2017 is my Reset Year

The Creative Life

Because last year certainly didn’t go as planned!

Let’s take a quick stroll down last year’s goal list, shall we?

House Plans:

  • Downstairs Bath: 85% complete
  • Driveway and Privacy Fence: 5% started?
  • Recycling Sorter: 75% complete per Todd’s plans, but totally functional, so we could call this one a win
  • Compost Bin: big ol’ nope
  • Back Hall/Mudroom: Hah!
  • Utility Room: You’ve got to be joking

Some of those were stretch goals anyway, and the bathroom renovation ended up taking way more time than anticipated. But now we’re a lot more prepared for the next rooms, whenever we get to them, knowing what waits for us under the floors.

Family Goals:

  • Get a dog: check! And it would not be wrong to say this added to the delay of certain other projects.
  • Milestone birthdays: check and check
  • Visit Savannah, Ga: This we’ll scoot over to the 2017 goals.

Career Goals:

  • Career change: This happened, but not the way I’d planned. With the closing of Graphateria, it became a need instead of a want, but I’m glad I was able to maintain a steady income. We’ll just go with that.
  • Book Projects: I did get some work done on the Low-FODMAP book, but there’s quite a bit left to do.
  • The Crafty Branch: TCB was the red-headed stepchild of the year, withering on the to-do list vine. Mixed metaphor aside, I have some plans to revamp TCB for 2017, the first of which will be coming out this week (I hope).
  • The blog: It wasn’t quite as neglected as TCB, but we hit a few low points during the job change and adjustment period.

Personal: Goals:

  • Move more: We didn’t even do the 5K this year, so I’m going to count this as a no.
  • Be more productive: I still got a lot done this year, but not nearly as much as I would have liked.
  • Art every day: started strong, finished weak.

So….. yeah. Not a great scorecard, overall.

This year I’m going to scale things down a bit, knowing what I do about things as they stand as the year turns, so here are a few things to concentrate on for 2017:

  1. Finish the bathroom remodel. We’re close, but the finishing is still a pretty big job.
  2. Get the privacy fence installed–I really want to spend time in the backyard, give Duncan a good space to run, and do all of it without feeling like we’re in the fishbowl of our neighbors. Keeping said neighbors out of our yard is a bonus.
  3. Spend less. Ignoring the fact that I just broke my no-spend January rule on Saturday when I ordered a small piece of tech, my goal is to really get my finances in better shape and that involves, first and foremost, spending less. I did manage to pay off one credit card last year, a fairly large one, but I need to stop using the others so much, too. It’s a process. I’m working on it.
  4. Art every week. A bit more reasonable than art every day, and I have a new journal for it and everything. I’ll be posting the weekly pages on instagram with the #aew2017 tag, follow along or join me!
  5. More videos! Even though it’s been a few months since I managed to upload a video (stuff was filmed, it just never got edited), I somehow managed to pass 500 subscribers on my YouTube channel. That’s wild! And since the art and planner-related videos seem to be the favorites, those are probably what I’ll concentrate on over vlogging (at least while editing time is short and life is not exactly vlog-worthy).

Sure, I’d still love to go to Savannah, but with Duncan and a less-flexible work environment, it’s a little tougher to manage a weekend getaway. But I hope we can make it happen. And there are work and side-project goals swimming around in my head, of course, but nothing I feel comfortable blogging about just yet.

And before I forget, my word of the year isn’t so much a word but a prefix:


As in revisit, revamp, redo, restart, revise, rebrand, revitalize, relaunch, reboot, review… you get the picture. Last year may not have gone the way I’d planned or hoped, but it doesn’t mean I have to start all over from scratch. I have assets in place that I can turn into something, I just have to rethink them and revise the plans. Re- can be back (as in return) or again (like most of the words above). The important thing for me, this year, is to take what I have and go through it again, figure out what worked, discard what didn’t, and work through it again and again until I get it right.

Good luck with your own 2017 planning!

Road Trip Honeymoon: The Really Big Restaurant Round-Up

Wedding Recaps

Sustenance being kind of important, the decision of where to eat each meal on our honeymoon was a matter of some discussion early on. Disney makes it both easy and hard by offering plenty of dining options at various levels of service and price points. (After all, they don’t want you leaving the parks for anything if they can help it, so they try to cater to (yes, I went there) as many different tastes as possible.) They also offer the Disney Dining Plan as a way to pre-pay meal and snack credits and on the plan we chose (Deluxe Dining) it gave our trip the feeling of being at an all-inclusive resort (well, almost–tips and booze were extra, just like on most cruises).

