A Very Merry Unbirthday To Meyer

I am a huge fan of birthday parties but for Meyer’s 2nd, I couldn’t think of any better way to celebrate than by taking her to Disneyland. For her first birthday, we did a lemonade themed birthday party at the local children’s gym (she is my little Meyer lemon after all) and invited all of our family and friends. But when my husband and I came down to planning her 2nd birthday party, we felt that we wanted to do something different. If we threw her another big party this year, would we have to do the same every year? We thought about having small gathering at a local park but it seemed a bit pricey to rent the space for a few hours and then we would have to get it catered, buy all the decorations, yadda yadda yadda… Even if we just did it at our house, we would have to make the food, buy the cake and then there would be the dreaded cleanup afterwards. ACK! So, we decided to take her to Disneyland. Meyer’s first time at Disneyland was more magical than I remember my first time being, so celebrating her 2nd birthday there would surely be amazing! When I took her for the first time, it was as if I was reliving my childhood again through her eyes and watching her little dreams come true all at the same time. And to do that again on her birthday? How much more magical could it get? If you want to have your child’s next birthday at Disneyland, or any theme park for that matter, I have a few tips and advice to share.

Tell everyone that it is your child’s birthday. Scream it loud and proud! Especially at Disneyland, you have no idea how much attention your little one will get when they know it is her birthday. Our first stop at the park was the Disneyland Town Hall, where you can get a free birthday pin to flash to everyone. Once the characters and staff see that, they are surely to give you an extra hug, smile and birthday cheer. We even bought Meyer a birthday princess crown to wear, just in case anyone missed her pin. I even picked up some tiny party hats for anyone in our party to wear if they wanted to as well. With any character we met, I made sure to tell them it was Meyer’s birthday too and they either wished her a happy birthday or signed her autograph book ‘happy birthday.’ Meyer seemed so amazed that ‘they actually knew it was her birthday!’

IMG_0564 2Plan a special meal around your child. At Disneyland, they have a few different spots that offer a character breakfast or lunch, which is totally worth it! Disney’s PCH Grill, Goofy’s Kitchen, Storyteller’s Café and The Plaza Inn. We chose to do a character breakfast at The Plaza Inn, which is inside the park (most of the others are at the surrounding hotels, so if you are staying at one, those might be a better choice for you). At The Plaza Inn, it is a set price for an all you can eat breakfast buffet which consists of Mickey shaped waffles, pancakes, pastries, fruit, omelets, cereal, and basically anything else you can think of to eat. While you are eating, various characters come around the dining room and stop to talk to the kids and snap pictures. We met Captain Hook, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, Chip and Dale, Rafiki, Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore.

Let your child dress themselves. Whether it is an old Halloween costume of their favorite Disney character, a frilly princess dress or a loud tutu, bring it on! And I am talking about the entire party, not just the birthday boy/girl. Most everyone in our party (my husband aside) dressed up in some sort of Disney attire and Meyer wore a Minnie Mouse t-shirt and bright red tutu. If you don’t want to splurge on an outfit at the Disney store, you can check out Amazon or Target as well to get some pretty good deals. I actually found my Minnie ears on Amazon for about 75% off the price you would pay at the park and I got a cute Mickey t-shirt at Kohl’s. Have fun with it and let your child pick whatever they want to wear. After all, it is their special day!

Maximize the birthday theme as much as you can. There are a few rides at Disneyland that have a small shout out to birthday parties and you can take full advantage of that and ‘pretend’ that they are specially catered to your child. Wink wink. The Winnie the Pooh ride has a scene at the end where they are celebrating a birthday, Alice and the gang of course sing A Very Merry Unbirthday To You on the Alice in Wonderland ride, and the Haunted Mansion even has a dining room birthday scene to celebrate.

IMG_0597Include the family to join you (or friends if your child is older). Meyer is only two, so at this age the only friends she really has are family. When she gets a little older, it will be fun to invite her closest friends to come along with us, but this time around, inviting her grandparents and cousin made the day extra special for her.

Let them indulge. What didn’t she eat that day? I let her go crazy and tried to forget all the mom ground rules and organic, cage free, sugar-free, Non-GMO, no fun  guidelines that I normally try to follow. She had Mickey Mouse waffles, a Mickey shaped lollipop, an ice cream cone, a whole pickle, her chocolate birthday cake, etc. etc. etc. It’s one day, they can splurge! (Cut to 10:00 pm that night when they are still running around on a sugar high and you are already two glasses of wine deep, trying to get them to fall asleep…..I’m sorry!)

