Little Elliott, Big City book review

My little reader and Little Elliott, Big City

As a mom to a young reader, I love finding books that we can read together and enjoy over and over again. Little Elliott, Big City by Mike Curato is just that kind of book. It’s the first in a series of Little Elliott books geared toward readers age 4-8 and grades pre K – 3. 

Little Elliott, Big City is a heartwarming story of an adorable little polka-dotted elephant living in a big city in search of a good friend. The uplifting story encourages children to never give up, even when things seem hopeless. The encouraging message is conveyed in a positive and uplifting way that even the youngest readers can relate to.

Check out the adorable book trailer:

Mike Curato’s illustrations are both lush and gorgeous, reminiscent of a simpler time. His background is in graphic design and digital illustration. He’s provided a free Little Elliott activity kit that you can download here.

For more information, visit the Little Elliott Big City website and follow the #LittleElliott hashtag. You can find about more about Mike Curato on his website and on Twitter @MikeCurato.

Little Elliott, Big City hits the shelves on August 26, 2014. You can preorder from Amazon or any of the other major book retailers. We’re excited to read the next book in the Little Elliott series when it releases next year!

- Denise

Disclosure: I received an advance reader copy of Little Elliott, Big City from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for our family to enjoy. I’m sharing our honest review of the book. We’ve read it repeatedly and absolutely love it!

Tree Top Fruit Fulls Mommy Play Date

Disclosure: We attended a fun play date sponsored by Tree Top as part of a new product launch campaign for Fruit Fulls. It is compensated by Tree Top through the Mom It Forward Blogger Network. As always, the opinions stated are completely my own. 


Chase and I were invited to a fun play date at the Play Boutique in Beaverton, OR to celebrate the release of Tree Top‘s newest smoothie drink, Fruit Fulls. We hadn’t heard of Fruit Fulls before and we love smoothies so it sounded like something we’d both enjoy. Chase had swim camp nearby that morning so we came to the event straight from there, hence the wet t-shirt ;)

Fruit Fulls are delicious 100% real fruit smoothies made with simple ingredients – there’s no added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Each serving contains 3g of fiber and 10 percent daily value of Vitamin C. They are shelf stable and require no refrigeration until they are opened. Fruit Fulls smoothies are quick and easy – no need to peel and prepare fruit or use the blender and make a mess to clean up. The work has already been done for you, saving you time and effort. Fruit Fulls are nutritious for the whole family with a taste both the kids and parents enjoy. Chase and I sampled both the Mango and Strawberry and they were both delicious. 

Hosted by Heather from Heather Loves Food, we enjoyed lunch, back and neck massages by Celia from Massages by Celia, and delicious Strawberry Mojito Mocktails made with Strawberry Fruit Fulls. It was also a great chance to meet some local bloggers in person that I’d connected with on social media. Here are some pics – and of course that delicious Strawberry Mojito Mocktail recipe I mentioned on Instagram :)


Jana from Merlot Mommy, Me, and Meg from Happy Kids, Inc


Totally cute Pinteresty orange slice, candy eyeball, and blueberries snack idea I want to make at home with Chase sometime


Ahhhh, massage :) My shoulders and back were tight and it felt SO good


The kids got the cutest Lunchskins lunch bags, Camelback water bottles and Tree Top Applesauce as a gift!

Group pic of all the moms (and a few cute babies!)

Group pic of all the moms (and a few cute little babies too!)

Strawberry Mojito Mocktail
Serves 1
A refreshing and delicious summertime (or anytime!) drink
Write a review
  1. 10 mint leaves
  2. 1 tbsp sugar
  3. 1/4 of a fresh lime
  4. 1/2 C Tree Top Fruit Full (Strawberry)
  5. 1/2 C Club Soda
  1. Place mint leaves, sugar, and lime wedge in a glass. Use a muddler or back end of a large wooden spoon to crush the mint and lime and dissolve the sugar. Fill glass almost to the top with ice. Pour Fruit Full smoothie over the ice, followed by the club soda. Garnish with an additional lime wedge and add more sugar to taste.
Healthy Disney Family
It was a really fun play date and thanks so much to the lovely people at Tree Top, Play Boutique, and Mom It Forward for hosting!

- Denise

Easy paper crafts from Spellbinders

Love the look of handmade greeting cards and paper crafts? So do I! I often lack the time and talent to design and create them myself so I appreciate all the help and inspiration I can get. The Spellbinders Celebra’tions collection by Richard Garay offers a variety of beautiful and vibrant papers and paper craft supplies. His collection is set up to make selecting the right items for your paper craft project really simple!

We enjoy making crafts as a family so I enlisted my little helper to make a handmade card paper project with me.

We made a Celebrate Party Hat Card.

Easy paper crafts - Greeting cards -

Bend the Cool Carribean cardstock in half to form the card


Glue the Whirl White cardstock in place

Easy paper crafts from Spellbinders -

Smooth it down evenly


Add the Celebra’tions Prints in pink polka dot next


Fold a Create-a-Cone die cut piece and add adhesive to secure

Easy paper crafts from Spellbinders -

Fold and layer the flower die cuts, attach with adhesive. Tie a bow with thread and attach bow and add a stamped Celebrate banner to the party hat with adhesive.

