A Harry Potter Dream Come True

I’ve had this post on my to-do list for a long time now, and normally I think that a year is probably about 10 months too long to wait to write about something. But in light of Alan Rickman’s recent death and how much the Harry Potter series has meant to my daughter, I thought I’d share it anyway.

When Emily was in second grade, we bought her the first Harry Potter book for Christmas. She devoured it, and eagerly ripped through the entire 7-book series, reading about a book a month. After each book was completed we’d let her watch the corresponding movie, which basically turned her into a total expert on all things Harry Potter by the time she finished the final movie.

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Harry Potter infiltrated every part of her life. She’d make lists of spells and hang them on her bulletin board in her room. She’d write stories for school that were inspired by the books. She’d always loved owls, but after seeing the first movie she renamed her beloved stuffed owl Hedwig and always had to have her by her side while reading the books or watching the movies. There were Harry Potter teacher gifts. We had never-ending conversations about the series, major discussions on character motives, and imagined different outcomes for various situations the characters encountered. And of course we ate Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. 😀

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It was a no-brainer that we were gonna have to take her to Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 🙂

We really wanted the trip to be as special for Emily as possible, and Julia was still too young to ride pretty much everything. My parents kindly agreed to watch Julia for a day so that Emily, Jay and I could fully enjoy the park together. The next time we were at their house for a visit we woke Emily early in the morning, piled in the car (with Hedwig, of course), and headed to Orlando!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is spread across two of Universal’s parks, with London, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, and King’s Cross Station all on the Universal Studios side, and Hogwarts and Hogsmeade on the Islands of Adventure side. Jay and I thought that it would be more fun to start where Harry Potter himself began his adventure – in London – and then proceed from there, roughly mimicking Harry’s journey.

First we stopped to chat with the shrunken head on the Night Bus, which was located in London…

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…and then went through the magical bricked entrance to Diagon Alley!

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We hit the super awesome ride at Gringott’s straight away, then headed off to Ollivander’s to let a wand choose Emily. 😉

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If you purchase a specific type of wand, you can actually “cast spells” around Diagon Alley and watch things magically happen, like making feathers float. It’s pretty awesome, and in my opinion worth a little extra so that you can discover tons of hidden secrets!

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It seems the power eventually went to her head. 😀

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After exploring everything we could, we stepped through platform 9 3/4 and hopped the Hogwarts Express to the other side of Harry’s world.

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We immediately went to one of the places she’d wanted to see the most – Hagrid’s house. It’s not an attraction you can enter, but it was pretty amazing to be able to check out the exterior. Hagrid’s was situated near one of the rides, and while we were in line for the ride Emily was able to see one of her favorite creatures, Buckbeak. ❤

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Then it was off to Hogwarts! A word of advice – don’t have too much or too little food in your belly before getting on the ride at Hogwart’s. It’s crazy fun, but crazy intense!

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We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks (which Emily still talks about a year later) with some non-gill-inducing Gilly water – then hit the rides some more before heading back to Diagon Alley.

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We couldn’t help having some fun with the window displays at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. This is one of my favorite pictures from the whole day!

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Emily had hoped and prayed that she’d be able to find a stuffed Buckbeak while we were there, but unfortunately they were completely sold out. She was a little bummed, until she turned around and noticed that they had Crookshanks. That was easy. 🙂

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Before we knew it, the day was over and it was time to head back to my parents’ house and to Julia. We can’t begin to express how proud we are of Emily. She’s so kind to everyone around her, so willing to help, and works so hard in school. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to reward her with something that meant so much to her. We love knowing that she’ll remember this trip for a long time, and that she had that time with us all to herself. ❤

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5K’n with my Man

In 2014 I ran the Castaway Cay 5K while vacationing on a Disney cruise. It was such a unique experience – I mean, a 5K in the Bahamas? And a Disney 5K at that? I knew there was a good chance we’d find ourselves on another Disney cruise in the future, but I also felt pretty strongly that even if I ran this 5K again it just wouldn’t get any better than that first time.

And then Jay decided he was going to run it with me. ❤

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A year later I found myself standing at the Port Adventures desk in the lobby of the ship requesting a ticket to run this event again. At the last minute Jay stepped up and asked for one too. He’d signed up to run a 5K a few months away and was training for it, so he thought this might be a good way to see how he might fare later. A trial 5K, you could say. He was worried that he was going to slow me down and that I wouldn’t have as great of an experience as I was hoping for,  but I really wanted to stay with him the whole time so I could encourage him to keep going – even if it meant we had to walk part of the route. That’s love, baby.

