Friday, July 22, 2016

Random Photo Friday

Steve and I are on our way home from a little anniversary getaway today, so this Random Photo post is a bit abbreviated. However, in the interest of continuity here are a few photos from the week that was in our country home...

These two are having a wonderful summer together!
They spend a lot of time with the, watching movies, and even playing Foursquare outside. But they also enjoy getting dressed up and going out on the town. : )

This is a quick phone shot of my dresser. Madison dried and sprayed a few of my 25th Anniversary roses and bought me a sweet vase to display them too. I am blessed to have that beautiful young lady as my daughter and my friend.

Rhett invited Flynn to the movies this week. They both gave The Secret Life of Pets a
big Thumbs Up. : )

Summer sweet berries...

And summer evening skies.
Two things I love about this fleeting season.

And My Mocha!
She turned one this week!
We celebrated her with her very own teaspoon of vanilla ice cream. : )
And a brand new antler chew toy.

I am enjoying this beautiful summer...but I am most definitely doing this as well. : )

Have a wonderful, cozy weekend!
And don't forget!
If you are so inclined...
Christmas in July is Monday.
Bake some cookies, wrap a few small gifts, and pop in a Christmas movie.
Just for fun. : )

Monday, July 18, 2016

How We Do Disney

And by that I mean...How an entire family that strongly dislikes the heat, crowds, and sun manages to have an incredibly wonderful time at Disney World in June. We love Disney. We visit every other year, and always go as soon as the kids finish school. I am by no means an expert, but I do have some tips on ways to make the most of your family vacation at the happiest place on Earth.

1. Plan. Plan. Plan. We are Disney Vacation Club Members so we start planning as soon as we can, which is six months prior to our trip.
  • Use the My Disney Experience on the official Walt Disney World website here. You can also download this app to your phone. With this, you can do rooms, make dinner reservations, reserve FastPasses, purchase Dining Plans etc.
  • Make dinner reservations. Do not wait to book reservations at popular places like Cinderella's Royal Table or Be Our Guest Restaurant. They go fast! Also, don't forget to reserve FastPasses for popular rides like Peter Pan's Flight and Space Mountain.
  • Plan your dinners and FastPasses at the park you will be visiting each day. It is not so much fun to spend the day at Animal Kingdom and realize you have a dinner reservation at Epcot that same day. We decide what restaurants we want to visit first. Then we book the FastPasses for the park that the restaurant is located in on that day.
2.  If Possible, Stay In Disney. Even better, stay in one of the resorts located on the Monorail loop.
  • It is much more convenient with children of any age to hop on the Monorail and head back to your resort any time of the day.
  • Staying at a Disney resort allows you to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours...times when the parks are open exclusively to Disney Resort guests, as well as allows access to Disney transportation, including transportation to and from the airport.
  • Ask for things you normally wouldn't think of. I always ask for an extra clean room...because...  I also ask if any have been recently renovated and request one of them. And this seems silly, but I also ask for a room near the elevators. If not sometimes you walk for what seems like miles to get to your room after a long night at the park. The Disney Staff are always so kind, and will tell you they cannot promise anything, yet I have never been disappointed. : )
3.  Be Realistic.
  • Disney World is huge. No matter how many times you visit, or how long you stay, you will not be able to do everything. And that's ok.
  • Remember, it is your vacation. Don't spend it in a frenzy trying to accomplish everything you've ever seen or heard about Disney. Prioritize, and be content with the memories you are making.
4.  Do What Works For You. But be smart about what you do.
  • Depending on the ages of your children, spending the entire day in the parks under the hot sun with huge crowds may not be the best idea. Just because you bought a park ticket does not mean you have you spend every minute there.
  • When our children were small, we woke early and had breakfast, followed by an hour or so swimming at the pool. Then we all showered and put fresh jammies on. We snuggled and watched the adorable Mickey Mouse cartoons they play on the television and even took a quick nap. Then around four in the afternoon, we dressed and headed to the park for dinner and an evening of fun! We arrived as many were leaving. And honestly, the parks are just as beautiful in the evenings as they are in the daylight.
  • Now that our children are older, we sleep later. Then we grab breakfast and eat by the pool, before returning to the room for showers. The older kids still rest so that we can stay as late as possible at the parks. We head to dinner and park fun around four and stay until almost closing.
  • Do not. I repeat. Do not stay until closing. Leaving the park at closing means you are among all the other exhausted people heading to the Monorail and buses all at the same time. Recipe for disaster. Leaving a half hour or so earlier allows you to exit the park ahead of the crowd. Winning!
  • Disney World can be overwhelming for little ones. When our kids were little, we allowed for a day in the middle of our trip to be a Rest and Relax Day. We slept in, spent more time at the pool, and went to the park later. This allowed for the kids to get caught up on sleep and enjoy the rest of the trip even more.
5.  Miscellaneous Things To Know Before You Go.
  • Don't let rain spoil your day. It rains a lot in Disney. Sometimes it is a quick shower, other times it's a downpour. One of the best times to be in the park is right after a storm. Everyone else leaves! One particular night after a thunderstorm, we were able to ride all the popular rides over and over again with no wait! Again...Winning!
  • Purchase The Photo Pass Memory Maker. It allows you to have photos taken at any park by Disney photographers, and then download them as soon as you get home.
  • Be comfortable. This isn't the vacation to pack your finest. Shorts, sundresses, sneakers and a light sweater for restaurants are about all you need.
  • Ladies, leave your purse at home. I don't bother with a purse in Disney. I take my driver's license and have Steve carry it in his wallet. Then I carry a Disney backpack into the parks.
  • Pack it lightly with sunscreen, hand wipes, a camera, and autograph books.
  • Bring treats for your littles from home. There are Disney toys and stuffed animals everywhere!!! We always let our kids get a balloon the first night at Magic Kingdom, and then a few things throughout the week. I usually bring small surprises from home to leave on their beds at different times during our stay. : ) I get Cinderella barbies from Walmart, and jammies and shirts from The Disney Store website on sale. Just something extra to make memories without spending a ton of money!
  • Above all...Enjoy. It is a magical place for you and your family. Relax and have fun. After all, it's not called The Happiest Place on Earth for nothing.