Easy paper crafts from Spellbinders -

Ta-da! The finished product!

I have to admit, both Chase and I were pretty surprised that we could make something like this ourselves! 

If you want to learn more about making your own paper crafts, you can visit the Spellbinders Paper Arts website. There are lots of inspiring craft ideas for more greeting cards, treat bags, scrapbook pages, rubber stamping, and more in their Idea Gallery. It’s always great to find those easy shortcuts to save time and money while making memorable, personalized gifts for your friends and loved ones.

- Denise

 Disclosure: The Spellbinders Brand provided me with a sample of Spellbinders Celebra’tions Collection in exchange for an honest product review. As always, the opinions expressed here are completely my own.

Treadmills and weight loss – my story

Walking and running on the treadmill can be an effective tool in losing – and keeping off – weight. Here’s my story:

I had a high risk pregnancy and was on bed rest with pre-eclampsia while pregnant with my son Chase. With pre-eclampsia complications and the sky high blood pressure, both my life and Chase’s were in danger. I had never had high blood pressure in my life so it came as a complete shock to get the diagnosis. I was hospitalized and they wanted to keep me there until I delivered. I made a deal with my doctor that if he let me go home I would come in for multiple weekly checkups and not get up unless I had to go to the bathroom or make myself a quick meal. Troy was amazing at helping out, he was my rock during that scary time.

We hoped and prayed that Chase would be okay. I turned to food for comfort during that time. Without being able to exercise at all, I gained weight super fast. I’m a small boned person and my body was never meant to handle all the weight I was gaining. I ached just laying on the couch and suffered from a constant migraine for weeks. When I went into the hospital to have my c-section, I was so worried that he wouldn’t make it. Thankfully we both survived.

After I had my c-section, I weighed 253 pounds. I was in complete and total disbelief but I had a preemie to take care of so I tried to put my weight gain out of my mind. Chase was in the NICU for 2 weeks for feeding and growing. Troy and I walked all around the hospital while Chase slept. Getting some exercise helped me feel like I was on the road to regaining my health. My migraine went away right after I delivered and I kept on top of my pain meds so my incision pain was minimal. I got as much walking in as I could to heal more quickly from the c-section.

When Chase came home, he was my number one priority. I was still on maternity leave from work and focused solely on him. We couldn’t leave the house for the first weeks because he was medically fragile. He was home with us a full month before his due date and we were warned by the NICU nurses about how many babies they see back again for hospitalizations or worst of all, infant death. So we had bottles of Purell in every room, a tight rein on visitors, and a feeling of helplessness.

After those first weeks of keeping him in our protective “bubble”, Chase grew quickly. He was switched from the preemie charts to the regular growth charts because he was growing so fast. Troy is 6’4″ so he started taking after his dad right away. He was in the 95th percentile for height before we knew it, then eventually off the charts. By three months, there was no sign or any complications from his prematurity at all.

With Chase healthy as a little horse, it was time for me to figure my weight issue out. I had avoided the scale for months and the next time I stepped on it, I was disheartened to see 245 pounds. My metabolism was completely out of whack and I was still eating bigger portions than I should. Some days I thought, I’ll do better today – only to slip up and overeat that night. Then I would tell myself, tomorrow I’ll do better. Tomorrow was more of the same and the cycle repeated. I started Stroller Strides with Chase and we met some really wonderful moms and babies. Some of them we’re still friends with today :) I couldn’t help but feel out of place though, I was so much bigger than the other moms. I competed in and won a Healthy Momma Challenge. I re-learned the importance of food journaling and rediscovered healthy habits. I felt so fired up and motivated! The classes were really far from my house so I ended up switching from the Stroller Strides classes to a membership at a local gym.

While my husband and baby son were asleep, I got up bright and early at 4:45 am to drive to the gym. When I got there, I headed straight for the treadmills. The gym was super quiet at that time and I really liked the relative privacy and feeling of working out on my own. As big as I was, I was mostly left alone and treated like I was invisible. It’s so weird to look back on that time of my life now. I was so nice to everyone, always so accommodating, smiling on the outside but feeling so out of control and unbelievably sad on the inside.

At first I was really nervous about falling off. I held onto the big bar in the front with heart rate monitor and walked as fast as I could. My face would turn bright red and my heart would race, beating so hard it felt like it might jump out of my chest. I stuck with it and pushed myself as hard as I could. Every time I left the gym it felt like a victory. But then I would come home and see my same big clothes, same big body, slightly smaller numbers on the scales, and feel a little hopeless. I didn’t give up.

After a few weeks, I gained a little more confidence. With the treadmill set to 2.5, I let go of the bar. Unlike the scenarios I pictured in my mind – I didn’t fall off, lose my balance, or go flying into the people behind me. I started upping the pace and pushing more. As I got more serious about walking and losing weight, I sometimes went twice a day. I also added in yoga classes. I regained the flexibility I once had and the weight sloooowly came off. My first major weight loss goal was to get under 200 pounds and once I did, I took a break from weight loss for a while. I stopped journaling my food and just lived with my healthier habits. I walked on the treadmill and started doing weights. I even started Couch to 5k but quit after that victorious 20 minute straight run. (If you’ve done Couch to 5k, you know which run I’m talking about!) I maintained that 195-197 lbs for the next few years.

