Friday, May 29, 2009

My Girls

Hannah and Brooke had their check-ups this week...with a lot of shots! Brooke had three, and Hannah had FOUR! Poor babies. Hannah cried her little eyes out for about 2 minutes. Our big girl Brooke, who usually is such a drama queen and was nervous and dreading her shots, did not cry! I was so proud of her! I told her "when I have to get a shot, and I hate them too, I just start talking about something to the nurse and try not to pay attention to what she is doing." So I told her to tell Nurse Michelle about our vacation...and with a deep breath she started telling the nurse about our trip, whimpered a little as the first set went in, and kept right on talking. That girl has a lot of her mommy in her :) They did the second set, and then they were done and Brooke was so proud of herself and so were we!!! The nurses loaded them up with prizes; Hannah got a rubber ducky, Brooke got 3 tokens for the treat machine, some candy, and two kids-meal gift certificates to Carlos O Kelly's!

Hannah weighed in at 20 lbs, 8oz; and was 28 inches tall. She is barely in the fifth percentile for height and weight. She is a little munchkin! The doctor was impressed with her though, because she is very skillful in her walking, maneuvering, etc. He was also impressed that she not only recognized several words, but she would follow simple commands like "shut the door" "go get your shoes" "go find your baby." She is not as talkative as Brooke was at this age, but she's far more mobile. (Brooke wasn't even walking yet at this point). I'm thinking the talking part is that 65% of the time she has a paci in her mouth. She really goes to town on it when she's teething...I'm hoping after she gets a few more through we can start getting her to not have it so often.

Hannah LOVES the water. She loved the beach. She loves the pool. She loves the bathtub. She loves playing in a bucket of water in the backyard. She loves the sprinkler. The other night we were outside playing and the neighbor was testing his sprinklers. Hannah took off across the yard to go play in them. It was so cute:

Brooke weighed in at 46 pounds and was 45.5 inches tall. She is in the 95th percentile for height and 90th for weight... so she's tall and lean! I wonder if they will both average out at some point or if Brooke will always be tall and Hannah will be short? We took Brooke to visit the elementary school she'll be at in the fall. They gave us a little tour, and I think it was good for her to see everything. I found myself tearing up a time or two. As much as she gives me a run for my money, I know that having her in all day kg is going to be hard next year and I'm going to be a wreck on the first day of school! Dr. Joe thought she had a wonderful personality and was a great kid. He said she was personable, friendly, talkative, and warm and that we'd clearly done a great job with her. Brooke, when she's in the right mood, is such a little picture poser; Check these out!

I better get my day moving. I was just looking at pictures this morning and thought these would be cute to post! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Vacation-The Final Chapter

...Are you still with me on this long documentary of our vacation? It really was such a wonderful trip... and writing all this out will help keep my brain fresh for scrapbooking! I'm going to order pictures soon so I can get started on it.

Thursday, May 7th, we were at Nassau. We've been to Nassau before via DCL in 2007 and we didn't really like it much- so we weren't overly thrilled to be going back but I didn't want another day at sea either. This time, having watched a little on the stateroom tv about shopping in the ports, and because Sarah actually went to the shopping presentation, I knew that it would at least be worth it to get off the boat for a few minutes to go get those gemstone-earring freebies, etc. This time, we actually looked at the map; found that an extra block or two away from the port and the dread "straw market" was where some of the better shopping was. So we went ahead, got off the boat, did about an hour of shopping, and went back to the boat.

I love hanging out on the ship when we're at port and everyone gets off. We had a quiet lunch up on deck 9, then took the girls swimming. Brooke swam in the Mickey pool for awhile, and Hannah spent a lot of time in the (non-potty-trained people's) splash zone. She loved it. Matt and I are wondering if we could put something like this in our backyard? Safer than a pool, but just as fun to our kiddos! We had a great time chillin up there.

