Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas in the Caribbean

We leave today for our Christmas Caribbean cruise! Well, actually, the ship departs, tomorrow, but we're leaving our house, today and will probably spend the night in Valdosta.

So, I figured I'd leave you with some Caribbean Christmas cheer!















Happy Holidays!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Transform a Room


I can't really tell you how this was done because all credit goes to my dear mother.


I love it.








Monday, November 30, 2009

Excited for New Year's at Disney

Christmas break is going to be great fun. The cruise will of course be wonderful, but I am especially excited for Disney.

New news is that I could possibly be joined by dear boyfriend. His dad has mentioned going to Florida and visiting Walt Disney World for Christmas break, and if things go as we'd like, then we'll be there at the same time. However, that's not really in my control. Still, I decided it would be best to plan ahead and made more ADRs to include them. I suppose that is a bit greedy, but I completely intend to cancel any ADRs that I cannot make. I already have five ADRs up for grabs - Jan 1 7:25 PM party of 8 at Citricos, Jan 1 7:00 PM party of 8 at The Wave, Jan 2 8:05 AM party of 4 at Crystal Palace, Jan 2 8:00 AM party of 4 at Whispering Canyon Cafe, Jan 3 8:25 AM party of 4 at Chef Mickey's.

Here are the ADRs that I have for keepsies: Boma, Ohana's, Todd English's bluezoo, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Whispering Canyon Cafe, Artist Point, 1900 Park Fare.

It's the oddest thing... I booked Todd English's bluezoo for four people with no problem. Then when I tried to book it again for eight, it said that I needed credit card confirmation. I wasn't going to mess with that since I'm not even sure that I'm going to use the ADR, so I booked dinner for seven that night at Yachtsman Steakhouse.

Now... the Wilderness Lodge! I'm very excited to be staying at the Wilderness Lodge. Rachel is a bit disappointed because she wanted the Polynesian, but I had been pulling for WL the entire time. See, I first fell in love with WL when I watched Samantha Brown's review of her stay there on the Travel Channel. Of course, Samantha Brown makes everything seem luxurious, but WL really appealed to me. It's so... rustic. Something you wouldn't expect to find in Central Florida. I've been there once for dinner at Artist Point, and it completely feels like you're outside in the wilderness. The seven-story lobby is magnificent, and one of Disney's finest (competes with the Grand Floridian and Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House). Unique features include an 82-foot tall lobby fireplace, a stream that flows through the lobby, over a waterfall, and into the main swimming pool, and Fire Rock Geyser that erupts every hour, shooting water 120 feet into the air. The details of this resort are amazing, and I cannot wait to take it all in.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas in the Caribbean - Theming the Tree

I think it's important that the Christmas tree blend in with its surroundings. A traditionally decorated room should have a traditional tree with colors reflecting those that already exist in the space. However, with fun spaces, such as entertainment rooms, family rooms, play rooms, bedrooms, etc., trees can be creative and fun.

The basement tree is all my own. I picked out the 7.5' tree from Target, as well as the ornaments, and I have decorated it all by myself.

Our basement has a beach house feel to it. It's very light and airy, which is rare for a basement. White cabinetry and light-colored furniture with blue accents helped achieve this (my personal favorite aspect of the basement is the entertainment center with bamboo countertop and cabinet doors). So, since we had put so much thought into keeping the basement soft and bright, the tree and Christmas decor needed to reflect that.


The 7.5' tree I picked out looked pretty in the store. And it looked pretty when we set it up in the house. However, it was massive. It's a really thick tree, and very wide at the base. There's alot of branches to it, which contributes to its fluffy appearance, but also makes it somewhat overwhelming to work with. Some of the branches are coated in a shiny, sparkly material, and others are just plain white. I found that the shiny branches are not as bendable and do not support as much weight as the plain branches. This is a nuisance, considering that this tree has alot of heavy glass ornaments.


I use two different color garlands with the tree. This is mainly because the tree is so big, and the majority of it is blue. A single garland looks lonely on the thick tree. After I put up the second garland, I am still not satisfied. However, once the branches are filled with ornaments, the garland no longer looks pathetic and crooked.