When we went to Disneyland on Labor Day 2011 everything changed. It was the day after the runDisney Disneyland Half Marathon and I saw people walking around the parks wearing their race medals. I talked to some people who did it and one of the ladies encouraged me to sign up. That conversation and trip planted a seed in my head that maybe I could do it. When I got back home, I got more serious on the treadmill. I started integrating more running into my time on the treadmill and pushing my pace more. Back when I started on the treadmill, 3.6 was an all out run for me. Now 3.6 had become my warm up.

I had walked a few 5k’s and 10k’s but that was the extent of my outside running since becoming obese. I was too scared and nervous to run outside. I also felt like I was too big. When I was younger and healthier, I enjoyed running outside. Now I felt at home at the gym and liked the predictability of the treadmill. The sound of the treadmill, the easy access to water if I needed it, the safety from being inside, everything was comfortable. I tracked my runs using Nike+ and the Nike shoe chip and I liked seeing my progress that way.

When I started running more, I started journaling my food again with My Net Diary. I set the goal to run my first half marathon at Disneyland at my healthy goal weight. While I was losing weight, I set achievable goals in 10 pound increments. I ate all of the same foods I always ate – just in smaller portions. Portion control is the one constant thing that has helped me both lose weight and not regain it. My doctor also talked to me about 80/20 eating – 80% of the food you eat should be recognizable to your great, great grandparents, and the other 20% is flexible. 80/20 was the final piece of the weight loss puzzle for me. Once I started eating that way, watching my portions, food journaling, lifting weights, and running on the treadmill – the weight came off. I also found the confidence to start running outside once again. I used Jeff Galloway’s Half Marathon training app. Hearing Jeff’s coaching really helped me gain the confidence I needed to tackle the half marathon distance. I also liked his Run/Walk/Run strategy. I trained both outside and on the treadmill. I was faster on the treadmill and I still loved all the conveniences it provided.

2012 was my year for weight loss and training. I lost 60 pounds that year. I overtrained, didn’t take rest days and I ended up with some injuries that healed by going to PT and strengthening my core. When I completed the last big training run – 14 miles! – of the Galloway plan, I knew I could do the distance at Disneyland later that month. My goal of running at Disneyland was complete when I ran 2013 Tinker Bell Half at my goal weight of 135 pounds. This pic of my crossing the finish line will probably always be my favorite race pic.

So now it’s a year and a half later, I’ve now run FIVE Half Marathons and TWO MARATHONS. I’m still in some shock over that, it took me forever to finally feel like I was a runner!

I’ve run so many miles outside I’ve lost count. But honestly, I still love the treadmill. I know a lot of people can’t stand it, use their home treadmill as a clothes rack, or dread every minute they clock on it. I desperately wanted a home treadmill but in our old house we had nowhere to put one. One of the features I hoped for in our new house was a “treadmill room”, and finally we have not only the treadmill room – but a treadmill to go in it :)

When we went to our local exercise equipment store, we felt a huge amount of sticker shock. I’m a thrifty person by nature and regardless of how much I’d use it – $3K on a treadmill is just way out of our budget. I asked the lady which treadmill was reliable – I didn’t need bells and whistles – just something that felt safe and secure to run long training runs on. She pointed me to the base level Precor 9.23 treadmill. I tried it out for a fast walk and a run and it felt really solid and good. Troy tried it out and liked it too. We got a deal on it and arranged to have it delivered the week after I got back from Disney Social Media Moms in Phoenix.

Here it is!

Training for distance races at home - HealthyDisneyFamily

I’m using it after Chase goes to bed, when it’s too hot during the day to run outside here, when Troy’s out of town and it’s a day I need to train for Dopey. I absolutely LOVE having a treadmill at home. It’s something I always wanted and probably because I had to wait so long, it made it all the more exciting to get it!

It’s still a balancing act to keep the weight off. I’m up 8-10 pounds from where I want to be so I’m back to food journaling, 80/20 eating, running, walking, hiking, and portion control. I know what works for me and when I drop the ball, I put weight on very quickly. It will always be a challenge for me to keep the weight off but it’s a challenge that I’ll keep working hard at. Everything still fits except for a few pairs of my capris. They still zip up but they are too tight to wear comfortably. I’d like to be back in those before our nice weather ends.

I’d really like to inspire people who don’t exercise or think they can’t run to try using a treadmill. One good way to get started is to follow a Couch to 5k plan. The apps are free or low cost for your smartphone or you can print the plans from different websites. Walking on the treadmill is a great start to gain confidence in walking and running longer distances and challenging yourself to be more fit.

As the new runDisney contributor at Disney Driven Life, I will be writing a lot more about running there too. My first post about the Disney Social Media Moms conference in Phoenix just went live on Wednesday. The next one will be about running :)

- Denise

See Jane Run Half Seattle race recap

Last year when I ran my first Half Marathon at Disneyland, I knew there would be more in my future. The highs and lows of the hours and hours of training to get there combined with the exhilaration of crossing the Tinker Bell Half finish line was a feeling unlike any I’d ever experienced. 13.1 instantly became my favorite race distance.

