Disney’s Art of Animation – Resort Review

So, as you may have previously read, my family recently took a trip to Disney for the RunDisney Princess Half-Marathon weekend. I did the Fairy Tale Challenge (10K and half-marathon) and the girls both participated in the kids races (100m and 200m). As we do whenever we travel to DisneyWorld, we stayed at a resort on the Disney grounds. Our hotel this time? Art of Animation.


Upon entering the resort, you can see right away that the animation theme is in full effect. There are animation sketches on the walls of the lobby and on the chandeliers (some of my favorite chandeliers ever!)



There are four different sections with very distinct designs – Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid, and Cars. We stayed in a family suite in the Finding Nemo area. I will go ahead and say that I think that the Finding Nemo section is probably the best if you are staying with younger kids. It’s the closest to the big pool, the playground, and the quick service food option, store, and lobby. We have stayed in the Little Mermaid area before, and it’s a fun design but it’s definitely a longer walk. Long walks after a day at the park (or a day running) with small children and tired feet is always something to take into consideration when planning your stay.

Everything about the design is larger than life. The huge scale makes it feel as though you are a little fish in this big big world.



Of course, not all of the design elements are huge…..be on the lookout for hidden Mickeys!


Hidden Mickey – in the bubble design of the carpet

Check out the pictures of the Finding Nemo family suite here. There was plenty of room  for the four adults and two kids that were staying with us. The girls slept on the table bed – I wish I could find a video of that thing unfolding so you could see just how easy it was to turn the table into a bed. Very easy and the girls slept very well. Ryan and I slept on the sleeper sofa. It wasn’t as comfortable as a bed. Sleeper sofas rarely are. But, I was exhausted each night so was able to fall asleep (except for when the pre-race jitters would keep me awake, which honestly was a large portion of each night.)

Also, since we stayed in the family suite, there was a kitchenette. Do not plan on preparing full meals using the kitchenette. But, it’s great to store and reheat some leftovers.

There is only one restaurant option here and this quick service option is ok. Lots of family friendly options and probably something to fit every craving that you are having at any time of day. However, at least when we were there, it seemed that no matter what time you were there to eat, there was absolutely no sense of urgency among the employees working there. Everything, from placing an order to paying for your food, took way more time than it needed to. When you are trying to feed a hungry kid or someone who just ran a half-marathon…..you really don’t want to wait in line longer than you need to. The lines were crazy during peak meal time but they were also crazy during every other time of the day as well. When you can see employees just standing around and talking when there are huge lines of people, it doesn’t really reflect well on your dining experience. (There was never a time when I saw every available register was open and being used…..that definitely would have cut down on the lines.)

One of the best parts of the quick service option is that you can take your food out to the pool. One night, for dinner, I grabbed a ready-to-go large cheese pizza and some drinks. This is actually a pretty good deal for Disney food because the pizza is huge! We brought leftovers back to the room. In addition, if you have the Disney dining plan, you will find many options to choose from for each meal and snack.

For the adults, perhaps one of the best parts of the pool area, is the pool bar!  The drinks were delicious and strong (!!!!!). And best of all , the bartenders all seemed to really enjoy their jobs. 🙂 You can enjoy your beverage in the bar area, or by the pool.


The number one reason to stay on site when traveling to Disney, in my opinion, is the ease of transportation. Yes, the Disney design is fun and each resort has it’s own unique design and different level of Disney-ness. It’s always fun to keep the Disney atmosphere with you all day, whether or not you are in a park. However, transportation is key!

The schedule for the race weekends begins very early in the morning. Yes, on the morning of the half-marathon, I was on the bus at 3:30am. 3:30am. Gross. The early mornings were, well, really early.


It was so nice to not have to worry about parking…..or driving anywhere during this weekend. However, the Disney transportation is definitely a benefit whenever you are staying. Some of the hotels have boat or monorail transportation to get you from the parks back to your hotel. And at some resorts, you are so close that you can simply walk to the park. However, they all have buses. We used the bus to get to the Expo, to the race starts, and to get to Disney Springs for dinner, snacks, and to see Black Panther.

Would we stay at Art of Animation again? Of course! This was already our second time staying at the resort. It is one of the Value resorts (very important!!), you get the ease of Disney transportation and a fun Disney design everywhere you turn. The girls loved coming back to the hotel room and seeing the giant Crush the Turtle right outside the door!

Key Takeaways:

Fun design. Very kid friendly. Loads of large character sculptures around the buildings and the pool.

Rooms are a fun design and can easily accommodate a large family.

Design is very Disney. Many of the resorts have a subtle Disney design. This is not one of one those resorts.

