Age, getting old

The Evolution of Scoring Concert Tickets

The scene:
Boston apartment, 1999
9:58am
, 2 minutes until Dave Matthews Band Tickets for Foxboro Stadium go on sale

Four women are armed with phones, ready for the clock strike to 10am.

“I’ve got Boston!” one yells.

“I’m calling New Hampshire!” says another.

“I have Rhode Island covered!”

“I’ll be Massachusetts back up!”

3…2…1….DIAL!

We all spring into action.

I’m on my cell phone – not a smart phone, mind you, just a plain old cell phone that could only make calls – dialing Ticketmaster in Massachusetts. Busy, busy, busy.

One of my roommates is on the land line, clicking ON, then redial, the OFF, then ON again. Repeat. New Hampshire is busy tone after busy tone.

Two more roommates – both on cell phones – calling Rhode Island and Massachusetts, both striking out.

And then…”It’s ringing!” We all hold our breath and gather around the phone.

Then, finally, a human: “Ticketmaster.” We all squeal with joy and look at the printed seating chart. Honestly, we’d take what we could get. “How many tickets?”

And so began the back and forth of sections and what was available.

And this, my millennium friends, is how we used to get concert tickets.

Fast forward to 2022
Taylor Swift concert tickets go on sale

I am probably the only female on the planet who was not trying to get Taylor Swift tickets yesterday – and then, again – today (slight exaggeration, but not by much). I have many coworkers who were waiting in virtual queues who told me, “If I hang up quickly it’s because I got in!” (Nobody hung up quickly).

“There are 6,000 people ahead of me in line!” and “I have been waiting on the computer for hours!”

And this, my friends, is unfathomable to me. I love a good concert as much as the next person, but the lengths people are going, and the insanity that is ensuing, is too much for me.

When Taylor Swift announced her tour, there was a fleeting moment when I thought, “I bet she’d be such a great concert to see.” And then I saw the rules on how to get tickets and I’m all like, “Yeah…nope.”

There is no one – not one musical artist, living or dead – that I would stay online for 10+ hours to get tickets to. Not to mention the COST of the tickets…that is just not something I could spend that much money on. I’d rather go on vacation!

Today’s news shared the absurd cost of tickets on resale sites such as Stubhub, here tickets are priced over $30,000.

Let me say that again: $30,000. For a concert ticket.

The worst part is, with how hard it is to get tickets and how expensive those tickets are, there are a lot of very sad girls out in the world.

The “old days” of getting concert tickets seems ridiculous now (can you imagine working at Ticketmaster and having to work the day super popular tickets went on sale? And you manually answered the phone? And had to talk to people about which tickets they wanted? that sounds like a HORRIBLE job!). But there was something about the thrill of the chase – all of us on different phones, manually dialing phone numbers in multiple states. There was no pre-sale or special clubs. Everyone was on equal footing, and it all came down to how fast your fingers worked with the dialing of a phone. And even when you got through and stopped hearing that annoying busy tone in your ear, you were put in a queue to wait for an operator.

Yes, you read that correctly. Wait. for. an. operator.

A real live person would tell you what tickets/sections/rows/seats were available.

And then our tickets would come to us in the mail!

We worked so hard as a team to get concert tickets that when we finally “got through” and spoke with someone, we were ecstatic!

Ah, the good old days!

Books, memoir

My Favorite Memoirs

I am not shy about sharing on this blog that I want to write a memoir. I also want the motivation needed to sit down and write said memoir. If I didn’t write my novel when I was locked in a house during a pandemic with nothing to do, I’m not quite sure when I’m going to get around to doing it.

That being said, I am a pretty avid reader. And I’ve always heard that reading a lot helps you become a better writer. At least that’s the logic I’m applying to my eight year old, whose handwriting and spelling leaves much to be desired (can I vent for a hot second about how they don’t teach spelling anymore in school??? who needs to know how to spell, I guess?). And while my reading has slacked off a bit in the last few months because I can’t keep my eyes open for two seconds once I’m horizontal, I have read many, many books over the years. And in those books, were many, many memoirs.

Reading memoirs helped me to see the different ways people wrote about their lives. Some were funny, others were tragic, but they were all good. Some of the memoirs literally start at the beginning of the person’s life and move chronologically through milestones. Others jump around and are more like a collection of short essays. I think either works. Personally, I lean towards the memoirs that are like a bunch of mini stories.