I was honored to have been selected to be a Race Ambassador for The See Jane Run Women’s Half Marathon in Seattle, Washington on July 13, 2014. I had heard great things about the race and looked forward to participating in it. I had never been a Race Ambassador before and it sounded like a fun opportunity. Seattle is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from the Portland area so it was close enough to not have to fly – or break my travel budget – to get there.

I decided to drive up the night before and stayed at the Residence Inn near Lake Union. Thank goodness for air conditioning – both Portland and Seattle were having a heat wave. The weather was in the 90′s and a heat advisory was issued for the race. As a native Pacific NorthWesterner, I have no love for running in the heat, it’s pretty unbearable to me. I’m constantly in awe of those of you who run in those hot temps, especially year round. Anything about 65 feels hot to me when I’m running. So I was really NERVOUS about the heat. 

I checked into the hotel and the AC was working poorly. It was really warm in my room, the thermostat was an old school one that only read warmer and colder – I’m guessing it was in the high 80′s. I called the front desk to let them know but the hotel was at 100% capacity so I couldn’t switch rooms. I decided to crank up the AC full blast to “colder” and leave to have some dinner, hoping the room would be cooler when I came back.

Based on a recommendation from the guy at the front desk, I had an AMAZING dinner across the street at Duke’s Chowder House. If you like Clam Chowder, you will love their selection of chowders. I had a little sampler of 3 different ones. I liked their Award Winning classic one the best but all three were tasty. They even include their Award Winning Clam Chowder recipe with your meal. The top left one was Lobster Pernod, the Award Winning was top right and the bottom was Northwest Seafood Chowder, like a Cioppino. I chose that one because the server told me it was her favorite. It was good! Big pieces of seafood including a mussel on top.


I went with the Thai Ginger Halibut with sticky rice for my entree from their Fresh menu. The thick halibut filet was perfectly cooked and tender. It was crusted with macadamia nuts, light tasting and along with the rice provided a good combo of protein and carbs to fuel me up and keep me going for the next morning’s race.


And just because…I ordered dessert! I really wanted just a scoop of ice cream but when I saw the vanilla bean ice cream plus a chocolate chip cookie, well I didn’t want to resist. And notice how the cookie got the most likes on Instagram ;)


When I got back to my room it was a little colder, thank goodness, but still hot. I went to bed early but couldn’t fall asleep until around 2 am because it was still too warm. Once I fell asleep, I must have power slept because I felt wide awake when my alarm went off at 6. I got ready and went to downstairs to grab my go to pre-race breakfast –  oatmeal, coffee with milk, and a banana with peanut butter. 

I forgot to take a pic of “flat Denise” before the race but I wore my Mizuno Wave Inspire 9′s (one of 3 pairs I rotate), my new Lucy Activewear Straight Up Strength Capris (LOVE them!), and the black Under Armour short sleeved shirt I wore for the Newport Half in May.

The race was held at Gas Works Park, full of scenic views and a huge grassy area where the expo was the day before and the after party would be held. The start and finish line were on a path right next to it. There were no corral assignments but there were a few signs held up for pacing. I got in the 9-15 minute pace group. It was already getting warm outside, especially with all of the runners crowded in together. It was a good mix of people both running together in pairs and multiples, as well as a bunch of solo runners like me. Lori Shannon, owner of See Jane Run, was doing the announcing and the energy of the crowd felt lively and fun!


At the starting line – ready to go!

If you’re trying to PR this race, definitely line up toward the front. I had a “just finish” goal so I was toward the middle of my starting group. When we reached the starting line, a few groups were walking right off the bat, 3 astride, and spaced out so they were taking up the full width of the path. Those of us who started off running had to slow down, wait, and find our opportunities to run around the groups. It created some bottlenecks right from the beginning. Those bottlenecks quickly cleared up once we got outside of the park and had more space to run. 


Part of the running path. Running next to Lake Union was gorgeous!

The course itself was absolutely beautiful. We ran over two bridges and along Lake Union. Some of it was residential, some was along bike paths, and all of it was interesting to see.There were two sections that were out and backs and the course was mostly flat. The hills were in some of the most scenic areas that literally were breathtaking. 


Picture break mid race :) I LOVE those Lucy Straight Up Strength capris. So lightweight they helped keep me cool in the blazing heat.



View from the course

We shared parts of the course with families with strollers were out enjoying the weather, bicyclists, and other runners on their Sunday morning runs. Some of the bicyclists came a little close to the runners and I saw a near miss of a runner’s elbow and a speeding bicyclist right in front of me. Thank goodness no one was hurt. There were a lot of Police Officers and friendly See Jane Run volunteers on the course and at busy intersections directing traffic and showing us which way to go. The course was well marked with See Jane Run signage along the route as well. There was also excellent support at the water stations with plenty of water to keep us hydrated. At one table they even gave us 1/2 full large bottles of water. The See Jane Run team definitely prepared for the heat :)

The race finishes where it begins at Gas Works Park. Running back in to the park the way you left it feels awesome. You really have come full circle and you KNOW you’ve accomplished something really big! The support was great again at the finish, announcing as you run in and there were more bottles of water and bags full of food for the runners. I forgot to grab my food bag until about 20 minutes after I crossed and there was still a full table of them. They even had 2 different drink choices – a SoDelicious vanilla almond plus protein milk (my choice) or Gatorade. You also get a glass of champagne in a keepsake glass with a chocolate bar of your choice. 

