About Falon Ballard

Posts by Falon Ballard:

How to Have Fun at Disneyland with a Toddler

This is a sponsored post. I was compensated in the form of a free product, discount, or monetary payment in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own.

If you’ve been a regular tuner-inner to my blog and its many reincarnations over the years, this post might seem familiar. In the past I have written posts on how to have fun at Disneyland without kids and while pregnant. Now that Squirt is three and a regular at the parks, I have learned some valuable info on how to have a fun day with a toddler in tow. Most of the time when Squirt and I visit Disneyland, we are there for just a couple of hours (which I highly recommend if you are a local and can swing it), but we recently had the opportunity to spend a whole day at the parks as a family and even as a park reg, I learned some tricks to help make your day with a little one much more enjoyable for all involved.

Start your day off right. Our first stop upon arriving at Disneyland was to the Main Street Starbucks. Matt and I both needed some caffeine to prep us for our day, and Squirt needed something filling with lots of protein since he would be expending a considerable amount of energy throughout the day.

Hit up the best little kid rides first. We stayed in Disneyland for the first half of our day, where we went on it’s a small world and Jungle Cruise, which are Squirt’s two favorite rides at that park. Both are great for little ones as there is so much to see, and even on a crowded day, the lines aren’t too unbearable.

Have a plan ahead of time for the “big” rides. Squirt is super tall for his age, and we discovered when we got to Disneyland that morning that he had reached the height minimum for Star Tours, which was both Matt’s and my favorite ride when we were kids (and still is Matt’s). Having reached 40 inches (and not even three at the time!), Squirt would have been able to go on many of the bigger thrill rides in the park, but we decided to just stick to Star Tours since he is already familiar with the characters. I was a little worried about all the bumping around, but he handled it well, just said “whoa” over and over. I think the important thing to remember when it comes time to try out the big kid rides for the first time is to make a decision based on each individual ride. Just because your kiddo can ride the ride, doesn’t mean he’s ready. We will hold off on Big Thunder and Space Mountain in particular until Squirt is a little older.

Enjoy some in park entertainment. There are tons of smaller groups who perform throughout the parks continually over the course of the day. These are a great way to take a few minutes and sit or stand and take a breather or have a snack. We love watching the Disneyland Band in particular since we know a couple of the musicians, but all of the live bands are fun and entertaining to watch, and a great way to catch a little break.

Take an afternoon break. Taking a break from the excitement of the parks is a must when spending a day at Disneyland with a toddler. We prefer to go back to our hotel room when we are staying on site or nearby, but you can just as easily take a break in Downtown Disney, or at some of the quieter spots in the parks (I’m a fan of Hungry Bear at Disneyland and Animation Academy at DCA). Spend some time chilling out in the shade, have a snack, and (hopefully) give your little one time for a nap. Squirt doesn’t nap anymore so on our most recent trip, we spent some time relaxing at our hotel pool. A little down time is a major necessity for both the kiddos and the parents to make it through the day.

Try to park hop just once. Going back and forth between the two parks is exhausting as an adult, so it is definitely a lot to ask of a toddler. We try to do one park in the morning, then take our hotel break, and then return to the second park in the afternoon/evening. While at DCA, we love to do Monsters Inc, Little Mermaid, and Luigi’s. Limiting yourself to one park at a time will help cut down on the overwhelming nature of park hopping.

End the night on a sweet note. We called it a day before parades and fireworks because Squirt was fading fast, but to make sure we ended our trip on a high note we stopped for some ice cream on our way out of DCA. If you decide to leave before all the nighttime experiences (which I actually recommend with a toddler), try to have one final fun or exciting event to close out your trip.

A full day at Disneyland and DCA can be exhausting for anyone, but it can be especially draining for a toddler. A tired toddler means serious meltdowns, so make sure to take lots of breaks and try not to do too much at once. It is definitely possible to have a great day at Disneyland with your toddler, as long as you are prepared and patient!

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What I Read: May

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So May started out as a very diverse month of reading and ended with my complete consumption of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Which I have so many thoughts and feels on I will probably give it its own post sometime soon. Honestly, I don’t know how I am going to tackle my June TBR as I have yet to recover from the series. But aside from that, I did read some other awesome offerings that I would love to share to with you!

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson: I don’t know that this is a book I would have just picked up, but I heard Morgan speak during the LA Times Festival of Books and she seemed so fun and cool, I went out and literally bought all of her books. This one started a little slow for me, but I really got into it about halfway through. Her characters are so real and I loved their flaws and dimension. I also appreciated that the ending didn’t just slap a pretty bow on everything. Her style is very true to life and I enjoyed her writing. Definitely looking forward to reading the rest of her books.

