Things I learned in Ohio

America is often called the “melting pot,” because a large variety of cultures melt together to make it. It’s exciting that one country can hold so many distinct differences, yet be one.

Born and raised in Illinois, I didn’t think Ohio would be much different…. I suppose our country isn’t quite as “melted” as you may expect.  Sprinkles are called Jimmies in the east. You all becomes Ya’ll in the south… and on it goes.

Here are a few things I learned about Ohio.

  • People eat things called “Hummingbird Cake” and “Shoefly Pie
  • A “Carry-in” is the preferred term for a “Pot-luck”
  • The DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), is actually a BMV (Bureau)
  • If you want to meet a group of people out at Buffalo Wild Wings, it’s nickname is no longer Bdubs, but B.W.3s.  (this one makes no sense to me)
  • “Sweepers”… This was a whole new term for me, I assumed it was the item used to sweep which would only include brooms and swiffers in my book.  In Ohio it can mean a lot of things, even a vacuum or duster.
  • Ohioans seem to always vacation in Michigan, yet they dislike MI when it comes to sports.
  • They claim to have a lot of corn, but I think Illinois still wins.
  • Gas Stations, without gas, that you can drive through… they’re everywhere.
  • They do not have Mel-O-Cream donuts, and this is very sad.
  • If someone yells “O-H” you’re supposed to yell back “I-O”
  • Buckeyes are peanutbutter balls with chocolate, and everyone sells them and eats them and brings them to parties.
  • Highlander Grogg is a coffee flavor found in every local coffee shop.
  • UDF has amazing milkshakes, it doesn’t matter how jank it may look.

What are some Ohio-specific things you have learned about? Have you ever visited another state and were surprised by how different yet similar it could be? Share your fun stories, words, etc. in the comments below!

Another December in Chicago

We enjoyed our trip so much last year, that we decided to do it all over again! Repeating favorites like: Breakfast at the Sunnyside Up cafe, Christkindl Market downtown, a Broadway show, and Harry Carry’s for a nice dinner out.  Needless to say, our expectations were not disappointed. The revisit lived up to it’s memory!

Macy's Christmas Windows

At Macy’s Christmas Windows

Here I finished a Ghirardelli's Hot Fudge Sundae with no help at all :)

Here I finished a Ghirardelli’s Hot Fudge Sundae with no help at all 🙂

My parents at Harry Carry's Italian Steakhouse

My parents at Harry Carry’s Italian Steakhouse

This time around we went to see Disney’s The Newsies!  I have been waiting around 2-3 years for this show to make it’s way from New York to Chicago, and was relishing in every second of the production.  I believe Broadway takes you back to the years of the silver-screen, when the true stars shined.  These stars have the whole package: singing, acting, choreography, tap dancing… They are packed with talent!  After the show, I decided that Newsies would have to be one of my all-time favorite stage shows seen to date.  The only problem I had was trying not to compare Jack to Christian Bale’s performance in the 1992 film.  Otherwise, I was thrilled and enamored with the dancing! I couldn’t stop talking about it when we got back to the hotel.

Newsies! at the Chicago Oriental Theatre

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Three new stops were added to our list this year. First up, was lunch at Panes Bread Company. This was a bit north of water tower place, but still in the city. Their bread was delicious, and out of the four of us, we all would go back.  It was the perfect fresh sandwich shop, but beware they are big! My husband and I would have preferred to split after we saw the size, yet we still finished our plates because of how scrumptious it was!

Panes Bread Company

Next was a little jewelry store we discovered back in August called Nakamol. Although small, this place is full from floor to ceiling with beautiful handcrafted pieces.  Earrings, Necklaces, Bracelets, long or short… they have it all.  Nakamol sells to big retail companies like Nordstrom’s and VonMaur, but this is their ONLY location that sells direct.  While we were there, there was a charming sales-lady to help us.  She welcomed our husbands to her “man’s corner” with chairs and magazines.  While deciding between several bracelets, she informed me that one of the ones in my hand was a “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday” bracelet.  Once I chose it, she showed me five ways to wear it.  She also took several beautiful necklaces and put them on my mom saying, “Mama needs a necklace too, look, how beautiful!”  She even complimented my complexion, informing me that I could put anything in my hands and my skin would sell it for me.  She was a hoot!  As we were leaving she hollered for all the ladies in the store to vote, she introduced us to another customer and said, “If this were the last day on the planet, which earring would you wear?”  After everyone voted and it was a 50/50 split she announced, “Ah! You need both!!”  It was hard to walk out of there and not buy “one more thing” for a friend!

Nakamol Chicago

The third city find was SohoStyle across from Free People inside Water Tower.  They had beautiful hairclips! Normally, I would have walked right past them… since Kiosks usually have garage-sale trinkets, but my mom pulled me in.  Their clips were beautiful accents and appear very well made.  The associates would arrange my hair with several clips and assist me with a handheld mirror so that I could see what they had done.  I walked away with two clips: a magnetic snowflake, and a crystal bow.  Both will be classic accessories that I will pull out often.