Before dinner we got in a few character pictures:

That evening was the show at Animator's Palate for our dining rotation. It was a rough night at dinner. I had discovered earlier that day that since we had gotten on the ship, Hannah had popped thru two more teeth! Yikes. Well Animator's is a great dining room, and it is so pretty to watch the walls turn from black and white sketches to full color pictures, etc...but that night it seemed to all be taking a long time. Found out later that Mickey was making an apperance and that put things a little behind. Due to a number of little things thru dinner (kids not feeling well, kids being tired, all that fun stuff), all that was left by the time dinner was thru was Sarah, Tyler (her 3yr old) and I! Kind of a bummer! After Dinner, Matt and I took Brooke to Disney Dreams--- another wonderful stage show.
My dessert that night:

sunset leaving nassau

SO that's all I'm writing about Thursday; it was a relaxing day overall. Now onto Friday- My FAVORITE DAY because it was at one of my FAVORITE PLACES!!! We were at Disney's Castaway Cay--their private island. It is heaven on earth- GORGEOUS island...only people there are the people on the ship. It's great! We got off the ship early and headed to the beach to get a good spot with an umbrella. Matt and his dad took off to go parasailing and the girls, grandma and I spent a lot of time playing at the beach. The water was warm, the sun was shining, it was gorgeous! I love the beach. Love it love it love it. Hannah loved it. Brooke loves it. It was great. Anne took Hannah for a walk in the stroller because she was needing some rest time, and she cat-napped in the stroller for about 45 minutes.

Around 11 they were starting to serve food up at Cookie's, the boys were back from their fun parasailing adventure, and everyone was hungry. So we filled up on a yummy lunch of burgers, grilled mahi-mahi sandwiches, potato salad, fruit, cookies, etc. Followed by SOFT SERVE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM! I've never had this anywhere but on Castaway and man is it yummy! After lunch, we did some more playing on the beach. Matt's parents went off to snorkel, and the four of us played in the sand and surf for awhile. Hannah was getting pretty toasty and tired, so I took her back to the room, got the sand out of places where sand should not be, and got her down for a nap. Then I sat on the balcony and stared at my favorite place. Man I love it there.

Once Hannah woke up, I started doing our packing. We have to have all our suitcases put out in the hallway that last night by 11p.m. so they can get them off the ship, checked with the airlines, etc. It is always crazy trying to get this done in an organized fashion, plan for what you'll need the next morning, etc.
That evening was our farewell dinner. It always makes me teary to say goodbye to our waitstaff that has taken such incredible care of us. They brought out a cake for Matt and I's birthday (though he had left the dining room by the time it arrived because Brooke was being difficult and wanting to go back to the room). I picked up some more pictures from the cruise-photographers, went back to the room to get the rest of the packing done, and spent our last evening relaxing on the ship with our family. It was a great day, I was sad that it was almost over-- but what a great trip it had been!

Saturday morning we had to be off the ship by about 9a.m., out of our stateroom by 8a.m. We went up for breakfast, then boarded the bus to the airport. This happened to also be my birthday. A bummer way to spend my birthday, but a great week building up to it, right? We rented a room for the day at the Orlando Airport Hyatt since our flight wasn't till 3, which was great because I ended up with a migraine. So we dumped our luggage in the hotel room, then I laid down while everyone went to eat lunch. We had ontime flights on the way home, the kids did pretty good, and we all were happy to get back to Wichita into our own beds, our own ROOM, etc.
Ah this sign makes me so sad because it means the trip is over!!!

Brooke thought I should take a picture of the clouds on the way home:

So there's the scoop. It was great. I highly recommend a Disney Cruise to anyone with kids. I highly recommend a Disney cruise to anyone without kids. They know how to take care of you and they are awesome. What a fabulous trip! Thanks for hanging in there thru the looonnnng updates! Thanks for coming along on my adventure via the blog.... Many more adventures to come since we're now DVC members!

Friday, May 22, 2009

More from the Vacation....

