Sunday, June 30, 2019

PB&J Parenthood: 18 Months!

One and a half years old.
We're officially halfway through year two! Read on to hear more about making it through 18 months of being parents to this amazing little guy!

Half way to year 2
Can you believe it? We'll halfway through year two already! Time always feels like it's flying by in the blink of an eye. But this month was different. We're at the momentous half way point through year two and  it definitely feels a little surreal. As a mama, I've spent every single day, 547 to be exact, with my Ben. There's been so many magical moments, laughs, tears, tantrums, oopsies, poopsies, milestones and more. Each day he seems to learn something new and let his silly personality shine through. He really does grow up right before our eyes, but for some reason in month 18, the realization that Ben was no longer our little baby hit us more than before.

Magic, new heights and a Galaxy far, far away
Another month, another Disneyland visit! We made our way back to our happiest place to visit a galaxy far, far away. We had reservations to check out the brand new land of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge over at Disneyland. It was definitely quite the galactic adventure. You can read all about our trek to the new land of Batuu HERE.
This trip special for us as a family because Ben had achieved a Disney milestone: clearing his first attraction height requirement! Our baby boy has definitely grown because he reached 32" and can now ride a new tier of attractions. Realizing that our little guy isn't so little anymore (literally) was a big moment for us as his parents. With each Disney trip we've seen Ben grow in some way, whether it be learning how to wobbly walk, interacting with characters, and now with being tall enough to ride more rides!

Father's Day
Fresh off clearing his new height limits, we rounded the corner into another memorable day, Father's Day. This was our second year getting to celebrate PB as a dad. While our celebration was kept low key, much like the "dada" himself, it was still special nonetheless. Our little family is so thankful to get to celebrate the little occasions like these days. Some may see this day as a "Hallmark holiday" but for us? It means the world because we get to finally celebrate being a parent to our little miracle baby.

547 Days
We now have 547 days of parenthood under our belts and this was the month that it truly felt like our Ben was no longer our little baby. We caught ourselves so many times thinking out loud or saying "you're such a big boy now!". In our hearts, he'll always be our "baby" but in reality we're seeing Ben grow into such a little boy now. Ben recently had a majority of his remaining baby teeth push through, so he's sporting a new set of baby teeth. Long gone are the days of the gummy smiles, but now it's an expressive cheery toothed grin. 
Ben's walking has quickly turned into sprinting around the house and his physical ability has gone up tenfold. His nickname by his grandma is "baby Hercules" because he can climb, push, move and pretty much achieve anything physically he's put his mind to! He's our little strongman now.
Ben has also grown immensely when it's come to communicating with us. His random babbles are starting to become more structured, almost like he's trying to make conversation with us. He's imitating our words and is now a certified pro at making vehicle and airplane sounds. 
As a mom, it's been really bittersweet this month. Looking into Ben's eyes I still see the tiny baby what was placed in front of me in the delivery room. But then realize there's a toddler/big boy standing in front of me. It's hard to explain, but I'm sure any mama out there reading this can agree, that it's the strangest feeling. There's so much pride with the accomplishments achieved is far. There's also so much excitement in looking ahead for all the new memories to be made. But there's also a tiny bit of sadness when you realize that he's growing up (too fast). There's been a lot more mama bear hugs given, along with cuddles for Ben. Each hug holding on a little tightener than the last. Every single second of this beautiful adventure of motherhood is precious and you can bet this mama isn't taking any of it for granted.

Onto the next half!
While the squishy baby days may be long gone, we're looking ahead to all the fun and new milestones this toddler/parent life has ahead. One half of year two down, another half to go! Here's to all the adventures on the horizon!💜

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Pixar kind of Day

You know it's going to be a good day when it begins at Pixar Animation Studios!
A place filled with awe inspiring wonder and creativity, that's the only way to describe a visit to the famed Pixar Animation Studios. Read on for a magical glimpse inside such an iconic institution.

In the heart of the Bay
Sunny SoCal might be home to the happiest place on Earth. But nestled right here in the Bay Area is our own hidden place of magic: Pixar! Literally right in our backyard is the famed animation studios located in the heart of Emeryville, CA. From first appearances, you wouldn't even know an animation powerhouse is near by until you drive down a little side street and are greeted by the giant "PIXAR" sign out front.
Gorgeous interiors and magic await behind the PIXAR sign.
Animation, but make it heartfelt
Pixar is home to some of the entertainment world's most beloved animated films like the Toy Story franchise, Pixar Cars, UP, Coco and more! The studios is known for creating the most heartfelt storylines paired with imaginative animation to go with it. If you're ever seen a Pixar film you already know how these movies just know how to tug at your heartstrings (looking at your first 10min of UP). Pixar has become synonymous with animated greatness and the HQ of where all the magic happens is no different.

