More Than Magical

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride in a parade through the streets of Magic Kingdom with 100,000 people watching you and waving to you? Apparently this a thing that can actually happen to an average person.

My family had just walked into Magic Kingdom and of course had to do the stereotypical picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle. As we were trying to figure out how to get a picture with everyone in it, two Disney cast members approached us and offered to take the picture for us. Of course we accepted. Little did we know that those two people would totally change our day and our Disney experience forever. After lots of dialogue and questions back and forth with the two cast members, they proceeded to ask us if we would like to be the honorary Grand Marshals of the Festival of Fantasy parade. The first picture above shows our reaction when we were first asked. Unbeknownst to us, they had a photographer capturing the entire moment.

I’ll be honest, I really had no idea what being a grand Marshall of the Festival of Fantasy parade in Magic Kingdom truly meant. It was a much bigger deal than I had expected.

We all met back at the predetermined location later that afternoon. Those same two cast members were there ready and waiting for us. The first thing they did was gave Mickey ears with “Grand Marshals” embroidered on the back. The photographers were there as well. We were quickly told what would happen but I still had no idea what this was experience would be like for us . The entire moment was surreal. We were ushered back into a cast members only area. We loaded into this beautiful car and were told to smile and wave the entire time. As the main cast member instructed, if our mouths and arms don’t hurt by the end, then we didn’t do it right. The gates opened and we were on our way.

Next was the surreal part. The entire streets of Magic Kingdom were roped off. There were nearly 100,000 people lining the streets. We were well ahead of the parade and the only thing on the road. The entire crowd began waving and smiling at us. At this moment over the entire loudspeaker of the park, our family name was announced; “our honorary grand marshals of the Festival of Fantasy parade is the Handley family from South Florida”. They proceeded to make this announcement multiple times through the entire route. As I am smiling and waving to the crowd, I felt like I was in a dream. Everyone was looking at us.  Everyone was waving at us. It was probably one of, if not the coolest thing that has ever happened to me and my family. We ended the route but it was not over.

The cast members had roped off a special location for our family to watch the parade. They were literally kicking people out of our area as it was specially roped off just for us. The amazing and cool thing is that not only did we had a photographer shooting the entire moment, but everyone in the parade, all the characters; Belle, the Seven Dwarfs, Mickey, Minnie, etc. were all paying attention to us; waving to us and talking to us. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what it feels like to be a celebrity. The parade ended, but there was still one last thing.

Our paparazzi photographer (as they called it) took us to Main Street in front of Cinderella’s castle. From there she took a ton of awesome photos of our entire family. This moment was bigger and better than I had ever imagined or expected. This moment in our lives and our Disney experience, was more than magical.

Happy Trails

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I love adventure, exercise and nature.  So, I’m not quite sure why I was so surprised that I not only liked trail riding, I LOVED it! It combines almost everything I love into one activity. If you throw in a sunset, that just puts it right over the edge. The trails I’ve been riding are on the edge of the Florida Everglades so the sunsets area phenomenal.

As promised in my post about paddleboarding again (view here), I gave trail riding a try and I must say, it is quickly becoming a regular outing for me. As for rock climbing, I tried a local indoor gym and loved it.  However, it will be a bit difficult to do on a regular basis as you need a partner to belay you. The only active person I know that is interested in rock climbing is my 16 year old son.  Between school, football training, track training, track meets and theater/play practice, I doubt we will fit much climbing in (at least for now).  I am going to try an outdoor rock climbing option at my daughters college and do a climb with her. We’ll see how it goes.  More to come.

I must say, I love using nature as my gym.  When I’m exercising outside, I feel invigorated and elated; I feel alive!

Forty One

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So, this is 41. Supposedly once you’re over 40, then you’re considered “over the hill”, right? Well maybe, maybe not. In my 20’s I did consider the 40’s as being “over the hill” and I had a picture in my head of what that would look and feel like. This is not at all what I expected. Man, am I glad.  I choose to make the most of every day.  I choose to do the things that make me feel alive. So, here’s to the 40’s. Bring it on!

*A special thanks to my three favorite people; Steve, Danica and Trey.  Steve made me feel special and let me do anything I wanted all weekend while he did my chores for me.  Trey went rock climbing with me and we had the best time.  Danica gave me the best present by coming home for the weekend to hang out with me.  To each of you… thank you for being you and thank you for being amazing.  You made me feel so very special. 

 

Hair Color Gone Wrong

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oil-treatment-before-and-after

How many of you have taken the plunge to bleach your hair only to end up with an orange dried mess?  I’ve gone the bleaching route but only twice.  The first time was not a problem; the second time, not so much.  My hair is dark brown; almost black so going light for me can be very tricky.  On the plus side, my hair is very thick and course so it can usually handle a good bit of abuse.