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green: So I rambled on about this one quite a bit on my Instagram. A couple of weeks ago, Jane commented on one of my pictures of one of her books and offered to send me an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of her newest book. I about peed my pants. I have been reading Jane Green novels for years and throughout college, I reread them constantly (mostly because I was too poor to buy new books). Her writing has had a big impact on my own writing, and I was so thrilled to get a sneak peek at this new book. I loved The Sunshine Sisters so so much. It’s the perfect summer read, and will especially hit home for anyone with siblings and imperfect parents. Highly, highly recommend checking it out!

Stray by Elissa Sussman: This is another one with a personal connection for me because I will be coordinating Elissa’s wedding next year! When we met for our consultation, she told me she wrote YA novels that were about “fairy tales, feminism, and food”. I was like girl, you are speaking all my languages. This was a fun read with a unique twist on some classic fairy tale characters. I especially loved all the fairy tale imagery. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series, and I am seriously looking forward to working with Elissa on her wedding!

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller: This was a fun read, though definitely not as strong as I was expecting. It was entertaining, great for summer, and perfect if you love pirates. But I thought everything–story, plot, characters–was pretty surface level. I wanted a more in depth story and more complex characters, especially considering the subject matter. I think a lot was left unexplored. With that said, I could definitely see myself reading the sequel to see what happens next.

The ACOTAR Series by Sarah J. Maas: So. Many. Feels. My original plan was to read ACOTAR this month and then finish the rest of the series over the summer. Yeah, that did not happen. I almost immediately jumped into ACOMAF (AMAZING!!!) and then immediately into ACOWAR. And then after ACOWAR I gave myself a day to recover. And then last night I started to reread ACOMAF. Other than Harry Potter, I can’t tell you the last time I reread a book. Seriously, so much love. I will go into more details on all three books once I finish my reread. Suffice to say, I’m in love.

Assuming I can put down ACOTAR for a while, I have a long TBR for June. What are you reading this month?


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Restaurant Review: Wood and Vine

One of the built in benefits of having season tickets to the Pantages is that it forces Matt and me to go out on pre-scheduled date nights. We are both so busy that we sometimes go weeks in a row without ever having a weekend night off together, and weekdays as I’m sure you can imagine, mostly consist of Squirt. We don’t go out to eat before every show, but we try to as much as we can, and before our last show, we decided to try a new spot, Wood and Vine. Wood and Vine is located at the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine (hence the name), which is conveniently right across the street from the Pantages (which means you only have to park once, which in Hollywood is a mega score).

The restaurant has a super cool hipstery bar area, but we opted to sit on the back patio, which has a really fun vibe. The patio would be an awesome place for a party. We sat at the firepit table, which is in the middle of the outdoor area and is kind of a communal seating area. Our waitress explained that the concept of the food is American tapas, so they are small bites meant to be shared (though the portion sizes didn’t seem small to me).

We ordered drinks first, obvi. I got the Accomplice, which was delicious. I will be making a homemade version of this all summer long. Matt got the Black Manhattan, which is one of his go to drinks.

We started with the green salad, which was fine, but nothing special. For one of our main dishes we chose the mussels and it might have been the first time we ever ordered seafood still in the shell to share. I was a little hesitant, but they were really yummy. Definitely not what I would have gone for first, but I’m glad I branched out and tried something new.

As soon as I saw grilled cheese on the menu, I knew we would be ordering it because I have the taste buds of a twelve year old. I have to say, this is one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever had and I would order this every time I ate at this restaurant if Matt would let me get away with it. Seriously. So. good.

Matt is not a big dessert person, but I am the dessert person and when I’m in charge of ordering, we’re getting dessert. And this dessert was effing heaven. It’s butterscotch with a bourbon ice cream and a thyme crumble. Sounds weird, but it was tasty AF. Even Matt got down with this bad boy.

The view from the our seats on the patio, wouldn’t this make a great spot for a small wedding?

Overall, our meal at Wood and Vine was perfect for date night. The drinks were great, the food was yummy and the ambiance was super cool. I can definitely see us eating there again and it would be a great spot for a small party.

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Owl Crate Subscription Box: May

Well bookworm friends, it’s time for another Owl Crate reveal! The theme for the May box was Comic Explosion, which I knew meant it wasn’t going to be my favorite box. Comics are cool and all, and I can get down with a good Marvel movie, but they just aren’t my fave. But nevertheless, there were still some cute items in this box and I am much more intrigued by this month’s book than I thought I would be. On to the goods!

