Princess & The Blog

13Oct2014

Tips on Selecting the Right Princess Character Company for your Party

By |October 13th, 2014|Birthday Party Ideas and Tips, General, Organization|0 Comments

 

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If you are planning a birthday party for your child and you decide to book with a character or entertainment company, please do your research. I know that booking a company can be overwhelming for many people, especially if you’re in a region like Los Angeles which is fully saturated with businesses, but it is really important to choose wisely. Our time with our children is fleeting, meaning that this time in their lives of believing in fairytale is quite short, so the last thing you want to do is to plan a party for them and to have a company flake out or not deliver for you. A few weeks back I posted that just because a company comes up first in the search engine and has a cool looking website, doesn’t mean they are the company for you. When booking with a company, you want to find someone that will be the right fit for you and your needs.

Below are some tips I recommend:

1. Do your due diligence.

You want to be sure to get recommendations from friends and acquaintance first. Next, you can start searching the internet for Yelp and Google reviews. Word of advice though, when dealing with social media reviews please take them with a grain of salt. (Please read my entry on How Yelp Really Works). Just remember that Yelp has its faults. Due to the way Yelp filters out client reviews, many newer companies are becoming quite savvy in going after positive reviews and will go to great lengths to have close friends and business acquaintances leave comments for them on Yelp and Facebook just to get a review. When going through someone’s Yelp reviews, it’s really important that the reviews are local and have no affiliation with the company. I always have to laugh when I see numerous reviews posted from the company’s staff members or business associates or from friends of theirs elsewhere in the country. For ex. I think I will have my Yelping friend in NJ leave me a review because she’s a Yelper and I know it will stick. That may work for a different industry such as a hotel or restaurant, but really not for the character industry. Granted, that’s not to say that one or two non local reviews may not be legitimate, but when you start seeing more than that, I would be skeptical. As for Facebook, any Tom, Dick & Harry can leave a review.

2. Who owns the company?

I am always a bit leery of companies that have an ambiguous About Us paige. As a consumer, you have every right to know who you are booking with and what is the company’s track record. Find out how long they have been in business. What do you know about the owners? Jennifer and I love what we do, and put our heart and soul into everything we touch whether it’s through blogging, Facebooking, updating our website. We have built a relationship with our clientele so we have developed a loyal following over the past 7 years.

3. Who are the performers?

This is where Jennifer and I are sticklers. Prior to starting The Cinderella Company, we both owned and operated our own children’s event planning companies. It was during this time, that we personally dealt with a number of local character companies that used “smoke and mirror” tactics. I can vividly remember hiring a Sleeping Beauty performer from a company for a party that I was hosting, and the performer was anything but Aurora. She may have showed up wearing a platinum blonde wig and a pink gown, but that was the extent of it. I took one look at her and the idea of a magical princess was lost for me in a split second . It was that experience long ago, that led to the creation of The Cinderella Co. A lot of companies will not post their performers bios or photos on the site nor will they promise you a performer. As a client, you therefore have no idea of who will show up to your event the day of the party–not cool in my opinion. I just took a booking from a client the other day and she flat out asked if my performer had braces or any visible tattoos and body piercings. She was very nervous about booking because she too had experienced some interesting characters at parties her daughter had been invited to.

4. What are your expectations and that of the company?

As consumers, we all have our own expectations. What are they? Are they reasonable? Are they the same as the company’s? You need to find out and be very clear with the company about what you are looking for and the company needs to be clear in what they are providing.   Not every business is going to be able to accommodate specific requests. Jennifer and I put as much information about who we are and what we practice out there to prevent confusion and client dissatisfaction; this is one of the reasons that our website is as extensive as it is. We also believe in remaining true to the Disney philosophy and that of their characters.  As a company, we may or may not be what some people are looking for and that’s okay.  Jennifer and I and our entire cast do what we do out of love and are committed to providing the best possible experience.

5. How is their pricing?

Do a comparative market analysis. Is the company’s pricing competitive with the others? Is it more expensive or less? Start comparing. I get calls all the time asking about our pricing. When comparing pricing though, you have to make sure the companies are similar. We often get calls about a local non Disney character company that deals in fantasy characters. When someone mentions them, I always inform the clients they are comparing apples and oranges. You cannot compare the pricing on two very different companies because one is dealing with complex Disney style costumes and wigs vs fantasy characters that have no wigs or specific costumes to match. When comparing two similar companies, begin to analyze the quality of the costumes and the wigs. I will be as upfront and as honest as I can be, the costumes and wigs do not come cheap. Yes, there are companies out there that purchase their things ready made off the internet at a fraction of the prices, versus a costume that is more elaborately designed and has petti/hoopskirts and accessories. What is their attention to detail like?

6. Is the company easy to work with?

How long does it take the company to respond? Do they answer your questions fully? Are they informative? Do you feel they are being thorough with you or they simply want your money? Do you feel that they are listening to what you are saying?  Is this a serious, reputable company or someone just dressing up on the side hoping to make some money? How do they handle challenges? Ex. performer illnesses, reschedules, unexpected situations? Again, what is their attention to detail like?

7. Do not assume anything.

Please be sure to get everything in writing. It’s important that you don’t assume anything.   Just because you fill out a inquiry page and say you want to book, doesn’t mean that you’re booked or that the character is reserved for you.   No booking is taken with us until a deposit has been taken from the client.  Due to our high volume of business, we unfortunately cannot reserve a performer’s time until then.  Also, be sure to read information that they send to you.  As in any businesses, you need to make sure that you read and understand the the contract.

8.  Does the company have a contract?

It behooves everyone for a company to have a contract.  Contracts are established to protect both parties.  Be sure to read and understand everything that is in it.  Please make sure that all of the information is correct.  With technology, one wrong click and you can have the wrong character showing up at your house on the wrong date.  Submit changes in writing!!!  Please don’t call the information in.  You want to be able to hold someone accountable and you can’t necessarily do that when you say that you called the office.  Jennifer and I keep track of everything.

9. Be Hesitant with online booking and payment:

Sorry, I just don’t believe in this because there is too much left to chance. I cannot begin to tell you how many calls I get from people who say a company had to cancel unexpectedly because of over booking. Don’t do it. You are not buying a dress, but booking your child’s party. Be sure to speak with them directly before putting down a credit card payment.

10.  Does the company uphold the Disney standard?

Here at The Cinderella Company, we love all things Disney and are completely committed to staying true to their philosophy and characters, as such, we will alway do our best to bring the princess characters to life.

11.  Is the company award winning?

Has the company that you are booking won any awards within their industry?  If so, is there consistency with that?  Often times new companies will promote that they’ve won an award for something when they’ve hardly been in a business for a long enough amount of time.  Having your friends and family vote for you does not justify becoming the best of the best. Don’t be fooled by companies that are trying to work the system.

12.  When to book a party: 

Please don’t allow a company to convince you to book a performer 6 months out.  The earliest you should book is about 3 months.  The reason being is that life happens.   Cast members will come and go, and for some companies they may not even be in business in 6 months.  The character industry is not the restaurant industry, meaning we are not a famous 3 Michelin star restaurant that you are wanting to get into.  The only exception to early booking is finding a company that is hosted by one performer, but even then I still don’t feel comfortable putting money out.

