Saturday, April 19, 2014

Disney's Animal Kingdom Top Five

My second day of vacation was spent at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This was only my third time ever in DAK. The last time I was here was 2009, and on that morning I took The Backstage Safari Tour, which is one of the coolest things I've EVER done. I was looking forward to making some new memories on this trip, so here are my DAK Top Five Moments from 2014!!!

#5: Getting My Picture Taken in Front of the Tree of Life
I really wanted to be in a lot of the pictures from this trip, and I got several character pictures on my Epcot day. But I think I walked past the Photopass photographer who was taking pictures by the Tree of Life AT LEAST four times before working up the nerve to get my picture taken! I am really self-conscious, but once I started there was no stopping me!

#4: Meeting Dug and Russell
This was probably the meet and greet I was most excited about! And I almost missed it due to poor planning. But I got it all I figured out eventually! Squirrel!!

#3: Misbehaving Addax
The first thing I did after walking through the gates was head to Kilimanjaro Safari. I love this with every fiber of my being!! At one point, our driver had to stop for a good long time because the Addax (the animal in the photo below) were chasing each other around, and kept running in front of our ride vehicle! I had no idea they would get that close and it was so fun to watch!

#2: Character Breakfast at Tusker House
I booked this reservation on the spur of the moment after reading multiple positive reviews over on the Dis. And I was not disappointed! The food was yummy and the character interaction was top notch! I got to meet Mickey, Goofy, Daisy, and Donald!

#1: Finding Nemo -- The Musical
On my two previous trips to DAK, I wasn't able to fit this show in. I bypassed it both times in favor of "Legend of the Lion King". I was determined to see it this time, which was made easier by the fact that FotL was being moved/refurbished and wasn't open. The music was a LOT of fun and it was made even more special after the fact when the composing team, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, won the Oscar that weekend for Let it Go!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

EPCOT Top Five

I can't believe it's been six weeks already since I left for my amazing solo trip to Walt Disney World! Oh my gosh, I miss it SO MUCH!!!! I had such an amazing trip in such a short time!

I'm going to do a four-part best-of series of posts about my trip... one post for each park. My plan is to list my top five favorite things from this trip that happened in each park. I have an ongoing, in-depth trip report that I'm writing over on the Dis boards. If you're interested in reading that, you can check it out by clicking right here!!.

Here is what my schedule looked like:
Sunday, Feb 23 -- EPCOT
Monday, Feb 24 -- Disney's Animal Kingdom
Tuesday, Feb 25 -- Disney's Hollywood Studios
Wednesday, Feb 26 -- Magic Kingdom

No, it was not nearly enough time to do everything I wanted. But I had SO MUCH FUN. I'm hoping to be able to go for Christmas in 2015. We'll see what happens. I'm still in full-on Disney mode and I never want to lose this feeling. So without further ado, I present my EPCOT Top Five!

#5: Lunch at Sunshine Seasons
This could be because it was my first experience on the Disney Dining Plan. It could just be that I was really hungry. Who knows?! But I had a delicious turkey and Monterey Jack sandwich on focaccia bread with strawberry shortcake for dessert. That dessert was ah-mazing!

#4: My First Pin Trade. Ever!
When my sister and her family went to WDW last year, she said my niece really got into the pin trading thing and she thought I would enjoy it as well. So she got me a pin set with the instructions that I could keep some of them, but I had to trade some too. So my first pin trade was actually also at Sunshine Seasons. They had a board out, and I picked a cute Princess Tiana pin. Now I am totally addicted!

#3: The American Adventure
This was my first experience with the show inside the United States pavilion and I'm glad I didn't skip it! I'm not a huge history buff, but I do enjoy it. And I'm definitely an American patriot! So this was really awesome for me.

#2: Soarin'
I got to experience the new FP+ system on this trip, and I liked it a lot. I never would have been able to show up at Epcot in the early afternoon and go on Soarin' without it. So YAY!!! This is one of my favorite rides and it didn't disappoint! I love the orange grove scent and the feeling of... well... soaring!

#1: Duffy the Disney Bear
I wanted to meet a lot of characters on this trip, and the first one I met was Duffy. I had no clue who he was, but the line was short so I popped into it. Before you actually get to see Duffy, there are storyboards explaining who he is. I totally fell in love!

What is your favorite thing about EPCOT?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

In Which I Rank the Best Picture Nominees

I am BACK from my wonderful four day trip to Walt Disney World!!! It was absolutely amazing and I will post about it soon. But right now, I'm getting excited for tomorrow... because tomorrow is OSCAR DAY!!!!

