We Love Disney Album Review

Over the weekend between cooking until we had no more energy and shopping until we were broke, I had the chance to listen to the newest Disney album that hit stores approximately 2 months ago. Here are my thoughts.

Let me be the first to say that I have been a fan of Disney from day one. As a child, I was a fan of the movies and tv shows, then that love grew to parks, and eventually I began to appreciate the music – both lyrical as well as instrumental. How was Disney always so successful in placing songs to artists when so many artists struggled to fit their voice to music in personal albums, I always wondered. Over my lifetime I have owned movie soundtracks, cds (Yes! cds!) featuring the music from the parks, and I also had a few of the covered albums. (Jim Brickman comes to mind.) When I found out that Disney was creating this album, which I don't find out about new albums too often anymore, I was excited to get my hands on it. I didn't recognize many of the new artists on the album, but when does Disney do things wrong?

Cut to two months later when I finally have a chance to breath.

I pulled up the new album in my itunes folder and anxiously began listening. I sifted through e-mails getting caught up on work listening to We Love Disney in the background. What I discovered was mix of wonderful … and really? For example,  Fall Out Boy's "I Wan'na Be Like You" is up tempo and super fun; they are one of the few artists to actually capture the essence of what I remembered from a Disney movie song. Gwen Stefani's "Rainbow Connection" is really fun too, sung in a very Gwen Stefani kind of way, not necessarily Kermit style. But songs like "In A World of My Own" by Jhené Aiko and "Let It Go" by Rascal Flatts and Lucy Hale were promptly skipped by me. In some cases, the original song is best and nothing else compares. Finally the album ends on a beautiful rendition of "It's A Small World" sung by all of the artists on the album making it seem like it really is "a small world after all".

If you have the chance to get your hands on this album and recognize many of the artists on this album AND enjoy Disney music, you will probably enjoy We Love Disney. If you aren't too familiar with the artists, maybe skip this one and wait for the next. The compilation of covered songs is good but not super amazing run out and buy it now good.

Here is the tracklist from the album:

1. Friend Like Me (From Aladdin) – Ne-Yo
2. Part of Your World (From The Little Mermaid) – Jessie J
3. Can You Feel the Love Tonight / Nants’ Ingonyama (From The Lion King) – Jason Derulo
4. The Rainbow Connection (From The Muppet Movie) – Gwen Stefani
5. Zero to Hero (From Hercules) – Ariana Grande
6. In a World of My Own / Very Good Advice (From Alice in Wonderland) – Jhené Aiko
7. I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song) (From The Jungle Book) – Fall Out Boy
8. Colors of the Wind (From Pocahontas) – Tori Kelly
9. Spoonful of Sugar (From Mary Poppins) – Kacey Musgraves
10. Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat (From The Aristocats) – Charles Perry
11. A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes (From Cinderella) – Jessie Ware
12. Let It Go (From Frozen) – Rascal Flatts & Lucy Hale
13. It’s a Small World – We Love Disney Artists
14. It’s Not Easy Being Green (From The Muppet Show) – Brenna Whitaker
15. A Whole New World (From Aladdin) – Yuna

Have you had the chance to listen to the new We Love Disney album yet? If not, will you be buying it?

Buy We Love Disney here.


It's the best Thursday of the year!

Let's take a moment of silence for all the turkeys on all the tables across the country…

Image source.

O.k. that was long enough. Let's eat!

Hope you all have a fantastic holiday spending time with your loved ones! :)

Fall In NYC – Wordless Wednesday

All images from August 20, 2015. I uploaded a select few (out of 800!) to my computer today and am seeing them for the first time since I took them so many months ago. All are minimally edited. Pretty happy with the results. :)

Now … off to cook for Thanksgiving! Have a great Wednesday y'all! :)

Once you get to Disney… the Rides!

Partners in … magic?

So, you've chosen your hotel, decided which parks to visit, bought tickets, connected your MagicBands, and figured out transportation. What now?

Well, if I were you, I'd start planning out my trip. For example, what rides do you anticipate doing? The following are a few lists of my favorite.

Fast/Scary Rides…

If you are interested in any of the rides on this list, be sure to get a FastPass+ if you can or know how. The ride waits for these rides can be an hour+ if you go during busy times of the year.

1. I highly recommend Splash Mountain above any others you might try at the Magic Kingdom. The story is based on Disney's Song of the South and the ride features a 50-foot drop from a mountain into the water where, of course, there is a possibility you could get splashed. The ride is pretty cute even before the splash as you follow the story of Brer Rabbit in his attempt to find his "laughing place"; you can't help but become immersed in the story until, all of a sudden, your watercraft shoots down a waterfall bringing you back into reality. In my humble opinion, everyone should ride Splash Mountain at least once in their lifetime, even if my husband hasn't…

2. Knowing that I wouldn't get the chance to ride Splash Mountain, my husband and I decided to take on Expedition Everest in the Animal Kingdom. From afar, it looks like the same style roller coaster – people screaming as they ride down a mountain. The experience, however, is far different! With an 80ft drop and a top speed of 50mph, the ride goes back through a dark tunnel in an incredibly unique storytelling experience of a Yeti that chases mountain visitors and tears up the train tracks the visitors are on along the way. Aside from seeing all of the animals at the Animal Kingdom, I think this is one of the best rides at the park.

3. Space Mountain is third on my list of fast and scary rides because not only is this a roller coaster, but it's a roller coaster ride that takes place in the dark with riders seated one by one as they are rocketed into space. With a top speed of 27mph (soooo fast!) and a 26ft drop, the darkness that consumes you makes the ride feel much faster and like it has more of a drop than it does! Being the oldest roller coaster at Orlando's Disney World, this ride is a must for any classicist visiting Disney.