13.  How does the company handle emergencies?

Each company is different.  You want to feel secure in booking a company in that they will not leave you high and dry.  I absolutely detest when I hear from people that a company has cancelled on them and has not offered any  help other than a alternative phone number to call.  Please keep in mind that performers do and will fall ill as they are around children often.  If a performer falls ill, the company that you have booked with needs to offer some assistance in finding a replacement and I don’t mean by giving you phone numbers to call.  There have been times that Jennifer and I have been up to the wee hours speaking with local companies on the behalf of our clients.  I also encourage every parent to have an “Emergency Back up Plan”.  If a company cancels and there is no one other company to help out, you will still have a party to get through.

14.  How does the company bill for travel?

Some companies out there are charging hefty travel fees.  How are they calculating costs?    Are they charging for time and mileage?  If so, that can be very expensive.  Also, I would question a company that insists on charging a travel but will not guarantee a performer.  How do you really know where that performer is traveling from.  The character company is a mobile business and we are not booking performers out of a central location, but have performers all throughout the regions.  If a company is going to bill a travel, it’s a fair question to ask what region the performer is traveling from.    Don’t allow a company to bill you for something extra. The Cinderella Company does not bill for time but for mileage and tolls.

 

9Oct2014

Your Guide for Halloween Events in Roseville, Rocklin & Lincoln

By |October 9th, 2014|General, life|0 Comments

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Top Kid-Friendly Halloween Events for Placer County & Sacramento County from Macaroni Kid Blog

We wish you a safe, extraordinarily fun time celebrating Halloween all month long with your family.

Beginning this week, we will be continuously updating our home page with dozens of LOCAL, KID-FRIENDLY HALLOWEEN EVENTS in Placer County and Sacramento County. Events range from library activities, crafts at local stores, Halloween parties and carnivals, trunk-or-treat events and more! Be sure to scour every section of our home page each week (the ‘plan ahead’ section is packed with Spooktacular ideas).

Here are 15 upcoming Halloween events that we’d like to highlight (by date). More detail is provided on the home page about each of these events:
Callson Manor Haunted House – October 3rd – November 1st in Roseville
Looking for a good scream this Halloween? Callson Manor, a haunted house theme park at the Placer County Fairgrounds, is the place for you!

Address: Placer County Fairgrounds, 800 All America City Blvd., Roseville, CA 95678

‘Family Fest’ – October 11th from 11 – 2 PM at Vernon Street Town Square in Roseville
The event features a kid’s zone, truck exploration area, food trucks and kid-friendly vendors who will update you on the latest about local family services!

Lantern Tours at Sacramento Historic City Cemetery – October 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th
Sign-up in advance for a lantern tour at night through Sacramento’s oldest cemetery, which was built in 1849. This guided tour will take you through a bit of Sacramento’s history, if you can pay attention to the details while ducking under spider webs…ah ha ha!

Address: 1000 Broadway, Sacramento, CA
Friday Flicks (The Haunted House Movie) – October 17th at 7:30 PM – Vernon Street Town Square in Roseville
The Haunted Mansion will be playing on the giant outdoor screen to help get into the Halloween spirit. The movie starts at 7:30 PM at the Vernon Street Town Square in Roseville.

Sacramento Children Museum’s ‘Monster Bash’ – October 18th from 6 – 8 PM
Travel through a haunted hallway, dance to live DJ monster music, participate in a costume parade and snack on refreshments. Tickets go fast!

Address: 2701 Prospect Park Drive, Suite 120, Sacramento, CA

2014 Placer Grown Harvest Festival – October 18th and 19th
The festival will feature family-friendly games, a scarecrow contest, live music and food trucks.

Hours: Saturday from 11 AM – 6 PM and Sunday from 10 AM – 4 PM.
Address: Johnson-Springview Park, Rocklin, CA

Halloween Carnival at Tiny Tumblers – October 24th from 4 – 8 PM
Meet Elsa, Trunk-or-Treat, have fun in a bounce house, play at the Open Gym, participate in a costume parade and MORE! As one of my favorite place for children, you’ve got to read more about the event here.

Address: Tiny Tumblers, 6015 Fairway Dr., Rocklin, CA

Safe & Super Halloween at Fairytale Town – October 24th – 26th from 5 – 9 PM
Experience a unique way to trick-or-treat at Fairy Town.

Address: Fairy Tale Town, 3901 Land Park Drive, Sacramento, CA

Folsom’s Night of 1,000 Pumpkins – October 24th at 5 PM

On this night, the city lights up 1,000 carved pumpkins, which line the historic Sutter Street. Bring your children in costume to trick-or-treat. Please note: Bring a carved pumpkin to the event in order to be admitted.

Address: Historic Folsom – Sutter Street, Folsom, CA

Rocklin’s ‘Family Halloween Festival’ – October 25th from 10 – 2 PM
Rocklin hosts a wonderful and FREE event for the community. Children will be able to trick-or-treat at dozens of vendor stations, take hayrides between 11 – 2 PM & participate in a costume parade at noon. There will also be live entertainment on the stage all day.

Address: Johnson-Springview Park, 5460 5th Street, Rocklin, CA 95677

Halloween fun at the Roseville Utility Exploration Center – October 25th from 10 – 2 PM
At this SPOOKTacular event, children will meet Roseville Electric Utility’s Count Watts, carve pumpkins, play Halloween games and make crafts.

Address: Roseville Utility Exploration Center, 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville, CA

Floating Pumpkin Patch – October 25th from 1 PM – 4 PM at the Mike Shellito Indoor Pool in Roseville
If you’re looking to celebrate Halloween in an original way, take your kids for a dunk in the Mike Shellito Indoor Pool to pick a floating pumpkin. You must pre-register by 10/20 in order to reserve a spot.

Address: Mike Shellito Indoor Pool, 10210 Fairway Drive, Roseville, CA

Wee Halloween at Crocker Art Museum – October 29th from 10 AM – 1 PM in Sacramento

Children under 5 years of age will have a grand time at the Crocker Art Museum as Halloween approaches by decorating treat bags and participating in a guided walk through some of the exhibits to gather treats. Dress in costume! You must register in advance.

Address: 216 O Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

Boo at the Zoo – October 30th and 31st from 5 – 8 PM at the Sacramento Zoo
Boo at the Zoo is back! For this event, the front section of the zoo is opened at night, and your children can have an enjoyable time trick-or-treating between 25 different candy stations. Kids will also have a blast seeing the magic shows and participating in a costume party dance. The Spooky Train and Creepy Carousel will also be available at an additional charge. Best suited for children 10 years of age and younger.

Address: Land Park Drive & 16th Ave, Sacramento, CA 95822

Adventure Church’s Annual ‘Trunk-or-Treat’ event – October 31st Time is TBD.
This year’s ‘Trunk-or-Treat’ event is sure to be the best EVER!! You’ll have a blast going from car trunk to car trunk to trick-or-treat. Enjoy carnival rides, train rides & bouncy houses. As the event draws closer, we will update the details.

Address: 6401 Stanford Ranch Road, Roseville, CA 95678

8Oct2014

Best Pumpkin Patches for Kids Near Roseville, Rocklin & Lincoln

By |October 8th, 2014|General, life|0 Comments

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Here in Northern California it’s still way too hot, but I am determined to enjoy the month of October and all of the events that take place.  Last week I took my children to a pumpkin patch in Petaluma and they had the best time.  They were able to milk a cow, pet the baby calves, go through a maze, play in a corn sandbox and eat some farm-made pumpkin ice cream!  Here’s a list of farms in the Roseville, Rocklin and Loomis if you live out that way.

