April 20, 2014

Tips from Our Recent Disney Trip!



I finally went back through my recent Disney recap posts and compiled a general list of tips! I can't promise that these will make complete sense - I typed quickly - but hopefully they'll help!

I linked to each recap post in the title of each heading in cased you missed them!


-KNOW WHEN TO GO. This website has a great crowd calendar. We always go in January or February (trying to avoid Marathon and MLK Day). Ride closures are common but since we've been many times, this isn't a deal-breaker for us. 
-I knew ride closures were common but didn’t know about transport closures (in our case, the monorail was down for maintenance during the day the entire week of our trip). It wasn’t mentioned on the hotel website and on the typical closure list. It was on the transportation page, which I never check. CHECK TRANSPORTATION NEWS.
-Magic bands need to COME WITH YOU on the plane, because you need them to board the Magical Express shuttle. A
-The location of the Magical Express can be a little tricky. Ask someone who works at the airport where to go (even we went to the wrong area and we've done Magical Express before).
-Downtown Disney is the best place for souvenirs, in the sense that the biggest selection is at the World of Disney store. The same merchandise is virtually everywhere, but if you want it all in one place, this is where you go. The Lego Store is also here, which is fun. If you want anything food-related that's Disney, go to Downtown Disney! This is where I've gotten Mickey-shaped pasta and more.
-Utilize storage in your hotel room. We fully unpack and hang things up. It makes for a much less stressful trip when you have things put in their place. 
-We rent our stroller and crib and also order groceries to be delivered (snacks, breakfast items, bottles of water, diapers, wipes, etc.). See the resource list at the bottom of this post.


-If doing a breakfast reservation, either do it really early or realize that it WILL AFFECT your park touring. You'll end up arriving with all the late-comers. I won't be doing this again!
-Try to take your official “family picture” early in your trip so you don’t have to worry about it. The cove area on the way to Tomorrowland is great (no people). Wait til the sun isn’t really high. Maybe plan it for the day everyone matches.
-The Dumbo play area at the Dumbo ride is great!! Even if the line looks long and the posted wait time is a little longer than you'd like, try it anyway. They include play time for your kids in the quoted wait. You get a pager and it lights up and buzzes when it's your turn to ride. There are benches all around the play area for the parents. I don't even understand how it works so well, but it does!


-If characters are priority, do Princesses FIRST THING. Fab Five can be done more easily at Epcot so skip them at MK. I recommend seeing Rapunzel at the Fairy Tale Hall because you can't see her easily anywhere else. 
-If you need last minute essentials or something you’ve thought of at night that you’ll need the next day (like an autograph book or poncho), there’s a small gift shop near the front gates that’s open before rope drop/welcome show so you don’t have to waste precious morning time stopping into a store!
-Stand to where you can just see the welcome show but where you are closer to the entrance tunnels.
-Disney photographers call the Disney photo system different things. Some still call it Photo Pass, others call it Memory Maker, and some just ask for your band. A photographer asked me “Do you have a photo package?” and since I hadn’t registered/pre-paid for one, I said no. She firmly corrected me and said “YES you do. You’re wearing a band.” Yikes. So whenever a photographer asks you anything photo related, I just learned to say, “I have a band” and they would scan it.
-Do Magic Kingdom over 2+ days so you can spend one of those evenings riding rides during the parade/fireworks. Low crowds!
-DO NOT MISS the projection show - Celebrate the Magic, I believe it's called. 


-Even when you think it would be fine to start late in the morning and get some extra sleep – DON’T. Transportation is JAMMED with people making late arrivals to the parks, and it’s not worth the stress! Arrive at every park before opening every single time.
-Toy Story Mania is the most popular ride at HS. Use your fastpass on it and also ride it FIRST THING in the morning so you get to ride twice.
-If you want to meet Woody and Buzz, jump in line right after you ride Toy Story Mania. You still might have to wait a little, but the line won’t get any shorter.
-We went to one of the later-afternoon Disney Junior Live On Stage shows, and we had a FP reservation, but we really didn’t see a huge benefit. It’s general seating and we were able to sit in the center area. The standby line sits in the side areas, but everyone is sitting on the floor. We used our FP on this because there wasn’t anything else we wanted to use it on, but if you’re picking and choosing, I think you would be fine just getting in the standby line early.


