Publix vs. Wal-Mart…are the Commercials really true?

Most of Florida is made up of relocators from not only around the Country, but also around the World. We seek what we know, what we are familiar with for the everyday life choices because it is just human to do so.  When we first got here, we looked for whatever was close to us.  We found a Publix several miles behind us, so it seemed natural to just shop for our groceries there.   On my very first encounter there, I had sticker shock.  How could a frozen pizza be over $7?  First impressions can be a doozy, and  unfortunately that was mine of Publix.  But because it was close by, I continued to run up there for milk and the necessities.

Wal-Mart is not close to me whatsoever, I either have to travel down 192 one way and go to a not so savory one or hit up the one in Cagans Crossings which is a good 10-15 minutes from my house.  Wal-Mart is something most are familiar with, and because that is where I originally grocery shopped in WI, it was a no brainer to just shop there for the weekly groceries and keep Publix as my “milk and bread runs.”

I have seen the commercials running here in Florida about the cheaper prices, and for that, I do have some insight on since I have now shopped at both quite frequently over the past 2.5 years we have lived here. First off, yes, Wal-Mart is cheaper for many things, it’s what they are KNOWN for.  That being said, you are paying for what you get as well.  I can’t tell you how many times I had a question there and found no one to help me, plus add the tourists in and it makes for one stressful time to grocery shop.

In WI I wrote out my list, figured out my meals, and went to the Store like most do.  It was a relaxing time for me to do on my own, to have an hour to myself to think about what I wanted or needed to buy and just shop peacefully.  I have found that here at Wal-Mart it almost feels like a competition, the “Amazing Race” grocery shop style.  The Vacationers are there to stock up and will grab in front of you, not move their carts, and seem to  simply not care that you are there to just do your weekly grocery shop.  It’s an important thing to come to terms with when moving here, at least close to the Parks, because Tourists will always come into play during major times of the year.

Now Publix on the other hand is the complete opposite when it comes to the shopping experience- I LOVE going there with my list, saying hello to the employees who are kind and friendly, and they are always asking if I found everything ok.  When I haven’t, they go and find it for me or give me a rain check. The meat section is EXCELLENT and they will actually make the serving you need, or something that you usually buy that they may not have out.  The produce is fresh and I have yet to have a bad apple or banana from here.  The prices are higher, but they also have “Buy One Get One” offers every week, so I stock up every time I go which helps the next food budget, and so on.  The Service and Quality aren’t discussed in these commercials, just the bottom line.  Again, Wal-Mart for the most part is cheaper, but I guarantee after shopping there so many times, you won’t mind paying a bit higher or doing the “BOGO” deals after wanting to pull your hair out from the lack of quality and service given at the latter.

My point is that you have to try a place twice to make sure your first impression was right.  When we shopped Publix for the first time, it was right after we had moved and we still had “WI Prices” in our head. After you get acclimated to your surroundings, you start to figure out what will work and what won’t with your budget, time and sanity.

I will also like to add that I am sure there are many Wal-Marts out there that are not like the ones here in Florida that may be of higher quality or customer service, I am just speaking of the ones I know of that I have personally shopped for years since living here.  I now only run there for non-food items that I know I can grab and get in and out without spending a day waiting in long lines.  Give each a shot when you relocate here, and see what you find to work for you and your family.

*****As of recent, commercials starting running in the Orlando area, not sure of all Central FL or Florida, Walmart is now honoring competitors like Publix, Winn-Dixie, and other Stores. Click HERE for the story.  A very interesting twist. For those of you who live here already, where do you shop and do you favor one over the other? Does this recent BOGO news change where you will be shopping? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!

“Wreck-It Ralph” Blogger Event

I have learned that if you want to be in the “know” on what is going on with Disney, you have to be active on every means of Social Media possible. Because I have gotten better at this, I was able to get into this event by signing up via email.  Disney Parks Blog announced this “Wreck-It Ralph” blogger meet-up, and thanks to Leah, I was on my phone- tapping the email away to get in. Here is how the event went, and what my opinion was on the movie. Enjoy!

