Saturday, April 22, 2017

Date Night at Disney's Animal Kingdom

A few weeks ago, John and I had the chance to get away for a quick date night to Disney's Animal Kingdom park.

We didn't really have a set plan, save for enjoying the cool evening and grabbing a drink at Nomad Lounge. 

We arrived three hours before park closing, and everyone was streaming out. I love the Oasis at the entrance to the park- the air plants and foliage are breathtaking. 

At the Tree of Life, we debated whether to head right into Asia or left to Africa. We knew we wanted to get a 'walking beer' and meander through either the Maharaja Jungle Trek or Pangani Forest. We usually choose Asia, so tonight we switched it up and headed to Africa. 

A stop at the Dawa Bar is always necessary. We each had a Tusker Lager and headed toward the walking path next to Kilamanjaro Safari.

Sadly, it was closed for the evening. We walked through Harambe Village a bit; while doing so, John booked us an 8:10 reservation for Tiffin's. It was already after 7:00, and I wanted to hang at Nomad Lounge without feeling rushed to leave. 

We headed that way and decided to check in at Tiffin's to tell them our plan. We said we'd like to enjoy cocktails before dinner; they said to take our time and come in whenever we were ready. 

We scored a comfy padded nook at Nomad (we were one of only three or four tables occupied) and enjoyed a cocktail. I'm sure this spot will get busier once Pandora opens, but for now, it's a nice quiet spot to enjoy a good drink. Around 8:30, we headed inside for dinner.

The park closed at 9:00 that night, so we were pretty much the last table sat. They initially put us at a four top table smack dab in the middle of the dining room. I was wanting something a bit more romantic so I asked if they could possible put us in a booth or somewhere in a corner of the room; they came back and moved us to a nice, spacious booth with a view of the dining area. It was really sweet. 

We ordered a bottle of wine and the bread service, which I'll admit didn't look like much on the menu, but was just the right amount of food to start the meal. It's no Sanaa bread service, mind you, but worked perfectly for an appetizer. The pomegranate olive oil was crazy good!

John ordered the Wagyu strip loin and braised short rib and I had the swordfish; we split the Brussels sprouts. Everything was really tasty, albeit a tad salty (and I love salt). 


Even though the park was technically closed, we never felt rushed, and our server was very nice and knowledgeable. We told him about Will and how we were on a date night. He talked about his family. 

At the end of our meal, he brought us out a small bag of chocolate bark. It was incredible and we snacked on it for a few days after. 

We left Tiffin's at 10:00 and walked out to a completely empty park. We maybe saw one cast member on our way out- it was quiet, dark, beautiful. 

Our following date night didn't end so peacefully (think: a phone call from Nana telling us Will had vomited all over, which ended up being a stomach virus that my mom and I also picked up), but that's a story for another day.

Thanks for reading! Kwaherini! 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Disney Baby: Will is Seven Months Old

Wow, seven months. That kind of seems OLD to me, in baby terms.

This kid gets better and better each day, or maybe I feel more confident as a mom each day, but either way, we are enjoying the heck out of Will. He's made such gains this past month; every day is something new!

This month, Will has:

- said "da-da" and perfected the art of blowing raspberries
- visited Barnes and Noble for the first time (I hope he inherits my love of bookstores)
- discovered he LOVES pasta
- visited the new Geyser Springs lounge at Disney's Wilderness Lodge and rode a Friendship Boat
- rode the Epcot attractions (Spaceship Earth, Living with the Land, Nemo and Journey into Imagination) for the first time
- visited the Orlando Public Library and Downtown Orlando
- met his second cousins and great aunt
- had his first Disney Park playdate at Animal Kingdom and met the awesome mommies and babies of Fit4Mom-Celebration
- went to Magic Kingdom with his Nana for their first time together and got his first pair of Mickey ears
- moved into a new house!!!
- visited La Cava del Tequila for the first time (where his mommy and daddy met!)
- stayed with his Nana and Papa for five nights while Mommy and Daddy moved into the new house



















Love you, kiddo. 

Thanks for reading! XO, Ashley 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Quick Solo Morning Trip to Magic Kingdom + Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Rose Cup


Hey y'all! Can't believe I'm posting now of all times (we are packing/moving today and tomorrow) but we have professional packers here right this moment, so I'm blessed with the opportunity to sit outside, sip my coffee, and write this little post. I mentioned in my last post that we had some exciting things going on here, and now I can finally share that we've bought a house and are moving this week! We're first time homeowners, and we're staying in our town and moving just a few miles up the road. To say we're excited is an understatement. 

