Happily Ever After Throwback Series at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood

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Full Disclosure: My family was invited to attend the Happily Ever After Disney Classic movies for free in exchange for an honest review.

My favorite childhood Disney movies are back on the big screen for a limited time!  The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Lady and the Tramp, and Cinderella will all be shown at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.  I’ve written about the history El Capitan Theatre before (we saw Enchanted, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Mary Poppins here), so you all know how enamored I am with this movie theater.  Before every Princess movie in this series, there will be a special Princess meet and greet about a half hour before the movie.  In true El Capitan fashion, there are bound to be secret surprises for each show!

The Little Mermaid

My family was invited to attend the opening night of the Happily Ever After movie series with The Little Mermaid.  Doors opened about an hour before the show time and there is plenty to do in the theater beforehand!  Downstairs was a special photo opportunity where you could take a photo on Ariel’s rock against a green screen.  The finished photo with the cascading waves in the background is texted or emailed to you in seconds.  You can take as many photos as you want, and you best believe I took full advantage of this!  The rock photo is open both before and after the movie.

As promised, Ariel appeared about a half hour before showtime in the main lobby.  The line to meet her can be long, so get in line as soon as you can.  She wears the same green dress that she wears at Disneyland and the girls were so excited to meet her!

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The surprises don’t end once you sit in the theater.  Each movie at El Capitan starts with the gorgeous “Crystal Curtain” show.  The room is illuminated with rainbow lights as the crystal curtain is revealed.  Ariel came out on stage one more time to dance to some classic Little Mermaid songs with a confetti cannon finale!  I was also excited to see the Dumbo and Toy Story 4 previews on the big screen as well.

Upcoming Movies and Dates

  • The Little Mermaid (1/18-1/31)
  • Sleeping Beauty (1/29) *60th anniversary one-night only event @ 7 PM
  • Beauty and the Beast (2/1-2/10)
  • Lady & The Tramp (2/11-2/18) – Valentine’s Day Dinner special at Micheli’s Restaurant
  • Cinderella (2/28-3/3)

Tickets are $10-$13 and include all the special surprises.  To buy tickets call 1-800-DISNEY6 or ElCapitanTheatre.com.

Parking

Recommended parking is at the Hollywood & Highland parking structure. Validated parking is $3.00 for the first four hours. Bring your parking ticket to the theatre for validation. The El Capitan Theatre only validates for this parking structure. The Hollywood & Highland parking structure is located at 1755 N Highland Ave, Hollywood, CA 90028 and the El Capitan Theatre is located across the street at 6838 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood CA 90028.  The parking structure is well lit and always full of people at all hours of the night.  The walk to and from the structure is very secure especially since this is a very popular tourist attraction.

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Ariel’s “Life is the Bubbles” Spa Day at Sugar Plum Parties in Aliso Viejo

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It’s every little mermaid’s dream to be pampered and hang out with Ariel herself!  We were invited to check out Sugar Plum Parties “Life is the Bubbles” Spa Day with Ariel at Sugar Plum Parties in Aliso ViejoMy family was hosted to attend for free in exchange for an honest review.

Playdate Packages

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While Sugar Plum Parties is best known for their private Birthday Party Packages, they also host monthly Princess “Drop-in” Playdates that is open to the public–no birthday party required!  This is a great option for people who would love to have the princess party experience, but don’t want to spend the funds on a huge private party.

There were a few different playdate packages at different prices and time lengths.

  • Little Mermaid’s Bubble Play ($30, 1.5 hours)
    • Geared for babies and toddlers
    • Includes dress up, bubble play, sand art, glitter nails, and dancing
  • Ariel’s V.I.M (Very Important Mermaid) Luxury Spa Experience ($55, 2 hours)
    • Best for school aged mermaids
    • Includes dress up, manis and pedis, eye masks, hair makeovers, stage performances, and the only event where Ariel reveals her mermaid tail
  • Ariel’s Spa Day ($35, 1.5 hours)
    • Geared for ages 3 and up (in my opinion)
    • Includes dress up, glitter nails (no toes), hair makeovers, stage performance with bubbles, and meet and greet with Ariel

