Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back To Reality

When leaving Florida, I was excited to see my friends and family again, but I was definitely not looking forward to the cold. It wasn't that great leaving behind 70 degree weather for 40/50 degree weather and needing to wear a winter coat. Winter is, by far, my least favorite season. I hate the cold. I'm usually always cold anyway, so winter never helps that. The only thing I love about winter is the holiday season. It is one of the best times of the year. I guess I couldn't really imagine a Christmas without cold and snow.

I have been going crazy racking my brain for the perfect Christmas presents for everyone. It's proving to be a hard task this year. I always want to find the perfect gift for everyone, to the point where I'm scouring the Internet late into the night trying to find them. I'm always keeping my ears open and taking mental notes when someone mentions an item they want, too. I think I've gotten almost everyone taken care of now.

Cardigan: Target//Dress: H&M//Tights: Apt. 9//Booties: Payless//Scarf: Gift//Belt: Kohls (off a different dress)
Speaking of Christmas presents...I'm excited for mine from my parents. They're getting me a Canon Rebel T3i. My very first DSLR!! :D I cannot wait to use it and learn everything about it. I really want to understand manual mode more. I have manual mode on my Leica, but it's not quite the same as a DSLR. I'd like to really master it and know what needs to be adjusted to get the pictures I want in various settings. Maybe that should be my New Year's resolution! Have any of you found it hard to learn the ins and outs of photography?

I love holidays, so it's no surprise that I'm looking forward to the holiday season. I love Christmas music and listen to it non-stop from Thanksgiving until Christmas. Seriously...I have the radio in my car on a station that only plays Christmas music and I even fall asleep listening to it some nights. It just puts me in such a good mood! Festive and holiday-themed things in general make me happy. Soon I'll have to start planning the baking extravaganza that my mom and I tag-team every year. We put all this time and work in for one day and it always flies by in a second!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Disney World

I absolutely love Disney. It brings back such great memories from my childhood and has continued to create such amazing movies and memories into my adulthood. This was my first time being in Disney World during the holiday season, so it was especially exciting. I didn't even think about it until we walked in and I saw Main Street, U.S.A. decorated with wreathes and lights. Everything was so festive and pretty!

We stopped at Animal Kingdom first, but we weren't there very long. We rode the three really good rides, then took the trolley and monorail to Magic Kingdom. We spent the majority of our day there and stayed for the Electrical Parade and the fireworks show at night.

Dress: Friday On My Mind via Modcloth//Shoes: H&M//Sunglasses: Modcloth
The first thing we did was meet Mickey! I don't care how old you are, it's still fun to meet the characters. I was a little disappointed that Minnie wasn't with him. He was flying solo that day. Trouble in paradise maybe? I'm just kidding... After meeting Mickey, we ventured to Tomorrowland. We rode Space Mountain, which is probably my favorite ride at Magic Kingdom.

They are working on a new part of Fantasyland, which will all be open by the end of the year, but they had part of it already open as a sort of "dress rehearsal". I was super excited because the new additions that we got to see were Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid attractions. These are two of my favorites from when I was a kid.

The first attraction was a walk-through show. You get to walk through Belle's cottage and see some of her father's inventions, along with some animatronic characters from the film. It was neat because they look pretty life-like and they talk too! The workers pick kids from the crowd to participate in a little reenactment of how Belle and the Beast fell in love, which they perform for Belle herself as a "surprise". It was really cute, and Belle really is there watching and participating with the crowd. One of the little boys got to be the Beast and he was so shy when he had to dance with Belle. It was so adorable.

Gaston's Tavern was part of the new restaurants they're adding. We didn't eat there, but we did take a look around. They had his chair set up, along with his portrait. And yes, they used antlers in the decorating.

The second attraction was the Journey of The Little Mermaid ride. It was a basic slow-moving ride that takes you through the story of the movie. It was fun to singalong to the songs from the movie as we rode along. Afterwards, we waited in line at Ariel's Grotto to meet her!

After going on some more rides and watching one of the shows that the characters perform in front of the castle, we waited around for the castle to be lit up and for the Electrical Parade to start. When they lit the castle, I got tears in my eyes. The combination of the prettiness and the nostalgic value of the castle and Disney in general just got me. Most of the time, I get teary-eyed at the beginning of any Disney movie when they show the castle and play When You Wish Upon A Star. It's definitely not hard to make me

I was kind of disappointed with the Electrical Parade. I thought it was going to be longer and have more up-to-date movies included, but it was mostly the older Disney movies such as Snow White, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland. I was hoping to see Aladdin and Lion King floats.