Let’s face it: very little is cheap at a Disney park or resort, but you go more-or-less expecting the mark-up. The Dining Plan isn’t always a money-saving device, but it is a hassle-saving device, and a no-sticker-shock device if you’re the type to get antsy at the thought of $30 entrees. It was just nice not to have to think too much about it in the moment.

Rather than go day-by-day, here’s a breakdown of where we ate by category and a few thoughts on (and plenty of pictures of) our experience with each. Who knows, if you’re still on the fence about where to dine on your Disney honeymoon, this might help sway your decision one way or the other.

Quick Service/Counter Service


(left) Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory breakfasts (right) Sunshine Seasons

This is the Disney-equivalent to fast food and we used it mainly for breakfasts at the resort and once in EPCOT (Sunshine Seasons in The Land). Breakfast fare at Disney is pretty standard: eggs in various ways, breakfast meats and sandwiches, with some specialties depending on your resort. For instance, there were beignets available at our resort seeing as it was French Quarter-themed. I stuck to simple, safe dishes like cheese omelets and oatmeal most mornings rather than having to go through the allergy procedure of calling over one of the chefs or managers and going through the big book of ingredients.

Be Our Guest | (top) T's Carved Roast Beef Sandwich & Triple Chocolate Cupcake (bottom) my Gluten-Free Lemon-Raspberry Cream Puff & Tuna Nicoise Salad

Be Our Guest | (top) T’s Carved Roast Beef Sandwich & Triple Chocolate Cupcake (bottom) my Gluten-Free Lemon-Raspberry Cream Puff & Tuna Nicoise Salad

The one non-breakfast Counter Service meal we had almost doesn’t even count: lunch at Be Our Guest is sort of in limbo between Counter Service and Table Service. You stand in line and order your meal via touch-screen kiosks but then they seat you and bring out your food using either a “rose” pager-like device to match your meal to your table or, in our case, your Magic Bands. The fare is also somewhat elevated compared to most CS lunch menus and (it’s a small thing, but a nice one at that) is served on actual china; no paper plates or plastic cutlery. It was worth the 45-minute wait in line to eat here (the longest wait of the week for anything), but I’ll be really happy if they go ahead with the FastPass option for lunch. (It was being tested during our stay but we weren’t part of the random sample picked: rats!)

Table Service

This was where most of our dining fell, both in deference to my food intolerances (easier to work around in a full kitchen vs the abbreviated CS-location facilities) and as a nice break from walking around the parks. It’s a good idea to allow 1-1.5 hours for a table service meal.

Yak and Yeti (left) T's Pork Pot Stickers, Duck with Anandapur Glaze, and Fried Wontons (right) my Seared Ahi Tuna, Kobe Beef Burger, and fruit cup

Yak and Yeti (left) T’s Pork Pot Stickers, Duck with Anandapur Glaze, and Fried Wontons (right) my Seared Ahi Tuna, Kobe Beef Burger, and fruit cup

In Animal Kingdom we had lunch our first park day at Yak & Yeti and, unfortunately, it was the let-down of our trip. Despite my best efforts to notify the special diets department in advance of our trip, none of my information had been passed along to the restaurants and at Yak & Yeti they had the least flexibility due to the type of cuisine they served. Now, I will say that the chef who “helped” us could have been a bit better in his delivery of my options–describing everything as “plain” doesn’t exactly make my heart go pitter-patter, you know? But service counts for a lot, and our waitress as well as the manager who stopped by to chat after the meal really saved this experience for me, at least. This was also the only location to have a problem scanning our Magic Bands and they were having plumbing issues that day so they were just having a bad day, all around. What can you do?

SciFi Dine In (whose lighting does not make for good photography and I didn't want to be that girl using her flash in a darkened room) | (top) T's Onion

Sci-Fi Dine In (whose lighting does not make for good photography and I didn’t want to be that girl using her flash in a darkened room) | (top) T’s Onion Rings, Picnic Burger, and Candy Bar (bottom) my Area 51 Salad (adjusted), Smoked Turkey Sandwich, and fruit salad

That night we headed over to the Studios for dinner at the SciFi Dine-In which is known more for it’s atmosphere and milkshakes than amazing food, but we have no complaints. I was able to get a tasty turkey sandwich on a gluten-free wrap and T dug into their “Picnic Burger” (which features a burger topped with a split hot dog and sauerkraut) followed by their SciFi Candy Bar dessert which looked amazing.  Of course we ordered milkshakes (lactose being the one problem “food” I can medicate for) and a tip for the dining plan: milkshakes can count as a beverage OR a dessert, you get to pick.