When I write – and you read – my memoir, I hope you will laugh. Topics I will likely cover in my memoir include – but are not limited to:

  • How horrible my memory is
  • Stories from working at Disney World and living at the biggest party complex on the planet
  • Life before kids
  • Life after kids
  • Life as an only child
  • Waiting a week to get photos developed
  • Why I hated camp
  • Summers on the Jersey Shore (pre-GTL)
  • Losing a pet
  • Gaining a husband
  • My early business venture when I was 8: collecting and recycling cans for a nickel
  • My favorite recipes
  • My plan to break into Ina’s barn
  • And so much more

While I seems I should read a book about how to be disciplined enough to sit down and write a book, instead I read amazing memoirs to give me inspiration to share my own story.

Here are some of my favorite memoirs I’ve read:

Hooked by Sutton Foster
I was a Younger groupie, so reading this memoir was an easy choice. Is there anyone cuter than Sutton Foster?

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
One of the two funniest women there is. Parks and Recreation is pure genius.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
The second of two funniest women. Her book isn’t new, but worth a read or listen.

Becoming by Michelle Obama 
I know she has a new book, but I haven’t read that one yet. Michelle is a class act all the way. And anyone who can roast the President (at the time) gets points in my book.

A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost
I highly recommend listening to this book, read by the author. It’s like one long SNL update about his life.

Why Not Me? and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
These aren’t new, but they are hilarious. I’m so impressed with Mindy Kaling, and we are just about done binging The Mindy Project (her TV show) which was straight up LOL.

I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly
He had me at What Not To Wear, and I’ve loved him since. Now he cooks! He hosts! He drinks on Insta! 

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
Having a background in advertising and marketing, this book hit home to me. If you think companies like, oh, let’s say Hubspot are filled with young whipper snappers and happy hours, then you would be correct. What could go wrong?

Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer by Una LaMarche
Funny and cringey (which makes a great book!), you’ll feel better about your own awkward teen years.

Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon 
I grew up watching Reese Witherspoon in movies, and I love me some Elle Woods. Her memoir – which I listened to since she narrated – was upbeat and sweet, just like she is. She’s a person you just want to hang out with.

If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Opioid Addiction by Maureen Cavanaugh
I listened to this on a drive to Boston and I wish I could have kept driving to Canada in order to keep listening. It is heart wrenching and chilling, and real and scary. You won’t be able to put it down.

What am I missing? What memoirs should I grab next? (Please don’t say “Educated”, I tried to read that book 3 times and could not get into it!)

Life, Little Mister

Lies, Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

The Little Mister has entered into the life stage of lying.

Nothing major, more like little white lies.

Questions Little Mister will lie about when answering on any given day:

“Did you wash your hands?”
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Did you put your clothes in the hamper?”
“Did you eat all your fruit?”
“Did you hand in your homework?”
“Did you clean up your toys?”
“Are you lying to me right now?”

And the best part is, he’s a HORRIBLE liar; which, I suppose, is good qualify for a kid to have. Though I imagine he will perfect this skill as he gets older. He’s not quite sophisticated enough to know that if he lies about brushing his teeth and I check his toothbrush and it’s dry, that’s he’s caught, and that he should have wet the toothbrush before we had this conversation.

I like to have fun with him when he’s “stretching the truth”, asking him to look me directly in the eye and tell me again. To which he will make his eyes as wide as they will go and he will stare at me with his creepy bugged-out eyes and repeat himself.

The little bugger is impervious to guilt, too!

Our conversations go something like this:

ME: “Did you wash your hands?”

LM: “Yep!” (Nope)

ME: “Why didn’t I hear the faucet go on?”

LM: “Because I turned it on really low and it was quiet.” (Again, nope)

ME: “Can I smell your hands?”

LM: “You don’t need to. They’re clean, I swear.” (Nope!)

ME: “You’re sure?”

LM: “Why don’t you believe me?”

ME: “I do believe you. Do you know why? Because I know you wouldn’t never lie to me.”

LM: “That’s right. I wouldn’t lie to you.” (Still lying)

((quiet))

LM: “Well, I guess I could wash them again.”

I know lying is part of growing up and seeing what you can get away with. Little Mister tests us every day – how much can he get away with before one of us cracks!

But I guess I can’t really say anything, since there are small, white lies we tell the Little Mister when necessary. Things like:

“That store is closed today.”
“They are sold out of that toy.”
“We don’t have any ice cream.”
“Moms see and hear and know everything.”

(That last one if my favorite)

cooking, food, recipe

Shrimp and Tomato “Pasta” Recipe

Happy Sunday! If you’re Italian, you may have a traditional Sunday dinner in your family where everyone gathers together to eat delicious pasta! There is nothing better than a hot bowl of pasta on chilly fall day. Since I’m still doing my kickboxing challenge, we’ll be having “fasta” (fake pasta) tonight. And the family will not be coming over because no one wants to eat an impasta (see what I did there?).

