Friday, August 31, 2012

We're Going To Disney! Now How Do We Pay For It?

Now that you have decided to take a little jaunt to Lake Buena Vista, Florida and visit the Mouse House, you really only have one thing left to take care of. Paying for it! Before you get all panicky, let me assure you that you can have all the fun of Disney World without having to sell internal organs to pay for it.

First off, let's take care of where you will be sleeping. I am only going to focus on Disney Resorts because I believe they offer the best deals and biggest bang for your buck!
For the very budget conscious, Disney has several value resorts that are not only clean and comfy but a heck of a lot of fun to stay at. There are 3 All Star resorts- Music, Movies and Sports. Each resort has GIANT decorations representing its style. Music has among, other things, a piano pool and a large, I mean ginormous, cowboy boot! Sports has a huge football helmet and bowling pins and Movies...well have you ever seen a 50 ft. tall Dalmation? These resorts are large in the fact that they have many buildings containing lots of guest rooms. Each has at least 2 pools, a cafeteria type restaurant, gift shop and other amenities.
Pop Century Resort takes different decades and decorates each building according to its designated decade. You may stay in a building with a 50's roller rink theme or maybe a 90's technology theme. Through the years, we have stayed at each of these resorts so I feel very good in recommending them.
Disney has just opened the Art of Animation Resort that looks simply dreamy. It has family suites that sleep 6!
The rates for the value resorts are $89/night for non-peak season! This includes a nice room, great resort amenties and complimentary transportation aboard the Disney buses. Let me say that the ability to park your vehicle when you check in and NEVER needing it until the day you leave is worth staying on site to me! Disney takes care of ALL your transporting to and from parks, dinner shows and shopping!
Have a little extra to spend on accomodations? Disney has moderate priced resorts, too. My absolute fave is Port Orleans Riverside. The rooms are fantastic, the resort is beautiful and the on site restaurant, Boatrights, is phenominal! They also have a cafeteria type restaurant for quick meals and a gift shop along with your typical resort amenities like a lush pool area with slide. The price here for non peak season is $159. Still a bargain in my book!
Feel like splurging? The mac daddy of resorts would be the Grand Floridian. They don't get any better than this one! A room here during the value season will set you back $490. Hope you didn't hit your head on anything when you fainted! Yes this is a very pricey resort but go ahead and take a little looksey and you'll see why it costs so much. Needless to say, I have never stayed here!!!

Well, that is the accomodations aspect of your vacation. Let's look at some other necessities.
You may, at some point during your vacation, want to eat. Most of us do! But Disney is not known for it's "value priced" meals unless you are hitting any of the MANY quick service places throughout Disney. That is just fine to do but, sometimes you want to just sit and relax and order from a menu! The best thing I can tell you is to get a Disney Dining Plan. These can all be explained here much better than I could explain it. The basics are this, you pick a plan suited to the type of dining you want to do and pay a "price per person per day". Before you see the price and think WHAT????, this is how we used the dining plan to our advantage. Since our kids are older and we don't mind bringing them to nicer restaurants (usually!) we get the dining plan that includes a quick service (go up to the counter and order) meal and a table service meal. We use the quick service meal when we are by the pool or grabbing something quick in the park and then use the table service meal for a really nice meal that we couldn't afford if we were just going in and paying cash for it. You see, our son eats a lot. When I say a lot, I mean A LOT! He's almost 13 and in the last 6 months he has grown 6 inches! When we eat at these restaurants, he could easily cost us an arm and a leg to fill him up. With the dining plan, he gets to order WHATEVER entree he wants plus he gets a dessert. Well, everyone on the dining plan gets a dessert. Trust me, by the time your vacation is done, no one wants dessert for a LOOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG time! When you figure up how much one of those nice meals would cost for the amount of food you get on the plan, it is really worth it. Plus, we almost always eat breakfast in the room so the plan covers lunch and dinner. you could use the plans for any meals you
want, we just eat breakfast in the room because it is easy and we aren't big breakfast eaters. Also, at the vacation club resorts, we have a full kitchen so meal making is quite easy.   I'll tell you all about the vacation club in the next post! So, the cost of the dining plan is determined by 3 things-which plan you choose, how many guests are in your party and how many days you are staying. The rule is that everyone in your party, age 3 and above, has to be included if you get the dining plan. (Ages 3-9 pay a very reduced rate. 10 and up pay adult rate). The dining plan is to be in effect from check in to midnight of the day you check out but you can choose to use your dining credits any way you choose.
The plan we get and the one I would recommend for most families is the Disney Dining Plan which includes one quick service, one table service, one snack and a resort refillable mug (you get unlimited soda, water, COFFEE and other drinks at your resort)per person per day of your stay. This plan costs  about $50 per day per person 10 and over. I know that sounds a lot but if you were to price meals, snacks and unlimited drinks, you would see that you save about 20-30%. There are cheaper and more expensive plans, so you have a choice.

Now, for probably the biggest expense next to meals, we will move on to park tickets. DO NOT, under any circumstances, BY A 1 DAY ONE PARK TICKET unless you will only go to a park on ONE day. It is ALWAYS cheaper to buy a multi day pass. If you are a Florida resident, you get a discount! The more days you buy, the cheaper the per day rate is.  For example, you could purchase a 4 day ticket for $256 but an 8 day ticket is only $298! You get 4 whole extra days for only $32! I always suggest planning out your visit carefully so you know how many days you actually want to spend in the park. If you are coming for a week but know you only want to spend 3 of those days at the park, then buy a 3 day ticket. Just don't think that you couldn't afford to buy a length of stay ticket because they get cheaper the more days you add on. You could always buy a large number of days and get the No Expiration Date put on them which would allow you the option of only using some days on this trip and saving the rest for another trip but I think it costs too much for that option!
Check out this site for more info and for ordering instructions. You can also check out if a Season Pass may be a better fit for your vacation needs.

So let's do a little figuring. I am going to use our family of 4 (both kids are 12) and lay out a mini vacation for you. Here is what a 4 day trip would look like, without any deals or discounts:
Hotel Room for 4 days          $356
Food Plan (4people/4 days)     800 (I used $50/person/day as an estimate for this plan)
Tickets (4 people/4 days)       1036
The total cost is less than $2200. Still too much? You have a few options. You could go without the Dining plan (we have done this many times) and eat some meals in your room or opt for quick service meals. Or if you still want to get a dining plan, you could go with the Quick Service plan which is cheaper.You could always check into deals here and see what plans Disney is offering that work for your family. Three years ago, we got a deal where we had a room at a value resort and park tickets for the 4 of us for a week for $1500! Of course, that was the year that hubs got tired of sharing a room with the twins and we ended up buying into the Disney Vacation Club and moving to one of those resorts! But Disney has good offers periodically and all you need to do is check it out and plan.

I hope that I helped you figure out the costs for hotel, food and park tickets. Disney is such a fun place to go for those with kids or without them. Hubby and I have been a few times without the kids and had a great time doing "adult" stuff like,oh I don't know, sleeping in!!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Magic Kingdom

This is the Mac Daddy of all theme parks! Magic Kingdom has something for EVERYONE! Young, old, young at heart, it doesn't matter.  You want adventure? It's here. You want fantasy? It's here. You want romance? It's here. A fan of whimsy? You will feel right at home. Let's get started.


