September 25, 2014

Thankful Thursday Kickoff | Ten Things

I'm kicking off this fall's Thankful Thursday series with a list of ten things I'm thankful for...not the big obvious things like my husband or my children or my house. Just ten little things I'm often inclined to over look but would definitely miss if they weren't there anymore.
10. Spellcheck
As much as Siri spends a lot of time twisting around my words like ice cream melting in the August sun, I really appreciate knowing that most of my words will be filtered before I send them out into cyberspace.
9. Air Conditioning
In Texas, air conditioning makes life much more pleasant for six months out of the year.
8. Sharp Number Two Pencils
The smell, the color, the way the graphite smears on paper, everything about the number two pencil is wonderful. Unless the eraser is missing. Then it's just sad and frustrating. Part of the loveliness of the pencil is the ability to erase easily and nearly completely.
7. Beautiful Cell Phone Covers
I am a world class klutz. Therefore, my phone is currently enclosed in a (waterproof, shockproof, impactproof) Lifeproof case. I want nothing more than to put one of the cute Little Mermaid, Wall-E, or DCL cases on my iPhone. 
My poor iPhone wouldn't last a week.
6. Green Pilot G-2
Ah, the retractable gel pen.
I love the rainbow pack of colors, but for my money, I prefer just the green. Since the easiest way to get the green pen is to buy the rainbow pack, I try to use all the other colors first and save the green pen until last.
Something about the green ones, I guess.
5. Warm Mugs
There's something comforting and cozy about holding a warm mug of peppermint tea.
4. Planners
The old fashioned paper kind of planner is a highly undervalued. I love getting to write things out and cross them off physically rather than just deleting them from a digital list.
3. Podcasts
Some mornings it is fun to listen to loud music during my run. Some mornings the thought of music makes me want to crawl back into bed. Then I remember all of my podcasts. Between all the variety of podcasts out there, I get to pick between offbeat homeschoolers, travel agents, and news. If you want it, they've got it.
2. Hoodies
The comfort of a super fluffy hooded can't be over-estimated. Perfect wardrobe staple for fall and functional as well.
1. Hot Cocoa
Nothing takes me back to childhood quite as fast as a nice cup of hot cocoa.
So what are you thankful for?

September 24, 2014

Three Things Thursday | Birthday Wishes!

It's time again for one of my favorite blog hops :
Three Things Thursday!

(Be sure to link up on her blog!)
Since I already have a blog (and three blogs preceding this one) what haven't I already shared?

Once Upon a Time There Was a Princess Who Celebrated a Birthday!

Here are a few of my (new) favorite things from my lovely friends.

1.) Hidden Mickeys Go To Sea
One of my favorite activities on vacation is wandering around the still quiet of the ship with my children in the early morning. Often we look at all of the artwork around the ship or the fun little details we stumble across. Then we discovered that Steven Barret's field guides are available for Walt Disney World, Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line. The guides are set up with clues and hints as they guide you about the ships. For those people who prefer outright answers, those are available as well. My kids decided to hook me up for my birthday.
You can bet we will enjoy some major hidden Mickey hunts during our next cruise.

2.) A Healthy Dose of Fantasy
My college roommate, Ellen, introduced me to a wonderful world of fantasy outside of the lands of Narnia, Hogwarts and Middle Earth. The first step outside of these waters involve Robin McKinley's classic, "Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast."
Beauty and the Beast (and for that matter, the related Cupid and Psyche tale as told in C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces) always has been one of my favorite fairytales. I loved the retelling; loved the Beauty it created. When Ellen dropped by a decade later to visit bringing with her a second retelling of Beauty and the Beast by the same author, I was reluctant to let go of the first to dive into a different adaptation. I eventually read and re-read and re-re-read the copy of Rose Daughter she leant me during a period of five years.

Whereas Beauty was a youthful imagining, Rose Daughter gained from all of the twenty years of experience the author gained in the interim. She was a Beauty I could love as an adult. Complex, imperfect and wonderful.
Reluctantly, I returned her copy when she visited this year. Imagine my amazement and glee when I opened a package the week prior to my birthday to discover a brand new copy of Rose Daughter and another new to me Robin McKinley, Chalice.

