A Very Special Glamping Weekend

Hopefully there are still people reading this blog after my extended hiatus…

I am finally back from a whirlwind week-and-a-half filled with glamping, business travel, and a much-needed long weekend of recovery.  I’m ready to share with you again for a few weeks, before more crazy insanity comes my way.  As much fun as I am having with keeping so busy with so many wonderful and exciting events, a part of me is longing for October, when my life will (perhaps) start to resume some semblance of normalcy.

I did want to tell you a little bit about my glamping experience with these lovely ladies:

We rented a cabin at Fort Wilderness for the whole weekend, which was awesome.  It sleeps 6 (1 full size bed and bunk beds in the bedroom, 1 full size murphy bed in the living room), and has a full kitchen!  It was perfect for our group.

We spent Friday night hanging out in the cabin, eating taco salads (graciously and expertly prepared by my wonderful friend Melanie), roasting marshmallows, drinking cocktails, and celebrating the bride, Carrie, with love and gifts.  There were some of your typical bachelorette gag gifts…  But also some meaningful ones.  Like this tote bag, which is a MUST for any Twilight fan bride-to-be that happens to be marrying a man named Jake:

My friend Lara, who is also involved in the wedding helped me put together these INCREDIBLE goody bags for all of the girls, filled with “glamping supplies” (all kinds of cosmetics, sunscreen, and some other fun tchochkes).  I bought these colorful mesh drawstring bags on OrientalTrading.com, and they worked perfectly.  The girls can reuse them in the future too, they make great beach/pool bags.  I also made personalized tags for each bag, using glittery sticker letters on pre-cut manila rectangles, and tied them, along with a silver skeleton key (keys are somewhat of a symbol for our group…long story), to each bag with pink or purple baker’s twine.  They were a big hit!

Saturday was spent exploring Fort Wilderness…

And Saturday night, we got all prettied up (using all of our new cosmetics from the glamping supply bags, of course!), and headed out to the monorail loop for dinner and drinks.  We had dinner at The Wave in the Contemporary Resort, then rode the monorail to the Polynesian Resort, where we had a round of drinks and watched Wishes (Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show) from the beach behind the resort, then had one last drink at the Grand Floridian, before taking the monorail and boat back to the Fort and our cabin.

The next morning, we packed up everything, and headed home…Where I promptly unpacked and repacked, since I had a 7am flight to Boston the next morning for a full week of training for my new position.

I think the weekend was perfect for our group.  We laughed, ate, drank, reminisced, and even shed a few tears together.  We had lots of time to just be together, strengthen our bonds, and most importantly, celebrate the bride.  I often think of how grateful I am to have such a tight-knit group of girlfriends that truly care about each other.  It’s so important in life to have places where you feel like you truly belong, and I know I belong in this group.  It was so nice to have a weekend that focused on celebrating that, in addition to celebrating the lifetime of happiness that begins with Carrie’s rapidly-approaching Big Day.  These happy, emotional times of togetherness are what life is all about.

Sorry to get mushy, but if I start talking about this group of ladies, it’s going to happen!

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Ah, weddings…

I love weddings, don’t you?  Aside from just sharing in the joy of the bride and groom, there are so many ancillary things I love about weddings.

  • I love seeing the personalization that each couple puts into their wedding to make it unique.
  • I love the creativity involved.  I very often find the settings, colors, flowers, and overall look of each wedding to be inspiring.
  • I find the gravity and sincerity of the occasion to be so moving.  It’s amazing to share such a special moment with a couple that I care about.
  • Weddings are just plain fun.  I get to dress up, slow dance with my husband, and have a great time with friends and/or family.
  • It always makes me reminisce about my own wedding, nearly 8 years ago…

I’m sure I could go on.  And it makes me SO happy that tomorrow I get to see my friends Lara and Tom do just that, get married!  I wish them SO much happiness on their special day and for the rest of their lives.  It’s going to be a beautiful day and I am excited!

On a related note, Tadd and I both went out and got new outfits to wear tomorrow.  Well, Tadd got a new shirt and tie that  he will wear with an existing suit.  I, however, got a new dress, cardigan, shoes, and jewelry!  That is another reason weddings are great…they are a great excuse to shop!  I purchased the below dress.  It’s the most lovely shade of yellow (it’s actually slightly deeper in person), and I love it.

I decided to do something I hadn’t done yet since I started sewing.  I decided to make myself something special…A wristlet to go with my new dress!  I used that awesome yellow floral fabric I bought during my birthday shopping spree.  I have to say, I think it came out pretty cute!

