Monday, November 30, 2009

i heart faces: we heart tooshies!

i'll be honest--i really thought i had nothing for this week and was just going to sit out. i mean, where in my photo library do i have a tooshie-focused picture?

and then i remembered a photo in one of the recent shoots i did that might just fit the bill--
this is silas (featured in the bubbles week photo, too) and his "motorcycle." he loves that thing and will ride it all over the place. one of the best home videos that his dad recorded was after they watched the x-games on espn and then silas made his own motorcycle ramp out of pillows and did stunts just like the big guys on TV.

so there it is. the only tooshie i feel like featuring on the blog :)

check out the other tooshies this week over at i heart faces!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

day 5: visiting resorts

on sunday, we knew we only had a few final hours in disney and surprisingly--we'd done pretty much everything we'd wanted to do. but we got up and packed and rather than eating breakfast at our resort, we went back over to epcot to eat in the park and plan our day.

one of the last times i was in orlando in 2003, we visited some of the big resorts just to see the lobbies and some of the cool features. i remembered that a couple of them were accessible from epcot (also something i learned from samantha brown) so we headed out to explore and see what we could find. a helpful disney employee pointed us in the right direction, and sure enough--between france and engalnd, we found the "international gateway" that led us to several of the big name resorts.

like the disney boardwalk...

i loved the old-fashioned design for the buildings and the "jersey shore" feel for the shops and restaurants.
then there was the yacht club resort...
which was all decked out for the holidays and included a huge train set in the lobby.
and the beach club resort--
known for its huge gingerbread carousel in the lobby during the holidays.
again--the details. this was the fake roof on the window that sold gingerbread cookies in the afternoons to people who stopped by. each cookie is uniquely decorated (and looks so good!)
we went back into epcot after walking around and decided to go back at eat lunch at our hotel. the park was getting incredibly crowded by that point, and i just couldn't see walking around the world showcase again to find lunch. plus, there were large parts of our resort that we hadn't even seen, like the pool...
and of course, as we were visiting this section, we were dressed in preparation to fly back home (in jeans and t-shirts) and it was easily 80 degrees outside. i so could've jumped in the pool right then...

a view of the main part of the resort, where we spent the majority of our time.
and a last picture before we left the resort and headed to the airport.
so--that's our trip. we had the best time and i can't believe how quickly it went by. we'd always wanted to do disney with "just us" and we did. it's a totally different experience as just two adults, and i loved the way we were able to plan it.

i would totally recommend the disney dining plan, which came with our travel package and is definitely an option families should consider in planning. we are usually so cheap in eating at theme parks, and we would have never eaten so well if it hadn't been for the dining plan. (just remember to tip!)

if you do plan on doing table-service dining, go ahead and make reservations as soon as possible (they open up 90 days in advance.) we were able to make some last minute changes thanks to our concierge, but we were open to eating earlier in the day for that meal because all of the dinner-time slots were taken.

we also did well in combining short lines with fast passes to make it through lots of rides quickly. if we found a short line for a ride, we'd grab a fast pass for a big ride first and then go on the short lined-ride. same for shows that were close to a popular ride. and we always made it to the park at opening or within 30 minutes of opening and hit the biggest rides first. that worked incredibly well for us.

i can't say enough about how easy it was to stay on park property and use the disney transportation and the extra magic hours. granted, we'll have to do a trip back to visit sea world and universal studios/islands of adventure, but we didn't have to rent a car after flying down and that was a huge savings for us (and much less hassle with parking, driving, directions, etc.)

and finally, as much fun as it is (and so like my type-a nature) to plan a trip like this, it was also fun to just be there and to experience disney with my wonderful husband. the new shows and rides that neither of us had seen before, the older ones that brought back fun memories, and the opportunity to be there as an adult--i know that sounds weird, but i'd only been to disney before as a kid, a teen or a young adult with my family. and disney is just something you should do as an adult, too :)

so--sea world and universal next? who's with me?

Friday, November 27, 2009

day 4: magic kingdom

on saturday, we finally made it to the magic kingdom. in a way, it was the best way to see the parks. start at the newest park and work our way to the oldest, the most "quintessential disney" park.

the main street usa area is so awesome during the holiday season. the decorations are beautiful and we got to see a horse-drawn trolley first thing in the morning--
the riders were two little girls who had obviously been by the bippity boppity boutique--a new feature at the magic kingdom and downtown disney where girls can get hair and make-up done to match their princess dresses. and THEN they wear the princess dresses to the park for the rest of the day. honestly, i think the idea is cute but totally impractical for a day at the theme park.