Actually, this dish is delicious – I made it last week and it was so good it’s having a repeat performance. It’s shrimp and tomatoes and garlic over spaghetti squash. If you’re not familiar with spaghetti squash, when you cook it you can can shred the flesh with a fork and it turns into these long strands that resemble – you guessed it – spaghetti.

I made this dish up, so there’s no formal recipe, but I’ll do my best to add some measurements and directions. Even Mr. KK liked it!

Shrimp and Tomato Spaghetti “Fasta”

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 small spaghetti squash
About 14-16 uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like the 16-20 per pound or when I’m feeling fancy the 13-15 per pound)
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved (red, yellow, whatever you like)
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
Chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise (be careful!) and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle some olive oil inside both halves of the spaghetti squash and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash flesh side down on the baking sheet and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, until a knife slides easily into the skin and the squash is fully cooked. Let cool.

While squash is cooling, place shrimp on a foil-lined baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the tomatoes and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Toss the tomatoes around the pan until they are coated in the oil. Sauté until the tomatoes skin starts to wrinkle up a bit, abound 6-8 mins. Add about 3/4 cup of chicken broth and reduce heat to low. Allow the tomatoes and garlic to simmer in the chicken broth until the tomatoes soften and the stock starts to reduce just a bit (you don’t want it to reduce too much, this will be your “sauce” for the dish).

Pop the pan with the shrimp in the 375-degree oven and cook for about 7-8 minutes, or until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.

When spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape the flesh into long strands. Fill two bowls with spaghetti squash, then divide the tomato mixture into the two bowls and place the shrimp on top.

It’s surprisingly simple to make, and honestly really, great. The more garlic the better!

clothing, Fashion, kickboxing, Target

I Am Obsessed with Skorts

In grade school I wore a pair of black velvet culottes for picture day with a white blouse and Mary Jane shoes. This year, I found myself purchasing not one, but two pairs of culottes. When I went for my drivers license, I wore an entire outfit from the Gap, right down to my ballet slippers, which made a comeback last year (Remember Sam & Libby? Swoon!). However, one of my favorite outfits from childhood was from high school: this cute little skort that was basically a dressy pair of shorts with an extra panel that came across the front to cover up the shorts and buttoned at the waist, giving off a “skirt” vibe. It was all dressy in the front, casual in the back. I wore it with loafers and a cardigan. 

When skorts started showing up last year and then more prominently this spring I was ecstatic. Super versatile and super forgiving, long live the skort!

Skorts aren’t anything new; they have a long history and have been around since the early 1900s. But if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we want to be comfortable and we no longer can tolerate button-front pants. It’s an athleisure world, and I’m happy to be living in it.

My first skort purchases were for our trip to Disney. I wanted something comfortable and that I could easily walk miles in without anything riding up or chaffing. Plus, it was going to be in the 80s so leggings were out. Enter: the skort! I found athletic skorts at Target that were perfect. 

Photo from target.com

These skirts doubled as great dog waking attire too. They had pockets for my phone and dog treats. Eventually Bruno recognized my “walkies” outfit so whenever I put a skort on he would start going crazy thinking we were headed out. These skorts were so easy to slip on each morning that they became my de facto work uniform. (Move over, leggings!)

This summer, I started taking golf lessons. Mr. KK is a really good golfer, so I thought it was time to learn how to play, just in case golf would become the thing we did together in our retirement. On the first day of golf lessons, they were reviewing proper golf attire, and guess what women golfers wear? SKORTS. Score! I already had a built in golf wardrobe. Though I did buy some fun golf shirts because if you can’t get a new wardrobe around a new endeavor, what is the point?

I also purchased a “fancier” cotton skort to wear out and about on weekends, running errands or going to lunch. Again, you can’t beat the comfort of the skort. I found mine at TJ Maxx, but this one at Kohl’s is similar.

Eventually, it got too cold to wear my skorts. However, I have extended the life of my athletic skorts by wearing them to kickboxing! I feel a little fancier on the mat, and the spandex undershorts make it easy to move and kick.

‘Til next summer skort season…

Life

The Craziest Things I’ve Seen Online

I spend quite a bit of time online during the wee, dark hours of the morning while my house is still asleep. After my daily Wordle and Quordle, I start surfing. During this time of year, I’m scouring house rental sites for our next family vacation house and looking for great Christmas gifts. I am often side-tracked by the ridiculous headlines I read, and – in the case of vacation houses – some of the photos that I see.

