Magic Kingdom Hangover

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It officially happened – I, Nicole, visited and experienced Walt Disney World. It was everything I thought it would be: Hectic, Expensive, Crowded, and Full of Children.

It was also: Beautiful, Very Clean, Delicious, and made me giggle like a little kid from time to time. Was it worth it? Heck yeah. Check that one-off the bucket list.

We left Thursday afternoon and drove 4 and a half hours down to Orlando. Not very far at all. 14718800_10154606021889929_620369273333080533_n

When we arrived onto the Disney World complex – this sign greeted us from the road – Welcome to Walt Disney World: Where Dreams Come True. What a wonderful gateway with Minnie & Mickey standing there smiling with that big mousy grin!

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We put on our magic bands and headed into the Coronado Springs Resortcoronado-springs-resort-00-full

The Coronado Springs is described as:

Relive the romance of Spanish Colonial Mexico at this enchanting Resort hotel. Find your mythical city of gold in a Southwestern-themed haven—from brightly colored casitas to rustic ranchos. Each unique accommodation provides its own unforgettable escape… and a welcoming home away from home.

We made our way to our room, which was very clean, quiet, and not-so-easy to find. This place is HUGE. Reminds me of those mega apartment buildings. Just make sure to pay close attention to what the desk clerk tells you and grab the map! Once at your building, be prepared to walk a bit. There is no easy way to get to your room. (Or the elevator.) Just skip the lift and take the stairs, it will save you a ton of pain.

We decided to just stay at the hotel and eat dinner at one of the many restaurants right at the resort. I wanted to head straight to their more fancy Dining establishment: The Maya Grill. maya-grill-00

But once we got to restaurant and read the menu, we all sort of turned our noses up. I could get more authentic Mexican at our local restaurants in Americus. The girls were not interested (it was more Americanized than anything else,) so we opted to give their cafeteria style restaurant a chance: The Pepper Market.

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Best decision ever! There was something for everyone. There were different stations offering everything from dessert to sandwiches to american to pizza, and yes, Mexican. I headed on over to the Mexican station and ordered cheese empanadas with black beans & rice. I also grabbed an ordered of churros. The others went their merry way, and combined, our dinner was a little over $50. Not too bad, considering we were told to budget high for eating at the resorts.

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We left satisfied, and decided to wander around the gift shop. We tried on hats and marveled over the prices of everything. Nothing surprising, but we were smart to make a mental note of everything they had, and save our money for when the trip was over.

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Following our “window shopping,” we headed outside to Siestas Cantina.

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Tim & I ordered Sangrias mixed with Margaritas. It was delicious and an awesome idea! We relaxed on the beach couches and watched the lights flicker off the water.

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Finally, we headed back to the room to relax for our first big day! Friday morning, we woke up early, got dressed, and headed down to our bus stop (right outside of our room.) As soon as we got up there, our bus with the words: EPCOT was pulling up! We hopped on and began our Friday morning at EPCOT!

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THIS was super cool. When we pulled around the curve and I saw that great big ball, the little girl in me almost had to choke back a tear. I had wanted to go here for so, so, so long. At 43 years old, I finally made it! Guys…. It was everything I ever hoped for and more. There is so much I still would like to see and do, but man oh man, did we try to do it all!

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When I say we tried to do it all… I took the above pic at 4pm. FOUR P-M. Not the end of the day.. in the middle of the day. And that should tell you what to prepare for when visiting EPCOT. It’s HUGE. Like super, duper ridiculously huge.

As soon as we arrived, we made a bee-line for Soarin’.

Needless to say, the sensory overload was almost too much for me. We were lifted fairly high in front of this IMAX-sized movie screen. The best part – when you were over Africa, and the Elephant kicks up dirt, you smell it! It’s truly an experience.

After Soarin’ we headed to Living with The Land.


This was really very interesting! This place is an active Scientific experience. The best news is – we were able to walk right into both places with absolutely very little wait. This was without using our Magic Passes.

After that experience, we had our first reservation for Spaceship Earth. This ride was very cool!


You actually get to go up into that huge ball!

THEN.. oh then.. it was time to.. oh wait.. I haven’t shared with you yet! We were there during the Food & Wine Festival! We literally ate our way around the world!


Everything from Lamb Meatballs in New Zealand to Korean BBQ with Cucumber Kimchi. Creme Brulee in France to a Beer Flight in Germany. We ate so much food! And it was really, REALLY, really good.

I also took the opportunity to dive into the cultures of the different world showcases:

After all of the eating, we decided to try a few more rides on for size. The only one I chickened out on was Mission: Space. The idea of being slung around in a tiny capsule did not enchant me one single bit!
But we did find Figment:

And we did tour Mexico with Donald Duck & his amigos:

And we did try our best to find NEMO:

But my absolute favorite ride of all – Was Test Track! I LOVE LOVE LOVE going fast in a car!

We hurried back to the hotel that night.. and though we had the best intentions, we simply just wanted something quick to eat. So Disney Springs (aka Downtown Disney) was out.)