As soon as you walk in the park, you know you are somewhere special. If you can contain yourself (I never can!), hop on the train and take a little ride all around the park. Walt Disney had a great love affair with trains, even having a small one at his home. These steam engines are quite lovely and old timey. The trip around the park is not only relaxing but helps to give you a little perspective of the layout and the massiveness of the park. You may choose to get off at any of the stops around the park but I always suggest entering the park right down Main Street so just stay on that train till you get back to the entrance.

Main Street USA
This area was designed by Walt himself and modeled after his hometown of Marceline, MO. This is where you will find wonderful shops, a barbershop that specializes in giving little boys their first haircut, an ice cream parlor and sweet shop and Exhibition Hall where you can meet Mickey and various Princesses. This is a wonderful place to start your time at Magic Kingdom.

As you enter this "land", stop at Aloha Isle and grab a Dole Whip. A Dole Whip is softserve pineapple ice cream and it is just divine! And you have just enough time to eat it as you stroll over to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. This boat ride was modified once the movies came out to include Capt. Jack Sparrow and Blackbeard. My 2 year old granddaughter was not afraid at all even through the "scary" skeleton scene!
While you are in this section, don't miss the Jungle Cruise, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin (watch out, the camels spit at you!), or the Swiss Family Tree House.

Two of the most popular rides here are Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. I, myself, love Splash Mountain. If the line is kinda long, go ahead and grab a FastPass. You'll be glad you did and aren't stuck sweating in a line with many people (some with an aversion to deodorant!). Remember, you will most likely get wet, maybe extremely wet, on this ride. But isn't that why you're going on it?!
This area is where you will find Country Bears Jamboree. We have never seen this one for some weird reason. We don't really spend a whole lotta time in Frontierland because we are always in a hurry to get over to the Haunted Mansion which is in nearby Liberty Square.
If you are feeling adventurous, head out to Tom Sawyer Island.

Liberty Square
By far, the favorite here is Haunted Mansion! It isn't terribly scary so younger kids (6-8) wouldn't be too frightened. However, the first time my son went on it (he was 6), the ride got stuck in the graveyard and this ghoul head get popping up right next to us and screaming! Yeah, he was a bit freaked out but he wasn't too scared to ride it again!
I am a little nerdy so I love the Hall of Presidents. I always get goosebumps when I see American history come alive before my eyes (hey, I told you I was a nerd). Here you get to see all the presidents to date in animatronic form. It is very cool to say the least.

This area has recently been refurbished and added on to so I can't tell you about the additions but this is the place you want to spend most of your time if you have littles with you. Here is where you get to ride It's a Small World, Peter Pan, Winnie The Pooh, Dumbo and Mickey's Philharmagic. They have added a lot to this area and I cannot wait to check it out. This is also where Cinderella's Carousel is. This is a must do for us! If you can handle the "mad" spinning, may I suggest the Mad Hatter's Tea Cups? My kids never want to go on this with me because I won't let them spin me like crazy. I end up being the strange lady on the ride who is NOT spinning! Sorry, I paid lots of money to eat in the park and I don't want to lose my investment on a ride!

Hands down, this is my favorite part of the park. My all time favorite ride is the Carousel of Progress. We go on this every.single.time. This attraction was created for the 1964 World's Fair and spent quite a bit of time at Disneyland before making the trip to Disney World. It is a theater-in-the-round (the theater revolves around the stage) type of attraction showing the evolution of the American family from the turn of the century to the future. The ride needs to be updated again because the "future" family stuff is already here! But I love this ride and it's theme song, "There's a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day..." Yes, I am the lady who is singing it out loud everytime it plays!
Another must do is the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. This show is HILARIOUS!!!! You have all the characters from Monsters, Inc. doing a comedy show that involves members of the audience. You have to see it for yourself. Helpful Hint: Pee first. You will laugh A LOT during the show!
Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blaster is super fun as a family competition. You see who can get the highest score blasting the aliens. Last year, my son took away my title and I will have to get it back!
Stitch's Great Escape is a lot of fun but not for the very little ones. A lot of it is in total darkness so use caution when you take your kids on it.
Looking for a thrill? Space Mountain never fails to deliver a good time. They have added some games to the line cue because, let's face it, you are going to wait in line awhile for this one! I remember when this ride first opened at Disney. It was much faster then and they actually slowed it down! I am usually good for one ride before my stomach starts to regret it.
Here is another little tip for Tomorrowland: Need a little break but don't feel like sitting on a bench outside? Here's what we do-we grab a cream cheese pretzel (Oh my gosh, these are good!) from The Lunching Pad and head up to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. We snack on the pretzel while this ride goes all over Tomorrowland. It goes inside and outside but you are always undercover so it is a good one to go one during one of the MANY rain showers Florida is famous for. It is relaxing and there is never a line to get on as the ride is constantly moving.


If you only eat one meal here, let it be at Cinderella's Castle. Let me state for the record that it is pricey! BUT, the food is really good, the atmosphere is great and you get to spend one on one time with some characters. Last time we went it was the Princesses. They come to each and every table and let you take pictures, sign autographs and ask questions. It is a great thing to do for the kids!
On my 40th birthday, we ate dinner here. At that time, the characters put on a little show for you during dinner featuring Fairy Godmother and the mice. When dinner was over, we asked the waiter for the check and he told me that Fairy Godmother had already taken care of it and to have a Happy Birthday! Our bill was well over $100 and they took care of every last penny! What a wonderful memory for my birthday!
Other good eats can be found at Tony's Town Square (Lady and the Tramp restaurant). If you time your reservation right, you can sit on the patio while the parade is going on and have a great view of everything!
For lunches, we like to go to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe. They have 3 seperate stations serving different types of food and "entertainment" provided by Cosmic Ray. He is an alf-looking creature from Yew Nork (yes a little cheesy but cute). He plays music and tells jokes and keeps the kids entertained.
Columbia Harbour House is good too. Hello, Lobster Rolls!!!!!
I have a friend who insists on having breakfast at the Crystal Palace everytime she takes her family to Disney. This is a  buffet character meal and I think the characters are usually Winnie the Pooh and friends although we have never been here.


I always suggest catching at least one parade here at the Magic Kingdom. The earlier you snag your spot, they better view you have! Disney changes their parades periodically so if it has been awhile since you saw the parade, make time to catch it on your next visit!