-Biggest Epcot tip: unless Disney decides to hire 20 more sets of Elsas and Annas, meeting the Frozen characters ain’t happening. Unless you want to wait 4 hours. ETA!!! I've been told by several people that Elsa and Anna are now in Magic Kingdom and you can use your FastPass!! This is wonderful news! 
-There aren’t a lot of kid-friendly things at Epcot except the aquariums, Nemo ride, Turtle Talk with Crush, and a few boat rides. However, we made a full day of Epcot and enjoyed leisurely walking around World Showcase and just taking our time. It was really enjoyable!
-Be aware that some restaurants don’t open until 11:30am, even though World Showcase opens at 11:00.
-That being said, we were able to show up a little after 11 and get right in for an 11:30 lunch with no reservation.
-Epcot is a WONDERFUL place to get your Fab Five pictures. We went in the morning around 10:00 and there was no wait!
-Don’t miss Spaceship Earth with your kids. It’s about communication and they won’t really “get it” if they’re really young, but visually I think it’s so neat for adults and kids alike!
-Take advantage of the musical performances and shows in Epcot. We saw the acrobats in China and the Voices of Liberty in the U.S. pavilion (DO NOT MISS!!!!), but there are lots of unique things to see.
-The American Pavilion is a great place to go inside and sit, and to let your kids stretch their legs a little.
-Don’t miss Illuminations! There’s a terrace (by the bridge between France and England) where we stood and had a perfect view! Pick your spot about 30-40 minutes before showtime and then send one adult to go and get snacks/drinks to enjoy during the show.


-I'm now a big believer in a 5-day Disney trip. Doing Magic Kingdom over 3 days was WONDERFUL and I highly, highly recommend it. 
-Don’t miss classic Disney snacks and souvenirs. We always get a Dole Whip, Mickey’s Premium chocolate bar, and I’d love to try a churro next trip. We also always get a magnet, ornament, and unique Disney Parks souvenirs. Browse the Disney Store website before you go (and even while you’re there in the Parks) to see what you can order online (and not have to haul home). But there are some items that are Park exclusives that are good to get while you’re there. My advice: if you see something you like in a store, do a quick check on your phone at the Disney Store website. If you see it there, I’d wait to buy it online. If not, grab it!
-Take time to stop and enjoy details, especially on your last day. Stop and eat a snack while sitting on Main Street, listen to the Dapper Dans perform, etc. Take a look at the book Hidden Magic of Walt DisneyWorld if you want things to look for – it’s really fun!
-Explore Tom Sawyer Island if you have time. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-do, but it’s a fun escape if you’re doing Magic Kingdom at a slow pace. Note that it closes at 5:00pm (or at least it did when we were there).
-Even if it’s your only table service reservation of your entire trip, I really recommend making the last meal of your trip really special. It doesn’t even have to be a character meal (‘Ohana is amazing!!), but just end on a really special note. We like to finish at Cinderella’s Royal Table and then watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks!


General Tips:

-Don’t use your Fastpasses during any morning hours. Touring is very efficient during the early morning hours and you can breeze through everything then. Use your FP reservations for the afternoon hours which are the hottest and most crowded.
-Character meals have always been worth it to us. You knock out eating AND meeting characters, meaning you don’t have to wait in line in the parks.
-In our case, Kurt was the only one who wanted to (or could) ride roller coasters like Aerosmith. Some rides have a single rider line which is usually about the same wait time as Fastpass. He used the single rider line and really didn’t have that much of a wait. I got a snack with the kids or strolled them through shops while we waited for him.
-Let you hotel location decide if you go back for naps or try to nap in the stroller. We were staying on the monorail line, so we came back for naps on Magic Kingdom days (except the very last day). Hollywood Studios and Epcot were more of a trek and our kids were doing fine because of our slow pace, so we just stayed in the park. The only time we had a napping child in the stroller was our Epcot day when Liam fell asleep.
-This leads to the question of strollers: we always rent strollers! The ones you rent from the parks are hard plastic, don’t recline, and have little storage. We don’t like the hassle of flying with one (although they fly free). The benefit of renting is that you’re able to take the stroller anywhere with you – on the buses (be aware you have to fold up strollers on the busses), monorail, your hotel, etc. If you use the park’s strollers you have to leave them there in the parks.
-Extra Magic Hours in the morning can be helpful to get a jumpstart on touring. Even arriving 30 minutes early (instead of the full hour) can help give you an edge on the crowds.
-I mentioned this earlier, but note your times guide for special characters you want to meet. For instance, on our last MK day, there were extra Magic Hours starting at 8:00am, but Merida didn’t start greeting until 9:15am. We got a few rides in then got in line for Merida at 8:45 so we’d be one of the first to meet her.



