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.

 

 

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.

Little Things: 2.0

One of my very first posts (seriously, back in 2014!) on this blog talked about “the little things” in life. It’s unanimous that we humans love talking about the little things, no matter how cliche and trite our discussions of little things can get.

I’m here to write a “Little Things: 2.0” post, simply because I just can’t get enough of freakin’ little things.

I love the feeling of my sister’s dog as he lays on my derrière in the mornings. (Weird, I know.)  Kasper’s routine: wake up. Eat breakfast. Go sleep with Kaila on Kaila’s behind. He snores, and when my alarm goes off at 5:45, he groans.

Shuffling down my block at 6 a.m.–it’s only me and my adorable neighbors (I say that respectfully), and I savor the darkness and the quiet. My neighbors are so cool; the woman runs and runs and runs at the same exact pace; she sometimes walks with her husband and carries teeny pink weights as she pumps her dainty arms. I’d bet money that those arms, as slight and petite as they are, could still pack a punch. She just keeps going and going and going. I go, but I can’t go and go and go.

Not yet.

“BAHHH BAHHH BA BA BA BAAAAAAAAAAAH BA.”

That’s me trying to emulate the opening track of any Star Wars film. The soundtracks are often my running music of choice; might as well gain inspiration from the Jedi, the rebels, and the Empire. Sometimes I don’t want to listen to words at 6 a.m.; I have to stare at words all day. I just listen to epic music and, in turn, I feel pretty darn epic.

Coffee. Coffee was mentioned in my first “Little Things” post, and not much as changed since 2014.

Lunch. I have about a 10-15 minute lunch break between two [wonderful] jobs, and those moments spent in silence driving from point A to point B while nibbling on a turkey sandwich, a handful of chips, and string cheese are often just the right amount of fuel I need to conquer the rest of my day.

Finally falling asleep after a restless night. That’s what I’m about to attempt, so wish me luck. Thanks for sticking with me, friends. It means a whole lot to an aspiring writer for real actual humans to read words that I hastily type into WordPress’ handy word processor area thing. That was eloquent, I know.

Seriously. It means a lot.

Good night, and I hope you all take a little time out of your busy days to find and appreciate those stinkin’ little things.

 

 

 

 

Princess in Training

Happy New Year, everyone!

Ok, I know it’s not January first by any means. It’s a almost a couple of weeks after the big day of renewal and resolutions. The hype has died down just a tiny bit–“new year, new me” posts are slowly disappearing from social media, the gym next to one of my workplaces is becoming deplete of fresh cars in the parking lot, and we’re all sneaking a chocolate bar into our grocery baskets. We also might be hiding those said chocolate bars under the bunch of bananas. Hide the evidence! 

Ok, not everyone. But I might be guilty as charged when it comes to the chocolate. I love chocolate, gosh darn it.

I’ve intentionally decided to write this post a couple of weeks into the new year, when the hype has died down and we settle into our “normal,” whether that normal be new or familiar. It’s a motivation for me and–maybe, just maybe–for you.

I’m trying for a new normal; I’m the first to admit I’m a little ambitious this year in terms of resolutions. If you could take a hint and are a Disney fanatic, you might have guessed something by the title of this post: I’m trying to become a Princess.

Well, a Princess who will have finished 13.1 miles at the 2018 Walt Disney World Princess Half Marathon.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you might remember that I used to be a college athlete. I’ve always been active, fairly athletic, and fiercely competitive. Everything I’ve ever done, however, has involved quick bursts of energy–college and high school volleyball, high school basketball, and high school  track (jumping events and hurdles). I’ve never been much of a long-distance runner. The farthest distance I’ve ever run consecutively is three measly miles, at the peak of my athletic capability, my junior and senior year of college.

I’m so ready to change that. But, most importantly, I’m so excited to embrace an outlet that will keep me in shape and keep my beloved Disney in my life.