The Dryness Issue:
Before I explain what happened with this last bleaching experience, I will say that I have an unusual distaste for tangly, dried hair. I like hair that looks and feels healthy.  So, the adventure begins.  I went to a new salon and stylist to get a mix of ombre and balayage.  At first I liked the look, but that affinity faded quickly.  The more I washed my hair the more orange, tangly and dry it got (and I never even blow dried or used heat).  I began trying everything under the sun to soften the ends (where it was bleached).  I tried special (hard core) conditioner you wash out, hot oil treatments, leave in conditioner, smoothing oils, etc.  The list goes on and on.  In utter frustration, I got 5 inches of my hair cut off because the ends were in such bad shape. Luckily, my hair was down to my hips so I had some length to spare.  The cut did not help much.  My ends were still dry straw, YUCK!  I reached out to a friend to ask if she had any ideas and she brought me to the section in Wal-Mart typically for African women and showed me a product, B&B Tropical Roots, that her daughter uses who has thick, course hair similar to mine.  I was willing to try anything and at $5 a bottle it was worth it!

Dryness Solution:
Here is my process. I used the B&B Tropical Roots as a hot oil treatment by putting the entire bottle in a cup of nearly boiling water and heated it up for about 15 minutes.  Once heated, I worked the oil into my dry hair soaking it completely (only on the bleached parts).  I then clipped my hair on top of my head and put a shower cap on so that I didn’t drip any oil on my clothes and let it sit for 45 minutes.  After that, I simply shampooed and conditioned.  The before and after picture above shows the drastic difference.  I couldn’t believe it.  It worked!

*Only use Tropical Roots oil if you have very thick and course hair.  This product will not work for fine and/or thin hair.

Orange Color Solution:
I finally found something to overcome the dryness.  Now onto the issue with the orange color.  I was faced with two options; one, bleach further to lift the orange color to a blonde or two, dye back to my natural color.  Since I was not willing to bleach and damage my hair any further, I chose to dye my hair back to my natural color by using an oil based non-ammonia box color (Garnier Nutrisse or Garnier Olia).  Once again, success! (first image above)

*If you color right after doing the oil treatment, your hair may be very greasy until you wash it. Pony tails are your friend!

After much fretting, the problem was solved.  Never, never, never again will I bleach or lighten my hair.  I like my healthy, silky, smooth and manageable hair way more than I like trying a different color.

 

Ocean Magic

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For me, paddleboading can be a purely magical experience.  This week I got to experience one of those magical moments. The water was completely flat, glassy, crystal clear and calm, the ocean was filled with beautiful sea life, the wind was calm and the moon was full.  It was perfect!  I quickly remembered just how much I love paddleboarding and how grateful I am to live in a place where I can do things like this year round.

You see, two years ago (before my mom’s accident), I was out on the water every single week without fail.  Then life flipped upside down and I just never got back into the habit.  Well, I’m taking life by the horns and I’m changing that.  Doing fun active activities makes me feel better physically and emotionally. Paddleboarding is probably at the top of that activity list for me.  It makes me feel alive! Now I’m looking to add additional activities to this list; mountain bike trail riding and indoor rock climbing.  More to come on that.  In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying more time on the ocean.

Beach Photography

I have been MIA from the blog for sometime; 3 months to be exact!  WOW, how quickly time flies.  Hopefully that will change.  Soon there will be a post about my hair, the debacle and the process to recover.  I know, don’t get too excited.  In the meantime, I wanted to share my most recent little hobby with you.

If you know me at all, then you know I’m a beach lover.  It could be said that I moved my family 1600 miles to be close to the beach.  (well, that’s at least one reason anyway) The beach brings me peace.  It is my happy place.  Ok, after much  babbling, here’s the point.  I got this awesome lens set for my Samsung phone from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas.  The set came with a wide angle lens and a fish eye lens. My Galaxy s6 Active already takes great photos, but this lens takes it up a notch. Plus, it’s super easy to use.  I can’t stop taking photos.

Here are just a few pics I’ve taken in just the last three weeks.  If you follow me on Instagram, then this will be a repeat.  If you don’t follow me on Instagram, please do.  You can find me at @mamanellie_.

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Denver for Two

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The hubs and I went on a very quick getaway to Denver to see our favorite singer live.  We have been dying to see Amanda Shires for years but she never seems comes to our state.  However, she does go to places like Denver, CO.  Since we had just celebrated our 20 year wedding anniversary, we figured, why the heck not.  Let’s go to Denver!  It was the perfect excuse.  So, we booked our little 2 1/2 day getaway to Denver to see Amanda at Opelia’s Electric Soapbox (amazing little venue) and to do a bit of sightseeing (my fave).  Unfortunately, I had altitude sickness the entire trip but was determined to push through.  It was by far the most fun I have ever had all while feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Win and Relaxation

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The place we stayed in the keys was absolutely perfect.  It was located directly on the Gulf and lined with palm trees and hammocks; the perfect location for doing absolutely nothing; exactly what this family needed.  The sunsets never cease to amaze me.  I stand there in awe every time taking a ridiculous number of pictures as the colors evolve every few seconds.  I don’t think I will ever get tired of watching them.