As per usual, I've seen all nine movies nominated for Best Picture. So here is my ranking... worst to first.

9. 'The Wolf of Wall Street'
In addition to this being a movie that unapologetically celebrated the sleaze of one completely unremorseful man... I thought it was incredibly boring. Not only will I be incredibly angry if it wins, I will be equally as angry if Leo wins Best Actor. He's done some amazing work in the past which he wasn't recognized for. If the Academy decides to reward him for a performance that just came across as overly caffeinated, I won't be impressed.

8. '12 Years a Slave'
I think this was a very important story to tell. And I think they did a good job with it. Sometimes, they did too good of a job and it made me question if some of the actors were actually... acting. I came home from seeing this and went to bed early and could barely sleep. It wrecked me. I have a hard time celebrating performances based on something so horrible. But I absolutely understand why it's nominated and I expect it to win.

7. 'Her'
This was a weird one. Although I thought ScarJo was pretty amazing without ever being on camera. The premise was interesting, but I didn't like the way it all played out. As far as movies about relationships with fake people go, I much preferred 'Lars and the Real Girl'. That was a charming movie. This one was... just odd. But again, I kind of understand why it was nominated. It's unique enough that I wasn't really surprised by the nomination.

6. 'Gravity'
This is ranked at #7 simply because I don't feel that movies should need gimmicks to win Best Picture awards. The movie was stunning... in 3D. I just don't think it has the same appeal in 2D. I fully expect this to win in several other categories (and deservedly so.)

5. 'American Hustle'
I enjoyed this, but don't think it's Best Picture worthy. 'Saving Mr Banks' or 'The Butler' should have been given this spot.

4. 'Philomena'
A very touching movie and a powerful performance by Judi Dench.

3. 'Nebraska'
I absolutely loved this movie. I don't think it has any chance of winning, but I would love to see June Squibb take the Best Supporting Actress award. This was such a sweet movie and I loved Bruce Dern's performance as an innocent, trusting man who wanted to see the good in people.

2. 'Captain Phillips'
Outstanding. Tense. Tom Hanks was robbed.

1. 'Dallas Buyers Club'
Until I saw this, 'Captain Phillips' was my choice and it's really hard to even compare the two. But this one gets my vote. It had all the elements of a Best Picture movie... humor, sadness, fantastic acting. I don't think this will win, but I am definitely pulling for Matthew AND Jared. I think Jared is the closest thing to a shoo-in this year, and I think Matthew has the momentum to be awarded.

I personally think '12 Years' is going to win. Not my choice by any stretch of the imagination but I'll be surprised if it doesn't win.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I'm Not a Doctor...

... but I play one on the intranet.

When I signed up for the Holly Jolly 5K, my registration fee entitled me to a three-month subscription to three different magazines. I'm a huge magazine junkie, so I jumped on it... knowing that I would need to cancel said subscriptions in three months to avoid being charged for the actual subscription.

I was excited to be able to choose People as one of my options. Last week's issue focused on people who had lost a significant amount of weight through natural methods (in other words, no surgery). I love reading these stories and I was thrilled to see that one of the individuals features on the cover was Sharee Hansen from Funeral for My Fat. I pop onto tumblr every now and then and I love her site, although I prefer following her through her Facebook page. I just find tumblr to be off-putting for some reason. Anyway, her story is incredibly motivating. If you have any interest in a healthy lifestyle I encourage you to check her out.

The entire issue was excellent. Until I came across the article about celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito. He's lost some weight recently and has a new diet book out. This is the blurb that accompanied a picture of the book. Like I said in my post title... I am NOT a doctor. Nor am I an expert on anything health related (with the possible exception of side effects of MS medication :p) But this disturbs me so badly. 850 calories a day? Your body burns more than that just by being alive. If you ask me (which I realize nobody did), this is an eating disorder waiting to happen. It's only for a month, but I have a really hard time accepting that this is healthy and an even harder time knowing that people are making money off this "plan".

Okay, rant over. Time for some HAPPY news! Which I desperately needed, as it's been a rough couple weeks for me and for SO many people I know. My favorite Disney-related blog, Disney in Your Day, teamed up with an Etsy shop called Enchanted Bridal for a giveaway/contest. The shop owner was looking for some new design ideas and I'm sooo excited to tell you that I got an email earlier that I won second place in the contest! I'm going to be receiving my idea as a rhinestone design to put on a tshirt!!! Check out Becky's blog to see what design I suggested. It shouldn't really come as a shock. Hehe.