Resource List
Grocery Rental – Garden Grocer
Crib Rental – Orlando Crib Rental
Be Our Guest Lunch FastPass (doesn’t count against your rides!) – CLICK HERE

Our Most Recent FastPass+ Selections:
Keep in mind that these were our choices with young children. If there was a roller coaster the Kurt wanted to ride, he used the Single Rider line. There was also a time when I reserved FP for me and the kids for Winnie the Pooh, and I reserved Kurt a FP at Space Mountain for the same time. Think through what will work for your family.

Magic Kingdom (Spread out over 3 days, some repeated):
-Enchanted Tales with Belle (DEFINITELY use your FP for this!)
-Peter Pan (HUGELY popular!)
-Under the Sea (Little Mermaid)
-Winnie the Pooh
-Space Mountain
-Tomorrowland Speedway (Not a must-see for us, but use if you'll be in MK multiple days)
-Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Hollywood Studios:
-Toy Story Mania (MUST USE your FP! Also ride in the morning if desired)
-Disney Junior Live on Stage (iffy on if this is a big benefit)
-Voyage of the Little Mermaid show (Large crowds go in for the shows, so a FP doesn't help a lot - mainly helps to reserve a time to plan your day)

Epcot:
-Turtle Talk with Crush
-The Seas with Nemo and Friends
-Epcot Character Spot (not used - we walked in at an earlier time with no wait)


Where We Ate:

‘Ohana - EXCELLENT - highly recommend!!! At Polynesian Resort.
Chef Mickey’s - Character meal at Contemporary Resort. Great for meeting Fab Five during a meal.
1900 Park Fare - Character meal at Grand Floridian to meet Cinderella, Stepmother, Stepsisters and Prince Charming
Be Our Guest (Lunch and Dinner) - This is quick service for lunch and table service for dinner. Different menus but same environment. Really neat and definitely recommended! 
Hollywood & Vine - Character meal in Hollywood Studios with Playhouse Disney characters. Kids loved it and good food!
50s Prime Time - My favorite theme! Super cute and fun comfort food. Servers banter with you but if you have shy kids they will pick up on that pretty quickly and take it easy on them. :)
Rose & Crown - UK Pavilion in Epcot. Great food and great atmosphere - a new favorite of mine!

Cinderella’s Royal Table - Princess character meal in Cinderella Castle! We've also done Akershus in Norway and had a great experience there too. 

Need help figuring out your trip? This is an EXCELLENT resource that I highly recommend!! 

Celebrating the Risen Savior!

Today we celebrate the entire cornerstone of our faith - the resurrection of Jesus! We serve the living Christ and I am amazed (especially after becoming a parent) that God would send His Son to die a brutal and agonizing death to reconcile me to Himself and to take care of the separation that would take place because of my sin. I pray that I never get over what Jesus did for me, and even though I do it very imperfectly, it is my desire to give my life to Him and to honor Him in everything I say and do. Jesus, thank you for your ultimate sacrifice for me!

Happy Easter from our family!









April 16, 2014

Easter Decor 2014 and Sunday Blues

This is our first Easter in our new house and it's been fun to set out some Easter things!

This is my Easter table. Pardon the little finger prints and a few scratch marks. :)


My mom gave me the bunny years ago and I got the eggs on stands at a local store when they were on major clearance. The boxwoods came from The Enchanted Home store (Tina is the designer I'm working with for the house).


I've made some big decisions about decor in the house! We got new rugs in the living and dining room, so the dining room will be painted a pale blue/grey color and the living room will be creamy off-white. We're going to wallpaper the foyer! The more I've lived with the colors that we originally chose, they just aren't "me." So we're making some changes and I can't wait for it to all come together!


