Port Canaveral: Cruising from Central Florida

Looking back at our most recent time living in Central Florida, we feel immense gratitude for yet another Florida adventure, this time living closer to the beach than Disney World, enjoying beach bars and hanging out at Port Canaveral.

We even celebrated Rich’s birthday cruising to the Bahamas on the Carnival Liberty. So I put together a little video celebrating that time.

Port Canaveral is expanding so whether you’re a local, cruising solely, or combining your cruise with a trip to Disney World, I hope you enjoy it. If so, please like and subscribe to this blog and on youtube.

Thank you!

#Mexico #cruising #Princess #Carnival #Liberty #Bahamas #cruising #Carnival #Cruises #CentralFlorida #DisneyWorld #Florida #fiction

 

 

Christmas at Disney’s Yacht Club

We knew we wanted to spend Christmas Day at Disney World (outside the parks for crowd and AP blockout reasons) and have Christmas dinner at one of the restaurants. We couldn’t decide which, though, so we changed our ressies several times. But when we read about the new Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club, we settled on that the day before. And we were so glad we did.

Of course we love the Yacht Club – it is our home resort at WDW ever since our first stay there back in 1999 (the Contemporary was Kathy’s first back in 1982). We were very impressed with Ale and Compass – the decor, the food, and the service.

Christmas Lunch
by Rich

Starter (Shared)
Oven-roasted Oysters
with Spinach and Creamed Kale, White Cheddar, and Cornbread Crumbs

Entree – Kathy
Maine Lobster Roll
with choice House-made Vinegar Chips

Entree – Rich
Open-faced Skirt Steak Sandwich
with Caramelized Onions, Poached Egg, Fennel, Watercress, and Tomato Salad with Truffle Vinaigrette

Wine – Kathy
Domaine Savary Chablis, Burgundy

Wine – Rich
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah, Columbia Valley

The oven-roasted oysters were fabulous, just the right start to the meal. The breading and accompaniments to the oysters were in perfect proportion to the oysters.

Kathy’s lobster roll was wonderful – not over-dressed, just delicious chunks of lobster on a nicely-sized roll. Kathy enjoyed an ideal pairing of hard-to-find Chablis.

Rich’s medium-rare skirt steak was incredible – tender, juicy, and full of flavor. The caramelized onions and truffle vinaigrette were especially nice touches. The Syrah was a splendid pairing, achieving a lovely balance between blackberry fruit and sweet smokiness.

After our meal we walked the Boardwalk, stopping at our usual kissing spot, and popped into the Boardwalk where we were each offered a complimentary peppermint sugar cookie. We continued our walk full circle to the Yacht Club – Rich even skipped his usual Boardwalk skip – and two stools at the Hurricane Hanna pool bar called our names and we each had a Margarita.

We chatted with other guests from St. Augustine, noting that this is the real replacement for the Trout Pass Bar at Wilderness Lodge. It has the same vibe that Geyser Point sadly does not quite have with so many families gathering there.

After our cocktails and conversation (love this about Disney World), we were in search of coffee before we hit the road and ended up at Beaches and Cream where Rich got us two coffees and two ice cream sandwiches (huge but yummy – lol) while Kathy grabbed us a table overlooking Stormalong Bay.

We stopped in at the gift shop where Yacht Club coffee cups captured our attention, made our purchases and then we drive back to the beach.

It was a gorgeous day out – low 70s compared to mid 50s at the beach. What an awesomely perfect Christmas! Disney for the day was even better being able to return to our new home at the beach.

Aunt Catfish’s on the River ala Art Smith

We took some time out from packing up the resort to scout out some of the neighboring beach cities and when we spotted Aunt Catfish’s on the River in Port Orange, we knew we had to stop there for lunch.

We asked to be seated on the porch (inside they were serving a brunch buffet) but we were able to order off the regular menu. Looking for something reasonably healthy, I was dismayed to notice that everything cane with a hush puppy and their “famous” cinnamon roll.

I don’t usually eat cinnamon rolls unless they’ve come highly recommended and I had determined I would ignore it when it came with my sautéed shrimp and cucumber/tomato salad. But as soon as I saw it I knew I would have to taste it.

