Throw Back Thursday….Growing up Disney

If you know me in real life, you now that if you start talking about Disney World, my eyes light up, my voice raises an octave and I talk 100 miles per minute because I LOVE DISNEY!!!!!  I know people who hate Disney and I am not sure they are human or believe in magic 😊  Seriously, though…I think you either love Disney or you do not…there aren’t many wishy washy Disney people out there!

When we plan our Disney trips (we go every 12-18 months), we start getting pretty psyched about a year out!  We start with the WHEN (we never go during school vacations or holidays), then move to the WHERE (we have stayed at Saratoga Springs, Bay Lake Towers, Animal Kingdom Resort, Coronado Springs, Old Key West, Art of Animation and the Polynesian).  We plan out which parks we will be at which days based on crowd projections, plan our dining experiences and fast passes when the time is right.  And then we wait – probably not so patiently – for our vacation to begin!!

I love helping my clients do all this planning as well!  It is a labor of love – as not all agents take on Disney, but I know it well and love to help bring the magic to others!  Every new trip presents a new point of view and new experience!  I have enjoyed this ritual trip with my family and have enjoyed how, at each stage of my kids’ lives, Disney brings another level of wonder and growth along with the crazy joy that is Disney!

Here are some of my favorite memories from some of our trips at Disney over the years.  This succession of memories are so precious to me!  They are experiences my kids will always remember as times spent with their parents, family and friends.  I hope as they become adults, they will also enjoy bringing their families to Disney and have the same fond remembrances that I do of my own childhood at Disney with my mom.  What an awesome gift!

PS – we ALWAYS wear matching/themed shirts and always will!  That is part of the fun!!

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I have a picture of my kids doing this SAME thing in London in 2013. It is fun to recreate special moments in different locations! EPCOT 2019

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Beef hot dogs. OK – well…what can I say?! We were at Disneyland Paris and needed a pick me up!!! 2019

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From the other side!!! Disneyland Paris 2019

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Finding Eva and Wally – pure joy!!!! Disneyland Paris 2019

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Gusteau’s!!! Disneyland Paris 2019

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Germany/EPCOT 2018

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Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Magic Kingdom 2018

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Cousin’s Trip – Animal Kingdom 2016

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Magical Christmas – EVERY year!

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Magic Kingdom 2017 – mom and dad’s second trip to Disney without kids!!!!

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France/EPCOT

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Sunset from the Contemporary 2019

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Our first trip to Disney as family. Magic Kingdom 2006

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Magic Kingdom 2006

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Magic Kingdom 2009

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Magic Kingdom 2009

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Polynesian Luau 2013

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Morocco/EPCOT 2015

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Hollywood Studios 2015

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Hollywood Studios 2015 (our favorite time of year to go to Disney is during the Holidays!

Notre Dame

In April, while I was traveling to the American south west, I learned about the tragic fire that destroyed the wooden spire and 700+ year old roof of Notre Dame in Paris.  I certainly won’t get into the social implications of the fire; the costs to rebuild and the controversy that surrounds all the donations coming forth, but I wanted to share my own experiences with this amazing place and some of my favorite personal pictures.

I first visited Notre Dame in 2013 with my family as a part of a month-long European Adventure.  We went in March during the off season and enjoy fewer lines and more exploring!  My kids were 6 (almost 7) and 10.  They did great!  We spent 4 nights in Paris and saw all the must-see sights!  As soon as we arrived (even after traveling overnight), we unloaded our luggage and headed to Notre Dame!  It was right around the corner from where we were staying in the Latin Quarter and we loved it!

I can really appreciate this site on many levels – as a Christian, I appreciate the devotion of the followers who, for years, poured their lives into building this masterpiece as an outward expression of their faith.  I appreciate the significance of this holy place to Catholics all around the world and marvel in its beauty and divine mission.

As a historian, I appreciate the place this building holds in history – the advancements in architecture and science it took to build; the priceless artifacts that are preserved in this building; the craftsmanship that went in to the carvings, the stained glass and masonry and how this place has witnessed so very much over time.  If those walls could talk!

As a humanitarian, I appreciate the grief and joy this place has housed; the turning point for so many on their journey of faith and life and the hard times that have brought people to its huge doors.  I image how many people brought their sorrows to the alter – how many marriages and deaths were observed over the past 700+ years and the unfathomable amounts of history that took place within these walls built by men.

