Our Home

Christmas at the Paraoan Residence

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Woohoo, we are officially in the Christmas season! I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving surrounded with family and friends. Sean & I spent our Thanksgiving at my aunt & uncle’s house. We enjoyed the typical Thanksgiving meal fare – turkey, ham, green bean casserole, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. We also had pancit and lumpia (I mean really, what’s a Filipino get-together without those dishes?!). Sean and I have been on the keto diet for the past few weeks, but we decided to let loose yesterday and be in carb heaven. I lost count how many pieces of lumpia I ate, haha!

We started our Black Friday shopping adventure this morning at 8:30 am. We didn’t do too much damage. I got makeup from Ulta and Sephora, clothes from Old Navy, Wallflowers from Bath & Body Works, and a new pan from JCPenney. I did order a bunch of stuff online – our Christmas cards from TinyPrints.com, gifts from ShopDisney, and gifts from Kate Spade. I can’t wait to see what kind of deals Cyber Monday will bring. And remember, Small Business Saturday is tomorrow!

Anyways, moving on… I wanted to share how I’ve decorated our home for my favorite holiday!

Let’s start with the front of our house, shall we? I saw a cool “letter to Santa” sign on Pinterest a few weeks ago. I thought it would be fun to make similar to use as a prop for our Christmas card photoshoot. I “Disney-fied” it to make it more “us.” I hot glued a ribbon to the back of it and hung it outside. That’s about as far as I got for our outside. I think next year we’ll go “all out!”

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DIY Christmas Postcard Sign

Is anyone else obsessed with Bullseye’s Playground (formally known as One Spot) at Target like I am?! 80% of my new Christmas decor came from there. I went to Target nearly everyday just to raid through Bullseye’s Playground. I was going nuts looking for the red sleigh! My good friend and fellow blogger, Kathy, gave me the heads up that it was finally in our local store. I don’t know why, but I’ve been really into sleighs lately!

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Target Bullseye Finds

I put our Disney Christmas village on our entryway table. I actually found 2 of the buildings randomly at Value Village a few years ago! I remember feeling like I found gold when they caught my eye there. The other 2 came from Sears and Lowes. We added Tsums Tsums and laid down lights for an added effect. I’d like to add more to our collection, but we’re out of room on the table! Haha.

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Disney Christmas Village
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Disney Christmas Village

And on to the living room! It’s my favorite space. I made the “I use antlers in all of my decorating” (in reference to Gaston from Beauty & the Beast) and the “Merry everything and a happy always” signs. The Mickey & Minnie Alaska Adventures painting is by Noah. All the other signs came from Bullseye’s Playground. I was initially concerned about how small they were, but they fit nicely in this space.

I put our singing Disney train that I got from Hallmark last year on our coffee table.

I absolutely adore our tree! Sean and I are very specific when it comes to lights. We only wanted “cool white” lights and it was a pain in the butt to find a pre-lit tree that fit our wants. So we bought an unlit tree and strung it with tons of lights. Our tree is so bright! I LOVE IT. This year I bought a complete set of new ornaments from Michaels. We were using the same ornaments since 2011 and I felt like it was time for a change. I chose pink, pearl, and gray ornaments since it’s my favorite color combination. I bought all the ornaments and trimmed the tree before I went on a Bullseye’s Playground shopping craze… It didn’t even occur to me that it wasn’t all going to match (since the mantel is reds and greens). Oh well! =)

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Mickey & Minnie on a sleigh ride
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Hallmark Disney Christmas Train Collection from 2016
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Our Disney Christmas Tree and Fireplace Mantel Decor
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Mantel Decor

 

 

With Love

Our Home

Decorating for Fall

Decorating for Fall

Sean and I got to celebrate Halloween in our home for the first time! Last year we were in Las Vegas for our anniversary, so my parents came over to pass out candy while we were gone. We were so excited to pass out candy this year since it was our first time doing it together. The condo we lived in was a secured access apartment style building, so we never had any trick or treaters. There wasn’t snow on the ground and it wasn’t incredibly cold, so it was cool to be able to see their costumes. When you live in Alaska, sometimes you don’t know what kids wear as costumes since they’re bundled up to beat the cold. Haha!

