Disney Vacation Club – Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

After spending a bajillion dollars on Disney vacations over the years, we finally wised up and joined the Disney Vacation Club.

Disney Vacation Club locations

Disney Vacation Club is kind of like a timeshare but, rather than buying specific weeks at a specific location, members buy points which can be used anytime at a variety of Disney resorts and hundreds of non-Disney properties.

Welcome home

Even with a pretty generous carryover policy, points do have an expiration date. Recently, Peter and I found ourselves with a handful of points that had reached the point of “use it or lose it”.

Reviewing our options and taking into consideration that we already have reservations for an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World with the entire family, Peter suggested a getaway to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Disney's Vero Beach Resort

A little back story…

I am a native Floridian; born in St. Petersburg. In my youth, the city was known as the retirement capital of the world. The downtown streets rolled up at 4pm to allow everyone to get in line for the early-bird dinner at Morrison’s Cafeteria.

Today, downtown St. Pete is swanky-town where you can pay a cool million for a condo with a view of the water and a plethora of museums, galleries and hip restaurants at your doorstep.

But I digress.

The point is, back when I was growing up and the state’s population was largely concentrated on the two coasts with a whole lot of nothing but orange groves in the middle, we Floridians felt a strong affinity for our locale.

An East Coast – West Coast thing.

Florida's Best Coast

There was no ambivalence. You were “Ft. Myers” or “Ft. Lauderdale” – not both.

I will always be a true-blue, loyal Gulf Coast gal.

The West Coast, the Best Coast.

So, when Peter suggested vacationing on Florida’s EAST Coast I was not immediately on board.

Old misconceptions die hard.

But, this is Disney after all, so I decided that I could cope. Look at me, walking in the flip flops of others to understand our differences.

Flying into the Orlando airport, we had momentary buyer’s remorse as we headed to our rental car rather than the Disney Magical Express bus to Walt Disney World.

Those feelings were quickly dispelled by the scenery upon our arrival at the resort.

Ocean view

After spending some time relaxing by the pool we enjoyed dinner on site at the Wind and Waves Grill and cocktails on the lovely porch at the Green Cabin Room. Their wine list was not great but the Agave Nectar Margarita was a delicious Plan B.

We spent one entire day lounging under an umbrella on the beach. This fair-skinned Irish gal was also under a hat, towels and a double layer of SPF 50 sunscreen.

Under my umbrella

The cooling breeze and the sound of the waves made for the perfect setting to enjoy my magazines and take a nap.

At one point, we ventured into the surf to frolic in the waves, reminding me of two truths:

  1. As I am no longer 17 years old, my boogie board should have been retired some time ago.
  2. The monster waves of the Atlantic Ocean are much meaner than the gentle, rolling swells of my beloved, placid Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the rest of our time was spent relaxing by the pool.

The pool

Although we resisted the temptation to join in the poolside games like bingo and dive for sharks, we were powerless over the two-story waterslide as a vehicle for somewhat more age-appropriate thrill seeking.

Pool slide

We patiently waited in line among the children and there is no truth to the rumor that we elbowed little ones out of our way or distracted them by shouting, “Hey, look! There’s a shark!”.

After three glorious days, it was time to say goodbye to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and head off on our next adventure.

Spoiler alert: the next adventure involves wine.

As my friend Mickey says, “See you real soon!”

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Baby Sister And Retirement – Take 3

Recently, our family has experienced two momentous events.

A few weeks ago we welcomed our fifth grandchild and first granddaughter!!!

Baby sister

To say that girls are scarce in our family would be an understatement. Baby sister is the first female to be born on either side of our family in almost 25 years.

She’s kind of a big deal. And she is beautiful.

Her twin older brothers, Chip and Dale, are quite besotted with her. The household is settling in nicely; that is to say, they will be once the wee darling gets a little better grasp on night vs. day.

To celebrate her arrival, we opened a bottle of 2009 Wallis Family Estate “Little Sister” Proprietary Red Wine from the Diamond Mountain District of Napa Valley.

2009 Wallis Family Estate Little Sister Proprietary Red

Perfect, right?

We discovered Wallis Family Estate at a Family Winemakers of California tasting event about 5 years ago. Pouring wine at their booth on that day were both Mr. Wallis and his younger daughter, AKA the Little Sister.

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Shortly after Baby Sister’s arrival, Peter started retirement.

For the third time.
Peter Begins Retirement

Retirement #1 never really happened even though the date was set and we completed the planned relocation.