we started in tomorrowland and worked our way around the magic kingdom. we, of course, had to hit space mountain (which is being renovated but was running that day) and the new rides there: buzz lightyear's space ranger thing, monster's inc. laugh floor (which used the same technology that turtle talk has to interact with the audience) and stitch's escape (which i still remember as being alien encounter and one of the scariest rides disney had.)then around to toontown and fantasy land...
liberty square, with the haunted mansion...
frontierland with splash mountain and big thunder mountain railroad...
and finally, adventureland with pirates of the carribean and swiss family robinson's treehouse.
we did get to meet the newest princess, tiana, who is in the new movie, "princess and the frog." they had several riverboat shows that featured new orleans-style jazz music.
but this was the princess that i waited to see--forgive me for the crappy picture. actually, forgive justin. you'd never guess that he had a 12.1 mp DSLR over his shoulder when he snapped this on his phone...
we also had plenty of parades to catch--
and some last-minute shopping along main street--i do love that garland!
this was a cool display for the hat shop--you could actually make your own personalized set of ears with different hats, ears and appliques to choose from.
we made our way back down to the castle for "cinderella's wish" which i realized was the lighting of the castle with the icicle lights. i had seen this on the disney travel specials and was so glad that we made it! we have a video of it, but i recorded it sideways and we need justin's computer to flip it the right way. so i'll post it later. but it was spectacular...
we ate dinner along main street and stayed around that area for most of the evening. honestly, it didn't take us as long to do magic kingdom as we had expected. by mid-afternoon we had done the major rides that we wanted to do, and that was even on a saturday with longer waits that we had had all week.
so we found our spots for spectromagic and enjoyed the nighttime parade.
i've always enjoyed this parade--so cool to see everything in lights!

and then hung around for a little bit longer for the final fireworks show, "wishes." i tried to capture tinkerbell as she flew down from the top of the castle, but with the long exposure, she was just a blur. i think the following pictures make up for that, though...

(purple! gold!)
really cool firework here...
(can i tell you how much i loved that that mickey balloon was in the frame? it was just perfect.)
and this is without a tripod. i was worried they wouldn't turn out, but the fireworks are so bright that it ended up giving plenty of light.
and finally, my favorite one. though that's very subjective. i really love them all!
after the fireworks ended, we made our way out of the park with the herd of people leaving. i was excited to sleep in some the next morning--we had no definite plans and didn't need to be at a park at opening, and we had to pack. so after another "standing room only" bus ride, we were home and crashed.

day 5 coming soon...

a few more pictures here

a different take on black friday

you guys know that i love shopping. it is admittedly one of my greatest weaknesses--i love finding a good deal, checking out the clearance racks and figuring out how much money i can save off of regular price, all while snagging that adorable top or cute pair of shoes.

this holiday season, though, i've found several ways to buy gifts while also giving back. as much as i love to shop, i don't like to "waste" money. if my purchase can do more, then i want it to do more.

so here are some great websites that i've found that help give back a little more this gift-giving season.

first, check out this quick video from

the website they're referring to is they definitely have a wide variety of charities you can choose from, as well as all the stores where you might normally shop. i'm a huge fan of doing my Christmas shopping online, so i will be checking this one out!

last year, i ordered several gifts from there are actually several shops to choose from here--i especially like the rainforestsite shop with its fair trade items and cool Christmas ornaments. they often have free shipping deals, and with each purchase you donate to the cause of the store--either saving rainforest land, donating to animal shelters or helping to fund mammograms for women who couldn't otherwise afford them.

i also try to click here daily--that's the easiest way to support these causes!

and finally, there's the heifer project. there are so many people where i try to find little gifts under $10 or $20 that ends up broken, collecting dust or immediately used up. imagine if we could help provide a sheep or a flock of ducks for a family that is truly in need rather than spending our money on little trinkets or knick-knacks. we are so blessed and have so many "things"--i feel like we could really use our money in better ways and the heifer project is an awesome opportunity to make a difference.

so whether you're out at the stores at 4 a.m. this morning, or sleeping off the turkey like i will be--think about ways you can give back this holiday season and use your money to support some great causes out there.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


today, i'm thankful for my husband and our happy family of pets.

i'm thankful for my family, far and wide, and that we have so many wonderful family members to spend the holidays with.

i'm thankful for my friends, my amazing church family, and my awesome co-workers. i'm thankful that i have a job and a church home.

i'm thankful that we have food to enjoy, a home to call our own, and the many blessings we enjoy daily.

i'm just thankful for the life that i have. i love it--i love where i am, the people that are in it, and the things i do that bring me such joy.

and i'm thankful for the God is all, knows all, provides all, and loves all.

what are you thankful for today?

so close to being caught up: the albrights

i met nate, kelly and their two girls at brock's farm one autumn afternoon to do some family photos. i was excited when they approached me about taking photos, because i think their girls are adorable! though it took them a while to warm up to me, we got some good photos that day and some awesome expressions...