Stepping on sacred Studio grounds
A visit to Pixar Studios can be likened to stepping on hallowed Disney/Pixar bucket list worthy grounds. Not only are you getting to visit the Studio where so many amazing films and shorts have been created, but you're also one of the lucky bunch that gets to actually be there. You see, Pixar Studios isn't open to the public. Since it's a closed Studio they don't offer any tours to the public. The only way to get in is to be an invited guest of an employee or the Studio themselves.

We've had the honor to visit multiple times over the years to attend the special "friends and family" early screenings of films (Brave, Incredibles, Coco, The Good Dinosaur, to name a few). Trust me, we definitely count our blessings being able to visit so many times and we never take any of these special invites for granted.
Just a few of our Pixar friends and family adventures through the years!
A very special screening
An invite to a Pixar "Friends & Family" screening is always so special. You're literally getting the chance to watch the feature film right in the heart of where it was created. And on top of that, you're watching it amongst some of the very same people and creatives who had a hand into making the film. It's beyond incredible.

What's also special about these screenings is the opportunity to explore the Studio and check out the special art themes around the buildings, see some behind the scenes concept work, and of course shop the Studio Store!
Over the years and through visiting for different film screenings at Pixar, one fun thing to see is how the artwork changes around the main building. For example the centerpiece of the main building for this particular visit is a solo Bo Peep from Toy Story 4. Also adorning the walls all around are gorgeous pieces of character art from the newest faces in the film to familiar ones from past films!
The Studio Store is always a must during a visit, too! It's a small shop, but big on the merchandise magic! Here you'll find an assortment of Studio exclusive clothing, art, books, toys and more! 
It's also such a treat to get to walk the grounds of the Studio. There's so many hidden gems all around. You also might just find yourself encountering some of your favorite pals from Pixar classics... and maybe even a hungry little caterpillar that made his way from the Disney parks onto Studio grounds.
Heimlich! We meet again! He was originally from the Chew Chew Train at DCA park, but was relocated here after A Bug's Land closed.

The toys are back!
For this particular visit we were invited to the Toy Story 4 screening. We love Toy Story (crazy Little Green Men lady here) so it was so special to be able to see it at Pixar. No spoilers on the film since it's not out yet, but let's just say that the movie exceeded all of our expectations. It was everything and MORE! It's a must watch when it hits theaters on June 21st!
I was one of the people who wondered where the Toy Story storyline could go after such a perfect ending to Toy Story 3, but boy oh boy, has Pixar and their amazing team knocked this one out of the park (again!). You are going to laugh (a lot). This film is HILARIOUS! You'll fall in love with the newest bunch of toys to grace the screen. I never knew I could love a plastic spork so much. And of course, in true Pixar fashion, you may even shed a few tears. It's a beautiful, well written, and perfectly executed film. It's the movie you never knew you needed to see, so do yourself a favor and check it out when it hits theaters. It's good, trust me!

Until next time...
So our visit to watch Toy Story 4 was another truly magical visit for the books. We're so thankful to our sweet friends for always including us in these fun Pixar adventures! If you're reading this, we love you both and thank you for all the fun! Until we meet again Pixar...

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

In a Disney Galaxy Far, Far Away....
We embarked on an adventure that was truly out of this world with a visit to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Read on to find out about our day and night in Disneyland's newest and most immersive new land!

Welcome to Batuu

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (SWGE) is Disneyland's massive new "land" addition to the beloved theme park. It sits on 14 acres of former backstage space and has literally transformed into an otherworldly new place for humans, droids and space creatures alike can delight in everything it has to offer.

This new "land" is formally known as Galaxy's Edge but thematically takes place on Batuu, a remote outpost on the furthermost edge of the galaxy. Here you'll be transported as "travelers' from the outside into a bustling space filled with all the Star Wars folklore, classics and newest additions that any fan of the franchise has grown to love.

Batuu Basics

So how does one get to travel to Batuu and pay a visit to SWGE? Well for starters from now until June 23rd, 2019 you'll need a reservation to enter the new land. General reservations to the public booked out within the first few hours they were released last month. If you missed out, there's still a way to gain a reservation to SWGE by booking a hotel stay at one of the 3 Disneyland resort hotels (Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel or Paradise Pier hotel). You can check out more information HERE regarding SWGE hotel stays and reservations.

