Adjectives Market

Yesterday, Tadd and I decided to go to a few places we had been meaning to check out for a long time.  On my list was Adjectives Market, a huge art/vintage/antiques shop in Altamonte Springs, Florida.  Incidentally, this is the town where we lived prior to buying our house, and I so wish that it had been around when we lived on that side of town!  Such a cool place!

The very large space is filled with many smaller booths where individual artisans and/or antiques dealers can display their wares.  You can find anything from beautiful furniture, to antique items, to interesting found object sculptures.  They even sell the ever-popular Annie Sloan chalk paint, which I may need to go back and get once I find a project to use it on.

It was honestly a little overwhelming; there were so many neat things to look at!  But I did manage to score a few very cool items.  The first thing I saw that I had to have was this set of coasters celebrating Orlando history.

I am thinking about doing something unconventional with these…Perhaps hanging them on the wall or incorporating them into a tray of some sort.  I just love them!  The one in the upper left is a shot of the main road going through downtown Orlando; Orange Avenue.  By the looks of the cars I would guess that it’s maybe the 1930s or 1940s?

I also got this milk glass dish (if you collect milk glass, Adjectives Market is your place…There were shelves and shelves of it!), and a 1982 map of Central Florida.

Altogether I spent about $30.  But I really could have spent SO much more.  I want to go back very soon!  If you live in the Central Florida area, please do yourself a favor and check this place out!

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The Illustrious Biltmore Estate (aka American Downton Abbey)

We are back from our TN/NC adventure!  It was good to see family and we had a fabulous time.  We did and saw a TON during the 9 days we were gone, but I think one of the highlights for me was getting to see the Biltmore Estate, the grand French Chateauesque mansion built by George W. Vanderbilt II in the late 1800s.  The property spans over 8000 acres and includes some of the most beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest.  The house itself has 250 rooms (we got to see approximately 40 of them) and encompasses almost 180,000 square feet.  It has been established as the largest privately-owned residence in the US.

Being a history nerd, I knew I would love it, but there is something about being there in person…  I told Tadd that while we were on property, I almost felt like we were in a real life fairy tale.  This is about as close to European castle as you are going to get on American soil.  And being Downton Abbey fans, Tadd and I could not help but make comparisons.  Especially when we got to the kitchen and the servants areas.  However, I think my favorite room of all had to be the unbelievable dining hall.  I think I remember the tour audio mentioning that the room itself is about 7 stories tall.  The fireplace alone is mindbogglingly enormous, and is technically three fireplaces in one.  You can see a small photo of it here, although to truly get the scale of it, you really have to see it in person.

We took a ton of pictures while we were there, but only of the exterior, since photography was not allowed indoors.  Please know that the photos do this place zero justice, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit this place, I highly urge you to do so.  Between the interior tour, walking around the grounds, with lunch and shopping in the middle, this can easily take up an entire day or more.  We still wanted to see more (including the on site winery!) but I figure it gives us a reason to go back.  And I promise, I will be back!  I would love to go at Christmas time.  The house debuted on Christmas Eve 1895, so Christmas is kind of a big deal here.  They also have specialized tours (focused on architecture, landscaping, even one specifically about the lives of the “help”) that give you exclusive access not granted on the standard tour, so I would love to take one or two of those as well.  See?  Lots of reasons to go back!

Here are some of my favorite shots from the day, which is a lot of them because pretty much everywhere you look is some astonishingly beautiful sight, large or small (makes it very very easy to pretend to be a “good” photographer…heh):

From the History Geek Files: Fort San Lorenzo

This week marks the 2 year anniversary of a really fun vacation that Tadd and I took with some really great people.  Back in April 2011 (about a month before I started this blog!), a group of 12 of us sailed for 8 nights on the Carnival Freedom, stopping at Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama.

I really loved this particular itinerary because it wasn’t your normal Caribbean island hopping cruise.  Not that there is anything wrong with Caribbean island hopping (we will be doing just that later on this year).  It’s just that the ports of call for this cruise were more focused on adventures in the rain forest, interacting with some incredible wildlife, and learning about different cultures.  Something totally different, exotic, and FUN!