The garland itself is quite a challenge to hang. I take four stools and put them around the tree. I then stand on the stools and rotate around the tree while hanging the garland. It's definitely not safe, as I have to hop from one barstool to another, but it works. I start from the top and wrap one color garland clockwise and the other color counter-clockwise. I try to vary the lengths that the garland drops from the branches. Although I'm never happy with the garland alone, once the tree is complete, I actually like the crooked-hanging garland.


This tree has alot of ornaments. I use varying shades of blue, lime green, and silver balls. Then, I have a few unique ornaments, such as the chandelier-like disks, scuba Santa, swimtrunks, and other tropically-themed ornaments.


The tree took me about 6-7 hours from start to finish. My dad set this up, so this does not include assembly time. However, I did have to fluff the tree. Unpacking the ornaments took almost an hour. The garland alone took about two hours.



I also think that when decorating, it's important to have a sense of humor.


The beach-dressed Beanie Kids are tanning underneath the tree. The tree skirt is white felt covered with a lime green fishing net from Oriental Trading Catalog.


The gifts under the tree are actually empty bags coordinating with the tree.


How's that for Christmas in the Caribbean?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We booked a resort!

Last night, I found a PIN code in my inbox for 30% off deluxe resorts between December 24 and January 2. Now, PIN codes themselves are a rarity, and a discount during the holiday season is unheard of. This PIN was too good to be true!

I immediately ran downstairs and told my dad. He called and booked the Wilderness Lodge this morning. I'm really excited because Wilderness Lodge was my first choice. Rachel is a bit disappointed because she wanted the Polynesian, however, I don't see much point in staying at the Poly for three nights. Besides, the Wilderness Lodge is always really decked out for Christmas, and has probably the biggest and most elaborate tree (it's a close call with the GF).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Our "Bonus Room" (actually, no longer a bonus room... since we've added a closet, it's technically a bedroom, but the name remains the same) is the girl hang-out area. It's at the end of the hallway upstairs (the entire upstairs is a total girl zone). When we first moved into the house, it was originally our play room, painted a hideous lavendar color, complete with a giant chalkboard. We have since removed the chalkboard, painted the walls white (thank goodness!), and decorated in pink and orange. This is our slumber party room.


The bonus room tree is my favorite, and this year, I decorated it first.


It's a six-foot white artificial tree that we purchased from Michael's (I believe) a few years ago.


The ornaments are whimsical shapes and figurines in pink, lime green, purple, and orange that we've collected over the years, the majority coming from Hobby Lobby.

I believe I prefer this tree because it is probably the easiest to decorate. The size is perfect. I can reach the top of the tree without needing a ladder. Therefore, the garland is easy to fix. The branches are nice and sturdy, and not covered in an excessive amount of fluff. They are easy to bend and arrange. This tree is definitely the least overwhelming. It took around 3-4 hours to decorate, assembly to finish.




The tree skirt is actually a pink furry rug that I bundle up and wrap around the base.


The doll is my sister's beloved "Cuddle." Her favorite childhood toy must remain present during the holiday season.


Other Christmas additions include stockings...



As well as decorative figurines.



I apologize for the large size of these photos. I just got a new photobucket, and I forgot to reduce the size of the photo.

The Holidays are Here!

So, I'm really into holiday decor. Especially Christmas. Christmas is my favorite time of year because of the decorations and the music. So, expect to see my blog all dressed up for the holidays.

I want to write about decorating for the holidays, and I didn't want to start a new blog just to write about decorations (considering no one even reads this blog). Therefore, I will be interrupting my travel journal with decoration entries.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Oh, the Places to Go....

It's about time I finally finished uploading my Walt Disney World Trip Report. It took especially long because I had to copy/paste the embedded codes for the pictures individually. It's not an easy task. Next time I do a dual TR/blog, I'll be sure and do them at the same time, so I can get the IMG and embedded codes at the same time. That should be a lot easier and faster.

Since it's been awhile since I've actually written anything new, I figured it was time for an update.

Marching band season just ended... The Pride of Pendleton is the AA State Champion!!!

My next trip is happening in just a week. Every year, we drive to Mississippi (nine hours) to spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents. It's not really a vacation, so I probably won't blog about it. I might write a Black Friday review, though... that is pretty much the highlight of my Thanksgiving break. Oh, and my birthday is on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I will be spending all day in the car on the way back home from Mississippi. Fun....

