Saturday, December 13, 2014

Six Months

 If someone had said to me a year ago at this time that come summer we would be moving to Florida and setting up an entirely new life, I would have laughed them right out of the house. We, specifically me, had always wanted to leave Martinsburg behind(Sorry, Folks, you no there was no love lost there!)but it never really seemed like it was in the cards for us. When the opportunity arose in May, we jumped at the chance and didn't look back. Was this the best approach? Maybe, maybe not, as there have been some very big hurdles we have had to overcome and are still trying to maneuver around, but I can tell you with absolute sincerity that I wouldn't change this for the world!

The interesting part, is that Jacksonville, in six short months, has become home. Don't get me wrong, it still feels like we are on a vacation and every time we walk out the door I am still surprised to see palm trees and sand. Lots and lots of sand. The way I feel here though, I haven't felt this since I was living in New York at the age of six! Despite the what ifs and uncertainty of where/how we will fit in with this great big city we have quickly started to find our niche. We have made some wonderful new friends, joined some great homeschool groups, and are on a constant treasure hunt around this great big city. I swear that every day is a new adventure whether it's finding the best bakery(I'm talking about you, Cinottis') locating one of the many parks in Jacksonville, or taking part in any number of festivals and events, which seem to happen every week around here! Stitch especially loves searching out every skate and surf shop, making friends with all of the shopkeepers and telling them of his plans to become the next Tony Hawk. Hey, the kid has big plans!

While we have been busy running around town and living this great life, we have not for a second forgotten our friends and family up north. I make sure to tease them every cold day am so thankful for the support and love that we receive from them and this move could not have been possible without their help. I look back now and am still in awe that we pulled off such a big move in only a couple of weeks, not forgetting all of the chaos and surprises that made us question this move altogether! We have been truly blessed with some of the best people in our lives.

The new year is quickly approaching and I'm excited to see what the next six months has in store for us. If the last half of this year is any indication, we have some amazing things to look forward to from here on out!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Disney Food Porn

I am a proud foodie. I love trying new foods. I love making new creations. I love spending hours on Pinterest and food channels looking for new recipes and I love talking food. If you know anything about Disney, you know it is a food lover's paradise! Sure, the rides were fun and the shows were great to catch a nap watch, but in my quest for planning the perfect vacation, food was my number one priority!

Here's a snippet of the way our meal planning went down.

Me: "So, it's time to start planning the restaurants. Grumpy? Stitch? Care to help?"
Grumpy: "I don't care. You plan it."
Stitch: "Hot dogs! I want hot dogs!"
Me: "Are there any specific ideas you guys have in mind? I know you've heard me talk about the restaurants."
Grumpy: "Whatever. You plan it. "
Stitch: "Hot dogs!!!!"
Me(secretly jumping up and down inside): "Well, I was really hoping for some help, but I guess I will figure it out. I just hope I can pick some decent places for us."

*Little did they know, my list had been prepared for months.*

Now, I had been warned by many people that the chances of getting all of my picks was pretty much slim to none. No one ever gets all of their choices and I should be ready for the disappointment. Oh, you Negative Nancies, you all must have forgotten who you are talking to. Challenge Accepted!

My reservation window came and I was ready. Up at 5am, coffee in hand, phone and computer charged and ready for their workouts. I was a woman on a mission and there was no one getting in my way. As luck(and some pixie dust) would have it, I didn't need to worry. Within 10 minutes, the lovely cast member assigned to me not only got me every restaurant I requested, but she got them at exactly the times I requested-including the highly coveted Be Our Guest! She even commented on my obvious research and planning skills. Yep, I did good. Mission completed!

So, what restaurants did we choose? Well, we had a great selection of table service and an even greater selection of quick service. We ate. and ate. and ate some more.

