Touring the Monorail Resorts during the Holidays

Craig, Emily and I decided that we would enjoy our Saturday afternoon with a tour of the Monorail Resorts and all of the Holiday goodness. One of the best perks of being a local is that you can take the time to go and visit the Resorts at your own pace- no rushing, no worrying.  So after a full morning at Animal Kingdom with friends, I came home to pick them up and head out to the MK area.

We parked at the Poly, and informed them we were coming to tour the sights. Security was fine with that and let us in. We visited the Polynesian Resort first, admiring the wreaths and bows of evergreen that lined the walkway to the lobby. Inside Christmas lights and garland were hung over the check-in area, and around to the back of the lobby was one of their large Christmas trees. We grabbed a pic and then headed to the 2nd floor to see the other Christmas tree by the Monorail entrance/exit.  After a look, we headed to the Grand Floridian by way of the Monorail.

A 5 minute ride, if that, and we were dropped off at the Grand Floridian. The smell of gingerbread filled the Resort, and it was just inspiring to smell it with the sights of Christmas lights and trees. At the bottom of the staircase was a bridal party, with the beautiful bride getting her picture taken- the Resort was ALIVE today. We were drawn to the Gingerbread house where Emily was more fun to watch then the house itself! Her eyes were huge with wonder, and I could feel her soul smiling. We decided to buy a shingle, which is gingerbread with chocolate on one side- yummy! We split it while we walked around, and I have to say it was cool to see so many families taking their Christmas card picture in front of the large tree in the lobby- great idea for us next year!

Off on the Monorail again, we passed the Magic Kingdom and headed to the Contemp. It was so cool to see the large Mickey wreath on the side of the Resort- I can’t wait to see it lit up sometime! We headed downstairs from the loading area and walked right in front of the Gingerbread tree. I think Emily’s head was going to explode with excitement! She freaked, so we took her picture in front it- plus she LOVES anything to do with “It’s a Small World.” We enjoyed the eye candy, then headed outside to the balcony to show Emily the large Mickey wreath up close.  If you have the time, check out this balcony for an incredible view of the Castle, the Monorail, and of the Contemp.

I would say it took about an hour and a half to see everything, including time on the Monorail. So if you interested in taking the tour while on vacation, I definitely think it is doable. We brought Kyra home some of the shingle we had left for her to try, since she was home not feeling so well.  She enjoyed it too, and I think we have found another tradition we will enjoy for more years to come.

We introduced our “Atmosphere Adventures” this evening, which are small video clips of the Disney atmosphere around the Parks and Resorts. I am SURE we will be taping the holiday happenings around WDW, so check back often to see what each day brings. God bless your day!

Be Thankful

As we celebrate our first Thanksgiving tomorrow in Florida, I thought about what I am most thankful for. For every blessing and experience my family and I have had this past year, I couldn’t be more appreciative. So today’s blog is all about how we can all be more thankful, and count every single minute as a blessing.

Be thankful for what you have, not what you don’t. I know this concept is difficult for many, and foreign to most- but once you “get it”, it’s the sweetest freedom you will ever taste. I have been there, in that position of wondering why others seemed to have it all, and why I was struggling.  The dust seemed to clear more when I realized the tremendous amount of blessings I DID have.  All it takes is one minute to take a deep breath and look around your life and see what there IS to be thankful for.  You may not have the best job, but you have a great family. You may not be able to get pregnant right now, but you have great friends. You may not be able to live your dream right now, but you know that in time you can.  Be thankful for the two legs you walk on, because some cannot walk at all. Be happy to be able to see that beautiful sun shining in the sky, when so many will never see it in their lifetime. These small things in life are what SHOULD drive us to live every day to its absolute potential, and NEVER anything less.

Be thankful for the people in your life. For those who you love with all your heart, thank them today for what they have meant to you in your life. Write, call, email your loved ones and show them your gratitude this Thanksgiving… the power of love in the smallest of words can leave the biggest impact.  For those who have done you wrong, be thankful and forgiving and move on from them ever being a thought in your head again. For every experience, good and bad, there is something to learn from it and grow from- be thankful for every single one.

