Have Heart, Will Travel

Visit Watto's Grotto at Disneyworld for all THIS Star Wars gear!

Disney, Star WarsNancy Powell4 Comments

If there are two things in the field of entertainment that this family LOVES, they are Disney World and Star Wars.  You may have heard, but they've joined forces.

See what I did there?

During our visit in November, we got to check out the new store Watto's Grotto, where you can choose all kinds of rare goods.  Wait until you see the video below of the most impressive thing I found!

There were all kinds of clothes there that went way beyond a logo t-shirt and well into the costume territory.

 I'm actually kind of digging that outfit on the left.

I'm actually kind of digging that outfit on the left.

Overall, I think women had the cooler options.

 I liked this shirt because HOPE is one of my favorite words!

I liked this shirt because HOPE is one of my favorite words!

You could almost feel like you were on set. Or another planet.

Have a sweet little girl who insists on pink, but still wants Star Wars clothes? They've got you covered.

And of course this is where I learned about BB-8.

But my FAVORITE?

Definitely the Lightsaber boots!  The Lightsaber boots with light-up heels!

 

They were so fun to wear for 30 seconds.

 Business in the front.

Business in the front.

 Party in the back.

Party in the back.

If you can't make it to Watto's Grotto anytime soon, check here, here or here for something you might like. There's some pretty astounding boots...I can't promise light-up heels, though.

We had such a fabulous time with all we got to see and do during our most recent trip to Disney World!  I am almost finished narrowing down our Top 10 favorite experiences and will do a blog series on them soon. I am looking forward to reliving those moments and sharing them with you!

Emerald waters and white sands!

Florida, BeachNancy Powell1 Comment

We are currently camping at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Florida. Everything we have heard throughout the years about the emerald waters and the fine powdery white snow is absolutely true.

In fact, being January and all, it was pretty cold last night when Mark took his first stroll on the beach. He said between the cold and the super fine white sand, he could almost convince himself it was snow!

Today we took a long stroll on the beach together. We were out for a couple of hours in very decent winter weather, but got back just before hours of rain came.

 I adore the colors of these waters!

I adore the colors of these waters!

 Our Heart in the white sand.

Our Heart in the white sand.

 I'm not sure what Mark was telling Petunia here, but if it was "See those buildings? We're going there,"...then that would have been true. We did walk down there and back.

I'm not sure what Mark was telling Petunia here, but if it was "See those buildings? We're going there,"...then that would have been true. We did walk down there and back.

We have discovered the secret to having one of the most popular Florida destination beaches virtually all to ourselves: Go in winter the week that school starts back from winter vacation! If utilizing this tip, please note that your swimsuit is not needed. 

 Petunia's personal palm.

Petunia's personal palm.

 Sunshine on the ocean makes me happy.

Sunshine on the ocean makes me happy.

We have been blessed to experience a wide variety of beaches that Florida has to offer, from St. Augustine to Sanibel to the Keys.  The experience would surely not be complete without this stop on the Emerald Coast.

We found Winter in Florida...and she is amazing!

Florida, AnimalsNancy PowellComment

If you have seen the movie Dolphin Tale, you may know the inspiring story of Winter.  Found by a fisherman with rope wrapped around her body and especially tight around her tail, Winter was taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium to try to save her.  

This aquarium is a rescue, rehabilitation, and release (when safely possible) facility for marine life.  Although they saved her life, she lost her tail and had to persevere against all odds to learn how to swim again.  I recommend you check out the movie for the amazing story.

We had a great time going there with Petunia, her grandparents, and some good friends of ours who live in the area and met us there.  We were so glad to get to see Winter in person, along with her friend Hope, the star of Dolphin Tale 2.  Also spotted:  river otters, which must be among the cutest animals ever; sea turtles, and sting rays which we got to pet!

 Here Petunia is holding one of 20 prosthetic tails that have been custom made for Winter so that she could learn to swim the right way!

Here Petunia is holding one of 20 prosthetic tails that have been custom made for Winter so that she could learn to swim the right way!

 Petunia watchiing Winter and Hope play.  You can see Winter, swimming vertically, is missing her tail. She doesn't have on the prosthetic one all the time.

Petunia watchiing Winter and Hope play.  You can see Winter, swimming vertically, is missing her tail. She doesn't have on the prosthetic one all the time.

 How cute is this creature?  I love the dolphin, too!

How cute is this creature?  I love the dolphin, too!

I am happy we got to see this aquarium on our current journey. We spotted it 4 years ago (when attending the wedding of the friends we went with) but didn't go on that trip. It is worth a visit!

 Dolphins are amazing animals, and Winter is extra special for being such an overcomer.

Dolphins are amazing animals, and Winter is extra special for being such an overcomer.

 Mark and our friend Jimmy are checking out special material formulated to go on Winter as her "sleeve" before the tail is placed on her.

Mark and our friend Jimmy are checking out special material formulated to go on Winter as her "sleeve" before the tail is placed on her.

 They had a pool of sea turtles and yes, they looked just like Crush! Do you know who Crush is? 

They had a pool of sea turtles and yes, they looked just like Crush! Do you know who Crush is? 

 This crazy pelican is a character in the movie.