Table Service
Liberty Tree Tavern-Magic Kingdom
Yak And Yeti-Animal Kingdom
50's Primetime Cafe-Hollywood Studios
Garden Grill-Epcot
Be Our Guest-Magic Kingdom
Olivia's Restaurant-Old Key West
T-Rex Restaurant
Beaches & Cream
O'hana Breakfast

Boma Buffet-Lots of options to choose

Yak N Yeti-Seafood Curry
Yak N Yeti-Orange Chicken


Be Our Guest

Be Our Guest
Be Our Guest

Try the Grey Stuff! It's delicious!
Be Our Guest- Dessert
No Way Jose

Vanilla Milkshake
Is your mouth watering yet?! Good. I'm not even close to being done!
Ham and Cheese(kid and sandwich!)
Earl Of Sandwich- Holiday Turkey

Norway-School Bread

Boardwalk Pizza

Cookes of Dublin
Cookes of Dublin

Lefou's Brew

Lefou's Brew(shhh. It's frozen apple juice)

There were so many choices and so many delicious experiences. After all was said and done, Grumpy and Stitch were quite happy with the choices I made. The number one restaurant for all of us was definitely the Biergarten in the Germany pavilion. I am still craving their beer cheese soup and pretzel rolls. surprisingly, the places and treats that were highly recommended were the ones I found most overrated. Yorkshire County Fish was OK, but not something I would write love stories about. I would save that for the Cantina in Mexico! The school bread in Norway is another one that, although good, just didn't hit the spot. We were more excited about the krispy treats and kettle corn.

I know there is one last question you are all waiting for-did Stitch get his hot dog?

Best hot dog ever! Casey's Corner

Yep, we were all in foodie heaven...including Mr. Grumpy, who it turns out, was happy with all of the choices!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Disney's Old Key West & DVC Rental Store Review

When we finally made the decision that we were absolutely going to Disney, no more backing out, no more excuses, I jumped into research and planning mode. I know plenty of people that are happy to call an agent, fork over money, and show up at the right place at the right time. Not me!!! I like to be fully immersed in the insanity. Mulling over 13,564,534,782,395 options and second guessing every choice I make is my idea of fun. It's even more amusing to watch the hubs and child glaze over when I ask them for their opinions. Yes, there is something truly warped and wrong with me. It's ok, though, because in the end, I plan one hell of an amazing vacation that can easily rival any professional *insert giant hand patting my back*

So, how did I go about planning this incredible vacation that I keep raving about? Well, for starters, I didn't jump on the rack rate prices that Disney throws out there. Nope. I want luxury and comfort and beauty, but I don't want to have to pay for it eternity. So, I started searching. I knew there was a way to get everything I wanted. I looked and looked and read and read. I asked a lot of questions. I even got into arguments with moderators of certain Disney boards who are intent on pushing certain businesses and refuse to allow questions about other businesses. Yeah, I am hardcore like that.

Then, I found it. I think I might have even heard angels singing when the bright, thumbs up logo came across my screen, I had found the Holy Grail. Ok, maybe it's a little dramatic, BUT they are really, really awesome! This company rents out points from Disney Vacation Club owners and allows you to stay in top resorts on Disney property for the cost of a value or moderate. From their customer service(Thank you, Lindsay, for replying to me during YOUR Disney vacation!) to the ease of their rental tools and applications, I cannot stress enough how incredibly easy and affordable it was to rent a villa from them. I would not hesitate to rent from them again and I highly recommend them to everyone planning a vacation, whether it is one night or ten. You won't be disappointed!

So, who is ready to see this amazing place?

Old Key West was beautiful beyond words. I regret that I did not get more photos of the exterior as my pictures just don't do this resort justice. The original DVC resort, it is fashioned in the Key West theme with pastel colors, a relaxed Jimmy Buffett feel(They played his music throughout the resort!)  and a fun array of activities. It has the Disney feel without being overly characterized and you don't feel like you are immersed in Disney 24/7/ This was a giant plus for the hubs.

Morning view from the dock
Light House Sauna


Stitch enjoyed the Mickey towels

We had a studio villa which was huge! Two queen beds, a giant bathroom, a kitchenette, large closet, and a lovely balcony that looked out onto a little fountain and pond. Again, I was horrible about resort photos.