In 42 days, I will be strolling through Epcot! I cannot wait.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

Happy Thanksgiving, blogosphere!

I've been doing the "attitude of gratitude" challenge on Facebook.... every day I post something I'm thankful for. Some days it was profound, other days it was goofy (yes, I AM thankful for the entertainment industry, thankyouverymuch)... and on the days I had to get needles stuck in me, it was a struggle. Not because I wasn't thankful for anything, but because typing it out just felt so fake. But yes, I am incredibly blessed. My favorite day was the one where I said I was thankful that I had a family that I missed instead of one I didn't want to be around. And I've said that many times since they moved away, and it keeps me going when I'm feeling down!

Right now, I'm just sitting here... reading trip reports on the Disney message board and watching it snow. It's a very light, beautiful snow. Most of what we got yesterday is melted, which makes me sad. Because LOOK at this:

How do you not look at that and just see beauty?

Speaking of snow, I just got back from seeing Frozen. I am so completely mesmerized by it! I wanted to stay and watch it again. I've been looking forward to it for some time now and it was well worth the wait. I just feel all warm and fuzzy, which is pretty impressive considering the name of the movie. *grin*

Next Saturday, I'm signed up for a 5K called the "Holly Jolly 5K". We all get to wear Santa hats! Hooray! Of course, I will once again be walking... not running. And who knows what the weather will be like. But I'm excited for it. Should be a good time, mainly because I needed the push from myself to just go out and LIVE.

I've had my moments since the diagnosis where I feel like I'm just spinning in circles, afraid to do anything. I feel like such a fraud when my friends call me strong. I definitely don't feel strong. I feel like I want to close my eyes, sleep really well, and then when I wake up it will all have been a dream nightmare. I mean, seriously. An entire season of Dallas was able to be wiped out that way! Is it really too much to ask? I'm really good at sleeping!

The title of this post is from the song "Let it Go", which is from my new second-favorite Disney movie. Hmm... I wonder what that could be? *giggle* Idina Menzel sang it beautifully in the movie, and I really like Demi Lovato's version as well. I don't necessarily agree with all the lyrics, but I try very hard to just embrace the "let it go" mentality. I can't change what I can't change. And that applies to more than just a chronic illness. It applies to life in general.

And to quote my favorite marketing slogan ever...

{Life is a special occasion}

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Oh, Brain Lesions are Fascinating."

"Unless they're yours. Then they're a drag."

***
I was watching The Big Bang Theory on Thursday night when Amy Farrah Fowler uttered that little gem. I immediately paused my DVR and called my mom to tell her that I am now convinced that the BBT writers follow me around to get material for the show. Everyone knows I love Sheldon, because we are very similar. Things needs to be in the correct spot. Including myself. I sort my M&Ms by color (which, after the episode where he arranged Howard and Bernadette's closet, I'm convinced he would do as well if CBS and the M&M company would just agree on the product placement!) So many times I'll do something at work and everyone will be like, "Okay, Sheldon!"

I'm glad I can find humor in all this, because a little over a month ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and the brain lesions on my MRI were a contributing factor to that diagnosis. So whenever Chuck Lorre wants to send my royalty check, that would be most appreciated. And I'd love to be able to get that quote on a tshirt!

The following is the write-up I did for my personal fundraiser page for an event for the MS Society. You can see it here if anyone is interested in making a donation.

On Saturday, August 17th I woke up bright and early to participate in an event I had been looking forward to for six months... the Color Run! It was an amazing time with good friends. And if anyone had told me a year ago that the most fun I would have all summer was participating in a 5K, I would have told them they were crazy. But it was! (Please note that at no point in time did I actually RUN.) I went to bed that night happy and content.

The next morning I woke up with a headache and some pressure in my right ear. I was a little dizzy, too. Dizzy because my head was spinning... not just my normal dingbattiness. I'm sure that is totally a word. I wondered what they had put in all that colored cornstarch to make me feel so weird. Bazinga! Just kidding. I figured my sinuses were mad at me for some reason and didn't really think anything of it. I did some stuff around the house and when I went outside, I noticed that I was seeing a double image of the writing on the dumpster in my parking lot. (Usually it says "NO PARKING". On this day it was emphatic... "NO PARKING! NO PARKING!" All right already.) As the day went on, the double vision got worse. I took some Sudafed and went to bed early.