Spa Day Activities

LittleSage is 3 and chose the Ariel’s Spa Day package.  She was definitely feeling herself when she got to pick out a mermaid fin dress to wear during the party and I saw a spark of confidence ignite in her little soul.  After all the little mermaids changed into their fins, Ariel was wished into existence and took preliminary “before” pics with all the guests.  The main activities for the Spa Day were glitter nail polish (kid safe Piggy Paint with dipped fine fairy dust on top) and hair makeovers done by the resident Sugar Plum Fairies.  The guests did a great job waiting their turn for their transformations and the Sugar Plum Fairies led them in stage performances with microphones.  There was a camera on the stage so the kids could see themselves performing on a screen at the back of the studio.  Click here to see LittleSage’s dramatic rendition of “Let it Go”.

To everyone’s surprise, Ariel came out again after all the little mermaids were done up for a second round of “After” photos.  The mermaids were invited on stage with her so she could tell them her story.  The evening ended with a bubble dance party on stage with Ariel and each mermaid was given a mermaid snack on the way out (goldfish and magic mermaid blue punch).  LittleSage reluctantly hung her dress back up, but was thrilled that she got to keep her hair accessories and flower hair clip.

Is it Worth it?

This is a great special occasion opportunity for any princess loving fan!  Whether or not you have opportunities to visit these princesses at Disneyland, it’s always special when you get some one on one attention from a real life princess.  I didn’t realize how much she would enjoy getting pampered and you could visibly see how much her confidence was rising.  Even though she didn’t know anyone else in the session, she had so much fun making new friends and belting her heart out on stage.  It just goes to show how a little investment in “you” time can make you feel like a million bucks.

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I feel like this is an exceptionally great value for princess loving kids who don’t often have opportunities to hang out with Princesses.  Usually the only way you can experience an all immersive princess experience is during an organized birthday party.  These monthly “drop-in” playdates is a wonderful way to have that experience without committing to a full fledged private party.  The venue is super cute and is well themed!

Monthly playdates are announced a few weeks in advance, and do fill up quickly!  For the latest updates, be sure that you are following Sugar Plum Parties Aliso Viejo on Instagram.  If you are not local to Aliso Viejo, they also have sister locations in Buena Park, Texas, and on the East Coast.  For a full list of locations, you can visit their website here.

 

Celebrate Lunar New Year at Universal Studios Hollywood

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Lunar New Year festivities are coming to Universal Studios Hollywood from February 2 through February 17!  You can celebrate the Year of the Pig with limited time seasonal activities throughout the theme park.

Celebrate the year of the pig during Lunar New Year February 2 – 17. Join Po and Tigress from Kung Fu Panda in Po’s Village and savor Asian dishes at Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop. Meet Illumination’s Minions in traditional Chinese attire and Mandarin-speaking Megatron from TRANSFORMERS™, and new this year, Hello Kitty joins us for the celebration. Plus, enjoy fun activities, live entertainment and more.

Special Character Meet and Greets

  • Hello Kitty in her special Lunar New Year outfit–she will be meeting guests at the Hello Kitty shop in the New Animation Studio Store
  • Minions in traditional Lunar New Year attire–near the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride
  • Mandarin-speaking Transformer’s MEGATRON–at the entry of the festivities
    • The imposing 12-foot-tall robot leader of the DECEPTICONS will interact with guests, engaging them both in Mandarin and in real time conversation reflective of his persona
  • Mr. Ping’s Noodle shop from Kung Fu Panda

Live Entertainment

Interactive Dragon Warriors Kung Fu Training Show–Enjoy an interactive Dragon Warriors kung fu training show and other cultural performances at Universal Plaza.

The centerpiece of the Lunar New Year festivities will feature DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda Jade Palace Performance Stage and the exciting Dragon Warrior Training Show based on the beloved Kung Fu Panda franchise. The energetic experience is designed to engage guests of all ages in an interactive martial art demonstration performed by Master Po and friends. The immersive event will also feature seasoned animators teaching guests techniques to draw Po and the Furious Five as keepsake mementos.

