Life Lately – A “Brief” Recap in Photos

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Once upon a time I did a weekly/bi-weekly sort of “life lately” recap through the pictures I’d taken on my phone…but then Christmas arrived, the New Year started, my family went to Disney World and then unexpectedly headed back south to MS and lo and behold – here we are at the second week of February and I’ve had this post in the works for something like six weeks.

So without further ado – the last six weeks or so in pictures and brief snippets – so I’ll finally feel “caught up” on life.

My office mates and I are notorious for our love of coffee – we like to keep a rotation of flavored coffees and creamers and we all drink at least two, if not three cups of coffee a day. Heck – we even hired an intern that has the same coffee inclinations as we do…and my boss visits Starbucks more than once a day. So it should come as no surprise that when it comes times to give gifts, coffee mugs are always a big hit – I need a way to display all the mugs I have. One of the three mugs (yes – three) that I got for Christmas is all things Sith and I love it! Combining my love of Star Wars with caffeine – for the win!

The morning my sister left to fly back to Las Vegas – it snowed! And yes, this is going back to December 30th…and so far, that’s the only time I’ve seen it snow and stick to the ground so far this Winter! It did enough snowing to cover the ground and make everything look pretty, but much like my little sister…by the late afternoon, the snow had moved on to other places.

My dad took the pictures below without my sister and I knowing. I was singing to her as I told her “bye for now” – since when she boarded her flight to Vegas on the 30th, it would only be six days until we’d see each other again in Orlando on the 5th of January. The pictures crack me up!

Also of so much importance – have y’all heard of Nothing Bundt Cakes? My little sister introduced them to me and oh my! The company makes…no surprise here…Bundt Cakes that are to die for! Happily, there is a Nothing Bundt location quite close to Dulles and so after dropping my little sister at the airport, we stopped and grabbed a couple “bundlets” to have – those are small (not mini – the minis are called bundtinis) bundt cakes and they are delicious. If you’ve never tried Nothing Bundt, I’d definitely recommend them – they are so good!

The final day of 2017 was crazy cold; I think the temperature at it’s highest hovered just above 10 degrees. It was the definition of bitter cold! I kept seeing people posting pictures of frozen bubbles and when I read that they could be created as long as the temperature was below 11 degrees, I went for it! I didn’t have an actual bubbles – so I had to make my own bubble solution and so I think that’s why my bubbles were only…sort of…okay. It was still fascinating to see them become these perfect little round “pearls”. Unfortunately my home made bubble solution only produced a few wee bubbles and mostly a lot of light blue sludge…oh well – it was fun to give it a try!When the time came to dismantle all the Christmas decorations, I really felt like a slacker. I love decorating for Christmas but I hate taking it all down; it makes me sad and not to mention, the flame retardant that is on fake trees causes my arms to break out in welts! So I decided that I would put away all my ornaments and then sit the tree, still with lights and tulle into the storage room. I topped them with plastic garbage bags and then went around each tree in a big circle, wrapping them in Saran Wrap to keep them from getting too dusty and funky until mid-November. I was pretty pleased with my ingenuity – although I’m sure I’m far from the first person to “put away” my Christmas trees this way!

One of my Christmas gifts was a gift card to Tiffany’s – and the one item I decided that I wanted was; of course, sold out at the flagship store in NYC. It was also sold out at the store in Tyson’s and so I went ahead and ordered my necklace to be delivered to my house. It arrived less than a week after our visit to NYC and I am in love with it! I knew when I saw it on the website it was exactly what I wanted and it’s one of my favorite pieces of jewelry that I own!

I also received a really sweet bit of mail from one of my higher ups at Perfectly Posh for having such a great December – I thought it was really sweet and I’m still trying to decide exactly what I want to use my cute new bag for!

I know I mentioned a couple times (or something…) that after our family returned from Disney World I joined my sister in doing a thirty day clean eating challenge. Well the company whose products I was using was Arbonne – I was drinking two protein shakes a day and had to cut so many things out of my diet – including coffee, which almost killed me. My sister and I were past the halfway point when we headed to Mississippi for my grandmother’s funeral and with all the other stress that comes with that sort of situation, we just decided to call it done.

