Favorite Rides at Disney

This is the last post about Disney! So, to wrap up the Disney talk, I must mention my favorite rides.

Animal Kingdom
Personally, I feel this park is more of a Zoo. It is great, but it just doesn’t have that YOU ARE AT DISNEY WORLD magic feeling. Of course that is my personal opinion.
The only two rides I MUST do are Expedition Everest and the Kilimanjaro Safari.

Epcot
There aren’t very many rides at Epcot, truthfully, but my three must-do things are Soarin’, Test Track, and Finding Nemo. Soarin’ always has a line, and it feels like it won’t be worth it UNTIL you are smelling the pine and the oranges… then it’s worth it. I will never forget going on this ride with my Grandma, hearing her freak out (mostly because she hates flying), and my grandpa exclaiming “DO YOU SMELL ORANGES?!” This trip was my first time doing Test Track… so naturally I did it like 3 or 4 times. Finding Nemo is soo soo good. I have a fascination (and a little fear) with the ocean creatures… and this ride’s exit is through an aquarium with DOLPHINS and MANATEES. Honestly, enough said.

Hollywood Studios
There is just SO MUCH to love at Hollywood Studios. I like almost every ride… but narrowing it down to the MUSTS are Star ToursToy StoryThe Great Movie Ride. If I could only do three things at Hollywood Studios, these would be the three. The Rockin’ Rollercoaster is also very good, but honestly I’m really short and my head gets knocked around a lot. I get off that ride with a headache. Fantasmic is a must-see show; it is SO WELL DONE.

Magic Kingdom
Hands-down, this is my favorite park. It was the first Disney park I ever went to, and it is MAGICAL. I love the Disney classics, and this is home to all of them. I seriously freaked out the first time I walked through the Swiss Family Robinson tree-house, it was such a staple movie in my childhood. Since I like EVERYTHING here, it’s hard to pick a few favorites… but among the must-dos are Seven Dwarves Mine TrainSpace Mountain, and Peter Pan.

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Apart from the alarming absence of Pocahontas, it truly was a magical vacation. Disney World evokes a childlike excitement… I am always in awe as I walk through the different lands, seeing my favorite characters. I hope that I encourage my future children to use their imaginations, and one day I can introduce them to the magical world of Disney; where they see their favorite stories, and their imaginations, come to life.

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Eating on the Road

When I go on a trip, I don’t want to be slowed down. I don’t want to drag it out, I don’t like to stop, I just want to get there. If we stop frequently and take our time getting there, then by the time we FINALLY get there it feels like I have been in the car forever. Since we live over 9 hours away from Disney World, I really wanted to limit the number of stops (we did really well and only stopped twice!). SO, I spent some time brainstorming healthy things to pack for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. This is what we came up with:

1) Breakfast: yogurt, clementines, cheese sticks, granola bars.
This couldn’t have been easier. We had a few disposable spoons, and chucked all the trash when we stopped. It required very little money, and we had extra clementines and cheese sticks for breakfast during the week!

2) Sandwiches.
I had some bacon in the fridge, and I learned that cooked bacon lasts for over a week in the fridge! (Did you know that?) I cooked all the bacon we had left, and made some Turkey Club Sandwiches for me and Josh… that turkey, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo (plus Italian Seasoning for me, Red Robin seasoning and BBQ sauce for Josh) carried us well through the afternoon. Additional bonuses, besides happy taste buds, were saving money, decreasing stops, and having control over the ingredients of our lunch. Since we never make bacon for our sandwiches, it made our lunch extra special. I really wished I had made more… 🙂

3) Snacks.
Our snacks of choice included Teddy Grahams, Sun chips, and Trader Joe’s puffed popcorn.

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I used to think it was so boring when my mom packed sandwich stuff on road trips, but now I think it’s genius. Next time we hit the road, we’ll be packing meals again! I couldn’t get over how much time/money we saved, and how good it felt to eat healthy food on the road. Hopefully this inspires you to do the same!