Here’s my round up of the craziest things I’ve read or seen online lately.

From the “Overpriced Vacation Home” Category

There’s a tie for this one. Check out the price tags on these homes…per night. One is in Nantucket and one is in Connecticut, just in case you thought these home were in some exotic locale. Nope!

We are definitely not among those who can afford a week’s vacation with a $70K price tag. I mean, I’m dying to spend a week in Nantucket and all, but $10,000/night?

From the “What in the Hell Goes on at This House” Category

Still on vacation homes. Last year I wrote this post about being the family’s travel agent, and how I meticulously search houses on VRBO and Airbnb, and how so many things in the photos – if you look closely – can really turn me off. It’s amazes me the photos that someone will post to “sell” the idea of renting their home. What are they thinking?

During my search this year, I came across these two hilarious photos.

You know what makes me want to rent a house? A plastic steak dinner! I’m not going to lie – they would have had me at the orange chairs (my favorite color). but the salisbury steak and faux lettuce leaves really take this to the next level of ridiculousness.

For this house, I feel like they are completely missing the mark when advertising the highlights. The listing offers “Camp fires and porch swings! Pool”. However, I think they buried the lead here….how could they NOT mention that this house comes with Santa Claus! I was questioning the $1,140/night price tag, but now that I see the big man in red is part of the deal, this house is a steal!

From the “What About My Shopping Habits Makes You Think I Would Be Interested in This” Category

Is there anything better than the “sponsored” posts in your feeds, and the “We think you’ll really like this!” suggestions?

Here are two of my recent favorites.

Apparently, Amazing thinks I live a WAY more fun life than I actually do. And the fact that Amazon thinks I’m invited to glamorous Roaring 20s Gatsby parties is rather humorous. Although, a girl can’t have too many feather boas.

I don’t normally shop at Nordstrom, but apparently they have something super special for me to buy! A sheer catsuit with strategically-placed velvet overlays. I was just thinking that I needed something new to wear for Thanksgiving and look at that. And only $1100? Such a steal. Plus, I could get it today with contactless curbside pick up. However, I imagine someone wearing this catsuit is not super concerned with contact-free interactions.

From the “This Can’t Be a Real Job” Category

What in the world is an “elegance expert”? Also, who needs an elegance expert? I imagine about 1% of our population. Also, talk to me about what “classy ladies” wear…what is this, 1950?

From the “Social Media Has Gotten Out Of Control” Category

I don’t know where to start with this one.

From the “Who Is Buying This Item” Category

I keep tissues in my car. I have a handy travel pack in my console. What I don’t have is a gigantic stuffed animal (how do you see to drive?) with tissues coming out of its ass.

**

Thank you, internet, for keeping it interesting.

Age, Beach, clothing, Fashion, shopping

I May Be a Coastal Grandmother

Since working from home, my style has gone from fashion statement to leggings…period. It’s all about minimal effort, yet being camera ready at all time. Except in the summer. Summer…is just easier.

Summer is my favorite season. I love the warm weather, the cooler nights, and the relaxed look and feel of the clothing. If I could wear summer clothing year round, I would. Call me crazy, but I just feel better about myself when my skin is sun-kissed and I can throw on a casual dress and flip flops.

So imagine my surprise one day during my early morning phone scrolling, when I came across this:

I’m no fashion maven, and it’s been decades since I’ve cracked open a Vogue, but “Coastal Grandmother” is a style?

It – in fact – is.

And not only is it a style, it’s a style I like. Think Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give”: all creams and whites and linens and straw hats and a beach house. This is a look I can get behind! (especially the beach house).

This style is such a thing, that it was featured on The Today Show, and Glamour. There’s even a Spotify playlist!

Honestly, I have had this summer vibe long before a TikTok video put a name to it. I live in my white jeans and cotton pullovers in the summer. I’m all sandals, all day. Casual is my middle name. And, apparently, Grandmother is my last name.

The key to Coastal Grandmother style is to be comfortable, yet stylish. Keep a light color palette and breathable fabrics. This style pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc and a chaise lounge.

And even though I wake up crooked every morning and need to ‘walk off my sleep’, you don’t have to be an actual grandmother to be a Coastal Grandmother! Who knew?

But AARP doesn’t seem to have gotten that message that I’m not quite a senior, however, because my inbox looks like this:

Not one, but TWO emails within 4 hours. Is AARP hurting for members?