Tokyo Dining | (left) my Green Salad, Matsu sushi.sashimi plate, Green Tea Soft Serve (right) T's Karaage, Ginza plate, and Chocolate Ginger Cake (bottom right) A celebratory candy and origami ring

Tokyo Dining | (left) my Green Salad, Matsu sushi.sashimi plate, Green Tea Soft Serve (right) T’s Karaage, Ginza plate, and Chocolate Ginger Cake (bottom right) A celebratory candy and origami ring

In EPCOT we chose Tokyo Dining in Japan. When I started the Low-FODMAP diet to combat my IBS, I was overjoyed to find that most sushi (one of our favorite night-out treats) is generally safe and if there are problematic ingredients they’re easy to switch out or avoid. Because of this I wasn’t anticipating any problems at Tokyo Dining and we had exactly that along with a very good meal. One thing to know about Tokyo Dining: it shares a building with Teppan Edo, the Japanese steakhouse, a popular choice among families with small kids for the entertainment factor. This led to slightly higher-than-expected noise levels but not uncomfortably so. If you’re not generally a sake fan but you enjoy Moscato and other sweeter wines, give the Hana Awaka sparkling sake a try–it was so good we picked up a bottle to take home with us!

Tony's Town Square | (top) T's Calamari and Chicken Parmesan (bottom) my Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon and NY Strip

Tony’s Town Square | (top) T’s Calamari and Chicken Parmesan (bottom) my Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon and NY Strip

Before the Christmas Party we had reservations at Tony’s Town Square in the Magic Kingdom. An Italian-style eatery with touches of Lady & the Tramp, this restaurant was extremely busy and I don’t think it was just because of the party. One woman who walked up to the hostess stand after us was told it was an hour and a half wait without a reservation! We’d had a late in-room lunch that afternoon which turned out to be unfortunate as Tony’s is one of the few eateries we encountered with the over-sized portions most American restaurants are known for (all of our other Table Service meals served much more reasonable portion sizes). We couldn’t do our entrees justice, though they were incredibly tasty, and I skipped the inevitable fruit bowl dessert. T got his tiramisu to go.

Character Dining

A bit of a subset of Table Service dining at Disney are the character meals, many of which are buffets or otherwise prix fixe. You’re paying as much for the character interaction as you are for the meal, but we think they’re worth it for the experience. There aren’t many places where Tigger comes over and sits down next to your new husband and starts checking his plate for leftovers. (Tigger was out of luck on that score.)

Crystal Palace | (top) T's smorgasbord, celebratory cupcake (bottom) my salad and salmon plate

Crystal Palace | (top) T’s smorgasbord, celebratory cupcake (bottom) my salad and salmon plate

Wednesday night we ate at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom, which is home to Winnie the Pooh and friends. I’m actually not big on buffets in general (food quality usually suffers from holding under heat lamps, after all), but for characters I’ll make an exception. T definitely found enough to keep him happy and the chef made me a plate of salmon, rice, potatoes, and green beans that were all sans onion and garlic. (Seriously, those are the two hardest ingredients to avoid at restaurants and I hated telling the chefs that was one of my restrictions almost as much as I hated giving up the ingredients themselves!) They sweetly sent out a celebration cupcake at the end of our meal, as well.

Chef Mickey's | His & Hers Mickey Waffles!

Chef Mickey’s | His & Hers Mickey Waffles!

Our other character meal was at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. Again, it’s a buffet , and at breakfast you find all the usual suspects (waffles, pancakes, sausage, bacon, fruit, pastries, potatoes in various forms, etc.). I was able to get some fruit and smoked salmon from the buffet but the highlight of this meal for me was getting some wheat-free Mickey waffles and maple syrup. I know it’s just a waffle in a fun shape, but it’s quintessential Disney to me. We all have our things.

