Thursday, December 31, 2015

January 2016 Calendar

Another New Year = Another Year of Mickey and Minnie Calendars!  As 2015 draws to a close, I'm looking forward to sharing another pixie dust filled year of my free Mickey and Minnie Mouse Calendars with all of you!

I'm happy to announce that I've also made a blank version without the holidays on the 2016 calendars.  I wanted to make the calendars a little more versatile.  In addition to the normal calendar, there will also be a link for a blank calendar each month!

Here's the link to download the January 2016 PDF version of the printable.

Here's the link to download the Blank January 2016 PDF version of the printable.

These calendars have been used for so many things over the past few years including: Disney trip countdowns, teachers' Disney themed classrooms, training calendars for runDisney events and to surprise kids Christmas morning with a Disney vacation!

Feel free to link this post up to Pinterest or Facebook so your friends and family can have a fun Mickey and Minnie calendar too!  Let's spread the Disney Magic!!!  °o°

Note: I've made calendars through 2016.  I don't post the PDF links on my blog until the beginning of each month.  If you're looking for a particular month and would like me to email it to you ahead of my post going live, you can send my blog an email at mydisneylifeblog[at]  I'll send you the PDFs directly as soon as I can!  :-)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Well, it's that time again... out with the old and in with the new!  However, before I ring in the new year, I always like to look back at the past year.  I can say with certainty that 2015 was a year of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  The year started out feeling as if it would never end, and then it sped up to lightning speed.  Eliot and I have been so busy the past few months, I didn't complete as many of my 2015 goals as I'd hoped to.  (But, as you can see from my goal recap, I'm ok with that.)  Honestly, I'm ready for a fresh start.  Although, 2015 wasn't completely terrible.  Let's review:

2015 Year in Review

January- We started the year out on the right foot with a trip to Walt Disney World for marathon weekend.  My family had a great time, and for that I'm very thankful.

February- February also started out well with my New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl.  Over Valentine's Day weekend, Eliot and I went to see two Disney On Ice shows.  Meanwhile, my Papa wasn't doing very well and I was trying to stay optimistic and cheery.  On the 25th, he passed away and my heart shattered.  I was devastated.

March- To be completely honest, sometimes March felt like spring would never come, that I'd never be happy again.  I was going through the motions.  I felt a little better after writing a letter to Papa.  We had a very hard, snowy and cold winter here in Maine.  But, there were a few highlights: I passed my Chiropractic Assistant exam, I also really enjoyed the new Cinderella movie.  Finally, Disney PhotoPass gifted us Memory Maker after I told them it was the last memories I had of my Papa.

April- I tried to get myself out of my funk by focusing on spring and Easter.  Eliot and I started to focus on a big surprise we had for our business.  I was unmotivated to blog, but I made list upon list of business ideas.  Creativity helped ease my grief and sorrow.

May- In May, I concentrated on joyous occasions.  I celebrated my two year My Disney Life blogiversary.  We also celebrated Eliot's 3 year anniversary of graduating from college.  We celebrated Mother's Day and Katie's Birthday.  I got some magical mail that sprinkled some pixie dust into my life.  By the end of May, spring finally arrived.

June- By June, things were finally turning around for me.  The nice weather breathed new spirit into me.  I surprised Eliot with his Olaf Birthday.  A few days later, Elissa arrived for her second summer of "Camp Cady".  We went to Six Flags, the Yankee Candle Flagship Store, saw Inside Out and we participated in the Color Run.

July- Summer brought celebrating another 4th of July in Bar Harbor as well as Disneyland's 60th Birthday on July 17th.  We had a really nice memorial service in honor of Papa.  Eliot and I had a wonderful visit with Elissa for Camp Cady and were sad to see her go.  At the end of the month, Eliot and I officially introduced our Happily Ever Hatter IllusionEars.  We also quietly put an offer in on our house.

August- In August, Eliot attended the D23 Expo and brought home a lot of cool D23 merchandise.  I started my countdown to Disneyland and trip preparations.  We also were looking forward to the Magical Month of September.  We kept it secret while we spent the month filling out paperwork and working towards purchasing our house.