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Disney Food

Here are some of the places we got to eat, and some of our favorite things! The Disney Dining plan was AMAZING. Booking sit down meals needs to be done ahead of time, or you will face some hefty weight times. Otherwise, it was so fun to pick where we wanted to grab lunch or a snack. Josh and I often shared snacks, since there was SO much food, and that way we got to try more things!

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Photo found through google image search

 

Magic Kingdom
Sit Down:
-Cinderella’s Table
This meal took two sit down meal credits per person, and we didn’t know if we were going to be able to book it. I am so so glad we were able to do this! With our party of 16, we were split among several tables, but it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with family. We got an appetizer, entree, and dessert. (I got the cheese sampler, the steak, and the clock strikes 12… and my choices were amazing.)

-Be Our Guest
Josh and I are big Beauty and the Beast fans, and I was pretty much stoked out of my mind that they built a Beauty and the Beast RESTAURANT. We made reservations for the two of us (date night!), and sat in the ballroom. I got the chicken, Josh got the steak, I got salad with champagne vinaigrette, and we tried the grey stuff for dessert. The restaurant was beautiful… it felt like we had stepped into the movie. The entree was delicious but the grey stuff on top of a rock hard wafer-type brownie thing… and I’m not sure it inspired the word “delicious” from me OR Josh.

Quick Service/Snacks:
-DOLE WHIP.
We got this at Aloha Isle, which is next to Aladdin. Leading up to vacation, I kept reading “the dole whip is amazing,” “you HAVE to try the dole wip!!” So, I did. It is a pineapple soft serve, and you can get it as a float. Yeah… I get the hype. However, I found myself wanting ice cream instead. Josh loved it, and I think we both wanted it a second time…. but by the time we tried it there wasn’t time to get it a second time.
-Gaston’s Tavern
We popped in here, and I was very happy to find humus and chips for a snack! Aaron had a cinnamon role that was about as big as his head… I felt sick just looking at it.

Epcot
Sit Down:
-The Coral Reef
This restaurant was really cool. The restaurant is build around one of the aquarium tanks next to the Finding Nemo ride. The restaurant is tiered, so that everyone can see the tank… we got perfect seats, at the bottom of the tier so we were ground-level with the tank. It was our last meal of the vacation, sad!, and I finished vacation off with steak and potatoes. It was delicious, and a really unique experience, watching the fish, sea turtles, sharks, and sting rays during our meal!

Quick Service/Snacks
-Quick Service restaurant inside the building with Soarin’.
I got a big salad as a snack! I WAS SO HAPPY. Oh veggies.
-Mexico
This was one of the best quick service meals. It was also one of the most simple. I got chips, guac, and a mango margarita. I was VERY happy. We even found that the restaurant had indoor seating… air conditioning after walking around all the countries?! SCORE.

-France
We got a savory pastry. Basically it was swirled with cheese and bacon. We were in heaven. So so good.

Hollywood Studios
Sit Down:
-Sci Fi Diner
I went to this restaurant with my family in 2008, and thought Josh and Aaron would really enjoy it. The interior of the restaurant mimics a drive in movie. You sit in a “car,” and there are old sci-fi movie clips/trailers playing. The food was delicious, I had a wonderful turkey sandwich and turtle cheesecake. It was super fun to introduce the guys to something I had done before, but they hadn’t!

Quick Service:
-Catalina Eddie’s
We grabbed pizza and salad before hitting the Rockin’ Rollercoaster, and then the Fantasmic show. The food was just ok; honestly the best part was SALAD.
-In the Villan Store
Josh and I got a carrot cake cookie sandwich. Basically, it was two big pieces of carrot cake, with the cream cheese frosting in between. This may have been one of the best snacks… in my personal opinion.

