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Halloween Ramblings

image from VisualHunt.com

One of my favorite months of the year is upon us: October. I love the changing leaf colors, the delicious pumpkin flavored everything, and the amazing weather that the month brings. Of course, October also brings one particularly well-known holiday: Halloween. The following are some of my thoughts on the holiday and how my opinion toward the holiday has changed over the years…

1. Costumes I've worn during past Halloweens:
• pumpkin outfit (I was 2?)
• Minnie Mouse (5)
• a "pumpkin fairy" (6? It was orange, green, and black with see-through glitter tulle. A cheap dream dress.)
• Belle from Beauty and the Beast (7?)
• a clown (10? I think that was the year I was starting to get sick of dressing up for Halloween. We already had the costume in a closet and I didn't want another cheap one from the Halloween store.)
• In college, I dressed up as Queen Guinevere and had a homemade costume with the heaviest headpiece I have ever worn (it gave me a headache). The (now) husband dressed as Prince Lancelot with chainmail he made himself.

2. The most impressive costumes I've ever seen:
• a group of girls running around with inner tubes decorated as a "Baker's half dozen of donuts". :)
• a girl carrying a see-through umbrella decorated with lights and streamers who was pretending to be a jellyfish.
• at an adult party I saw a female dressed as the girl from the Morton salt box (yellow dress, yellow umbrella).

3. Favorite Halloween candy:
• snickers
• starbursts
• sour punch straws
• sour patch kids

(I like the fruity, sour candies!)

4. Favorite Halloween movie: Hocus Pocus

5. As a kid, I would sort all of my Halloween candy. Like starbursts in one pile, m&ms in another. Candy I didn't want was tossed or given to my parents/brother. Candy I did want was stuffed into a bag and put in my closet … meant to get me through until Christmas or Easter. (Candy is full of preservatives so it doesn't go bad right? 😉)

6. As an adult, I try to "disappear" on Halloween night by going to the mall or out to eat. The first year my husband and I were married and in our own home, I heard stories of neighborhood kids causing a racket on Halloween night (causing problems and such), and I wanted no part of it. So we locked our doors, turned off our lights, and left for the evening. Call us the Halloween "grinches" if you will. Either way, I enjoyed our "date night" so much, that we've continued to do it every year since. Recently, it's become an excuse to find and try new restaurants. (We always eat at the same ones.)

7. Favorite Halloween song: "The Monster Mash"

8. A Typical Halloween Night As A Kid: My brother and I would come home from school and impatiently wait out the time between 3PM and 5PM. We would eat dinner between 5 and 5:30PM and get dressed up into our costumes. At 6PM, we were out in a nearby neighborhood with more houses than our own. Our parents would follow us in the car as we went from house to house ringing doorbells and hopefully expecting candy. By 9PM, whether or not we had visited all of the houses, we were expected to get in the car and head home. From there, we would sort candy, take baths, and go to bed.

9. Other pre-Halloween things I did growing up –
• Haunted Houses: one with the local baptist church (the idea being that this is what you would experience if you didn't accept Jesus "into your heart" and found yourself in Hell), one for a friend's birthday party, and one at my husband's fraternity. It always made me laugh when someone would jump out of the dark and attempt to scare me. 😀
• Speaking of fraternity: their annual Halloween party, which I only went to once or twice. I didn't like fraternity parties, so inevitably I would find myself up in my boyfriend's room doing my own thing. Besides, it really only seemed to be an excuse for college girls to run around half-naked and the guys to get drunk.
• My college had the "Black Cat Dance" which was like a high school prom, but before college students. We all dressed up and went somewhere fancy for mingling, food, and food. (The one year I went the dance was held at the Brave's Field in Atlanta with a fancy "baseball" theme.)
• Halloween Fright Fest at Six Flags Over Georgia theme park is the best in October! I love all of the decorations! Plus, the weather is perfect.• Pumpkin carving.
• Leaf looking in North Georgia. Also visiting apple orchards buying apple butter, fried apple pies, and trying the apples that the orchard sells for free.
• Visiting the fair with friends. Loved the rides, the food, and the experience!
• Church Halloween alternatives: which included getting free candy and playing party games outside.

