Do I Need an Interactive Harry Potter Wand?

When I didn’t think they could make the Wizarding World of Harry Potter any better they go and completely blow my mind with the extension and interactive Harry Potter wands!

great tips on wizarding world of harry potter wands

You know how we’ve ALL practiced Wingardiun Leviosa? Well picture that but you actually see the the feather floating into the air after you swish and flick. But really you can see it in my video below! Universal Orlando was seriously my happy place before but guys the interactive wands are a game changer.

great resource on wands and universal vactions

Are the Wands at Universal Worth It?

But you might be wondering, are the wands actually worth the cost? And to that I say a resounding YES. Last year when I went to Universal Studios Orlando with my family we all got wands. And I brought mine back with me this year. There was just something magical about having our own wizarding right hands. But it’s not just a wonderful souvenir of a great vacation, we were immediate able to USE the wands to magnify our fun. Do the wand ceremony in Olivander’s it’s WAY fun and really cute.


What Do the Wands Do?

You see all around the Wizarding World both in Hogesmede and in Diagon Alley there are medallions on the floor. These let  you know that it is a spot to cast a charm. Engraved on the medallions are the incantation to use as well as directions for how to move your wand. The exact position and speed can take some practice but once you get it you can watch your spell change things. Also there are some secret ones that you can find (ask the staff if you need clues of where to look).

For Harry Potter fans young and old it’s worth while to carve out a chunk of the day to go to each spot and casts the spells. It’s super fun. One of the best things about the Wizarding World is the 360 degree angles of awesomeness. EVERYWHERE you look, in every direction, your immersed in the magic. And when you add the wands to the mix you all of a sudden become an active participant.

Can't make it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter right now. No worries tour it through pictures while you get excited for when you can really be there!

I’ve said it before but the attention to detail is incredible and each of the magical displays show different fun scenes and peeks into the world so many of us have brought into our hearts through the books and movies. If you have not had the honor of visiting the Wizarding World at Universal Orlando I’m telling you it’s worth saving up for. 100% guys make it happen.

For a bit of eye candy you can see my photo tour of the Wizarding World and if you want a video tour check out my videos I took while walking through Diagon Alley and Hogsmede on my most recent trip. It really is amazing.

all about wands at the wizarding world of harry potter

Which Wand Should You Get?

Now you might be curious about some muggle facts about the wands. The wands are stunning and there are a variety of styles and sizes. You can buy the wands styled after those that your favorite characters carried. I think my favorite character wands is Luna’s SOOOO pretty. In addition to charter wands there are generic ones. Generic in the sense that they aren’t styled or attached to a witch or wizard from the stories. I opted for one of those. I just felt like it was more MY WAND that way. But they are all special in their own ways.

While we all know that the wand choses the wizard and all you might want to consider the size of your want when you purchase it. Remember you’ll be carrying them around the park when you’re not using them and if you’re like me you’ll want to lug the protective box it comes with just “in case”. I picked out a wand I loved but it happened to be one of the longer ones and it was definitely trickier to fit into the lockers with the rest of my stuff when I was going on the roller coasters. A few times I had to get two lockers. On this last trip I was gifted with one of the smaller wands and that was so much easier to carry around and stash when I was ready to ride. Just something to keep in mind.

must read guide to interactive wands at universal

I would encourage you as you are planning for your trip to the Wizarding World make sure to work into your budget buying the wands even if your whole family shares one it will make the magic even more real and memorable. There’s just something so fun about casting the charms yourself and working together as a family to see what the different spells do.

cabana bay beach resort

I feel like the most blessed girl ever to have been hosted on this last trip. It was the best mix of work and pleasure. We spent the first half of the days talking shop while working at the gorgeous retro Cabana Bay Beach Resort which made me feel like I was transported straight into the Jetsons cartoon world.  As a perk for staying in a park hotel we got park passes with early admission. It was so awesome to have such a comfy place to come back and crash at after our jammed packed afternoon and evenings in the park and at City Walk. I think I’ll have to write a whole post about this place because it was so cute and I can’t wait to go back!

Squatty Potty Unicorn gold

I brought home my very first Squatty Potty which I didn’t even know I needed (but now we can’t imagine living without!) as well as unicorn gold which I’ll be giving to all the men for Father’s Day. The stuff is seriously magic. Every time we use a public bathroom now Teddy tells me I should buy a bottle for them and just leave it there hahahaha.

We got to drive around in style thanks to the folks at Kia. And my oh my was that a snazzy ride! And of course I am so grateful to have gone with such an amazing bunch of blogger friends who thankfully loved Harry Potter as much as I did and never rushed me through the magic.

Best resource for all things Harry Potter! Party ideas, tutorials, printables, sewing projects, recipes, book lists, shirts and so much more

Want More Harry Potter? Check out ALL my Harry Potter crafts, recipes, book lists, and more. I literally have hundreds!

These all look so good. THings to remember to try on vacation at universal studios and the wizarding world of harry potter

Need to know what to eat on your next trip? I’ve got you covered, my foodie family ate so much yumminess when we visited  Universal Orlando and I took tons of pictures and shared the lowdown of the best places to eat at Universal Orlando!


What to Eat at Universal Orlando and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

These all look so good. THings to remember to try on vacation at universal studios and the wizarding world of harry potter

A great vacation requires great food. For those of you who follow me on Instagram you know my family is all about yummy food. So I’m super excited to share my top picks of what to eat when you’re visiting Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

As I mentioned last week in my tour of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter we had a complete blast visiting the area and theme parks so today I’m sharing my favorite foods to make YOUR next trip to Universal Orlando the most delicious it can be.

What to eat at Universal Orlando - Frozen butterbeer at the wizarding world of harry potter and the three broomsticks

1. Butterbeer, Butterbeer, Butterbeer!

If you do one thing food-wise when you visit please please please buy yourself a Butterbeer (or two or three). This is a non-alcoholic drink that is absolutely delicious. It’s like a butterscotchy-y cream soda.