Beginning June 24th you no longer need a reservation to enter SWGE, but the land will be implementing a "virtual queue" where guests can request a boarding pass into the land. More details to come via Disneyland official in closer to the 24th. It's said to be like a FastPass into the land where you'll get a notification when it's your time to enter SWGE.

Currently, hotel guests and those with general reservations are allowed into SWGE in 4 hour increments (8am-12pm, 11am-3pm, 2pm-6pm, 5pm-9pm and 8pm-12am). We were fortunate enough to be able to book a stay at one of the Disney hotels to receive one reservation and also book a separate general reservation into the land for the same day but in the evening. So we held a morning 8am-12pm time and also the opposite 8pm-12am slot. This definitely gave us the best of both worlds since we got to see Batuu in the morning and at night within the same day. It also allowed us to have two times within the land without any "overlap". With each reservation period there's anywhere from one to two group overlaps. It's within these overlap periods that the land feels the most crowded as you get two sets of reservations groups in at once. Once the later group leaves, the land eases up a bit and definitely feels less crowded.

Other general information includes having to "check in" before your reservation time slot over at Tomorrowland's Launch Bay. Here you'll get your wristbands to enter the land, as well as be told which entrance you'll enter from. The morning reservation we had entered from the center gate, while the latter reservations enter from the farthest Critter Country side. The primary guest must check in with anyone attending the reservation. The primary who made the reservation must be present to show ID and anyone in your group who is going in must also be there to get a wristband. If you have people on your reservation who couldn't make it, it's fine, Disney is just most strict on making sure the primary is present. Once wristbands are handed out, they are scanned at the exit of Launch Bay and will be scanned once more before entering Galaxy's Edge.

Each reservation time slot is a different color wrist band and this is how CM's will know if you've overstayed your time slot. To be honest, when we neared the end of our noon slot, we didn't notice anyone hunting people down. We probably could have wandered a bit longer, but didn't want to risk getting "kicked out".

Phew! Now that we've had a Batuu overview, let's get to the actual good stuff!

Out of this world style guidelines
We embarked on our first journey into Galaxy's Edge bright and early (sort of). Our first reservation time was 8am, so we initially intended to try to get checked in around 7am, guests can check in up to 2 hours before their designated window. We figured that an hour would give us enough time to pick up our wristbands, grab some coffee and get settled in. NOPE. Of course the morning of went no where as smooth as we wanted it. We were rushing out our hotel room and got through security until PB was stopped for his Han Solo outfit. Disney has implemented a strict costume guidelines in the past few days regarding SWGE costuming. It's a bummer because it wasn't 100% clear when we went and felt like we were a little blindsided by the new rules. Essentially, PB has a costume Han Solo belt with what looks like a blaster holster. He got through the first part of hotel security, but one keen eyed and strict guard noticed and told him he needed to either go back to the room and leave the belt or surrender it (trash it) in order to get into the park. A bummer for sure and totally a stressor when we were already running behind on time. It's also a bit confusing since we've seen the SAME exact belt worn in the parks at Galaxy's Edge just a week and few days before. Totally a damper on the initial morning, especially since PB was so excited for his entire outfit, but thankfully after the unmagical start to the day, it definitely got way better once we finally got to the park!
Costumes may be worn by younglings and little ones under 14 years of age. Anyone older will have to adhere to a strict set of costume guidelines. Be sure to be aware to avoid possible confusion and disappointment.
Costume guidelines
*Sidenote, check out the freshly released NEW costume guidelines Disney just implemented. It sounds like PB's encounter has been happening a lot with other guests, so Disney went about and clarified even more regarding the rules.

Bright Suns!
We finally made it into the parks by 7:25am and made a dash to get our wrist bands at Launch Bay! Here's how our day itinerary went:

Morning Itinerary
7:35am- Wristbands and ID check at Launch Bay
7:45am- In line with morning crowd waiting to get into SWGE. At this point we pulled up our Disneyland app and mobile ordered our breakfast at Ronto Roasters! More on this later, but it's a must to avoid waiting in line once you're in the land!
7:50 began walking as a giant crowd to the Froniterland SWGE gate
8:00am- let into the land.
8-9am- beelined it to Droid Depot to make a droid! The Cantina and Savi's weren't priorities for us, so we skipped attempting to get reservations for those, but we did want to make a droid, so we headed straight there and there was little to no wait. The part that took the longest was choosing our droid parts and then waiting to assemble and "activate" our droid. I will note that by the time we exited the Droid Depot at 9am the line for droid building wrapped around he budding and was about an hour wait.
9am: Breakfast from Ronto Roasters. We mobile ordered our food, so it was ready to go when we arrived.
9:45am- shopped the marketplace
10:00am Millenium Falcon Smuggler's Run. We did rider switch (more on this later) and we were able to ride it multiple times.
11:00am- Milk Stand and photos
12:00pm- left Batuu