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We met the other participants in one of the ship’s many lounges, where we were all given instructions on how where to drop off our kids, the 5K’s route on the island, and any other information we needed to know before disembarking. One of the best things about this event is that Scuttle’s Cove, the island’s kids’ club, opens at 9:00 – but since the run starts at 9:00a and is only open to ages 10 and up, a few Disney crew members open Scuttle’s Cove a few minutes earlier so that parents are able participate in the run. Thank you Disney! ❤

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The run was awesome (of course). 🙂 Jay and I started out together, and ran about a mile before walking. It was H-O-T out, and the route has very little shade, but we pushed through, alternating walking and running as we went. Before we knew it, we were halfway done!

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Jay does not enjoy being in the heat, and I was SO proud of him for not giving up – especially since the way the course is laid out it would have been easy to quit halfway through without even needing to complete the whole thing.

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When we were about 3/4 of a mile from the finish line, I sprinted ahead so that I could improve my time a little and also take pictures of my sweaty hunk completing his first 5K. He completed the run in just under 40 minutes, which I think is amazing considering it was his first one and how much of it we walked!

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Last year’s run was amazing, but I just gotta say that I love LOVE ❤ that I finally got to take a medal photo with this man. I love that we are both wearing bibs. I love that we are both all sweaty (yet smiling). I love that we are both sporting the same bling. I just love this picture so much!

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Running with Jay definitely improved the overall experience. I love having someone to talk to when I run, and when I’m on vacation I just can’t get enough of him. So spending time with my man while doing one of my favorite things was just perfect. I just ignored the rest of the people on the island who all felt the need to say the same thing: “Why would anyone run on vacation?” 😀

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PS CHECK OUT THAT MEDAL! Such a huge improvement over last year! From what we were told, when I ran the Castaway Cay 5K last year it was not an official runDisney event, so they were not sponsoring the medals. The Mickey ears I got were actually the same medals the ship gives out as prizes for other activities, like winning trivia night. But now the Castaway Cay 5K is sponsored by runDisney, which means a much nicer medal!

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A Salesman, a Security Guard, and a Cobblestone Necklace

I’ve said it before. In fact, I’ve said it here… and here… and here. Oh, and here.

Tiffany & Co. is the best store in the world.

And in case I haven’t made you a believer yet, allow me to spend yet another blog post trying to convince you how fabulous this store really is. And I’m not sorry.

My bestie and I just took our annual Girls’ Trip, this time to snazzy, jazzy New Orleans. Our trips always include a few stops for frappuccinos, and while waiting for our order at the mall near the French Quarter we spied it – Tiffany & Co. ❤

We got our coffee, and because my bestie is the best bestie in the world, she was happy to let me wander through the mall and swoon over the store’s entrance, which was flanked on three sides by beautiful tiffany-blue lighting. She humored me and guarded my beverage and my purse while taking yet another photo of me in front of a Tiffany & Co. sign.

And the security guard comes over and asks if he can be in the picture with me.
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Here’s where I knew I’d be having yet another great Tiffany’s experience. Here’s where this visit to Tiffany’s became my favorite ever. Here’s where I knew I’d be writing another post about this establishment and its total awesomeness.

After my photo moment with Ben, Sanne and I went in to look at all the goodies. We were immediately offered assistance by a salesman with an incredibly kind face, to which I politely declined. I explained that I wasn’t going to buy anything, I was just looking to get some ideas for my upcoming birthday. Sanne and I walked around admiring all the pretty things – and then I saw it.

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This is the Tiffany Cobblestone Medallion Pendant. It is by far my most favorite item the store has to offer, and I had never seen it in person before.

Cue the drool.

This pendant is absolutely breathtaking, and comes with a pricetag completely worthy of its beauty – $14,000. There was no way they were going to let me try that on, especially knowing I had no intention of purchasing it. But I had to ask. See, right before we left for New Orleans Jay accidentally made a joke about money while planning a trip with his friend, saying, “There’s no time like the present to spend money.” So, naturally, I saw the perfect opportunity to freak him out a little. After all, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose too, right? 😀

I asked the kind-faced salesman, John, if there was any way I could try it on. He didn’t even hesitate – he pulled it right out of the case and while my jaw dropped to the floor and tears began to form in my eyes he brought it around the counter and clasped it around my neck. I’m still in shock.

