Tag Archives: festivities

There’s always something to be thankful for

25 Nov

Today much of the country participated in Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to sharing and acknowledging the many ways we have been blessed. Many families woke up this morning and started their festivities with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, followed by a dinner of turkey and all the fixings. The number of people sharing in the festivities isn’t important, but rather it is who is there that is important. 

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember, probably because I am blessed to be part of a family that is extremely close, not just in distance from each other, but in our relationships. It is not uncommon for my family to get-together as a large group multiple times a year. We just love being together – there’s laughter, joy, stories and fun. WIth open arms we accept and adopt friends, neighbors and anyone who needs to be loved, which if you think a about it – that’s everyone. And that extends to our Thanksgiving table as well. Over the years there have been any number of new faces who have joined our celebration and we embraced them as only my family can!

This year, I will admit I struggled with Thanksgiving. It’s the first major holiday we’ve celebrated since Scott and I moved into our apartment (for the purpose of this blog, Forth of July and Halloween aren’t major holidays). Last night, there was no smell of pumpkin pies, pumpkin logs or mincemeat pie baking in the oven. I woke up this morning and there was no parade to be watched (we only have Netflix) and there was no arguing with my sisters over who would get to use the bathroom first to get ready. It felt like any other day of the week to me. Scott and I got ready and drove out to meet my family. I hoped that once we were all together, I would find whatever was missing this year. 

Once at the church (there are just too many at our Thanksgiving dinner to fit in a house, we counted 42 this year!), even the setup was different. For my entire life, we have all sat at one table and passed the dished around. This year, it was buffet style. Honestly, my first reaction was that the tradition was ruined. But in the end, it ended up allowing everyone to sample a little bit of everything (in years’ past, there were dishes that never quite made it all the way to the other end of the table) and everyone was eating much sooner. 

    

One tradition that remained is the olive finger photo – my sisters, cousin and now her son, and my aunt, always put black olives on our fingers and take silly photos during dinner. This has happened ever since I was a small child.


The other tradition that remained firmly in place was that of going around the table and one-by-one sharing the things we are most thankful for. Listening to everyone always fills my heart with joy as I hear their touching words – some spoke about challenges with health, car accidents, the loss of loved ones, but what they all ended with was the strength of this family that has continued to pull them through. 

While I started the day feeling as if today were nothing special, I end the night reminded of what is most important – faith, family, friends and memories. It was not easy letting go of tradition, but today is truly about creating a new tradition and memory every year. 

This was the first Thanksgiving Scott has gotten to spend with me and my family. He has been such a blessing to me as we made the transition to living together away from our families, and continues to be my rock as I have gone back to school to get my master’s degree. He has embraced my family and they him. I could not be surrounded by a better group of people – just check out the photos!

This Thanksgiving was also special because we got to spend part of it with my cousin, Erin, who will be enlisting in the Air Force in just a few days! We are so very proud of her and will miss having her around, but know she will be where she needs to be, following in the footsteps of others in our family who were absent from the table this year, but who are always with us in heart and mind.  

Bridal Shower, Wedding Prep and the Chicago Skyline

12 Mar

Last weekend, Scott and I had the chance to spend two and a half days with his family in Chicago celebrating the upcoming wedding of his younger sister, Abbey.

After a six and a half hour drive through two states that started at 6:45 a.m. Friday morning, and a (terrifying, for me) journey on the Chicago Skyway, we’d arrived. Thankfully Scott was driving when we hit the city because 1. They are crazy drivers coming at you from every which way and 2. It was necessary that I take as many photos as the bumpy road would allow since the only other time I had been to Chicago, I’d flown, and it was an overcast day, which blocked the beauty of the skyline.

But before seeing family, being the hungry-driven travelers we were, we made a quick stop for food at Portillo’s. This was only my second time eating there, and it was just as delicious as I remembered. You MUST try the beef and cheddar croissant… as Scott once told me, it’s something you cannot visit chicago without trying.