Just when you think you know what's coming, something unexpected happens!

4. While Tower of Terror is one of the better knowns of the Hollywood Studios attractions, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is my personal favorite. I must admit that I was a bit nervous waiting in line to ride my first inverted roller coaster, but tips from a girl in her early teens, along with Aerosmith's fantastic music made the fast ride all the more fun. Plus, the pre-show was really cute. :)

5.Test Track is the only ride at EPCOT that is for the daring, and even it isn't that scary. With a top speed of almost 65mph, the most you do is take turns a little too fast and stop a little too short in a car you have designed "yourself", or at least that's what they tell you. It's fun for the fast and the furious, but it is not your typical roller coaster, so don't get your hopes up there.

For the Classicist…

If you are venturing to the parks for the classic rides, these are the ones I recommend.

1. Splash Mountain is my favorite Disney ride ever. :)

2. It's important to get the song from It's A Small World stuck in your head at least once during the trip. Plus, it's pretty amazing seeing what Disney has done with the scenery and all of the animatronic dolls. You'll either love it or it will creep you out. It's hard to say which. :)

3. An oldy but goody that is another love it or hate it ride is the Carousel of Progress. A ride built for the 1964 New York's World Fair, the carousel is more or less a theatre that takes you through the growth and development of electronics throughout the 19th century. While it might be entertaining for elementary school children, I don't recommend this "ride" for anyone younger. The history, while presented in what I consider to be a fun way, will not necessarily entertain young kids and I imagine they will get antsy during the 20-minute presentation.

Not just a giant golf ball, but a ride too!

4. Moving forward to EPCOT, I highly recommend another history-oriented ride, Spaceship Earth, found in that big golf ball –the iconic park symbol. The 15-minute ride takes you from prehistoric times all the way up through mass communication with the end asking you to create your own future. Unlike Carousel of Progress, this visuals will probably keep young kids entertained even if they don't pick up on any of the history. :)

5. Then there is Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios, a ride that is a reminder of supernatural elements and brings out The Twilight Zone in all of us.

And a Few Extras…

The following are extra rides that don't really fit into a list that I recommend while visiting the parks:

At Magic Kingdom – Pirates of the Caribbean (beautiful, similar to It's A Small World)), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (another roller coaster), The Haunted Mansion (fantastic visuals, another classic!), Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (a game within a ride!), and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (roller coaster)

At EPCOT – Living With the Land (agricultural focus, very informational), Mission: Space (centrifugal motion simulator thrill ride), Grand Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros (explore Mexico by boat!)

"I'm brushing up on looking down! I'm working on my roar!"
(from the song "I Just Can't Wait To Be King")

At Animal Kingdom – Kilimanjaro Safari (to see animals, of course!), Kali River Rapids (you'll get wet!), and Dinosaur (another simulated type tour ride).

At Hollywood Studios – The Great Movie Ride (motion picture history in a ride + live action performance), Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (stunt show), and, The Osborne Dancing Lights (Christmas)* is not to be missed!

Also, be sure to see Wishes!, the nightly fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, and Illuminations, the fireworks show at EPCOT. Both are fantastic and worth seeing!

What do you think of my ride selections? If you've been to Disney World before, are there any others you think I should have included?

* Osborne Dancing Lights has been removed as of December 2015.

November 2015 Finance Report

One, two, three, four … Tell me that you love me more.
Sleepless long nights; that is what my youth is for.

A bit later than usual, but here it is: the good, the bad, and the evil.

Spending –

Not looking good, my friends. Not looking good. What has happened to our drive? What has happened to the appeal of paying down debt and saving? Clothes and food; that's what. Apparently traveling to a country where it snows in the winter means it is unacceptable to wear short sleeves and flip flops. Go figure. Hopefully we are almost to the end of that spending spree – just in time for Christmas shopping! Woo! :-/

As an aside, Mint has fixed the problem where you couldn't see last year's spending, so yay! Now I don't really have an excuse not to compare and spend less. That being said, will I? Can I? My challenge begins December 1st! I will conquer this madness! I must!

Net Income –

Keeping on, keeping on… I have one more paycheck this month, so we should stay in the green. We just have to keep spending less than we are making, and I'm not sure Mint helps us see either what we are spending or what we are making. I've heard You Need A Budget (YNAB) is a great app, but I don't want to pay for it. I guess I just need to sit down with a calculator and spreadsheet and write out our daily expenses. Life just gets so hectic sometimes that it's hard to keep up. I don't know of a better way to save money though than to do something like that. Readers, any ideas or suggestions?

Net Worth –

I usually show this, but the accounts look off. It's showing we owe almost $10,000 more in students loans than we do, and I don't approve of that being posted on the internet. How can I owe $10,000 more in student loans if I haven't gone back to school? Answer: Nelnet is a terrible company to take out student loans with. They closed my accounts and reopened them, but why? Will that affect my credit score? Is Mint just sucking at finances? … I have no idea. Maybe on my day off, Wednesday, I can re-set Mint and figure all of this out. It's possible I need to make a phone call to Nelnet or potentially question the authenticity of my credit report. If I discover any of this needs to happen, I'll be sure to report on it during my next finance check in December.

In the meantime –

• Projected credit card payoff is June 2016 (one month later than last month's projection)
• Projected loan payoff remains steady at Feb. 2023.
• Investments are only down by 1.01% (a 2% difference from last month, which is an improvement. Yay!)
• Justin and I are continuing to improve our *very good* credit scores which will make it easier to get low interest loans, credit cards, and bank rewards in the future. 800s, here we come!