Be thankful for where you live. I know, easy for me to say right? I live in the land of Mickey and palm trees now… but I used to live in the land of cheese and Green Bay Packers.  Whether you live in someone’s basement, or in a huge 10 bedroom home- it’ home, and be thankful you have one. Every time I see someone homeless and on the streets, it hurts. I wonder how they got there, and why it got so bad for them. If you know someone who is struggling, I encourage you this Thanksgiving to help them out. Invite them over for a meal, give them a gift card to a grocery store, or bring them a meal from a restaurant.  Volunteer at a local Shelter or church to help even more.

On a personal note, I want to thank you, our readers and friends, for making our entire family feel so loved. Not one week goes by that I don’t receive an email or private message that reflects someone’s kindness and appreciation for us and the blog.  When I get a comment, an email, however you contact me, I smile EVERY time. I could be having the worst day and someone writes about how the blog helped revive a dream, or helped them throughout their day- WOW. In the words of Erkel “Did I do that?” I am humble… I sometimes just don’t see myself as any kind of pioneer. I’m just Amy Falk Petermann, and for that, I am thankful for. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!

Expecto Patronum! Meeting the Stars of “Harry Potter”

Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I’ve always had “meet the cast” on my bucket list. Well, this past Thursday I definitely got to cross that one off!

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the entire cast, but four people from the movies. Mom and I were in the living room chilling out and enjoying the quiet when dad called mom into their bedroom. I was playing my new game Skyrim (which is way too much fun by the way) when mom came back in and explained to me that we were going to Wal Mart. I asked why and she said that four harry potter cast members were going to be there to sign merchandise and there were rumors that it was Ron, Fred, George, and Luna. Well I freaked out and mom called the store and they told her that people were lining up at four pm. Not too bad considering the cast would get there at seven pm. Trust me I’ve had to wait longer for a midnight showing of a movie, I could wait a long time to meet these guys!

So we drive to Wal Mart around 3:30pm and I’m psyched. Emily came with because she likes Harry Potter too and she was excited that she’d get the chance to meet someone famous. Well, we get into Wal Mart and discover a line has already started. Not surprising even based on what the guy on the phone said. The line wasn’t too long though so we weren’t discouraged.

A booth was set up right behind the registers in front of the children’s clothing. We found our place in line and got comfy, breaking out the cell phones and books. They handed out free posters for them to sign and a little packet of harry potter legos AND three free pins with Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s face on them. The poster was huge, and I mean bigger than most poster sizes you buy at the store. It’s the biggest one in my room right now.

So we waited and waited and finally after 4 hours, we were going to find out who the stars were that we were going to meet. Well the line by then had snaked back and forth between clothing aisles to the back of the store to electronics and all the way back to the front of the store again. We were definitely glad to have gotten there early. So it’s ten minutes to 7pm and everyone is on edge and excited when an employee walks up to me and a group of other girls and tells us who it is. Well…it wasn’t any of the Weasleys and it wasn’t Luna either so at first I was pretty disappointed. BUT it ended up being Cho Chang, Seamus Finnigan, Lavender Brown, and Dean Thomas. A lot of the girls around me were kind of upset and my sister was definitely upset since she had no idea who these people were, but me being the big nerd I am I knew exactly who they were and what they did in the movie and I was still really pumped just to meet them.

We waited a little longer and by the time we got to the front of the line there was a paparazzi mob around the whole area for those who weren’t in line and there was security everywhere with tasers at the ready.  When we got up to them I was shaking I was so excited. The first to sign my poster and my Gryffindor flag was Seamus, and he looked like a little elf! He was adorable and his accent was probably the best when he was talking about how he liked the way I spelled my name. Then there was Cho, and she was very pretty and quiet just like in the movie. Then Lavender, and she was super colorful and peppy and a lot like her character. It was funny how bright she was, her and my sister were matching. Then I got to Dean and he was very nice and told me he appreciated me being there and I told him right back at ya. Then it was all over and I wished we could have stayed and talked to them forever. Mom took some great pictures and I’ll definitely never forget meeting them! I have the autographs on my wall and they’re another great little addition to my obsessive Harry Potter collection!       -Kyra Petermann

Thanks for the love and support!