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
My twins were born the day after Halloween so we like to do something special for Halloween and work a birthday celebration into it. Beginning in September, Disney has a special Halloween party on select nights after the Magic Kingdom closes to the general public. You need to purchase a ticket for this event and they only sell so many tickets so the park is much less crowded. Since we have been to MK so many times, we usually don't use a full day on our passes to visit this park. We buy a Halloween party ticket and use that as our MK visit. The party is usually from 7 pm to midnight and the entire park is open (except the Carousel of Progress) so you can ride all the rides you want, eat where you want to eat and shop where you want to shop for less money and with less crowds. We found that we can ride all the Fantasyland rides with no wait during the Halloween party but there are long lines and lots of people when we go during the day during general admission. Since we always buy a multi day pass, we use the day we would have spent at MK visiting another park or visiting a park twice.  The Halloween party is a lot of fun. The kids (and adults!) dress up in their costumes and the cast members hand out candy all over the park. Their are musical shows and a special parade featuring the Headless Horseman and all the characters dressed up for Halloween. The park is decorated to the hilt for Halloween and a good time is had by all!
Another must see along these lines is the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Again, you buy a special ticket for admission after the park closes to the general public. The park is turned into a winter wonderland with "snow" falling on Main Street! Hot chocolate and cookies are handed out throughout the park and there is a special parade with all things Christmas.

Well, there you have it. A VERY brief look at all that awaits you at Magic Kingdom. For a better and more thorough look at this park check this out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Hands down, Epcot is my favorite park at Disney World. Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt Disney was a big fan of family centered community. He wanted a place where people could live and work together and know each other. Sounds like a pretty great place to me. Epcot is all about technological advancements and innovations. Well, half of it is. I consider Epcot to be 2 parks, really. It is divided into Future World and World Showcase. You could easily spend 2 or more days here and still not see everything.


This is the first "park" you enter at Epcot. You can't miss the big "ball" as you walk through the gates. That "ball" is actually the polyhedral Epcot icon known as Spaceship Earth. This is one cool ride and learning center. Yes, we actually learn something while being entertained! This ride takes you through the ages of communication from early cave dwelling man to futuristic man. It is a blast and one of my favorite rides. Once you get off the ride, there is a huge area of play that has stations you stop at to do all sorts of things like put a virtual body back together and diagnose problems. There are lots of things to keep you busy while learning about advancements in technology.

The Living Seas with Nemo and Friends is a GIANT aquarium. Here you can see all kinds of underwater creatures including sharks, dolphins, turtles, fish and manatees. There are programs that allow you to swim with the fish or to scuba dive with them. AWESOME! There are also lots of things for the littles to do here. Turtle Talk With Crush is HILARIOUS! Crush from Finding Nemo talks to the kids through a video screen. They can ask him questions and he answers them and vice versa. There is also a place where you can talk to one of the divers as he comes back from taking care of the fish.
My granddaughter and my son in front of the MANY windows for fish viewing

My daughter and granddaughter watching a dolphin
Sorry these pictures are so bad. They were taken with my old phone but they were the only ones I could find from The Living Seas!
One of the coolest aspects of this attraction is that you can eat at the Coral Reef restaurant in which one whole wall is nothing but windows to the aquarium. You can sit right next to the windows and see the divers as they go about taking care of the tank and you can watch the fish. There is little that is as relaxing as watching the fish swim lazily by. Ahhhh....

One of our favorite attractions in Future World in Ellen's Universe of Energy. Ellen DeGeneres stars in this attraction along with Bill Nye the Science guy, Alex Trebeck (Ellen is on Jeopardy!) and Jamie Lee Curtis. It is a great ride teaching you all about energy, where it comes from, how much is left. I warn you, though, that they start off with the Big Bang Theory. My kids know that God created the world and everything in it and that "science people" sometimes don't get it right so I am okay with them going on this ride.

Another of our favorites is Test Track. It is being refurbished and changed now so we won't be able to ride it while we are there but I am looking forward to how they change it. Previously, you take a car through the same type of testing that it goes through in development. The highlight is at the end of the ride when your car goes out onto the open track and you speed around at almost 70 miles an hour. Oh, did I mention that the car has no roof??? Can you say BAD HAIR DAY?! But the ride is so much fun that I will live with the hair that looks like it was styled with a weed whacker.

There are 2 sections called Innoventions and they house all things technological. I love to walk through the "house of tomorrow" and see what we may have in the future. There is also an interactive game that teaches you about saving and investing. We had a bunch of fun with that one. Innoventions is kind of hard to describe because it is always changing. It is something you have to see for yourself.

I am going to mention Mission: Space here not because I love to go on it but because my kids love it and it really is an awesome ride even I was nauseous for 2 hours after riding it the first (and only) time. You take a mission to space and everyone has a job that they must perform during the trip. If you are claustrophobic or prone to motion sickness DO NOT RIDE THIS RIDE!!!!  You are in a very closed in capsule with limited space. They do, however, provide plenty of barf bags for your vomiting pleasure! They now offer a less intense version of the ride but I am steering clear of it all together. While the kids go on it over and over again, hubby and I play the games that are offered while waiting. There is a big screen and everyone works together to perform space tasks. It is a lot of fun and many, many people can play each time.

There many other attractions here but I only highlighted a few.

You have to make time to take in the laser light show right before the park closes. It is outstanding and worth waiting around for even when your tired and just want to leave. You won't be sorry you stayed for it.


Let's be honest, most of us will never travel to far off lands and experience many different countries in our lifetimes. Now you don't have to feel that you are missing anything. World Showcase is a collection of pavillions representing 11 countries. There are shops, attractions and restaurants that show you the culture of each of those countries. Even better is that Disney staffs those pavillions with people from those countries. Most of them are college students with internships at Disney. Go to the China pavillion and you can talk to actual residents of China. Some of the countries have little movies that show you the highlights of their country. I LOVE the one on Canada. It is done in a 360 degree theater and is breathtakingly beautiful. My husband is part French Canadian so I may be a little biased on this one! The France pavillion has a little bakery with french pastries that will make your palate sing!!!! Oh yum! The Italy pavillion has the best Italian food restaurant, Tutto Italia. Oh my! The Norway pavillion has a bakery, too, along with chocolates and candies. Oh help me!!! When the kids and I went on the boat ride at the Mexican pavillion, we could smell the food from their restaurant and we had to eat there as soon as the ride was over! The smell was THAT enticing! My goal this year is to eat my way around the countries! If you ever time your visit to coincide with the Food and Wine Festival you will not be dissappointed! There are kiosks with native food from even more countries than what is already there! One year, we were there just at the right time and I had, among other things, polish sausage and pierogi. Heavens, it was good! It is a foodie paradise! Yes, I love World Showcase for the food. I will admit it!

Well, that my friends is the briefest of overviews of Epcot. For more info check out this site.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Disney's Hollywood Studios

This park is most recognizable for the huge, I'm talking ENORMOUS, Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat. Trust me, you can't miss it! This park is where you find everything "movie". Movie sets, movie rides, movie restaurants, movie souvenirs. Everything movie!


Hands down, the 2 most popular rides here are Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster. My kids LOVE both of these rides.
Tower of Terror is housed in the Hollywood Tower Hotel which was struck by lightning sending some guests from the elevator into the unknown. You get on the "elevator" and are routed around to the front of the hotel. Most of this part of the ride is in total darkness, so if that freaks you out, you may want to skip this one. Once you are at the front of the hotel, huge doors open and you can see a huge part of the park...right before you plummet 13 stories down! Then you are sprung back up and down, then up and down, etc. Other than the fact that your liver ends up somewhere in your nasal passages, this ride is a must do if you possibly can. Check the time board in front of the attraction and, if the wait time is a long time, you have 2 options. If you don't mind riding the ride by yourself (without the people you came with) you can enter the Single Rider line. This line always moves pretty fast as they fill every seat in that elevator. Or, if your party wants to stay together, get a FastPass. You simply go the FastPass kiosk for the ride, insert your park tickets and you will receive a pass with the time on it for you to return to the ride and get on with very minimal wait. Then you can go enjoy other parts of the park while waiting for your specified time.