September- This was definitely the highlight of our year.  Over Labor Day, Eliot and I traveled to Disneyland.  As soon as we arrived home, we bought a house!  A few days later we celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  Then at the end of the month, we were off to KeyCon 2015 at Universal Studios!

October- Eliot and I continued our Florida trip after KeyCon by visiting Walt Disney World for a few days.  We even enjoyed Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party the last night!  After our return home, we went to work with designing the interiors of our house, painting, moving, painting and more painting.  At one point, it got kind of overwhelming, but it was nothing a little bit of retail therapy couldn't fix!

November- By November, we officially moved into our new house.  I admitted to my massive tsum tsum addiction.  I made a list of things to do in my 30's.  Then, my family and I celebrated my 31st birthday and a few days later we had Thanksgiving.

December- This past month, Eliot and I were busy trying to unpack and organize the house.  We did take a break to go to Chicago for a few days.  After returning from our trip, we were getting ready for the holidays.  We went to my parents' house for Christmas and enjoyed spending the long weekend with them, Jeremy and Nana.

Which brings us to 2016... 

What's in store for us in 2016?  As I mentioned before in my goal recap, I'm carrying over a lot of my 2015 goals since I wasn't able to complete them.  I have many ideas, designs and plans for Happily Ever Hatter.  Eliot and I also have big plans for our IllusionEars line.  (He's got a ton of designs he's been working on!)  I also have a few other business ventures I'd like to look more into.  I'm not sure if this is the year they'll make their debut... but who knows!?!  I'm also looking forward to getting settled into our new home.  I think 2016 is going to be a good year.  (I've got high hopes for it anyways!)  So, I guess this is goodbye 2015... Hello 2016!!!  °o°

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Final Recap of 2015 Goals

The 2015 year is drawing to a close and Eliot and I are starting to look ahead to the new year.  However, before we jump ahead to another year, I'd like to look back at this one.  Last year, it was my first full year blogging and I made a list of 2014 goals for Disney and blogging.  At the end of the year, I did my 2014 goal recap looking at what I accomplished.  I had so much fun that I've decided to make it an annual tradition!

Photo Source: Disney Parks Merchandise

At the beginning of this year, I made my 2015 Blog and Disney Goals list.  For those of you who don't remember what they were, here's a short version of the list:

Melissa's 15 Blog and Disney Goals for 2015
1.)  Go to Walt Disney World
2.)  Participate in the WDW 10K
3.)  Achieve Monthly Blog Goals- one tutorial and fun find a month, 150 blog posts for year
4.)  Make Disney Decor for the Holidays
5.)  Design an Imagineering Project
6.)  Have a Few Friends as Guest Bloggers
7.)  Have a Disney Themed Party
8.)  Paint Disney Art
9.)  Continue Happily Ever Hatter's Growth
10.)  Make Disney Accessories
11.)  Take an Online Storyboard Class
12.)  Read Disney Books
13.)  Have Disney Movie Nights and Disney Board Game Nights
14.)  See Disney's Frozen On Ice
15.)  Work on Top Secret Blog Ideas

I was pretty happy with my list; unfortunately, life happens.  Eliot and I have had some life altering ups and downs this year.  At the beginning of this year, we lost my Papa and I cut down on my blogging for a few months.  Once I started to get back into it, Eliot and I started looking at houses.  We really didn't think things would move as fast as they did.  We put an offer in towards the end of July and by September we had officially bought a house!  After that, I had to come to terms with the fact that I would not accomplish the vast majority of my 2015 Blog and Disney Goals.

I went back and adjusted my 2015 Goals to the following:

1.)  Go to Walt Disney World- Done
2.)  Participate in the WDW 10K- Done
3.)  Achieve Monthly Blog Goals- 120 Posts for Year (30 less than original goal)
4.)  Make Disney Decor for the Holidays- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas
5.)  Design an Imagineering Project (save for 2016 goals)
6.)  Have a Few Friends as Guest Bloggers- Eliot Disneyland Race Recaps
7.)  Have a Disney Themed Party- Done
8.)  Paint Disney Art (save for 2016 goals)
9.)  Continue Happily Ever Hatter's Growth- Create a few new designs before end of year
10.)  Make Disney Accessories (save for 2016 goals)
11.)  Take an Online Storyboard Class (save for 2016 goals)
12.)  Read Disney Books (save for 2016 goals)
13.)  Have Disney Movie Nights and Disney Board Game Nights- watch a few more movies
14.)  See Disney's Frozen on Ice- Done
15.)  Work on Top Secret Blog Ideas (save for 2016 goals)

