So Saturday, May 4, was National Scrapbook Day… (coincidentally, it was also National Star Wars day… May the 4th be with you!). One might think that I spent the day happily scrapping away, but alas, I did not. It’s ok though… I had a perfectly good reason not to be devoted to my hobby that day.
The hubs and I had a little getaway from Thursday night through Saturday. Victoria spent the time with Grandma & Pappy, while we went to Cove Haven Resort in the Poconos. We had a blast! There were all kinds of activities available on site: biking, hiking, swimming, rollerskating, mini golf, archery, which is something we both tried for the first time! We don’t go on date nights very often at all, so if we want to spend some time, just the two of us, we usually have to plan a mini getaway. Dave and I are far from being able to leave our daughter for long, but 2 nights seems to be a good amount of time for now. I knew when I booked it that it would coincide with National Scrapbook Day, but a nice romantic trip was much needed.
I decided to do something a little different with this post- a Happy Belated Scrapbook Day, if you will. I wanted to take a few moments to talk about some of my favorite scrapbook tools! First things first…
Yes, that’s my lovely crafting area. It doesn’t usually look quite this neat (and you were probably thinking “what a mess!”)… but I am trying to be better about cleaning up as I go! I’ve got ample work space even with all my storage cubes on my desk. I try to keep the things I use the most in the cubes on my desk (paper, trimmers, stickers, etc…). A variety of glue, stamps, decorative scissors and more are in these cubes off to the left:
It also holds my Cricut cartridges.
As you can see in the background (left), Tori has a princess castle. That whole corner of the room is her play room. We’ve got her play castle, toys, book shelves full of books and more for her to play with while Dave’s at his computer and I’m crafting. We both get interrupted often as she comes to us and grabs our hands, and asks “sit down, Mommy, sit down? play zoo? play choo choo train?” as she leads us to her favorite train and zoo play sets. We typically can’t resist the chance to play, so we aren’t always super productive with our own hobbies… but it’s totally worth it.
So what are my essentials, aside from photos and paper?
Well first… there’s this thing:
It’s probably so obvious that this doesn’t even really need to be mentioned, but it really is one of my favorite things. I realize that it’s not practical for everyone to own one… but the Cricuts have come down in price pretty significantly (as have the cartridges) that they aren’t that out of reach any more. This is the Cricut Expression 2. Prior to that I had the Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter (it cut 6″ x 12″ paper, and the Cricut Expression does 12″ x 12″) for 5 years. It served me very well but started to do a few funky things every once in awhile… so my awesome hubs got this for me for Christmas. And it’s been fantastic!
I’m a pretty hardcore crafter/scrapbooker, so this piece of equipment has come in beyond handy for me! Whether it be letters for a title or a cute animal di-cut, I can always find a reason to bust out the Cricut!
This is my photo trimmer- it’s from Creative Memories and I LOVE it! I first saw it being used at the scrapbook retreat, and thought “I don’t think I’d ever use that if I had it…” Well on a whim, after I had hosted a CM party, I earned some free merchandise… and I chose this. I’m glad I did. I use the heck out of it! CM recently came out with a newer, slightly bigger version… but this size has served me very well (it’s small, the longest cut you can make is 6″).
Another Creative Memories trimmer, but this one cuts 12″. They discontinued this model (they now have a rotary blade version), but I bought a bunch of replacement blades shortly before it was announced that they’d no longer be carrying it… so I should be good for awhile! I use this to trim my 12″ x 12″ paper or anything that doesn’t fit in my photo trimmer above. That little arm you see at the bottom swings out so you can measure wider pieces of paper.
I swear I don’t work for Creative Memories (though I did consider being a consultant)… but yes, this is another one of their products. Since the retreat that I attend twice a year is held by a few CM consultants, I get to play with a LOT of different toys… then I figure out what ones I like enough to own. These. are. fantastic!
These belong to CM’s custom cutting system. I have the oval and circle set- so there’s an inside track (for small cuts) and an outside track (for larger cuts)- which is what I use most.
The two pegs on the bottom fit in the track, so you can take the blade the whole way around the oval/circle. There are 3 different blades: red cuts closest to the pattern, blue the furtherest and green splits the difference. So what I usually do, is use the red to cut the photo and the green for the mat. Blue gets used, but not quite as often as the other two. They just add a nice element to my pages, instead of everything being square or rectangle. You’ll see in my next post how often I use my oval cutters! Love these things!
These are my Cutter Bee Scissors. They are super fine tipped, which is good for cutting close:
It’s good for taking this:
And doing this:
I had several pictures of Tori dancing out by our pool, so I decided to just cut this one out for a whole pool layout I was working on. My Cutter Bee scissors allow me to do this type of thing fairly easily. Just a little different way to get a pictures on a page!
This is a common tool of scrappers- the corner rounder. It is certainly not a necessity, but there are some layouts where I want a softer look- without the sharp corners on the photos and mats.