One of my favorite moments on the trip was our stop in Panama.  We took a tour that had multiple stops.  We got to see the Panama Canal, took a brief hike through the rainforest, but the best part was after the hike.  We were taken to a small, secluded, driftwood-laden beach on the banks of the Chagres River.

Our guide pointed to a teeny bit of what looked like ruins on the top of a cliff and stated that this would be where we were headed next.  You can see the cliff with the ruins behind us in the picture at the top of this post.  Didn’t look like much from the beach.  But this is what we saw when we got there:

This is Fort San Lorenzo, and it dates back to 1587.  However, as military forts throughout history often are, this one was destroyed and rebuilt a few times, most recently in the 1750s.  It was built by Spain to protect the Pacific/Atlantic trade route across the isthmus of Panama from pirates.  I was totally enamored with the fact that some of the cannons (which were, as you can see, haphazardly strewn about the “gun deck” which has now completely been overgrown with grass) still had the seal of the Spanish crown.  And these cannons were not roped off or encased in glass…They were just lying around in the open.  As a matter of fact, the entire site was completely open to the public.  Unlike Castillo De San Marcos in St. Augustine, which requires you to go through a ticket booth and purchase admission for a tour and even contains a gift shop, this has no gates or even anyone who appeared to be in a “park ranger” type role.  It was just raw history, there to be discovered by anyone who cared to check it out.  Aside from a few handrails and some signage, it didn’t look like it had been touched for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Between getting to be so close to some fascinating history, appreciating the impressive architecture of the fort, and those gorgeous views, I really felt like I was in a special place, and it’s something I have looked back on fondly over the two years since the trip.  If I am ever lucky enough to make it back to Panama, I would love to go back (and with a much better camera!).

For us history geeks, there really is nothing like a beautiful, old Spanish fort…

Hunting Ghosts in Downtown Orlando

Today is my 31st birthday!  Woo!  But instead of talking about my birthday, today I am going to tell you about something awesome that I got to do on Saturday night.

Several of my girlfriends and I took the “Last Call” Haunted Pub Tour with American Ghost Adventures as part of my friend Lara’s bachelorette party.  There were six of us and we each paid $20 for the tour.  We met our wonderful guides Robert and Christine at the Harp & Celt.

Throughout the night, we also visited Stagger Inn, The Attic (formerly AKA Lounge), Ceviche, and The Dessert Lady.  So most of the tour was confined to the areas around Pine St. and Magnolia St. and then down by Church St.  We learned a bit about the history of each place, and in certain instances, we also conducted real investigations using small flashlights and EMF detectors.

I don’t want to give too much of the tour away, and of course, no two tours are going to be the same, but I can say that we had some extremely eerie and unexplainable experiences in both the Harp Restaurant and (especially) The Attic.  Note that this is NOT the type of tour where effects like these are engineered to happen on cue or where actors are trained to jump out and scare you.  The tour guides take hauntings and the paranormal very seriously.

We had the Harp Restaurant all to ourselves (they are only open for lunch) and learned it had previously been a brothel back in the late 1800s.  Lights flickered upon us asking questions, disconnected speakers crackled, and at one point a flashlight randomly started rolling and then stopped.   I am not sure what to make of any of it (old wiring? uneven floors?), but it was definitely thrilling.

Our best experience of the evening was at The Attic.  The former hardware store proprietor, Edward “Eddie” Kuhl built the place in the 1880s, and he eventually had a heart attack and died on the stairs going up to the 3rd floor.

He was known to be a prankster and it seems like he wanted to pull a few pranks on us that evening.  A small, ordinary flashlight was placed on the stairs where he died, and we all asked very nicely if he would turn it on.  Much to our shock, the flashlight came on!

Eddie saying “hi” to us with a flashlight.