I lost five pounds in the 2.5 weeks that I was doing the clean eating and while numerous people touted all the benefits – I honestly hadn’t yet felt the burst of energy and renewed health that other people were talking about. I don’t feel like I eat that poorly – I don’t fry food, I eat a ton of vegetables and the only things I ever drink are water and coffee. So, it wasn’t really for me and while I’d have definitely kept it up for the thirty days…life sort of got in the way.

I mentioned in my Five on Friday post that I’m just in re-do mode all over my little house and I recently received the most gorgeous hand painted Game of Thrones postcards from a friend as a Christmas gift. I got those framed and found a shadow box for my signed copy of the script from season 6, episode 9 – the Battle of the Bastards – and placed my wee Jon Snow and Daenerys and called my new couch table decor a done! I need to decide what color to paint…

Of course, no post from the past few weeks would be complete without some shots of Watson! The cold weather has made him especially snuggly and we’ve spent many an evening curled up on the couch catching up on our favorite shows and enjoying the warmth of the fireplace!

 

 

Just two weeks ago, I spent Saturday afternoon with my friend Katie and her precious baby boy – he is growing so quickly and is already five months old. We caught up and I watched the little guy taking in the world around him; he’s especially fond of his puppy dogs and gets a kick out of everything they do! He’s so sweet and snuggly – and those cheeks are just too precious!

 

 

Last…but certainly not least…just a few shots from my time in Mississippi. I didn’t take that many pictures and I guess it wasn’t really a trip that warranted a ton of pictures, but there are a few that were taken here and there.

And finally – at long last – this is the life lately post; although using the word lately is stretching things just a bit. However, I finally feel caught up and now maybe I’ll get back to the business of blogging about present day…

Five on Friday

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I started this post last Friday…and then last Friday happened…and it was left as is. As it would happen, most of the things I was going to do last weekend – they are going to be the things I am doing this weekend. Life is funny like that sometimes, huh?

One. Scandal – I planned to spend last weekend catching up on the ten (yes, ten!) episodes of Scandal that I have let pile up on my DVR since the seventh and final season premiered last Fall..and I did catch up; albeit in the car on my iPhone as opposed to sitting on my couch watching it on my TV. The ten episodes I’ve watched have included some epic and action packed hours of television…and one that was; quite frankly, a bore (hello Fitz in Vermont…) – but the general theme for me in all ten episodes: I really don’t like Olivia Pope very much anymore. When I started watching Scandal, I certainly didn’t think the final season would have me cheering for her downfall…

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Two. Painting & Decor – About a year ago I added an accent wall to my room in a bright yellow; I’ve decided it’s finally time to do another accent wall and so I’m going to paint the wall opposite my bright yellow wall…yellow! So that the two yellow walls bookend each other and hopefully balance out the room. I updated my bathroom just two weekends ago and I’m also planning to look into a color to paint my bathroom – I’m thinking a pale purple…or a bluish gray. We shall see…

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Three. End Table Redo – The updating and redoing continues! My parents are doing some painting and updating of their own and when they decided to get new end tables, I decided I’d like to take their old tables (pictured below), give them an update and use them as matching side tables for my bedroom! The tables are an aged white with silver pulls and I’m on the fence as to whether I should paint the tables another color and get new drawer pulls…or just add new drawer pulls and call it a done deal. My bedroom is done in gray, white and yellow…so the aged white color would be fine. I’m leaning more toward adding new yellow/gray pulls and calling it a done deal… Thoughts?

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Four. Peter Rabbit – I grew up reading Peter Rabbit and when I happened to catch a preview for it a few months ago; well honestly, at first I thought it looked pretty silly…but the more I see previews…the more I want to go see it! So my adult self may be taking a trip to the movies this weekend to see a sort of animated movie about a rabbit that just can’t resist playing tricks on his new neighbor.

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Five. Rainy Mornings & Doing Nothing – The forecast for this weekend shows that it is supposed to rain on Saturday and Sunday…and that’s perfectly fine by me. Beyond my excursions to choose paint and drawer pulls and potentially going to see a movie; I don’t really want to do much of anything this weekend. So perhaps I’ll just sleep in and listen to the rain…that sounds amazing, don’t you think?

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And that’s all I’ve got for this Friday – I’m looking forward to spending the weekend doing my projects and relaxing. And perhaps in the midst of that, if going to the movies is a part of that…so be it. I’m just glad the weekend is almost here; this week has been…long(ish).