The new list seemed a lot more manageable.  However, I did not factor in all of the time we'd spend painting and prepping our new house.  Between that and traveling, I didn't have time for much more.  Here's how my 2015 Blog and Disney Goals list finally turned out:

1.)  Go to Walt Disney World- Goal Met
I was blessed to go to Walt Disney World twice this year.  I went in January with my family and then again with just Eliot after KeyCon.

2.)  Participate in the WDW 10K- Goal Met
I did participate in the WDW 10K.  I didn't finish the race, but I put in one heck on an effort considering I didn't train and my foot was half broken.

3.)  Achieve Monthly Blog Goals- Goal (sort of) Met
I did get to 120 blog posts for the year- as of this post actually!  If I hadn't taken as much of a break earlier in the year, 150 would have been manageable.  I didn't get a tutorial done each month.  In fact, I only had two DIY posts this year: my Easter Mickey Pom Pom Garland and my It's A Small World Scrapbooking Die Cuts.  However, my Mickey Pom Pom Garland was featured on Buzzfeed so that's a huge plus!!!

However, I did reach my goal of at least 12 fun finds.  I don't think they were spread out one per month, but I ended the overall 2015 year with 16 of them:

4.)  Make Disney Decor for the Holidays- Goal Not Met
I love making holiday decor.  I have an enormous list of ideas.  Unfortunately, this had to take a back seat to everything else happening this year.  Next year, I'll be sure to create some new decor for our new house.

5.)  Design an Imagineering Project- Goal Not Met
I love designing things, but again, there simply wasn't enough time.  Eliot and I would really like to work on a few designs, so I'm sure you'll see them at some point!

6.)  Have a Few Friends as Guest Bloggers- Goal Not Met
This was one I thought I'd have done.  Eliot had planned to write about running the Goofy Challenge, attending the D23 Expo and running the Dumbo Challenge.  We were so busy that he didn't get a chance to though.  Maybe he will finally get a post together for next year.

7.)  Have a Disney Themed Party- Goal Met
I was successful in throwing Eliot his Olaf themed surprise birthday party!

8.)  Paint Disney Art- Goal Not Met
I'm excited to have more room to paint.  And I have a whole new house with plenty of places for artwork.  I'm sure that I'll get to this some time next year.

9.)  Continue Happily Ever Hatter's Growth- Goal Met
I didn't have the sales that I did last year, but I also didn't create as many new designs.  I had a few fun custom orders earlier this year.  Eliot and I also started the soft launch of our IllusionEars.  There's a lot more to come once we get settled into our house.

10.)  Make Disney Accessories- Goal Not Met
I had a ton of ideas for accessories.  Next year I'm planning to step up my game between our new 3D printer and another toy that should be arriving early next year! 

11.)  Take an Online Storyboard Class- Goal Not Met
This is still on my to do list since 2014.  I will do it.  I'm determined.

12.)  Read Disney Books- Goal Not Met
I did skim a few of my Disney Books, but I didn't dive into them like I wanted to.  Thankfully, I have amazing parents and I got a huge pile of new Disney books for Christmas.  I can't wait to add them to my collection and to start reading all of them!

13.)  Have Disney Movie Nights and Disney Board Game Nights- Goal (sort of) Met
Eliot and I have been watching more of our Disney movies lately.  We watched Inside Out with Jeremy and Dad over Christmas.  We also got a few Disney board games for Christmas so we can step it up next year!  Stay tuned!

14.)  See Disney's Frozen On Ice- Goal Met
I did get to go see Frozen on Ice!  We also saw Princesses and Heroes the same weekend!

15.)  Work on Top Secret Blog Ideas- Goal Not Met
I didn't get to work on these as much as I wanted, however, I have been doing some behind the scenes work.  I've also expanded on my secret blog to do list.  I'm sure you'll start to see some of these ideas in the 2016 year!