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Can I just stop for a minute and say again that this is the most stunning piece in the entire Tiffany & Co. collection?

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I took a bunch of pictures with the necklace on before reluctantly handing it back over to John to return to the case. He wasn’t done with me yet though, and called me to join him behind the counter to have a look at the matching Cobblestone ring on his computer screen. Definitely on my wish list too, but as I told John, if you’re going to spend that kind of money then you should definitely go for the more eye-catching piece. 😀

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We finished looking at everything, but before we left I asked John to take a picture of Sanne and me. He looked around the store for a minute, then found the perfect backdrop. I wish this picture did it justice – the wall behind us was beautiful.

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Then I took one with John too because, after all, we had become such good friends by this point.

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I asked him if he was okay with me posting his picture on my blog, and he got all excited, writing down my blog’s web address and complimenting its name, which then led to a brief conversation on Slurpees, Icees, and slush puppies. 🙂 In case you can’t tell, John is awesome. He then called Ben (the also-awesome security guard of entrance-photo fame) over and told him that the two of them were going to be in my blog post.

Sadly though, we couldn’t stay all day, and Sanne and I bid adieu to our new Tiffany & Co. besties. On our way out John gave me his business card and told me that he hopes I get my necklace someday.

Me too, John. Me too. ❤

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London on a Bicycle

One of our favorite things to do whenever we vacation somewhere is to locate a bike rental shop and check out the area at our own pace. Jay and I have biked through Williamsburg, Toronto, and even on Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island), and now we’ve added London to that list!

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This past June Jay and I decided to spend our 13th anniversary in London. We knew we’d want to go exploring on a bicycle at some point in our 3-day stay, and after doing a little digging online we came across BrakeAway Bike Tours. The company offered a number of different tours, and we were thrilled to see that one of them would cover many of the popular tourist attractions that we’d already planned to visit – which would save us a ton of sightseeing time on our trip.

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We met our tour guide, Matt, in Waterloo Station, then took a short walk to where the bikes were housed – a crazy tunnel where spray painting the walls was completely legal. The tunnel was frequented by graffiti artists who would just paint over the existing work on the walls, and as a result the walls were constantly changing daily – we were advised to take pictures of anything we liked because it would most likely be gone the next day! There were even artists spray painting in the tunnel while we were there, which was pretty cool to watch (albeit a bit smelly).

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We put on our helmets, grabbed our bikes, and headed off through the tunnel. I was a little nervous about biking on the “wrong” side of the street, but Matt was a great guide and always made sure everyone in the group stuck together. He explained biking signals, that there would be areas where we’d be required to walk our bikes, and that we could feel free to stop him any time we needed.

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Big Ben, Buckingham Palace (including the Changing of the Guard), St. Paul’s Cathedral, and MI5 were just a few of the stops on our tour. At every location we went to, Matt would give us interesting tidbits of information that made us feel as though we were really getting insider information – past and present – about the city. He quickly caught on that Jay and I are Harry Potter fans, and any chance he got he’d squeeze in a few factoids about the actors and the movies. 🙂

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The ride was an easy 7.5 miles, which we finished in only about 3.5 hours (including a 20-minute break). Despite the crazy traffic and not being used to everyone driving on the left, we didn’t have a single moment where we felt things were dangerous. Our tour included the bike rental (mine was named Audrey Hepburn – how perfect is that for a gal who loves Tiffany’s?) and helmets, and of course, an amazing tour guide. My bike had a little basket on the front, which was perfect for holding my purse, jacket, and water bottle. If you’re ever headed to London for a sightseeing trip, I highly recommend checking out BrakeAway Bike Tours! 🙂

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Jay and I have always enjoyed walking and biking through the cities we visit, but I think this tour has made us consider booking bike tours on our future travels to other cities, too! Now, where to go for our 15th…? 😉

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PS – I was not paid or perked or even asked to write this post. Jay and I just had such a good time that I wanted to give this company some internet love! ❤ 🙂

