide whether we wanted to rent a car or not. Since it was December and our kids are so young we didn't feel the need to go to the beach or venture far from Disney World so we decided we didn't need to spend an extra $300 on a vehicle (plus rent carseats!). This is what ultimately led us our decision to stay at a Disney World Resort. 

CHOOSING A HOTEL


There are other hotels near Disney World that are relatively cheap! You can stay at a nice Wyndham Hotel close by  for around $85/night with free shuttle to the parks! Cheap! So why wouldn't we stay there to save money?? They won't pick us up from the airport. If we decided to stay at a hotel near Disney World without staying at a Disney Resort we would've had to find an additional shuttle service to take us from the airport to our hotel and back again, in turn, adding additional costs and I really didn't want to have to mess with carseats. When we realized Disney Resorts provide FREE shuttle to their hotel we knew right away we wanted to stay at a Disney Resort and the perks we discovered afterwards were just icing on the cake!


There are a handful of Disney Resorts to choose from and since we were on a budget we looked into what they call the "Value Resorts". We were originally going to stay at the Disney All-Star Resort which was around $98/night but decided to go with the Pop Century Resort because we heard it had recently been renovated and was the nicest of the value resorts. Not to mention, unlike the other value resorts that share the same buses to the parks, Pop Century has their very own buses that take you directly to the parks without stopping to pick up people from other resorts. We didn't want to risk not being able to get on a bus that's too full when we wanted to go to the park. And did I mention Pop Century Resort only cost us $108/night?! 

GETTING TO THE HOTEL-Disney Magical Express


When we got off our flight we headed straight to the designated Disney Resort pickup area. There, they scanned our Magic Bands for the first time and it automatically checked us in for pickup-it doesn't get much easier than that people! The Disney Magical Express was great and I'll say it again...convenient!! You can even register ahead of time for their luggage delivery service and they will pick up your luggage from the baggage claim and take it to your hotel room so you don't even have to think or mess with baggage! How awesome is that? We only had one suitcase so we decided we would just keep it with us but we would definitely take advantage of that perk if we went again.


PARK SHUTTLES-Disney Motorcoaches

Let me take a moment and talk a little bit about their shuttles to the parks for a moment. The Disney Motorcoaches go to every park, Disney Springs, and even the Boardwalk! A new bus comes every 20 minutes so you don't have to wait too long before a bus shows up. They are like a large city bus so all you have to do is fold up your stroller and climb aboard. 

So if you're thinking you wanted the convenience of being able to go/leave the parks when you wanted then I actually think the resort shuttle buses are extremely convenient because you don't have to worry about waiting in traffic lines, paying for parking, NOR do you have to worry about directions. You just get on and ride and within minutes you are at your destination.

MAGIC BANDS!!

If you stay at a Disney Resort you will receive your Magic Bands for FREE (*or complimentary rather since technically you are paying to stay there.) If you didn't stay at a Disney Resort you would have to buy your Magic Band separately from your park tickets which would be an addition cost of $13/person. For my family that would of cost another $52 just for bracelets...So there is yet another way staying at a resort actually saved us money!! 


And can I just say how AWESOME magic bands are?!! It makes hotel check-in so easy, and whenever we had questions about our trip they would just scan our bracelet and our itinerary information would show up so they could help us quickly and efficiently. Not to mention how quickly you can get on rides at the park with the fast passes linked to your band. AND they are waterproof so I just stuck them on my kids and didn't have to worry about them getting lost or them taking them off to swim. We just kept them on all week!! My FAVORITE part, seems silly, but they opened our hotel door?!! No more losing our hotel key or waiting to dig it out of my purse, or losing it at the parks...nope! We just scan our bracelet (that we never took off) and Ta-Da!! Our door opened. Quick and easy. Seems like such a minor thing but it was awesome to not have to one more thing like a hotel key card to keep track of. 

MULTIPLE POOLS
The resorts are huge of course so the buildings of the hotel are broken up into sections. There is one large main pool of the hotel that can be found in the middle and main part of the hotel. 


But I loved that there are also smaller pools in each section of the hotel. If you stay at the Disney Art of Animation Resort they have an entire area devoted to looking like you're in Radiator Springs from the movie Cars. And, as i mentioned each section has, it's got an adorable little pool in the "Cozy Cone Hotel"!! How fun is that?!

 Smaller individual pools are nice for when you don't want to have to walk and take your kids allllll the way to the main pool or when you want to swim somewhere with less people, you can swim in a pool right out your front door in the section you hotel room is in!!

And yet another perk, they provide complimentary life jackets for your kids!
You don't have to sign up for them or rent one. They are available at each pool and are hanging up ready to grab and put on when you're ready to swim! I swear Disney thinks of everything!
And if you're wondering if there's a place for small toddlers and baby's to play they even have a splash and baby area for young kids to play in water to keep cool! 


