The Happiest Place on Earth

Back in June, my parents surprised my sisters and I and planned a family vacation– and not just any old family vacation, DISNEY. It’s been 20 years since the 5 of us went to Disney on a family vacation together so you could say it’s been way overdue.

Needless to say, my sisters and I were ecstatic, because well, if you know anything about us you know how much Disney is a part of our lives. I mean, two of my pets are named after Disney Princesses but NBD. Oh, and Ray was thrilled too, in his own- is there going to be beer?I’m only going for the sunshine.I want to golf too- sort of way.

So my parent’s booked the place, and we got our tickets and that was that- We were going to see Mickey! We decided that we wanted to make the trip extra special and go for Halloween. Being at Disney for any holiday is always so much fun because they always outdo themselves with special magical events.

OH, and the week we chose in October also happened to fall during the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. Yassssss!

 

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Me being so photogenic with Gizmo and Nala on our way down.

So we packed up the pups and cats- yep, they came too- and headed down to Florida. I couldn’t convince Ray to go all three days to the parks, you know, he had things to do. So he went golfing twice and joined us on our third and final day at Animal Kingdom and Epcot. (Of course, he’d do the food and wine festival.)

 

Our first day, we decided to go to Universal. My family had never been to Harry Potter World so obviously I took it upon myself and my HP expertise, to be their tour guide for the day. We drank butterbeer, rode some brooms with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, grabbed a bite at the three broomsticks, found a wand at Ollivanders and stopped at Gringotts for some moolah.  

What a day.

We started our second-day having breakfast at Be Our Guest. The atmosphere there is just unbelievable and well worth the price! Oh and public service announcement: Everyone got to try the Gray stuff- yes, it was delicious.

Then we went around Magic Kingdom and got through about half of the park. Don’t panic–this was our plan. We visited Ariel, got spooked in the Haunted Mansion, went on Space Mountain, and helped Buzz and Woody escape danger.

Then we headed over to Hollywood Studios for some more excitement. We had fast passes for the new Toy Story ride which is probably one of my favorite rides in all of Disney- so much fun! After that, we explored the main street, rocked out on rockin’ roller coaster, and got scared on the Tower of Terror.

By this time it was dinner time so we headed home to refuel and get ready for our night in Magic Kingdom. They had a special event that night, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. You dress up, go trick or treating through the park, and they had a special Hocus Pocus show.

And you better believe we dressed up. Obviously. 

I have to say I highly recommend going to the Disney during Halloween, it really was so much fun. Everyone is dressed up and the crowds were smaller than usual so we were able to finish the other side of the park fairly quickly with very little wait times- bonus!

Oh, and let me tell you about the Hocus Pocus show. Actually, words can’t do it justice. It was spectacular. It’ll put a spell on you. That’s all I can say. You have to see it!

IMG_6006Day 3 was another unforgettable experience. It was also the day I got Ray to go to the parks! 🙂 In the morning, we headed to Animal Kingdom and checked out the new Avatar ride in Pandora. First, I have to say Pandora itself, breathtaking. Disney sure knows how to recreate these unbelievable places.

Second, Flights of passage was probably my favorite ride I have ever been on. Seriously. We waited almost 2 hours to get on the ride, UGH. BUT it was absolutely worth the wait. What an incredible ride. (that’s what she said.)

After that, we perused the rest of Animal Kingdom, checking out the Safari and Everest before heading on to our final destination, Epcot.IMG_6021

Like I said earlier, the infamous Food and Wine Festival was going on at Epcot, so I was really excited to explore, eat and drink around the world! I loved the small plates available in each country, it really allowed you to eat a lot!

To end the night, we watched the fireworks over the Epcot ball and took in the last of our Disney Family vacation.

To say we had fun on this vacation would be an understatement. I am so happy I got to share another Disney vacation with my parents and sisters and elated to have Ray be there with us. The memories speak for themselves, and the magic is enough to last a lifetime. Until next time Mr. Disney– ❤

 

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Adventures Across the Pond

     Ever since my soccer team went to England in 2004 (shoutout South Jersey Banshees- left hand, closest to the heart), I’ve been looking forward to another chance to head back there. The whole atmosphere– the history, the pubs on every corner, the accents, Harry Potter, and the immense love of football simply enamored me.

     I loved everything about my first trip over the pond especially because it ignited my love for Liverpool FC. From then on, I was a devout red. That’s it.

     So when I met Ray in college, as a fellow footballer and potential love interest, I had to find out which team he supported. And you may think it’s trivial and doesn’t really matter in the big picture, but if he was a Man United supporter it just wouldn’t have worked out. Okay, I’m just kidding. (Shakes head) But seriously.