Regular (non-frozen) butterbeer. And what else to eat at the wizarding world of harry potter universal studios

It comes both in the regular drink variety which is a very tasty carbonated bit of yumminess.

Must get butterbeer at the wizarding world of harry potter

And in a frozen version. My sister and husband are adamant that they prefer the frozen kind. If you have to pick one I would say go for the frozen kind.

Best foods to eat at the wizarding world of harry potter number 1 is butterbeer

But that being said I think I like both the regular one just as much as the frozen one. It kinda depends on my mood. We had Butterbeer every day we were there.

Must eat food at universal Orlando. number 1 is butterbeer

To me it’s like gelato in Italy you just have to do it and as often as possible!

Top foods at universal orlando - seafood pot pie

2. Lombard’s Seafood Grille

Fashioned after the famous San Francisco eatery this was hands down MY favorite place we ate the whole time we were in Orlando. And crazy enough it was in the theme park. Everything we had was very tasty. The portions were generous and it was really nice to take a break from the fast pace of the amusement park and sit down to a restaurant meal.

Best food at Universal Orlando - fisherman's basket

In fact I loved the food so much that I almost went back in the same day. Unfortunately they were closed when it was dinner time since the park was closing shortly. We had the Fisherman’s Basket which was a fried seafood lover’s dream.

what to eat at universal studios orlando - clam chowder

The clam chowder which was so tasty I had to resist gobbling it down since I bought that for Teddy (he also highly approved). And my sister ordered the Lobster and Corn Bisque which was just as yummy as it was stunning.

best foods to eat at universal studios - lobster and corn bisque

But my biggest regret was not stealing a bit of my mom and dad’s seafood pot pie . They said it was so good and were raving about it later and boy did it look amazing. The prices were very reasonable and we were able to share stuff and feel satisfied. I would definitely go back (in fact I wish I could go back now) you can see the whole menu here.

Best food at universal - the simpsons fast food

3. The Simpson’s Fast Food Boulevard

If you’re looking for something a little faster you can go through the cafeteria style lines of Fast Food Boulevard with all your The Simpson show inspired favorites that’s sure to have something for everyone in your group. We couldn’t resist trying the Chicken and Waffle Sandwich which was topped with a tasty maple syrup mayo.

Lard Lad donut at universal studios and other MUST try food

The kids were feeling the pizza and baby boy goggled his portion down. There are lots of other options like fried fish, burgers and hot dogs. But you can’t get out of there without trying the iconic Lard Lad donut. It’s massive and surprisingly yummy. And you know from my instagram feed that we are donut connoisseurs. You can see their full offerings here.

food at the Leaky cauldron and other must eats for universal studios

4. The Leaky Cauldron

Harry Potter fans can’t miss the opportunities to eat in one of the wizard themed eateries. We decided on The Leaky Cauldron and it was great. Just like all the other stuff in the Wizarding World, the attention to detail was down right magical.Menu for the Leaky Cauldron at the wizarding world of harry potter

It was SO fun to sit in there and dine. Also for a sit down restaurant they are surprisingly fast at serving you. It takes a while to get through the line to order but once we did our food came fast.

What to eat at the leaky cauldron at the wizarding world of harry potter

Our favorite by far was the Toad in the Hole. It was unique but also super tasty. We also had the Beef, Lamb, and Guiness Stew pictured above but we didn’t love that. The bread was a bit dry but it wasn’t bad.

Sticky Toffee pudding at the wizrading world of harry potter

The sticky toffee puddings was very yummy almost a cake version of butterbeer.

Menu for the Leaky Cauldron at the wizarding world of harry potter

I was super impressed with the portion size of the Bangers and Mash and I really liked the taste of those as well but ever since my Summer in Oxford I’ve had a soft spot for Banges and Mash.

Cowfish at universal citywalk and other must eat food

 5. Cowfish at Universal CityWalk

In the park isn’t the only place to eat. Universal is split into two theme parks that’s connected with CityWalk (a row of shops and restaurants) on the outside and the Hogwart’s Express on the inside. It’s just as easy to step outside the gates to grab a bite and I’m so glad we were able to try out Cowfish.

what to eat at universal orlando

The eatery get’s it’s name since they serve both burgers and sushi. Super fun right? We had the Crab Rangoon Dip, Parmesan Bacon Truffle Fries, Boursin Bacon Burger, Spicy Yellow Tail Roll, the Prime Time Filet and Lobster (sushi) roll, and the High Class Hill Billy (pictured here). It was all very tasty.

Awesome kids meals at cowfish at universal orlando.

But the thing I was most impressed with were the kid’s meals. We almost never order kid’s meals because honestly it’s almost always fake dumbed down food that isn’t that flavorful put there on the assumption that kids on’t eat real food. That was NOT the case here. There were really good options with real food that was both healthy and fun. For Teddy we picked the Shrimp Tempura meal which came with a shrimp tempura roll and choice of sides (we could have also had apple slices or edamame) and it had the cutest rice krispie sushi. He scarfed it down!

What to eat on vacation at universal studios

6. Bubba Gump at Universal CityWalk

Another good option in CityWalk is Bubba Gumps. If you like fried seafood (or seafood of any kind) this is a treat. Our waiter was awesome quizzing us on Forest Gump trivia while also tending to our tummies’ needs.

Eating guide to vacationing at Universal orlando

I’m always a sucker for friend shrimp and the Shrimper’s Heaven did not disappoint. But I think my favorites were a tie between Lt. Dan’s Drunken Shrimp (pictured above) or Jenny’s Catch with Lobster Butter Sauce (pictured right here). Oh man it they were SO good. The portions were very generous so we were happily stuffed just sharing a few dishes. See the full menu here.

Must eat food when traveling to universal studios orlando

7. Bula Bar and Grille at the Royal Pacific Resort

We had the pleasure of staying at Loews Royal Pacific Resort during the Family Forward retreat with Mom It Forward and the first day we were there we camped out by the amazing pool (more on that in a different post). But I was VERY impressed by the poolside food options. Not only were they super yummy but the portions were giant making them very sharable and a great bang for your buck. We tried the burger and yummy chicken sandwich both which came which a geneorus portion of fries.