Below is this year’s Macaroni Kid Roseville-Rocklin-Lincoln guide to the BEST Pumpkin Patches nearby! These patches will leave you with a memorable experience. Check back in frequently because we’ll be adding more pumpkin patches.

And, be sure to check out our GUIDE TO THE BEST KID-FRIENDLY HALLOWEEN EVENTS IN ROSEVILLE, ROCKLIN & LINCOLN, which will be published in next week’s newsletter!

Best Pumpkin Patches in Placer County, Sacramento County and El Dorado County:

‘The Flower Farm’ in Loomis, CA – Pumpkin picking starts mid-October

Not only is this place super cute for little kids, but it’s AWESOME for parents who love a bit of beauty while sipping wine. Let your kids run wild in this small, country pumpkin patch and then meander over to Le Casque Winery, which is on the same property, for a wine tasting. Or, fill your belly with a small meal or coffee at the Flower Farm Café, which is also on the grounds. The Flower Farm sits on a beautiful piece of land in Loomis. This patch won’t give you the petting zoos, corn mazes or face painting experiences, but it will soothe your soul.

Address: 9280 Horseshoe Bar Road, Loomis, CA. 95650

Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland, CA – Sept. 20th through November 2nd

If you haven’t been there yet, you’ll need to take the drive to Bishop’s Pumpkin Patch at least once to experience the Halloween craze as you’ve never experienced it before. This is a traditional pumpkin patch on mega vitamins and your kids will LOVE it!! As with many patches, your child will be able to pick from a variety of sizes in an extensive and scenic pumpkin field. But unlike others, you can take a hay ride out to one of the pumpkin fields for a more entertaining hunt that’s worth the ride. This farm also has pumpkins that are bigger than small children. It’s amazing. In addition to the pumpkins, the farm offers fun pony rides with cute photo opportunities, a cool miniature train ride around the property, yummy food from a food stand that looks like a barn, a corn maze, sunflower maze slides and much more! It’s worth the drive and your children will never want to leave. This may become a family tradition.

Address: 1415 Pumpkin Lane, Wheatland, CA 95692

Horton Iris Garden in Loomis, Ca – Open Weekends in October from 9 – 5 PM

During the weekends in October, this quaint iris garden and farm is open to the general public for pumpkin picking. It’s set in the middle of Loomis in nature, and will bring you back to the days when picking pumpkins outdoors was simple, but still fun. Chickens and goats run around the farm, which are sure to be a hit with your kids.

Address: 7440 King Road, Loomis, ca 95650

For more information visit: http://www.hortonirisgarden.com/events/

Fog Willow Farms in Wilton, CA– October 1st – October 31st

This charming pumpkin farm is only open to the general public during October. It offers hundreds of pumpkins to pick from in a patch, pony rides, hay rides, a petting zoo, a picnic area with shade and a shack that sells sweet treats such as pies, fudge and candy. There are said to be over 100 farm animals at Fog Willow Farms, which makes this a great excursion for children. And last but not least, Fog Willow Farms has opened a new experience for families – mining! This pumpkin farm is a short drive from Old Town Elk Grove.

Address: Fog Willow Farms, 11011 Cecatra Drive, Wilton CA 95693

Poppy Lane Christmas Tree Farm and Pumpkin Patch in Auburn, CA

This pumpkin patch, located in Auburn, CA, will bring an hour or two of fun to your children and family. You can pick pumpkins from a traditional pumpkin patch and then play in the bounce houses, take a tractor ride, be a cowgirl or cowboy on a pony ride (available on weekends only) and jump over haystacks.

Address: 12110 Poppy Lane, Auburn, CA 95602

For more information visit: http://www.poppylanechristmasfarm.com/pumpkin_patch_services

Impossible Acres in Davis, CA – October 1st – October 31st

Impossible Acres is an actual farm that grows produce and sells to local stores. During October, the small family-owned farm opens its grounds to invite locals to pick pumpkins. The pumpkin patch is located by ‘Grandpa’s Barn,’ and while finding the right pumpkin, you’ll get a view of the expansive farm land for miles. If you’re looking for a more quiet experience, and you’ll be out near Davis anyways, this may be a good pick.

Address: Grandpa’s Barn is located on the corner of Road 31 and Road 98 in Davis, CA.

For more information and pictures visit: http://www.impossibleacres.com/index.php?pg=home
The Pumpkin Farm, Citrus Heights – October 3rd – October 31st

This nearby pumpkin farm in Citrus Heights offers a variety of activities for kids including a haunted barn, corn maze, farm zoo, train and a HUGE pumpkin patch! It’s a family favorite and if you’re looking for one just a short drive away, this is the place for you.

Address: 7736 Old Auburn Rd., Citrus Heights, CA 95610

Pick from one of Apple Hill Farm’s pumpkin patches – October 1 – October 31st

Going out to Apple Hill to pick apples and pumpkins during the Fall is a family tradition for many in the area, and its breathtaking views are worth the drive. This stretch of land called Apple Hill Farms winds between forest-covered hills and will make you feel like you’ve escaped to nature. Apple Hills offers a number of different farms to choose from (make sure you research and choose one that grows pumpkins and lets you pick them). If you do decide to make this a tradition, start early, as traffic can be grisly in the hills during the Fall, when everyone wants to escape to the foothills and Sierras for a day trip. This is a must-do at least once! Following is a link to the main website, where you can find information which farms offer pumpkin picking: http://www.applehill.com/apple-hill-growers/pumpkins/

Address: There are dozens of farms in ‘Apple Hill’ in Camino and El Dorado County. Check with each specific farm for directions.

7Oct2014

Non Scary Halloween Movies for Kids

By |October 7th, 2014|Disney News and Events, life|0 Comments

As a mom, I try to make the holidays in our house as memorable as possible.  One family tradition for us is to watch age appropriate Halloween movies together starting the beginning of October up until Halloween.  Depending on your children’s ages, these are some of our family’s favorites that we have watched throughout the years.

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1.  The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Dreamed up by Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas tells the story of Jack Skellington—the “King of Halloween”—who, tired with staging Halloween festivities year after year, finds a door to Christmas Town and decides to try his hand at that holiday, instead. We dare you not to have the songs from this musical flick stuck in your head for days after watching. “This is Halloween” should be the unofficial theme song of October! Best of all, it also makes a great Christmas movie.

Recommended Age: 7 and Up

 

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2.  Coraline (1993)

Based on Neil Gaiman’s popular “children’s horror” novel, Coraline is in many ways similar to Alice in Wonderland—only creepier. Unhappy about relocating to a new house and leaving all her friends behind, the gutsy heroine discovers a door to an alternative world. There she finds attentive, doting versions of her real parents and other exciting wonders. But this new world is more dangerous than it seems and Coraline must find a way to rescue her family and herself.

Recommended Age: 9 and Up

 

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3.  Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005)

Based on Neil Gaiman’s popular “children’s horror” novel, Coraline is in many ways similar to Alice in Wonderland—only creepier. Unhappy about relocating to a new house and leaving all her friends behind, the gutsy heroine discovers a door to an alternative world. There she finds attentive, doting versions of her real parents and other exciting wonders. But this new world is more dangerous than it seems and Coraline must find a way to rescue her family and herself.