We put away our Halloween decorations a few days ago. I know you may not like what you’re about to read, but I am one of those people that decorates for Christmas before Thanksgiving. *GASPS* I usually start decorating mid-November. What can I say? I LOVE Christmas, I am Catholic, and I am Filipino (About 80% of Filipinos in Philippines are Catholic and actually start celebrating as early as September). Haha. I decided to attempt to decorate for Fall before I start decorating for Christmas. I don’t really have any fall type decorations and I didn’t want to spend money on new decor. Fall comes and goes in the blink of an eye here in Anchorage, Alaska which is also why I never really bothered in the past.

I left some of my Halloween pumpkins on the front porch. All I did was hot glue flowers onto the pumpkins. I got all of my supplies from Michaels.

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The other place I decorated was the mantel. Fun fact – I am obsessed with banners! I made these with my Cricut. I also used it to make the “Grateful hearts gather here” sign. I felt that the gray and brown colors were earthy. I like orange, but there’s nothing orange in the living room. The fireplace is one of my favorite areas in our home. We didn’t have one at our condo and it was one of my wish list items when we were shopping for a house. I always longed to get cozy around the fireplace with hot cocoa or coffee in hand.

  • Cogsworth, $80, ShopDisney.com
  • Beauty & the Beast art, $14.99, Box Lunch
  • Lumiere, $55, ShopDisney.com 
  • Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse Alaska Adventure by Noah, $650, ShopDisney.com
  • Vintage Mickey & Minnie Mouse by Jim Shore, $40, available on Amazon
  • “Grateful hearts gather here” sign made by me
  • Banners made by me

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I know it’s not a lot… Basically all I have are the pumpkins, my sign, and the banners. Haha. This is as “Fall-like” as it’s going to get this year. Maybe next year I’ll do more!

With Love

Shopping & Style

Easy ways to add a Disney touch in your everyday style

Disney Touch

I don’t know about you, but I would wear my Minnie Mouse hoody to work everyday if I could! I unfortunately can’t in my profession. Even though I can’t wear my awesome LulaRoe Disney prints during the workweek, I am able to share my “Disney Side” in other ways.

Accessorize

PANDORA and Alex & Ani make amazing Disney inspired pieces. You’re bound to find something you’ll love from their collections and they’re always coming out with new designs. My favorite Alex & Ani bangle is Snow White inspired and says, “Whistle While You Work.” It’s definitely a nice reminder to look at, especially during a rough work day.

Another way to add a Disney touch to your style is by using a Disney purse, wallet, or wristlet. So many designers have launched Disney collections – Kate Spade, Dooney & Bourke, LeSportsac, Coach, and Loungefly are just a few examples.

Disney Style

  1. Snow White “Whistle While You Work” bangle by Alex & Ani, $44.95 on ShopDisney.
  2. Red Hair Bow. I love big bows! Find them on Etsy or even on eBay.
  3. Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs 80th Anniversary Charm by PANDORA, $80 on ShopDisney.
  4. Disney Coach Wristlet. They are no longer available at the Coach Outlet, unfortunately. I have seen them on eBay.

DisneyBounding

Another way to add a Disney touch to your style is by “DisneyBounding.” You wear an outfit that is influenced by a Disney character, but it’s not necessarily a “costume.” An easy way to Disneybound is to wear colors and use accessories that your chosen character wears. For example, I absolutely adore Snow White. Snow White’s color palette consists of yellow, blue, and red. This is what I came up with at Disneyland:

Disney Bound - Snow White
Snow White herself even noticed me during Main Street Electrical Parade! It was such a sweet and magical moment.

Old Navy is a great place to find basic shirts and cardigans in an array of colors. I found both the yellow shirt and cardigan during the same shopping trip.