After I picked up my champagne glass, I saw a familiar face in the crowd. It was Cynthia, the winner of my See Jane Run race entry giveaway and her husband! It was so fun to meet her in person after “meeting” on social media before we each did the Rock n Roll Portland Half and qualified for Half Fanatics :)


The nice people at See Jane Run issued a 10% race discount and coupon code just for my blog readers SJRAMB258 for both the SJR races and their online store See Jane Run. They offer free shipping on most items and carry the top running brands so remember to check them out next time you’re in the market for some running or fitness gear. See Jane Run has two more races coming up this year – the Wichita, KS Half Marathon, 5K, & Kids Run on 9/13/14 and the Women’s Triathlon and Duathlon in Pleasanton, CA on 9/21/14.

The See Jane Run Women’s Half Marathon series is awesome! I would do this race again in a heartbeat – heat and all – because it was so well organized, the course was beautiful, and it’s just a really fun race to participate in. 

- Denise

Disclosure: My See Jane Run Seattle, WA Half Marathon race entry was free through my role as a race ambassador and they requested I post a blog entry about the race. All other costs associated with my race travel and meals were at my own personal expense. I received the Lucy capris free for product review and liked them so much, I chose to wear them during this race. As always, the opinions shared are mine and based on own true experience.

We have winners!

We have a winner in the ENERGYbits giveaway – Congrats Cecil V.!!! 

Save 30% on ENERGYbits at with coupon code HDF30

Save 30% on ENERGYbits at with coupon code HDF30

If you’re curious to try ENERGYbits for yourself or need to restock, you can save 30% with coupon code HDF30. The 30% discount is good for your entire order on both of my favorites ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits, as well as the other fantastic bits varieties.


A few things:

* I haven’t heard back from the winner in the Nielsen-Massey vanillas giveaway yet and it’s been a while. Janet P, please e-mail me ASAP with your address so Nielsen-Massey can send your prize. 

* Also, I’m guest posting on Tara’s awesome blog A Daily Dose of Fit today about tips for planning, registering, and training to walk or run a runDisney race. You can check it out here! 

* I also have a nice stack in my office of products to review and GIVEAWAY on the blog! Look for more giveaways to happen very soon :)

Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend! We spent the weekend unpacking more boxes (will it ever end?!) and finally getting some pictures up on the walls. We’re starting to settle in to our house and it feels great!

I’ll be back soon with a recap of the See Jane Run Half in Seattle, WA.

- Denise

Disney Social Media Moms recap

Disney Social Media Moms Phoenix #DisneySMMoms #DisneyOTR  -

One of the highlights of my summer so far has been attending my first blog conference – the Disney Social Media Moms On The Road Celebration in Phoenix on June 25, 2014. The conference was held at the AAA Five-Diamond rated Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is a lovely, picturesque resort designed for a luxurious and restful stay.

Fairmont Princess Scottsdale stay #DisneySMMoms -


Fairmont Princess Scottsdale #DisneySMMoms -

The resort features a huge conference center, PGA golf course, beautiful outdoor pools, a kids club, and multiple award winning dining options. I had an amazing light and tasty Seared Ahi Tuna salad at Ironwood American Kitchen. They offered several lighter and healthier options on the menu. For me it’s fun to splurge sometimes but I love having those delicious lighter meals on the road whenever I can.

It was 110 degrees outside and I needed to get in a short training run for the upcoming See Jane Run Half in Seattle, WA on 7/13. I ran a little outside but it was too hot for me. I really their full service gym so I could run on the treadmill and beat the heat.

I’d really love to return to the Fairmont Princess and make it a family trip. I know Chase would love the kids activities and hanging out at the pool. My husband would definitely love the golf course. Here are some pics of my room, the resort and the grounds for an idea of what it’s like to stay there and maybe plan your own trip to visit the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale too!

Fairmont Princess Scottsdale #DisneySMMoms -

The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was held in the huge conference center. I wore a black and white polka dot dress with a lightweight white cardigan and showed my DisneySide by wearing my ears from the D23 Unlocks Disney’s Maleficent event. As soon as I walked in I was happy (and relieved!) to see some familiar faces of new friends I’d met through social media since starting my blog earlier this year – Jennifer from Real Mom of SFV, Dawn from I am a Mommy Nerd, Carol from Fans of Mickey Mouse’s House, and our keynote speaker Nadine Bubeck of and All Things Mama. They are such inspiring, hard working moms! I look forward to learning more from their experience and expertise as I grow my blog and build my career.

Fairmont Princess Scottsdale #DisneySMMoms - HealthyDisneyFamily.comAfter some time to talk one on one with our fellow attendees and the speakers, it was time to take our seats. Leanne O’Regan (@leannej), Disney Parks Director of Social Media started things off by talking about Disney Social Media Moms and the Disney Parks Moms Panel. Next, Michelle Himmelberg (@mhimmelberg), Disneyland Public Relations Director talked to us about the importance of play and that “play really matters”. I couldn’t agree more. As a mom I have watched my son learn and grow so much through play. 

