Monday, October 13, 2014

Disney World's Wilderness Lodge

We just returned from our Disney vacation. We spent 7 days at The Magic Kingdom in Florida where we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge Villa's.  Our friend owns a time share through The Wilderness Lodge and he sold us his points for the week. The Wilderness Lodge is a short boat ride to the Magic Kingdom.

We took the Magical Express bus from Orlando International Airport to The Wilderness Lodge. The bus ride was easy and comfortable and for our viewing enjoyment we passed the half hour trip watching an advertisement of all Disney World Parks has to offer.   From the moment we landed to the moment we were dropped off outside the lodge we were taken care of and stress-free!

 The Lobby of the Wilderness Lodge was made to resemble a grand log cabin. You could find wooden totem poles, Native American head-dresses, and comfortable sitting groups. The second we entered the lobby, I knew I had seen it before. Only different.

Yellowstone National Park's Old Faithful Inn 

Before I even asked I knew this building with it's grand lobby was fashioned after a hotel I visited last year with Miss Medical Student; Old Faithful Inn. It is kind of nice to know that Disney is as taken by the national park as I am!

After traveling all morning we were pretty hungry when we arrived. We had our first lunch at the Whispering Canyon Cafe located in the lobby of the hotel.  If you have never eaten at the Whispering Canyon Cafe you should probably be warned. This is not your normal dining experience. The staff are loud. They like to play jokes. Sarcasm is served as a side dish to the smoked ribs.

They serve occasional guest really large drinks and others really small drinks! They have unlimited milkshakes. Getting ketchup in this restaurant is eventful and good luck if you should spend any time on your cell phones!


They also have pony races for all children. I should stress upon the word all children!  This restaurant is all about stressing family time and having a good time. It is best to leave inhibitions at the door and play along!


While we were at dinner we got the text that our room was ready. We made our way there excited to see where we would be spending the next week. We were welcomed with Disney towel art on the master bed.

We had two bedrooms, two baths, a living room and a full kitchen. We were able to order groceries through the front desk. Our room was decorated with Bambi. The Short Chic's American Girl doll, Isabelle, enjoyed her first trip to Disney.

I use to joke that your lodging at Disney did not matter because you spend so little of your time in your room. While it is still true that you spend so little time in your room, it is nice to come back to a comfortable arrangements after a long hard day of play!

If you are heading to Disney, check to see if buying someone's points is a good deal for you. If you do not know of  a Disney Vacation Club member the Mouse Saver's site recommends using David's Vacation Rental's

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tour of Missouri: Kansas City Fountains

Kansas City is known for many things: jazz music, barbecue, and fountains. Kansas City is actually known as the "city of fountains" second only to Paris, France.  I have wanted to do a fountain tour for some time but finding time in our busy summer schedule has always been difficult. Finally we had a down weekend and with a couple of lunch visits, I made it happen. 

I found a self-guided tour guide on the internet developed by the City of Fountain Foundation. The guide list 32 fountains. I invited a few of our friends to join us and we set off to see as many of the fountains as possible. 

1. The Northland Fountain North Oak Trafficway and Vivion Road

The kids knew and recognized this one. It is most popular during winter as it is on the only fountain that is kept on during the winter months creating a large magical ice formation. The kids also knew that the fountains are colored twice each year: blue in April for Go Blue Day (kick off to Child Abuse Prevention Month) and pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

2. Children's Fountain 32nd and North Oak Trafficway

This is the second fountain found in the northland. I pass it everyday on my way to work but this is the first time I have stopped. The fountain reminds me of the Sound of Music but it really shows many different children at play.

A fountain about children playing inspired our children to play. The Short Chic and her friends enjoyed splashing in the water and jumping off the sides of the fountain. 

3. Ilus Davis Fountain 11th and Oak

Our first stop downtown was the Ilus Davis Fountain which is located in a pretty park right across the street from City Hall. The kids loved the waterfall feature that ran into a shallow pool below the fountain. By the third fountain I have figured out how difficult it is to keep hot little girls out of cool water!

