A Johnson Family Christmas, Cleveland National Forest

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As I looked back on last year’s Johnson family photos, I laughed that I had noted that posting in February was late. Well now it’s almost May and I am just now sharing some of my favorites from this session with them from this past Christmas. I discovered these lovely locations with Reed and Hedder just weeks before I met with the Johnsons and just knew I had to go back as soon as possible.

Hope you enjoy these photos of one of my favorite families in the whole wide world in my favorite field ever!


 

We must start with the youngest star of the family, in all her dimple grin adorableness!

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I can’t even fathom how many photos I have of this lovely lady… thousands and thousands, I’m sure!

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Ugh, I love her.

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The brother…

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And the sisters…

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And we can close with a photo of all the ladies…

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Your New Friend Sam, Etsy Shop: It’s a Frozen Celebration

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Now that it’s December and really starting to feel like winter here in Southern California, I thought it was a perfect time to post about my new Frozen inspired invitations!

Several months ago, I dreamed up a list of all the items I’d like to add to my shop, a Frozen themed invitation being one of them. Not long after that, an old friend inquired about having a Frozen themed invite custom designed for her daughter’s third birthday party. Divine, right?

I started dreaming up how I’d want the invite to look, but as I am not much of an illustrator, I called upon my wonderful friend Rachel, a student at University of California Irvine. And a very familiar face around this blog.

After giving Rachel a sketch and some images to inspire the look and feel of the invite, she went to town painting up the background of the invite on several pages for me to digitally piece together. I just love the look of these in person, the depth and texture to each layer of paint… it’s just gorgeous and so tactile.

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I just loved how the piece came together and since we didn’t use the actual characters from Frozen, the invite can be created for a variety of winter themed parties and showers.

But first and foremost, we created it for a very special 3 year old’s birthday party… I love working on custom designs, the client gets to work hand in hand with me, getting a say over the color choices and overall look of the invite. We also upgraded the envelopes to a pretty “ice” silver. They were literally called “ice”—how meant to be is that?!

Frozen Inspired Birthday Invitation from Your New Friend Sam on Etsy

It wasn’t until I started to work on the lettering for the invite that I was struck with the idea of creating this same invite with a variety of type treatments to allow the invite to cross over from just being a Frozen invite to winter parties and showers. So we then created Winter One-derland/Wonderland for first birthdays and Oh, Baby It’s Cold Outside for baby showers.

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And to close, here’s a close up of those icy envelopes, addressed to my favorite Frozen character and her main squeeze.

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All these invitations and options are available in my Etsy shop!

Interested in your custom invitation design? Contact me!

Splish Splash, Amelia’s Under the Sea First Birthday Bash

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Amelia’s first birthday party was a few weeks ago now, and I have been so anxious to post photos from the event.

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Under the Sea Birthday Party Invitations

Of course, we must start with the invitations. I have to say these are pretty much my most favorite invitations I’ve ever designed. From the hand drawn illustrations to the layers of color and texture… I just love them.

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Rachel picked up these fun coral envelopes (and pearl clasps for the invites she personally handed out). Then each one was hand addressed and stuffed with a white pearlescent envelope liner. I just love them!

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Under the Sea Birthday Party Centerpieces

I wasn’t able to help nearly as much as I did with the baby shower, and with school finals and life in general, Rachel and I decided to tone it back for the birthday party decorations. We tried to just focus our energies on a few tables and ideas.

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All the centerpieces collectively cost less than $15! We bought a few fresh succulents, collected sand from the beach, and then picked up a couple of the glass bowls at Joann’s for 99 cents! The rest of the centerpieces were random decorations from my own house (thank you, nautical themed office!) and the trays were recycled from Amie’s wedding in November. Easy!

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Rachel also hung some clear ornaments in the trees to look like bubbles. The little babes loved those!

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Under the Sea, Splish Splash Pendant Banner

I then made a banner for the fence along with some fun fringe letters for the gift table.

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On the way inside, Rachel hung a net and clipped photos from the year to it. It was really fun having the bubble maker going during the party too, it was a festive entrance for sure!

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Under the Sea Bubble Balloon Wall and Cake Table

Once inside, the guests were greeted with a bubble wall… created with a mixture of pearlescent balloons and a few twisted green streamers for seaweed.

