Florida, Part 2: The Happiest Place on Earth

The first four days of our trip were spent “park-hopping” around the Disney Parks.  Our first stop was the Magic Kingdom.

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It was a beautiful day and a great way to start off our week of fun.  A lot of things have changed about Disney World since I was a kid, but thankfully the magic and excitement of walking down Main Street USA has not.  It was so fun to experience it all with Nathan, who was having his first Disney adventure.

We set aside an entire day for this park, but quickly discovered that as adults traveling without kids, we could get through the place rather quickly, which was really nice.  We were able to get through a ton of rides, including big ones like Space Mountain, in the morning during the “extra magic hour”. 

There are a lot of things you notice as an adult that you don’t notice as a child.  For instance . . . strollers.  So many strollers.  Everywhere.  After a couple hours in this park, I was ready to declare war on anyone with a stroller.  They even have designated “stroller parking” areas, which basically consist of a hundred strollers are parked in a mini parking lot.  People would leave their diaper bags and snacks and purchases in their stroller and go on rides.  Those people are way more trusting than I would ever be!

The park itself is quite a bit different than I remember too.  They have redone Fantasyland, and Toon Town no longer exists.  The new Fantasyland is cool, although quite popular and crowded.  The other thing I noticed is that you didn’t really see the characters wandering the park.  When I was a kid, it seemed like they were everywhere and you could just walk right up to them.  These days, you either see them in a parade or you wait in a half hour line at designated times and places for a Character Meet & Greet.  That is definitely something I missed this time around.

Thankfully, the best and most classic rides were still there.  Teacups, anyone?


Jungle Cruising . . .


Magic carpet flying!


Our favorite rides of the day were Space Mountain and Thunder Railroad.  Least favorite?  Winnie the Pooh.  Nothing against the Winnie the Pooh ride . . . in fact, I love Winnie the Pooh.  It was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid.  That, and the fact that it was only supposed to be a twenty minute wait, were the whole reason we went on the ride.  But sixty minutes, a pushy mom, and a crazy child on a leash later?  I’d had enough.  So at that point, we parked ourselves at the train station with a prime view of the parade route and the castle for the evening festivities.


We had the best seat in the house for the Electrical Light Parade and evening fireworks show.


The Electrical Light Parade is such a great show!  The best part of it is that it pays tribute to some of the oldest, most classic Disney characters and stories.  Even though you don’t see them as much throughout the park anymore, you see them in the parade.  It was fun to watch.  After the parade, they had a show called Celebrate the Magic, where the castle is lit up to tell the stories of Disney’s most popular and beloved stories along to music.  I had never seen this show before, and it was really cool to see them transform the color of the castle and actually reflect the stories and images on the castle.  Finally, we kicked the night off with the fireworks shows over the castle, another first for me.  My husband, the fireworks connoisseur, gave the show two thumbs up. 

It was an amazing, happy, and magical first day!


Florida, Part 1: Resort Relaxation

I know, I know.  I promised Florida pictures last week.  Clearly, I had other things to get off my chest.  Also, it turns out that I enjoy the actual taking of the pictures more than the editing of the pictures.  That being said . . . I hope you are ready for a ton of pictures!  I am going to have to break this into several posts due to abundance of said pictures.  Besides, some places were just so magical (hint, hint) that they deserve their own dedicated posts.

As previously mentioned, Nathan & I were lucky enough to escape to Florida for seven wonderful days (nine, if you count our travel days) in the beginning of February.  It was a combined vacation/honeymoon/bucket list sort of trip.  And it was a blast.  It was sunny, warm, responsibility-free, and fantastically amazing.  We had a pretty busy itinerary on this trip, and we were up by 6 AM every morning to start our day.


We stayed at a Disney resort, which was SO convenient.  The Walt Disney World Area (parks & resorts) covers 40 square miles.  The place is HUGE.  I can’t imagine renting your own car and staying offsite and trying to drive all these places.  We had free shuttles to every park (and we never waited more than 5 minutes for a shuttle), free transportation to and from the airport, extra hours at the theme parks, and a lot of other perks that made our trip incredibly easy.  Our resort was the Port Orleans Riverside, and it was beautiful.  It was always pretty quiet (as evidenced by these pictures, taken in the middle of the afternoon).