This past January, my daughter and I had the joy of seeing this beautiful site once more.  We saw the outside of the cathedral three or four times and went inside once.  We visited in the snow and made a small snowman in the park in front of the cathedral.  We visited on our final day and fed the pigeons there.  We have made many memories of this place and I feel eternally blessed and thankful that I have had an opportunity to visit a place that embodies history and humanity.  My hope is that, however it is arranged, this place is restored and reopened expeditiously for countless people that journey to Paris just to see this holy place.  I hope you get to see it, too!

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Snowfall at Notre Dame, January 2019

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What do you do with fresh snow in Paris? Build a French snowman at Notre Dame!

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We pop out of the metro and the phone comes out!!!

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The arrival!!!!

Fear Factor

Recently in the news, we have been bombarded with fear producing stories.  Stories out of the Dominican Republic of vicious attacks on a resort property, tourists dying in their beds, visitors disappearing.  The alleged murder of a US attorney general at a Club Med in Turkoise (Turks & Caicos) last October (by all accounts and pocket books, an expensive, high end resort), a Texas couple recently dying in Fiji, a cruise ship collision with a tourist boat in Venice, trouble with specific makes of airplanes, terrorism attacks, kidnappings and everyone is familiar with the scare tactics implemented to keep people away from Mexico.  In so many cases, as with most of the sensationalized news fed to us Americans, there are details missing that are important to know in order to speak intelligently about many of these situations, and yet, fear is what rules us.

Did you know that one of the original reasons the concept of an “All Inclusive” resort came about was because the builders/planners/innovators of this concept wanted to create a haven of safety in a place that might otherwise not be considered “safe” for everyone?  Many of these places are in the equatorial belt – the paradise islands with crystal blue water and lush tropical landscapes.  SOME of these places also boast revolutionary governments or no proper governments at all.  Some of these governments are corrupt and poorly aligned.  They have disgruntled and disenfranchised citizenry and poverty is rampant.  They are crossroads for drugs, dark undergrounds and unseemly characters – and this is nothing new.  But these places have and continue to provide the respite many Americans and Europeans enjoy, and yet, when bad things happen – many times out of lack of common sense, we are afraid.

Fear binds us.  It doesn’t allow us to grow and it keeps us stagnant in our learning and in our full experience of life.  Are there truly UNSAFE places in the world?  Well, yes.  And even more so, I think that depends on who you are and your purpose for going to a place.  People live and thrive in many places I would consider dangerous, and yet missionaries and humanitarians travel to these places all the time.

I once visited Bogota, Colombia (about 20 years ago) and the people I was visiting assigned a family member to me as a personal “guide” (bodyguard).  I was a cute, tall, blue eyed, blonde, young American woman – prime for the ransom/kidnapping market.  I did not go out at night and did not venture outside of public places or familial settings.  I was cool with that.  Precautions were taken for safety.  Don’t we do that all the time to mitigate dangerous situations?  We wear seat belts, force our kids to wear helmets, we don’t (or shouldn’t) walk alone at night, we don’t leave our buddy and we don’t take candy from strangers.  We don’t get into a stranger’s car, we don’t meet someone in private we met on the internet and we don’t give out our address on-line.  We caution our kids about on-line interactions and warn them about the dangers of drugs.  We implore them not to text and drive and beg them to call us instead of driving home drunk.  Bad things happen everywhere.  The occurrence of bad things will not be the guiding force in my life.

Some people cannot overcome the fear.  I think what it boils down to is that they are afraid of death; their own or a loved one’s.   I know people who have longed to travel to Europe – absolutely DREAMED of it and have the means to do it but will not go out of fear.  Fear of terrorism, fear of not knowing how to get around, the language, the culture, fear of what might be happening at home, fear of dying.  So, they stay and they dream and they fear and they miss out.  In my perspective, they will regret being held in place by irrationality.

There is no shaming here – just an acceptance of how our choices shape our being.  I personally have a low opinion of fear.  I have things I very much dislike – the dentist, for example.  It is irrational and I know it and I go to the dentist every six months anyway.  I am not fond of heights, but I like to fly, go on roller coasters and climb ladders, but I am cautious when I do these things.  I am not afraid of dying.  I am confident that the people I love know my love for them, and I am resigned to the multitude of things in this life of which I have no control.  I am confident in my salvation and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.  I know I could walk out my door this very second and die – die behind the wheel, die of some horrible and fast moving disease, die of carbon monoxide poisoning, die by getting kicked in the head by a horse, die by drowning, get electrocuted in my bathroom…..do I need to go on?