My glue runner!! I use glue sticks sometimes, but I find that they don’t have the best long term stickiness… a few things that I did just last year are falling apart. Very frustrating. I’ve learned that glue sticks work best for corners that are sticking up or narrow areas that I can’t get with the glue runner. There are lots of companies who make glue runners… I’m currently using Elmers (obviously) but I’m not really partial to any of them. I’ve used a few different ones and they all work well… and they have that permanent stickiness that I need for my books!
ooohhh, how I love my Xyron sticker maker!! This is probably one of the things I’ve had the longest and I use it all the time! I’ll tell you what it’s most useful for- Cricut letters! It is small- I can’t fit letters bigger than 2″, but that’s usually the size I need anyway. I just slide my letters in the top, pull the sticky roll out the bottom- the letters are going between a plastic layer and a non-stick paper layer that has the adhesive on it- peel the plastic layer off to remove the excess adhesive, and voila- I’m left with all my letters that are now stickers! It makes it so easy to get my titles on my pages.. especially if the letters are tiny. It’s fantastic!
Other fun stuff:
These are a few of my favorite pens- all serve different functions. At the top is one of my Micron pens. They are archive safe, so perfect for scrappin’ and they have a very fine point that’s great for journaling. In the middle, it’s a CM pen- it’s double ended with one marker tip and one fine tip. If I don’t have a lot of writing to cram into a small space, this is a nice change from the Micron. The white pen on the end is my red-eye pen. It’s green ink to neutralize red eyes in a photo. It works spectacularly well! You just have to touch the tip lightly to the red area- too much can ruin a photo.
These are my brush markers. They come in bright colors and are good for doodles or larger writing on a page… but my favorite use for them is to ‘ink’ my stamps with them. I can apply a few colors to one stamp to get this effect:
And the ink stays wet enough while you apply all the different colors. Neat, huh?
Lastly- one of my favorite scrappy bag sets:
I have two larger bags (one is on wheels) but this is my favorite. It’s from the company thirty-one (which my scrap buddy Kerrie is now a consultant for)… they are a home-based business like Creative Memories, but they specialize in, well, bags. You can get all kinds of bags, such as purses, duffle bags, wallets, etc, but this is one of their utility totes and a large zipper pouch. The zipper pouch is enormous and it holds my pens, scissors, cutting tools and more when I go on retreats (hence the ‘scrap crap’) and it fits nicely in the utility tote:
The utility tote has pockets around the sides (perfect for stamps and punches) and a mesh pockets on either end (good for my Xyron sticker maker). It’s by far my most versatile bag!
I have a fairly wide variety of other toys (punches, stamps, etc) but I wanted to highlight the ones that get pulled out most often. I try to always use a variety of different techniques and have lots of tools to help me with that, but there are always those favorites that I go back to when I’m stuck.
Hope you liked this look at my favorite tools/toys! Happy belated National Scrapbooking Day!
p.s. I made a Facebook page: facebook.com/MandisPileOfScrap
As promised- a crafty post! (and I’ll do my best not to turn it in to a TL;DR post)
I’ve been doing a TON of scrappin’ but I’m going to share a few other crafty items that I’ve been up to lately.
I’ve actually been doing more painting than usual… and every time I paint I think, “why don’t I do this more often?” The issue is really time… my scrapbook stuff can be left out on my crafting table, but painting supplies I get out and put away every time. It’s not a huge hassel but it’s enough of one that it prevents me from doing it as much as I’d like.
My dad loves to do woodworking and he’s very talented at it. I mentioned that I wanted a step stool for Tori to put by the sink or wherever we needed it. So he built a small wooden step stool for me. He asked if I wanted it stained or painted and I requested it be painted white. Then I did this to it:
I know it will be something she’ll be able to use for several years. I wanted to use “Victoria” since that’s her full name (and I think it’s a beautiful name ), but I liked my idea of highlighting the “tori” part in a different color since that’s mostly what she gets called.
Next up, is something I found on Pinterest. (and for reals, Pinterest, thanks for all the inspiration!)
It was a triptych of an abstract tree- I wanted something big for on our fire place and I knew I could create something similar. I apologize- I tried to locate the original artist, but that’s one tricky thing about Pinterest- it tries to credit the original pin but it sometimes gets lost- this one linked to an Etsy site, but the original painting is no longer available. Here is my version:
It looks great above the fireplace!
At Halloween, I made this for our front door (sorry for the bad lighting):
I used 3 grapevine wreaths, some orange and black ribbon, paper and of course, my Cricut. It was very simple- and only cost maybe a total of $8. The wreaths were all about $2 from the Dollar Spot in Target, the ribbon was $1 for the spool from Michaels (plus paper and black ribbon scraps that I already had). I cut out the circles and letters on my Cricut, wrapped the orange ribbon around the first and third wreaths, strung the letters on to the wreath with the black ribbon. Voila! I think it turned out pretty cute!
Our house that we moved into last year is older, with tons of character. In the living and dining rooms, there are these wooden shelves above the windows. The one above our large window in our living room has been typically been used for holiday decorations (the dining room ones are currently unused, but my wheels are churning…).
There’s another window in our living room that overlooks the sunroom- putting curtains on it seemed silly, but I felt like it was missing something. I scoured Pinterest and found something that would work perfectly! I made a slight variation, but this is what’s been done so far…
This project is so simple and very cute! All I did was get six 5″ x 7″ frames (luckily each season has 6 letters!) from WalMart. I believe they were $3 each. I found pretty paper scraps that I had laying around, cut them to fit in the frames, cut letters between 3″ and 4″, depending on what I wanted it to look like (and the Cricut font). I wanted each season to have a different look, aside from backgrounds, so I made sure each one was a different font.
