Category Archives: Out and About

Planning our first Disney vacation~ Getting started

Since retiring from designing I have less to blog about now, so I thought I’d use this space to share my planning for my first ever trip to Disney World! I’ve never been there or Disneyland and have always dreamed of going. At the end of 2013 my poor husband finally broke down and said we could actually go and my planning began. 🙂 My two daughters and I have been having a great time reading travel books, making crafts, and planning on all the fun rides we want to do and characters we would like to meet.  And even Dan has been getting excited.  He really wants to do the rides, so while the girls relax between characters with my mom, we’re hoping to do some of the bigger rides.  I’ve really been enjoying the whole planning process so much, and while I’m super excited about the trip, in a way I’ll miss planning it all out too. Of course I’m also looking forward to scrapbooking it all when we get home again.

We decided to go in the fall so we could take advantage of the free dining plan as well as the smaller crowds since school will be in session (I’m taking fi out for a week). We will be staying 7 nights in the Art of Animation building as my girls are huge fans of the movie Cars and also because it offers family suits which will be great since my mom will be with us too, there will be just a little more room than a regular hotel room, plus more of a mini kitchen area. We can heat food up in our room and just have a few more options as far as food goes.

One of the first things we did was to research all the characters the girls will be able to meet in the park. They are really looking forward to meeting characters more than rides, so we decided to focus our trip on characters. I found on pinterest a post about how you could write to your favorite character and get a nice autographed photo back.

you can write to:
Walt Disney World Communications
P.O. Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

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The girls and I got so excited and they immediately picked their favorite princesses to write to, Fi wrote to Rapunzel and Lexi to Ariel (this was before she fell in love with Elsa!). Just to be on the safe side I double checked that this awesome autographed photo was not a thing of the past. Turns out, it was. Nowadays you just get a standard postcard featuring cartoon representations of some Disney favorites not a pretty photo of the actual character in the park. I was super disappointed, but then realized that I could just send the girls photos myself. I searched online for photos taken of their favorite princesses at Disney and printed them as nice 8×10 photos, then I searched for photos of what their signatures look like in autograph books. Using a sharpie, I tried to copy their specific signature.

Then I went a little crazy.  I thought maybe the princesses might also send them stickers (because stickers are fun, and then we could also use them to make our autograph books), I also made up a list of characters they might meet in the park and a list of movies to watch so they would know who the characters were and also help them to understand many of the rides and attractions at Disney and all of this went into a large envelope.  The autograph list was a super help as the girls began working on their autograph books.  One of the best websites as I began my search of which characters the girls will be able to meet was kennythepirate.com.  He has a great list of characters and even some wonderful tips to meet random characters, sush as at Character Palooza, which takes place in the afternoons at Hollywood Studios.  We made sure to keep some blank pages at the back for any surprise characters we might meet!  We are also lucky, because we will be at Disney when Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party will be taking place and there will be some special characters that night.  The girls were especially excited for the chance to meet Flynn Rider, who was there last year.  We have our fingers crossed that he will be returning again this year.

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I chose a selection of movies that I knew would be interesting to the girls, others that you may want to include are Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones, and any of the movies shown in the Great Movie Ride (we did actually watch Wizard of Oz-which they’d seen before, and Singing in the Rain for the Movie ride).  I’m nervous about how well they will do for some of the scarier portions of the ride, but we will bring some noise canceling headphones for the loud parts.  I know they’d love the Wizard of Oz part and the Mary Poppins part.  Alien, not so much.

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I packaged everything up in a large envelope and secretly ran it out to the mailbox one day.  Later I asked Fiona if she could go grab the mail and she was thrilled to see this huge envelope addressed to her and Lexi.  They tore it open and were so happy to see the photos and all the amazing stickers.
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The girls both hung their princess photos up by their beds.  A few months later the official post card from Disney came.  While they were happy to get mail, there wasn’t as much excitement over this pink post card.  Lexi hung hers up, but Fi’s just remained with the pile of mail.

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I’ll be back with photos of their autograph books as well as several other fun crafty things we’ve been up to to get us even more excited than necessary for this trip!

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Roscoe Village and random boat rides

I mentioned in an earlier blog that as part of our summer my daughter Fi and I have been trying to visit some cool historical places that I had added to my American Girl program fliers that I hand out at the library whenever I do an AG program.  I thought it would be awesome to actually visit some of the places that we’d never been too.