Royal Pacific Hotel food So good

The kids meals were equally as big and tasty. And of course how can you pass up a poolside frozen daiquiri?

Top 9 foods to eat at Universal studios and the wizarding world of harry potter

8. Pumpkin Juice

Butterbeer get’s all the fame but if you are a fan of pumpkin stuff (like my husband) then you’ll want to grab yourself one of these. The pumpkin juice comes in the cutest bottle (yes I brought it home). It’s like a yummy refreshing spiced thin juice that tastes like fall in a bottle.

must eat food when vacationing at the wizarding world of harry potter

9. Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour

And last but not least I highly highly recommend the delicious ice cream from Florean Frotescue’s in Diagon Alley. This is your chance to try butterbeer in yet another form -soft serve ice cream. I’m not going to lie that butterbeer cone my sister and nieces got was DELISH.

butterbeer ice cream and other must try food in the wizarding world of harry potter

But I was happy with the flavors I picked to share with the hubby -Salted Caramel Blondie (one of their best sellers so suuuuuuppppper yummy flavors) and Apple Crumble.

I was so pleasantly surprised with all the food we had during our trip. Have you been to Universal Studios Orlando? Is there anything else I need to make sure to try next time I’m in town?

And if you missed it make sure to check out my photo tour of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter full of tons of fun pictures.

eating guide for universal studio and the wizarding world of harry potter vacations

Let’s connect! You can also find me hanging out here.


Photo Tour of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

over 40 pictures of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

For any Harry Potter fan news that they were creating a section of Universal Studios dedicated to our fandom sent us into a tizzy. The idea of walking through places from our favorite places (albeit fictional) were like a dream come true. And it was, I went back in 2011. But then they announced that they were expanding The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to included even more.

Diagon Alley and TONS of pictures from Harry Potter land in Universal

Butterbeer!!! The ice cream is a must  at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

Not only would we get a glimpse of the Hogwarts castle and Hogsmede but Diagon Alley in all it’s glory would be brought to life too.  It’s more amazing than I could ever communicate even with my giant photo filled post here and gushing gushing gushing!

Hogsmeade at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

Hogwart's Express at the WIzarding World of Harry Potter (plus tons of pictures)

Hogsmeade, Diagon Ally and more Thestrals and Lots of pictures so you can experience what it's like to walk through the wizarding world of harry potter

Let me tell you after visiting at the beginning of the month it is JUST as magical as you’d imagine.  You guys the attention to detail is something else. Like my pictures are cool but when you’re there your jaw will drop!

Photo tour of harry potter world

Honeydukes Hogsmeade, Diagon Ally and more Thestrals and Lots of pictures so you can experience what it's like to walk through the wizarding world of harry potter

I shared about the first installment of the Wizarding World a few years ago in my first trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter post but even after just a few short years there is so much to say and show you! We were there for three days this past month with #FamilyForward and while that was enough to experience it, everything was SO cool I felt like I could go back and take in every little inch super slowly and never get tired of it!

Lots of pictures so you can experience what it's like to walk through the wizarding world of harry potter

Thestrals and Lots of pictures so you can experience what it's like to walk through the wizarding world of harry potter

Street signs Hogwart's Castle and huge picture tour  love the detail of the wizarding world of harry potter

For today I will just show you the awesomeness in pictures. I want YOU to be able to experience it without my constant gabbering in your ear. But I do have SO much to say since I don’t want you to miss out on any of the awesomeness since I know that will be so easy with so many pictures.

tour of the wizarding world of harry potter

Owl Posts and lots of pictures of Harry Potter stuff at universal

Just take it in. And then go start aggressively saving for your own trip because it is TOTALLY WORTH IT. No really TOTALLY WORTH IT. If this post makes you happy, then you can’t even imagine how stepping on those streets and experiencing the world will be. I want to go back already!

Weasley's WIzard Wheezes at the wizarding world of harry potter and lots of pictures

photo tour of wizarding world of harry potter inside the joke shop plus so much more.

Don’t worry I won’t leave you hanging. I have PLENTY to SAY about all the awesomeness that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. But I’m saving that for later. But let’s say for any Harry Potter fan, this place feels like home.

Flourish & Blotts Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

Ollivander's Wand Shop and  Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

Borgin and Burkes at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

The ice cream is a must Borgin and Burkes at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

And boy do I have a lot to say. I have even MORE pictures and a page full of post titles for all the different things (the food, what to wear, what to skip, what not to miss, photo spots, etc.) that I want to share about Harry Potterland and Universal Orlando as a whole.

Hogwart's Castle and huge picture tour  love the detail of the wizarding world of harry potter

Three Broomstick at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

Gringotts Ride and DIagon alley plus huge photo tour or the wizarding world of harry potter

Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

picture tour love the detail of the wizarding world of harry potter

picture tour with moving posters love the detail of the wizarding world of harry potter

Make sure to check back in since I will be sharing my Top Ten Musts for the Wizarding World next week. I’ll also be sharing one of my super favorite aspects the interactive wand features. Along with videos and some insider tips.

Grimauld Place home of the Order of the Phoenix at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

Wizard photos inside Hogwart's Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter tour through pictures

But for now I just want you to Take.It.All.In. These are just a fraction of the pictures that I have to share. And seriously limited them to just these was super hard. I’ll be sharing more in blog posts here and on my instagram.

SO cool Hogsmeade, Diagon Ally and more Thestrals and Lots of pictures so you can experience what it's like to walk through the wizarding world of harry potter

So much detail SO cool Lots of pictures so you can experience what it's like to walk through the wizarding world of harry potter

Can't wait to vacation at universal orlando  Lots of pictures so you can experience what it's like to walk through the wizarding world of harry potter

I can’t wait to go into even more depth and share all the fun details of Gringotts, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, The Leaky Cauldron, The Hogwart’s Express, and so much more! I could do detailed tours for each of those. Would you guys want that?

