A little over two years ago, we celebrated Nana's 80th birthday. Nana spent many years living near the beach & talked often about missing the ocean, so as her 80th birthday gift, my extended in-laws told her that all of us would get together for a beach vacation. Last week, we finally got to make that happen!
Last Saturday, Laker's immediate family met up in Shawnee early in the morning to start our drive. Late that evening, we finally made it to Florida!
Sunday was our first full day in Destin. To start the day, we walked down the street to a little coffee shop called Camille's, where I grabbed a vanilla latte, then walked across the street to the beach. We spent the majority of the day at the beach, with a break for lunch. Laker & I walked around searching for Pokemon on Pokemon Go. We found a Squirtle (among others), & also some real turtles, or at least a sea turtle nest. Then we decided to break out my new underwater camera, & had a good time playing with that. In the evening, a bunch of us went to Dewey Destin's for New Orleans-style snowballs. This was probably the best snow cone I've ever had! I got the creamy coconut flavor, & it didn't taste artificial at all, yet had so much flavor.
On Monday, we decided to give our beginning sunburns a break & spent the first part of the day at the rental house. Laker & I took a break from our relaxation to chase down the ice cream truck (which came by our neighborhood every day!). We also wore our family t-shirts that day. In the evening, we went to HarborWalk Village, which is down by the docks. Laker, Halli, Alex, & I got pizza at a restaurant called Crust, then did some exploring. Halli & I fed the fish, & also got slushes made inside of pineapples. Mine was pina colada, & hers was strawberry daquiri (both virgin!). We all got photos with the sunset, then headed out to grab pie at The Donut Hole. I got key lime pie, & it was honestly the best key lime pie I've ever had. Two "best ever" desserts in one week - Good job, Destin! Then we headed back to the beach for a nighttime walk.
Tuesday started with another stop at Camille's on the way to the beach, this time for a coconut latte. We spotted the ice cream boat out by the water, which I thought was really fun! In the evening, I shot family photos for everyone. I love how they turned out - We were blessed with great lighting & great weather! Alex was kind enough to document the photography process as well. haha After photos were finished, we had a shrimp boil for dinner, made by the guys. This was a new experience for me, but the food was great! This was my first time having to de-shell my own shrimp though (is that the proper terminology?) & you can basically see from my face in the picture below how I felt about that. Payton had to teach me how. I was not good at it, so it was way too much work for that little amount of food. We also celebrated Andrew's birthday that evening with cookie cake & cheesecake!
Wednesday, of course, started with a walk to Camille's (for a chai latte - perfectly spicy & sweet), followed by a walk to the beach. We went to Dewey Destin's for lunch. I had a salad & got some seafood gumbo to try as well. Then Halli & I made a quick run back down to the HarborWalk Village to check out a bath shop we had missed when we were there before. We stocked up on bath bombs, & also took advantage of a giant chair photo op! When we got back to the house, I took some photos of the lime tree in the backyard (How cool is that?), spotted a lizard, found some pretty flowers, & then we headed back to the beach for a bit. That evening, most of the cousins went mini golfing with Uncle Jon. I was pretty proud of myself for staying within about 4 points of the top score! I also got a hole-in-one at one point!
Our last day in Destin was on Thursday. Laker, Alex, Halli, & I went to the Destin Commons for lunch at Chipotle. We explored a few of the shops, grabbed macarons at Whole Foods, & Halli & I got photos with a giant chalkboard. That evening, Laker & I headed home with Paul & Sybil. We caught the sunset on our way out!
Taryn graduated! It's been a week now, & it's still weird to think that she's a high school graduate. A few days before the ceremony, I took some photos of her & her best friends up at the high school. I didn't get very many good photos with my friends at my graduation, so I wanted her to have plenty of fun ones!
Last Thursday was Baccalaureate, where Taryn led a prayer & sang with the choir. Mackenzie got home that night, & it was nice to have most of the family back together! We all missed Kiefer being there, though.
The ceremony was last Friday. Taryn sat up front with the chorale, & they performed a few songs. Since she was up front, she was one of the first to graduate. It was fun to see her & her friends walk the stage!
Sunday morning, we had our graduate service at NewPoint. Taryn went forward with her friends & classmates, & the church prayed over all of them & commissioned them forward into what's ahead!
On Sunday night, we had a little graduation party for Taryn. We went to my parents' house & invited some of Taryn's friends over for walking tacos, s'mores, & a diploma pumpkin roll.
I can't believe my youngest sister is graduating this weekend! I did a similar post for Mackenzie when she graduated (has it already been 2 years since then?), but I wanted to celebrate Taryn & all of her accomplishments.