Here’s another example of DisneyBounding. I wanted to partake in Star Wars Day this year (May the Fourth be With You!), but since it fell on a work day I couldn’t wear any of my Star Wars branded shirts. I wore R2D2 colors that day – white, gray, and blue.

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A great way to find character or color palette ideas is to look up #DisneyBound or #DisneyBounding on Instagram.

What are some ways you add Disney to your style? I’d love to hear your ideas!

With Love

Travel & Leisure

D23 Expo 2017 – Tips, Tix, & Our Highlights

I wrote this on my old blog, but I’ve decided to crosspost it to here too. 🙂

We survived our first D23 Expo! When we say survived, we mean WE SURVIVED.
We read a ton of information online before our trip. We wanted to know it all – the good and the bad. There was so much information out there that it became overwhelming instead of being helpful.
We didn’t want to be disappointed by over-hyping the event, so we decided to go into the Expo with low expectations and lots of optimism.
We’ve compiled a few tips that we hope you’ll find helpful.

Tips

1. Stay nearby. It was so convenient to be within walking distance of the convention center. We stayed at Disney’s Paradise Pier and it was about a 15 minute walk to get to the center. It was nice not having to worry about parking. See the parking rates and information about the various parking lots on Anaheim Convention Center’s website… It was enough to deter us from thinking of driving!
2. Wear comfortable shoes. Your feet will thank you!
3. Be prepared for long lines and lots of waiting. We knew there were going to be a ton of people there and I’m so glad we mentally prepared ourselves for it. The crowds were unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. We waited 2-3 hours each day just to get into the venue, but the lines don’t stop there. There are lines for everything – to go into the exhibits, to go into the stores, to purchase food, to go into the restroom. Some exhibits had minimal wait as the day went by and some exhibits always had a long line (for example – Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin always had a line!).
4. Bring portable batteries so you never run out of juice. We are so glad they had Wi-Fi at the Anaheim Convention Center. Having wireless data access helped make the time pass by while we were waiting in line. It was spotty at times, but I was so grateful to have it.
5. Bring bottled water. Save money and bring your own bottled water! The letter we received before the Expo said that food and drinks were not allowed, but bottled water is the exception. We also brought light snacks with us and weren’t reprimanded. I was hoping that there would be Disney food at the convention and unfortunately that wasn’t the case! We ate at the Anaheim Convention food courts… The meals were expensive and tasted less than mediocre. There were food trucks at the convention too, but there was a long line to get back through security. We decided to dine at the food trucks for dinner instead. The food trucks were expensive too, but at least the food offerings were plentiful and flavorful.
6. Prioritize what you want to see. Especially when it comes to the panels. Some people wait hours to get into the highly coveted panels, such as the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts panel. While it would have been AWESOME to be there in person and feel the energy of excitement from the crowds, to us it wasn’t worth waiting 4 or 5 hours. We saw all the updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while we were doing other things, so we don’t feel like we missed out on anything.
We wish they presented panels multiple times throughout the Expo, but they don’t. The only presentation that had 2 sessions was A Whole New World of Alan Menken (which was AMAZING!).
7. Save money and leave room in your suitcase for D23 Expo exclusive merchandise. There were a ton of cool D23 Expo exclusive merchandise! The lines to get into the Dream Store and the Disney Store was always at least 45 minutes long to get in. We didn’t buy a lot of things, but we saw people with BAGS AND BAGS of stuff. American Tourister hosted a bag check area and I believe their fee was a reasonable $2/bag for them to hold.
8. Beat the heat – bring a personal fan. We just used paper fans and they worked great. They don’t take up a lot of space and you don’t need batteries for them.

Tickets

There’s definitely an advantage of buying Expo tickets early. This image is from D23’s website:
We bought 3 day tickets during the Early Bird special. I don’t see why anyone would pay for non-member pricing, signing up for the basic tier of D23 is free!
They also have premium “Sorcerer Package” tickets which are pricey at $2,250/ticket. Not sure how many of those tickets are available, but we heard that they did indeed sell out. Check out what is included on D23.