And to make myself feel a little better, I must admit I was totally a frugal gotta-get-a-return-on-spending goddess this weekend. We used Discover for the 5% (doubled) cashback bonus at Macy's, Free People, and Anthropologie, used our phones to find the best price for warm winter wear for Justin, abused coupons, went through online portals (Topcashback ftw!), and even called companies to get price matches. I am trying very hard to be on top of this spending game.

In Conclusion

I hate to keep reporting all bad with finances, but I want to be honest with you and myself – not hiding from the truth. Budgeting sucks. Not spending is awful, and keeping your spending to a minimum when you have two people involved is really complicated! Why can't they always just give you the best price possible and keep the couponing, price-matching, portal shopping, and credit card using out of it! It hurts my head!

How are you doing on finances this November? Keeping ahead? Falling behind? Sick of seeing my posts where I'm not actually improving and just want to slap me silly and tell me to quit spending? Share your good news and provide me with a reason to keep working at this! Or let me know that I'm not alone at this. Either way, I'd love to hear from you!

Barbecue Take on Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving, my family is changing it up a bit and 1) having T-day at our house and 2) having ribs. I know, I know – what?! Ribs? Who has ribs for Thanksgiving? Well, apparently, we do. I blame the old people in my life – my grandparents. The older you get, the more say you have in festivities, because family wants to make sure you are happy. (Well, that and the young, young kids have a huge say, because if they aren't the tiniest bit happy, no one is. Who wants to spend the holiday listening to screaming kids? Not me.) Anyway, today I have decided to research the best sides to go with the odd combo –ribs and turkey– that we will be having for this Thanksgiving, and drag you along for the ride. Woo! Are you ready?

I had a hard time at first finding these sides, but then I decided to google recipes that I'm familiar with and add a term like "Thanksgiving", "autumn", "barbecue", or "grilled". Here's what I found.

My brother's favorite dish is creamed corn, so how about this delicious grilled cream corn? I'm sure it would be delicious without being grilled … or without being creamed, but who wouldn't want to combine them?

Next up: potatoes. Or macaroni. I'm not sure which. :)

Or maybe the family is more into sweet potatoes for the holidays. These grilled sweet potatoes look delicious! :)

Not typically found in Thanksgiving, but typical for barbecue, baked beans are a great addition to the meal. This recipe has a little bit of fall added to it. And cheese. Because cheese.

Let's get away from the carbs for a bit. Why not grill up some asparagus, green beans, or other veggies? It adds color to your plate and tastes delicious!

Another classic barbecue side: coleslaw. Use kale and apples to give it a fresh fall taste. :)

Then for dessert, we can have the traditional pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, etc…

What sides would you cook if your family insisted on a barbecue Thanksgiving? Share! I'd love to hear! :)

Decade By Decade Music: 00's

A combination of music I listened to in high school and college, I attempted to provide a bit of pop and rock in this collection. The funny thing with life is that you often find that music you were infatuated with only a few years back, you learn to dislike as time goes by … and music you hated, you end up liking later. Or at least that's what happened to me…

To have a look back at the other posts I've written in this series, click on the links below:

40s • 50s • 60s • 70s • 80s90s

1.  Evanescence – “Bring Me to Life” (buy)

What is referred to as "nu metal", "Bring Me To Life" was written by Amy Lee, Ben Moody, and David Hodges; it fits into numerous genres from alternative metal, to rap, to rock, and may, in some parts, even be considered as gothic metal. The song was listed on numerous top ten lists and was even nominated and won(!) a grammy for best hard rock performance although it lost out to another song for best hard rock song of the year.

2. Leona Lewis – “Bleeding Love” (buy)

A pop song with R&B undertones, it's first radio play was on the BBC Radio 1 and it skyrocketed to number one on the UK Singles Chart. Jesse McCartney wrote the song about his longtime girlfriend and how being apart for months at a time was painful. McCartney's record label didn't like the song. When co-writer Tedder discovered Lewis from X Factor, he and McCartney re-wrote "Bleeding Love" to suit Lewis' voice and presented to Simon Cowell who was seeking songs for Lewis' debut album. Upon hearing it, he knew this song was the one. Cowell was right; not only did the song soar to success in the UK, but it also made it to peak spots in 22 countries!

3. Train – “Drops Of Jupiter” (buy)

Inspired by the death of lead singer Patrick Monahan mother, "Drops of Jupiter" is a song about a woman's journey to find herself and the man wondering whether or not she has room in her heart for him, the man she has left behind. The song reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for 5 grammys winning two.

4. Staind – "Outside" (buy)

Originally performed live during the 1999 Family Values Tour in Biloxi, Mississippi, Aaron Lewis was asked to perform a song solo and decided to at the last moment to play a song he had been working on since the early days of Staind, one that was finally completed on the spot while singing the song live. It was picked up by local radio stations across the country and became a hit peaking at #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks and #56 on the Billboard Hot 100.

5. Rufus Wainwright – "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" (buy)

Written and performed by Canadian-American singer, "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" is a song about decadence and desire, "an ode to subtle addictions and the way our compulsions rule our lives" (Wikipedia). I first heard the song when I watched The Last Kiss, and I've been listening to ever since… There's nothing better than a little bit of life's decadence. :)

6. Maroon 5 – "She Will Be Loved" (buy)

The third single from Maroon 5's debut album, "the song proved as successful as the band's previous hits, 'This Love' and 'Harder to Breathe;, hitting number 1 on the Mainstream Top 40 and Adult Top 40 charts, but it prompted many alternative radio outlets to remove Maroon 5 from their playlists, on the ground that the band's newer songs were too light for alt-rock audiences (Wikipedia).

