I do love a good mystery…

As I mentioned on my previous post, on Monday, Tadd and I checked out a few places we had been meaning to visit for awhile.  Another place we visited was Theme Park Connection.  This is basically a Disney parks memorabilia thrift store/warehouse in Winter Springs, FL.  They have all kinds of souvenirs, posters, props, signage, cast member costumes, etc.  Much of it has been used in the park at one time or another.  Some of it is vintage, and some of it is pretty new.  Their inventory is constantly changing and you never know what you might see on any given visit.

Tadd and I spent a long time perusing the shelves and shelves full of stuff.  What ended up catching my eye was a pair of vintage wine glasses.  The logo says “Walt Disney World Village Wine Festival”, but the logo does not mention a year.

I know that what is now Downtown Disney used to be called “Walt Disney World Village” in the 1970s and 1980s before being changed to “Disney Village Marketplace” and then eventually “Downtown Disney” in the 1990s (soon to be “Disney Springs” once the recently-announced refurb is complete), but I had never heard of the wine festival.  My online research has proven sketchy, with no solid dates for the start of this festival (I have seen several different sites with different years mentioned; 1977, 1981, 1982, and 1986, among others), and nothing really discussing when it concluded.  It seems that this wine festival was precursor to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which began in 1995.  Unfortunately, based on the info I have, I can really only narrow down the time frame of distribution for these particular glasses to a very vague range: late-1970s to mid-to-late 1980s.  I searched for any kind of collection of wine festival logos, but those searches did not return anything.

If you have any information on these wine glasses please let me know!  I am so curious to know more specific details, especially what year they are from.  But even if I learn nothing more, they are still my new favorite WDW souvenir items.  I just love them!

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My Wine List

I want to preface this post by stating up front that I am NOT a wine expert by any means.  I like what I like, and it may not be what you like.  However, I wanted to share 5 vastly different wines that I happen to love for various reasons.  If you ARE a wine expert, I would imagine that this list would seem silly to you.  However, if you are an average, casual wine-enjoyer like me, some of these suggestions might help you the next time you are trying to decide which bottle to choose.

By the way, these are in no particular order…

1. Banfi Rosa Regale

BEST FOR: Celebrations

Banfi Rosa Regale, Brachetto d'Acqui

This is my go-to special occasion wine.  If you are celebrating, there is nothing better than a chilled flute of bubbly Rosa in your hand to toast with!  Regular old champagne is great on its own, but for me, this is a step above.  It’s a little more fruity, and a little more complex.  We always bring a bottle on board with us every time we cruise.  We have also used it to celebrate birthdays, promotions, anniversaries, you name it.  Lots of happy memories with this wine!

2. Ca’ Montebello Sangue di Guida

BEST FOR: Girls Night In!Ca' Montebello Sangue di Giuda

My girlfriends and I love this one.  Actually, Tadd loves it too.  It’s sweet, but not cloying, and ever so slightly carbonated.  Not to the level of a champagne, but enough so that we have all nicknamed it “wine soda”.  Just delicious.  Because I can’t always find a bottle of this, honorable mention goes out to Stella Rosa Rosso, which is not quite the same, but fits the bill when we have a craving for “wine soda”.  Random fact: “Sangue di Guida” means “blood of Judas”.

3. Conundrum

BEST FOR: A reasonable splurge

Conundrum

Conundrum is a white blend (Viognier, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay), and is a little more expensive than the typical wines I drink in average, everyday settings.  Being somewhat frugal-minded, I tend to lean towards wines in the $10 range, and this is usually twice that price at Total Wine.  However, I think if you were to push me to pick 1 wine as my all-time, all around favorite, this would be it.  So when I want to indulge myself in a little splurge, this is my choice.  They have a red blend as well, which I also love.

