Enter Oroweat's America's Better Sandwich contest for the chance to win $25k!

Oroweat sandwich bread

Stacked with just a few classic ingredients or over-stuffed with toppings galore, we all know that our favorite sandwiches are made with the good stuff, so why not make sure what’s holding that sandwich together is the best, too? Made with 100% whole grains, Oroweat® Breads are just the right slices for your all-star sammie, so you can enjoy a guilt-free sandwich filled with all of the things you love!  This summer, Oroweat is once again hosting the America's Better Sandwich contest -- Just submit your favorite sandwice recipe at americasbettersandwich.com/ for the opportunity to win a grand prize of $25,000 – that’s a whole lot of dough! Additionally, the sandwich in each of the five categories with the highest overall score will receive a $5,000 Category Prize.

Creating the perfect sandwich is easy -- just think about the foods you love, and slap 'em between 2 slices of Oroweat bread!  We've just arrived home from a 5-week vacation in the Philippines -- which meant 5 weeks of rice and meat galore. We were craving something fresh and simple, so I came up with a yummy Black Bean Guacamole Sandwich!  Avocadoes are one of our favorite foods, and we haven't eaten one in 5 weeks, so it was extra delicious :) Here's how to make it:
Oroweat Black Bean Guacamole Sandwich

* 2 slices Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat bread
* 2 Tablespoons guacamole
* 2 Tablespoons refried black beans
* 1 Tablespoon sour cream
* 1 slice medium cheddar cheese

Spread guacamole on 1 slice of bread. Place cheese on top of guacamole. Spread refried black beans and sour cream on the other slice of bread. Put the two slices of bread together, cut in half, and enjoy!

I hope my Black Bean Guacamole Sandwich inspires you to create your own one-of-a-kind sandwich and enter it into Oroweat's America's Better Sandwich contest!  Good luck!

Win a $25 Visa Gift Card

One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a $25 Visa Gift Card plus 3 great Oroweat bread coupons:
- One coupon, each valid for $5.00 off the purchase of any Oroweat® Sandwich Thins® Rolls of choice
- One coupon, each valid for $5.00 off the purchase of any Oroweat ®Healthfull® Bread of choice
- One coupon, each valid for $5.00 off the purchase of any Oroweat® Whole Grain Sliced Bread of choice

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends 11:59 PST on August 14, 2015. I will draw a winner after that date and post their name once the winner has been confirmed and verified. Continental US residents only. For more giveaway rules, click here. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received coupons and a gift card to purchase ingredients and share my favorite sandwich with readers. Giveaway prize provided by Oroweat.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Take the PTA's Family Reading Challenge and bring your family closer together

family reading storytime

There's a saying that goes: The family that plays together, stays together.  It may not rhyme as well, but I think it's just as accurate to say: The family that reads together, stays together.

From the time our kids were infants, Alfie and I read to them. Even when they would rather chew on a book than read it, we patiently read to them every single night. Those bedtime stories not only helped them learn to read, it instilled in them a love of books that I'm hoping will last a lifetime!

Our bedtime story tradition continued long after they learned to read on their own.  My kids still have fond memories of giggling to Alfie's crazy impersonations of Dora the Explorer!  The kids are in middle and high school now, but even though we no longer gather in bed to read a book, that tradition has brought us closer in unexpected ways. We now have an updated version of the tradition-- every morning at 7:00AM, the kids all come into our bed and we watch 15 minutes of the morning news together. At this point, we can barely fit on our bed (the latecomer always ends up at the foot of the bed!), but we love this time together because it's a way to say good morning to each other, to snuggle together, and to learn about what's happening in the world. My kids are well versed on current events, and we use the news as opening for discussing topics like smoking, drugs, bullying, race relations, and other things that directly impact their lives.

Another way we continue our tradition of reading together is reading the same books, then talking about the books together. I love having discussions with the kids about young adult fiction such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Hunger Games!   Do you love to read with your family?  Keep it up -- as it did with my family, reading together will pay off in unexpected ways!

To inspire and encourage families to keep learning alive by reading great books together. National PTA and Amazon Kindle are kicking off a PTA Family Reading Challenge this summer. National PTA will empower families with tips and activities that encourage ongoing reading, while challenging them to share photos, videos and memories that demonstrate how and why reading together is a fun and treasured family activity. Go to ptareadingchallenge.org for more details and to sign up!

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Get the Solo Smart Drone at Best Buy for Father's Day

Solo Smart Drone

Watching our boys play soccer is one of the highlights of Alfie's and my weekend. From time to time, we bring a video camera along to the soccer field to capture their games -- but setting it up and recording is such a hassle that it completely ruins our enjoyment of the game, and the resulting video is usually poorly shot because our tripod is just not high enough to cover all of the action over the entire field.

The other day we were at the soccer field and saw a dad piloting a drone right over a field of boys warming up for their next game, and and light went over our heads. A drone with camera is really the best solution for recording a soccer game!  What an awesome idea -- you can capture the entire field and zoom in to get closeups of your child taking that perfect shot on goal.