I LOVE sharing the joy of Disney, Adventure, and Travel! Every dollar you support me with goes right back into my brand for equipment, gas, and essentials. But most importantly, when you support me financially it tells me you BELIEVE in me, and that means more to me than ANYTHING! So THANK YOU for YOU!!

$1.00

My 1st FL Renaissance Experience…The Sarasota Medieval Faire

One of the hardest things about leaving Wisconsin was that I was saying goodbye to my beloved Bristol Renaissance Faire for awhile. I had come to think of that place as a second home, and having familiar faces to see and hugs to have was a welcoming sight every single moment of the 8 summers I attended. Like everything in life, change can be difficult, but my hope was that for a new Faire I would find new friends, new experiences, and new opportunities. Here is my day at the Sarasota Medieval Faire- enjoy!

I had forgotten the time it takes to get into my garb- along with the early hours that go along with it. Ken and Anthony were picking Kyra and I up at 7 a.m., so that meant I had to get up at 5:30 to shower, prepare, and then get tied in. Yes, get tied in. If you know anything of the Renaissance world, tying yourself into your garb is all part of the process. I had such lovely people at Bristol to help me with it, so this time I had Craig help me do it. (He didn’t mind).  I hadn’t given much thought to how my back would handle all of this stress- I had been on the ground waiting for Richard Marx, then stars from Harry Potter, and then being wrapped up in a corset for 8 hours- a busy but very sore week!

We were picked up and with breakfast in the car, we headed to Sarasota with our friends. We arrived early enough so I had time to prepare my garb, myself mentally and enough time for a small prayer that my friends would enjoy what the day would bring. I knew what Bristol held, but this was so new to me that it made me extremely nervous. I couldn’t take them to my favorite shows, actors, or even pub because I had no clue like the rest of them- again- it made me nervous.

The opening show was a small band of minstrels, with the King, King Richard the 2nd, speaking to the crowd. Bristol had an older Queen, Sarasota had a 14 year old King- it couldn’t have been any more different from the start. BUT- he was hilarious. He was like a spoiled child, with no clue of how to rule a kingdom, so in that sense, he was my favorite character from the start. (Kyra’s too!)

My admission to the Faire was even sad, I had been getting cast tickets forever at Bristol, even free ones for my Birthday, and I almost chuckled that I had to pay $17.95 for Kyra and I, each.  Lady Visa and Lord Mastercard were not working, not the best thing for an opening day- so cash would have to do. This Faire DOES NOT allow pets, and I also noticed that they had no security measures of checking bags in the way in.

The theme this year, and this was their 5th year in production, was the Peasants Revolt. The Cast marched in, parade fashion, with the Royals first, and the mad mob behind them. They looked like a fun bunch, but I still kept expecting to see familiar faces for some reason. As we entered inside, we were met with smiles and “Good Days”- it made me smile to hear that. The biggest thing I loved about Bristol was hearing the many wonderful persons say time after time “Good Day.” I met a funny mute, who insisted on a picture, and some of the Royals who did actually talk to me. In Bristol, the Royals mostly kept their noses in the air and talked to no one.  The classes kept to themselves, and I didn’t see a whole lot of interaction with the crowd coming in. This surprised me, as when you enter Bristol, you are immediatedly involved in their world.

The four of us walked around to see everything first, to become familiar with the stages and areas. I smiled every time I saw something familiar- wax hands, garb for sale, and the varieties of handmade soaps.  Kyra’s staple in Bristol was always a giant pickle, so that was the first food item of the day. Speaking of food, they had a large variety of choices. Sonny’s BBQ is big down here, kind of like Famous Daves in WI, and because they were the sponsor, they of course had a booth. We grabbed pulled pork sandwiches there, along with a couple of Cokes at another booth for an early lunch.