Recommended Age: 9 and Up

 

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4.  Harry Potter  (Family Favorite)

Based on Neil Gaiman’s popular “children’s horror” novel, Coraline is in many ways similar to Alice in Wonderland—only creepier. Unhappy about relocating to a new house and leaving all her friends behind, the gutsy heroine discovers a door to an alternative world. There she finds attentive, doting versions of her real parents and other exciting wonders. But this new world is more dangerous than it seems and Coraline must find a way to rescue her family and herself.

Recommended Age: 9 and Up

 

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5.  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)

Talk about an oldie that’s definitely a goodie! This short classic tells the story of a stuffy schoolteacher who tries to win the love of the prettiest girl in town with his act of bravery. Whereas many films based on the Headless Horseman story are quite gruesome, this one is mild enough for a kindergartener.

Recommended Age: 6 and Up

 

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6.  It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

What is a Halloween without the Great Pumpkin? Linus’ optimistic wait in the pumpkin patch is a staple of the season. Plus, there are other fun, festive antics like trick-or-treating, apple bobbing and Snoopy taking his costume a little too seriously.

Recommended Age: 4 and Up

 

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7.  Hocus Pocus (1993)

A boy who is charged with keeping an eye on his nosy little sister on Halloween night accidentally unleashes the Sanderson Sisters—three witches from the Salem witch trials that suck the youth from little girls. Best part of the movie? The Sisters performing “I put a spell on you” at a Halloween party, hands down!

Recommended Age: 11 and Up

 

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8.  Corpse Bride (2005)

This is another gem from Tim Burton’s twisted imagination. Victor, a nervous and clumsy young man, accidentally marries a dead bride. He is taken to the Land of the Dead and must somehow escape in order to be reunited with his true fiancée in time for their wedding.

Recommended Age: 10 and Up

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9.  Beetlejuice (1988)

A newly-dead husband and wife discover that a family of the living has moved into their house, so they hire a crude “bio-exorcist” to scare them off. The friendship between the deceased couple and Lydia—the epitome of a neglected and gloomy teenager—is heart-warming and the rockin’ 80’s styling will give you a good chuckle. But really…Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Do we need to say more?

Recommended Age: 9 and Up

 

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10.  Casper (1995)

The iconic cartoon character stars in this sweet film. Poor Casper has always struggled with being lonely and when he finally finds a friend, he tries to bring himself back to life. But things do not go according to plan. At its heart, this is a tender ghost-meets-girl story. And Casper whispering “can I keep you” never fails to make us tear up!

Recommended Age: 6 and Up

 

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11.  Halloweentown (1998)  (Our Family’s Favorite)

Marnie Piper has always been obsessed with Halloween, much to her mother’s despair. But it turns out there is something her mom is keeping from her—she’s a witch! When grandmother Aggie arrives for her annual Halloween visit, Marnie follows her to a strange place called Halloweentown. This installment is the first of a magical trilogy—the two sequels will be better appreciated by kids 8 and up.

Recommended Age: 7 and Up

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12.  Gremlins (1984)

Gremlins (or, okay, Mogwai) are the original Furbies. Thankfully, Furby never multiplied after getting wet or turned into a trouble-causing reptile. While the film doesn’t revolve around Halloween, watching these little monsters cause chaos is totally in the spirit of this trick-or-treating holiday.

Recommended Age: 9 and Up

 

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13.  Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

This Disney classic is what Mary Poppins would be if it had witches, wizards and magic bedknobs that make your bed fly. The theme involves World War II and Nazi invasions, but is handled with kid gloves. Bonus points if your kiddo starts using “bedknobs” in regular conversation!

Recommended Age: 7 and Up

 

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14.  Halloween is Grinch Night (1977)

Is How the Grinch Stole Christmas a Christmas go-to in your house? Then your family will love this lesser-known, Halloween-themed prequel. The Emmy Award-winning cartoon is filled with the same Grinch antics we loved in the original, with just enough holiday-appropriate spook to keep young children entertained.

Recommended Age: 4 and Up

 

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15.  The Worst Witch (1986)

Before Harry Potter got his scar, there was Mildred Hubble. And while fame and fortune come easily to Harry, Mildred struggles with being the worst student at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. This sweet movie about a triumphant underdog will entertain kiddos who may be too young for Hogwarts adventures. Plus, Tim Curry makes a campy (and musical) appearance as the hunkiest warlock around!

Recommended Age: 6 and up

 

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16.  The Witches (1990)

While visiting the seaside with his grandmother, Luke stumbles upon a convention of witches who are hatching a plan to exterminate children. He must find a way to stop them—a task that seems infinitely harder once he is turned into a mouse. The witches are scary enough to give us a fright—especially when they peel off their human costumes.

Recommended Age: 8 and Up

 

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17.  Labyrinth (1986)

Dealing with sibling rivalry? Labyrinth is a must-watch for anyone who has ever felt fed-up with a younger sib. When Sarah wishes that Goblins would take her baby brother, the King of the Goblins comes and whisks the boy away to a Labyrinth. Sarah must venture inside and solve it within thirteen hours to get her little brother back. Filled with fantastical Jim Henson puppets, this movie has magic enough to enchant the kiddos. Plus, David Bowie is perfect as the brooding, discontent Jareth.

Recommended Age: 8 and Up

 

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18. Young Frankenstein (1974)  (Mom’s Favorite)

Mel Brooks directed this wacky comedy about Doctor Frankenstein’s grandson who follows in his mad scientist footsteps. The slapstick comedy and juvenile gags will draw kids in. The film is a fun parody of classic horror movies, so if your children are always begging to stay up and watch the scarier stuff with you—this is a good compromise.

Recommended Age: 10 and Up

6Oct2014

Organizing Halloween Decor

By |October 6th, 2014|Holidays|0 Comments

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With Halloween being one of my family’s favorite holidays, my kids and I will start pulling out the decorations the first week in October.  We decorate everywhere–inside, outside, you name it.   As my kids start getting older, I really do my best to make the most of the holidays because time is fleeting.    However, the holidays as we all know can be stressful on us as working parents, so being organized is very important to me because I  have a limited amount of time and energy.  I have also accumulated a lot of props and have spent a small fortune on everything, so it behooves me to take care of everything as well as being organized.  I am therefore really careful as to how I store my items.   Here are some storage tips that I have practiced over the years that will help make your process as stress free as possible when taking out and putting things away for the holiday season.

Designate a place.

I promise you that by having a specific location for your decorations will make your life easier!  It will also make the cleanup process much simpler.     Knowing where your containers and items are and having easy access to them will save you time and energy.  Whether you store your items on shelves in the garage or in storage containers on the side of your house, you need to have a place for them.

 

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Storage Bins:

Depending on the items, I use lots of storage bins. Sturdy plastic bins will help keep your Halloween decorations in excellent shape year after year. I prefer using clear storage bins of all sizes from Target so I can see what’s in them.

 Labels:

As with my Christmas items, I find that when I label the boxes it’s much easier for me because I may not want to use certain items each year.  Label the storage bins on both sides to help make identification quicker.