7. Hinder – "Lips of An Angel" (buy)

A breakthrough hit, "Lips of An Angel" charted on several Billboard charts within the US and reached number one in two other countries. The song tells the story of a man in love with his ex but living with another woman; it is a story loosely based on an actual phone call incident. Since 2006, "Lips of An Angel" has been featured in several video games like American Idol Encore, and Dance Dance Revolution.

8. Tegan and Sara – "My Number" (buy)

Featured in the movie Last November, this song was my introduction to the fantastic band Tegan and Sara. Written by Tegan for the album The Business of Art, Sara originally sang the second verse in the recording and several live performances, but since then, Tegan has become the sole vocalist for the song.

9. Finger Eleven – "Paralyzer" (buy)

More "funk rock" or "dance rock" than many of Finger Eleven's other music, the song received high airplay in the US and Canada and became the band's first #1 on mainstream and modern rock charts. It didn't hit the charts at first though, taking many months before rising from #97 to #6. By 2015, the song has sold more than 3.4 million copies in the US alone! The song has been certified double platinum by the RIAA.

10. AFI – "Silver and Cold" (buy)

One of the last alternative songs to reach an era on Atlanta's best rock station, this song kept my friends and I company on long drives where we ventured during high school. It's actually a very dark song potentially about death and suicide. "Silver and Cold" was the third single released by the band and peaked at #7 on the Alternative Songs chart.

10+. Bon Jovi – "It's My Life" (buy)

I've been waiting all month to include this song in a list! "It's My Life" did to the 2000s generation what Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing" did for the 1990s – reintroduce the band to pop culture, in a big way! Lines included in the song like "For Tommy and Gina, who never backed down" refer to the 1980s hit "Livin' On A Prayer". "It's My Life" was written very self-indulgently by Bon Jovi, but it was taken to refer to everyone's life, which is what made the song a hit! The song did very well in many countries making it into top ten lists everywhere, but it only faired well in the US reaching 33 on the Billboard Hot 100. It did reach platinum certification in 7 countries and Gold in 4 more.

Do you have any opinions about my choices for my 2000s decade list? Are there songs you would have included that I didn't? Any particularly great songs that maybe didn't hit the charts but you think others should know about? Share! I'd love to hear!

Wednesday Coffee Date

May 2014

If we were to sit down and have coffee…

I think I would spit it out. :( I don't like coffee.

Anyway, I would tell you that I haven't been feeling good. Mostly it's just a sore throat from sinus drainage, but it's still super annoying. I get sick maybe once a year, and I dislike every bit of it. Luckily I have my Advil Sinus & Congestion meds, so that helps a ton! ;) (Enter my giveaway! You're welcome.)

Just as you were starting to wonder why you met up with me in the first place, we'd begin talking about the events from 11/13 and the loss of life that occurred in Paris. I'd explain that I haven't spent a ton of time thinking about Paris … or where was it? Beirut? You'd be confused and possibly offended until I explained that Justin and I are traveling to Paris after Christmas, and I didn't want to stress myself out over whether or not we would die. Because, effectively, that's all mass media does for me. Stress me out. I love Paris –from the people to the architecture– and I hate to see them hurting as they are, but I also know they are part of a strong country that will fight back. The more depressing thought for me is that there are people in the world who plan their own deaths and the deaths of others by wearing suicide bombs. It makes me sick.

After I got my anger, frustration, and sadness out, I would follow up by telling you how I'm planning logistics for my upcoming trip to Europe in like a month(!!). My friend e-mailed me about walking 10 miles uphill both ways (my exaggeration, not his) in the snow in Germany on New Year's Day, and I have absolutely no shoes that will allow for that … or any walking in the cold, wet, snowy, dreary(?) habitation that will be Europe at that time of year. I haven't been very lucky in my search so far for shoes that will work though. Doesn't anyone make cute shoes that can withstand the weather? Justin says I'll have to pick ugly shoes with good tread that I will pay hundreds of dollars for and never wear again; I think he's crazy and I will never resort to something as low and stupid as that. If I have to, I'll drive the 10 miles. Argh.

I did order a beautiful coat and some sweaters that will hopefully aid in making the cold weather more bearable, but I still have to book at least one more hotel room and find Justin some weather-appropriate clothing. It'd help if he actually looked though… ;)

Before our coffee date ended, I'd ask if we could meet up at Café Intermezzo next time, so that I could order a non-coffee drink or get a dessert instead. ;) Then I'd ask how life is treating you; if you have any fun plans for the upcoming holiday season? Whether or not you had started Christmas shopping and how the weather is where you are? 

I'm not sure how long we'd talk, but I'm sure it would be well past (or right up to) the time when one of us would look down at our phone and say "I need to go! I've been here too long!". We would have to schedule another coffee date soon, because I wouldn't want to wait a whole month before chatting with you again! :)

Getting To, From, & Around Disney

Fastest transportation at Disney!

When I began booking our trip to Disney World, I made the assumption that because we were coming from Atlanta, the trip would be easy and cheap. In this series of posts I've been sharing about Disney World, I've been going over the details that will help you make your trip to Orlando a success. So far we've discussed a little bit about the parkshow to choose the best hotel for your Walt Disney World vacation, why Disney MagicBands are useful, and which tickets will make all of your Disney dreams come true. None of that matters if you can't get down to … or around Orlando. So let's talk about that. :)

Let Disney handle the logistics.

