Walt Disney World Thanksgiving at the Last Minute

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Walt Disney World Thanksgiving 2014 last minute vacation

You have a to-do list the length of the Empire State Building, and the thought of cleaning the house that hasn’t been cleaned since last Thanksgiving is giving you panic attacks.  What the heck, you think to yourself.  Let’s do a Walt Disney World Thanksgiving!

But wait.  You’ve heard that everything books months in advance.  The parks will be mobbed.  You’ll be sleeping in your car and eating Thanksgiving dinner at Taco Bell.  That’s not what you were hoping for.  You want a nice kick off to the holiday season.

2014 Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Day Dining Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy; Anne Burrell

Fear not, nervous traveler.  You can head to Walt Disney World for a last minute Thanksgiving getaway – just get planning NOW!

2014 Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Day Dining

As of today, you’ll find many restaurants with open tables throughout the day.  While there is no official word on which restaurants may feature a traditional holiday meal, with turkey and all the trimmings, several of the restaurants with dining reservations available have had the whole big turkey dinner available to diners in years past.  You’ll find space at Boatwright’s, Portobello, Fulton’s, Wolfgang Puck, and Kona if you are looking to dine at a normal dinner hour.  Go earlier or later – like around 1 or as late as 8 – and your options open up to include places like the Captain’s Grille, Jiko, Boma, and even the character dinner at 1900 Park Fare.

2014 Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Rooms Are Available

Although DVC rooms were a bit scarce, I was surprised to find resort options available in every category.  Everything from the All Stars to the Beach Club had rooms available, even at this late date.  Shades of Green is booked through Friday, but if you want to do a shorter weekend, after turkey dinner at home, you can still find room after Friday at Shades of Green.

2014 Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Roms - Shades of Green entrance

What can you expect at Walt Disney World on Thanksgiving in terms of crowds?  Let me put it as simply as I can – you’ll find crowds.  Make your FastPass+ reservations as soon as you have your tickets booked, and plan to be at rope drop to take advantage of attractions before the bulk of the crowds begin to turn up.  If you were lucky enough to snag a dining reservation in a theme park, get there early and plan to stay.  The parks can close due to capacity on the busiest days – which are likely to be Thursday and Friday.

Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Fun - check out the Disney's Grand Floridian Life Sized Gingerbread House

If nothing else, grab a turkey leg at the park and enjoy a tour of the resorts.  Everything will be decorated for the Christmas holidays by the time you arrive for Thanksgiving, and it’s always so much fun to see the decorations at each of the resorts.

Walt Disney World Thanksgiving starts the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World can be busy, but if you haven’t thought about going until now, you still have options.  But delay no more.  Book today and leave those dust bunnies until next year.

 

Review – Black Jesus on Adult Swim

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Let’s start by saying, I am not a fan of adult swim.  I haven’t found any program on there that shares my sense of humor.  I won’t say I have a very refined humor palate, but I have progressed past funny farts and penis puns.  I could not even tell you what number channel I would need to tune in to watch Adult Swim.

It is purely through my husband that I even know Black Jesus exists.  He is a huge fan of the show, laughing hysterically about jokes involving the pot smoking Savior and the antics of his “disciples”.  The real reason Black Jesus caught my attention, however, is that there are so many religious groups decrying the existence of this program, peddling petitions to get it pulled from the air.

I gotta ask – why?

Slick Johnson

Black Jesus brings the Lord to LA – a present day version of what Jesus would be like living in Compton.  Much like the original Jesus, this one hangs out with people of questionable persuasion – drug dealers, prostitutes, gang members.  But the message of Black Jesus, although delivered somewhat tongue in cheek, is the same one Jesus brought the first time around – peace and love.

Jesus can’t give you the lottery numbers, because life is about more than material possessions.  He helps the atheists and Christian non-believers in the same way he helps the people that follow him.  He throws in the faces of his followers that he died for our sins – even though they are taking a “what have you done for me lately” attitude.