Our first show of the day was the “Tortuga Twins”- now why this was a funny name was that the group consisted of three men, and neither of them looked like the other. A comedy show, they told the story of Robin Hood. But what makes these shows fun are audience participation moments… the ones in which my good friends, Ken and Anthony, hoped would never happen.  Then, as he looked around for his Robin Hood…I saw him pace behind the guys. I thought, “Oh NO” and BAM- he put the green hat on Ken and said “We have found our hero!”  Anthony, Kyra, and I were busting!!! Ken did such a nice job, and his “Tally ho” was spot on! We are so proud of you Ken, you did a great job.

Next was the human chess match, which was a neat thing to see because Bristol doesn’t have this at all. I’m thinking the reason they may not have it is because you need a very large cast to pull it off, with a lot of time to make a real move. Every time a person moved, they would fight. After about 4 moves, all war broke out and basically the peasants had enough. It was entertaining, but since I don’t know chess at all, I had no clue of what was going on.  I will say there bleachers are directly in the sun, so it can get quite hot on those silver seats. It was neat to see once, but we wound up leaving it early to head to jousting.

The jousting arena is basically more bleachers and a long pile of sand for the joust itself. Again, I was spoiled by Bristol, and I was hoping it would be this amazing event. We didn’t sit in the bleachers, but in the shade, so we could not hear a thing that was being said by the King near the arena. They had no microphones, so unless you were sitting very close to the King, you wouldn’t have heard much. We saw the horses and men compete, and the Knights were in full armor. They ran at each other a couple of times, and then it was over. Not really much of a theme to it, so to me, it was just ok.

Next we headed for more drinks and then to “Filthy Fairytales.” What I thought this was supposed to be was a muddy, witty show about fairytales. What it wound up being was two ladies trying too hard and just not quite making it to be anything worth watching. MANY people got up and left, including us, and I hope it was just first day jitters for them and not what that show was really meant to be.

Last but not least was to be the “Washing Well Wenches.” Now, this was a show I had seen before in Bristol- YAY! I had talked them up to the guys, so we were all pretty excited to see them.  The show was packed, and they started with their wet blanket “Mr. Wettums.” If you didn’t cheer loud enough, Mr. Wettums had to come out to play and basically get the audience wet- GENIUS!! Then they picked their first victim, I mean, person. Their whole shtick is picking out guys from the audience and explaining what courtly love is. As the first guy was on stage, the blond washer woman says “He touched my wet spot” and the audience laughs. She then starts to shake and her eyes roll up into the back of her head- again- we thought she was playing along with what she had just said. Then she fell backwards into the small wading pool behind her, trying to grab the volunteer in with her. Her partner looked in the pool to see that she was not coming back up, and indeed was not breathing. She screamed “This is not part of the show- HELP ME” and many rushed to help, including Anthony who is a nurse. It was a very scary moment to watch, and made me more sick to my stomach that we all laughed as she had a seizure. They called 911 and she was out of there about 15 minutes later- very hard moment to watch in general. I hope and pray she is doing ok, and that she knows that there are those of us out there that care.

After such an alarming moment, we tried to just walk it off and listened to a Celtic band. I had had enough in the garb- it was time to pull the string! I grabbed my real clothes out of Anthony’s vehicle and headed to the handicapped porta potty. Yes, I changed in a porta potty- not my proudest moment. But it was a moment of “If I don’t get out of this corset soon, I am going to scream.”  After I was back in my civilian clothes, and in a regular bra again, I was comfortable enough for the 2 hour ride home.

I felt it was a beautiful day, full of unexpected experiences. It was weird to see palm trees among the many tents, but It was that hard realization I was indeed not in Kansas anymore. It did make me renew my faith in heading back to Bristol for their 25th Anniversary this coming summer, and I so look forward to seeing those familiar faces of the Swordsmen, Craig of Farrington, Moonie, Jane, Fritz, and the rest of my friends. But until that reunion, I plan on heading to Tampa in February for their Renn Fest, which I hear is the biggest of the state. I will continue to keep looking for my Bristol here in FL, and I am happy I at least tried this one. Kyra, Anthony, and Ken had a great time, and I thank them all for enjoying the experience with me. On a side note… Kelly- I missed you the most yesterday, it is just isn’t the same with out my giggling best friend saying “Good Day” with me.