The white plates are Lenox Butler's Pantry, and they were a gift from Kurt's mom (it's the perfect white pattern, in my opinion!). The egg plates came from Pottery Barn and I got them on eBay several years ago. I've found that I never regret Pottery Barn seasonal decor because it always seems to be timeless - maybe because there's usually vintage styling to it? I'm also glad I went ahead and got 8 plates - I wish I had more for when we inevitably will host a lot of family for Easter.


We will be at Kurt's parents' for Easter this year, and we're so excited because Kurt's twin brother and his family will be there too! Kurt's grandmother always hosts a big family lunch on Easter Sunday, and it's such a nice and enjoyable time.


This is a little grouping in the kitchen.




Another bunny in the living room….


Usually I change out my front door decor to be seasonal and fun, but we get HORRIBLE wind with where our house is situated. It's to the point that the wind destroyed part of our front porch railing! It wasn't even a bad storm - just the wind alone! We eventually plan to beef up the columns on our porch and make some other changes, but we were able to repair it in the meantime. All that to say, my front door and porch are a little bare, so I just use my hangers on our garage door! :)


We had a few teaser days of spring weather (it's now cold again??), so I took advantage and put the kids in some happy blue Sunday clothes! I thought they looked so precious!!


Happy Easter Week!

April 15, 2014

Favorite Things - April!


Once again I'm teaming up with Erika as we share our favorite things for the month! :) Be sure to check out her list (and her super cute blog!)! I always learn of something that I want to try!

1. Red Hot Monogamy by Bill and Pam Farrel is the book I referred to in this post I wrote recently. The book is great, and their website is too!

2. THE ROYAL TOUR is going on and I am loving it! Jenna wrote a great blog post and included a list of royal bloggers that are fun to follow (I read all of those on her list!). It's just fun to see William, Kate (officially Catherine) and little George interacting together, and there have been a lot of great candid photos taken. I haven't been watching any live streams or anything, but it's fun to read the recaps of what they've been up to.


3. I saw William carrying Kate's Longchamp bag when they arrived at the Sydney airport and read that it's an excellent travel bag (made of nylon and a good size). The handle on the one I had been using for YEARS recently broke and I have a couple of trips coming up in the next several months, plus I wanted a good investment in a travel bag. I absolutely love it!


4. I recently finished the Duggar girls' new book and really enjoyed it! There were some things that I didn't necessarily agree with, but overall I loved the concepts presented in this book, which centers around relationships. The Duggar family is actually coming to our church for an event soon, so I've been busy getting things all planned for that. They're coming to speak at a conference in our area and are stopping at our church on the way! We're so excited to host them and we look forward to hearing their testimony! And how exciting about all of the new relationships! Jessa and Ben, and now Jill and Derick have recently gotten engaged (and they just announced the wedding will be June 21st)! I'm very happy for them and I think it will be a lot of fun to see it all play out on the show.


5. When Kurt and I went to a cooking class several months ago, we learned to make Braised Brussels Sprouts. It has quickly become one of our favorite side dishes! It's a different take on Brussels Sprouts because you cut and shred them until it becomes like a slaw consistency. I wanted to share the recipe because they're SO good!

Braised Brussels Sprouts

1/2 pound pancetta or bacon
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 TBSP cider vinegar
2 TBSP Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice

Cut away the ends of the sprouts and discard. Shred sprouts (I cut in half and then slice each half). In a skillet on medium heat, sauté pancetta until crisp. Add all ingredients and braise for 1/2 an hour. Done!

Have a wonderful rest of the month!

April 13, 2014

Ashley Talks About: My Clothes and Modern Modesty


My friend SD told me I should do an "Ashley Talks About" post about how my personal style has evolved. I couldn't really pinpoint how it has evolved, but I DO know what works for me right now. I'll give a list at the end of this post about some good resources!