Overall, 2015 has been a decent year.  It's ending on a good note anyways!  I feel like I'm in great position to take 2016 by storm.  I've got a ton of new ideas for my 2016 goal list.  I'm going to add them to my 2015 list.  Even though I didn't accomplish most of what I set out to do, we've got a new house and a lot of good changes are in store for Eliot and me next year.  I've got a really good feeling about this next one!  °o°

Friday, December 25, 2015

Fun Find: Walt Disney World Christmas

It comes as no surprise that I absolutely love Christmas.  I also love Walt Disney World; it's my second home.  Christmas at my favorite place, now that's pure magic.

Every year around this time, I feel a little bit homesick for Disney World.  I've been blessed enough to go to Disney around the holidays quite a few times.  In fact, we even went to the Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day when I was 12!  In order to feel a little bit closer to home this Christmas, I found a bunch of Walt Disney World Christmas videos to share as today's special Christmas edition of Fun Find Friday!

Photo Source: WDW Facebook
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas holiday is decorating.  The decorations at the Walt Disney World Resort are simply stunning.  Each year, they never cease to amaze me.  Here's a fun video of the Magic Kingdom park being decorated.

The Cinderella Castle Dream Lights are one of my favorite parts of visiting the Magic Kingdom at Christmas.  The castle is absolutely stunning with these twinkling lights!

Speaking of the dream "ice lights"... we were incredibly lucky to see "A Frozen Holiday Wish" up close earlier this year during our January trip.  Disney had extended the show a few weeks and I was so excited to see it!  Of course, I loved it- especially Olaf!

There's also a Christmas show in Tomorrowland.  I love Santa Stitch!

The Magic Kingdom isn't the only park that's decorated for the holidays.  My other favorite, Epcot, also has plenty of beautiful decorations.  I especially love the topiaries!

I love IllumiNations, but I've never seen the special holiday ending.  I have to admit, watching this video made me a little bit teary eyed.

Another personal favorite of mine is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights over at Hollywood Studios.  I'm so sad this is their last year before Disney literally pulls the plug.  I'm not going to deny it, I'm holding out hope that they'll be relocated next year.  In the meantime, I'm going to treasure my memories of this incredible sight.

One event I've always wanted to do is Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.  It's one of my bucket list goals, and we're hoping to go in the next few years.  The event parties always have a lot of special shows, parades and fireworks.  One of these shows is the Cinderella castle show Celebrate the Season.  I love the snowman and polar bear!

I love parades- especially holiday ones!  I remember watching the Disney Christmas Parade broadcast every Christmas morning as a kid.  (Ok... and as an adult.)  Even though a lot has changed since then, this video makes me nostalgic.  Although, I really wish Duffy were still a part of the parade!  He was so cute in his Christmas outfit!

No Disney celebration is complete without fireworks!  I love the special firework shows and Holiday Wishes is no exception.  I really hope to see it live someday!

I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas Day and that these videos bring a little bit of Walt Disney World magic and pixie dust your way!

MerrChristmas to all, antall a goonight!  °o°

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Hello friends!  I wanted to take a minute to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Eliot and I will be spending time with my family at my parents' house over the next few days.  I hope that wherever you are this holiday, you are touched by the magic of the season.  Wishing you love, happiness, good health, faith, trust and pixie dust!  °o°


Warm Fuzzies

I wasn't originally planning to write a blog post today, but I'm feeling the warm fuzzies and I thought I'd share!  Over the past few weeks, I've gotten numerous emails from parents and grandparents wanting to surprise their kids/grandkids with trips to Disney World or Disneyland for Christmas.  They've been emailing me to get advance copies of the PDFs of my free Mickey and Minnie Mouse calendars!

I wanted to thank those of you who are including my calendars as countdowns for the kids.  I'm incredibly touched, humbled and honored to be a part of your big Christmas surprises!  I want you all to know how much it means to me.  I love spreading some Disney magic to others and it warms my heart to know that I'm helping to bring a little joy to your Christmas celebrations.  I originally created these calendars for Eliot's and my personal use, but I'm so glad I decided to share them with everyone!