Speaking of my birthday, I do not know what I want to do to celebrate it, yet. I feel like I need some sort of celebration with friends... I am turning 18. When I turned sixteen, we went to American Girl Boutique and Bistro in Atlanta. That was fun. I'd like to do it again, but I also want my boyfriend to come, and I don't think he'd be very comfortable there. Yeah, that would be kind of weird. Bummer. Any ideas on how I can celebrate my birthday? I'm very near Atlanta, Columbia, Asheville, and Charlotte (though completely boring, my hometown is actually in a great central location)... maybe we can go to Biltmore. Rachel has been saying she wanted to go to Biltmore everytime the commercials come on, so that might just work.

Now while we're on the subject of Christmas commercials, we're also going to see the Radio City Rockettes when they come on tour to the BiLo Center in Greenville for my mother's birthday.

Which reminds me that I never posted a review on the 2009 Jonas Brothers World Tour Concert. We had really great floor seats (right by the runway) and took really great pictures. I might just have to post some pictures.

I'm really excited about our upcoming Christmas vacation. For the first time, we are not going to be home for Christmas. We've booked a 9-night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean International's Grandeur of the Seas, so we'll be spending Christmas in the Caribbean! It departs on December 21 from Tampa, Florida; and ports of call include San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Tortola, British Virgin Islands. We've already been to St. Thomas and St. Maarten (actually, we didn't really enjoy either of these ports... at least we know now not to do snuba in St. Thomas), but it's been several years. I've glanced at excursions, and I'm personally liking the zip-line in San Juan. There was also an ATV adventure that would be fun. The problem is that I'm now 18 and can drive most of these vehicles, but Rachel is only 16, so I don't know if they'd let her ride along with me, or if she'd have to ride with mom or dad. That wouldn't be as fun. And now that I'm going to be eighteen, I won't be allowed into the kids clubs... which is a bummer (not like we've really hung out in there in the past). I might sneak in, though. Carnival is really strict on carding, but Royal Caribbean only cards Fuse at night... you can walk right in the Living Room, which is where we prefer, anyway.

Unfortunately, we will not be on the cruise for New Year's. However, Tampa happens to be very near.... Walt Disney World! Two years ago, when we got back from our cruise to Cozumel, we went to Hollywood Studios for New Year's (Dad thought he was going to get away with Busch Gardens... pfff!). This year, we arrive back in Tampa on January 30, so we'll drive to WDW and spend two or three nights. I'm not sure where we're staying, yet (Rachel requested the Polynesian, and I suggested the Wilderness Lodge), but I've already booked our ADRs.

December 30, 2009 at 7:05PM Boma - Flavors of Africa
December 31, 2009 at 8:30AM Ohana's Best Friend Breakfast
December 31, 2009 at 7:00PM Todd English's Bluezoo
January 1, 2010 at 6:10PM Whispering Canyon Cafe

I'm not sure if we'll be there late enough for the January 1st ADR, so I might change that to lunch.

Now, more exciting news... I made the US Army All-American Marching Band and will be playing at the US Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. For those of you who aren't familiar with the All-American Bowl, the best high school senior football players are chosen from across the nation and compete against eachother, east vs. west. The bowl game has been around for awhile, but the marching band is relatively new, being added just three years ago. But, I'll be leaving January 5, 2010 for San Antonio (I have an early flight from Greenville-Spartanburg to Atlanta, and then I'll switch planes in Atlanta and fly to San Antonio). We spend the week in San Antonio learning drill to perform during half-time at the bowl game on January 9, 2010. The bowl game will be broadcasted live on television, but they likely will not show the entire halftime show. However, it can be viewed online. I'll have to get the website if you're interested.

Hopefully, we'll be able to fit in a short ski trip somewhere. It won't be anything big... unless maybe we go skiing for spring break. That would be fun. But, we would like to take some friends up to North Carolina and do some skiing one weekend. It won't be anything big or nice... NC skiing pretty much sucks. It's a good place to learn, but once you've been out west, it is a disappointment.

I will be going to Walt Disney World yet again with the marching band. It was really fun, last time (2008), and I'm super excited. Of course, I've already booked our ADRs...