I forgot to tell you about the BEST PART ABOUT TUESDAY!!!!! It wasn't the semi-submarine. It wasn't the free gemstone necklaces. It wasn't Anne and Gary taking Brooke to the pool in the afternoon. It was--meeting with the DVC rep, Dave, and locking in/committing to buy/joining the DISNEY VACATION CLUB (DVC). This is Disney's version of a timeshare program and we had thought about it for two years. We were soooooooo excited to finally do it. I'd picked the brain of several DVC members that I had seen on the ship (they had on hats or lanyards, etc). We wanted to do it 2 years ago but just weren't quite ready financially. I don't know how much more ready we are financially now, but it just felt right. We were so pumped. DVC works different than the average timeshare. Often, you buy "a week at this property" each year; and if you want to go a different week or destination, you have to "trade it," etc. With DVC, you buy points. The points at the DVC owned properties (scattered throughout WDW, one at DL, one in Vero Beach, one at Hilton Head, and soon to be one in Hawaii) are fixed from the time you buy. So... it will take X points to stay in a certain room category in 2009 as it will in 2039; whereas regular hotel prices will increase about 8% every year. We can also use our points to stay at partnering properties throughout the world. And all we do is call member services and have them help us get it planned. DVC resorts aren't hotels- they are more condo-like... so we will have the choice of a studio (hotel room with kitchenette), or a one-bedroom (sitting area, kitchen, washer and dryer, with separate bedroom), or a two-bedroom condo, and even the chance to get a 3-bedroom grand-villa on occasion. We bought at a points level that, based on our preferred travel time (early May), would allow us to get a 2-bedroom condo at the new property at the Contemporary for 5 nights, or we could get a studio for up to 9 nights! We wanted to be able to have enough points to get a decent-length vacation booked that would accomodate Matt's parents going with us; since they do so often and help with the girls. But someday, we'll do a lot more trips on our own, so we can do 9 nights if we want. And again- we can go anywhere, go anytime; however our points will work! AND it is a 50-year ownership, that can be willed to the girls, etc. WE WERE SO EXCITED!!!!!!

Before I dive into Wednesday, I forgot to post this picture of Hannah from Sunday morning... she fell asleep in her high chair at was really too funny.

Wednesday, May 6th was a day at Sea. It was supposed to be our day in Cozumel, but due to the Swine Flu outbreak, Disney decided not to port there. So we spent that day at sea working our way back to the Bahamas.

We had a wonderfully lazy start to the day. After a yummy breakfast with the characters, we let the girls do a wandering around on deck 4. That is a deck with a long promenade area and a lot of the shops and restaurants, and it has a long covered outside area running along both sides of the ships. It's also the deck that a lot of people go jogging on. Not me...other people! Hannah loved getting to run her little legs off. In these two pictures she was making her way to the anchor room. I can't decide if she looks so little or the ship looks so big!

Here's a pic from the anchor room. Check out how gigantic the chains and ropes are:

Then we took the girls to the Playhouse Disney dance party where they got their groove on for awhile. Again, Hannah was happy for some freedom, and Brooke was doing great as the big sister watching out for and dancing with the little one!

As 10a.m. approached, it was time for Hannah's nap and Mommy's next attempt at Bingo. Sarah joined me for that, as did Brooke because she didn't feel like going to the Oceaneer Club. She did pretty good sitting thru Bingo with me, where they were giving out Disney Channel freebies like Jonas Brothers posters, Hannah Montana magnets, etc. I spent the money for one of the electronic bingo machines-- it keeps track of all the numbers, always has your best-looking card on the screen, starts flashing when you have a bingo, etc. Mine did not flash. But we had fun, and I won a raffle prize--Brooke had me pick out the Disney Vacation Club travel blanket.

After Bingo, we all joined together for some lunch on deck9- there is unlimited food up there-- we always had our choice of tacos, burgers, hotdogs, chicken tenders, pizza, fresh fruit, sandwiches and salads. We could also always go to the buffet as well. Several different days when we ate the "quick service" stuff, I'd go to the back entrance of the buffett and get some of the yummy desserts.