I may have to redo the winter letters for next year… some of my silver letters didn’t show up on the backgrounds I chose. I have my ideas for my summer one, but since it’s so quick, I’ll wait until summer actually gets here to make it. My “extra” seasonal items on the side are things I’ve collected over the years… and I can tell you that I didn’t spend much on any of them. This is a super cool, and low cost craft project!
I love these because it provides a small but cute seasonal change to the room!
Lastly, I had been thinking of a way to display Tori’s art work, other than with a magnet to the fridge. I came up with this for a space in our entry hallway:
I love these frames! I bought them from www.lakeside.com- they are interchangeable frames. The are almost 2″ deep with hinges. You can open the front part, slide the art work in, put the mat that comes with it on top of it and close it up. I bought the little wooden flowers from Michaels to adorn the corners of the frames. For the “ART” sign above it- I bought black wooden letters (Michaels), a fabric remnant from WalMart, and a poster frame. I took out the plexi, stretched the fabric around the cardboard insert in the poster frame, inserted the fabric covered cardboard back into the frame and hot glued the letters on to the fabric- fabulous!
So that’s just a little bit of what I’ve been up to, other than being a scrapbooking fiend. I’ll probably make a few posts about what I’ve been scrapping- I finished Tori’s baby album! YAY! It ended up being a 3 volume set!! I told Dave that I’d feel guilty if we had a 2nd child- that child would probably NOT get a 3 volume baby album set!
I love being creative and I’m glad/lucky I have a good space in which to create… and Pinterest to help me with a few ideas! Happy Crafting!
Bear with me… this is going to be a long one!
As mentioned in my previous post, we headed to Florida in November for our first big vacation as a family. I’m hoping to make this write-up about our trip a mixture of our adventure and tips on travel in general and traveling with a little one.
We decided to drive…
from Central Pennsylvania…
to Orlando, Florida…
with a 19 month old.
Some people thought we were crazy (and they were probably right!), but honestly, it was a good bit cheaper to take 2 days to drive (staying overnight somewhere) than to fly… and in some ways, it seemed to be less of a hassle over all- don’t have to check a stroller/car seat, rent a car, or go through crazy amounts of security with a little one.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that I HATE flying!! Or maybe, “scared to death” is a better way of putting it. I have flown before, and I will fly again in the future. After all, I can’t drive to Europe and I do hope to get there some day. I also know that flying is much safer than driving, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel safe when I’m thousands of feet in the air! I know it’s irrational, but that’s why it’s called a “phobia”. Like I said… I will fly again some day, but this vacation was not that time.
So we set out on our journey on a Thursday. Incoming travel tip: Dave got an app for his phone called Waze. There are several apps similar, but I liked this one. The app’s tagline is “outsmarting traffic together”… and it was really helpful in avoiding congested areas, telling us when accidents were up ahead, etc. It would even show us if we were passing someone who was also using Waze!
We planned lots of little stops along the way for Tori’s sake. Incoming travel tip: we brought a kickball with us- it didn’t take up a lot of room and it was perfect to get out at those rest stops! We’d kick/throw the ball around for 10-15min and Tori would be in a great mood to get back into the car. Too bad more rest stops didn’t have playgrounds. We only encountered one on the way home. We also planned to eat at fast food places that had a play place… which luckily, along I-95, many do! This also gave her a chance to get her ya-ya’s out after eating.
Another thing that was helpful is I tried to think of things for her to do in the car. My scrap-buddy Kerrie and her husband lent us an ipad for the trip. I hate to rely on technology too much since people lived forever without it…(my parents drove to FL with me when I was two- how did they manage with out all this!?)… but I have to admit, this was a SUPER handy thing to have. Dave loaded some movies and Pixar shorts (her fav) and she spent a lot of time watching various things on the trip.
Incoming travel tip: We also had recently purchased this tray that fits around the car seat. She was able to color and look at her books with this handy tray. I even looked up and printed coloring sheets that related to our trip- Disney, Dinosaurs (you’ll see), and ocean creatures. Am I on the ball or what??
Another good tip: we brought lots of snacks! We had one of those reusable shopping bags full of dry snacks for the car ride, as well as some bottled water. This saved quite a bit of money for those highway munchies!
We got almost the whole way through North Carolina, before we stopped for the night. We let Tori run around and jump on the bed for a bit to get out some energy, and she surprisingly slept pretty well that night. We got up and moving at a relatively good time the next morning. After breakfast, we drove for about 45min when we encountered South of the Border in South Carolina. It was a little soon for a pit stop, but I couldn’t resist!
I know, it’s a bit cheesy, but Tori had a great time scoping out all the animal statues!
A couple more pit-stops and several hours later, we arrived at our destination that Friday evening. We stayed with my brother, sister in law and nephew for 5 nights- they have a lovely home in Orlando (we really didn’t have to drive more than 20min to get anywhere, including Sea World and Disney parks). It was really nice to get in some family time with them, especially since the distance keeps us from seeing each other more than twice a year. Tori’s cousin, Aiden, was 10months old at the time and they had a great time playing together!
