Adventures

I just want to share this photo of my pup, and I want to caption it with one of my favorite puppy (and adventurous people) quotes of all time:

Behold, the cutest photo in this world, taken by my sister (follow her at @klemsonphotographydesign on Instagram, people!):

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And here’s the caption:

“There’s a great big hunk of world out there with no fence around it. Where two dogs can find adventure and excitement. And beyond those distant hills, who knows what wonderful experiences? And it’s all ours for the taking, Pige.” 

It’s from Lady and the Tramp, and I absolutely love it. And I love little Ellie’s face in the photo–it’s like she’s saying, “Oh! There it is! The biggest and prettiest world I’ll ever know…I’m just…kind of…frightened. Can I go? Will I go? Should I go?”

And, if you’re like me and Ellie, you might think these kinds of things right before you embark on new adventures. I’m about to begin grad school and a graduate teaching assistantship and a new life and in a brand new town and have to meet new people and do new things and shed fear of failure and experience apprehension and step out of my comfort zone all over again so…yes. These thoughts and feelings are quite relevant at the moment.

I’m human–of course I’m afraid of failure. I’ll be working on an MFA in creative writing and I’m already nervous–will I be horrible? Can I keep up with my fellow writers?

Will. I. Fail. Miserably?!?!?

I hope not. And if I do, hey. It’s cool. It’s fine. I’ll be okay. I’ll just work harder and find my way and my place in this big, fence-less world.

There is a great big hunk of world out there with no fence around it, so new adventures will always be limitless. I’m excited to try my hand at this new venture–let’s write stuff! Lots of it! Let it be horrible or wonderful or kind of okay! Either way, it’s a start and a new beginning, and I love those suckers.

You ready, Ellie?

 

 

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Currently Reading: All Things Anne

Note: the following post contains a lot of random musings about everyone’s favorite imaginative redhead–I would like to emphasize the word “random.” Enjoy! 

I finally carved out the time to read (almost) the entire Anne of Green Gables series. FINALLY.

Took me long enough. I was inspired by Netflix’s adaptation of the beloved series–while it was grittier than the books, the series did capture Anne’s ability to survive life’s hardships through optimism.

Disclaimer: while I loooooooove reading and writing and all things literary (former English major and current creative writing grad student here), I’m the kind of girl who can read a whole lot and then fall into a year-long slump in which I can’t seem to find reading material I truly enjoy. It’s been one of those years, but I’m working on it.

Anne has helped me discover reading again; returning to her world is like taking the first sip of morning coffee, sleeping in on a weekday, or having nothing on a must-do list.

I just love her. I love her, I love her, I love her.

Anne is so plucky and ambitious, especially early on. I adore the third book in the series–she attends Redmond College and learns what it means to live on her own away from Green Gables (with a group of delightful “chums,” of course), and she finally opens her eyes and her heart to the boy who has always loved her. She becomes a young principal of an entire school in book four, and she continues to win the heart of every reluctant soul around her. She marries Gilbert in book five and establishes her quaint and Anne-ish “House of Dreams.”

I have to admit, I love Anne the most when she’s single, books one through four. I love how she grapples with the world’s challenges on her own, and I love the relationships she forms with others along the way. Anne has a way of connecting with the misunderstood among society, and audiences aren’t treated to those relationships too much after she is married. Most often those difficult, “kooky,” or tormented souls are her “kindred spirits.” I love that about her–she’s unafraid of going against the grain, and she can win almost any heart with her unconquerable spirit.

Anne still has a way with others when she’s married, but she’s certainly more confined–not necessarily by Gilbert or her children, but by society at that time. Even though she was a successful educator and loved the world of academia, she does as societal custom requires (at least for the era) when she enters the world of marriage. She keeps an impeccable house: she grows gardens, sews clothes, has and raises babies, and keeps the House of Dreams and Ingleside in tip-top shape. She’s the matriarch of her little home(s), and while I know she loves it, I miss her free-spirited Green Gables or Redmond days.

