8 Packing Essentials for Disneyland

Turning 36 and “officially” entering into my late thirties doesn’t have to be all tears and sadness, no I spent my birthday this year at the most magical place on earth… Disney.  Growing up, Disney has always been a family vacation tradition and one day I hope to take my children.

But in the meantime I’m living it up as a single person and unattached, I am kicking off a new blog series. Similar to my “Girlfriends Guide to Fredericksburg” blog series, I’m giving you all the Disney insider travel tips for your next trip to Disney with your bestie.  PS… did I tell you my bestie is a Disney Travel Agent?  Yeah that helps a little.

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First on the list, what do you even pack when you go to Disney?  If you are an over packer like me then I have a great list for you of items you may not even think of as you arrive at the park.  And I know I said 8 packing essentials… well I’m giving you 2 extra bonus tips.

Disney Packing Essentials

  1.  Etsy for the win.  Etsy really came through for us on custom Disney t-shirts, I also found a lot of great choices on Amazon.
  2. The Perfect Backpack. This Amazon backpack is seriously my favorite purchase.  It was the perfect size, light weight and easy to maneuver on and off while jumping on rides.  The multi-pockets allowed me to store my phone, charger, snacks and carry a bottle of water.  It comes in some many fun colors, I would highly recommend this bag.
  3. Portable charger.  Who has time to stop and charge your phone while you are at Disney? The answer is no one… but carrying a portable charger was great.  I recently bought one on Amazon and love it, I use it for all of my travel and I highly recommend traveling with one in your bag.
  4. Mickey Mouse Ears.  Anything goes at Disney and wearing Mickey ears is a must at the park.  We jumped on the rose gold bandwagon and pre-ordered our ears to have in our suitcase upon arriving at the park
  5. Save your feet.  It is so tempting to wear cute shoes, but I’m telling you right now we averaged about 9 miles a day in the park.  You will want to wear the most comfortable shoes you own.  And if you don’t own a pair, Amazon has you covered.
  6. Bottled Water.  You can enter the park with sealed bottles of water.  Throughout the park they had recycling bins for your empty bottles. It was nice to have water on us at all times to stay hydrated as we ran around the park like teenagers.
  7. Sunscreen.  Although the temperatures were cooler the sun was bright, and in the afternoon you could especially feel the heat.  Sunscreen is always a good idea.
  8. Lily Shades.  We found a really affordable pink mirrored shade at Lilly Pulitzer that of course matched our rose gold Mickey ears.
  9. BONUS TIP:  Travel corkscrew.  Have you ever tried to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew… yeah guilty, but save the hassle and buy TSA approved travel corkscrew.
  10. BONUS TIP:  Amazon Prime is your friend.  Consider having essentials delivered to the hotel bellhop before arriving. We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel and didn’t have an issue with ordering ahead and they even delivered it to our room upon our arrival.  Items we ordered were….wine of course, water, fresh fruit and granola bars.

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

Recently I visited the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in Fort Lauderdale and it felt like I had be transported back to the another era… and possibly even another planet.  Lush tropical landscape fully encapsulated the estate while native Floridian lizards sunned themselves in the light peaking through the palms.  Brilliant bright yellow paint glistened off of the Bonnet House -trimmed with beautiful royal blue drew my eyes near.

Construction beginning in 1920 spanned over 20 years by Frederic Clay Bartlett, an American artist from Chicago, and his wife Helen Birch Bartlett.  Fredric created his interpretation of a Caribbean-style plantation house and the Bonnet House was named after the bonnet lily that grows on the property.  The property was initially a wedding gift given by Hugh Taylor Burch, Helen’s father.  The newlywed couple traveled the world and were avid art collectors which is reflected in the home and makes the tour of the Bonnet House that more intriguing.  A interesting fact about the construction of this estate is that the art studio in the home was the first building to be completed, naturally, given the couples love of art.

Six years after Helen Birch Bartlett’s death in 1925, Frederic remarried to Evelyn Fortune Lilly.  There were many interesting things about Evelyn, but the one that stands out the most was her pet monkeys.  Evelyn acquired pet monkeys after a local club, LeClub, who had 30 to 40 monkeys at the establishment closed. The monkeys were released and sought refuge at the Bonnet House.  It is rumored that today there are still a monkey or two roaming the property.

