Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Worthwhile Challenge Week#24 - Spanish Rice

Needed a quick, easy, small meal the other night. It was like a jillion degrees outside and we'd had a big lunch, so dinner was kind of an afterthought... It was also close to grocery day meaning we did not have much in the house.

Enter this:

I always have some of these in my cupboard of varying flavors. Makes for a great, easy yummy side dish. That night, I discovered on the back an easy main dish. Easy spanish skillet (or something like that). I've since of course thrown the package away so this recipe I will be winging it, but if you go buy this rice, chances are the recipe is on the back!

Brown one pound of hamburger in large skillet and drain grease.

Add in 1.5 cups water and bring to a boil.

Stir in one can of corn (undrained) and the rice package.

Bring back to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is cooked off. Stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheese until melted. Top with more shredded cheese. Eat it up!

Matt, Brooke and I liked it considering the fact that it was a quick, easy, mostly packaged food. Hannah had spaghetti-os. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Vaca recap #5...and a winner!

Whew! It was a crazy busy weekend! But now, I am choosing to sit here and blog instead of take a shower. That's saying a lot, because I went to Zumba this morning and sweat profusely. You should really appreciate this blog post!

Before we delve into the "BEST DAY EVER!", I should announce the 300th post giveaway winner! ELIZABETH NOLTE! She has like, a jillion kids, so she might have to get a personalized necklace/magnet of her dog, but whatever the case may be -- get in touch with me Elizabeth :) Congrats!

So when we got back to our room and ready for bed on the night of the "at sea day" -- this is what we found...

I had asked a guest services person at DCL to help us try to get one of the private cabanas booked (long story). They are a huge splurge...$500 for the day for six people. An HOUR before we got on the plane to fly to Orlando, we got a call from DCL that a cabana had opened up! We debated for a few minutes, shuffled some other things around, and took it! There are only about 24 cabanas on the whole island, so they are a hot ticket for sure!

$500? What are we getting for $500 we wondered the day before cabana day. This little hut and info sheet left on our bed answered that question: Private cabana for the day with comfy furniture, ceiling fan, music. Private beach area reserved for cabana guests. Fresh fruit, unlimited sodas and bottled waters. Complimentary Coppertone products. Complimentary sand toys and snacks. Bike rentals (which we didn't use), tube rentals (which we did use), snorkel equipment (which we didn't use). We were happy just vegging in our very own corner of paradise, we didn't want to go ride bikes or snorkel and leave our happy ($500) spot!

Before we got off the ship, we ran into this good looking couple!:

We stopped just off the ship for the token Castaway Cay in-front-of-the-ship picture. The line to have the Disney photographers take it was a bit long, so we had one of our friends take it for us! Good job, Kev!

A ride on the island tram, and a personal golf cart shuttle, and we arrived here:

We were some very happy campers!

The corner just inside the cabana. In that closet was a safe where we could store our cameras, etc. Plenty of extra towels, and along that right side under the table was also the stocked mini-fridge that you can't see.

Plenty of comfy places to sit, magazines to read, snacks to gnosh on.

Outside the cabana, we had a lot of beach area to enjoy! Here's the view from our spot on the beach over to the "rest" of CC.

The view from our back porch!

The water was crystal clear!

Matt, Grandma, and the girls spent a lot of time hanging out on the floaties.

Papa and I spent a lot of time wandering the beach, and sitting in our little chairs with our feet in the water!

This was all part of the "reserved for Cabana guests" area

This is pelican plunge, the fun 'play area' they just built here at the island recently. we never did get over there to play, but it sure looked like fun!

We did a lot of shell-searching and collecting,

We had to DRAG Hannah away from the beach when it was lunch or rest time or time to leave.

Good picture, huh?

The tide went out, and you could probably walk out about a 1/2 mile with the water not coming past your knees!

A family of beach bums and Disney nuts!

The day consisted of playing at the beach, floating in the water, digging in the sand, and taking pictures. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. :) We threw in lunch at Cookies again (and I would have to say that I was a little surprised/disappointed that they didn't offer a different menu than they did our first day at CC). In early afternoon, Matt and his parents headed off for some jet-skiing. The girls and I relaxed in the cabana for awhile. I thought they would 'rest'...but I was pretty much wrong. Basically, I got them to drink something and have a snack and get out of the sun for a bit. Then we were back out to the beach.