The knight bus and LOTS of pictures of Harry Potter stuff from universal (photo tour)

Inside the station for the Hogwart's Express. Platform 9 3/4 at the wizarding world of harry potter

Hog's Head in Hogsmeade at the Wizarding WOrld of Harry potter with lots and lots of pictures

The Daily Prophet plus lots and lots of pictures of vacation at universal studios Wizarding WOrld of Harry POtter

Wizard SHop signs plus lots and lots of pictures of vacation at universal studios Wizarding WOrld of Harry POtter

Hogsmeade station Wizard SHop signs plus lots and lots of pictures of vacation at universal studios Wizarding WOrld of Harry POtter

So fun right? You might just want to subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss a single post since I have lots planned! I can’t wait to share all of it. Thanks SO much to Family Forward for the amazing trip and Universal Orlando for sponsoring the retreat to make it experience more affordable for our family it was seriously the most magical ever and we just cannot wait to go back!

If you need more Harry Potter goodness you can see all my Awesome Harry Potter Posts, Projects, Recipes, and Book Lists here (there’s a lot!)

Can't make it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter right now. No worries tour it through pictures while you get excited for when you can really be there!

Let’s connect! You can also find me hanging out here.


10 Ways Guarantee a Great Family Vacation

great tips to remember for having a great family vacation when traveling with kids

I am a firm believer that breaks and time off is a necessary part of health. For individuals time away from work or just moments for yourself, but for the family I’m a firm believer in the good old family vacation. There is just something powerful about connecting with each away from home.  Whether it’s as fancy as a cruise with Royal Caribbean, as simple as a short weekend road trip, or awesome like staying at Loews Royal Pacific Resort and visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando,  which I’m so excited to be doing soon with Family Forward, I’m all about time away together making memories. So here are 20 ways to guarantee a great family vacation. #TravelforReal #FamilyForward

must remember these trips for the next family vacation. great ideas for traveling with kids

  1. Pick a destination that your family will be excited about. Part of the fun of a trip is the anticipation. Get excited together and have fun dreaming and planning.
  2. Work within your budget. As great as a vacation is, you want to make sure it doesn’t become a future burden for your family. There is something great about saving up and knowing you won’t be coming home to credit card bills.
  3. Do some planning in advance (or have your sister do it). Whether it’s looking up the local dive restaurants or seeing what the best route from the airport to the hotel is a lot of time and stress can be saved by planning things before you leave home.
  4. When you’re traveling with kids take the time to sort out all the transportation logistics ahead of time.
  5. Don’t be afraid to utilize new technology like uber and lyft apps which usually give you your first ride free. But keep in mind they are typically barred from airports so you’ll want to check before leaving home.
  6. Make the most of your hotel and see what’s provided and what extra perks they have available for guests. For example we learned that Loews Royal Pacific Resorts  has a Kid’s Closet with all kinds of gear you can check out to make the kids more comfortable like DVD players, strollers, car seats, potty seats and more. Since our flight gets in really early we can check in early and leave our bags at the desk giving us access to the pool area while we wait for our room to be ready. Just learning a bit more about where you’re staying (and maybe considering this kind of stuff when selecting a hotel) can make the stay even better!
  7. Be flexible. Whether it rains on the day you were planning to go to the theme park or your schedule shuttle doesn’t pan out expect that something will go wrong and be prepared to roll with the punches.
  8. Build in some down time. When investing so much money lots of us try to cram too much into the schedule. Make sure that there is breathing room and time to veg. If you have small kids you might want to think about going back to your hotel or home base midday for a nap or some quiet time. While it might seem like a waste of precious vacation time this step away to recharge will help your crew to go longer later and actually enjoy more of the day’s activities.
  9. Remember to take pictures. You don’t need to miss out on everything by living behind your camera, in fact make sure not to do that. But take some time to snap a few pictures of the people you’re with where you are a couple times during the trip. I am surprised at how just the shots of the beach town without any people I know in it make me from our last big trip. It’s a fun way to relieve the goodness when you get home.
  10. Have fun!

must remember these trips for the next family vacation. great ideas for traveling with kids

Eepp I seriously cannot wait for our trip. As soon as I hit publish on this post I’m going to make like 5 Harry Potter shirts for everyone in the family. AHHHH you guys I’m so excited! Do you have any great tips before I leave?

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Review Tips and Tricks at Rae Gun Ramblings

Want more traveling fun? Check out my peek into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I cannot wait to go back and to stay at Loews Royal Resort and give a look at the new Diagon Alley and all the other goodness that they have added since I went back last!!!

Hands down the best Harry Potter crafts, diys, tutorials, recipes and more

Going to Harry Potter world too? Might as well be prepared. Every year I do a huge Harry Potter blog series and this year between all the bloggers we shared over 50 awesome Potter related DIY projects, recipes, book lists, and so much more!

Let’s connect! You can also find me hanging out here.


Romantic Restaurants All Over the US

Romantic Restaurants to eat in your area

Can you believe that Valentine’s day is right around the corner!? Why not take your Valentine to some place new this year? Members of Social Fabric have found places all across the United States that are both romantic and perfect for a lovely date night! I’m so excited about how many cities are represented. Just scroll down and find your area below to see what awesome places to check out. This can be your best Valentine’s Day yet! #Dinner4Valentines


Northeast Region 

Eastampton, New Jersey – Dawn from A New Dawnn

Jersey City, New Jersey – May from La Vie En May

New Rochelle, New York – Jason from The Social Media Samurai

New York, New York – Ginnie from Hello Little Home

Unadilla, New York – Miranda from Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt

