To describe our growing up in the lowcountry of South Carolina, I would have to take you to the marsh on a spring day, flush the great blue heron from its silent occupation, scatter marsh hens as we sink to our knees in mud, open an oyster with a pocketknife and feed it to you from the shell and say, 'There. That taste. That's the taste of my childhood.' - Pat Conroy

June 12, 2018

Fall in NYC

So it's no secret that I love New York city. If you're new here then welcome, my name is Miranda and NYC is my most favorite place in the world.

It all started back when I was 15 years old and I started watching Sex and the City. Looking back a 15 year old shouldn't be watching that show but my mom was awesome and it was a tradition for us to cook some popcorn and watch it. My love for NYC grew deep watching Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda (see, it was meant to be!), strolling the streets of Manhattan.

Fast forward to a few years later when Gossip Girl just further added to my want to travel to the big apple. To this day I still don't know which show I like better, I suppose it depends on my mood, but if you're wanting some New York city inspiration turn on your T.V. and watch either one of these shows, it's a great way to start a list of things to see and do there. #BlairIsMyGirl

Call me a nerd but when Google Earth started I strolled the city streets in the comfort of my own living room all the way here in the lowcountry. It was a horrible tease but the only way I could see the city. It's still a favorite past time of mine when I'm bored. I encourage you, if there is a place you want to see or visit terribly, google street view it, it's amazing to get a 360 degree view as if you were walking those sidewalks in real life.

After 15 years of dreaming and lusting over New York I was finally given the surprise of my life on Christmas Day 2014. Wrapped inside a box was a blue construction paper airplane that Tarl had made and a blank piece of paper drawn with a clock inside of a square. It took me a solid 10 minutes to figure it out - JetBlue/Times Square. Looking back his artistic abilities are very lackluster but it was about the sweetest thing ever. He had booked and paid for a four day trip and the tears were rolling down my cheeks.

NYC did not disappoint. It was everything I imagined it would be and then some. I knew on the flight back home I would have to go back, and soon. After realizing, if you budget properly, NYC doesn't have to be as extravagant as some people make it out to be. So my sister and I sat down, did the math and planned a girls trip 6 months later. Like I said, I just had to go back.

Going with your husband and going with your sister are two totally different experiences. With Tarl, I wanted to take in all the sights of NYC and eat at all the "have-to-eat" places. With my sister we did the budget friendly route. Coffee and croissants for breakfast, a pizza slice for lunch and we'd split large dinner portions. It was great. We also hit all the flagship stores like Saks, Tiffany, and Macy's. 

So at this point, after dreaming of this place for 15 years I had already been twice in less than one year. It was addicting and I was hooked! My sister and I went in September of 2015 and I knew before the end of 2016 I wanted to go again so when the following year came and my big 30th was approaching Tarl asked what I wanted to do for my birthday. The answer was easy, I wanted to spend my 30th in NYC, then some bad shit happened. My mom passed away, our daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease and then a hurricane hit. My 30th birthday bash in New York got cancelled but it turned out great in the end because we were able to hold off a month and spend it in November instead. The weather was cooler. The Christmas decor was going up. It was fall in New York - my favorite time of the year. It was simply magical.

It has been almost two years since our last trip to NYC and I have missed it terribly. About three months ago we were lying in bed one night and Tarl randomly brought up how delicious Carmine's was (it's a must eat for us every visit!). We've ate at the one near Times Square and the one on the Upper West Side. We prefer the west side location because you can sit outside, people watch, and it's less crowded and loud as the Times Square location. 

He brought up how much he enjoys visiting NYC when he originally thought he would hate it and he said we should book another trip soon. We stayed up and chatted about previous trips and it got my heart racing. The next morning while sipping on my coffee I priced it out and booked. I sent him a screenshot of our booking and he called me laughing. He said he wasn't surprised at all and was excited to go back again. I thought about the best time to go. I contemplated booking it a couple weeks from the date I booked and going in the spring but the prices were outrageous because it would've been so last minute. I thought about December because I've always wanted to see NYC decorated for Christmas but with it being a trip for just Tarl and I, I couldn't imagine seeing NYC at Christmas without Cadence. This left summer and fall. My heart lies in fall. I've said it before but it's just my favorite time of year, so I booked us for October this year. I booked in March and it seemed like forever away but now it's already June and I cannot believe how quickly the time is flying by. Before we know it we'll be packing our bags.

