30th Birthday Eve: Universal Orlando

So Sunday rolls about and Chris and I wake up extra early to head to Universal Orlando! The park didn’t open until 9AM, so we meandered a little and I got my obligatory Starbucks. It was really nice being able to walk around and not be bumping into people. The crowds during the entire time I was down there were very manageable and not insane. Perfect for pre-peak season!

We had collaborated ideas on what to do prior to my FL arrival, and we agreed to hit up Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and the Jimmy Fallon rides first, as their wait times typically aggrandized very early on. Additionally, we popped into Shrek between attractions and the Beverly Hills Boulangerie for pastries.

img_8327

img_8326

 

Universal Orlando is filled full of fun photo ops and I couldn’t resist putting a camera to my face as we made our way towards Diagon Alley:

img_8343

img_8344

img_8333

img_8334

img_8337

img_8345


Diagon Alley

img_8373

img_8349

img_8365

img_8368

img_8356

img_8361

img_8371

We jetted over to Hogsmeade and Islands of Adventure next, under threats of rain. The cloudy skies made the summer day more bearable, as did the whopping fifteen minute queue for the Hogwarts Express!

img_8384

 

img_8385
The train ride over is one of my absolute favorite parts of all of Universal Orlando.

 

img_8389
“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” -J.K. Rowling

Our wait time for Forbidden Journey was also super short, around 10 minutes. (How were we getting so lucky with these short wait times?!) We dined over in the Three Broomsticks after, and I got my Butterbeer and the rotisserie smoked chicken platter. Soooo delicious.

 

img_8391
Castle picture! 😀

 

After foods, we headed through Jurassic Park land en route to Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

img_8392

The wait was around 90 minutes, and the last time we had waited for this ride, it broke down. So we decided to try our luck. The queue was inside and out of the sun, and windy as it went around the walls of skulls and around the turnstiles and around this and that.   The ride did experience delays while they added an additional car to the lineup, so it was a good wait to get the queue moving faster. There are some jump scares in the darker parts of the waiting area. (The group behind me were so rude and screechy and kept pushing into me…I gave them several death glares and Chris flat out told them to knock it off. Trust me, I was two seconds away from summoning security. Lesson: mind your space.)

The ride itself is 3-D and you get glasses. You’re riding around in a Humvee-style vehicle deep in the jungle as you encounter the battle between dinosaurs, bugs (the bees are scary as hell. Don’t look if you have a fear. Trust me, I didn’t!), slugs, Kong himself…

Your Humvee is rattled and rocked in time with the ride, which is on two screens: one of the left and one on the right. Out of the battle scene, you’re slowly rolled around and come literally face to face with the beast himself…then you’re back at home base.

I honestly thought the ride was kind of a snooze. Definitely not worth 90+ minutes of waiting. While I could appreciate the aesthetics and concept behind it, it’s not the ride for me. Definitely a one-and-done.

And on we continued. At this point there were storms on radar, and it was starting to drizzle. This didn’t deter us from enjoying our day!

img_8396

img_8402

Once out of IOA, we circled back around again to the front and went back to Diagon Alley! My cousin decided to surprise me a couple hours prior and told me to, “Go get yourself a wand for your birthday!” So off to Ollivanders!

img_8352

img_8406

img_8407

Ollivander’s was a madhouse as witches and wizards of all ages scrambled around, opening boxes, trying to find their perfect wand. I checked out every wand they had, character and non-character alike. After much debate…

img_8411

…I settled for Narcissa Malfoy’s wand. Out of all the wands there, the hilt of this one was the coolest.

 

Now off to make some magic happen!

img_8374

img_8375

img_8449img_8455-1

After Diagon round 2, we walked around Springfield and SpongeBob Storepants. (We wanted to go on the E.T. ride but it had broken down. Sad day.)

img_8456

img_8457

 

Chris and I capped the night at Finnegan’s Irish pub, and saying a quick hello to my fellow chapter brothers Katy and Jacob at the Bob Marley restaurant in City Walk. (BTW, they got engaged the next day! Congrats to them!)

img_8471

Next up: 30th Birthday in Disney World!

Advertisements

Changes in Latitude…

I kicked off my birthday vacation by heading to Universal Orlando’s City Walk. I’ve been wanting to visit Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville for quite some time, and finally got the chance to do so! 

While I didn’t dine there, I did soak in the atmosphere and fawned over almost everything in the gift shop. ☀️🌴

Title of my Autobiography

Soundtrack of Our Lives

Our favorite lyrics and songs serve as the soundtrack to our lives.