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Oh wait y’all – one more thing! So technically this is a Five(ish) on Friday!

The Olympics start tonight! I mean; they actually started on Wednesday night with curling & I watched men’s figure skating on Thursday night (so many falls…)…but they “officially” start tonight! I’ve always loved the grandeur and pageantry of the Opening Ceremonies and I can’t wait to see what South Korea has in store! So you can find me this evening seated on my couch watching the Opening Ceremonies…and you’ll be able to find me watching the games over the next few weeks…

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When Life Comes at You Fast

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What a “week” it’s been… I guess it hasn’t actually been quite a week and yet it’s almost been a week. It’s been one of “those” weeks.

The picture below was taken last Friday – when the day was new and everything was calm…normal…as it should be. I went to work, went about my routine as usual and around lunch time got one of those calls that no one ever wants to get.

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Could I please come home – something had happened and I needed to come home. And so, home I came…in the middle of the day. I spent the next hour hurriedly compiling clothes and shoes and things into a suitcase to make the trip to Mississippi – a trip that now existed because a person so dear was no longer on the Earth.

My precious grandmother; my Nanny, that I have referenced on this blog since it began almost eight years ago…her car was struck by an 18-wheeler last Friday and she was killed instantly. She was on her way to her Monday/Wednesday/Friday exercise class, the sun got in her eyes and what she thought was a clear roadway…was not.

I’ve experience sudden loss – my grandfather (my Nanny’s husband) passed away just as suddenly almost ten years ago. It was a different kind of sudden though…somehow…the same and altogether different.

The past few days – Friday afternoon through Wednesday night – seem like they passed in some sort of strange haze. I discussed with my cousin this morning that the days seemed long but it altogether seemed very short. Like a blink of time – so suddenly passed.

My Nanny was one of my best friends – she listened to me talk; sometimes for hours. When I lived in Mississippi, I would sometimes spend hours on the corner of her couch on a Saturday afternoon…talking about anything and everything I could think of, she’d listen and chime in from time to time.

She would always hug me – not a wimpy hug, one of those tight, fierce hugs that was filled with love and so much more. She told me all that time that she was proud of me; and I knew, more than I knew with anyone else – she meant it. She would tell me she prayed for me every morning and I’m sure those prayers helped me through days I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten through.

My Nanny was always laughing and always filled with joy…even after her best friend was no longer here, she was still filled with happiness and she offered that joy to everyone she came in contact with. And now we will all have to live with that same amount of joy and offer that happiness to others around us…

Life comes at you fast – so hug the people you love. Let them know you love them. If you are proud of someone, tell them…and as corny as it may sound, try to find the joy and happiness in each day – because you are never guaranteed another day to do that.

Park Hopping

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*We interrupt your regularly scheduled Five on Friday for the final post in my Disney recapping!*

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Oh – the final day of Disney and the mad rush to make it to all the parks just one more time… *sigh* I almost made it. Almost. Alas, too much cough medicine and a queasy stomach made for not the best morning…and so my four parks in one day effort was spurned.

We made big plans to get up at 6:30 (no – I promise we’re not crazy) and go straight to Animal Kingdom to arrive well before if opened. We figured by doing this we’d be able to get in the front of the line for Flight of Passage – a ride that three of us (Jeffrey said no thanks) wanted to ride again. And it worked out just fine, but when I woke up at 6:30 and kept having to stop getting ready because I felt like I was going to be sick…well I had to tap out (to my utter frustration) and resign myself to joining my Dad and meeting up with Ginger and Lindsey at Epcot.

Lindsey shared a few of her pictures from early morning in Pandora – one of the pictures shows the giant blue Avatar in the tank…although it’s a bit out of focus and hard to see!

I managed to move past feeling nauseated – I feel confident I took just a bit too much codeine cough syrup – and I joined my Dad for breakfast and then we headed for Epcot. The goal was to ride Frozen Ever After and Test Track (which we’d secured 1:00 Fast Passes for…); these were both rides that my Mom and I missed out on when I had to leave Epcot early on Tuesday evening and she so kindly left with me.

My Dad and I arrived at Epcot right about the time my Mom and sister were leaving Animal Kingdom, so we snapped some pictures at the entrance – including the newly installed International Festival of the Arts display (which started on Friday the 12th) and then we made our way to Norway. The line for Frozen Ever After was only showing 25 minutes – we hopped in and within 15 we were on the ride!