Hold Onto The Nights… An Evening with Richard Marx

Let me tell you something- when the schedule came out for the “Eat to the Beat” series, I was so excited to see his name on the schedule. Who? Well, Mr. 80’s love ballad himself, Mr. Crooner himself, yes, Richard Marx. I can associate a memory with almost every song that he has sung, and I never got to see him in his more popular days. So I had been counting down for quite some time to November 9th, and it finally came.  Today’s blog is about my evening with Richard and how it all played out- enjoy!

Yes, there are those people that stand in line for long periods of time because they have a passion for what they are waiting for. It’s no ones place to judge, and unless it is affecting your life, please, don’t worry about it. I was one of those yesterday, who entered the line, 2nd in line, at 11:30 a.m. World Showcase had just opened, and there was only one other couple in front of me. They park it for many of the concerts, and they get great seats because of their dedication. I got to know Lisa and her fiancée, and they were a delight to chat with until the first concert.

More people came along, and I had the pleasure of meeting Tina, Luigi, and Karen. We all spent the afternoon, in and out of the line, making the time pass with eating, drinking, chatting, and unavoidably sun bathing. Yes, the sun was a scorcher yesterday, and I have the sun burn to prove it! But I found that I had a really great time in line, and if you are friendly and are open to meeting new people, the time will fly right by! On top of that, you always need a bathroom buddy when standing or sitting in line for hours. Everyone was kind and helpful, and it made the wait very enjoyable. A blog fan, Cassandra, found me in line too- so nice to meet you!!

Once 4:30 p.m. rolled around, we headed into the American Gardens Theater in the World Showcase, and planted it in the front row for the first show. Once 5:15 came, I started to shake. I kept thinking “I’m going to see him, right in front of me!” And not a minute later, he was on the stage, 5 feet from me, and I was going INSANE! I sat with Karen, Luigi, and Tina, who were also screaming, so it was fun to be a teenager for the evening.

After a couple of his songs, he came over to our side of the Theater and helped a man propose to his girlfriend. It was very sweet and romantic, and as he came off the stage to get his picture with the couple, his back was inches from me. So my new friends shout “TOUCH HIM” – so the geek I am, I touched his back with my left hand… and I will never be the same again. I TOUCHED RICHARD MARX!!!

After that, everything else was just icing on the cake! The first show was awesome, and because of new friends, I had a great seat for the second show. Craig and the girls came in to check out who I was geeking out over, and they sat in the back because it was a full show. He sang “Angelia” which Craig loves, so I was glad he came to that show.

The third show was hanging out with my friend Lisa and her fiancée, and again, thanks to her, I had a great seat! He sang other songs he hadn’t yet, so it was definitely worth coming to all three. Richard actually remarked on how funny it was to come out in 30 minute sets, while we had to leave and get back in line. If you do it right, it works out great- but it can be a pain.

I left that night with the biggest grin on my face, and thrilled to death I had done it. It was well worth the wait, and I only wish my best friend, Kelly, had been to enjoy it as well.  I slept well thinking about my awesome day, and didn’t feel the sunburn until early morning.  I hope he comes back to the “Eat to the Beat” series  next year- it was a great time! Thanks to Lisa, Luigi, Karen, and Tina for welcoming into the club- I can’t wait to see you all again!

Magic in the Wild

Wednesday is half-day of school for the kids, so we decided after other plans fell through to head to Animal Kingdom for some fun. I am telling you, there is NOTHING cooler than just leaving school for the day and heading to Walt Disney World. We experienced a lot of magic today, so let’s begin.

We walked into a deserted park… when I say deserted, I mean EMPTY. Granted, it was after 1:00 p.m., but AK was still open for another four hours and it felt like a ghost town. They only had two parking turnstiles on, and another couple of ticket turnstiles open at the entrance. I kept thinking “Did I miss something?” My assumption was that all of the Parks were busy from now until the end of the year- guess not.