I used this same tutorial that I have used for all of my wristlets thus far.  I urge any of you sewers out there to give this one a try.  It’s such an awesome tutorial, easy to follow with great results every time.

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.

Super Bowl Sunday…We made the best of it!

Even though the Super Bowl did not end the way we wanted, I thought I would share a few pics from our Sunday evening, along with a great recipe I found on Pinterest!

We had a few friends come over, all Patriots fans of course.  My brother Ryan arrived early to help Tadd with the grilling.

We cooked Italian sausages (with peppers & onions) and Ryan brought over the ribs.

We still love you, Welker!

After we finished cooking, we got ourselves set up in the living room, and got ready to watch the game!

Terrible pic (taken with my phone), but we have our Patriots hats on!

We also served Patriots cupcakes!

 

And the big hit of the night were the jalapeno cream cheese pinwheels, that I made thanks to Pinterest!  It’s just 3/4 of a brick of cream cheese with some diced jalapenos and a little sugar (recipe calls for a tbsp, but I only added about 3/4 to a half a tbsp), spread onto rectangles of crescent roll dough, rolled up, sliced, and baked.  Yum!

Tadd’s Birthday Party at Oblivion Taproom!

Hope your weekend went well (or for you lucky souls who have MLK Day off, hope it is still going well).  Tadd’s birthday celebration extended into this weekend, so that was the major focus for us.

We had about 25 friends meet us at Oblivion Taproom on Saturday night.  Oblivion is one of our favorite local hangouts.  They always have interesting food & beer to try (they are famous for their craft beer selection, burgers, and rotating daily specials…almost everything is made from scratch, even the ketchup!).  And they were incredible at handling our party size on a Saturday night with only a few days notice.  They not only let us bring in our own birthday cake, but they also brought it out to him with his Darth Vader candle lit and had the whole restaurant sing to him!  Several staff members wished him a happy birthday and constantly made sure we had everything we needed.  Everyone had a great time, and I can’t say enough great things about this place.  If you are local to Orlando, give them a try.  They are on East Colonial Drive (Hwy 50) between Bennett Rd and S. R. 436, east of the Fashion Square Mall.

The birthday boy with his stout beer flight.

Happy birthday to Tadd!

Thank you once again to Oblivion Taproom, and special thanks to all of our dear friends for joining us and making his birthday celebration such a great and memorable night!

Macadamia Coconut Cookie Bars & Holiday Punch!

As a rule, I generally only make 1 drink and 1 food item per party and buy everything else store-bought.  It’s just too much (for me anyways) to make everything from scratch in addition to all the other preparation and work that goes into party planning.  And usually whatever I do make is very simple.  I haven’t heard any complaints, so it works for me.

Last night was our 9th annual Christmas Party at our house, and I decided to make Rachael Ray’s Macadamia Coconut Cookie Bars and a Holiday Punch recipe I found last year on AllRecipes.com.

Macadamia Coconut Cookie Bars

To start, you need the following:

  • 1 pkg dry sugar cookie mix
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup halved macadamia nuts
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

To start, prepare the cookie dough per the package directions.  Mine said to simply mix it with the butter and egg until it formed a dough.

Then add the nuts, coconut, and white chocolate chips.

Mix it up (not an easy task, as it is VERY chunky), and press it into a thin, even layer on a buttered rectangular baking dish.

Bake it at 375F for 15-17 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to get golden brown.

And then, because I can never leave well enough alone, and because it IS Christmas, I added a light dusting of red & green sugar.  You can skip this step.

Let it cool slightly, then cut into squares and serve!

 

Holiday Punch

I doubled the original recipe to make one large punch bowl’s worth.  It was completely empty by the end of the  night!

 

  • 2 bottles of red wine (recipe calls for burgundy, but I used pinot noir)
  • 2 cups sugar (I used a bit less)
  • 4 bottles of champagne
  • 2 cups of brandy
  • 2 quarts club soda

Simply dissolve the sugar in the wine, then add everything else just before serving.  Viola!

Instagram Link Party: More Halloween Treats!

It’s the big day!  Happy Halloween!  It’s also Monday, which means Instagram Party day over at a {little} dash of ash!

I wanted to share with you what we brought with us to the Halloween party we attended on Saturday night.  I was inspired, as I believe a lot of others were too, by this popular post on Pinterest of witch hat cookies!  They looked really easy, fun, festive, and adorable.

From Explore. Dream. Discover.