Wishing you faith, trust and pixie dust with your big Christmas day surprises!!!  °o°

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gifts From My KTTW "Mom"

I've mentioned that my Key to the World travel agent friends are the best.  They really are.  From always being some of the first of my friends to like and comment on my Facebook posts, to sending me special birthday wishes, to laughing and joking in our private group page, to messaging me just to say hi.  They're my extended family.  We might not see each other often, however, it's like they're always close by.

Another example- receiving gifts from my friend and Key to the World "Mom".  Wanda was the first KTTW member I met at KeyCon 2014.  She met me in the lobby at Pop Century, and we became fast friends.  At some point during the trip, she dubbed herself my "KTTW Mom" and it's stuck ever since.  (Pictured on the left below.)

Recently, Wanda went to Walt Disney World during the Christmas celebrations.  I asked her if she could get me a shirt I really liked when the Disney Store website was out of my size.  She sought out the shirt, let me know she found it and sent it to me upon her return home.  When I asked Wanda how much I owed her, she said I owe her nothing and that it's a Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Congrats on Your New House shirt.  She made my day with her generous gift and the shirt is absolutely stunning.

The other day, Wanda and I were talking online and she was busy making Christmas cookies.  She hinted that she might send a few to us, but I didn't want her to feel like she had to send us anything.  Sure enough, a few days later we received a box in the mail!  Wanda sent Eliot and me a box full of homemade Christmas cookies and treats!

The treats are delicious and I'm trying to behave myself by not eating them all in one sitting.  (So far so good!)  It means so much knowing that Wanda made them all by hand.  Homemade treats are made with extra pixie dust and love!  I'm blessed to have such a wonderful Key To The World Mom looking out for me!

Thank you Wanda!  You truly are the best!  And I owe you big time!!!  °o°

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Catching Up with the Cady's

As you know, Eliot and I have been really busy the past month.  One month ago today was my birthday, and I haven't posted any updates about it since!  I think it's time for a quick post on what we've been up to lately!

Eliot and my Dad took me to see Mockingjay November 19th, the night before my birthday.  The show started at 10:00 so I was actually watching the final installment of the Hunger Games when the clock struck midnight and it was officially my birthday!  I really enjoyed the movie and was happy with how it ended.

The next day, my Mom, Dad and Nana came over to Eliot's and my new house to visit and give me my birthday presents while Eliot was at work.  We tried to set the house up with some birthday stuff amid the chaos.  Of course, Winnie the Pooh made an appearance.  Mom and Dad used Disney Princess wrapping paper that I loved.  I almost didn't want to rip it, but I'm really glad I did!  

First, they got me the Disney castle chalkboard that I really wanted.  It's going to go in our new kitchen or living room!  They also got me the Frozen Fever ornaments that match my Frozen ornament set!  I can't wait to display them in my new office.  Finally, I opened Cogsworth!  Eliot and I don't have Lumiere yet, but our plan is to put them on display together in our new dining room!

I got a ton of birthday wishes from friends on Facebook.  A few friends also sent photos!  These were some of my favorite birthday wishes!  (Image sources unknown.)

I had a great birthday visiting with my family.  After Eliot got out of work, we all went out to dinner at Chili's.  I absolutely love their Mex Bowls!  Yum!

A few days later, we traveled up to Bar Harbor to have Thanksgiving with my Mom's family.  It was hard celebrating our first Thanksgiving without Papa.  It was a smaller than usual gathering, but it was really good to get together with everyone.  Eliot and I enjoyed spending a few quiet days at my parents' house before returning home to finish cleaning out the old house.

Eliot and I were wiped out after an extremely busy Sunday and Monday finalizing things at the old house.  (Boy, am I glad that's over with!)  We rested up the remainder of the first week of December because the following weekend, we were off on another adventure.  Saturday afternoon, Mom, Dad and Nana picked Eliot and I up to go to New Hampshire to visit my brother.  We hung out at the mall that evening and went out to Uno's for dinner.  We stayed at a local hotel that night and Mom gave me a few packages that had come in the mail.  One of them was my Cakeworthy order!