Like I said, you have to jump on these things or you miss the boat.  I was happy that after emailing my request in, I got a confirmation in several hours later.  I texted all of my friends to not only know about it, but join me and my family. We were allowed to bring up to three guests with each registration, and thankfully we were able to get our friends in. I wore my brand new “Wreck-It Ralph” TShirt, and got a free vinylmation from the Disney people at the Event for doing so.

We were there at opening of check-in at 8:15 a.m. this morning, which I was surprised to see a line formed already.  We got in line right away, and got our friend in line with us to since she was in our party.   I wasn’t aware they would put us all into three groups, for three different movie screens.  So our group was on Team Ralph, then there was Team Felix and then Team Vanellope (the ADORABLE little girl in the movie- reminded me of a fiesty Boo).

Once we were checked in officially, we got a free tattoo and free medal, then boarded the elevator inside Disney Quest. After we stepped off the elevator, we had a photo opportunity with a Ralph statuette.  He was VERY cool, but for this event, it would have been nice to have met the real deal.

After that, it was game on. Basically 2 hours to play inside Disney Quest for free. Now, most of us are AP holders who can do this ANY time, but it was still very cool to try out the “Fix-It Felix” game!   They offered cupcakes for the event, for a price, upstairs in the Café area, but because it was early, we were hoping for more breakfast items. Before heading out to find something to eat for breakfast, we enjoyed “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Jungle Cruise” and many more games with our group of friends. Carl RULES on the TRON machine, whereas I love my PENGO and Skee Ball.

After the nice break, and the weather was GORGEOUS today, we started to get in line for the movie. We were instructed to wait in front of DisneyQuest for our allotted time (11:00) and then walk over to AMC. Well, we did this, and they were just telling us to head to AMC. BUT there was supposed to be free popcorn and soda- so where did we get it? If you left early, like we had, you wouldn’t have had a clue. Carl then saw people walking out with bottles of soda and popcorn, so we asked and sure enough, they were handing them out as you left Disney Quest!  So we hopped back in and grabbed ours then got in line at AMC.

Security was tight, absolutely NO cell phones or cameras allowed. Remember, this movie doesn’t get officially released until November 2nd.  We stored our back in the car before heading to the movie, I was just too scared to hand over my phone in the chance it would get lost.  They then checked our bags, purses, etc… then they used the hand held wand to scan over our bodies to make sure we didn’t bring anything in.  Yes, it was secure.

We found great seats on the second row in the balcony area, and we were SO excited!  Wendy and Krista joined us and then we got a HUGE surprise! RALPH HIMSELF came into our theater and walked around- and NO ONE had their phone to get a picture of it. Want to see something funny? Throw hundreds of bloggers together, without their lifelines, and it sets up for a pretty interesting scene.

After Ralph left, the movie started and we LOVED “Paper Man” which was the short.  I’m not going to give it away, but I have to say the elegance of the animation with the simple and sweet storyline was simply sublime.

Then there was “Wreck-It Ralph”- every Disney and Gamers fantasy.  I don’t want to give anything away but to give my opinion. I LOVED the storyline and the HEART that they put into this.  It was excellent for little boys and girls, as it had the video games element along with the pink indulgence of sugary images.  I found it very funny and in this day where gaming is more popular than ever, I found it very relevant with a side of retro.   It was like living my childhood again as I saw characters from “Burger Time”, “Qbert”, and “Dig Dug.”  The movie didn’t make me cry, but I did tear up.  I feel it is great for all ages, and a sure winner for families to see together.

I would HIGHLY recommend you to see this movie with your loved ones, and then check out the fun Disney merchandise that is now available in World of Disney, Disney Store online, and Toys R’ Us Stores. Ralph makes a home at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this week, and I am looking forward to meeting him with my medal on for a big hug.  If you walk away from this movie being happy for who you are, you have truly gotten their point. Thanks again to the Disney Parks Blog for inviting us, it was a great event and I had a blast!