On Saturday, our first full day, we went to Downtown Disney to see the Festival of the Masters art show. It was basically an arts fest with artists and their tents, selling their wares. We looked at neat artwork and saw a few Disney scenes.
I absolutely adore Downtown Disney. I feel happy every time I’m there. I can’t explain it… maybe it’s the feeling of being on vacation in general, but the place just has a good vibe to it. It’s a way to incorporate Disney into the trip without spending tons of money going to all the parks. It’s fun to just walk around…and of course, Tori had to ride the carousel! Incoming scrapper tip: buy 1 more token for the carousel than there are people. The ‘tokens’ you get for the carousel (and nearby train) are gold coins with Cinderella’s Castle on it… I did not do this, and I wish I had. Perfect embellishment for the Disney scrapbook!
Lunch was at Earl of Sandwich… I wish there was one near us. Their food is delicious and very reasonably priced (especially considering this one is in Disney territory). It was largely uneventful… well… except for Tori showing us how she likes to eat cantaloupe.
On Sunday, we went to Sea World. Incoming travel tip: ALWAYS check with AAA, if you have a membership. When Dave and I went to Sea World for our honeymoon several years ago, there was a deal that included entrance to Aquatica (Sea World’s waterpark, which is AWESOME) and Sea World for one low price (I think it was adults for kids’ prices). I think it ended up being about $90/person and that got us into both parks… plus it had ‘length of stay’ included, so for up to 7 days, we could go into either park for a 2nd time. This time, the deal was buy 1 ticket, get a meal included. So we still paid less than we would’ve at the gate, and we got a meal included for each of us. We still had to buy food for Tori, but she was free to get into the park.
Tori loved Sea World! She loves watching fish and animals in general. We took her to see the Blue Horizon’s dolphin show. I wasn’t sure how she would be, but she was totally enthralled the entire time. She clapped when everyone else clapped and pointed to things constantly.
Oh yeah, and there were rides!
This Jazzy Jellies ride was a spin-y ride that went up in the air. Dave does not do spinning rides, so I did this with her… and honestly, it was a blast! She smiled and giggled the whole time! It was worth getting dizzy, just for that.
We had such a great time at Sea World… my brother, sister in law and nephew were able to join us in the afternoon, since they have year-long passes. It was really nice to be able to spend time with them at the park and see the excitement on little faces.
On Monday, we had a pretty chill day. We decided to check out the McDonalds with the World’s Largest Play Place on Sand Lake Road (which intersects with International Drive). Incoming FL travel tip: if you have young ones (or even if you don’t!) and are vacationing in Orlando- do this. Not only did they have a giant Play Place, but their menu was extensive! No chicken McNuggets and French fries for us- Tori got pizza, I got a wrap and Dave got a salad. It spoiled me from regular McDonalds! (their breakfast menu even included omelettes!)
Tori was too small for most of the Play Place, but they did have a special toddler area, which she enjoyed very much!
After our McDonalds lunch, we hit up some outlets. We really just walked around for a bit and let Tori play on a playground that was there- which is brilliant, really. It gave a place for the dads and children to go while moms go shopping! I did snap this incredibly cute pic of Tori on the playground:
I did a lot of research for our trip prior to leaving… trying to find cheaper things we could do in the area. I had so many ideas for Dave to see that he said “how ’bout you make a slide show presentation for me?” He was joking… but I don’t joke around when it comes to planning vacations- I totally made a Power Point presentation with all of my idea… music and all! I may be a little crazy for doing so, but it made him sit, actually sit, and look at my list of ideas. (though after he watched it he said “those are all good ideas”… *facepalm)
I found a TON of things to do in Orlando… I knew I wanted to do Sea World and Magic Kingdom, but we were going to be there for a week, so I knew I needed some other things to fill up our time (as well as scheduled down time… which is what that Monday was). Incoming FL travel tip: I found this great website: 50 things to do in Orlando with kids. It has so many wonderful ideas of things to do… there is a plethora of crazy things to do in Orlando without stepping foot in a Disney park!
On Tuesday, we went to the Orlando Science Center. I knew it would be good and interesting, but it was one of those things where, I wanted to go and knew we would enjoy it, but it really became one of my favorite memories! Incoming travel tip: so this one is a little more exclusive, but still handy info. In Central PA, we have a membership to a local science center. It is small (one large room) but it’s a lot of fun to go to and take Tori on rainy days. We bought a year membership… for $75/year for the family (that can be for up to a family of 4). Just a few visits and it pays for itself (it’s normally $6/person per visit). However, this science center is part of the ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) Passport Program. What does this mean? It means that for being a member, you can then visit other science centers (for free or reduced cost) that are also a part of this program… which, as it turns out, there are MANY! In Pennsylvania alone, there are 13!
Our membership got us in free (normally $27/person) and our tickets to see the special Star Wars exhibit that was there was just $12/person. Not bad! Obviously, the bigger a place is, the more the yearly membership will cost… memberships to the OSC are $135/year for a family. But if you like to travel, it’s totally worth it! Many big cities have science centers or children’s museums that are a part of this program.