I think this style is my destiny. I have been telling Mr. KK for YEARS that I would be my best self in a beach house. Something small and walking distance to the ocean, where I can be a Coastal Grandma until my heart’s content. Sip cocktails, and walk the beach for seashells to put in my canvas tote, a straw hat protecting my face from the sun. And I would have an entire wardrobe of cream, off-white, café au lait and chambray.

I’m so dedicated to this plan, that I created my own Coastal Grandma Chic mood board for inspo.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be perusing beach houses for sale and shopping for cashmere wraps and canvas totes.

Love,

Grandma

Disney World, Family, Life, Little Mister, memories, Travel, Vacation

The Best Way to Do Disney World*

*The best way for our family. Your trip is likely completely different and equally amazing!

During the Fall of my Senior Year in college, I worked at Disney World in their College Program. I spent 5 months living and working at The Mouse House and I have to say – I loved every minute of it.

Why did I choose the Disney internship? Was I a Disney fanatic? Nope. Did I love the heat and humidity? Double nope. Did I want a unique experience here in the good ole USA where I could meet people and have fun? Ding, ding, ding!

Back when I was in the College Program at Disney, all the CPs lived in a magical place called Vista Way. For those of you old enough to understand this reference: it was like Melrose Place meets Animal House. Thousands of college kids living together in idyllic conditions – pools, gym, no adult supervision.

I worked at Blizzard Beach, a ski-lodge themed water park, operating the chair lift that brought guests in their swimsuits to the top of a “mountain” to some of the water slides. CPs work everywhere in the parks; I had friends who worked on Tower of Terror, drove the monorail, operated merchandise carts, drove the parking lot trams and sold Turkey legs in the Magic Kingdom.

After my 5-month stint, I returned one additional time 5 years later. And then, 20 years passed. I began thinking about taking Little Mister to Disney a few years ago, then there was a pandemic. So here we were, January of this year, and I thought, “What are we waiting for? He’s at the right age, let’s just do this!” So I contacted a Disney travel agent, and two days later, we were booked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in late spring. And we kept it from Little Mister until 2 months before our trip (I just couldn’t keep that secret until the day before we left!)

Little Mister’s first time on a plane!

Why Did You Choose to Stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge?

When it came to hotels, there was no other place that would bring joy to Little Mister like the Animal Kingdom Lodge. There was a show on Disney + during the pandemic about the AKL, and how they care for the animals. Little Mister (LM) is SUCH a huge animal lover, that we watched every episode of this show. He would tell everyone, “I’m going to work at the Animal Kingdom when I grow up.” I love this dream for him, I hope it comes true.

Giraffes munching on dinner outside of our hotel room.

So to have the opportunity to stay at a hotel where you can watch giraffes, zebras and other animals whose names I don’t know from your balcony, it was the only option for us. Plus, LM wanted to visit the Animal Kingdom park 2 days during our stay, and that was only a 5-minute ride from our hotel.

Being the research queen that I am, I started listening to a podcast called Be Our Guest, run by travel agents (not the one I used) that was easy to listen to and filled with information about the parks. Having been away from Disney for 2 decades, I had A LOT to learn about the new park pass system, Genie Plus, dining reservations, and a million other things. I shared our trip details on an episode of this podcast!

You can listen to my podcast episode here.

It’s long, but really outlines how I approached our trip planning. A great listen when you’re walking the dog or sitting in traffic.

This was a trip of firsts: the first time Little Mister was going on a plane (he did great!), the first time I was back at Disney in 20 years, and the first time we were traveling after the pandemic. We were ready!

I could write pages and pages about this trip, but I’ll share the highlights below:

Animal Kingdom Lodge

This hotel is beautiful. And there was a scent in the lobby that I wish I could have bottled and brought home with me. I think there is a candle of that smell somewhere in Disney Springs, but we never made it there. We had a standard hotel room, but we had a balcony where we could sit and watch the animals. There literally were giraffes eating off a tree 30 feet from us! There were places all around the hotel where you could view the animals. The pool had a great water slide that LM loved. Some people stay away from AKL because the only park it’s near is the Animal Kingdom, and the only mode of transportation it has is busses. We never had a problem getting a bus, and barely had to wait. All of our trips to the parks were smooth and quick.

Day 1: Magic Kingdom

We arrived on a Tuesday, and spent the afternoon by the pool. We were rested and ready for our early entry into the MK on our first full park day. If you are early risers, doing early entry to the parks is the way to go. You get this perk with some of the hotels on Disney property. Highly recommend. It allowed us to hit the most popular rides first before the lines were long. For us, that ride was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a roller coaster-like ride through the coal mine. It’s a TON of fun, and LM loved it. We were able to ride it a second time later in the day, too. Our favorite rides were: Splash Mountain (we rode this one at least 3 times, that big drop at the end made Little Mister belly laugh and I could listen to that all day long); Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; Jungle Cruise; Pirates of the Caribbean; Buzz Lightyear; Haunted Mansion (Little Mister did NOT like this ride, too scary). All in all, it was a magical first experience at a Disney park for us as a family.