Three Days of London Love

For our 13th anniversary this year, Jay and I decided to cash in a few of his frequent flier miles in exchange for round-trip tickets to London. He’d been there for a workshop a few weeks before and had quickly decided he loved it, but hadn’t really had a chance to see anything besides his classroom. I was a little jealous he got to go at all, since I had always wanted to visit there too but wasn’t able to tag along on his trip. So when it was time to decide where we wanted to spend our anniversary, London seemed perfect! We packed our bags, dropped the girls off at Jay’s parents house, and said our goodbyes. What a bunch of hams. 😀

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We gave ourselves three full days to explore the city as much as possible, and we are pretty impressed with how much we managed to squeeze into those few days! Jay found a great deal on a hotel right in the city (not too far from St. Paul’s Cathedral), and our room even had a view of the London Eye. (It’s the rounded shape touching the trees on the right).

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The first thing we did was stop by the Tower of London and admire the crown jewels. We also enjoyed the view of London Bridge from afar. I just love those beautiful blue supports!

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We knew we’d want to ride on the famous London Eye, and Jay decided to enhance the experience by booking a champagne tasting for us to enjoy while we rode. It was amazing! We tasted five different champagnes by Pommery, all described by a wine and champagne expert. The experience also included one of the Eye’s tour guides, who sweetly pointed out some of London’s main attractions from over 400 feet in the air. The added bonus was that instead of staying on the Eye for one 30-minute rotation, the champagne tasting ticket allowed us to stay in our capsule for a second rotation. One solid hour on the London Eye with a few glasses of great champagne? Now that’s the way to kick off an anniversary trip!

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Of course there were the iconic red telephone booths and double-decker buses everywhere, so that was easy to check off our list of must-sees. 🙂

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On our second day we decided to take a bike tour of the city. We’d found a company that could take us past many of the things we wanted to see, including the changing of the guard, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and a few other well-known tourist attractions. It was a fun way to see the city, and ended up being our favorite thing about our trip. Afterward we did some exploring and eating, and then we did some more exploring and eating. 🙂

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Our last day in London was on our actual anniversary. ❤ We started it off by visiting the Sky Garden, a public garden located on the top floors of a skyscraper. The views from the garden were amazing – it was pretty awesome being in such a serene place surrounded by plants while looking over a bustling city below.

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We also checked out the British Museum and went back to Buckingham Palace for one last look up close before we left. Those gates are a little too fancy for my taste, good thing I don’t live there! 😀

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For our anniversary we ate at Barbecoa, an amazingly delicious restaurant that overlooks St. Paul’s Cathedral. Jay had told them why we were celebrating when he made the reservation, and they gave us the best table in the house. ❤ We seriously had one of the most memorable meals we’ve ever experienced and left a little chubbier than we were when we arrived – which we were totally okay with whenever we remembered the steak… and the garlic potatoes… and the salad… and the champagne… and the dessert….IMG_8566

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We spent quite a bit of time walking everywhere over the course of the trip, and only used taxis or the subway (or Tube 🙂 ) when we didn’t have time to walk. All that walking gave us a chance to really get a feel for the city and discover things we might have otherwise missed. We popped into shops and diners as we liked and just soaked in as much as we could, which is exactly how we like to vacation!

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We absolutely fell in love with London. Everything about the city was beautiful, but our favorite thing was how so much history was standing right beside modern civilization. Everywhere you looked there was old and new. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and there was so much to see and do that even a solid week would have been hardly enough time to really get it all in. Which, of course, means that we will just have to go back and see some more in the future – but somehow I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with that! 🙂 ❤

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Showcase of Citrus

If you find yourself driving through Central Florida and you’re looking for something tourist-y that has nothing to do with theme parks, roller coasters, or life-sized costumed characters, you might want to consider stopping by Showcase of Citrus. 🙂

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Located just south of Clermont (which is west of Orlando), Showcase of Citrus is a you-pick-it citrus grove. And boy, do they really have just about every variety of citrus – they have limes, lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and pomelos. And they also have blackberries! All you have to do is choose from a few different bag sizes and head out to the groves, filling your bag with any mix of citrus you like.

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IMG_3117In addition to the produce, there’s also a small petting zoo, a play area for kids, picnic areas, 4×4 Eco tours, fishing, and the cutest little farm store ever. We didn’t have a chance to take one of the 4×4 tours, but it’s definitely something we’d do the next time we visit. (I advise looking ahead at tour times and plan your trip accordingly.)