First, there was the Star Wars exhibit! This exhibit talked about the science behind the movies and had many items from the actual movies- costumes, props, puppets (Yoda, Chewbacca, etc) and weaponry. It was super cool!:
In honor of visiting, we let Tori pick out a Star Wars toy:
Oh, and then there was this awesome photo:
Yeah, there was a guy taking pictures outside of the exhibit and he totally suckered me in… but it was fun and seriously, this is probably my favorite souvenir from the trip! I laugh every time I look at it!
We had a lot of fun at the science center doing other things as well… it’s a really great center! Even though Tori is little and doesn’t really get all of the science behind things, she still had a great time exploring. They also had a lot of areas for younger kids.
If you want a break from Disney parks, I highly recommend the Orlando Science Center. We had a great time, and on a Tuesday morning, we had the place almost to ourselves. It was a lovely morning for us!
Tuesday was our last evening with my brother and his family. We obviously don’t get to see them too often with so many states between us, but it’s so nice when we get to hang out for a few days.
On Wednesday, we packed up the car and headed to Winter Park for a boat tour. It was a beautiful sunny day… going for a ride in a boat out on a lake (and seeing some ridiculously large houses) was a great idea.
This was Tori’s first time on a boat. I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle an hour and a half boat ride, but overall she did great. She got a little fussy at times (she wanted to be off and running, of course) but she liked when the boat went fast out in the open spaces.
So after a lovely time out on the lake, we went to TREX at Downtown Disney for lunch… I’ll admit, this was mostly for me. I love dinosaurs, so I was excited to go-I actually considered being a paleontologist for awhile… but then realized that required taking a lot of science classes… my artsy mind unfortunately can’t handle too much of that. I had seen the restaurant many times and had eaten at a similar restaurant (Rainforest Cafe), but I never had the chance to eat at it. The food is a bit pricey, but I’m okay with splurging once in awhile on vacation.
After lunch we did a little bit of walking around and then went to check in to our hotel- the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort. It was literally across the street from Downtown Disney. Incoming travel tip: Sign up for Groupon/Living Social websites. I always get emails about getaway discounts. One of them happened to be for this hotel. Through Living Social, we got 2 nights for $139 ($70 a night for a hotel on Disney property? not bad!). It was a very nice place… maybe not as fancy as an actual Disney hotel, but the room was clean, they had an in-house restaurant that offered Breakfast with the Characters on certain days… we did not take advantage of this since the day they had it that week, was the day we were going to Magic Kingdom. It did have a pretty nice pool area… which we took advantage of after checking in!
We had a blast in the pool… Tori giggled and splashed! I tossed her in the air and caught her as she splashed back down… she would yell “Ready? Go!” and I’d give her another toss. It was one of those moments that I can picture so clearly and I hope I always can- the look of sheer happiness and excitement as we repeated the toss and catch game. Me and my girl… playing in the pool…
That warm evening, we walked to Downtown Disney. As we entered under the Downtown Disney sign that was all lit up, I got that overwhelming calm feeling that only a vacation can bring. I took a deep breath… it felt good. I turned to Dave and said, “we can’t wait another 3 years before we do this again!” Yes, we went on our cruise 3 years ago… in 2009. Victoria came along in March of 2011 and finally in November 2012, we were on vacation again. We had done a few weekend and long weekend trips, but really, nothing compares to the week-long (or longer) vacation. You feel like you really get to experience relaxation and life away from the daily grind. If you plan well, vacations don’t have to be pricey either. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have family in desirable vacation locales, but even if you don’t, there are so many websites out there that can help you plan on a budget… whatever you do, just do it. Life is too short to just be pulling the 9-5 every day. There’s so much out there to see and do… don’t let the rut pull you in!
I also made sure there were moments of “Tori just needs to play… this is very much her vacation too”… so we went to a Dance Party that was taking place at the stage area near the Disney Marketplace. We had a great time dancing to the music!
I also did something that I might not normally have done, but we were on vacation… I let her run through the fountains that are in the shape of Mickey’s head in one area of Downtown Disney. Dave went to Earl of Sandwich to grab us some food to take back to the hotel.
When he came out of the restaurant, he found this:
She thought these fountains were one of the greatest things ever… and seeing that bliss on her face as she would get blasted with water… I can see why she thought that.
The next day, Thursday, was the big day- Magic Kingdom! It also happened to be my and Dave’s 4 year wedding anniversary. Awwww…
We rode the bus from our hotel to the transportation center, then hopped the monorail. Incoming travel tip: This should be a no-brainer, but if you’re staying in the Orlando area (especially if you’re on Disney property, even if it’s not necessarily a Disney hotel), look into transportation. Parking is not cheap at the parks and so many hotels offer shuttle services of some kind… and even if they don’t go directly to a park, they’ll take you to the transportation center to catch a monorail. And hell, who doesn’t want to ride the monorail!?
Oh and incoming travel tip that should’ve been a no-brainer (but wasn’t): If you’re traveling during a fall/winter month, make sure you bring layers. Florida can have chilly days. The weather for most of our vacation was in the 70′s and 80′s… perfect. For our Disney day, it was predicted to be about 70…. I’m not sure it even cracked 60 that day! It was a chilly, overcast day. For the most part, I didn’t mind, but we didn’t have a sweater or anything for Tori to wear! Parenting fail! Luckily, she was in a really good mood the whole day and didn’t seem to mind being cold one bit, but I felt bad.