I feel like my content lately on the blog has been mostly baby-related, which makes sense seeing as my life is mostly baby-related at the moment, but I wanted to come back to my roots and write about the theme parks for a minute. 

Yesterday morning, I made a quick jaunt into the Magic Kingdom. I captured some pretty photos and picked up a few timely tips, so thought I'd share them all here! 

My parents have taken Will for the next few days so John and I could have a clear schedule to pack and move, so I was baby free this particular day. 

It's the beginning of Spring Break season at WDW, so the park opening time was 8:00 am. I haven't seen the new Welcome Show since they moved it from the Train Station to the Castle, so I knew I wanted to make that. That meant leaving the house just after 7:00 in order to park and be in the gates of MK before 8. 

Now here's the thing: I've heard they moved the Welcome Show for a few reasons; one, because the train was under refurb so they obviously couldn't use it or the Train Station, and two, to allow people to get in on Main Street, USA and quote "savor" the ambiance, shop and leisurely make your way to the Castle for the show. Oh, and also to reduce congestion in the Entrance Courtyard, between the turnstiles and the Train Station. 


I arrived at 7:30 and people were just starting to fill in the two tunnels flanking the Station. By 7:45, the Entrance Courtyard was packed and we still weren't allowed in. Finally at 7:50, they let us onto Main Street. So the argument for moving the Welcome Show to ease congestion at the front did NOT hold up this particular day. But I did get some pretty pics of the sun starting to rise behind the Station. 


So we all enter Main Street and leisurely make our way up, "savoring" the ambiance, shops, etc, right?? That's a big ol' NOPE! People were rushing down the street, dodging and weaving to get to the Castle front and center. Perhaps this was due to the fact they they only let us in ten minutes before the show started? Either way, there was no relaxing here. Same story, different Welcome Show. But again, pretty pictures, so yay!

One interesting thing to note: with Daylight Savings Time starting just a few days ago, it's still relatively dark in the mornings. This coupled with an early opening time meant the lights were still on on Main Street, and the sunrise made for a nice change of pace for photographing this area of the park. 




I watched the Castle Show from around the Partners statue; it didn't strike me as anything special, save for a bevy of characters, which I suppose is exciting for young kids and first time visitors. Still, the Train Station Welcome Show is my favorite. Walt was a 'train guy;' it's practically part of the reason why he even built Disneyland to begin with, to have a place to live out his childhood dreams and have a life-sized train encircling the park. He met some of the most influential partners in his career through his love of trains. Trains ARE Walt. That coupled with the catchy Welcome song and dance, and the characters making a grand entrance as the train whistles and pulls into the Station-- when the parents and kids all gasp and wave-- freaking gets me every time. My eyes get red, as John calls it when I cry. This Castle Welcome Show had none of that. Hopefully they'll move it back to the front of the park at some point in the near future. 


Since catching a sunrise in the parks is something that can typically only be done during the 24-hour days, I was eager to climb the Swiss Family Tree House and catch some photos from there. This was also the first time I've been on in a few years; I never want to lug my 23 pound butterball baby up there! 



I meandered over to Frontierland and jumped on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which was a walk-on! It was about thirty minutes after park opening by now, on one of the busiest days/times (Spring Break), so this goes to show you the value of rope-dropping the parks. You can accomplish so much in the first hour. 



After that I made my way back to Be Our Guest restaurant in Fantasyland. 

Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Rose Cup


Ok. So if you're not a Disney nerd and on Disney social media, you might not be aware of the hype that surrounds this particular cup. With the release of the live-action BatB coming up, a souvenir cup is being sold in WDW at Be Our Guest and in Disneyland at the Red Rose Tavern. People have waited in lines for hours in Disneyland to get their hands on this. We're fortunate here in WDW in that we can make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) and can just show up at our appointed time to order said cup. (Although a BoG ADR is a tough one to nab.) 

A friend of mine, who lives in England, asked about the cup, so I offered to try to get one for her. Lo and behold, I found a breakfast ADR the next day! 