 

Overall, we had a fantastic time! It went by fast, but we got to see a lot in just two days.  The best part was being with my parents, feeling the holiday joy, enjoying a whole city decked out, and doing a little shopping never hurt!

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How to Pack for the Disney Cruise

All vacations are tricky to pack for.  Weather is unpredictable, as is your mood.  You are limited on space, but have a variety of experiences to dress for.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Know your season.

Look up the average weather for the week you are vacationing and where.  Keep in mind that nights can get cool on a cruise with the sea breeze, dark nights, and in the air-conditioned restaurants and theatres.  Make sure to pack sweaters, but realize they are the bulkiest items.  Try to pack only two sweaters: one casual, and one for your dresses.  Be sure to wear one on the plane to save on suitcase space.

  • Have 2-3 tops for every bottom.

When you are limited on space it is essential to max out your wardrobe by making pieces interchangeable.

blogcruiseclothes

  • Pack multiple swimsuits and coverups.

You will be spending most of your time in the pools and ocean.  Swimwear will be a big part of your wardrobe, so make them count.  Also, keep in mind, you may not want to squeeze into an already-wet swimsuit!

  • Pack for your excursions.

Are you horseback riding? Jeans and closed-toe shoes will be required.  Do you plan on taking advantage of the free gym or the running deck?  Don’t forget a sturdy sports bra and your running shoes!  For the rocky beaches and the sharp coral reef you may want to bring a pair of sturdy watershoes or Keens.

Moped around Cosumel

  • Pack for your parties.

The Disney ships are known for their Pirate Party on deck.  If you want to go all out, go for it.  If you are light on space, pack a bandana, nautical top, or eye patch.

Other parties in the Adult section included a 70’s night, an 80’s night, and a Cowboy Line Dancing night.

There is also a “formal night” which is not enforced, but is still advertized.  Also, if you are planning on having a special dinner at Palo be sure to pack a sportscoat, suit, or cocktail dress.

  • Pack for your dinners.

It’s fun to wipe off the sweat from the day and spice yourself up for dinner.  Although it is “cruise casual” a lot of ladies wear simple sundresses for dinner, and men will jazz up with khaki shorts and a nice v-neck or polo.  Remember there are always great photo opportunities too!

 

dinners

If you want to match the restaurants here are some ideas:

Animator’s Pallet : Go black, white, and grey to match the simple sketched theme of the restaurant.

Triton’s : This “Little Mermaid” themed, french cuisine restaurant would pair perfectly with sea colors : blues, teals, turquoise, and purple!

Parrot Cay : Is an “island paradise” with bright oranges, yellows, and greens.  Wear something fun and tropical!

  • Keep your shoes simple.

Shoes take up space, try to keep it simple to match every outfit.  Make sure all your shoes can be worn more than once.  I packed one pair of sandals, one pair of dress shoes, and one pair of tennies for all the walking in Cozumel!

  • Finishing Touches with Accessories.

After you have composed Head to Toe outfits make sure you have the perfect accessories to match.  Necklace, bracelet, anklet, toe rings, earrings.  Accessories are the ornaments of your clothes.  They make it pop, they express you, and they finalize your look.  Not to mention they take up little space!

  • Dress to Sweat.

It’ll be hot.  I packed a lot of cami’s and loose tops for high air flow.  Remember to pack light colors and lots of sunscreen!

  • Pack the appropriate underwear!

I made sure to have plenty of nude colored underwear for my white shorts, pants, and skirts.  Remember to pack bandeaus and cami’s for the sheer or plunging tops.  You may want to pack multiple bras: halter, strapless, nude, and black to look seamless in all your outfits.  Not to mention you may sweat badly in them and need a fresh one the next day.  Are your dresses a little short? Pack a pair of volleyball shorts to wear underneath, that can still breathe but provide comfort.

  • Pack a Watch and Camera.

You may want a watch!  You will cruise through a couple time zones and have activities planned every hour.  Also, a camera should be picked based off your excursions.  Waterproof and drop safe are good options to consider!

  • Last Minute Shopping

Airlines limit the amount of liquids you are allowed to carry onto the plane.  Tap and I bought all of our sunscreen after our plane ride and before we got on the boat, because the price will be much higher once you’re trapped!  We also bought big items like shaving gel, and aloe.

Disney Wonder 101

Ahoy!  Tappy and I just got back from a 5-night cruise on the Disney Wonder, where we stopped in Cozumel Mexico and Disney’s private island Castaway Key!  This was Tap’s first time on a cruise, and my third time on the Wonder.  If you are new to the experience keep reading!  If you are not, maybe I’ll have a few new tips, tricks, and insights for you as we give you an overview of Disney Cruises, and more specifically the Wonder!