Reading, Pennsylvania – Betsy from Heavens to Betsy

York, Pennsylvania – Sarah from How I Pinch A Penny

East Greenwich, Rhode Island – Kristin from Mama Luvs Books

Newport, Rhode Island – Stephanie from Mammamoiselle

Providence, Rhode Island –  Mary from Tall Mom Tiny Baby


Midwest Region

Barrington, Illinois – Teresa from Tiaras & Tantrums

Chicago Area, Illinois – Michelle from Honest and Truly

Chicago, Illinois – Kelly from Kelly’s Lucky You

Chicago, Illinois – Jen from Fashionably Employed

Miami County, Ohio – Linette from The Home and Garden Cafe

Columbus, Ohio – Abbey from The Cards We Drew

Columbus, Ohio – Carissa from All in All

Troy, Ohio – Kendra from A Proverbs 31 Wife

Omaha, Nebraska – Mary from Living A Sunshine Life

Omaha, Nebraska – Lisa from Mom on the Side

Box Elder, South Dakota – Melissa from Kids Are Grown

Madison, Wisconsin – Jessica from All She Cooks


South Region

Birmingham, Alabama – Jennifer from Simple Hacks Living 

Northwest Arkansas, Arkansas – Jamie from Jamie’s Thots

Pea Ridge, Arkansas – Robyn from Create it. Go!

Boca Raton, Florida – Shaina from Take a Bite Out of Boca

Bradenton, Florida –  Kelly from Virtually Yours

Lee County, Florida – Krystal from Krystal’s Kitsch

Mount Dora, Florida – Sherry from Family Love and Other Stuff

Pensacola Beach, Florida – April from Frugally Green Mom

South Florida, Florida – Melissa Ann from The Eyes of a Boy

Tampa Bay, Florida – Lauren from Lauren Paints

Tampa, Florida – C. Lee from Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad

Augusta, Georgia – Candy from Candypolooza

Annapolis, Maryland – Ashley from Momma Rambles

Frederick, Maryland – Terri from Housewives of Frederick County

Durham, North Carolina – Jen from Jael Custom Designs

Memphis, Tennessee – Pamela from Still Dating My Spouse

Arlington/Ft. Worth, Texas – Danita from O Taste and See 

Austin, Texas – Lani from Life Anchored

Dallas, Texas – Heather from Dallas Single Mom

Dallas, Texas – Emily from Fortuitous Foodies

Denton, Texas – Stephanie from The TipToe Fairy

Fort Worth, Texas – Julie from Julie is Coco and Cocoa

Houston, Texas – Christine from Xtine Danielle

Houston, Texas – Kelli from Eat, Pray, Read, Love

San Antonio, Texas – Sara from Sensibly Sara

Richmond, Virginia – Jen from JVKom Chronicles


West Region

Anchorage, Alaska – Laura from Day by Day in Our World

Chandler, Arizona – JoAnn from A Whimsicle Life

Phoenix, Arizona – Michelle from Fun on a Dime

Los Angeles, California – Stacy from Fancy Shanty

Rohnert Park, California – Jamie from Minnesota Girl in the World

Sacramento, California – Brandy from Gluesticks

Santa Clarita, California – Carolyn from This Talk Ain’t Cheap

Temecula, California – Kara from Ramblings of a Marine Wife

Victorville, California – Holly from Our Holly Days

Denver, Colorado – Callie from A Sweet Potato Pie

Missoula, Montana – Patty from Broken Teepee

Orem, Utah – Kristie from Beneficial Bento

Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah – Marissa from Rae Gun Ramblings

St. George, Utah – Kendra from The Things I Love Most

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What to Pack in Your Carry On and Other Travel Packing Tips

dripdrop disclosureWhat to pack in your carry on bag when you travel (air, car, and sea) - Rae Gun Ramblings

I’ve decided that there are two kinds of people: those who need to travel and those who can take it or leave it. I’m in the need to travel category. For me it doesn’t need to be a huge trip but there’s just something about getting away whether it’s a drive, a flight, or my favorite on a boat. Between growing up with family overseas and traveling for fun and school I’ve log a lot of hours getting ready for trips. So today as I’m aching for a getaway, I thought I’d share some of my favorite travel packing tips. I figure you’re probably good on all the big things like clothes, a camera, and tickets so, I wanted to focus on some of the little things that I’ve often found myself thinking, “Shoot I wish I had that!”

What to pack for your cruise - Rae Gun Ramblings

Whatever form of travel, air, sea, or land, these are a few things I always like to have on hand! You didn’t know you’d be getting a poem today did you ;)

  • Tasty Snacks: I like to have things that I know I really like. Some times there are bumps during traveling and having a little treat can make things just a little better.
  • Good Reads: You know that I never go anywhere without a good book. In fact when I travel I usually take at least 2 books. Who knows if I’ll get stuck somewhere and finish my first one. In addition to a good book I like to pack a fun magazine. I like the option of something that doesn’t demand such a focused attention span. Finally, I also like to have a good audiobook or two ready to go on my phone or ipod.
  • Stuff to Stay Hydrated: Always pack a water bottle! Whether you’re allowed to keep it full or will need to refill (like on a plane) water is SO important when you travel. I also really like DripDrop Hydration Powder. They are little packs that you mix with water and they help replenish your electrolytes and keep you balanced and able to stay hydrated even better. These are a new favorite of mine right now since it’s been SO dry here in Utah and I feel like I just can’t drink enough water to stay hydrated with breastfeeding and everything. If you’ve never heard of them I found them at CVS in the baby aisle.
  • Meds and Chap Stick: I like to always have some pain medicine just in case I get a headache. Also when you’re in closed spaces sharing air with so many people it’s easy to catch their germs. I like to pack cold-eze or airborne just in case I get stuck by someone that sounds particularly germy. That way I can pop one of those preventative type things and boost my immune system. And of course chap stick. In fact I like to have at least two types of lip moisturizers!
  • Gum and Mints: Definitely gum when I’m flying but I find that I really like gum any time I travel it keeps me from mindlessly munching and makes my mouth feel fresh. Mints do the same and I just like to have the option. As a bonus mint is really good for anyone that might get a little motion sick. These tiny mints were a lifesaver on our trip to Disneyland when my niece started to feel blah.
  • Pen and Paper: You know for all the brilliant ideas, last minute directions, and contact info of new friends you meet in transit!
  • Cash and Copy of ID: Just to be safe I like to make a copy of my ID’s whether it’s my passport or just my driver’s licence. I like to have a photocopy and some cash on hand in a separate bag in the unfortunate chance that something happens to my bag with my main stuff..