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Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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Where I Fell in Love Again

It’s around this time every year that I recall one of my favorite trips with my hubby, Carl. I thought since we are coming up to our wedding anniversary soon, I would share our trip with you.

We wanted to celebrate 15 years of wedded bliss, so we planned for months and months, almost secretively. Why? Well, Belle and Jessie weren’t going to be happy knowing we were heading to Disney without them, so we had our own secret, which was kind of fun.  As we got closer to the dates, we eventually told them, which they weren’t too thrilled about.  But, they got over it.   So as the dates got closer, my Carl did something incredible. He gave me a Disney pin that represented something from past trips, and always on a certain number of days left.  I received several from him, and I always smile when I look at them.  It always seems that counting down is the most fun part…I remember sitting at work and thinking “Tomorrow, I will be on my way to WDW with my hubby!”

We rented a car from Enterprise here in town, and were so excited to drive something so much nicer than our rust bucket that was living in our garage.  We packed it up, and then waited for Nana to arrive.  Once we put the girls to bed, we said our goodbyes, and headed out on the open road.   We left WI after 9 p.m. central and drive through the night.

About 3/4th of the way there…I woke up from a nap I was taking while Carl was driving. I remember looking right at him, and thinking, I feel so safe and loved at this moment. I can’t tell you WHY I felt that at THAT moment, but it was so incredibly peaceful.  We got there about 24 hours later, non-stop, and as we passed under the WDW arch, we both got very emotional. One- we made it. Two- we were there without our kids, it was going to be rough at first.

We checked into the lobby of Pop Century, and I will never forget how nervous Carl was. I could tell that he wasn’t sure he liked being there without Belle and Jessie.  I kept kissing him on the cheek and telling him that this was to celebrate “us” and that they were safe at home- I think it worked a little.  We got our room in the 80’s section because, DUH, it’s the best era EVER!  We tried to video tape our moments, but it was so humid, that the camera kept fogging up!  Before resting for the night, we had to check out the resort because we were moving to Caribbean Beach in the morning.

We headed to the Pop Food Court, a first for us, and decided to have…. not a yummy chocolate snack, or a Mickey something or other… we had salads. Don’t ask me why, I don’t remember. But I “DO” remember us sitting next to a gentleman who had a wheel chair that looked like it came from the space age- huge and VERY robotic.  While we ate our salads, Carl was starting to literally fall asleep at the booth.  The showers we had taken had apparently not waken us up enough.  So we headed past the computer pool, and went to bed.  A note on being pool side… its noisy FOREVER into the night.  We would never ask for poolside again!

You know what I LOVE about trips? You get to buy new clothes. Now WHY we do this, I will never understand, because I could use new clothes during my boring day to day life… but I digress.  I remember putting on my new outfit that I had bought the week before, and walking out onto the balcony- I felt great!  What more could I want? I had my hubby by my side, and we were in our favorite place on earth.  We packed up the car, and drove to CBR.

Caribbean Beach Resort was another first for us, and we loved the silence of the area.  Our room was ready for us, so we looked around it like kids on Christmas morning.  We were in a corner room, with huge windows, and the sunlight pouring in was amazing.  We decided to head to Epcot for our first day… Carl’s favorite park.

As we stood at rope drop near the Fountain of Nations, a Cast Member came up to us and said “You look excited!” I said, “It’s our first day, and it’s our Anniversary trip, and I am SOOOOO happy to be here.”  I truly think my face already hurt from smiling- you know-like Barbie in “Toy Story 2?”  Of course, we headed to “Soarin” first- it’s my FAVORITIST ride!  As we followed the throngs of people, we broke from the pack and were able to head in closer to the front.  Riding it first on our trip was just amazing. I don’t know what it is about that ride, but I feel absolute joy on it.  Who wouldn’t want to feel that?  So yeah, we fastpassed it of course.   Our Epcot day continued with fun surprises… including our buttons we got from the bakery in “Sunshine Seasons” along with free cookies.   We enjoyed Future World so much, and then had even more fun in World Showcase.  Upon entering the “American Adventure” we were asked how many years married and our names. In front of a full house, they announced us and we got to stand and be applauded for.  After the show, we got our Million Dreams gift certificate and a fun phone call from Mickey and the gang.