Animal Kingdom
Quick Service/Snack:
-Yak and Yetti
Frankly, the Animal Kingdom is a little lacking in the food department… we like to get Asian food at the Yak and Yetti, with some frozen lemonaid! Super refreshing, and we’re always down for honey chicken, rice, and stir fry!

Downtown Disney
Sit Down:
-T-Rex
This restaurant was Aaron’s choice, and I’m glad we got to experience it with him. The food was good, but the restaurant was really loud. Every 15 minutes a meteor shower went off! The lights in the restaurant went crazy, the animatronic dinosaurs all roared and squawked. INTENSE.

Quick Service:
-The Earl of Sandwich
We ate here on our first night together. Pretty simple: sandwiches, and they were simply delicious.
-Wolfgang Puck
This was my favorite place in downtown Disney. Even though it was Quick Service, they brought the food out to you, refilled your drinks, and it was an incredibly high quality (and quantity) meal. Kaity and I got different kinds of pizza, and shared. Oh, take me back to Downtown Disney… I’d love more of that pizza!

 

Since Disney, I have been so especially thankful for the gift of not having to cook on vacation. 🙂 I have been refreshed, as a chef, and even made up my own pasta bake (I will have to share the recipe). Cooking is one of my favorite things, but even the most enthusiastic chef needs a break, and a steak, every once in a while, right?

Disney Souvenirs

I have a fairly practical approach when it comes to spending money. There are some areas that this could improve (my husband is thinking of the gazillion pairs of heels I own but do not wear)… but doesn’t everyone need improvement? (Also, who can resist a beautiful pair of shoes on super clearance at Target?) Ok I think I’m getting a little far away from the point of this post, which is souvenirs, not my obscenely large shoe collection.

I hate junk. I hate things kicking around. I hate it when things don’t have a purpose. Hence, I have a very practical approach to souvenirs. I try to think “will this be cool when I’m at HOME, instead of ____?” If the answer is no, then I really don’t need to spend the money… no matter how many people I see wearing Minnie Mouse ears I will not spend money on them because there is literally no where else (except maybe a Halloween costume party) that I would wear them.
These have been my go-to shopping items at places like Disney World.

1) T-shirts.
Not just any t-shirt, but one that I will actually wear. I look for ones that are unique, and have made my own twice (there’s a great place in Downtown Disney). If I don’t love it, I don’t buy it, because if I don’t love it I won’t wear it. And, this is a fairly Disney-specific item for me. I know that I will love Beauty and the Beast for many years to come.
I ended up making a Cinderella tshirt, and buying a Frozen tshirt.

2) Jewelry.
I always look at jewelry… it often gets more wear, in my experience, than a t-shirt because you can wear jewelry anywhere – including work. For some reason, I think my boss would frown upon me wearing my Anna and Elsa t-shirt with dress pants.

3) Mugs.
I found THE MOST adorable mug… Chip! I use travel mugs daily (#coffeeaddict), so I kept my eyes peeled for one and ended up finding one at Universal. It is a Dr. Seuss Tervis! (I also got a Frozen mug that I probably didn’t need… but OLAF.)

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4) Notebooks/Notepads.
This is my husband’s go-to. He is a constantly filling up note books, especially with sermon notes, and has adopted my practical approach to souvenirs. He picked up some notebooks at Harry Potter World, which he will use, and will also serve as a souvenir.

5) Pictures.
We have pictures from our vacations together all over the house. It costs almost nothing to print them, and we have a lot of fun taking them.

6) Toys.
Maybe this isn’t practical for everyone, and maybe you think it’s weird that it is on my list. However, Josh and I grew up playing with Disney play figurines. My mom used to buy them as motivation (potty training, etc) and also as little things to decorate our birthday cakes. Josh and I hope to have children one day, and want our children to use their imaginations… and also to love Disney movies as much as we do. 😀 For us, buying play sets at Disney was practical- since they were cheaper there than online.

6) Other…
Other things I have looked at are computer cases, hats, beach towels… if I needed any of these things, they would have been very practical souvenirs!