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In front of the bubble wall, sat the cake table. Rachel spent the day and night before the party creating this art piece. It was so pretty! I loved the scallop frosting she did! We had a few other knick-knacks on the table as well as a few more photos. And as my gift to Amelia (okay, its really for Rachel)—I commissioned Emily from Yellowstring to create a watercolor portrait of Rachel and Amelia from the first birthday photo session at the beach. I just love how it came out and had fun finding a matching matte and frame at Hobby Lobby.

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And you can’t have a first birthday without the birthday cake smash!

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And one last photo, after the party was over we had to get one last shot of Miss Mia in front of the bubble wall before bathtime.

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Miss Amelia’s First Year in Photos

Amelia's First Year in Photos, Sam Allen Creates

I’ve never had the chance to document the “every 3 months” photos before… getting the opportunity to capture little Mia from behind my camera is just pure joy. While editing all her birthday photos, posted yesterday, I just kept getting so  emotional—and so thankful! Not only do we have every 3 month moments, we had so many more in between. I am so blessed to get to do what I do. To watch these little ones grow from behind my camera… seeing their little sleepy smiles grow to goofy toothy grins. Oh I just love them all.

Miss Mia, I can not even describe how much love I have for you. From being there on the day you were born, meeting you just minutes after you came into this world… to just a couple weeks ago when you walked right into my arms with that giant dimple toothy grin. Oh my heart wants to burst.

How much can my heart grow with love for you. From the day you were born, I’ve loved every moment I have ever gotten to spend with you.

xoxo Auntie Sam, aka your personal paparazzi photographer

Sam and Amelia at Disneyland May 2014

To see Amelia’s life through my lens:

Amelia’s One Year Birthday Photos at the Beach

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Little Miss Amelia turned one earlier this month! And for Mia’s birthday photos, we wanted to head down to the beach to take photos that we could use as decoration at her Under the Sea birthday party.

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I know that she’s pointing at her grandma behind me, but I like to think she’s saying “I’m one!” (P.S. Thanks Grandma Kim for being THE BEST assistant ever!)

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I love this girl’s smile! She just loves life, and is curious about everything! She has the heart for adventure!

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Once we got closer to the beach itself, it was time for a wardrobe change! Rachel made Mia these adorable crowns for the photoshoot… she looks like a bohemian beach princess.

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She really wasn’t too sure what to think of the sand… or the waves… or the water in general. Which led to lots of sweet moments with mommy.

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I am showing you this cute little one from behind, not only to show off her standing by herself, and those chunky thighs of hers, but I am pretty sure she was screaming mad at us at this moment. 🙂

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As the sun set, we took her up to the dry sand and just let her play. It didn’t take long for her curiosity to get the best of her and dig in.

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 Oh Miss Mia, thank you for always being so full of surprises and keeping us on our toes. After forcing you to take a bath outside, you would have thought we had learned our lesson. Thank you for being you, your feisty, sweet, adventurous, you.

A Year Spent at the Happiest Place on Earth / 2013-2014

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Today my Disneyland pass expires. After having an annual pass to the Happiest Place on Earth since Christmas of 2004, I am so heartbroken to not just be able to head down there whenever I want. Looking back over the years, I feel so blessed and am so thankful for all the little moments and celebrating all the major milestones. It’s the place I fell in love, it’s where friendships were strenghtened, its the place where my little nieces and nephews saw a whole new world with a sparkle in their eyes. And oh my gosh, I miss it already.

On the other hand, Disneyland to me has always been a creative and artistic masterpiece. Every single nook and cranny has been thoughtfully executed down to the smallest detail. It has been crafted with love and a passion for the ideals of one man, Walt Disney. Walking down Main Street, I am just filled with so much creative juice that my heart just feels full and my mind is racing with ideas.

And while I am taking a break from having a pass for awhile… I will forever cherish all these days and nights spent in the most beautiful amusement park ever created. Okay, I think Paris and Tokyo Disneyland are the prettiest, but I haven’t been to those—yet.

So here’s to yet another great year spent at the Happiest Place on Earth—and my last for a little while! To the memories and photographs, to the friends and laughter.

See my 2010 year at Disneyland, 2011,  and 2012.