February 11 at 5:50pm The Garden Grill
February 12 at 6:55pm Liberty Tree Tavern
February 13 at 1:00pm Sci-Fi Dine-In

Last year, some of my ADRs conflicted with other events, so this year, I was sure to book dinner at Epcot well before IllumiNations. I wanted Crystal Palace for Magic Kingdom, but it will be closed for rehab. However, I was excited to learn that Liberty Tree Tavern will be reopened with characters while Crystal Palace is closed.

And, more Disney... we also want to attend GradNite in April. We don't know who all is going, but I did make my first ADR for 10:00am breakfast at Ohana's, today.

Ahhh.... that's alot of vacations, and you know I'll try to squeeze some more in there! Keep reading for more updates!

My Thoughts on Bay Lake Towers

I had never stayed at a DVC resort before, and although I enjoyed the "exclusiveness" of it (some of it we were excluded from... such as the Top of the World lounge), I didn't find it very homey. It was very posh and felt upscale, but not really like home. I'd compare it to a country club, kind of. A contemporary country club.

Exterior Appearance

I think they did a good job of blending the new BLT with the thirty-year-old Contemporary Resort. It almost looks like they were constructed at the same time, which I suppose says more for the timeless structure of Disney's Contemporary Resort (who'd have thought?). It does bother me that the windows of BLT have a rather green tint, while those at the Contemporary are black. They also did not match the railing on the balconies.

I didn't really think the building had much curb appeal, though. Rachel and I both thought that it was much prettier looking up at it from the back side by the pool. It felt much more inviting... looking up at from the pool, you were in the circle. The building was surrounding you. From the outside, it was closed off... you were out of the loop. This could be metaphorical to the exclusiveness of it as a DVC resort.


We didn't mind checking in at the Contemporary, however it did make baggage transfer difficult. They took our luggage for us and had to cart it from the Contemporary over to BLT. We didn't valet and parked our car over at BLT, so we could've just as easily taken our own bags to the room (especially since we had so little luggage). Instead, we had to wait on our luggage to be delivered to the room. That was $12 wasted.

The Skyway bridge was nice and surprisingly not congested at the time of fireworks. I noticed that sometimes you had to put your card in to cross, and other times you didn't. If you weren't a BLT guest and really wanted to get over there, you could just wait for a BLT guest to put the card in and sneak in behind.

The automatic doors to the Skyway bridge opened at you when going from BLT to the Contemporary, which was weird. I actually had to back up a few times to keep the automatic door from hitting me.

BLT was convenient to the bus stop. Unfortunately for us, our bus took forever to come. The other buses (not to DHS) showed up in good time, though. It's all luck. You can never predict it.


The pool was pretty neat. The zero-depth entry was nice. It wasn't that big, though. I never got to go down the slide because we went swimming after the lifeguards had left, but it looked like fun. I wasn't crazy about the design... I didn't dig the tiles. They reminded me of an 80's bathroom. I don't know... it was just a bit too opaque for me. Rachel thought it was cool, though.

There was only one hot tub, and though it was in a great location (right by the lake), it wasn't very big. Luckily for us, it was never crowded when we were down there. However, it would probably be much more crowded during peak season. I felt like the resort wasn't very full that weekend. I mean, we had gotten a reservation just two days before.

Room - Studio

The layout of the studio was a little weird. You walk in and you have a bathroom on the left and then on the right, there's a door, which I am assuming could be connected to a one-bedroom to make a two-bedroom unit. The next opening on the left is the bathroom vanity. Then right behind the bathroom vanity on the other wall is the kitchenette. I found it odd that the kitchen sink was right behind the bathroom sink.

The unit wasn't very big, but it didn't really matter for us because it was just a two-night stay and we didn't have much luggage. I don't know how comfortable we would've been on a week-long trip, though.

The pull-out couch was new and stiff. There was no bounce to it at all. At first, I thought I'd be just as good off sleeping on the floor, but by the morning, I had adjusted. I would compare it to a not-yet-fluffy futon.

The bed, however, was very comfortable. Very bouncy. Very soft. Very nice.

My biggest complaint was mirrors. There were only two mirrors in the unit - one in the living area and one in the bathroom/kitchen. They were both small and high. In order to get a full-body view, I had to stand on a chair. I really could've used a full-length mirror. I believe they sacrificed function for style with the bathroom mirror. I wish they had made it wider and lower, spanning more of the counter top.

Now, the vanity in the bathroom was very high. It was probably four feet off the ground. It really came up to me right below my chest (keep in mind I'm only five feet tall). I don't know how small children could use it.

