Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Fun in the Classroom

Since I haven't really made this well known on here I guess it's high time you know that I put my teacher hat back on this year. No, I did not go back to teaching for the county. It would take something seriously drastic for that to happen. Instead, I am teaching preschool to 3 years old. I love it! I think God knew I needed a little bit of redemption on my faith in the classroom setting. It has been restored, tri-fold! I have the sweetest group of kiddos and I have been having fun exploring and learning with them. Where I work makes it just that much better! I love the community at Weekday School! I have no children currently, but since I am a super "think-aheader" I constantly think about homeschooling vs. classroom schooling. I still don't know what I will do about K-12, but I can tell you, without a doubt in my mind, that my children will attend school here. I have worked for WDS for over a year now and I love it more and more everyday! The Christ-centers learning, the kids, the staff, the parents, and the people... it is a place so filled with love that I could go on for days. 

Well, in honor of all things Fall and Halloweenie I thought I would share some of our pumpkin fun!!


Our Top 5 Pumpkin Fun Activities
Shape Pumpkin Puzzle 
After first reading "Spookley the Square Pumpkin" (one of my favorite Halloween stories) during circle, I introduced the kids to our classroom shape puzzle. We talked about the differences and similarities between our pumpkin and Spookley. Then I took out all of the shapes, that had been previously carved into the pumpkin. The kids each came, up found the shape I told them to find and then put it back in the correct spot. The kids were entranced and waited patiently for their turn. Once circle was over, we put the pumpkin at the science/ math table and they took turns (two kids at a time) playing/ exploring our shape pumpkin.

Candy Corn Counts
My kids loved this candy corn math activity! It helped with number recognition and 1-to-1 correspondence. I also had them count out 10 candy corns before starting. Their favorite part? Getting to eat a candy corn when it was all over! 

Scooping out Sin
Today we carved a pumpkin with a happy lil' face, 
we scooped out all his bad stuff and put light in its place. 
Ok, so we carved a jack-o-lantern. We used our week long exploration into the 5 senses to explore as we carved him. More importantly though we talked about how similar we are to the pumpkin and how, just like we scoop the yucky stuff out of the pumpkin, God sent Jesus to scoop out all our sin. We read a sweet story called "The Pumpkin Gospel." It is the perfect companion for carving a pumpkin and teaching how we can ask God to forgive us when we make mistakes and how His light can shine in our hearts for the world to see. I couldn't recommend it more! Unfortunately, upon searching for it on Amazon I have found that it is no longer being printed. If you can find this sweet book somewhere you should acquire it. Our happy lil' fellow then found his spot on my front stoop, just in time for trick-or-treaters (fingers crossed, as we had none last year). See those circles on the side of his head? Those are his ears for hearing God's word, which were used as the kids shouted our bible verse to him during our second circle time. 

Cookies
Pumpkin shaped sugar cookies!! Big ones!! With a table full of orange icing and cupcake tins filled with sprinkled and gooey eyeballs and chocolate chips galore!! Just picture it!! Mainly because I have no pictures. They (ok, who am I kidding, I made one too) were having so much fun decorating and making piles of sprinkles that I didn't think to grab a picture with my phone. I love the wonderful parents who come up with amazingly sweet snack ideas for the kids!! 

Taste Testing
I am not exactly sure how much the kids loved this one, but if you need a little comic relief in the classroom this is a good way to find it. We started with apple chips, red vs. green, and that went over pretty well. Today's taste testing? Not so much! But the faces, of the faces!! In talking about our pumpkin and using our 5 sense I gave each kid a roasted pumpkin seed to try (my favorite, coated in honey and salt). For a hot second it looked like they might like it, but then the smiles started to turn. You could tell they were trying to think it through, "do I say I don't like it or do I just try to swallow it?". I told them if they didn't like them then they could spit the seed into the bowl with the pumpkin guts. It was quite the spit contest! But oh was it humorous! 

I hope everyone has a glorious, treat-filled night!! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Savage Soul

So I guess I always knew that a part of my soul was a bit savage. It beats faster when I least want it to, it breaks without prompting, it will long for things that my mind knows are only going to break it further- but that is a different post for another day.

My soul is now a bit more savage, and always will be, because this weekend I took part in the Savage Race. It was set to be a 6.7 mile, 25-obstacle-filled race of impending doom. Except it was everything but that...
  Did it kick my fanny? Yes! 
Was a I sweaty? You bet!
Was I covered in mud? Oh, just from head to toe! 
Was I sad about any of it? Not in the least! 

I was enthralled!! I loved it! Minus the part where I almost threw up at breakfast and some cramps about a mile in, I lapped it up! It was no where near as bad as my nerves had let me believe. Not to be graphic, but I was literally on the egde of vomiting all through our carb loading breakfast. I thought, "If I can just throw up I will feel better." But I knew I needed my food! I was able to keep down every bit of my breakfast and then I continued on with my psyche my brain race prep by eating some beef jerky and a couple bits of banana during the 1.5 hr ride to the race. I pinned a few things, read that protein and bananas are good for a race, so of course I rolled with it. My race companions thought I was crazy, but considering they are also some of my life companions this wasn't anything new to them. I am weird and I embrace it- they've learned to also. But my protein and banana (and the avacado I added to my breakfast sandwich) must have helped me some (well that and mostly my prayer to up above as we pulled into the parking lot), because I felt like a Savage Queen!
Sna Squad (our team name; consisting of Babe, Oliver- said bro-in-law discussed here, Kerri- Oliver's girlfriend/my friend, and Queso/KC/Kevin- Andrew's youngest brother; also not to be forgotten was our honorary team member, Queso's girlfriend Morgan, who walked practically the entire race with us as the "professional" photographer and whose pictures I can NOT wait to see) took off at a Babe approved pace, which meant we were running. We made it almost all the way to the first obstacle and then the non-Babe approved pace set in, a nice leisurely "power" walk with intermittent spurts of running. This is the pace that consisted for the next 5.5 miles. Though we did get  a good burst of energy when we popped the electrolight chews that I had been saving in my sports bra for mile 3 (the same ones that everyone laughed at but then were wishing for more of after they helped immensely- and don't worry they were well wrapped in their original packaging I assure you) I would say we walked the good majority of the race.