OMG (I also try to avoid that, too, but trust me – it was definitely OMG-worthy)!! The most amazing cinnamon roll ever!! We’ve since learned you can get boxes in different sizes to go and that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

The hush puppy was special, too, with a crusty outside and soft flavorful with a hint of sweetness inside – they can sometimes be a bit bland. Best hush puppy ever and I go back to Biloxi, Mississippi in the 1980s for my first hush puppy.

Rich had the Catfish with grits lunch and we both had a Bloody Mary, creating our own brunch. We’ll definitely be back – perhaps after church? I’m already thinking about the Fried Green Tomato BLT.

This is the old Florida experience Chef Art Smith is going for at Homecomin’ at Disney Springs, which is a favorite of ours, but at about a third of the cost and a whole lot closer to home, we might just stick to the real deal.

Thanksgiving at Sanaa

We tossed around many ideas for Thanksgiving, made and canceled a few ressies  and settled in Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was a very good choice!

Some of you may recall our first Sanaa Thanksgiving meal back in 2011. The African flavors offer a tasty twist to what could be a boring traditional turkey dinner. We asked our server for a wine recommendation and we went with the Black Pearl Mischief Maker, which paired very well with the turkey dinner.

Btw, she gave us a very generous poor but the photo was taken well into the meal. 🙂

For dessert we shared the African Spice Cake,

(This year Sanaa also offered a couple of alternatives to turkey,)

And the atmosphere at Animal Kingdom Lodge in general! Dark, cozy, inviting, peaceful all decorated for Christmas with traditional Christmas music sung by beautiful African voices.

And tne there’s the service – so very warm and friendly. Simply superb!

We were seated at a table for two next to a large window overlooking the Savanna. It was feeding time for the animals and we spotted quite a few. Afterwards, we stopped by Jambo House for shopping and atmosphere soaking.

We just may make Sanaa our annual tradition.

 

Epcot 2017 Food and Wine Festival, Part Two

As the Festival progresses, the weather cools and the crowds heat up. We’d heard how much more crowded it is now than 5 years ago and now we’ve seen it for ourselves. Next year we will stay onsite during the week. Circumstances did not allow it this year.

Still, we enjoyed ourselves, returning to some old favorites like Mexico (loved the Apple Margarita) and China (the Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles is to die for) and new favorites like Thailand and Brazil and the Italian Margarita (with Lemoncello) in Italy, Scotland, and Belgium (Belgium Waffle with chocolate sauce).

We’ve planned a third visit in the evening for atmosphere and live music but are unsure about it because the crowds will be unbearable then. And we’d like to get to the Holidays Around Epcot or whatever it’s called this year and must save some of our stamina for that.

It’s difficult to find a time when Epcot is not having a food festival, yet my favorite moment is when we’re relaxing with a regular Margarita al fresco in the Cantina. No Festival necessary.

Epcot 2017 Food and Wine Festival, Part One

So we finally made it to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival this year. Actually, it was the traditional kickoff weekend, as well as our tradition, too. And it also aligned with the 35th Anniversary of Epcot’s Opening Day.

In spite of the crowds, we managed to sneak off early and catch a few booths before the rest caught up with us. Everything we tried was tasty, but Rich’s favorite was the chicken with peanut sauce from Thailand. It reminded me of my trip to Thailand several years ago.

We plan to drop in on Epcot a couple of evenings to taste some of our other favorites, to try some new offerings since our last visit, and to enjoy the nighttime atmosphere and live music.

More tasty treats from Africa, Germany, Mexico, Thailand and New Zealand.

2017 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

A lot has changed at WDW since we last lived in Orlando in 2012. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do, including the expansion of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Of course, we’re so looking forward to all of that, but starting the Festival in August? Good news/bad news.

Bad news: It’s way too hot to drink wine that early – even when the festival started a month later. We would usually to drink choose beer or icy cocktails. We’d finally taste the wine pairings a month later during our late October visit.

Good news: We can go early and go often.

