Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Rewind...Get the Funk Out

This year has been so wild. The past few weeks in particular have been way more adventurous than I like to get involved in. I've been in a major funk for weeks now, wallowing about misfortune, bad timing, economic woes, and a whole list of other things. So, I'm spending this final day of 2008, having the last dance at my self-pity party so I can let this year go and start fresh tomorrow. I mean, as bad as things have been at times this year, I should really be thanking my lucky stars for a whole host of things.

I have a home that's warm and filled with the sweet voices of my kids playing with way too many toys from Christmas. I have a reliable car to drive and a job to drive it to. My family is healthy. My pantry is stocked. And, I have wonderful friends, both new and old, that I know I can count on in the best and worst of times. I am truly very lucky!

I hope that 2009 brings a fresh start and the dose of perspective that I need to remind me that no matter what is going on in my life, there is someone out there dealing with something far worse. And to help me keep my "to do" list for 2009 in check, I'll be posting that here tomorrow.

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Morning Eye Candy

Welcome back to Monday Morning Eye Candy! This is the last MMEC of 2008, so I wanted it to be a themed one. Since I was devoid of any great ideas, I decided to pull from a movie that we saw during the holidays last week. I had purposely been avoiding seeing the new Batman movie, mostly because I'm not a fan of violence in film and I can't stand the other works of the director, Christopher Nolan. However, my brother brought The Dark Knight over and I sucked it up and watched. And I was very pleasantly surprised. It was actually a really good film and thankfully the violence was easily avoidable by closing my eyes with a little bit of warning. And so, I bring you my favorite hotties from The Dark Knight!
Heath Ledger: Such a tragedy that this guy is gone. His portrayal of The Joker was good, but a lot over hyped, in my opinion. I liked him in Brokeback Mountain much more. He was a hottie no matter which way you look at it though.
Nestor Carbonell: He plays the mayor in this movie. I first spotted this cutie in the show Suddenly Susan (many moons ago) and have seen him in miscellaneous things over the years. I discovered that he's recently appeared in LOST. Now I have yet another reason to watch that show!

Aaron Eckhart: This guy is a great actor! I first admired his hotness in Erin Brockovich and have seen him in many other things since then. I like the whole rugged good looks that this guy delivers.

Christian Bale: Oh.My.Sixpack. There is just nothing else to say. I've admired him for MANY years and he doesn't disappoint in this film. Sigh.

Enjoy this week's gallery and y'all have a very Happy New Year! I resolve to bring another list of cute guys every Monday for all of us to enjoy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Disney ~ Day 6 ~ The Final Chapter

Our last day here was met with a lot of the same misery that befell us the day before. Hubby & I woke up feeling AWFUL, but I felt bad about the girls missing out on a full day of park fun already. I wanted to try and make their last day here fun. So, we headed for EPCOT to have lunch with some princesses.
My favorite thing about this park is the World Showcase. I love to travel and this gives anyone an opportunity to get a small glimpse of at least 10 foreign countries, all in one place. Very cool! We headed to Norway to the Akershaus restaurant for some traditional fare and glimpses of Disney royalty.

The girls were dressed in their princess costumes and tickled to meet Belle in her beautiful ball gown. Little A got the memo on the wardrobe apparently.

Jasmine came to our table first and the girls were captivated by her really long hair.

My favorite princess was the next stop. Here's Aurora, otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty.

Big A was dressed just like our next princess...Cinderella. Both girls squealed with delight.

The final princess in our lunchtime tour was Ariel. I was much more impressed with this version. And her dress was beautiful! Big A announced that she now wanted a dress just like this to add to her collection. Oh geez.

After lunch, we made our way through the rest of the countries, did a little shopping and then called it an early day. It had been a long week full of lots of excitement and many opportunities for memories that will last a lifetime. I'm already looking forward to our next trip there! December is a great time of year to go, but I think next time we'll stick with the week before Thanksgiving. The Christmas decorations are already up and the crowds seem to be a bit less then. Overall, despite the sickness that we endured, it was a great trip and I miss it already.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Disney ~ Day 5 ~ The Misery Begins

They say that in every life "a little rain must fall". Well, on this day of our trip, we saw more rain than anyone should in a day. I won't bore you with all the mundane details of this day, but here's a quick list.
  1. Hubby & I awoke this morning, each having fevers of around 102
  2. We had to pack all of our belongings so we could move to a new resort, 20 minutes away
  3. It was pouring down rain THE.WHOLE.DAY.
  4. We left our old resort around 10am and were unable to check into our new resort until almost 3pm.
  5. The kids were stir-crazy and not very sympathetic to the plight of 2 very sick parents.
  6. Hubby & I took turns herding the kids and sleeping on the couches in the lobby of the new resort. The couches were pretty comfy surprisingly.
  7. Thankfully, the kids were completely captivated by the views outside our new rooms, which bought us a little time to try and recuperate.