Instead we were unoriginal and went down to the Pepper Market again. THIS time I got the nachos. And friend, when I tell you it is a mound of nachos.. Have mercy! (Dinner that night was $75) After dinner we went swimming in the pool (it was cold!) but it had a cool water slide and water fall/Aztec Pyramid thing. While there, we could see the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom or Epcot (Not sure which) and it even made the swimming magical! (Check out the website’s link to see it.) Tim & I sipped on some Sangria and relaxed in the big jacuzzi tub. Great way to relax our tired muscles.

THEN Sleep. Because on Saturday….

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Yes, we braved the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday. As soon as we got in.. I wanted to take in all of Main Street – but Tim had another plan. He had reserved Haunted Mansion first – which was all the way on the other side of the park. That meant, I got a super fast tour of the park as we came through. It was certainly magical. As soon as we passed the castle, there were people performing right there in the center of the park! I felt like I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It was adorable. But alas.. we made it to the Haunted Mansion. Cute. That’s how I would describe it. Just cute.

From that, we had just a few minutes to kill, so we wandered around and found the quintessential Disney Ride – It’s a Small World. I was enchanted.

We ended just in time to make it over to our next reserved ride – Pirates of the Caribbean. I LOVE LOVE LOVED it!

After that ride, we were starving! We tried this little vendor that had cheeseburger eggrolls – OMG! It is a must try! Next we wandered over to the Jungle Cruise.Our captian was absolutely hilarious.


Then we went to one of my “must dos” at the Magic Kingdom – The Magic Carpets of Aladdin!

We left there are began to seek out FOOD! We grabbed some chili dogs and sat in the perfect place! As we were eating our ($75 hot dog lunch) we saw the midday parade down Main Street.

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Then it was time to head to that super cool futuristic part of the park.. and who do I run into? NICOLE! My friend from elementary school and beyond!

What are the chances – with soooo many people!

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Then we got on The Buzz Light Year’s Space Ranger Spin. I was being silly and spinning our ride around in circles the whole time. lol

Followed by Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress:


That was a little lame.. but historically interesting.

Next- the Astro Orbiter:

Followed by the People Mover:

And of course, the best way to travel around the park is by the train! (aka – my feet hurt and I want to sit down and take a nap.) Feet hurting.. man oh man. BLISTERS.

We did catch 2 shows:
The Country Bear Jamboree:

And another that I can’t remember what it was called. It was 3-d and had some cool stuff in it!

Later, we wandered some more and enjoyed the Mad Tea Party Spinning-Cups!!!

And took the Liberty Boat River cruise:

And of course, we can’t forget Splash Mountain!

I did chicken out on Space Mountain. Something about the dark and single seats.. yeah… wasn’t up for it.But the girls got to ride it around 9pm. Splash Mountain was as adventurous as I was feeling.
We wrapped our Magic Kingdom experience up with mine & Tim’s anniversary (2 years!) dinner at Tony’s the Lady & The Tramp themed restaurant. ($175 for 4 people)

And of course.. the big finale: This is the exact show we watched and it was simply… well.. Magical. Though my feet were burning, and we were so, so, so tired. And we were being pushed and crammed between angry dads and moms trying to lift their kids up to see… it was awesome. Never seen anything like it. Watch this video.

And with that.. our Magical Journey ends.

If you want to see each of the rides (and figure out if it is just right for your family,) please click on the individual videos above (it is just like the actual experience!) Over all, I’m glad we got to experience this family vacation! What a great bonding experience for a newly formed family!

 

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What Is Most Important

When it comes down to budgeting for a wedding, I have learned a few things about myself. I had to figure out what was most important.

For one, I love having all of my friends together in one room. I love to entertain them with food, drink, & great music. (Which, in the end, is the most important thing to me – Dancing!) Truly, I want to have a big dance party to celebrate my wedding. Sometimes that requires a little liquid courage, and with all of those libations, you need food! Okay – done & done.

Though I love flowers, honestly, our celebration is in February. It’s for a few hours. Most of the people attending my celebration have attended other celebrations of mine. (If you get what I mean.) There were tons of flowers, a big puffy dress and all of the stops were pulled out. Photographer, Big cake.. and all of the rest.

I get it. It’s important stuff.

But this time.. it is different. And on behalf of all brides who are just trying to keep it simple – here is what I have to say:

Things that deal with weddings are simply entirely too expensive. This is coming from someone who technically could afford to fork out the cash, but has learned a thing or two.

No amount of money for a few hours is going to secure that marriage. If I have to choose between photographs or time spent with a sweetie on a honeymoon – I’m going with the trip. THAT is where the marriage begins.

The wedding ceremony needs to be intimate. You are basically entering into a binding contract – and really, it’s for the groom & bride. After a ton of contemplation, I decided that’s what I want. A private ceremony. Sure – I’m allowing our family and a close friend or two to attend, but honestly, we would both prefer to be alone with the Pastor. The other is for the family, and since we are bringing together two families, we are doing the rest. But when it comes to the actual church – I don’t want a lot. Not major flowers, no runners- none of that! I want it to be about Tim & I. Period.