Food options are plentiful but be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. And there is only one restaurant at the resort.

Transportation is right outside the lobby. Although Art of Animation only has buses at this time, they definitely get you where you need to go and you don’t need to worry about renting a car, driving, and parking.




Mama Loves Organizing!

I really love organizing. I really do. And I love organizational containers. !!!!!! I love finding new ways to organize what I’ve already organized. Oh man. It makes me so happy.

I want to show off some of the new organization in the living room. We have lots of Legos. Lots and lots of Legos. Each girl got at least two new Lego sets for Christmas. It’s great because I love Legos and Ryan loves Legos and we both love that our girls love Legos. But, especially now that big girl has shown more interest in following the directions in the different sets, we needed a new solution instead of the one large box that just held every piece. That led to big girl literally digging through the box. Legos would fly everywhere. I would find them all over the floor….carpet….everywhere. My fear was that I was going to vacuum up one of the pieces and then we would discover that it was an essential piece to whatever the girls wanted to build.

So……I found some containers at Target and the girls and I began the great Lego-organization-of-2018.


Look at that! So beautiful! So organized! So color-coded!

Not only is it lovely to look at, but it’s already making it easier for the girls to build what they want. They can easily and quickly find the piece(s) that they are looking for.

Do you love organizing as much as I do? What are your favorite organizing hints? Do you have a favorite organizing container?

Winter Checklist Update #5

One of our favorite investments that we made when we bought our house in the suburbs was purchasing a family pass to Brookfield Zoo. We realized that if we went to the zoo for the Halloween activities, for the Christmas lights, and for the New Year’s Eve countdown, it just made financial sense to buy a pass. We don’t have to pay for parking and after just a few trips to the zoo during the year we’ve actually broken even on our investment. Plus, I like that we don’t have to make a whole day trip to the zoo if we don’t want to. There are many times during the summer when the girls and I might just pop over to the zoo for an hour or two and then head back home. If we don’t see everything, it’s ok. We can come back and check it out.

The New Year’s Eve countdown is great for kiddos. It’s at 8:00pm which is late enough for my girls to feel like they are actually staying up late. But when we get home, it’s not super late.


It was really really really cold so we didn’t walk around and look at the lights too much but that was quite ok since we went to Holiday Magic earlier in the season. We were able to take a couple quick pictures before heading to the car….which we did very quickly because baby girl does NOT like being cold….she has inherited her mommy’s tolerance (or rather, intolerance) for cold…..

The list thus far:

Winter Checklist Update #4

Before we had children, we would drive down to spend Christmas Eve with my side of the family, then on Christmas Day we would get up and drive to spend Christmas night and then next day with Ryan’s side of the family. We knew that when we had children, that that tradition would need to change. Now, we travel to my side of the family the weekend before Christmas and we travel up to Wisconsin after Christmas.

So, we have now gone to Mimi and Pa’s house…..

And Granny and Pa’s house…..

Christmas Eve, we make cookies (or, this year, make a gingerbread house), go to Christmas Eve Mass, drive around and look at Christmas decorations, then come home. Christmas Day, we spend in our jammies, watch Christmas specials, and eat breakfast casserole. The girls have all day to play with toys and we can all relax. Our Christmas traveling allows us to see family for Christmas and also allows us to be home for Christmas.

The list thus far:

Winter Checklist Update #3

Traditionally, on past Christmas Eve’s, the girls and I have made cookies on Christmas Eve to leave out for Santa (and for us to eat since Santa doesn’t really need two dozen cookies). I usually just buy some cookie dough and we use the sprinkles that I already have on hand to decorate the cookies. This year, however, we changed it up a bit.

When I went to the Wilton Outlet Sale (seriously…check this sale out if you are able), I picked up a gingerbread house kit. I thought that this would be a fun project for the girls and I to conquer during our Christmas break. (The first time that I attempted a gingerbread house on my own, the walls were held up with cans of soup on the inside of the house……)

Was it the prettiest gingerbread house ever built? Um. Of course not. But, we had a lot of fun putting it together and adding our own touches (so many marshmallows!!!!). And, it was actually really easy to put together so a great project to do with kiddos.

It’s not our typical “making cookies” adventure. But, it was fun and then we got to eat it.

Bonus: the house stayed up until we tore it apart to eat it! That’s a victory right there. 🙂

The list thus far:

Kid-Friendly Restaurants

Our kids have been eating out at restaurants since…well…they were old enough to be out in public. It’s just always been a part of our lives. Ryan and I love eating at different spots and we have found many spots that have really good kids’ meals in addition to the meals for the adults. So, although this list will undoubtedly grow through the years, here are some places that we love and recommend:

The guidelines for my list? Suburban locations. Great kids meals and great meals for the grown-ups. Not a location that is obviously designed for kids – although we do, of course, love those locations, too.