Portillos food in Chicaog

Once our bellies were full, there was no rest for the weary! After quick hugs and hellos, we were put to work, the reason for this trip after all!

I had the honor of being asked to do Abbey’s hair for the wedding, along with the bridesmaids, so we started practicing all the different styles she’s sent me over the last few weeks. We tried two different updos and a half updo with curls. All three were beautiful on her, but as we were putting in the last style, I just kept telling her how it was going to be my favorite, and as it turned out, her favorite, too! But I’m not telling what it is until her wedding day, even though her fiancée, Dan, saw her Friday night with the style in. (He approved, too!)

After hair and a yummy dinner, it was on to cutting purple tulle and decorative ribbon to decorate balloons at Saturday’s bridal shower, followed by folding invitations while Abbey and her mom addressed the envelopes. With three of us folding (Dan, Scott and myself) it took no time at all! And not long after that it was thankfully time to hit the hay, I mean pillow!

Saturday morning started with Scott and his mom arranging a sweet photo collage of Abbey and Dan that included baby photos and pictures of the happy couple through the years! I loved seeing all the old photos! Then it was off to Party City to pick up some special balloons and then off we went to the church to decorate!

The room turned out lovely decked out in purple and silver, the wedding colors, and Abbey’s mom did an amazing job arranging cupcakes to look like a wedding dress!

The shower was a blast – she received many lovely gifts and we all had a wonderful time laughing and talking. I felt so at ease and at home and comfortable with these people, which was so special for me as it was only the second time I’ve been around Scott’s family, and he wasn’t even with me at the shower, because, ahh-hem, no men allowed, minus the groom of course.

Scott’s family is a lot like mine, on more than one occasion there were those no-so-subtle comments about when he and I would tie the knot such as “maybe we’ll be celebrating you and Scott next” or “have you thought about what colors you’d like for your wedding?”

Before we go any farther, yes, we have talked about it, yes, it will happen someday, no, I don’t know when that will be, no, we aren’t already secretly engaged, and yes, I have thought about what that special day will look like, what girl hasn’t?!

Now that we have that out in the open, I love knowing that his relatives are excited about me joining their family one day! And to answer one of their questions, I have thought about it, a lot actually, over the years, and it’s entertaining to me to see how my mental picture of that day has changed since I was a little girl.

As we’ve kept it no secret, Scott and I met while working at Walt Disney World in 2010, so naturally, people expect us to have an EPIC Disney wedding. Take a quick look at my Pinterest album, and you’ll see all the parts and pieces of a fairy tale wedding are there waiting to come to life!

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Bet you can’t tell what my favorite Disney movie and Princess is….anyways, the Disney ideas are endless! There’s the overall Disney wedding, the themed attraction wedding, or limiting it to the specific locations we’ve worked, or limiting it still to Disney’s Animal Kingdom since that’s were we met! The cake could even be “dino themed” since we were working at Dinoland all those years ago! Or maybe, we recreate our first date and do an EPCOT themed wedding with all the countries represented! How fun would that be!  Of course there would be hidden Mickey’s everywhere and how about Dole Whips for everyone, one of our favorite Disney treats!

And thank goodness there are sites like Paperless Post that provide dozens of invitation ideas – browsing quickly I found these two which screamed Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast! And of course, they also offer the option to create a style using your own photos, what’s not to love about that?!

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As you can see, so many fun ideas out there should we decide to go the Disney route when it’s our turn to plan a wedding. The only thing I know for sure that I want Scott to be the one standing at the end of the aisle waiting for me to get to his side. Nothing else matters, not the month, colors, theme or the cake. Just the two of us madly in love ready to start living our own happily ever after.

 

Thank you to Paperless Post for suggesting I dream about my future wedding for this post. I was not compensated in any way. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

A Lover’s Holiday

16 Feb

Congratulations reader! You’ve made it through another February 14th. That day has so many names – Valentine’s Day, Singles Awareness Day, Chocolate-Lovers Day, this year it was Sunday (lol).

I will be the first to admit that in that past, I have dreaded this particular holiday…but when you find someone one special, and I mean REALLY SPECIAL, that all changes!