4. City Hall Fountains 12th and Oak 

 This fountain is located at City Hall. It is also the first fountain we encountered that was not operating. Internet searches tell me that this is a Hippocamp and Dolphin fountain that came to Kansas City in 1937.

5. Barney Allis Plaza Fountain 12th and Wyandotte

In my younger years this was the place for weddings but now I mostly see large corporate events happening here. Located a block or so from the convention center I am sure this fountain sees a lot of traffic. 

6. The Tenth Street Fountain 10th and Main Street

This fountain is located in the heart of downtown at the intersection of busy streets.


 7. The Muse of the Missouri Fountain 9th and Main

Also located downtown this fountain is in the median of Main Street a few blocks away from the River Market and the Missouri River. Water cascades down and joins other fountains and pools.

8. The Kansas City Star Fountain 18th and Grand

The fountain is located at 18th and Grand right at the Kansas City Star. The fountain is located in a pretty courtyard and is surrounded by well maintained and lush flower beds. The fountain was built in the 1960's with financial backing from the owners of The Kansas City Star, Kansas City's main newspaper.

9. Henry Bloch Fountain Main Street and Pershing

Named after the co-founder of H&R Block, who was born in Kansas City, stands a fountain outside of Union Station. The fountain could not be accessed any closer than what we got as it sits in the median of two busy streets. The fountain sounds large booms as it shoots water high in the sky and performs a water show.  It reminded me of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park although the eruptions are much closer together. The girls enjoyed the falling mist that came over us after each eruption!

10. The Eagle Scout Memorial Fountain 39th and Gillham

This fountain was originally part of the Railroad Station in New York City. We felt the Boy Scout Eagle Badge was added to this fountain after the fact which was confirmed with a few internet searches. I guess the original fountain had a clock in the center before it was dedicated to those who have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. 

11. The Mermaid Fountain Broadway and Nichols Blvd

Located on The Country Club Plaza the Mermaid Fountain was the first fountain the girls threw coins to make a wish. The fountain has two mermaids blowing horns into a pool of water. 

12. Diana Waterfall  Wornall and Ward Parkway

Also located on The County Club Plaza, this fountain is about Diana, Roman Goddess of the Night.  This casting of Diana playing with cherubs is one of only two made. The other can be found in England. Currently, this fountain is right in front of the Intercontinental Hotel water fall and it was the second fountain we encountered that was not working. 

13. Neptune Fountain 47th and Wornall

This fountain is also on The Country Club Plaza. It was cast in 1911 and the plague beside it list a rather extensive history of ownership before it came to the Plaza in 1953. 

14.Seville Light Fountain 47th and Nichols Parkway 

Kansas City's sister city is Seville, Spain and the Country Club Plaza has a lot of influence from Seville, Spain. This is the Seville Light Fountain and it is currently not working an in a state of repair. The tiles around the base are all loose and torn up but it stands proudly right next to the traffic lights. 

15. J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain 47th and Main

J.C. Nichols was the developer responsible for The Country Club Plaza. It is only fitting that one of the most recognizable fountains on The Plaza is named for J.C. Nichols.  The fountain has four warriors on horseback battling different animals. Each horseman is said to represent a different river of the world {The Mississippi, The Volga, The Seine, and The Rhine. 

By the time we reached this fountain, the kids were hot. The parents were tired. I think we were all about done! As soon as we reached this fountain the girls whipped their shoes off at a speed I had not seen since we were at the first fountain! They enjoyed wading around in the fountain and soaking their hot feet. {I am not sure this is socially acceptable or even legal fountain behavior!}

16. The Firefighter's Fountain 31st and Broadway

I think each community suffers tragedies. Ours is no different.  In 1988 several firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty. After that, fundraising efforts began to create a public memorial to all firefighters but specifically those that have fallen in the line of duty. 

After visiting 16 of the 32 fountains listed in the self-guided tour, The Short Chic informed me that she was ready to stop after the first five. Go figure! So instead of dragging her along to see any more, I set out on my own to see the other 16. Some of them were in parts of town that I have never been in before! 