Fairmont Princess Scottsdale #DisneySMMoms -

We also learned that there are some exciting things planned for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary in 2015. There will be a big announcement on the Disney Parks Blog on July 17, 2014 at 10 am Pacific time, so mark your calendars! You know there will be a lot of fun ways to celebrate those 60 years of Disneyland magic :)

A fun fact about the song It’s a Small World - it has been played more times than any song in history! It has played millions and millions of times in the Disney Parks alone.

#DisneySMMoms Phoenix at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale, AZ -

Loved hearing Erin Glover (@GoPluto) speak about Disney Parks Social Media

Erin Glover, Social Media Director for Disneyland and Aulani was up next to talk about behind the scenes with Disneyland’s Social Media. She told us the Disney Parks Blog is the first stop for all Disney Parks news. She also said to create content that encourages not only engagement, but sharing. 

She encouraged us to think about our own unique point of view. We all have a story to tell and you must “find that voice that makes you special”. It’s so true, many of us write about similar topics and what makes us stand out is being ourselves, sharing our experiences in our own unique way.

#DisneySMMoms Phoenix at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale, AZ -

Grumpy Cat and Grumpy – hilarious!

Erin also talked with us about the brainstorming and planning process with their Social Media. At Disneyland when they plan for the next calendar year, they are organized like a newsroom. When the jobs are given out, finding passion in the topic is key. I wrote down one of her quotes that really resonated with me.

“What is your passion about this subject and how can we bring that out?” – Erin Glover

As a new blogger that’s something I’m working on, sharing my passion about things that matter most to me and opening up more. I’d like to let people know more about why I became so passionate about losing the 100+ pounds of weight I gained and how I kept going, even when the progress was slow and sometimes stalled completely. I know a lot of people struggle with that – I struggled with that – and hopefully by sharing my experience I could help people. 

Fairmont Princess Scottsdale #DisneySMMoms -

Maria Bailey – mom, entrepreneur, mentor, and social media trailblazer

“It’s all about finding solutions.” – Maria Bailey

Maria Bailey (@MomTalkRadio) is a wonderful example of someone who has worked hard to find the balance between her trailblazing entrepreneurial work and raising a family. She took the stage to talk to us about the challenges she faced as a mom with three children under 20 months old at the same time. She said it was like she had a buzzer on her butt the minute she sat down. I know a lot of us moms can relate to that feeling! Maria introduced us to Lori Lorenz (@LoriLorenzCA) from @HPPrint who shared more about the solution side of motherhood.

“There’s always a back story and that photo triggers the remembrance.” – Lori Lorenz

Lori shared one of her personal stories with us. She and her daughter both graduated college within 6 hours of each other. These are the photos of their incredible accomplishment, spending that life changing time together. The photos captured their joy and will always remind them of the way they felt.

#DisneySMMoms Phoenix at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale, AZ -

Lori from HP shared her heartwarming personal photos with us

Lori also talked about how as moms we bring out our Disney Side when we are challenged to solve a difficult problem in a very creative way. We learned about a wonderful gift idea from Two Smiles – a gift card you can print at home with any personal photo to make the gift truly unique and special. The gift cards are available for many of the most popular retailers like and Starbucks so you can have a truly thoughtful personalized gift to give, even when you’re in a time crunch. We were given a special gift of photo cards and envelopes to make our own at home. You can also make personalized mugs, photo panels, and more with HP Photo Creations.

We were all asked to send in a #DisneySide photo before the meeting. HP surprised us all with our Disney Side picture printed on a photo card with a Mickey stamped envelope. We addressed them to the grandparents who support us. We then put them in a special #DisneySMMoms mailbox, such a lovely and thoughtful idea!

Fairmont Princess Scottsdale #DisneySMMoms -

Our #DisneySide gifts

After the break, our next speaker was Tracey Clark (@TraceyClark), author of Elevate the Everyday and one of the awesome Disney Sisters (@DisneySisters). Tracey spoke to us about capturing magical memories by using just the camera on our phone. She showed a series of awesome, fun pictures that she’d taken purely with her iPhone and used only Instagram edits and filters.

Fairmont Princess Scottsdale #DisneySMMoms - HealthyDisneyFamily.comThe key is snapping out of snapshot mode to take pictures that capture the feeling in the moment. If you’re taking a picture of your kids, ask they to jump in the air right before you snap the picture.

Some other great takeaways: Lay on your stomach to get a good shot. Shoot it differently to make it stand out. Crop your pictures in a funky way. Leave some negative space to let your subject have breathing room around it. For social media, shoot pictures where your kids look like “any kid USA”. Shoot those certain shots you know that other people want to live. By sharing those moments in a relatable way – you make magic!

“Mobile photography has really leveled the playing field. We are all photographers.” – Tracey Clark

Disney Social Media Moms recap -

Huggies MomInspired panel

Maria Bailey moderated the Huggies MomInspired panel. We heard from Lisa Cash Hanson (@Mompreneurmogul) of Snuggwugg, Allyson Phillips (@tiltycupmom) of Tilty Cup, Romy Taormina (@psibands) of Psi Bands.