that sunflare is just amazing--so glad we were able to catch it!
she gave me some beautiful smiles once we got comfortable with each other :)
but i do like capturing some of the other faces that kids make--doesn't always have to be smiles!

so sweet...
thanks for sharing your daughters, nate and kelly! hope you enjoy the photos :)

(i'll bring the disk to church on sunday...)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

day 3: epcot

on friday, we headed out to epcot for the day. since we already had a couple of rides out of the way, we figured we'd have enough time in the park that day to do both future world and the world showcase.

epcot has been my favorite park for a while. when i was a kid, i loved the living seas area (honestly, sea world was an even bigger deal for me--and discovery cove is worth a whole 'nother blog post--but the living seas took a close 2nd) and as i got older, the world showcase allowed me to live out my dreams of traveling around the world.

so we knew epcot would be a big deal for it's technical side, too--we immediately hit up test track, where you ride through various test environments for cars, including a 65 mph stretch--

and mission space, where we took the more intense orange route and experienced what it might feel like to blast off to space.
of course, i had to see the updated "the seas" exhibit with nemo and friends.
and nemo was easy to spot immediately!
but of course, i found the dolphin exhibit right away and was there for their morning presentation. it was cool to see the research and training they're doing by teaching the dolphins to associate certain rhythms of sounds with objects and teaching them to repeat the rhythms when the objects are presented to them.
the idea is that the dolphins will be able to perform the rhythms and request the objects for them to play with. i could have watched them forever, but we had to make the next showing of...

"turtle talk with crush!"

and if i could give my personal recommendation for any show/attraction you can't miss, it would be this one. i was completely floored by the technology that they were using here to have crush talk to, interact with, and joke around with the audience.
the CG animation was spot on--immediate movement in the mouth for talking, facial expressions, floating around or flipping over in the water. and the guy doing the voice--he was just funny! very quick witted and could easily fit in an ocean-themed pun or two. so impressed with this--please don't miss it!

we finished out our trip with the universe of energy--i'll say here, it's missable. we had time, so we chose to do the 45 minute show. and ellen degeneres was hosting it along with bill nye the science guy, so i thought it would be amusing. but it wasn't 45 minutes worth.
so then we started our tour around the world showcase. or as i like to think of it, the ultimate photography voyage. we had lunch in mexico...
where i heard a woman say in spanish to her family that they shouldn't eat there, the food wasn't that good. she was right. (i used to be conversational in spanish and still understand a good deal of it.) skip the mexican food at the cantina.

then on to norway...
there is apparently a decent ride about vikings or norse gods here, but it said you might get wet so we passed on it.
next stop was china, where we watched the 360 degree movie about china. beautiful country, and we enjoyed the young acrobats who were performing as we left.
then over to germany...
and then italy. venice was my favorite city in italy, and it makes sense to use those landmarks since venice is right on the water. it was pretty awesome with the christmas decorations up, too.
then to japan, where we listened to the ceremonial drums being played...
and then over to the american adventure. and i'll be honest here--that show is so schmaltzy, it's almost embarrassing. justin fell asleep halfway through it, and based on what he saw while he was awake, he agreed. the hall of presidents that we saw the next day was a lot better and would have been just as effective there.
on to morocco, whose architecture and decor is right up my alley. i love the ornate details and was tempted by the henna designs they were doing right by the water.

and the mosaics? beautiful...we continued on to france, where we grabbed a pastry at the local patisserie and watched a 360 video on rural france. (and i couldn't understand what the guy said to introduce the movie, even in english.)
across the bridge was england, where we also saw the popular irish pub and heard strains of the beatles coming from one of the late afternoon shows...
and finally, canada. their movie was hosted by martin short and was way cooler than the american video. and who doesn't love martin short?
the architecture and gardens here were modeled after those in victoria, british columbia, and the butchart gardens (also somewhere we've visited.)
as evening started to fall, we took the opportunity to capture some of these places all lit up for the night, slowly making our way back to our late dinner reservations...

ask me how long it took to capture this without any shake. just ask.
(ended up using a trashcan as a tripod after trying for about 10 minutes or so.)

our dinner reservations were for the coral reef, the restaurant inside the seas exhibit. we were lucky enough to get a table right next to the tanks, and it was so cool to watch divers swim by as we ate our delicious dinner. a little odd, perhaps, to watch fish as you're eating fish, but i didn't see any salmon in the tank, so i figured it was okay.
believe it or not, we made it out right at 9 and headed home. this was the beginning of the "busy" time--probably one of the first rides where we had standing room only on the bus back to the hotel. just preparing us for the beginning of the holiday weekend and a full park on saturday.

tomorrow--magic kingdom!

pictures here