The Rock 'N' Rollercoaster is a CRAZY coaster ride to the music of Aerosmith. I would love to go on this but my stomach just can't take it. The twins go on several times in a row and it never seems to bother them! They absolutely adore this ride!

A ride that is a bunch of fun but we have only made it onto twice is Toy Story Mania. Let me give you a very helpful piece of advice on this one. Get to the park as soon as it opens up and go STRAIGHT to this attraction. OR, if you can't get there first thing, get a FastPass AS SOON as you get to the park. This ride typically has a 1-2 hour wait time if you just get in line after the first hour or two the park has been open. If you wait too long to get a FastPass, you will be out of luck because the FastPasses ALWAYS run out early (sometimes before lunch). This is such a sweet and fun ride that you don't want to miss it!

The Backlot Tour is always a bunch of fun but be warned, you may get wet!

The Muppet Vision 3-D is a fun show for the whole family with all the beloved Muppets!

One can't miss attraction is Walt Disney: One Man's Dream. This is the story of Walt Disney. It features artifacts from his life, his personal drawings and sketches for Disneyland and Disney World and a sweet little movie about him starring Robin Williams. Even though we have seen it many times, we still notice new things each time.


Beauty and The Beast is a wonderful live show in an open air theater. Disney Jr. on Stage is a lot of fun for the little ones with shows by Jake and The Neverland Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and so on. My granddaughter was mesmerized by the animatronic puppets and the live actors. I was mesmerized by the fact that the building is air conditioned and I could sprawl out on the floor!

One show that you absolutely must see is the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. It stars Lightning McQueen from the movie Cars and is AWESOME! Even my 2 year old granddaughter was fascinated by it. The stunts that they perform are unbelievable and you should really try and see this one.

One show that I would love to see is Fantasmic but we never seem to be able to make it. The line tends to be pretty long unless you get there an hour before it starts and we are always trying to cram in as much "riding" as we can that we don't want to wait in line for an hour to get a good seat. This show fills FAST!!!! There are some Dine and View packages you could get that include dinner and a special reserved seating place for you but the last time we tried to do that, the packages were sold out. Someday, we will see it!

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is a quick paced stunt show that, if you get there early, you could be a part of. No Harrison Ford, though...Darn it!


We have 2 favorites here that we try and alternate each time we go. The 50's Prime Time Cafe is set around the kitchen table of the 50's. There are tv sets at each table showing clips of old black and white shows such as Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. "Mom" comes to the table and encourages you to eat your vegetables or no dessert for you. Once, my husband spilled his drink down the front of him and "Mom" brought him a Little Mermaid plastic bib! The food is old fashioned good stuff like Meatloaf and Pot Roast. The one thing I HAVE to get here is a Peanut Butter and Jelly Milkshake. This is the only time I EVER have one so I do NOT feel guilty!

The other restaurant we love is the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater. There is a huge movie screen and all the "tables" are actually convertibles that you sit in to eat, just like a drive in! The food is really good, too. They show really BBBAAADDDD horror movies like The Blob and Killer Tomatoes so it is a bunch of fun and not scary for the little ones.

If you prefer something a little high class, may I suggest the Brown Derby? Wonderful food in a great atmosphere reminiscent of the Hollywood "Golden Age".

There is so much to do and see at Hollywood Studios that I just don't have the space to get it all in.
Check out this site for all the info you could possibly need!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Warning About ParaNorman

Yesterday, we took the kids to see the movie ParaNorman. Big mistake. Not that the movie was terrible or anything (ok, it wasn't superb either), just NOT a movie for kids. Which I find a bit weird since it is a stop motion animated movie geared towards kids, rated PG and marketed towards kids. My kids will be 13 soon and I was cringing through quite a bit of the movie. The premise is that there is this kid, Norman, who sees and talks to dead people. That part was cute and funny. The not so cute and funny part? The humor contained A LOT of innuendo that I am uncomfortable with my kids seeing and hearing.

In one scene, there is a restaurant in the town called Witchy Weiners (the town is famous for executing a witch during the 1700's). Towards the end of the movie, when the zombies and townspeople are fighting, the "W" is no longer lit up on the sign so it reads Itchy Weiners. I was hoping the kids didn't notice it but my son elbowed me in the ribs about it.

In another scene, the school bully complains to Norman about being stuck in the Town Hall Records room when there is an Adult Video Store just down the street.

The most shocking scene to me was at the end when Norman's scantily clad sister was making a move on the jock by trying to get him to take her on a date and he responds with "You'll love my boyfriend. He's into chick flicks." Really?
A gay teenager in a kids movie? It was so out of place and uncalled for.

The movie had some funny parts but I was completely irritated at the bad choices that were made concerning the content of this film. In another scene, grandma calls her son a "jackass". IN A KID'S MOVIE!!!!

I wish someone had told me these things before I took my kids because I NEVER would have taken them. The movie trailer that has been showing in the theaters didn't show any inappropriateness at all. I was surprised by the things in this film and I don't shock or surprise easily. Save yourself the money, time and your children's innocence and forget about this one!

Due to the fact that a few people have left some very nasty comments about this particular post, I will no longer be allowing comments on it. I completely understand if my view of this movie is not yours. We all have our own opinions but, because this is MY blog, MY opinions are the ones that I will write about. I welcome any discussion as long as the commentors can act like an adult.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is Disney's latest theme park at Disney World. It opened in 1998 and is known for its care of endangered animals and its strides in land/animal conservation. My daughter absolutely adores this park! She is an animal FREAK!

As soon as you walk through the entrance, you are surrounded by animals. They line the walkways and there are various stopping points for you to read about them or ask a cast member (All Disney employees are called cast members).

There are 7 different areas around the park that have to do with a different spot on the globe. My kids favorite area is Asia because that is where the Expedition Everest ride is. Don't get me wrong, I love a good roller coaster. However, my stomach can't handle it like it used to. I went on it once and that was enough for me! The kids go on it several times in a row and always seem to keep their lunch!

If I had to pick just one attraction to see, it would have to be the Kilimanjaro Safari Expedition. You get into big open air safari trucks and take a trip through the African Savannah. You get to see all kinds of animals in their natural habitat (you and they are protected, of course). We saw a lion, elephants, hippos, an over eager ostrich (we were too close to her egg), warthogs, giraffes, zebras, antelopes and so many others that I cannot even remember them all. There are pictures and names of all the animals in front of all the seats on the truck. Disney has done a fantastic job of recreating the African Savannah for these animals, many of whom would have been poached years ago. While on this ride, you may actually be able to stop some poachers!!!
Seriously, I don't know why I cut his head off!