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One thing we liked best about the resort was how pretty it was.  Our resort was huge and our building was a 5-10 minute walk from the main building, but the walk was so scenic and enjoyable.  The river running through the resort is man-made and only about five feet deep.  They had outdoor moves every night (kind of like a drive in, except you walk in), which was really cool.  We walked to the movie screening at the Port Orleans French Quarter (resort right next to ours) one night and watched Tangled.

Our building was called the Acadian House.  It had wonderful views and quiet courtyards surrounding it.



Our resort had six pools.  There was one big pool near the main building that had the waterslide and walkup bar, and it was the crowded, noisy one where all the kids and families went during the day.  The rest of the pools were scattered throughout the resort between buildings and were referred to as “quiet” pools.  There were no kids there, and you could just relax on your lounge chair, read a book, and take a nap.  Ahhh, relaxation.  That was where we spent our pool time.


The other awesome part of our resort was the riverboat transportation.  Because we were on the water, we had the option to take boat transportation to Downtown Disney, which is basically a big touristy area with restaurants, shops, and shows.  About a month before our vacation, we made dinner reservations at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney for the fourth night of our stay.  We were lucky enough to get to take the riverboat cruise directly to House of Blues!




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It was such an awesome night, even though the wind picked up and we had to ride the shuttle back when the riverboat closed early.  It was our one sit down dinner out, so we spoiled ourselves with drinks, dinner, and dessert.  House of Blues was a really cool restaurant with incredible food and a great atmosphere.  Downtown Disney had some live music that night, which was pretty cool too.  But the most memorable part of the evening came in the form of some chocolate-y goodness.


This triple chocolate cheesecake is literally the most incredible thing I have ever eaten in my life.  I got so excited when it was placed in front of me that I started eating before I remembered to take a picture.  This cheesecake is so good that I have not been able to stop thinking about it.  And it’s been a month and a half.  I even had a dream about cheesecake.  Seriously.  I may have a problem.  Anyhow, if anyone has a recipe for a triple chocolate cheesecake, please share it with me.  It’s my life mission to recreate the deliciousness.

And that concludes round one of the pictures.  Stay tuned for more!


Flashback Friday: Peer Pressure

“If Sally jumped off a cliff, would you?”

“I don’t care what Kimmy’s gets to do.  Kimmy’s parents are not your parents.”

“I don’t care if Jane did it first.  You aren’t Jane.”

My parents said things like this to me a lot when I was a kid.  When I followed the lead of my friends, just because they were doing it, even if I knew my parents wouldn’t approve.  When I wanted to go places or do things that my friends got to do, but I wasn’t allowed.  When I begged my parents to buy me clothes or other things that my friends had, so I could have them too.  At the time when they said these things to me, I thought it was so unfair.  I was too young to realize that they were teaching me to think and act for myself instead of following the crowd, and to make good choices based on the values they were instilling in me.  I never knew how valuable these lessons were until I got older.

Peer pressure stinks.  It starts so young that you don’t even know what it is.  The older you get, the worse it gets.  It is the second worst part of being a teenager (the worst is teenage acne, in case you are wondering).  When you’re a teenager, peer pressure is everywhere – pressure to wear the right clothes, hang out with the right people, and get invited to the cool parties.  And often, even when you give in to the pressure, you don’t end up with the results that you hoped for.

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, there was this one girl who started to hang out with my group of friends.  She was perfectly nice, but someone in our group got it in their head that this other girl was “following” us around and that she was annoying.  All it took was one person saying it and soon, every single one of us had followed their lead and gone along with characterizing this girl as an annoying hanger-on.  She had to put up with a lot of crap that she didn’t deserve.  She just wanted to fit in, and no one would let her.  None of us had the guts to say no or stand up for this girl, who really wasn’t doing anything wrong.  She liked us even though we didn’t deserve to be liked.  I hate to think of how unaccepting we were.  In high school, I ended up working with this girl and we actually became real friends.  But I always had to live with the guilt of how that group of us had treated her those years earlier.  I am lucky that she was clearly a bigger person than me, and able to forgive us for how we had acted.