For our last few Valentine’s Days, Scott and I have celebrated long-distance style with texts, packages and video chats. But not this year because TWO WEEKS AGO SCOTT MOVED TO MY STATE!!

  

For the FIRST time in our entire relationship, we live in the same state, town, and house! That in and of itself was enough to make this the absolute best Valentine’s Day! Just getting to see him everyday is what I have wanted for so long now, and sometimes I find myself still fearing I’ll wake from this fantastic dream to be rudely awaken by reality. BUT IT’S NOT A DREAM!

The Valentine celebrations actually started a few days early at this house this year. On Thursday evening, mom was preparing to leave for a long scrapbooking weekend and was making heart-shaped sugar cookies for the scrapbooking ladies with their names in icing. With the extras, she made cookie valentines for all of us at home and let us decorate a few as well!

Last week was a stressful one for me, but knowing I was coming home to Scott helped a lot. He was there to listen and provide suggestions and just give me a hug, kiss and encouraging word that he believed in me. When Friday finally rolled around and I arrived home, this sight was waiting for me in my room!

A dozen red roses, an emoji pillow and a two pound box of chocolates!

A dozen red roses, an emoji pillow and a two-pound box of chocolates!


Beautiful red roses

Beautiful roses!


I was totally shocked. I had only been home for a short while when he said “let’s go upstairs, there’s something we need to talk about.” My heart stared racing – thinking something was wrong or upsetting him. Turns out he wanted to “talk” about his early timing of Valentine’s Day! Isn’t he the sweetest!?

Fast forward to Saturday, Scott had to work later in the evening so we couldn’t spend the day together, but we did go out and enjoy a Mexican Valentine’s dinner when he returned home. It was fun getting dressed up a little for a date night – something we hadn’t really been able to do before! I even tried a dutch braided updo using the banana clip tip I learned from the Twist Me Pretty YouTube channel I follow. Worked perfectly – I love how soft and romantic this style was, and it was extremely easy to put in!

Feeling fancy before our Valentine's Date

Feeling fancy before our Valentine’s Date


Dutch braided updo

Dutch braided updo


Mexican Valentine's Day dinner date

Mexican Valentine’s Day dinner date


What Scott didn’t realize before we went to dinner is that I had “hid” his Valentine’s surprise over with his video games. He found it right before we went to bed Saturday night and decided to wait until after work on Sunday to open it. This year I went the practical route and got him things he’s talked about needing. I think he really liked what I picked.

Scott's Valentine surprise

Scott’s Valentine surprise


And as per tradition in our family, mom and dad had these waiting for us Sunday morning – well mom was away scrapbooking, but dad remembered to put them out with mom’s handwritten notes! I love how they even included the boyfriends! I don’t know how many of my friends ever received Valentine’s from their parents, but it makes me feel loved and special and important and it’s a tradition I can’t wait to pass on to my own children one day!

Mini boxes of chocolate

Mini boxes of chocolate


So, for the first time in forever, not only did I enjoy Valentine’s Day to the fullest, I celebrated for four straight days! There was and is lots of love to be felt and shared. So blessed to have Scott and my family who love me unconditionally not only on Valentine’s Day, but the other 364 days of the year, too!!

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. – Charles M. Schulz

chocolate in heart box

Two pounds of chocolate surprise!

Memorial Day 2014

26 May

Today was bittersweet as we watched my youngest sister, Macayla, march in her last Memorial Day parades. Way to end on a high note, kiddo!! 🙂

 

 

“When I’m with you, I don’t feel so alone.” – Hercules

27 Apr

It’s hard to believe that exactly one month ago today I arrived in Florida, it already feels like a lifetime ago. That after-vacation glow is starting to fade and become more like a dream I was too suddenly waken from. It wasn’t just the fact that I was back in Florida, or back at Walt Disney World, I was with my friends, my surrogate family, people who mean more to me than I’ll ever be able to express in words.