For the first time in a decade, I called in sick two days in a row. When it hadn't gotten any better by Tuesday (yes, I'm stubborn) I had a friend drive me to Immediate Care. I fully expected to be sent home with a lecture and a strong antibiotic. Instead, the (ahem, nasty) doctor told me she was sending me to the hospital for tests. At this point, I completely freaked out because I don't do hospitals, I don't do needles, and I was terrified I had a brain tumor.

I was blessedly surrounded by friends at the hospital. Eventually, I was sent for an MRI and was totally blindsided with the MS diagnosis. My friends kept me from falling completely apart and kept my family (who live out of state) updated on the situation because I wasn't really in any shape to do that. The hospital gave me steroids to help with the double vision and sent me home with an appointment to see a neurologist the next day. She sat with me for about five minutes before promptly sending me to another hospital. She was signicantly nicer than the Immediate Care doctor, but freaked me out even further with the words "admitted" and "spinal tap". I hadn't spent the night in a hospital since I was in first grade. And as far as I'm concerned, "Spinal Tap" is a fake rock band and nothing more.

While some of my family members were getting into town, I won a three-hour cruise in the MRI tube. I made it through that only completely hyperventiliating once and the diagnosis was confirmed. Luckily, they were able to accomplish this WITHOUT the spinal tap. For the sake of every single person in the hospital and within a ten-mile radius that day, I am very thankful that wasn't necessary. I was admitted to the hospital for three days... getting more steroids through the lovely IV that was now growing out of my arm. (For the record... steroids leave a very nasty taste in your mouth. And needles are just plain evil. How anyone uses either of these willingly is beyond my comprehension. Not judging. Okay, yeah, I totally am. And my dreams of being a Major League Baseball star have just been shattered.)

I was incredibly relieved that I didn't have a brain tumor. And I'm also very hopeful (and so is my doctor) that things will be just fine because MS is highly controllable. What I'm less than thrilled with (and what currently actually stresses me out more than the actual diagnosis) is the WAY it is controlled. (See the "I don't do needles" comment above). Great strides have been made in the treatment of MS and WNY has some amazing resources.

Thanks for reading! My life has definitely changed, but *I* have not. I'm still doing all the things I love (and some of the things that I have to do that I don't love as much! Haha.) I'm still planning my Disney trip and looking forward to it now more than ever. Most importantly, I'm reminded daily that I am blessed with amazing family and amazing friends. And that being compassionate and kind is the most important thing in the world.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tastes Like Chicken

Yesterday a couple friends and I headed out in the sweltering heat to enjoy the yumminess at Taste of Buffalo. It's ToB's 30th birthday, and it's the largest two day food festival in the country. This is the fourth year I've gone and we had a blast. And, of course, I don't have a single picture to share. Go me.

I complained about the heat, but honestly last year was even worse... we spent half of our food coupons on bottles of water! And I made the grievous mistake of trying Danny's Chicken Wing Soup. Now don't get me wrong. The soup is delicious. But hot sauce on an 85ยบ day just makes you feel like you're in deep fried hell. This year we were smart and brought in our own bottles of water and stayed away from the Frank's Red Hot!

I'm trying to remember everything we had. We shared each other's food, which made it all the more fun. My friends are seafood fans, so several of their choices involved that but I did try most of the other stuff that didn't swim in the ocean.

We had jerk chicken, Ahi tuna nachos, pulled pork, ribs, spring rolls, creme brulee, rice pudding, a couple different soups, and some other stuff that I don't remember. But two things really stood out to me.

Macaroni and cheese is one of my absolute favorite foods, and I readily admit that the stuff in the blue box is easily my favorite. I know, I KNOW. What can I say? It reminds me of my childhood. So one of the items I tried was Memphis Mac and Cheese... mac & cheese mixed with pulled pork. Two of my favorite things! It was pretty good; I liked the little bit of sweetness the pulled pork added. After I had already eaten my mac and cheese, one of my friends tried another restaurant's offering, and it was the absolute BEST macaroni and cheese I've ever had. And it may have been one of the best things I've ever eaten. I'm a simple girl, really.