These melodies can change from months to month, year to year. Whatever we hear on the radio in the Top 40 can become fixed with a location, a certain environment, a group of people. Once we buy the album and listen to what else isn’t playing on the radio, the little known songs that aren’t as popular yet still packs a punch when we can make that connection.

Over the last decade I have bonded with so many artists, whether it be on a road trip, a vacation, at the current place of work, a bar, or the quiet solitude of my room. My go-to genre is country (ranging from classic George Strait/Garth Brooks/Alan Jackson, to modern Dierks Bentley/Jason Aldean/Zac Brown Band). I could make this analysis go on for pages and pages, but I will stick with the one artist with whom I’ve developed a deep love and appreciation for, and who is constantly spinning in the CD player.

That would be Kenny Chesney.

1ff0a6b40f69d14e0c5221e5bc0876e5

I purchased his When the Sun Goes Down album in the summer of 2004 when I was on vacation with my family in Ocean City, MD. The beachy theme of the title track served as a solid foundation to the week; the Atlantic waves crashing against the shore, lightning zigzagging across the sky on stormy nights, the smell of the Mango Mandarin and Juniper Breeze products I bought at a nearby Bath and Body Works…it was amazing. And that album takes me back there. Years later as I started my next decade, my “Roaring Twenties”, Chesney produced more albums and I made it a point to purchase each one. Every couple of years, there would be more lyrics, more choruses, more everything that reflected exactly what I was going through.

I mapped out the last ten years of my life, from 2007 (my junior year in college) to present 2017, noting the major and sometimes minor events that have shaped me into the woman that I am today. While there are so many songs that speak volumes about me, I have selected the best.

“We all have a song that’s somehow stamped our lives, takes us to another place and time…” -I Go Back


Who You’d Be Today
“It ain’t fair you died too young, like a story that had just begun. But death tore the pages all away…”
My 20’s started out with a shock to the system as I lost three family members within a span of three months. While I had expected my grandparents to pass due to declining heath and age (and I had mentally prepared for that), I was not prepared for my cousin’s suicide. The funeral was a flood of tears, kitchen towels and toilet paper for tissues, and many heavy metal T-shirts. Almost ten years later, I still sit back and wonder…who you’d be today?

Note: This is one of the two KC songs that I actually try not to listen to, because the story behind the song to me and the ensuing feelings that follow. It’s just like listening to, “It’s Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton…too many feels. The second song, well, that’s a story for another day.


In a Small Town

“Sometimes it was heaven, sometimes hell, kinda like church, kinda like jail. There’s a water tower says ‘Welcome to nowhere’. As soon as I could I was long gone, my jeans were torn and my hair was long. Now I can’t believe I wanna go back there, to a small town, to a small town…”
I never really had homesickness when I was in college. I was happy to leave behind the drama-filled small town that I had called home for so long. But as I got older, I started appreciating coming home every now and again; the farmlands, the brick buildings, the openness and smells of corn and cow poo will always take me back to seemingly simpler times before adulting and responsibility set in. After having lived in Washington, D.C., I can appreciate its beauty and tranquility, and knowing that there are decades and centuries of stories and history hidden behind every corner and every name, constantly being written.

Never forget your roots, and don’t be afraid to go back and visit. You may find yourself renewed and regenerated.


Better as a Memory/Save It For A Rainy Day

“Goodbyes are like a roulette wheel: You never know where they’re gonna land. First you’re spinning, then you’re standing still left holding a losing hand. But one day you’re gonna find someone, and right away you’ll know it’s true, that all of your seeking’s done. It was just a part of the passing through. Right there in that moment you’ll finally understand, that I was better as a memory than as your man.”

Romance. Love. Relationships. Flirtationships. Been there, done that. I started my 20’s out in a relationship that led into an engagement in early 2008. Lasted for a semester, but it was a big step in realizing what I want and don’t want. This song served as an “on repeat song” during that summer. My 20’s have been marred with failed relationships, but many lessons learned along the way. (Major lesson: bubble gum vodka is not your friend after a breakup. It just isn’t.) The end of something significant in your life may seem like a call to fall into abyss of doom. Be grateful for the good times and the lessons learned, give yourself time to grieve (longer the relationship, longer the grieving process). Move on in your own time. The sun will be shining on the other end.