Taryn is such a beautiful person. She has so many talents - singing, cello, guitar, painting, makeup, hair, there's really nothing she can't do. She's smart, funny, & has an amazing personality. She loves making people laugh, & making people feel good about themselves. Taryn is very creative, & is such a fun person to be around. She is sweet & thoughtful, & is a wonderful friend, sister, & woman of God.
Taryn has earned an awesome scholarship to NOC in Tonkawa to be a part of their Roustabouts performance group, & was also asked to play cello in their band (even though the band doesn't generally have a cello!). I am so proud of her for pursuing her goals, & for achieving so much at such a young age. She is constantly impressing those around her with her talents, yet always stays humble & thankful for her gifts.
I am so excited to see where Taryn goes from here, & am (not-so-secretly) thankful that she will be nearby as she starts her college career so we can continue spending time together. She is one of my favorite people on the planet, & I love her dearly!
Here are some photos of our times together throughout the years!
On our last evening in Orlando, Laker, Taryn, & I went to Disney Springs. Disney Springs is a large shopping area with tons of cool shops & things to do.
I had been researching before the trip & found out one of my favorite Disney artists was going to be meeting in Disney Springs while we were in town, so our first stop of the night was the Wonderground Gallery. Jerrod Maruyama designed the hipster Mickeys & several other cute pieces. His work is so fun, & I was glad to have the chance to meet him!
After leaving the gallery, we explored the shops. We ate at Earl of Sandwich, visited Disney's new TAG travel store (which opened that week), & had Ghirardelli coffees. I'm looking forward to trying the AristoCrepes shop next time we visit!
Disney Springs is always a great area to explore if you're visiting Orlando!
We had a girls' day the day after our Disney World day (notice: we're already pre-sunburned). We toured a couple of the Disney resorts, starting with the Polynesian. We had breakfast at 'Ohana, where we were able to meet several characters. I Disneybounded as Lilo (Lilo & Stitch is one of my favorite Disney movies!). She was the first to come to our table, & was very energetic, dancing & moving around. Mickey was next, dressed in his island attire. Next was Pluto, with his lei. This was my first time to meet Pluto - Donald is the only one of the classic 5 characters I haven't met now! Finally, Stitch came through. I loved getting to meet him!
Breakfast was served family style & was all-you-can-eat. We had eggs, bacon, potatoes, biscuits, Mickey & Stitch waffles, & sausages. There was also a tropical bread with pineapple & raisins.
You can see Cinderella's Castle from the beach outside. We took the monorail to the Grand Floridian, & on the way back, Mackenzie & I grabbed Dole Whips for the ride home.
The Grand Floridian is the prettiest hotel I have ever seen. We stopped to get bath products at Basin White, one of my favorite bath stores, then explored the hotel.
I was so excited to see that they already had their Easter eggs on display! Disney makes incredible Easter eggs, & I have wanted to see them for some time now. There is so much detail put into each egg, & they're made with edible products. I was so impressed!
Our third stop during our fully-packed Disney day was Hollywood Studios. Laker & I had never been to Hollywood Studios before, & I don't think Ben had either. We were so excited to see all of the Star Wars stuff! I made Kylo Ren / Darth Vader ears, & Taryn did my nails for the occasion.
I had heard of Character Palooza, an unlisted meet & greet that changes daily. There are different characters every day, & the cast members aren't allowed to tell when or where the meet & greet will take place each day. I desperately wanted to go, though! We were lucky enough to walk right into Character Palooza as we entered Hollywood Studios. I did a quick scan of the characters & noticed Robin Hood was out, & since he doesn't meet anywhere in the parks other than Character Palooza, I made a beeline for him. We were also able to meet Mulan & Tiana! There were other characters out too, but I had met most of them before.
We split up at this point, & Laker & I explored a bit, went to see the Muppets 3-D show, then decided to go meet Mike & Sully. Monsters Inc. is a favorite of ours!
Next was the Launch Bay! We rode Star Tours (which nearly killed me - do not ride if you have a heart condition!), then hung out with some jawas & went to meet Kylo Ren & Chewie. Kylo Ren singled me out & questioned my faith in the resistance. Chewie didn't like me much - My Dark Side ears were a turn-off for him, & he actually moved Ben so he wouldn't have to stand by me in the photo!
As we were walking around, we saw two storm troopers. They snuck up behind this lady & stole her park map!
We had a quick dinner, then Mackenzie shared the magic of Fantasmic with me. I won't share too many photos, because the show was a surprise to me, & I want it to be a surprise to anyone who might go!