Disney Essentials

If you’re anything like me, you worry that you’re not going to pack the right thing. I’m always worried that I’ll forget my deodorant… and then I remind myself that Walmart is everywhere. But there are certain things you just shouldn’t go without! Here are a few of my Disney World Must-Haves.

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1. Sunscreen
I have fairly oily skin on my face. My face wash, Cetaphil, helps a lot but I HATE putting thick goopy oily sunscreen on my face… and I bet now you will too now that I’ve described it that way. My favorite sunscreen for my face is Neutrogena Dry-Touch. We get spray on sunscreen for everything else.

2. Aloe
I did some research, and ended up buying Burt’s Bee’s After Sun Soother. The reviews claimed that this lotion took the sting and heat out of the burn, and even turned burns tan rather than peeling. As someone who has gotten hundreds of sunburns, I was totally skeptical but y’all… IT REALLY DID WORK. So, I’m a big big fan. Burt’s Bee’s scores again!

3. Comfortable Shoes.
Not just “I think I can wear these all week,” but I KNOW I CAN WEAR THESE ALL WEEK. For me, the shoes of choice were my Under Armor tennis shoes. My backup shoes of choice were my Rainbow flip-flops, which I carried in my bag most days in case I started hating the most comfortable tennis shoes I’ve ever owned. Disney will make you hate even the most comfortable shoes! 🙂

4. Basic Clothing Pieces.
No one (in their right mind) should go to Disney to win a fashion award… but obviously there are lines of fashion no one should cross, even though you are at Disney. Fanny packs, for example, oh friends just don’t do it… and it may be hotter than a pit of flaming lava, but wear clothes… unfortunately there were a lot of people who did not adhere to this basic requirement.
One of the most strategic things I did was pack a lot of basic tops, and bottoms that I could match based on the occasion. I had jean shorts, floral shorts, my “adventure” shorts, and a skirt. Basically, I was ready for anything… and if I had thought of it, it would have been easy to carry a skirt in my bag and change real fast before dinner instead of wearing shorts.

5. A bag that won’t kill your back.
I have always traveled with a cross-body type bag, but by day 2 my shoulders are killing me! Especially carrying a bulky camera, water bottle, etc. My mom, a true genius, got me a small backpack and it was a life (and back/shoulder) saver. After a few days I was used to carrying it around and it never bothered me!

6. A positive attitude.
No, this cannot be packed… but you could have two people pack the same things, have two different attitudes, and have two very different vacations. If you complain and talk about how tired you are and how much you want it to be over, you WILL be miserable. We tried to list things we were thankful for, or look around us when the blisters on our feet began throbbing or our knees starting aching… simple things like that do wonders for your attitude!

7. Clementines.
Random, yes… but we packed them for snacks on the way to Disney, and then ate one every morning before hitting the parks. As I will tell you when I write about food– we were so hungry for fruits and vegetables and I am so glad I brought these tasty little snacks!

8. A reusable water bottle.
I bought one with a lid that locks, so it wouldn’t leak all over my bag. Throughout the day, I would fill it and I was never without water.

 

THINGS I SHOULD HAVE LEFT AT HOME

1. Dresses.
For some reason, I thought I would wear them… but I did not. I felt stupid wearing them with tennis shoes, I was worried about getting in and out of rides with modesty, and they hung in the closet all week.

2. “Fancy” shirts.
I brought two shirts that were nicer than a day at the park really warranted… but I brought them in case we came back to change for a nice dinner. I never wore them, and my versatile shirts worked really well with my skirt for this purpose.

3. Hiking shoes with little padding.
These shoes killed me. I need a lot of padding in my shoes, and my Salomon shoes really killed me… and maybe part of that is because I hadn’t broken them in as much as I should have.

It’s Time for Veggie Tales!