Disney Wonder 2014

Most Helpful Tips

The Online Check-In allows you to go through the check-in process virtually.  Checking-in is mandatory before boarding any Disney Cruise, and doing it online cuts your time down immensely.  At the end you must print and sign the final Check-In forms that will be required at port.  This allows you to skip huge lines at the port, and choose your boarding time!  My family was able to do the online check-in 90 days before we boarded, and we were able to board the boat at the earliest time slot: 11am, getting us extra hours of fun on the cruise!

  • Fly into your Port City early.

Flights can be unreliable.  Just to be on the safe side, plan to arrive at your port location a day in advance in case of a postponed flight, missed plane, etc.  You’d hate to miss your cruise!  These extra days will also alleviate anxiety and stress prior to the cruise.. where the ultimate goal is relaxation.

  • Do not waste money on an outside stateroom.

Unless you are incredibly introverted, and need your own space to rejuvenate, do not waste money on an outside stateroom.  The Disney Wonder is spacious and has many beautiful and relaxing locations where you can hide away.  Most of your time will be spent on deck, in restaurants, and at parties.  When you only use your room to sleep, why pay the extra money?  If you need some quiet space go to: The Cove, the Outlook Deck, and Deck 4 for a lounge chair facing the ocean.

  • Research all excursions, even those not listed on the Disney Cruise Website.

My husband and I were interested in several excursions, but after looking deeper realized some of them required hours of transportation to and from the event.  Others required that you paid for an additional meal, and did not have free access to transportation to get back to the boat earlier.  These were deal breakers for us, instead we were able to rent Mopeds in Cozumel for $35 and see the entire island at our own pace and interest!

  • Make goals, priorities, and boundaries before boarding the ship.

How much time will you spend on family activities versus spouse activities?  Will you stick to your diet while on the cruise?  Do you plan on working out to burn the extra calories you are consuming?  The Disney cruise is wonderful for families, but it also offers a great variety for families to get independent time as well.  There are so many great planned activities and areas for all ages, take advantage of it!  There are also great all-family activities, like: movies, deck parties, dinner time, etc.

Every night you will get a paper copy of the “Navigator” for the following day.  This will have ALL events for ALL ages listed as well as theatre and movie times, classes, tours, character meet and greets, and more.  You can fold this into a three panel brochure, or you can carry it in your phone with the Disney Cruise Line App.  The App will allow you to narrow down your search for particular age groups or event types, as well as give you access to a boat map.

  • Live in every moment!

Before you know it, the cruise will be over.  Don’t get caught up in silly drama, fights, or the little things that don’t go right.  Focus on the smiles, the laughter, the magical moments, and the unbelievable adventures….

  • Check your receipts before tipping!

Gratuity is expected on certain services: massages, alcoholic beverages, and specialty coffees.  Most always, the gratuity is already included and noted on the receipt.  If the receipt says “Additional Gratuity,” you have already been charged for an 18% tip.  If the service was excellent, feel free to add a little something.  Also, tips are expected at the end of the cruise for your Stateroom Service and Dinner hosts.  Be sure to budget for these highly encouraged tips!

  • Get the Sea-Sickness patch and apply it early.

Getting the Most out of your Cruise

  • Decorate your doors and include a Dry Erase Board.

Disney Cruise DoorMy awesome niece, Kallie, put a lot of work into making everyone’s doors adorable.  She printed and laminated different heads to go around everyone’s door number, added mickey heads with every individuals names, made dry erase boards, and Last name initials that hung on everyone’s Fish.  We were able to find our rooms at a short glance, and leave messages and personal itineraries on our boards.  When making these, be careful to add strong magnets, as the doors are very weak!

 

  • Order Multiple Entrees.

All of your food is already included in the price! You don’t have to worry about racking up a bill, or not liking an adventurous meal.  If you have small tummies, like Tap and I, have everyone order something different and share!  Then order your favorite for yourself.  Also, if you fall in love with a particular dessert at another restaurant, you may still request it! Your servers will go above and beyond to make your trip magical!

  • Have other guests take your pictures.

The Cruise will take wonderful photos of your family, but they are pretty costly! Save money by asking others to take your photos.  Don’t feel ashamed! They’ll probably ask you to return the favor.

  • “Link” Cabins with other family members and friends.

Everyone in our group, all 24 of us, were “linked.” This meant dinners were spent either at the same table or in a close proximity to one another.  Most of our rooms were even on the same floor so that we could keep in the loop and invite eachother to different activities.  This is great for the family-oriented types!

  • Wait to see movies that will be on the Cruise.