The line weaves through Arendelle and takes a short detour through the general store and sauna (yoooohooo…big summer blowout!) before you board your boat and journey through scenes from Frozen. You make your way up the North Mountain and hear Elsa do a fierce rendition of….Let It Go…of course, before Marshmallow lets you know that you really need to just…let it go…and sends you down the mountain and back to where you began!

My sister and Mom arrived shortly after we’d hopped off the ride, so we grabbed the breakfast (second for some of us…) of champions at the bakery in Norway. I got something called a snow globe and we could never quite figure out exactly what the cream was made from… was it ice cream? Chilled whipped cream? Something magical? Who knows… After that, I hopped on the ride again with my Mom and sister! My Dad chose to wait outside, he thought one trip to Arendelle was enough for one day, ha-ha!

 

I also managed to grab some video on the second round of Frozen Ever After – at my Dad’s suggestion. My favorite part of the video is when other people in our boat can’t follow the rules and so they interrupt the song to say “no flash photography please”. I mean – come on guys! I also have no clue why the screen cap is showing up sideways – the videos plays correctly, I promise!

From there, we had some time to kill before our 1:00 Fast Passes and by using the My Disney Experience app (such a game changer, if you have a Disney vacation planned – definitely download this, it’s free!) we were able to get a 12:00 reservation at the Rose and Crown Pub in “England”. We leisurely made our way toward England from Norway, stopping off in Mexico for one last stroll through the marketplace – there were sugar skulls on display as part of the Arts Festival!

As we made our way across the world (ha-ha) there were numerous art booths dedicated to the International Festival of the Arts – both literal artwork and artwork done through food! I didn’t think to take pictures but there were so many interesting things – a giant chocolate chip cookie made to look like a painter’s palette, a pop-tArt that was made to resemble a canvas & propped on an easel and multiple different deconstructed foods! It was all so interesting to look at and take in – and people were lining up to purchase a bite!

After stuffing our bellies full of fish and chips, tea, bubble and squeak, potato leek soup and more, we made our way back to future world and designed our cars for Test Track. Shortly thereafter, we climbed into the cars and went whizzing around the track at speeds of over 65 MPH – my hair looks so cute in the picture from the ride, ha-ha! Speeding along and there I am, trying to get my hair out of my face! What a nut!

We hopped off our high speed test vehicles and headed for another mode of transportation entirely – the monorail from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom. We needed to get Pirates of the Caribbean and the train and have some Dole Whip (y’all know that stuff is the best) to have hit all the rides/desserts we wanted to do in the Magic Kingdom and so we made our way across the Disney property, high in the skies and speeding along…

We arrived at the park and made our way to Adventure Land and hopped in line for Pirates of the Caribbean! We got in line just in time; the wait went from 30 minutes to 55 and it also started pouring rain; thankfully the line is completely under cover! We took our cruise with the jolly pirates and I read somewhere that the ride is eight minutes long – but man it seemed like it was over in a flash! When we finished, the rain had stopped and so we had our Dole Whip and rode the train around to the front of the park – getting a nice breeze in the process!

Also – how much fun is the face my Mom made when the photographer told us to act like pirates? I love it!

We slowly made our way toward the front of the park, snapped a couple pictures for our last view of the Magic Kingdom for this visit and then hopped a bus over to Hollywood Studios!

 

We ended our vacation at Disney World with Hollywood Studios for one very important reason – we had tickets to a Star Wars dessert party on Friday night! The dessert party took place an hour and a half before the start of the new nightly Star Wars fireworks show and with your ticket to the dessert party, you got priority seating for the show!

As soon as we arrived at Hollywood Studios, we noticed the wait time for Star Tours was 25 minutes and so Lindsey and I immediately made our way to the Star Wars section of the park and hopped on board a star speeder. I’m not sure where the 25 minute wait time came from, but we hopped right on! Once we finished our ride, we grabbed churros and went to inspect the big fence concealing all the work being done on Galaxy’s Edge.

