July 31, 2009

Disney Series, featuring Heather M.

Welcome to the first edition of my Disney Series! I am so excited about this. The thought literally came to me while I was in bed the other night (when I do all my thinking), and I just couldn't wait.

Here's what will happen: for every installment, I will interview a fellow Disney fanatic (like myself). I've composed a list of questions that cover a lot of bases when it comes to Disney World, planning your vacation, making the most of it, etc. I hope this will be a great tool for some people out there to learn more about the World, plan their vacation, or will just be fun to read for others!

For this edition, I interviewed Heather M. I know her from college, and she and her family LOVE all things Disney. They go all the time! I always start craving a Disney fix when her pictures show up on Facebook...they're usually from the latest Disney vacation! She's around my age, and she and her husband don't have any children yet, so this is a good perspective for that crowd.

I'm so excited about sharing this with you!

How long have you been going to Disney World?

Since 1988 when I was three years old.

What is your favorite ride? Why?

Toss up between Test Track, Soarin, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Big Thunder and Test Track give me just enough of a thrill without getting scared and Soarin is just SO cool, I love it.

As someone who has been to the World many times, what tips do you have to make park experience easier?

Oh gosh I could write a book on this. Go to the parks early before they get crowded, only stay a couple hours and ride key rides (utilize Fastpass) then go back to the hotel and nap, swim, go to dinner etc. then go back to the parks later in the evening when it is cooler. Have a plan of "must do" rides and "I would like to do" rides so you can prioritize your day. Also, if you are going somewhee like Disney Hollywood Studios where they have a lot of shows that only play at certain times, find out those times so you can plan around them. Let you kids take a nap! Most of the time the reason they have a meltdown in the park is because the parents are pushing them to do too much at once. There is no way you can do EVERYTHING so pick a few things, and say you will come back next year! Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. In the summer, sometimes the Magic Kingdom stays open till 1 or 2 am and its a good time to ride rides that are normally crowded.

What is your favorite time of year to be at DW?

September! Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, value season, low crowds, not to hot, Food and Wine Festival. Can it get any better than that?

Are there any websites, etc. that people should utilize in planning?

The great debate: staying on Disney property or off? Without a question, ON!!! If you stay offsite, when you get to your hotel you are not feeling the disney magic. You are in a boring hotel. On property, it just never ends!

What is your favorite place to stay? Hands down, The Grand Floridian. We are always so pampered and relaxed there! It is our favorite place to be. Being on the monorail is a huge plus as we love the Magic Kingdom.

Do you use a "touring plan" in the parks or do you just go with the flow and wing it?

I make up my own plan. We know what rides we want to hit, so we get a fastpass for one, go in the standby line for another etc. It's different every time. I am very type A and have to have some kind of plan though! Also, we eat a lot of sit down meals so we have to plan around those.

Your tips for clothing and gear to wear in the parks:

I bring a popular bag a lot of Disney people bring called a Baggalini. You can get it from ebags.com. It is waterproof and has lots of great compartments. Also if going in the summer wear light weight clothes, and I always wear sunscreen! I do like to bring a light sweater though because the restaurants and buses are freezing! I wear running shoes if i know we are going to be walking all day and I bring blister bandaids! Also I bring one of those mini battery operated fans. Great for when you are standing in line. Bring extra batteries! I also always bring hand sanitizer and sunglasses and sometimes a hat.

Name your favorite restaurants in:

Magic Kingdom: Crystal Palace. My husband loves buffets and we love getting to see the characters. Lots of good variety and very fun atmosphere!
Disney Hollywood Studios: Sci Fi is our favorite because of the atmosphere. The food is basic but who can beat eating in a car at a drive in? Good burgers and milkshakes!
Epcot: Coral Reef. More of a fancy feel and we love the huge fish tank! Great selection of meat (steak!) and fish. Good desserts and service.
Animal Kingdom: We really like Yak and Yeti. Very cool atmosphere, good food and a huge brownie sundae for dessert. But beware its always freezing in here!

Also, a favorite place to eat at the resorts: NARCOOSSEES!! It's at the Grand Floridian and it's awesome. Tt's on the lake overlooking the Magic Kingdom. Best filet and almond crusted cheesecake! Amazing service. All around A + for this one. We eat here once if not twice every trip! For a cheaper resort restaurant we LOVE Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge. It is so much fun and they have great "country comfort foods."