     When I found out he was an LFC fan that sealed the deal. He was a keeper. Anyway, our love of soccer brought us together in the first place and Ray used our love of the game in his proposal. “ You’ll’ never walk alone…. from here on out.” Sigh, gets me every time.

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     So it’s no surprise that our first trip to England together included a trip to Anfield to watch our team play. But Liverpool wasn’t the only stop on our holiday, we spent quite a bit of time in London as well.

So first things first.

     London is everything. I loved everything about this city. We did all the touristy things, of course, Tower Bridge, the eye, Buckingham Palace and all that jazz. I have to say one of my favorite places was Piccadilly Circus. There were tons of shops and food but the best part was just grabbing a drink and watching the street performers.IMG_4186

  One night we went to a speakeasy, and it’s hands down our favorite speakeasy that we’ve been to. Its called Cahoots and we had the best cocktails we’ve ever had here, period. Yep. It was underground and had live swing music from the 40’s, so needless to say, we had a blast. Its hidden down an alley and there is always a long line so be prepared to wait, but it’s totally worth it.

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     Then we hopped a train and stayed in Liverpool for a few nights. Our hotel was really intriguing, it was actually an old prison turned hotel and they kept a lot of the aesthetics which was really pretty cool. 

Liverpool itself is a pretty fun city. The dock was a nice area with a few shops and yes, you guessed it, more pubs.

     Oh, and four guys started a band in Liverpool and they ended up being pretty big I think. Okay, enough jokes. The Cavern club was pretty spectacular. It’s where the Beatles first started playing together, in this underground club. There was memorabilia everywhere and they had live music all day every day. What a place to go, I highly recommend it.IMG_4213

Okay, now for the main event, what we really came for.

     Anfield. It’s as amazing as it looks on TV. Before the game, there are a few pubs next to the stadium where you go, have a drink or five and enjoy the company of other fans. You’ll hear chants and songs getting everyone in footballin’ mood.

     Walking up to the Shankly gates I literally got chills! We were so excited and it lived up to and surpassed every expectation. Our seats were amazing and I actually couldn’t believe how close you are to the field. It. Was. Amazing.

     And just when you think your dream is lived and you can die happy, the players come out and Gerry and the Pacemakers echo through the stadium. And even though you barely hear the actual music, 50,000 people are singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in unison. I’m not going to lie, I teared up. Don’t judge me. It was something that I’ll never forget.IMG_4224

    They ended up with a draw that night, but at that moment, it felt like a win for us. What a trip.

 

I left my heart in San Francisco…

Growing up a 90s kid in a house with three young girls, it’s obvious that Full House was constantly on the TV. So it’s safe to say I consider myself an honorary “Tanner” girl and whenever I think of San Francisco the opening credits of the picturesque golden gate bridge comes to mind. “Everywhere you look, everywhere you go…” Bet you started singing it!

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If you don’t know what this is, you’re dead to me.

So naturally, Ray and I were ecstatic when we found out we were placed in the Bay area. What we weren’t ecstatic for was the cost of rent. Good gravy! Last year, San Francisco surpassed NYC as the most expensive city to live in and boy they weren’t kidding.

All costs aside though, San Francisco is a beautiful city full of culture and diversity and the NBA champs. (Go dubs!) There is so much to do and see here, you’ll never be bored and the culinary scene sets the bar high.

I’m going to try and keep this post short and sweet because otherwise I could literally write 10+ pages on this amazing place and ain’t nobody got time for that.IMG_5096

A few of our favorite things (to do!)

One of our absolute favorite things to do in San Francisco was to have a picnic in the park. Our favorite spots were Dolores Park and the Palace of Fine Arts. Just DIY a little charcuterie board, grab a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, and maybe a little rose or prosecco whichever floats your boat and just enjoy the sunshine. Sigh.

Another favorite pastime was sauntering around the mission district. (Side note, sauntering is such an underrated word, don’t you think?) So many great shops and restaurants are in the mission, and it’s actually always a few degrees warmer since it’s farther from the water.  The mission also has beautiful murals all around town to check out and is a fun spot to grab some food and drinks.

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Mission District

Trying to get a little physical? Take a hike through Lands End and the Sutro Baths. It was once a private saltwater pool that dates back to the 1800s and it’s just a scenic place for a little exercise. Honestly, though, you’ll get in a decent workout just walking up and down the 3894758945 hills in the city. I really had no idea how many hills there are and how steep they’d be until we got there. Talk about feelin’ the burn.