We all shrieked and it turned off again.  This happened a few other times over the next 5 or 10 minutes.  At some point, our guide Christine decided to try to get it on video, so she counted to 3 and had us all say very loudly “We love you Eddie!”  Prankster Eddie decided to choose that time to NOT turn on the flashlight.  However, our guide caught a compelling video instead (click the link for the page where it is posted on Facebook).  The video shows us standing by the staircase saying “We love you Eddie!”, and then suddenly a white dot (orb?) flies from the middle of the staircase right towards Christine and her camera.  She immediately played it back for all of us and we were dumbfounded.  The flashlight turned on and off a few more times and we all thanked Eddie for visiting us.  I’m still not really sure what happened, but it was very very cool.  We were on cloud nine while we were on our way to the next place!

The whole group on the stairs at the historic Bumby Arcade off of Church Street. The staircase is supposedly haunted by two children. We got some EMF spikes on the stairs (you can kind of see the one placed on the stairs next to my feet is lit up), and notice the “orbs” behind us. Still not sure what I think about orbs in photos…

I have been on many ghost tours in the past (Salem, Boston, two in Savannah, and St. Augustine) and this was by far the most fun I have had.  Our tour guides were great and totally geared the tour towards our group specifically (we were the only ones on the tour that evening).  I felt like it was the perfect mix of fun/party, history, and a real interactive investigation.  I know that occasionally this same company conducts tours and investigations of Greenwood Cemetery, which is one of Orlando’s oldest.  We found out that “Eddie” Kuhl is actually buried there, so I think most of the group is extremely interested in going to visit his final resting place, since we now feel like we have “met” him!  I am keeping my eye out for the next tour of Greenwood so we can join them.

If you are at all interested in this sort of thing and are in Orlando, I highly recommend American Ghost Adventures.

Old family photos.

I love old pictures; the older the better! I love the (literal!) snapshot of the styles, fashions, and mannerisms of the time. Even better if the old picture in question is one of my own family.

On Easter Sunday, my mom presented this photo to me. It is of her maternal grandmother’s family in 1925. The mother and father in the picture are my great great grandparents, and the young woman standing on the far right is my grandmother’s mother.

From what I know, they were not a very wealthy family, so this must have been a special treat to have a family portrait made. Obviously, it marked the occasion of one of my great-great aunts’ first communion. The dates written on the photo show the year each person in the photo was born (which is also repeated on the back, along with most of the names).

One of the things I love about this picture (and the names & dates written on the back) is that it actually fills in some gaps on my family tree. Being somewhat of a history buff, my own family history and genealogy has always held a great interest to me. However some branches of my family tree have more details filled out than others. That is one of the reasons I got so excited when my mom brought out this pic.

Are you into genealogy? Do you have any old family photos like this one that you cherish?

Bonaventure Cemetery…Morbid, yet beautiful.

This trip to Savannah we took last weekend was actually my second trip.  Tadd and I went for a quick, inexpensive getaway back in May 2007.  Being a self-professed history geek, I kinda fell in love with the city, and was super excited at the opportunity to go back.

One of the places on my wish list to get to see this time that Tadd and I missed back in 2007 was Bonaventure Cemetery, and we did make a stop on our way out of town on Sunday.  If you have read the book or watched the movie Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, you may be at least slightly familiar with the cemetery, as it is featured in the story.  Touring a cemetery might seem morbid, but Bonaventure is truly a sight to behold.  Tons of marble, beautiful statues, ornate headstones, all under a chapel-like canopy of huge live oak trees draped in Spanish moss.  You can certainly see how the families all tried to outdo each other with more and more elaborate family plots.  It was slightly drizzly the morning we were there, which made it even more eerie and beautiful.

I was so absolutely taken with Bonaventure, I wanted to share some of the pictures I took.  I suppose if there were ever a month to post about an old cemetery, October would be it!

This one was my favorite. The angel statue was huge...about the same size as an average human.

"Gracie" is one of Bonaventure's more famous gravesites. Her statue was particularly eerie to me.

Gracie's story.

Spanish moss blowing in the breeze.

The cemetery is on a small bluff overlooking the Wilmington River.

Walt Disney World turns 40!

Before I begin, I just wanted to note that this is my 100th blog post!  Can you believe it?  A milestone post about a milestone anniversary…seems fitting.