Anne begins to settle as she grows older, which is both admirable (why not be content with the life you have?) but also bittersweet. She forgoes her childhood dreams of successful novel authorship, settling for the few publications in ladies’ magazines and newspapers. Those are still a wonderful accomplishments, but I wish she could have done a little bit of everything–I believe Anne could write the next great Canadian novel and still be a fantastic wife and mother.

No matter. Anne still has my heart, and I aspire to embody her optimism and grace.  Revisiting Anne’s world has been so refreshing and so inspiring–L.M. Montgomery’s dreamy prose and Anne’s spirit is like a drink of cool water on a sweltering Prince Edward Island summer day.

Does P.E.I. ever even experience a good swelter? Probably not, but the effect of the Anne series on my soul is that of contentment and delight nonetheless.

What are you currently reading? I could use some suggestions for future library excursions.

As always, have a magical, imaginative, and zip-a-dee-do-dah day, my friends.

“Disney Day”

“Disney Days” are essential to the mental health of an avid Disney fan. If you didn’t know, I’m an avid Disney fan…times ten.

I know. Shocking.

What is a “Disney Day?” It’s not just a day spent at a theme park (although it can be). A Disney Day can be any ol’ regular day with an intentional amount of magic and pixie dust thrown in.

Disney fans have a way with “fluffy” words, don’t they?

We (my family and I) had our own Disney Day this past Sunday. We declared it Disney Day from the start–we each picked out a Disney movie and sat down for hours to watch some favorites and some forgotten classics. We took a break for lunch and a treat, and we gabbed and napped throughout the showings.

It was pure, lazy, pixie-dusted bliss.

We could’ve made our day more elaborate, with treats and favors fit for Instagram. We could’ve put more thought and planning into the movies we watched. I could have started a hashtag, worn ears, done my makeup, felt like a presentable human being.

But did we do that? Nope! We just sat down and watched some movies. The simplicity of the occasion made the day so much better–free of fuss, free of perfection, free of a bra. (TMI? Probably.)

Here’s how our lineup developed:

  1. The Little Mermaid, followed by a Lean Cuisine for lunch and a trip to DQ for a vanilla ice cream cone.
  2. Aladdin with bouts of power outages due to a summer thunderstorm. It took us a long time to watch and finish Aladdin. Momma cried because she had never sat and watched it all the way through–she adored the song “A Whole New World,” and she was so proud of Al when he set the Genie free. My sister took a hearty nap.
  3. The Lion King, with bonus features included.
  4. Peter Pan whilst sorting through old photos and memorabilia. I found some old short stories of mine, written around the third or fourth grade. One piece was entitled “The Irish Setter Who Loved Golf.” An Irish Setter is a breed of dog, one I was particularly fond of as a child. It was a work of literary genius, no doubt. Find me an agent, stat! (Ha.)

While this wasn’t a stop-the-presses kind of day, it was one of my favorite. It was a Disney Day for the books–I’ve had some pretty incredible park days, but there’s something about intentionally sitting  and watching movies all day with the ones you love that makes every “monotonous” moment magical.

How would you go about your own Disney Day?

 

EPCOT: The American Adventure

Happy Fourth of July, my friends! I hope you are enjoying a day full of all things Americana–I know I’ll be relishing our sweet freedom all day, munching on chocolate chip cookies and savoring vanilla ice cream with red, white, and blue sprinkles. Throw in some patriotic songs and you have yourself a gloriously patriotic day.

I just love this country.

I’m here today to advocate for my favorite pavilion in all of Epcot. The American pavilion, home to a completely underrated show and the most beautiful entertainment in all of Walt Disney World, is a real gem and a tribute to the American people and the adventurous, innovative, and diligent spirit of this great country. I never leave the American pavilion without feeling inspired to do my part in propelling America forward into the future–the message of this entire pavilion is one of hope and pride, and I honestly can’t get enough.

There are three main activities to do at the American pavilion. First: The American Adventure is a wonderful thirty-minute show detailing events in America’s history that makes America uniquely…American. I love this show so, so much. It’s narrated by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin, and it’s delightfully Disney-fied. Expect charming animatronics, moving video clips and montages, and an inspiring soundtrack.