PLAYGROUNDS & EVENTS

I think it's important to have some downtime on vacation. With young kids, we didn't want to be rushing around everywhere trying to cram everything in to the point of exhaustion. I think we did a nice job of having rest but also a lot of fun. We didn't go to a Disney Park everyday and spent quite a bit of time just hanging around  the resort. The resort has so much to do in itself that I think you should plan a day or two on your vacation to just spend at your resort! A few nights a week they have an outdoor Movie Under the Stars where you can go watch a Disney movie outside on the lawn. My husband took our oldest to a movie a couple nights while I put our youngest to bed early.


I love they have playgrounds on site at each hotel. I took my 1 year old there a lot while her dad and older brother were swimming or playing at the arcade!  She absolutely loved it and it was the perfect pastime for a small toddler! 
They even do special events and dance parties down at scheduled times down at the main pool! We didn't make it to this event but we passed it and it looked like a lot of fun! They were playing fun music and they had lifeguards teaching games and fun dances for the kids to do at the pool! They even had ping pong table by the pool and volleyball court and so much more around the resort. There was always something to do!!

JOGGING TRAIL

The Value Disney Resorts do not have workout and exercise equipment available but they do have jogging trails. The one at Pop Century and Art of Animation was beautiful and wrapped around a small lake. 
The scenery was so lovely and the weather was phenomenal in December! It was mid-seventies all week and as perfect as can be!

THE AMBIANCE

You're a a Disney Resort for goodness sake! You can expect it to be a magical and happy place! The ambiance and surroundings are top notch! The workers are extremely helpful and always-ALWAYS have a smile on their face! There are Disney character pictures everywhere and the statues just add to the fun of  going to Disney World!! It just made our trip that much more magical. Event though we stayed at Pop Century, the Art of Animation was close by, just on the opposite side of the lake so we walked over and toured the resort one day and dare I say that was nearly as much fun as going to Magic Kingdom!!!!
Both resorts had awesome sights and art to see! Touring the resorts is an event in itself and so worth taking the time to do so!!
We had a blast just walking through the resorts seeing all the statues, trying out the playgrounds, and taking pictures with our favorite characters.


FOOD COURT & SHOPPING

Some might view this as a downfall, but I loved that I didn't have to worry about going to a grocery store to get food or going to eat out everytime we were hungry. It was nice there is a large food court at your resort for you to eat whenever you want! It's convenient. But not cheap of course. You can expect to pay around $10/meal OR you can go the cheap route and do what we did! They have these homemade lunchboxes called a "PowerPack" in the fridge section of the food court. They were around $5 each and came with a apple granola bar, package of goldfish crackers, yogurt, grapes, carrots, and your choice of milk/water/juice box. That's a lot of food for a small child to eat!! We would plan to eat a light lunch and buy 3 boxes ($15 total!) and the four of us would share the three boxes of food and be quite content! It was so much more filling than we ever imagined. Plus, it saved us money and worked out perfectly for us. We are used to eating a light lunch anyways and a larger meal for dinner so we decided to do the same on vacation and had a light lunch and then planned to eat a large dinner later  at a nicer restaurant when we were at Magic Kingdom or Disney Springs. The Power Packs were great too when we just wanted a snack (my kids love to snack!!) so we would buy one box and each have a snack from it. Makes for a cheap snack for four people for just five bucks.

If you want to save even more money, you can mail snacks down ahead of time to your hotel and they will hold onto your package until you arrive. Or you can even pack food in your luggage if you have specific snacks you want or if you're just wanting to save money and make pb sandwitches for lunch. We sent food down ahead of time and unfortunately there was a problem with the postal service because we didn't get our package until the last day we were there so that was a bummer. But we were pretty excited when we found the Power Pack lunchables for so cheap. Keep in mind, you can take food into the Disney Parks so sometimes if we had leftovers we would throw the fish crackers in a bag for my toddlers to have later in the park! 

What about souvenirs you ask?! There is a Disney Store on site right along with the cafe. There are Disney souvenirs as well as some essentials like tylenol, diapers, wipes, tums, etc! If they don't have what you need, just ask and they will help you find a way to get it. **


PARK MERCHANDISE DELIVERY 

Another cool perk about staying at a resort is the merchandise delivery system they have! If you're at a Disney Park and wanting to buy some merchandise, instead of buying and having to carry it with  you all day at the park, you can arrange for Disney to have it delivered to your resort. All you have to do is tell the clerk at the register and they will make arrangements to have it delivered to the resort you are staying at. I know I say this a lot, but how CONVENIENT!!! 