With Father's Day coming up, there's no better occasion to gift the dad in your life with a drone -- and there's no better place to get a drone than Best Buy! Best Buy is the destination for drones, including the new Solo™ by 3DR, the latest and greatest hi-tech drone.  It's the first-ever drone powered by two integrated Linux computers -- one on the craft and one in the controller -- to help users get that perfect shot.

Solo Smart Drone


  • Solo's automated flight control makes it easier to control the drone and spend less time flying, more time filming.
  • Solo is the first to support full control of GoPro® cameras.
  • Solo lets users deliver live HD video either wirelessly to your mobile device or through the controller’s HDMI port for live broadcasts.

Solo Smart Drone

Solo, the Smart Drone, arrived in over 400 Best Buy stores on June 8, just in time for Father’s Day. It’s the first-ever drone powered by two integrated Linux computers, making capturing the perfect shot easy for anyone. The Solo retails for $999.  Here's a great reason to get your new Solo at Best Buy -- for a limited time, you'll get a free Solo Smart Battery as well!

Get a free drone battery with drone purchase

o Get a FREE Solo Smart Battery (Reg. Price: $149.99) when you purchase the 3DR Solo Drone (Sku: 5354101). Valid 6/7-7/11 at Best Buy. ( Disclaimer: Offer valid with purchase of the 3DR Solo Drone SKU: 5351035)
Solo Smart Drone

Disclosure: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Commonly Asked Questions About Going Solar

Sunrun solar serviceCalifornia has the best weather on earth! I know we've got a drought going on right now, but lack of water notwithstanding, I can't think of any place that can beat California's cool mornings, sunny days, and cool nights, pretty much every single day of the year.  No tornadoes, no typhoons, no snowstorms, what more can you ask for? (okay, we do have earthquakes, but technically earthquakes aren't related to weather, so...).

I can't say enough about California sunshine. Coming from a place where the sun is your enemy, California sun seems milder, happier, friendlier. People don't hide from the sun here, they embrace it! Another good thing about the seemingly endless sunshine that we can rely on it for solar energy. More and more homeowners are relying on solar energy to power their homes, and why not? It's cleaner and it's cheaper, and it's more affordable than ever.

We've been thinking about installing solar panels on our roof ever since we did our major home remodel (adding a second story) 10 years ago. Back then, solar panels were too expensive, and we just couldn't afford it. I'm so glad we waited!  The cost of solar has gone down so much, and you can even install solar panels with little or no upfront cost, thanks to a recent phenomenon: solar leasing. Our city has some tempting rebates available for both purchased and leased solar panels, so we are seriously thinking about solar leasing.

If you're new to solar, you probably have a lot of questions. Today I'm teaming up with Sunrun, a company that provides solar leases, to answer some of the most frequently asked questions that homeowners have about going solar.

Sunrun solar serviceWhat are my options for going solar? Today’s homeowners have two main options when choosing to go solar: purchasing a system or leasing a solar system with a solar service provider. When a homeowner purchases a system, there is a high upfront cost, and the homeowner is often responsible for shopping for a system or installer, managing the installation, insuring the system, completing the paperwork for tax rebates and credits, monitoring and maintaining the system, replacing expensive parts, etc. This can be a headache for the homeowner, which is why most homeowners choose to go solar with a solar lease provider.

What is a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA)? Leased solar (also called a “PPA” or “third-party owned solar”) allows homeowners to go solar with little or no upfront cost. The solar lease provider purchases the equipment, installs it on your roof, and monitors and maintains the system throughout the life of the agreement. The homeowner pays a low rate for the electricity the system produces. In 2013, 72% of California homeowners who went solar did so with a third-party owned system, according to Go Solar California. Note that leased solar isn’t available in every state due to a variety of factors. Visit Sunrun.com to see if Sunrun solar service is near you.

How much does leased solar cost? A common assumption is that solar always has a high upfront cost, and that’s true if the homeowner wants to own a system. With leased solar, homeowners can go solar with little or no upfront cost. The homeowner still receives a monthly electricity bill that is lower than what they currently pay to the utility. The cost of the monthly payment depends on a variety of factors, including tiered electricity costs in your area, the size of the system required on your home, rebates offered, etc.

How much am I going to save with solar? How much you will save will be specific to you and it depends on your usage, your rate, and the rate charged by your local utility. If utility rates continue to increase as they have historically, solar customers will save substantially on electricity bills over the life of having solar.

Do I get tax credits and rebates? There are both Federal and State incentives for purchasing residential solar panels that a homeowner can take advantage of if they purchase solar panels. As the owner of the panels, leased solar providers take advantage of those incentives as a means to lower the price you pay for your solar electricity. This way, you don’t have to deal with extra paperwork, but you still get the price advantage.

Is it true that I can put my solar electricity back into the grid? Yes! When you go solar, a net meter is installed along with the system. It looks a lot like your utility meter and measures how much solar electricity the system produces. So, if it produces more electricity than you used (e.g., on sunny afternoons), that excess electricity is automatically fed to the utility grid and your net meter will “spin” backwards, earning you energy credits. In the evenings, when the solar system is not producing electricity, the homeowner uses those energy credits to power their home.

