Author Archive | Melissa

You’ve Been Booed by At Home Store!

At Home Store

I am sure you have all seen the Halloween tradition of being boo’ed where a friend or neighbor places a sweet note and a Halloween treat on your front porch. This year the At Home stores took things to a whole new level! We were able to shop and choose Halloween decorations to then boo someone special.

I have shopped at the At Home stores but it was the first visit for my four year old. To say he was entertained was an understatement.


I admit to being home decor challenged. I loved how their displays could be 100% replicated in your home!


Halloween Display




First our mission was to find Halloween decorations. There were so many to choose from!





Our kids are obsessed with inflatables. Our front yard at Christmas has more than any one family needs. Naturally the largest inflatable that we could find was chosen. And there might have been a sneak peak at the Christmas options for us as well! (don’t tell Mickey on us)


And our four year old has a sense of humor and selected the largest wine glass he could find for the mom in the family!


While there I couldn’t pass up a few items for our mantle for fall.


The next day I felt a little like a weirdo trying to figure out when our friends would not be home. I chose this family because the parents are in a high stress field during the election cycle and I knew they had not had time to decorate for Halloween. I knew their boys would love it also!  We went as a family and got to work hoping they didn’t come home from their baseball game early. Surprisingly their neighbors didn’t seem to think it was odd that we were in their yard putting decorations out.

decorations                   decorationsinflatable


I did give her a hint that I would love a video when they saw the surprise I dropped off for them. I don’t think she was expecting this!



Have you been to an At Home store? If not, you should go! They make decorating for the holidays easy, but they also have home decor options for any style, including my simplistic tastes.




This was a sponsored post. My opinions were my own.

Armadillo Bazaar

The motto of Austin is “Keep Austin Weird”. The thing about Austin is we really aren’t that weird at all. We just like to support small businesses, artists, and keep things local. One of the events that embodies this is the Armadillo Bazaar! It has been an Austin tradition for 40 years now.

From the press release ” The Armadillo World Headquarters (AWHQ) was considered the premiere ‘third coast’ concert venue for live music in the 1970s, and a vibrant community center. The folks around the AWHQ were raising eyebrows long before “Keep Austin Weird” became a slogan. Many local musicians, songwriters and performers, some of whom are now considered legends, honed their craft there. National touring artists includedWillie Nelson, Jerry Garcia, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, and Frank Zappa.The AWHQ quickly became a countercultural institution known for out-of-the-box thinking. The scene around the Armadillo became a powerful magnet pulling in young creative people and energy from all over the country and gave Austin the roots of its current attractive cultural identity. This is where the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar was born. In 1975, Lucinda Williams, through an offhand comment, inspired a fabulous solution to AWHQ’s mid-winter money woes. “Too bad the artists down on the drag don’t have a warm, dry place like this to sell their art for Christmas”. Her spark provided a perfect opportunity to expand AWHQ’s cultural and economic prosperity.”

The Armadillo Bazaar has grown into a family favorite in Austin and attracts people from all over the country! Art collectors and music lovers both enjoy the event. Many make it a yearly holiday family tradition.

“This philosophy of community, enhancing spheres of prosperity and commitment to art and music are what makes the Armadillo Bazaar the best of Austin’s ‘weird’ and wonderful. Armadillo will continue to be the place for an authentic Austin live music and art buying experience, where creativity, originality, and fun are celebrated in the true spirit of the holidays. “

I personally am most excited about this year’s music line up! Check it out here.

You can buy tickets here:

The location is at Palmer Events Center located at 900 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78704.

Which artist or musician do you want to see the most?

Disney’s The Little Mermaid comes to Austin

Disney's Little Mermaid

We had the pleasure of seeing Disney’s The Little Mermaid last night at Bass Concert Hall. It is part of the Broadway in Austin series. You must buy tickets! Better yet take your friends too, especially if you loved the original story.


King Triton

I was curious how they would portray so much of the musical under water. The sets never disappoint with the Broadway in Austin series. You really did feel like you were under the water! Blues and greens were used heavily as you might expect. And instead of making the water move, the cast moved in a way to make you feel like you were floating. The costumes though took the prize. The pageantry of colors felt like you really were seeing under the sea with the bright colors of all the fish. Having seen various versions of The Little Mermaid, I expected more puppetry but to my pleasant surprise there was very little. The one thing that really was surprising though with the costumes was the use of skateboards! Flounder and the evil eels Flotsum and Jetsam all three incorporated skateboards into their costumes and movement. Brilliant!

Ursula and the Eels

Prince Eric and Ariel


Anyone reading this blog knows the story of The Little Mermaid. One of the parts that I really thought the actors nailed was the chemistry between Ariel and Prince Eric. It definitely grew as time passed. Don’t worry it was all G rated though for those little ones who are in the audience.