Maria developed the Huggies MomInspired Grant program 4 years ago and gave us some great advice. Don’t wait until your idea is perfect. Just go for it and get started following your dream. You can sell your own product while you’re sleeping when your product is out there for sale in the online marketplace. The Huggies MomInspired grant awards $15,000 to moms with ideas for products that innovate and improve the lives of other moms. If you have an idea, you can apply through September 30, 2014 at

I would have loved to have had both a Snuggwugg and a Tilty Cup for for my son when he was younger. The Snugg Wugg interactive baby pillow secures a wiggly baby while entertaining them on the changing table, car seat, stroller, shopping cart, wherever. It holds a smart phone or flash cards and toys. Super smart idea! You can check them out on Lisa’s website here. She said listening to criticism from the industry really helped her develop her product so it would have a wider appeal.

The Tilty Cup allows toddlers to drink from a cup easier. The design allows a child to drink like how you or I would drink from a cup, without tilting their heads back super far like most sippy cups require. They are currently not in production but look for them out at retail again soon. She recommends involving your children as much as possible in your work – they often like to help and be in the pictures.

Romy developed PSI Bands to use acupressure to relieve nausea. They are helpful for motion sickness, morning sickness, and more. They are available in many patterns and colors making them stylish as well. Romy and PSI Bands were featured on one of my favorite tv shows, ABC’s Shark Tank. You can learn more about PSI bands here. One of the great tips she shared was in finding balance is that we need to be forgiving of ourselves and communicate well with our spouses.

“Don’t be so afraid of someone stealing your idea. Get the help you need to succeed.” – Allyson Phillips

“A good mentor is so important in this journey” – Lisa Cash Hanson

Nadine Bubeck - keynote speaker - Disney Social Media Moms -

Nadine Bubeck talked to us about re-inventing your brand

Nadine Bubeck (@NadineBubeck) talked to us about re-inventing your brand. She wanted to work in the TV News business and worked hard to learn all she could from people around her. One mentor Cheryl Jennings gave her this advice for success – 1. Dress the part and 2. Walk like you’re going somewhere. Love that advice! She still had people who doubted her but she never let them stop her. Some of the great advice she’s learned along her journey is always negotiate, learn to love the camera, never burn your bridges, take risks, be proud, work hard, and have tough skin.

Throughout her life, Nadine kept a journal and wrote down her dreams and goals for the future. When she became pregnant with her son, she journaled all about the experience very candidly, holding nothing back. She ended up having a complicated pregnancy and a long hospital stay leading up to her son’s preterm birth. She turned her pregnancy journal into a book – Expecting Perfect which started this exciting new chapter in her life.

Here’s Nadine at Disney Social Media Moms giving an inside scoop on the Disney Social Media Moms On the Road Celebration :)

We all waited anxiously to find out who our secret special guest would be. Lots of people figured it would be our friend Mickey Mouse but surprise! It was Grumpy Cat (@realgrumpycat)! She was so tiny in person and oh, that cute little grumpy face! She’s just adorable :)

DisneySMMoms Phoenix at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale, AZ -

Yay! I met the real Grumpy Cat herself. She was so tiny and cute, definitely not grumpy :)

#DisneySMMoms Phoenix at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale, AZ -

Our swag bag! There was also a Mega Puzzles Minnie Mouse jigsaw puzzle that’s not pictured. Can’t wait to frame those prints for my new home office.


The Disney Social Media Moms On The Road Celebration in Phoenix was absolutely AMAZING!

I learned so much and met some really fantastic women. If you ever get the chance to attend one of these invitation only conferences, do it! I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to attend this conference and would absolutely LOVE to attend more in the future.

Thank you so much to Maria Bailey and BSM Media, the Disney Parks Social Media team, our sponsors and everyone else who worked so hard to put together this magical event!

- Denise

For more details and information about Disney Social Media Moms, make sure to check out the Disney Social Media Moms website and follow on Twitter at @DisneySMMoms.

ENERGYbits review and giveaway

Fitness Favorites Blog Hop -

It’s time for another fun Giveaway Blog Hop with Kristy at Runaway Bridal Planner!

My giveaway is for samples of my favorite running fuel, ENERGYbits. If you haven’t tried ENERGYbits yet, they are all a super effective, all natural way to fuel your fitness!

ENERGYbits are 100% pure, organically grown, certified NON GMO algae that contains no sugar, caffeine, gluten, additives, animal products, chemicals, or fillers of any kind.

I first learned about ENERGYbits through Twitter. I saw the hashtag #poweredbybits and noticed that a lot of serious runners and athletes were using them. I reached out to find out about discounts (you know me, I LOVE the discounts!) on a full bag because I wanted to try them for myself during my half training. They responded right away – as did some other runners who told me just how amazing they were. I couldn’t wait to find out for myself and ordered a bag on the spot.

My order came within just a few days via USPS Priority Mail and it was packaged beautifully in a black drawstring mesh bag. There was a lot of information about the incredible nutritional value, how to best store your bits (in the fridge!), and how to take them (swallow them whole).

They have 40 nutrients, contain 64% protein, and the Omega 3 GLA for only ONE calorie per tab. Depending on your preference, you can take 30 or more pre workout and supplement during your workout.