I really wish there had been a double vanity... his and her sinks. That would've been nice.

The shower had great water pressure, but the water wasn't always hot. I took a shower really late at night (like 1 am or something) and had no problem with hot water, but Rachel took a shower in the morning - probably when everyone else was taking a shower - and said that she couldn't get the water hot enough (then again, she does like her water scorching hot, so the average person probably would've been okay).

The toilet had poop on the handle when we got there. That was pretty sick-nasty. And yes, it was poop, because it came off. We had to clean it off ourselves because after Rachel left a note for mousekeeping "Please... clean poop off toilet flusher (not ours... sick!)," it was still there (they did do everything else on her note, though). Perhaps they didn't know what a "flusher" is.

What I LOVED about BLT

BLT had some FANTASTIC views of Magic Kingdom. There were a lot of big windows and you could look out and see Cinderella's Castle and Space Mountain. We lucked out got an upgrade to a Lake View room with a theme park view and could pick out different attractions, such as the Astro Orbitor, Big Thunder Mountain, and TTA from our balcony. Being able to watch the fireworks with music from our room was also amazing.

Would I stay here again?

Absolutely. But it's not my first pick. My favorite resort is still the Grand Floridian. I just love the old-timey elegance of it.... BLT's "poshness" was pretty cool, but not my first-choice atmosphere. Rachel has already told us that the next time we come to WDW, she wants to stay at the Polynesian, so I suppose we'll be heading there next.

Day 3 - End with Epcot

After we checked out of BLT, we drove to Epcot.

We accidentally took the long way. Drove by Fort Wilderness and Port Orleans. It was cool, though, because I'd actually never been by either resort.

Dad went to go FP Soarin' and Mom, Rachel, and I hung out in Innoventions. I learned how velcro was made and how it got its name. It's a blend (AP lit word right there) of the words 'velour' and 'crochet.' The man who invented velcro got the idea when his dog came inside from the woods over thanksgiving and had those little prickly things (cockleburrs?) stuck in his fur.

After Dad came back, Rachel wanted to...

any guesses?

Drink Coke.

So we went to Club Cool and she drank Cokes. I really don't understand her obsession over this attraction. I guess she likes free stuff.

After that, we headed over to Test Track and stood in line for thirty minutes. We were behind a fun family who had been on Test Track multiple times that week because their son was just tall enough to ride and loved it. The mom asked our opinion on which Mission:Space they should take him on. We suggested they go on green first because it provided the same thrill without the difficulty breathing... send the dad on orange first and see how he thought their son would do.

The showroom after Test Track was a disappointment. The best vehicle they had was the 2010 Camaro (love this car!) that they kept locked with a not-so-friendly CM there to tell people about it. Only she wouldn't answer any of our questions. Then these guys came up and she talked away to them. Hmph.

No Hummers. No convertibles. Just a bunch of hybrid vehicles. None very attractive. Nothing I'd drive. I suppose this is the showroom after the "economy crisis."

After Test Track, it was time for our Soarin' FPs. Great timing. Soarin' was amazing, as always. This attraction makes me happy. I like the smell of oranges. Rachel says it's her favorite WDW scent.

After Soarin, it was about time to be on our way, but we decided to check out the new version of Spaceship Earth (we had yet to be on it). It was pretty cool. I was a little disappointed with the last room, though. I thought they would go a little bit further. The create your future part was cool, though. Mainly because Rachel looked especially silly in her picture, so it was funny for her head to keep popping up. I don't think she knew her picture was being taken.

When we got out, Mom and Dad's pictures were on the big world map. Rachel wanted to find our pictures around the room, but Mom and Dad went on. We'll have to check this area out some more later.

Rachel had been wanting a frozen banana all weekend (she also wanted a pineapple dole whip, but that didn't happen), so Dad and I went to get us ice cream while Rachel went to get some celebration buttons. She wanted a few birthday buttons for friends. She must've sweet-talked the CM over there because she came back with a bag full of buttons... just married, anniversary, magical gatherings... he gave her every button!

After that, we had to go home.

It was a very fun trip. We all had a blast. It was cool having no real plan except to do what we wanted to do.... and EAT! Ah, this was a good food trip. We'll have to do this again, sometime!