My absolute favorite thing was the Beef on Weck Ravioli from Indian Falls Log Cabin. If you've never been to Buffalo you probably have no idea what I'm referring to. But beef on weck is a Buffalo specialty. Here is a good write-up! The quick explanation is that it's a roast beef sandwich on a kimmelweck roll, which is just a roll topped with pretzel salt and caraway seeds. The ravioli had the caraway seeds, which made it perfect! Unique and delicious, and I'm so glad I tried it! (Strangely, I don't see this offered on their actual menu.)

As I was driving home, I heard a local radio station mention ToB... they said it tastes like chicken. Hilarious on several different levels. Such a fun time. Hanging out with friends and eating delicious food. What more could anyone ask for?!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Second Choices

Most of us would never want to be someone's second choice. And honestly, I think most of us prefer not to have to "settle" for our second choice. There are plenty of words of wisdom floating around Pinterest extolling these very notions.

Many moons ago, I lived in a small town in Pennsylvania. I hated it with a bloody passion. We moved there in March of my sophomore year of high school, which in and of itself was traumatic. I'm the first to admit that I didn't exactly give it a chance, but it just wasn't for me.

When we moved there I was a huge Chicago Cubs fan, courtesy of my all-time favorite athlete, Ryne Sandberg. I used to be able to watch this glorious second-baseman play rather frequently, because we were lucky enough to get WGN on our TV. Then we moved to Pennsylvania. Our town didn't even have cable when we first moved there, although it did pop up fairly soon thereafter. Unfortunately, WGN was not an option. I had two choices: I could watch the Pittsburgh Pirates on the local station, or I could watch the Atlanta Braves on TBS. I hated all things PA, so the clear winner was the Braves. At that time, they were the "Never-Say-Die Atlanta Braves". And by "never say die", what they really meant was "never win a game".

Sometimes though, finishing in last place can be a blessing. And sometimes, not getting what you want is the greatest thing in the world. The last place Braves had the first pick in the 1990 amateur draft. They had been seriously considering drafting pitcher Todd Van Poppel, but he told them he wouldn't sign with the team if picked. The Braves second choice was Larry Wayne Jones. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It would be several years before Chipper Jones would step up to the plate as an Atlanta Brave. And it would take nineteen years for him to step away. My sister and I share a Chipper passion that is at the forefront of so many memories of the last twenty years. One time, we went to a Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium because the Braves were playing. She went armed with a sign that said "CHIPPER MVP". During a pitching change, she held up the sign and yelled "Hey Chipper!" He looked up, read the sign, and tipped his hat to her. She gave him a huge grin and a thumbs up, and he returned the gesture. We didn't stop talking about it for the entire 90 minute car ride home.

Last year I had to watch Chipper retire. And I had to watch the last game of his career get mucked up by the lousy officiating. Tonight, I watched the Atlanta Braves retire his jersey.

Echoing the sentiments of every Braves fan in the country, Chipper Jones thanked Todd Van Poppel when he made his speech tonight.

Here's to second choices!

Monday, June 24, 2013

They Go Together...

Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong

Yeah. I totally just copied and pasted that, because I had no idea what the actual verse was. So hopefully the Google search was accurate. But if not, you get the picture.

Macaroni and cheese
Peanut butter and jelly
Peanut butter and chocolate
Peanut butter and just about anything!

I love it when two things I love combine together to create one amazing thing. Like baseball and Star Wars! You weren't expecting that, were ya?? Saturday night was the annual Star Wars Night at Coca-Cola Field and I'm happy to say that I was part of the sold-out crowd who had a great time enjoying all the festivities!

Unfortunately, my camera battery died and all I have to show are some less-than-stellar cell phone pictures that aren't even worth sharing. But the Buffalo Bisons always do an amazing job with this event. Costumed characters are walking around throughout the game, happy to pose for pictures. Darth Vader, surrounded by his entourage, throws out the first pitch. When players come up to bat, the standard headshot of each player is replaced by a "good guy" from Star Wars. When the visiting team is batting, their faces are replaced by Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Maul, Boba Fett... so cool.

Each year, the Bisons players wear a specially-designed Star Wars jersey. After the game, the jerseys are signed by the respective players and some lucky fans get to take home an amazing keepsake. I bought a ticket (the proceeds benefit the American Heart Association) but didn't win. Boo. The Force was not with me.

The Bisons staff put a lot of work into a very creative six-part mini-movie revolving around SW and the ball club. During innings, a new episode is shown and at the end of the game the whole thing is concluded live on the infield, complete with an intense lightsaber battle. Finally, the lights are turned off and everyone turns on their own lightsabers. The evening ends with a fireworks display.