Do you have any tips for stretching your dollar on meals?

Order water! Sodas dehydrate you anyway and in the summer heat that is not a good thing! Share dessert. They are expensive and usually huge. Skip the appetizer or split one. Eat at counter service meals for lunch, or split a big breakfast platter at a counter service location. Bring your own bottles of water from home or buy one and refill if during the day.

How many days do you recommend staying for a good Disney vacation?

We usually stay for 7, but I have also done as little as 2. I say you need at LEAST 4 nights and that's pushing it!

Your best tips for going to Disney with kids:

Don't make them stay in the parks all day! They will have a meltdown! They love to swim at the pool so set aside a day for that or do it every afternoon for some downtime from the parks. Try and remember you can't do it all!!! Enjoy a few fun things instead of getting stresed out trying to fit it all in.

Your best tips for going to Disney without kids:

Stay at a nice resort and spend time relaxing there! There are days we wont even go to a park and will just stay at the hotel by the pool! Eat at some of the nicer table service restaurants, go later in the evening as well. Take is easy and just enjoy being there. You dont have to stand in an hour line for Dumbo! Save it for when you have kids and HAVE to stand in that line haha.

Character meals/breakfasts: worth it?

Yes/No. If you have never done it then do it, and if you enjoy buffets (like my husband) do it. Disney deos a good job of having the characters go to every table so you dont feel like you have to "fight" for your turn for time/a picture. I think it's part of the experience!

Fly or drive (if both were an option)? Being as far away as I am, and having driven from here I say DEFINITELY fly! Disney's Magical Express is a wonderful thing and I love not having to claim my bags when I get to Orlando! The only thing is where to put all those souvineers with that 50 pound weight limit.

Do you use or have you used the Disney Dining Plan? Your thoughts?

I have gone with no dining plan, regular, and deluxe. My husband LOVES deluxe and I do too because it allows you to eat at some of the nicer places. I do not recommend this plan for people with small children because table service meals can get lengthy, especially multiple ones in a day! The regular plan is good as well. When we stay concierge (and have food out all day including breakfast) the deluxe plan is a LOT of food, but we still like it. :) Sometimes, price wise it can be cheaper to not do a plan at all. For instance, the trip I just went on last week was cheaper for us to just book room-only because the discount was bigger that way than if we had booked a package with a meal plan.

Do you try to split time between time in the parks and time at the hotel/swimming pool/Downtown Disney?

Yes. We always go to DTD at least once or twice and have a day or two or morning or two at the pool. You need that downtime, an when parks are crowded (or on a weekend when locals are there) a pool day is a good option.

Tips or favorites in Downtown Disney: Earl of Sandwich! Goofys Candy Shop is where we always make our own chocolate covered rice krispy treats to bring home! Shopping at World of Disney is a must because annual passholders and disney visa cardholders get 10% off their entire purchase.

Best place to see/meet characters? They are always all over the parks but unless there is no line we dont take pictures wth them anymore since we have so many! In front of Animal Kingdom you can find them as well as in EPCOT's World Showcase and in the front of DHS and MK. Some maps even have specific times to come see characters.

Best age to take a child for the first time (in your opinion, if applicable)?

In my personal opinion, when they are out of diapers. Babies are not going to remember it anyway and I would probably be so stressed out with the heat and germs anyway! And when I have my second child God-willing, it will stay with grandma and grandpa until he/she is old enough to go. Also, we met a family on our last trip who said (the grandparents) they always pay to take each grandchild when they graduate from kindergarten. I thought that was so cute!

For those of you who have worked at Disney, what was it like? Did it "spoil" the magic for you or not? Are there any insider tips?

Never worked there and I am afraid that would happen if I did!

Do you think souvenirs are a waste of money?

NO WAY! I have tons of Disney clothes, picture frames, kitchen items, etc. It helps to remember your trips when you go home!

Do you use the Photopass service, do you solely take your own pictures, or both? Both. On our honeymoon we bought the prepaid Photopass cd, but now since we go so much we still get a Photopass card and take a few pictures for fun, but you can also hand your camera to a Photopass person and they will take pics with your camera as well!

Any tips for money-saving in general?