My Mom and sister went and did a re-do of their favorite thrill rides and my Dad and I relaxed on a bench and did a little people watching. I did take the chance to go peruse some shops and I found my new, beloved Star Wars purse – which I snapped up and carried around happily for the rest of the evening. We decided to grab a little something for dinner – nothing too heavy since the dessert party started at 6:30 – but even splitting the chicken nuggets was too much food, ha-ha!

We entered the Launch Bay at 6:30 and to our surprise, there was so much more to the dessert party than just dessert and special seating for the fireworks show!

The Launch Bay contained props from all eight films on display as well as original concept art for the movies. We learned that the Launch Bay was open only for the people with dessert party passes; we could have dessert, meet Chewbacca, Kylo Ren and BB-8, explore the Launch Bay and enjoy ourselves. We’d be taken to the special seating around 7:30! It was defintely a really cool experience and so we decided first and foremost we’d go meet Chewie!

 

That’s right guys – I’ve met Chewbacca. I know you’re all very jealous! Chewie was super friendly, hugged everyone and was basically a walking carpet…just like Princess Leia said!

We perused the collection of light sabers and helmets on display as we made our way to the other side of the Launch Bay and hopped in line to meet Kylo Ren. Kylo is very no nonsense, he ordered us around and immediately began trying to convince us that we needed to betray the rebellion. When my Dad told him that wasn’t going to happen, he took his picture with us and let us know we could leave, ha-ha!

We made our way to the dessert tables after our interactions with the Dark Side and realized pretty quickly that we should not have eaten a single thing for dinner. There were cupcakes and brownies and pudding cups and bite size krispie treats and bon bons and sugar cookies…and everything had a galactic name and Star Wars themed spin. There were tables set up to munch on the snacks and there were also drinks and more hearty food like a fruit salad and oh…I can’t even remember all the food. There was so much!

We ate dessert and drank a watermelon lemonade that was to die for – until we were about to pop! My Mom found a seat in the Launch Bay and the other three of us went on the hunt for BB-8! We found a short line, hopped into it and before long we were “talking” to BB-8 about supporting the Resistance; it was pretty funny!

We also perused more props and models from the film and original artwork that has been done in response to all the films in the Star Wars universe – it was just a nerd heaven honestly…

 

The artwork was crazy impressive – and all so very interesting to look at…

As we perused a gallery with props and models dedicated to the First Order and the Dark Side, we drew a little too much attention to ourselves and ended up being “harassed” by some Storm Troopers. They especially enjoyed telling my Dad that he didn’t need to be in that sector, that he needed to tell them what he knew of the Resistance and to stop being a troublemaker. It was hilarious!

 

In case you ever wondered – Storm Troopers aren’t really interested in being part of a “selfie”. Ha!

Those same Storm Troopers escorted us to a plaza around 7:30 and we had front row seats for the TWO night time shows at Hollywood Studios; both of which involve projections onto the front of Grauman’s Theater. The first show was about the magic of Disney movies and included clips from live action hits such as Beauty and the Beast, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mary Poppins, Dr. Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy…to name a few.

The pictures were not super easy to take – so they aren’t of the best quality…but then again, it is what it is. Of course I’m going to keep the picture of the Beast and Belle doing their iconic dance as a huge picture so you can see that one…

There were people everywhere y’all – I didn’t even realize how many until I flipped my phone around and snapped a look down Main Street behind us! Wowza!

And then – with the familiar fanfare of music – Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular started and I tried to take pictures but honestly…there was so much happening and so many things to look at and I was just trying to keep up! The show was amazing and for Star Wars nerds like my sister and I, we were absolutely mesmerized…

It was the perfect way to cap off our week at Disney – and now I’ve finally finished re-capping the entire week at Disney. It only took me almost a month to get the recaps up but I know I’ll love looking back on them and seeing the wonderful memories…so I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little bit about our Disney adventure!

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It was; of course, magical!

 

 

January – Entertainment Recap

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Books I Couldn’t Put Down

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith – This book is like The Crown brought to life, which I realize might sound a little silly, but it’s such an accurate description. The book is enjoyable and informative and I’ve loved reading it!

The Alienist by Caleb Carr – The book behind the new TV series on TNT; the story follows a crime reporter, a police secretary and an alienist (the name for a psychologist in late 1800’s) as they solve a string of murders in New York City. This book started slow but picked up and within the first 100 pages, I was hooked! I stayed up later than I’d like to admit a couple nights in a row to finish this – it’s an excellent read!