What are tiered utility rates and why do they matter? Tiered utility rates are part of the reason electricity has become so expensive. With tiered rates, the more electricity you use, the higher your rate becomes per kilowatt hour. These tiers are typically less regulated or not regulated at all, which means that utility companies have the ability to raise rates without your consent. You’re allowed a certain amount of power in each tier; once you’ve exceeded that amount, you are subject to pay the next highest tiered rate. Lower tiered rates are generally affordable and higher tiered rates can be very expensive. In many cases, leased solar providers will recommend a system that only offsets your expensive tiers, to help you maximize your savings. The nice thing about going solar is that you can better predict your electricity costs for decades to come.

Where do the panels go on my house? In most cases, panels are installed on the southernmost side of the home to ensure the highest amount of sun exposure and production possible. The size and number of the panels are designed specifically for your home and energy consumption.

What’s the difference between grid-tied solar and off-the-grid solar? Grid-tied solar is a solar system that uses a utility’s electrical grid to send and receive power. Off-the-grid solar is a solar system that utilizes a battery backup that is not tied to a utility’s grid. With third-party-owned solar, the system is tied to the grid so that your system can use your utility company’s grid for electricity storage. While it would be ideal for solar customers to be completely off the grid, batteries that store solar electricity are highly expensive, and the waste management is very toxic to the environment.

For more information, head over to the Sunrun website. They know all there is to know about solar leases, because they invented solar service, a way to get solar on your roof without the high upfront ocst and hassle of ownership. They install, insure, monitor, and maintain a solar system that is designed specifically for you and your home. You pay a low, locked-in rate for the electricity that the panels produce without any of the maintenance hassles that solar panel owners have to go through.

Sunrun solar service

Win a Nest Learning Thermostat

Sunrun is giving away a Nest thermostat! Go to the Sunrun sweepstakes on Facebook for more information and to enter.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

This is a sponsored post.

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Be dazzled by the Disneyland Diamond Celebration Merchandise

It's a shopper's paradise at the Disneyland Resort this year, because it's Disneyland's 60th Anniversary, and the Diamond Celebration Merchandise collection has hit stores around the resort! Over the course of the celebration, Disney will release more than 500 merchandise items, including apparel, accessories, headwear, home décor, souvenirs, toys, pins, D-Tech, collectibles and more.

On our recent trip to the Disneyland Resort, the boys and I had the chance to meet with Summer from Disney's Merchandising Department, to take a look at some of the merchandise that Disney has released for the Diamond Celebration.  These items are now on sale, only at the Disneyland Resort, for a limited time.

Check out our video below!  It was so much fun going through the whole table of items!  My favorite has got to be the Dooney and Burke shopper tote.

Take a closer look at some of the items that Summer showed us in the video:

Mickey and Minnie Diamond Anniversary plush

Caramel apples, cake pops, marshmallow wands, photo album, autograph book, mug, and popcorn bucket (you can see more special popcorn buckets in my Disneyland Diamond Celebration Treats post).

The Diamond Celebration version of the classic Mickey ears.

This is the Made With Magic paintbrush that Jammy was holding. Turn it on, and the tip glows with changing colored lights.  Press the button with the magic wand icon in order to change the color of the Made With Magic Mickey Ears and Made With Magic Mickey Mitt.

That's only a small subset of the items available!

Items for the home include pillows, frames, blankets, and mugs.

Fashion items include shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, caps, hats, scarves, and jewelry.

I couldn't resist trying on the sparkly Minnie ears!

Pins, pins, pins!  You know we love trading pins!  The 60th Anniversary pins are a great commemorative item because they are so inexpensive, starting at just $9.95 for a pin, $9.95 for a lanyard, and $5.95 for a plastic pouch.  Stay tuned for a separate post featuring a closer look at the 60th Anniversary pins!

Which Diamond Celebration merchandise item would you most like to own?

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Disneyland Resort at their May 2015 press event for the Disneyland Diamond Celebration. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Challenge yourself, American Ninja Warrior style at BattleFrog Tri-State

BattleFrog obstacle race

Our latest family TV obsession is American Ninja Warriors. Once a week we cheer on some of the fittest people on the planet as they try to make their way past some crazy obstacles and challenge themselves to push the limits of where the body can go. 3Po and Jammy have been so inspired by the competitors, they've begun practicing their pull-ups and pushups and monkey bar runs on the playground. Parkour is their latest obsession,and they love to scamper around the play structure at our local park. I'd love to take them to a parkour gym so they can take a shot at some of the (modified) obstacles that American Ninja Warrior would face!

How I wish the BattleFrog Tri-State Race were happening in our area!  BattleFrog is an obstacle race series designed by U.S. Navy SEALs.  The obstacles are designed to simulate the rigorous training that a Navy SEAL receives, but they are modified so athletes, weekend warriors, and yes, even families, can challenge themselves while having fun.

BattleFrog has races for every age:

TadPole Dash: The TadPole dash is for 4-8 year olds. The course has 8+ obstacles, through 400 meters, and is guaranteed to deliver a new experience of self-discovery. Children will learn they can take on these new and exciting challenges, while becoming “Fit for the Future”, getting totally muddy and having the time of their lives.