Day 2: Animal Kingdom

The sun wasn’t even up yet when we arrived on our first day!

Because we were doing 2 days in this park, we focused on attractions on Day 1, and then experiences on Day 2. We did early entry again (this park opens really early, so early entry was at like 7am, which meant getting on a bus at 6:30am, FYI), this time to secure our spot in line for Pandora (Avatar). The construction of this area, and everything to look at while you’re in the queue, is what makes Disney, Disney. It is awe-spiring and the attention to detail amazing. The ride…well, let’s say if you get motion sick like I do, it might not be your favorite. I needed a moment when we got off, but could appreciate why everyone loves this ride. LM had been talking about the safari since we told him we were coming to Disney, so it was our first stop after Pandora. And it didn’t disappoint! We saw every animal, even the lions (thank god)! We rounded out the day riding everything we could, having an early dinner, and escaping with only 1 souvenir.

Day 3: Animal Kingdom

Back again! We rode the safari again (equally as amazing, but a different experience with a different tour guide) and did the Caring For Giants experience, which allowed us to go behind the scenes at Disney (aka: backstage) and be up close and personal with the elephants. We learned all their names, how they are fed and cared for, and saw the from a platform that you can only access from this tour. I highly recommend doing one of these experiences, they’re usually small groups and interactive.

KEVIN!

Much of Day 2 was spent with Little Mister earning his Wilderness Explorer badges. This is such a wonderful experience at the AK, and the “guides” at each station were simply the epitome of what Disney is all about. If you’ve seen the movie “Up”, you may remember Russell the Wilderness Explorer who was trying to earn his “Assisting the Elderly” badge. Well, the Animal Kingdom has set up about 15 or 20 “stations” around the park, and kids can use their guidebook to find them all, complete a little activity and learn about animals and conservation, and earn a badge. When you collect all of the badges you can get sworn in as a Senior Wilderness Explorer, and you recite an oath and it is the cutest thing ever and it made me cry watching Little Mister do this after working so hard to get all of his badges.

Day 4: Hollywood Studios

We love Slinky Dog Dash!

Fun fact: when I worked at Disney, this place was called MGM. It was also my favorite park, and we played here often because many of my friends worked here. This was our last park day, and we made the most of it. Early entry (again!) and we bolted to Slinky Dog Dash. This was probably my favorite ride of the whole trip. First, who doesn’t love Toy Story. Second, it is so FUN! We rode Slinky three times in a row! The Little Mister was belly laughing and whooping each time, it was so fun to see. We even rode Slinky one last time before we left the park – our final ride on our awesome trip. We also hit up Sci-Fi Drive In for lunch, Mr. KK did Rise of the Resistance, we did Frozen Ever After, Toy Story Mania, Micky & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad. It was the perfect last park day to our trip.

Our Last Day

Our last day was a Sunday, and our flight was early evening. We had a delicious character brunch at Topolino’s (highly recommend!). And just a week before we came to Disney, they reinstated character hugs! So the characters were able to come right up to our table and interact with us, and Little Mister who was shy at first, eventually started calling them all over for hugs. We spent the rest of the day by the pool until it was time to head to the airport.

Dining in Disney World

There are about 4,389 places to eat in Disney; everything from pretzel carts to fine dining. Where you choose to eat is personal to you and your family. For us, we planned one nice sit down meal a day. That could be lunch or dinner. I love to eat and go to nice restaurants, and I didn’t want this vacation to be any different. On this trip we ate at: California Grill in the Contemporary Hotel (great view, wonderful experience, delicious food, and our most expensive meal); Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (get the bread service! the food was delicious and we sat at a window and watched the animal roaming and having dinner); Tiffins and Yak & Yeti at the Animal Kingdom (both good!); Sci-Fi Drive In at Hollywood Studios (so fun! nice and casual); Topolino’s Terrance at the Riviera Resort (amazing brunch…everything was delicious!).

Why didn’t you go to EPCOT, you may be wondering. For this trip, it didn’t feel like the right park for us to spend a day. We were very focused on animals, and really enjoyed 2 days at the AK. Plus, it leaves something for us to do next time!