The next day, we met Jeremy for breakfast at Friendly's before we were off to IKEA to get a few furniture pieces for the new house.  Thankfully, the weather was cooperating and it was perfect to transport furniture home in.  We got some great deals and we're already planning another trip down to IKEA once we're more settled in.

Since then, our lives have been a whirlwind of unpacking and organizing at our new house.  Although, we did sneak a quick getaway to Chicago in.  (Read more about Chicago here.)  Eliot and I are feeling at home in our house.  We've started receiving packages here including these Disney Snuggle Snappers from Eliot's family.  (They're sold at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.)  When we were there in October, I saw them and I had a great idea to incorporate them into our new house!

We also got a fun filled Walt Disney World holiday package from the same person on Facebook Eliot found to buy us our Flower and Garden Festival merchandise this past spring.  Eliot asked him to get us a few items from the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights since this is the last year.  Eliot knew I loved the light up ears and the ornament.  We also got two of the light bulb glow cubes.  Eliot asked for the Christmas Party pin for his collection and the guy was nice enough to include a map for us too!

Which of course brings us to the holidays!  Eliot and I have both been really busy getting ready for the holidays.  We decided not to put up any decorations since our house is still a construction zone.  But we have been busy spreading the Christmas cheer in other ways.  I've participated in a few holiday swaps.  We have also been busy shopping for Christmas gifts for our family!

Yesterday, we had a family Christmas party with my Mom's side of the family.  It was originally supposed to be my aunt's immediate family, but she invited Eliot, me and my cousin Greg to join them!  We had a blast!  I got all of the kids their own little stockings with a few goodies inside.  They went over really well so that makes me happy!

We also received thoughtful gifts from my family.  My aunt and uncle spoiled us with delicious chocolate treats and Starbucks gift cards.  I told them I can't wait to use them at Disney!  My cousin Luke and his wife Rachel gave us a new Mickey Mouse cookbook!  It's from 1986 and I'm so excited to add it to my collection!

But the fun didn't end there, upon our return home last night, Eliot and I were greeted with a special surprise on our front porch!  Our new neighbors brought us over some Christmas treats to welcome us to the neighborhood!  It was such a sweet surprise and I'm very touched.  I can't wait to go over and introduce ourselves sometime!

Which brings us to today.  It was an uneventful, yet productive day.  Eliot and one of his friends from work put our new shed together this morning.  While they worked outside, I put more stuff away inside the house.  Eliot and I watched the Pats game in the afternoon and then went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few items.  We were pleasantly surprised to see the Coca Cola Holiday Caravan there!  You could take a picture with the Polar Bear and "share a Coke" with Santa.  My Dad loves Coca Cola and the Santa stuff, so we took a few pictures for him to see!

As you can tell, it's definitely been a busy few months around here, but I'm incredibly grateful to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.  °o°

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fun Find: Disney Christmas Gift Tags

Christmas is exactly one week from today!!!  I hope your holiday shopping is going better than mine!  Eliot and I are in pretty good shape, but I still have a few more things to do!  Of course, once the gifts are purchased, we still have to wrap them.  We have a huge selection of Disney wrapping paper; what I really need is some gift tags.  Luckily for me, today's Fun Find Friday is for just that: Disney Christmas gift tags!

About a year ago, I spotted these Disney Princess gift tags on the Oh My Disney blog page.  I thought they were really cute and I still do!  I absolutely love the style.

Photo Source: Oh My Disney
They're perfect for the princess in your life.  They're also neutral so you could use them for birthdays, engagement, wedding or baby shower gifts too!

Photo Source: Oh My Disney
If the Disney Princesses are not your cup of tea, here's another Christmas gift tag option of Mickey and friends from Disney Family.  (Download from their site here.)

Photo Source: Disney Family
I love how this has a large selection of tags in various shapes with all six members of the Mickey Mouse Club.  They're really cute!!!  Plus, Daisy is even on one of them!