Go in value season, watch websites for deals and discounts like free dining in the fall, if you plan on going multiple times a year invest in an annual pass. Share meals or eat snacks from home when possible (bring granola bars, cereal, etc.). You can even have Garden Grocer deliver groceries to your room.

Do you use the Fastpass system? How do you best utilize it?

Yes! First thing when I get to a park I get a Fastpass for somethng I want to do that has a long wait, then I go stand in the standby line for a different ride and do other things until my Fastpass time. Then I go Fastpass seomthing else!

Is there a ride that should be especially avoided with children, people with motion sickness, etc.?

If you get motion sick do not do Soarin, Mission Space, Tea Cups, Star Tours.

Is there are ride that's overrated (in your opinion)?

Everything in Fantasyland! While I love Fantasyland, I am not standing in line for 2 hours to ride Peter Pan or Dumbo. [Note from Ashley: kids LOVE Fantasyland, so this is just from an adult perspective.]

Best parade watching spots in each park?
I refuse to sit and wait an hour before a parade for a good spot. Plus we are both tall so we usually just wait until they are starting. Frontieerland is a good place to watch parades b/c for some reaosn EVERYONE wants to see them from main street. I don't really watch parades in other parks.

Do you own Mouse Ears? Maybe :)

One of your favorite memories from Disney World:

Getting a free upgrade last year at the Grand Floridian to main building concierge. We were so excited we literally jumped up and down on the beds! I have the pictures to prove it! Another favorite is on the birthday trip I did last week, my best friend had a birthday cake sent to the room and I got a free chocolate mickey from the hotel. I felt so special and spoiled!

What is your favorite Disney movie?

Beauty and the Beast!!!

How often do you go to Disney World?

It depends. At least one week-long trip a year, the maybe one or two 2-5 night trips. We have an annual girl's trip too! Our next goal is a Disney Cruise!

Anything else that you have to say about the Happiest Place on Earth:

I just love it so much. You can't get tired of it because if you try a new hotel each time its like a whole new trip! There are so many things to do and see you can never do them all. I have been 6 times since 2007 and I am ready to go back for more! January is the next scheduled trip to run the half marathon!

Thank you, Heather, for contributing to my Disney Series! May all your dreams come true :o)

Have a magical day!-------

Off We Go...

I just realized that my previous post about my wedding was my 500th post! WOW! I've been going back and labeling all my posts little by little, so it's easier for me and whoever else to find different topics (look at my labels in my left-hand column). It's been fun to go back and read what I've written since October 3rd of 2007. So much has happened in our lives, and even more is to come!

I'm about to leave for Missouri for the weekend to attend a wedding and then my grandparents are coming in to celebrate my Nana's birthday. I know it will be a good time with family!

Speaking of Cape Girardeau, be praying about a situation with a house there for us. I can't go into details right now, but I'll keep you posted. Just pray that God will either open or close a door for us.

I'm really excited about things coming up on my blog; my first installment of the Disney Series will be soon! :o)

Talk to you soon----

July 30, 2009

Show Us Your Life: Wedding Party and Flowers

It's time for more pictures for Kelly's Tour from my wonderful wedding, this week featuring the wedding party and flowers.

Here are the girls that were in my bridal party: Constance, Katie, Lauren, Brooke, Anne, Susan Hall, Brittany, Erin, and my two sisters who were the maids of honor, Alyssa and Andrea. Such sweet girls!

They wore two-piece long dresses in the color European Gray by Bill Levkoff. I was obsessed with the color!

Sweet Anna was my flower girl. I love her and her family! :o)

I also had honorary bridesmaids. Some couldn't be there for the wedding, so this isn't the whole group, but here are Taylor, Katie, Dana, Laura, Caroline, and LeAnn.
My sweet sisters-in-law, Jennifer and Ashley, were also honorary bridesmaids.
Here are Kurt's groomsmen: His dad Randy (best man), Josh, Adam, Jim, Keith, Kyle, Russ, his brothers Cory and Kelly, and my brother Will. What handsome men! :o)
Here's what the platform looked like. My florist did freelance work, which kept the cost down, and she was so wonderful about maximizing my budget. We rented the canopy, and she dressed it with flowers and tulle. We used all the greenery we could find in the church (free!), and made it look like a garden. There were also candelabras with flowers and candles. I wanted the bridal party surrounding us in the choir loft. Everything was just how I imagined it would look for a beautiful summer wedding (I had plans in my head for a wedding any time of year. I LOVE weddings!).