We really loved the Musee Mecanique! It’s an old-school arcade, and I mean old-school. They have some of the coolest vintage games, we always brought our friends and family here for a fun time!

Oh! And it’s a little outside of San Francisco, but you have to take the time to check out the Muir Woods. The redwood trees are something that will put your life into perspective and make you question the quality of your own existence. Okay, maybe that’s going a little far, but they really are an incredible natural phenomenon.

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Me questioning my existence.

Of course, you also have to do some other touristy things like checking out the sea lions on Fisherman’s Wharf, walking down the crookedest street in the world–Lombard street, and getting a picturesque shot of the Golden Gate bridge at Battery Spencer or Chrissy Field. I also highly recommend taking the trip to Alcatraz. The audio tour is really intriguing even if you’re not a history nerd like me.

Oh, obviously we went to the Painted ladies as well. Alamo park is across the street and it does give you a beautiful view of the ladies. Fun fact for you is that the ACTUAL house that was used in Full House is NOT a painted lady. Blasphemy, I know right? It’s actually about a half mile walk from there on Broderick street and well worth the walk in my book to see my childhood home.

A Foodies Dream

We were in San Fran for about 4 months and I can honestly say every meal here has been wonderful. There are so many restaurants and the quality and quantity is definitely something worth mentioning.

OH! Fun Fact: The Irish coffee we all know and love today originated in The Buena Vista Cafe in 1952. We went, we drank it, we loved it.

State Bird Provisions is a Michelin star rated restaurant. Need I say more? Well, I don’t but I will anyway because I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had here. The way the run the place is really different too. The chefs make a bunch of different items and then walk around and ask if you’re interested. They have a good ole fashioned menu as well but it was fun to have such a variety of different things!

Next up is our favorite sushi place, Elephant Sushi. It’s a small place that was actually around the corner from us. They open at 6 and there’s ALWAYS a line to get in! We went here a few times, and that says a lot because we could have gone to one of the other 8372562347 restaurants in San Francisco but this place was THAT good.

IMG_5447Dumpling Time- If you like dumplings you HAVE to go here. If you don’t like dumplings, rethink your life choices. This place is awesome. There are so many different types of dumplings here like shrimp and cilantro, traditional, steamed buns and my all time favorite, soup dumplings. They have a massive soup dumpling that literally comes with a straw. Yasssss.

If I had to choose one area in San Francisco to eat the rest of my life, I would choose Little Italy, hands down. Little Italy is in North Beach and is home to some of the best homemade pasta I’ve ever had. There are so many restaurants that have fresh seafood and fresh pasta, we literally ate here at least once a week. A few of our favorite spots? Sotto Mare, The Italian Homemade Company, E Tutto Qua, Baonecci, Piccolo Forno, and Seven Hills are just a few that stick out in my mind as must-eats. Yes, MUST EATS.

Okay, if you’re looking for the best french dip sandwich you’ve ever had then you must check out Dip. It’s in North Beach and it is out of this world. I’m glad I got to try it before I started my new dietary journey because I can attest to the delectableness – is that even a word?- of these sandwiches.

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When I DIP, you DIP, we DIP.

I am so incredibly in awe of this city and I was so lucky to call it home for four months. So here’s to you San Francisco, until next time.

Road Trippin’

“Because the greatest part of a road trip is not always the destination, it’s all the crazy moments that happen along the way.” 

As our time in Savannah came to an end, we discussed our next destination, the west coast. I always wanted to be a California girl- they’re undeniable; daisy dukes, bikinis on top. Okay, but seriously I have always wanted to visit the Golden State.

We had a couple of different options, L.A, Santa Barbara and San Francisco to name a few. We put in for all of them and then it was just a waiting game, a race to see who’d get back to us first. The winner, San Francisco!

We were elated. Big city livin’ in one of the most sought after destinations in the States, not to mention, FULL HOUSE.  It’s like I could see my childhood with the Tanner family flashing before me.

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So now, it was time to plan our road trip. That’s right. We were going to drive from New Jersey to San Francisco. We looked at a map and drew a line from New Jersey to San Francisco. Okay, we didn’t actually have a physical map because it’s not the 1900’s. What are we cavemen? We Google mapped our route from NJ to San Fran and we were actually pleasantly surprised with how many awesome cities were right along the route.

 

We planned our week long journey across the beautiful U.S.of A with stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and a TBD. We packed up the car and Nala, downloaded some podcasts and playlists for entertainment and went on our merry way.