Photo Source: Disney Family
If you don't have Christmas gift tags ready, this is the perfect solution.  All you need to do is print them on some card stock and cut them out.  Then, they'll be ready to tape to your gifts, or attach them with a ribbon!  Enjoy Disney friends!!!  °o°

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Visiting Chicago

Hello friends!  Eliot and I have returned from our quick weekend trip to Chicago!  It was a whirlwind and it left us both totally exhausted- but in a good way.  We had a great time at the wedding events and it was really nice to visit with Eliot's family.

Friday morning, we were up at 3:00 am to catch our 5:30 am flight to Baltimore.  We had a 2.5 hour layover before flying up to Chicago.  (Gotta love Southwest and all of the layovers...ugh.)  It wasn't too bad, until I my cell phone completely died during our layover.  And I mean, died died.  Like, won't start back up, can't get past the black screen with the Apple on it died.  Apparently, that's my cue for a new one.  I knew it was getting to that point, but it's still depressing.  I miss Instagram, text messages and feeling connected to the world.  Hopefully I can get a new one soon.  Anyways... 

When we arrived in Chicago, Eliot and I waited for his dad and Elissa to land.  Then, Rick drove us to the hotel where we met Eliot's mother.  Elissa and I stayed at the hotel with Nori, while Eliot and Rick drove back to the airport to pick Sara up.  We checked out our wedding welcome bags and the awesome goodies.  Then, Elissa and I caught up for a little bit, before I scummed to sleep after only getting about 2-3 hours the night before.  Before I knew it, we heard knocking at the door and Sara had arrived.

The four of us kids went across the hallway to Rick and Nori's room to exchange Hanukkah presents.  To say Eliot and I were spoiled is an understatement.  Elissa found me a beautiful Olaf infinity scarf that I absolutely love.  Sara got me Cinderella gloves, a print, a scarf and some Disney princess bubble bath!  Rick and Nori got us multiple gifts including a few Disney plush, Duffy outfits and a Mickey nutcracker.  We are very grateful for everything!  (I'll post more about that at a later date!)

After we organized our gifts, we headed back across the hall to get ready for Jon and Jen's rehearsal reception.  The dinner was at The Luxbar- a bar only a few blocks from our hotel. After we got dressed, the six of us walked over.  The reception was on the top floor.  It was a really nice location and atmosphere.  The bar was open with wine and beer.  The food was delicious.  But the best part was the company.  It was nice to catch up with a few of Eliot's friends who I haven't seen in a long time.

We had a blast at the reception, and before we knew it, we were some of the last people there.  We headed back to the hotel and sleep came quickly that evening.

The wedding wasn't until dinner time Saturday, so we had all morning and the early part of the afternoon to spend out and about the city.  Of course, Eliot and I wanted to go to the Disney Store.  We started walking down the Magnificent Mile and ended up in the Water Tower Place shopping center.  We had a lot of fun exploring the complex.  A few of my favorites were the American Girl Store, the Lego Store, and Candyality.

After, we headed over to the Disney Store.  It was only a few more blocks down the road.  We'd been to the Chicago Disney Store when I went with Eliot to Chicago in 2008.  However, I have to admit that I'd forgotten how beautiful it is.  As soon as I saw it from the exterior, I knew it was going to be stunning.  The interior was just as impressive with the "old" Disney Store style I know and love.

I loved the hidden Mickeys in the pattern around the facade.  There were also Mickey handles on the doors and hidden Mickeys in the lights outside the store!  Eliot and I loved the Mickey and Minnie mosaic designs on the entrance floor.  There were cool designs on the center column like the Mickey watch pictured below.  We also enjoyed the Mickey and Minnie designs and quotes from Walt Disney on the walls!

The store had a large collection of Tsum Tsum merchandise and D Style designs from Japan!  I was basically in heaven.  It's like the Disney Store website hopped into real life before my eyes.  Eliot and I behaved ourselves for the most part.  We did cave on a few things: a few new shirts for me, tsum tsum socks, a tsum tsum shirt for me, new Donald Christmas pjs for Eliot and a baby Arlo plush for him as well.  Of course, we couldn't leave without the stuff we went in for: Disney Srore Chicago souvenirs.  We ended up getting t-shirts, a picture frame and an ornament.  Eliot's parents also bought us the matching Chicago Mickey and Minnie sweatshirts!

