On a Not-So Lazy Sunday Morning

I’ve been a very busy bee this morning – no day of rest for this little worker, who is already feeling anxious about tomorrow’s BIG START to our renovations.  I may have mentioned a time or 20 that I’m not the best at dealing with stress; I can turn myself into anxiety-ridden knots over things that should really be NBD (although I suppose completely gutting and renovating your bathroom – your only bathroom – and replacing all of your flooring qualifies as an actual big deal.)  So I’ve been up for many hours removing framed photos and other artwork from the walls, stashing boxes of our belongings on the balconies, and making two raspberry cream cheese pies for a celebratory, kick-off to the renos dinner we’re having this evening with my mother, who has been acting as our in-the-know general contractor (we have a contractor, actually, but my mom has a lot of experience in the area of construction and home renovations, and we couldn’t have arranged ANY of this without her invaluable assistance and oversight.)  So it’s been a bit of a busy day, and it only just turned noon!

I accidentally tore off three of my four “good hand” nails the other day pulling up the last of our flooring, so I’ve been looking for other blogging and vlogging ways to occupy my online creative energies.  Enter a couple of short videos I made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, all about some of the delicious food we’ve enjoyed at Disney World over our last number of trips – just try not to fall ravenously hungry looking at all this yumminess.  Happy watching, and bon appetit!

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Snack Money

Wallet Collage 1

In the last couple of years you’ve watched – probably with some annoyance at this point; it’s okay, I understand – as my husband and I have jetted off to Disney World at every possible opportunity.  We got that Disney stoke BAD.  You’ve read about us navigating insane Christmas Day crowds, buddying up to Wookiees (check them double Es now!) and drinking our way around, well, any park that serves alcohol (and that would be all of them.)

But the one Disney thing you haven’t seen us indulge in very much is souvenir-hunting.  Thankfully, Mr. Finger Candy and I are not really the collector types, so Disney’s hypnotic capitalist mojo does not work its hoodoo on these two yoohoos.  And for that I am SO GLAD, because there’s an endless number of ways you can part with your money whilst on a Disney vacation, and plastic souvenir cups aren’t high up on my list of things to lug home.

Wallet 4

I save that money and luggage space for those really special items that grab my attention, like this Loungefly wallet I grabbed on our last trip to Disney World.  Isn’t she lovely?  I’m smitten with the purple leather, and this Disney snacks print, which is showing up on everything from dishware to apparel to doormats, is the trendiest thing in a place known for setting the trends.  I needed a new wallet anyways, so this one came along at just the right time. 🙂 What I didn’t need was the matching mini backpack, which, while utterly adorable, was ludicrously expensive and made me feel like Cher Horowitz after she got all old and moved to Canada to start a blog.

Wallet 2

I thought these nails turned out pretty well!  That Disneyfied “D” in particular *could* get me into trouble with Walt’s aggressive trademark people, that’s how good I think it is!  But I’m biased (and still really quite pleased with this snacktacular mani, and my cute new wallet.)

Wallet Collage 2

Owning Up and Cutting Back

So here’s the sitch for any readers who may have come to this blog via some older posts I wrote about the complete overhaul I once made to my lackluster diet and exercise regimen – all of that weight I proudly spoke of shedding?  I have regrettably gained back so, so much of it.  My daily trips to the gym and/or the swimming pool for a few dozen laps?  I’ve worked out maybe five times in the last month and a half.  The improved, non-butter-centric diet?  Very much incorporating – or even just basing an entire meal around – butter once again.

For a while I blamed my newfound – and very much unwelcome – slothdom on the absence of our cat, Weegie, who passed away at the beginning of December.  I was practically incoherent in my sadness, and December was a blur of eating my feelings, and everyone else’s as well.  But I can actually trace the slackening of my resolve to our Labour Day 2018 long weekend trip to Disney.  I fell out of both my diet and exercise routines at that point and never really found my way back to them, so I can’t lay the blame solely at the doorstep of one very terrible Monday morning in December.

We also just returned home from another week in Disney World, where, despite walking over a dozen miles a day and being on our feet for 13 or more hours each day, we both put on a bit of weight AND picked up even more poor dietary habits – the hazards of vacationing in a place that features cheese-covered everything, with a margarita on the side.

Ears and Cocktails Collage

So for about six months now, it’s been a solid slide back to a place I very much do not want to return to, and it’s time to hit the brakes, throw the truck into reverse and…and I really don’t know vehicles well enough to be making driving metaphors!