I want to say these are Kudu's but I can't remember for sure.

Probably the most famous aspect of this park is the Tree of Life. It is a huge man made tree that stands so tall, you can see it from just about anywhere in the park. Underneath the tree, is the It's Tough To Be A Bug attraction. This is one of those 3-D attractions with a few surprises thrown in. Be warned that this can be very scary for the youngest children. I took the twins when they were 4 and even though my daughter liked it, my son is still scared of it and he's almost 13! He will kill me for posting that! It is very cool though and, if your kids are a bit older, please don't miss this one. The line cue is entertaining in itself because, as you wind around the tree, there are all kinds of animals carved into the roots. It's fun to see who can identify the most. Before you know it, everyone in line around you will be playing too!

Eating at the park is pretty easy. There are several restaurants on site and Rainforest Cafe is here too. It sits right at the entrance and they are open for breakfast. Years ago, I had the best banana french toast there. If you have little ones, you can't go wrong at Pizzafari or Restaurantasaurus. If you are looking for a character dining experience, try Tusker House. It has a buffet with African influence in the food. Don't worry, there's no "weird" food.

There are 2 must see stage shows that I would recommend however I have only seen one of them. Everytime we have gone, we just haven't been able to get to Festival of the Lion King but I have heard wonderful things about it and everyone who has seen it, enjoys it. The other show is Finding Nemo-The Musical. This is so adorable. Even hubby liked it. Live actors play the parts and they really bring the movie to life. The costumes are great and the songs will stick in your head all day! Big plus? The theater is AIR CONDITIONED!!!!

Another fun section for the little ones is Conservation Station and the Affection Section. You take the train to Conservation Station where you get a behind the scenes look at how the park cares for the animals. At the Affection Section, you get to pet goats, chickens, lambs and other little animals. Be careful where you walk or you'll be cleaning poop off your toddler's shoes.

There is so much else to see at this park. Please visit Animal Kingdom for lots more info!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney is a huge entertainment complex on the grounds of Walt Disney World. It is kind of like a huge outdoor mall only better! Not only are there tons of shops to purchase anything and everything Disney, there is also a movie theater, every kind of restaurant imaginable, a live show theater (Cirque Du Soleil) and Disney Quest which is a virtual world gaming arena. Since there are hundreds of different stores and such, I will only highlight some of my favorites.

This was a few years ago outside the Christmas Store
Don't you just love Christmas trees and shorts???

I love to kick off any trip to Downtown Disney with a stop at the Christmas Store. It is one of the first stores you come to after the Disney resort buses drop you off. It is always decorated for Christmas (duh!) and it gets me in the mood for the holidays, even if it is January and I am still in Christmas Recovery Mode. The ornaments are beautiful and you can have engraving and embroidery done to personalize your stuff.

My favorite store is World of Disney. Let me tell you, it's HUGE! You can find ANYTHING here. Clothes? Oh yes. Kitchen items? You betcha. Fine jewelry? But of course! Need to get a stuffed Mickey or a princess costume? This is the place. Need to look like a princess? The Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique can transform you into the princess of your choice. It is all here! I swear I could wander for days in this place. Warning: only take as much money as you can afford to spend because this store makes it REAL easy to splurge.too.much! Not that I would know ANYTHING about that....

Have you noticed the trend our young ladies are sporting on their feet? You know, the whole miss matched socks? Well, there is a store here called Little MissMatched and this is where they get them. It is quite the store and quite the idea. They sell socks in a pack of 3 and they are not identical. They coordinate but are NOT the same.  My favorite socks are the flip flop socks. During the winter, I wear my flip flops in the house. My feet get cold but I am not a fan of shoes so I wear socks with my flip flops. (I am so not a fashionista!) These socks have a separate compartment for your big toe so you don't have to look stupid creasing your socks with your flip flops. As if wearing socks with flip flops isn't stupid enough! Okay, I don't wear them in public....usually.

Lego Land. Actually I have no idea what the name of this store is but we have always called it lego land so that is what it shall be. Do you like legos? Who doesn't?! I LOVE to play with them. This store has sets upon sets upon sets of legos to buy. Don't feel like spending money on them? Right outside the store is a play area that has bins full of legos for you to create your masterpieces with. My germ-a-phobia prevents me from playing with the contaminated little things but, if your packing some germ-x (and who isn't these days) I say live a little and build that castle.

If my favorite store is World of Disney then my next favorite is Basin. This is the store that my daughter and I plan to spend most of our spending money at. My husband and son usually get a snack and sit outside so we are free to explore at a nice leisurely pace (or until the snack runs out). This is the place for bath bombs, shampoo bars, salt/sugar scrubs, facial products (all natural), bath salts and the cutest bars of soaps. We always buy some bath bombs to use in the jacuzzi tub at the resort. They smell soooooo good and turn your bath water funky colors. My favorite is the Patchouli scented one. This store is so much fun to be a girl in!


Once you have shopped till you dropped you need to refuel and Downtown Disney has some really great restaurants. You can get anything from quick sandwiches to gourmet meals. My kids 2 favorite places to eat are T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe. Both restaurants are themed very cleverly. Rainforest Cafe is filled with elephants, monkeys, birds, gorillas and such and every 20 minutes they have a "thunderstorm". The lights dim, the rain starts and the thunder roars. Very cool. T-Rex has themed rooms, our favorite being the Ice Age room. The walls are covered in "ice" and the lighting changes every few minutes. Just outside the dining room is a Build-A-Dino store just in case you have extra money burning a hole in your pocket.  The food at both of these restaurants is very good and they keep the kids entertained long enough for the adults to have a conversation.
Dino in the "ice wall" at T-Rex

Last year, we dined at Wolfgang Puck's. Oh.My.Goodness!!! It was the best dinner I have ever eaten.
Everything from the decor to the service to the food was outstanding. I highly recommend this restaurant!

Another favorite of ours is the House of Blues. Really good food (my fave is the rueben!)and the decor is so cool. They also have a Sunday Gospel Brunch that is very popular.
Ceiling at House of Blues. Each square has the face of a famous musician.
This is a little better shot of the ceiling.

An oldie but a goodie is Fulton's Crabhouse. The food is okay but the ambience is what you will visit for. The restaurant is on the water and is fashioned like an old riverboat. Many, many years ago, it was called the Empress Tiger Lily. I can't remember what I had for lunch today but I can remember something from 20 years ago! Go figure!

One restaurant to avoid is Cap'n Jacks. Everytime we have eaten there, the food has been awful. The menu is tired and apparently so is the chef! Disney needs to revamp this one.


Once you have refueled the old tank so to speak, it's time to have a little fun. There are so many things to do, it's hard to pick just a few to highlight. My favorite is the Cirque Du Soleil show called La Nouba. It is a high energy, acrobatic, high flying good time. I am simply amazed at what people can do with their bodies. The performers do everything from balancing stunts to flying over the audience. It is one show that will entertain and engage young and old alike.

We have never done this but they have a huge movie theater here and I believe they have food service while you watch the movie. How cool to see a Disney movie in Disney World!