I am not a seasoned NYC traveller by any means of the word. This will be my 4th trip and I know people personally who go about 4x a year! #goals  I have learned a few tips along the way that I truly find beneficial if you're planning a trip to the big apple!

Take the Subway

So it's tricky as hell to figure this bitch out at first. A map is going to be glued to your hand the first day of your trip, but after a few mis-haps and ending up in places you didn't mean to be, you'll learn and it's convenient and cheap! Rather than pay $2.75 per subway ride, purchase the 7 day card. It's $30 and you can swipe it as often as you need to for your entire stay in NYC up to 7 days. 

If you make a mistake and end up somewhere you didn't mean to go or got off at a stop you didn't mean to get off at, it's not the end of the world. Just get back on and go back. Seasoned New Yorkers have always been super helpful too when it was necessary to ask for help.

Cabs are expensive and they average around $20 a ride or more. The only benefit to a cab is they drop you off at your direct stop so you don't have to walk those city blocks once you leave the subway, but NYC is about the sites so the walking never bothered us.

If your flight is out of JFK take the AirTram to the subway system. It's $5 verses the $60 cab ride into the city and it takes less time because you're not fighting traffic.

Plan a Little

I know some people aren't planners and that's okay, but I suggest a little lite planning if you're heading to the city. It's such a large city with lots of things to see and do, so to having a list ready of places you want to visit is a huge help. I've made a list of places I've wanted to see, shops I wanted to visit and restaurants I've wanted to eat at and marked them off on my map. It's such a huge help and really is the best use of your time there. 

You can go on the NYC website and purchase a map. They're inexpensive and get shipped right to your door. I couldn't imagine going without one. This way, prior to your trip, you already have a pretty good idea of where the west side and east side is and you can mark places off on your map you want to go to.

Each trip of ours has been different. Different places, eateries, sites, here's our list for our upcoming trip:

High Line
Magnolia Bakery (the original location)
Laduree (SoHo location)
Maison Kayser
Margot Patisseri
Morgan Library
NYC Public Library
Union Fare at Union Square Park
Jack Rogers Flagship store
Carlos Bakery - Hoboken, NJ
Grand Central Station
Penn Station
Top of the Rock
Staten Island & The Bronx (to complete the 5 boroughs)
Di Fara Pizza
Lady M Cakes

This is just the beginning. I continue to add items to this list a few times a week. Will we get everything off the list done? Probably not, but it's great to have an idea of places to see and do. The one thing we have never done in NYC is take the hop on/hop off bus tours and I think I want to do that this time. Our only issue with taking one (and this is why we have never done them) is due to timing and traffic. The subway gets you from A to B in 5 minutes, with NYC traffic how long are the buses going to take? Have you ever done the hop on/hop off? If so, would you recommend it?

June 6, 2018

Disney Vacation 2018

How has it been two months since our magical 10 day Disney trip? Time flies by-cliche, but true, because it's already June and before we know we'll be singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

I decided to do this post a little differently. Rather than recap every single day I'm going to break it down into  sections and tell you a little bit about each. I'll provide pictures at the bottom of the section. This way I can fit everything about our trip into one blog post.

Resort - Disney's Coronado Springs

This is our second time staying at Coronado Springs. We have stayed at Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside and Coronado Springs and our favorite between the three is Port Orleans Riverside. When we originally booked this trip we had Port Orleans Riverside booked but once the spring discounts were released we could save $700 by switching to Coronado Springs so that's just what we did! Not that Coronado Springs is bad, because it's not, it's beautiful. The pool is amazing and out of the three resorts that I just named Coronado Springs pool is my favorite, however Port Orleans Riverside is just a small walk to French Quarter and their beignets - yum!

We checked in and it only took about 15 minutes. Apparently 15 minutes in Disney time is too long because we were treated with a free set of Mickey Ears of our choosing at the gift shop ($25). Cadence chose sparkly, silver Mickey Ears. It was a great way to start our vacation. They asked us if we liked having our room cleaned daily and we said no - we just never really care for it because we don't get the room that dirty since we're not there a majority of the time and since we packed for 10 days we had tons of stuff in our room - not that I don't trust the cleaning service but it's just not something that was necessary for us. Since we declined we received a $75 gift card to spend at the parks. It truly was a great way to start the trip.

Coronado Springs is currently building a 15 story addition to their resort. I knew this when I booked because they stated that you would only hear construction between the hours of 8am - 5pm, Monday - Friday. I said it was no issue and it wasn't. The construction was far from our side of the resort and we never once heard any construction crews. Disney still treated us with an adorable pin gift set because of the construction that was going on. I've said it before and I'll say it again, no one does it like Disney!