Chef Mickey’s was also where our PhotoPass+ came in handy once again. Not only did we get to take advantage of every photo taken of us in the parks by the park photographers as well as many ride photos, PP+ also included the souvenir photos from Chef Mickeys (and other select Character Meals) both in digital form and print, the spiffy folder of which was delivered to us at the end of our meal. (For the curious, we pre-ordered our PhotoPass+ for $149. That sounds like a lot until you do the math: the 158 pictures we received on the PhotoPass disc would normally be $14.95 each, so we “saved” over $2000 in souvenir photos. Granted, we wouldn’t have bought them all if that had been the case, but now we don’t have to worry about it!)

Signature Dining

You could almost consider Signature Dining as Table Service+. With the exception of Victoria & Alberts (which is a level unto itself), Signature Dining restaurants are the upper tier of Disney dining (and on the Dining Plan count as 2 TS credits per person). Originally we’d only scheduled one Signature meal, the Jiko experience I mentioned in part 1 of the honeymoon recaps. But when we changed some of our plans around during the week we realized we had extra dining credits that would otherwise go to waste, so switched on of our Hollywood Studios reservations from 50’s Prime Time Diner to the Hollywood Brown Derby and opted for a last minute reservation at Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Downtown Disney’s West Side before heading home on Saturday.

Wolfgang Puck Cafe | Crab Cakes, Mac & Cheese, Brownie Sundae, Sunomono Salad, Pellegrino, Fruit Salad, Sushi Platter

Wolfgang Puck Cafe | Crab Cakes, Mac & Cheese, Brownie Sundae, Sunomono Salad, Pellegrino, Fruit Salad, Sushi Platter

Actually, there’s still some debate about the Wolfgang Puck reservation. When we searched for DTD lunch Signature Dining on the My Disney Experience App it came up, but our check only reflected 2 credits used instead of 4. Oh, well, it’s not the end of the world. And it was a very good meal, regardless, and that’s what matters. I went with sushi again (safe and delicious) and continued my love affair with Pellegrino–I was never a huge fan of mineral water before, but I wanted something carbonated that wasn’t soda and I know it sounds silly but the more delicate bubbles in Pellegrino vs. any other mineral water I’ve tried make all the difference. But I digress. Mr. RT went with the more American side of the menu and got the Mac & Cheese and a delectable Brownie Sundae.

Hollywood Brown Derby | (clockwise from top left) Banana White Chocolate Toffee Tower, Lobster Bisque, Cobb Salad, Duck with Herbed Goat Cheese Polenta Cake, Champagne

Hollywood Brown Derby | (clockwise from top left) Banana White Chocolate Toffee Tower, Lobster Bisque, Cobb Salad, Duck with Herbed Goat Cheese Polenta Cake, Champagne

Service at the Hollywood Brown Derby is everything you’d expect from such a storied location (well, a replica of such a storied location), and the food matched the atmosphere to a T! My petite Cobb Salad followed by Duck with Herbed Goat Cheese Polenta Cake was divine and T went with a seafood theme and followed his Lobster Bisque with the Seafood Cioppino. We were seated at a corner banquette and had an excellent view of the dining room for people-watching, including one woman who wanted to know if she could be seated any farther away from a nearby child. Look, it might be the Hollywood Brown Derby but it’s still Disney!

Sipping the complimentary Champagne after lunch was a nice touch, too.


Each version of the Dining Plan comes with a certain number of snack credits, in addition to the meal credits, that can be used for ice cream, pop corn, sodas and bottled water (among other things). We, however, used most of our snack credits (the DxDP credits 2 per person, per night’s stay, so we had 24) for use at the Food & Wine Festival booths. Grazing away 2 meals is why we also ended up with so many leftover meal credits to use on Signature Dining.

Small Plates from the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival

Small Plates from the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival

We had a ball going from booth to booth of the Festival, though we didn’t try nearly as many items as we thought we might when looking over the lists at home. We also didn’t indulge in as many adult beverages as we might have–we just weren’t in the mood to drink much on this trip. Several people have asked us for favorites from the Festival and I’m here to say it’s just not possible to choose a favorite. We do want to go back next year, though, and do more of the Festival events that we didn’t make time for this go-round.

Okay, if you’ve made it this far (I know, it was long, but I wanted to wrap this up), I apologize for any hunger pains this post may have instigated. The tl;dr breakdown: Disney does a very good job of feeding people at various levels of service and cuisine. We really enjoyed the convenience of the Disney Dining Plan. PhotoPass+ is an awesome thing if you really like souvenir photos and want to make sure both you and your new spouse are in some together.