Owl Crate provided the comic book zipper pull and button.Owl Crate includes a themed button in every box, and not going to lie, I usually throw them away, but this one is actually cute. This pen from Ooly is fun and kind of makes me wish I still had a classroom because it would be perfect for a teaching pen.These coffee flavored candies from Kafe are pretty tasty, and if you know me at all, you know how much I love my coffee, so I was all about these.

I was super psyched to see that I got the Wonder Woman Funko Pop figure. I am not a huge collector of Funkos, but I think they’re kind of adorable and I was happy to see I got the kick ass female version. And it is perfectly paired with this Dio Candle Company Wonder Woman candle that smells like an island vacation (apparently Wonder Woman hails from a tropical island?).

As I said, I am super intrigued by this month’s book, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. I don’t think I would have picked it up on my own, but I think I will be able to relate to the introverted, creative main character. Now I just have to find some time to read it! There was also a sneak peek at a new comic Afar, which TBH, I’m not gonna read. But sneak peeks are always fun :o)

So not my favorite Owl Crate ever, but some cute items and a (hopefully) good book. The theme for June’s Owl Crate box is Make It Out Alive, which I’m hoping means dystopia mania. Fingers crossed for some rebels and anarchy! If you are interested in becoming an Owl Crate subscriber, please use my link right here and help me earn some free boxes! Happy reading!

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A Tour of the Hollywood Pantages Theater 

If you are an avid reader of my blog (hi Mom!) then you already know this about me, but if not, I’ll fill you in on a not-so-well-kept-because-it’s-totally-not-a-secret secret: I sometimes still long for a career in the theater. I have had a love affair with theater, musicals especially, since I was six years old and saw Phantom of the Opera for the first time (note: not a show I would recommend for most kid’s first musical theater experience, but clearly it worked for me). I spent most of my high school and college years working in the theater, and though I learned early on that I wasn’t really willing to make the sacrifices necessary for a career in theater (I like a steady paycheck and health benefits and all that…neither of which I have right now…) there has never been a time in my adult life when theater wasn’t a part of it. A few years ago I started to take advantage of the flexible season ticket packages and deals and sales offered by the Pantages theater in Hollywood, and two years ago I became a full fledged season ticket holder (necessary for this season in particular because Hamilton) and it is honestly one of the best things I have done for myself. Not only does it usually save me money over buying individual tickets to the shows I want to see, but the Pantages occasionally offers some cool perks for season ticket holders, like meet ups and backstage tours. Also, it forces Matt and me to go on a date every once in a while, which is all kinds of good.

A few months ago season ticket holders were invited to an open house and backstage tour, and while it wasn’t my first time going onstage and backstage at the theater, it was one of the cooler times since season ticket holders kind of had free rein and were able to wander wherever our hearts desired (except the orchestra pit, which was up at the time). Whether you are a theater lover or not, the Pantages is an awesome place to visit because it is full of Hollywood history. The theater began as a vaudeville house, opening its doors for the first time in 1930. It was the home of the Oscars for ten years before taking on many different lives as a movie theater and a live performance venue. In 2000, the Panatages underwent a huge multi-million dollar renovation and it has since been home to some of LA’s most successful productions including The Lion King, Wicked, and Book of Mormon. In August, the Panatges will welcome the first national tour of Hamilton for a limited run. It’s definitely my favorite LA theater and definitely a place everyone should visit.

Enough history, on to the fun stuff! Here are some of my favorite architectural details at the Pantages:

This is the front entrance of the theater…

This is inside the waiting area of the ladies room. I am obsessed with this bathroom…

This is the ceiling inside the main theater, which is absolutely breathtaking…

Inside the incredible lobby. If you are visiting for the first time, make sure you arrive early so you can spend some time looking around the inside of the theater!

This is a framed medicine cabinet that is hanging in one of the backstage dressing rooms. It’s tradition for touring actors to sign the medicine cabinet while they are performing at the Pantages. The most notable names on here are Megan Hilty (from the tour of Wicked) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame, signed when he was touring with In the Heights).

This area is in one of the backstage corners and it lists all the productions of the theater’s longtime technical director. As you can see, the Pantages has been home to some pretty stellar productions.