That's it, my friends. If you have any of your own tips, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
And...Have a Magical Day. : )

Friday, July 15, 2016

Random Photo Friday

Despite what certain stores are trying to convince supplies, really???...summer is in full swing around here.  We are enjoying that middle of the summer feeling. You know...far away from the "Just finished school" June feeling, and not quite close enough to the "Time to start thinking about school" August feeling. Side note here: Don't you just love my stellar grammar skills? Would it surprise you to know I majored in English in college?! Thought so. End of side note.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the past week here in sunny and hot Pennsylvania!

The days were picture perfect...

One after the other...

And we were sure to take notice.

We took short walks with little dogs...

And posed for quick phone pics before Mass.

We ate yummy summer meals..

As well as simple, but lovely desserts.
This was a regular yellow cake with homemade buttercream frosting.
Made by Peyton. : )

Safe and sound and cool inside, these two relaxed in the sun. : )

One night, we packed up and went to a friends to swim...

But not before we took a few fun pictures. : )

Swimming was awesome!

And the ice cream truck even made a stop!

Ahhh. To be young and in love...
And carefree with your whole life ahead of you.

And young and beautiful.
This one. My Peyton.
Always smiling.
Always helping.

And this little lady.
One last dip with her feet before we headed home.

Home. Where even though the days are sunny and hot, we like our evenings warm and cozy.

So this happened.
Apparently ice can build up in your freezer.
Blocking an important fan.
Fortunately, I know a wonderful man who is on my contact list on my phone.
On Speed dial.
He explained that I needed to get rid of the ice.
Thus, we unplugged our refrigerator.
Fortunately, we had not just returned from a major shopping trip.
And again...fortunately, we have a spare refrigerator.
And lastly...I needed no further excuse to clean this one out from top to bottom.

