Friday, February 20, 2015

Adventures in Classic Movie Watching

I saw this article a few months ago and thought, hmm. 30 movies in less than 9 years before I'm 40? I can do that. There's also a bunch of these movies that I've always wanted to see and just never got around to!

So here's the list that I'm going to focus on...

1. Fight Club (1999)
2. The Godfather (1972)
3. Forrest Gump (1994)
4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
5. Psycho (1960)
6. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
7. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
9. Her (2013)
10. American Beauty (1999)
11. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
12. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
13. Platoon (1986)
14. 300 (2007)
15. Schindler’s List (1993)
16. Léon: The Professional (1994)
17. Kill Bill (2003)
18. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
19. The Matrix (1999)
20. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
21. Memento (2000)
22. The Dark Knight (2008)
23. Vertigo (1958)
24. Cabin in the Woods (2012)
25. Shutter Island (2010)
26. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
27. Clueless (1995)
28. (500) Days of Summer (2009)
29. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
30. Annie Hall (1977)

I may not watch one or two of them because they'll freak me out but otherwise, I think it's a pretty good goal! Have you seen any of these movies?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Adventures in Meditation

I've always been a crazy busy person. With a full time job doing events, a part time wedding coordination business, volunteer roles, keeping up a house and just keeping up family and friends, people ask me how in the world do I get everything done?

Well, I don't. I'm reading Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In where she talks about not doing everything - she focuses on what's important.

In the past few weeks, I've realized that I need to make myself more important during all this crazy scheduling. So I started getting up a little bit earlier each day to walk 40 minutes on the treadmill. It's only been a week and I missed the weekend, but I was back this morning and still focused on that goal.

When we got back from Disney, I heard about an app called Headspace. It's free for the first ten days and then a subscription but I have fallen in love with it, so I'm paying for it (something like the cost of two coffees a month). I'm not even getting paid to talk about this app but I do really think it's doing something good for me.

I'm focusing on the daily meditation thing for ten minutes each morning. It's apparently just the right amount of time for my hair to dry in the towel while I'm getting ready after my treadmill walking.

So by the time 8 am rolls around and I'm heading into the office, I've already walked for 40 minutes or so and taken ten minutes of quiet time for me, just to be still. It's been so amazing for me and my psyche.

Do you take time every day to just sit and be still?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Adventures in Valentine's Day 2015

Our lives are so crazy that weekends without events, activities, house work and other stuff to occupy our days are very seldom. So I love it when Husband and I can spend good time together, without stuff to do and places to be! This weekend, he decided to make a whole day of plans without telling me where we were going, or what we were doing. I hate surprises but secretly love them! He loves holding the secrets over me too. ;)

So he planned the whole day, starting with a great Valentine's Day card (the first of a few during the day). Apparently there were a bunch of these on a Buzzfeed article and he printed just a few of them... I won't show you the rest because this is a family blog!

Our first stop after Starbucks was the Botanical Garden, even though it was crazy cold and snowing just a bit. We got our tickets and took our time in the Orchid Show... what a way to get my floral quota in for this holiday!

Lots of people were there for the Orchid Show, so after a trip around the garden, we went onto our next stop. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company is just down the street and we were the first ones there when they opened at 11 am. Pretzels, oysters plus fries with dipping sauces and of course, beer! I asked for a syrup in my sour beer and didn't even realize it made my drink more festive! The bartender even wanted to take a picture for their marketing purposes for later. Hah!

Our next stop was the Art Museum for a wander around the permanent collection, then a special exhibit of American prints. Husband knows the museum really well and likes to see anything new that they bring in.

Husband was telling me all day that we had multiple stops, with one absolute time that we had to make. It was 3:30 pm and for the whole day, I couldn't quite figure out what we were doing!

The St. Louis Science Center has the Planetarium across the highway and I haven't been in years. That was our next stop, with a showing of Live Sky Tonight - an interactive show that tells you what stars will be in the sky tonight and how to pick out the different stars and constellations.

While they do have some chairs in the Planetarium, they have most of the space cleared out so you can grab a mat and lay down to see the stars all above you. So much fun!

It was the best time to snuggle up and really enjoy his new cologne - Calvin Klein's Reveal*. They say that it's got notes of crystallized ginger with vintage vanilla bean and golden amber. I never quite get all the notes that they say, but this one definitely was yummy when Husband wore it for our day out. We got to try it out and I thought Valentine's Day was the perfect time! The free sample we got came just in time.