Thus concludes the Road Trip honeymoon recaps. As soon as the rest of the wedding photos are in I’ll be back with the wedding recaps in all their errant (yes, that’s really the word I meant to use) glory.

Road Trip Honeymoon: 4 Parks, 5 Days

Wedding Recaps
images via PhotoPass photographers

images via PhotoPass photographers

Early in the honeymoon planning we’d mapped out our park days (both to help make our dining decisions as well as have a general plan), this also came in handy when we were given the option of scheduling FastPass+ attractions. The basic plan was:

  • Monday: Animal Kingdom, plus Hollywood Studios in the evening
  • Tuesday: EPCOT
  • Wednesday: Magic Kingdom
  • Thursday: Hollywood Studios, plus EPCOT in the evening
  • Friday: catch up on any missed attractions, Magic Kingdom for MVMCP in the evening

Mr. RT hadn’t been to Animal Kingdom before, so that was our obvious first park. We  had FastPasses for Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, and Kilimanjaro Safari in that order. While a lot of Disney fans consider scheduling rides like this to be way on the micro-managing side of things, we loved the convenience of it and not having to go from one side of the park to the other and back again collecting the paper passes. It also allowed us to get the big rides taken care of first thing in the morning, so if we wanted to take a break after lunch we weren’t in danger of missing much of anything.


Short days mean short hours at Animal Kingdom, so we had time at DHS to ride a ride and see a couple of shows before our dinner reservation.

We have over 1500 photos from this week, it's tough to choose just a few highlights for these recaps!

We have over 1500 photos from this week, it’s tough to choose just a few highlights for these recaps!

Tuesday was EPCOT all the way. Considering we Road Trips are not morning people I was happily surprised at making Rope Drop this morning! We had a few hours and some FastPasses to use up before the World Showcase and the Food & Wine Festival opened, so it was Mission:Space for T and characters for me. Unfortunately, once we got into the World Showcase, Monday’s full day and our early Tuesday start was beginning to get to me, so we took a break to go back to the room for a while. We returned that evening to hit more of the F&WF booths and see the fireworks show–Illuminations is my favorite of all the Disney shows.



Even with that afternoon rest, I was starting to lose steam (and to realize that the plantar fasciitis in my right foot is far worse than I thought–ouch!) so we made the decision Tuesday night not to set an alarm for Wednesday morning and get to the Magic Kingdom around lunch time. This turned out to be one of our better ideas. And it was no trouble at all to change our a.m. FastPasses for afternoon using the Disney app. We started with pictures on Main Street, progressed to lunch at Be Our Guest, and I got to introduce T to classics such as the Enchanted Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise. Then that night we had dinner with the 100 Acre Wood crew at Crystal Palace.


Thursday was our second stop at Hollywood Studios and another not-too-early start. As before, we’d shifted our FastPass times but we weren’t paying full attention to the clock and missed T’s Tower of Terror time. Oops! Rescheduling the day before was easy, but during the day in question we weren’t having much luck–the available return times conflicted with our dinner plans. Oh, well, we decided to just wing the rest of the day and I figured we’d come back on Friday to make up the missed rides. That night we were heading back to EPCOT to see both Dennis DeYoung’s Eat to the Beat concert and have dinner in Japan.


Friday we had a morning appointment with Chef Mickey and then Mr. RT surprised me by choosing EPCOT to return to this morning and not Animal Kingdom or DHS. I wasn’t going to complain as I was interested in doing a bit more shopping in World Showcase and T had a few more blanks to fill in his passport. Mid-afternoon found us back in the room and then we were back to Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The great thing about the separate-ticket events is that, even at sold-out capacity, the crowds are so low that you can walk onto just about any ride in the park (especially if you go during the parades).

jvanderbeek_day5_part1While it was kinda sad to know our honeymoon was coming to an end, there are far worse ways to end a trip than with a spectacular fireworks show around the glittery castle.

jvanderbeek_day5_part2Besides, it wasn’t really the end. On Saturday we ended as we began: with another trip to Downtown Disney, this time to use the Disney Quest passes that came with our package. It was a good way to ease us out of the Disney “bubble” and by 7 p.m. we’d made it back to Tallahassee and what passes for reality.

Next up: The big restaurant run-down!