10. This year
Justin and I have:
• gone leaf looking in North Carolina
• and are going out to eat somewhere new to us for Halloween night (though I haven't decided where).

We will not:
• dress up
• go to a party
• carve pumpkins
• buy Halloween candy (except for giving to the kids I watch).

What are some of your best and worst Halloween memories? Do you like celebrating Halloween or is it a holiday you try to avoid as much as possible? Has the way you celebrated (or not) Halloween over the years changed?

Linking up with Tamara Gerber of Confessions of a Part Time Working Mom for #TopTenThursday

Cherries in Chinatown

You can buy so many cherries in NYC's Chinatown for so cheap! We snacked on some as we waited in Dumbo park for the July 4th 2016 fireworks to begin. 😀 I do believe they were the best cherries I've ever had.

What is one of your favorite healthy snacks? Do you like cherries?

Linked up with Through My Lens

Walt Disney World 4 Parks in 2 Days: Tips for Surviving EPCOT's Food & WIne Fest

Experiencing the International Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT was a dream come true. It combined my favorite park with the amazing world-sourced decadent foods that the Disney parks are known to serve. (Though getting the above picture proved to be a challenge with all of the visitors.)

First, upon our return to EPCOT, Justin and I took advantage of the rides we had as of yet gotten to do: Test Track, Ellen's Energy Adventure (super dated!), Journey into Imagination with Figment (a regret), Living With the Land, and The Sea with Nemo and Friends (another regret). Clearly, it was time for us to move on beyond the rides…

Before venturing any further, we took some time to walk through the Innoventions Pavilions where a Ghiradelli exhibit awaited us called From Bean to Bar.

The exhibit itself was a bit boring, but we did love seeing the amazing chocolate sculptures on display.

Isn't that detail amazing?

We ultimately decided against purchasing any Ghirardelli treats to take on the run, but we did enjoy some chocolate bars they were giving out for free!

… Then it was on to lunch. We decided to hit up all of the pavilions/countries we had missed during our last visit to EPCOT.

Just to give you an idea of what we sampled during the 2016 food and wine fest–

+ Chicken Pot Stickers

Chocolate Studio:
Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel

Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce

Irish Cheese Selection Plate: Irish Cheddar, Dubliner and Irish Porter

Pennette alla Parmigiana: Baked Ziti and Chicken Parmigiana, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese

Kefta Pocket: Seasoned Ground Beef in a Pita Pocket

It was so much fun exploring and tasting the different countries! Plus, EPCOT offers "extra" specialty foods and countries during the International Food and Wine Fest that they don't showcase during the rest of the year (like the Chocolate Studio).

Of course the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is more than just pavilions though! They also offer classes taught by world-renowned chefs that include culinary demonstrations (how to make certain foods), beverage seminars and tastings, history of food classes, and much more! Then, if you still haven't reached your fill, consider participating in a specialty dining event like a Parisian breakfast or a multi-course meal. During the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival, it is far easier to run out of money than it is to run out of things to do. Prepare and save if you intend on going.

A few more tips:
+ Arrive HUNGRY.
+ Not just kind-of sort-of hungry, but STARVING. 😉
+ Use gift cards to control your spending and make the purchase of foods/drinks quick and easy!
+ Pick up an EPCOT passport to mark the foods you try at each location.
+ Get your hands on a list of foods available during the Food and Wine Fest, so that you can mark what you want to try and have room in your stomach to try them! 😀

What types of foods would you expect or hope to find at an international festival like this? Are there certain classes you would anticipate seeing? Or specific celebrity or chef appearances that would make the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival a must-do for you? … What do you think of those very intricately designed chocolate sculptures by Ghirardelli?

See more of my #4Parks2Days series here:
• Part one: Animal Kingdom
• Part two: EPCOT
• Part four: Magic Kingdom

** Linking up to City Trippers Mummytravels.com and Wandermum.co.uk

Planning A Trip to Hawaii: What I've Learned So Far

image courtesy of Visual Hunt

Ninety percent of the time my dreams are bigger than my bank account or the amount of time I have on hand. And while this can really put a damper on travel planning (Where do I go? What can I see when I don't have any money?), I think the aspect I love most about travel planning is trying to make everything work out anyway.