Getting There –

Coming from Atlanta, Justin and I had a few more options than I imagine some of you (like those coming from Alaska or overseas!) have. We were only a 9 hour drive away from the magic, which is a 9 hour drive I became accustomed to as a kid. (Are we there yet?!?) So, if you are coming from a nearby state and have extra time on your hands, you might want to consider renting a vehicle for free to drive to or from Orlando (depending on time of year and availability), driving your own car (Hello gas!), or taking a bus or the Amtrak system. All are viable options, but they will definitely set you back a few hours in time.

Justin and I didn't have the vacation time to give to travel time, so we opted for flying. Being so close, I was hoping for $100 or so in flight costs. But, once again, time specifics cost us. I needed to get a full day of work in on both Thursday and Monday, but I also wanted two full days at the Disney parks (Friday and Sunday). Because we were leaving late Thursday night and coming back early Monday morning, our flight schedule was super tight. If you know anything about airlines, once they know your schedule is tight … the cost goes up … uP … UP.

First we looked at Spirit, who was having a sale. I considered getting a Spirit credit card to make the cost of our tickets be 5,000pts. a piece per flight plus $20. With 10,000 pts already in my account and the additional 15,000pts. being credited to my account after signing up, I assumed I'd have enough to fly myself and my husband to Orlando for $40. Not bad, right? But that didn't include fees charged for my husband and I to sit together or bring on checked or even non-checked baggage. Added altogether, the cost would be as much as ticket from Delta. Not cool. So, I kept looking…

Next in line, I looked at Frontier. Justin and I flew Frontier to DC last October and decided they were an acceptable airline for short flights. Why not? Well… they had the same problem as Spirit. The more extras that were added, the higher the cost went.

Delta is currently my favorite airline to travel with. #AtlantaNative

Finally, after hours of comparing, I bit the bullet and booked with Delta. I was paying more than I wanted to, but I also knew that Delta was reliable, would allow me to sit next to my husband, and would provide free drinks and snacks onboard. (No, the drinks and snacks aren't important enough to pay extra for, but they are a nice perk if you are going to be paying the extra on a cheaper airline anyway.)

One of the great benefits about traveling to Disney by air is that, if you check any luggage and use one of the magic transportation tags Disney sends in the mail prior to your visit, you can head straight to your room (or the park!) and Disney will take your checked luggage to your hotel room. Nice, right? Justin and I arrived really late (think: midnight), so we didn't use this service and cannot remark on how well it does or doesn't work though. :-/

Another bonus to flying into Orlando is that Disney will provide magical transportation for you to your hotel or resort for free! Justin and I did take advantage of that. It was nice not having to drive late at night, but it was also frustrating having to sit on the bus for almost an hour at the airport waiting for people to board before having a 30-45 minute drive to Disney property. At midnight, there is only one thing you really want to be doing … and that is sleeping. :-/

Getting Around the Parks…

A Disney bus at Hollywood Studios.

Let's say you don't want to rent a car; how do you get from your on-site Disney hotel to the parks? Or what about from one park to another? Disney transportation, of course! Drink yourself silly or wear yourself out, then fall asleep on the ride back to your hotel. Nothing bad can happen on Disney property, right? :)

Let me be straight with you, though. Disney buses are sllllllloooooooowwwww. You are guaranteed a good 30 minute wait any time you take one and that's if there are no crowds! It can be frustrating knowing there is a bus full of people waiting to go to a park or hotel and seeing the buses pick up much smaller lines. Plan your time wisely at the parks if you intend on using bus transportation; you don't want to move around too frequently or you will lose a lot of time to bus waiting. :(

Disney boat travel isn't much better. I was excited that the resort Justin and I were staying at had direct bus transportation to Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs). Justin and I got in a long line, waited 15 minutes, and when the boat finally came we were all excited! Yay! It's here! They let about 15 people on then departed with another boat not scheduled to arrive for another 15-20 minutes. :( Justin and I surmised that we'd be standing in line for an hour at that schedule, so we opted instead to drive a rental car. It's pretty bad when you get so frustrated by public transportation options that you opt instead to pollute the air and drive two people to the destination of choice. Waiting an hour when you have a finite amount of time is just not worth it. :(

Picturesque and fun!

One method of public transportation I do recommend is the monorail. After we dropped our rental car off on Sunday morning at the Disney car center, the guy from Alamo said he could drop us off at any of the parks. We had FastPasses at Magic Kingdom, so we told him we were going there. And you know what? That was the one park he said he couldn't drop us off at. :( So instead he took us to the Contemporary Resort, told us to go to the 4th floor and ride the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Then we rode the monorail again, later that day, from Magic Kingdom to Epcot. The whole experience was super fast, and really easy. Of all the public transportation options at Disney World, this is the one I would recommend. Stay at the Grand Floridian or Contemporary Resort to make monorail riding between Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and your hotel easy. It is worth noting, however, that there is no monorail access to Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, or many of the hotels; you will need to take the bus to those.

Finally, you can, if you really want, rent a car to go from spot to spot. Justin and I rented our car to attend a wedding. If you call up the Disney Car Center, they will hook you up with a rental, drive you to the car care center to pick up your vehicle and pay, and at the end of your time with your rental, drive you to your hotel or to a Disney park. It's really easy, and the folks at both National and Alamo are easy to work with and friendly. Justin and I were upgraded to a red Dodge Challenger and provided insider park tips from the Alamo representatives we spoke with. They almost acted like the Disney cast members from the parks – so happy and excited to have you using their service!