Morning thoughts
My thoughts on the morning reservation time was that it was wonderful being the first group into the land. The walkways weren't crowded, the wait times for Smuggler's Run never went above 20 minutes and the sun wasn't blaring down on us. There's not a ton of shade on Batuu, so at times in the direct sunlight you feel like you're roasting. Overall, the time period before the next group came in at 11, so 8-11am was amazing! Once the next group pours in it definitely feels more crazy.

My best tips for an early morning visit to Batuu?

1. Prioritize what you want to do!
It's ambitious to try to do the Cantina, Savi's and build a droid within the 4 hour time limit. So pick your top experience and go with that, whether getting in line for the Cantina reservations (only one person from you group needs to wait to put your name down) or head to line up for Savi's or Droids.

2. Mobile order your food!
Mobile ordering is such a gem at the parks. It makes it so easy to get your meals without having to wait in a crazy line. Granted, early in the morning there weren't a ton of lines, but it still was super convenient. We actually were able to place our breakfast order even before we got into the land to assure we got our food when we wanted it. It worked perfectly!

3. Soak in the shops and take those scanner photos!
I could spend hours just wandering around SWGE/Batuu. There's so many hidden little areas and details that 4 hours just wasn't enough time to soak in all of the experience. I really wish I had an extra hour (or two) to shop and take photos of all the fun details.

That being said, take full advantage of the photo pass and photo ops around the land. SWGE has done a great job at keep the areas for photos around major landmarks (Falcon, Kylo's Ship, X-Wing, Speeders) free of people so you can get some of the most epic shots alongside these classic and geek out worthy spots.

Shopping wise, most of the items you find in Batuu are only found within the new land. So if you see something you like... buy it! And those unique coke bottles especially for SWGE? They can be found throughout the land, the most popular spots at the popcorn stand and the cart by the speeders, but tip... if you walk further out by the resistance camp base, there's a cart selling them there too with NO WAIT!

4. Ride Smuggler's Run later in your reservation period!
So this goes against every Disney instinct you might have... but DON'T ride the one and only ride in the land right away! The line for Smuggler's Run balloons first thing in the reservation period but wait times drastically drop as your time in the land goes on. We found that it was the lowest within the last hour of our time, right before the next group was about to enter (10am-10:45am).

For my families out there, YES, there is rider switch! The same rules apply as they do on other attractions in the park, but you essentially walk up with your entire party and whoever is "sitting out" the ride and up to 3 people can get their tickets scanned and can return when the other party has retuned from waiting for the ride. Ex. PB waited out with Ben so I could ride with my two cousins. We all walked up to the CM's out front, PB and my two cousins got their tickets scanned. I then rode the ride with my two cousins, exited, then PB and the same two cousins with their tickets scanned returned and rode via the Fast Pass entrance.

5. Try the foods!

SWGE has some of the most unique flavors and tastes out there. It's definitely more adventurous but is oh so good! My tip? Try everything! Also do the milk challenge and try BOTH the green and blue milk. It's different for sure, but definitely a memory only SWGE could give you.

Rising Moons
Our next visit to Batuu was on the opposite spectrum of our morning visit at the 8pm to 12am time slot. It was crazy to be able to visit Batuu twice in one day and get to experience the new land both day and night!

Here's our night itinerary (8pm-12am)
7pm- wristbands and check in at Launch Bay
7:35pm Wait at entrance by Hungry Bear
8pm- PB made a beeline for the Cantina reservations while the rest of us went to photos and explored the marketplace.
8:30pm- Dinner at Docking Bay 7. This had to be the longest wait of our entire SWGE times. Mobile ordering was down and we had to wait in line to order food which took about 30min.
9:45pm- explore, photos and shop at the Den of Antiquities
10:30pm- Millenium Falcon Smugglers Run, rode twice via rider switch
11:35pm- Called back for Cantina as the LAST group to be let in!
12am- Til the spire, leaving Batuu and closed out the land.

Nighttime visit thoughts
Galaxy's Edge during the day is epic, but Batuu at night? Surreal! There's just a new sense of beauty that comes down on the land when the skies turn dark. It's absolutely gorgeous and feels like stepping into the land for the first time all over again. It's quite the experience and we're thankful to have been able to see it after dark.