Our Highlights

Voices of Disney Parks panel
Have you ever wondered who the voices behind your favorite Disney attractions are?! This was such a magical experience! My little sister’s favorite ride is “It’s A Small World” and her face lit up when she saw the narrators of the attraction – B.J. Ward and Yeni Alvarez. We also saw Bill Rogers and Camille Dixon. We loved seeing the dynamics between all of the presenters!
View the video on YouTube, uploaded by Inside the Magic.

Once Upon a Time panelOne of our favorite shows of all time is Once Upon a Time. There was no way we were going to miss this panel! The stage host was Jeffrey Epstein and Colin O’Donoghue, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz graced the stage. It was a cool treat to see Colin sing his song from he Musical episode.

We are sad to see several of our favorite characters go, but we are also excited to see what they do with the show. I’m sure we’ll see each of them in future episodes anyway, in true Once Upon a Time fashion. 🙂

D23 has a great review article on their site and Disney Dwayne uploaded a highlights video on YouTube.

A Whole New World of Alan Menken presentation

The Alan Menken performance was a once in a lifetime experience. Never in our lives did we think we’d get to witness Alan Menken perform in person. He wrote music for The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, Newsies, Hercules, Tangled, etc.! It was neat learning about his life and learning how some of the greatest songs came to light.

Meeting Charis Lincoln

Okay, I (Lin) have been following Charis on various social media platforms for a while now. My sister and I have always admired her optimism for life. She lives in Alaska too! In North Pole. We’ve always wanted to meet her and we got our chance at the D23 Expo. She is just as bubbly and warm in person as she is in her YouTube videos.

If you need a daily dose of positiveness and happiness, definitely check her out!

Instagram
YouTube

 

Thomas Kinkade painting

We have several Thomas Kinkade canvases and we added this Mickey & Minnie Mouse canvas to our collection! Thomas Kinkade Legacy artist, Dirk Wunderlich, even signed it.

Fun Photo Opportunities

There were plenty of fun photo opportunities all over the place.

A Honda MINNIEvan!
I really wanted one of these famous Pixar balls!
Don’t let Olaf steer your sleigh!

Was it all worth it?

There is definitely more room for improvement. Our suggestions that could have made the experience better: have a more efficient crowd control system, show panels multiple times throughout the schedule, and tell Anaheim Convention Center to serve better food.

We had a great time overall and we look forward to going again in 2019!

With Love
Travel & Leisure

Disney’s Castaway Cay Cabanas

Castaway Cay is pure paradise. If heaven was a place on earth, we are sure that it is Castaway Cay! It’s Disney Cruise Line’s private island and all of the Bahamian and Caribbean sailings include it as a stop on the itinerary. Some sailings even make 2 stops there. We haven’t enjoyed that type of itinerary… yet. 🙂

We’ll write another post about Castaway Cay itself later, but our very first post for our blog is dedicated to the highly coveted cabanas. Castaway Cay is an amazing experience on its own, but having a cabana elevates your experience to a completely different level.

Castaway 7

The Cabanas can be very hard to get… There are only 25 cabanas on the island. 21 are on the Family Beach and 4 are on the Serenity Bay Beach (adults only). Often times they are snatched up by Platinum Castaway Club or Concierge tiers before they are available to other cruisers. This table indicates when you’re eligible for Activity Planning Access:

First Time Cruisers Silver Castaway Club Gold Castaway Club Platinum Castaway Club & Concierge
Begins after your 1st completed cruise Begins after your 5th  completed cruise Begins after your 10th completed cruise
75 Days
prior to sailing
90 Days
prior to sailing
105 Days
prior to sailing
120 Days
prior to sailing

See Disney Cruise Line to view all the benefits of the Castaway Club.