Navy SEALs run the race with the kids, motivating them, entertaining them, and helping them over the tough spots and inspire them with the spirit of never quitting, teamwork and always trying your best. Start a lifetime love of fitness and competition at the Tadpole Dash. 
BattleFrog obstacle race

BullFrog Mile: For your slightly older kids there is the BullFrog Mile. Your children can test themselves on at least ten of the full-size obstacles the top competitors tackle, but with a more manageable distance of one mile. Designed for kids ages 8 to 13, your kids can sample the mud crawls, climbing walls, slip and slides and our “boot camp” military fitness exercise. All with Navy SEAL motivation throughout the course as your kids work with other racers as an individual or on a team. The BullFrog Mile combines the right amount of challenge with the right amount of fun. 

BattleFrog 8K: The BattleFrog course is a total test for people of all fitness levels from ages 13 and up. Each step is inspired by the training that forges SEAL operators and prepares them to do anything, anytime, anywhere. The approximate 8K course will take you through 22+ SEAL-inspired obstacles that use air, land and water to test your body, mind and spirit. 

BattleFrog obstacle race

Finishers receive a banana, water, protein bar, and beer (if 21 and older). There's also a festival at the finish line with free wine tasting, beer for purchase, music, and portrait stations. How fun is that!  I know my kids would absolutely LOVE to do the BullFrog Mile!  And I'd love to challenge myself on the BattleFrog 8K. I'm not sure if I would be able to get up the next day, but I know I'd have a great time and I'd have the satisfaction of having set my mind to a goal and accomplishing it!

The Tri-State Battlefrog will be held on June 20, 2015 at New Jersey's Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.  Register at http://battlefrogseries.com/tristate2015/. If you don't live near the Tri-State area, check out http://battlefrogseries.com for more dates and locations!

BattleFrog obstacle race

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Event info was provided by Xomad marketing. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Disneyland Diamond Celebration Treats

The Diamond Anniversary celebrations have begun at the Disneyland Resort, and it wouldn't be a celebration without some sweet treats!  Limited time edible offerings include special desserts at your favorite Disneyland Resort restaurants, Diamond Anniversary versions of classic snacks, and other classic snacks served in special Diamond Anniversary souvenir containers.

Disneyland Diamond Celebration treats

We had the opportunity to meet with one of the chefs at the Disneyland Resort, Chef Caine, who showed us how to prepare a Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee Tart, which can be enjoyed at the Blue Bayou Restaurant during the Diamond Celebration.  I thought it would be fun to include 3Po and Jammy at the recording session -- but in hindsight may not have been the best decision, because they ended up gobbling most of that delicious tart, with almost nothing left for me!

Check out our video below for step-by-step instructions to prepare your own Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee Tart, as well as a closer look at some of the treats available only during the Diamond Celebration:

The Disneyland Diamond Cupcakes are so beautiful.  A lemon flavored version is available at Disneyland's Jolly Holly Bakery Cafe, and an orange-flavored version is available at California Adventure's Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe.
Disneyland Diamond Celebration treats

Check out these Diamond Anniversary sugar cookies!

One of my favorite sweet treats at the Disneyland Resort is the caramel apple. The Diamond Anniversary version has the apple dipped in milk chocolate, then half-dipped in blue-tinted chocolate, then rolled in blue sprinkles to give it a shiny look. There's a Mickey version with a shiny blue bow tie, and a Minnie version with a shiny blue hair ribbon.  There are also cake pops and rice krispy treats which look like smaller versions of the caramel apples.  Don't forget the marshmallow wands dipped in caramel and chocolate! With sparkly blue coating and white chocolate drizzle, they are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.  Sorry my photo is so blurry, I'm working on getting a better version!

To wash it all down, the Disneyland Resort is debuting 12 dazzling Diamond Drinks, including (Top to bottom, left to right):
  • Enchanted Cherry Apple Frozen Lemonade from Troubadour Tavern
  • Monstro Blue Lemonade from Village Haus in Fantasyland
  • Lucky Fortune Tea from Lucky Fortune Cookery in DCA
  • Frozen Pomegranate Silver Sparkler at Jolly Holiday Bakery
  • Party Wave Lemonade from PCH Grill
  • Wild Raspberry Rapids Frozen Lemonade from White Water Snacks
  • Honey Bee Frozen Lemonade at the Hungry Bear Restaurant
Disneyland Diamond Celebration treats

If you prefer regular soda or lemonade, you can get them in special new drink containers, like these oil can sippers over at Cars Land. They come in three varieties and they are adorable.
Disneyland Diamond Celebration treats

A special souvenir stein has designs featuring Disneyland attractions, topped with a Sleeping Beauty Castle. It looks like it's made from ceramic and metal, but it's actually lightweight plastic.
Disneyland Diamond Celebration treats

There was a special 32-oz drink container (fondly known as the "Bladder Buster") that was available only during the May 22 24-hour event, but you can still get a similar souvenir cup, in a more reasonable 16-oz size.

