The Madness of Disney


I love to travel. I love it so much, that now, as if the universe heard my plea and call, I found a way to make a living at it.

But there is one place I have avoided like the plague. The one place where I am sure, in my cynical little heart, that all of the magic and dazzle that I created in my little 4-year-old brain will suddenly become One. Big. Disappointment.

That place is Disney.

When I was a little girl, I loved- loved- loved ANYTHING to do with Mickey Mouse. My blanket, my t-shirt, my necklace… all of it had Mickey Mouse on it. Don’t believe me?


Note the necklace.


Note the blanket.


Note the T Shirt.

And so on and so forth.

There is no denying my desire to consume Mickey, and not just in fashion, I had stuffed animals, plus all of the records from the Mickey Mouse Club… ” M-I-C.. See you real soon… K-E-Y.. Why? Because We like you!”

Oh yeah.. I was the real deal Disney fan.

There was even a nod to Cinderella at my wedding. Tiara? Check! Big Poofy, Tulle Dress? Check!

Over time.. I just put it out of my head. Why? because the magic sort of.. dissipated.

It was the whole “happily ever after” thing. Life happened and it hit hard. I dealt with the blows, and though it may have humbled me a bit, it left this snarky little mess behind.

And so the cynic was born.

Even as a child, I sort of gave up after years and years of begging my parents to take me to Disney World. What I didn’t realize as a wee lass was how ridiculously expensive it was going to be for a young family (my parents would have been in their 20s.) In my 20s, I could barely afford anything better than Boone’s Farm wine. (I think you get my drift here.)

It wasn’t until my early 40s would I really meet my Prince Charming, and guess where he wants to take our little make-shift family this October? Disney World.

I have to admit,he really should win Dad of the year.  Without a doubt, he wants nothing more than for his girls (which includes Me!) to experience the magical world of Disney.

And honestly… I’m starting to get a little excited. At first I thought, “Are you freaking kidding me?” The amount of money we will be dropping on this vacation could quite possibly get the four of us to Europe. I questioned his motives and began to equate Disney to the same cultural experience as eating in chain restaurants.

But then I decided to relax into it. I picked up his book – Hidden Magic of Disney  and began to t9781440528101_p0_v1_s192x300humb through it. I knew we would only be hitting the Magic Kingdom & Epcot, so I read through each page carefully, putting little purple glitter gel pen stars by items of interest.

In classic Nicole fashion, I then opened up YouTube and researched the rides. I found every single ride in a video from the POV. Then…

Oh and then…

I started to get a little into it.

And just like when you announce to a small child you are going to do something you know they like, I told my Prince Charming that I was researching the trip and was sort of starting to get excited about it- that’s when it happened: He lit up! By making him happy, I became super happy. And thus… The Magic of Disney took hold.

I made of list of things I always wanted to do as a child: I wanted to ride the tea cups and visit the castle. I wanted my picture with Cinderella and visit the Eiffel Tower at Epcot. I wanted to hear that silly song “It’s a small world” so many times until I can’t get it out of my head.

And I want to wear my Mickey ears.

With all of that being said, we are planning our magical trip to Disney. We booked a weekend during the Food & Wine Festival (yes, you can be jelly if you want to!) And yes, we booked a decent Disney Resort – Coronado Springs. And yes, we got the Magic Bands customized with our Disney character’s names. (We took a Buzzfeed Quiz to find out who we were most like. Unfortunately, I am no Cinderella. More like Megara.) So it is officially happening.

The madness known as Disney is set for late October.

Tickets? Check. Reservations for food? Check. Magic bracelets? Check. Resort? Check.

Boom & Done.


Mongolian Beef & Goodbye


I drove home today dragging a little. It’s been a very hectic 14 or so weeks and I was looking forward to going home and relaxing. I was so tired, so tired that I almost drove right past Tim’s mom’s house. Instead, I parked and went inside to chat for a few minutes. We joked about the day, the exhaustion of life and how we both had to cook for our little tribes.

I left her house feeling slightly motivated to cook dinner. I was planning Tim’s favorite meal tonight (favorite from a restaurant,) and I wanted nothing more than to get it right. (It’s my new thing – cooking!) I started driving behind the house, taking the normal path down to the cabin. I happened to look to the left and saw Gypsy, our beautiful border collie, running to the end of her pin, trying to get my attention. Her ears were perked up, just hoping and waiting anxiously for me to change my mind, drive back to her, and take her down before her dad got home.

For whatever reason, I turned around. I opened her gate and expected her to dart down the path to the cabin, the same thing she does every.. single.. day.

13962581_10154401082294929_6385102181751336967_nShe didn’t. She got in my car and road with me to toward the cabin. I decided to roll down the back window and just like clock work, she jumped from the car and began her run toward the cabin. Today.. unlike most days.. I watched her so carefully. I was amazed at how she glided through the forest, jumping over downed trees and cutting through thick bush. She ran fast and smoothly, leaping this way and that. She made it to the cabin and waited for me to grab my stuff from the car. We went in the cabin.