Lunar New Year Food Offerings

DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda’s famous Mr. Ping’s Noodle Shop is back by popular demand to serve up delicious culturally-themed food such as Po’s Dumplings, Dragon Warrior Bao, Oogway Eggrolls and Secret Ingredient Stir Fry Noodles. Mr. Ping himself will be on hand to interact with guests and take memorable souvenir photos.

Guests can continue their Lunar New Year celebration at Universal CityWalk’s Dongpo Kitchen restaurant featuring upscale and modern Sichuan cuisine. Inspired by China’s premier restaurant Meizhou Dongpo, Dongpo Kitchen offers the comforts of a casual dining environment with both indoor and al fresco seating and caters to an eclectic palate with a variety of signature dishes.

Mandarin Speaking Experiences

Uniquely themed experiences offered in Mandarin include the theme park’s signature Studio Tour and the exclusive VIP Experience, both of which provide two distinctive and revealing looks at an authentic movie and television studio.  Featuring expertly-trained Mandarin-speaking tour guides both opportunities provide insight into the world of movie-making magic as guests enjoy a front row seat and behind-the-scenes access to one of the largest production studios in the world.  In-language park maps are also available for guests.

More information is available at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com. Mandarin-speaking guests can learn more about the Lunar New Year event at www.ush.cn.  Information is also available on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Weibo @好莱坞环球影城.

Ticket Prices

With so much to see and do at Universal Studios Hollywood, the all-new 2019 Season Pass invites guests to experience the fun all year long for $139 when purchased online.  Details and restrictions available at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com

  • California Resident Day Ticket: $99-$109
  • California Resident Universal Express:  $169-$269 (online exclusive)
    • Includes ONE-TIME express access to each ride, attraction and seated show
  • One Day General Admission: $109-$124
  • Universal Express:  $179–$269 (save $10 online)
    • Includes ONE-TIME express access to each ride, attraction and seated show
  • Season Passes start at $139 (blackout dates apply, visit www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com for more information

Sesame Street Live NOW Playing in Ontario, CA

Sesame Street was such a huge part of my childhood, and I am thrilled that I can share my love for this show with my daughters!  My family was invited to attend Sesame Street Live! for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Everyone’s invited to take part in the sunniest and funniest street celebration to ring in the New Year with Sesame Street Live! Let’s Party! when it comes to the Citizens Business Bank Arena for five performances on January 12th and January 13th!  The all-new inaugural production under Feld Entertainment’s partnership with the non-profit educational organization Sesame Workshop features favorite Sesame Street pals Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird and more in a brand-new interactive sensory adventure live on stage.

It was our first time at the Ontario Citizen’s Business Bank Arena.  The venue was easy to find and super close to the Ontario Mills Mall.  On-site parking was available for $15 and it was a short and easy walk to the entrance.

I have to admit, I enjoyed this show way more than a normal adult!  I grew up with Sesame Street and even had a rebirth of interest during my high school years.  I had no shame singing along with my classic favs like “I Love Trash” and “C is for Cookie”.  Rosita sang a song about how she is part Spanish and part English which made me feel so many feelings, especially for my multicultural friends.  Abby Cadabby even made it snow towards the end of the show!  The show time runs about 1 hour and 20 minutes with a 15 minute intermission about 2/3rds of the way through the show.  At the beginning of the second part of the show, the girls are their friends were invited on stage to play a game of “Grover Says”!  This was such a fun experience and one we will never forget!

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Pre-Show Experiences

You are immersed in the Sesame Street experience as soon as you walk into the lobby!  There are a few paid photo ops where you can take a photo with Elmo against a green screen.  The themed snacks and merchandise are very enticing, but I planned ahead and brought their stuffed Elmo from home (although the warm cookies in the Cookie Monster bucket almost won me over).

Keep your eye out for the little Sesame Street Information kiosk.  About a half hour before the show, one of the performers from the show will do a preshow with a Sesame Street muppet!  This was the cutest thing because the girls were able to interact and ask them questions.  There is also a television set up playing shorts of Elmo’s world on the left side of the stadium.