3.) D23 Gold Gift Membership
I've enjoyed the free membership for the last few years. This year my dear, sweet husband thoughtfully purchase the Gold Membership for me.

As much as I love Disney twenty-three for it's luscious photography and insider information, I enjoy the calendar even more. The colorful, whimsical calendar is just what I wanted for my office. Aside from the standard bank holidays, important Fan-niversaries are noted on every page. Movie releases, attraction premieres and obscure Disney trivia brighten the calendar clear through the end of 2015.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pour myself a nice mint tea and curl up with some good books.

What would you give a Disney super-fan for their birthday?

The Year We Forgot to Go Back to School | Homeschool Diaries

The air turns cooler, the bus driver practices the new routes, the mall teems with parents and kids in search of the perfect backpack and so began the most surreal fall of my life: the year we forgot chose not to go back to school.

I thought our jumpstart on the year by homeschooling over the summer might ease the peculiarity of the days leading up to the first fall we would not send our kids back to school. It's still strange to see the first day of the school from the other side of the bus. My children woke up as the bus stopped at our mail box and the neighbor kids piled on board. As my kids dressed and made their beds, I poured out oatmeal.

Kylee noticed a tree frog clinging to the window screen and invited him in to visit over breakfast. After freeing "Jumpy" and a couple hours of homeschooling, we headed out to take our first day of school pictures and run some errands. It was on our arrival to the library that I noticed something odd. The hall, crowded with the usual combination of seniors and moms, lacked anyone under twenty and old enough to be free of a stroller. My kids drew glances and questions.

No, they aren't sick and we don't go to a private school with a shifted or year round schedule. We didn't forget to go back to school. We didn't miss the date.

We homeschool.

After some time reading and taking first day of school pictures at the park (where, again, they drew questions), lunch was in order. Heading to Café Express for a quick bite at Market Street, again the buildings  teemed with every kind of adult but oddly lacked children. Still undaunted, I took Chris for a haircut. Running into an acquaintance from church while Chris got a trim, I gladly finished my errands and headed back home.

It took weeks for the oddness of being stared at in public to stop feeling like a glaring spotlight. It wore off a little each time I bumped into a mom with four school age children at the grocery on a weekday or joined in on our homeschool group's play date at a local park.

I'm no longer self-conscious in public and Chris and Kylee will answer as quickly as I do to the constant refrain of "Why aren't they in school?" with the simple truth.

We homeschool.

September 22, 2014

Fall-ing in Love: My Autumn Bucket List

It's the most wonderful time of the year! If I had to pick one season to live in, I would be hard pressed to pick between autumn and spring. Today, fall is definitely in the lead. Since it is the start of fall, let's break out the bucket list and see what there is to do around here to celebrate cool(er) weather and a little more time to sleep in.

1.) Enjoy the change of the seasons.
Sadly, I live in a part of the country where the only autumn color we experience is purchased at Hobby Lobby.
So we make our own leaves to hang in the windows.

My personal favorite leaf from last year?
This Tinker Leaf  #DisneySide
It's not quite the same, but it's still lovely!

2.) Visit the Texas Renaissance Festival
Located in Todd Mission, Texas, the Texas Renaissance Festival (or RenFest) turns 55 acres into a bustling 16th century village for eight weeks in October and November. Between the hundreds of performers, crafting demonstrations and the authentic shops and cobblestone pathways, it's hard to remember that you haven't stepped into an entirely different time period.

My sister and my daughter at the RenFest
I'm excited to attend the School Days for the first time this year. The don't miss list includes: the always interesting Birds of Prey demonstration, breaking the sound barrier with the Fire Whip Show and of course a turkey leg.

3.) Baking
Sometime in October, the air will be crisp and cool and my mind will turn to all things domestic. Once all of the cleaning and tidying are complete, I will focus almost entirely on baking.

Minnie (Gluten Free, Vegan) Apple Pies
Starting with apple cake, oatmeal raisin cookies and Minnie Apple Pies, I will move on to pumpkin. I'm not really a #PSL fan (sorry!) but pumpkin in general still gets my love! Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin quick breads will be next and finally I will shift gears into gingerbreads. Somehow I will shake myself free at some point to bake a few dozen chocolate chip cookies for gifts.
Hmmmm, maybe this year we'll make praline sauce to give away instead.