This was the amazing tree inside the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

This was the view from the balcony of our room. It overlooked the Savannah of the Animal Kingdom park. How lucky are we that we have the opportunity to stay in an amazing hotel that puts our kids sleeping steps away from some magnificent creatures?! The giraffes were my favorite.

This was looking back at the lobby of the resort. There was an observation deck for people who were visiting the resort or didn't have rooms overlooking the Savannah.

Another view from our balcony

Another balcony view. I was super excited to see the zebras!

So, this day of the trip had some silver linings with our new hotel and its views. However, as the day wore on, hubby & I got sicker and sicker. I sucked it up that evening and attended the Cirque du Soleil show "La Nouba" with my mom, but frankly, don't remember much of it. I was really sick and slept through half the show. What I remember seeing was cool. I'll have to see that show again when I'm not delirious.

This brings us to our last day of vacation. Thank god. We're almost home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Disney ~ Day 4 ~ The Magic Kingdom

Another day, another slew of character greetings! The Magic Kingdom certainly left nothing to be desired when it came to character sightings. Here is the day in pictures.
I love that the first thing you see when you arrive at this park is this gorgeous train depot. It's such a thing of childhood nostalgia.
Anyone who has never been to Disney World while it's decorated for Christmas is certainly missing out on quite an experience. Disney does nothing half-ass and the decorations are no exception. This is the enormous tree once you set foot into Magic Kingdom.

Our first character greeting was immediate. Our favorite friend, Pluto!

Almost immediately, we spotted another familiar guy. It's Pinocchio!

The girls were VERY excited to meet their first official princess. It was none other than Snow White!

While waiting to see Snow White, a cast member told us that we should try to capture the look on the girls faces the first time that they see Cinderella's Castle. I'm so glad he mentioned that. I ran ahead as hubby strolled the girls to the front of Main Street and they caught their first glimpse. Big A pointed out the big structure ahead.

And then Little A gasped at the site. She was just amazed at how big it was.

And there it is.

Before heading into the rest of the park, we heard rumor that one of the girls' fave characters was just around the corner. And there she was. Miss Daisy Duck herself!

So then we made a stop in Adventureland and were so excited to run into Rafiki from The Lion King. (My fave movie) Big A's room is decorated from this flick.

And then we got an even bigger surprise when we ran into Meeko from Pocahontas. This had special meaning for us because we named our first German Shepherd, Meeko, after this character. It was bittersweet, but fun.

We arrived at The Crystal Palace restaurant for another character dining experience. This time it was Winnie the Pooh and friends. We enjoyed watching Tigger razz my dad for a bit.

And then the girls got some love from Tigger

They were super excited to meet Eeyore. He wasn't quite so gloomy this day!

Piglet was the big hit of the day. Thankfully he was in good form. The girls were ready to hit the road after getting some hugs.

Hubby & I proceeded to wait in line for 40 minutes so that the girls could meet Ariel in her grotto. Thankfully, this attraction had some cool water fountains that the kids got good and wet playing in before we made it inside. And we got to talk with some of the other tired parents who were keeping place in line. The lady in front of us was from Brazil. It's amazing to me how people from all over the world flock to these parks.

We finally made it into see Ariel. I was a little disappointed, but the girls were excited.

And then we went on the most obnoxious ride in the entire state of Florida. It's A Small World. If my mother had not BEGGED to ride, I would've bypassed it quicker than anything you've seen. Of course, my kids loved this ride. Figures.

A trip to the Magic Kingdom isn't complete without a ride on Dumbo. Big A rode with me and was super excited to see the park from "Dumbo's" perspective.

We wrapped up our day here with a story read by Belle herself. It was so great and then the kids got to run up and meet her. Big A still talks about this story time as one of her favorite things from the trip. It makes me so happy that small moments like that left such an impression on her. I only hope that when she thinks back to some great moments in her young life, this will be one that she treasures for many years to come. I know that I will.

After a long day of character fun, we ran back to the hotel and were super excited to see what our housekeeper had in store for us. Each day, she would decorate things while we were gone. Today, our bevy of stuffed animals apparently partied pretty hard while we were away.

After dinner, the grandparents took over kid duty while hubby and I sprinted to the Blue Man Group show at Universal Studios. We weren't allowed to take any pics during the show, although I was extremely tempted to challenge that rule. I will say that the show was AWESOME and if you ever have the opportunity to see this group, TAKE IT. You won't be disappointed.

We headed back to the resort, exhausted & completely unprepared for what the next day was going to bring us. This is where our story takes a drastic turn downhill.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Disney ~ Day 3 ~ Sea World & More

Alright, for those of you who wanted pics, grab a cup of coffee. You're in for a LONG entry here.
Day 3 of our adventure had us traveling to another resort in the Disney Kingdom. This morning, we headed to the very beautiful Grand Floridian resort for a character breakfast. I had never been to this resort before and was truly amazed by the magnificence when we pulled up. I love Victorian style architecture and this leaves nothing to be desired.
When we arrived inside, we were met by even more gorgeous views. This enormous tree in the lobby was just amazing.