When we walked through the gate, Pluto was just walking out from a building and he came over and touched Tori’s hand, before heading further into the crowd. She smiled and watched him walk away… I wasn’t expecting a photo moment so soon and I had just put my camera in my purse after snapping a few photos outside the gates. Incoming scrapper tip: Ugh, always have your camera ready!!
Guess what was next?:
We got fast passes for the Buzz Lightyear ride (my favorite). Incoming Disney tip: if you don’t know what fast passes are, it’s a very important piece of info to have for the Disney parks. At any of the major rides in the park, you can find a fast pass station. You put your park entry ticket into the machine and it spits out a pass for that ride, marked with an hour time frame (like 10:40-11:40am)- the station has the time listed on it so you’ll know before you get your ticket… in case that time doesn’t work for you. You return to the ride during that time frame and you get to by-pass most of the line, making a line that normally might have been an hour wait into a 10-15min wait or less. The catch is you can’t get another fast pass until the time is up on your current one. For the most part, it’s not an issue. When we fast passed Buzz Lightyear, we were able to use it in about an hour. We rode the People Movers in Tomorrowland (where the BL ride is) and did the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor while we waited. Incoming Disney tip: ride the People Movers! My husband and I love this ride! There’s almost never a wait and it’s just a nice relaxing ride around Tomorrowland.
I also have to say, I had never done the Laugh Floor before and I realize now that I was missing out. It’s an interactive show- there are several different Monsters that come up on a screen and tell jokes… but, they ask people in the audience questions (there’s a Disney worker with a microphone that goes up to people to get their response) and the Monsters make up jokes on the fly related to that person! So it’s a different show every time! Before you go in to the show, there are tv screens in the hall telling you to text a joke in and they’ll use it during the show. I texted a joke in and they used it! (How do you catch a unique rabbit? Unique up on it! lolz) They also said “this joke is from Mandi from Pennsylvania”… it’s a pretty neat show.
Then we got on the Buzz Lightyear ride, which is just a ton of fun. You have laser guns on your car and you have to shoot targets along the ride… and it keeps track of your score. Of course Dave kicked my butt!
After exploring Tomorrowland, we wandered over towards the Jungle Cruise, which Dave went to get fast passes for, while Tori and I rode the Aladdin flying carpet ride. Seeing my little girl’s face in awe of everything was just so awesome. I know she was only 19mo old during our visit and she probably won’t remember any of the trip, but I know she was having a lot of fun… and that’s all that really matters. I do hope to go when she’s older, and do the full-blown Disney experience, but this was a nice taste of Disney for her. (Plus, hey, kids under 3 are free, so why not take her!)
Oh another incoming Disney tip: if you have a smart phone get an app for Disney World ride wait times. I don’t remember which one Dave had, but there are several out there. He got a free one- get a free one because the app relies on people to update the times… and if it’s free, more people are likely to have it, and therefore, keep it updated. The one we had was pretty accurate so we were able to see when characters would be in certain places, what ride times were, etc… pretty handy!
After the Jungle Cruise, we ate some lunch and headed to It’s a Small World… Dave has serious disdain for this ride. The song on it, admittedly, is VERY annoying, but I knew that Tori would like it. Dave agreed that she would like it, and somewhat begrudgingly, got in line. Only… this happened while in line:
We had planned on just pushing her in the stroller around the park and letting her take a bit of a nap, but we had hoped that she would’ve at least made it through this ride first… obviously, that didn’t happen… so this is how Dave spent the ride:
Dave and I took the time she was sleeping to go shopping a bit and just walk around, enjoying our last full day of vacation.
When Tori woke up, a little over an hour later, we did Prince Charming’s carousel. Dave ran and got us fast passes for the Winnie the Pooh ride… oh and something neat happened when he did that. It gave him fast passes for that ride, and then spit out bonus fast passes for the Dumbo the Elephant ride! Sweet!
Back to the carousel… I’ve said before that carousels, might be one of Tori’s favorite things in the whole world, and our ride(s) on Prince Charming’s Carousel just solidified that. This was where I honestly saw the most joy on her face! She would scream “Here goes!” when it started to move and then would yell “WHEEEEE!!!” as it moved faster. I loved it. Incoming sappiness: I get teary eyed when I think of this moment… I know I’ve said several times about seeing joy on her face during this trip, but this ride… it was like her whole body was totally excited, that she could barely contain it! She clapped, giggled, screamed in delight… it was so much fun watching that!
We rode this a few times… the line was always short, so we never had to wait more than one go around for us to get a turn. I’m so glad that carousels are a standard at most amusement parks! We rode Winnie the Pooh after our trips on the carousel… I don’t have any good pics from that ride, but it was a neat little ride through the Hundred Acre Wood!
Then we headed to the new Fantasyland/Storybook Circus area… some of it is still being built, but some rides were open already. We got on the new Little Mermaid ride. It was the typical Disney ride, a constant moving ride so that the line moves along pretty quickly. It told the story of Ariel and her adventure to become human… it was bright and colorful… just the sort of thing for a toddler to enjoy!