The ultimate good time would be had at Disney Quest. Five floors of virtual reality fun. We have only been one time when our oldest kids were younger so I don't remember a whole lot but I do know that we all had a good time!

This has been a very brief overview of Downtown Disney. There is so much more than what I have talked about. I didn't mention Pleasure Island because it is the "bar" area and we don't go there. They do have live shows there occasionally and some shopping but I don't know a whole lot about it. For your own look at Downtown Disney, please vist Walt Disney World/Downtown Disney

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Almost Vacation Time

Yes, my dear friends, it is almost vacation time for our family. One BIG perk of homeschooling is being able to pick up and go when it is convenient for hubby and his business instead of during the summer break when EVERYBODY is trying to get away. September is hubby's slow month so it is the best time for us to go somewhere. Our favorite family vacation getaway is Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Growing up in Florida, only 3 hours south of Disney, meant we spent A LOT of time there. There were some years that we went 3-4 times but we always went at least 1-2 times a year once hubby and I got married.  When we moved to GA and the trip became 7 hours instead of 3, our Disney trips became a bit more infrequent. On my 40th birthday, we spent a week at Disney and bought into the Disney Vacation Club. We had previously belonged to it when we lived in FL but sold out when we moved to GA.  If you do not know what the DVC is, it is kind of like a time share but you don't have a specific time each year that you have to use it. You can go whenever you want and the resorts that are used for the DVC accomodations are outstanding. We usually stay at the Old Key West resort and almost always get a 2 bedroom condo (unless I am taking the kids by myself and we make do with a 1 bedroom). These DVC resorts are all on the Disney property so you can take advantage of all the goodies you get when you stay on property as opposed to staying in a non-Disney hotel. The condos all come with a full kitchen and laundry room which is great for us because we always eat at least one meal in the room and I HATE bringing home dirty laundry!

This trip was supposed to be a surprise for the twins but my mom accidentally gave it away. She was so upset about it because I had been planning it since February and had kept everything a complete secret from the twins. That is a big deal for me because I am lousy with secrets! I couldn't be too mad at her, though. I do still have some surprises for them concerning the trip.

The biggest surprise is that we will be seeing the Cirque Du Soleil show "La Nouba". I have wanted to take them to it for many years but we have never had the money for tickets until this year. Hubby and I went once, when I was pregnant with the twins, and were completely blown away by the show. It is amazing what the human body can do with proper training! If you have never seen this show, I cannot stress to you enough how awesome it is. You will NOT be disappointed!

Since Disney is the "Happiest Place on Earth" and my favorite place to be, I will be doing some posts on Disney Must Sees, Disney on a Dime and the benefits of the Disney Vacation Club.

Stay tuned!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Pool Deck

Since we got a new pool last month, the need for a deck around it has been overwhelming. Hubby was going to hire someone to do it but that was just too much money so he decided we would do it ourselves. Kinda like how we do everything. It is a blessing and a curse to be married to someone who knows how to build ANYTHING. He can build it and WE are his work crew (whether willing or not)! We have done quite well if I do say so myself. Here are some photos of our progress.

Here is the pool right after it was finished and filled. It sits about 8 feet from our existing porch.

This is the extension deck that is currently underway.

We had 2 steps made out of brick that had been crumbling so we thought they would be easy to take out so we could put in a support beam. WRONG! It took 4 people, 3 hours and 2 sledge hammers to get those stupid bricks and concrete blocks out!

This picture shows the floor joists all the way to the pool. We're cooking now!

This is where we are right now. We have enough decking done so that we can walk outside and get to the backyard and pool without having to act like an Olympic hurdler! We are about 1/4 of the way done with the decking and 3/4 of the way done with all the support beams. We had to stop building those because we ran out of boards. Hubs forgot to double a number or he added wrong when he was figuring up his materials list. The work has gone pretty well considering one of the days was so hot that we only worked for about 4 hours and another rained off and on all day. What is in these pictures is about 3 days worth of work. Not too shabby.
We will be doing some more remodeling to the back of the house once the deck is done. Can't wait to share those plans with you!

Sharing at The Prairie Homestead

Stuffed Meatball Subs

Something weird has been happening to my taste buds lately. They're changing. Why? I don't know but they are definitely different. I know this because my son has been eating a lot of my sandwiches lately. What does that have to do with my taste buds? I'll tell you. For some reason, every time I make a sandwich that I really think I want, I take one bite and it is NOT something I want. The whole taste makes me sick. Really. One day I made 3 different sandwiches, thinking I just didn't like that particular sandwich. Nope, I couldn't stomach any of them. So the boy ate them. ALL of them. He's 12, eats anything that isn't nailed down and still only weighs 155 lbs. I really dislike his ability to do that. But I digress. The point is that previously loved sandwiches make me ill now so I have to find something else to fill that midday meal requirement.

Enter...The stuffed sub. Oh yeah, baby. This sandwich rocks! But it is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for those who only eat like birds. No, this is a MAN sandwich. Except us girls loved it too!

Okay, this first thing I did was mix up a batch of my french bread dough. I let it do its first rise. While it was rising, I took Pioneer Woman's Comfort Meatballs out of the fridge (I had defrosted them the other day and needed to use them up). I stuck them in a large ziplock with a little flour, shook em up and dumped them into a hot skillet to cook em up a bit. I cooked them a little more through for this recipe than I do when I follow Pioneer Woman's recipe because these won't cook in the oven as long. So once I got the meatballs all done, I took my bread dough, punched it down and divided it into 4 pieces simply because I was feeding 4 people. Each piece made about a foot long sub. I took a piece of dough and rolled it out into a flat rectangle. I then took some sauce (a can of tomato sauce, a small can of tomato paste and a can of diced tomatoes simmered for a little while with whatever spices you have handy)and spooned it on to the dough right down the center. I didn't use a ton, probably a bit less than 1/4 cup. Then I took a 4th of the meatballs and put them over the sauce and put a hardy sprinkling of shredded mozzarella over that. Then I pulled the dough up over the cheese and pinched the seams together and put it on a  parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down. I baked them at 350 for about 25 minutes, just until the dough was nice and browned. I served them with the left over sauce so we could do some dippin' and, man o man, they were sensational!

I'm getting hungry just looking at this picture!

Sharing at The Praire Homestead

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This Morning...