First stop, Pittsburgh; home of the Steel men. Growing up, my dad was a Steelers fan so I was really excited to check out the Steel city. (Disclaimer: this is the ONLY Pittsburgh team that is cool.  Suck it, Crosby.)  Anyway, we stayed downtown and we absolutely loved the city. The stadium is right on the water and it’s as cool as it looks on TV.IMG_4288

We checked out an awesome little spot for dinner right downtown called Butcher and the Rye. The interior is awesome, and the food and the drinks were pretty spectacular.

Our next stop was Chi-town. The windy city. Bring on the deep dish pizza and the superstitions about baseball. Side note: I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious. -Michael Scott – Me

Anyway, Chicago is another fantastic city (as long as it’s not winter). We checked out Millenium Park and ate some deep dish cheeseless- yes cheeseless- pizza at the famous Lou Malnati’s.  We also got a drink at The World Famous Billy-Goat Tavern. It was a really cool atmosphere and even though I’m not the biggest baseball fan, you have to appreciate the history.

From there we headed to Omaha, Nebraska. Now believe me, when we decided that Omaha was a stop on our trip, I had no clue what to expect. Heck, I really only knew the name of the city because of good ol’ Peyton. Omaha! Omaha! Hut! Hut!

Omaha had a cute little downtown area. Our favorite place was called Inside the Looking Glass, a Cigars and Spirits shop. Now I know you may be thinking–well, if the best part of Omaha is a cigar shop then it must be pretty lame, right? Don’t be fooled, there’s more to meet the eye here.

If you pull on a special vintage bottle of wine, Voila! A secret passage opens and you’ll enter the Wicked Rabbit–one of the coolest speakeasies that I’ve ever been too. It’s a twist on Alice and Wonderland and the atmosphere is really cool.

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After Omaha, we went on our way to Denver. Driving through Nebraska was so exciting. There were farms, and farms, and farms, and oh! I almost forgot to mention the farms! If it wasn’t for Pat Mcafee podcast and Mariah’s Sweet Sweet Fantasy baby, it would have been unbearable.

Denver was really cool though. The mountains were really as beautiful as they seem in pictures and they just make you feel so small- er smaller in my case. There are 958723482 breweries in Denver and we enjoyed them all. We also got to check out Red Rock which was certainly a bucket lister.

Salt Lake City was a little different than I expected, but we stayed in a really cool place right downtown. The backdrop of the mountains just makes everything so scenic here.

We also got to check out Arches National Park. And good gravy was this an experience. The park is absolutely breathtaking and pictures just don’t do it justice. It’s one of those things you have to see to really appreciate its beauty.

Okay, enough of the mushy stuff.  Our last stop was booked last minute because we didn’t want to drive another 8 hours on the day we had to move in. We found a quaint little town right over the California state line called, Colfax. It looked like something from the 1800’s, a small mining town. The people were friendly and the best part was our AirBnB host. She was the sweetest woman and she made us apple pancakes for breakfast.

So that’s it. Our crazy adventure across the country. 3,000 miles, countless podcasts, and a few sing-a-longs later, we arrived at our new home, San Francisco.

I think that everyone should take part in a cross-country road trip. Not only is it scenic and soul soothing, but being confined in close quarters for hours at a time is also a wonderful way to see if you are really compatible with someone. If you can endure a cross country road trip without killing the other person you’re with, I’d say you found a keeper. Guess I found mine.

Sonoma; wine not?

Ah, wine. It’s honestly one of life’s greatest indulgences, in my not so humble opinion. So when I found out how close to wine country we’d be while living in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but get all giddy. Like a kid in a candy store or heck even me in a candy store, I get all wide-eyed and frivolous at the thought!

So far, we’ve been to a few different wineries around Sonoma, so that’s where I’ll be taking you today.

When my mom and sister came to visit a few weeks ago, we happened upon Chateau St.Jean Winery and boy did that quickly become a favorite. So much so, that we went back when my brother-in-law and his lady came for a visit. (Shoutout Sean and Laura!)

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Chateau St. Jean

 

The place itself is beautiful with rows of vines and greenery everywhere. And of course, there’s the chateau itself which is equally as beautiful. They have a little area outside with tables surrounded by flowers and even grapevines to just relax and enjoy.

Now to the good stuff, the real reason you go to a winery, un vino. The people working the tasting were knowledgeable and just delightful. We really enjoyed their Chardonnay (and considering I’m a red wine gal myself, that means a lot!) and their Eighty-five fifty-five red. Yum.