So what is there to protest?  Is it the fact that Black Jesus can turn water into wine, or do you have a problem with the fact that the people imbibing are not the wedding goers in Canaan?  Could any of these groups have given the show the benefit of at least a few episodes?  The protests kicked off upon the release of the trailer for the show.

blackjesus2

I’m not going to be a regular viewer, but again, this is not really my sense of humor.  I don’t find the religious nature in any way offensive – speaking as a Christian of the Catholic persuasion.  I think this is who Jesus would be if he were here today – someone who lived among the common people, performed miracles only when necessary, and living with a perpetual smile on his face – exuding peace and love.

Maybe the Christian Entertainment Alliance should take note of that.  It’s what Jesus would do.

Check out more about Black Jesus at http://www.adultswim.com/videos/black-jesus/ 

Fakesgiving – Food and Friends to be Thankful For

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Back in the early 90s, living in Florida away from family was tough.  We couldn’t always take time off during the holidays, so we spent quite a few Thanksgivings and Christmases by ourselves.

We invented Fakesgiving as a way to celebrate when we had family or friends with us.  My dad and stepmom came down one year a month before Thanksgiving, and I was so excited to have the visit, we made Thanksgiving dinner.  We coined the term Fakesgiving, and have been doing it ever since.

Through the years, some recipes have been really successful.  Others, not so much.  We’ve had guests bring things that I can’t imagine not having on the table, even when those guests can’t be with us.  Below are some of the recipes that are always repeat guests o the table.  If you don’t see one you think you’d like, let me know.  I also do sweet potatoes with pecan topping, kielbasa and sauerkraut, stuffed mushrooms, and more!

broccoli casserole

Broccoli Casserole

  • 1 pound broccoli, cut into pieces (or one bag frozen – which is way easier)
  • 1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb.) salted butter, cut into pieces
  • Pepper
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed (1/3 of a 12 oz. box)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mist a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Steam broccoli until crisp-tender, 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water.
  3. Mix soup, eggs, mayonnaise, cheese, butter and pepper in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and combined.
  4. Drain broccoli; spread evenly in baking dish. Pour cheese mixture on top. Sprinkle with crackers. Bake for 30 minutes.

creamed corn

Crockpot Creamed Corn

  • 3 bags (12 oz each) Green Giant™ Steamers™ Niblets® frozen whole kernel corn
  • 4 packages (3 oz each) cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  •  Spread corn over bottom of 3- to 4-quart slow cooker. Top with cream cheese cubes.
  • In small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients; pour over corn and cream cheese.Cover; cook on High heat setting 2 to 3 hours.
  • Stir well before serving. Corn will hold on Low heat setting up to 2 hours; stir occasionally.

sausage stuffing

Sausage Stuffing

  • 1 pound mild or sage breakfast sausage
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped celery
  • 10 cups cubed French bread or white bread
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried leaf sage, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • dash freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups chicken broth

Lightly butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Heat oven to 350°.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking up and stirring frequently, until sausage is no longer pink. Use the same skillet and melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread cubes with the herbs and seasonings. Add the vegetables with the butter and the drained sausage. Stir in chicken broth until well moistened, but not mushy. Pack gently into the prepared baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and broil for about 3 to 4 minutes, or just until browned on top.

Sputnik Anniversary – Opportunity to Get Your Kids Interested in STEM

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Who doesn’t love a good space story?  Today, October 4th, is the anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, which was launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union.  As schools begin a push to bring interest to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) back to the classroom, anniversaries like this are great opportunities to bring your kids to explore more about the various aspects of international space programs, to see the impact they’ve had through the years.

Here are a list of a few popular options:

National Air and Space Museum – Washington, DC:  This museum has exhibits that include applications satellites and an amazing peek into the Apollo space program and trip to the moon.  You’ll see artifacts, film clips, and other awesome information about our space program.

space post

NASA Ames Visitor’s Center – Mountain View, CA:  Featuring an immersive theater and a shuttle cockpit simulator, this visitor’s center takes you behind the scenes in a way only NASA can do.  The Ames Research Center has been involved in many crucial spacecraft missions, and they have much to show and much to teach.  Groups of 10 or more will need to contact the Center for a reservation.