The real reason we went to the keys was for our annual showdown with Key West High School.  This year was a bit different than last.  This year we won (yay!), but unfortunately my son got a fever just an hour before the game started.  The win was great, but a bit bittersweet night for us since he was feeling so bad.  We spent the weekend in the keys relaxing with family as planned.  As soon as we got home on Sunday, I took him to the urgent care and sure enough he had bronchitis.  They gave us an antibiotic and we are hoping for a quick recovery.

All is well that ends well.

Twenty Years

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It is truly amazing how quickly twenty years of marriage has flown by.  The first decade was spent having and raising young children and seemed to go by at somewhat of a normal pace.  The second decade has gone by in the blink of an eye.  It feels a bit strange and surreal; like a couple of years went by but definitely not ten.  It seems like we went to sleep one night with young children and woke up with older teens.  We now find ourselves embarking on being empty nesters with two adult children.  I really am having trouble wrapping my mind around this time warp.

Let’s back up over two decades for just a minute.  I’ve been told that my marriage and what we have is an anomaly; truly unlikely and almost statistically impossible.  The hubs and I met my junior year, his senior year of high school.  We became best friends and then started dating.  After dating for four years (on and off), we got married at the young age of 20 and had a baby right away at the age of 21.  Being together since the age of 16, getting married young and having a baby at a young age.  Any one of these factors alone sets us up for failure, but all three?  Impossible.  Right?  Well, somehow we made it.  Not only have we made it this far but we are happy; seriously happy.  We are just as happy now as we were way back then, maybe even more so.

I don’t know that there is any one “secret” to my marriage.  I am just as awestruck as anyone looking in from the outside, to be honest.  I feel incredibly grateful for what I have and I definitely try not to ever take it for granted.  I will say that getting married young and having children young as opposed to waiting until we were older and “set up” in life had its real advantages in our marriage.  In those early years, we truly fumbled through life.  We were so young and had absolutely no idea what we were doing.  I think when you get married young, you expect each other to change.  You expect each other to grow.  This expectation allowed us to come together and actually grow up together.  Neither one of us had the answers.  We just figured it out as we went, but we did so together.  It was an adventure.  It was our adventure that turned into an absolutely beautiful life with an amazing marriage and two awesome kids.

What will the next twenty years hold?  I have no idea. I do know that it will lead us into a brand new season in our lives.  We will have two adult children, become empty nesters, put our children through college and watch them spread their wings and start their own lives.  Then it is us again.  Back to the beginning, in a weird sort of way.  We still won’t have the answers but we will figure it out together.  It will be our next adventure.

* Steve, I cannot thank you enough for sticking by me all these years.  I absolutely love doing life with you.  I cannot wait to see what the next twenty years hold for us.  No doubt, it will be something beautiful.  I love you with all my heart.  😉

 

 

Wall Tapestry DIY

Wall Hanging Finished

I spent a good bit of time online looking for something to hang on the blank wall above our bed.  Because I needed something quite large, I decided on a tapestry.  The only issue is that when searching for wall hangings or tapestries, the only search results were hangings of the hippy/India/mandala style. I rather like the hippy style personally but I was wanting something with a bit more flowers and a lot less tie dye.  Also, I was looking for something that didn’t just look like a square blanket hanging on a wall.  I wanted something with some shape to it.  So, as per the usual, when I can’t find what is envisioned in my head, I set out to make it myself. Below are the steps to recreate.

Materials:

2-3 yards of fabric (I got the extra wide type from the home fabric section)
Iron
Measuring tape
Fabric pencil (or a pink colored pencil)
Straight pins
Sewing macine
Adjustable curtain rod

Instructions (see pics below):

  1. Cut fabric to be evenly square or rectangle (size of your choosing – my finished product is 6′ x 4′)
  2. Find the middle of the fabric and measure 18″ from the bottom (or measurement of your choosing). Make a mark in this spot.
  3. Lay a long ruler or your measuring tape from the mark made diagonally to the corner of the fabric and make a line with your pin pencil.  Repeat on the other side as well.
  4. Cut out your triangle from the bottom middle of the fabric.
  5. Flip the fabric over and iron all edges over except for the top.  I did about 3/4 of an inch.
  6. Sew all your edges.
  7. Make a 2″ loop at the top of your fabric and pin in place.
  8. Sew the loop.
  9. Hang and enjoy

Wall Hanging Material BeforeWall Hanging Cut TriangleWall Hanging Ironing EdgesWall Hanging Pinned Top