But here’s the thing: I feel like crap.  All the time.  I’m actually writing this post at 4:00 in the morning, because I woke up with a sore head, back and tummy.  That’s what happens – or at least that’s what happens to me – when I’m not taking care of myself.  The headaches – a particularly troublesome affliction of mine my entire friggin’ life – that had once subsided have returned with a vengeance.  My back, once strong from daily exercise, throbs when I lay down for any longer than four hours at a time.  And without getting into the finer details, my GI system is a riot of gingerale/potato chips/pasta/fried food/butter-induced indigestion.  And I flirt with bouts of insomnia, an experience made ever so less appealing by the fact that it is no longer an act of meowing cat (my, how she loved screaming us into consciousness in the wee small hours of the morning) and now just an act of my own restless, bothered mind.

Also?  When I’m not taking care of myself, when I’m not making good health and dietary choices for my family, I begin to feel like life is going off the rails in all sorts of other ways, and that makes me very, very unhappy.  I’m a person who needs a loose framework of structure and order in her life, and I need a track on which to set my, uh, donkey?  Again, REALLY don’t know my driving metaphors.

But I feel like I’ve been a trackless donkey for far too long now.  So I’m making some changes.  Starting yesterday – fitting, since the last time I decided to kick my own arse, it was also at the end of February – I once again began monitoring my caloric input, while cutting back the bad and increasing the good.  I know what I should be eating to feel good and strong, it’s just a matter of reminding myself – repeatedly, because it’s a tough lesson to learn – that I feel so much better when I make responsible choices regarding my diet, and I really ought to put down that second helping of pasta.

To that end, I’ve once again subscribed to Hello Fresh, the meal subscription box I reviewed (spoiler: mostly favourably) in this post.  I maintain that Hello Fresh is not the least bit cost effective, and I’ve had a couple of very poor customer service experiences here in Ontario that left much to be desired.  But the recipes (we get the two-person vegetarian box) are creative and tasty, the ingredients are of excellent quality, and hey, I just plain old like it.  Also – and this is a big benefit to us right now as we aim to rein things in – the serving sizes are small, and feed no more than two people at a time, which pretty well ensures that you’ll be respecting those ever-creeping portion sizes, because there won’t be a bit of food left to sneak from the pan out in the kitchen.

Hello Fresh Collage

And starting up once again yesterday morning, I began a light exercise routine down in my gym.  Nothing more than a bit of walking on the treadmill for right now, but hopefully I’ll be back to swimming, weights and stretching soon.  Can’t say I love plodding away on a treadmill or an elliptical machine for many mind-numbing minutes at a time, but I do know I feel better – clearer, lighter, more productive somehow – when I exercise, so exercise I shall!  Also, could the weather possibly warm up a titch?  I’d really prefer it if my first swim of 2019 wasn’t a polar dip.  And that’s in the indoor pool!

Gym Selfie

So that’s where we stand here at the end of February 2019, with a mea culpa for the cached example of a past success that is regrettably no longer my present reality.  But I’m tired of feeling cruddy, and it’s time to return to a slightly more positive standing in my life.  And a huge part of that is remaining accountable to kind and interested people like you who may be struggling with, or have struggled with, diet and weight issues of your own.  So please do return to this space in a month’s time, when hopefully I’ll have all manner of inspiring wisdom to share with you about how I broke the dieting code or found the foodie holy grail (a never-ending fountain that dispenses calorie-less Linguine Carbonara, of course) and maybe we can get through this thing together. 🙂

Where the F*@! You Been?!: A Disney Vacation Explainer

Ah, friends, I am so sorry – I went and did the thing that annoys the ever-loving stuffing out of me when other bloggers do it, which is drop completely off the grid with nary an explanation for the prolonged absence.  And so I apologize, with the weak justification that I was at Disney, because of course I was at Disney!  Just trying to wring as much value as we possibly can from our annual passes (and at 20 in-park days, including a whole host of other little discounts, I think we’ve done quite well on our investment.)

Rainy Day Collage

We stayed at the Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, a quaint little resort styled like the very cutest and cleanest bits of New Orleans.  I’ve wanted to stay here since Disney built it and its much larger sister resort, the Riverside, nearly 30 years ago.  We somewhat recently soldiered on through a Disney accommodation debacle at Pop Century; the poor experience had actually soured me a bit on all Disney properties, so I was feeling a little nervous about what we might encounter at this smaller, older resort.