So I decided to make them myself.  It’s just a Keebler Fudge Stripe cookie, turned chocolate-side-up, with a Hershey Kiss attached with a dollop of frosting.  I decided to change it up a bit by using both orange and purple frosting.  They were a big hit at the party!

We also brought two pitchers of swamp punch, which is just a half gallon of lime sherbet, a 2-liter of Sprite, and 2 cups of lime vodka.  This went FAST at the party!  And the green murky/swampy/foamy texture was so perfect for Halloween.

Halloween is just about done!  It’s almost time to start thinking about Thanksgiving, and then Christmas!  I love the holidays.   Thanksgiving decorating begins tomorrow (yes, I decorate for Thanksgiving)!

Fall Craft Brunch: Candy Corn Wreath

Hope you all enjoyed the first weekend of fall!  I know it has been a few days since I last posted, but it has been a busy couple of days.

After listening to all my jabbering about my love of crafts and my love of fall/autumn/Halloween decor for the past few months weeks, a few of my girlfriends caught onto some of the excitement (it’s contagious, you know)!  So awhile back, I sent out invitations for a little fall craft brunch party at my house.  And this afternoon, four of my best and closest friends came over, and we made candy corn wreaths while eating pastries, fruit, and drinking mimosas.  It was a lovely time.

I got the idea for the project after finding this article via Pinterest.  It looked easy, approachable for people of various levels of craftiness, and was just really cute.

About a week ahead, I laid out 3 bags of candy corn on a cookie sheet.  I wanted the candy to dry out and harden up a bit so it was easier to craft with.

To simplify things, I went ahead and picked up most of the supplies for the girls and they each reimbursed me a little bit of money when they arrived at the party.  I got styrofoam wreath forms, ribbon, black electrical tape, and the candy corn.  I asked the girls to each bring a glue gun and some extra glue sticks.

My kitchen table all set up for crafting!

First step was to wrap the entire wreath form in the black electrical tape.

After that, it’s time to start hot gluing the candy corn onto the wreaths.

There were several different methods used amongst my friends.  Some did horizontal rows around the wreath form.  Some did vertical rows.  Some were more of a zig-zag pattern.  The object was pretty much just to cover the front of the wreath form in candy corn…how you did that was up to you.  They all turned out great!

Once we were done gluing the candy corn, we took the wreaths into the garage and sprayed them with a clear/matte finishing spray to preserve them.  They were each finished off with some ribbon and/or foam pumpkin embellishments.  And voila!  Five beautiful and unique fall wreaths ready to hang!

Here is mine, hanging on the laundry room door off of the foyer.

Calm before the storm.

Happy Thursday!

It has been a fairly quiet week so far this week.  Not a lot going on at the moment.  But I am looking ahead to all the crazy plans I have lined up for the rest of September and October and I’m really starting to wonder how I’m going to fit it all in!  It’s daunting and stressful and exciting at the same time.

But my fall seasons usually tend to be busy like this.  It’s my favorite season of the year, and I always want to do as many seasonal activities and events as I can.

Here’s a sampling of what I have in store over the next couple of months:

So You Think You Can Dance Live

I’m a big fan of the show on TV, and a friend and I got tickets a few weeks ago to see them perform in Orlando!  Believe it or not, this will be my first time seeing the new Amway Center (where the Orlando Magic play).

Girls’ craft day and brunch

I’m so crazy-busy right now, I just had to make things even crazier by throwing party-hosting into the lineup.  I am having a few girlfriends over for brunch and we are going to be crafting!  I want us to make these Candy Corn Wreaths from Women’s Day magazine:

I think my girlfriends range from really crafty, to not typically all that crafty (mostly due to lack of time), so it will be fun to see what everyone thinks of this craft.  We are a close group, and have done a wide variety of things together, but I think this is the first time we have attempted anything like this.  I think everyone is excited!

Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary

When I realized that Walt Disney World’s 40th anniversary fell on a Saturday (10/1/11), I knew immediately that Tadd and I had to go and at least see what Disney had up their sleeves to celebrate.  I know that there is no big official celebration planned, but I am certain that they will do SOMETHING to commemorate it.  As a matter of fact, they hinted at it the other day on Twitter:

So we’re in for something interesting…but not sure what yet.  I’m hoping for an extended version of Wishes (the nightly fireworks show) or something like that.  Maybe a commemorative button.  Who knows…  Bonus:  We get to see Main Street USA all dressed up for fall!