Well, that's it for me.
Have a wonderful, cozy summer weekend with your people, my friends.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Vanilla Berry Parfait

I am a recipe person. Meaning...I need to follow a recipe. It is just how my brain works. My Madison, however, is much more creative. In fact she thrives on creativity, and I am often in awe of her. Today, she made dessert for us. Without a written recipe. And it was good! If you would like to give it a try, she told me how she made it. And I'm putting it down here because again...I require a written recipe. : )

Vanilla Berry Parfait
  1. One large box Instant Vanilla Pudding
  2. One tub Cool Whip, thawed
  3. Three cups milk
  4. Fresh whipped cream
  5. Graham crackers, finely crushed
  6. Assorted fresh berries
  1. Combine pudding mix and milk.
  2. Pour small amount into parfait cups. Or... plastic works too. : )
  3. Mix three-fourths of the Cool Whip with remaining pudding and layer on top.
  4. Top with remaining Cool Whip.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Right before serving, layer crushed graham crackers on top.
  7. Then cover with whipped cream and fresh berries.
  8. Enjoy! : )
She added some food coloring into the Cool Whip and pudding mixture.
Just because. : )


Monday, July 11, 2016

New Friends That You've Known Forever

You know that feeling, right? The moment you meet someone and feel as if you have been friends forever. That is exactly what happened this past week when my dear friend Joey and her wonderful family drove thirteen hours to visit me and my family here in our country home. I first "met" Joey a few years ago when I was on Instagram. We immediately found we had many things in common...among them...our love of home and family. And cooking family dinners. We became fast friends, as did our daughters...both named Madison. : )  So when Joey mentioned a road trip following her daughter's high school  graduation, we were thrilled! And that is how two families that live miles and miles apart...two families who otherwise would never have met...immediately became life long friends during the few awesome days they spent together.

Flynn anxiously waiting for them to arrive...
And suddenly...they were here!!!!
First up...a picture to capture the moment!
And then one with our girls, who were just as excited!!!
Joey with her amazing husband Roger, who thought nothing of driving thirteen hours to meet us.
Thanks, Roger. : )
The young people got right to work making a delicious dinner...
Pasta with fresh, sautéed vegetables, chicken tenders, garlic toast, and a yummy fruit salad that Joey and I threw together while we talked. And talked. Annnnd talked. : )
After dinner we headed out to the porch to visit more...
Like daughter. : )
We all talked and laughed and visited.
And we indulged in this amazing Chocolate Fudge Cake...courtesy of Peyton, of course. 
We talked until dark, and then Steve, Rhett, and Nicolas showed them the way to our cozy camp where they would be spending their nights.
Day two found my little lady making a brand new friend.
She and Roger played an intense game of checkers after we returned from a delicious lunch at a little café downtown.
Keep practicing, Roger...
She's ready for a rematch!
Flynn also asked Roger for some advice about her flowers...
And a brand new friendship was formed. : )
Later in the afternoon...Steve took off work early...Yay!...
We picked up a pizza and headed to camp.
We ate and visited and the guys started the perfect fire...
While the young ladies prepared the fixings for S'mores!
We also had mountain pies, hot dogs, and a special Danish bread treat that Nicolas suggested and Peyton and Joey's lovely daughter Maddie prepared.
Yummmmm. : )
It was a wonderful evening spent eating, talking, sharing, and laughing.
When darkness fell we put the fire out, said goodnight, and left them to enjoy the cozy cabin for one more night.
But not before making a list of donuts they would pick up the next morning!
Our last day together came much too quickly.
We had breakfast together...the yummy donuts they brought along with some our delicious fruit salad left from the other night...
Then we snuggled on the couch and watched a movie, took a run to Wendy's drive thru for lunch and put off saying goodbye.
When that time finally came, there were hugs and smiles and holding back of tears...
There were more hugs and pictures and talks of our next meeting...
Amid all that, there was a sense that something magical had happened over the past three days.
We knew we would all be friends forever.
And that made it a bit easier.
It wasn't goodbye.
It was simply...see you again.
Thank you, Joey, Roger, and sweet Maddie.
Thank you for blessing our lives.
See you soon!