-Because of my body shape, I only wear tunics with skinny jeans or dresses. This makes shopping easier because I can immediately look at a shirt and know if it's too short for me. Wearing a tunic allows  me to not worry about flashing anyone or there being an unflattering view of my behind - ha! Also it flatters me in the sense that I'm pear-shaped, so my hips and thighs are always covered. Several people have said to me "You are NOT pear-shaped!!" and that means I'm doing something right because I'm just HIDING IT. :)

-Dresses serve the same purpose. Again, because of my shape I can't wear dresses that are straight-cut sheaths or form fitting at all. Plus, those aren't really comfortable anyway. I prefer the fit-and-flare style (meaning the top is a bit more fitted and the skirt is fuller) or a billowy tunic fit. If a dress is strapless or sleeveless, I wear a jean jacket or cardigan over it. This isn't because I necessarily think that style is immodest, but I just feel more comfortable with my arms covered.

Matilda Jane dress with Gap jean jacket.

-Maxi dresses are the best! I live in maxi dresses in the spring and summer! Again, I'll add a cardigan or jacket if I need to, but lately I've been on a mission to find maxi's with sleeves (more on that later). I have some knit/jersey maxi's that happen to fit me fine, but usually I find that material to cling in the wrong places. My favorite maxi's have more flowy skirts with a chiffon material.

-I wear maternity clothes all the time. That's right - I should probably be ashamed of this, but I'm NOT. My skinny maternity jeans from Gap are the ones I wear the most often because they're just like a legging with an elasticized waist. I haven't been able to find a non-maternity skinny jean that has the kind of cut in the leg that my Gap ones do. I do own some regular Gap skinny jeans that I like! I just think the maternity kind are the most comfortable for me chasing kids, etc. Some people have trouble keeping maternity jeans up but I think it all depends on your body type and the kind of maternity jeans you have. And because I wear tunics and dresses, the waistband never shows anyway. A lot of maternity shirts are more of a tunic length in order to cover baby bumps, so for me that's perfect because I love tunics and longer shirts. Also, one of my favorite maxi dresses is Old Navy maternity (picture below). I wore it yesterday and the last time I had worn it, I was walking into the hospital to deliver Lynley! It's empire waist, so it works for maternity AND regular wear too.

Old Navy maternity maxi dress and Gap jean jacket.
-Matilda Jane ruffle pants are some of my go-to's for casual running around. They're kind of funky and unexpected but they're not too far "out there." I'll share this below too, but MJ is one of my absolute favorite brands for dresses! Most people buy for their little girls, but I don't - I buy for myself when they offer some good grown-up dresses and ruffle pants!




-As far as shoes, I mostly wear flats and of course sandals during the summer. All of my shoes are a neutral color with the exception of maybe two pairs. None of my shoes are expensive at all - my favorite flats are from Target (I bought them several years ago) and I don't tend to buy shoes often at all. For church or when I need a higher shoe, I prefer to wear wedges because it distributes your balance and they're easier to maneuver in. I can't even really give my go-to brands because they're all so random and I'm not really a repeat customer from any company. As my inexpensive shoes are wearing out, I'm trying to research a few higher-end brands and buy shoes that are really good quality and will last longer. For instance, my one big splurge last year was a pair of Tory Burch leather sandals, and I wore them almost every single day of the summer.



They're still in great shape and I know they'll last me a LONG time. They also match everything! That's the first pair of expensive shoes I've bought, and there is a big difference in quality. But the difference for me is that I rarely buy new shoes - it's not a temptation or obsession for me like it is for some. But everyone has their weakness!

The one other pair of more expensive shoes I bought were my fall/winter boots. Again, my pair from Target that I had stretched for THREE YEARS were literally falling apart at the heel, so I researched boots and the Juletta boot by Naturalizer had great reviews. I also loved the color and the look of them. I wear them with jeans but also with dresses. And this is my other secret - they make them in Wide Calf! I can wear regular width boots, but I always had trouble when I wanted to wear skinny jeans with them. They were so tight and uncomfortable when I combined a sock, jeans, and the boot. So if you buy Wide Calf, they're roomy and perfectly comfy! Also it gives the illusion of your legs being a little skinnier because the boot isn't strangling your leg - it's nice and roomy. :)

-PIKO TUNIC TOPS merit their own bullet point! My friends have (jokingly, kind of) named me their unofficial spokesperson because I love them! The regular Piko tops are still too short for me, but the tunic length is perfect! I wear these with leggings and skinny jeans all the time. They're also perfect for adding fun jewelry to. These are also WONDERFUL as maternity tops because they're so comfy and billowy in their cut. I usually just Google "Piko tunics" and buy from whatever boutique website has them in stock. They tend to go fast! The picture below gives you a good idea of length.