IMG_0715Get them that handy-dandy autograph book. I couldn’t stress it enough, especially when going to any theme park that has characters walking around. The autograph book is key! It may seem annoying at the time to dig around in your purse and whip it out every time you see a character, handing their giant gloved hand a tiny pen and see them struggle to sign when they can’t really see out of the eye sockets of their costume, but when you can look back and flip through that book with your kids, it brings back such special memories! And if you tell the characters that it is your child’s birthday, they will write a special message in the book and spend a little more time with them talking about their birthday or giving them an extra hug.

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Let them pick their present at the end. Instead of buying them a present beforehand, tell them that if they are a good girl/boy, they can pick out their very own present at the end of the day. We went to Downtown Disney to pick Meyer’s present out and lucky for us she was asleep so she didn’t get the chance to pick out everything and then scream when we told her that we were only buying one thing. We got her the Animators’ Collection Deluxe Figure set featuring all of the princesses and it was as if I had handed her a check for a million dollars when she saw it after she woke up. Bonus points for Mom and Dad!

IMG_0602Have a plan. Trust me, I am usually one to just fly by the seat of my pants but when you only have one day at a busy theme park and there are other family members involved, a plan is essential. Whether it is a list of rides you want to go on, places you must visit or times for the different shows, a plan will make your day less stressful. And the best part about Disneyland is the app that you can download to your phone that tells you the wait times for the rides, locations for all the food, restrooms and shops and even where and when your favorite characters will be appearing. With a princess obsessed daughter, that came in the most handy. I know Meyer wanted to meet her favorite, Princess Tiana from Princess and the Frog, so I made sure I was camped out in front of Mark Twain’s Riverboat at exactly 11:59 am. so we would not miss her appearance at 12:00 pm-12:05 pm. But on the day we went, it was sprinkling a bit and apparently Tiana doesn’t come out in the rain, so my plan was shattered (really, girl?). Luckily, Meyer didn’t seem to care that much (she was preoccupied by her giant pickle) but I was more upset that I pretty much stalked her and didn’t get to meet her in the end. The good news? While we were walking to Mickey’s Toon Town later that day, I heard a familiar song coming from the Fantasyland Theater, dropped everything and ran up there to scope it out. It was TIANA!!!!!!!!!! I jotted down the next showtime for Mickey and the Magical Map and next thing I knew, we were enjoying the show with princesses like Mulan, Pocahontas and Tiana to boot. Score for Mommy! We all certainly had a blast celebrating Meyer’s 2nd birthday at Disneyland and didn’t have a messy house to clean up afterwards or a room full of toys that she didn’t need.

The Best Cookies Ever!

This recipe that I stumbled upon online (originally from Williams Sonoma), is quite possibly the best cookie recipe ever…seriously! And if you don’t believe me, ask my two-year old who would eat these cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner if Mommy let her. Not only did I want to find the perfect chocolate chip recipe, I wanted one that incorporated sea salt as an added bonus. There is just something about sweet (yet savory), ooey, gooey, warm, chocolate chip cookies that totally melts my heart. The recipe gets even better when your toddler helps out, adding that extra dash of love and creating a special moment and putting a smile on your kiddo’s face. Meyer even has a Princess and the Frog apron and chef hat that she loves to wear when we cook together and finds the KitchenAid mixer absolutely fascinating. Just beware, if you are making this recipe with your children, they will want to eat the butter (and will do so when you turn your back) and make quite a mess if you let them pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. But just add a pinch of patience into the ingredients list and you will be fine. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature, (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (more or less to your taste)
  • Sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add flour and baking soda to a mixing bowl and whisk for 15 seconds to incorporate.
  2. To the bowl of a stand mixer, add softened butter and both sugars. Beat with paddle attachment for about 2 minutes, until mixture is smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add egg and vanilla, beat on LOW speed until combined.
  4. Add flour, half the mixture at a time, beating on LOW speed until JUST combined after each addition. Don’t over mix, or your cookies won’t be soft and tender.
  5. Add chocolate chips and stir together with a wooden spoon.
  6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Minutes before you want to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  8. Use a large cookie scoop (or a 1/4 cup filled about 2/3 of the way), scoop round balls of dough onto parchment paper about 2 inches apart.
  9. Press a couple of chocolate chips into the tops of the balls of dough and sprinkle the dough with sea salt.
  10. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden brown and tops of cookies look a little underdone.
  11. Sprinkle a little more sea salt (depending on your taste) on top of the baked cookies.
  12. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.