Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day!

Boxing Day is always a fun time for kids to enjoy their new toys:)

A droid and a drone? What on earth was Santa thinking?:)

Our Star Wars Christmas Day!

This Christmas was our fourth time hosting at our house and our biggest party so far with 20 of us celebrating together! We decided to change it up a little this year and Mike prepped the food the day before and we opened family gifts together on Christmas Eve. Maddy got a beautiful new bike which she was really excited about and I got a ton of clothes, jewelry and books and was generally spoiled rotten. We'll get to Mike's gifts later...;) With some extra time back in the morning we were able to participate in our first Disney VoluntEARS event delivering food to families in need in the West Orange county area...

The Food for Families event has been happening for 24 years and they raised over $3M worth of food this year. We were all deeply moved by the thousands of people who give up their Christmas mornings to serve others. It was an inspirational start to the day and we were all really glad we signed up.

After a little snooze, the family started to arrive and the fun began. The food turned out beautifully and we managed to fit everyone onto the table which I was very relieved about!

The girls looked stunning in their outfits:)
And those younglings....the Force is so strong with them:)
And of course there were gifts and games aplenty...
It was a fun-filled, perfect family day. We even got to see family in England on facetime which was soooo lovely too:). Thank you Liz, Matt, Declan, Cormac, Jen, Rich, Mya, Sara, Jamie, Duke, Richard, Sue, Dave, Eileen, Mabel, Milo and Rita for coming and making our Christmas party so special - we love you all!!!

The Christmas Force!

Mike and Maddy were really excited about the release of the new Star Wars movie so we decided to have a Force-themed Christmas party this year! Mike totally outdid himself with his tree - although he got a big carried away with his new toy during decorating (despite the warnings) and got a lightsabre-related injury...

Everyone loved his was totally awesome!!

I managed to watch all 6 of the previous films to get up to speed before the new release and was really excited by the time that the big day came too. We got tickets for opening night and despite the fact that we arrived at the theater 2 hours early we still only got back row seats! But we didn't care - we all wanted a good view of the audience as they cheered through the reintroduction of the beloved heroes from the past...:)

It was a fantastic night - we all loved the movie and I was so proud of my amazing employer for bringing Star Wars back to life for the world! Also, On the Disney front, Hollywood Studios had added a couple of Star Wars themed attractions over the past few weeks (and this year is the 20th anniversary (and the last) year of the famous dancing Osborne lights) so we headed over for night as a family the week before Christmas...


The new Star Wars themed fireworks were amazing!!!!

And in what seemed like a flash the big day was here!!!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Funday:)

One of the things I'm most thankful for this year is my lovely camera:). I'm still learning a lot about how to use it but I had some great practice in at Animal Kingdom today. These were my favorite shots of the day:)

Hope you are having a fun-filled Holiday season!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Rocky Mountain High!

Michael and I have both had a major travel bug ever since Alaska so when he was scheduled to go to Colorado for work, I figured I could fly out and join him and we could take a few days together exploring a new state. Jen, Rich and Mya were in town for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party so they offered to take Madison so that we could have a romantic getaway together! I flew in on Friday morning and we kicked off the trip with lunch in Boulder. It's a great town - we both agreed to add it to the shortlist of places to live one day...

After lunch we headed out to Gold Hill, the first mining district organized in the Nebraska territory. It's not technically a ghost town since there are still a handful of residents (about 230ish) but the town still has many of the original structures from its gold mining hay day. We walked around a bit (which felt a bit more labored than normal at nearly a 10,000 ft altitude!) and went for coffee in the local general store. The locals were so interesting and hospitable and their little town was fascinating! The talk of the town was all about a guy who had lost the end of his finger that morning in a wood cutter. Yikes!

Gold Hill in 1888 and today...

We hit the road in the early evening and headed for our hotel in Estes Park, just 5 minutes away from the Rocky Mountain National Park. Just driving around Colorado is so pretty - I took literally hundreds of photos!

We saw some elk and deer as soon as we arrived - what a treat!

We stayed at the reportedly haunted Stanley Hotel - famous for being the original inspiration for Stephen King's book, The Shining....

There were tourists coming through and doing tours the whole time we were there. Apparently they just couldn't get enough 'Redrum' mugs or 'Come Play With Me' T-Shirts and we had a fun night learning about the history of the hotel, having dinner and a drink by a roaring fire watching the people coming through the the various murder mystery and ghost tour events:)

We had heard that since it was "elk rut" season you can hear the bulls 'bugling' in the mornings and fighting to win their mate of choice. We didn't want to miss that so we got up at 5:15 am and headed down to the lake to see if we could find any. We couldn't believe our eyes (and ears) when we got there and there were literally hundreds of elk! We just stood and watched them for over an hour - it was a majestic and awe-inspiring sight and completely worth getting up at the break of dawn for :)

After our morning spectacle we headed out to Rocky Mountain National Park for some hiking:)

It felt great to see snow and ice for a change and the views up to Emerald Lake were just breathtaking...

We saw 4 lakes and a waterfall and found a beautiful spot for lunch...the sky was more blue than I can ever remember seeing before...

Can you believe I haven't done anything to alter this photo!? So amazingly blue!!!


I spotted a rare American Dipper...:)


We walked for hours:). After we were done with the day's activity, we took Trail Park Road up as far as we could toward the intercontinental divide. We hit over 10,450 feet before the road was closed and saw some spectacular scenery:)<

 So happy:)

What an amazing experience! After the day was over, we found a lovely little log cabin and snuggled up by a big fire for the night in Estes Park. The next morning we went back to the park to see if we could see Bighorn sheep (Mike is obsessed with them and we have only ever seen two and they were far off in the distance as Lake Mead). We took some tips from the locals and tried Falls Road which we had to do on foot since it was closed for the season. Mike looked everywhere...

While I took pictures of Stellar's jays, magpies and chipmunks:)

No sheep but we did have a lovely picnic in the forest:)

We gave up and decided to head over to Boulder to see the prairie dog preserve instead. According to what I read online, the preserve was established by the Celestial Tea Co. as part of a legal settlement since they were caught poisoning prairie dogs at night back in 1999 (you are supposed to make a good faith effort to rehouse colonies 'live' evidently). It was great to see nature win for once and the gorgeous prairie dogs dominate about 15 acres! I love these little guys!

I could tell that Mike was still a bit disappointed about missing out on his sheep so after a drive through Golden, we used our old friend Google to see where the best viewing spots in the state were. Turns out in Georgetown, CO you can spot bighorn sheep regularly and it's an old silver mining town so we decided to head over and check it out:). 

We lucked out within minutes of arriving and saw a herd of ewes by the highway...

Mike was very happy:). We decided to stop by the gorgeous town of Idaho Springs on the way back and saw this guy on the rocks right above Starbucks!!! Mike was just giddy - he was so gorgeous:)

What a perfect end to our amazing little trip - we packed in such a lot!! Turns out Maddy didn't miss us at all either;)

Time to start planning our next adventure - I think I'd really like to see a moose one day and I still have 20 states left to see...:)