 

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Filling Bins:

When filling your bins, put similar decorations together. Ex. Store all your skeleton decorations in one box, your bats in another, and your ghostly items in still another box. By keeping similar items with each other, you will be able to quickly find what you are looking for in the future , even if you forget to label the exterior of the box.

Storage:

Remember to place the heavier boxes and storage bins on the bottom of your storage area. Placing heavy items can destroy fragile ornaments. Keep the items that you will be using earlier in the Halloween season near the front of your “Halloween Storage” area. That way you can quickly and easily access what you need without any major fuss.  If you can, hang all wreaths and hanging ghouls or lay them in a flat box.  Tombstones can can be placed on shelves.

Discard:  

I’m a purger by nature so I am constantly weeding through items. If you feel that you no longer will be using a particular Halloween decoration, then get rid of it–especially if you have a limited amount of space like I do.. You can either give your props away or sell them.  This year after having the same theme for many years, I plan on wiping the slate clean and selling the majority of my items.

Drying Items Out:

 Lastly, when you’re finished using your outdoor items, remember to dry everything out thoroughly before storing them away because mold will grow.  I usually lay items out in the sun for a day and dry them with a cloth before packing them away.

 

 

 

 

 

4Oct2014

Best Bay Area Pumpkin Patches

By |October 4th, 2014|Holidays, life|0 Comments

Happy October everyone!  Once October rolls around, my family kicks into full Fall mode.  Here in northern California we are experiencing our usual Indian Summer, so it doesn’t quite feel like Fall yet.  However, with heat and all we still plan on making the most of the entire month. Today my kids are requesting a visit to a local pumpkin patch for some pumpkins , cider and Fall fun.

This is from the Marin Mommie’s Blog.

Marin and Sonoma Pumpkin Patches:
Fall is in the air, which means Halloween is just around the corner and local pumpkin patches will soon be open! For those seeking that true Halloween pumpkin patch experience, we present our annual guide to pumpkin patches in Marin and southern Sonoma counties.

In Marin County, Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers that on-the-farm experience and the Godmother’s Pumpkin Patch at St. Vincent’s offer an exciting Halloween experience for families. For more real live farms offering pumpkin patches this season, head up north a short distance to rural Sonoma County, where you’ll find them in relative abundance.

We visited as many of these pumpkin patches as we could last year, and have posted links to our reviews of them below. We’ll make an effort to visit again this year, and we’ll add our updated reviews when they’re written. We’re sad to report that one of our favorite fall destinations, Peterson’s Farm in Petaluma, is no longer hosting its Halloween pumpkin patch, although they are open for school fields trips to learn about beekeeping and farm life.

We’ve included dates and hours for pumpkin patches when available. Hours are correct as of the time of publishing, but keep in mind that things can change, so it’s a good idea to check a pumpkin patch’s website or give them a call before you go. Many activities and special events take place on weekends only, too. Some pumpkin patches may close during rainy weather as well.

As a rule, most pumpkin patches are open during the whole month of October, although a few open in late September and some run through early November. Admission to pumpkin patches is free unless otherwise noted.

If you’re looking for pumpkin patches and Halloween fun elsewhere in the Bay Area and Northern California, check out our list here.

Marin County
Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch
(Lafranchi Pumpkin Patch)
5300 Nicasio Valley Road (1/4 mile north of Nicasio square)
Nicasio 94946
(415) 662-9100
www.nicasiovalleyfarms.com
Open daily October 1–31,10 am–6 pm

The Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, winner of our 2013 Marin Mommies Pumpkin Patch Poll, offers certified organic pumpkins as well as countless attractions including hay rides, farm animals, pony rides, mechanical bulls, a bounce house and giant inflatable slide, a farm stand, Big Jim’s award-winning BBQ and ice cream for sale on the weekends, and more. Popular children’s recording artist Tim Cain performs every Sunday (October 5, 12, 19, and 26) from 11 am to noon. Six-piece Western band Manzanita Moon performs Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 12:30 to 4:30 pm. Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) Day takes place Sunday October 19 from 10 am–4 pm with kids’ games and crafts, farm animals, grass-fed burgers from Stemple Creek Ranch, local Marin beer and wine, educational exhibits, and more. Read our review of Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch.
Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin PatchMcClelland’s Dairy Pumpkin Patch

Organic Pumpkin Patch at Marin Country Mart
2257 Larkspur Landing Circle
Larkspur 94939
(415) 461-5715
marincountrymart.com
Open starting September 26, all day every day

Organic heirloom pumpkins from Marin’s Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas will be available at the Marin Country Mart Pumpkin Patch beginning September 26. There are two pumpkin patch locations, one in front of Three Twins Ice Cream, and the second at the farmers market and near the Marin Country Mart Trading Post and post office. Choose from traditional Howden jack-o-lanterns for carving and Cinderella pumpkins, which are great for carving but also delicious for eating. This is an honor system pumpkin patch: there is a payment box at the patch, and prices are set as a flat rate by size, small ($10), medium ($15), large ($20). Plus, the pumpkin patch will have two giant pumpkins on display, each weighing in at several hundred pounds each!
Godmothers of Timothy Murphy School Pumpkin Patch
St. Vincent’s Field, at the Marinwood/St. Vincent’s exit off Hwy 101
San Rafael 94903
(415) 785-3264
www.godmothers.org
Open Wednesday–Sunday, October 5–27, 10 am–5 pm

This long-time favorite pumpkin patch at St. Vincent’s near Marinwood offers a variety of pumpkins as well as attractions and activities like bounce houses, a hay pile, face painting, snack shack, and a picnic area. Groups welcome. Read our review of St. Vincent’s Pumpkin Patch.
Ian’s Pumpkin Patch at Bon Air Center
Bon Aire Shopping Center, Sir Francis Drake Blvd
Greenbrae 94904

Shopping center pumpkin patch with bounce house and slide.
Ian’s Lazy Days Pumpkin Patch
690 Redwood Highway (at Terra Kids Outdoor play structures site)
Mill Valley 94941

A pumpkin patch with bounce houses and play structures. Off Highway 101.
Kevin’s Strawberry Villa Pumpkin Patch
100 Shoreline Highway
Mill Valley 94941

A pumpkin patch with bounce houses and inflatable space shuttle slide. Right off 101 near the Highway 1 exit.
Sonoma County
McClelland’s Dairy Pumpkin Patch
6475 Bodega Avenue
Petaluma 94952
(707) 664-0452
www.mcclellandsdairy.com
Saturdays and Sundays in October, 10 am–5 pm

Find the perfect pumpkin in McClelland’s three-acre organic pumpkin field. Pick your pumpkins straight from the vine. Pumpkins range from mini to giant in size. Free admission includes pumpkin patch, petting farm animals (including cows, goats, and chickens), and watching cows being milked in the parlor. There’s also a hay maze, kids’ haunted hay house, hay rides, bounce houses, and u-pick squash, as well as a farm store selling products like free-range eggs from the farm’s chickens, ice cream and butter from their cows, lavender, and vegetables. There will also be a food cart serving organic grilled cheese sandwiches, organic milkshakes, organic popcorn, and espresso drinks. Don’t miss the “Photo Spot”—the perfect place for a family photo shoot. School tours are available during the week. Read our review here.
Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze
550 Stony Point Rd 94952
Petaluma
www.petalumapumpkinpatch.com
September 27–November 1
Sunday–Thursday, 10 am–6 pm
Friday and Saturday, 10 am–10 pm