Oh, and what's that thing that looks like a Mickey balloon with the handle between the two souvenir cups? Why, it's the new Diamond Celebration souvenir popcorn bucket!  The lines at the popcorn carts are even longer than usual because everyone wants to get their hands on these adorable buckets.
Disneyland Diamond Celebration treats

Other new souvenir popcorn buckets include the Big Thunder Mountain Popcorn Bucket (pictured below), shaped to look like a mine car, and the Cinderella Bucket (not pictured), shaped to look like Cinderella's pumpkin coach.
Disneyland Diamond Celebration treats

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Disneyland Resort at their May 2015 press event for the Disneyland Diamond Celebration. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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60 Facts About the Disneyland Resort

We just got back from an extra magical trip to the Disneyland Resort! Disneyland is celebrating its 60th year this year, and the Diamond Anniversary celebrations kicked off last week with premieres of 3 new nighttime entertainment spectaculars and the 24-Hour park event. We had so much fun!  I could probably write 60 different posts about our experiences, but for now, enjoy these 60 Fun Facts that Disneyland News came up with to commemorate its 60th year (and check out some of the new parade videos I've uploaded!)

The Disneyland Resort: By the Numbers

1. Since opening day in 1955, the Disneyland Resort has welcomed more than 700 million guests to The Happiest Place on Earth. That number includes guests from approximately 200 nations, nearly every country in the world today.

2. Through the years, hundreds of famous individuals have visited the Disneyland Resort, including U.S. presidents (dating to Harry S. Truman), heads of state and countless athletes, artists, authors and celebrities. The guest list is a virtual “Who’s Who” of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

3. The Disneyland Resort now employs some 28,000 cast members, making it the largest single-site employer in Orange County, California.

4. Thirty-eight different languages are spoken among Disneyland Resort cast members.

5. More than 50 scuba divers work year-round to maintain Disneyland Resort attractions, including “World of Color” at Disney California Adventure Park and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland Park.

6. More than 800 species of plants indigenous to 40 nations grow at the Disneyland Resort, making it one of the most extensive and diverse botanical locales in the western United States. The landscape includes colorful flowers, 22 topiary animals and characters, and approximately 18,000 trees.

7. Mickey Mouse ear hats are the most popular Disneyland Resort souvenirs of all time, with more than 84 million “ears” sold since 1955. New “crystal” ears and other creative designs will debut during the Diamond Celebration.

8. The Disneyland Resort generates $4.7 billion annually for the Southern California economy.

New Fun at Disneyland

9. Debuting for the Diamond Celebration, “Paint the Night” will sparkle with more than 1.5 million individually controlled lights. Nearly all of those are energy-efficient, LED lights.

10. In addition to the LED lights on “Paint the Night” floats, each costume in the parade features its own sophisticated individual system of lighting controls.

11. “Paint the Night” features some subtle tributes to the classic “Main Street Electrical Parade,” including hints of that parade’s musical theme, a new “drum float” to lead the parade and, at the tip of Tinker Bell’s magic wand, a light from the original “Electrical Parade.”

12. In the new “Disneyland Forever” fireworks show, guests will enjoy pyrotechnics above them and immersive projections all around them: on Main Street, U.S.A., the mist screens on Rivers of America, the façade of “it’s a small world” and the Matterhorn. The largest use of projection mapping technology in any Disney Park will transform park locations into a magical canvas, transporting guests into Disney stories, from flying high above the London skyline with Peter Pan, dancing with King Louie of “The Jungle Book,” and seeing Nemo fly through the sky to Mount Wannahockaloogie.

13. “Kiss Goodnight,” the inspiring closing song of “Disneyland Forever,” was written by Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman. Richard also was the co-writer, with his brother Robert B. Sherman, of “it’s a small world” and the award-winning songs for the classic Disney film “Mary Poppins.” Adding another “practically perfect” touch to “Disneyland Forever” is the singer of “Kiss Goodnight” – Ashley Brown, star of the Broadway production of “Mary Poppins.”

14. A new show at Fantasy Faire in Disneyland tells the story of “Frozen,” Disney’s animated blockbuster film. The Royal Theatre’s resident storytellers, Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones, tell the tale of Anna and Elsa in their own unique, wacky style.

More Fun at Disney California Adventure

15. In the Diamond Anniversary “World of Color – Celebrate!” nighttime spectacular, award-winning actor Neil Patrick Harris will appear in multiple film sequences with Mickey Mouse. They will host the show, with the help of some amazing special effects.

16. Part of the recent expansion of Disney California Adventure, “World of Color” uses a submersible platform that’s bigger than a football field, with more than 20,000 points of control and revolutionary lighting that infuses nearly 1,200 fountains with color — making it one of the largest show systems ever built.

17. “Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome” offers guests a special place to greet the popular sisters from “Frozen.” It opened in January, 2015, at the Disney Animation building.

18. The iconic Carthay Circle Theatre Restaurant and Lounge opened in 2012 on Buena Vista Street. It stands 79 feet 6 inches tall, to the top of its cupola spire, and it is approximately ¾ scale to the original Carthay Circle Theatre, the site where Walt Disney’s animated classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” premiered in 1937. By way of contrast, Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland stands 77 feet high and is designed to appear taller, due to forced perspective, when viewed from the other end of Main Street, U.S.A.