Sebastian and Ariel

My favorites of the musical were Ariel and Sebastian. Both were as true to the original story as you could have hoped for. They had great personality on stage. Ariel’s voice was expected to be beautiful but it was strong and captivating as well. Sebastian’s facial expressions made his part. I also enjoyed Ursula. She was hysterical and really captured the humor of the sea witch along with the meanness.





The crowd favorites were Flounder and Chef Louis. Flounder, the dear soul, really did an incredible job. He constantly moved just like the Flounder in the movie! So much so, it made this motion sick person a little quesy watching him. In this version, Flounder also had a crush on Ariel. I don’t recall that part in the story or movie or any other version I’ve seen so I am not sure if that was subtle and I didn’t catch it or if this was just a tweak for this production. It felt a little wrong to me though! Not creepy wrong just off. Chef Louis was a riot! I laughed so hard I had tears in the scene with Sebastian and Chef Louis in the dining room. That was serious talent to pull off those shenanigans!

Chef Louis

And a musical wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the most important part of the production, the Orchestra. People were moving in their seats. Some(unfortunately) even tried to sing along. Please don’t do that for the sake of all around you! The orchestra though was just beautiful.

We saw this production as a date night. This would make a great date night this weekend but also a wonderful girl’s night out. It is kid friendly but there were a few parts that would be scary for the 6 and under range, especially Ursula! Tickets are still available. Don’t wait though because I expect it will sell out. Last night was a packed house!


The Little Mermaid Program


September 29 – October 4, 2015



WHO:           Lexus Broadway in Austin presented by Texas Performing Arts


WHAT:         Premiere of The Little Mermaid


WHEN:         September 29 – October 4, 2015

Tuesday – Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m & 8 p.m.; Sunday at

1 p.m. & 7 p.m.


WHERE:       Bass Concert Hall / 2350 Robert Dedman Drive / Austin, TX


TICKETS:    Start at $35. Tickets are available at, the Bass Concert Hall box office, all Texas Box Office Outlets, by phone at (512) 477-6060. For groups of 10 or more, call (877) 275-3804 or email

*All Photos other than the program photo are courtesy of Broadway in Austin and subject to copyright laws.


First Day of Kindergarten and All The Feelings I am Not Supposed To Feel

Mason baby pic

2 weeks old

mason baby pic 2









Tomorrow, August 24th, marks the day my oldest child has his first day of Kindergarten and I am HAPPY. I had a mom look at me like I was nuts this weekend when I said I can’t wait! Apparently you are supposed to be tearful and sad that your little one is growing up and if you aren’t, just pretend. I think I might have different feelings if he was going into a traditional school. We have chosen Montessori for his preschool and early elementary years though so instead of being the youngest at his school, he’s one of the oldest kids. Instead of being the tiny little kid in a sea of big kids, he’s the big kid.

School Supplies


As we were school supply shopping he asked “Mommy, is Kindergarten a big deal?” I guess after multiple people stopped and asked him about his grade he got that it just might be something big. My response “Yes! You get to be one of the leaders in your class!” He was so proud of his pencil box filled with fun pencils, he carried it around the house for a while.






We spent a full year deciding where he would go to Kindergarten and early elementary school. Yes, I am especially Type A when it comes to education. I bet you’re not surprised! I know we made the best choice for him because tonight there isn’t anxiousness, there’s just peace and calmness. The supplies are labeled, clothes are set out, breakfast planned. Sorry teachers, but they are getting donuts because it’s also my birthday and birthday donuts are a must do! We will throw in a little fruit juice to balance it out a bit.

Very first day of school pic age 18 mos

First day of school at 18 months

2 years old school pics

First school picture at 2 years old










I have nothing but excited feelings for him tomorrow. He has grown so much in his self confidence in his classroom and this year will be even more opportunity for that. He is starting his kindergarten year already reading, which is something he is so proud of and he can’t wait to get started on the second level. He has confidence in his abilities and is ready to be a big buddy to a new friend. He knows he can help other children with their lessons and is excited to do that. If there are any tears tomorrow, it won’t be sad tears or wishing he was home all day. They will be happy tears over the incredible little boy he has become. He has empathy, confidence, kindness, and creative problem solving skills. These are all qualities his amazing teachers have nurtured and I have complete faith they will continue to nurture his gifts during his kindergarten year.


PK4 First Day

PK4 First Day

PK3 First Day

PK3 First Day











I hope all of you have the same happy feelings tomorrow as you send your kindergarteners off for their first day. Happy tears mamas and daddies, you’ve all done well!

Stay tuned for first day photos to be added to this post tomorrow.

Entitlement : The Real Problem with Free Disney Dining

I rarely get controversial on this blog. I want it to be a source of information and sharing in the love of Disney. I read post after post yesterday though about how Disney disappointed thousands of people with how the release of Free Disney Dining happened. I disagree that Disney was the overall problem yesterday. The problem is the culture of entitlement that has been exacerbated by bloggers not fully educating their readers on how a Disney discount works. I hope this post sheds some light on reality when it comes to promotions.

