An American Girl Lunch

Part three of five.

Almost two years ago the Big Cupcake received an American Girl for her birthday. This was before the store opened in our local Chapters. This girl, named Courtney, has now traveled with us to Canmore, Calgary, Vancouver, and everywhere in between. The little cupcake was feeling a bit left out with her Bitty Baby, until the fated day in February when she won Tenney. We now live in a house that embraces the American Girls.

As we knew we’d be semi-close to an American Girl flagship store, we knew we had to make a visit. This store is a two level store with salon, cafe and the Truly Me Signature design studio. One of big cupcakes friend’s also has an American Girl, and asked if we would bring her doll with us to get hearing aids put on. We made our reservations for lunch and patiently waited for the day to arrive.

The morning of our reservation, the girls got all dressed up, grabbed their dolls and talked about all the things they were going to look at for their dolls. We arrived at the Grove mall in Los Angeles, it is a large open air mall which many celebrities frequent, we did not see any, it was actually quiet the day at the mall. We didn’t really take any time to explore the mall, which we wished we did.

But we made our way through the store and up to the second level for lunch. We were pretty lucky that we got to sit outside on the balcony for lunch. It wasn’t very busy in the cafe either. The girls took their places and sat the dolls, Courtney, Tenney and Jade in the special doll chairs and waited for their drinks. Included in the price of your meal, is a place setting for the dolls – cup and saucer, and a hair tie. The girls mostly loved the cup and saucer.

The American Girl Cafe is similar to any other classic American dining option, with hamburgers, hot dogs, cheese pizza, and chicken strips for kids, burgers, salad, chicken sandwich and fries for the adults. They offer free lemonade, juice, tea or coffee with each meal, and you do have the option of purchasing beer or wine, or specialty milkshakes. The little cupcake chose the hamburger/ hot dog combo with fries and a mint cookie milkshake, the big cupcake ordered the cheese pizza, and the adults ordered lemonade and the shrimp salad. Overall food was good, other than the pizza. Prior to our meal we were given mini Cinnamon buns which are the AG specialty and a mini appetizer of pretzel bun, hummus and vegetables and cheese. For dessert, which is included in the price of the meal as well, we each received an individual chocolate mousse in a flowerpot and a vanilla cupcake. AG also offers a tea, which includes the cinnamon buns, and your choice of scones, turkey sandwich, pigs-in-a-blanket, or mini-burgers and dessert. Dinner is the same dining option as lunch.

After lunch the girls were ready to shop. We headed to the main level Salon/Spa and dropped off Courtney, Jade and Tenney. While the big girls shopped for new clothes for the dolls, the AG girls received new hairstyles, Jade got her hearing aids, Tenney got her ears pierced, and Courtney got a mani/pedi and facial.

After looking around the entire store, the girls decided on designing their own wares. The Big Cupcake designed a doll carrier backpack, and the little cupcake designed pajamas. We were a bit hesitant on the quality of the design studio, but were pleasantly surprised at how well made the resulting items actually were, and the girls were ecstatic that they got to custom make their dolls new items.

We picked up the AG girls and it was time to fight LA traffic and head back to Newport. TIP: If its close to 3 p.m. and you’re about to head onto the freeway, wait. Stay were you are, explore and have dinner there. Otherwise you will be on the road for two and half hours.

Other than the traffic it was a great rest day and a great experience for the girls.



Disney DAY!!!!!!

Part two of five. Who’s ready for Disney???? This was the question asked on our second morning. Three hands went up with sheer excitement. Three you ask, but there are only two littles, the third was mine. I love Disney, and that love is trickling down to the girls. 

TIP: if you’ve never visited the park, we highly suggest you create an account with Disney and download their free app before you go. This has everything you could need to know at Disney, admission prices and virtual tickets, line wait times, show times, character locations, and menus. It also serves as a virtual photo booth, and map.

For our Disney adventure, we chose the three-day park hopper pass. It was more affordable and allowed us to see more in which ever park we wanted. But our first day would be Disneyland to see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle! We got a bit of a late start, shudder, for spring break crowds by arriving at 9:30 a.m. Not ideal if you are following the Unofficial Guide to Disney. TIP: If you’re headed to Disney, GET THIS BOOK. Follow the link, I’ll wait here…

Done, good. I’ll admit, our first day we didn’t rely on the book or the app. Which meant we didn’t use our time effectively or see all that we wanted.