19. For the Diamond Celebration, Carthay Circle Theatre and Sleeping Beauty Castle will glisten and gleam as never before with brilliant diamond enhancements. On Carthay Circle Theatre, the large “Diamond D” marquee was inspired by the 1930s Art Deco movement. On Sleeping Beauty Castle, more than 100,000 blue, glass crystals will shimmer on the rooftops.

20. Cars Land is home to Radiator Springs Racers, the popular attraction that opened in 2012 at Disney California Adventure. After dark, the colorful and nostalgic appearance of the town of Radiator Springs features 16 neon signs in bright, luminous colors.

21. The cars of the Red Car Trolley attraction on Buena Vista Street are reminiscent of the historic cars of the Pacific Electric Railway system, which operated in Southern California from 1901 through 1961.

Sixty Years of Magic

22. Disneyland Park opened July 17, 1955, with 18 ticketed attractions and five free attractions/exhibits. Opening Day highlights included the Jungle Cruise, Autopia, Mad Tea Party and Mark Twain Riverboat. Several other classic Disneyland attractions opened later in the year: TWA Rocket to the Moon on July 22, Casey Jr. Circus Train on July 31, and Dumbo Flying Elephants on Aug. 16.

23. During construction of the park, and occasionally until he passed away in 1966, Walt Disney would stay overnight in a small apartment above the Main Street Fire Dept., next to Disneyland City Hall. Today, a lamp shines continuously in the apartment window in tribute to the spirit of Walt Disney.

24. When Disneyland opened there were no A, B, C, D and E tickets. Guests paid for park admission and purchased attraction tickets inside. The first ticket books (A, B and C tickets) appeared on Oct. 11, 1955. The first E tickets appeared in 1959 and were used for newly opened attractions, Matterhorn Bobsleds and Submarine Voyage.

25. The skilled artists in the Silhouette Studio on Main Street, U.S.A., can create a silhouette portrait in 60 seconds or less.

26. The names and titles of the second-story shop windows along Main Street, U.S.A., pay tribute to cast members and others who contributed to the creation and development of Disneyland. Most of the shop names feature whimsical references to the professional specialties or hobbies of the individuals honored.

27. In contrast to the Main Street, U.S.A. windows, the second-story windows in Mickey’s Toontown are a treasure trove of trivia for Disney animation fans. They reference characters such as Scrooge McDuck and Jiminy Cricket, along with relatively obscure early-era Disney characters such as Clara Cluck and Toby Tortoise.

28. The Matterhorn Bobsleds was the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world when it opened in 1959. It set the standard for modern-day roller-coaster design.

29. Disneyland created the first daily operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere. opened June 14, 1959. Since then, the Disneyland Monorail has traveled approximately 780 million miles, enough for eight round trips to the planet Mars. The current Disneyland Monorail vehicles, the Mark VII models, debuted in 2008 and are the fifth generation at Disneyland Resort. Two other models, Mark IV and Mark VI, have been featured at Walt Disney World in Florida.

30. The Apollo moon landing in 1969 was shown live on television to Disneyland guests at the Tomorrowland Stage.

31. Having been outdone by NASA in 1969, the Tomorrowland Rocket to the Moon/Flight to the Moon attraction became Mission to Mars in March, 1975. The rocket took its final flight in 1992 and the location eventually transformed to Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port.

32. The adventures of Snow White, Peter Pan and Mr. Toad have been on display as Fantasyland “dark rides” since opening day at Disneyland. Alice in Wonderland joined this lineup in summer 1958. Pinocchio appeared in 1983 as part of the extensively enhanced “New Fantasyland.” Adding “new magic” to these classics, Imagineers recently used projections to enhance scenes in Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

33. The books in the library of Toad Hall in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride have nonsense versions of famous titles, including: “For Whom the Toads Croak” and “A Tadpole Grows in Brooklyn.”

34. The guest-favorite Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square features more than 120 Audio-Animatronics figures, and guests often sing along with that catchy refrain: “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me.”

35. The charming, New Orleans-themed Blue Bayou Restaurant is located inside Pirates of the Caribbean, where dining guests can watch the attraction boats glide past. The Blue Bayou is sometimes cited as the inspiration for the many “themed restaurants” around the country today.

36. The first version of the “Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade” appeared in 1972 and went on hiatus after summer 1974. A second-generation “Main Street Electrical Parade” premiered in 1977 and ran for 20 years, retiring in 1996. It reappeared, as “Disney’s Electrical Parade” in Disney California Adventure Park from 2001 to 2010.

37. Beginning in 1997, Disneyland started celebrating the holidays with the seasonal re-theming of “it’s a small world” as “it’s a small world” Holiday. This was followed by Haunted Mansion Holiday for the Halloween and Christmas seasons beginning in 2001, Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy starting in the 2009 Halloween season, and Jingle Cruise for the 2013 holiday season.

38. The “it’s a small world” attraction remains very popular with guests, more than 50 years after debuting at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Guest research shows that one in four Disneyland guests – families with children and those who grew up riding the attraction – consider “it’s a small world” a tradition. They plan a voyage whenever they visit the park.

39. Of the five engines on the Disneyland Railroad, four are named for founders or executives of the Santa Fe Railroad. (The attraction was originally known as the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad.) The fifth engine, the “Ward Kimball,” is named for Disney Legend, animator and train enthusiast Ward Kimball (1914-2002).