We called ahead to find out what movies would be playing on our cruise.  They informed us that Frozen, Bears, Captain America, and The Muppets Most Wanted would all be playing in the Buena Vista Theatre.  We decided to save our money and time by not seeing most of these movies until we boarded the ship!  That way we were able to experience brand new movies without paying $8.50/$12.50 a ticket!

 

Why the Disney Wonder?

  • Disney pays the highest attention to details and service that simply result in a magical experience.

Disney knows customer service, and the will go above and beyond to make your trip extra special to keep the Disney “magic” alive.  Our stateroom host knew us by name before we had ever been introduced, and always kept our bed made and room tidy.  He was always in the halls ready to accommodate, and was always making sure we were comfortable.  Our dinner servers knew our names and our drink preference after the first night, and continued to wait on us for every dinner meal.

  • Disney Cruise Lines are family friendly with entertainment for ALL ages.
  • Keeping things “Disney” is great for the moderately conservative families, couples, or individuals.

My husband and I are Christian.  Our ideal entertainment is not casinos, getting drunk, and dirty dancing.  We like to keep it classy and creative, which Disney knows how to do!  Even in the “adult only” sections we were able to have a fantastic time without compromising our comfort, modesty, or morals.

  • The Wonder is an older boat with very committed and experienced staff.
  • The Wonder is a smaller boat, with slightly bigger staterooms, and is less crowded than the newer boats.

Chicago at Christmas

When I was younger, my family would make a weekend trip up to Chicago to see the Marshall Field’s Christmas window displays.  I remember always getting Garrett’s popcorn, waiting outside the giant Nike store, and pleading to go, instead, to the American Girl Store.  It was always so much fun to be in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, with beautiful decorations all around you;  As well as a vast array of stores to do your Christmas shopping in!

Since it had been years since I’d gone to Chicago at Christmastime, my husband and I made a double date with my parents to go the second weekend of December.  We did all of the standard traditions!  I took my husband to see the Walnut Room with it’s large and gorgeous Christmas tree, got him two bags of Garrett’s popcorn, and walked the snowy streets of Chicago with the twinkling Christmas lights on every city block.  It was so much fun!

Chicago Dec '13

The cherry on top, was seeing a Chicago Broadway show – Wicked!  Although Tappy had the soundtrack memorized, and I had grown up reading plenty of the OZ books, neither of us had seen the play.  It was so exciting to usher into the beautiful Oriental Theatre, built in 1926 during the Roar! Every facet of the building was laden with artwork, glimmering in gold and marble tones with intricate attention to detail.  It was magnificent to be a part of such a treat!  Then, the show itself, was beyond our expectations!  It was funny! I had no idea, but I laughed heartily several times and enjoyed the escape.  Glinda reminded me a lot of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde– innocently self-indulgent, hopelessly materialistic, and genuinely unaware with a giant heart at full capacity.  You should definitely treat yourself to a viewing!

Wicked

The finale of our weekend ended up being our favorite part- and the funny thing is, it was completely unplanned and happened merely on a whim.  Saturday morning we decided that we wanted to go out for breakfast.  After yelping a few places within walking distance I found a spot I wanted to hit up.  We bundled up and went outside to be met with a beautiful snow flurry.  It was the warmest day of the weekend and the snow was large and whimsical as it fell.  We walked through this beautiful weather and found adorable Christmas clad stoops, snow covered gates, and beautiful naked trees.  Then we turned the corner and found our stop.  A cute little three story building outlined in lights, calling us in with it’s yummy smells and warmth.  The Sunnyside Up Cafe & Coffee Shop was an absolute hit.  With a seasonal cranberry almond waffle, breakfast sandwiches, hot chocolate, and our first helping of the infamous croinut.  We had a blast in our hole in the wall!

Sunnyside Up Cafe

Our Honeymoon to Kauai, HI

Kauaii was absolutely beautiful!  By mere luck, we picked the best island to visit, and we can not wait to go back!  Honestly, we don’t feel like we’re missing anything by not visiting the other islands… we fell that in love with Kauai.

My biggest dream for the trip was to get up close and personal with some waterfalls.  The best way to do that in Kauai is via Kayak.  It was an extremely pleasant adventure, and wasn’t as laborious as I had worried- however, that may be due to my wonderful husband’s help.  After seeing a few falls, we also got to swim in one!  The kayak, hike, and all was worth the beautiful sights.

Towards the end of the trip we rented a car – highly recommended!  We got to see so much more of the island in just thirty minute drives.  We saw a beautiful sunset at Poipu, saw the large waves at Ke’e, as well as hit up my husband’s favorite stop: the Kauai Coffee Plantation.

To get all we could out of the trip we woke up every morning around 6am, grabbed breakfast, and enjoyed the scenes just outside our hotel.  We stayed right in the cove of Kalapki beach where restaraunts and outdoor malls surrounded us… but most excitingly the beach was just steps away.

Look at the honeymoon scrapbook I made to see more stories and pictures from our great trip!