May 7

The day I got my pass was just to be able to get in for the day to take Rachel’s maternity photos… it was great to be back after not having a pass for 2 months. And of course, great to be there for sun kissed moments such as this…

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September 22

Saying goodbye to the Courtyard of Angels as they closed it down the following week to make it the new entrance to Club 33. It’s my favorite spot in the park, see my post on it here.

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November 11

My first trip with my newest Disneyland ride buddy!! I was pretty excited, can you tell?

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November 15

First time seeing Amie as Mrs. Pankratz since the wedding! So much catching up to do while exploring Disneyland at its Christmas finest!

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December 8

Before going on Splash Mountain with the newlyweds… and before Amie was very upset with us for making her sit in the front row and get totally drenched.

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January 12

Celebrating our annual trip for Rachel’s birthday.

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January 17

Because I just couldn’t pick which Ryan boy to post! And because they are both just so darn cute!!

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February 9

One last trip before the husband’s pass expired.

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April 9

Molly’s first trip to Disneyland! And her buddy Grayson and my buddy Jess looking at ducks… again, couldn’t decide which kiddo to show! More photos from this trip here.

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April 11

Mia took her first spin around the teacups during what we thought would be our last trip together! Another couple photos from this trip here!

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April 30

Another “last trip before the pass expires…” I just love watching the kiddos experience the joys we take for advantage. Like the fun of a carousel.

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May 4

Since I started my pass and this post off with 8 month pregnant Rachel, I thought it was only appropriate to end with 11 month old Mia in her mama’s arms.

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Wow… what a year it was! I can’t promise you that I didn’t cry a few times going through photos to create this post. I love these friends of mine who are more like family. And this park that sometimes feels more like home.

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Loving Life thru My Lens

This past week was just so fun… from Disneyland trips to the birthday celebrations over the weekend… I spent a lot of time behind my camera capturing the moments. I feel so incredible blessed to call these people friends who are really more like family.

I just wanted to share a few of my favorite photos from this last week, just a glimpse of the joy I saw thru my lens.

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Molly’s first trip to Disneyland.

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Just the cutest little profile of an almost 2 year old on a break from playing with the ducks.

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Eli runs home at his weekly baseball game.

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Trying to capture all my last moments [for awhile]  of the Happiest Place on Earth.

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Amelia’s happy grin in her mama’s arms.

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Eli’s first pinata experience.

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And a dad’s extreme joy and getting to pull the pinata out of reach. 🙂

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How cute are two 2-year olds!? I mean really, is there anything cuter??

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And then spa splashing fun!

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Eli’s fun with his new bubble machine from Auntie Yoyo.

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Hudson’s backward binoculars experience.

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The big boys playing ball games.

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And to end the weekend, our new two year old Owen being so happily embarrassed during his happy birthday song.

Hope you enjoyed loving life thru my lens!

Amelia’s 9 Month Bubble Bath and Easter Photos, Menifee Baby Photography

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Rachel and I had been racking our brains trying to come up with something unique for the little miss’ 9 month photos.

rachel bathtubA few times Rachel had mentioned wanting to get a photo of Amelia in an old wash tub—like a photos she had of herself as a child—so that inspired our outdoor bubble bath session!

But first, we had to get a few photos in her Easter dress!

What I love most about having these sessions every 3 months is capturing the ever changing personality of a child. Mia loves to clap and gives these amazing crinkle nose smiles!

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And for awhile now she’s been standing up—when holding on to anything she can, but holding mama’s hand is definitely the sweetest!

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And now time for the bath photos!

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Again, I love how these capture Mia so perfectly. She’s so observant, always looking down to explore everything within reach. And of course, once that new found object is within her little hands, in the mouth it goes!

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These last few remind me so much of Mia’s newborn session when she would not leave her mama’s arms. So so sweet!

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Baby Mia… I will forever love you as you’ve captured my heart with your sweet smile and curious personality. I am so blessed to be able to watch you grow and honored to be able to capture all that you do with my lens. <3

Some tips for you, if you plan to totally “wing it” with your own outdoor bubble bath photos….

I really wanted to make sure the setting had the depth and wide open light to really make the bubbles shine, however this led to us having to transport many gallons of water in the trunk of a car. So preferably, having a hose nearby would have been pretty nice! 🙂

Also, make sure the water isn’t too cold… since I’m not a mama, I definitely didn’t think of that going in to this shoot so it took Mia quite some time to allow us to sit her down in the tub. Oh well, the standing photos are just as cute if not more so!