40. The trains of the Disneyland Railroad have accrued enough mileage during the past 60 years to travel to the moon and back more than 250 times.

41. The troop transport vehicle at the entrance to the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction is the actual vehicle that dragged and almost ran over Indiana Jones in one of the thrilling sequences from the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

42. In the early days of Tom Sawyer Island, the surrounding Rivers of America were stocked with catfish and fishing was allowed off the island’s docks.

43. The King Arthur Carrousel in Fantasyland was assembled from parts of several genuine 19th century carousels. The horses, ridden by hundreds of guests every day, are more than 100 years old. They are fully restored, one row at a time, every year.

Disneyland Resort Food and Beverage

44.Guests will find more than 140 food and beverage locations at the Disneyland Resort, including 26 full-service restaurants and themed lounges such as Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel.

45. Disneyland Resort serves more than 6,700 food items, including citrus-marinated turkey breast at Flo’s V8 Café (Disney California Adventure), Hacienda Chicken Caesar Salad at Rancho del Zocalo (Disneyland) and Fire Cracker Duck Wings at Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge (Disney California Adventure).

46. Popular snack items at the resort include gluten-free Dole Whips (2,000 consumed each day) and Mickey-shaped soft pretzels (2,000 consumed per day).

47. During the Diamond Celebration, special anniversary cupcakes will be offered at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café in Disneyland (lemon flavor) and the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Café in Disney California Adventure (orange flavor).

48. Fresh fruits and healthful options are available throughout the parks, and guests may look for the Mickey Check () on menus in both quick service and table service restaurants to find options that meet Disney Nutrition Guidelines.

49. The number of bananas consumed by Disneyland Resort guests in a year could feed Abu (Aladdin’s monkey friend) 20 bananas a day for 62 years.

50. Napa Rose, the award-winning restaurant at the Grand Californian Hotel, has a 17,000-bottle wine cellar with more than 1,000 different labels and 80 wines available by the glass. The wine service ranks among the best in the country, with more than 30 certified sommeliers, including five who are certified at advanced level.

Disneyland Resort Hotels and Downtown Disney District

51. The Disneyland Hotel opened in October 1955 with 100 rooms. Today it offers guests 975 rooms, themed swimming pools, two towering water slides and five Signature Suites – including the Mickey Mouse Penthouse and Adventureland Suite.

52. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, which opened in 2001, was the first Disney hotel built “inside” a theme park, with an exclusive guest entrance into Disney California Adventure. It now includes Disney Vacation Club villas.

53. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel features seaside-inspired rooms and the sensational California Streamin’ water slide into the rooftop pool. All three resort hotels offer guests early admission to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure with Extra Magic Hour.

54. Build-A-Bear Workshop is the only location in the Build-A-Bear chain to carry exclusive Disney branded merchandise and animals. The location plans to create exclusive accessories for their bears featuring the Diamond Celebration. On average, more than 3,000 new “friends” are built in the store each week.

55. RideMakerz proudly displays an original company branded NASCAR vehicle hanging from the ceiling. The car actually raced during the 2008 Daytona 500.

56. The aquarium tanks at Rainforest Café contain more than 500 fish and approximately 60 different species, including a four-foot-long honeycomb moray eel.

57. AMC Theatres recently opened an IMAX theatre and features hearing and sight-impaired equipment in their location for disabled guests.

58. LEGO Store features three Disney character-inspired statues made of LEGO bricks. The Beauty and the Beast model was built with 649,350 bricks; the Buzz & Woody are made of 675,000 bricks and the Sleeping Beauty Dragon required 2,785,950 bricks.

59. The House of Blues Anaheim venue was recently ranked seventh on Billboard Magazine’s “Top 25 Most Popular Music Clubs” in the United States. The location will feature a souvenir guitar pick and specialty cocktail for the Diamond Celebration.

60. ESPN Zone boasts more than 120 televisions, including individual screens in all of the restrooms. The location features a 10,000-square-foot arcade as well as the unique ability to host and broadcast radio and television programing from inside the venue.

Disclosure: I attended a press event at the invitation of the Disneyland Resort. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Have fun with Reading at Chuck E. Cheese's

Chuck E. Cheese's has always been a place where kids can enjoy some active entertainment, and now kids will get the opportunity to exercise the most important muscle in their bodies: their brains.  Chuck E. Cheese's is partnering with HarperCollins Publishers, the second largest book publisher in the world, for weekly "I Can Read: Reading With CHuck E." events at all Chuck E. Cheese's locations in May and June!  Chuck E. Cheese and a cast member will lead the reading of the selected book every Tuesday at 11a.m. and 6p.m. Here are the books being read:

  • May: Danny and the Dinosaur, the story of a boy who meets a prehistoric playmate in a museum.
  • June: A Green Green Garden, where Little Critter and his family plant and grow their own fruits and vegetables for dinner.

How cool is that? I'll be attending tomorrow's storytime event at our local Chuck E. Cheese, so stay tuned for photos!

In addition, Chuck E. Cheese's is starting a summer reading program which awards young readers with 5 free tokens!   Just download the Reading Rewards Calendar at chuckecheese.com/activities, log reading activities on the calendar, and take it in to the store to redeem the tokens.