All in all, this trip was nothing short of perfect. Little Mister was the perfect age (7), we went on a non-school-vacation week so it wasn’t insanely busy (but it was cheer competition week so it was still crowded with teenagers!). We did everything we wanted to do, at our own pace. On the first day I clocked 19,000 steps!

Again, the link to the podcast about my trip is here.

Disney, I hope to see you real soon!

cooking, food, Ina

5 Recipes to try this winter

I don’t know about you, but I will often fall into a cooking rut, and I end up making the same things week after week for me and Mr. KK. Little Mister – who gets his own dinner each night and I can only blame myself for starting this habit – also eats the same thing week after week, but only because he literally only eats 5 dinner items.

I LOVE to cook. And when I’m not on a super-restrictive, no-fun diet, I love to eat. My instagram feed is filled with recipes, famous chefs cooking amazing foods and restaurants sharing the night’s specials. And while I am so inspired by this each day, we end up eating the same old salmon with a vegetable and side of rice. BORING.

I tend to find myself with more time to be in the kitchen cooking in the colder months. All year long I save recipes, with the hopes that one day they will see the light of day and make it onto our plates and into our stomachs.

I am challenging myself to make at least 5 new recipes this winter that made me salivate and I have saved.

Some are appetizers, some are main courses, and there’s even a dessert (lord help Mr. KK and my baking mishaps).

If I’m able to make one of these during November, I will post it!

1. Cacio e Pepe Broccolini with Crispy White Beans and Burrata

From Food and Wine

Photo from Food & Wine.

This recipe had me at burrata.

It combines broccolini (which is a house favorite), cannellini beans, fresno chili and burrata. What a great meal with some crusty bread and wine!

2. Whipped Feta with Spicy Honey

From the blog Serving Dumplings

Photo courtesy of servingdumplings.com

I never jumped on the TikTok feta craze, but I do appreciate the salty, soft cheese.

This recipe seems super simple, so it shouldn’t be difficult to pull this one off this winter. Hmm…perhaps a Thanksgiving appetizer?

The combo of the salty cheese and spicy honey is a home run in my book. And any appetizer you can make in the food processor gets extra points. I’d definitely go for the naan bread for dippers.

3. Clams Casino Dip with Herb Butter Baguettes

From the book, “Here’s To Us” by Elin Hildebrand.

As you know, Ina is my cooking guru girl crush. But when it comes to books, it’s Elin Hildebrand. Elin writes fiction books – mostly set on the island of Nantucket – that are the perfect beach read. Or, if you’re like me, they are the perfect read for when you don’t have anything to read and you want to travel to ACK vicariously through her characters. In fact, Nantucket IS a character in her novels, it is brought to life so vividly.

In one of her books, Here’s To Us, one of the characters is a chef, who was known for his Clams Casino Dip. Being from Connecticut, I am no stranger to Clams Casino as a concept, as it is my favorite pizza from one of the famous New Haven pizza joints for which Connecticut is known. To have that pizza in dip form is just luxurious.

Creamy cheese, clams and…bacon. I mean, come on!

4. Giada’s Pasta Alla Zozzona

From Giada DeLaurentis

Photo from Giadzy.

We eat with our eyes first, so it’s very likely that I fell in love with the cute shape of this pasta, which is called Nodi Marini. Seriously, how cute are they?

This pasta dish is a combination of Amatriciana and Carbonara, so spicy plus creamy. All in one dish? I’m in!

I’m sure this dish would be just as delicious with any shape pasta, however, why would you want to make it with any other kind? Nodi Marini means “sailor’s knots” and that’s exactly what they look like.

I imagine in true kk fashion I would add about 3 tons of grated cheese to the top of this pasta dish.

5. Ina Garten’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Recipe from Ina Garten

Photo from The Barefoot Contessa

You didn’t think I was going to have a recipe list and NOT include my gal pal, Ina, did you??

I am horrible at baking, so I feel things might be ok in the kitchen if I’m following one of her recipes. Also, this one is tagged “good for a beginner” so there’s the confidence I need.

Sour cream coffee cake reminds me of my childhood, and my grandmother, who would always make a coffee cake for Sunday dinners and holidays. I’m not a big dessert eater, but I am a sucker for cinnamon and sugar.

This one would be perfect for a Sunday brunch!

I can’t wait to get cooking…and eating!

Amazon, clothing, favorite things, shopping, Target

My 7 Best Purchases This Year

Sometimes I buy something and it just becomes a favorite. Many times, the item was never intended to be a must-have, it was either filling a need or was purchased on a whim.

This past year, I had many of those “Surprise, I’m Your Favorite!” moments with things I’ve bought. Here are my 7 best purchases that I made in the last 365 days.