With beauty came a bit of chaos. Whereas the morning time was calm and full of wonder, we felt like the evening time slot started a bit chaotic. Since we were now the new arriving group of people into the land, the mix in timing made for lots of crowds. We noticed wait times for the Smuggler's Run were the highest right when we first got in at 75 mixtures and everything just was more cramped in the land. Once the 5pm-9pm group left, it definitely eased up a bit.

Best tips for a night visit to Batuu:

1. Again prioritize what you want to do!
PB went straight into the line of the Cantina and after about 35 minutes of waiting was told he wasn't even guaranteed a reservation. He pushed his luck and waited still and ended up getting one of the last reservations put in for the night.

2. Ride out the crowds!
When the two reservation groups mix, it gets super crazy, so wait it out by finding spots to take photos, get some food or just enjoy the land.

3. Again, Smuggler's Run later in the night!
The initial wait time for the ride was 75 minutes wen we first walked in but dwindled down to 20 minutes by 10pm, and a walk on by 10:30 and later.

4. Enjoy Batuu after dark!
The land is absolutely stunning in every light, but so enchanting when the sun goes down and the moon comes up. Enjoy the atmosphere!

General Tips and Tricks for SWGE

Mobile order your food! I can't stress this enough, it cuts down your wait times and makes it so easy to grab a delicious meal on Batuu. Also, don't be afraid of the seemingly exotic eats. Everything is so tasty!

My personal favorites?
Ronto Roasters:
-Tatooine Sunset drink
-Overnight oats (breakfast only) SO YUM, craving the dragon fruit goodness right about now.

Docking Bay 7
-Braised Shaak, so tender and the pasta was so good with mushrooms and the wilted kale.
-Oi Oi cream puff was super YUM. A mix of raspberry cream and passion fruit mousse.
-Moof Juice. YUM

I also personally highly recommend trying the blue/green milk at least once. The flavors are polarizing, but it's worth a try.

Smuggler's Run
This attraction is so fun! There are 3 possible positions you can fill from pilot, to gunner to engineer. Pilots obviously are closest to the screens and have the most stressful jobs. Gunner are in the next row and have two mode, automatic or manual. I did both and manual was definitely harder. Finally the engineer. You sit farthest from the screen so perfect for little ones as its not as intense and also for those prone to motion sickness on simulator rides.

Oga's Cantina
Okay, so this is one spot on Batuu that wasn't super high on my list, as I don't drink and we heard of all the crazy wait times and the cramped interior. But we went ahead and took a chance visiting. We ended up having the Force on our side being the LAST group in for reservations and into the Cantina our night.

The interior looks as if it's straight out of the movie! DJ Rex is a familiar face for those who know of the classic Star Tours and the drinks were good. I had a non alcoholic Blue Banthaa which was essentially the blue milk from the outside, but like a melted version that also came with a cookie on top. PB and the rest of our party indulged on Batuu Bites (a crazy snack mix) and some fun libations.

Overall it was fun to check out the place. Getting a spot in the Cantina is kind of a hassle since lines can explode within minutes of the reservation period opening, so if this is a must fo you, try to get to your reservation waiting area early to be close to the front of the pack going in to wait.

Final thoughts
AMAZING. BREATHTAKING. IMMERSIVE. Those are just a few ways to describe Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge to you. Bravo to Disney for creating such a beautiful and detailed new land. You would have made Walt proud with your innovation and success in not only creating a stellar new place, but for also find a way to make this opening go so smoothly.

This land is one that truly blows you away. No matter how many photos or videos you'll see of it, there's no comparison as to actually being there in a living, breathing little outpost on the outermost edge of the galaxy.

My hopes are that this land continues to remain as otherworldly as it has been during this reservation period. As much as we got done in our two separate 4 hour time slots, it still wasn't enough time. I could have gotten lost in the little corners of this area and just sat and soaked in the littlest moments. The reservation period ends in a few weeks and that's when the real craziness for the land begins, so here's to hoping that the land's charm doesn't go away with the flood of people heading in. I'll definitely report back the next time we're able to visit Batuu in the future.

Until then, for those visiting, enjoy this beautiful new land! Its amazing for any Disney fan, Stars Wars obsessed or not. Go in with an open mind and you'll be left with so much amazement! And finally... team blue milk or green milk? BLUE ALL THE WAY!!! Til the spire, SWGE! 💜

Want more Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge coverage? Head on over to my Instagram PBANDJELLYJENN to check out all the videos and photos from our time in Batuu! I saved all of our live stories in my highlights under "Galaxy's Edge".

© Our PB&J Adventure Book
Maira Gall