I choose life.  I choose adventure.  I won’t miss out!  That is MY take on fear.

TBT…The Best Cruise Ever, Part II – my husband’s pictures!!

Last week I shared with you a photo journal of our dream cruise of the Mediterranean in May 2015.  Here are some other pictures of that fabulous journey and the stories behind them!

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On a 15 night cruise, one collects A LOT of towel creatures!

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Cadiz, Spain. Churros and chocolate!!!! AMAZING!

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Like a garden of Eden – Malaga, Spain

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I *think* this was in Marseilles, France…but I could be wrong!

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Scooting in Cinque Terre, Italy.

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The Roman Colosseum

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Villa-France-sur-Mer, France – this is where we moored and was the port for Nice and Monaco. The town of Villa-France itself is stunning and quintessential Mediterranean. I am itching to go back!

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On board the Anthem of the Seas, moored off the coast of Nice, France.

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Barcelona, Spain – On one of the main promenades. I love how Kelton is fussing with his sister’s hair!

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We always find critters – Barcelona, Spain

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The construction continues at Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

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La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

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Anthem after dark

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Gibraltar – long lost cousins? Oh and behind Kelton in the distance? AFRICA!!!!!

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In the mountains of Gibraltar

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ME! Flying in the iFLY – aboard the Anthem of the Seas

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Suspended in the North Star – a fabulous way to see the Anthem!

 

 

Throw Back Thursday…the best cruise EVER!

When I turned 40, I said to my husband that I would love to go on a Mediterranean cruise.  At that point in my life, I had been to northern and central France, England and Scotland and really had the Europe bug (I still do!)!  I wanted to see more and the best way to do that, is on a cruise!!!  Think about it – you only have to unpack once, your hotel goes with you, your meals are already set and you can see multiple countries in a short period of time.  It was SPECTACULAR!!!!

We chose Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas – this was in 2015 and she was brand new!!!  This was her first REAL voyage (not the quick, work-out-the-kinks 3 or 4 night turn around) and we were beside yourselves with joy.  This was my kids’ first cruise and it was a 16 night out of Southampton, England.  We departed in early May and hit Gibraltar, Barcelona, Malaga, Cadiz, Villa-France-sur-Mer (Nice/Monaco), Marseilles, La Spezia (Cinque Terre), Civitavecchia (Rome) and Lisbon.

Words cannot describe how awesome this cruise was, so I picked SOME of my favorite pictures to share so you get the idea.  The Mediterranean in spring is something wonderful to behold and I hope you get a chance to see it someday, too!!!  Wanna go next spring?

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Barcelona cathedral rooftop. Spain

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Sagrada Familia – needs no introduction!

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Kelton posing in Barcelona.

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We rented scooters in La Spezia, Italy and toured Cinque Terre. It was absolutely incredible!!!

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Cinque Terre

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Cinque Terre

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Malaga, Spain is one of the most gorgeous cities we have ever seen!

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Malaga – breathtaking!

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Malaga

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View of the Med from Alcazaba fortress, Malaga

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Gardens in Malaga

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Char and Sable on a Segway tour of the city – in Europe, kids can do many things they aren’t “allowed” to do in the US.

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View of the Anthem of the Seas from Alcazaba

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Moor doorway at Alcazaba – the architecture was stunning!

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Marseilles Cathedral! Marseilles, France

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Plaza in Marseilles

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Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, Marseilles

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Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal

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Atop the battlements of Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George Castle)

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Outside of Jeronimos Monastery

 

We made so many memories on this trip and talk about it today!  These times with my kids were and are priceless!  I wouldn’t trade them for the world!

 

Desert in Bloom

The desert has always had a special pull for me.  It is probably because it is such an unusual landscape – living the majority of my life in the Northeast.  The idea of few trees and mostly small ones at that, rugged geography of sand or hard-packed red earth and little visible life seems so foreign to me that it is intriguing!  The seeming solitude of this place misrepresents itself – as easily as we do.   It can appear bleak and desolate – with little good going on – but below the surface lies an abundance of treasure if only we know how to look it!