Resort Collage 1

I really needn’t have worried, because we wound up having a fantastic stay, and we loved every minute we were there.  The French Quarter’s older, meticulously maintained buildings and grounds – densely arranged, and occupying a fairly tiny geographical footprint – make the entire resort feel solid, protected and a little hidden.  I liked its sense of small city intimacy and the attendant quiet, both in terms of between-unit noise (virtually nil, but for the faint flushing of those insanely loud air toilets) and the general level of ambient hotel noise.  Plus it was just an adorable little cityscape to call our home for seven days, and the sea serpent water slide at the pool was bitchin’.  Also, powdered sugar-dusted beignets, fried chicken on a biscuit at the food court and swingin’ jazz gators in the streets.  Who wouldn’t love staying here when all that goodness abounds?

Resort Collage 2

We spent six days doing all of our favourite Disney things, and also trying out a number of fun new experiences.  We ate some incredible meals in-park, at our resort and, of course, at Disney Springs, which is basically a theme park of food, alcohol and merchandise.  We always try to hit up Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ for night one cocktails and southern vittles; our vacations never feel as though they’ve really started until we’ve cozied up out on the screened-in porch with a basket of hush puppies and a couple of moonshine cocktails.

Homecomin' Cocktail Collage

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We tried out a number of new eateries and lounges.  We ate – and mostly enjoyed? – a lot of weird snack food.  One afternoon we wiled away a couple of rainy hours in an honest to goodness tequila cave – La Cava del Tequila – in the Mexico Pavilion.  The queso and quacamole were excellent, as were the margaritas.  And yes, I do fully cop to a Disney margarita problemo – I’m powerless in the face of vacation cocktail hour; does your sanity good!

Tequila Cave Collage

Lest you think all we did was eat and drink (and that’s certainly what both our waistlines AND wallets are currently suggesting) we also rode a record best 21 rides one cold and rainy day.  We hit up the Haunted Mansion five times over two visits and improved our scores on Toy Story Midway Mania over four total rides.  We rode Slinky Dog Dash, the newest and hottest ride in any of the parks, twice, including a last-call ride that put us in the second last dog of the night.  I had a small stroke when I saw that my favourite part of the Peter Pan ride – it’s not even part of the ride, just a small teddy tea table tucked into a corner as your flying pirate ship heads out of the waiting area and into the Darlings’ bedroom – had been removed and replaced with a jumbled pile of toys.  I burst into tears at the sight of it.  I’ve been fascinated with that little table arrangement since I was a very small child; its absence was genuinely upsetting.

Rides Collage

We met a number of cool characters, including Edna Mode of The Incredibles and Mike and Sully of Monsters Inc.

Characters Collage

Our favourite meet-and-greet, though, was with Vanellope Von Schweetz and Ralph of Wreck-It-Ralph.  Vanellope was SO excited to check out my new Wreck-It-Ralph ears, and Ralph was just excited when my husband commented that he looked as though he had lost a few hundred pounds. 🙂

Ralph Collage

Hmm, let’s see, what else?  I got You’d by Darth Vader at Hollywood Studios (I was sitting by a window having a little break when I looked up, and Darth Vader was just staring in the window at me.  I threw him a nervous little wave, and he spun around and stalked off.  That entire family is so freakin’ WEIRD, man.)

One morning when I couldn’t sleep (I get frazzled about flying days out from my actual flight, making sleep in an unfamiliar place pretty much an impossibility) I got up and filmed a solo walking tour of our resort.  Look for that video on our YouTube channel sometime soon.

We watched some phenomenal stage shows (the Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom is incredible; live music, acting and puppeteering at a level that will make you question how you can be seeing something so beautifully produced and performed in a theme park) and incredible fireworks displays.  Much to Mr. Finger Candy’s delight, we played a solid 10 or more hours of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, completed two games and amassed over 20 free packs of cards.  That’s what you call dominating, kids!