While we were  down in the Zanesville area visiting The Wilds we stopped at Roscoe Village which was on my American Girl Addy (Civil War era) flier and we also stopped at the Monticello III horse drawn canal boat ride-which is part of Roscoe Village and the Lorena Sternwheeler paddle Wheel boat ride (which was not on any list but will be from now on!)

We didn’t do the guided tour at Roscoe Village as I wasn’t sure little Lexi could handle a two hour walking tour, even with the stroller, but we did enjoy shopping for old fashioned candy at the general store and then stopping at the main building to do some cool crafts and to dress up in clothing from the mid 1800’s.

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The girls enjoyed making the tin punch crafts where they each picked a design they liked and used a hammer and nail to punch holes along the lines of the design.  They turned out really pretty and I think they will look nice hanging on our tree this year 🙂

The canal boat ride was like nothing I’ve ever done before.  It really felt like stepping back in time 150 years.  A set of two horses pulled the boat from a long rope down the canal.  The horses walked along side the canal on a little path and were steered by a man.  There was also another guy who steered the boat down the canal from the top of the boat while we all sat inside.  After a third person talked about the history of Ohio’s canals we were able to go up top as well.  The ride was incredibly smooth and they had us close our eyes to prove that you couldn’t even feel the boat moving or rocking at all!
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I discovered the Lorena Sternwheeler just by chance while looking through a magazine of things to do while in Zanesville.  I’ve never been on a paddle wheel boat ride and thought it would be really fun to try out.  We decided to do the lunch tour and then headed home from there after our visit to The Wilds.  The lunch tour was only like $15 and that included the boat ride as well as a really nice lunch.  There was a really good turkey sandwich, can of pop, chips, and two cookies.  The boat ride was only about an hour so the perfect amount of time for us all to eat, explore the boat and then relax a little before getting off again.

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Parade the Circle and Strawberry Picking!!

So after an amazing week on safari in Ohio (how often can you say that!!) we had a super fun weekend back home again.

To start it off we went to Parade the Circle down at Wade Oval where all the museums in Cleveland are.  Every year we go to this parade that is comprised of local artists, school groups, organizations, clubs, individual families, and even librarians(!) who make floats, amazing costumes, there are musicians, food, and free crafts.  I look forward to this every year.
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If you haven’t ever been, it’s so hard to describe.  I feel like it’s more like some sort of New Orleans Mardi Gras parade than the average marching band -type parade.  They have steel drums playing and little jazz groups interspersed throughout the rest of the parade participants, so there is always great music to be heard.  The place is packed, but still so fun and festive.  If you go with a positive attitude and are prepared to wait in line for a long time for anything, you’ll have a great time.  Or you could bring your own food which we never seem to remember to do. I also suggest getting there super early, as it is seriously PACKED.  We got there an hour and a half early to get good seats, then my mom hung out and relaxed while I took the girls off to the craft tents where they made masks, cool pop tab bracelets, and carousel horse ornaments (there were tons of other crafts to choose from too).

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There are also free crafts to choose from.  Places like the Cleveland Public Library offer crafts, and even a puppet show.  The art museum is there with crafts and Kindermusic has some fun activities for the kids.  There are literally dozens of activity and food tents in the circle, which the parade wraps around.

Then as if we hadn’t already had enough fun, we went strawberry picking with some friends from the library and their kids.  I’ve never gone before so it was a fun new experience, although really hot that day!  The girls LOVE strawberries so it was great for them to have the opportunity to pick their own and eat them fresh off the plant (once we’d paid for them of course).  I couldn’t believe how good a sun warmed strawberry could taste, usually we all eat them out of the fridge.  There is such a HUGE difference. It was amazing.
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A hot day picking strawberries (or rather a hot 20 minutes) calls for a fun afternoon at a splash park to cool off! This place was so amazing and we were introduced to it this weekend for the first time by one of my friends at work. We enjoyed cool water and yummy Popsicles!
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There’s nothing I love more in the world than being a mom and sharing the world with my two amazing girls!

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Our 10 year anniversary and a trip to The Wilds

Dan and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary on June 8th.  It’s seriously amazing that it has been that long already.  This year we decided to go to the Wilds which is down in Cumberland, Ohio, about a half hour from Zanesville.  It was such an excellent trip and we all had an amazing time and are looking forward to going back again as soon as possible.