I was amazed by how many minerals and gems were discovered in them thar hills!  Below the stark and lonely desert, where it seems nothing of use or value can be found, some of the greatest strikes in mining history were made!  In fact, the southwest cut its teeth on gold mines, copper mines, gem strikes and silver.  Who thought, “Hey.  Let’s start digging here in the middle of the desert!”?

Another gold mine is spring in the desert.  We visited the Desert Museum in Tuscon and were greeted with a beautiful display of cactus blooms and desert flowers.  April is a fabulous time to see the desert come to life – and there was so much of it!

Life finds a way where it persists; where it finds ways to adapt and embrace its environment.  We would do well to learn from the desert!

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A flowering barrel cactus, Sierra Vista, AZ

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The largest rose bush (tree) in the world – planted in Tombstone, AZ in the late 1800s – started from a rose twig sent from Scotland to a homesick new bride.

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The blooming of the largest rose bush in the world, Tombstone, AZ

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Driving through the desert – we were enamored by the saguaro cacti all around! Tuscon, AZ

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Saguaro cactus, Tuscon, AZ

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These little yellow flowers were popped up everywhere we looked. They blanketed hillsides and sprung out of rocks. This is a bunch in Tuscon, AZ

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There are a lot of thorns in the desert. This thorny fellow ended with lovely red flowers! Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

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Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

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Prickly Pear blossom – so many foods are made from prickly pear – candies, licorice, jams and jellys, beer…you name it! But look at those thorns!!! Tuscon, AZ

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I don’t know which kind of cactus this was, but is was one of my favorites.

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Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

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Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ

Throw Back Thursday – Italy 2016

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Sunset in Sorrento, Italy reflected in Aperol Spritz.

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Looking down…..Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy

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San Gimignano towers through the window of our tower bedroom.

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Countryside view from Volterra, Italy

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Photo from the top of one of the towers – San Gimignano, Italy

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

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San Gimignano in rain

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Zurich, Switzerland – these are our “Polish faces” – my sister in law is Polish, and she said Americans smile too big in pictures – so this is how we imagine the Poles smile!

In April 2016, my husband and I took our first week long vacation without our children!  They went to visit their grandparents on the West Coast (their first time traveling unaccompanied) and we took a long week to Italy!  Let me start off by saying it was everything I thought it would be and I loved every minute.

In a nut shell, we flew into Zurich, picked up a rental and drove to Rimini on the eastern coast of Italy, sitting nicely on the Adriatic Sea.  We spent our first night there and had the most wonderful seafood dinner ever!  The next morning, we headed towards Sorrento – but first we visited the micro country of San Marino and took time to stick our toes in the Adriatic.

We spent four nights in Sorrento and toured the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii and Naples.  We had our most expensive meal ever (the kind of place that doesn’t have prices on the LADIES’ menu!!) and also the best pizza in Naples!

We drove to Tuscany and spent another four nights in San Gimignano and toured that lovely hill town, Volterra, a winery, Florence and ate WAY too much!!!!

Finally, we spent a night in Zurich before we left the next day to return home, just ahead of our kids.  It was amazing and filled with wonderful surprises, character building struggles and joyful experiences that deepened the bond I have with my hubby.  Traveling does all those things for you and it is the main reason we enjoy traveling….it brings us together and challenges us!

Above are some of my favorite pictures from this fabulous journey!

 

EPCOT International Festival of the Arts

Disney has really branched out over the years, and I don’t mean into movies, marketing or memorabilia.  Those things are great, but not too long ago, Disney began to realize that if they diversified their game plan, they would engage whole new groups of people and bring them into the Parks.  A great example of this is all the festivals and yearly planned activities that have had growing attendance over the years – the Food and Wine Festival; Festival of the Arts; Flower and Garden Festival and the 5Ks, half and full marathons that are ever so popular.  The folks that work at Disney are geniuses….you can’t deny it!!!!

Twice now we have been lucky enough to be at Disney during the International Festival of the Arts and once during the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival.  These festivals are diverse – meaning they highlight many aspects of their theme.  For the Arts Festival, the “arts” is a broad term and is applied through the culinary, visual, textile and classical arts…and more!!  Disney weaves into these themes experiential opportunities to engage adults and children alike.  One of my favorite ways they do this is through the large color-by-number mural they do every day.  People are “assigned” a color and a number and are sent out to find their square on a large vertical canvas.  In the beginning, it is hard to see what the picture will be, but as the day goes on, the art materializes before your eyes and the idea that everyone plays an integral part coloring our world is as important as the next.  It is powerful on so many levels!