Well friends, I have returned. I managed to leave Florida with minimal sunburns, less blisters than expected, and not wanting to see another steak for a while (weird, right?). I walked around 7 miles a day (around 17,000 steps)… which means-annoyingly- that I didn’t lose any weight, I just didn’t gain any… I blame the steak, fries, burgers, ice cream… ok it all makes sense now.

Seriously though it was a lot of fun. At the end of the week, it did not matter that my feet were blistered and sore, my shoulders burned, or that we had slept on a pull out sofa all week. I got to spend time with family, make memories, and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.

I have been buried at work, and have not even begun to catch up on my work. It’s been encouraging, as well as overwhelming, because I have been able to recognize my role and value here. I do a LOT of tasks to keep the office running smoothly, and when I’m not here it matters.

Since we were gone for over a week there is just too much to tell you in one post! So instead, I’ve decided to break it down… over the next few days I’ll be talking about all things Disney, including food/restaurants, road trip meal planning, “must pack” items, souvenirs, and rides. I’ll probably do one about Universal as well… but that will be a small post, as the parks were likewise small. 🙂

So what are we eating after a vacation at Disney? Lettuce. Lots of lettuce. I’m not even kidding. Fruits and veggies, you are the best friends! We are making burrito bowls for dinner tonight… come to mama beans, corn, tomato, avocado, lettuce, cilantro, rice, and chicken! COME TO ME. [Official end of the ode to the veggies.]

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Dear Josh,

I am so thankful we had the opportunity to go to Florida for a week. I’m thankful I have a job that paid me to take time off. I’m thankful we slept on a pull out sofa instead of the floor (which still would have been fine!). And I’m SUPER stoked about our fresh healthy dinner. Days at work feel super long and I’m glad we got to spend every day last week together. You’re my favorite.

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‘Til I Return

This week has continued to crawl by. Work is fairly slow, and the minutes seem to pass even more slowly. I fully admit to googling pictures of Disney World and imagine I’m on a bus to the Magic Kingdom instead of sitting at my desk answering the phone.

I was worried we wouldn’t have enough food for dinners this week… but we had a lot of leftovers from Growth Group. NOW I’m wondering how we’re going to eat it all… but I live with two guys so I’m sure it will happen. Honestly, I have been worried about a lot of things this week that I just didn’t need to worry about.

Josh and I had planned to do date night tonight (Thurs), but some plans got cancelled and we were able to do it last night instead, which was SO refreshing. We went out to Chickfila, and sat IN the restaurant. I don’t remember the last time we did that, just the two of us at CFA. I wanted fries, but ordered a salad… and stole two fries from Josh. After dinner, we stopped Target to grab last-minute things for the trip, and my gracious husband let me explore the clearance racks. I found some ok things but nothing that I had to have, which is basically a new standard.

We got home in time to tune into American Idol. The top 4 performed, and I am just so torn. They are all so good… and I would like them all to win. Let’s go back to how amazing my husband is. Target Clearance and American Idol? I’m so thankful for him and the fact that he is content to snuggle up and watch my show with me. 🙂

Tonight I’m getting some things done for the trip- updating my playlists and doing laundry. Maybe I’ll do some thrifting on the way home from work! I finally earmarked some of my budget this month to do some thrifting. Honestly, it is so much easier to shop online since I’m working full-time, but I love thrifting… and if I don’t plan it, it won’t happen! I am HOPING to score some summer tops, a pencil skirt, and a cute dress, but I’m still reverting back to the standard above. If I don’t love it, if it doesn’t “do” anything for me, it’s not worth buying because I just won’t wear it. I feel like it took me way too long to learn this.

I’m trying to enjoy the calm before the storm- enjoying a calmer work week, a chance to thrift, paint my nails, and drink a margarita. I am so thankful for a week-long escape. It has been a long, challenging semester, and we’re tired. Walking 10 miles a day in the Florida sun may not sound “restful” but I really believe it will be refreshing. As soon as I get back, I have meetings to attend, bills to pay, billing documents to prepare… but for the next week, I’ll be at the happiest place on earth.