4. Pacific Peak Merlot

BEST FOR: Budget shoppers

Pacfic Peak Merlot

I  must give credit to my dad for introducing me to this one.  This is one of those quality-for-the-price picks.  Is it the best Merlot ever?  No, but it’s actually pretty good and perfectly drinkable.  And here’s the kicker: I can buy a bottle of Pacific Peak Merlot at Total Wine for $2.97!  I have also tried their Cabernet and Chardonnay at the same price, and while not bad, the Merlot is definitely better.  It’s wonderful on a Tuesday night after a hard day of work when you don’t necessarily want to drink something fancy, but still want an enjoyable glass of wine to relax with.

5. Skinny Girl California Red

BEST FOR: The calorie-counter.Skinny Girl California Red

We all know that alcoholic beverages are not the best for us.  They are high in calories and carbs and don’t always jive with a healthy eating plan.  A glass of wine here and there in moderation is fine, of course.  But if you are really watching your diet, you can still enjoy a 100-calorie glass of Skinny Girl wine.  To be honest, I am not a huge fan of the other Skinny Girl products.  The white and rose wines are not bad, but not great.  The margarita is AWFUL!  But I find this red wine to be fairly enjoyable.  Especially when you consider that each glass is only 1 Weight Watchers point.  My only complaint would be price.  I can get them occasionally at my local Publix for $14/bottle.  It’s not totally unreasonable, but I would be happier to see it closer to $10.

What is your favorite wine?  Do you drink the same wine all the time, or do you buy different wines for different occasions?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

AmishMafia001-1

Unfortunately, my life is still somewhat askew and the car situation is STILL not rectified.  So we STILL have been unable to make the car purchase I talked about previously.  But we made a huge step in the right direction today, and by this time next week, it will all be in the past.  Fingers crossed!

I did want to make note of the fact that today is a special milestone.  Today marks 10 years since Tadd asked me to be his wife!  As you can see from this pic from our engagement photo shoot, we were babies!  Well, I was 21, Tadd was 22, so practically babies…

We celebrated last weekend with a trip to Lakeridge Winery in the beautiful hills of Clermont, where we purchased a few bottles of wine, including a bottle of Pink Crescendo, a sparkling rose that we are drinking tonight…

Followed by a delicious dinner at  Yachtman’s Steakhouse in Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.  I’m not really much of a steak eater, but Tadd LOVED his NY Strip.  We got the truffled mac & cheese as a shared side and WOW!  Easily the best mac & cheese I have ever had.  I told Tadd next time we go, I will order a side of truffled mac & cheese, and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts and call it a night!  Delicious food!

Hope your Valentine’s Day is full of love and happiness, however you choose to celebrate!

Peachy white sangria!

I am going to preface this post by saying that I really didn’t take any “glamor shots” of the finished product of this recipe because we loaded it into a cooler, dragged it to a local park for an early 4th of July fireworks celebration, and drank it out of red solo cups.  BUT, despite the lack of pretty pictures, please give this recipe a try, especially if you like peaches.  I think it was one of my best sangrias yet!

1.5L bottle pinot grigio

4 cups Ocean Spray White Cran-Peach juice

1/4 cup white brandy

1 or 2 sliced peaches

4 cups of Sprite

I think the most important detail about this recipe is that we started it the day prior to when we needed it.  It had a good 24 hours for the flavors to meld.  I firmly believe that this makes all the difference!

Slice the peaches and place into the pitcher or jug.  I estimated two, but one would have been fine.  My mother-in-law and I snacked on peach slices while we put the sangria together, so no harm no foul.

Pour the wine into the jug over the peaches, then add the juice and brandy.  Stir everything well and refrigerate several hours, or as I suggest, overnight!  Patience, people!  It’s so important when it comes to crafting fine sangria…

Just before serving, add the Sprite, and enjoy!  The flavor is slightly sweet, very peachy, and extremely refreshing on a hot summer day!

shabby creek cottage

Pink Sangria!

It is definitely sangria season!  I know I have mentioned in the past that I love making sangria.  I don’t really use a recipe, I just kind of mix up what tastes good, but I do have a basic and very versatile formula that I use to get me started.  It’s very easy to add and subtract and substitute ingredients based on my mood or the occasion.  Last summer I shared the basic recipe that I use for classic red sangria.