 

If you have a Sesame Street super fan on your hands, there is an extra Sesame Street Live! pre-show experience ($20 a person).  At this unique, up-close-and-personal experience offered at an additional charge, families will have the opportunity to tour the on-stage neighborhood with special surprise visits where they can pick up a few baking tips with Cookie Monster, create magic spells with Abby, learn some dance steps with Elmo or sing along with Oscar.  But the fun doesn’t end there…a variety of interactive activities give children the chance to create, discover and learn as they help decorate for the upcoming party!

Logistics

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WHEN:        Saturday, January 12, 2019

  • Show Time:  10:00 AM
  • Pre-Show Experience from 8:45 AM – 9:30 AM*
  • Show Time:  2:00 PM
  • Pre-Show Experience from 12:45 PM – 1:30 PM*
  • Show Time:  6:00 PM
  • Pre-Show Experience from 4:45 – 5:30 PM*

   Sunday, January 13, 2019

  • Show Time:  10:30 AM
  • Pre-Show Experience from 9:15 AM – 10:00 AM*
  • Show Time:  2:30 PM
  • Pre-Show Experience from 1:15 PM – 2:00 PM*

WHERE:    Citizens Business Bank Arena – 4000 Ontario Center Parkway, Ontario, CA 91764

TICKETS:    Tickets start at just $20 each!

Pre-Show Experience Pass available for $20 per person

(*pre-show pass must be accompanied by same day show ticket)

Tickets now available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or visit the venue Box Office; all seats are reserved.

*prices subject to change; additional venue/ticketing fees may apply

Follow Sesame Street Live! on social media:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SesameStreetLive
Twitter: @SesameStLive  #SesameStreetLive
YouTube: www.youtube.com/SesameSteetLive
Instagram: @SesameStreetLive

Releasing Shame and Refining Joy in 2019

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A photo from my last press event from 2018, the Pasadena Sip and Savor

2018 was very good to me.  It was the year that I made a conscious decision to monetize and start this blog.  I decided to transform my piece of the internet from merely just being a way to preserve memories into a venue where I can help financially support my family.  I started 2018 with the goal of simply being invited to press events.  I am so proud to say that I achieved that goal and went into a direction that I never could have imagined.

There’s something about that statement that makes me take a pause.  “I am proud.”  I think that there is still a lot of shame that comes with the industry of being an “influencer”.  Even the word “influencer” makes me cringe a little (for me, I don’t like to assume that my opinion carries enough weight to change the way someone else makes decisions).  There is a certain stigma that comes with sponsored “#ad” posts and you can almost feel the eyerolls and the threat of the ever powerful “unfollow”.

A quick aside: One of my ongoing goals is to live a life of transparency, and I will be honest with you if I am being paid to talk about something. I do not want to hide my bias. Instead of being ashamed of the “#ad”, I look to it as a badge of honor. To me, it represents a successful business collaboration that I worked really hard to achieve.

Here’s the thing.  I AM PROUD.  I am proud of the work I accomplished in 2018.  I am proud of the goals that I set for myself, and how I continually set the bar higher because I’m reaching those goals.  I am proud that I am learning more about myself and what I can accomplish.  I am proud that I am doing something for myself that gives me autonomy and achievement.  I am proud that I am showing my daughters that with hard work comes great payoff (even they have learned what it means to get a job done, and I am so very proud of their work ethic, focus, and attention).

With the start of the new year comes a season of cleansing and renewal.  It seems that everyone has been bitten by the “Konmari” bug and we are all asking ourselves, “Does this bring me joy?”  I’ve taken this mentality and extended it beyond physical things.  My goal is to only keep things in my life that bring me joy.  This is true with everything–friendships, potential work commitments, expectations of myself.  If a person is not bringing me joy, I have to thank them for their contribution to my life, and let them go.  I often find myself saying yes to too many events, but if they are not bringing me joy, I am giving myself permission to say no.  I’d like to be the type of mom who feeds her kids really cute bento box lunches, but if it’s not bringing me joy, it’ll be another day of sun butter and chocolate sandwiches in a fold top plastic bag.