After the Science Center, it was time for dinner. We've been meaning to try Peacemaker in Benton Park for MONTHS, ever since we saw that it had opened.

Never seems like we had the time, or the money. But when we finally got the chance to sit at the bar and enjoy our hurricane slushie (me) and scazerac (him) while waiting for our yummy lobster rolls, it was worth it.

While not quite as amazing as the lobster rolls we got to try in Boston, the hush puppies and the rolls were pretty darn good for St. Louis. Even if we did have to contend with all the crazies leaving Mardi Gras.

The final stop of the day was Ted Drewes - they always open around Valentine's Day. While we don't live near the shop anymore, we don't get frozen custard as often as we did a few years ago which is a bummer. So any opportunity, snowing or freezing temperatures or no, we have to take it! Husband got his standard chocolate shake and I got the special chocolate covered cherry special. Such a perfect way to end my day with my amazing husband, heart-shaped marshmallow whip cream and all.

How did you spend your Valentine's Day? 

*Disclosure: I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Adventures in Big Family Vacation Planning (part 9)

So, we traveled to Walt Disney World with 23 people over 10 days. And survived! Lots of planning went into this trip and we had an amazing time.

What did we end up doing? Well, it was a lot and we never got bored! Here is a brief overview (more for me than anyone else) walking through the trip, day by day.

We are here! Gotta take a picture at our resort, this time is All Star Sports.

 A bit cold and rainy this time around, but still really fun. We watched the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show on the 30th from Tomorrowland, which is our traditional spot. Ponchos came out that night but that's ok! 

 This was the night that we got stuck on Pirates of the Caribbean ride with all 18 of Husband's family -all in our own boat! Something was definitely wrong with the ride, because we got stuck multiple times. Then, they had to evacuate us from the ride RIGHT before the drop. Who knew those ropes on the other side of the boat from this guy were practical? They had to tie our boat down and then help us out, one by one. We got a great shot of this guy from our boat while stuck, so that's a positive!

Late that night, on the 30th, during Extra Magic Hours, the line for Anna and Elsa were crazy short. So I convinced Husband to hop in line and wait for this awesome meet and greet! 

 The next day was Epcot, and we managed to get a big family picture with the Big Cheese.

 Aww, c'mon! Nephew giving Mickey a kiss just stole the show.

 It was the nuttiest time at Epcot I have ever seen.

 We were told later that it was an estimated 92,000 people in the park that day.

 So we went to get pizza in Italy.

The four cheese pizza is "forget your husband's name" good. Oh my.

 We were there when Italy celebrated the New Year in the old country, so there was a huge celebration at the restaurant, with singing and ringing of bells. So much fun!

 Test Track from back stage.

 We ended up taking a bypass out of the park once the 6 pm fireworks went off, because there were just too many people to have any fun. Especially when walking around with 18 people. We decided to head for the resort.

 Nephew enjoyed the hat and the noisemaker first, though!

Happy 2015, everyone!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Adventures in Big Family Vacation Planning (part 8)

One of the last things that we had to arrange was our Disney Magic Express transportation, once we had made our other plans.

Disney does everything it can to get you to their property and keep you there. Period. We call it the Disney Bubble, and while we love being in the bubble, not everyone feels that way. Husband and I experienced a Disney trip with just the two of us last December and decided to rent a car to avoid some of the long bus rides. It's definitely a different experience when you're driving!

When you make your flight reservations, you send the info to Disney or your travel agent so the bus can be ready for you at Orlando International Airport.

The most amazing thing about DME is that once you check your bags at the airport at home, you don't see them again until they arrive in your Disney Resort room. They take care of waiting at the luggage carousel and load all of the bags up in a van and with the tag they sent you earlier, they know whose bags they are and to which resort and room they belong.

It's a magical service!

But you have to be careful, because this delivery process can take up to four hours from the time you land. By the time, me and the family are already checked in to the hotel and headed to the parks. So we make sure that anything we need for the rest of the first day is in our checked bags, including our park tickets/Magic Bands, a park bag, our camera, change of clothes, you get the idea.

When we check into the hotel, we usually leave a bag or two with bell services while we head to the park. This way our iPads and other airplane bag stuff is stored, safe and sound at the resort, while we have fun.

It may sound scary to lose sight of your luggage for a few hours, but believe me, the magic of walking into your room after your first day in the parks and having your bags there is pretty awesome.

Once our DME information is confirmed, it's just the countdown to the vacation to look to... and that's the hardest part - the waiting!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Adventures in Big Family Vacation Planning (part 7)

Oh boy, our planning was almost done! 60 days out and time was flying now.