Rainy Sorcerers Collage

So that’s where the f*@! I’ve been, once again with apologies for just up and disappearing on you.  I promise now that I’ve gotten that Disney out of my system for the time being, I’ll settle down and get back to the serious business of nail art, literary takes, bath, beauty and wax reviews, and of course planning for our next Disney vacation, perhaps once again at the French Quarter.  And hopefully by that point the teddy tea table will be back. 🙂

A Very Merry Mani

Foodie Tree Collage 3

Hoo baby, we’re in the holiday soup now – it’s the final weekend before the Christmas holidays, and the festive is about to go. off.  Like most folks, I’ve got a lot of social engagements over the coming days, and time has gone all whackeroo.  I swear it was the beginning of the month just last week (it has been, as Counting Crows might say, a very long December.)

I’m actually feeling pretty neutral about the holidays; relaxed to a fault, even.  Save a few stocking stuffery-type things, Mr. Finger Candy and I have no gifts for one another.  It’s kind of a bummer not having pretty presents wrapped up under the tree, but not remotely a bummer when you consider that instead of jewelry or video games or a new coffee maker (shame that, as we kind of need one) we’re gifting ourselves with another trip to Disney World in February of the new year.

Last weekend we hosted my husband’s family for our annual Christmas get-together, and then tonight my mom and dad are hosting another family event that is sure to leave us all desperately wishing for Santa to bring us pants with elasticized waistbands, because my mom does not know the meaning of the word “moderation” when it comes to a holiday meal; if you don’t stagger from the house (with leftovers!) offhandedly contemplating a wee pit stop at the emergency room, she has apparently failed as a mother. 😉

Christmas Breakfast Table

Then this weekend we’ll be dropping in on our friends’ holiday open house, where we always have a nice time catching up with folks we haven’t seen in years.  And speaking of, I’ll be capping off the Christmas social season with an evening in the company of some ladies I’ve known since high school (and in a couple of cases, beyond.)  We try to get together every Christmas, for brunch, or drinks at the pub, or this crazy random party we attend every year that brings out our very best-worst impulses to overindulge and spaz out on the dance floor to the Beasties and the Wu.  Okay, so I actually really love that part. 😉

So we’ve got lots of fun stuff coming up this week, and I’m sure that will pull me out of this neutral zone of disinterest that I’ve been occupying since the beginning of the month.  And I really hope it does, because so far the only thing about the holidays I’ve actually been able to fully get behind is our Christmas tree – I think this year’s edition is perhaps the nicest one I’ve ever decorated.  I’m so glad I put it up early so the Weege could have a chance to loaf beneath its twinkling lights; she loved the Christmas tree.

Foodie Tree 26

I’ve spoken about my tree before – it’s 15 artificial years old this Christmas, and we have history.  As in I have been electrocuted twice whilst lighting it, plus all of the bottom branches are broken, so a full quarter of the tree is held up by, well, itself.  And one year I really super overdid it on the twinkle lights (2,100 of them; how proud Clark Griswold would have been) and nearly suffered a nervous breakdown for my efforts.  These days I stick to a much more manageable 600 or so.

And with the exception of maybe a dozen or so ornaments, every decoration on this tree is of something edible – fast food, candy, baked goods and other sweets.  It’s such a beautiful tree, and every year it proves to be just about my favourite thing about the holidays.

Foodie Tree Collage 1

I purchased a great load of these ornaments over 15 years ago at a 75% off sale at a local Christmas shop, but we’ve amassed far more since as gifts (nearly every one of those Starbucks ornaments) and random retail finds.  My favourites include a glittery glass t-bone, The Christmas Pickle, and that wee rasher of bacon dangling tantalizingly over the photo of our cat, Weegie.  New additions this year include some squashy – yes, squashy! – cupcake and donut ornaments, the cool pewter ornament we got at the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam dessert party at Disney, and two small photo tributes to our dearly missed kitties, Weegie and Porky.

Foodie Tree Collage 2

And because it’s just what I do (or it’s what I did – I really have no idea what this blog is about any more) I whipped up a glittery Christmas mani inspired by my tree, nail charm ornaments and all.  It’s a whole lot of high maintenance look, but then again, so is the tree!  Here I paired those little charms (from Daily Charme, all) with KB Shimmer’s Get Clover It.  Very merry, indeed. 🙂

Foodie Tree 2

Foodie Tree 3

Food and Wine Time!

Food and Wine Collage

We went to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival this year, and it was incredible – a food lover’s paradise of signature Disney dishes and lovingly crafted cocktails.  I had no patience for Epcot when I was a kid, and even when we attended the Food and Wine Festival on our honeymoon 14 years ago, we didn’t care much beyond snickering at the little boy who queried his father as they walked by the Canada booth, nearly hidden for the cloud of salmon-scented smoke belching from its sides, “Dad, is that REALLY what Canada smells like?”