If you're not familiar with the restaurant, it's a self-ordering system. You walk to a kiosk and place your order there, find a table, and a Cast Member finds you via a tracking device (in this case, a plastic red rose) and brings you your food. The MyDisneyExperience app lists these cups on the menu for the restaurant, and says there is a five cup limit per transaction. (People are scooping these up and scalping them on eBay, a la the Lilly Pulitzer+Starbucks S'Well water bottles). I started adding cups to my cart, and kept clicking to see if I could add more than five. Sure enough, it went to six! I stopped there, but my thought is that you could potentially order more if you wanted to. 


NOTE: the cost for breakfast at BoG is $24. I didn't want to eat and was able to ONLY order cups, so that is an option. Also note, I was picking up all these cups for friends who had helped me find a Lilly S'Well bottle, and NOT to scalp on eBay. That crap infuriates me!

So, I placed my order, made my way to a table, and waited on my cups. A Cast Member brought them out to me, all in one big bag, and individually wrapped in bubble wrap. The girl sitting next to me asked about them, and I suggested she just go back up to a kiosk and place an order for one since she had already ordered and eaten her breakfast. That's when the Cast Member let us in on a tidbit that I think is pretty neat.

Apparently you can just walk up into Be Our Guest and order the cups at a separate kiosk staffed by a Cast Member. I didn't try it but might in the next few days, seeing as all six cups that I got were for other people, and I don't even have one for myself! Ha. They may cap your limit at five cups when you order from this particular kiosk, I don't know. Your mileage may vary.  But lets be real here, who really needs five Enchanted Rose cups? Unless you're buying for friends ;)

Cups in hand, I started my way out of the park. I popped into the Emporium to look for a keychain. While in there i stumbled upon the uber-popular Walt Disney World jerseys. They're easy to find- just look for the swarm of twenty-something girls and *bam* there they are. I decided to try one on to see what all the fuss is about- they run HUGE! Is that how you're supposed to wear them? I dunno. I'm not that hip. Needless to say, I left without one. If I were to get one, I'd like the Disneyland version. 






Made my way to the front of the store to the keychain display and couldn't find the one I was looking for. So shopping was a bust, which I'm sure my hubby is only too happy about. But the cup mission was a success, and that was ultimately my goal for the morning. 

From there I took the monorail to the Contemporary and decided to stop at Contempo Cafe to check the breakfast options. I ended up choosing the Kid's Breakfast Platter, which came in at $5 with my Annual Pass discount. It was just enough food, and I saved $19 over eating at Be Our Guest (see John, I could have bought the keychain with all my savings! Ha). I also saw this CUTE monorail cupcake in the dessert case. And can we just talk about the Mary Blair mural, please? Never gets old. 




It was time to get back to reality and head home to pack, pack, pack! You know, just those few hours of alone time in the park did wonders for my soul. Stopping to take photos as I pleased, meandering, going by my agenda and pace, enjoying the park in the cool morning hours in the golden light, it was, to be cliche, quite magical. I'd encourage everyone to spend some solo time in one of the Disney parks at some point. 

Thanks for reading! XO, Ashley 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Disney Baby: Will is Six Months Old

**Truth be told, Will is six and a HALF months old, because his ol' mom here is the pits about getting stuff posted in a timely manner. BUT we've had a lot of (good) stuff happening on this side of the screen, which I can't wait to share with you in just a few days.


Anyway...

Half a year. Our little man has been with us for half a year. It seems like he's been a part of us forever.

In Will's sixth month, he's:

- experienced his first Inauguration Day.
- visited the (now defunct) Artegon.
- celebrated his first Valentine's Day (and signed his first Valentines, hence the red marker all over him in the picture below).
- visited his Great Grandfather and extended family.
- tried LOTS more solid foods- he really and truly likes anything, but seems to especially enjoy pasta, nectarines, and sweet potatoes. He's also learned to suck through a straw. 
- visited the theme parks at Walt Disney World countless times, and met some of our Disney friends.
- spent his half birthday in the Magic Kingdom, doing some new-to-him attractions like Country Bear Jamboree and The Enchanted Tiki Room.
- mastered sitting up independently.
- continued to get from point A to point B with his army crawl, but will push up onto hands and knees and scootch forward. He hasn't grasped the whole crawling thing yet, though
- still not gotten any teeth! He's been teething since he was around two months now, but nothing yet!

Will, you light up our life. You charm everyone with those beautiful blue eyes and dimply smile. You are so happy and easy-going and fun. We love you so much!