To the left of our back porch was a little lagoon area that we weren't really supposed to go out too. To the right was our main beach area where we spent most of our time. There was a rope going out into the water that we weren't supposed to go past. As the day went on, more of the sandbar area started to appear. I asked one of the concierge staff if we could walk out on the sandbar past the rope to look for shells. They said yes, just not to park it out there and have a party or get in the water. The girls and i took off across the sandbar with our sand buckets, shovels, and camera in hand. It was awesome being all the way out there all by ourselves!

I found this kick-butt huge conch shell. I was so stoked! Shortly after I found it, I saw another DCL employee making her way across the sand to us. I said "you're not coming to take my shell are you?" She said she wasn't going to take my shell, but that we werent' supposed to be out that far. I told her I'd asked permission first but she seemed to think I was mis-informed. She also told me that I probably would not be allowed to take my shell onboard. Dang it. So we took a picture. It would have looked so nice in my beach-themed 1/2 bathroom:

I took more pics of the girls. Here's the best shot from the entire cruise:

Matt and his parents came back much earlier than i expected them. The jetski excursion had been cancelled because it had gotten windy.

There was a hammock by our back porch, along with a fresh water shower. Brooke and I both soaked up some serious hammock time, and I'm really wanting one in my backyard now!

By about 2:30 we were all pretty hot and sandy. We wanted to go back to the ship in time to make the matinee show that afternoon. We relaxed in the cabana for a little while and cooled off with these nice, damp washcloths that were in the fridge. Ohhhh they felt so good!

Hannah apparently loved her washcloth, because if you look closely (under Matt's thumb) you can see she stuffed it down her swimsuit. We were halfway back to the ship when I said "Hannah? What is in your swimsuit!?" and she pulled out her washcloth. It was so funny!

We ran into Daisy on our way back to the ship! It was at this point that somehow the camera got turned to some strange setting that makes everything look blue-ish. Happens every trip. I try to edit it back to happiness, but some pics are harder than others to recover from the blue-hue!

It was a wonderful day. Every day we've spent on Castaway Cay has been heavenly, but throw in a private cabana....and it ranks up there as one of the top 10 days of our lives I think! Shoot, it may be in the top 5, only behind getting married and having babies! :) It was such a wonderful day. And worth the $500? You bet.

I'll fill you in on the last bit of that day/night and our last day before we flew home in the next post! Have a great day!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

hang tight!

i've not disappeared nor have I forgotten one of the last sentences in my most recent post...

"tomorrow..." meaning I was going to post the next day and didn't.

it's been a little crazy around here! Two cakes, 4 dozen mini cupcakes, 5 dozen whoopie pies and 2 dozen lemon bars since Thursday. Along with one birthday (MIL) and two baptisms (daughter and hubby).

I've got whoopies left to fill and a birthday party to attend tomorrow. Then, hopefully, I'll get another trip post done and announce the prize winner.

hope you are having a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vacation Recap #4- day at Sea

Time for the "day at sea" recap. I'm not often a fan of "days at sea" simply because, I don't like thinking about the fact that I am out in the middle of an ocean. If I can swim myself to shore, that's fine... but on sea days, that usually isn't happening. I tend to spend sea days on the inside of the ship, you don't catch me leaning on the railing watching the ocean go by. I try not to think about it.

Matt, on the other hand, loves sea days. Oh, really I love them too, but just for different reasons. Matt: watching the world go by. Me: Playing bingo. Matt: watching the world go by. Me: being social. That sums up sea days in our household.

But, I'll give you a little more here!

That morning, I ran up to Cabanas to snag some breakfast for us off the buffet line. We needed to go close on our new DVC points, so we just fed the girls in the room. We dropped them off at the kids club then headed off to buy 50 more points at Bay Lake Tower. Yipppppeee!

After that, it was time for some bingo! It was my first round of bingo for this sailing. On the last cruise, I won $250. We went to the Buena Vista theatre. We enjoyed looking at the art-deco lights and all the Disney details.

It was during this time that we chatted about making our basement/in home theatre a Disney-art deco theme. Matt was looking at all the lights, sighed, and said "some days i wish i wasn't such a disney nut, because it can get so overwhelming!"... I totally laughed out loud!

Grandma and Papa showed up to play bingo too. Papa is sporting his awesome tie-dye mickey shirt that I made for everyone.