In the meantime, check these out:

What Would it Cost if you Ate One of Everything? (Orlando Sentinel)

Confirmed World Showcase Booths, Plus NEW India and Spain (Disney Food Blog)

Is Everybody At Disney for Easter Week?

This week on the blog, it’s been very quiet out there. I don’t know if it’s because everybody’s at Disney during Easter week or it’s something I said. 🙂

Watching Tim Tracker’s video, I’m thinking it’s because everybody is at WDW this week.

I hope that’s the reason, unless I was actually at WDW, and then I wouldn’t be too excited by those crowds – sheesh!

Anyway, hope you’re all having a great time and hope to see you real soon.

 

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report TOC

Now that the “surprise” trip report is complete, I’ve added a TOC to link to each day’s posting, which can also be found on the “Disneyland Adventures” page. The trip was a much-needed Lenten retreat and break from the desert and the personal challenges we’ve been having with our little family.

Unfortunately, we’ve had to postpone our Food and Wine Festival trip due to family health issues, so this trip was even more special.

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report: Day 1

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report: Day 2, Part 1

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report: Day 2, Part 2

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report: Day 3

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report, Day 3

I forgot to mention stopping in at Sprinkles before we left Downtown Disney the night before. We spotted it on the way in and said we’d stop on the way out to get a cupcake to take back to our room for a bedtime snack. True, there’s a Sprinkles in Las Vegas, but we wanted to do this at Disney.

The Red Velvet Cupcake caught our attention, and so we ordered one of those.

When we arrived back at our hotel in Newport Beach, the fog had come in, and it was quite chilly. Anaheim was about 10-15 degrees warmer. We stopped in at the gift shop to see if it had milk and found a lowfat organic carton so we got that.

We shared the cupcake, and it was so delicious and just the perfect size for sharing – about 230 calories apiece. We were delightfully surprised – we’d expected some over-the-top super sweet super big thing. But it was just right for a calculated splurge. We’d logged about 3.6 miles for the day, which helped.

The next morning – the morning after DST – we were tired so we took our time getting up for coffee, packing, and heading off to Norm’s for breakfast. We absolutely love their “Bigger Better Breakfast” – especially their pancakes. Even if you don’t want to eat everything they give you, it’s still less expensive to buy it and eat just what you want. We basically eat once a day when we start off at Norm’s – nothing more than a little evening snack.

It’s such a great little community coffee shop – the sun was shining in Huntington Beach and, frankly, I didn’t want to go home. But the kitties were waiting, and we told ourselves we’d be back in four days. This was the first time we’d been gone since we lost Lovey – I mentioned how our pet sitter had said he missed Lovey, too, didn’t I?

Skipper was a bit stressed with us being gone, and his kidney problems seem to be getting worse. We took him to the vet today, except I couldn’t stay. I was overcome with emotion after losing Lovey here just last month. I ran out and drove home and popped a chocolate in my mouth, which helped me feel a bit better. Rich and I texted each other and I drove back and picked them up when they were finished. Skipper is down a pound, and we should have the kidney results back tomorrow. Always a big kitty, it scares me to see him losing weight, especially with how thin Lovey had become right before she was gone.

In the meantime, we’re testing out some special food for him that should support his kidneys better than the food we’d been giving Lovey for her diabetes, which is the opposite of what Skipper needs. So we cancelled our Food & Wine Festival trip for this weekend to see how things go and not to leave him and stress him out again so soon.

This trip was a fun surprise trip, and I’m so glad we went. I wondered if it would compromise the Food & Wine trip just a week later, but I couldn’t stay cooped up in Las Vegas for another week. As it turns out, we had to postpone the trip, but, hopefully, we’ll get to reschedule it later.

 

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report, Day 2, Part 2

After a brief nap, we had our “wake-up” snack of soda and a couple of squares of chocolate, and discussed our plans for the evening. We weren’t really into the beach after all and thought we’d swing by Downtown Disney for a little Disney magic.

We parked at Downtown Disney and saw, for the first time, the new security entrance, which we now know replaces the Valet parking area they once had. This secures Downtown Disney and allows you the freedom to enter the parks without going through Security in that congested area. People were friendly, and it went quite smoothly.