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

This has always been one of my favorite fall events.  Not a cheap day (each sample-sized plate can cost anywhere from $3-$8), but so much fun to go from booth to booth all around Epcot’s World Showcase to try different food and beverages from all around the world!  Tadd’s favorite item is always the escargot at the France booth (I’ll pass, thanks).  Sadly, my favorite item every year is usually the spanikopita at the Greece booth, which is not available this year…but I guess it just means I will have to find a new favorite!  I am intrigued by the kalua pork sliders from the brand new booth representing Hawaii.

Other things that I want to plan for the rest of October:

I doubt we’ll be able to fit in everything we want to do, but I am sure going to try!  I have a feeling I will be very tired starting November 1st, but then we start the craziness all over again for Thanksgiving and Christmas!  Woo!  This really is my favorite time of year!

http://www.eventsatavalonpark.com/CalendarOfEvents/tabid/108/vw/3/ItemID/362/d/20111014/Default.aspx

Yelp! Fire & Ice Gala

Tadd and I attended an event after work last night hosted by Yelp! Orlando; the Yelp Fire & Ice Gala, which was held at the oddly-located Heaven Event Center which is an office-building-ish structure in the middle of the super-industrial portion of Sand Lake Rd.  It’s a really strange spot for event space (they hold weddings, corporate functions, etc at this place)…not to mention, it’s super strange to enter an industrial office park to find one of the buildings with a giant sign that simply says “HEAVEN” on it.

I never thought "Heaven" would look like an office building!

Once inside, after receiving our credentials, we scanned the scene.  They had a DJ playing some very loud music, which made it hard for me to really think about what I wanted to see/do first.

So my brain went where it normally goes after a normal business day…”Let’s get a drink.”  So we headed over to the martini bar hosted by Cocktails Catering.  I got a (VERY delicious!) lemon drop martini and Tadd got a blue razz martini.  We headed over to one of the many lounge areas in the corners of the event space and took a seat to enjoy our cocktails.  A magician approached us and did a few cool magic tricks for us, which was fun.  Tadd kept trying to dissect what he did and how he did it after the magician left, because his IT analytical brain is always trying to “solve” problems instead of just enjoying the magic for what it is!  I still love him though…

After that, we decided to peruse the various booths and see what other free stuff we could get!  We located the Sprinkles booth, which was the highlight of our evening.  They have these glorious inventions called Cake Shooters.  They are basically a delicious layer cake, shoved into one of those push-pop contraptions that you used to get from the ice cream man.  You push up the cake as you eat it.  This craze is apparently gaining steam, as even quasi-celebrity Tori Spelling had a batch custom made and shipped from Orlando to L.A. for her daughter’s 2nd birthday party.

This is what I loved about this event:  you just walked up to the display table, and grabbed whichever flavors you wanted for free!  They had a ton of flavors to choose from too.  We restrained ourselves and only chose one each.  Tadd got peanut butter chocolate, and I got pina colada. All I can say is HOLY YUM!

After that, Tadd wanted a beer, so we went over to the Orlando Brewing booth.  We had visited the taproom at Orlando Brewing a couple years ago for the Pints For Paws event put on by Pet Rescue By Judy and had a lovely time, and really enjoyed their beers.  Just a few weeks ago we shared a beer flight of Orlando Brewing beers at The Wave in the Contemporary Resort at Disney.  We are big fans.

Tadd, perusing the calendar of Orlando Brewing events for the month of July.

We knew Sweet by Good Golly Miss Holly was going to be at this event, so we set off to find us some more desserty goodness.  I have heard mixed reviews about these cupcakes and I have to say that after the delicious cake shooters, these cupcakes didn’t stand much of a chance.  But since this bakery is very close to where Tadd and I live, we wanted to give them a try.  And I must say the little cupcakes they gave us were really cute!

Sweet by Good Golly Miss Holly's Red Velvet Cupcake

Maybe we were sweet-fooded out by the time we got to these, but they were just okay.  Not bad at all, but we liked the cake shooters so much better.

After wandering around for a bit, we decided to grab some soft drinks and head home before it got too crowded.  There were starting to be long lines for every booth at that point, so we stopped by the HonesTea booth and picked up some lovely pomegranate blue beverages on our way out the door.  We really liked them.  They are organic and not too sweet.

HonesTea Honest Ade Pomegranate Blue drink

All in all, I would say we had a great time at this event.  The price was right (FREE!), and we got to try a bunch of neat stuff!  I would definitely attend another Yelp-sponsored event in the future.