As for the reception- again- It’s a party at 7pm. Not a dinner, a party. We will have food, but it’s more of a “party food” atmosphere. There will be a small wedding cake for Tim & I, and cupcakes for everyone else. How many times have we gone to a wedding and watched people dumped the left over wedding cake into the trash? (Example, his step daughter’s wedding. An expensive cake (which had maybe a few slices eaten out of it) ended up completely in the trash.) Um.. no, thank you.

Yes, I have invested in the bar & DJ- again.. this is a party. Simply decor, but great space. A lot of thought went into the venue. No photographer. Yep – you read that right. Here’s the thing – you mention you only want one for the reception, and you only want candids, people sort of balk. It’s not worth their time.

That’s okay – because everyone can use a hashtag, and take those random shots for us! I have several very successful photographer friends, and they really are the best in the business. But I, like most people I know, at this point in my life cannot see spending 3k+ on a few shots. I just can’t see it. I don’t mind a bunch of selfies and what not. Candids – photo booth stuff, etc. Honestly… I would rather spend that $3,000 on the Honeymoon.

I think what I am getting at is, think about what is most important to you. I understand that when you are in your 20s and it is your first time getting married that you want to the “dream” wedding. I’ve been there and done that. It didn’t create the best marriage. Tim & I have invested in Pre-Marital workbooks & sessions with the Pastor we have selected. That is where I want to see my focus. Yes, I want to celebrate with family & friends – but more than anything, I want to do this right. Without the flowers that will be trashed in a few hours, nor going into debt over photographs, wedding cake, and what not.

It’s simply not worth it. Not to me, at least.

 

Wake Me When September Ends

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Okay, okay. So the month actually ended. And yes, I complained and whined about it. I know everyone around me is so happy it is October and now my upswing will begin.

In my last post, I shared all of the crazy things that happened. This post, I will share the highlights.

14238241_10154483127569929_2274346097796631047_nThe month started off with us celebrating Karen-Ann’s 14th Birthday! Tim’s youngest is in the 8th grade and is growing up soooo fast! Drop dead gorgeous – she is super tall, recently lost 40 pounds (yes! She went low carb,) and wants to one day attend a Paul Mitchell School where she will learn to the be the best stylist ever! She’s funky and creative… and with all of that being said, the girl chose IHOP as her birthday choice. (Obviously, when you are going as carb free as possible, on your cheat day, pancakes are in order!)

Her entire extended family was there: Tim, his mom & I. Her sisters & niece. Her cousin & her Dad, and her mom’s group. I ended up buying professional makeup brushes for her. Dropped a pretty penny on those, and I hope she is enjoying using them!

14362660_10154491912539929_4505619788581951598_oThe very next day I left for Atlanta to attend the Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference. Learned a ton and met a handful of people I might see again soon. Get this! I got nominated for Vice President for the Presidential Pathways region. (Georgia is divided into tourism regions!) Not too shabby – and it looks like they are going to appoint me!

 

14359184_10154500104694929_2403946619452497051_n-1Then the very day I got back to Americus, we had three days of The Ride Home – a POW/MIA event that honors and remembers all of the military personnel that were official POWS and MIAs. The National POW Museum is in Andersonville, so naturally we are the home front for that.

14440713_10154517515399929_1681165119207822685_nThe very next week we celebrated the Taste of Sumter in Americus. Over 20 locally owned restaurants came out and showcased their food for several hundred people! Good food, good music, and lots of great people. You know, I’ve only been here 4 months – yet, as I was walking down the street at this event (alone,) I never felt alone. Every few feet, someone was waving and yelling, “Hey Nicole!” So.. that’s what it means to live in a small town. Not too bad

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Just the next day, Tim & I attended the National Peanut Sponsor dinner for the Plains Peanut Festival. And who did we get to hob-knob with?

None other than…

14500728_10154531230419929_5987056697063446429_oThat’s right – we met Rosalyn and former President Jimmy Carter. (Don’t forget, he always was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.) Yep… all in a day’s work.

14484638_10154522443694929_5985422700670854834_nThe next day we attended the actual Plains Peanut Festival! GREAT event. I got to “work” President Carter’s book signing. Basically it was me and about 6 Secret Service guys and a few main volunteers at Jimmy’s table. Again – I love my job!

 

14492391_10154535130159929_8213957566022725389_nAnd then the following Wednesday we all headed to Albany to Mellow Mushroom to celebrate Alex’s 15th Birthday. Tim’s biological oldest is now in the 9th grade. She is the smarty pants in the family – super smart, super witty, and man oh man – she is going to set the world on fire!

14500588_10154542978784929_8575049715028528063_oWhich brings me to this weekend – the first weekend in October. I am working the 40th Annual Andersonville Historic Fair!

 

Am I busy? Maybe just a little!