Here are some photos of this year’s EPCOT International Festival of the Arts.  I hope it encourages you to attend next year.  You won’t be sorry you did!

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A beautiful sight upon arrival! Remember Figment?

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Charlotte – pretty as a picture?

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The food during the Festival of the Arts is just as amazing as the sights! This delight is a palette of white chocolate accompanied by “colors” of painting chocolate and sprinkles. What fun!!!

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Scream? She fits right in!! hahahaha

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Brother had to get into the action!

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My favorite stop is right around Canada…the Bloody Mary’s are to die for and the poutine chips with lobster meat….magnifique!

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Yes, these were BOTH for me!

Post Vacation Reboot! Getting my brain to reengage.

So, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things after vacation.  My brain still wants to be on vacation!  And yet, I know I need to start writing again because it keeps my mind flowing!  So if my brain is still on vacation, I guess I should write about vacation!  Here’s an overview – details to follow in other posts!

This February, we departed the great North East during my kids’ February vacation with thousands of others and headed to a much warmer climate!!  We spent 4 days in Florida at the Happiest Place on Earth and then went on a 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the amazing Symphony of the Seas – Royal Caribbean’s newest marvel!  We had the best time!!  Let me highlight each day with my favorite photo from that day!

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We are members of Disney Vacation Club and this was our first stay at Bay Lake Towers. We love staying on the monorail line and being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom is wonderful!!!

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I cannot help but get a little teary eyed when the opening music plays at Magic Kingdom. It brings back memories that I cherish and makes me feel like a kid!

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To me, this photo says, “Follow your dreams.” What greater lessons can we learn from a man and a mouse?

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EPCOT is cool for so many reasons! My hubby was definitely rocking this Wreck It Ralph pose!!!

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I have a picture of my kids doing this SAME thing in London in 2013. It is fun to recreate special moments in different locations!

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Our boarding day on Symphony of the Seas – she blew me away! I marveled every day at her size, how smoothly she sailed, all of her wonderful amenities and how I felt at home on the giantess of the seas!! I cannot wait to go back!

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A day at sea means we get to play at sea! Ten stories above the Boardwalk, I zip-lined across a cruise ship!!!! How cool is that?

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Symphony After Dark! Stunning!

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My girl makes friends wherever she goes and this beautiful fellow wanted to stick around!

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T-Rex, know affectionately as “Rexy” in our family, made an appearance our last day at sea. We may or may not have a few videos of this!

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Sunset in the Caribbean. Do I need to say more?

 

Sunrises and Sunsets…iconic views of travel.

I have a thing for sunrises and sunsets.  They signify the beginning and the end.  They are an invitation to start anew and force us to put things behind us.  I have found great joy in witnessing these celestial spectacles and even though some of them happened years and years ago, they recall memories that I may have otherwise forgotten.

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November 2018. A sunrise in my backyard with freshly fallen snow.

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March 2013. Argenton-sur-Creuse. This was sunrise out the window of our charming 16 century townhouse at the end of the bridge.

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Summer 2018. Naples, Maine. Sunset on Long Lake.

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Summer 2016. Naples, Maine. Tubing at sunset on Long Lake.

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November 2015. Sunset over Monterey Bay, California.

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Fall 2012. Sunset on the amazing island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Unknown date. Sunrise on my street.

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December 2013. Sunrise over Mount Baker, Washington State.

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Sunset. Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Sunset. Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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Summer 2017. Sunset over Balch Lake, Maine.

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February 2019 aboard the Symphony of the Seas. Sunset while docked off the coast of St. Marteen.

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February 2019. Man-made sunset on the Savanna in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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February 2019. Sunset over the lake from our room in Bay Lake Towers, Disney World.

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June 2018. Sorrento, Italy. Sunset over Vesuvius.

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June 2018. Shortly after sunrise over Vatican City.

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September 2014. Sunset in Eleuthera, Bahamas.

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April 2016. Sunset in Sorrento, Italy reflected in Aperol Spritz.