Before my vacation started, there was an 8 hour work day ahead of me…LONGEST DAY EVER! By 9:30 AM I was practically bouncing out of my chair with pent-up excitement and nervousness, but I pulled it together.

If you know me personally, you already know that I LOVE to fly and that within the last year or so I have also developed the habit of flying dressed-up. I leave for the airport straight from work and it’s a hassle to remember to pack a change of clothes, also I am convinced people treat you different because they believe you are someone of great importance. Allow me to present Exhibit A – My BRAND NEW flying to Florida outfit:

Flying to Florida outfit

In all honesty, I had an alternative reason for wanting to look extra nice. My boyfriend, Scott, was the one picking me up from the airport. If you’ve read any of my posts before, you know we are currently in a long-distance relationship. While we talk all the time thanks to Google+ Hangouts and texting, the last time we were in the same state together was October 2013, 6 very long months ago. Maybe it’s just a girl thing, but I wanted to impress him. 🙂

You know that scene in movies where the girl and guy see each other for the first time after an extremely long time apart – everything is in slow motion, heart in their stomachs until their eyes meet from across the room, painfully slow they make their way towards each other, face-splitting smiles on each face and then suddenly they are in each other’s arms and nothing else in the world matters or can interfere with their happy bubble. That moment, those perfect couple of minutes are real. The only thing missing was an elegant and uniquely composed instrumental soundtrack to enhance the feelings of relief, love and togetherness.

But alas, we had to return to the hear and now, and there was a fun moment were we wondered around the parking deck looking for his car.

My Disney adventures began the next afternoon when we met up with my Disney College Program roommate (now I call her my Disney sister because we are so close), Monique. Her 30th birthday was a couple days before I arrived and we had planned that I’d take her out to lunch to celebrate. We ended up at the Trail’s End Restaurant at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

 

After lunch, we found ourselves at Epcot so I could visit my friend Stephanie, who is a manager at The Electric Umbrella. And then it was time to go on an adventure! This time of the year at Epcot they have the Flower and Garden Festival, it’s really something to see. Here are a few of the amazing arrangements:

I had my first experience with the new Fastpass+ system. We were able to get a FP for Test Track but it wasn’t until later in the afternoon. Then around the world we went, starting in Canada. Somehow in all the time I’ve spent at Disney, I’ve never seen the little movie in the Canada Pavilion, so it was a fun first. It takes place in a 360 degree theater and takes a little time to get use to. (Make sure to hold on to the railings so you don’t fall over, you may feel a bit dizzy as you look all around you.) From there we made our way around towards France, America and Italy. Somewhere in that area, there was a representative handing out free applesauce drinkable pouches, which weren’t half bad.

Once at Test Track, I was very excited! Not only is it one of my favorite rides at Walt Disney World, it was also recently refurbished (within the last couple of years) and I’d only been on this “newer version” once before. With this “updated” version of the ride, each person designs a car and puts it through its paces on the course, competing with the other “drivers”. Check out our AWESOME car, we may have gone a smidgen overboard. 😉 And it’s green because that’s my favorite color!

Design a car at Test Track in Epcot

We finished off the night at Downtown Disney. I couldn’t believe all the construction that was happening, I almost didn’t recognize it! Also, Disney Quest had a paint job, and as a former cast member of the “big blue box,” I was not a fan. Once all the construction is complete down here, I think it’ll be a nice area to come and relax with friends. One of these days I want to go bowling at Splitsville, from what I’ve heard from friends who still live down there, it’s a great atmosphere and a lot of fun!

Saturday, Scott had to work, so that’s how I found myself at Animal Kingdom at 7:00 AM. Now, I am not a morning person, but I think I hid that fairly well. 😉 Of course, it HAD TO BE RAINING (wouldn’t be a Disney vacation if it didn’t rain at least one day), so here I am in my borrowed rain gear waiting for the park to open at 9:00 AM. On the plus side, I was the first one in line and the first one to enter Dinoland, USA, where I use to work and it was strange seeing no one wondering around, but that just meant I was also the first one on Dinosaur, and it felt like my DCP days all over again!