But today, the tears ain’t gonna hit the floor
’cause the boat’s in the bay and it’s calling my name
So I’m heading on out the door ’cause the sun’s too bright, the sky’s too blue
Beer’s too cold to be thinking about you
Gonna take this heartbreak and tuck it away
Save it for a rainy day


Out Last Night/You And Tequila/When I See This Bar

“Oh, we went out last night. One thing started leading to another…” -Out Last Night

The good ol’ 20’s is a time when all kinds of vices are developed! Personally, my party instincts has come and gone in waves: sometimes I was out all the time and giving my liver a great workout, other times I would go months without drinking. When I was in undergrad I didn’t turn 21 until my senior year, and in grad school I was in and out of the party scene so much it was hard to keep track.

“It’s always your favorite sins that do you in.”
“One more night could kill me, baby. One is one too many, one more is never enough.” -You and Tequila

I’ve had my nights, as many of us do, when enough was enough. There are certain smells I cannot smell without retching and locations that I simply won’t go to. Life advice: as you get older your hangovers really are two days in length, and it takes a weekend of silence and electrolytes to recover.

But with all the negative connotations that are associated with drinking and bars and whatnot, there are plenty of positives: silly memories, reunions of friends, trading of life stories and advice, meeting strangers who turn into friends and colleagues, singing popular bar songs at the top of your lungs and feeling like you can take on the world with your best friends over a pitcher and a slice of pizza at 1AM.

“I wonder where we go from here
(That’s what I see when I see this bar)
Life ain’t over but it’s always near
(That’s what I see when I see this bar)
I think about all the good times that we had
(That’s what I see when I see this bar)
Makes me happy and it makes me sad
(That’s what I see when I see this bar)
How could we be so close, now so far apart
(That’s what I see when I see this bar)
That’s what I feel, that’s what I see
Yeah we were living like pirates and wannabe stars
That’s what I see when I see this bar.”

-When I See This Bar

183a7c13c19796848bfa230059449e95

It may seem foolish to stay out all night until the sun rises the next morning, but sometimes those impromptu decisions could be the most fun you’ll ever have.


’til It’s Gone/Don’t Blink

490871142e354fd9e11c74d4ea0a696c

“One life, one chance, one ticket to the big dance.” -’til It’s Gone

“So I’ve been tryin’ to slow it down. I’ve been tryin’ to take it in
In this here today, gone tomorrow world we’re livin’ in. Don’t blink.”

These two songs go hand in hand. Simply put: You get one chance. That’s it. Savor every second, because before you know it, it’s gone. Get out and write your story, as it won’t write itself. I feel like every day just goes by faster and faster. I keep prefacing my Weekly Review posts with, “How can it possibly be halfway through 2017 already?!” because I truly can’t believe that it’s going by so quickly.

“Don’t Blink” reminds me when I’m feeling down and out that I actually have accomplished a great many things in my life: academic trips to Antietam battlefield and Scotland, PA Intercollegiate Band twice, two degrees, chartering my fraternity, running for my fraternity’s National Council, moved to New England straight out of grad school, roadtripping halfway across the country for fraternal activities, numerous musical opportunities in choir and band, showcasing my PR skills during a battle with the university to keep our music program, having the bravery to change my course of study in graduate school, having the opportunity to teach K-12 and serve on staff with marching bands, the list goes on. I’m grateful for partaking in those opportunities, all because I said yes.

Life is not about paying bills and dying. Life is meant to be lived. Live your legacy.

“ ’cause when your hourglass runs out of sand, you can’t flip it over, start again.” -Don’t Blink


Be As You Are (entire album)

Out of all of Chesney’s albums, the one that has imprinted itself on my heart and brain the most has to be his 2005 Be As You Are album. I didn’t love this one right off the bat; honestly; I downloaded it just to say I had the album. There were a couple of hit songs like “Guitars and Tiki Bars” that I liked, but for the most part, it didn’t resonate, and I didn’t appreciate the laid-back, tropical-esque style that Chesney brought to life until much later.
I finally bonded with this one during my 2012 Spring Break trip to Daytona Beach, FL. It was the first time that I could completely relax and forget about the stress and responsibility of graduate school and my never ending debate over whether I was going to stay in school or go. I had made a KC playlist on the iPod, and those songs kept coming up…

e0670abee832995a04c664cae2c19fed

“I’ve had it up to here with this rat race, need a smile on may face. I wanna go where I could lighten up the load, drive a little while on the wrong side of the road, get this laying low off to a flying start…” -Be As You Are

“It wouldn’t take much for me to up and run to another life somewhere in the sun.” -Somewhere In the Sun

“With his eye set on a Southern star, got the courage to follow his heart, and set out for a brand new start.” -Island Boy

These songs, even now, serve as such motivation for me to make the move to Florida and live that dream. It won’t be easy, and I really have a feeling I’m just going to have to throw everything into my car and just…go.