I am going to give you an example to help understand how a Disney discount works. I am going to use Nordstrom as an example because they are a retailer that is all about service and quality much like Disney. I go into Nordstrom and I see a cute red top on the sales rack. I like it and want other colors so I look around. Oh, look, there’s a pink one. But it’s not marked down? Why? The red one is but the pink one isn’t. I want the pink one for the sales price. It’s not going to happen. The pink one has a different demand, it’s spring time, pink is in season, red was their fall color, there’s too many red ones in inventory. That’s not Nordstrom’s fault the red one is on sale and the pink one isn’t. It’s purely supply and demand, simple economics. ALL Disney discounts work just like this. I would venture to say that most corporations’ discounts work in a way similar to this.

Disney got slammed over and over for inventory restrictions yesterday. A Disney discount has never meant to be an across the board price cut for all rooms. It has always been dictated by the inventory levels and by what demand looks like. This is why some popular bloggers say don’t book until a discount is released. I am of the belief that if you are only going to go if a discount is released, then hold off. Otherwise, book on your current budget. In a slower economic time you were more likely to find those standard view, moderate resorts. The reason we have seen a shift from finding moderates available is because now we have more moderates that can sleep families of five and those rooms are in demand for families. It is no surprise we couldn’t find resorts that slept five in that category. They don’t need any help selling those, they go fast at full price because even at full price they are cheaper than families having to do two rooms or a deluxe option.

Now let’s move on to the other claims made. My favorite was by a popular blogger that slammed Disney for their secrecy. Well clearly the promotion wasn’t that secret because this same blogger was shouting it from the roof tops all last week and into the weekend even leading into the late hours of Sunday night. I don’t understand how anyone who contributed to the Free Disney Dining frenzy can then slam Disney because it was so popular, sites crashed. Oh, and now would be a good time to mention that many parts of the “rumor” were wrong up until the last hour.

I read claims that travel agents are just rebooking their clients at Universal. I am a travel agent, you can read that on my bio. I am going to tell you that any travel agent that is pushing their own booking agenda and not what is best for your family is not working in your best interest. It is infuriating for those of us that are true travel professionals to have someone who is connected with a travel agent to  suggest our industry is so fickle that we would change brand loyalties because of EXPECTED limited inventory. There were definitely some Minion memes floating around because they were funny, not because they were true. When a travel agent recommends a destination it is because that is what is best for the client, to suggest anything less is a slam to our profession.

The only claim that had any merit yesterday was the fact that there were technological difficulties on Disney’s end. One was to be expected with the websites and the other with the phone lines was not expected. The websites on both the travel agent side and the consumer side had a huge improvement made in recent weeks and with all improvements to the coding, high traffic is going to reveal any vulnerabilities. This was expected. Frankly, the websites held up a lot longer than I could have hoped for and I was pleased with how well it worked, until it didn’t. The phone lines were a total mess and whomever is in charge of those probably had a very difficult day yesterday. The phone agents didn’t deserve the situation they were put in. As a travel agent these were frustrating no doubt. And as a travel agent, I have plenty of channels in which to communicate those frustrations constructively to the people who can improve the systems. To imply Disney wasn’t listening to the travel agents shows how out of touch people are. The reality is if the consumer side had not been affected, there would have been little reported outside of the travel agency world on this matter. On the plus side, A LOT of consumers now know how hard travel agents work on Disney discount release days.

So let’s tally this up:

Limited inventory for less expensive room categories- expected

Free Disney Dining frenzy generated by bloggers- expected

Website technological issues- expected

Phone Issues-Most TAs expect long wait times but overall these issues were NOT expected and totally much worse than normal

Switching people to Universal-Ridiculous claim that is degrading to travel professionals.

Consumers understand how hard Travel Agents work- BONUS

Overall, my agency’s clients weren’t disappointed. The people disappointed were the people who don’t understand how the discounts work and who book based on the guarantee of a discount. I always tell clients I will rebook them if a discount becomes available but I do not promise a discount. It is so important to book based on your CURRENT budget, not a what if budget. Then *IF* a discount is released and it is a room category you want, you can always upgrade. It is a much better approach overall in my opinion and the bloggers who recommend this should be commended. The ones who added to the disappointed masses yesterday should share some of the responsibility of that disappointment.

Overall Disney is still where my family prefers to vacation and some technological frustrations don’t negate the magicalness that is Disney. Disney has some work to do on the technological front, but the brunt of the sad Mickeys floating around the web goes to bloggers who have failed to properly report how discounts work and have created a culture of entitlement in the process. Disney is by far the best bang for your buck when it comes to family entertainment and overall experience. A discount is a perk, a nice add on, but even without one, Disney offers so much to families.

These smiles right here are why we will go over and over again.

calendar collage-imp



*These opinions are my own. They do not represent Disney, Trips To The Mouse, or any other entity.

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