But my favorite part about being at Animal Kingdom was getting to visit Scott at work!

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And I was one of three people to ride the Wildlife Express Train while he was driving! Check out my video!

After a bit more running around Animal Kingdom, I made the switch back to Epcot to meet up with Monique. We had big plans to meet Anna and Elsa, the characters from Disney’s Frozen. While waiting in the 2.5 hour line, the sky opened up again and drenched us. You know you are a dedicated (read as crazy) Disney character meeting person when you brave lightning storms and threats of tornadoes to have your picture taken with a fictional character. THIS is what made us such great friends from the beginning, our willingness to do insane things together all in the name of our love of Disney. In the end, our perseverance paid off and we got those pictures, please excuse the fact that we look like “drowned rats” according to Monique.

Then it was back to Animal Kingdom to meet Scott when he got off work. Apparently Epcot was my park of choice this vacation, because we found ourselves back there so we could watch the firework show, Illuminations. We watched them from the Mexico pavilion, and it was pretty cool, as we were waiting, some of the technicians came around to get the fireworks ready.

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I have no pictures of the actual firework show from this trip, because believe it or not, I just WATCHED, and soaked in all the amazement and wonder. We did notice there was a slight glitch, one of the fountains wasn’t working and then a speed boat zoomed out there, someone fixed something and zoomed away before more fireworks exploded on the water. I know they know what they’re doing, but I was still kind of nervous for that boat being out there in the middle of the show!

Sunday found us at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We started off the morning in a drawing class learning how to draw Olaf from Disney’s Frozen.  “Do you want to draw a snowman? I promise it isn’t very hard. The teacher tells you what to do, and guides you through each circle that you make….he tells you how to shape his head and body too, it’s a super speedy class….do you want to draw a snowman, it might not always be a snowman. Okay, draw.”

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Of course we hit all the main attractions here, Indiana Jones Stunt Show, Lights, Motors, Action, Rock n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, and AVOIDED Tower of Terror. We did see Fantasmic, a firework and water show. My advice, get there early to get a good seat because even though this is a HUGE theater, it fills up fast, and trust me, you don’t want to be in the “standing room only section.” We started to leave a few minutes before the end of the show to beat the crowd of people because we were going to head over to Magic Kingdom to watch its firework show, Wishes. I have seen this show from various places around the park, each of the resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon and from backstage behind The Haunted Mansion when I had a perfectly timed break. On this particular night, we watched them from the cast only parking lot. It was pretty neat, the fireworks appeared to be SO CLOSE! Every time there was a big boom, different car alarms in the parking lot started going off. It was different seeing the show and not hearing the music, but when you’ve seen the show as many times as I have, it doesn’t matter because you have the soundtrack memorized and can sing it yourself. 🙂

On my last full day in Florida, it was finally time to return to Magic Kingdom. I will always get chocked up when I see Cinderella’s Castle or visit Mickey for a picture. I will always call Ad/Lib my “home” because I worked at The Haunted Mansion. I will always find such joy in talking to people in line, especially if they reveal it’s their FIRST TIME TO DISNEY, as happened while I was waiting to see Mickey. The family in front of me was from Georgia and they had a little girl about three years old. I couldn’t help but overhear they were already lost and not sure what to do (where you meet Mickey is right inside the entrance), so I offered to help. In the 30 minutes we were in line together, they downloaded the MyDisneyExperience App and we had planned out their entire vacation. Moments like that always bring back my Cast Member days, and it’s exciting to know that I haven’t lost who I was back then. If anything, those days changed me for the better – before the DCP I never in my wildest dreams would have voluntarily spoke to strangers in line, I would have been too shy. But now, it’s who I am – if I can help make someone else’s vacation a little less stressful and more magical, that’s just a bonus for my own trip.

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In the meantime, while I was visiting Mickey, Scott was saving us seats at the train station so we could watch the new Festival of Fantasy parade from up high! It was the perfect spot! There was so much to take in during the parade that I’m glad I had Scott record it so I could watch it again when I got home (yes, there are videos on YouTube already, but it’s different knowing your watching a recording from when you personally experienced it). I’ll share a couple pictures so you can see what I mean!