This is the big pumpkin patch you see off of Highway 101 on your way out of Petaluma. Over 50 varieties of pumpkins, squash, and gourds, as well as a 4-acre Amazing Corn Maze with second-story viewing platforms (admission $5, 5 and under free; $9 on Friday and Saturday nights 6–10 pm), a little kids’ maze, a huge mountain of straw bales to climb, farm animals, rubber duck races, a corn-kernel “sandbox”, a zip line, weekend pony rides, face painting, jumpy houses and inflatables, food vendors, covered snack area, school tours. Special events include 4H bake sales, face painting, and more. Read about our visit to Petaluma Pumpkin Patch.
The Great Peter Pumpkin Patch at Spring Hill Jersey FarmPetaluma Pumpkin Patch

Great Peter Pumpkin Patch at Spring Hill Jersey Farm
4235 Spring Hill Rd (off Bodega Ave)
Petaluma 94952
(707) 762-3446
www.springhillcheese.com
Open daily September 27–October 31, 9 am–dusk

Another one of our all-time favorite pumpkin patches. Pick your own pumpkin, dig for potatoes, take a tractor ride, visit farm animals, taste homemade ice cream and Spring Hill cheese, milk a cow, and get lost in the hay maze. Peter Pumpkin Patch also ofers fresh fruits and vegetables, picnic baskets, and live music on weekends. School field trips available Monday–Friday during October. This is a wonderful and fun pumpkin patch on a real working farm. Don’t miss the homemade pumpkin ice cream! Read our review of the Great Peter Pumpkin Patch.

Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch
5157 Stony Point Road (at Rohnert Park Expressway)
Santa Rosa
(707) 331-6653
santarosapumpkinpatch.com
Open daily starting September 27, Sunday–Thursday 9 am–7 pm, Friday and Saturday 9 am–10 pm

Winner of our 2012 Pumpkin Patch Poll, and 2013 runner up, the Patch offers eight acres of pumpkins, a huge eight-acre corn maze ($6 admission), kiddy corn mazes, hay and sunflower mazes, jack-o-lantern tether ball, tire swings, a 10-bale-high hay pyramid, a huge jumpy pillow, pedal tractor races, a corn play box, a petting zoo, face painting, children’s entertainers, pony rides ($6; weekends only), hay rides, yummy treats and food, birthday parties, field trips, group tours, and more. Purchase acitivity wristbands for unlimited access to attractions for $2 or $10. ($10 wristband includes unlimited access to jumpy pillow, silde, and petting zoo.) Read our review of Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch.
Tolay Fall Festival
Tolay Lake Regional Park
Lakeville Highway at Cannon Lane
Petaluma 94954
(707) 565-2041
www.sonoma-county.org/parks/pk_tolay_fallfestival.htm
October 11–12 and 18–19
11 am–5 pm Saturday and Sunday

The 8th annual Tolay Fall Festival takes place over two long weekends in October at the site of the old Cardoza Ranch off Lakeville Highway, which was famous for its pumpkin patch. In addition to pumpkins and fall decorative items for sale, activities include a Native American village, the Nighttime Creatures Barn with Creepy Crawly Critters Room, nature hikes, a giant straw maze, a hands-on children’s area and kiddie corral, and tractor-drawn hay rides out to the pumpkin patch. Pumpkin prices are a bargain here, compard to other area pumpkin patches.

Festival admission is $4 for adults and teens ages 13 and up, $1 for children 12 and under; parking is $7 per car or free with a Sonoma County Regional Parks Parks membership. School field trips may be scheduled on October 9–10 and 15–17 from 9 am–3 pm.
Read our review of the Tolay Fall Festival.

Related Articles:
Family Halloween Events & Fall Festivals in Marin & the Bay Area
Our Favorite Halloween Books for Kids
Pumpkin Patches Further Afield
A Visit to Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch
The Great Peter Pumpkin Patch at Spring Hill Farm in Petaluma
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28Sep2014

How to Plan a Fairytale Princess party (ages 4-6)

By |September 28th, 2014|Birthday Party Ideas and Tips|4 Comments


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Prior to starting The Cinderella Co, I use to host children’s birthday parties throughout the SF Bay area.  Although I absolutely love what I do now, there are times I really wish I was still planning events.  I miss the energy and creativity of organizing and being on site.  Since I’m  no longer doing that anymore, I can share with you some party planning tips.  If your child is between the ages of 4-6, this is a perfect time to have a Princess themed event.  As I mentioned in a previous post, early planning is always wise.  You want to have an organized plan of how your party will be.  Depending on your budget, you can spend as much or as little as want.  Here are some simple and reasonably priced ideas that I recommend.

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Guest list:  I am a firm believer of keeping things to a minimum.  I am always going to favor inviting 12 or less children for this age group.  If that is too small of a number, I recommend 15 or less.  One way to keep the numbers lower is by inviting mainly girls and not extending the invite to the boys in the class.   Granted, there will always be close friends of the opposite sex who you may want to include.

 

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Invitations: The early bird gets the worm.  As your kids start kindergarten, try to get your invitations out at least 3 weeks prior. Be sure to check your child’s soccer and school schedules to make sure nothing else interferes with the date beforehand. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from mom’s while taking bookings for The Cinderella Co, that another child is having a party on the same day or there’s a soccer match taking place and they need to reschedule.  You can either purchase fill-ins, make your own or have them professionally printed.

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Entertainment:  If you are hiring a character company to come in and to entertain, please don’t procrastinate about this.  You also want book the entertainment before you order invitations and have them printed.  Choose a Princess theme.

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Decor:  This is where the fun starts.  Start by choosing your color scheme.  Soft pinks and golds, greens, etc. Balloons, crepe paper, fabric banners, tissue paper, tulle, ribbon, fresh and faux flowers are all ways to help decorate. You can rent juvenile table and chairs for this younger age group that are reasonably priced. Most rental companies have the long rectangular tables, but for smaller parties I prefer using round tables for a tea party theme.  You can check to see if they carry those. Most of the companies have the ugly plastic chairs that I cannot stand, see if they have white wooden folding chairs. They are so much more attractive and will cost a little more. Depending on budget, you can rent cloth table linens.  You can either rent an inexpensive white drape that goes to the floor with a colored overlay or a premium drape that goes all the way to the floor. You can swag the fabric if you like and use ribbon and flowers to decorate. I always like decorating the chairs with with ribbon, tulle and flowers.

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Table settings: You can either pull out your fine china or purchase good looking paper products. If using your china, I never had a problem with breakage with small children. Centerpieces can either be fresh flowers or anything theme related that you find. You can accent with pretty confetti, gems or anything you find.

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Craft Table: Kids love making crafts. You can use a matching disposable liner.
You can go as simple or as elaborate as you like.  You can do almost anything from make fabulous crowns to assembling wands and decorating mirrors.

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Activities: Games are dependent on the age group. Organized games such as Pin the Tail,  Pass the Glass Slipper, having photo booth are all fun.

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Lunch: Kids this age do not eat very long–15 minutes top. Small cut-out tea sandwiches with fresh fruit with dips and veggies are always a hit.

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Dress-up: You may be able to rent costumes from a local event planner. If not, have everyone come in their princess best. Depending on budget, you can purchase inexpensive tutus that will all serve as a take home gift.  You can have a friend or an older teen help with nails, hair and makeovers.