Wednesday was the day for Matt and I to do our own thing for awhile... so Brooke went to the Oceaneer Club for Toy Story Boot Camp, a Magic Show, and some free time. Matt and I went and did the closing on our DVC ownership, then enjoyed some time at the adults-only pool. We swam awhile then went up to deck 10 to lay out and drink a celebratory daiquiri. I made Matt go to Bingo with me.... which he found funny in a cheesey sort of way. (The people running Bingo were quite animated). One of the games we had to get all of our Bs and all of our Os... so the girl said "Now if you get a bingo, I want you to stand up, throw your arms in the air, and shout 'I've got BO!!!!'" about 5 minutes later, never would I have imagined myself doing this, I am standing in a room of about 100 people screaming "I've got BO!!!!!" (I didn't want to just say bingo and have them say i didn't do it right!!!). I won!! Unfortunately so did someone else, so I had to split the pot- but I still got a $240 cash prize! Yipppeee! Matt decided it had been worth it sitting through bingo to be there for that moment. Nat, the girl running the program said "never have I heard someone shout out their bingo so enthusiastically" haha.

This night was semi-formal night on the ship. We got all dolled up. Love my dress. It was a $10 clearance dress at NY&Co last fall and I love it:

This is also "Captain's Gala Dinner" which means one thing to many -- LOBSTER. I'm not a huge lobster fan so I ordered this incredible parmesan crusted chicken alfredo...but they had extra lobster tails and so our waiter offered me one. I was holding Hannah because she was so exhausted, so our darling waiter Sameer came and took my plate, cut up all my meat for me, as well as this lobster tail, so I could eat one-handed. It was delightful.

Let me pause and tell you about the service on DCL. It is incredible. Disney knows how to do it, don't they?! Well on the cruise there are three main dining rooms, each differently themed, etc. You are given a rotation when you get on board, and you rotate from one dining room one night to another the next. The great thing is, your wait staff rotates with you. You have a server and an assistant server that tend to your every need each evening. They are amazing at remembering what you're going to want. By the 2nd or 3rd night, our assistant knew that I was always going to ask for Sprite, so she had it waiting for me. The first night I asked for a slice of cheese for Hannah, and the waiter asked if I'd like to have that waiting for us each night. I said that'd be good, and didn't have to ask for it again. They take such amazing care of you. I teared up when it was time to say goodbye to Sameer and Alenka. They were great:

I tucked out early with Hannah and went to put her to bed, and Matt brought my dessert for me. Then he stayed behind while Anne, Gary and I took Brooke to the production of "Twice Charmed, an unusual twist to the Cinderella story" which was very well done.

I said I was going to start shortening these posts, but I had a lot to talk about today--what with the DVC news, all the stuff we did on Wed. Bear with me, sadly-the trip is almost over and then what shall I blog about?

I hope you enjoyed reading...! And if you've ever thought of a timeshare or the DVC, feel free to ask me more questions. They are kind of a travel-agent's worst enemy, but the Disney one is so awesome and I at least get credit for referrals haha!
And remember----A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

I am channeling my inner Pioneer Woman ( and am trying my hand at a food blog-type entry. Fabulous recipe with step by step pictures. I'm no PW, but thought it'd be a fun little challenge.

I bake a lot. I love to cook, love to bake... and even with everything I make, Matt's favorite has always been these cookies. I've made these no less than 170 times in the 10 years we've been married. It's the recipe we always come back to...And now I am sharing the recipe with you, my five blog readers. Bake them yourself, and enjoy.
The ingredients: margarine, chunky peanut butter, white sugar, brown sugar, flour, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips.

Cream one stick softened margarine and 1/2 cup peanut butter. I just use a hand mixer because this is a small recipe and isn't worth dragging out the big ol' stand mixer.

Dump in 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar and mix well.

Starting to look yummy...but I always tell Brooke "don't eat it yet!"

Add an egg and mix well.