The Road and the Radio
“Clarity and inspiration, happiness is a destination that’s hard to find. It may take some time. But in my mind there’s something more, and I’ll open up a brand new door, and find the strength to close the ones I’ve left behind. And I’ll get there leaning on some friends I know: the road and the radio.”

Hands down, the number one song that could encompass the last ten years has got to be the title track to Chesney’s second 2005 album, The Road and the Radio. I didn’t really pay attention to this song in the beginning; many of the more upbeat songs like “Beer in Mexico”, “Summertime”, and “Livin’ in Fast Forward” occupied my listening time. I am glad I took the time to develop a solid relationship with this song. I’m fairly certain that it came right around that Daytona Beach spring break when all of the Be As You Are songs were making themselves known, sort of like a cosmic sign. When I came back to campus, I typed out the chorus with all kinds of nice-looking fonts and stuff, and slid the sheet into my binder cover so I could read it when the stress levels were amping up. Even now, five years later, it serves a predominant role in any road trip playlist I make. (Most of my road trips are solo, so being able to bond with the song, whose point of view also comes from a solo traveler, makes it that more relatable.)

The best life lesson I gathered from this song is that happiness does not happen overnight: it does take time! There is ALWAYS something better out there. Taking the steps to move on is a scary thing, and it is easy to relapse and find those old demons who give you comfort. But when you lean on those friends who won’t give up on you, you can make it through anything. Once you find what makes you content with who YOU are, it is up to you to get there.

The Weekly Review

Hello again, readers from everywhere. Time for the Weekly Review!

So it’s day 19 of “funemployment”, and I am starting to get very anxious. No word from Florida at all on ANYTHING, my financials are starting to nosedive so slightly (A. Ham would be appalled), and I am falling into depression where I stay awake for hours during the night, and I sleep through half the day. My Chi Marathon training plan started this week, and while the first day was good, I’ve backslid horribly. It’s difficult being a runner with depression, let me tell you.

Minus the crappy mood, some good stuff did happen. Such as…

  1. Subway’s Carved Turkey Sub

    After my first day of training, I was rungry and set out to find grub. The mall where my Planet Fitness is at has a Subway, and the carved turkey option caught my eye. It is seriously the best thing I’ve ever had from Subway. It’s like Thanksgiving turkey! I paired it up with a ton of veggies and yellow mustard. It is a limited time offer, so get it while you can!

2. Nuun’s Family and Friends Discount!

img_8144

Stay hydrated this summer! Offer expires June 23rd.

3. Caprese Boats

When I was cat sitting last we talked, I had a huge obsession with caprese salads. I’m sure I made about five of them during the week I was there. I transferred this idea when I got back into little caprese boats using Romaine, grape tomatoes, mozzarella, balsamic, sprinkled basil and cracked pepper. They’re a tad messier than salad, but they’re like eating tacos, so it’s a win!

4. Picnic on the Mall

img_8177

On Saturday, a bunch of Kappa Kappa Psi brothers and Tau Beta Sigma sisters gathered on the National Mall for an afternoon of food, fun, friends, and awesomeness. It was great catching up with old friends and making new ones at the same time.

 

img_8168
Lauren was there! Yay! Our cornhole team name was Team Shake Shack. 😀

 

5. 30th Birthday Countdown

By now, I have started my countdown towards my Pearl Jubilee on my socials. (Traditionally, the number 30 is associated with the pearl!) The two trips on my radar are my 30th Birthday Eve at Universal on the 18th, and my true 30th Birthday on the 19th in Disney.

The last time I had a milestone birthday, my 25th, I threw a Silver Jubilee which was filled full of things that, well, would probably kill me know that I’m almost five years older. My liver definitely is not like what it used to be! But I lived to tell the tale and to share my lessons for future generations to come.

I am closing in on my final week of my 20’s, and I know there will be much to say and reflect. The real question is…should I write, or should I Vlog about it? Or maybe both? No matter what, there will be much to celebrate!


If you have any questions for me that you would like me to answer, or any advice about turning such an age, send them my way!