Tori and I ventured over to the Dumbo ride… it’s so iconic, how could we not ride it? Dave is not so much into rides that go around in a circle (if you didn’t catch on to that yet), so we had another fun Mommy and Daughter moment together on that ride. It was just starting to lightly drizzle, but we got on it anyway. The chilliness and drizzle didn’t deter her good mood!
What Disney experience would be complete without meeting a few characters:
We did a few other things, like Haunted Mansion -which Tori was NOT terribly excited about… I think it might have been just a little too scary for her, even though it’s not really meant to be a scary ride. Our ride got stuck/stopped near the end, where there’s a graveyard of ghosts and ghouls singing…we were stopped by a somewhat creepy looking ghoul that kept popping out from behind a tombstone… Tori stared at it for awhile and then nervously said “Daddy” before leaping into his arms. Not a fan of creepy things popping out at her…
We had dinner and then decided to ride the train that goes the whole way around the park, and ride it to the front gate so we could hit some shops and head out. Oh, funny story… so no matter where we were in the park during the day, if Tori heard the train blow its whistle, she would yell “All ‘board!”. Where we had dinner was near one of the stations, so we heard it a few times, so she kept shouting “All ‘board!” throughout dinner. Luckily the people sitting near us all thought it was pretty cute to hear that coming from a 19mo old!
Finally on the train:
Dave took this photo from the last train station:
Ok… I was debating putting this in here, but this was my lone complaint of our Disney experience… and I say this as someone who has been to Disney numerous times (Dave as well and he never had to complain about anything before either). So that night, there was an event called Mickey’s Christmas Party (or something)… you needed to have a separate ticket for this event, and the park closed at 7pm to accommodate guests of this event (I think it went until midnight or so).
We rode the train to the last stop, and ran to one of the gift shops… we didn’t buy anything earlier because we didn’t want to have to carry it with us, or leave it unattended in her stroller while we rode rides. We literally got to the door of the Disney Emporium (the biggest gift shop in the park) at 7:01. There were Disney workers at every door dressed in Christmas-y garb… and they chased us away! We weren’t allowed in the shop unless we had a wristband for the Mickey’s Christmas event.
Seriously… Disney didn’t want us to spend money.
Granted, there were signs and announcements all day about the park closing at 7 and I realize they wanted to do this to get people out of the park so that people who had the Mickey’s Christmas party tickets could enjoy the park… but why not give a buffer of maybe 15min to get those people who were here ALL DAY a chance to stop by the stores? I know many people do this to avoid having to carry things around the park. If they wanted to start the Christmas event at 7, I think maybe they should’ve said the park would close at 6:30 or 6:45. I understand not letting people on the rides after 7, but I was actually kind of floored that they denied us entrance into the stores!
I was pretty frustrated… it was Tori’s first time at Disney and all I wanted to do was buy a little stuffed Mickey for her to mark the occasion… plus, there was a nice scrapbook I wanted (shocker).
Dave went out to customer service (which was packed) and explained our story. First, they said we could go to Downtown Disney the next day and he told them we were leaving bright and early the next day to drive home. Then the person helping him suggested “you can order from online”… to which Dave replied “that sort of defeats the purpose… we wanted to get a gift for our daughter while we’re here”. (again, Disney seriously didn’t want us to spend money??)
Finally, the person said “ok, you can buy one of the Mickey Christmas Party tickets for you or your wife to use… if you return it in less than an hour, we’ll refund you.” So that’s what we ended up doing… craziness! I almost didn’t get to go in the store again because I didn’t have a wristband, despite the fact that I had a ticket that said “Mickey’s Christmas Party” on the back of it! UGH! Who knew trying to spend money at Disney would be so damn difficult!?
Tori was fairly grumpy at this point because she was tired, cold, and was losing patience that we were just sitting there, not doing anything while this all transpired. I got what I wanted and we returned the ticket… phew! That is one thing- Disney will usually do everything to accommodate a customer’s issue. I’ve heard this from many people who had to
complain express concerns about something.
Our Disney experience was over… but we did have a bit of an adventure upon leaving the park! We went to the transportation center to catch our bus back to the hotel- last bus was leaving around 9:30. We got to the transportation center around 8 or 8:30sh.
There were tons of busses there, but not ours. So we waited… and waited. We were told that one would be by every half hour… and we kept waiting. Busses came and went… finally, 9:30 hit (not kidding) so Dave went to talk to someone. Apparently the bus we were looking for (B) were actually (A), but a couple of drivers forgot to change their marquee. So… now we were stuck. No more hotel buses…
We were all set to call a cab. The guy working said “hang on a minute” and talked to someone who managed the charter buses for different groups… that person talked to one of the charter bus drivers who was there, waiting for a group that wasn’t going to come out of the park until later… and that driver motioned for us to come over to them, across the parking lot. We got our own private charter bus back to the hotel! The bus driver was super nice and she chatted to us the whole way… I was so grateful for her kindness, so that we didn’t have to wait any longer in the cold for a taxi to show up!