Goodness. I get chills just thinking about it. The shows run all day, and it’s a wonderful way to take a break from the stifling Florida heat. We skipped this show on our first trip (ignorance and first-time energy and excitement can do that to you), but now it’s an Epcot must-do. So. good.

The second (and my favorite) activity to do at this pavilion? Listening to the marvelous musical workings of the Voices of Liberty.

THE VOICES OF LIBERTY MIGHT BE MY VERY FAVORITE THING IN ALL OF EPCOT. YES, ALL CAPS IS COMPLETELY NECESSARY IN THIS DECLARATION OF MY LOVE.

The Voices of Liberty perform before almost every show of  The American Adventure, but check your times guide or with a cast member to receive an exact show schedule. There is also usually a board with times listed outside of the attraction.

THIS IS A MUST-DO. I REPEAT. THIS IS A MUST-DO. Make time to do this. Please. I love it so much.

They perform under the “dome” of The American Adventure’s beautiful building (see picture of building below…it’s hard to miss), and guests are invited to sit on the floor under the dome to experience their voices to the fullest. They are an acapella group that sings Americana, folk, and other songs, and I just love them with all of my heart. They are also known to sing a few classic Disney tunes, but literally every show is different. The last time I watched the show, they sang a “flag” medley, the state song of Tennessee, an old cowboy love song, and “America The Beautiful.” I’ve seen many shows, and no show is exactly the same.

Please see this. Camp out and see it. Take a break from the heat, and be prepared to be moved to tears. I often am, and it’s embarrassing but totally viable. The group is so incredibly talented, and the combination of incredible singing and patriotism can do something to you. Again, ask a cast member or pick up a times guide so you don’t miss this incredible Disney gem.

The last thing to see at this pavilion? The building itself has so many things to look at–art, quotes from famous American leaders (including the guy that drew that mouse that one time), and an entire special exhibit. The current exhibit discusses the struggles and the triumphs of African Americans, and it’s so cool. My usual routine involves experiencing the exhibit, watching the Voices of Liberty, and finishing with a showing of The American Adventure. It’s about an hour’s worth of sweet, sweet air conditioning.

I hope you take the time to experience this pavilion the next time you are exploring Epcot. It’s seriously my favorite–I didn’t even mention the food, and it’s delicious, too–and it deserves your attention and appreciation.

I might be biased. I do love America a whole lot.

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Disney Trip 2017: Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jambo, everyone! I hope you are having a magical day.

If you’re not familiar with Swahili, “jambo” means “hello.” I was fortunate enough to say a hearty hello to Walt Disney World for six days last week for vacation.

I was super fortunate to say jambo to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first night of my vacation. This DAK-loving girl’s heart was so, so happy. Remember: DAK equals Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Huge shout out to the DCP BFF (and real-life BFF, let’s be honest) for scoping out the best deal in the universe. She’s on her second college program, and she met up with me for a week of epic “staycation-ing.”

Oh my goodness, guys. We had a blast.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, to put it simply, is the most gorgeous place on this planet. This statement might come across as a teeny hyperbole, but I don’t even care. If I ever become a Disney Vacation Club member (#goals), this resort will be my home.

I began my stay at the lodge by attempting to capture everything with my hand-me-down DSLR camera, a camera that’s been in the family since about 2006. It’s still goin’ strong, and I think it did a fantastic job documenting my stay at the lodge. You’ll find some select photos in this post, and don’t hesitate to call National Geographic and suggest me and my skill set for an all-expenses-paid African photo safari.

Ha. I kid. (But not really.)

If you’ve never been to DAK Lodge, you might not know that it doubles as a top-notch zoo. Select rooms look out onto a savannah littered with giraffes, ankole cattle, types of gazelle, ostriches, zebras, the common Disney duck, and so much more. The back of both lobbies (Kidani Village and Jambo House…we stayed in the latter), lead out onto observation areas where helpful animal guides talk about the animals and are open to discuss their own culture. Every single guide is on an cultural exchange program at Disney; they are originally from Africa and are there to work for a year or so. My mom and I once had the most incredible conversation with a guide from Botswana.