LL Bean Swimsuit Cover Up

I first fell in love with the color of this cover up. Is there a beachier color than this soft turquoise? Second, the fit is perfect: slightly fitted but not skin tight, and it doesn’t stick to your bathing suit so no bunched up weirdness around your middle. The long sleeves make it perfect for early summer, when you need to cover up from the sun, or when you’re lucky enough to be at the beach for the golden hour when the sun dips low and it starts to get a little cool.

Rain Booties by Universal Thread at Target

These were a last-minute purchase before a weekend trip to Cape Cod. (Aren’t the best purchases the ones you make in haste and they end up being a wardrobe staple?). I was headed to the Cape for a long weekend with a dear friend, and a hurricane was making its way up the coast causing a weather forecast of “soaking rain” and “windy conditions”. Determined to not let a little rain stop me (and by a little rain, I mean pouring rain for 12 straight hours during our outdoor Saturday shopping extravaganza), I knew I needed rain boots. I found these Universal Thread booties online at Target, ready for in-store pick up in 2 hours. Perfect! Except an hour later I received an email telling me that they no longer had them in stock and they cancelled my order. Determined to find the pair the website said the store had in stock, I went to the store and scoured all the shelves, and wouldn’t you know, I found the only pair of size 6 black rain booties shoved in with the dress shoes. They turned out being a literal life saver from the deep puddles and sheets of rain we endured. Not only did they keep my feet dry, they were super comfortable (I wore them all day shopping and walking around for 6 hours!) but they almost look like cute little black boots.

lululemon Everwhere Belt Bag

I think this bag is really hard to find now, it seems sold out at lululemon but they sometimes get them on Amazon.

When we booked our trip to Disney for the spring (an entire blog post on that, I promise!), I wanted something to wear in the parks that would carry my wallet, lip balm and phone, that was lightweight for the warm weather, and that allowed me to be hands free. Enter: the Everywhere Belt Bag. You could wear this as a fanny pack (which admittedly I did in Disney) or you can wear it as a sling bag (which is how I wear it now running errands). I love this little bag, and can’t recommend it enough. It beats the full crossbody bag that can cause weird boob cleavage. And I’m a sucker for anything camo.

Long Puffer Vest from Amazon

Yes, you read that correctly, this vest is from Amazon. Their “try before you buy” option is so easy to use, and being able to return Amazon items at Kohls is the best partnership on the planet (and likely what is keeping most Kohls stores open, TBH). This vest came shrink wrapped in a package practically the size of a postage stamp, but once opened it puffed up into a full-length vest. I LOVE this outerwear option because when I wear leggings and a long top, a regular-length coat looks ridiculous with 6 inches of sweater hanging out the bottom. This vest allows me to wear my long tops and also wear a jacket without being too bulky or warm. It comes in a variety of colors but I loved the olive!

Fir & Grapefruit Scented Candle

This is the only holiday scent you will want in your home. I found this candle at TJ Maxx while Christmas shopping last year, and bought it as a gift, and ended up keeping it for myself. After lighting it once, I knew I needed to stock up on the scent. When I looked online for it, Amazon had it but for WAY more money than I paid at TJ Maxx (which tells me that they no longer really make this candle and I was lucky to find the one I did). So one Saturday, I hit up every TJX Companies store in a 25 mile radius and found 5 more of these candles! I included the Amazon link here, but I would scour your TJ Maxx/Marshall’s/Homegoods to find it at a good price! I can’t wait to light it this year for the holidays!

Funnel Neck Sweater from Amazon

This list contains not one, but TWO clothing items from Amazon. Make fun of me all you want, but I have had GREAT luck with Amazon apparel purchases. I bought this sweater in black and olive (is this becoming my signature fall color?) and it pairs perfectly with jeans and is also the perfect length to wear with leggings. It’s not too boxy and not too heavy. Perfect for fall. And would go great with the long length vest…just saying!

COVERGIRL Clean Fresh Tinted Lip Balm

I wore I Cherry-ish You all summer long.

After an almost two-year hiatus from make up, it was time to put some color back on my face. I found this tinted lip balm at the drug store, loved the cherry color, and tried it out. It’s more lipstick than lip balm, though perhaps it does have some moisturizing qualities. But the color is bright and more matte than I expected. That being said, it was the perfect summer color with a tan. It went on easy, was ridiculously inexpensive, and gave me stand-out lips. I just purchased the “Bliss You Berry” color for fall.

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I hope you find even one of these items inspirational or something you want to purchase for yourself. They have all become my favorites!