When attending a housewarming party for some friends of ours over Memorial Day weekend, I knew immediately that I would bring sangria and soon decided on making some pink sangria!  Here is what I used to make about a gallon of sangria for the party:

Pink Sangria

1.75mL bottle of white zin

1 orange (juiced)

4 cups tropical fruit juice (here I used strawberry kiwi juice, but you can use anything tropical…bonus if it’s already pink in color)

splash of white brandy

2+ cups of cranberry ginger ale (you could also use regular ginger ale or Sprite)

Pour the wine, fresh squeezed orange juice, tropical fruit juice, and brandy into a large pitcher.  Let sit a few hours or overnight.  Just before serving add the ginger ale (I ended up not measuring and just topping off the pitcher with it, but figure about 2 or 3 cups).  Serve over ice.

Enjoy!

P.S. I have another variation that I have done with equal parts white cranberry juice and pineapple juice instead of the strawberry-kiwi juice, and Sprite instead of ginger ale, and it also turned out awesome.  See?  Versatile!

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!

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

As I mentioned previously, Tadd and I met some friends at Epcot on Saturday for the International Food & Wine Festival.  If you have never attended this event, you are missing out!  Each year World Showcase gets decked out with various country-specific booths showcasing small tastes of food and drink from that country.

There are also other events all around Epcot that you can attend, including wine tastings, cooking demos, and meet & greets with celebrity chefs.  We mostly just stick with the food & wine booths, and just enjoy strolling around World Showcase, sampling lots of different items as we go.

It seems like as the years go on, the booths themselves get more and more elaborate.  Each one is highly themed to its country’s architecture and culture.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Japan

Scandanavia

South Africa

Caribbean

Of course, the food was great too!  Here are a few of the items we sampled:

Pumpkin Mousse with Dried Cranberries and Orange Sauce from the Hops & Barley booth

 

Cheese Fondue with Sourdough Bread from the Cheese booth

Creme Brulee au Chocolat au Lait from the France booth

 

Rib Eye Taco from the Mexico booth

Linguica Sausage with Onions, Peppers, and Olives from the Portugal booth (my favorite of the day!)

Bek Se Ju from the South Korea booth (not our favorite)

La Capra Pinotage from the South Africa booth

Not pictured, and probably rivaling as my favorite item of the day is the pierogi with kielbasa from the Poland booth.  I give the kielbasa to Tadd (not a fan), but the pierogi is awesome!  It is topped with caramelized onions and is just delicious.   But generally speaking, I adore pierogies…so take that with a grain of salt.

Anyways, we had a great time.  The crowds were high, but usually we don’t let that bother us at the themeparks.  I would really like to find a way to go back sometime in the next few weeks, as there are a few booths that we skipped that I would still like to try.  But with the way our schedule is looking, I’m not entirely sure how that will happen.  We’ll see!

Already looking forward to next weekend!  On the agenda: pumpkins, corn mazes, incredible weather, and completing our Halloween costumes!  Fall weekends are always the best!

Autumn To-Do List!

Can you believe it’s almost September?  Crazy how this summer (and this year!) has flown.  I had a teensy taste of fall-like weather this past weekend in Vermont and it was ever-so-beautiful.  It was the kind of weather that was warm but comfortable during the daytime, but had you grabbing a light sweatshirt or jacket in the evenings.  Just gorgeous!

I am longing for that beautiful weather for this weekend.  Although I am grateful that Hurricane Irene seems to be passing us by (but endangering my friends & family up north…thinking of you all and hoping everyone stays safe!), I noticed that the high temps tomorrow are in the mid-90’sF and the heat index is showing 110F!!  I have plans to be outdoors for most of tomorrow…and during the hottest part of the day too…ugh!  So to escape nasty thoughts of surface-of-the-sun temps and hurricanes, let’s turn our attention to something much more pleasant…

In keeping with my Summer List that I have been working on these past few months, I have decided to publish an Autumn List, which you should see as a new tab at the top of my blog.  I plan to add to it as I go, but I think what I have so far is a good start.  It’s my favorite season, so every year I try to pack in as much fall seasonal stuff as possible and really savor all the little fun and extra-special things that I can this time of year.