‘Til I return.

 

Dear Josh,

Thank you for shifting around your plans so we could do date night last night. I so needed that time with you, and I’m thankful that you heard me and met that need. What do you say we pack up the car and head to Florida first thing Saturday? I think we need some fun in the sun, what do ya say? Yes, glad we’re on the same page.
I hope you and Aaron enjoy your nerd night! I’ll be upstairs doing introvert things like laundry and watching The Mindy Project by myself. 🙂

See you tonight!

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I Struggle With Forward Motion*

Getting behind and catching back up again… this has been the story of my week. I have struggled to keep up, and found it impossible to get ahead. We’re leaving for vacation in 8 days.
8. DAYS.

In the last week, a lot has happened. In the last week, there have been a lot of changes, tears, opportunities, and excitement. In the last week, I have struggled to keep up… and that’s not such a bad thing. My attitude has been the bad thing… sub-par doesn’t even begin to describe. I have been so frustrated at the state of my house… and my lack of control over it. Frustrated that my knees are burning again from walking in place.

This weekend holds a lengthy to-do list. Several meals to prepare, bread to bake, salsa to blend, rooms to clean, things to pack, clothes to wash, a baby blanket to finish. I feel defeated and I have not even begun.

This week has held so much good… getting together with friends, date nights, buying the groceries we need, washing the clothes that we have, packing nutritious lunches… how does that so quickly fade into the background? Why is it so easy to recount the disappointments and frustrations? I’ve been struggling this week… especially to write. I deleted about 5 started posts because I didn’t know what to say. So, here’s the truth: I’m struggling. This week, I didn’t/don’t want to serve the people living in my house. This week things have seemed so unfair. I have taken out frustration by walking, and now my knees are screaming… so I am left sitting in God’s presence, asking Him to fix my attitude and to mend my heart.

How much time have I wasted complaining or crying this week? Have you done the same? Let’s make a different choice moving forward (or sitting still as I am temporarily forced to do).

So there’s the classic Deborah processing. This week has been so very full. Full of talks about the future, and Josh is applying for a job that would be double the pay… and give him some serious ammo for future employment. Right now, Josh is wrapping up his semester and is a little bogged down in papers and studying for exams. I know he will pass with flying colors, but I also TOTALLY get the stress of semester ending.
We visited my family last weekend, which was so refreshing and fun. My mom is one of my favorite people in this world… and I got to spend so much time with her. (And we made mango margaritas… which are my favorite!) One of the most exciting things about the weekend was getting to see my brother in his high school production, Grease! He didn’t have a major role, but it was so fun seeing him enjoy the experience, and talk about it.
My dream of getting my Master’s degree has been rekindled, which is exciting and terrifying, and we’re exploring options. I wouldn’t start a program anytime soon (probably 2 years out), but it’s still exciting.
At work, I am trying to get ahead so that nothing falls through the cracks while I’m on vacation. That involves MANY invoices to be processed (both from vendors, and to customers), billing documents to be prepared, bills to be paid, and office supplies to be stocked. This week is going to be a marathon of nursery duty, providing meals, babysitting, and packing… but at the end of that (and a 9-10 hour drive), we get to be at Mickey’s house.

I am now a member of Carolina Blogging! Check it out the new website, which just launched today!!! Also, don’t forget that I have a page on Facebook for my blog now… you can stop by and “like” it, and request to receive notifications so you never miss a post.

 *Blog title is referencing “Forward Motion” by Relient K… find it here.

Dear Josh,

This week has held so much, and I’m left feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. I’m sorry for the ways I’ve hurt you through my words and frustration. Thank you for doing all the shopping for this week, and for our vacation. I’m so thankful for the ways you have served me this week- shopping, cleaning, preparing lunches, and all the other things you do that I fail to thank you for. Can’t wait for Disney.

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