In the title of this post I mentioned "modern modesty." This is an interesting topic because I think when you hear the word "modest" it kind of gets an eye-roll because sometimes it can be associated with looking frumpy, dowdy, or old-fashioned. And honestly, it can be regarded as extreme and over-the-top by some. I am of the belief that it is NOT dishonoring to God at all for women to wear pants. It's not our faith practice to only wear skirts and dresses. However, I respect and don't criticize those denominations that DO choose to only wear skirts and dresses or also have strict modesty standards. We can learn a lot from them, as I'm about to share. :)

I have often wished that I could find a website or store that had my type of clothes all in one place. Tunics, dresses, maxi's, etc. I would find individual items on websites but combing through was tiring and sometimes frustrating. I was cleaning out my closet the other day and it hit me that I'm the most comfortable physically when I'm in a free-flowing dress or skirt. There's nothing tight on my waist and I'm not worried about what's "showing." So I decided to ask on Facebook where some good resources are for dresses and skirts. I shared that I want to try and incorporate dresses and skirts more into every day casual wear and not just for church. I tagged a friend of mine who is of the Apostolic faith (they hold very conservative views on dress, etc.), wanting to learn from her. She was awesome! She shared some websites that are go-to's for modest dresses, skirts, and more. I also discovered a website on my own (Neesee's Dresses, link is below) and I LOVE IT! I ordered a couple of dresses from them and they're perfect.


For the longest time, I kept thinking "how do I find a maxi dress with sleeves?!" or "Why can't I find longer tunics ANYWHERE?" Well, it turns out I just wasn't looking in the right places! I never considered that what I was looking for was really just "modern modest" wear, and that there are plenty of websites that have options!

Modesty is really just about keeping the attention on your face and countenance. It's not about constraining women or saying that women's bodies are shameful. And it also doesn't mean that men shouldn't do their part to keep their thoughts pure (and that it's just a woman's responsibility to keep his mind pure). Men are responsible for taking every thought captive, but women can help by not being a blatant distraction. But more so for me, this is about being comfortable and just not having one more thing to worry about - it's SO easy to throw on something that is stylish but also covers what needs to be covered.

It's important to remember that anything can become an idol - including the principle of modesty. I think some people can struggle with pride because of how "holy" they're dressing, but the Lord takes issue with pride too! That's not a healthy thought pattern if in our minds we're condemning people for not dressing modestly enough or following what WE believe the standard is. It can also become a VERY legalistic and stringent way to live, which is not honoring to God. I still definitely wear jeans and I think it's all about balance based on what your personal conviction is. And I want to be very clear that my friends who only wear skirts and dresses (because of personal conviction) do that with grace and are not prideful about it at all. I was happy to learn from their knowledge and I gained an appreciation for what's out there in the modest clothing world!

Here are some of my favorite places to shop and also some good websites with modest clothing. I haven't shopped at all of these but they're just a jumping off point!

My Favorites:

Matilda Jane Clothing - This is the official website, but I'm in a resale group on Facebook and I also buy pieces on eBay.

Deja Vu - So cute! Great brands like Missy Robertson, Judith March, etc.

Riffraff - In my beloved Fayetteville, this is where I get my Piko tops!

Mod Cloth - Great retro and vintage feel - I've gotten great tunics and dresses here. They have a whole section for tunics!

Old Navy and Target - Best maxi skirts and dresses!

JC Penney - I've found some really good maxi dresses here.

Trends and Traditions Boutique - I noticed that the Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) always wears tunics, so I googled what she wears and apparently she wears a lot of the Ivy Jane brand. This boutique carries Ivy Jane and some other good brands!


Great for Modest Clothes and Dresses/Tunics:

I've shopped from a lot of these, but not all.

Cato - I haven't shopped here before but a LOT of people mentioned Cato when I asked on Facebook!

Dainty Jewells




Jade Mackenzie

Sexy Modest Boutique (I know, the name is funny!)