We all drove down together and my mom and the girls spent the first night in a hotel in Zanesville, while Dan and I stayed in a Yurt at the Wilds.  It’s like this round little house that is basically one big room with a portion for the bathroom.  It’s got fabric walls over a wooden frame.  It had a real from door, but the windows zipped open just like on a tent.  When we looked out our front door we could see the animal fields and even see giraffes off in the distance walking around.  It was incredible.
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When we first got to the wilds we couldn’t check in at the Yurt for a few hours so all 5 of us did an open air safari tour.  We got on this open top bus (with an awning) and drove around in the animal fields.  We had to stay on the road that wound through the park, but many of the animals came right up to the bus so you could really see them so well.  The girls really enjoyed the trip despite it being about 2 hours long.  There was a stop about half way through where we got out of the bus and could go down to feed some swans.  So it was nice to walk around a little bit then.
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After that the girls and my mom drove back to Zanesville and Dan and I had a special Yurt guests dinner overlooking the animals and then we hung out by a fire on a deck on the side of a hill.

The next morning Dan and I went ziplining.  It was the first time either of us had ever gone and I was a little nervous that I’d get to the top of the tower and freak, but it really was so much fun I didn’t have time to be afraid.  Fortunately I don’t seem to have a fear of heights!  The zipline was so much fun, it zigzags over the animals as you zip from tower to tower.  There’s one tower right in the giraffe section but there weren’t any near that tower today.  It sounds like they have really good hearing and the sound of the zipline scares them off, so maybe once they get more used to it they might come by 🙂
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While we did that the girls did another open air safari.  Then we all met up for lunch.  The girls and my mom then went to check in at a cabin at the Wilds while Dan and I went on a wildside tour.  For this we rode in the back of a pickup truck and we were driven off the path and right up alongside the animals so we could pet and feed some of them.  When we went by the giraffes they weren’t out so our tour guide actually took us to their barn so we could still feed and pet them.  We also got to go behind the scenes at the carnivore section where we saw baby cheetahs up close and African dogs.  The whole experience was beyond amazing.
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The next day we did a kid’s tour, it’s a lot shorter riding around the animal fields, but since our girls were ok with the 2.5 hour tour they didn’t really need the shorter version.  The cool thing about this one though was that at the end we went in a little building where we got to pet a baby alligator and an armadillo and see a sloth as well.  It was so fun!

We all decided that this was possible one of the best trips we’d ever been on, and we’ve been on lots!  It was the perfect mix of relaxation time and super exciting times.  And I think we all were able to enjoy it on different levels.

Some pages using a kit I’m in the process of making for a July freebie download 🙂
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Western Reserve Historical House Museum

This weekend the girls and I met my mom and we all went down this amazing old mansion, that is now a museum which is part of the Western Reserve Historical Museum.  It was finished being built in 1911 so we decided to have this trip be part of the Samantha section in Fi’s journal.

The house was amazing!  I can’t even imagine living in a place like that.  The tour guide said there were something like 49 rooms and for the 5 people who lived there (seriously??!?!) they had around 20 servants.  We got to see the servants quarters as well as the main house, although we didn’t get to see where the men lived as they were out over the carriage house.
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In the kitchen

None of the rooms in the house were decorated with original furniture from the family that used to live there, in fact only 2 chairs were original with the house.  The rest of the rooms were made to look like different eras in history.  So there was one bedroom from the late 1700’s.  And the really cool thing we learned about was why the beds from that time were so short.  Partially it had to do with the fact that people were so much shorter, but the other main thing is that people had a different sleeping style back then.  Today we more or less sleep completely horizontal, but back then people slept much more propped up.  So the beds didn’t have to be as long.  I’d never heard that before so it was really interesting to learn about!
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In the 1700’s room with the short bed

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The beautiful dinning room

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The girls liked the play room the best and Lexi kept trying to sneak underneath the ropes to go play!
The girls did pretty well during the visit.  Lexi started to get pretty antsy around the time we headed up to the second level.  She’d really been enjoying playing in the kids section of the museum where they have little kitchen set ups from different time periods and play food for the kids to use.  So she really was itching to get back to that section and play some more.