My word for 2019 is “refine”.  I used 2018 as the year to get my foot in the door in the social media blogging world.  I still barely know what I’m doing.  I’m going to use 2019 to hone in on my craft, what I want to present, and how to present it well.  I have found that I respect and invest in people who share content about things that obviously bring them joy (Stephenie‘s Brene Brown posts, Jo‘s unfiltered musings on motherhood in the special needs world, Mindy‘s unapologetic take on blogging).  I hope to do the same.  While this list is ever changing, here are the things that bring me joy:

  • Bringing together bloggers/social media-ers and building a supportive community–brainstorming, talking shop, inspiring, networking
  • Making costumes for my kids (whether it be from scratch or curated from clothing basics like primary.com)
  • Going to places and events in Orange County and Los Angeles (and sharing tips on how to make these trips less stressful)
  • Theme Parks
  • Finding tips, tricks, and deals and sharing them with you.  On the same wavelength, I love taking in a big piece of information, process it, and present it to you in a more manageable way.  This is where my “Kids Guides” come in.
  • Live entertainment and performing arts
  • Toys.  So random, but I love toys.  Always have.  New toys, vintage toys, toy storage, toy reviews, I just love toys.

It will be interesting to see how this list expands and pares down (hence, the refining) throughout the year.  When I was in high school, my teachers would ask me, “What do you want to do as a career?”  I didn’t have a specific profession in mind, but I vividly remember thinking that I wanted to tell people about new and exciting things, and share how they can get the most out of them.  It hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized that I am finally achieving my childhood career aspirations.  I want to spend 2019 refining what brings me joy, and focus on those things.  I hope to continue to learn more about myself and how I can hopefully inspire and help other people.  I feel like I’m just an ordinary mom just like many of you.  Anything that I can do, you can definitely do also.  My hope is that I inspire others to get out there, set goals, and create an extraordinary life.  Cheers to 2019.

10 Things to do with your Kids in Orange County over Winter Break

Ah.  The love/hate relationship with Winter Break.  Two glorious weeks off where you don’t have to wake up early for school, but your kids are looking at you at 7am anyway with those dreaded words:  “I’m bored.”

I’ve rounded up 10 of my favorite things to do in Orange County to keep the Holiday Season alive.

1.  Visit the Holiday decorated hotels at the Disneyland Resort

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Disney passes blocked out?  Don’t worry, you wouldn’t want to be in that crowded mess anyway.  If your heart has a Mickey sized hole in it, load up the kids, grab lunch in Downtown Disney (to validate parking!) and catch a glimpse of the Grand Californian Gingerbread house while you’re at it.  Read my full review here.

2.  Winter Fest OC at the OC Fairgrounds

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This was our favorite local Holiday event.  Where else can you play in the snow and ride carnival rides at the same time?  Read my full review here to find out what ticket option is best for you.

3.  Skypark Santa’s Village in Lake Arrowhead

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Missing Santa?  Don’t worry, he’s still meeting people in Santa’s Village!  You can pay him a visit and thank him for all the wonderful Christmas presents.  This option is pricey but it was our family pick for our favorite “splurge getaway”.  Read my full review here.

4.  Disney on Ice

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Looking for a last minute present for your niece or nephew?  Take them to Disney on Ice!  Win ultimate cool auntie and uncle points and immerse yourself in the magic.  Read here on where they are touring through January 6.

5.  South Coast Plaza

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There’s a reason why tourist buses make stops at the largest mall on the west coast.  South Coast Plaza is beautifully decorated for the Holidays with a ton of great eating options (the new Barilla quick service restaurant is a new fav, or there’s always the tried and true Din Tai Fung for xia long bao soup dumplings…mmmm…).  Be sure to grab a $1 ride on the reindeer carousel before it transforms back.  Read more about the options here.

6.  OC Bubble Pop

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If you’re looking for a fun new indoor playground, OC Bubble Pop is going to be your new BFF.  Located conveniently in the Tustin District, you and your kids can literally spend all day playing in the bubble attractions.  This place is new, modern, and ridiculously clean (I mean, it is bubbles).  Your admission is good all day so you can go in the morning, grab lunch and a nap, and return later until they close at 8pm.  We will be going on January 3–mention “LittleGrayThread” for reduced admission and enter for a chance to win a 2 pack of tickets for a future visit.