I have a little over a year to train, but I’ve decided to share my journey with my little blogosphere as a way of accountability and as a way to document the process and my progress. I love to write (obviously), so why not bring all who read these posts along for the [carriage] ride?

Here’s to becoming a Princess in 2017! “Let’s get down to business” to “chase the wind and touch the sky” and “run the hidden pine trails of the forest.” 

Is that princess-y enough for you? Yeah. I thought so.

To Be Determined

You know. Things really don’t ever turn out just how you thought it was going to be.

I thought I was going to be bored to tears in my college town, home of the University of Itty Bitty.  Its  population is tiny; barely over 10,ooo when school is in session. Main Street is peppered with mom-and-pops and fast food. The school was “average,” “undistinguished.” I was a Division II athlete, “lesser” than the best of the best.

I thought Animal Kingdom was going to be so-so as a  home park. I wanted Magic Kingdom; everyone does.  Classic and magical and the best of the best in entertainment. Animal Kingdom, in contrast, is new, environmental. Slightly smelly to be quite honest. I loved Disney with all my heart, but I was never sure if I loved Disney’s Animal Kingdom before my college program.

Preconceptions are stupid, my friends. I know it’s a “bad” word in Kindergarten , but they are stupid. And sucky.

The University of Itty Bitty? It turned out to be the very best experience possible. I became an English major and fell in love with writing and reading and analyzing and academia. I excelled as a college athlete, even though my version of excelling did not involve a Division I national championship. I discovered my love for autumn and authentic blizzards. My heart belongs to the miles of miles of uninterrupted patchwork views, littered only by immense wind turbines and their blades that rhythmically beat against a brilliant, red dirt-dusted sunset.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom? My goodness. It’s my home. I will always remember walking through an empty park at 7:50 in the morning, marveling at how the sun glinted off of the Tree of Life’s  foliage, how the distinct morning shadows highlighted the tree’s animal carvings. The mouthwatering aroma of Flame Tree Barbecue would overpower the stench of the birds that make the Oasis their home. Multicolored macaws noislily squawked and beat their wings, stirring the sweet humid air that forced my hair into its signature braid for six months. When the nighttime offerings began, I would park myself in front of the Tree of Life to watch it awaken.

If you’ve never experienced these awakenings, I’m here to tell you that they create just as much magic as Tinker Bell’s pixie dust.

Now that I’m home, I’m working and applying to graduate schools. As I sit down to complete applications, I notice that I’m applying to big schools with big names and little schools with little names. I realize that I probably won’t get into every school I apply to. Once this whole process is over, I must choose the right place for me. I also know that there is a possibility that I won’t have the option to choose the “right” place–there might be an “only” place.

The “right” place might not be the biggest school with the most distinguished program. But it might be. I’m not sure yet.

What I must consider from past experiences? Preconceptions are stupid. I can’t wait to continue to add to my collection of homes:

My home town.

University of Itty Bitty.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

To be determined.

 

Monday Musings

Hello. It’s Monday. I’m feeling a short blog post with a list of random thoughts. I haven’t done one of those in a while, and it’s always a nice way to get creative juices flowing.

So. Here goes nothing:

  • I love bullet points. They’re so clean. So neat.
  • I’ve officially been working two jobs in my field (English, writing, that sort of thing) for two months! I’m practically a full-fledged adult.
  • I’m an adult who eats ghost cookies (you know the ones) every day for lunch.
  • I’m also an adult who writes with a light saber pen to get through a particularly busy Friday. (May the Force be with you)
  • I’m planning/hoping/working for my future. Wish me luck.
  • I’m reading Dracula and loving it. So creepy. So predictable.
  • Well, it’s predictable for me because I know what two little holes on the side of a victim’s neck are–Stoker’s audience didn’t. So wonderfully creepy and campy and horrific!
  • My dogs are currently clamoring for my attention. Silly Snoop. Cantankerous Kasper.
  • I just ate popcorn slathered with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. My goodness, so tasty.
  • I miss Disney a whole lot.
  • To cope, I listen to Disney music every day and sing along with the all force of a great typhoon.
  • If you caught the reference, give yourself ten points.
  • Do these points matter? No!
  • Do you still want the points? Yes!
  • Halloween is one week away! And then the most important month of the year shall begin…
  • NOVEMBER! The month of Christmas (yes), Moana, and Gilmore Girls! I can’t believe the revival is almost here and we will have another Disney heroine. Ohmygoodness. Yes, blended words intentional.
  • Alright. That’s enough for tonight.

