Travel, Uncategorized

3 Things I will NOT take into Disney parks

We have traveled to WDW several times over the years, we started traveling when my boys were very little.  Now they are not so little anymore, they are in high school and college.  Our love for the Disney parks hasn’t changed at all, but what we take in the park has.  Now, I understand if you have babies or young children you will have to take in everything you need for your little one.  The tips on this blog post are for families with older children and adults.  The parks will get hot, you will walk many miles each day and it rains often in Florida.  So having said that, here are the top three things I would NEVER take or wear into the park ever again….

  1. Bottled Water – You can stop at any quick service restaurant and some food kiosks at any of the Disney parks and get free cups of water.  Unless you are adverse to drinking tap water or the water that Disney serves, don’t bother bringing water bottles.  Nothing will weigh you down more than heavy water bottles.  We have never been turned away when asking for water at Disney, the cast members are always more than happy to supply us with complimentary water even if we are not buying food at that moment.  Water bottles are too heavy, leave them at home or in your resort/hotel room. IMG_4238.jpg
  2.  Large Bag or Back Pack – Bless his heart, my poor husband has toted a heavy back pack throughout the Disney parks many times over the years.  He actually doesn’t mind so much carrying a backpack, but I’m not a fan.  It’s much too hot and heavy to haul all day long.   If you must take a backpack, be very careful what you pack in the bag. (NO water bottles!) I have small drawstring bags that my boys can carry on their backs for their phone, passes or wallet. IMG_7806 I like to use a small crossbody style purse or small bag.  The key is to keep it small and only bring essentials for the day.  I will bring a credit card, photo i.d., small travel size sunscreen, travel size antibacterial soap, chapstick and my phone. That’s it.  Nice and light.
  3. New Shoes – Never wear your cute new shoes into the parks.  You will be walking ALOT!!!  So. much. walking…. You will get hot and you may get wet if it rains or you ride a water ride.  I’m sure you don’t want to get your new kicks wet and smelly, PLUS you should wear shoes that are tried and true in terms of comfort.  Be kind to your feet and wear your most comfortable shoes that are already broken in.  If you must wear your cute new shoes, save them for a fun night out at one of Disney’s great restaurants.  But please don’t wear uncomfortable shoes, that’s the best way to wear yourself out and ruin your feet for the rest of  your vacation.

There you have it…my top three tips for now!  Let me know what you like to take in the park!!!





Thanksgiving Memories

We had an exceptional Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends.  I had some apprehension for a couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving because of it being the first one without my dad.  There were many conversations with God, asking Him to give us strength as a family this holiday season.  Not only did God answer our prayers, but He blessed us with a beautiful day of making new memories and honoring those that couldn’t be with us on that day.  It may sound strange, but I felt my dad’s presence with us throughout all of Thanksgiving Day.  I know he would be happy that we enjoyed much needed quality time with sweet family that day, laughing and playing games, watching football and eating until we couldn’t possibly take another bite.  Family came in from out of town and everyone pitched in to make the day happy and memorable.

My sister and beautiful niece helped set and decorate the table the day before, using pumpkins, candles and fresh greenery from my backyard for one table and assorted beans, moss, pinecones and candle for the second table.  I found the cutest little metal turkey candle holders at a local boutique called Dodson’s while we were out shopping the day before Thanksgiving.  The best part was that they were on clearance so I was able to get several and add them to our table decor.

The tables were set, the turkey was fried, ham was sliced, all the sides prepared and it was time to finally eat.  The refreshing white grape and elderflower sparkling cider from World Market was a huge hit with all the kids, as well as the adults.  Baba’s (Grandma Higgins) chocolate pecan pies didn’t last long and her sausage and apple stuffing was a definite crowd favorite.  Grandma Tingwald’s sweet potato fluff and apple pie were delicious as well.

Watching the cousins connect through playing games, ukulele strumming and ping pong playing was probably a highlight for me, I know it would have made my dad smile and laugh to see them all together having fun.  As they grow older, it’s so wonderful to watch them all still be able to hang out and spend time with each other, enjoying many different activities together from the oldest to the youngest.

On Friday, we loaded everyone up for some gaming time at Game On Gaming Center in Virginia Beach, VA.  I know for my nephews, it was the highlight of their Thanksgiving weekend.  It’s a fantastic place to take a crowd of all ages, some of us girls even played “Just Dance” while the boys indulged in their Fort Nite obsessions.


Overall, our Thanksgiving weekend was a success and I loved every minute of it!