Kennedy Space Center – Merritt Island, FL:  Home to the space shuttle Atlantis, you can have lunch with a real live astronaut, enjoy an IMAX movie (which currently shows you what the Hubble Telescope sees), visit the moving astronaut memorial, and see the largest rocket ever made.  Just a short ride from the Walt Disney World resort, and well worth the visit for your pint sized rocketeers.

space post 2

 

Halloween Horror Nights or Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party?

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Halloween Horror Nights or Mickey's Not-So-Scary

When the leaves begin to change and the air has a bit of a chill, I know it’s time to start thinking about heading to Orlando to celebrate Halloween.  For our family, it’s almost always been Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  I love the family friendly entertainment, and I hate being scared – and not just because I have bladder issues.

Before you decide which is the better option for your family, take a look at the comparison:

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

  • Great for all ages:  Disney does “not so scary” better than anyone.  The decorations are happy and fall-ish, and the shows, parades, and characters all echo the not so scary theme.  You’ll find all of your favorite attractions open, and the added bonus of trick or treat stations – candy for everyone!
  • Everyone can wear a costume – just be aware that the costumes can’t be offensive, violent, or obstructive.  Keep the full face masks at home, too.
  • Trick or Treating is welcome and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party even provides bags for the kids and the adults.
  • Cost for adults is $67 – $71, depending on the date you choose.  The price is for the party only – and you will need a separate ticket if you are going to spend the day at the Magic Kingdom.  The Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party begins at 7 and goes until midnight, however, you can enter the Magic Kingdom beginning around 4 PM with your party ticket.
  • Definitely book your ticket in advance.  Dates closer to Halloween can sell out, as can nights that offer special discounts for DVC members or members of the military. (as of this writing – October 1st – Halloween is already sold out)
  • https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/magic-kingdom/mickeys-not-so-scary-halloween-party/

Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights

  • Definitely not recommended for young guests.  This is a pretty intense experience, with interactive components designed to make you pee your pants. They call it Halloween Horror Nights for good reasons.
  • Guest absolutely cannot wear costumes.  I think they take great pleasure in knowing they’ve caused you to pee your pants, and they don’t want you to hide that behind a costume.  Or it’s for everyone’s safety.  Or something.
  • No trick or treating.  Boo.
  • Cost – well, here’s where it gets complicated.  Halloween Horror Nights has a variety of ticket options.  The cheapest, which will set you back about $42, is an add on ticket.  You pay for a day at Universal Studios, and you can add the evening at Halloween Horror Nights on for $42 more.  If you have a condition that causes you to spend your day sleeping in a coffin, coming out only after sunset, the ticket for the party by itself is $96.  Then there are multi-day options available that can include as many as 22 nights at the party, PLUS an Express Pass.  That last option is in the $250 ballpark.
  • The party begins at 6:30, and the ending time depends on the night you go – either midnight, 1 AM or 2 AM.  You’ll find the longer parties closer to Halloween.
  • http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando/

The choice is yours – cute characters (Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party) or creepy creatures – *Halloween Horror Nights).  Candy or killing (not the real kind).  Either way, these are two great Halloween options in Orlando.

Toddler Disney World tips what when and how

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Toddler Disney World Tips

Thinking of taking a baby or toddler to Walt Disney World?  Use these tips for taking a toddler to Walt Disney World to help turn your stress to the start of making the magic happen!

Toddler Disney World Tips #1 – What to Bring:

Your own stroller – If you are flying, gate check the stroller so you’ll have someplace safe to keep your little one comfortable while you wait.  The basket underneath will also allow you to store a carry on item or diaper bag so you’ll have your hands free at the airport.  Having your own stroller at Disney will give your tiny traveler a familiar surrounding, and possibly more comfort.

Carry-on:  Bring a bag with a supply of diapers/wipes; changes of clothes for an accident; bathing suit; sunscreen; hat; food items or medicines that might be needed until bags are delivered or in case they are lost.