This is a good look at my bouquet: peonies, roses, and gorgeous greenery!

A better look at the canopy:

What a blessed wedding it was. Songs: "All I Ask of You" from Phantom of the Opera, in honor of my love of performing in musical theater and my semester in London, "The Prayer" and "I'll Walk with God" from the musical The Student Prince, sung at my parents' wedding in 1981. My two grandfathers and my dad performed the ceremony, and my dad wrote personal vows for us. It doesn't get more special than that! Precious memories!

To see my home, you can click "Home Tour" in my menu bar. Also click HERE to see my other Show Us Your Life entry so far, my wedding dress.

Come back next week to see the reception and honeymoon pictures! I'm also going to add engagement pictures, since I haven't yet. Also coming soon: a new Disney Series on my blog! Stay tuned!

July 28, 2009

Photos and a Wrap Song

Here are more pictures that I took today and edited in Photoshop. I use Photoshop Elements, which is the easier version of full-on Photoshop. I love it! I use a Canon Rebel xsi DSLR, and it was one of the best purchases that Kurt and I ever made. I think it's pretty easy to figure out, and through several photography tutorials, I've learned so much!

I've been experimenting more with blurs, colors, and the ISO settings on my camera when I actually take the picture. That way, I can take advantage of natural light and not have to use flash quite as much. These are some good examples!

Also, I have started to LOVE my Peanut Shell sling to use with Evy. It's just fun to use and she feels cuddled. However, I want one that's more stretchy, because my arms feel so constrained. I found the website Make Baby Stuff, and it showed how to take a piece of jersey material and make a no-sew wrap sling! I was so excited. So I went to Hobby Lobby and got my material. Here's how it looks! (I blurred the background in the photos so it wouldn't be distracting. Also, PLEASE pardon my appearance. . .definitely my casual look!)

Here's the problem: I accidentally got four yards of material instead of five, so I'm just BARELY able to tie the ends around my back. SO FRUSTRATING!!!!!!!! I was able to make two slings because the width of the fabric was big enough. I was going to have to start over and try and sell the two pieces of material, but this came to me as I was in bed about to fall asleep: I'll piece the two widths together to make it long enough! {Well, I'll have Kurt's mom do it....I can't sew!} SO glad I thought of that!

About the mesh baby feeder: you can get them at Babies R Us or Target, and I'm sure other places. You just put a little bit of food (like pears, apples, watermelon, banana), something with a soft texture that has juice, screw on the lid, and let them have at it! Evy LOVES it, and I think it's a great way to get her used to different foods. She gummed (not just sucked on) several pieces of peach, which really surprised me! Mesh feeders aren't expensive, so you really have nothing to lose. Great invention!

I'm off to watch the Duggars!-----

Playing with Photoshop

I've been taking just a few minutes here and there to learn more about photo editing. I recently read up on MckMama's photography lessons, and they have been SO helpful! Here are some recent photo edits!

On all of these, I just blurred the background and then boosted the color. I'm still in the early stages of playing around with different edits, but I've really enjoyed it so far!

This is a photo that you saw the other day, but here it is edited:

These were taken today, when we gave Evy some peaches to try in her little mesh feeder. She LOVED it, and looked so pleased with herself. These are not "artsy" photos by any means, but they were good to practice my new skills on!

These were taken on our bed--she was having a blast!

I love feeling like a {kind of} photographer!


-Lunch with Carrie and Sarah Denley was SO much fun! We sat and talked for two hours and our girls were all so content and well-behaved :o) Definitely something that will continue!

-I need to clarify about parents on Facebook. It's the PUBLIC chatting that weirds me out. Like, entire conversations on a wall. I seriously saw a mom and her daughter discussing a movie she was going to see, what her plans were, and the mom then told her (via Facebook) to come downstairs for lunch. I am NOT kidding. They were literally in the same house, discussing these things publicly on a social networking site. THAT kind of stuff is what bothers me; not necessarily having Moms and Dads on Facebook!

-Evy had a better night last night! She went to bed at 8:30ish, woke up around midnight, but then slept until 6:00 am. My body automatically woke up at 4:30 am expecting her to be crying, but she wasn't! I'm hoping we make small improvements like this until she's kind of back to normal (whatever "normal" is...).