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Eat, Travel

“Savor the Olive”: Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Room

My husband and I recently went to a local Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar tasting room.  It’s called “Savor the Olive”. I’ve seen it a few times when we’ve eaten at a nearby restaurant and was very curious to find out what this place was all about. As soon as we entered the store, I knew I was going to enjoy our visit. It was a quaint but beautifully designed space with a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. There were several isles of deliciously fresh olive oil and Balsamic vinegar dispensers filled with the wonderful flavors from all around the world. The lady working in the store spent quite a bit of time with us and was extremely helpful and enjoyable to talk to. She was very patient and helped us make the most of our tasting experience.

man holding clear glass bottle
Photo by Peter Fazekas on

Savor the Olive uses only the highest quality olive oils that go through a two part process; a chemical analysis comparison for its extra virgin status and it must pass a taste analysis being scored on fruitiness, bitterness and pungency. Savor the Olive carries Extra Virginia Oils as well as fused and infused options. One of the things I love is that their Balsamic Vinegars are free from added sugars, thickening agents and caramel coloring.

They use Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena which is a recipe using grapes that must be aged for either a minimum of 12 years or a minimum of 25 years giving it a red quality seal or gold quality seal. The vinegar must be approved by a master taster to assure it’s rich quality. Savor the Olive carries the white and dark balsamic vinegars.

We tasted several flavors of both the olive oils and vinegars. I felt like a kid in a candy store with so many selections to choose from. They had every kind of flavor you could think of, but some of my favorite oils were lemon, blood orange, Thai Lemongrass, Herbs de Province and Tuscan Herb. There were many rich balsamic vinegars to taste as well. So many flavors such as chocolate, coffee, fig, strawberry and Vermont maple tempted our palates.

The lady working with us explained how to pair the olive oils and balsamic vinegars together to get the most of their flavors and how each one complimented the other for cooking. Each infused oil and vinegar also came with an explanation of what part of the world it is from and what it can be used for in cooking or even for mixed drink recipes.

The store also offers a variety of blended salts and gourmet gifts.

stainless and glass swan pitcher with brown liquid besides grapes and glass decanter stopper during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on

They provide an assortment of pre selected gift box options or you can choose your favorite oils and vinegars to package together for a more personalized gift. I can’t think of a better Christmas gift for that foodie family member or friend!

Ultimately we chose a bottle of the Organic Tuscan Herb infused Olive Oil and the Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar. It was very challenging to try and pick from all the amazing selections, but we will most certainly be back for ourselves as well as some holiday shopping!

Visit one of their three locations in the Southeastern Virginia area or check out their website at, you will love it!

Create, Home Decor, living, real estate

Staging your home using your Five Senses

If you are ready to put your home on the market, here’s a simple checklist you can run through to optimize your homes beautiful features. There are the obvious things like making sure your home is clean and tidy!!! You may want to hire a professional stager or simply ask a friend who has a good eye for furniture placement to help you arrange each room to showcase its size, function and livability. So, now that your home is spotlessly clean and your furnishings are staged to impress there are actually some additional and easy things you can do to really make your home stand out.

SIGHT: So, we have addressed the cleanliness of your home… I can’t stress how important this is! No dirty dishes in the sink, laundry laying around…neat and tidy!! Aside from a clean home, that first impression is tremendous. Make sure your front entrance is welcoming to prospective buyers but don’t overdo it! I love pinterest as much as the next person, but don’t let seasonal decor take over and be distracting to the buyer.
Front door: you may want to see if your front door needs some freshening up. Perhaps a fresh coat of paint and possibly a brass kick plate or new knocker. Sweeping and removing cob webs will go a long way and show your buyers that your home is well cared for, it’s surprising how many people don’t do this easy step. Adding a wreath is always a great way to welcome guests but stay away from a monogramed lettering. It’s important to help buyers feel like they could see themselves living in the home and monogramed anything will not help with that! Symmetry is your friend at the front entrance. Use a couple nice planters on either side of the door with nicely shaped shrubs and maybe add a few flowers in the mix for some color…but DON’T OVER DO IT!

Foyer: Open up your foyer as much as possible by removing too many furnishings or knickknacks. Make it bright, open and airy. This is the first impression of the inside of the home. A simple foyer table with a couple of lamps and a potted plant or candle is sufficient.

Family Photos: So, I know many professionals recommend removing family photos from your home when trying to show it…I agree…sort of. For me, I actually like seeing a few family photos here or there. To me it makes the home feel…well…homey. Again, DON’T over do it, but a sweet family picture here or there never hurt anyone.

LIGHT: For crying out loud…let the sun in! It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when I see pictures of a listing on zillow or walk into a home and it is dark and dreary. Pull back your curtains, open up your blinds and let some vitamin D in your home people!!! Of course, you want to make sure your windows are clean and free of spider webs but please don’t be afraid of the light. It will make your home show so much better and feel so much nicer.

SOUND: Ok, so I hope I haven’t scared too many people off at this point. If you are still reading this, thank you! The rest of the senses will be much easier if you have already done the above recommendations. One of the things I enjoy when I go through a model home or attend our area’s homearama, showcasing several new homes, is when they play (very softly) some smooth jazz or some kind of music that makes me want to relax and hang out there for a bit. So why not do it in your home? The key is softly! This will also help if you live in a noisy area or you hear a lot of traffic or possibly if there is construction nearby. Plus, who doesn’t love smooth jazz?