I spent a good hour or two in the observation area, taking photos of the animals and taking in the unique vibe  Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge embodies. I fell in love with giraffes on this trip because they ventured so close to us lucky guests. Below are a few photos I’m quite proud of. (Humor me.)

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Aren’t they gorgeous?

Because of this unique experience, I was  swayed to purchase a wooden giraffe mask from the gift shop, perfect for the Animal Kingdom-inspired gallery wall going above my bed in my new apartment. I just couldn’t resist.

After Allyssa (DCP BFF) got off work, we checked in and headed to our room.

Our room! Oh my goodness! The savannah view room was so pretty, and the details were impeccable: woven baskets hung on the creamy walls, wallpaper that resembled vintage maps, pamphlets useful for identifying animals, and so much more. Of course, I wasn’t smart enough to take pictures of the whole thing, but I did take a picture of my favorite element, the curtains. See below:

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Do see a Disney friend embroidered in the dreamy fabric? Friends from The Lion King were scattered throughout the curtains, and I internally screamed.

We ended our evening roasting marshmallows in the observation area (free for all guests; ask a cast member for times), dining at the Mara, the quick service restaurant, and watching the sunset from our savannah view room. The experience was something out of a Walt Disney World ad–the sky was a brilliant red-orange, giraffes and zebras moseyed tangibly close to our vantage point, and Allyssa and I were reunited, anticipating a busy week of park hopping. I was so happy, and I’ll cherish that moment forever.

We checked out the next morning after a wonderful breakfast from the Mara.

I never really checked out of the lodge, mentally. I’m always daydreaming about my stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Kwaherini (“Go well”) for now, friends. I’ll leave you with some more shots of the lodge–maybe they’ll fuel your sense of adventure and spark an appreciation for this beautiful planet we call home.

Maybe you’ll just call your travel agent. Either option totally works.

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Adventures In Puppy-ing

Ellie Kevin Lancaster, meet everyone. Everyone, meet Ellie Kevin Lancaster.


This is my sweet little Shih Tzu. She weighs only two pounds and has rank puppy breath, but she is mine and mine alone. She  happens to be a little terror and have quite the rambunctious spirit, but that’s why I’m so smitten.

Ellie has been a hoot since bringing her home. She arrived on the scene with a bout of fleas and worms–common puppy problems, but inconvenient and worrisome for this new puppy mom. Don’t worry, we took care of it, but for our first couple days of furry friendship, Ellie was calm. Stoic. Tired.

Of course she was. She felt sick, poor baby.

After getting her treated and cured of her puppy problems, my sweet Ellie blossomed into the minuscule maniac she was destined to be.  She sprints across the living room to the kitchen in a furry frenzy, in frantic pursuit of “Big Dog’s” food and treats. Big Dog is Kasper, our former “little” dog.

He’s now the big one.

She plays with her dog bed as if it were an oversized toy, dragging it across the floor and gleefully ripping her claws into the soft fabric. I’ll have to invest in a new one soon.

She leaves tiny little puppy puddles on the kitchen tile. At least she doesn’t like peeing on the carpet too, too much. She gets so busy explorin’ her new world, she forgets she has a teeny tiny little bladder.

She’s my little explorer.

Why the name “Ellie Kevin?” She’s named after two beloved characters from Disney’s Up, of course.

She embodies Ellie’s (the character) adventurous spirit so well. Seriously–each morning she sprints from her kennel and begins to explore her brand new world; she’s full of joy and puppy curiosity, and she’s so sweet and good natured. She wiggles and squirms when you pick her up. She’d rather be discovering new nooks and crannies; she loves to cuddle when she’s tired, but she loves stretching her legs.

She’s my adventurer. She’s my Ellie girl.

And Kevin? You know: Kevin, the bird from Up. Her middle name’s Kevin, ’cause Kevin’s a girl. (Duh.)

I love you so much, Ellie. I can’t wait to begin a new adventure with you soon. Graduate school is fast approaching, which translates to a move to a new town and a fresh, shiny beginning. I can’t wait to take it all on with you.

Adventure is certainly out there.

 

 

Writer

I recently changed a few bullet points under the “about me” category.