What to pack in your bag when you travel - Rae Gun Ramblings

Air: What to Pack in Your Carry On (and Personal Bag)

When I went to college my parents were still living in Thailand so I flew a few times back and forth. I also did a summer in Oxford, England where I took every opportunity to jump on the cheap flights. To me you want to maximize your carry on bag while at the same time not making it so heavy you can’t carry it.

  • Change of clothes: I know you don’t want to think about it but luggage gets lost or delayed. I like to have a change of close in my carry on. This is also helpful when there are accidents.
  • DripDrop: Depending on the current rules you may or may not be able to take water bottles on planes. Lately empty ones have been okay but I’ve been to some airports that made me ditch the bottle completely :( But the thing is with those tiny cups of water they give you on the plane and the dumb recycled air it’s even more important to stay up on your hydration. DripDrop makes that a lot easier plus it’s no problem to take through airport security.
  • Extra bag: I like to pack one of those thin compact grocery bags,  you know the kind that fold up into nothing. That way if you need to redistribute your stuff or if you end up buying things you don’t have to figure out how to cram it into your already perfectly packed carry on.
  • Anything Really Important: I don’t care how big or heavy it is if it’s super important take it in your carry on. For example if you’re trip is for work make sure you have a copy of that presentation and sample with you not just in your checked luggage!Stay hydrated when traveling - Rae Gun Ramblings

Car: What to Pack in Your Cab Bag

In college I led trips across states where we drove vans full of college kids on Spring break and Summer vacation cultural trips. I loved it. After getting married I’ve gone on tour with my husband’s band for the last few years doing concerts on the way up to Seattle where we played shows and attended PAX, a video game conference. I love that too! All that plus many family road trips and I’d say I’m something of a road trip pro. So here are my tips on what take with you.

  • Pillow: I’m all about catching up on sleep on road trips (you know when it isn’t your turn to drive).
  • Stuff to Listen To: I love having good audiobooks and my favorite music for when I’m driving and need to keep my eyes on the road. If you haven’t tried audiobooks before here’s a list I made of some of my favorites audiobooks. It can be a fun difference for a trip.
  • Snacks to Share: Make sure to bring enough treats to share because whether you like it or not you’ll probably end up sharing your treat stash. My absolute favorite treat to take on road trips is this super easy Teddy Bear Chex Mix.
  • Plastic Grocery Bags: These will help you stay on top of your trash. Tie a bunch in knots and throw them in the car before you go. Every stop you make survey the state of the car and throw a bag full of trash out.

What to pack for a road trip - Rae Gun Ramblings

Ship: What to Bring On Your Cruise

I’ve mentioned before that I love cruises but if you’re newer to the site you might not know this because sadly it’s been a few years since I’ve gotten to go on a cruise but I.Love.Cruises. I dream about being that old lady that tells the newly married couple that this is my 48th cruise. Ah yes I think they are an awesome value. You get your lodging, a big portion of your transportation, your entertainment, and more than enough food. Here are a few things I’ve found that I like to take with me

  • Bonine: This is my favorite motion sickness med. Unlike Dramamine it doesn’t make you drowsy and it really works. We’ve used it on cruises and at amusement parks.
  • Exercise Shoes: You might be planning on just lounging but one thing I really loved to do on a cruise ship is walk around the decks with my headphones in. It’s so peaceful and it balances out all the eating you’ll probably be doing.
  • Water Bottle: I know I already said this but I think people forget how easily it is to get dehydrated at sea. You’re in the sun a lot and again the recycled air below deck can dry you out. They’re good about having water at meals but I liked having my water bottle throughout the day and in my cabin to remind me to keep it up.
  • Sunscreen: Speaking of the sun, even if you’re on a cooler climate trip you’re still going to be very exposed make sure you’ve got your SPF in tow.
  • Friends’ Addresses: This is something that I never remembered to do but I want to next time. Write down a few friends’ snail mail addresses so that when you have a stop you can find and mail a couple of postcards right then and there. I’ve bought postcards with plans on posting them once I got home but then I never end up sending them since it feels weird to send a vacation post card from home. This will fix that problem.

Tips on packing for trips - Rae Gun Ramblings

Hope those ideas helped. And I might sound like your mom but it’s true staying hydrated is always a huge thing on vacation. Every trip I’ve taken someone has brought it up. So, if you’re getting ready to head out on a trip or if you just want to work on staying better hydrated at home like me (it’s one of my goals this year), DripDrop has a great 1$ off coupon valid from 1/25/15-2/21/15 while supplies last that you can print and use at your local CVS store. I like the berry flavor and I have very little tolerance for weird tasting drinks and I can tell you this isn’t bad at all.

Make sure to stay hydrated when traveling - Rae Gun Ramblings

What about you? What things do you like to make sure to have with you when you travel? Share in the comments.

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and DripDrop®, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #DrinkDripDrop #DripDropHydrates

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Favorite Spots for Fabric Shopping in LA

Must see fabric shops in LA - rae gun ramblings

As I’ve already mentioned (here and here) I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to California for a wonderful weekend of shopping and friendship. During our fabric weekend a bunch (over 20) sewing bloggers got together traveled from all over and hung out and and shopped for fabric together in Los Angeles. It was seriously amazing. In the blog world it’s fun getting to know other people who live far away with similar interest and that’s all great and fine online but when you get to meet them in person and not just that, really hang out and get some good quality time together there is just something truly special about that. And even better if you can bond over shared interest like fabric hoarding, oh I mean shopping. So I’m super excited to share my favorite spots for fabric shopping in La!