ONE:  Favorite toy/stuffed animal

A Ziploc baggie with a few washing machine tablets/pods – just in case you need to do laundry.

Toddler Disney World Tips #2 – Ship Down or Deliver:

To save room in your luggage or in the car – ship a box to your resort ahead of time with diapers, wipes, powdered formula, extra supplies.

Toddler Disney World Tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Address it to your resort, but include your name and “Arriving Guest” with the date of your arrival.  The resort will store it until you arrive, and you won’t have to worry about taking up precious luggage space with essentials.  You’ll use most of this stuff up before you go home, so you won’t have to save space – buy those souvenirs!

You could also use a service like Garden Grocer.  This grocery delivery service will shop for the supplies you need and drop them off right at your hotel.

 

Toddler Disney World Tips #3 – Baby Care Center:

Located in each park, these are air conditioned, comfortable areas where you can attend to all of your little one’s needs.  Changing tables, high chairs, and a room for nursing mothers can be found here, as well as a microwave for quick heat up for your toddler’s meal.  You can also buy forgotten items like diapers, formula, and baby foods.  Moms and Dads can use the centers, and there is a place for older kids to watch cartoons while you tend to your tot.

Toddler Disney World Tips #4 – What Not to Bring:

High chairs, pack and plays, bed rails – all are available upon request at no additional charge at your resort/restaurants

Every toy you own – you’ll be in the parks most of the time, and not likely to need many things to play with – but do bring a favorite sleeping buddy.

Other Suggestions:

Stick to a schedule – eat when you do at home; try to remember bedtime and nap time if your kids have one. When making your FastPass+ reservations, avoid times when your little one is likely to prefer napping or eating.

Don’t force them to go to the characters if you sense anxiety – you’ll end up paying for therapy in years to come!

 

Gleam by Melanie Mills Review

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Gleam by Melanie Mills logo

 

Testing out new makeup is always such a treat, but when you find one that you are thrilled to add to your makeup bag – well, that’s a winning day!

Gleam makeup

I was thrilled to test the Body Radiance, Body Dust, and Lip Radiance products.  The Lip Radiance, in Pop My Cork color, was a light pink, perfect for the light skin tones on the makeup wearers in our house.  It’s creamy and offers great lip coverage that was long lasting.  The color was subtle, great for any skin tone, and doesn’t bleed – I LOVE that!

Lip Radiance by Melanie Mills

Body Radiance, which I tested in light gold, added a beautiful glow – like you would see on your cheeks after a breezy day on the beach.  You can really use this on any part of your body, and the color it adds to your shoulders and chest with a tank top or sundress looks amazing.

Body Radiance by Melanie Mills

To cap off this beauty trio, I was also able to sample Radiant Dust.  This light gold loose powder added the perfect look to cheeks, nose and forehead – again, a sun kissed delicate glow.

Body Dust by Melanie Mills

The Body Radiance and Radiant Dust are so versatile!  You could easily replace your blush or use it to highlight your brows in place of eye shadow.  The Body Radiance would be perfect – even going into the warmer fall weather – in place of wearing panty hose.

After seeing it on me, my daughter immediately wanted to try the Gleam by Melanie Mills products.  She is an occasional makeup wearer, and the light feel really appealed to her.  We’ve decided this will be our go to line for her upcoming role as Alice in her school production of Alice in Wonderland.  It will be gorgeous under the lights!

Gleam makeup 5

Learn more about this great line – and possibly win some of your own!  Drop in on the upcoming Gleam by Melanie Mills Twitter Party – October 8th at 9 PM Eastern.  There will be prizes and gift cards!  #GleamGirl and #Gleamalicious  You can also visit http://www.gleambymelaniemills.com/

*Disclosure:  I received sample sizes of this product for free for the purposes of this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  

Monk Fruit In the Raw #InTheRawParty

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As a “recovering” diabetic, thanks to gastric bypass surgery, I am always looking for a sugar substitute that tastes good and isn’t loaded with bad for you chemicals.  I was so thrilled to be offered the opportunity to host a Monk Fruit in the Raw party!