When AK is empty, it takes on an entirely different feel. It has the feel of a public park, with the addition of some wild animals in the mix. Walking the paths, the breeze flowing, I wasn’t sweating at all… I didn’t know what to do with this awesome feeling at this Park. You have to understand, this past Summer at Animal Kingdom was so incredibly hot and miserable. We would NEVER think of heading into at 1 in the afternoon before, but in November, it was magical.

We walked right onto Dinosaur, and loved it so much that we walked on it again. The second time we practically had our own vehicle, so we took the back row for some extra fun. Yes, I can report, the last row is VERY bumpy. On top of that fact that our vehicle was barely weighed down, we were bouncing everywhere- it was a lot of fun for the Petermann girls.

Next we walked through Asia, and it was also quite empty. Everest had a 10 minute wait, but we didn’t see many waiting for it. We passed on it and found a new grub spot- the Yak and Yeti counter service area. I was delighted to see that they had Chicken Fried Rice for only $3.99, so I ordered some for Emily. Kyra and I headed up the ways to grab our favorite veggie egg roll, then we all sat in a beautiful landing area in the shade of the Tree of Life.  Seats were empty everywhere, and again, we had a beautiful moment of tranquility.

After our tummies were full, we headed towards the Safari to take a ride into Africa. What I love about this ride, this attraction, is that you never know what you are going to get. The animals will do whatever they feel like, and you just never know which ones will be awake, want to play, or get close to your vehicle. Every time I ride it, I hope we will see the giraffes up close and personal. I have been blessed to see them many times, and today was no exception.

Not only did we see the entire giraffe herd together and close to the jeep, but we also saw one of the hippos OUT of the water and on one of the islands they swim by. You know that scene in “It’s a Small World” with the hippo in the jungle room? It was JUST like that, minus the singing dolls.  Every animal seemed to be out and in full action- the lioness was out and in full view, one of the elephants was bathing in full view, and the savannah was full of life.  We loved it so much we walked right back on to see them all again.

We ended our day with a casual stroll to say hi to Lily and the Gorilla gang- the Bachelors were hanging out on the Safari exit side, so we enjoyed watching them for awhile. If you are leaving the Safari, don’t pass the cool opportunity to see the 2 male gorillas who play on that side of the hill.  Most don’t even bother with that area, but it is pretty neat to see them. We headed out at park closing, caught the tram, and enjoyed a chilled out evening at home. It was a great afternoon of Disney magic, and was a great reminder of why I love to live here.

Our First Halloween as Florida Residents

The best thing about the first year of living anywhere is getting to enjoy each milestone, each “first,” for every yummy morsel moment of it. Halloween was no exception, and when looking for a perfect costume for each of my darling daughters, they found me instead. Mom and I found a great Hippie costume, adding each piece as we hit the Thrift Shops, then finding Emily’s Pirate costume in the same fashion. I found the extra pieces for Emily in the Pirates of the Caribbean Shop, and voila, a Pirate was born!

A friend from WI was in town for business, so Susan hung out with us tonight. We parked at Suzannah’s house, then headed out to walk the roads of Celebration. We had no plan, no agenda, just pure enjoyment of the night.

We started at 5 p.m., and there weren’t many others out and about at that time. We stopped at as many houses as we could, finding one here and there. It wouldn’t be until around 6:30 that it really started to pick up- the crowds, the houses, the candy, and everything else. The excitement grew as the sun went down, and we were giddy with our palm tree surroundings.

We wound up walking quite far from the starting point, but we saw the most amazing decorations and homes. One lane of houses were billion dollar homes, and I didn’t know what I was more in awe with, the warm evening or the houses. We made a complete circle back, getting to hang out with Otis and the group for awhile.

We left for home, exhausted and hungry. We said our goodbyes to Susan for the night, and snuggled in for the rest of our evening. We are enjoying “Once Upon a Time” together with a late dinner. We had such a great night, and it was a wonderful blessing. Thanks to Susan for playing with us tonight! Happy Halloween everyone!