In no particular order…….

Nandos. (Many locations)

Nandos is a chain but since it has only recently moved in at locations near us, it definitely doesn’t feel like a chain. And it doesn’t feel (or taste) like fast food. It is more like yummy food served fast – not fast food. (Nothing against fast food which we also eat just plenty.)

I love this spot because I love their food. I always get the same thing – chicken skewers, peas, fries, and perinaise (it’s mayo but, like, really yummy mayo.)….perhaps one day I’ll move beyond these and try something new but don’t expect that to happen anytime soon…


Doesn’t that look yummy? It is!

Nando’s is great because the kid’s meals are really good, too. My girls usually get the same entree (chicken sandwich and grilled cheese) but they change up their side dishes almost every time. Corn on the cob. Garlic bread (yep….bread as a side to their bread). Fries. Apple slices (which is actually an entire apple sliced!).

Yep, we love Nando’s and might actually eat there several times throughout the month.

The Clubhouse  (Oak Brook and Schaumburg)

We’ve even here many times for lunch (actually haven’t gone for dinner yet) but the number one reason to hit up The Clubhouse is brunch. They’re brunch buffet is out of this world. This is a table filled with stuff for the kids – although they can eat whatever else they want too – including pb&j sandwiches, scrambled eggs, mac ‘n cheese, chicken fingers. There is a carving station (Ryan usually hits this one up). There are tables filled with pastas, pancakes, cheese, seafood, just pretty much whatever you might want to eat. And it’s all good. Really good. (Drinks are delicious, too). A lot of times, food on brunch buffets end up tasting bland and, well, cold. But everything here is freshly made and restocked throughout the brunch times.

Check out the girls’ plates:


And my plate:


And then…..there’s a dessert table with chocolate fountain, cakes, bars, and all kinds of yummy things to nibble on after you’ve finished off your second or third plate from the buffet.




Mon Ami Gabi (Oak Brook and other locations around country)

French food is delicious. Wine. Cheese. Bread. Yum. The great thing about Mon Ami Gabi is that the food is delicious for the adults (who can get some truly classic French dishes) but also great for the kids who are able to order from a nice selection of meals.

Now, perhaps your six year old does not suggest that you order the mussels so that she can help you to eat them. Maybe…just maybe…that’s not something that your six year old enjoys.


My six year old, however, loves mussels. And I’m perfectly ok with ordering a giant bowl of them so that she can have a couple and I can have the most.

Our girls almost always order the mac ‘n cheese when we’re eating at Mon Ami Gabi. And, honestly, I might consider ordering it as an adult because it’s really good.


The mac ‘n cheese always comes with green beans (that baby girl absolutely loves), apple slices, and extra cheese. The girls like to mix the extra cheese into the already super cheesy mac ‘n cheese to get just the right ratio of cheese to other cheese. Yep. Perfect ration.

Steak + Vine (La Grange)

This is a new spot for us. After seeing many pics of the food (that’s pretty much how I decide whether or not I’ll eat somewhere) we gave their brunch a shot.

Check out our spread:


There was plenty of yummy choices for Ryan and for me (Chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits, and chilaquiles! All of my favorite brunchy foods!)

Plus, the girls were able to pick what they wanted and were able to customize their meals. In the pic below you can see baby girl adding more parmesan cheese to her pasta. Yum. Cheese. (Big girl is showing off the breakfast potatoes that came with her meal.)

The portion are a great size for the adults but are a really really great size for the kiddos. Yay for leftovers! One thing that really appeals to me at Steak + Vine is that they understand that young taste buds become adult taste buds. When you stalk the menu online (because everyone does that, right?…..), you will see that they refer to the kids menu as the “Future Adults Menu.” Perfect!


Where are your favorite places to take kids for brunch/lunch/dinner? Where do I need to try next?

Simple Weeknight Dinners

We are busy. Ridiculously busy. Between events, dance classes, running errands, etc. it’s hard to just have a night of quiet. OK. Not hard. Nearly impossible it seems. So, I am on the lookout for easy weeknight dinners that don’t require a lot of prep work and can be done in little time….And that the girls will want to eat.

One of our go-to meals is mini pizzas made on English muffins. Spread some pasta sauce on the English muffins. Add some cheese. Throw it in the oven and you’ve got pizzas. I’ve been trying to use it as an easy way to get the girls to eat more veggies but they keep picking them off. Thankfully, they’ll both eat a handful of carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes if they won’t veggies on their pizza.

What are your favorite recipes for easy weeknight dinners?