As we were walking toward the Security gates, we noticed a bride and groom riding inside Cinderella’s carriage – how romantic and magical is that! You can see that video here.

As we were heading toward World of Disney, Rich pointed out the people sitting at a table to our right. “JWs,” he said. I’m still in shock! I think I’ll write a separate post about my thoughts on that. Suffice it to say I think it’s a bad idea to open up the possibility of all kinds of non-Disney type entertainment setting up shop on DD property.

We also noticed the empty place where House of Blues used to be. They moved to Gardenwalk – the story is here. Splitsville takes its place at Downtown Disney – story here.

We must have arrived at Downtown Disney at the perfect time, because it wasn’t really crowded and World of Disney was the emptiest I’ve ever seen it. We spotted all the Minnie Mouse Merchandise immediately – she’s my girl (Real Mice Wear Red). I picked up a couple of red Minnie tapas plates.

Rich spotted a really cool Mr. Toad t-shirt and I assured him he must have it!

We then backtracked to the Grand Californian, noticing that on the way out, we’ll have to enter Security again. We were wondering where hotel guests would enter Security now that it’s been moved to the beginning of Downtown Disney instead of in front of the parks.

We stopped to enjoy the lobby and the pianist, and then on to Hearthstone Lounge, our home away from home.

This is one of our favorite places, but the last time it was a bit off. But we are happy to report, the fabulous service and experience was back on point, and I feel so totally at home here, I could just move in.

We shared our usual Robusto Flatbread and had 2 glasses of Malbec and tossed the idea around of stopping by the front gate to purchase an Annual Pass. It’s so hard to be asked, “Do you have an AP” when we’re dining or shopping and we have to say, “No!” lol!

We thought about getting the AP and popping in to DCA to check out the Food & Wine Festival, which had just started this weekend. Alas, we decided not to break the Downtown Disney parking rules and not enter a park, and wait for the “real” trip to purchase the AP.

On our way out of the GC, we stopped in at our favorite gift shop, and then through Security and back to the parking area with a brief stop to listen to our favorite Ry Bradley sing, and I took a bit of video from my iPhone. Or watch it here:

I’m still reuploading the iPhone videos to our YouTube channel but hope to reupload the GoPro videos soon. Unfortunately, on this trip, we didn’t have a better quality cameras with us.

In Case I Didn’t Get Enough Beef…

Our weekend turned out to be a bit of a mini-vacay or maybe it was our version of Mardi Gras before Lent begins today (Monday for the Eastern Church and Wednesday for the Western Church). We declared Sunday a holiday and hit the road looking for some fun and wound up back at Pahrump Winery for lunch at the Symphony Restaurant. We were last seen there about a month ago. In fact, our waitress asked if we’d been there before, because we looked familiar. I was wondering when they’d start recognizing us. 🙂

After Saturday’s gourmet extravaganza, we were looking for something a little smaller so Rich had his favorite Onion Soup (although, this version came without the cheese and croutons) and Club Sandwich, and I had my usual Lobster Bisque and Sirloin French Dip. I do love my beef! We also each had a glass of our new favorite wine that we had last time – it’s a Red Blend called CZS for Cab, Zin, and Syrah. Yum!

We didn’t take pictures because we’d had these selections before, except for the dessert, which was amazing. I was going to pass on dessert, but Rich just happened to order my favorite thing. Then I was just going to have a bite, but I ended up splitting it with him 50/50 – I just couldn’t resist bananas, caramel, whipped cream, and ice cream – yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!

dessert

Banana Caramel Xango

Now the problem with all of this weekend splurging is that it’s so hard to get back on track today. And to make things worse, I’m having a bit of post Tampa depression – we could have been on our way but we said no. Don’t know when the next opportunity will appear.

At least we have our Disneyland Food & Wine trip to look forward to. So maybe that’s it – when we booked our pet sitter for that trip today, we had to tell him about Lovey and he expressed his sympathies and that triggered another day of grief.

So maybe the right opportunity will come at a better time after we’ve gotten over the first surges of grief over our baby girl.