After we finished shopping, we all made our way back to the hotel where we started to get ready for the wedding.  Once dressed, we all walked over to the other hotel where more guests were staying, across from the Luxbar, and took the trolley to the wedding venue.  Jon and Jen's wedding was at the Chicago History Museum and it was a beautiful ceremony.  Eliot and I enjoyed our gingerbread men favors.  The food was elegant and I ate every single thing on my plate.  I had a blast dancing with Elissa and Sara.  Eliot even joined me for a few when we wasn't watching the Warriors or Sharks games with a few of the other guys back at our table!  It was a great night!

The next morning, we got up and had breakfast at the hotel.  I was a big fan of the breakfast.  They had an awesome spread with eggs, potatoes, ham, sausage, bagels, cereals, juice, coffee, and there was even a waffle machine!  I didn't get one the first day, but Sunday morning, I made sure to get one.  It was perfection!

Afterwards, we all got into the rental car and headed for the Lincoln Park Zoo.  We had gone to the zoo when I went to Chicago before, but I'd forgotten about a lot of it.  Eliot said he had too.  We had a ton of fun exploring.

The zoo was decorated for Christmas and for their special Zoolights event.  We took a few photos with the lights even though they weren't lit up.  (Eliot and I figured we could use them for inspiration!)  One of my favorite decorations was the giant snow globes they created.  One of them was Star Wars themed!

We enjoyed looking at all of the animals and the zoo was actually pretty busy.  The weather was gorgeous considering it was the middle of December.  The animals were all out soaking up the unusual warmth as well.

We took a ton of selfies with the animals.  I also made a fool of myself by singing "Circle of Life" at the lion exhibit.  It's not everyday you see a bunch of lions right in front of you.  I had to have my own little Pride Rock moment.

We visited the gift shop.  Eliot and I picked up a magnet and an ornament for our collections back home.  We also picked out an animal to adopt.  The Lincoln Park Zoo is free and it runs off of donations.  Guests can select an animal to "adopt" to help run the zoo.  Eliot's family does it each visit.

Sara adopted a wolf, Elissa a tiger and Eliot wanted us to adopt a snow leopard.  We got a cute little box with a plush version to take home.  In a few weeks, Eliot and I will get more information in the mail on how our snow leopard is doing.  I really wanted a picture of our snow leopard, so we went over to see him before we left the zoo.

By mid-afternoon, Sara had to leave for the airport while the rest of us travelled a few blocks over to the local Menchies.  I'd been to the one at Universal Studios and fallen for the delicious frozen yogurt.  We don't have them in New England and I wanted Eliot to try it.  Elissa was game too.  Eliot ended up with a Dole Whip inspired bowl of pineapple, orange and vanilla.  I got cake batter with strawberries, M&Ms, chocolate chips and sprinkles galore, and of course, a cherry on top.  It was so good.  Before we left, Elissa left our "signature" on the chalkboard in the form of a Mickey Mouse.

After returning from our adventures, Rick and Elissa had to go to the airport.  Nori went with them so she could visit some friends later that night.  Meanwhile, Eliot and I went to the hotel and took a few minutes to rest.  Then, we went back to the Disney Store for a few more photos and a few last minute things we missed the first time.  It was nice to go when the store was so quiet.  We poked around and enjoyed looking at all of the decorative details.  On the way back to our hotel, we stopped into the Hershey World store.  We had a blast in there and I purchased a really cute Hershey Kiss pillow.  

Eventually, we took all of our shopping bags back to the hotel and decided it was time to pack.  Lucky for me, the Patriots were playing Sunday night football so I got to watch their game while we slowly packed up our suitcases.  We had plenty of breakable things, but we were able to get it all packed safely.  After the Patriots game ended in a win, Eliot and I wandered back over to the Magnificent Mile to go to the Cheesecake Factory we spotted.  We returned to the hotel after midnight and settled in for a quick two hours of sleep before getting up for our early return flight.

Our journey ended pretty much the same way it started, with a super early morning flight, a layover in Baltimore and finally reaching our destination.  We had a great time in Chicago and we'd love to go back again do more sightseeing and to spend a bit longer there.  However, I can't deny it; it's really good to be back at our new home.  °o°