First: “recent college graduate” transformed to “graduate student in creative writing.” Yes, you read that right! I’ll be heading back to school in the fall, and I am thrilled to continue my education. Who knows? Perhaps a doctorate is in my [distant] future?

I like school, okay? Let me stay forever.

Second: I changed “aspiring writer” to simply read “writer.”

Because I realized something.

I don’t have to wait until I’m a “grown-up” to fully realize my “grown-up” dream. And heck, I am a grown-up! Painfully so. I’ll be 24 in less than a month, and that’s scary. And kind of cool. But mostly terrifying.

You see, reader, I’m a writer because I write. I am not published in the sense that I have novels under my belt, but I write. A lot. At least I try to.

I do have a few articles published in a local magazine, and that’s cool. I’m so grateful for  the opportunity to contribute to a wonderful publication. But I still have a hard time considering myself a full-fledged writer.

But I am. And now that I’m realizing it, I’m so excited about my future and all the possibilities yet to be.

I write stories before bed! Fiction! And I love doing it! I’m using exclamation points because I think I found what I love to do! Making up stories to fill our dark little world with hero[ines] and characters that came to be because I used my brain muscles and created them out of nothing!

Now, yes, eventually I’d like to be semi-successful in this writing endeavor. But I can’t become successful or good at anything without a little elbow grease and a whole lot of doing.

And the doing–the writing, the doing the writing–makes me a writer. It’s the same concept as running. I’m currently training for a half marathon, and the act of running makes me a runner.

I’m slow as dirt, and it’s hard to wake up early before work to “pound the pavement.” (That’s runner’s speak.) But I run, so I am a runner.

I’m a writer, I’m a runner, I’m a dreamer. And I love and cherish all of those titles.

Have a magical day, my friends.

 

 

 

Ode to Magic

Below is a little poem I wrote about my favorite place, my magic place. Thank you for reading, and have a magical day. 

Magic is Floridian humidity

that melts the features of my face.

It’s the sun that burns my shoulders

and it’s the post rope-drop race.

It’s a metal mouse and a metal man

standing firmly side by side

captured forever in family photos,

those moments will never die.

Magic’s down at the laughin’ place

where briar patches become home.

Where nine ninety-nine happy haunts ask

 one more soul to cease to roam.

Waffles become magic when they’re

blessed with eyes, a nose, and ears.

A moment becomes magic when a tiny tot

overcomes her incredible fears.

She hugs her hero, her idol, her friend,

A fleeting second, captured by tech.

She bounces, she giggles, and squeals

she bids farewell with a delicate peck.

Mickey Mouse holds his heart and swoons

she’s met her hero, he’s met his.

These moments, this place, this world

are “my friends, where the magic lives!”

This place is my magic place,

I’m just like those teeny tots.

Here I never grow up, I dare to wear

mouse ears and red polka dots.

I laugh without fear of notice,

I don’t hide behind a stoic mask.

Fastpasses, photo ops, and the purple wall

are today’s only required tasks.

Here I twirl on lush “hub grass”

and strike a classic princess pose.

I open up to people who “get it.”

They feel the magic. They just…know.

Here “anything is possible,”

and “wishes do come true.”

It’s where I learned that true magic lies

within me…and also in you.

We take our magic place with us,

to the real world, to reality.

  In memories of that magic kingdom

I find myself.

I find me.

I Love You, Snoop

My best bud passed away the other day. My best bud had four legs, shaggy black-and-silver fur, a beard, and a stubby tail. He had the sweetest eyes, loved swimming in the summer, lounging on a pool floaty, and eating pizza crust.

His name was Snoopy, and Snoopy was seriously the best dog in this whole wide world.

I miss his howl. I miss his stub wagging back and forth every time I talked to him. I miss the way he used to paw at my hands, wanting me to pet his ears and his head.

I don’t think I could ever understand a person who doesn’t comprehend a pet/human relationship. Snoopy wasn’t just a dog–he was truly part of the family.

My whole little heart loved (still loves) him. He would lick my face when I cried. He was a part of my family for so long; we got him when I was in the fifth grade. I’m twenty-three. Snoop has been with us for the hardest–and happiest–of times. He grew up with my sister and me. We raised him. We carried him on our hips as if he was a toddler.