Since this was in 2008, there are only so many details I can remember anymore about the trip, so forgive my thinking.  I just want to touch on certain moments that did occur during the rest of our trip.

On our official “Birthiversary” which I sweetly had called it (Yes, it’s probably lame, just move on) because it was Carl’s birthday and our wedding anniversary.  Carl was such a good sport and wore matching t-shirts with me that said “Celebrating our Birthiversary” on the back. Even now when I wear that t-shirt to bed, it makes me always think of that special day.   We received a lot of special treatment during the day, and even got a lot of the characters interacting with us, because of the shirts.

Day turned into night, and we came up with the plan to get dressed up at CBR, and park over at the Contemp for our big Anniversary dinner at the California Grill.  We brought extra clothes to change in after dinner so we could head back to the parks.  We felt like such celebrities… we checked into the restaurant on one floor, and then they ride up with you on the elevator to the actual restaurant.  I had booked us the first dinner of the evening, so we could get the table we wanted.  Before seating, we walked out onto the veranda where you could see the Magic Kingdom and surrounding area.  It was so beautiful, and SOOOO humid.  Our pics are great, but you can SEE the humidity in the air!

We were seated promptly and right by the window. Our view was of Cinderella’s Castle, and it was so very romantic. We ate the yummiest steaks and just enjoyed each other’s company- perfection!  We had to go as soon as we were done so that we could make the showing of “Wishes” inside Magic Kingdom.  We paid, and practically ran to the bathrooms to get changed for the evening.  We just made the monorail, and sprinted off of it to get to our “Pooh” spot to watch the show.

Before the show began, my Carl, the love of my life, turned to me and pulled out the cutest little blue box.  He opened it, and I saw this white satin bag inside. I opened it and Carl put this most beautiful ring on my finger, shaped like Mickey, donned with 15 hidden Mickeys- representing each year of our marriage.  I cried. I just stood and cried. “Wishes” began to play, and I cried some more.  It was one of THE most beautiful anniversaries I have ever had with him.

Before I end this, I wanted to touch upon the funny stuff too.  We actually got lost driving back from the Contemp to CBR.  We wound up in the Epcot parking lot…now, I of course, was worried, so a small match broke out because I was worried security would have a fit with us.  Carl was very cool headed, but it did make going back to the room that night very interesting.

The next night, after another day of fun at the parks, we just got back to the room while it started to lightly rain.  We could see the Epcot fireworks “Illuminations” outside our room, and I will never forget us both standing in our jammies, holding each other, and watching the fireworks in the rain.  Funny and romantic, all at the same time.

The reason I wanted to write this was to describe just ONE of the many trips I have shared with Carl in WDW.  It is our safe haven, our place of non-judgment, our birth place of bliss, and our second home.  So to my Carl, this coming September 14th, I want you to know how much that trip meant to me and how much I have enjoyed being your Ellie.

I can’t wait to move with you to Florida in less than 9 months… “Adventure is out there!”

 

What to Expect when you are Expecting – Walt Disney World

I know, it’s a take off the baby book. But when I thought of my “hot topic” for today’s blog, I thought about all of the expectations we Disney folk put on ourselves.  Whether you saved for months, or simply are taking the grandkids for dinner, everyone has expectations on what the true Disney experience is.  Let’s talk more on what a “healthy” expectation is and what a “toxic” one is.

The Healthy Expectations

I have been there – you have laid down $4000 for your vacation, from tickets to hotel, and you expect great service, food, attractions, and an awesome time.  I expect to check-in in a reasonable time period, I want to open my door to a clean and inviting resort room, and I expect that each park is open and up and running. You pay a lot to spend time here, so I feel these are certainly healthy expectations.