For me, I take 30 with water 1/2 hour before a run or workout. I take 15 more every 45 minutes of activity. 

The result – a consistent level of clean, pure energy. I no longer have the energy spikes and crashes I used to feel from other sugary fueling options I used in the past. I also feel like I recover more quickly from those hard workouts and long runs. I also don’t feel the endorphin crash and post half blues that I used to get. I also have zero negative effects like stomach upset. Post race, I used to feel nauseous and unable to eat. Now I can refuel right away without feeling sick.

I ran my last 2 half marathons powered by bits and continue to use them in my training. I have another half marathon next weekend, the See Jane Run Half Marathon in Seattle, WA and just started my Dopey Challenge training last week. They have truly changed the way I train and race for the better!

I decided to become an Ambassador for ENERGYbits after my husband and I finished the first bag I ordered. He too felt the same energy benefits and we’re now on our third bag! Cost wise, the price is pretty comparable with gels and other energy sources when you break it down per serving. It’s totally worth it to fuel with a natural, organic product that is free from the chemicals and extra stuff our bodies really don’t need.

Save 30% on ENERGYbits at with coupon code HDF30

Save 30% on ENERGYbits at with coupon code HDF30

I also recently started supplementing with RECOVERYbits. During our conference call, Jonathan from ENERGYbits recommended that I try taking my ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits together 1/2 hour before a long run or race. They work together beautifully and do not cause stomach upset or any unpleasant side effects.

As an ENERGYbits Ambassador, I offer a 30% discount to people who buy using my code HDF30 on This discount is good for your entire purchase. I usually buy 2 bags at a time with the discount code to save on shipping charges. They keep fresh indefinitely in your refrigerator. 

My friends at ENERGYbits are sponsoring this giveaway for a free sample pack so you can try them for yourself! ENERGYbits will mail them to the lucky winner. Enter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to stop by the other blogs in the Linky below for a chance to win other fun fitness prizes!

- Denise

Disclosure: I’m a Brand Ambassador for ENERGYbits and they are providing the ENERGYbits sample pack for the giveaway.

The Disney Driven Life

Have you checked out

It’s a community of huge Disney fans and their families who love everything Disney from the parks to movies to runDisney and everything in between. Fans of the site (NDP’s) find ways to incorporate that love into various aspects in their life. In other words, it’s a home for those of us who are totally Disney obsessed :)

When you join the site, you can request your official NDP #. It’s a fun way to be involved and be counted in the group.

I’m NDM #493 and happy to announce I’m the new runDisney and Healthy Living contributor to The Disney Driven Life. I’ll write about running, training for runDisney races, and more. The first post I’m working on is a recap of the Disney Social Media Moms On The Road Conference I attended last week in Phoenix. I took so many notes and photos it’s taking a while to sort through everything and condense that much awesome information!

Be sure to check out the DDL blog for all the latest Disney news, updates, and tips to bring more Disney into your daily life :)

- Denise

Easy Strawberry Ice Cream recipe

Disclosure: I received a free 2 oz. bottle of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Vanilla to make an ice cream recipe and share about it on my blog. I am a long time fan of their high quality, premium products and jumped at the chance to feature them on my blog. They are also providing a second bottle as a giveaway for one of you :)

July is National Ice Cream month! A fun way to celebrate is by making your own delicious homemade ice cream. Here is an easy to make, no cook recipe for Strawberry Ice cream that the kids can help with too.

Easy strawberry ice cream recipe

Adding the sugar is a fun job for little helpers


Measuring the Vanilla


Mashing the ingredients together


All ingredients stirred and ready to go into the ice cream maker


The mixer takes over the hard work of churning


This is what it looks like right after it’s finished in the ice cream maker. It’s delicious like this or frozen overnight like in the finished picture in the recipe below.

Easy Strawberry Ice Cream
A delicious and easy to make, no cook ice cream recipe. Great for making with the kids.
Write a review
  1. 1 pound fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
  2. ¾ cup sugar
  3. 2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Pure Vanilla Extract
  4. ¼ teaspoon salt
  5. 1½ cups Half and Half
  6. 1 cup 2% milk
  1. In a 4 quart glass measuring cup, add berries, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Smash with a potato masher; stir in Half and Half and milk; set aside.
  2. Assemble ice cream maker. Turn ice cream maker on and pour ice cream mixture into frozen container. Let mix until ice cream thickens, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. You can eat it right away if you like a softer texture. For a firmer texture you can freeze it for a few hours or overnight in an airtight container. Yields 1.5 Quarts.
  1. I used the KitchenAid ice cream bowl stand mixer attachment with my KitchenAid stand mixer.
Adapted from Nielsen-Massey Vanillas
Adapted from Nielsen-Massey Vanillas
Healthy Disney Family

You can learn more about Nielsen-Massey on their Facebook page at and on Twitter Their website also features product information and additional recipes. 

And here’s a giveaway for you! Nielsen-Massey is sending one of you lucky readers a 2 oz. bottle of Pure Madagascar Vanilla. 

Enter below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope everyone has a Safe and Happy Fourth of July weekend! :)

- Denise

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