No one does fireworks better than Disney. I had seen the fireworks at Magic Kingdom & Epcot, but this was my first time seeing them at Hollywood Studios. They were set to Star Wars music, & Disney somehow made the fireworks look like outer space, galactic battles, & even planets. It's amazing!
Our last stop of the night was Magic Kingdom. I only got one photo here, since this was pretty much the only time we stopped to pause while we were there. In Magic Kingdom, we walked through to see where Mackenzie works, then went to her favorite attraction - Disney's Philharmagic, which is another 3-D show. After that, we came back for a castle photo & headed back to the house! It was exhausting, but a great day!
We actually crossed a Bucket List item off my list & went to all four Disney World parks in one day over Spring Break. It was exhausting & I will probably never do it again, but we still had a good time! We only had one day to spend inside the parks, & we had things we wanted to see in each one, so we just hit the highlights, buzzed our way through, & made it to every one!
Our day started in Animal Kingdom. Most of us had never been to this park before, so it was a new experience! Half of our group was experiencing ticket issues, so those of us who got in without issues went to the Bug's Life attraction, It's Tough to Be a Bug. This is my mother-in-law's favorite, so I knew I wanted to give it a try for her! We had a lot of fun - we went in through the ant hill, wore bug-eye glasses, & saw an interactive 3-D show (there were a lot of those on this trip!). Afterwards, we met up with everyone at Dug & Russell's meet & greet. Up is one of Mackenzie's favorites, so I loved seeing her enjoy it so much!
We ventured on towards Dinoland, with a stop to meet Pocahontas! She was one of my favorites as a little girl, so I was excited for the chance to meet her! She asked us about our village, complimented my "tribal tattoos," & said the mice in her village didn't have ears like ours. Next, we split up while everyone rode rides. Laker & I attempted to explore Rafiki's Planet Watch, but it took longer than expected, so we basically rode the train to the island & then rode it back so we could make it to the Lion King show on time! The Festival of the Lion King was fun. It's one of Mackenzie's favorites. Laker & I barely made it on time, so we had to stand in the back, but we still enjoyed it!
I LOVED seeing the Tree of Life! Seeing iconic Disney spots is one of my favorite things on trips. The Tree of Life did not disappoint, & I was so proud of our cameraman (a random guy I asked to take the picture) - he got all of us in the photo, PLUS the tree. That never happens! Usually someone is cut out, or the angle is awful, or it's crazily zoomed in. This guy was practically a pro.
Our second stop of the day was Epcot. I haven't decided if this is my favorite park. I love them all, but something about Epcot is just a little extra great. We knew we needed to stop here because we were in town during the Flower & Garden Festival, when Epcot is covered in gorgeous flowers & character topiaries. I am so glad we stopped by! We did a quick walk-through of the World Showcase, ate some of the festival's special treats (like that awesome violet lemonade pictured below!) & then went on our way.
The topiaries were so wonderful. There are always a few scattered throughout the parks, but during the Flower & Garden Festival, they're everywhere! They're themed with the locations too - Pooh & friends are in the UK, Belle & friends in France, Snow White & the 7 dwarfs were in Germany, etc. All of the flowers were so beautiful, & the food was great!
The first pastry pictured is a troll horn. It's not specific to the festival, but it is my favorite pastry I've had at Disney. You can get it in the Norway pavilion. The duck in the second photo sat & watched me eat the whole thing! They were surrounding the pastry shop, so I'm sure they get fed often! The last small photo in this section is candied strawberries from the China pavilion. Those were not quite so good. They tasted like hard candy-coated strawberries covered in soy sauce.
The festival was so beautiful, & I loved getting to see another special event at Disney!
Over Spring Break, we went to visit Mackenzie in Florida. "We" meaning me, Laker, my parents, Taryn, & Ben. We had a very full week, with lots of fun activities & good time together. Hopefully I'll get all of this stuff on the right day, but here it goes...
We drove to Orlando (20+ hours over 2 days). Taryn & I took turns taking pictures of each other sleeping. We arrived on Saturday. This day, we just relaxed & settled into our rental house. This palm tree was in our front yard. I love all of the trees in Florida - they're so much different than in Oklahoma!
On Sunday, Taryn, Laker, my parents, & I went to the Orlando Farmer's Market at Lake Eola. We ate lots of good food (I had a jerk chicken taco from a Jamaican food booth, a beef empanada, & a lemon Italian ice), & wandered around by the lake. Taryn & I learned that black swans are real (there's one in one of these photos!). We also saw several swan boats & other various birds. It's a really pretty area!