The Toxic Expectations

It is not “ok” to expect that your little one will be waking Tinkerbell, or will be chosen for the Jedi Academy, or be given the drawing from the Animator in the drawing class, or be doted on by every character.  Not everyone will have a towel animal in their Resort room, nor will everyone be the first in line at the hottest attraction of the day. Why am I being so blunt? I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings or expectations, but if you maybe “hope” on some of the things I have listed, instead of “expecting”, I guarantee you will have a happier trip.

I have read many Disney Message Boards over the years, and I get really upset when I see “How can I make my trip more magical?” Um… aren’t you going to Walt Disney World?  Have you heard about our economy these days? I know MANY who are unemployed right now, including my own Carl. It’s a long road to deal with, and if you are fortunate enough to avoid it and head to WDW, your trip is already magical!

Now I know some of you are saying “But Ellie, it’s my Hubby’s Birthday” etc… I know, there are many occasions to celebrate. Yes, you SHOULD celebrate them while in WDW, just don’t expect a big deal about them.  Wear a button, buy a cake if you want, but more importantly, enjoy the time spent on that special day.

Let us know “your” Disney expectations!

A surprise trip to Walt Disney World in 2005

Hello readers, it’s Belle again! I was thinking about what to write a couple of days ago and I remembered that I wanted to share with you one of my favorite family trips to Disney World. It was in December of 2005, and Jessie was five years old and I was twelve. The thing about this trip starting out was that my sister and I had no idea we were going to Disney World. We had packed up our suitcases and mom and dad told us that we were headed for my uncle’s house, who lives in Minnesota. We picked up mom at 10pm, and Jessie and I were all camped out in the van ready to snooze away the road. Through the night I would wake up sporadically (I don’t sleep very well in cars) and watch the road signs go by. There were a few that puzzled me like…hmm I wonder why we just passed a sign that says “Chicago 10 miles.” but it didn’t really phase me much due to being half asleep. I remember waking up that morning with my sister in the van, still driving, and it was around 6 in the morning. I asked “when will we be at Uncle’s house?” and I think it was mom who said “Oh, I don’t know, six hours?” and Jessie and I would moan. I was extremely confused at this point, knowing that Minnesota wasn’t THAT far away, complaining that we had driven all night and that we should already be there. Mom and dad exchanged glances that I hadn’t caught on to.

We stopped at McDonald’s to eat around 7am, and we were all ready to stand and walk off the long hours of sitting still. I remember walking into McDonald’s and seeing a bunch of guys in the corner (no joke) in cowboy hats and boots, all talking in a southern accent. They gave us a funny look and I didn’t really care. What my sister and I didn’t know was that while we thought we were in Minnesota just outside of my Uncle’s city, we were smack in the middle of Kentucky.

We sat down in a corner booth and mom and dad looked like they were about to jump out of their skin to tell us something. So they pull out these two boxes wrapped in Christmas paper and tell us to open them up. We’re confused but too excited to care because AHH IT’S PRESENT TIME! We ripped open the presents and opened up the box to be…even more confused. I pulled out a lanyard (a Disney one of course) which I had already owned, a Disney pen that was brand new (hooray new pen?) and a few other Disney things we had already owned. Jessie acted excited anyways, and it was adorable because she was so little, and mom was looking at me expectantly waiting for me to come to a conclusion of some sort. I just stared back, grinning. Mom had then said “girls, we’re not going to Minnesota…we’re going to Disney World!”

This was my reaction: “YES! OH MY GOSH REALLY? YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!” more screaming and happiness. This was Jessie’s reaction: tears well up in her eyes and she says in her little voice “we’re not going to the Disney store??” (We were planning on going to the Mall of America while visiting my uncle to visit the one Disney store they had there and Jessie really wanted to go!) so we all start cracking up and my parents tell her “it’s okay Jessie, we’re going to a BIG Disney Store!”. She finally giggled and got excited.