Planning a trip to Hawaii has been no different. Here's what I've learned so far.


When you see a flight deal for a trip to Hawaii, you don't necessarily stop to ask yourself about particulars. Typically, you just jump on it. But luckily, because it cost so many points (80,000 Delta points, to be exact), I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. I knew 80,000 points could get me 5,000 points or so at a time all across the US. And also knew that 80,000 points was one step closer to a free trip to Europe. So was 80,000 points to Hawaii a good deal? Was it worth (would it be worth) throwing all of my eggs into one basket rather than diversifying, spending points here, there, and everywhere?

Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you if that's your question.

For me, the answer would initially have been no. But that's why I'm in a relationship. And, technically, these were my husband's points. His points: his decision. 😀 So, I went with it; I booked the flights.

Typically flights from GA to HI cost approx 22,500pts/trip or 45,000pts RT making this deal a 10,000pt savings.

But first I had to consider the fact that Hawaii wasn't just Honolulu.

And guess what?

Those Delta points could get us to any of the islands we wanted.

So … where did we want to go?

image courtesy of Visual Hunt


Going into Hawaii booking, I had heard of Honolulu, Maui, and the Big Island, but I had no idea what could be found at any of these places. (And technically I had heard of Lanai and the purchase of it by Oracle founder, but hearing that and knowing what is being discussed are two totally different things!)

Then I read about people booking to one island and leaving from another. Could we do that?

Turns out: yes. Yes we could. 😀

Ultimately I decided that Maui was my place. But I wanted to see Honolulu and the Pearl Harbor memorial. Not knowing then what I know now (you can take a day trip from Maui to Honolulu to visit Pearl Harbor with various tour groups), I ultimately decided to book a flight to Maui and out of Honolulu (just don't ask me what the airport names are or which island Honolulu is located on. It is all Honolulu to me!)


Next big lesson: Getting between the islands is not a piece of cake.

You have two options:
1. Fly. ✈️

Hawaiian airlines is recommended, but there are smaller airlines that make the flights too.

Or, alternatively, you can use points/cash to book bigger airlines like Delta, United, or American. Flying into/out of the main airports on Maui and the island with Honolulu (see?!) are the easiest; you may need a layover in OGG or HNL if you are flying a big airline between islands which can cost more.

2. Ferry. ⛵️

BUT! Only from Maui to Lanai or Maui to Molokai.

It leaves the dock once a day to go to these locations and I've heard that, even for people that don't normally get seasick, the boat ride back from Molokai to Maui can be miserable.

I also learned from various sources that it is best to stay on one island if you only have a short while to visit and it's your first time.


image courtesy of Visual Hunt


When I first started making accommodation plans, I didn't know the first thing about Waikiki or Diamond Head … or Hana. I spent a lot of time scouring the Go Visit Hawaii website and learning as much as I could.

Like, for example, did you know there are certain roads in Maui that your rental car insurance will not cover? … These are roads with lots of turns, cliffs, rocks that fall into the road, sometimes one lane and sometimes dirt/gravel, and occasionally there are no guard rails to keep you from going off the edge. And signage warning you of these roads does not exist! 😧

I can definitely say it's been in my best interest to learn the islands as well as I can before traveling there. It would not have been fun to accidentally find myself on one of those roads with a car problem and no rental insurance to pay for it.


This is the part of Hawaii planning that I most wanted to share with you. Mostly because Club1Hotels is offering a free membership for this year ($675 value) allowing you to book hotels for cheaper prices and still get credit (points, status) for your stay. The offer expires on 10/31, so I wanted to go ahead and mention it despite not having used the service to book a hotel yet.

So far, my experience with club1hotels is that they are hit or miss (but mostly hits). I'll give a more full review at a later date, but just two days ago I saw a hotel for $440 that was going for $275 on club1hotels. That's a $165 difference! Surely finding deals like that should convince you to at least sign up and try the service! What is there to lose? I'm only seeing money gains for the 5 minutes it took me to sign-up!