The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens spans 35.4 acres, including 100 feet of beach, located on the coastal barrier island protected by the mainland from tides.  The Bonnet House estate and the Taylor Birch State Park are a final reminder of the natural environment that made up the barrier islands in 1920.   In 2015, the estate acquired a total of 700 feet of beach front to host special private events and weddings without having to get special permission from the city.

Today the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens provides a rich piece of history unique to Fort Lauderdale and is also a venue for weddings and special events.  If you are planning to visit Fort Lauderdale stop by the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens for a whimsical tour and then take a long walk up the beach imagining what it might have been like in 1920 and living at the Bonnet Estate.

State Fair of Texas

As a Texas native, it’s hard to even fathom that I’ve never been to the State Fair of Texas.  I know, my official Texas badge should be taken away.  But I made up for it this year by attending the State Fair of Texas and I’m recapping my experience and sharing it with y’all!

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The State Fair of Texas spans twenty-four days and was established in 1886.  This makes the State Fair of Texas the largest running fair in the nation and one of the largest in size. Each year they pick a theme that encompasses their mission of celebrating the history of Agriculture, Education and Community.  This year’s theme, “Celebrating Texas Innovation”, was woven into many of the exhibits and throughout the fair park.

Before you plan your trip to the State Fair of Texas here are a few basics that you need to know and a few tips after our first trip to the fair.

1.   Arrive early.  We noticed as the day went on and especially around 5pm the park really got crowded.  By arriving in the morning, it allowed us to explore most of the park with little to no lines or crowds.

2.  Park only in the State Fair of Texas official parking lots.  There will be official banners and signs directing you to all available lots.  As you drive in you will see people wearing vests and using flags to motion you into other parking lots.  Most of these lots appeared to be open fields, people’s homes or in front of businesses.  By parking in the official State Fair of Texas lots you lower the risks of car break-ins or even worse being towed.  The official parking lots also provide a free tram that takes you directly to the entrance gate.  We paid $15 to park.

3.  Swing by the ATM on your way to the Fair.  You will need cash to park and it also makes purchasing Coupons easier when you arrive in the park.

4.  Coupons are the Fairs “currency”.  The food vendors only accept coupons.  If your kids want to play any of the carnival games, you will need entirely different form of currency.  You will find coupon kiosks throughout the park that will gladly exchange your cash for coupons.

As the largest state fair, you can imagine navigating the park can be a little taxing.  At the end of the day we had walked close to 8 miles throughout the day.  Plan to wear comfortable shoes and take breaks in the shade when you can.

We did not attend the State Fair with children, so our takeaways may be different had we maybe attended with small children.  But here are my favorite highlights of the State Fair of Texas as a couples trip.

  1.  Food.  This has to be the number one item on the list.  Things I never thought could be hand battered and dipped in the frying pan were indeed a possibility at the fair.  From Chicken Fried Bacon to deep fried Oreos the food vendors had your wildest fried dreams covered.  Big Tex Choice Award winner, the Cotton Candy Taco was the first thing on my list we had to try.  With a waffle cone shaped like a taco shell, a fluffy pillow of cotton candy filled the inside and was garnished with your choice of marshmallow flavored fluff and cookie crumbles.  It was a sticky delicious mess and of course an Instagram photo dream come true.

2.  Agriculture.  If you have grown up in the city or maybe you’re just fairly removed from rural society, the farm to table concept may be new to you.  I felt like the fair did a wonderful job of providing multiple displays and exhibits throughout the fairgrounds that illustrated where your food comes from and the importance of agriculture.  The Agriculture education was presented in many different forms that appealed to all ages.

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3.  Art Exhibit.  This was one of our favorite stops and maybe the exhibit we stayed at the longest.  It was so wonderful to see all ages, from youth to adults, competing in a variety of art mediums.  We viewed photography, needlepoint, paintings, antiques and quilts, just to name a few.  Every entry was beautifully displayed and told a story.

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4.  Auto Show.  The State Fair of Texas is the only fair to include a full auto show.  Just think of any auto manufacturer name and they were there.   Auto displays that spanned from indoor displays to outdoor mega displays.  If you are in the market for a new vehicle this was a fun, hassle free, way to view all of the new cars coming out.

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There are a few must “see” and photo ops you don’t want to miss out on.

  1.  Big Tex.  At the main entrance you will find a 55-foot-tall statue named Big Tex.  He has become the cultural icon of the Fair since 1952 and he even talks!  This is the perfect spot for a group photo or the infamous selfie.
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Don’t miss your chance to get a picture with the “Neon” Big Tex too!