Our younger dog, Kasper, doesn’t understand. He still looks for Snoop. He doesn’t know how to bark when we walk in the door; that was Snoop’s job, and Kap followed suit. He rapidly blinks as if he’s about to burst into doggy tears. I try to give Kap lots of cuddles. He just lost his very best friend–the only friend of the same species he’s ever had.

It’s ok. I know we’ll feel better, and tears will give way to laughter and smiles, as cheesy as that sounds. We are already beginning to laugh at little things Snoopy did. He loved the words “cookie,” “leash,” “go,” “outside,” and “floaty.” He had a habit of laying in the middle of the floor on his back with his legs splayed in the silliest of ways. He’d relax and just go right to sleep. He loved snuggling under a bed–any space that was dark, quiet, and compact was his favorite space.

He would lay in the hallway that connected my room to my sister’s. He protected us. He would bark and growl at every unidentified noise. He would howl at every doorbell, he would tell the big dogs through the fence who was boss. He was only 20 pounds, but he could handle anything.

He was the bravest. He was my best bud. He was Snoop Poop, because his name unfortunately rhymed with “poop.”

I loved him so much. I know he’s lounging on a floaty, eating pizza, drying off in the sun, and laying in the shade somewhere that has an endless summer.

He loved summer because all of his girls were home.

I hope he knows his girls loved him so, so much.

Scratch that. I know he knows. He’s our Snoop Poop, and Snoop knows everything.

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Can You Feel The Love [Today?]

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Let’s talk Disney couples, because what else do you talk about on Valentine’s Day?!

Here are my favorite Disney couples and the reasons I love ’em:

Flynn Rider and Rapunzel 

EUGENE FITZHERBERT. Who doesn’t love the most attractive animated character in the history of animated characters? I also love Rapunzel–she’s a dreamer, spunky, independent, and takes charge. Separately, the two are fantastic. Together, Rapunzel and Flynn rule the world.

I love that Flynn isn’t a hero; he’s the opposite. He’s initially materialistic and self-centered, longing to be surrounded by “enormous piles of money.” (Who can blame him?) He’s a thief and an outlaw (and they can’t get his nose right!), but from the get-go, audiences can’t help but love him. I love him. A lot. Below is proof of my love for this rascal, photos taken on the day I finally met Flynn Rider:

Recording the “Smolder” so it could live forever on my sister’s phone.

This. Is not. A DRILL!

Eugene…I just love ya. 


Rapunzel doesn’t necessarily change Flynn and Flynn doesn’t really change Rapunzel. He still has his sense of humor at the end of Tangled, and she is as spunky as ever. They just…go together. I hate saying the words “complete each other,” because a person is never not whole, you know? They just bring out the best in each other.

They help each other find “new dreams,” and when a person helps you find and achieve whatever your dream may be, I believe that person could be a keeper.

Moving on.

Tiana and Naveen 

They are so wonderful together. They have the same thing going for them as Flynn and Rapunzel–they don’t necessarily complete each other, they just go together like beignets and powdered sugar and honey.

You know: perfectly.

Naveen hasn’t worked a day in his life, and Tiana works too darn much. They balance each other’s personalities and together they live a happy, “swingin’ good time” life. That quote is from Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, a show on Disney property that showcases just how wonderful Tiana and Naveen are.

Much love, Tiana and Naveen. Much love.

Carl and Ellie 

You know the two: the sweet couple from Disney-Pixar’s Up. This was always a given. (For a post exclusively about my love for Up‘s sweetest couple and the lessons we can learn from them, click here.)

Honorable Mention: Anna and Kristoff 

This one is for my sister: she claims she and her boyfriend are exactly like Anna and Kristoff. I could see it.

Regardless, Anna and Kristoff are certainly a cute couple. I especially love Kristoff’s nickname for Anna: “Fiesty Pants.”

We can all agree that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantic love, but it certainly is fun to talk about our favorite Disney couples. Who are your favorites? Comment below or join the conversation on Instagram. I hope you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day!