Thanks for joining me in my list-making madness. Have a wonderful rest of your Monday, my friends!

“If She Doesn’t Scare You, No Evil Thing Will…”

Happy #SinisterSunday dahlings. Remember, every month of October is dedicated to a Disney villain, and this week goes to that fur-wearing task master.

Ah. Cruella de Vil–yes, this Disney villain is pure evil, but no one can deny that she is absolutely fabulous. She’s a snappy dresser, applies her makeup with an impeccable heavy hand, and knows how to rock a statement piece.

Sure she’s evil. But Cruella knows how to own it.

When I met Cruella at Club Villain earlier this May, I asked her how we should pose for our portrait. She replied, “I always like to take up as much space as I can, dahling!” and proceeded to thrust her hands into the air and point her stiletto in the direction of the camera. I attempted to take up as much space as the queen of color-block, but there is just something about Cruella’s presence that can not be duplicated.

There’s something to learn from Cruella’s attitude. I’m a believer in taking up as much space as you possibly can–figuratively, of course. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, to wear your most fabulous dress to the most mundane occasion, to splurge on that bag that you have been eyeing. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. You can do so much; know it and show it with as much vim and vigor as you can. Show up, own it, and strut your stuff.

Just embrace every inch of your life. Take up space and love it. .

Just be sure not to skin any puppies while you’re at it, ok? Faux fur can be fabulous, too.

Fall into Disney Style

A short little post to praise Disney Style’s photo-a-day challenge for the month of October. Even though I’m picking and choosing my favorite posts, I’m having so much fun showcasing my Disney style.

Check out my post for day 5: Disney Desk Decor.

There’s nothing like Disney mugs and Disney post cards to add magic and color to any space. I love using mugs to hold essentials–pens, pencils, sharpies, paint brushes, etc.

Check out my Instagram, @kailainwonderlandblog, for daily doses of my Disney lifestyle and memories.

“Mirror, Mirror…”

It’s finally October, the month of cool breezes, pumpkins, and spooks. To celebrate, I have decided to showcase a Disney villain every Sunday of October.

Welcome to #SinisterSunday, my friends. First up: the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. 

Ah, the Evil Queen. Her vanity consumed her and became her demise, she could whip up a peculiar apple pie in no time, and she has impeccable style.

What? Purple and red pair marvelously together.

Let’s digress and talk about the Evil Queen in her newest manifestation: Regina Mills from ABC’s Once Upon a Time. 

love Regina. (“Queen” in Latin. Pretty cool huh?) At the beginning of the show, Regina was as evil as evil gets–full of hatred and vengeance, casting wicked curses left and right. She was unapologetically awful. Her frankness, although wicked and horrible and frightening, was something to (sort of) be admired.

What makes Regina truly wonderful, however, is her ability to overcome her evil tendencies and her dysfunctional family. She eventually chooses to be good, to find her own happiness.

Once Upon a Time is just so good.

Bottom line: Once Upon a Time asserts that we can choose to overcome our genetic tendencies and work toward our own happy ending. Regina’s growth throughout the series reminds us of this.

The Evil Queen decided to overcome her title and become not so evil after all.

That’s all for this installment of #SinisterSunday. I hope you are having a wickedly wonderful first week of October, my friends.

Just be careful to avoid suspicious apples, okay?