I recently renewed my season tickets at the Pantages for next year, and I am so excited to see what the new season has in store for us. I am particularly excited about Waitress and Aladdin (not so excited about Love Never Dies, but you get what you get). I hope I have the opportunity to remain a season ticket holder for many years to come. I always leave the theater feeling inspired and ready to create. Are you a musical theater fan? What is your favorite show?

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What I Read: April

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April was a pretty solid month for reading. I finished one awesome series and started another one and read some other great novels in between. And I managed to exceed my goal of five books per month. So go me! Here’s what I read in April:

Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray: I read the first book in this series last month and really enjoyed it. It’s definitely more sci-fi based than I usually read, but Gray created such a cool world, and such relatable characters that I really got into it. I read all three books within the span of about two weeks and I wanted more! I will be seeking out more books by Gray (who has also written some Star Wars tie-in novels) because I loved her writing style. I even learned some stuff about physics!

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty: So I have read a couple of Moriarty’s books in recent months and absolutely loved them. I had high expectations for Truly Madly Guilty, and I don’t know that they were met. It took me a long time to get into this book, I didn’t have the immediate connection to the characters that I’ve had in her other books. Also, the whole toddler incident hit a little too close to home for me, and some moments were hard for me to read. But even without that personal aspect, I don’t feel like this one was as good as The Husband’s Secret or Big Little Lies. Still a good read, just not as good as I have come to expect from Moriarty.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab: So this book was in an Owl Crate box a long time ago and I’ve just never got around to reading it. I liked it, though it took me a while to really get into it. The concept was intriguing and I was a fan of the whole Romeo and Juliet kind of spin on the relationship between Kate and August. I don’t know that I’ll run right out for the next book, but I could definitely see myself picking it up at some point. It was a little more gruesome than I like, but I liked the two main characters so much that it kind of made up for the gore.


Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge: I was kind of eh about this one. I love the idea of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I didn’t love this one. I think my main issue was that I didn’t like either of the main characters. Both were kind of annoying, along with being not super nice people, so it made it hard for me to care about what happened to them. I liked the concept, but found the execution lacking.

Legend by Marie Lu: I really enjoyed this first book in the Legend series. I was recommended Legend by a friend of mine who is a librarian since it is loosely based on Les Mis, which I love, and also because I am working on a retelling of my own. If I hadn’t know it going in, I’m not sure I would have picked up on the Les Mis notes in this, but I think I would have enjoyed it all the same. I love the world that Lu has created, and again, the two main characters are relatable and likeable. I already ordered the second book in the series, so that should tell you something about how much I enjoyed the first one. I also got to here Marie Lu speak at YallWest this past weekend and it was really cool listening to her thoughts on dystopian YA lit.

All in all, April was a great month of reading. I have a seriously long TBR for the next couple of months and I don’t know how I am going to make the time to finish all the books I want to read. But I’m sure I will find a way! What are you currently reading?

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Life Right Now

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Hello friends and welcome to another edition of Life Right Now. I haven’t done a Life Right Now post in a long time, and well, there’s a lot going on these days, so I figured I would share some updates! Things have been crazy, in a good way, and I am about a week away from wedding madness season, so life is about to get interesting (and tiring, but again, in a good way). Here’s the happs:

Making bookmarks! I may or may not be obsessed with these watercolor bookmarks.
Drinking Corona Light and lots of Chardonnay. Also lots of Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brews.
Reading so. many. amazing. books. Seriously guys, I am on fire with the YA reading and it’s so good. Some recent faves are Legend, the Firebird series, and Caraval.
Wanting to finish my YA novel!
Playing Hamilton! Four and a half months until I get to see it again!

Wishing there were about six more hours in the day.
Enjoying the new season of Southern Charm. Minus Landon.
Waiting for A Court of Wings and Ruin to come out so I can start the series.
Liking our new living room set up (the key was hiding Matt’s instruments and Squirt’s toys).
Wondering if I am going to be able to find a literary agent this year.
Loving the inspiration from the LA Times Festival of Books and YallWest.
Hoping my YA book gets published!
Needing some sleep. As always.
Wearing shorts and tees and flip flops. Welcome to summer!

Following lots of pretty bookstagram accounts, find mine @coffeebookswinerepeat!
Noticing why the term “threenager” was coined.
Knowing that summer is going to be crazy busy!
Thinking about my next contemporary romance book.
Anticipating lots of long, hot days coming soon!
Celebrating the publication of my first contemporary romance novel! Buy it here!
Laughing at Squirt (as usual). His personality is really coming out these days and he is constantly amusing me.
Feeling happy, excited, hopeful, and accomplished.

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