Fairest of Them All by Serena Valentino – A look at the story of Snow White from the vantage point of the Wicked Queen; this book was a quick and interesting read! I liked the way the story was laid out and although it’s probably more of a YA book, I still really enjoyed reading it. There are three more in the series (at present) and I just started The Beast Within…I bet you’ll never guess what story it ties in to?

Books on the Shelf

Y’all – I did it again! I still haven’t made a dent in the books I bought during last year’s book spree but I bought several more books on Amazon earlier in the month to add to my list. I grabbed the Once Upon A Dream: Twisted Tales and Villains series; both Disney book series. I’m pretty certain they’re both young adult but I can’t wait to read them. The Disney hangover is real…

I guess I also need to read all the books I bought last year too, huh?

Must See TV

Victoria – All things British royalty; that’s one of the genres that appeals to me, so lucky for me as The Crown ended, Victoria took it’s place. From one great (female) British monarch to another! The second season of Victoria picks up right where the first left off and in only five episodes Victoria and Albert have welcome a second baby, are preparing for a third, held an extravagant ball that enraged the common people, took a trip to France and Albert learn’s some troubling news about his family…all that in five episodes! Can’t wait to see the rest of the season!

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The Alienist – This series, based on the book of the same name that I devoured this month premiered on the 22nd on TNT. I’ve only seen two episodes so far (of what will be a 10 episode limited series) but so far it is playing out much like the book for me; in that it has started slow but is picking up. It’s NOT like the book in many ways that I’ve picked up on so far – but with only two episodes watched, I can’t make a final judgement yet. Either way, at least I get to look at Luke Evans, ha-ha!

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Home Town – This show; it’s like Fixer Upper’s quirky cousin! And the funniest part is that it’s set in Laurel, MS…a town I used to drive through again and again going to and from college in Hattiesburg, MS. I love watching Ben and Erin take old houses throughout Laurel and turn them into something new and unique…it’s especially fascinating to watch Ben take bits and pieces of the house that most people would discard and re-purpose them into beautiful pieces! I’ll keep this in the rotation, especially after Fixer Upper ends it’s final season.

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The Handmaid’s Tale – Talk about an intense story; this would be it, oh my goodness. The television show is based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood and follows the book very closely. I couldn’t decide whether to watch the show but after the show racked up on the Golden Globes, I signed up for a free month of Hulu and watched the 10 episode first season in about a week. It’s definitely intense, aspects of it are hard to watch but it’s extremely good “television” and I can’t wait to see season two in April!

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Movies of the Month

The Shape of Water – What a surprise this movie was! I wrote in an earlier post that the trailers left me somewhere between intrigued and a bit weirded out, but the intrigued portion won out and I’m so glad I went to see the film! I will say this film is certainly not for everybody but I enjoyed it so much; the characters were warm and funny, the story spoke to seeing people that society views as damaged or “less than” and was really a touching love story. Parts of the movie are a bit odd – I’ll definitely say that, but all in all – such a good film!

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Beyond that movie; I didn’t see any new films but I did see The Greatest Showman for a second time with my friend Rachel! It’s such a good movie and has an excellent soundtrack!

Tasty Treats

Everything on this month’s compilation is from our week at Disney – mostly because there were so many delicious things to be eaten at Disney World. *sigh* I’m still dreaming about the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup, the Braised Beef from Be Our Guest and the Blue Cheesecake Mousse with Passion Fruit Curd from Satu’li Canteen in Pandora.

The other reason everything is from Disney? Because the Tuesday after we returned from Disney, I stated the Arbonne Thirty Day Cleanse and I haven’t really eaten anything that just blew my mind since January 16th – I mean, I can’t even have my beloved coffee. I’m counting down the days until February 15th.

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The Greatest Showman soundtrack – The music in this film is spectacular and I’ve been playing the songs on repeat! My personal favorites are A Million Dreams, The Other Side and Rewrite the Stars…and Never Enough is my very favorite!

Walt Disney World: The Official Album – The Disney hangover in musical form; this is quite literally the soundtrack to the park, with songs and musical score from rides and lands throughout Walt Disney World. I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

And all my favorite podcasts, including The Popcast with Knox & Jamie, the English Renaissance History podcast, a Storm of Spoilers and the Big Boo Cast.