You see, Peter is a team player. When the company came to him saying, “We’ve had a bit of a situation and we really, really, really need to have you stick around for another six months or so. Pretty please???”, he couldn’t say no.

Retirement #2 proceeded swimmingly for a grand total of three months.

During that time we packed in all sorts of fun activities like concerts and wine events.

I became quite accustomed to having Peter cook dinner, pairing it with the perfect wine, as I perused my People Magazine.

Well, that arrangement came to a screeching halt when Peter received a call asking if he could help out on a teeny, tiny project  – “should last no longer than a couple of months” – which turned into a big, big project consuming about fifteen months.

Now, finally, all is as it should be in Maison Lux. Peter is home and splitting his time, once again, between his two happy places: the kitchen and the wine cellar.

Wine Spectator magazine’s website has a series called “8 & $20” which features wonderful recipes (with suggested wine pairings) serving up to 8 people for $20 or less (not including wine, obviously).

One, in particular, caught Peter’s eye and he decided to give it a whirl.

Braised Chicken Thighs in Mushroom Sauce

Braised chicken thighs in mushroom sauce.

Now I was a little wary of this dish for two reasons: I don’t like dark meat chicken and I REALLY don’t like mushrooms. Other than that, it sounded great…

But, if Peter was doing the cooking I figured the least I could do was to be a good sport and try the dish without complaining. Besides, I knew it would be served with a great wine so not a total fail.

I may not have instantly become a dark meat/mushroom convert, but I will tell you that this combination was delicious! Check out the recipe here.

Peter paired this yummy gem with a 2012 Foxen Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir.

2012 Foxen Melville Vineyard Pinot Noir

Located in Santa Barbara County, Foxen makes a wide variety of wines including single-vineyard Pinot Noirs like this one, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and red blends.

The Foxen tasting room in Santa Maria is a simple and rustic but beautiful place and one I highly recommend to anyone visiting Santa Barbara County. Just a tiny bit down the road is their second tasting room, known as The Shack, where visitors can enjoy selections from Foxen 7200 which focuses on Italian style and Bordeaux wines.

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Now that Peter has more free time, I’m looking forward to many delicious meals, great adventures and lots of time to spend with the five grandchildren: Baby Sister, brothers Chip and Dale and cousins Andy and Harry.

Life is, indeed, good!

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Boston Fun And Pi Day

Hi, folks! Checking in to let you know what I’ve been up to and to wave my nerd flag proudly, wishing you a Happy Pi Day.

Recently, I spent several weeks in Boston for part one of my current granny nanny stint when our daughter, Annie, returned to work following her maternity leave.

I was in charge of the newest arrival, Harry

Baby Harry

(as you can see we are already turning him into an Irish fan)…

and his big brother, Andy (whom we are apparently turning into a fan of lifestyle magazines like the Real Simple he is about to peruse in this photo).

Andy 2017

There is a reason that babies are born to those who are young and energetic rather than those of us who are older and, let’s say, more sedentary. Still, I managed to hold my own with these two guys.

They made it pretty easy.

On-time feedings, attention to the nap and diaper changing schedules along with perpetual song singing and book reading were all they asked of me. In return, the boys accepted my non-stop smooching, cuddling and picture taking.

We got along splendidly.

Because both of our children and all of our grandchildren live only a couple of miles from each other (approximately 1,000 miles away from us but practically next door to one another), we get to spend time with all the little nuggets when we visit Boston.

Although my granny nanny duties kept me busy, we did manage to join Chip and Dale for play dates, trips to the trampoline park and playground and general fun.

Chip and DaleChip is still in his PJs here because he was a bit under the weather. Dale, having just returned from pre-school, was helping his twin brother pick out some “quiet time” books for Momo to read.

The timing of my trip allowed me to attend a beautiful luncheon at the home of my dear pal and superstar blogger, Katie Clooney of Preppy Empty Nester.

Lunch prepared by The Mister

What a treat to spend time with this group of smart, interesting and hilarious gals. I’m eager to crash their next party join them for another get together soon!

Katie Clooney's lunch guests

Hostess Katie (with the help of her husband, the chef du jour) outdid herself. Her beautiful home, warm hospitality, and all-encompassing awesomeness made for a perfect afternoon!

Now back home I’m spending time with my folks as my mom recovers from a little something-something.

In honor of Pi Day, we enjoyed a ridiculously delicious chicken pot pie from the Centerville Pie Company in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Centerville Pie Company

My dear pal, Ellie, sent a couple of these pies as a “get well soon” treat. And what a treat it was!!