Fi got a little tired of standing but is looking forward to going to another cool old house down in Akron called Stan Hywett.  We’re planning on going on a day Lexi is in school this time, poor Lex.  But I’d rather take her to things she will enjoy more.

The William G. Mather Boat Museum and our fun summer plans

This summer I’m hoping to do a lot of fun trips with the girls to places we don’t usually go. We visit the Natural History Museum and Botanical gardens pretty much weekly, and I”m sure we’ll still go there a lot this summer(!) But I also want to see what else is out there that’s cool and fun. I make these pamphlets for my library to pass out at my American Girl Doll programs with suggestions of books, movies, music, and places to visit based on each of the historical characters. So this summer we are actually going to visit some of these places I’m telling everyone else to go to 🙂

Fiona is keeping a little journal, we found a fun one that came with a pen that has a glue stick on one end, so Fi was really excited about that. I want her to write a little bit about her fun adventures, even if it’s only a sentence, and then she can glue in pictures from our trip and use some of her American Girl Doll stickers we also picked up at the store. Also when we read any of the books, watch the movies, or listen to music that is on the doll pamphlets she is keeping a list of those as well. I wanted her to write a little about what she liked, cause frankly her handwriting is horrible-even for an almost 2nd grader, and I wanted her to practice it in a fun way-as opposed to just in a workbook. But Fi would rather not, and at least she is writing complete sentences in her journal. “I read Mama Don’t Allow” or “My mom read Amelia Bloomer You Forgot Your Skirt.”

Fiona’s journal entry for an American Girl Felicity program I did at the library.  We had it at a cool old historic home in the neighborhood. I’ve had several of my American Girl Doll programs there and they are always a huge hit!

Today we visited the William G. Mather, which is a huge old cargo boat that was built in 1925 and used to haul iron ore around the Great Lakes.  We decided to use it as part of our Kit era, which is the 1930s as it was built just prior to that.  The boat was in fact actually used up until the 1980s and when it was restored to be a museum in the 1990s they brought it back to the original 1930’s look.
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The boat doesn’t actually take you anywhere, it’s permanently docked, but it’s really fun to tour.  We got to see the cabins, dinning room, captain’s quarters, kitchen, the bridge, and even down in the engine room.  It poured just as we arrived at the boat and we were so disappointed because part of the tour is out on top where cargo would have been loaded.  Fortunately by the time we finished the first half of the inside tour it had stopped raining for our walk across the top to the engine room.  Fiona wrote in her journal for this trip that her favorite part was walking across the top.  I loved seeing the old rooms and Lexi really perked up in the engine room and enjoyed going up and down the steep stairs!  I think she is all ready to be a sailor 🙂
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It was a really fun, and different 🙂 adventure and I’m looking forward to all the other great places we are going to try this summer 🙂

A page using my collab kit by myself and Wendy Tunison Designs called A Gentleman’s Agreement
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Beautiful Tulips at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens

I keep meaning to do more blog posts about the fun things we do, but never get around to it.  So today I am remedying that situation by sharing some beautiful pictures from our visit to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens last weekend.

Usually after Fi’s art class we head to the Natural History museum to see the dino skeletons and to pet animals at the live animal show, but this weekend Lexi was suddenly all about butterflies and birds so we decided to go to the Botanical Gardens instead.  I’m so glad we did because in addition to fulfilling Lexi’s desire to see birds and butterflies inside the glass houses, we also got to see thousands of beautiful tulips in their outdoor garden.  They were planted this spring as part of a collaboration with the art museum for their Rembrandt exhibit (because of Holland where he was from).

It wasn’t the most beautiful day, kind of sprinkly and cool, but I think that made for some great photos.
We started by visiting the indoor greenhouses where they have beautiful butterflies and birds flying all around you.
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A favorite stop is always the waterfall!
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And the girls had a great time using the telescopes to search for more birds and butterflies. Fortunately, there were two, so there was minimal bickering between the girls, other than that they both wanted to use the lower one… arggg!
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Outside the girls enjoyed the Hershey’s Children garden and running down the wooden ramp (Lexi’s favorite part!) We were excited to see that they were also putting in a new outdoor cafe type place where they will be making salads and sandwiches and such using veggies and fruits from plants that will be growing all around the cafe. I’m excited to try it out!
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The girls and my mom under the roman arches

And of course I had to make a scrapbook page of the tulips!  I used a kit called Simplify by Scraps N Pieces:

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