I fixed her bowl of food and water and watched as she gulped it down. I went back to my bedroom to change clothes… I was just.. so.. tired and knew I still needed to cook. I shut the door to my room, because my Australian exchange student is visiting and was sitting in the living room. Gypsy slipped through into the room just before I shut the door. No cats.. no people.. just me and her. I decided to just lay on the bed and relax for a minute, resting my back. She jumped up on the bed and sat there, panting & smiling, just looking over me like she always did. I petted her and loved on her and told her how good and beautiful and smart she was.

Because she was so, so, so, smart. Border collies are, you know.

Then she followed me back in the living room. I sat and chatted with Matt a little then she came up to me and wimpered a little, letting me know she needed to go potty. I took her out and she took care of her business and came right back in.

Her Daddy & Master, my Tim, came in from work, and Gypsy greeted him with the more vigor than she gives most people. He loved on her like he always did. You see, Gypsy was his baby after his very painful divorce. She was his true companion.

While we were eating dinner, she laid her head on my knee, begging for food. I gave her little strips of Mongolian beef and rubbed her head. 13912709_10154401082674929_5477618165122509132_n

After dinner, Tim told me he wanted to run the dog and visit the baby up at the house. I asked, “Hey, we want to go with you.” You see, yesterday, for this reason or that, Tim ran Gypsy alone. Normally I ride with him. But yesterday, he got that change to run her all by himself. When we run the dogs, we typically get on the golf cart and ride around the farm (which is very, very big.) The dogs run in front of us. But yesterday, it was just Gypsy & Tim.

Today we got in the car to drive up to the main house, and as always, Gypsy ran in front of us. She started up the path and then darted left, to go toward the blueberry patch. We went right toward the main house. I beeped the horn, the universal sound for her to double back and join us.. she did not come. But at the rate she was running, and we were heading a different way, I think she just wanted to go exploring. We drove on up to the main house, thinking she would be in the garage when we came out.


We went inside for about 20 minutes or so, then decided to get the golf cart and go look for her. Since she was not in the garage, we thought she would be waiting for us at the cabin. When we got down there, we noticed she was not there, so we headed back up the original path.

We barely got around the bend and I saw her first.

Just laying there… tongue out.. blood coming out of her mouth.


I jumped out of the golf cart, as well as Tim & Matt.. Tim rushed to her side and just cradled her. I kept yelling over and over, “No, no, no, no.” I asked if maybe she was breathing. All Tim could muster was, “She’s gone.”

Our sweet baby girl left us this evening. Just gone. I keep thinking about her last solo ride with her Daddy last night, and the fact that I turned around with her and had some alone time with her today. Or how soft her head felt on my knee as she was patiently waiting for meat.

I wish we had put her in the car. I wish we had taken another path. I wish.. I wish…

I wish…

But I have to say goodbye.

Adventures in Cooking

med grilled greek chicken with yogurt dill sauce

The last time I got an opportunity to cook for a family, I had only been out of college about 3 or 4 years. I was in my late 20s, newly married, hosting exchange students from all over the world, and my idea of cooking was heating up canned veggies and frozen meals. I guess I was doing the best I could with what I knew how.

My mother tried to encourage me, since she discovered my love of entertaining. She would buy journals and copy my favorite recipes from childhood into them. I would later recreate these recipes (never as good as she could,) and serve them with pride to my little tribe at home.

Then I got divorced.

Later, I remarried, and this time I was a little wiser (mid 30s) and I made a heck of a lot more money. However, I married an Egyptian and this made my adventures in cooking take a different turn. I struggled to understand how to cook the meals my then-husband wanted. He craved all types of exotic and delicious meals, and though I was never really able to perfect his mom’s favorite recipes, I got closer to understanding how to cook again.

Then I got divorced.

Now, after being single for almost 3 years I find myself with a fantastic and supportive man who lets me cook anything my heart desires. This is good.

Then Pinterest came along.

Suddenly, my eyes and mouth are watering over so many delicious recipes. I got this idea in my head that I, Nicole, will cook these glorious dishes and serve them to my new and improved family.

How hard can it be? All you have to do is follow the directions.

And here is where the trouble begins.

Each Sunday morning I make my list. All I have to do is cook 3 dinners a week. (On Sundays we eat “in town,” I cook Mon & Tues just for the two of us, Wed we eat with his mother & the girls, Thurs I cook for him & the girls, Friday we all go out with the family, and Saturday it is a toss up.) Three meals- that’s all. I typically select the recipes from my various Pinterest boards:

Carnivore, Rabbit Food, and Sassy Sides. Systematically, I have gone through each board and attempted a new recipe, rarely the same one twice. I cook it, we eat it, and we decide if we want to try it again. I’ve mainly had success, with a few flops (never try to turn sliced eggplant into a “chip” substitute, no matter what Pinterest says.)