We ended the night watching the Castle projection show and Wishes. For me it was bittersweet – the next day I had to leave. Say goodbye to Scott, Florida, Disney, my friends, my home. I don’t know exactly what it is about Wishes, maybe because it was the first show I saw when I became a cast member, but it always makes me emotional, I will always cry. Always. I tried to hide it because, well, most grown women don’t cry at fireworks, but for me, it will always be more than just a firework show. I’m emotionally connected, there are memories, good and bad, that I will forever associate with that show and they always come flooding back to me. Luckily, I’m in good company in this crazy reaction, because I met up with another DCP friend, Jayme, who was also there on vacation, and she had done the same thing!

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Tuesday morning I woke up crying. I didn’t want to leave. I hate goodbyes and they never get any easier. I was breaking on the inside. Do you know how it fells to leave your heart behind, not only once, or twice, but now three times? There’s an empty space, calling it a hole would be a joke because it more than that, it’s this place where even though you can smile and be happy on the outside, you aren’t complete because a part of you is missing. All of those feelings, and trying to prepare and hope this time isn’t as bad, make the tears fall randomly throughout the day.

Since I had to be at the airport around 4:00 PM, we decided against going to a park. Instead, we went Mini Golfing at Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf, it was 18-holes themed around the classic animated film, Fantasia. Now, on a side note, you never really know the person you’re dating until you play mini golf together. I was happy to discover that we are both somewhat competitive and can be rather sarcastic (joking of course) with each other. Yes, Scott won, but that’s because I let him! 😉

 

And then all too quickly it was time to go to the airport. More tears. A heart-wrenching goodbye and he was gone. And I slowly made my way through security and to my gate, and then like magic I was home. While the last month has been hard being so far away after being together, it’s only made easier because as of this post, there are only 193 days until I return to Florida. And then, once again, I’ll be right where I belong. ❤

Where dreams come true2_March 31, 2014

My Virtual Thanksgiving Table

28 Nov

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

24 Nov

Have you ever walked into work and been surprised to see yourself on a poster? I have…. here, take a look!

Disney's Restaurantosaurus Cast Members sing Christmas Songs in DinoLand, A Christmas Carol Poster

As I have mentioned many times on my blog, I use to work at The Walt Disney World Resort®. My first role was as a Quick Service Food & Beverage cast member at Disney’s Restaurantosaurus  in Animal Kingdom from August 2010 – beginning of January 2011. One night after the park closed and we were cleaning the kitchen, there was a group of us who started singing Christmas songs as we worked, and we sounded GOOD, there were harmonies and flowing melodies! And from there our little choir of Resto Cast Members was born!

We would sign Christmas carols outside the restaurant with the guests at random times throughout the day! Nothing made me happier than having my manager come take over my position so I could go sing! (Have I mentioned I LOVE singing just as much as I LOVE Disney?) Sometimes other cast members would join us as you can see from the picture above. She was a character attendant for Pluto and Goofy and one of the places we would sing was along the path the characters took to enter and leave DinoLand. There was this one time Goofy stopped to “direct” our little choir! It was one of the funniest and most adorable things I had the opportunity to witness. The guests LOVED every minute of it!

My favorite stories though are when little kids would come running over and request their favorite songs just so they could sing with us. My heart swelled every time just knowing this little thing, singing Christmas carols at Disney would be a memory these families would take with them. And I was a little part of that magic.

I don’t recall having this picture taken. And I was honestly shocked when I came into work one morning and I found a smiling, singing me on the wall. But if there was ever to be an unexpected picture of myself hanging for all my coworkers to see, I’m glad it was this one as it so clearly showcases me in my element — singing, enjoying life to the fullest and making memories for perfect strangers. Who could ask for more in a photo?

Disney's Restaurantosaurus Cast Members sing Christmas Songs in DinoLand, A Christmas Carol Poster