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IMG_3092The farm store was fun, lots of jams, jellies, and spices, and all full of local home-grown flavors. Jay is a spice guy, so naturally we went home with a few of those. 😀 The girls had their eye on some flavored popcorn, and I just wanted to try one of their “famous” orange slushies. Turns out that the slushie was nowhere near as good as a frozen coke (in my opinion), but Julia absolutely loved it. 🙂

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We ended up at Showcase of Citrus because we were looking for some unique things to do for my birthday weekend, and this totally fit the bill. It was a wonderful way to spend some outdoor time together, and I have no doubt we’ll be back again!

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PS – I was neither paid nor perked to write this post. All opinions are my own. 🙂
PSS – Thanks for the recommendation, Sanne! ❤

My Encounter with a Major Celebrity

In October of 2013, a spontaneous trip to a little off-the-beaten-path zoo in Georgia resulted in an unexpected face-to-face encounter with a major celebrity. A majorly good-looking, majorly talented, and majorly studly celebrity. A celebrity in a major motion picture with major co-stars. He was quite impressive to look at, but somehow I managed to keep my composure together. He was even nice enough to let me take a selfie with him. It was a majorly amazing experience, because he was one of the major stars in one of my all-time favorite movie series.

People. I met a celebrity from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

IMG_3663Okay, so he didn’t get too close, but if you look way in the background, you can see him. No, I haven’t lost my mind – it’s the elk. He’s the major character I met 🙂

IMG_3670That October Jay, the girls, and I had taken a trip to Georgia with Jay’s parents. We found ourselves a little stumped for something fun to do with the girls one afternoon, and after a little Googling we discovered that we weren’t too far from a small zoo. We packed up the car and headed out to Chestatee Wildlife Preserve & Zoo.

Once we got there, we wandered around for a bit enjoying the animals – and then turned a corner and saw this:

IMG_3629It was a blue screen, a tool moviemakers use to change the background behind an actor, animal, or other object. I stopped one of the zookeepers and asked about the screen setup. She told me that the preserve was a popular spot for filmmakers – specifically, the animals. She said that they had just wrapped up the day before and were probably coming back to clean up their equipment later that day or the next. I asked her if she knew which movie they had been working on (it’s always fun to know these things), and she said something like, “I think they said it was some famous movie about… games? They were filming that elk over there, I think he’s a major character in the movie or something.” I asked her if she was talking about The Hunger Games, and she said, “Yeah, I think that’s it.”

WHAAAAAAT???

I instantly could not stop beaming, and immediately snapped a picture and sent a text to my best friend and fellow Hunger Games nut, Sanne. All I kept thinking was that if I’d just been there the day before I might have seen Peeta. Hey, a girl can dream, right? 😀

IMG_3638As soon as I got home I scanned the book to see if there was any mention of an elk. I couldn’t remember one, but maybe I’d just forgotten. I also searched the internet, but there was no mention of an elk anywhere in the book there either. What was the deal with this “major character?”

Fast-forward a year, and the day after Mockingjay was released Sanne and I are in a movie theater in Times Square munching our Milk Duds and popcorn. Suddenly, there he is – the elk! He appears in the scene where Katniss and Gale are hunting in the woods above District 13. They come across him, observe him for a minute, then decide to let him live. And that’s it. That’s the elk’s major role in the movie. You can laugh now, especially because Peeta wasn’t even in the scene.

IMG_3686I did some digging online, and found a blip about the elk in an interview by Vincent Frei. He interviewed Charles Gibson, a Production Visual Effects Supervisor on the film, and this was their exchange on the subject (you can read the whole interview here):

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 2.40.33 PMSo there you go – my first major encounter with a major character in a major motion picture. When you see the movie again, look for the elk. Then think of me and try not to be jealous. 🙂

Happy Birthday to Me!

Last year I wrote this post about what I was giving myself for my birthday. This year I decided not to be as deep. In fact, I went in the completely opposite direction and got about as shallow as I’ve ever been and bought a nice gift for myself… at my favorite store in the world!