Here is what I have so far:

  • Corn maze
  • Carve/decorate pumpkins.
  • Epcot Food & Wine Festival
  • Bake something with pumpkin.
  • Haunted Hayride @ Ft Wilderness
  • Ghost tour
  • Try making mulled wine
  • Do some fall/Halloween crafting
  • Decorate for Thanksgiving.
  • Go on a mini-shopping spree for fall stuff; hand soap, candles, decorations, etc.

What fall traditions do you have?  Any ideas for my list?  Unfortunately since I live in the sub-tropics, we don’t really have an authentic autumn…the leaves don’t change, we can’t go apple-picking, and all of our pumpkins have to be shipped in from elsewhere.  It’s a little bit of a bummer, but we do what we can to recreate the same feeling where we are able.  Maybe it’s one of the reasons I like decorating for it so much.

Anyways, TGIF and have a great weekend!

Sangria: My summer beverage of choice!

Hope my readers in the United States are enjoying this lovely holiday weekend!  Time to knock another item off of my Summer List!

One of my favorite beverages, especially when the weather is warmer, is sangria!  I have never enjoyed bottled sangria, so I have experimented in making my own.  It’s one of those delightfully easy and versatile recipes that you can change up however you would like.  I decided to share the standard recipe with you, but please feel free to change up the fruit juices, wines, and anything else based on your preference, or just what you have on hand.

This recipe will make a large pitcher’s worth, so if you have a smaller crowd of 2 or 3, you can easily cut it in half.  Having a full-fledged party?  Double it!  It seems like no matter how much I make, it always goes fast at a party.

Reserve some pretty citrus slices for garnish if you would like.

Heather’s Classic Sangria

1.5 L merlot

4 cups berry blend juice (you can use cranberry juice, or any sort of cranberry blend, whatever you like!)

2 lemons (juiced)

2 limes (juiced)

OPTIONAL: splash of brandy

OPTIONAL: splash of orange juice

2 cups of ginger ale

Pour everything except the ginger ale into a pitcher.  If you want, you can throw the juiced wedges or reserved slices of the citrus in the pitcher too.  Let this chill in the fridge a few hours or overnight.  Add the ginger ale just before serving.  Serve over ice.

You can mix and then serve it right away if you want, without letting it chill in the fridge.  But the flavors intensify and marry together the longer it has been sitting.

Once you get the hang of this basic sangria, you can start experimenting like I do.  I have done a white sangria using pinot grigio in place of the merlot, white grape juice in place of the berry juice, and oranges instead of lemons & limes.  I have also done a tropical pink sangria with rosé, white cranberry juice, and pineapple juice (tasted kind of like a pink Starburst!  Yum…).

Happy experimenting!  Enjoy!

Fireworks: Check!

I got to check the first item off of my Summer List last night!  Tadd and I met some friends at Disney’s Polynesian Resort for dinner at Kona Cafe and a viewing of Magic Kingdom’s Wishes fireworks display from the beach behind the resort.

Dinner was delicious, as always.  Honestly, my favorite part of a dinner at Kona Cafe is always their sweet Hawaiian bread served with macadamia nut honey butter.  I also splurged on a glass of Conundrum.  I am convinced this is the best wine ever.  Between the bread, butter, and wine, I was a happy girl.  I had the Pan-Asian Noodles for my entree, and also had a teensy bit of Tadd’s white chocolate cheesecake for dessert.  Check out the Mickey Mouse sprinkles!

Then it was out back for the fireworks.  We were JUST in time.

Not wanting the night to end so early, we decided to take the monorail over to the Contemporary Resort for an Orlando Brewing organic beer flight at The Wave.

L to R: Blonde Ale, Pale Ale, and Brown Ale, all by Orlando Brewing.

So there you have it.  One item down, several more to go!