CAR RENTAL

If for some reason you do want to go off of the Disney premises, whether you want to go to the beach or Universal Studios, there is a car rental available. The Disney Hotel will provide a shuttle for you that will take you to the Disney Car Rental lot for you to pick up your car. (Hello Convenience!) 


**Keep in mind there are plenty of other services around that will deliver various things you may need so I wouldn't recommend renting a car if you're just wanting to go to the store for groceries or medicine. There are grocery stores in the area that will deliver to Disney Resorts and even DrugStores that deliver as well! My son broke out in a rash while we were down there and they didn't have Benedryl available in the resort shopping area so we called a DrugStore that PopCentury recommended and the DrugStore delivered the medicine to our hotel and left it with the front desk who then called us to pick it up! The hotel just added it to our bill and we didn't have to worry about money exchange or anything. Holy convenience! That's right, I said convenient again!!! Disney Resorts are the masters of convenience.



So there you have it. My thoughts on why you should consider staying at a Disney Resort and how it saved us money! I realize depending on where you live or the fluctuating pricing of things sometimes a resort might not be the cheapest route, but even if it's just slightly more money, it's TOTALLY worth it for all the perks and services Disney Resorts have to offer! Thanks for stopping by!




Sunday, December 13, 2015

Disney Vacation-A First!

As most of you know, this past week my family and I flew down to Florida for our first ever family vacation!!! And let me tell you, Disney World did not disappoint!!!
We had the best of time and it couldn't have been more perfect!! It's hard to wrap up everything in one blog post so in the next few weeks I'll share a few bits and pieces as well as my advice for if you are thinking about taking a family vacation to Disney World in the near future!

For our vacation, we flew in on Monday morning and arrived to our Disney resort around noon. The flight went so smoothly and I'm so glad we decided to fly (which took under 2 hours from St. Louis) rather than drive which would've taken 20 hours. Flying is definitely the way to go! But even flying, traveling is always exhausting with kids so we grabbed lunched and all took a nice afternoon nap and relaxed. That evening we grabbed a bus and went to Disney Springs. 
 For those of you not familiar with Disney Springs, it's a fun Disney shopping and dining area full of different types of Disney Shops and fun restaurants. We decided to go to the Trex Restaurant. We had been to a Rainforest Cafe before and loved the food so we knew the Dinasour theme would be fun for my son Ashton and the food was great too. 
It was nice the wait wasn't long and every 20 minutes the lights would dim and there would be a meteorite shower and the dinasours would "come to life" and start moving! It was awesome! 

The next day we had tickets to Mickey's Christmas Party in the evening. 
It was nice to sleep in and have a nice slow morning doing whatever we wanted. We stayed in the Pop Century Disney Resort which happened to be located near the Art of Animation Resort which I had on my list to tour! Touring the other Disney resorts was an event in themself! They are INCREDIBLE!
 Our resort, Pop Century, had sections of the hotel themed after various past decades. 
Like one part of the hotel was disney in the 50's, or another was 60's, 70's and so on.
It was really neat and one of the more affordable Disney Resorts!

Art of Animation was a little more expensive so we didn't stay there but we spent the morning looking at all of the decorations and parks they had. If we were to go again, I would pay a little more to spend a couple days there. It was AWESOME. I loved that the entire hotel was DISNEY!!
You could stay in a section of the hotel that was themed after The Little Mermaid..
 Or The Lion King....
 And our favorite... CARS!!!
 It felt like you were right in the movie!! We took pictures with ALL of the characters!


And the main pool of the hotel was themed after Nemo! Seriously, walking around Art of Animation was almost as fun as Disney World itself.

After seeing Art of Animation, we grabbed lunch at the resort and went back to our room to relax and have the kids take a nap before Mickey's Christmas Party. (MCP)
What's great about MCP is even though the party doesn't start until 7, you can get into the part as early at 4pm. So we took a good nap and go ready to head to the park!

Magic Kingdom is so beautiful at Christmas time! There are Christmas decorations everywhere and Christmas music all around! It just added to the magic of it all.
 For weeks, Ashton had been talking about the hot cocoa and cookies that were going to be at Mickey's Christmas Party! Finally his dreams came true.