17.Carl J. DiCapo Fountain Cliff Drive West of Van Brunt

I had never driven on Cliff Drive before. It is a scenic byway located  on a high bluff overlooking the Missouri River and the east bottoms. The Fountain is tall! If you did not know better you might for a second think it a natural waterfall.  Sadly, what my camera did not capture was the tent community living at the top of the fountain. 

18. Northeast Concourse Benton and Gladstone Blvd

Located in Kansas City's "Northeast" traditionally a very Italian part of Kansas City is this large fountain. It is flush with the ground and has fountains that shoot up in the air. I could imagine children running through the water on hot summer days!

19. Women's Leadership Fountain 9th and Paseo

Named after a handful of local women who were influential in Kansas City development, this Women's Leadership Fountain is located right on the Paseo a few blocks from my work.  It is located in a difficult place to park and not in the best of neighborhoods.  I took this photo from my car.

20. Westside Fountain Summit & Southwest Blvd

A colorful tiled fountain welcomes visitors to the Westside of Kansas City. The Westside is  known for it's large Hispanic population and some of the best Mexican food Kansas City has to offer. 

21. Liberty Memorial Fountain Pershing and Main

At the entrance to the World War I Museum is the Liberty Memorial Fountain. This area is breathtaking. It has great views of the city, well maintained grounds, and interesting structures. The fountain itself is cascades down several terraces. It is so sleek you can't really see it from the parking lot and you really have to walk down the steps toward the front door.

22. Crown Center Square - Grand and Pershing

Another popular fountain in Kansas City. This one sits in the courtyard across from Crown Center and next to Hallmark. For generations children have enjoyed running through the jets of water as they shoot out of the ground (until recently when Crown Center decided to cease all playing in the fountain for safety reasons).

23.  Spirit of Freedom Fountain - Cleveland & Cleaver II Blvd

I am in this part of town frequently for work but yet I had never been in the park that is home to this fountain.  Inside a pool is a pyramid with a bronze/gold colored structure at the top. Water cascades down the pyramid and other fountains shoot up from the pool.  Also worth noting is the old bridge next to the park and another fountain, not on the self guided list, is across the way.

24. Garden of the Stars - 4900 Starlight Road

Located inside the gates to Starlight Theater (Kansas City's outdoor amphitheater home to small concert venues and off-broadway productions) is the Garden of the Stars fountain. This is one I was familiar with just from attending shows with the BFF at Starlight.  Multiple shooting fountains curve around the terrace at the main entrance.

25. Delbert J. Haff Circle - Meyer Blvd and Swope Parkway

A large pool of water with three shooting fountains (one large and two small ones) sit in the median of the road. A bust of a man, I am assuming Delbert J. Haff is also located near the fountain. I am assuming that because I did not get out and walk to this fountain due to the traffic. 

26. Meyer Circle Sea Horse - Meyer Blvd and Ward Parkway

Another fountain located in the middle of busy traffic circle. A large pyramid structure sits inside a large pool of water. On top of the pyramid is a level of sea horses with a basin of carved lions heads. The lions heads are shooting water. 

On top of that are three cherubs supporting a smaller identical basin. The top level is a naked child riding a dolphin, which was missing for several years after vandals destroyed it. The fountain has since been fully restored.   

27. Mirror Pool Fountain - 62nd and Ward Parkway

Just a few blocks away from the Meyer Circle Sea Horses is the Mirror Pool Fountain. It is also located in the median and is relatively "quiet" next to its flasher, bigger neighbor. This fountain is a small pool with three small fountains down the middle. 

28. Loose Park Rose Garden Fountain - 51st and Wornall

Loose Park is a beautiful park with a breathtaking rose garden. In the center of the rose garden is the Rose Garden Fountain. It is a fairly new fountain put into replace an old, leaky fountain. This fountain has a large basin sitting in a large pool of water. On the pedestal of the basin are carved roses. Water shoots from all over.  Many weddings are performed right here in this garden and it is easy to see why.

29. Vietnam Veterans Fountain - 43rd and Broadway

The internet research says the many pools of water represent the nations growing involvement in the war leading to two pools that represent the United States' divided opinion about this war. There is a curved wall behind it that holds the names of the local hero's who lost their lives in this war.