2.  Pig Races.  If you want to see the cutest thing on this planet go to the pig races.  Step back in time as you enter into a coliseum decorated like a scene from Wilbur the Pig in Charlotte’s Web.  And announcers who wore overalls and talked with the southern drawl most outsiders would think all Texans sound like.  It was a fun activity to watch and the crowds went wild over the pigs as they made their way around the track.

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3.  Butter Sculptures.  Have you ever seen a 1000 pounds of butter sculpted into the shape of a cowboy’s head?  I’m guessing the answer is mostly no.  But the state fair has you covered.  To put that size in perspective, it takes 21,200 gallons of milk to make 1000 pounds of butter.  Wow.

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4.  Wine tasting.  By now most of you probably know that this is one of my favorite subjects.  The fair offers a beautiful wine garden surrounded by tasting stations of some of Texas’s best wines.  They also have outdoor seating along with a stage for live music throughout the day.  We found this to be an excellent spot to take a break and relax from the passing crowds.

We have already marked our calendars for next years fair, and you should too.  Opening day has been set for September 27th, 2019.  See you at the State Fair of Texas, y’all.

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XX Jennifer

7 Reasons to Download the Disneyland App before your next Trip

Technology continues to improve our travel experiences and Disney has done a great job of providing a new and exciting app that allows guests to maximize their magical moments in the park.

If you are planning to visit Disneyland this holiday season I would highly recommend downloading the Disneyland Mobile App before you jump on the plane or in the car to visit Mickey and Minnie.

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Through the app you can…

  1. Upload your park ticket – don’t worry cast members will help you do this when you make your first trip through the gate.
  2. View a Digital Map – don’t get me wrong I love having the paper version of the Disneyland map because even it seems magical, but having the app was wonderful because you could see the entire park in the palm of your hand.
  3. Track down your favorite characters between rides – This was a wonderful feature.  Often when we are in the park we like to look for specific characters and the app allowed us to plan around our other park adventures while ensuring that we could meet up with our favorite Disney pals.
  4. Check wait times – You’re excited and in the park and the last thing you want to do is wait in a line for anything.  The app allows you to see attraction wait times for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park at a glance.  If you have chosen to tack on a MaxPass to your ticket (which I highly recommend), you can also obtain your FASTPASS times and select your favorite ride.  The MaxPass is only $10 extra per day… I would budget it for sure.
  5. Another great feature of purchasing the MaxPass is the ability to have your PhotoPass on your phone.  You can download and share your photos from your trip through the Disney-MaxPass feature on the app.  
  6. Ok hold your hats, this is my favorite part of the app…. FOOD.  You can now make mobile dining reservations and order food directly through the app to pick up while you are in the park.  Talk about a huge time saver!  This was a big deal for us as we were trying to maximize everyday in the park and the last lines we wanted to stand in were food lines.   You can even view restaurant menus to see if they offered the food you are craving.
  7. The app even had all of the basics covered.  You could see yourself on the map through their gps navigation.  It also answered basic questions such as park hours, descriptions for attractions and entertainment schedules.

Although all of these features are awesome I will caution you that the app will drain your battery phone.  We packed a battery pack to use while we were in the park and also took turns using the app so we ensured we were full charged up for the day.

I would still recommend the app because it truly made our Disney experience that much more magical.  And don’t worry if you get stumped on the app, there are many cast members who can guide you through the using the app.

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Happy Disney travels my friends! xx Jennifer

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Continuing my love and passion for agriculture around Texas and beyond, I was pleasantly surprised to find rich agriculture history during a recent trip to Florida when I visited the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.

In 1940 a young graduate of New York University formed a farming colony called Yamato, an ancient name for Japan.  The name comes from the students homeland of Miyazu in Japan.

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Although the colony was not a success in the end the young graduate probably never dreamed that today the farming colony has been transformed into a museum and garden.  It is a place for local Floridians and tourists alike can experience to be Japanese arts and culture.  With over 7,000 Japanese art objects and artifacts, the Morikami Museum and Garden was a beautiful and enriching cultural experience.

 

Beyond it’s sheer beauty, my enjoyment of the museum and gardens partially comes from my desire to visit Japan.  It is on my list of overseas travel because it unknowingly has a special place in my heart.  My parents were stationed in Japan during Vietnam and as a child I grew up hearing about my parents cultural experiences abroad.  Beautiful photos of past times in Japan made me long for a similar experience of adventure and the need to experience another culture.