What came after the Electrical Parade definitely made up for it, though. Before the fireworks, they had a show where they project images and decorations onto Cinderella's castle. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. They project scenes from tons of Disney movies onto the castle, as well as Christmas-themed projections such as candy canes and a gingerbread house. There was one point where they made it look like the castle was pixelated and crumbling down, which was really cool to watch.

[Lion King!]

Of course, they end the night with fireworks. And yet again, I got all teary-eyed. Seeing Cinderella's castle all lit up in lights with fireworks illuminating the sky is just so magical. I started thinking about how so many people wish and dream to experience that. Disney World really is such a magical place, no matter what age you are. I'll never stop loving it and I can't wait to share it with my kids someday.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lowry Park Zoo

Since we wanted to go to the beach and the zoo and both were in the same area, we figured it'd make more sense to fit them both into one day. After the beach, we headed to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, which is apparently voted the #1 zoo in the country by Parents Magazine! It was really cute and they had a lot of different kinds of animals from different parts of the world.

What I was most excited about was that they have giraffe feedings! So I got to feed a giraffe again! I got lucky because when we first got to the giraffe exhibit, all the giraffes were at the other end of their pen, waiting to be let in at their fence. But after moving on and then coming back, one of the giraffes was coming over to the feeding platform and I ran right up there to feed him! I got to feed him lettuce and he was super cute.

I wish I could've pet him, but there were signs saying not to. :\ It was definitely a lot more relaxed and pleasant than my first giraffe-feeding experience. At the first one, the woman who worked at the zoo was rushing us and pestering us about how to hold the branches. She was just all around rude, and it kind of put a damper on the whole experience. But this time, I got to just hold out the lettuce without anyone on my case and let him eat it out of my hand!

Dress: H&M//Shoes: Rialto//Bag: Forever 21//Sunglasses: H&M
A lot of the animals were sleeping or just kind of laying around lazily. Most of them are nocturnal, so I guess that's why they weren't very active during the afternoon. The orangutans were very active, though. They're so interesting to watch because they're so human-like in their mannerisms and behavior. They're one of the smartest monkeys out there. The cutest thing I saw was an adult and baby monkey cuddled together. They looked just like people!

I love being able to see all kinds of animals I'd probably never be able to if zoos didn't exist. I'd love to go see giraffes out in the wild in Africa. There's actually this place in Narobi called Giraffe Manor which is a sort of resort that actually has giraffes right on their property for you to interact with!'d be so awesome! Of course, it'd also be super expensive, but a girl can dream... :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies

Happy Thanksgiving! Are you as excited to feast the day away as I am? I can't wait to stuff my face with turkey leg, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. :D Anywho...I thought I'd take a break in the Florida action by posting this cute recipe I tried out a couple of weeks ago. These were really fun to decorate...and easy to make too!

The secret to these sugar cookies is the addition of pumpkin pie spice. It gives the sugar cookie the perfect hint of pumpkin flavor. I have a love/hate relationship with making and decorating sugar cookies. Sometimes the dough can be a pain to work with and it usually takes me hours to get to the final product. Once I get it, though, I find that it's worth it. :)

I liked the frosting for these because it wasn't the typical royal frosting. It was more of a thicker frosting that is super easy to spread on with an angled spatula (i used one like this), but it still hardens smooth like royal frosting! I used some food coloring to dye the frosting orange and brown and a simple store-bought can of icing for the green stems.

Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies



2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
16 tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs. light brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ tsp. vanilla extract


4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon cream
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract


In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed. Shape into a disk and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator onto a lightly floured surface. Let dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out cookies, placing on prepared baking sheet. Place baking sheet with cookies on them in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before baking.

Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake cookies for 8-9 minutes until edges are just ready to turn the slightest bit light brown. Cool on a wire rack before decorating.

To make the icing, in a saucepan over medium heat, heat cream and butter until butter is melted. Stir in the vanilla and confectioners' sugar. Remove from heat, and beat with an electric mixer until thick and smooth.

The icing sets up very quickly, so when you are decorating if you find that it becomes hard to work with, place in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and it will re-soften and be smooth again. Alternately, you can place the icing in a heat proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water to keep it smooth.