We are currently Silver members, so we can book online activities/port adventures (aka excursions) 90 days prior to sailing. We were always curious about the cabanas, but we were put off by the high prices, which does not include taxes:

 

Family Beach Cabana Grand Family
Beach Cabana
Serenity Bay
Beach Cabana
(Adults Only)
$549 $899 $399
Includes 6 Guests Includes 10 Guests Includes 4 Guests
Additional Guest $50
per person
Additional Guest $50
per person
Additional Guest $50
per person
10 Guests maximum
per Cabana
16 Guests maximum
per  Grand Cabana
10 Guests maximum
per Cabana

We wanted to make our January 2017 trip extra memorable – I was turning 30 years old and we were about to fulfill our Disney Goal of sailing on all 4 DCL ships. We also wanted to see if it was worth the hype and premium price.

So 91 days prior to our sailing, we logged into the Disney Cruise Line portal at 7:55 pm (Alaska is 4 hours behind Eastern time, which is the timezone the website operates on) and I kept refreshing the Internet page like a maniac. THEN IT HAPPENED. OMG – CABANA #9 IS AVAILABLE! I didn’t even waste any extra brain power to see if other cabanas were open – I don’t think I ever clicked so quickly in my life to secure something. I felt so relieved and incredibly lucky that we got one! I imagine that this is the feeling shoe collectors get when they get to buy the design and size they want, haha.

I was stoked about having a cabana on the Family Beach, even though we weren’t traveling with any kids. You get a lovely view of the ship (you can’t see it from Serenity Bay) and it’s near the hustle and bustle of everything.

There are 3 reasons why we think we were able to get the cabana:

1. Our sail date was in January, aka an off-peak season.

2. We sailed on a smaller ship, the Disney Magic. It’s smaller than the Disney Fantasy and the Disney Dream ships, so we had less people to compete with.

3. We have incredible planning skills! We logged in RIGHT when our booking window opened.

If getting a cabana is high on your priority list and you’re not sailing Concierge or a Platinum Castaway Club member, our best advice is to follow the 3 steps above. If you aren’t able to get one, we suggest to check from time to time since people change plans. If you still can’t get one, don’t fret – you’ll still have a great time on Castaway Cay!

What is Included?

  • Private Beach Retreat – you have your own strip of the beach!
  • Comfortable and ample seating
  • Fresh water shower
  • Towels – you don’t have to grab one as you disembark the ship, there are plenty in your cabana
  • Chilled towels – so refreshing to use on a hot day
  • Hammock
  • Unlimited bottled water and soda
  • Fresh fruit and snacks
  • Coppertone SPF products
  • Snorkel Equipment (Family Beach)
  • Floats and Tubes
  • Bike Rental (1 hour) – 1 hour seems short, but it was plenty of time for us to ride around and bike to the lookout tower
  • Sand Toys (Family Beach)
  • Safe – an extra level of security to store important belongings
  • Power outlet – so convenient to be able to recharge your camera and other electronic devices
  • Fan inside the cabana – perfect when it’s too toasty
  • Privacy – the cabanas may look like they’re close together, however they are angled perfectly so you feel like you’re there by yourself

 

Castaway Cay
This was hanging on our stateroom door the evening before Castaway Cay. Inside was a pamphlet about what was included with the Cabana as well as information about the island. The envelope also enclosed our wristbands.
On the morning of our big day, we ate breakfast and then disembarked the Disney Magic. We walked to the Cabana check in kiosk and a golf cart whisked us away to our sanctuary. Our cabana hosts were warm and welcoming and gave us a tour of our little slice of paradise.
Our view was so magical! I was stunned by how post card perfect our view of the ship was. It felt unreal to be able to experience it. Our time spent there is definitely one of our most cherished memories together.

Was it Worth it?

From a value standpoint, no. $549 for just the 3 of us, not including taxes, was a hard bullet to bite. The cabana rental was incredibly convenient, but it isn’t necessary to have a great time at Castaway Cay.

From a WORK HARD, PLAY HARD, RELAX HARD standpoint, we scream that it’s ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!

With Love