Now here is where some people get fancy. Not me. I do not own a sifter, nor am I interested in dirtying one more tool, or having an additional chance to get flour everywhere. So, turn the mixer off; dump in 1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 tsp soda, and 1/2 tsp baking powder.
The original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of salt. I don't like pouring out of the big salt container, and I don't like measuring with the salt shaker, so either Brooke or I just do a few shakes of salt from the salt shaker.

Mix well.
Add in 1/2 to 3/4 of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Mix.

Taste test the dough. Yum. I always say if I die of salmonella tomorrow, at least I'll die happy.
I only bake cookies on stoneware. Only only only stoneware. I'm sure many of you do just fine with regular cookie sheets, but stoneware is the only way I get my cookies to turn out just the way I want to. I use the stoneware bar pan from The Pampered Chef. I also use the medium scoop from Pampered Chef to scoop the dough into happy little balls:

Bake at 375 and start the timer for 12 minutes. Check the cookies:
Above-- Not quite done yet...! They need to be turning a wee bit golden brown on top, like this:
Ah-hah- about 2 more minutes and they were ready.... yum. Remove from oven and set on stove. Let them sit on their hot little cookie sheet (if it's stoneware. If you're on a regular cookie sheet I don't know what to tell ya!) for about 10 minutes. This lets them cook a little longer and allows the gooey-ness to set back up a little bit. Then using your favorite cookie-removing spatula, move to the counter or a cooling rack.

Happiness on a plate. A photograph of love for my husband. Or is it my husband's reason for loving me? Nonetheless...these things are fabulous still warm. They're fabulous completely cooled. This batch of 24 will be gone within 36 hours in this house.

So whatcha think?
This recipe makes about 24 cookies, with enough dough left to allow everyone to have a spoonful of cookie dough. Or it makes 24 cookies, and one big one for the hubby you're trying to bribe/butter up for whatever reason!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Continuing on...Cruise Details!

Our first full day on the cruise, May 3rd, we docked at Key West around 1130 a.m. Very nice port with some serious money floating in the water. Check out the picture of this yacht with the helicopter on back. Wowsers.

After some research prior to the trip, we'd decided to buy tickets on one of the Trolleys. It was a little pricey ($64 for the four of us), but they had 12 stops all over the island and you could get on/off at your choosing. At first I thought we had made a mistake...we got on the trolley and were HOT. Once it got moving though-there was a fabulous breeze throughout the trolley and our driver told us all sorts of interesting things and pointed stuff out as we zigged and zagged around the island. A word about our driver...we are still debating if it was a man or a woman. This being Key West anything is possible--it was a rather large person, with some manly hands, boobs, long hair, and deep voice. Their name was Ms. Vee. When we were driving along and I wasn't looking at him/her but just listening- you'd swear it was a guy. but every now and then you think it was a girl. No one got a good enough look to search for an Adam's Apple :) hee hee. Anyways we got on at stop 1, rode it for about 40 minutes to stop 10-so we could get pics at the Southernmost Point of the US.

We could have waited for another trolley to come along, but that would have been about 10-15 minutes, so we hoofed it a few blocks to the Key Lime Pie Factory a.k.a. the Blonde Giraffe. I'm not big on keylime pie-- but let me tell you--chocolate dipped keylime pie on a stick--YUMMY. Why I had it in my head it would be shaped like a banana or popsicle, I don't know. What I got was a big ol wedge of pie, on a stick, dipped in chocolate :)

A side note...I want to know who is reading this. Leave me a comment. First "x" number of comments will get a little pixiedust /something fun for your kiddo in the mail if I know your address. If I don't, leave your email addy in your comment and I'll email you. I'm testing you to see if you are reading this.

We got back to the ship a little while later. The Barnes' and the grandparents stopped in some shops, we went back to get Hannah down for a nap. I must tell you here that there was a pop machine at the port. With $2 bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper. At this point in the trip...I'd gone 5 days without Caffeine. I don't like coffee, coke, or diet coke....the only caffeine available on Disney property and at Disney Cruise lines. I would have paid $10 for a DDP. It wouldn't take my dollars and I didn't have change. Spongebob-overprotective-pants Matt didn't think I needed to get off the ship again and come back to get a DDP. I was a little peeved.