This crazy pelican is a character in the movie.

Winter and Hope invite you to come see them in Clearwater, Florida.  If that's not in your immediate plans, check out their stories.

On books and quiet campgrounds

Nancy Powell2 Comments
 With no doors to close, this little chapel in the woods welcomed all.

With no doors to close, this little chapel in the woods welcomed all.

The beauty and stillness of some of the campgrounds we've been able to visit have been one of my best surprises from this adventure.  Not being a camper before, I didn't think too much of the solitude and peacefulness the woods could provide.

Especially given that we are on this journey for a year, we often get to experience places when the crowds are not around.

 Just us.

Just us.

That was definitely the case for this beautiful county park in Florida we stayed at earlier this fall.  After moving from the open field and tree frog infestation (ask me about that later, because there are some funny stories!) we moved over to the "real" campground area and were still the only ones there.

One thing we have all had more time to do this year is read.  And we have had a challenge keeping Petunia in reading material!  She is a fast, focused, voracious reader and we do what we can to keep her in books, but given the restraints of our year, that has proved difficult a time or two.

We LOVE to find the free lending libraries in different places. We never would have expected to find one in this quiet, empty park attached to a rustic little cabin, but it was spotted just when it was needed.  What a wonderful treat!

 Petunia donated these books that she had already read...

Petunia donated these books that she had already read...

 ...and borrowed these books which she had not! New material!

...and borrowed these books which she had not! New material!

 Christmas presents! Books are a wonderful gift!

Christmas presents! Books are a wonderful gift!

As we have just celebrated Christmas, Petunia received all of these books and should have good stuff to read and keep her mind occupied and growing for a while to come! 

What are you reading now?

3 things you may not know about Disney's Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Disney, FloridaNancy Powell1 Comment

We just (reluctantly) finished another magical trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.  Our family loves Disney World! We all have our favorite things there--the rides, the characters, the unique shopping, and the ambience.  Even when you've been there a few times, there is always something new to see or do!

One thing we got to experience this time that we had never seen before was the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney Hollywood Studios.  

I thought our first post-Disney blog should be about the Osborne Lights, because it is time sensitive, as you will see.  

Here are 3 things you may not know about the Spectacle of Dancing Lights that you want to know if you have plans to see them.

1. First, and most important, this is the last year that Disney will be hosting the Osborne Family lights!

Hollywood Studios has plans for that area of the park. Right now the lights are hosted in the Streets of America section.  Coming soon, supposedly, is a lot more Star Wars-themed attractions.  So, if you want to see the lights, you must get there by January 3, 2016.

 Beautiful!

Beautiful!

2. Even though you may choose to spend a lot of time enjoying the sensory feast of color and sound, you don't have to set aside a large chunk of time to enjoy the spectacle.

The day I got introduced to the lights, we were enjoying the Disney parks and area with a large group of family. We spent the daytime at another park, left and met our parents for dinner at their hotel, and then decided to go catch the lights. By the time we were arriving at the park, it was 30 minutes before closing time.

We headed straight back to the right area of the park and immediately were ensconced in twinkling, jumping, magical lights, Christmas carols, and happy people.  We had plenty of time to walk around, take it all in, take our pictures and video, and exchange smiles with each other as we pointed out "hidden mickeys" and other fun details in the lights.

And 30 minutes later? Well, no one was getting rushed out of the park.  With people in lines for their rides and finishing their dinners at the restaurants, no Disney park closes exactly at closing time. We were well past the official closing time before we even realized it. I think we walked out about 30 minutes "late", having enjoyed the lights spectacle for almost an hour.

The other benefit of doing it this way is that, as we were entering Hollywood Studios and walking back toward the lights, many people were headed the opposite way and streaming out of the park, so the crowds were a little lower by the time we got back there.

 A pink house and a pink hidden Mickey!

A pink house and a pink hidden Mickey!

 Did you notice the Dalmatians in the picture above? Aren't they cute?

Did you notice the Dalmatians in the picture above? Aren't they cute?

Speaking of people streaming out of the park leads me to the 3rd thing you may not know.

3. Even with large crowds, it is easy to enjoy the dancing lights!

Yes, we were happy that the crowd was lessening (who wouldn't be?) but the fact is that the vast majority of what you're enjoying is UP! The lights are above your head, you can hear the music everywhere, and (spoiler alert!) the SNOW COMES FROM ABOVE!  Yes, when you attend this extravaganza, you get snow in Florida!

As you can see in the pictures, there are details all over, so you'll want to look down and around, too. But if you have patience and don't mind either taking your time or staying a little late, you can enjoy all there is to offer, even with a few thousand of your nearest friends.

Clearly, at times when the crowds are highest, like the week after Christmas, I'm sure it's more difficult to maneuver. On those times, please take an extra dose of patience, or enjoy the pictures and video here and other places online instead, if you really don't like large crowds.

 Do you see the hidden Mickey in the tree?

Do you see the hidden Mickey in the tree?

I am happy we got to experience the Osborne Lights on this trip. It's the only time we've seen them in their 20 years, and I know they will be missed by many people. Disney always has wonderful surprises for its guests, though, so here's to a magical future!