  
The boys rode some rides, we grabbed our snack and headed to find a seat to watch the Castle show and Christmas Parade. And let me just say, I have never seen so many people in my life. The crowd was insane in front of the castle!! We luckily went early enough we got a decent spot! Alaya fell alseep literally 15 minutes before the show started. She missed the entire thing!! But thats ok, she one so I didn't expect her to stay awake and no way was I going to wake her up and make her miserable and grumpy. 
I enjoyed the show more than any of us I think. It was spectacular.
The castle was amazing. So beautiful.
 And Santa made an appearance of course.
I could show you a million pictures but they don't do it justice. 
After the show, the boys went on the Mine Train roller-coaster and I grabbed some ice cream and continued to watch the rest of the shows on the castle and the fireworks.
The Fireworks. Were. Amazing. 
I'm not normally a "fireworks type of person". I feel like you see one firework you've seen them all.
This was not the case at Disney World. I'm not sure how they do it, but they make the music, lighting on the castle, and the fireworks all match. They bring such magic and feeling you can't help but be giddy and smile while the show's going on. The fireworks are a MUST SEE!
We left the park around 10:30 because the kids were exhausted (Alaya was still sleeping).

We had another full day at Magic Kingdom the following day.
Need I say it was awesome?!
 Because it was.
 The great thing about Disney World is they have something for everyone!
My boys love the rides and amusement park aspect of Disney, where Alaya and I loved all the shows and parades. The afternoon Festival of Fantasy Parade was, again, a MUST SEE! Their floats are amazing..if you can even call them floats?!


And I happened to catch some of the Disney Dance Party they put on and it was a blast!!!
It brought the kid out in me and I was out there dancing with the characters along with all the small kids.
Woody even danced with Alaya. It was fun to be up and close to the character!

I was also really surprised at how many rides Alaya could ride on!
It felt like nearly half of the rides at Magic Kingdom allowed Alaya to sit and ride on our laps.
 It was fun to be able to do rides together as a family and she loved getting out of our stroller and riding the fun rides as well. The Little Mermaid ride was one of our favorites!
And the Jungle Cruise was a nice ride we took in the afternoon. It was calm and relaxing. A great break from walking. The driver of the ride/boat told corny jokes that were cracking me up! It really added to the ride believe it or not!
And you can't go to Disney without meeting some characters!!



So that's just a short recap of our time at Magic Kingdom. There's so much more I could tell you about and hope to share a little more here in the near future. Especially because this is just a part of our trip, we also ventured over to Universal Studios and had a "magical" experience at Harry Potter World.

I know for a first family vacation, this was pretty extravagant. Some people ask how will we ever have a better vacation than this?! And I'm not sure! Maybe this will be the best vacation we ever take. But I don't think that's so. We love love LOVED Disney but we aren't the type of family to go every year. We want to see the world. See the beautiful country of America! We hope to go hiking in Colorado someday, see Yellowstone Park, or go scubadiving in the beautiful oceans...someday. We couldn't really do some of those things with our kids being so young. So for us, this seemed like the perfect time for us to make a trip to Disney. I don't think our kids were "too young" for such a trip. The kids loved it-I loved it-we all loved it!! We will definitely be back again someday.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Scrap Happy

 Hello. My name is Whitney. And I'm a fabric hoarder.

 I live in a tiny home, which means I don't have a lot of stuff. 
In order to keep my house from becoming cluttered I'm constantly removing items from the house and throwing things out. It's easy for me to throw out a pair of shoes I never wear or toss out toys my kids rarely play with. But when it comes to fabric-I'm a hoarder. 
If you look at my sewing desk any given day it's normally a mess with piles of fabric and scraps. 
As much as I should throw most of the scraps away, I don't. I can't. 
I must save them...just in case.

And I'm SO glad I've been saving them because 
I finally put my scraps to good use and turned them into a quilt!! 

 As you know, we are going on vacation to Florida in a few weeks and it will be our very first family vacation! Woot woot!
And no wonder it's our first because-wow-vacations are expensive. It doesn't help that we decided to take the kids to DisneyWorld (tickets are how much?!!).
But it will be totally worth it...right?
Anyways, so every extra penny we have right now is being put towards vacation. Which means, no money in my fabric budget. As sad as that makes me, it's been good for me to get creative and use what I have.
 With my scraps I decided to make a scrappy Log Cabin quilt using the quilt-as-you-go method (qayg).
I loved the process!
It was so awesome to piece and quilt my blocks at the same time! 
 I used the pattern of a Log Cabin block but they are perfectly symmetrical because I used different widths and such since I was using up scraps.
I absolutely love how it turned out!! 
Scrap quilts are my absolute favorite!!!
They have so much character.
 And get this, I even had enough fabric in my stash to cover the entire quilt as backing!! Score!
And as much as I wanted to do my typical striped binding, I'm stuck to my initial goal of not spending more money and even used my scraps for binding! 
Pretty neat, eh?! I wish I could get a better picture of the binding but it's tricky. 
I'd love to say this used up my entire scrap bin, but that would be a lie. It's still completely full.
Perhaps I'll be making another scrappy quilt in the future! 


Thanks for stopping by!