IMG_3355Now, before I’m judged on how I spend my money, here are a few things you should know about me:

  1. I am cheap, and I hate spending large chunks of money all at once. Even if I’ve saved up money for something, I still break out in cold sweats at the register when I hand over my credit card. My heart rate goes up with each “beep” of an item being rung up, I fan my face, and for a few hours afterward I try to decide if there’s anything I want to return to get my money back.
  2. When I do spend a bit of money on something, it’s usually because I have been thinking about that item nonstop day and night. Actually, I rarely impulse buy anything – usually I walk away, and if I’m still thinking about the item hours or even days later then I know I’ll be happy with it and I go back to get it.
  3. I absolutely adore Tiffany’s. ❤

IMG_3354Earlier this year my best friend Sanne and I booked another girls’ trip to New York City. We timed out our trip with the release of the movie Mockingjay, which just happened to come out near my birthday. Seriously, how awesome is that? 🙂 We also planned to stop by Tiffany’s, so I started saving my money months in advance – I had my eye on the most beautiful tote I’d ever seen. I’d wanted the Jitney Tote for almost a year, and that’s about how long it took for me to be okay with the price tag it came with. Once I decided to go for it (at Jay’s insistence), I started saving. I sold things on Craigslist, had a yard sale, did some internet work, and saved some money in my budget along with birthday money I’d received from Jay’s & my parents. I drooled over it online every few days, and got myself super excited about finally bringing it home.

IMG_3568Then one night I happened to look it up again and – to my instant horror – saw that it was out of stock. After calling customer service I learned it had been discontinued and that the NYC flagship store only had six left in stock. The salesclerk at the store patiently listened to the whole story, then assured me that there would be no problem holding the tote for me for two weeks until I arrived. I was stunned – I know of local stores that won’t hold an item for more than 24 hours. And I was floored – you never realize how much you really want something until you think you can’t have it.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 5.30.46 PMAfter Sanne made her purchase at Tiffany’s – a beautiful key necklace – we headed upstairs to the gift floor. A salesclerk was there waiting for me, knew me by name, and waited why I examined the bag. He was so pleasant, and made me feel like I was every bit as important as their wealthier clients. (He knew I’d saved up for the bag – my big, over-explaining mouth gave that away. So much for last year’s gift to myself). We left the store with that gigantic box inside an even larger bag, and walked back to where we were staying, pretty much crashing into everything (and everyone) I passed.

IMG_3367Fortunately, the box fit underneath the seat on the airplane, considering that every overhead compartment was full and I really wanted to keep my box. I’m thinking of making it the centerpiece for my table at next year’s Ornament Exchange. 🙂

IMG_3484I love this bag. It’s made of canvas and leather, all in that fabulous Tiffany blue. It has tons of space, and just the right number of pockets – I really dislike bags with too many pockets. The outside pockets are magnetic, and there are three zippered spaces. It’s large enough to fit my laptop and would work excellently as a carry-on bag. The tote came with two dustbags, one in Tiffany blue with the company logo on it and another one in white to protect the blue dustbag. I’ve never been so fancy!

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 5.43.22 PMI’ve only used it once, truthfully, it’s larger than I expected and I’m not eager to fill it with juice boxes and snacks and crayons and whatever else my girls ask me to carry. But I recently went out for my Bible study group’s Christmas party, and it was the perfect thing to carry our white elephant gifts in. It didn’t even work with my outfit, but I felt like a million bucks just having it on my shoulder. 🙂

IMG_1879I have absolutely no regrets about saving (and spending) money on this tote. It was a very happy birthday! 🙂

Cute & Easy Disney Stateroom Door Decorations

Going on a Disney Cruise? I’ve got three words for you: Decorate. Your. Door.

Door Decor


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cardstock in black and red (for Mickey’s shorts)
  • Patterned paper (for the bows and the buttons on the shorts)
  • Circle cutter (or you could trace cups/bowls)
  • Doublestick tape
  • Embellishments (optional, I used 3D bump circles with sparkles to add interest)
  • Laminator (not required, but recommended)
  • Magnets

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Here’s how to make them:

Mickey/Minnie Head – Cut out 1 large circle and 2 small circles from the black cardstock. There’s no real science to this, I just kept cutting out circles and holding them up until I liked the way the ears sized up with the head. Use the tape to adhere the ears to the head.

FullSizeRenderMickey’s Clothing – Use the same bowl/cup you used for the head and place it along the edge of the red cardstock. Trace and cut out, so that you have a half-circle. Tape it to the bottom half of the black cardstock head. Cut out two small oval shapes (I used an oval cutter) out of the yellow patterned paper and place them on the red cardstock for the buttons.