We did not win at bingo, and by the time it was over, the girls were ready for us to come get them and feed them so lunch!!

We hit Cabanas for lunch and saw several of my message board friends. I snagged a picture of one of my BMBF (best message board friend) Chuck. He was really excited I was taking a picture. Actually I think he was not feeling good, because he had just had a chemo treatment a few days earlier...but he's a trooper! Honestly one of the most kind-hearted men I know. He and his partner Mark are very giving and do a lot of great charity work back in Philly. And can I say too, I love his tshirt?!

After lunch we decided to go chill up on Deck 13 for awhile. This had become one of our favorite spots to hang out. Never a crowd, wide open views. We were surprised to find Lilo hanging out up there! (Notice grandma in the background. She loved the big cushy blue benches up there).

After saying hi to Lilo, we girls found a place on the blue benches to relax for awhile. Well, Brooke, Grandma and I relaxed....

Hannah vascillated between moments like this and

running across the deck. She would come sit with us and then she would...

run over to see Daddy and Papa. If you could just pay for a bed right up here on this spot, I think they would go for it.

I can't remember if we went back to the room to rest or if we took the kids back to the kids club again. Seems we did that, because we started the mid-ship detective agency before the show and the desk for that is right by the kids areas.' Let me take a moment and tell you, since I am often asked, that yes, I think the kids programming is fabulous and very secure. The girls had a good time everytime they went in there. The characters pop in periodically for some fun, the area is huge and wonderfully themed. The first time you take them there, they get this wristband things with an electronic tag on them. (you can see it in the pic above of hannah on the deck). When we went to pick them up, they would pull the girls up in the computer, and they could tell us where we'd find them. The area is massive, and divided into Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, with a variety of themed areas in each one of those. There are scanners in the walls and doorways amongst the different sections, and so when Hannah would walk back to the Oceaneer Lab, it would sense her tag and note it in the computer. So the cast member would say "looks like the last time she was scanned she was in the back of the Club." It was great. Upon checking out we had to present our room card and give a password that we had previously set up. While they were there, if they needed us, they would call or text us on the ship "cell" phones provided to each stateroom. It is a great program.

ANYWAYS, so we hit the midship detective agency. This is new to this ship, and we didn't quite get the mystery done. You stop at the detective desk and get a special scan-card that you register to start your adventure. You also get a clue page that shows you where different clue locations are, allows you to mark off suspects, etc. We were doing the "Case of the Missing Puppies." Once you got to one of the picture stations on the animated art I mentioned before, you would hold your card up to activate the art. But it did more than that! The card allowed you to manipulate what was going on. For example, one picture came to life and it had a locked door. You moved your card around (which Matt is helping brooke with here) to move the key into the lock to get to the clue. It was very cool!

We only had time for a few clues before we had to go in for our matinee of the Golden Mickeys. It was our third time seeing this show, but I love it every time, and they had added some great new acts to it.

Rapunzel now has a segment in the show, which the girls were excited about!

She was up in one a balcony nearly right above us.

The show is like an "awards" show, with categories like "Best Villain" "Best Love Story" etc. No Villain story is complete without a visit from Cruella!

This was the fam before the show started. I tried to move the picture up in the blog where it belongs on this post, but it won't move, and I don't feel like reloading it :)

That was "dress up" night for dinner, though we don't go quite as dressy as some do.

We ate in the Royal Palace. It was not my favorite menu, but the Creme Brulee was out of this world!!! See the Cinderella slippers on the chandeliers?

We had to stop at guest services to ask about our thing we had booked for the next day. Brooke looked gorgeous!! And who is that hot chic behind her with the great blue dress (that was purchased on clearance at NY &Co two years ago for $10!!) and the great legs? Why, it's me!! :) Really wish we would have gotten a pic all together!

After dinner, I hit one more round of bingo while the rest of the gang went swimming. Brooke and Daddy hit the aquaduck a few more times. I wish I would have gone on it again myself, but just never did!

Tomorrow comes the "best day ever!!" post...our final day on the ship and our 2nd stop at Castaway Cay. Stay tuned!

Final chance to enter to win a custom photo necklace or magnet! If you want to be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment on this post. You can answer this question: What's your favorite picture from the cruise-recap pics so far? Those of you that have entered already, Thank you!! Those of you that haven't.... now's your chance! Must comment by noon on Thursday, winner announced by Friday!