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Cakes: I have to admit you can go crazy with castle and princess style cakes. Just keep in mind those cakes feed an army and are quite pricey. An inexpensive way around this is serving really fabulous cupcakes or a beautifully decorated smaller cake.

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Pinata: Children love pinatas. If you’re not keen on candy, you can fill it with small inexpensive toys from Oriental Trading.  For those who do have a sweet tooth, a candy buffet is always a welcome attraction by children.

27Sep2014

Home-made Chicken Pot Pie

By |September 27th, 2014|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Autumn is my favorite time of year!   As soon as the weather starts to cool, all of my comfort food recipes come out and I start planning meals like crazy.  This is not one of my quick and easy weekday meals, but the recipe makes a lot and the leftovers are great for afternoon snacks for the kids.  My entire family loves when I make these.  I found this recipe awhile back from Laurie McNamara’s Simply Scratch blog.  I’ve made it numerous times.

 

I have some rules when it comes to pot pie making.

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They are as follows…

Rule No. 1: They have to be in individual portions.

Rule No. 2: No “cream of chicken soup” can be used, what-so-ever.

Rule No. 3: There has to be plenty of crust. So much crust you won’t notice that there isn’t a bottom one.

Ya dig?

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To start I poach a couple chicken breasts. It’s real easy, just throw a couple chicken breasts into a glass baking dish and cover them with 3 to 4 cups of boiling water, seal with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Done.

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Then I just transfer them to a cutting board to cool, so I don’t burn my precious fingers. A blogger needs her fingers.

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If I ever have leftover cooked potatoes I would just dice those up, skin-on and all… or if I don’t… then I poach those too. Peel, cover with water and foil and bake in a 400 degree oven until fork tender which is about 30-40 minutes depending on their size.

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While the chicken and potatoes are poaching away in the oven… I get started on a little prep. I heat up 3 cups of chicken broth, bring a cup and a half of whole milk up to room temperature and dice up the veggies and cooked chicken

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Then roll out the homemade pie crust dough. (I choose to use Pillsbury dough to keep things simple)I use a bowl that’s larger than the ramekins so that there’s some overlap-age. Then take a knife to trace and cut out the circle. Quickly pop the dough back into the fridge so they stay cold.

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Now comes the cooking part. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.

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I add the carrots first {since I think they take the longest to soften up} and cook those for about 5 minutes.

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Add the onion and celery

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Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt

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…and a half teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper.

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Once the carrots are soft {but not too soft} I throw in the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter. Yess…. 6 tablespoons.

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When the butter has melted add in the half cup of flour and stir.YIELD: 6 servings PREP TIME: about 1 hour {not including making your own pie crust} COOK TIME: 25-30 minutes TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 30 minutes {give or take}

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Cook the flour, stirring often, for two minutes.

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Then pour in the 3 cups of hot broth and the 1-1/2 cups of whole milk. Simmer until thick… about 5-8 minutes.

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Then throw in a cup of frozen peas…

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…The cubed chicken…

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Measure and add a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme and a tablespoon of dried parsley.

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…OH! and a half cup {or so} of frozen corn. For, you know… color.

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Stir those all together and check to see if it needs more salt. I always end up adding another teaspoon of kosher salt right here.

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Cube up about a cup of the cooked potatoes. I drop them into some {greased} ramekins, so that I don’t stir and lose them in the pot pie filling.

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Pour the filling over the potatoes, filling the ramekins to the brim.

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Ahh yes!

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It’s a good idea to let the filing cool a tad before placing the pie dough over top. If the filling is hella-hot then it will melt the dough. Not cool. Pinch the crust around the rim so it forms a seal.

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With a sharp knife, make a few slits for ventilation… then pop them into a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until they are crisp and golden. I rotate my pan halfway through for even cooking. You could always mix an egg with a tablespoon of water and brush it over top before baking to make the crust glossy and gorgeous!

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Comfort food to the max.  Enjoy
INGREDIENTS:
1 pound Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 stick of Butter, divided
2 whole Carrots, peeled and diced small
2 Celery Stalks, diced small
1 cup Diced Cooked Potatoes
1 medium Yellow Onion, peeled and diced small
1 cup Frozen Peas
1/2 cup Frozen Corn
3 cups Chicken Broth, warmed
1-1/2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Flour
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt, more or less to taste
1/2 teaspoons Black Pepper, more or less to taste
1 tablespoon Dried Parsley
1 teaspoon Chopped Fresh Thyme
1 recipe for Homemade Pie Crust {check my blog for the recipe!}
6 (10-ounce) Ramekins
DIRECTIONS:
TO POACH THE CHICKEN: Place two to three chicken breasts in a glass baking dish. Cover the chicken with 3 to 4 cups of boiling water, seal it all in with aluminum foil and place in a 400 degree oven to cook for 25-35 minutes. Remove the chicken to a cutting board to cool. When cool enough to touch, dice it into bite-size pieces.

TO MAKE THE POT PIES: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease six 10-ounce ramekins with butter or olive oil.

Roll the pie crust out and use a bowl {slightly larger than the ramekin}, trace and cut out 6 circles, using the scraps to make more if needed. Keep the dough circles in the fridge so they stay cold.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven.

Add in the diced carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the diced onion and celery and season with a teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent and the carrots are soft {but not too soft}.

Now add in the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and let that melt. Once melted add in the half cup of flour and stir often while it cooks for 2 minutes.

Pour in the 3 cups of hot chicken broth and the 1-1/2 cups of whole milk. Let that simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened 5-8 minutes.

Next add in the frozen peas, corn, cooked chicken, dried parsley and chopped fresh thyme. Stir. Taste add season further with up to a teaspoon more of salt and a little more black pepper if desired.

Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Evenly divide the diced cooked potatoes into each prepared ramekin.

Spoon the pot pie filling evenly over the potatoes, filling the ramekins to the brim. Let them cool down a bit before placing the pie dough over top and crimping the edges. With a sharp knife make slits for ventilation.

Slide the tray of pot pies into a preheated 375 degree oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Remove and let them cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

26Sep2014

September is Lice Prevention Month!

By |September 26th, 2014|life|0 Comments

 

 

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Okay, so you may be wondering why I bring  this topic up when we are a children’s character company.  When Jennifer and I decided to blog again, we felt it necessary to make our topics much more than children’s party ideas because we also happen to be two working moms running a successful small children’s company.   And as mothers, we do have a wealth of information to share with everyone because we’ve been there.  For me personally, being both a mom and a business owner is such an amazing opportunity, and it has taught me so much that it’s important for me to share bits and pieces of what I have learned along the way.

With the start of the school year, it’s that time of the year when we begin seeing lice outbreaks in the school because children have come back from summer camps.
This is why September has become Head Lice Awareness Month! As a parent, I have had my fair share of dealing with this issue and let me tell you that it is no fun at all. If you suspect that your child has lice or they have indeed been sent home from school with it, you need to be aggressive and proactive about this because if you don’t, you will not get rid of it. My advice is to do your research because there is a ton of information out there.

For those of you unfamiliar with lice, the head louse is a tiny, wingless parasitic insect that lives among human hairs and feeds on tiny amounts of blood drawn from the scalp. Lice (the plural of louse) are a very common problem, especially for kids. They’re contagious, annoying, and often times difficult to get rid of. But while they’re frustrating to deal with, lice aren’t dangerous; they don’t spread disease, although their bites can make a child’s scalp itchy and irritated, and scratching can lead to infection. You really need to treat your children immediately because they will spread quickly and go from person to person.