Splurge and rent a fancy car! But don't expect to get this one

Going Home…

At the end of your trip, hop aboard Disney's Magical Express for a free and easy ride home. You can check your bags at your Disney hotel to many airline carriers and even have your plane tickets printed right there! They do recommend that you take a bus 4 hours before departure for international flights and 3 hours before departure for domestic flights. Orlando International Airport is easy to navigate and provides enough food and shopping options to keep you busy in the small bit of time you might have before your flight.

End Thoughts

Overall, my experience flying to Orlando was a positive one. Maybe you will have better luck working with small airline carriers than I did? Otherwise, Disney transportation, while a bit slow, was easy to use and economical. The only gas my husband and I paid for was when we left the park in our rental vehicle. It was nice that we were able to drink as much beer and wine at EPCOT during the Food and Wine Festival without having to worry about putting anyone in danger when we left the parks. Plus, we could stay as long as we wanted at the parks (until they closed) and not have to worry about falling asleep while driving back.

If you are going to take advantage of Disney transportation, I recommend, like I said above, staying at locations with the monorail nearby. It is the fastest and easiest transportation to and from the parks. Otherwise, just be prepared for a wait.

If you've been to Disney, what do you think of their transportation? Do you like it or do you see where improvements could make it better? 

If you haven't been to Disney, would you consider going car-free? Or using their Magical Express to get your luggage to your hotel room?

#BooktagsBlogHop: The Martian by Andy Weir

The purpose of this blog hop is for readers and writers to share what they are reading, have read, are writing, or have written with others on the third Monday of every month hosted by Toi Thomas.

SOL 6:  
          I stumbled up the hill back toward the Hab. As I crested the rise, I saw something that made me very happy and something that made me very sad: The Hab was intact (yay!) and the MAV was gone (boo!). 
          Right at that moment I knew I was screwed.

After seeing The Martian (movie) in theatres, I knew I had to get my hands on the book. You've heard me say this before, and will probably hear me say it again, but The Martian (book and otherwise) is an uplifting story about how the world comes together to bring one (very intelligent) man home from Mars. I began reading Andy Weir's story at the end of October, and, unfortunately, haven't gotten very far. The story is filled to the brim with science as main man Mark Watney works through all of the problems he faces in this survival of the fittest story. I would recommend this book for science geeks, people who love the movie, or people who just want to read an optimistic story about the human race.

Buy The Martian here or join the #BooktagsBlogHop here. :)

* I received this book for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Kroger HemisFares Tagliatelle di Campofilone Italian Flat Egg Noodles Review

Imported directly from Italy, Hemisfares, the new product line at Kroger provides delicious products that take simple meals from ordinary to extraordinary. :)

Recently I got the opportunity to try Tagliatelle di Campofilone or Italian flat egg noodles. In case you don't know, egg noodles are usually flat and originated in China whereas pasta comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and no one knows what country it originated in.

For our meal, we served our pasta with Classico cheese sauce, broccoli, chicken, and bread on the side. Not exactly the most nutritious of meals, but it was fast and easy … something we like in this household. 

The Hemisfares noodles were long and soft, easy to eat and they tasted incredibly light, not at all like typical pasta from the grocery store. Plus, the pasta came in a box with the noodles separated just like you would expect from a fancier brand.

When we had leftover noodles but not sauce, I reheated the noodles and paired them simply with butter and parmesan cheese for a delicious snack the next day. The egg noodles didn't lose any of their delicious in the reheating process making this a fantastic product I would definitely consider purchasing again.

HemisFares doesn't just make noodles though. They also make a great bolognese sauce, olive oil, gelato, and, soon to come, foods from a variety of other regions around the world! I'm excited to see and try all of the products from HemisFares in the near future!

Have you had the chance to try any of the HemisFares products yet? If you haven't, be sure to check them out at your local grocery store! You won't want to miss checking out this amazing brand!

* I received a product to try in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Decade By Decade Music: 90s

Moving on to week 6 in my series of decade by decade music, 90s was the era in which I grew up. Gameboys, super soakers, beanie babies, tamagotchi, trolls and more ruled my life. Heck, as a kid I had a pink Barbie corvette which my cousin painted black and pinstriped red to match my father's showcar. (He now paints cars for a living. Go figure!) Anyway, the toys aren't really what most remind me of 90s music … Rollerskating does. We had skate nights once a month with my elementary school where everyone would show up and skate. I may have been too busy playing with toys at home to listen to music, but, there, on skate night, I was exposed to more 90s pop music than you (or I) can even imagine. So as I look back, nostalgically, this list will be traced with the songs I heard then as I skated with family, friends, and siblings as well as new songs I didn't hear until years later…

To have a look back at the other posts I've written in this series, click on the links below:

40s • 50s • 60s • 70s • 80s

1. Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson – "Beauty and the Beast" (buy)

My favorite Disney movie as a kid, I identified with the brown-haired, brown-eyed, book-loving "freak" that was Belle. Celine Dion's beautiful voice was only a perk of this soundtrack, which I listened to over and over again. (Feel bad for my parents yet?)

Anyway, "Beauty and the Beast" was originally written by the fabulous and well-known Disney lyricist Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Angela Lansbury (the teapot) first recorded the song followed up by pop artists Peabo Bryson and, new to the music world, Celine Dion. This film marked the first time in Disney's history that they recorded and used two versions of the same song in one movie. "Beauty and the Beast" also marked the beginning of Celine Dion's career taking Dion from a relatively unknown Canadian star to a household name. The song won a golden globe an academy award, and a juno award and reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

2. Sarah McLachlan – "Possession" (buy)

Written in 1993 as the first single on her album Fumbling Toward Ecstasy, the song is based on two crazed fans McLachlan encountered early in her career. She recorded two versions of the song with the second solo piano version being included as a hidden track on the 1993 album. "Possession" was nominated for a grammy, but it did not receive one.