But our first day at the part we had an agenda, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique! This is serious business if you have littles. Children, 12 and under – no they don’t offer it for adults (I asked ☹️), are transformed into their favourite princess, knight or pirate. So cool. In true Disney magic, children pick a hair style, makeup and manicure all completed by a fairy godmother in training. We opted for the castle package which included a custom bird- made dress – yes, you read that right…it is Disney afterall – cue Cinderella. The girls changed into their freshly made Elena of Avalor and Frozen Fever Elsa dresses and were escorted to the salon. Each girl chose the princess bun which came with the Mickey crystal tiara and hair clip.

The big cupcake was up first, while the little hung out, watched her sister get transformed and waited exceptionally patiently. Translation: someone forgot about her. Finally it was her turn. When the girls were finally presented to see themselves they said the magic words and the curtains were drawn back by birds. True Disney magic! The girls were then royally announced to the crowd and escorted to the royal photography room to have their photos done!

While the girls had their photos done a cast member presented us with a voucher to any ride of our pick because we had to wait. We chose the jungle cruise because it always has a line. We should have chosen Peter Pan because that line is always long. Lesson learned. Once the girls were done here, we were escorted to the Royal Hall. This is the venue where three princesses hang out daily. Front of the line service to see princesses when your daughters are dressed as princesses, pretty worth it. We met Snow White, Cinderella and Elena! If you’ve never met the princesses or characters, this is an experience. They interact with everyone and make each guest feel special. My girls were greeted as princess all day, they loved it. Pictures were taken and autographs signed. It really was the highlight of their entire Disney trip.  (In case you’re wondering, Mickey is a “perfect Gentlemen” as said by the big cupcake. As you can see, he greeted the girls with a bow when they entered his Studio Barn in Toon Town.)

Thankfully we captured many photos and took advantage of the professional photographers throughout the park. TIP:These cast members are usually found at the big sites and the big characters. They are easy to spot and will present you with a card after they take the photos. Take it. They get unobstructed photos of your children with characters and then you pick and choose the photos you want to download and print.

Our first day was spent at a leisurely pace, we rode a few rides, met some characters, but did not get to do all that we wanted.  We did take advantage of Splash Mountain’s FastPass system – TIP: check the unofficial guide for details on FastPass. The four year old declared she was riding in the very front, she’s a daredevil. As we plunged into the water below I heard screams echoing, then the biggest belly laugh. My four year old loved it, the six year old declared never to ride it again and was visibly trembling. Can’t win them all.

macaron1.jpgOur family is a bunch of foodies, not sure you caught on. The Big Cupcake had one food request, a Mickey Macaron from the Jolly Holiday Bakery on Main Street. So that is where lunch found us. This macaron is huge. She refused to share. Each season the flavours change, while we were there the flavour was raspberry rose. It was delicious. I tried the Mattahorn Macaroon. It is also huge! I didn’t finish it. It was a bit drier than I prefer macaroons, but still quiet good.

After a few more rides and dinner at the Carnation cafe (pretty good chicken, not good pasta) it was time for the electric parade. This year the Main Street Electric Parade is making a limited time comeback. It’s a very nostalgic parade for people who went as children in the early 90s. We tried to catch the fireworks, but alas, they were cancelled due to wind. The girls were pooped, so we made our way back to the Mickey and Friends parking structure and headed back to the hotel. The girls passed out.

Our next Disneyland day was day three. TIP: We suggest spreading out your three days to allow for a day of rest in between. That way people don’t get cranky and tired. Disney is work. Again we made a late start, but again, it wasn’t that big of a deal for us. The one thing we learned, follow the Tour lines App schedule. You can print these off and take them with you as well. We popped into the park, picked up the stroller and immediately walked into Minnie Mouse. Got into line and 10 minutes later the girls were hobnobbing with the royal mouse.

Once finished with the visit we opened the app and optimized our schedule. It sent us to our first ride, dumbo. We literally walked into line and waited 10 minutes. Then we saw the line for Rapunzel – Big Cupcake’s favourite princess. We excitedly got into line, she was leaving, #fail, but Jasmine and Al were going to make an appearance so we waited it out. That was when we decided to optimize our time and start sending others to wait in other lines. We knew Tink would have a line, and Rapunzel was due back in the same location in 1 hour, so we dispersed the troops and conquered a couple of things on our to do list. The girls managed to see their must-see characters, and take in some rides with  a lot of help from the app. Win-Win for everyone. The App/tour plans were really an awesome find. It plans everything for you, and takes away a lot of the headache. TIP: Plus with the app, you can optimize based on current crowd levels as people like us were inputting line times and actual wait times.