4.) Shop for Christmas REALLY Early
On my bucket list is completing all of my Christmas shopping and preparations before Thanksgiving week.
Well we are going on our vacation between Thanksgiving and Christmas rather than our usual over Thanksgiving vacation time.

Pilgrim Mickey listens into Kylee's Christmas list.
I'm not sure why she decided to tell it to Mickey, but he was a very good listener.
Rather than come back and try to get everything settled in a rush after vacation, I'd prefer for all the shopping to be done by mid-November. Now to talk my dear husband into getting me his Christmas list so I can get a move on in the shopping department.
5.) Be There
This is the easy part and also the hard part.
To show up every day, love my husband and kids and not be distracted by all the peripheral busyness and urgency and must do items to check off of my list.
To remember that the perfect Christmas card or picture or outfit is not the point.
I am the mom, so I get to pick how much time we hang out and enjoy time together rather than running to events and being busy, checking off things that make this a "perfect holiday season" rather than one filled with moments that are imperfect but magical.
I get to pick if I create a fall full of peace or a fall ruled by the tyranny of the urgent where I let our family be spread too thin on too many good things.
I choose to be there.

September 21, 2014

Five Minutes to Fairytale Photos ~ Speed of Life

I think that the magic of a Disney vacation exists in three wonderful parts: the dreaming of planning, the pixie dust moments during trip itself and the memories you take with you for years to come.

Since I can't live in the Cinderella Castle Suite or even on property year round, pictures help bring a bit of the fairytale back into my everyday life.

In my enthusiastic pursuit of remembering the Magic, I take hundreds thousands of my own pictures every vacation and hope to share a bit of my experience with you.

 The motion blur never bothered me any way.

The Royal Treatment
Tag! You're it!
Actually it did drive me crazy when I got blurry shots. 

I used to think that shots that included large amounts of blur indicated an immediate need to erase the picture then retake it without even looking at what I had captured. Then I realized that sometimes they provide an otherwise un-capture-able real moment with my kids.

While some are blurry because I'm literally chasing my kids down, others are fascinating because the combination of the still background and the blurred children shows them how I see them in real life. Moving, living, interacting and enjoying their vacation.

It isn't perfect, but it is wonderful and magical enough for me.

“Let It Go.”
~Seriously. If you like Disney or know any girl under the age of twenty, I shouldn't even have to tell you who said it at this point.
So get out there, make mistakes, let it go, don't delete all of the blurry ones, and see what fairytale photos follow you home.

September 17, 2014

Food & Wine Festival ~ Out to Sea


Welcome to those of you joining me from Rolling with the Magic and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail."

If your Disney vacation plans bypass Walt Disney World this year (sniff!) or you want to continue the Food and Wine Festival goodness as you take to the high seas, you are certainly in luck! Disney Cruise Lines offers several different cooking demonstrations, wine pairings and tastings during each cruise.

On the classic ships (aka the Disney Magic and her sister ship the Disney Wonder), "Anyone Can Cook" is offered several times throughout the cruise. During a fun informative presentation, adults can learn how to prepare a new appetizer, entrée or dessert. Recipe cards are provided, as are samples of both the dish and a wine pairing.

If you have youngsters who are budding chefs, they offer a similar program in the clubs. Their project often results in chocolate chip cookies ready to eat rather than sea bass. No complaints from my children!

My favorite demonstration, by far, is exclusive to the longer cruises. Chef v. Chef provides an Iron Chef-esque throwdown. Complete with mystery ingredients, volunteers from the audience acting as sous chef and a panel of esteemed judges (again volunteers.)

Iron Chef Style Throwdown, complete with a mystery ingredient!
My husband experienced judging this competition with an extremely unusual mystery ingredient, which nevertheless resulted in two ridiculously delicious three course meals. It's fun and already included in your cruise, so check it out!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Sparks of Magic.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog - F&W Perfect Meal
2nd Stop ~ Home is Where the Mouse Is - Duffy's International Food Festival
3rd Stop ~ Rolling with the Magic - Food & Wine Fun Outside of Epcot
4th Stop ~ Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere - Art of Entertaining
Final Stop ~ Sparks of Magic - Gluten-Free Goodness at Disneyland Resort
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