30. Volker Memorial Fountain - Volker Blvd and Rockhill

This fountain is near the grounds of UMKC and I pass it frequently on my way to my part time job. Passing something and visiting it are two totally different things. The fountain is actually on the Stowers Foundation and honors organ donors.  Today, I enjoyed the mild Kansas City weather and walked the grounds of this expansive fountain. It is many different levels and many different water structures and features a trio of mime's dancing.

31. Westin Crown Center Hotel Lobby - Main and Pershing

This is the only fountain, I did not go and personally visit. I have seen it many times. It is located inside the Westin Crown Center. I have mixed feeling about an indoor fountain being on the list. So, I opted to skip it. If you are hanging out around Crown Center, you can walk through their lobby and head upstairs to see the massive indoor fountain.

32. Kauffman Stadium Fountain -I70 and Stadium Drive

Number Thirty-two on the list is the fountains at Kauffman Stadium home of the Kansas City Royals. The fountains are gorgeous and entertain many who visit the baseball field. My only complaint with them being on this list is you can't enjoy them without purchasing a ticket to the game. Even at Starlight, another paid venue on the list, has their gates open during the day and the fountains can be viewed for free.

These two photos were taken by a coworker's family members as they have season tickets to the Royals.

This post has been in my draft folder for many months, having gotten a little "lost" in all of our Disney planning. But, hey, since it is October and our Kansas City Royals are in the national is fitting to end the post with their fountain! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our Third Annual Family Camp-out

Every September for the past three years we have gathered our friends and embarked on a camping trip at a local county park, Smithville Lake. We started off with 8 families, 14 children, and a total of 30 people spending one night under the stars.  This year we had 12 families, 16 kids, and a total of 36 people and for the first time ever we had more people spend two nights and not one.

The weather this year resembled the first camping trip three years ago. Our first night was pretty brutal. The wind was strong up till about nine p.m. and then the clouds blew away and the temperature dropped.  Those of us who have been to every camping trip had a jolly time of reminiscing about the similarities! 

Each year we have some type of "organized" activity. I based this year's theme on games from my childhood. My mother always took us to small town celebrations where we played the funniest games. This year's theme was Family Competition.  Luckily for us the cold, windy, foggy weather burned off as the day progressed and we were left with a sunny, warm and perfect late summer day. (Anyone else get sunburned?)

We asked each family to make and bring a "family flag". We lined them up at the start line of our games. 

Our first game was an old fashioned Shoe Kickin' contest. Each family member got a kick and we averaged their score. The Bell family won the contest but the Sampson dad has the longest kick! After a lunch break the games resumed with a game designed for kids under the age of 5. Their game was a Penny Scramble. I hid various coins in cornmeal and the kids had to scramble to find as many coins as they could. Little Jetta was the big winner of this contest! 

Other games we played were the three-legged races, sack races, Chubby Bunny, and a football toss. Each game brought about a good laugh and wonderful family moments! I should say The Peterson family officially won the three-legged races,Allie and Kimber won the child/adult Chubby Bunny contest,  Jenny won the football toss, and I am happy that most of the women found a way to beat their husbands in the spouse vs spouse sack races.  Cheating was allowed in the race!

Another tradition at the family camp-out is a craft. Normally we do t-shirts but this year we made camping lanterns. The Dads stepped up and organized the craft since it involved drilling. The Moms did not complain as it game them a chance to sit and relax! OR, be silly...

The Real Housewives of Smithville Lake...ha ha! In case you can't tell those are marshmallows in our hands. When was the last time those Beverly Hills ladies went camping?

Of course we have to discuss food at the family camp-out. We made foil packets for dinner on Friday. We made eggs in a bag on Saturday morning and they were a big hit! We used a fish fryer to boil water and each person made their individual bag and cooked their eggs in the bag in the hot water.

Saturday lunch is our traditional Walking Taco's. Saturday night has become a traditional hot dog buffet. We provide many different ways to cook hot dogs on a campfire and let people get crazy. Thanks to Kimber, we also had campfire jalapeno poppers, and of course we had smore's. Have you tried the worlds best smore yet?