The best fabric shops in LA - rae gun ramblings

Michael levine logo

Michael Levine, Inc.
“Everything In Fabrics & Notions”
920 Maple Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Phone: 213-622-6259

One of my all time favorite stops was Michael Levine. This place is like a mecca for fabric lovers. They have all sorts of fabrics from quilting cottons to leather. You name it they’ve got it and the place is HUGE. They have so many amazing fabrics it was fun just to walk up and down the isles. After a wonderful lunch hosted by the store we got to tour the warehouses and saw rolls and rolls of fabric that is waiting to be cataloged and posted to their website (yes lucky for those of us who live far away they have an online fabric shop). See that cute man with the box? That’s Larry. He pulled this Valentino box out and we were all a bit confused then he told us to “touch it” and we all TOTALLY got it haha it was awesome! Apparently when they sell Valentino fabric they wrap it and ship it in these fancy (and pet-able) boxes. The store is giant and I had so much fun going through all the fabric and the people who run it are some of nicest individuals ever. I purchased my first Echino, drooled over the Liberty of London, and picked  up a bunch of other great pieces.

My favorite fabric shops in LA - rae gun ramblings

the Loft
Fabric sold by the pound!
Located on the 2nd floor above the Home Decor Store
917 Maple Ave.
Los Angeles, CA.  90015

Across the street they have another shop that has barrels and barrels of fabric sold by the pound. It was so fun digging through and finding hidden treasures. I was able to find all kinds of awesome knits that I am so excited to put to good use. Seriously there was something so enjoyable about going through all the tubs of fabric. See the goodies I got?

Must see fabric shops in LA - rae gun ramblings

After a good chunk at Michael Levine we hit the streets. If you’ve never been to the fabric district downtown there are rows and rows of stores selling fabric and notions and really any sewing supply you could dream of. And everything is priced really well. Pretty much go to Michael Levine check their stuff out and then walk in any direction and you’re bound to find even more fabric goodness. One of my favorite images of the whole weekend was when our van got back to the hotel and we spread our bags of fabric out. It was an awesome fabric pile and this was just ONE of the cars full of the girls that went with us.

Secret fabric shops in LA - rae gun ramblings

Since Mood (yes that Mood) has a shop in LA we made a stop there. Everything was a bit pricier than I’m used to spending but the the selection was terrific. There was a wall full of printed knits that I helped myself to and I may have snagged a bit of silk that is the prettiest fabric ever. No I’ve never sewn with silk before, yes I’m totally nervous of screwing it up, but I’m also really excited.

mood fabrics and other fabric gems in La - rae gun ramblings

Isn’t our group so cute! Thanks to Jess for the picture.

Justine (Sew Country Chick) – Jen (icandy) – Stef (Girl Inspired) – Mie (Sewing Like Mad) – Miriam (Mad Mim) – Melissa (I Still Love You) – Andrea (Train to Crazy) – Me – Sabra (Sew a Straight Line) – Bev (Flamingo Toes)

Jessica (Sewing Rabbit this cute photo is hers!) – Melissa (Melly Sews) – Caila (Caila Made) – Cherie (You and Mie) – Abby (Sew Much Ado)

Leanne (Elle Apparel)- Merrick (Merrick’s Art) – Marigold (Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky!) – Christina not pictured (2 Little Hooligans)

fabric shopping in la - rae gun ramblings

Here are some shots of us shopping around. It really was a sewing girls heaven. I just loved walking up and down the rows of fabric shops but some notable places we popped into included Golden Cutting and Sewing Supply, which had a great selection of notions and sewing tidbits. For example, giant spools of elastic tread, zippers galore, and I got a bendy ruler for pattern drafting. A few of us also went to SAS Fabrics in Hawthore and found some gems there as well. I scored some really cool white and gold spandex that I’m have so many ideas for. Tell me your mind is spinning right now.

 Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft,     # 1798
2115 W Commonwealth Ave
Alhambra, CA 91803-1403

(This is the closest location to the fabric district but check out their website for a location near you!)

And of course even with all these fun hidden gems of shops it’s nice to know that there is always a Joann Fabric close by. Joann is my go to fabric shop I seriously have to restrict myself to only going a few times a week. But I can always trust Joann to have the staples that I use every day and even some fun and interesting fabrics as well.

To say I had fun would be a vast understatement. I didn’t even share the fun of visiting FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) seeing their amazing student projects, the project trends for upcoming seasons and their droolable textiles room which had fabrics made out of all kinds of crazy materials. And I didn’t get to mention all the delicious meals we had (although check out pictures from our Girls Night Out here). Or the fun book talk we had over drinks and dessert (and for me calamari because as you know I’m a fried food fiend) one night. I’ll have to put pictures up on Instagram because I just can’t fit all the wonderfulness here. Thank you so much to Andrea, Bev, and Justine for putting in so much hard work to give us such a fabulous time that I will cherish forever!

And not only did we get a great experience (and many many pounds of fabric to play with) but we have a fun giveaway jam packed full of awesome sewing supplies. To enter click here.

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Tutorial: Kid Sized Travel Neck Pillow

Easy DIY travel pillows for kids. Great fast sewing tutorial perfect for the next road trip or family vacation

Well we sent my naughty nieces off with my parents to Thailand for their yearly trip. Before they left my mom made these awesome neck pillows for them that are just their size.

They are a little thinner in the back part so it’s more comfy for their little bodies instead of having them stick so far out from the chair if they used adult sized ones. The girls picked their own fabric and these came together super fast.

Make Your Own

You’ll need

Make yourself a pattern you can get the basic measurements off of the picture of the pattern my mom made above. It would fit in a square that’s about 11 x 16 . Cut it out on the fold of the fabric to the right. And you’ll need two of those a front and a back.

With right sides sew around all edges leaving an opening ( she did it on the inside part where the neck would go). Flip the pillow right side out. Stuff with batting. Hand stitch the hole closed.