I should have journaled on the trip and I didn't. I was working hard to keep my head on, do all the fun things I wanted to do, and keep track of cameras, pacifiers, and room keys.

May 4th-Monday- was a day at sea. I wasn't sure how much I would like this, but I kept busy enough that I did seem to enjoy myself and didn't think too much about being out in the middle of the ocean where I couldn't swim myself back to shore. We went to "The Art of Entertaining" where the head chef demo'd how to make Crab Martinique-an appetizer from the night before. Brooke was in the kids-area, and Matt was snoozing with Hannah. Had some lunch, did some shopping and running around. More napping for Hannah, more kids-zone for Brooke, and some Bingo for me. They were giving away a cruise at that Bingo session. I did not win.

This night was formal night on the ship. Not to be confused with Captain's Gala night-- I don't understand why the Captain's Gala night is not the formal night. Anyways, we got dressed up and enjoyed a yummy dinner. The show that night was "the Golden Mickeys" which is a wonderful show. So the dessert I had was --you guessed it- the Golden Mickey-- a chocolate delectable delight. They even had little chocolate tickets with "Golden Mickeys" written on it in gold dust. How very neat.

We all went to the show after we got out of our formal clothes. I had Hannah in her jammies and after about 30 minutes of squirming and trying to rip my tank top off (she had a thing about my boobs all day. Do you think she remembers the first week of her life when she was actually breastfed?), she fell asleep so we were all able to enjoy the show. We put the kids down and then Matt and I went and explored the ship a little bit and bought some souveniers. We also stopped and talked to the guys at the Disney Vacation Club desk. We talked to them 2 yrs ago and were still interested, so we chatted a little with them. I'd picked the brains of some people on the trolley with us in Key West and it sounded like incentives were good... worth stopping by at least!

Tuesday May 5th we were in Grand Cayman. I was excited about this port, we had an excursion booked on a Semi-Submersible submarine. It was a short trek from the ship to the excursion (led nicely by a castmember holding up a big Sebastion sign on a stick so we could easily follow them thru the crowds). The Semi-Submarine thing was pretty neat. Got a little long, but all the kids really did pretty good with it. We even saw a few stingrays which was cool. On the way back, I took the time to actually look at all the crap they give you when you get off the boat and saw about three different "get a free pair of gemstone earrings" type coupons, etc. Ah-hah. The jewelry stores were trying to get you in there by giving you free stuff in hopes you'd buy something. between GrCay and Nassau, I came home with about 5 sets of gemstone necklaces/earrings for pretty much free. Yippee!

That evening back on the ship was Pirate Night. It is my favorite menu of the whole week. I think I wanted one of everything. I didn't indulge that much, but I did get two different appetizers- because I could! Yummy Yummy!! I think this was the first night where Hannah just could not sit at the table any longer. She was tired and CRABBY. Her teeth were hurting her like crazy. She was on tylenol strike. So I took her back to the room and Matt brought my dessert back with him. Gma and Gpa took Brooke to see "Disney's Earth" which was playing on the ship while we tried to put Hannah down for 2 hrs so we could then get her up at 945 to go up to Deck 10 to watch the Pirate Party. The ship is taken over by Captain Hook, there's some dancin and jammin, then Cap'n Mickey flies in to save the ship-- and fireworks are shot off the boat. It was a fun time...but Hannah was just exhausted. Matt and I had both missed the fireworks on our last cruise, and didn't want to miss them this time, but it wasn't fair to Hannah. So I took her back to the room and put her to bed, pouted a little bit (it's my blog, I can be honest here!), but was actually able to see the fireworks from the balcony so it all ended up okay. It was a late night and everyone was ready for bed.

Coming up - the last few days of the cruise!