Another really nice thing about this winery is there were quite a few others located really close. I’m talking a 5-minute drive. We were able to check out 2 other wineries all within a mile of each other. Ah, wine country.

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VJB Winery

 

VJB winery was a quaint little family-owned winery down the road from St.Jean. It had a little patio area in the middle and it was great because you can get a bite to eat here too! We did a charcuterie board and a small pizza and it really hit the spot after wine tastings.

Alright, so I think this next one really takes the cake in terms of aesthetics. Matanzas Creek Winery is absolutely B-E-A-utiful! Not only is it a cute little winery nestled in the hills of Sonoma, but they also have a lavender garden. Yup.IMG_5089

The garden was alluring so obviously, I had to walk through it. (Oh, watch out for bees, they apparently love the stuff too. Who would have thought? Bees, flowers? DUH.)

Anyway, in addition to the garden where you can relax with a glass of their wine, (which is delicious by the way) they also have a lavender barn! In the barn they have all different goodies made with- you guessed it- their lavender. The woman who was working in there was great and really showed us all the different products and the process of making them. IMG_5092

Not really into the barn? (cough.weirdo.cough) That’s okay, because they have a bocce pit and a corn hole area where you can hangout too. Oh, and if you like chocolate, the lavender infused chocolates were Ah-mazing. No lie. Seriously. Get them.

Ah- so much wine, so little time. Those are just a couple places that quickly became favorites of ours but I’m sure I’ll be adding to the list before we head off to our next adventure. Stay tuned my friends.

Oh, Charleston, we love you.

Ahh, Chucktown. We struck gold when Ray’s work brought us to this lovely town while he did some training. We were residents of this charming city for over a week and we sure made the most of it.IMG_2541

There’s a lot history here, as is the case in a lot of southern cities. (Fun fact, it’s named after King Charles II.) There are also some pretty fabulous restaurants which we obviously had to check out and review as our obligation to contribute to society.

Some of the best food we ever had was at Leyla Fine Lebanese Cuisine. It’s a family owned place and they really provide wonderful customer service. The food was just phenomenal and I’ll definitely be stopping by next time I’m in town.

 

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Leyla

 

Looking for a quick bite? We really enjoyed this small Vietnamese place called Bon Banh Mi. They have fantastic sandwiches and really good tacos and it’s super affordable. Not to mention- they have happy hour every day with great beer and sandwich specials.

If you’re looking for a fun night hangout, check out Fuel. It’s an old gas station turned bar with a bocce pit in the back the perfect combination for a good time.

In the morning (or anytime really, I’m not judging) head over to Kudu Coffee and Craft Beer. They have a quaint little courtyard where you can sit and enjoy your coffee or brew of choice.

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Kudu Brews

 

Anyway, be sure to walk around downtown and check out the waterfront. There are tons of shops on King Street if you’re feeling a little shopping spree. Oh, and you have to get some chicken and waffles for breakfast. HAVE TO.

Savannah pt. 3; Thirsty?

There are a ton of watering holes in Savannah but these are definite faves.

The Alley Cat

This place is my favorite cocktail bar in Savannah. It’s a bit hidden down an alley which is part of the allure, but my favorite part of this place is the menu. It’s a newspaper. That’s right, a good old-fashioned black and white newspaper. They have a TON of options and throughout the newspaper, you’ll find a bunch of fun little stories all usually pertaining to alcohol.

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Kids today will never know that elation we felt when we opened our lunch boxes to find a fruit roll up or a Rice Krispie treat waiting for us.  So while they munch on their organic gluten-free sweet potato chips, we can indulge our inner child with an adult beverage with some of our favorite childhood treats! This place has hundreds of fun and funky martinis including Snickers bar, Rice Krispie, and Fruit roll-up.

Rocko’s Lounge

This place has pretty cool. It has more of a 70’s vibe and there’s an old-school photo booth that you have to take pictures in obviously. The drinks are pretty affordable and they often have live music.

Abe’s on Lincoln

So there’s always that one dive bar that you just have to check out and Abe’s is it. Bring a pen, and be sure you add your own picture of Abe to the collection that covers the bar!

Artillery

Another nice cocktail spot. The atmosphere here is really cool, and like most of Savannah, it has history. (Yes, it actually was an old artillery, you’re brilliant.) Anyway, they have little buttons at each table for you to push and the server will come take your order. Pretty nifty; not to mention the drinks are fabulous.

Rocks on the Roof

So the drinks aren’t anything super spectacular but with a view like that, they don’t have to be.

 

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Rocks on the Roof