And this, my friends, has become the highlight of my week.

Seriously. Cooking for the family.

What is hilarious is the fact that I work a very high pressure/high-profile government job. I work long hours and I come home and then attempt to cook: GOURMET.

Yeah. I could not figure out why the recipes I selected had so many steps and took so damn long. Um.. soo… I guess over achiever is my middle name.

No surprise there.

However, with all of that being said – I’m having the time of my life. I’m creating healthy, low carb, (mainly Mediterranean) recipes for my family. We are eating delicious, flavorful meals and I’m having a blast learning a new skill.

I thought, and here is a crazy idea, that I would maybe document and share some of my recipes with you from time to time. (As time permits… because sometimes, I am just too tired and hungry to care to snap a pic!)

Ah! And I forgot the most important thing: We have a grocery budget we try to stick to. (Which includes everything else (plastic stuff, laundry detergent, toiletries, kitty/dog stuff.) We budget $200 a week and we usually come in below. With that being said, if you would like to give it a try, I welcome you to make your grocery list based on my “recipes of the week.”

This week, for my three meals, I am attempting:

Slow Cooker Coconut Basil Chicken in a Coconut Curry Sauce

Moroccan Chicken

Lamb Korma 

If these do not suit you, here are my tried and true (means I did it and we loved it) recent adventures:

Bell Pepper Tacos

Balsamic & Honey Pot Roast

Greek Lemon Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken with Dill Greek Sauce

Spinach & Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast (warning.. don’t buy HUGE chicken breasts. Trust me!)

Cilantro Lime Chicken (The kids went crazy over this one!)

Chicken with Bacon Mustard Sauce (Tim liked it, I thought it was okay)

5 Spice Cream Cheese Chicken (This was an absolute FAVORITE of every one)

One Pot Cheesy Taco Skillet

Pork Carnitas (Another Favorite of the Kids)

Paprika Chicken with Spinach & White Wine Sauce (My personal Fave)

Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs

DJAJ BIL-BAHAR IL-ASFAR (IRAQI Yellow Spice Rubbed Chicken)


And the list goes on. As you can tell, these are very much summer time recipes, and that’s what we are looking for. Cooking seasonal, cooking clean, using more spices & fresh herbs from our garden, and going as low carb as possible.

For great side dishes, visit my Rabbit Food board (you will find it above.) (Typically I keep sliced onions & cucumbers, mixed with oil, water, vinegar and spices in a bowl in my frig.)

Feel free to share with me some delicious recipes to try! Maybe I’ll share how it worked out one day with you!

PS – I haven’t forgotten the writing prompts. I am going to use that for inspiration when I am not feeling so inspired.)

Have a GREAT week!

Atelophobia & Other Disasters

I’m embarking on my first writing prompt. Let’s see how it goes (and whether or not I can pull it into anything going on in my life these days…)

What Scares You?

That’s the question on the table. I sort of laughed when I read it, considering I am a certified sufferer of Panic Disorder. What am I scared of? What am I not scared of.

As a child, I believe my greatest fear was probably losing my parents and not having any friends.

Hmm.. as I write that sentence, not much has changed. I’m older now, as are my parents, and for the first time ever, that is a legitimate concern. As for not having any friends, yes.. I am currently in a unique position where I am sort of going through that. But I’m not afraid at all.

I think that is the difference. I’m older and I’m wiser. The fact is, my relatives are all getting older. And yes, though I hate to even consider it, one day they will pass on. But this is life. We all have to face great loss at some point. As for friendships… easy come, easy go.

Moving to a new community was a genuine concern of mine. Not really knowing what to expect with the new job, new rural/farm life. But I’m not scared.

I think at the end of the day, my greatest fears are sort of… typical. I fear sickness. I fear great loss (fire, flood, death..) and I fear not living my life to the fullest. Which brings me to where I am today.

I don’t want to be afraid. Unfortunately, when life was handing out crosses to bear, as it turns out, Panic Disorder would be one of mine. The good news is – it’s not going to kill me, and it rarely rears its ugly head. The fear of being afraid is what has held me back in the past, however, in the future, there is no room for it.

I have learned over the years how to simply let things go. I know when to take a breath and I know when to take some time for myself. I have a list of hobbies and vacation spots I still need tackle, and I know, without a doubt, my new life is full of amazing surprises around every corner. Heck, just this morning an egret scared me half to death when I opened the cabin door to leave. Its majestic white wings flapped so gracefully across the pond, and I just stood there will my mouth hanging open. Once I relaxed enough, I became mesmerized by the dancing dragonflies going this way and that.

You see? It’s all good.

What should I be legitimately be afraid of?

And I ask you – what are you scared of?