When I was in high school, Abercrombie & Fitch was ridiculously popular (also, for those who remember, it was ridiculously expensive).  You just couldn’t be cool if you didn’t have “Abercrombie & Fitch” written across your t-shirt or their signature pocket designs on your jeans.  I begged and begged for clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch.  My parents refused to buy them, saying that it was a waste of money to pay for a name.  I was desperate to have them, so I eventually saved up enough of my own money for one t-shirt and a pair of jeans from Abercrombie.  But guess what?  Having those clothes didn’t make the popular kids like me any better.  Also, being expensive didn’t stop the rhinestones from falling off my shirt or holes from wearing in my pricey (but cheaply made) jeans.  I can look back on it now and wish I’d listened to my parents.  It was a colossal waste of my money, and giving into the pressure to be like everyone else didn’t get me anything that I wanted.

And then there was college.  My sophomore year, we went to a Halloween party.  I have never been big on costumes and didn’t know what to dress up as, but I did know that most of the other girls going to the party were just using Halloween as a reason to show way too much skin.  So I bought some tight jeans and a revealing tank top, even though that is totally not my thing.  I was not comfortable in those clothes, but I was wearing the same thing as all the other girls, so I thought I was safe.  Instead, one of my friends made fun of my outfit in front of everyone.  It was a tough lesson to learn, but a lesson learned nonetheless.  You can do all the right things to fit in and still not fit in.  It’s so much better to just be yourself.

Luckily, after I got past those teenage years, I found that peer pressure started to let up a little.  The older I get, the less I notice it, to the point where I’ve reached my mid-twenties and don’t really feel much peer pressure at all.  I think it was after college that it really let up, but I can’t pinpoint any specific event that changed things.  Part of it is me being a little selfish – thinking of myself, rather than the people trying to tell me what choices I should make.  Outside of my parents and Nathan, I don’t really give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks.  So when I make my choices now, I ask myself what is in it for me.  Will I reach my goals or be the kind of person I want to be if I make certain choices?  Will it benefit me financially, physically, spiritually, or emotionally?  Who cares about the designer on the label; the important question is, will it make my butt look good?  I also reached a point where doing what everyone else is doing has become somewhat of a turn off, to the point where I will actually avoid certain things specifically because other people do them.

These days when I feel peer pressure, it comes in different forms, and it’s usually easy to say no.  Like when I met up with a friend from high school who exclaimed, “I can’t believe you’re still driving your Toyota!”  Yes, I drive my 13 year old car from high school instead of a shiny new car like so many people I know.  You know what?  It runs fine, and I don’t have a car payment.  I’ll chalk that up as a win.  Or like when I deleted my Facebook account, and I had a lot of people tell me all the other actions I could take to keep the account and avoid deleting it.  I couldn’t believe how many people tried to get me to stay, or to just deactivate my account temporarily so that I could come back later.  But I made up my mind that I was done with Facebook, and I refused to let anyone talk me out of something that I felt so strongly about.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not trying to say that my choices make me superior to anyone else, or that I am immune to peer pressure.  From time to time something does come up, and it’s not always so easy to ignore it.  I feel a lot of pressure sometimes seeing people my age (or even my sisters’ age) in a different stage of life with babies and houses and all that stuff.  I compare myself to them, and it makes me think I am falling behind and I get all freaked out.  Sometimes it takes me a little while to remember that we all have different paths, and things happen when the time is right.  We have very good reasons for not having a baby or a house right now, and we have a lot of other positive things in our life that the people who settled down early don’t have.  (And most importantly, I can rest assured that I won’t ever be a 40 year old grandmother).  Once I get back to thinking about it rationally and realistically, I regret ever having let the pressure get to me in the first place.  Because the truth of the matter is that I would much rather blaze my own trails in the world than follow someone else’s path.

Now, I didn’t tell you all these personal and embarrassing stories just for fun, so let’s get to the bigger point.  I have always assumed that since peer pressure faded for me as an adult, and it became so much easier for me to say no to things, that it must be the same way for everyone else.  But there have been several instances with people in my life lately that have made me realize that it is not so easy for everyone.  A lot of adults still feel peer and societal pressure, just in different forms.

Some people never grow out of the materialism and never stop comparing their possessions to those of their peers.  Instead, they just move from comparing clothes and toys to comparing cars and houses.  And in the effort to keep up, too many people end up with cars and houses that they can’t really afford.  Someone I know recently admitted to making a huge business decision simply because they saw other people doing something and wanted it for themselves.  I thought this was unfortunate, a little sad, and a really bad rationale for an important decision.  No one should feel like they have to make huge personal or professional decisions out of fear of being ridiculed, or based the decisions and actions of others.  You should feel confident and comfortable enough to make the unique, individual decision that is best for you, your family or your particular business.  And if someone is pressuring you to do otherwise, they don’t have your best interests in mind.