TOUCH: This one is a little tricky because you may not be thrilled about people going through your home touching all your stuff, I get it. BUT, try to include throw pillows on your furnishings with a variety of soft textures and a cozy blanket thrown over a chair or at the end of a bed. Again, it’s all about making people feel like your home is warm and welcoming and they would want to live in it. Additionally, you will want to make sure your surfaces are not dusty, that’s not pleasant to see or touch.

TASTE: The sense of taste is actually a fun one. If you want prospective buyers to linger a bit and really get a feel for the loveliness of your home, provide some tasty treats. A pot of fresh coffee, bottled waters, fresh fruit or cookies will be hard for anyone to pass up.

SMELL: I left smell for the end because I think it is the most important of all of the senses when showing a home. You could have the most beautifully decorated and clean home in town, but if it stinks then…well… you’re just in trouble. Now, if your home is clean and you’ve worked hard to shine it up and make your rooms sparkle, then you are probably ok. But, there are some things that can make even the cleanest of homes smell bad. One of the worst offenders are our little furry friends. We love them, but they stink bad sometimes.

A note on candles: A candle or two placed strategically in your home can be nice if you are having an open house but they can be problematic if using one too strong or if there are children that could burn themselves. Some people may even have an allergy to a specific candle scent. But I say don’t be afraid to use them, just be extremely cautious and use a subtle clean scent, you don’t want it to seem as if you’re using the candle to cover up something bad.

Baked goods: If you are providing a snack at your showing or open house, try baking it right in your kitchen so that the wonderful smells permeate the home. If you don’t like to bake, just buy something at the grocery store that you can simply throw in the oven and viola… you’re house smells like an inviting coffee shop and you have something nice to offer your buyers.

Open up the home: if the weather permits open up some windows and let some fresh air in, nobody wants to hang out in a stuffy room. If you have celling fans, use them to keep air flowing as well.

Upholstery: if it smells like fido, you may need to get it professionally cleaned or invest in some furniture coverings and try to keep pets off the furniture. It may be time to throw away a few of your smaller rugs in bathrooms or laundry room that are not smelling great and are showing too much wear and tear.

A bit obvious but important enough to mention: make sure all toilets are flushed, trash is taken out, dirty laundry picked up and washed or placed in a covered hamper and if you smoke…STOP it’s bad for you…or just do it outside. Pets should be crated and left in a low traffic area while the home is being shown.

Wow! I know this all seems like a lot and honestly it’s not even a comprehensive list BUT it’s some of the most important aspects of showing real estate. Our homes are our biggest asset and it’s important to make them shine! Make your home a memorable and comfortable place where hopefully the buyer will have a great first impression and very positive experience. Happy Selling!


The Gift of Connection

The older I’ve become the more I realize the true value of being able to connect with people, truly connect. The kind of connection where you look someone in the eye and feel their pain, their joy, or passion for something. Often times we will find a fun connection with a person because they enjoy a similar activity or maybe it’s a common love for a sports team or Netflix series. There are other times when we unwillingly find ourselves thrown into situations where we are meeting new people because of an unpleasant or even traumatic circumstance. I remember the first time I attended an ALS support group meeting with my parents after learning of my dad’s newly diagnoses of this horrible disease. I was looking at a group of people that were all together because of a common connection, albeit a terrible one, but a connection none the less. I saw such bravery and strength as I shook their hands and looked into their eyes. I also saw sadness and confusion…the exact same emotions we were feeling. It was an important connection that God provided at just the right time.

People go through things…hard things. People change and evolve as life changes and evolves. Sometimes those changes are wonderful: marriages, babies, graduations, etc. There are other times when things happen in life that require unwanted change: sickness, death, wayward child, etc. The question is, what do we do with unexpected life changes: the good, the bad, the ugly? How do we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward? I believe it’s our God given instruction that enables us to make connections and recognize the mysterious gift of bearing one another’s burdens.

I love the way John MacArthur explains it in a 2010 article from Table Talk Magazine entitled “Bearing One Another’s Burdens”:
“It is our duty as believers to help bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). When someone staggers, we help steady the load. If he is straining, we help bear the burden. And if he stumbles, we lift him up. Helping fellow believers carry the weight of their worldly troubles is one of the chief practical duties that ought to consume every Christian.”

This concept goes against the grain of our culture and comfortable lifestyles, it gets in the way, it’s messy at times. I can say with complete confidence that suffering produces the gift of deeper intimacy with my Savior which then deepens my intimacy and connection with others. There is fellowship and connection in suffering.

As I move forward in life, I want so desperately to just make meaningful connections with people that will help prevent loneliness and make a positive impact; a connection that will foster a deeper relationship with Christ. Being able to simply sit and cry with someone experiencing crushing grief has actually been one of God’s greatest gifts He has entrusted to me. Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” It is my greatest desire to connect with others, bear one another’s burdens, and be gifted with meaningful connections.