And of course, bring lots of extra bubbles for the bubble machine!

New Etsy Shop Launched: Mama & Mia Boutique, Hand Knit Infinity Scarves + Giveaway!

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I’m so excited to share this new shop with y’all!

Over the past few months, Rachel has been racking my brain regarding all things Etsy so it’s been fun seeing this come together! And just last weekend, her Etsy boutique went live!

In her own words, Rachel describes her scarves:

After having my darling daughter Amelia, I really felt inspired to start using my creative juices and get crafting. Since being fashionably dressed has always been a must for myself, Amelia now gets to share in that same joy! Scarves are a staple in my winter wardrobe for staying warm and cute so it only made sense that Amelia have her own as well! Voila! Mama & Mia, scarves for littles and their mamas and basically anyone else with a neck that needs a little lovin!

The Mama & Mia scarf is handmade, hand knit, chunky infinity scarf, made from 80% acrylic and 20% wool yarn.

A couple weeks ago, we got together to take some photographs of her infinity scarves product line. Little Mia napped as we shot all the Mama scarves and then woke up just in time to model the Mia scarves for us.

Hope you enjoy the images as much as I do… product photography is fun! Such a different approach than regular portraits… always trying to maximize the versatility of the scarves and bring all attention to them rather than the model herself—although the model is just as gorgeous!

Check out the photos and then at the end of this post, enter our giveaway for a free scarf for yourself and a friend—or your very own Mia.

Emerald:

Comes in sizes for Mama and Mia.

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Oatmeal

Comes in sizes for Mama and Mia.

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Mustard

Comes in sizes for Mama and Mia.

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Harvest

Comes in sizes just for Mama.

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Linen

Comes in sizes for Mama and Mia.

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Pink to Grey Ombre

Comes in sizes just for Mia.

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And of course, Rachel also had me create them a custom lettered stamp for the hang tags…

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mama and mia boutique pin it and win it contest

This contest is now closed… Jess won a Mama scarf in Mustard with her Pinterest entry! Sweet Rachel has given us a coupon code for all my readers, use code NEWFRIENDSAM when checking out at Mama and Mia Boutique for $5 off your order!

So with all that to say, I’m having a little contest and all you have to do to win a set of your very own scarves is…

1. Pin, to one of your Pinterest boards, from any of the above images (you can pin from this post using the Pinterest button below or from the Etsy shop)… and then…

2. Leave a comment on this post below telling us which color and size (Mama or Mia) scarf you want—along with a link to your pin.

And that’s it! Then you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free set of scarves from the Mama and Mia Boutique.

Fine print: The contest starts today until Saturday, March 15, 11:59 PST. Once the winner is selected, I will contact you via email to get your shipping address.

13 Ways to Make Each Trip to Disneyland Memorable

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In Southern California, it seems like everyone—at one time or another—has had a Disneyland annual pass. And I have had a Disneyland pass for a solid 9 years now. But the plan right now, is when my pass expires in May, to not renew it. We just aren’t able to go nearly as often as we used to… And as my time at the Happiest on Earth comes to a halt pause, I’ve been reminiscing like crazy of this place that I love so much. And as I’ve been looking through 10 years worth of Disneyland trips I’m reminded of a question I get asked all the time is…

How do I keep going without getting bored?

And to answer this age old question, I’ve written up a list of ideas for you that can truly enrich your Disneyland experience. And please pardon me as I get sappy and sentimental with a post full of photos from the past. 🙂

1. Rainy Days

Go on a rainy day. This is one of my favorite “secret” tips. It’s a widely known fact that the residents of southern California are ever fearful of water falling from the sky and scatter at the first raindrop—making these days the best Disneyland days. No lines, no crowds, no heat… just a few raindrops and breaking records on quantity of rides! Better yet, go on all the water rides, especially Splash Mountain and River Rapids, more than likely you won’t have to wait in any lines. And if you really don’t want to get totally soaked, stop by the store on the way for some $1 ponchos!

Rachel and Me before Grizzly Rapids, 2010

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2. Monorail Ride

Start your day off right with a ride into the park in style, up front with the Monorail conductor.

Riding up front with Joyce, 2006

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3. Dress Up!