Luckily for us, we woke up on the second morning and the sun was shining with a pretty sky. End on a high note, huh!

Thank you to each and every person who joined us. We have such a great time on this camping trip and that is because each of you brighten our world. Can't wait till next year. Mark your calendar: third weekend in Sept. If you have never joined, you should really think about it!

See you next year!

In case you were wondering this was my families 8th camp-out this year!  We have one more left in the year.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Single Digits to Disney World

Disney World.

Some parents cringe at the sound of it. Some parents tolerate it for the love of their children. Then there are the category of parents like I am in. I live for visits and trips to the Happiest Place on Earth. And our countdown to return to this magical place just hit single digits!

Hot on the trail of our last Disney World trip (March 2013) I began making plans to return with some good friends of ours. They have a little girl the same age as The Short Chic and thought it would be awesome to go as a group so their daughter would have someone to share the experience with.

As we began planning and decision making (on property vs off property/ driving vs flying) my husband suggested we reach out to a friend who has a Disney time share. He had offered us some time in the past. Not only did he agree to sell us some points he also agreed to go with us.

That is how we became #DisneyPartyofTen !

Slowly we have observed milestones in our countdown. We customized our Magic Bands. Six months ago we made our dining reservations. Ninety days ago we made our Fast Pass selections. We have ordered tickets. We have even purchased our dining plan.

This is the first trip were we will actually stay on property. This will be our first experience with the Dining Plan. We will be attending Epcot's Food and Wine Festival. We will be attending the Not So Spooky Halloween Party!

This past weekend I completed every single pre-Disney craft project on my to-do list. What kind of pre-Disney craft projects did I have? Well, let me share them with you!

Halloween Costumes:

Since we are going during the Not So Spooky Halloween Party, halloween costumes were in order. Our three youngest members are dressing up like Princesses thanks to Bippity Boppity Boutique. The rest of us will be Crayons. I made a total of 7 costumes: Green, Yellow, Blue, Purple, Gray, Maroon, and Fuschia. Yes, we have hats to match!

Group T-Shirts

Honestly, this started off with a simple idea. How fun would it be to have matching t-shirts to wear on the trip down to Orlando.  They were so cute and easy to make it just kinda snowballed. In the end we each have five matching shirts to wear during our seven day stay.

Shirt one:

Girls have polka dots and bows. Men have chevron strips. Names on the back in Disney font. 

Shirt Two: We call him "Fancy Mickey". How cute is he!!

Shirt Three: Zebra Mickey. Girls will have red bows. We will appropriately wear this on the day we are at Animal Kingdom!

Shirt Four: Camo Mickey. The group wanted to wear him to Animal Kingdom but I did not want the animals to think we were hunting them. Of course that assumes they would be able to see us! :) 

Shirt Five: FrankenMickey. I love this shirt! We will wear him the day we are at The Magic Kingdom for the Not So Spooky Halloween Party.

Okay, non-Disney people. Yes, we will look dorky. Maybe a little corny. But we will look like a group and have fun doing it. Besides, anyone want to place a bet we are not the only group there with matching t-shirts?  Okay, and another huge benefit: half of our packing is done!

Autograph Books: 

The minute we told The Short Chic we were returning to Disney World she has been dreaming of meeting Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. She can't wait to get their autograph books. We made cute autograph books using cardstock, brads, and a sketch book. Autograph books inside Disney can cost up to $20.00. We made ours for a fraction of that.

Princess Purse: 

Inspired by Queen Elsa herself, the two little girls can carry their autograph books around in a purse. Easy to make with a half of yard of material, some trim,  and a glue gun!

American Girl Wear:

I know The Short Chic won't travel without her American Girl doll, Isabelle. So on a pure moment of crazy, I made her doll and her friend's doll t-shirts with iron on decals that match our shirts. Okay, then I decided they needed skirts too!

There you have it. Pre-Disney crafts. Finished. The only thing I have left to do is pack. And clean house. I really need to clean my house since I have spent so much time crafting!