What I’m Looking Forward To

Warmer Weather – Honestly; if it isn’t going to snow then I just don’t understand the point of the cold. I love living in a place with four seasons but the lack of snow so far this Winter has been a bit sad. So I honestly feel like if it isn’t going to snow, then it might as well just go ahead and warm up, ha-ha!

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The End of the Cleanse – My thirty day clean eating challenge/cleanse, whatever you’d like to refer to it as ends on…funnily enough, Valentine’s Day! I am SO very much looking forward to the end of the cleanse because while for the most part it’s been fine, there have been days that were a real struggle for me. I’m especially looking forward to the morning of February 15th when I can finally have my precious coffee once again!

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That’s all I’ve got for the first month of 2018 – I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

When You Wish Upon a Star

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I’ve eaten at Be Our Guest and I can now die happy.

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Okay – perhaps that’s a little more dramatic than I intended it to be, but it’s also kind of true. I headed for the Magic Kingdom on Thursday the 11th with one thing on my mind – we had reservations at Be Our Guest for dinner and I’d finally be able to enter the Beast’s castle. I mean; it’s as close as you can get to crawling inside the animated movie, right?

If you think I’m joking – I’m not. We arrived at the Magic Kingdom with scores of other people; I think this park was the most crowded of the four parks, although that may have more to do with the park being the smallest of the four. We immediately found several different photographers and snapped pictures – we’d made sure to arrive before the Magic Kingdom actually opened and so we got coffee and secured a spot for the rope drop.

It actually did a little bit of sprinkling rain right before the park opened…and the wind breaker I’d brought did next to nothing for that. Oh well. As soon as the park opened, we headed for Peter Pan’s Flight, then hit It’s A Small World After All, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and popped into Gaston’s Tavern for cinnamon rolls that were as big as our heads. And they were absolutely delicious. The breakfast of champions, to be sure.

After our breakfast, it was time to hop aboard a mine train with the seven dwarves for a quick spin around the mountain. This ride is essentially a children’s coaster, but ever the pansy of the family…the ride photos; and most importantly, me in the ride photos…it was an absolute, crack you up moment of hilarity. I won’t be sharing those photos because no one ever need see my shame – but maybe you can catch my thrilled face in the video?

Once we disembarked from our mine train, we took a spin in the teacups (the wait was only five minutes!) and then made our way over to Tomorrow Land for Space Mountain Fast Passes! Guess what guys? I also don’t really care for Space Mountain…and so I snapped some selfies while everyone else journeyed to space. We got in a trip around Tomorrow Land on the People Mover (one of my favorites) and Lindsey was thrilled when we rode Carousel of Progress…go figure, ha-ha! You just gotta do what’s you – you know?

We made our way across the park and into Frontier Land…and on to Orleans Square to MY favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom – the Haunted Mansion! The line was a 45 minutes wait, but the queue for the ride is so interesting (at least to me). There is plenty to see and the closer you get to the mansion, the eerie sounds pick up and a few years back they added interactive mausoleums as well as plenty of clever tombstones to read. As a kid I was always too scared to ride the Haunted Mansion (go figure, right?) but once I rode it…I was in love! I still can’t decide whether I prefer Disney World’s old world mansion or Disney Land’s antebellum mansion…

Are some of those pictures dark? They sure are – but you know, it’s hard to capture ghosts on film! Ha-ha! We grabbed a little lunch at Columbia Harbor House and explored around the Frontier a bit – riding Big Thunder Mountain, snapping some pictures of Rapunzel’s tower and Maximus hoofprints and of course the views around the “wild west” and staking out a spot for the parade at 3:00…

If you’re wondering – how many pictures can one person take of a parade? Well the answer would be…more than you’d imagine. I also have an outstanding amount of pictures of Cinderella’s castle near the end of this post and when we get to the pinnacle of the day; eating at Be Our Guest, well I took ALL the pictures.