Neesee's Dresses - LOVE this website!!

Shabby Apple - Great dresses - vintage-feeling and really feminine.

Mikarose


So that's kind of what my style is and as you can see, I'm always figuring out different things that work for me and what's comfortable in this season as a mom of young kids! I hope this helps other girls/ladies/mamas out there! :)

April 7, 2014

Graceland Getaway

Kurt's Valentine's Day gift from me was a visit to Graceland, and last month we made the trip! Kurt's parents live about an hour or so from Memphis and we've passed the signs for Graceland a million times. I knew Kurt was a fan of Elvis' early music and life (he first read his biography in a Southern Studies class in college) and since then he has been interested in the direction Elvis' life took in his later years. So we were really excited to finally make this a priority and see it together!

We left the kids in the very capable hands of Kurt's parents and headed to Memphis!


We ate lunch at a great sushi place in Collierville on the way into Memphis, and then found the famous landmark of Graceland! It was kind of surreal. I'm not even a big Elvis fan, but I love homes (especially historical and/or celebrity homes) so this was right down my alley. The interiors were a really fun study unto themselves!

Everything was left as it was when Elvis and Priscilla were there together. I think Elvis' last girlfriend before he died had changed up the decor a bit but once it opened as an exhibit Priscilla changed it back. :) Gaudy to say the least but still fascinating to look at!



Elvis' parents room:


We were listening to the audio guide and it had a clip of Lisa Marie saying that she distinctly remembers Elvis' jewelry and chains jingling as he would come down the main stairs. It was crazy because Kurt and I both said you could almost imagine him right there at the top of the stairs. It's also extra mysterious because NO ONE is allowed upstairs - like it's majorly off-limits (which is understandable, but it's legendary how private and closed off it is). Things were left exactly as they were the day Elvis died. I kind of love creepy yet sentimental stuff like that. Kurt and I were dying to know what the upstairs looks like so we searched online about it when we were at dinner later, and we found this website that shows the only known pictures. So crazy!


Dining Room



I was especially interested in the kitchen - it was like a time capsule!



The downstairs was a media/entertainment space. The color scheme would've given me a headache!


It was really state-of-the-art at the time to have three TV's simultaneously and there was a big screen that could be rolled down. SO interesting to see how far "entertainment" has come.



Speaking of headache - look at the billiard room!


I told Kurt it actually kind of gives insight into what was going on in Elvis' mind and his inner world. Just kind of chaotic and overwhelming.


The famous "Jungle Room" was really just the family room/den off the kitchen. It was crazy, though!




This was the trophy room.



Wedding Attire


 This was the workout/gym/recreational space where Elvis spent time on the last day of his life.



They have turned the racquetball court into a huge display of Elvis' music awards.



The pool/burial grounds were really interesting. People seemed very quiet and reflective.




We decided to go back through the house again to take everything in more!


The back staircase in the Jungle Room - DYING to run up that thing haha!!




There are a lot of exhibits at Graceland and we were actually a little pressed for time. But we toured the airplanes and a couple other exhibits that focused on certain aspects of Elvis' career.


Gold sink in the airplane bathroom!



Elvis' bed on the airplane.



There was also a car exhibit that Kurt really liked.



We were amazed by the amount of Elvis merchandise! Kurt tried on some Elvis-approved aviators!


After Graceland we headed over to Harbor Town on Mud Island for dinner. We had a little time before our reservation so we explored the planned community. It was almost Stepford-like it was so perfect. We found a great coffee shop and also saw the cutest grocery store - it was almost boutique-like. We saw a guy in scrubs picking up fruit and then walking literally across the street to his condo. Kurt was like, I can't imagine picking up a handful of fruit and walking home after work! Ha! It was actually so fun because we talked about how we envision our distant future - if we'll stay out in the suburbs or end up somewhere like Harbor Town in a perfectly sized apartment. It's fun to dream together!



We picked up treats  - almond soap, locally-made cheese straws and gourmet coffee.


We had and AMAZING dinner at Paulette's! It was absolutely delicious and the setting was so beautiful. One of our most favorite meals ever!


It was a wonderful and special day to just spend time together and do something different, which is always fun! I'm so thankful for my husband and I look forward to many more days like this together. :)
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