And now, it was time to spend some more money. But I figure this one was worth it - Disney's MemoryMaker. It's a pass to get your picture taken in multiple places around the resort, with fun backgrounds, that allows everyone to get into the picture. We had so much fun with these pictures!

Since I'm writing this after the trip, I can show you a few of them!

They have photographers at most of the meet and greets and elsewhere around the parks. So I got to meet Anna and Elsa and get my picture taken!

There is a meet and greet with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy in Epcot that was just perfect for a large family picture. We had FastPass+ reservations for this attraction and I gave them a few minutes heads up that we were entering the line with 18 people. They managed to create some extra room so our big group could take a picture - in matching shirts no less! It was so much fun to get all these pictures, and we could all pay attention to the characters and not worry about the pictures.

Plus, the photographers catch some great moments - like this one where I gave Minnie a hug!

The other fun thing about MemoryMaker is the ability to get "magic shots" - the photographers ask you to pose in a certain way and then press a button to have some magic sprinkled into the shot. You find the surprise when you check the website for your photos after you've done vacationing for the day. The girls met Olaf and didn't even know it!

The service also gives you access to the on-ride photos. This one was really awesome because we didn't even have to scan our bands on the way out of the ride, the RFID technology in the bands recognized that we were on the ride and took our picture. Ain't technology grand?!

There are also a few on-ride videos that were added to our account as well, each time one of us rode Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Hollywood Tower of Terror.

I just love having pictures of the both of us on vacation - the photographers have fun with it, too! Since we take lots of pictures of just the two of us, they usually ask us to get all lovey-dovey and some of the shots are just adorable.

I wouldn't necessarily buy an on-ride photo but getting this one along with all the others is just great - look at my face!

So once one set of family members left, my family came in to join us for some Disney fun! We got a bunch of pictures together too.

 In addition to the photographers in the park, there are usually photographers at some of the restaurants. Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Hotel is one of them where you get a picture at the beginning. They used to print them out for you and upsell you during the meal. Now they're included in the online service! So nice.

It's another great example of getting the whole family in a picture - it may be a bit overcast but still, so much fun!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Adventures in Big Family Vacation Planning (part 6)

So Disney is all about planning - and now that we had our dining reservations, we had a few months to hang out and just wait for the next step.

We have the big spreadsheet that dictated which parks we would go to on which day, which was helpful. Looking ahead to the next step needed that info! Since the invention of the My Disney Experience app, you can now book up to 3 FastPass+ reservations a day - basically guaranteeing that you will ride your favorite three rides in any given day. Of course, some parks have rules about which rides can go together - there are tiers that prevent you from getting the most awesome rides in a single park each day. That means you have to strategize if you want to get all the rides in over a single stay, since they won't all be done in a single day.

With 23 people going over 11 days, it was going to be a challenge to get our rides booked. I read a bunch of blogs and got suggestions from the podcasts we listen to. They say to focus on the hardest to get rides or the ones of the busiest days. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (the new coaster in the Magic Kingdom) or the Anna/Elsa meet and greet (the new hotness) are the main ones you want to focus on, for example, since they are so hard to get at 60 days out.

I stayed up late on October 30 because I heard a rumor that the system opens up at midnight Eastern - or 11 pm central! Sure enough, I refreshed my browser at that time and the FP+ window had opened!

Since there were so many of us, I started booking a single FP+ for me for the rides on the busiest days, and for the 7DMT ride that we wanted both in the daytime and the evening. When I got all the days booked for me, I then started to copy those reservations over to the whole party. Which worked for a while.

And then we hit a roadblock. Apparently one cousin's annual pass expired before our trip started, so I couldn't book their passes. My in-laws weren't hooked up to my account appropriately in the system and so it didn't show them as eligible to get FP+ (since they didn't show as having a hotel reservation) and then something else went cattywompus.

UGH. So I did what I could and then went to bed. I woke up early the next morning when the customer service line opened up, I was one of the first to call. The lovely cast member spent over an hour on the phone with me to get everybody linked up appropriately (which I thought I had done weeks ago) and our cousin renewed her annual pass.

But it actually worked out in the end - the cast member was able to copy the FP+ I had for our family staying on property and then to those who are staying off property too! Plus, she was able to do the same for the family checking in later in the week who technically weren't able to get their reservations for a few more days. That was some Disney magic right there!

The planning is almost done at this point! Just a few more things to cross off the list now...