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Minnie’s Bow – This one was a little tricker. I free-handed a bow shape with a pencil, making bows until I reached a size I liked. Then I just traced that bow 3 times onto the green, blue, and red patterned papers and taped them to the top of the head, adding little matching ovals to the center of each bow. If you don’t trust yourself to draw a bow, you could always find an image online, print it and cut it out, using that to trace out bows.

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Laminate the Mickey and Minnie heads. This is totally optional, but if you plant to reuse them for another trip, I recommend it. Plus I just love laminating things. 🙂

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Embellishments – They aren’t easy to see, but I placed the colored stickers on the head they matched… so Mickey’s yellow buttons got the yellow bump stickers, Emily’s green bow got the green bump stickers, etc.

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Magnets – Add a magnet to the back. Disney does NOT allow anything to be taped to the stateroom doors, so don’t forget this step!

That’s it! Once I figured out the sizes I wanted for the head and ears they were pretty easy and quick to make. And they turned out so cute! We received many compliments on them, and even a few presents from fellow cruise door decorators. We can’t wait to put them up on our next stateroom door!

I’ve Gone International!

When our family boarded Disney’s Fantasy for our cruise a few weeks ago, Jay immediately stopped at the concierge to clarify some details of our vacation while the girls and I walked around the lobby. A few minutes later he came up to me with the biggest grin on his face, telling me that I was going to think he was the most awesome guy in the world.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 5.21.18 PMIn his hand was a ticket for a 5K run on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. He’d overheard someone else asking for them, so he asked for one for me too. I was so happy I cried. And I’m totally serious when I say that – tears actually welled up in my eyes. When Jay handed me that ticket, I was elated. It meant that I could be a part of another Disney-related running event! And the best part was that the ticket was completely free! We were told that it was just a “fun run,” meaning that official times wouldn’t be recorded. But that wasn’t a problem for me since I’m never really worried about my running time anyway.

photo 4We had to start the run early, so I got ready that morning and headed to The Tube, one of the adult lounges on the ship where they arranged groups for disembarkation. When I checked in they handed me a bib (I may have clapped like a giddy schoolgirl), then went over the route the run would follow on the island before we all headed off the ship.  Once we were on the island it was just a short 5-10 minute walk to the starting line.

photo 1It was all about as laid-back as it could get. The crew member who walked us to the starting line told us to wait there while he biked up ahead to set up a water station. Then another crew member came, told us where to put our stuff (there was a big bin near the starting line), and showed us the time clock so that we could keep track of our own time. Then he said, “GO!” and started the clock. And we were off!

Backstory – At some point while planning out our day on the island, Jay and I realized that we had a potentially major problem. We had booked a nonrefundable jetski excursion on the island for 10a. Since the race started at 9a – and I’d been mega-psyched about it all week – we were a bit freaked out that this free run would end up costing us money if we missed our excursion. Because I’d taken a running hiatus all summer and had only recently started back up, I’d been running close to a 15-minute mile. As soon as I finished the 5K I would need to change into my swimsuit and get to the other side of the island where the jetskis were located, meaning that unless I ran the whole thing in 40 minutes we wouldn’t be able to hit the waves at 10a. *Lesson learned: If you plan to run this 5K, don’t book anything too close to the time you expect to finish!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo with all this in mind I pushed myself not to go fast, but just to maintain a steady pace. The route took us down a short road, then through the bike trail (more like a road than a trail), down to Serenity Bay, the adults-only beach. Then it went back through the bike trail again to the road that led back to the start/finish line.  I was completely blown away when I got to the finish line and saw that my time was just a few seconds over 30 minutes – as far as I can remember that’s the best time I’ve ever achieved at an organized race! Needless to say, we had no trouble making it to the jetskis in time. 🙂

So what was my absolute favorite thing about this 5K?

photo 2It’s not my completely and awesomely supportive husband (love you baby!). It’s not the unexpected medal I received either (even though this wasn’t an “official” runDisney event, Disney just totally rocks and still provided every single participant with a Castaway Cay medal upon crossing the finish line).

No, my favorite thing about this race is the fact that I can now say that I’ve run a 5K in another country. I love being able to say that I’ve gone international!

Happy, happy, international me. 🙂

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