And our little friend who just turned one was over and this size seemed to work for him so I’d think this would be a good size for kiddos one to maybe 6 ish. My eldest niece is 5 right now.

Happy travels!

Great sewing tutorial. Made these up for the kids for the last family vacation and they came together FAST. Super easy and just the right size travel pillows for children

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Review: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Review Tips and Tricks at Rae Gun Ramblings

Okay you guys know I’m a huge fan of all things Harry Potter (proof) so when my husband gave me a vacation which included a trip to Universal Studios to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter I was first so freaking excited and so nervous I was going to be let down. It’s going to be a long post, sorry in advance to any Potter haters.

wizarding world of harry potter review and tips - rae gun ramblings

Let me tell you now. I was NOT let down. We both keep on saying how awesome it is just when you walk up to the gates of that section of the park. As humungo fans it was visually amazing, overwhelming, and more wonderful than either of us could imagine.

wizarding world of harry potter review and tips - rae gun ramblings

If you’re planning on going you should know that we endured a timeshare presentation to get free tickets. These tickets were a 87$ value. For that price you get into Universal’s Island of Adventure and the Potter stuff is part of that. We found out the hard way that Universal split the park in half when they opened Potterland so it literally felt like half an amusment park. It was MUCH MUCH smaller than Disneyland in Anaheim or Magic Mountain in Valencia (like maybe a third of the size?).

That being said besides the Potter stuff the park was pretty lame. There wasn’t much, just a handful of rides and some shops. We got there at 12pm and were kinda tired of it by 4pm ummm yeah…for 87$ I’m not sure. I mean I’m so glad we went and it was amazing BUT I’m not sure if I’d have the same feelings if I’d paid almost 200$ for both of us you know. I’ve heard rumors that they may be expanding the Potter part, if that’s so it may be more worth it in the future.

wizarding world of harry potter review and tips - rae gun ramblings

Okay so besides that little bit of practicality, the Potter part was wonderful, and we had loads of fun just being there, slowly taking in every nook and cranny and of course taking tons of pictures.

wizarding world of harry potter review and tips - rae gun ramblings

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter consists of a bunch of buildings which you only see the exterior. There are a few that you can go into including Zonkos which is connected to Honeydukes the candy shop. The insides were okay I’ll post some pics on my flickr later today.

The Owlry is just a store with stuff like shirts, robes and other fan things. If you buy post cards you can get then stamped with a Hogwarts stamp right outside the door. You can go into Ollivander’s to look around or choose a wand (we just looked around).

hogwarts express - rae gun ramblings

You can take a picture by the Hogwarts Express, sometimes the conductor is there too. Oh something really cool is that they have free lockers that you can stash bags when you go on rides that you’re not allowed to carry anything with you. This was great for us since we had a backpack full of food.

Harry Potterland - rae gun ramblings

There is a ‘restaurant’ and bar that is just a dark room with wood tables that’s supposed to be The Three Broomsticks. None of the food was appealing (of course it was over priced park food) and it was kinda of cold. I WISH that they had the school banquet room as a cafeteria style eatery but no.

Hagrid's Hut Harry Potter - Rae Gun Ramblings

The rides include The Flight of the Hippogriff. This is a mild coaster. I liked it a lot it reminded me of Goldrusher at Disney. It’s short and you get to see Buckbeak, over look the whole park, and see the outside of Hagrid’s hut.

Harry Potter World - Rae Gun Ramblings

The tour of Hogwart’s ride (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) is the main ride and it is weird. It feels like you’re in a hanging coaster seat but I didn’t get how it moved. It was part simulator because there were a lot of movie screens that would play clips (made for the ride, not from the movie) and you kinda went through traditional ride stuff (you know structures sticking out at you) but it also had various screens with simulator stuff. You tilted turned and the screens made you feel like you were flying. It was cool but dizzying. Daniel actually felt really crappy afterward (and we’d taken motion sickness pills earlier in the day). The details were cool, the line to get to the ride was really cool (sorry no pics of that my battery died in line and of course the spare battery was in the bag in the locker). I’m just not sure I was into the type/style of the ride.

The other ride is the Dueling Dragons which I believe was an existing ride that they just adapted, kinda, to fit the theme. It was actually a really fun hanging roller coaster. Daniel and I both liked it (this one didn’t make him feel weird at all).

butter beer - are gun ramblings

They have butter beer carts. I wasn’t sure I’d like it because I hate rootbeer and I assumed I didn’t like creme soda but Daniel got a frozen butter beer and it tasted delish. To me it tasted like a yummy butterscotch frozen shake. Daniel described it to people as a combo of butterscotch and creme soda. It was really tasty.

Harry Potter World - Rae Gun Ramblings

They also have a couple shows. An acapella choir with cool frog bass things. They were cool and super cheesey in the way that acapella groups can get, if you know what I mean.They also had a short ‘dance’ thing with the Beaubaton girls and the Drumstrang boys from. Both were fun to watch. Oh yeah and there were tons of little kids running around wearing robes and holding wands. Totally melts my heart!

And awesomely Myrtle was in the bathroom…well her voice.

Okay was that long enough? This was the shortest I could force myself…seriously. So if you’re as crazy as me check out my flickr where I’ll be putting more pictures up. I still think they could have made it all so much bigger and included so much more. But what they did they did wonderfully. I hope they consider making another bigger stand alone Potter-only park…maybe more West ;) Anyways that’s a lot I know but let me know if you have any questions.
Harry Potterland - Rae Gun Ramblings

If you liked this be sure to check out all my fun Harry Potter related creations, parties, recipes and more!

And We’re Off

Wish us luck (and a better trip than our last vacation) cause we are off. SO excited for Potter Land and SO excited for the cruise. I’ll have no internet access most of the trip but I’ve got fabulous guest posts scheduled for the whole time I’m gone.

p.s. isn’t it funny how different daniel’s side of the suitcase is than mine…his is all neat and folded, mine is rolled, crammed and everywhere.