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I recommend visiting the museum and gardens on a Sunday, shortly after your brunch at the Sundy House.  If you missed my recap of our bottomless mimosas and tropical stroll through their gardens click here and read all about the brunch that will change your life.

Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens
4000 Morikami Park Road
Delray Beach, FL 33446

Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-5pm
Closed Mondays and major holidays

Adults – $15
Seniors – $13
Children – $9

 

Home Sweet Home

I’m officially moved in, semi-unpacked and getting back into my “normal routine.”  I will admit I have driven the wrong way home from work a few times just out of habit but quickly realized…oops I don’t live here anymore.

One of the feelings I hadn’t expected was the huge since of pride that comes along with owning my first home.  A year ago, I didn’t even think this was a possibility but now that I’m in it, living it, I am so happy I took the leap.  I may have a few extra grey hairs but that’s nothing my hairdresser can’t fix.

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I also feel like more of an adult, that seems silly to say out loud, but right or wrong, I do.  Spending my Saturdays wandering the aisles of Home Depot or sketching out my elaborate backyard Spring DIY projects, it’s been a fun and exciting experience.

In meeting my neighbors, so far I have received rose bush pruning tips by the retiree on the next block over, and I’ve even met several of the neighborhood dogs – Jack has approved and is looking forward to his next playdate with his new furry friends.

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Here are a few lessons I learned after move in…

Ask friends for help. One of the best moving decisions I made was to invite friends over to help unpack.  Now they may not see it that way, but it was a huge time saver when it came to my kitchen.  We had the entire kitchen unpacked out of boxes and in cabinets in an hour.  I always think organizing a new kitchen is hard because you’re not sure how to set it up.  But having five women help organize the kitchen was a life saver.  It was also just a lot of fun having friends come over and hangout.  We played music in the background, ate sandwiches and unpacked – I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I should have taken notes. This is a little bit like taking your first college exam and flunking it.  When you are in a high stress situation or receiving a lot of information for the first time it’s easy to forget half of everything.  From the final walk through on my house all the way to closing I received a lot of information… most of it started out something like this “Don’t lose this paper, it’s very important.” Or “You will want to fill this out and mail this to ______(fill in the blank).”  So don’t be afraid to take a pen and paper and ask clarifying questions every step of the way.  Here’s your second chance to be the straight A student you never were in college.

Make lists. After moving in I had created a mental list of all of the items in the house of what needed to be fixed or still needed to be done.  This list swam around in my head for days and even kept me up at night.  It’s just good to write it down or create a digital list on your phone or computer.

It doesn’t have to ALL be done today. I really like to knock things out… give me a list and it will be done before noon. I’ve always been that way, I like to just get stuff done even if it kills me or I have to spend the next week catching up on sleep.  After I finally stepped back and made my list of “to dos”, and prioritized them, it really helped me feel more relaxed and I could enjoy my house more.

Change of address. Someone needs to create a button or magic wand for this. I recommend making a list of all of the places you need to change your address starting with the most obvious mail forwarding with USPS.  Others would be your employer, bank accounts and credit cards, updating your driver’s license and most important your Amazon Prime account.

 

Hopefully a few of the lessons I learned will help you with your home purchase.  With home ownership comes new responsibilities, new challenges and new adventures.  I’m excited to see where it takes me.  I’m excited to be home.  – xx Jennifer

Henry’s Sandwich Station

Henry’s Sandwich Station is what I envision every deli and bakery to be like in small town middle America.  Walking up to the counter to order, you will be stopped in your tracks by a bakery display case filled with pies and all things sinfully sweet.  I would have pressed my face to the glass, but I’m an adult – I think?

Located in Fort Lauderdale, Henry’s Sandwich Station is a great atmosphere for a quick lunch with friends or business partners.  From dine-in to takeout – they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the restaurant is kid friendly.

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Photo Credit:  Henry’s Sandwich Station Facebook Page featured the outside of the building and really captured the atmosphere of the sandwich shop. 

 

Once you’ve made the hurdle past the pie shop, you are greeted by a decadent array of choices on their sandwich menu.  Choosing which sandwich to devour was a challenge because every sandwich sounded truly amazing.  From sandwich spreads, such as cranberry goat cheese jam and truffle mayo, all on homemade hoagie rolls, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

I found myself asking the question, “how do I choose?”  My go to sandwich at a deli has always been turkey and if there is bacon I’m sold.  So that’s what I did, I went with good old turkey on a hoagie… one of the best decisions of the day I might add.