Monk Fruit in the Raw

What is Monk Fruit?  Grown on a vine called luo han guo in China and Thailand, the fruit kind of looks like a melon, but the flavor is said to be 500 times sweeter than sugar.  It is used in Eastern cultures to boost immunity and stave off cravings for sugary snacks.  The fruit is the basis for Monk Fruit in the Raw, a new zero calorie sweetener.

Monk Fruit in the Raw gift package

I figured the best way to really test out the Monk Fruit in the Raw was to invite friends and family over for a cookie tasting event.  Desserts are a huge thing for me, and we try in our house to make our desserts healthier choices or options that have lower amounts of sugar.  The kids get a little frustrated with the frequent offer of a fresh fruit bowl or sugar free popsicle or pudding for dessert, but I’ve had hit or miss success with baked good and artificial sweeteners.

Baking using Monk Fruit in the Raw

Fear no more, my sugar deprived children!  My homemade with Monk Fruit in the Raw cookies were a HUGE hit!  I did three kinds of cookies – white chocolate macadamia nut, oatmeal raisin, and chocolate chip – and there wasn’t a cookie left in the house at the end of the party.
Cookies made with Monk Fruit in the RawThanks to a pre-party taste test, I had the courage to try the Monk Fruit in the Raw in a handed down family recipe for Irish soda bread.  Because the sweetener is much sweeter than sugar, I was worried about measuring the right amount for the bread, which is a barely sweet bread, but it turned out positively perfect!

Irish Soda Bread made with Monk Fruit in the Raw

 

Guests were delighted with all of the treats, and we then broke open a box of the sweetener packets to use i coffee and tea.  Reviews were somewhat mixed.  The “fruity” taste some people noticed in their drinks didn’t seem to be prevalent in the baked goods, but some guests conceded that the fruity taste might have been a result of a flavored coffee.

Guests with their Monk Fruit in the Raw tote bags

Overall, the sweetener was well received.  Not a crumb was left of any of the desserts, and no one complained of an aftertaste or chemical taste that they said they often find obvious with other artificial sweeteners.  Many have said this is now going to be their new on the table sweetener!

Monk Fruit in the Raw in coffee and tea

You can learn more about Monk Fruit in the Raw by visiting http://www.intheraw.com/products/monk-fruit-in-the-raw.

*Disclosure – I was offered free samples of Monk Fruit in the Raw products for the purposes of hosting this party.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

 

Trendy New Place to Get Your Organics – Costco

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Recently, a brand new Whole Foods Market opened up near us.  We have one about 30 minutes away already, and we’ve never gone in.  Honestly, we can get most of our organic needs met at Wegman’s, where we do our regular shopping, but we thought we’d take a peek at the new Whole Foods, since we pass it so often.

Nearly $60 later, we emerged with that new store smell fresh in our noses, our eyes all a gleam from the new store shine, and items in our grocery bag (yes, $60 at Whole Foods gets you one bag of groceries) that I feel like we could have purchased elsewhere for cheaper.

You’ll never guess where that “elsewhere” was.

Costco.

Costco 2

With a recent decision to try and eat more organically, either in our own garden or in our shopping, it never occurred to me that my frequent trips to Costco put so many organically produced items right at my fingertips.  You will pay a little bit more for the organics at Costco, but compared with the items I found in Whole Foods, Costco is still a better bet for my family.  A dozen cage free organic eggs at Whole Foods will set me back about $5.  For $7, I can get two dozen at Costco.

Costco

It doesn’t end with produce – of which there is plenty.  In addition to the bananas, the salad mix, even frozen fruits – I can find peanut butter, pasta, and ice cream bars.  And the prices for the items, while higher than buying Costco non-organic, are easily cheaper than the things I saw at Whole Foods.

Costco 3

Costco is really trying hard to make itself my one stop shopping locale.  I do love seeing so many organic options there.  But I’d miss Ralph, the butcher at Wegmans.