The bathroom had a lovely beachy theme

Fully stocked with plates, cups, silverware
 Now, I truly understand how some people can come to Disney to just "get away" without ever stepping foot in the parks. This resort had something for everyone. There was a restaurant, Olivia's, that was nice for  filling meal. just looking for a quick bite? Head around the corner to Goods to Go!

Checking out some hidden Mickeys at Olivia's

As for the activities, there is something for everyone. You can take a dip in the many pools on site, let the kids run free on the playground, or laze away in the hammock. There is a tennis court, shuffle board, and a community hall that has every activity you can imagine. We spent a rainy night or two making pictures and crafts there. Wander down to the fire pit around 7pm for some s'mores and a movie(all Disney, of course!)

The slide alone was worth the stay at this resort!

There are many options for Disney lodging. Some people may even prefer to stay off site, but I can assure you that after this experience, we are totally spoiled! Grumpy AKA hubs, who wasn't even excited about this trip, has already commented on the possibility of going back there(or to one of the other villas) and has even suggested that we may eventually want to consider buying into DVC. Holy Moly!!! Disney REALLY is a magical place!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Disney Trip Report: Part 1 (of far too many)

Well, we did it. After five years of planning, pleading with the husband, scheduling and un-scheduling our trip, more pleading with the husband(he isn't wasn't a fan of Disney), obsessing over reservations and restaurants, a giant move just before said trip, and lots of other chaos in between, we FINALLY made it to Disney World! Yes, folks, the trip that has taken over our lives for so many years absolutely happened! So, for the next few posts, BE WARNED, you are going to be completely immersed in the "The Disney Zone." There will be lots of photos, stories, and reflections about our time there. I still can't believe we took on Disney for ten days and survived!

I decided to break our trip up into categories because, well, I like making lists and categorizing everything. It makes me feel like I might actually be a little bit organized somewhere in my life! Besides that, Disney is huge and the activities are endless so it makes it a little easier to keep track of where we are on this magic carpet ride(Yes, you are also going to have to put up with my awful quotes and Disney flecked comments!) Okay, still with me? Here we go...

First Stop: The Land of Characters

Seriously, I expected that we would grab a few photos with some of our favorite characters. We made sure that Stitch(my son) was well stocked on Sharpies of every color and an overpriced autograph book purchased at one of the shops in Downtown Disney (TIP: Make sure you have fat sharpies for the costumed characters. They are much easier for them to handle.) What I didn't expect was that we would be running into a character every two steps. EVERY. TWO. STEPS! You couldn't round a corner or walk out of a shop without finding a character spot. Stitch was in autograph heaven and we ended up with some wonderful photos and memories.

The best part, for us, was that even though we had to spend a bit of time waiting in lines (Elsa and Anna's line was the WORST!) each family was given special attention and each child really felt like they had the characters' undivided attention. Stitch never walked away feeling like his time was wasted.

 We also made sure to book a couple of character meals so that there was no chance we would miss out on meeting some of our absolute favorites. The meals were fun and it was nice that we were guaranteed the character interactions, but all of us agreed that coming upon the characters naturally was more fun because it added just that little touch of surprise and magic. Of course, being in an air conditioned building, eating good food and guzzling beverages while the characters did all the work was definitely not something to complain about!

One of my absolute favorite pictures from the entire trip. That smile never left his face!

So, who would we say was our favorite
character of all? Well, for my son, the answer was simple... Stitch meeting Stitch was definitely the highlight of this trip!

Anna and Elsa were definitely a close second, though. I've never seen him speechless before!

So, what have we learned today, Class? Have plenty of space on your memory cards, have plenty of batteries( learned that the hard way) have your autograph book and markers in hand, and prepare to spend a LOT of time in lines. Be prepared for surprises and make sure you get in on the action as well. No one is too old for Disney!