Just a note of caution, as said before: Peter Pan ride is always busy. Get to the park early, and do this ride first. Kyle ended up waiting in line for 40 minutes while I took the girls to Mickey Soundstage parade. The girls and I got a break and only had to wait ten minutes when we met up.

While the girls watched the Parade, we realized just how much the littles love Disney and how awesome Disney is: from the little Cupcake yelling to Mary Poppins and getting acknowledged with a big wave and smile, to the Big Cupcake waving and smiling at Princess Rapunzel, Disney outdoes themselves and really is a magical place. As a parent, the smiles and memories made during this trip outweighed the crowds and the line wait time. TIP: During the lines, we saw many people playing Heads Up on their phones and other computer games. We chose to amuse ourselves by looking for the Hidden Mickey’s. Our girls loved it, they got absorbed in the scenery and saw things we never saw before. For us it worked. the girls found over 60 hidden Mickey’s in the park, including the Haunted Mansion place setting and the Jungle Cruise ropes.

At the end of the day the girls were once again pooped but insisted on staying for the fireworks. The show went on but was shut down early due to wind. But the girls saw the best part – Tinkerbell flying over the castle! The littlest cupcake loves Tink, and I’m pretty sure Tink heard her yelling out her name as she flew over the castle. It is something she is still talking about.

Two days at Disneyland was awesome, but up next is our trip to DCA (Disney California Adventure), American Girl and Breakfast with Mickey. Stay tuned and have a magical day.

Fun on Spring Break

We did it, we went to Disneyland for Spring break and survived. There was some concerns about busy days, over stimulating and crowds, but we managed and we had a whole lot of fun doing it. We will be doing that again. This is part 1 of a 5 part series.

We arrived at LAX in the evening on Saturday night. We chose to stay in Newport Beach because our family has a timeshare that worked at a hotel in that suburb. It was a great choice for our family, but meant up early to drive to the park each day. But also made us really slow down, plan and get away from the Disney traffic.

Let’s talk Newport. Newport is the a cool place. It is a coastal southern city in California in Orange County. You know what that means…the Real Housewives of Orange County, the OC, and Arrested Development. Sadly, we did not see any celebrities, but we understood why they live in the area. It is gorgeous, lush, posh and so Californian.

Our first day we slept in a bit and made a stop for lunch at one of our family favorite spots, Panera Bread. We first learned about Panera when a family friend lived in North Carolina. Since then, any time we are in the United States, we dine at Panera at least once. We had Mac and cheese, which is really one of our family favorites, turkey chili and sandwiches. It was delicious and filling. After lunch we had to pick up breakfast items and snacks because we knew we’d be eating breakfast at the hotel and bringing snacks with us to the park.

We checked out Pavilion’s Grocery Store. It was cool market and like most stores in the states, had a liquor store on site. We picked up fruit, veggies and wide variety of snacks that we can’t get here in Canada. Most of it junk food, but its vacation and we always enjoy trying the stuff we don’t have access too at home.

BalboaWe spent the rest of day exploring the area and made our way to Balboa Island. We even passed the Original Banana Stand (Arrested Development reference). It is quaint and very coastal feeling with small homes, harbour-side restaurants and a even a seaside fair/amusement area. To get to Balboa Island, you need to take a ferry. This shocked our family when Joan (GPS) demanded we board a ferry. There was a resounding shocked “ferry” exclaimed in our vehicle when this was declared. Regardless, we actually put our trust in Joan and made our way across the inlet on a three car ferry.

Ruby'sWhile exploring Balboa Island we made a quick trip to the beach so the cupcakes could find some shells. The tide was coming and the lil’ cupcake was a victim, or so she demonstrated. Apparently surf and a tired and hungry little four year old, don’t mix. We whisked a cold little girl up to the pier to watch the sea lions stealing fish from the people fishing off the pier and to eat dinner at Ruby’s on the Pier. Ruby’s is a 50’s diner that serves classic American fair. Burgers, malts, milkshakes and fries. Food was ok, nothing spectacular. But it was nice to watch the sunset as we ate dinner on a pier.

Our first day wasn’t too crazy, and the girls made a great haul on seashells, but we needed to get back to the hotel and go to bed, because the next day is DISNEY DAY!!!!