Our day started very early.  We left our house about 6 am, and after a quick stop at a gas station, we pulled into the Magic Kingdom parking lot around 7.  For getting up so early, we were rewarded with SUPERB parking spots literally right across the street from the Transportation and Ticket Center.  We took the monorail over to the park entrance made it though bag check, and were standing at the turnstiles before 7:30.  Very quickly, a cast member approached us and handed us our commemorative 40th Anniversary buttons.  Free souvenirs!  Loved it!

Behind us, people started lining up to get into the entry plaza.

Although we had to wait awhile for them to open the turnstiles, I found dealing with the morning crowds relatively painless.   We really arrived at the perfect time because we just kind of breezed through the whole process.  This was all luck though, because I really didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect.  We decided to go into the day thinking we would just go with the flow with limited expectations as far as how the crowds might affect us and what we might get to do and see, and it worked out well.

They opened the turnstiles about 30 min before rope drop, so we grabbed a spot near the right-hand gate and hung out some more.

At 9:00, the rope drop show started above us in the train station lead by the Mayor of Main Street USA.  Soon the characters arrived on the train.  It was really cute and charming.  Tadd and I are NEVER at the parks early enough to see this show, so it was fun to finally get to see it.

After the show, the rope dropped and we were allowed into the park.  Everyone was making their way quickly towards the castle to get a spot for the rededication ceremony.  The ladies from the Main Street Bakery came out to greet us.  Everyone was saying “Happy Birthday Walt Disney World!”  The park was all decked out in beautiful fall decorations.  The atmosphere was very festive.

Let me just stop at this point and say that the weather was as gorgeous as it looks in the pictures.  In the 70s, low humidity, and sunny.  This is probably part of the reason we had such a pleasant experience with all the crowds and the waiting around.  It was Orlando’s first true taste of fall, and we were loving it!

As I said, we made our way to the castle and got a great spot very close to the front.

And the crowds quickly filled in behind us.  Everyone seemed to be in a great mood and really enjoying the day.  People were sharing stories about working for Disney or about memorable past trips with those around them.  It was really nice.

Soon the rededication ceremony started with some songs by the Main Street Philharmonic.

Then the characters arrived, as they played music from past parades and celebrations.  There were so many characters, there wasn’t enough room for them on the stage.  They were everywhere!

The speakers at the rededication ceremony were Meg Crofton, President of Walt Disney World, and Phil Holmes, Vice President of Magic Kingdom.  Phil Holmes was actually an opening day cast member back in 1971, so it was neat to hear him talk about taking tickets at the Haunted Mansion on the very first day of operation 40 years ago.  You could tell it was a day that was personally important to him.

The ceremony ended with Main Street’s barbershop quartet, The Dapper Dans, leading everyone in singing “When You Wish Upon A Star”.

Of course, the finale of the show included some fireworks shot off of the castle and some streamer guns shooting out into the crowd.  A small cloud of streamers landed directly on me and Tadd snapped this shot right before the people next to me snatched the streamers out of my hand (for scrapbooking purposes, I suppose?  Not sure why they needed them so badly…), nearly taking my fingers off in the process.

After the ceremony, we met up with some friends and toured the park pretty much in the manner we always do.  We did Space Mountain (which was playing the retro pre-ride video from the 80s while you were waiting in line), Carousel of Progress, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Philharmagic, and just for kicks, Tadd and I even did Country Bear Jamboree, which I hadn’t seen since I was very very young.

They had a special version of the Wishes fireworks display in honor of the anniversary that night with 180 degree perimeter fireworks, which was amazing, as always.  Unfortunately, after that was the only negative crowd experience of the day.  We ended up in a crazy crowd bottleneck on the bridge from the hub into Liberty Square.  But with some patience and perseverance we were able to get through in one piece.  Luckily it was a cool night because I have been in similar bottlenecks in Magic Kingdom on summer nights and it is no fun when you can’t escape the crowd and it’s so humid you can barely breathe.