All of these glorious pictures were taken as I posed myself across the top of one of the many brightly colored trash cans that line the streets of Frontier Land… And the grown adult couple to my left kept trying to edge me out of the way – which I still can’t understand because it would be different if I was blocking children, but I’m blocking no one…and you’re both taller than me…go figure…

After the wonders of the parade, we made our way over to Adventure Land and hopped in line for the Jungle Cruise – the wait time said 25 minutes but I think this ride ended up being the longest wait we had all day – a bit more than 30 minutes. We also rode Aladdin’s Magic Carpets; a ride that we have absolutely never rode before…not sure why not? We perused the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse because we didn’t have time to get in line for any other rides…

The time had come to check in for our dinner reservation at Be Our Guest – the best part of the day had finally arrived! All my Beauty & the Beast related dreams were finally coming true…now if only they would hurry up and call our names so we could go in!

There is a bridge that branches out across a stream and up to the gates of the castle and if you don’t have reservations, the closest you’ll get to the castle is the gates. I remember from our previous visit being told that reservations were required to go through the gates – and I didn’t have them. This time though; after we’d spent a few minutes taking goofy pictures of the gargoyle lining the walkway and the castle perched atop the mountain peaks, they called our name and the adventure began!

We were escorted through the gates – emblazoned with the Prince’s coat of arms and through the heavy wooden door flanked by beasts and topped with a tile mosaic that tells the start of the Beast’s story: the enchantress arriving on a cold winter’s night and offering a rose. We were told that the two creatures bearing a load on their shoulders were holding up the weight of the castle (rough life), I was handed Lumiere and we passed under the archway held up by the creatures…and into a perfect replica of the ballroom from the animated film.

The ceilings were soaring and painted with cherubs in the heavenly pale pink and blue clouds, three giant chandeliers lit the room and at the back of the room, floor to ceiling windows looked out on the mountainous landscape that surrounds the Beast’s castle…and snow was gently falling. I was in heaven y’all – absolute heaven.

The food is French cuisine that has been American-ized just a bit (imagine that, right?) and we decided to start our meal with a cheese plate and French onion soup (only Jeffrey got that)… I chose the braised beef for my meal, served with fingerling purple potatoes and it was the best meal I ate the entire time we were at Disney; and not just because I was plopped down in my favorite animated movie while eating it..ha-ha! My entire family agreed the food was some of the best we’ve had at Disney – so I’d definitely recommend trying to get reservations here.

Of course – of course we got dessert! Haven’t you ever heard of the gray stuff? It’s delicious! Don’t believe me…ask the dishes! There was a rolling dessert cart that the waiter would bring table side and show you all the gorgeous pastries that you could choose from – there were so many beautiful choices but I never wavered in my first and only choice – the gray stuff! My Dad got a strawberry cream cupcake that was heavenly and we splurged and got a fifth dessert – a triple chocolate cupcake to share.

The castle is composed of three dining areas – the main room being the ballroom; obviously. You can also sit in the West Wing, where the draperies are torn and the lightning flashing outside the windows causes the Prince’s portrait that is hanging over the fire to transform from his human face to Beastly face and back again. The rose sits on a table under it’s cloche with the magic mirror at it’s side… The third dining area is the music box room, filled with paintings of the characters around the castle and at the center of the room , a life-size music box of the Beast and Belle waltzing in their iconic costumes.

Once your meal is finished and you’ve explored the rooms, you can head to the library to meet with the Master of the castle – the Beast! You wait in the armor gallery…and of course, the armor is enchanted, so it chatters away while you wait. When we met the Beast, he was immediately smitten with Lindsey – her “Beast Mode” t-shirt completely won his heart! We snapped some pictures with the Beast before finding our way out of the castle and into the evening – a lovely end to the best meal and one of my favorite moments of our entire trip!

After our dinner, we split up – my parents wanted to see the updated Hall of Presidents and Lindsey and I wanted to stake out spots for the night time fireworks show at Cinderella’s Castle. Even though there was almost a full hour until the fireworks, finding a seat was pretty interesting and I’ll never cease to be amazed at how grown adults will wait until the moment a show starts and then elbow their way in front of you. Oh well, one of the “joys” of Disney, I suppose?

And yes – there are twenty different pictures of the castle in various states of projection and fireworks magic below. I think I actually took about fifty, so consider yourself spared from all of them…ha-ha!

Once the show finished up at 9:00, it was the long press through the crowd and back to the buses to make the way back to our resort. I love the Magic Kingdom because; as the name implies, it’s got something magical about it. I especially loved this visit because I was finally able to experience eating at Be Our Guest. It was another wonderful day of Disney vacation in the books!

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