On Monday, we all visited Mackenzie's Disney College Program apartment, then went to the giant outlet mall (which I didn't get photos at). That evening, Laker, Mackenzie, Ben, Taryn, & I went to downtown Orlando. We had dinner at Sugar Factory, which was so great! Our waiter was so fun, & took a picture of all of us, then took a selfie of everyone & posted all of the photos to Taryn's Snapchat. The other waiters were fun too, dancing & joking around. Our drinks were insane (& non-alcoholic!). Mine & Laker's was a tropical drink with two giant lollipops & a candy necklace. My sisters got one filled with gummy sharks. I'm one of those embarrassing people that keeps up with the Kardashians, so I was a little sad that Kylie Jenner had been at that location for the grand opening 3 days before we were there & we missed it, but we did explore the candy shop afterwards & I got to hold the $30 lollipop she & Kendall designed. Close enough, right? The big ferris wheel is the Orlando Eye, which we didn't get to ride this time, unfortunately, but it was so pretty, I had to get a photo!
On Tuesday, we took the day to rest for the most part. Laker & I went to lunch at Tijuana Flats, a taco shop we don't have here in Oklahoma. We were there for Taco Tuesdaze, & got their awesome dessert, cookie dough flautas! I think we also went to Target later that day, which may not seem too special, but Walmart & Target near Orlando have so much neat Disney & Harry Potter stuff, it's always fun to explore!
Wednesday was spent at Disney World, which will get a couple of posts of its own. Thursday was spent touring Disney resorts, which will also get its own post. Friday, we went to Indian Rocks Beach, where I furthered my sunburn & mostly just read my book. We also saw a one-legged seagull, which was a little crazy. & that evening we went to Disney Springs, which will also get its own post!
Since I haven't written in a while, here's a quick update:
Our last full day in Orlando was spent at Universal Studios.
We started off our day in Diagon Alley. Halli & Alex went straight to the Gringotts ride to avoid long wait times. Laker & I explored some of the shops, starting out in Madam Malkins. We saw Lockhart's robes, a magical wedding dress, & McGonagall's robes, & I tried on Gryffindor & Slytherin robes. I'm still not 100% sure what house I'd be in, but I generally lean towards Gryffindor. Thoughts?
After Alex & Halli were done on the ride, we did some more exploring. We saw the fire-breathing dragon on top of Gringotts & visited more shops. We also went through Knockturn Alley, where we went into Borgin & Burkes & saw Lucius Malfoy's Death Eater mask. Halli & I got a picture with Sirius's flying motorcycle. We saw Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, & got a picture with the brick wall entryway. Then we had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron (I had cottage pie again!), followed by ice cream at Florean Fortescue's. This was honestly some of the best ice cream I've ever had! Laker & I both accidentally ordered the day's specials. I had the sticky toffee pudding & earl grey lavender. The sticky toffee was good, but the earl grey lavender was absolutely amazing! I'll be getting it every time I go back.
Next, Alex & Halli rode the Men in Black ride, & then we all met up in the Simpsons section. Laker & I met Krusty, & we got to meet Homer, Bart, & Lisa. We rode one of the Simpsons rides, Laker & Alex tried Duff beer, & we all had a giant d'oh-nut (the size of about 4-5 regular donuts, for reference!). It was really good! I've never watched the Simpsons much, but this section was actually pretty fun to go through!
Next, we explored the rest of the park. We wandered out of the Simpsons section & spotted the Delorean, then noticed Doc Brown standing in front of it, so Halli & I went to get a picture. We rode the Terminator ride, where we saw some of Arnold Schwarzenegger's costumes from Terminator 2. We met Shrek, Donkey, & Fiona - This was quite an experience! Donkey was hilarious (although the guys might not have thought so). He asked how we knew each other, & when we said we were sisters-in-law, he asked where our husbands were. When we pointed them out sitting on a bench across the road, he called them out, saying they needed to get as many pictures with us as possible, because "look at them!" He actually told Laker that he looked like a foot & I looked like a classy shoe. It went on for quite a while. We also met a minion in Gru's house, & when we left there, we ran into Scooby & the gang by the Mystery Machine. Then we went back to Diagon Alley, where we went through Platform 9 & 3/4 & took the Hogwarts Express back to the entrance to head back to the house!
Christ. Laker. Lily. Padfoot. Puns. Polar Bears. Travel. Tea. Tattoos. Tigers. Books. Belle. Buffaloes. Wonderland. Creativity.