A famous spectacle in this hotel is the annual Gingerbread House. I'm not sure if you can get a sense of just how large this thing is, but it's large enough for several people to stand inside. And it's made ENTIRELY out of gingerbread and other assorted yummies. The chimney even blows smoke. The kids thought this gingerbread house was awesome and asked when we could build one at our house. Um, I'm still trying to come up with an answer to that question.

We finally made it into 1900 Park Fare for a yummy breakfast with some iconic characters. The kids were very excited when they first caught glimpse of none other than Winnie the Pooh!

This picture is one of my favorite from that day because of the moment that it captured. Big A was commenting and laughing about how Pooh was using her pen to sign both her and Little A's autograph books. This is so typical a thing for her to notice and point out. She's such a little me.

I love this pic because Big A was so excited to meet Tigger and Little A was tickled beyond words about getting a "kiss" from that bouncing tiger. Too cute!

It's a jolly holiday with Mary Poppins herself! It's amazing how much leverage these characters can give a parent. We coerced the kids into eating and behaving quite well because they saw Mary coming to the table and didn't want to disappoint her. Thanks Mary!

The girls were happy to meet Alice in Wonderland. Hubby thought she was a little creepy. He's more of a Cinderella man.

The Mad Hatter was HILARIOUS! He was kid-friendly but definitely targeted the adults in the audience with his remarks. We cried with laughter as he gave the lady at the table next to us a REALLY hard time about the white rabbit fur coat that she was wearing. She brought in on herself if you ask me. Priceless!

After a great breakfast, we ventured back outside to get our car, but not before stopping at the carriage for a quick shot. They use this carriage for the many weddings at this resort. This might be the only time that my girls get to pose in it. Ha ha! (Read: Weddings at this resort are VERY expensive)

Now, we were off to Sea World for a very full day!

Our first stop was the dolphin feeding pools. We initially just looked, but Big A was adamant about wanting to feed them. So, I purchased some sardines and off we went. You probably can't spot us in this pic, so here's some help. Count 4 dolphins from the right and that's me in the black shirt. I had both girls with me, 2 containers of sardines and some very hungry dolphins that were making me a little nervous. I wanted to make sure we came away with every one's fingers intact. So, I wouldn't let the girls feed them. The girls short arms and my over-protectiveness equaled them not getting to touch any of the dolphins, but they got pretty close. It was a neat experience nonetheless!

After checking out some manatees and alligators, we headed to an amphitheater and watched a really cool dolphin show. I got a few action shots that I'll share here.

There were several dolphins in the show. This shot actually has 5 of the dolphins leaping out of the water.

After grabbing a quick lunch, we went to another show. This time it featured an adorable otter, 2 hilarious sea lions and an enormous walrus. Here are 3 of the stars taking a final bow.

We then sprinted across the park to the show that I had been waiting all year to see. The Shamu killer whale show. I have had a love of orcas and dolphins since I was a little kid and there's just something about seeing the whales in person that does something to me. It took less than 5 minutes of sitting in the theater for me to break into tears of excitement. It's.That.Bad.

The show finally began and I got some cool shots. It's just amazing to me what these animals can do and they do it with such grace.

After weeping at my orca show, we decided to lighten things up with some fun. We took the girls to meet one of the actual Budweiser Clydesdales. That picture isn't here because upon seeing the pic, I had trouble telling myself from the horse. (Read: not a flattering pic of myself) The girls got a charge out of seeing a horse that big!

We then headed past a carnival game area where my parents challenged each other to some friendly competition. Nothing like watching your parents go at it on Whack-A-Mole.

My mother, the ultimate competitor, whipped up on my dad. She won both games and lovingly gave the grandkids her winnings.

Next up was a ride on this really cool sea creature carousel

And then a truly momentous occurrence happened. Big A insisted on riding on her first big roller coaster. It's moments like this that make a parent truly proud! Big A was glad that we finally relented and let her ride a roller coaster. Earlier in the day, she was angry that she couldn't ride with hubby & I on The Kraken. Frankly, after that ride, I wish I hadn't ridden it either. I swear that I lost a year off my life during the ride. Anyway, Big A & I took on the Shamu Express. She was a little scared and it was a wild ride, but she was all smiles and rode it again with hubby before we left for the day.

After a VERY full day of shows and rides, we took one last pic (at the girls request) before we called it a day. They both agreed that the sea lion show was their favorite but I'm going to bet that we've planted a seed that will cultivate a love of dolphins and whales, just like their mom. Only time will tell!

Next up, our day at Magic Kingdom. A magical day indeed!


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