Dining at Disney

We really mixed it up this time with our dining options. Some restaurants we couldn't give up but we added a lot of new ones to our itinerary this time around. As you know if you've read here before we always get the Disney Dining plan. There are three dining plan options that you can get when you purchase a Disney Vacation Package - (1) Quick Service (2) Disney Dining Plan (3) Disney Deluxe Dining Plan. We always get the one right in the middle. The Quick Service are the walk up restaurants where you quickly order, find a seat wherever and eat. The Disney Dining gives you one quick service per day, two snack credits per day and one table service per day-which is where you get seated, order off the menu and it's a little bit more upscale. The Disney Deluxe gives you the option to choose what you want, whether it be quick service or table service for whichever meal you choose. I will never go to Disney without a dining plan. We've done the math and it saves our family tons! Plus it's so convenient not having to take your credit card or cash with you everywhere - it's all stored on your magicband.

Wahlburgers - Downtown Orlando - This is not on Disney property. In fact, it's about 40 minutes outside of Disney gates and in Downtown Orlando but it's a must do for us every trip, it's tradition! We always eat here at the start of our Disney vacation. Tarl has a huge guy crush on Mark Wahlberg and I just have a huge crush on Mark Wahlberg. We love Donnie and love watching the show. Cadence loves their gluten free burgers and fries and I've tried three different items from there and have yet to be disappointed! The food is just great!

Kona Cafe Breakfast - Disney's Polynesian Resort - this is a must do for Cadence and Tarl for breakfast. Personally, I've never been much of a breakfast eater. Give me a cup of coffee and a croissant and I'm good to go but they love it so we do it. Huge pancakes and treats along with your typical bacon and eggs. Try the tonga toast!

Sanaa - Disneys Animal Kingdom Lodge - YUCK! This is the worst meal I've ever ate in my life. I love Disney and love trying new things but y'all, I'm not going to lie to you, this meal was just awful. Cadence got the shrimp and veggies. I got a meat trio with pork roast and some other concoctions I'm not even sure of what they were and Tarl got the steak and potatoes. Mine and Tarls has some sort of sauce over top of it and this sauce was not for us. Tarl is the most un-picky person I know and even he disliked it. I've read countless reviews of how people adored this restaurant and either they all lied or we're the minority as it pertains to Sanaa because it's not something I'd ever do again. Cadences shrimp were plain. I mean like they boiled them in water and then tossed them on the plate, no salt, no pepper, nothing. Same with the veggies, no seasoning.  The views were pretty cool though. You got to see all of the safari animals outside your window while eating - this is the only good thing I will say about Sanaa.


We didn't eat one bad snack while at Disney. They were all delicious in their own way. 

Sprinkles Cupcakes - Downtown Disney - Gluten free red velvet cupcake

L'Artisan des Glaces - Epcot/France - caramel and vanilla ice cream

Port Orleans French Quarter Resort - gluten free beignets

Flower and Garden Festival - Epcot - Fruishi (fruit sushi)

L'Artisan des Glaces - Epcot/Paris - macaron ice cream sandwich

Gluten free churros - Animal Kingdom - we wish we would've ordered 3 orders, one wasn't enough!

Ohanas - Disneys Polynesian Resort - a must for us every trip, if not twice every trip. This time we did Ohana's twice and honestly, we could have done it a third. It never disappoints and I cannot describe to you how delicious every thing is. Crispy chicken wings, tossed noodles, starter salad with their house made honey dressing, fried dumplings, and of course, the large skewers of chicken, steak and shrimp. Then to finish they give you this caramel glazed bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream. It's not gluten free but they made Cadence her very own dessert which she raved about; cinnamon donut topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and fruits.

Teppan Edo - Epcot

Cadence has not had Japanese cuisine since her celiac diagnosis because hibachi style Japanese is covered in soy sauce which is full of gluten. Disney changed that for her because she tore up some Japanese, as did we. It is definitely a must-do for our next trip. 

50s Prime Time Cafe - Hollywood Studios

This may have been one of my new favorites. The ambiance looks just like your grandmothers 80s style home and you better have your manners while eating (no elbows on the table!). It was so fun and the pot roast and fried chicken I had here was incredible and tender. They were even able to make gluten free fried chicken which was another winner in Cadence's book. My cheesecake was so yummy and Cadence had no complaints about her caramel sundae! Tarl had an apple pie and loved it!