I was coming off the high of yesterday's first day back at homeschooling going off without a hitch when the universe decided to conspire against my family. It all started about 4:30 this morning. I got up to...ya know...relieve myself and when I got back into bed, I thought I heard a car horn. So I drug my half asleep self to the door to see if anything was going on outside. Nothing, but something felt a little off. Couldn't put my finger on what so I went back to bed but didn't fall back asleep until after 5:30. When the alarm went off at 6, I was not a happy person so I stayed in bed until hubby got showered and dressed. In one of those moods, I went about getting myself ready. Hubby's office is on the property so he doesn't have a very long commute to work so I was wondering why he was already calling me from the office. Our conversation went something like this: Me: Hello? Him: Flood, bring towels and anything to soak up water! Me: crap! I am not in a talkative mood when I'm sleepy.
So I get the kids and all the towels I can find and head next door to the office which is also my laundry room. The significance of that little fact will be revealed now. Remember when I said that something didn't feel right when I got up to check on that horn? Well, last night I set the washer on delay so that it would have the towels washed before I got up so I could start them drying first thing this morning. It would have been washing about 4:30 this morning. Apparently, the valve that connects the hoses to the water line got a pinhole in it and was spraying water! Well, not all over the whole office. Just all over my dad's desk, phone books, maps, computer, phone, notes, paper. I might add that his desk is made of plywood that hubby built and backs up to my washer. The walls are covered in pine boards that we got locally and the floor has laminate wood flooring where the desks are and carpet where the washer and dryer are. This was NOT what I wanted to wake up to. I didn't even get a cup of coffee until after the bulk of the clean up was done. We moved everything out that could be moved and cut out the carpet that was ruined. Fortunately, dad's desk was ok because hubby sealed it when he built it and I hung up his books and papers in front of a fan to help dry them. The wood floor will have to be pulled up. It was already buckling when hubby walked in. He was so cute (pathetic) when he told me that he was walking up to the door when he saw all this water in front of the door. He thought we got some rain last night until he realized that the water was coming from under the door ON THE INSIDE! So, we got all of that cleaned up so they could work and about an hour later, hubby comes to the kitchen and gets a bottle of whiskey out of the pantry. That can only mean one thing. What ELSE happened??? He was sitting in his office chair and heard a pop. The thing always makes weird noises so he didn't think too much of it until the chair threw him out onto the floor. He had just finished telling the boys "I don't know how else today could get much worse". You know God was sitting there giggling as He showed him how it could get worse! Needless to say, today did not get off to a great start. But you know what? I finally did get that coffee. That ugly carpet in the office will finally get replaced and now we have some motivation to move stuff around in there so we can fit the new guy hubby is hiring. So, I guess things aren't quite as bad as they seem before coffee. I am certainly NOT going to ask how they could get worse! Thank you Lord for helping me see the positive instead of focusing so much on the negative.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Crafting

*sniff* This is the last dvd in the series that I have to review. Yes, sad day :(
However, I do have to say that this video got my creative juices flowing. That is really saying something because I am not all that creative!
My favorite part of this dvd was the potpourri tutorial. Now, I do not have potpourri in my house, nor do I buy it but I'll be doggoned if their "recipe" wasn't so extrememly simple and gorgeous that I may just have to make this and use it for our homemade Christmas this year! They take everyday things that you would find on a walk in the woods or even your own garden and turn it in to something beautiful and useful. I love projects like that.
There are so many good ideas in this dvd. Hand printed napkins, bird feeders, dipped pine cones, and so much more. Like I said, I am NOT creative but, if I see something, I can replicate it. I just can't come up with it on my own. This video gave me PLENTY of ideas of things to make for myself and others. I will be watching this one several times!

So, I hope you have enjoyed the reviews for the Homestead Blessings series. I know I have enjoyed watching (and yes rewatching) these dvd's and they have been a 'blessing' to me. I hope they will be a blessing to you as well. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Soapmaking

In the blogging world, soapmaking is a HUGE topic. Everyone is making their own hand soap, dish soap, body wash, etc. This dvd shows you several different soaps from everyday soaps to decorative soaps to soap balls and hand milled soaps. The only thing about the soaps that keeps nagging at me is the fact that they use lye in their basic soap recipe. Now, I know years ago, lye was used in just about all the soap. However, I have seen some articles about the dangers of lye and it makes me think twice about wanting to use it in my soap. I will have to do more research on that before I make these soaps. Now I do have to say that Vicki's decorative soaps are adorable. They would make fine gifts for friends and family or you could make them to sell at craft fairs or farmers markets for a little extra cash.  Ka-ching!!!
This was a very informative video and they show you every step you need to know to make this yourself. If it wasn't for the lye aspect, I would be making all these soaps pronto! Christmas is coming and homemade is the theme this year!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Quilting

This is one of my favorites! I have been wanting to learn to quilt for ages now. This dvd gives so many tips, ideas and encouragement that I don't know where to begin. They take you from planning your design (with lots of tips and shortcuts!) to cutting your blocks (again, lots of helpful hints) to piecing them together and assembling them to the quilting, backing and binding part. By the time you follow all the steps, you will have a beautiful, useful, HOMEMADE quilt! They show you everything you need to know to make your very own quilt. There are also segments on making comforters and pot holders, too. Plus, a little bonus project. This is a VERY informative dvd that I am sure I will watch dozens of times to glean everything I can. In one of the bonus features, you even get a peek into an old fashioned quilting bee. I am starting to get the idea that there isn't anything that these ladies cannot do!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Candle Making

I have yet to come across anyone who doesn't like candles. The glow they give off is so relaxing and, if they are scented, they smell sooooo good. I am a major candle freak. I love to have one burning in the house throughout the day to make things smell nice and who doesn't love candlelit dinners????
This dvd shows you the basics of candle making. They make beautiful tapers among other shapes. One thing I just didn't realize about candle making was just how much wax you need. They have a very large can (maybe a gallon can) filled with melted beeswax and more in another pan heating for replenishing the larger can. The steps for making tapered candles seem very simple. Heat the very large container of beeswax, cut your wick and weight it with a small washer or something then dip in wax. Hang for 30 seconds. Dip again. Hang for 30 seconds. Dip again....See a pattern developing. They couldn't agree on exactly how many dips it took to get the tapers at the right thickness but they all agreed it was a bunch. Once they got them to the right thickness, they twisted some together to make beautiful double candles. Now, I am not sure that you will save any money making these candles but it is a useful skill to have. Later in the video, Vicki shows you how to make ornaments using the wax. This is something you could do and sell or give away as gifts. At the end, Vicki and Jasmine show you a way to make a wax globe that is utterly gorgeous. They use a balloon filled with water and dip it in the wax SEVERAL times. The water in the balloon keeps the balloon from exploding when you dip it in the hot wax. After it is dipped enough, they pop the balloon and you have a beautiful globe that you can either fill with more wax and put a wick in to make a candle or you can leave it hollow and use a tea light in it. Either way, they are fantastic.
If you are a crafty person or just someone who likes to make things yourself, this is a great dvd for you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Gardening

With the way the world is going these days, gardening is taking on a whole new meaning. It isn't something only our grandparents did and we are planting much more than flowers. In this dvd, the West Ladies bring you to their home garden. And what a garden it is! I don't remember if they say exactly how many acres they garden on but I can tell you it's a bunch! I think they grow just about everything that will grow in their area. They show you how they grow veggies (and some flowers)in raised beds and in containers, potatoes in the potato patch, composting and so much more. I really like the segment on potatoes because I have been wanting to grow some but wasn't sure how to do it since you don't "bury" the potato in soil. CeCe and Hannah planted a whole row of potatoes in a matter of minutes simply by putting down newspaper, then the potatoes, then covering them with straw. So simple. I also loved the composting section. I want to make a compost pile but, when you read about that on the internet, so many people make it sound complicated. "You must have a perfect balance of 'green' to 'brown' stuff or your compost will not work", "you must work it everyday for a year before you can use it" blah blah blah. These ladies show you that composting is very close to idiot proof. Like Vicki West says, it is all gonna rot anyway no matter how much or how little you put in. I also thought it was so funny that 2 of her girls are barefoot throughout the dvd. Shoes are a hard thing to keep on my girl, too!
Watch this dvd and you will be inspired to garden, too!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Our School Schedule

It is almost that time again. Yes, we will be starting our homeschooling again next Monday, the 13th. What is it about the beginning of school that gets me all into my organizational mode?? I love all the planning and the schedule making. Sometimes, we even FOLLOW the schedule! I thought I would post our TENTATIVE school schedule so you could see how we do it here.