I've also been working with four different apps to nail down and solidify my travel plans and goals.

1. TripIt

I've been singing it's praises from Day 1, and now is no different. Though I would like to mention that the app doesn't seem to notice when I make changes to my travel plans, like cancelling a restaurant reservation or hotel booking … or that time when Delta changed my flight times. It does do a great job of pulling information from my email and keeping my schedule super-organized. ❤️

2. Google Trips (itunesgoogle play)

This is a new app I recently heard about that I wanted to give a try. So far, I'm not loving it. 😕 While it does input your reservation/booking information, the information is not exceptionally organized. And, when things change, it's hard to alter how the information appears (and whether or not it continues to appear) in the app. I do like that Google Trips offers suggestions for where to eat and what to do at specific locations, but it all seems to be pretty generic and not based on the specific locations you are at or what you've already reserved . (For example, it'd be awesome if they recommended other Italian restaurants, if I book one. Or other extreme sport activities, if I have a reservation for skydiving. Instead, if Good Trips sees you have a reservation for skydiving, they might recommend a photography excursion or a history museum? And that makes no sense to me!)

3. Visit A City

I had heard about the website from a travel blog, but I hadn't really used it too much. So when i was planning what to do in Maui and Honolulu, I decided to see what itineraries their website already had up. (Their website provides itineraries based on where you are going including suggestions for how long a visit will take you and the approximate time it will take to get from one location to another.) Anyway, when I didn't find any itineraries that suited me, I started building my own. And what fun it has been! As I fill in my hotel and restaurant reservations, I can look on the map they provide to see where these things are located and how far they are from my ideal attractions. This has made a big difference in how I plan, because I'm working with the areas I'm in rather than driving from one end of the island to the other not actually realizing the time that is being lost to the commute. Once again though, I won't fully be able to review this site/app until I've actually attempted using it while on vacation, but so far I'm loving it and would highly recommend at least looking at it before your next vacation!

4. OpenTable

I always use this app. In fact, I've reviewed it here before. Basically, you earn points as you make reservations at restaurants. Eventually, you will have enough points for a free meal! Plus, you can get bonus points for booking at specific restaurants at specific times (usually when they aren't busy). All in all, it seems like a win-win. The restaurants know to expect me, and I, eventually get a free meal. 😀

image courtesy of Visual Hunt


I'm not actually done planning my trip to Hawaii yet, so I am sure I will learn far more both in my time spent continuing to plan and in the actual visiting of the place. But one thing I've discovered in planning so many trips is that all of the knowledge I acquire through travel builds on itself making me a better explorer, both in finding deals and becoming more aware of the world in which we live.


While I know not everyone reading my blog is planning a trip to Hawaii, I still hope some of what I've shared in this post is relevant to you. Like, the apps I mentioned, for instance, or learning more about the location you are visiting before traveling there and finding yourself in a metaphorical pickle.

Despite the fact that you may not plan as in depth as I do when traveling (or you might? who knows?), do you often manage to learn something new when traveling (or planning travel)? Will you be checking out any of the apps mentioned in this post or perhaps the hotel website to make future travel planning ore fun/cheaper/easier?

Wanderful Wednesday hosts: 

Uncomfortable Situations While Traveling

Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND
Ever have one of those days when you think to yourself "Man! I can't believe I did that!"? Well, that happens to me a lot. Especially while traveling…

1. Sharing a bathroom with the opposite sex in Europe.

It's not that I have a problem with it, or care even, it just seems weird.
Like when I'm washing my hands and water goes down my sleeve and I squeal in surprise. Then, the guy in the stall behind me, a friend no-less, asks "what's wrong?" having seen, or at the very least heard, everything without my noticing.

Umm … dude … you weren't exactly suppose to be in the restroom … or hear me. And besides, you're peeing, which is something I absolutely do not want to think about. Can we just pretend this conversation never happened? 😧😳

2. Then there is the whole "belief" that Europeans are more comfortable with nudity than those in the US, which I can neither confirm nor deny. (Europeans, your take? Are you?)