My list is long, but Henry’s stays on it for my next trip out to Fort Lauderdale.  Stop by and give it a try!

xx-Jennifer

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Milk Money Bar | Kitchen

Tucked away in a trendy Fort Lauderdale neighborhood, Milk Money Bar & Kitchen’s catchy name (that I wish I would have thought of first) has a hip vibe with a coffee bar, cozy dine-in experience and hand-crafted cocktails.  All bases are covered from espresso to cauliflower buffalo wings to a treasure chests full of boozy treasure.

Interior photos sourced from Milk Money Bar | Kitchen website 

If you like buffalo wings, but you’re watching your waist line, trick your taste buds with the Cauliflower Buffalo Wings I could have eaten them for days.  A tad spicy, but nothing I couldn’t handle, I’d like a bucket to go please!  I also tried their Farmhouse Burger that apparently was so delicious I didn’t have the time to take a photo, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Let’s pause and talk about the craft cocktail masterpieces at Milk Money… The SAILOR TO PIRATE  comes in an actual treasure chest and when opened it pours out smoke creating a unique experience to the bar.  The Sailor to Pirate is created with Oak and Cane Rum, Simple Syrup, Aromatic Bitters, Pina Colada Ice Block and Cinnamon.

If rum isn’t your style, I sipped on (ok I did not sip, possibly gulped) AL CAPONE’S SOUTHSIDE FIZZ.  I’m not sure if it was the promise of Prosecco or the thrill of the name, but the drink was filled with Bulldog Gin, Prosecco, Fresh Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Sliced Cucumber and a Mint garnish.

If you’re in the mood for a little espresso with your meal or a chaser to your cocktail, they have you covered.  Warsaw Coffee Company is conveniently located within the walls of Milk Money Bar | Kitchen.  Although I didn’t get to enjoy their espresso or weekend brunch during my trip to Fort Lauderdale, the menu looked amazing.   See their full breakfast, lunch dinner and cocktail menus here Milk Money Bar | Kitchen.

 xx- Jennifer

Travel More, Seattle Washington

My trip to Seattle, Washington, although I was there four days, was mostly packed with a work conference, but I found time to explore during lunch and in the evening.  It’s going back on the list of places to travel because I didn’t feel like I truly experienced everything I wanted to while I was in the city.

With limited time, I went to the touristy and obligatory spots.  Starting with Pike Place Market, one of the oldest farmers markets in the U.S, on the waterfront of Elliot Bay.  It was a short walk from the hotel I was staying at in downtown.

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Walking through the crowded market my eyes didn’t know where to look first.  I was probably most enamored with the fresh flowers.  I imagined that if I lived down the street that I would have fresh flowers covering ever surface of my apartment. From beautiful local art, to fresh fruit, to a culinary surprise around every corner I could have spent days in this market.

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After smelling all of the flowers, I stopped to buy an apple at vendor who was happy to pick out the perfect one for my snack.  From there I  walked to the pier and found an empty seat at a table overlooking the water, where I sat and just people watched for what seemed like hours.  To my right was a photographer and his model capturing the beautiful background of the bay and to my left a family of four also enjoying the views and a special sweet treat.

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From this photo above you can see the chaos outside of the original Starbucks.  I can’t say I TRULY experienced the coffee house, but standing across the street was enough of an experience and with a snap of this picture I checked it off my list.

Next time I’m in Seattle I will go back to Pike Place Market, but maybe on a self guided tour and plan to spend at least half a day wandering through the market, well probably eating my way through the market is more accurate.  One thing to note is that although I walked, the Market does have a public parking garage with easy access to the market.  Once you are close to Pike Place Market be cautious because there are pedestrians everywhere and they have the right away.

On my walk back to the hotel I stumbled across one of my childhood favorite candy stores.  As a child See’s Candy was king in our house and every holiday, birthday or special occasion was marked with a box of See’s Candy.  I probably squealed like a little girl as I ran through the doors of the shop, where I quickly purchased chocolate covered cherries for my mom and a box of chocolate mochas for my dad and I.  I will confess that the boxes were a little light on the plane ride home.

Until next time Seattle, xx-Jennifer