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Signs of Head Lice:

Although they’re very small, lice can be seen by the naked eye. Here are things to look for:

Lice eggs (called nits). These look like tiny yellow, tan, or brown dots before they hatch. Lice lay nits on hair shafts close to the scalp, where the temperature is perfect for keeping warm until they hatch. Nits look sort of like dandruff, only they can’t be removed by brushing or shaking them off.

Unless the infestation is heavy, it’s more common to see nits in a child’s hair than it is to see live lice crawling on the scalp. Lice eggs hatch within 1 to 2 weeks after they’re laid. After hatching, the remaining shell looks white or clear and stays firmly attached to the hair shaft. This is when it’s easiest to spot them, as the hair is growing longer and the egg shell is moving away from the scalp.

Adult lice and nymphs (baby lice). The adult louse is no bigger than a sesame seed and is grayish-white or tan. Nymphs are smaller and become adult lice about 1 to 2 weeks after they hatch. Most lice feed on blood several times a day, but they can survive up to 2 days off the scalp.

Scratching. With lice bites come itching and scratching. This is actually due to a reaction to the saliva of lice. However, the itching may not always start right away — that depends on how sensitive a child’s skin is to the lice. It can sometimes take weeks for kids with lice to start scratching. They may complain, though, of things moving around on or tickling their heads.

 

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Remedy:

You have a decision to make if your child has lice. You can either take her to a lice removal salon or deal with it yourself. I highly recommend taking them to the professionals because they are thorough and so worth it!!!! They also tend to use non toxic treatments which I prefer. If your child has a lot of hair, I definitely recommend the professionals because nit removal is very time consuming and tedious.

Treatments: If dealing with lice on your own, there are different treatments on the market. One of the toxic treatments is Rid and a non toxic brand is is Lice Be Gone. You can also use other home remedies like wrapping the hair in shower cap for 24 hours with a non toxic solution on it.. I have used it all. The toxic without a doubt will kill the live lice and you will visually see them fall off in the sink, but you have to be real careful with using this on your child. No matter what you decide to use, the real key is going through your child’s hair on a daily basis! For me, the best place of treating my kids was outside in the natural sun light. I would go through their hair at least twice a day.

Live lice:
You really need to talk with your child about this process because it’s no fun. They do need to be able to sit for a substantial amount of time while you do this. After treating them I would blow dry their hair because I feel that the heat helps finish the lice off.  The hair drying will  also part your child’s hair giving you a better visual of their scalp. While outside, part the hair in small sections. They key is small sections. You literally have to take small strands in your hands. These blood suckers are tiny and quick. Once you find them pull them out immediately. This needs to be done daily!!!!

Eggs:

In addition to live lice you also have to deal with the eggs! This the glue-like dot you find on the shaft. As you run your fingers down a piece of hair, you can easily feel it. Pull them out!!!!! If not, they will hatch in about 7-13 days and the whole mess will start all over again.

Clean Bedding & Clothing:

Make sure you throw your kids clothes in the wash. I also recommend cleaning the bedding. For blankets and pillows, you can put on high heat in the dryer for at least 20 minutes. You can bag decorative pillows. You want to bag them for a certain period of time though in case they lay eggs. Live lice can only survive up to a few days without a human host to feed on.

Advice for Mom:  Pour yourself a drink and just set your mind to doing this.  If a classmate is also sent home, invite mom and child over and you can go through the process together.

How to prevent acquiring lice:

1. Contain your hair. Those with long hair should where their hair in a braid or bun. This will lesson the chance your hair will come in contact with someone’s hair that has lice. 99% of lice is spread through direct head to head contact.

2. Do not share brushes, hats or hair accessories. Although less common, lice can be transmitted through sharing head wear and accessories.

3. Limit sleepovers or playdates during this time.

4.  Follow-up.  This is not a treat once type of deal.  You have to be following up on this to make sure that it finished.  The other concern that you will have are the parents who are not doing their due diligence .  If their child keeps coming back to school with it, chances are your son or daughter can be reinfected.

25Sep2014

How Yelp Really Works

By |September 25th, 2014|General, life|5 Comments

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A few weeks back, I posted a blog entry stating that you should always do your research on a company before booking with them.  Just because a company comes up first in the search engine or has a good looking site, doesn’t mean they are the best choice for you.  My recommendation was to seek referrals from friends first and to then use Yelp.  I am by no means a fan of Yelp, but they are the main review company around. With that said, I feel it’s important to give you some insight as to how Yelp really works.

Jennifer and I have been in business for almost 7 years now.  During this time, we have had one very long drawn out battle with Yelp.  Soon after starting The Cinderella Company, we began to notice that our clients were leaving us Yelp reviews.  At the time, Yelp was fairly new and we were not too familiar with how they worked, but we were very excited about our reviews and loved being on there. However at some point soon afterwards, we began to also notice that our reviews were suddenly disappearing.  One day they were there and the next day they were gone.  Each day another review would bite the dust. I would then respond by saying, “it was just there”, “where did it go?”, “what’s going on???”  At one point, we had gone from 35 reviews down to three in a matter of a week or two. Jennifer and I were not only frustrated, but upset and very angry. As I write this, one of our latest reviews that was posted yesterday morning for my performer Ashleigh, was removed last night.

The way that Yelp works is like this.  Unless you have established a history with Yelp by creating an account, making friends in the Yelp community, logging into your account on a regular basis, leaving and reading reviews, your posted reviews will immediately get filtered out and end up in what is called the Yelp filter. The Yelp filter is a holding pen for reviews by reviewers who or are not considered “trustworthy”.  As a consumer, I love leaving reviews.  After traveling, I always leave reviews for the hotels, restaurants and attractions that I visit with Tripadvisor. I happen to be one of those people who spends a lot of time researching places to stay, so I just want to be able to share informative feedback with others. If I were to leave those same reviews on Yelp, they would never get posted because I’m not a daily Yelper.  It’s even more frustrating if you try to contact Yelp personally, because they’re not exactly the easiest to get in touch with.  I’m not sure if they accept phone calls and there is no email information that is easy to find on their site.

As a consumer and business owner, I can appreciate what Yelp is trying to do but they have a major flaw to address. If you talk with a Yelp rep, they will say they have an algorithm that is responsible for filtering out certain reviews; these reviews can be good or bad. As far as I’m concerned, their system is in need of some major tweaking because I have watched as savvy business owners have learned to work the system by simply having Yelping friends leave them 5 star reviews instead and clicking onto the comment boxes multiple times. The reason that I state this fact is because Jennifer and I have worked long and hard for what we have. To date we have 67 public reviews and 84 filtered. In the past, Yelp would not allow those filtered reviews to be seen by the public, but after much resistance from small businesses, those filtered reviews can be seen by all. All one needs to do is to scroll down to the last public review and click on filtered reviews. Those filtered reviews are important because they can be both negative and positive. So if I am a consumer researching a company and they have a 4 star rating, but they have bunch of 1 star filtered reviews, I want to know that. With all of this said, when viewing Yelp reviews for any company, take the reviews with a grain of salt because no system is perfect.