We had a great day at Magic Kingdom and I am so glad we attended this event.  Of course, a big part of what made the day so great was the stellar weather.  I’m so thrilled it’s that time of year where we love being Floridians again!

And it was neat to get to be a part of a historic day not only for Disney, but also for Orlando.  I truly believe that if it wasn’t for Walt Disney World, I probably wouldn’t live here.  Indirectly of course, as my dad worked for a software company that transferred him here back in 1990 when I was 9.  Orlando was barely a blip in the map before Disney got ahold of it.  For better or for worse, Disney as an employer of thousands created the need to set up all of the infrastructure that makes Orlando what it is today, and also gave it the notoriety it needed for the general public around the country to take notice.  Over time other companies too saw Orlando as a great place to move hubs and headquarters of business, and in turn, the people came to live here in droves.  The weather, and amenities, and relatively low cost of living makes for a great quality of life here.  And it’s times like these when I feel really lucky to live in a city that people come from all over the world to visit.

Weekend Update

Friday night we got some Publix subs and a bottle of white zin on the way home from work, then relaxed per usual and watched a couple of interesting documentaries on lovely Netflix.  I love documentaries and I love Netflix.  What a great intersection of entertainment!

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early to meet a friend to go on our blueberry picking adventure, which you can read all about at the link if you haven’t already.  We had such a great time!

On the way home, we spotted the Citrus Tower, which is one of those old-school Florida attractions that pre-dated Disney World.  Neither of us had ever been to the Citrus Tower before, so we decided to stop and check it out.  We entered through a very charming little gift shop (of course!) and paid a nice woman $4 to go up in the elevator to the top of the 22 story tower.  Would it shock you if I told you we were the only ones there?  Kind of sad, really.  But when you get to the top, you can see why.  The tower was built in the 1950s, when the area was literally blanketed with citrus groves.  Now, you can see some pretty lakes (Lake Apopka, Lake Minneola, and Lake Minnehaha) from the tower, and lots of subdivisions, highways, and strip malls, but not quite so many citrus groves.  It was still a fun little diversion, and I like that we were supporting an important landmark from the history of our area.

Here’s a video I found about the Citrus Tower’s history and significance in mid-century Central Florida:

Anyways, after our blueberry picking and Citrus Tower adventures, we headed back to Orlando, picked up a quick lunch and then I headed home to shower and clean up for the evening.  When I got home, Tadd informed me that he could not bear to give all three kittens to the shelter as we had intended, so he made the decision to keep one.  I was a bit taken aback, because I wasn’t expecting to take on a newborn kitten with everything else we have going on right now, but I relented in the end.  So thanks to this little guy, we are now a 3 cat household.  His name is Jacoby, and he is growing on me very very quickly.  Look at that face…how could I not wuv him?

Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka

Saturday night, we drove out to a friend’s house in Deltona to celebrate a birthday.  The big hit of the evening were cocktails made with Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka.  Have any of you tried this stuff yet?  We mixed it with rootbeer for a rootbeer-float-tini and with Orange Crush for a creamsicle-tini.  Good stuff!  I have had it once before at a restaurant/bar, but it seemed to taste extra good while sitting on a patio outside surrounded by tiki torches and good friends.  Although I must admit, that patio got quite humid after awhile and we retreated into the air conditioning before the end of the evening.  I cannot wait for the Florida Summer to be over!  Counting the days!

Sunday Tadd helped a friend who had been having car issues.  We had planned to get some of the powder room done that day, but the garage was occupied with the car-fixing stuff, and it took much, much longer than expected, so we never got to it.  I am starting to think that this powder room project might never end!  Tadd promises we will finish it by the end of July, so we’ll see.  I spent the day doing a little cleaning and organizing.  I put the 4th of July decor away and redecorated our entry table to have more of a non-holiday-specific summertime look (which I may show you later!), and did some various other things around the house.  By the time our friend left with his car, it was around 8pm, so we just relaxed for the rest of the evening until bedtime.

Another weekend, come and gone.  Looking forward to next weekend though!  It’s going to be a big one!  More on that later…