Other people just never learn to say no.  Which is also sad, but in a different way.  The word “no” has so much power if you can say it, mean it, and stand behind it.  If you can’t say no, then you risk saying "yes” to actions that you’ll regret later, making commitments that you don’t want to make, or letting people walk all over you.  How many times have you or someone you know started a sentence with, “I didn’t really want to, but . . .”?  Often, the answer is too many times.  Saying no is not easy.  It can be really scary to say no.  It took me a long time to have the courage to say no and stand behind it, because I would try too hard to be nice or simply didn’t think my opinion mattered.  But everyone’s opinion matters – we just have to be brave enough to say it, before it’s too late and we regret not saying anything at all.

I’m not trying to criticize anyone who still feels or concedes to peer pressure, because it’s a really tough thing.  I’m also not trying to say that I’m some sort of expert on it, because I’m not.  I’m simply making an observation of what I see in the world, and what I want to change.  Peer pressure will never be completely eradicated, but we all can pass on the same lessons that my parents passed on to me.  My hope for everyone is that they can get to that place where they can live in our society with all its pressure, but not let that pressure define their world. That place where they feel like they can be themselves, make their own choices, and just say no if that that is what they want to do.  The place where everyone – young, old, and in between – can look in the mirror and say truthfully that they don’t want to be like anyone else except for the unique individual staring back at them.

In the end, I think that kids and adults both need the same message.  Giving into pressure from our peers or society never gets us the end results that we are striving for.  It just keeps us from being true to ourselves.  Don’t be afraid to go against the grain.  It is so much cooler (and easier) to be yourself than to try to be like someone else.  Others will respect you more for being yourself.  Even if they don’t realize it now, they will later.  There is a great quote by the feminist Rita Mae Brown: “The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you . . . except yourself.”  There may be a lot of “everyone’s” in the world, but there is only one “you”.  And the “you” is the only one that really matters.


A Sad Goodbye

Today, a nation weeps.

Today, a nation said farewell to a hard working, stand up guy.

His name is Wes.


via providencejournal.com

Elsewhere, a nation of orange rejoices.  Peyton Manning claps his hands, and laughs, “Muah hah hah! I win again! No one can stop me now!”

Early reaction to the devastating news:


Lady at Work: “Who is Wes Welker?”

My Brother: “So, are you a Broncos fan now?”

My Husband: “I guess I am a Broncos fan now.  I may have to buy a new jersey.”

Megan: “Danny Amendola?!?!?! He could get hit with a Nerf ball and get hurt!”

All very valid points.  But best summed up by:

My Dad: “So who is Brady going to pass to???? Belichick?!?!?”


Goodbye, Wes.  We’ll miss you.  Make us proud.

Oh, and one last thing.

Suck it, Belichick.


I’m Back!!!

I know, you thought you were rid of me for good.  But fear not, I am back - with a brand new laptop screen that actually works!  And even better, paid for by American Express instead of me (thank you credit card extended warranty program)!

A lot of things happened while my laptop was in the shop.  The break from the computer, while at times irritating (particularly when attempting to pay bills on my iPhone), was also quite refreshing.  I didn’t have this distraction sitting right there.  I started running more, reading more, and in general doing non-Internet things.  And that has been pretty nice.

I also managed to find time to go on a kick-ass vacation/second honeymoon to Florida for a week and a half in February with my husband.  Talk about relaxing . . . and warm . . . all things we don’t get enough of at home!  I have a lot of pictures to share with my friends and family, and will work on getting them edited and onto the blog over the next few weeks.

I have to say, the break from blogging was nice too.  When people tell me they find certain stories funny and say how much they enjoyed them, I feel pressured to come up with something else funny to write about.  And sometimes that is hard.  Unfortunately, my life is not always fun and games (wouldn’t that be nice).  Sometimes I just want to write about something serious, to vent or de-stress, or just share an opinion, but I worry that people don’t want to hear or read that so I just don’t blog at all.  And then I feel guilty when my friends and family comment on how I haven’t been blogging much.  I have to admit that it was nice having a break from that.

That being said, I am back, ready to blog, and ready to share some stories.  And opinions, when I feel like it and can find the right words.  First up will be the vacation pictures.  Stay tuned!