Disneyland has a few unofficial dress up days like last weekend’s Dapper Day, but one of my favorites was when my girlfriends and I dressed in matching shirts with our favorite Disney characters for my bachelorette party.

Bachelorette party, 2007

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4. Iconic but Unique Photos

Speaking of photos in front of the castle… Whenever you go to Disneyland, you pretty much have to take a picture right smack in front of the castle. But now that that spot’s practically a mob scene, I would totally recommend branching off to the sides of the castle to get your favorite family photo. Plus, your family moment will be much more intimate than fighting for space in front of the castle.

Rachel’s Disneyland maternity photos, 2013 (link)

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5. Holi-Days

Enjoy the different seasons. From Halloween to Christmas. Not only is the parked decked out in its finest, but there’s extra shows to see and ride overlays to experience. My favorite Christmas time show is the Candlelight Processional—my favorite—usually held the first weekend of December. And of course starting in the fall, Haunted Mansion turns into Jack Skellington’s stomping grounds until the new year. As well as Small World decking the halls with bells of holly.

Candlelight Processional, 2009

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6. Take the Train

Take the train all around the park. Ask to sit up by the engineer (2 people max) or better yet, get there early enough to reserve a trip in the Lilly Belle—the parlor car decorate by Lillian Disney herself—and the caboose to the C.K. Holiday train.

Lilly Belle ride, 2008

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7. Scavenger Hunt

Go on a scavenger hunt. Find Hidden Mickeys (great Hidden Mickey book here) or use the Wishing Stars app.

Joey finds a Hidden Mickey on Mulholland Madness, 2006

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8. Show Time

Don’t go on any rides, just enjoy the shows. From the 3D shows to the parades to stage productions like Aladdin, just spending the day at shows can really take up the whole day. And a great way to enjoy the parks in the summer, away from the crowds and in the air conditioning! My favorite 3D show is Muppet Vision in California Adventure. But of course my all time favorite show would be the Fantasmic production on the Rivers of America. Favorite by far!

The Ryan family before It’s Tough to Be A Bug, 2014

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9. Ride Photo Poses

Diversify your “ride photos” with different poses and reactions. The sleepers always crack me up.

Korey, Kory, Lauren, Ashley, Gaby, and me on Space Mountain, 2008

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10. Birthday Celebrations!

I love celebrating birthdays at Disneyland. Wearing your birthday pin always gains the affections of all the cast members and ensures that your day will be a happy one.

Rachel’s first trip to Disneyland, 2009

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11. Free Snack Food

Take advantage of the only free stuff Disney offers: Ghiradelli chocolates and sourdough bread in California Adventure’s Pacific Wharf. Actually, this isn’t really a way to mix up your trips, but something to enjoy every trip. (RIP Tortilla Factory 🙁 )

First trip to Ghiradelli’s Chocolate Shop, 2012

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Fine Dining

Speaking of food, another fun way to make a few trips feel extra special is to dine in at the nicer restaurants the park offers. Whether its Blue Bayou, the restaurant within the Pirates of the Caribbean… or its neighbor: Club 33.

Andy and I have dined at Blue Bayou quite a few times, usually celebrating our anniversaries or during our honeymoon. Here’s a photo from our one year “dating anniversary,” 2006.

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And I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since our first ever experience at Club 33. Read more on that trip here, and a full photo tour here.

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Friends & Family

By far, the best way to diversify your trips to Disneyland is to go with different groups—from friends to family. I can’t tell you how many friendships were formed within these park gates… But specifically, go with different ages. From usually going with adults the first half of having a pass… it’s such a different experience (obviously haha) going with kids. You see the park in a whole new eye opening, jaw dropped-in-awe experience. This may seem oh-so-very obvious to most… but it’s only been in the last 5 years that I started going with kids (thanks Eli!). And for this Disney-fanatic, I love sharing the joy and wonder in the parks with these little kiddos. I think my heart grows in size every single trip.

Eli watching the Pixar Play Parade, 2010

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Okay, I need to stop this post now even though I can go on and on… plus I’ve made myself cry like 6 times just writing it and going through all these old photos.

For a few more ideas check out these posts on Mice Chat

Do you have any special Disneyland adventures to share? Comment below! I only have a few trips left and I want to get it all in!