Disclosure: I received a gift card to Chuck E. Cheese's to facilitate this post.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Everything You Need To Know About the Disneyland Diamond Celebration

May is always a special month for me, because Mother's Day and my birthday are in May. This year I've got an extra reason to celebrate, because I'm going to the Disneyland Resort to celebrate Disneyland's 60th anniversary on my birthday! The Diamond Anniversary celebrations will kick off with a 24 hour party starting 6:00am on Friday May 22!  The fun continues nonstop till 6:00am on Saturday May 23.

There are so many special things going on during those 24 hours, the time will just fly by! Guests will enjoy, and you may have read about some of them.... but the Disney folks have been releasing them in dribs and drabs over the past few months.  So I've compiled all of the fun and magic (and links!) into one single post. Here is the full list of all the magical opportunities for families to enjoy the Diamond Celebration.

First off, here is everything guests will enjoy at the 24-Hour event on May 22:

Debut of Paint the Night parade

Disneyland Park will light up the night with a new nighttime parade called Paint the Night. With over 1.5 million LED lights flashing and glowing, it's like the old Electrical Parade meets 21st century technology! Even the dancers and props will light up. All-new parade stars include a 54-feet long Mack Truck from Cars, plus Anna and Elsa!

Debut of new World of Color show

World of Color show has a new theme: Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney. Neil Patrick Harris will join Mickey Mouse in reliving Walt Disney's story, featuring music, fountains, lasers, plus animation and live action film projected onto a watery canvas.

Debut of new Fireworks spectacular

Disneyland's new fireworks show, Disneyland Forever, is going to be like no other fireworks show. Projection mapping technology will immerse viewers in dozens of Disney movie worlds, from The Lion King to Finding Nemo to Mary Poppins. The show will be viewable not only from Main Street USA, but also from It's a Small World, the Matterhorn, and the Rivers of America, with a different view from each location.

24-Hour Event Food

Guests can enjoy special treats only available during the 24-hour event, such as a Mocha Chip Funnel Cake at the Stage Door Cafe, Creamy Corn Chowder at French Market Restaurant, and Bananas Foster French Toast at Cafe Orleans. I'm definitely going for the Barbecued Pulled Pork & Slaw Cone at the Cozy Cone Motel!

24-Hour Event Merchandise

If you're going to the 24-Hour event on May 22, make sure you stop by a souvenir shop and check out the special 24-Hour tshirts and pins, because they'll only be on sale during the 24-Hour event!  In fact, they might even sell out before the 24 hours are over!

Don't worry, if you can't make the 24-Hour event, you haven't missed the party. The celebrations for Disneyland's Diamond Anniversary will continue throughout the summer and beyond.  Guests will have many opportunities to enjoy the new nighttime entertainment -- Paint the Night, Disneyland Forever and Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney -- as well as the special offerings below:

New interactive entertainment

Throughout the Diamond Celebration year, performers will invite park guests to become part of the show at several places throughout the parks. Guests can march along with the Disneyland Band at a daily Diamond March-Along up Main Street USA, sing along with the Dapper Dans quartet, dream along with the Red Car News Boys on Buena Vista Street, dance along with Five & Dime, and party in Wonderland at the all-new Mad T Party.

Diamond Celebration Treats

It wouldn't be a celebration without treats! Guests will be able to indulge in special Diamond Celebration Cupcakes, special drinks, Rice Treats, Caramel Corn, and Cotton Candy. I'm definitely saving space in my belly for a cupcake -- and I'm washing it down with the special mango, pineapple and passion fruit Lucky Fortune Tea! And don't forget the special popcorn buckets!

Diamond Celebration Merchandise

More than 500 merchandise items will be available to purchase during the Diamond Anniversary Celebration. Think blinged-out ears, hats, shirts, jackets, Vinylmation, pins, bags, mugs.... I can't wait to go shopping! Disneyland only turns 60 once, so every single item in the Diamond Anniversary merchandise is sure to become a collector's item!

Diamond Celebration Decor

Have your photos taken in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle and the Carthay Circle Theater, because they've been blinged up for the Diamond Celebration! And don't forget to check out the newly decorated store windows on Main Street USA, which have been specially done for the occasion.

Updated and refurbished attractions

Many of the attractions that you've been waiting for have returned, and they've been bedazzled! The Matterhorn Bobsleds, Peter Pan's Flight, and Soarin Over California have been given new special effects. There's a new ghost in town over at the Haunter Mansion -- watch out for the Hatbox Ghost at the opening of the cemetery scene! Finally, the remodeled and expanded Grizzly Peak is reopening to the public.

Diamond Days Sweepstakes

The Diamond Days Sweepstakes begins on May 22, and guests to the Disneyland Resort can win daily prizes such as VIP tours and dining experiences.  There are even more spectacular weekly prizes to be won, including real Disney Diamonds, a Cinderella glass slipper, a private party in Fantasyland, and a stay in the Disneyland Dream Suite.

photo credits: Disneyland News

Disclosure: I am attending the Diamond Celebration press event at the invitation of the Disneyland Resort. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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