7 am     Twin's wake up, get dressed. Take dogs out and feed them, feed cats and let chickens out of
             the coop and take care of personal hygiene (brush teeth, hair, etc)
8 am     Start personal chores such as making beds, bringing dirty clothes to laundry room, 
            straighten up rooms. Eat breakfast.
9-9:30  Bible Time-they read independently the whole time.

   11:30 School Lessons

    1 pm  Lunch, clean up, quiet time

1-3         Finish Lessons
3-4         Each one practices piano for 30 minutes while the other finishes projects or has free time
4-6:30   Afternoon chores (Not many now but will increase once we get more farm animals)
              Free time.
    7:30  Dinner and dishes
7:30-8   Showers
8-9        Family tv time (will probably be family swim time until it gets cool out so showers will
             get done afterwards)
9 pm     Bed time

Now, will our days look like this all the time? Uh, no. I am hoping that they will loosely resemble this schedule more often than not. As we actually get going, we will alter the schedule and change things that don't work but isn't that one of the great things about homeschooling? Our schedule is configured for OUR family, not a whole school district! We can change things to suit what we are doing at the time without having to get permission from anyone. I love that!!!! Not to mention that I know exactly what my kids are learning because I am right there teaching them. I really don't know why I didn't start homeschooling from the beginning but I have done it since 4th grade (they are starting 7th this year) and I would highly recommend this to ALL parents. Plus, look at how much time I get to spend with my kids. This is time that I will never have again so I am taking full advantage of it!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Herbs

Sad, sad day....I watched the last of my Homestead Blessings dvd's :(  Of course I can always re-watch them and I definitely will, but it just isn't the same. I really wish they would do more dvd's. Anyway, this one was really good. See, I really want to grow herbs but I really just don't know much about them. After watching this video, I feel pretty sure it is something I can and will do. I just have to say that the West's gardens are glorious!! Nothing fancy, just simple raised beds and rows but it just looks so inviting. This dvd was filmed in their herb garden and they show you the herbs that they grow and give you tips about growing, harvesting and preserving them. They do a section on making herb butters, herb vinegars and an herb tonic. They also show an extremely simple way to make herbal teas. I honestly had no idea it was so easy! I like that they use herbs, not only for cooking, but for medicinal purposes too. I would much rather use herbs that have centuries worth of history of working then use some man made chemical concoction that could harm me or my family more than it could help. Another thing I loved about this dvd is that it gave me some wonderful ideas for Christmas gifts this year. Eventually, we would like our Christmases to be almost completely homemade. Most of the dvd's in this collection suggest things you could make as gifts that would be so wonderful to give family and friends.
Even though this is the last dvd that I had to watch, I still have some more to do reviews on. Guess I will just have to watch them again to, you know, get them fresh in my mind!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Random Things Around the Farm

I was going through some photos on my computer and I thought I would share some. No particular reason, just wanted to share. Hope you enjoy!

Hubby and I were mowing the grass together one evening. I was in Big Green (the tractor) and he was zipping around on Mini Green (our new 0 turn radius mower). We were both mowing in the same section and when I turned and came back for another pass, I saw he mowed a heart in the grass for me. What a sweetie! Of course I had my phone with me so I snapped a pic of his sweetness!!

A few days later, I was mowing around some of the pecan trees in the pasture and everytime I passed by this little fella (a baby bluejay I believe) he would watch me, then promply close his eyes when I passed by. After a few passes, he decided I was making entirely too much noise so he hopped away to find someplace quieter to nap.

This is my pathetic attempt at growing carrots. Yes folks, this is supposed to be a carrot. We have very dense clay soil and I bought seeds specifically for clay soils but this is what all of them look like. The only thing worse than my carrot growing abilities is my photography of said carrots!

This is my dog Lilly. She knows she is not supposed to be on the bed but I caught her one morning when I was going to make the bed. She stuck her head under the pillow as soon as I walked in. Bad doggie!!!

I don't even remember what month I took this in. Probably May or maybe beginning of June. Whenever it was, it was the LAST nice morning we had. I was enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee on the porch and it was so beautiful out. Now I have to enjoy my hot coffee sitting in front of a fan so I don't melt! (If you look closely, you can see the tan line on my ankles! Farmer tan for legs!)

This was the only thing I found beautiful at Walmart that day!

Well, there you have it. Just some pics I had in the ole computer.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review-Homestead Blessings-The Art of Sewing

Growing up, no one I knew could sew. When I was in my early teens, the bug bit me and I set out to teach myself. This was back in the olden days. You know, before the internet! I hung out at our local Ben Franklin store and oogled the patterns, sewing notions and fabrics. When I was about 15, my mom bought me my first sewing machine. I was in love. I had the darndest time trying to figure it out but I kept on trying. I never really produced anything more than a pillow, I think. It has only been in the last 5-6 years that I have really learned how to use that sewing machine (yes, I still have it and it runs beautifully). Even though I haven't turned out any clothing, other than an old fashioned prairie dress for my daughter when she was in 1st grade and needed a costume, I can whip up some curtains or aprons in no time flat! I really want to learn how to do more. My daughter wants to learn how to make some skirts and I would love to do some quilting. This particular dvd really makes sewing look quite easy. I love how they explain everything they are doing and give you tips to make things go easier. They start off showing you how to make a pillow, pillowcase and blanket for a doll. If you have daughters or granddaughters, this is an awesome skill to possess! Then they move on to making an adorable blanket that is kind of quilt-like. Then it is on to skirts and tops. All along the way, you get to see step-by-step what they are doing and talking about. I love that they are so joyful in sharing this skill that, again, is obvious they have grown up doing. We have lost such an appreciation for the home arts, relegating them to simple drudgery that must be done. I prefer to think of these skills as the necessary tools that I need to have in order to be good at my "job" which is taking care of my home and family. Why do some people look down on that???? Anyway, this is just another wonderful dvd that I have found so informative. If you are a seasoned seamstress, there probably isn't much you will glean from it but, if you're like me and don't have a firm foundation in sewing, this is something that you will find helpful. One thing they show you that I never thought about was transferring patterns (you know, those tissue paper ones that are almost impossible to use without ripping!)to fabric if you are going to be using them quite a bit. The fabric pattern can then be pinned or even just stuck to the fabric you are cutting out depending on what type of fabric you are using. I really enjoy watching these dvd's (and rewatching them) and I know you will too.