7.  Zoomars

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If you’ve never been to this quaint little petting zoo in San Juan Capistrano, you’re missing out!  We have been coming to Zoomars since the girls were babies.  They love holding the guinea pigs and riding the big pony.  Read all about it here and see what else you can experience in the area.

8.  Visit the Lion Guard Exhibit at the Discovery Cube

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The Discovery Cube is the huge black cube you see off the 5 in Santa Ana.  It’s a wonderful hands-on science museum that is fun for all ages.  The Lion Guard Exhibit is only on display until January 13 and is included with General Admission.  Family passes are an exceptionally great value and is definitely something to consider if you live in the area.

9.  Bricks and Minifigs LEGO Shopping

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This cute little store is located super close to Knotts Berry Farm.  You could spend hours perusing the new and vintage LEGO sets, put together your own minifig, or take home a bulk collection of LEGO pieces.  When we went, LittleGray took home an entire box of just plant pieces to create a wookie village at home.  Be sure to follow them on Instagram to find out if they are having any daily deals.

10.  Buy Season Passes to Knotts Berry Farm

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I saved the very best for last.  Consider buying Season Passes to Knotts Berry Farm.  Season passes are the lowest price at the beginning of the year (seriously they get MORE expensive as the year goes on and all the passes expire on December 31, 2019).  Season passes are $95 and have ZERO BLACKOUTDATES.  This low pricing ends on January 6, and if you buy before 2019, you also get one free admission in 2018 (hello NYE!).  I highly recommend getting the meal plan where you get two meals every single day.  The cost of the pass is not much more than a single day visit ticket, and you’ll be able to return for the extended Peanuts Celebration, springtime Boysenberry Festival, Summer Ghost Town Alive (my heart), Halloween Spooky Farm, and Christmas Merry Farm.  You can find out more information about pass pricing and payment plans on their website.

Favorite Bags for Christmas Travel

Christmas 2018 has come and gone, and we survived another Christmas out of town.  Traveling with kids can be tricky, especially when you also have to transport all the Christmas gifts in addition to the normal clothes and toiletries that come with staying overnight.

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This was the first year that the girls were responsible for their own luggage.  I chose these rolling trolleys from Lassig.  They were the perfect size to fit their clothes for a week, and were small enough for them to handle on their own.  It also came with a matching drawstring bag which they used as a dirty clothes bag.  Throughout the week, we were able to stay organized and it made unpacking a breeze when we returned home.  Another reason to choose Lassig is that they are a Fair Play company, which means they pay their employees a fair salary and never use child labor.  They also used recycled materials for some of their textiles which makes it a very eco friendly product.

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Since we were driving, Lassig also sent the girls matching car wrap to go organizers.  I love how the entire Lassig line is coordinating.  I stocked the organizers with the girls’ favorite treats and a couple of new activity sticker packs for the road.  The top right compartment is an insulated water bottle holder which came in handy.  The girls were able to access the compartments from their carseats and they were entertained for our entire trip.

 

For my transportation entertainment, I packed my laptop and planner in the Mix n Match Lassig bag in gray.  Since this is a diaper bag, it is also the queen of organization pockets.  My laptop fit nicely in the main compartment and I had sections to keep my pens, planner, and chargers all tucked away.  The Mix n Match bag also has 2 side main pockets where I stored my Christmas Cards (that I forgot to give out), sunglasses, and other smaller items.  Save 25% with code “littlegraythread25” on lassigusa.com.

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My biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to transport Christmas Presents.  I came across the LUMEHRA FlexBag from a fellow blogger and I knew it would work well for this situation.  A lot of the girls’ presents had loose tiny parts, so the FlexBag was a great solution to ensure that everything arrived in one piece.  I was shocked how much fit into the FlexBag and the handles made it super easy to transport.  Once all the presents were unwrapped, we packed them all back up in the FlexBag and loaded it into the car.  The FlexBag is currently 25% off on amazon.com, no code required.

 

I received all products for free in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.