3. Michael Jackson – "Will You Be There" (buy)

In the late 80s and early 90s Michael Jackson was a strong advocate for human and animal rights through his music, as seen in his support for the movie Free Willy and creation of this song. According to the late Jackson, he wrote this song on his Neverland Ranch sitting in his Giving Tree. "Will You Be There" incorporates "a prelude featuring the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus performing a portion of Beethoven's ninth symphony" followed by "a choral interlude arranged by Andrae and Sandra Crouch" (Wikipedia). Sources (as suggested in the Wikipedia article) suggest that Jackson failed to credit the Cleveland Orchestra for their addition in the song and thus they sued (and won) for 7 million dollars which was settled out of court. "Will You Be There" won "best movie song for 1994" and topped the Billboard Hot 100 at number 7.

4. Eric Clapton – "Tears In Heaven" (buy)

Following the death of his 4 year old son, Clapton wrote this song for the movie Rush, which dealt with drug addiction. While he doesn't perform the song any longer (claiming the depth of feeling he once had for the subject has dissipated), when it was initially released it received multiple awards and nominations and stayed at the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. The song also did well internationally hitting the top spots on charts in countries like Brazil, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, Poland, and Taiwan. 

5. Better Than Ezra – "Desperately Wanting" (buy)

Released in 1996, "Desperately Wanting" by rock group Better Than Ezra may or may not be about fraternity hazing, a gay kid who killed himself, or a love story about how some guy is obsessed with a girl on drugs. Google has provided very little information for me and neither have the singers. Either way, it's a great song that had to included in my list!

6. Vanessa Williams – "Save the Best for Last" (buy)

Shortly after a scandal with the Miss America pageant, Vanessa Williams as she worked toward the development of a successful recording career. The song was written in 1989 by Phil Galdston, Wendy Waldman and Jon Lind as a love story wherein a young man watches the woman he loves date multiple men before initiating a relationship with her. Since the song's recording, it has bee considered Vanessa Williams' signature song topping the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 5 weeks.  

7. Whitney Houston ft. Mariah Carey – "When You Believe" (buy)

A song from the 1998 film "The Prince of Egypt", the song is inspirational ballad suggesting that miracles can happen when you call on God. The song peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received an Academy Award for Best Original Song. 

8. Aerosmith – "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing" (buy)

Debuting at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart where it stayed for 4 weeks, "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing" was written by Diane Warren and produced for the 1998 movie Armageddon. The song was the first #1 hit for the band in 28 years and opened up Aerosmith to a whole new generation! It reached platinum certification in the US and 6 other countries.

9. The Verve – "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (buy)

Sung by an English alternative band, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" is "based on an Andrew Loog Oldham orchestral version of The Rolling Stones' song, 'The Last Time'" from which it received "some legal controversy surrounding a plagiarism charge" (Wikipedia). The song was released in the UK in June 1997 "reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart and staying there for three months" before it was released in the US in March 1998. The song reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" has since been nominated for many awards and been on numerous lists (like Rolling Stones "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" and ME Magazine's "50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever").

10. K-Ci & Jojo – "All My Life" (buy)

The song of middle school dances for me, I only decided to include this song after a reminder that this was Hae Min Lee's song in high school (see Serial podcast). The song debuted at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 climbing to the number 1 spot the following week and stayed on the charts for 35 weeks! Joel (Jo-Jo) initially wrote the song using his daughter as inspiration with the intention of giving it to another artist to record; inevitably, he decided to keep it and record it himself. 

What are your thoughts on my list? I feel like I'm missing some great songs; can you help me remember what they are?

Disney TIckets

A surprisingly empty EPCOT. Where are all of the crowds?

Now that you know a little bit about the parks, how to choose the best hotel for your Walt Disney World vacation, and more about why Disney MagicBands are so important, it's time to look at getting the perfect Disney tickets for all of your vacation needs.

Option 1: Basic Tickets

If the goal of your trip is to spend as much time as possible at any one park, this is the way to go. Magic Kingdom tickets cost the most for a single day pass coming to $105.00 for guests over the age of 10 and all of the other parks costing $97.00. While at first, the price of the Magic Kingdom ticket may come as a shock when compared to the other parks, keep in mind that demand for Magic Kingdom tickets is much higher with the total number of rides available within the park much larger than any of the other parks. It is a good idea, if you are staying for more than one day, to buy a multi-day park pass since the price per day goes down for the more days worth of tickets you buy. For example, if you buy a 2-day pass (which is good for one entry per day to any one of the parks), the price drops by $1/ticket. Add another day and it drops by approximately $6. This continues until you reach the magical number of 10 days where the price per day is a shocking $60.50 off the original $97 price tag making each day a total cost of $36.50! Wow! Keep in mind though that despite what a great deal the 10 day pass is, you only have 14 days from the first time you scan your Disney ticket before it expires. You won't be able to save unused days for a later trip. And don't even think of buying the 10 day pass and using one ticket to get into one park on day one and a second ticket to get into park two on day one; it won't work.You literally need to visit the parks over a 10 day period to take advantage of the low costs associated with it.

