Friday, February 5, 2016

China Two Ways

For the longest time, I thought EPCOT's China Pavilion at Walt Disney World would be the closest I would ever get to visiting China. Standing in the middle of the huge theater and watching the CircleVision 360 movie that surrounded me on all sides whet my appetite for a journey to the homeland.

If you're not familiar with EPCOT, half of the park is the World Showcase where pavilions from eleven different countries encircle a large lagoon. Each country sets the mood with iconic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower in the French pavilion and the Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico. In Italy, you feel like you've just stepped into Venice's St. Mark's Square that happens to have a fountain evocative of Rome's Trevi Fountain on the side. In just a few hours, you can pretend you are hiking around the world as you walk from pavilion to pavilion.

The China pavilion at Walt Disney World EPCOT

As a kid, I was puzzled by the China pavilion as I didn't recognize the building. It was neither the Forbidden Palace nor the Great Wall -- the only two famous Chinese structures I knew. When I finally visited Beijing (the real one, not a Disneyfied version) a few years ago, I was excited to figure out that Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest within the Temple of Heaven complex is that building from EPCOT.

Friday, January 29, 2016

11 Free Activities Onboard the Disney Dream Cruise

I was worried we would run out of things to do on the Disney Dream cruise ship, especially since our sailing had an entire day at sea. As it turns out, we ran out of time to do everything we wanted. What I liked best is that tons of activities are included without additional charge — or as my kids call it, "Free!" You probably already know about the Youth Activities Clubs. Goodness sakes, I bet that's why you picked a Disney cruise in the first place. There's so much else to do together as a family or just for adults that don't involve spending extra money on your vacation. Some activities are ongoing throughout the cruise. Others are special events, so be sure to check the schedule in your Personal Navigator.

1. Gawk at Fireworks at Sea

Disney cruise
Buccaneer Blast Fireworks

One of the unique things about a Disney cruise is their fireworks at sea display. On our sailing, the Buccaneer Blast Fireworks capped off the night's Pirates on the Caribbean theme. After getting in the mood with pirate bandannas and paper hats at dinner then a celebration on the pool deck, the ship blasted "cannons" that shot fireworks high above the crowds and over the water. Afterwards, head down for the late-night Pirate buffet if you're not still stuffed from dinner.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cattle Drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards

This is why Fort Worth is nicknamed "Cowtown"

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Heck no. That's why I spent the end of the year in the Dallas-Fort Worth area reconnecting with my old university and high school buddies. As a way to squeeze in some sightseeing, I suggested we do our catching up while strolling through the Forth Worth Stockyards. And to be honest, my kids don't do well sitting in a restaurant for hours and hours while mamma chats with her friends. Gotta keep them moving.

Some people have a stereotypical image of Texas where cattle walk through the streets while cowboys ride horses beside them. This is the place to go if you want to reinforce that picture.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Future of Travel

Buddhist monks staring up a the Washington Monument... and a teeny, tiny Lincoln Memorial in the background

The beginning of the year always seems to turn my thoughts to the future. What does 2016 have in store? What will it be like when my kids get older and the family trip becomes optional for them? How will my travel style change when it's back to being just hubby and I exploring places? My youngest is only 10 years old, so I'm really getting ahead of myself with that last question.

I took the photo at the top of the post as I was exiting the Washington Monument in November. After spending so much time in Asia taking photos of Buddhist monks at temples, I enjoyed seeing them being tourists just like me. I also bet that this was the first time some of the other people at the monument had ever seen a monk.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking Back at 2015

Pulled over on a country Texas road to snap this photo after dropping off my teen for weekend camping

2015 was a year for rediscovering the USA. I barely used my passport. The one time I whipped it out returning to Florida from our Bahamas cruise, I didn't even technically need it as a driver's license would have sufficed. Still, with a nation as vast and varied as America, we learned that you don't necessarily have to go abroad to find adventure.

I didn't plan it on purpose, but we seemed to visit the typical places on a "Where to Take Your Kids in the USA Before They Grow Up" list. Perhaps it's because we've been focusing on other parts of the world for so long, and I'm beginning to feel a sense of urgency to squeeze it all in now that my eldest child turned 16 years old.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Totally Random Photos

My father-in-law has been asking for my business cards so that he can hand them out to his friends. I didn't actually have any cards and had to get some printed. Taking inspiration from my photographer cousin whose business cards are a mini portfolio of his work, I ordered cards from MOO with an assortment of 50 different images from my blog.  That got me "flipping" through my old photos and doing a lot of reminiscing over the fun worldwide travels and slow exploration of Penang, Malaysia that I've enjoyed over the last few years.

For this post, I must give credit for the idea to Nancy over at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Her post this week for her Travel Photo Thursday linkup is to randomly open four of her Flickr travel photo albums and share the seventh photo from each album. I'm being a total copycat and doing the same with my Malaysia albums so that I don't overwhelm you with all 50 of the photos from my stack of business cards.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Ornaments from Around the World

A star from Bethlehem

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at my house. When my kids were younger, they often had the school assignment of telling the class about a holiday tradition from their heritage. While I forget what their reports covered, I clearly remember one classmate's presentation on Tio Nadal, the pooping log or cagatió, from Catalan, Spain. At first, I thought the kid was completely making it up, but an internet search confirmed his info. The hollow log is decorated with a face, traditional Catalonian hat and a blanket. In the days leading up to Christmas, the kids give Tio Nadal food offerings like fruit and nuts which he mysteriously eats when no one is looking. According to,

"On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, according to traditions of each family, the children will approach the cagatió while singing: 
'Poop log, poop turron, if you don't poop well, I'll hit you with a stick' 
There are many variations to the song depending on each family and their traditions. After each song, the kids hit the cagatió with a stick to make it poop. After their parents quickly distract the children, a small present, normally candies, turron (Spanish nougat) or wafers (called neules en Catalonia), appears underneath the blanket. Nowadays, more and more often, different presents are being incorporated into the cagatió pooping log tradition. 
The process is repeated until the log “poops” a head of garlic, an onion, an egg, or any other symbolic item that represents the end of the fun until next year."

It's so fascinating how different places celebrate the same holiday. For the record, Krampus can stay far, far away from me. My family doesn't have an Elf on a Shelf, but I kind of want Tio Nadal.

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