-This isn't an update, but I just wanted to say that I can't wait for the new Duggar episode tonight. I seriously love Tuesdays because of this family. :o)

Happy Tuesday!----

July 27, 2009

Hello. . .

Well, hi.

It's been a weird few days around here. Evy has been going to bed around 9 pm as usual, but then has been waking up like clockwork around midnight, 4:30ish, and 8-8:30ish. Keep in mind that her day normally starts at 9, and that had been working SO well for us. I know things like this happen, and I'm wondering if it's a phase or if she's reverting into a pattern...hmmm. I know I shouldn't complain; I'm at least getting some stretches of sleep, but I don't feel like I'm ever able to get into that deep sleep, which leaves me really tired in the morning. This morning, after I fed her around 8:15, I just put on Baby Einstein and napped on the couch while she watched it happily. I NEVER do things like that! But I was just so tired. And my muscles have been super sore for some reason lately. I think Evy is just getting heavier (which is a good thing!), and my back is just feeling the consequences.

Also, I am currently taking a break from Facebook and Twitter for awhile. Do not freak out: nothing major has happened. I just reached a limit last week. People put THE stupidest things on their status updates, and they put the most unflattering pictures up (unflattering to their character, I mean). I also see parents conversing with their children via Facebook. Now, don't get me wrong---I know I'm an old soul and I am just weirded out by things like that. And I have to be so careful about what I vent, because once I get started, I usually say things that offend people. But seeing a status about skipping church for no good reason, and seeing a church member rant about how mad they are at their spouse. . . seriously!? This is about to sound so hypocritical because I have a blog, but I just wish people still had some mystery or anonymity about them. Does that make sense? I believe in being genuine and transparent in a lot of circumstances (trust me) but certain issues just shouldn't be vented for 904 Facebook Friends to see. I just needed a break. I guess I just wanted a break from feeling pressure to update my status or respond to things via Facebook. I'm happy just updating my blog here and there for a little while. Just wanted to let everyone know! :o)

Bachelorette: Whatever. Who cares?

I'm helping my sister move into her apartment at college on Wednesday--I'm so excited to see my family! Then I'll be going to Missouri for a wedding. I love weddings. And it's two of my friends who are getting married! This will be Evy's first nuptials to attend. . .how exciting!

{Also, Saturday is my parents' 28th wedding anniversary! I think it's been 28 years. . .}

Tomorrow I'm having lunch with Carrie and Sarah Denley, which will be fun. Mommy lunches are really enjoyable, because you get to connect with people going through the exact same things.

I'll write a post with more substance soon. . .just wanted to give the report from our house. . .

I'm probably about to have to feed my sweet baby again soon. I'm so tired! By the way, I just realized I now have 101 followers. That's so kind of people to actually care what I write! Haha! But over 100 followers is a milestone (to me, at least!). So hello, friends!

Have a great evening----

July 25, 2009

How Big is Evy? SO BIG!

Before I show pictures, just wanted to let you know that I opened an Etsy shop for my canvas art! CLICK HERE to visit my shop!

Also, I recently discovered PANDORA, which is free internet radio. You can totally customize your stations. Mine consist of Holiday music and Easy Listening. That's it. And I LOVE it!!

Okay, here are the latest pictures of my precious 5 1/2 month old girl!

Getting changed with Daddy :o)

Look at this physique:

She is rolling over now from her tummy to her back!! Watch the progression:

SO proud!!

She is such a happy baby, and literally smiles almost all the time.

I can't get enough pictures of how cute her little shape is!

And our biggest accomplishment lately: Evy is sitting up briefly BY HERSELF! She is in the early stages of this, as she still has to depend on her arms for support, but she's doing great! Look how proud of is of herself!

July 24, 2009

Christmas Cheer!

It's Christmas in July time! I was going to put a description for each of these...but I think they speak for themselves :o) My only introduction is that I started and ended with the most important and significant reason that I love the holiday season. Jesus.

Now I know exactly how she felt.

Along with the spiritual joy, here are more images that just make Christmas my favorite time of the year:

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

"Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" John 1:29

To see more of our house decorated at Christmas, click HERE!

Merry Christmas!----
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