On the way down, at every stop they gave us a cool Disney coloring book or some more awesome pens or a stuffed animal. It was an amazing trip down, and yes, my sister and I did get a little car sick, but we had never driven this long before and it was something else. When we finally got to Disney it was in the early morning hours, and all of our exhaustion just evaporated seeing the big Disney sign. When we got to our room at the All Star Movies resort (we had the 101 Dalmatians section) we found it to be already…occupied? Yes, there were shoes in the room and a coat hung on the door and it smelled strongly of nail polish. So confused we all headed back to the main office and told them about the room and we got a new one. It was surprisingly chilly out at the time, but again, we were too excited to care.

Our trip as a whole was unforgettable, we didn’t see the Christmas party, but we did get to see the Osborne lights at Hollywood Studios, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, complete with snow falling on our heads. I know I will never forget that trip, just because it was so much fun getting there and even more fun experiencing new things with my family.

~ Belle Peters

A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes…When You’re Fast Asleep

It’s the end of a long week, and since I am pretty tired, it gave me the great idea to talk about our favorite places to chill out, relax, or even take a quick cat nap while at Walt Disney World.  Some may say “Why on earth would you go all the way to FL and spend all that money just to wind up sleeping on some ride?” Well, if you are one of those asking that, you clearly haven’t been to WDW.  Walking for hours on end mixing with the hot Florida sun make that sweet air conditioned ride the most amazing comfortable spot to shut your eyes on.

Let’s talk about the best spots to chill out.

Magic Kingdom

We always recommend that you save the air-conditioned rides for the afternoon when you are the most worn down.  The best places to take a nap are the Hall of Presidents and the Carousel of Progress, because the shows usually last 15 minutes and longer.  I can’t tell you how much of a lifesaver the COP was for me when I was battling a horrible headache. I sat in the back row, took some Excederin, and laid my head back the entire show.  I have seen it many times before, so I didn’t feel I was missing anything, plus I was able to enjoy the rest of the day after having the time out.

Magic Kingdom has a lot of sweet spots to unwind, it’s just a matter of looking for them. About half-way down Main Street, to your right as you walk towards the castle, is a little street that has a dead-end.  Café tables and chair are set up here, and it’s a great spot for enjoying a snack and getting out of the crowds.   If you head on over to the backside of Space Mountain, there is a path that leads to Mickey’s Toon Town. Besides the occasional train running by, it’s a beautiful, quiet walkway to relax on.

Epcot

Rule of thumb is this…any show that has comfortable seating and lasts more than 15 minutes is great for a nap.  Ellen’s Energy Adventure isn’t the most comfortable, but is long enough to close your eyes for a bit. Our little Jessie girl has been known to fall asleep on Spaceship Earth, it’s a bit easier when mom or dad are holding you up.  The American Adventure has the makings of a nap…dark theater, very cozy seats, and a long show.  On another trip I was quite tired, so my Mom and I sat at one of the café tables outside the America Pavillion.  I put my head down on the table for a while as my mom read her book, it was really nice and much-needed.

Several places among the World Showcase have hidden nooks where you can sit on a bench away from the crowds and unwind. Besides the American Pavillion, we really enjoy the garden area in the UK and the waterfall area in Canada.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Are your dogs barking? Translation: are your feet tired? Check out the Animation Courtyard area for a quick sit, or the curbs that line the areas around Star Tours.  Not only are these great areas to sit, but the music and people watching are always an enjoyable past time sport.  To fully get away from the larger crowds, head to the back streets where you can sit on the brownstone steps and enjoy the scenery of the backlot.  I can’t really think of any shows here that you would be able to relax at. “Beauty and the Beast” is outside, and the benches usually make us sore, so no relaxing moments there.  You will also never find a relaxing moment at any of the 3D shows…too much going on there to get a wink of sleep.   We have found that the benches outside the Drawing Class are very comfortable and have been known to put us to sleep a time or two waiting for the next class to start.

Animal Kingdom

The best spots for a bit of self-reflection and moments of peace are hidden pretty well.  Look off the main paths and usually there will be small ones that lead off to a bench area in a remote and quaint spot.  The main animal trails are also great for sitting a spell, but there won’t be any privacy on these.

If you haven’t found a spot to get a comfy cat nap in, head back to your Resort and enjoy the best  place to chill out in…your room.  Sweet dreams.