But in the 14 years since then Canada has refined its offerings, and we’ve grown a little, too, right into the kind of people who love a food and alcohol festival that offers grownup fun in a gorgeous setting.  Epcot is beautiful and packed full of unique cultural and educational opportunities; you just have to be willing to look beyond the rides to see how much more there truly is.

Food and Wine 14 - Goodies

But this time we came ready to boogie, and we sampled so many scrumptious, decadent, amazing things!  That is also coincidentally the reason why my next post is going to be all about how I’ve really lost sight of my diet and exercise goals whilst living part-time in the vast fishbowl that is Disney.  You can sort of justify eating this way when you’re walking 12-plus miles a day, but in the really real world, the one where you sit on your butt for 12-plus miles a day, you cannot.  I’ve found it hard – have been finding it hard, actually, since our Labour Day trip back at the end of August – to drop the indulgent dietary habits I’ve picked up down Disney World way, and I’m feeling rather displeased with myself for it.  I exercised such discipline in the first year of my “Get your crap together” regime, and one or two blips aside, I felt wonderful, in body and mind, for well over a year and a half.

But since then, it’s been a struggle, and crash weight loss while at Disney aside (you kind of can’t help but lose weight when you’re walking that much every day, bit of shrimp scampi dip notwithstanding) I’ve not been paying much attention to my diet, I’ve hardly been exercising and I think it all sucks.  I want to do better.

But first I’d like you to watch this long-ish video I made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, detailing our experience at our first Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  So pull up a chair, grab a wee glass of your preferred poison (a Bloody Mary if you’re watching this in the AM; you know it’s what we’d do!) and enjoy watching two people shove food into their faces in 90 degree heat!  We overeat for your entertainment and delight!  And then we try to rein it in for OUR betterment and delight.

You Can’t Stay in Neverland Forever

Couples Collage

Though we certainly gave it our very best shot with our just-just concluded 11-day vacation at the most expensivest place on earth!  I’m sorry, I mean the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  It also may be the hottest place on earth; save for maybe just 12 approaching-cool hours, every day topped 90 degrees with full, bright sun and sticky humidity.  As always, we had a wonderful time, and we’ve arrived home with bookings for our next trip already in place, so clearly we’re those nuts that embrace the insanity that is wildly overpaying for a vacation in the devil’s sweaty armpit.  No sense denying that!  But this vacation also came with some first-time challenges on the accommodations side of things that made coming home that much sweeter – shelter from the Disney storm.  I’ve been glad to return to non-Disney life, as tempting as it is to just blow off adulthood altogether and live forever in the Haunted Mansion.

The objective of this trip, because we are Type A Disney nerds who do things like plan out mini challenges within an already packed vacation schedule, was to bridge the Halloween and Christmas holidays with two special event parties, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on Halloween, and then Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party one week later on the final night of our trip.  In between we’d enjoy a lot of great meals at favourite restaurants, celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary, attend our first fireworks dessert party, don our first ever couples costumes, lay waste to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, meet lots of fun characters, take a pile of goofy (and sometimes Goofy) photos, ride the Mansion half a dozen times, complete Mr. Finger Candy’s first and second decks of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards, and hopefully enjoy a fun and relaxing stay at another great Disney resort.

And, you know, with the exception of but one of those things (our underwhelming, ultimately truncated stay at Pop Century is a blog post for another day) we tackled everything on that list, and have arrived home victorious!  Also utterly exhausted, and in possession of about 3,000 photos and videos that need to be organized into posts to share with our friends and family, and of course anyone else who might like to join in on our Disney vacation fun.  Come on over to the dark side, we have Poison Apple Cupcakes!

Poison Apple Cupcake

Over the coming days I’ll be sure to drive you bonkers with the recounted details of our trip in a slightly more organized fashion (brace yourselves for the all-food post, because we truly ate ALL the food!) but for now I’d like to leave you with a video I made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, of our evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios enjoying the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam holiday dessert party and fireworks show!  Spoiler alert: We get Girl Drink Drunk (that’s a Kids in the Hall joke about the potency of ultra stainy, rum-based cocktails, of which we both now have a great deal of experience!)