So, as mentioned in this post, when a friend says "Let's go take a bath" which may or may not have meant thermal bath/spa (which may or may not have required clothing), I was a little uncertain as to whether or not I wanted to go along with this idea. It took a bit for me to realize we were talking about ocean swimming in bathing suits.

2. Speaking of language issues … there was nothing quite like the humiliation I felt when trying to get a French man in Alsace to pronounce the "H" in my last name correctly.

In the US, if someone mishears my last name they are likely to pronounce it with an "A", which is fine so long as you aren't trying to check into a hotel, which is what we were doing. If the front desk looks for my last name with an "A", they won't find it. So, when it sounded like the French men was pronouncing my last name with an "A", of course I had to correct him. Two or three times through and Justin told me "He gets it. That's just how they pronounce the 'h' here." I *sigh*ed as I covered my face in shame. I felt so bad for having given the poor guy a hard time. And the best/worst part is that he ended up being a superb concierge helping us with everything we needed at the hotel and even going above and beyond! I highly recommend staying at Regent Petite France! :)

3. Running out of coins in Orlando and clogging up the toll line behind us

which is kind of similar to going into the wrong toll booth in France, pressing the call button, backing up on a main road, and going to the correct toll booth.

Us and tolls … we don't mix. :)

4. Getting hurt every. single. time. I go to Europe.

I give myself a pep talk before going every time. This time will be the time I won't fall on my butt, stub my toe, or flounder inexcusably.

And what happens?

I fall. I stub. I flounder.

I am an inexcusable mess of embarrassment not only to myself but to the people who are with me.

Oh well. It happens I guess.

5. And then there is my lack of planning for most of my trips to Europe.

The first trip had Justin and I moving. We had to car shop. We had to wedding clothes shop. We had to Europe-travel shop. (Y'know buy converters and such?) Basically, we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off.

The second time I did manage to get some planning done. It was Christmas and we had to buy presents/cook/clean/buy warm clothing for traveling to places that actually get cold… And yet somehow I managed to plan. I just didn't get Christmas cards out that year. (Turns out no one cared.)

By the time, we found ourselves returning for a third time, I was back to my lack of planning. I was working extra hours and planning a trip to NYC for July 4th simultaneously. When I informed Justin I may not have time to plan, he told me not to worry about it. And, of course, that put all of the pressure on our friends for planning a small portion of the trip. Though I must admit the part of the trip I did plan, the part in Paris and Versailles proper, is the part they should have joined us on. I did a great job at planning that! :)

6. Loving to photograph everything, but realizing when you arrive to Europe that your phone is almost full of pictures already and you have nowhere to move them to.


(I made it work.)

7. Having kept your maiden name as your last name while traveling with the in-laws who may or may not know that's what you did. 😳

Try checking into a hotel without saying your full name.

(And of course you can't book the hotel with the husband's name because all of the points are in your name!)

8. Getting off the train at the wrong stop then rushing to reboard.

So grateful for kind and generous "others" who helped us get our 50 pound bag back on the train. "Es ist schwer!" (It's heavy!) the helper exclaimed, and I knew it to be true. 😳

9. Waking up to a red nose.

Like seriously, when you are going to see people you only see once in a year do you really want to walk around with a red nose?

Answer: no.

Thank God for make-up.

(Of course, no one ever wants to wander around looking like Rudolph, so it's neither here nor there that we were travelling.)

10. Writing a blog.

As much as I love sharing my stories, I'm always afraid I'm going to offend a co-traveler.
Like, I love you, but you are part of my story… You are part of the reason I experienced what I did and so how can I leave you out?

So, if I ever offend anyone that I've travelled with, please let me know and I will be happy to take my post down. Even if half the world has already seen it. I love my friends and would never want to hurt their feelings. Any time I do, it is never on purpose.

What are some uncomfortable situations you've been in while traveling?

Linking up with Tamara Gerber
of Confessions of a Part Time Working Mom

for #TopTenThursday

Suitcases and Sandcastles
Linking up with Oregon Girl Around the World,
Suitcases and Sandcastles, and
Untold Morsels