The next morning, we had breakfast and then stopped at one of those touristy gift shops that are a dime a dozen in that area. Incoming travel tip: Yes, these stores have a lot of junk, but they also have a lot of useable things, like t-shirts and picture frames cheap. We got Tori a Minnie Mouse t-shirt and hat for around $15. Dave and I also got some shirts and I picked up a couple of picture frames and gifts for people. I’ve read blogs about parents sneaking out to one of these shops after the kids are sleeping, picking up some Disney trinkets and then surprising their kids with these gifts the next morning, before going to the parks. Disney stuff is higher quality, no doubts about it, but I think it’s really smart to get some souvenirs from shops like this for a fraction of the price you’d pay in the parks.
And with that… we headed home. It was SO hard to say goodbye to my family, to Florida and to our vacation. We had such a great time and I can’t wait to do it again. Until then, I’ll look forward to making our vacation scrapbook!
I promise… a crafty post is coming soon!
New Years resolution- try to keep up with the blog more than 3 times a year. How’m I doin’ so far?
As usual, we’re a busy family, which is great, but I definitely don’t get to write about my crafting adventures as much as I’d like to. Since September, we’ve done LOTS as a family… and I’ve also managed to get a good bit of crafting accomplished as well. Here’s a run down of a few things we’ve been up to:
We went to Baltimore for a weekend to visit Dave’s sister, who lives not far from the city. Of course, we had to hit up the Baltimore Aquarium:
Victoria loved the aquarium in Pittsburgh, so we knew this would be a hit- And it most certainly was! Seeing the look of joy and excitement on her face as she watched the colorful fish swim by her was just awesome! She loves watching fish so much, that it makes me want to buy a fish tank for our house! I mentioned this to Dave who poo-pood it immediately… apparently he thinks it’s too much work or something…
We hit up the gift shop on the way out because I really wanted to get her a book or two about oceans. Of course… she wanted something different:
Eventually she realized she only had so many hands, she started to pass them off to me, Dave, Grandpa and Aunt Christy. (Of course, Aunt Christy’s a total sucker and got the penguin for her.)
We also went to the Baltimore Zoo:
All in all, it was a good little weekend visit. We must do it again soon!
I have to say that I also love the area we live in… there’s always so much to do in our town, especially for kids. We went to an Insect Fair, where we got to scope out lots of cool bugs. They even had a ‘bug restaurant’ where you could try different, uh, delicacies… I was not feeling particularly adventurous, so I opted to pass on this. We did experience some other fun things though:
The same day as this, we went with friends (scrap-buddy Kerrie and her family) to a small local amusement park for its Harvest Fest celebration. Miss Tori loves riding rides… we took her to this park over the summer (that time with scrap-buddy Andrea and her family) and she was a little unsure of some of them. Luckily, our friends all have little ones close in age, so she was mostly able to ride things with them, which I think comforted her. She did ride this one solo, though:
And of course, no visit would be complete without a trip on the carousel:
Let’s see… what else? Oh, there was Halloween, of course!
The little one and I went to a local farm to get pumpkins. We got our pumpkins and then did a corn maze! Fun!
Our pumpkins were lovely, and we put them out on our back patio and hoped to carve them the next day…however, some animals decided to carve them for us (I guess that’s the price you have to pay for having a yard that backs to a forest… sigh). I did find, quite possibly, the cutest jack-o-lantern ever at the pumpkin farm:
Then there were our costumes…I happened to think that our costume theme for our friends’ party was cute… some people took it the wrong way:
I got her costume at a kids resale store… we sort of based our costume idea on what we were able to find for her (sorry, I was NOT willing to spend $30 or more on a costume she would wear once), so luckily we were able to find something to build a ‘theme’ around. BUT… it gets better! The costumes we found were so cheap that I bought her TWO! One for this party at our friends’ house and then one for her daycare party. I couldn’t resist it when I saw it:
For real… does it get much cuter than that?! Sunflowers are my thing, so if I have a chance to dress my daughter up like one… you bet I’m going to take it!
So this post gets me caught up to November. In November, I went to the scrapbook retreat with my usual scrap buddies, Kerrie and Andrea… 3 days after that, we took a big family vacation- to sunny Florida! My brother and sister in law live there, with their baby boy. We got to meet him in September when they flew up for a whirlwind weekend over Labor Day, but we were excited to spend more time with him during this week long trip. Our trip to FL is going to be a full post in itself, so I’ll keep that one separate.
(Oh God, there’s also Christmas, which was fantastically busy with fun activities in the area… train rides, drive-thru Christmas lights, tree festivals, Polar Express readings, a *terrifying* visit with Santa and more… we’ll see if I get around to writing about that…)
As I said in the beginning of my post, I have managed to get quite a bit of crafting done over the past few months… and not all scrapbooking. I’ve been painting and creating as much as I can! We have a large room in the upstairs of our Cape Cod-esque house, and that’s become our craftroom/office (cr-office) and play room. I’m hoping to get some pics of our space up soon. It’s coming together nicely!
I’ll highlight some of my crafty-ness in an upcoming post (see, already planning future posts… this is good). My goal is to post more, and try to promote this page more… I don’t expect a large following of readers, but it would be nice to get a few more people interested and hopefully inspire some creativity!
With that, I’ll leave you with a few adorable pictures of some family portraits we had done late last summer. They are beautiful! They were done by a student who worked at the Art Center. Here’s a link to her Facebook page, if you’re from Central PA and are interested in getting some photos done! Vantography