Moving on…

The frightening Tower of Terror looms ahead…

Option 2: Park Hopping

For some of the smaller parks, I highly recommend park hopping. It costs an additional $58 per day (which goes down with the more tickets you buy), but it is very much worth it if you anticipate visiting more than one park per day. For example, Justin and I, during our very recent trip to Disney World, visited Animal Kingdom early in the morning on day one, did all that we could think of to do (and some things we didn't expect to do), then hopped on over to EPCOT to the Food and Wine Festival for lunch and exploring. On the second day of our trip, we hopped from Magic Kingdom in the morning, to EPCOT for lunch and dinner, then to Hollywood Studios to end our day. For us, paying for individual days at each of the parks would not have been worth it; we (or at least I) knew what we wanted to do, and park hopping made it so that we could do all of the things we wanted to do within a shorter time frame. If you have young kids, however, park hopping may be an extravagant expense that is not worth it for you. Exploring one park in one day can be a bit much … especially for people who have never been to Disney World before, parents with young kids who need frequent breaks or want to see all of the shows and meet all of the characters, or older folks who have a hard time getting around.

Want to play a game of golf while your family vacations at Disney World? You can!

Option 3: Water Park Fun & More

I've personally never used this ticket option, but I can see how people who come in the summer or love water parks (and more) would love it. So, here's the deal – When you purchase this ticket, you are selecting the total number of days you want to spend at the theme parks (EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios). For each of the days you spend at those parks (for example, 4), you can spend an equal number of days (4) at any of the water parks (Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach), the Oak Trail Golf Course, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course, and/or Disney's Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course. The way it works out is that you have multiple ways to use your tickets. You can spend one day at each park and then one day at each water park (or fun option) or you can use your park and fun admissions on the same day. Even better, for all of the "fun" activities, you can visit multiple in one day. Want to play mini golf and visit a water park? You can do that. Or you can visit Magic Kingdom during the morning, visit a water park when you get to the hottest part of the day and spend your even mini-golfing. Nice, right?

Because this ticket option is pretty complicated, visit Undercover Tourist to get a better idea of how it works.

Everything you ever wanted and more!

Finally, Option 4: Park Hopper, Water Park Fun & More

Are you indecisive? Can't decide which park to go to? This ticket option would be great for you since it combines both options #3 and #4. You can visit any park any day for an additional $98 (which goes down when you purchase more days). Have breakfast at Animal Kingdom, take in a few rides at Hollywood Studios, enjoy the afternoon sun at Typhoon Lagoon, visit EPCOT for dinner, play mini golf at the Summerland Miniature Golf Course, and then return to Magic Kingdom for fireworks. Phew! I'm tired just thinking about it! Aren't you? :)

Who is your favorite Disney character?


At Disney's website, they also give you the option to purchase "memory maker" which is a collection of all of the photos taken of you at the Disney parks. And, fyi, they take a lot! Did you hug Ariel? Give Mickey a high five? What about roller coasters – did you do any of those? If you want to remember all of your special moments on Disney property, purchasing the memory maker in advance might be just the thing for you.

If you decide to purchase your tickets elsewhere, be careful and make sure to only purchase from an authorized seller. Do not purchase tickets on ebay since tickets are non-transferrable. If the tickets you purchase on ebay, craigslist, or elsewhere have been partially used, you may lose money in the transaction, be unable to use the tickets at Disney parks, and struggle to get a refund.

One authorized retailer I recommend is Undercover Tourist. They are the company I bought mine and Justin's tickets from. We signed up for the Mousesavers newsletter which offers a discount code and let's you know about special Disney offers you can use to plan your vacation. Then, when you go to purchase your tickets, you receive a discount just for purchasing from them. Isn't that awesome?! Justin and I received $30 back for tweeting #amexuct with our twitter accounts that are connected to our Amex credit cards on top of the discount we were already receiving as well as the coupon code we were able to use. How awesome is that? Plus, you have the option of having your tickets sent to you, available for pick up at will call, or e-mailed to you (for connecting to your MagicBand). With so many options and such a great amount of savings, what are you waiting for? :)

Purchase tickets from Disney here and from Undercover Tourist here.

Have you ever been to Disney World in Orlando, Florida? Do you have any other tickets suggestions or helpful hints to share that I didn't cover in this blog post?

Advil For All of the Seasons

One of my go-to pain relievers is Advil®. Always. They offer a small pill that is easy to swallow and doesn't taste incredibly bad in your mouth when you are trying to get it to go down your throat. Even my husband, who is an advocate for generic brands says that even he can understand why I prefer a trusted brand like Advil® over competitor products.

Recently I received Advil® Sinus Congestion & Pain relief capsules to try courtesy of Smiley360. While the capsules don't necessarily treat allergies or sinus infections, they are great for treating sinus pressure, nasal swelling, headache, fever, and body aches, all of which may be things you might be dealing with as the temperature gets colder. Another benefit to the product is that, unlike say Benadryl, this product is non-drowsy. You can take it and then go back to solving all of the world's problems just like that! :)

One of the benefits to me receiving this product is that I have some coupons to give away. Three to be exact. They will get you $3 off a purchase of Advil® Sinus Congestion & Pain for all of the sinus issues you may be dealing with. These coupon are good through December 15, so don't enter if you don't plan on using it. All you have to do to win a coupon is enter my rafflecopter below by November 19th.

Can't wait to win?

Get a $1.00 off coupon for Advil® here or learn more about Advil® Sinus Congestion & Pain here.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
* I received a sample of this product for free in exchange for sharing a review. All opinions are my own.
** Use as directed. Follow product dosing information and ask your doctor before use if you:
                  • Are at risk for stomach bleeding or have a history of stomach issues
                  • Are allergic to pain relievers/fever reducers
                  • Are pregnant or nursing
                  • About to or just had heart surgery
                  • Or have any other condition warned against on the product label (see product label for complete warning information).