Half the pie is gone

We gobbled down half of the pie before I could snap a picture.

You are probably wondering what wine we paired with this extraordinary pie.

2008 Argyle Spirithouse Reserve Series Pinot Noir

This 2008 Argyle Reserve Series Spirithouse Pinot Noir came from our cellar but you can find Argyle Pinot Noir at your favorite wine (maybe even grocery) store. In addition to the single vineyard, reserve wines, Argyle produces quite a lovely, reliable, everyday wine.

Before too long I will head back to Boston for nanny granny part two and to wait for the arrival of our next grandchild – OUR FIRST GIRL!!!!!!  A shower of pink is coming our way!

So stay tuned for that excitement and, of course, more wine.

Happy Pi Day!

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A Grandmother’s Guide To Toddler Books – Part Two

I love reading books to my young grandchildren. I especially like it when the toddler books are entertaining and do not make me want to poke a sharp stick in my eye.

Please let me share with you some of the books I recommend. You can find more in Part One.

(By the way, as in Part One, this post contains some affiliate links which means that if you buy something after clicking on the link, Amazon will send a few pennies my way. I will promptly send the pennies back to Amazon as I buy new books for the little ones. I thank you and they thank you.)

I will be spending lots of time reading these and other favorites to the little guys during my upcoming stint as granny nanny.

 

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Goodnight, Goodnight COnstruction Site

Even the toughest equipment on the construction site needs to tuck in at night to be rested up and ready for the new day. This story helps rambunctious four-year-old twins realize that they do, too.

 

Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps written and illustrated by Sophie Henn

Pom Pom Panda Gets The Grumps

We’ve all had those times when we get out on the wrong side of the bed and everything that can go wrong throughout the day does. Pom Pom Panda’s friends help him to turn his day around.

 

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups written and illustrated by Tadgh Bentley

Little Penguin Gets The Hiccups

This sweet and silly book illustrates the pitfalls of serving chili to a penguin. Little penguin needs help to vanquish his hiccups and he calls upon the reader and the audience to help.

 

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Spoon

There is something about this book that I absolutely adore. Captivating illustrations depict this creative tale about Spoon who thinks those around him (Fork, Knife, and Chopsticks) lead more interesting or, in the case of Chopsticks, more exotic lives than he does. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Spoon, help him to realize that there is something special about each of us.

 

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

Giraffes Can't Dance

As someone who was kicked out of ballet class at age six because the teacher thought I was “too clumsy”, I feel vindicated by this book. With some encouragement and the right music in our hearts, we can ALL dance.

 

Finally, you can’t go wrong with ANYTHING by author Mo Willems. True, I might be drawn to him because of his awesome name but just look at these examples…

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

The Pigeon Needs A Bath

The Pigeon series (including other gems like “Don’t Let Pigeon Stay Up Late” and “Don’t Let Pigeon Drive The Bus” are silly tales about a cantankerous pigeon. He doesn’t think he needs a bath; he had one last month. Our little guys find the Pigeon books to be hilarious.

 

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Even from the cover of the book, you can see the personality that comes out in the illustrations.

Wee, little Trixie and her beloved knuffle bunny go along on a trip to the laundromat with dad. Unfortunately, knuffle bunny gets left behind and Trixie can’t get her parents to understand baby-speak. Finally, determination wins out and Trixie speaks her first real words, “knuffle bunny”.

 

The Elephant and Piggie Series

Elaphant and Piggie boks

There are 25 books in the Elephant and Piggie series. The books tell of the adventures of best friends Gerald the Elephant and Piggie the pig. The books are entertaining for all ages – seriously, I could read these over and over and over again.

The Elephant and Piggie books are also written to be “easy readers”. No dumb “See Spot run.” nonsense for this generation. The brilliant and talented Mo Willems helps children learn to read and want to read.

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book), in particular, engages young readers.

Here is how the New York Public Schools Library Journal describes the hilarity:

“…the best buddies star in a witty metafictional romp replete with visual gags, such as Piggie hanging from a speech bubble and Elephant blocking the author’s name on the title page. Willems revs up the fun when the friends realize that someone is watching. Who can it be? Cautious Gerald asks, “A monster?” while savvy Piggie answers, “No. It is…a reader! A reader is reading us!” Mirth ensues as the delightful creatures comprehend a newfound power: “If the reader reads out loud,” they can make the reader say words.”

 

All of these books would be great additions to any family’s library. And, without a doubt, instilling a love of books in children is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Happy reading!

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