Bon Voyage Character Breakfast-Trattoria Al Forno-Disney's Boardwalk Resort

This is a brand new character dining experience so we were pretty excited about it. You are able to meet Flynn Ryder and Rapunzel along with Prince Eric and Ariel. The breakfast was your typical bacon, eggs and pancake but the pastries they serve to begin with were amazing and themed perfectly for Rapunzel. We wouldn't necessarily do it again because it wasn't anything special but it's definitely a must-do at least once. 

Whispering Canyon Cafe - Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Big ole plates of BBQ in an "outdoorsy" setting. Sounds just like home so we had to try it and it didn't disappoint! Tarl said he could eat here again and again!

Cape May Cafe - Disney's Beach Club Resort

I have no pictures from here, unfortunately. It is an all you can eat seafood buffet with crab legs. This should explain why I have no pictures. This is a must-do for us. The setting at the Beach Club is beautiful like you're on the cape of Massachusetts. The food is just as good as the scenery!

Liberty Tree Tavern - Magic Kingdom

Liberty Tree Tavern is located in Magic Kingdom Theme Park. It is an authentic Thanksgiving style feast served on a large platter, similar to the way Whispering Canyon Cafe was. Big thick slices of turkey and pot roast, cranberry dressing, side salad with a honey balsamic, warm rolls, macaroni and cheese, and more. The food was delicious and I am so glad we booked this for this trip. 

Be Our Guest Breakfast - Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest has always been a must do for us. Not only is it centered around Beauty and the Beast, Cadence's favorite movie and favorite princess, but it's also located in Beasts and Belle's castle. The ambiance is probably our most favorite of any restaurant, second to Cinderella's castle that is. We were able to snag a table in the "west wing" for breakfast. The food is good, not excellent, but you're paying for the experience and theme here. We've tried all three meals here, our favorite is dinner, but breakfast is great because the earlier the reservation, the earlier you can get into Magic Kingdom before anyone else does. 

Memory Maker 

The memory maker is the picture package that you can add on to your vacation package. Anywhere on Disney property that you see a designated photographer you can ask him or her to take your picture and it goes straight to your account. It's SO WORTH the money spent. We got hundreds of pictures and it's great memories that will last a lifetime.

There were so many more pictures that we got taken but I'm not going to bombard y'all with all of them. Just get the memory maker if you're planning a trip, you won't regret it!

Theme Parks

There are four main theme parks that Disney has, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. They also have two water parks. We get the park hopper option when we book our vacation. This allows us to go into any of the four theme parks as often as we want to during our stay. This way if we're in Epcot all day but want to pop over to Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks that evening, we can do just that. It's so worth the extra money to have this option. If you're going for a small weekend trip I wouldn't add the park hopper, but if you're staying for over 3 days I'd definitely pay the additional and get it. 

Animal Kingdom has been the theme park with the most recent addition of Pandora. Y'all, it didn't disappoint! The fun during the day was awesome but visiting at night was amazing - everything glowed, even our outfits!

AK is my second favorite park next to Magic Kingdom. MK is just the classic park with all of the well known rides and of course, Cinderella's castle front and center. Not that Epcot and Hollywood Studios aren't great, because they are. I'm a lover of animals though and AK has that theme park combined with a large zoo, so it comes in second! HS isn't very big yet but it's growing and rapidly. Beginning June 30th this year they are officially opening up Toy Story Land in HS and Star Wars land is set to open Fall 2019. I imagine this is going to grow HS tremendously and we can't wait to see it all finished!

Epcot is beautiful in it's own right. We usually go during the flower and garden festival and the foliage is not to be missed. I have provided some pictures I took down below and I promise you they are completely un-edited, it's just how truly gorgeous it is in real life.

To say this trip was magical is an understatement. It's crazy the transition we've taken with all of our Disney trips. Our very first one Cadence was young and scared of some rides. Our last one she was braver and into more rides but SO into princesses and meet & greets of all the characters and character meals. This trip she has grown into such a beautiful young lady. She wasn't as into the characters this time but boy was she into all the big scary rides, with her hands high in the air. She loved them and it's such a bittersweet thing. We loved seeing her interact with the princesses but now that she's older and understand they're just hired employees some of the magic is gone but it's found in other things, like seeing her face as we spin in the tea cups or the glimmer in her eye as we're about to go down splash mountain. We loved that we could ride some of those bigger rides as a family now, in the past Tarl and I had to take turns, now we all ride them!

Disney is truly for everyone and we cannot wait until we have the opportunity to book our next trip!


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