I would like to say that I love running, but I don't! We are not friends!! Though I plan to partake in the wonders of obstacle races again, I can assure I will still not like to run. I have tried to learn to love it, it has just never hooked me. But alas, I will continue to try. My original thought statement, spoken to multiple people, before Saturday had been, "Yes! Come Saturday I never have to run EVER again!" Guess that's out the window now.


Did I train? Sure.
Was it consistent? Hardly! 
How far did my trianing go? Oh, I made it up to .9 miles running in one stretch (before I had to lay flat on the ground and let my body regroup for 10 minutes).
My main goal? Finish the monkey bars!! I was up to 39 monkey bars when I trained, the Sawtooth only has 32. 
Was I ready for the Sawtooth? Pshh, nope!!! You got me this time, but I am coming for you!!!
This was my last attempt, after going back when we looped around at the end of the race and were almost to the finish line. Officially Sawtooth was done for the day, but they let me give it another go. It still won.
Honestly, I am very proud of how I did (completed every other obstacle including the 40 foot Colossus and the tombs of claustrophobic nightmares, aka Colon Blow 5000). But I had wanted to beat those bars!! When Andrew and Oliver ran it by themselves last year, while I took photos, I only saw a handful of girls complete the Sawtooth. I wanted to be one of them. Unfortunatly this time that was not my moment. My goal for next year is at least to make it to the middle. I tried multiple times and almost got there, but our heat was so late in the day the bars had lost all their grip. It was wet hand on wet metal and it didn't go well. But I will be back!!


Lesson learned: 
Sometimes in life, you have to set a new goal. It doesn't mean the old one is impossible, it just means you have to work your way up to it. 
Overall, this was an amazingly empowering, bonding, fun experience! It is a great way to enjoy trying to stay fit and it helped me knock one thing off of my invisible bucket list- being able to complete a 'Real World/ Road Rules Challenge' like race. Babe has always (jokingly) told me I would never be able to do one and I was set on proving him wrong! And I proved it, not just to him or anyone else who might (ok, do) say I would be one of the first ones to "fall out", but I also proved it to myself. And that it a wonderful feeling!
Sidenote: My dear sweet husband and the man I love dearly is not necessairly built for large team races, at least when it come to the run vs. walk decision factor. He was probably a full "lap" ahead for a good portion of the race. We were all (save him) not really in shape for a full on run for almost 7 miles. We all knew this going into it. We all knew there would be lots of walking involved. However, his pure and loved soul was under the impression that if he ran ahead it would motivate the rest of us to do the same. But the trick was, if even one person was determined to be walking, then it just made sense for the rest of us not really wanting to run to slow back down. You see, either way, even if you ran to the next obstacle, we would still stop to wait on the rest of the team. So there was really no point in wearing oneself out and instead we just chatted, saved our energy for the next obstacle and embraced the mud- all while Babe enjoyed the solitude of his pounding feet, which he probably enjoyed anyways. That and helping us over hurtles- literally. Even when he chooses to forge his own way, he is still my hero!! See?
Lesson two learned: 
Sometimes in life, you have to hold on tight with both hands. So tight that your hands are bleeding and still you don't let go. You hold until someone can come along who can help, who can be that pull you need to keep yourself from going back down the hill you just fought tooth and nail to climb up. 

Because sometimes God gives you the strength to do it on your own and sometimes He knows that you are going to need a little extra help. So He extends the hand of someone that He has given you to walk through life with. 
With our cheer squad, Babe's mom and sister! 
Weekend Recap
Linking up for the Weekend Recap! with the Grapefruit Princess who had a race of her own this weekend... Think Pink! And go check her out! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

While the Husband's Away the Wife Will Play...

While Babe is away, the wife will play... 
loads and loads of movies on Netflix!! 

She will also consume copious amounts of popcorn!! As in, I ate it every night for a week, save one when I went to dinner with my sis-in-law (for all intents and purposes). And I was NOT sad about it. 
Don't get me wrong, I miss him when he is away, but I also LOVE the hog all the bed space and covers to myself  (each morning you could have found me cocooned like a papoose), love the ability to have no shame in eating said popcorn and love that I get to choose movies without the consideration for mankind in my household. Here was what I chose for my viewing pleasure this week: 

1.) The One: I am loving Anne Hathaway lately, after her performance in Les Mis. So when I saw this on the Netflix feed I figured I would give it a go. Two seconds in I was about ready to turn it off. Lots of cover-your-eyes scenes, lots of English (like the proper kind from across the sea) talk that I didn't quite grasp and I could kind of tell it was going to be a movie that I typically don't like. Mostly because I could tell it was going to be somewhat realistic and tragic and I usually like my movies to take me outside the realm of "this would actually happen in life." I'm a Breakfast at Tiffany's meeting Hunger Games type girl. However, this movie somehow kept my interest and I was unable to turn it off. I just had to see if my predictions were correct. And while they mostly were (I am usually pretty spot on at movie predictions) I found that I was glad I watched it. May or may not be your cup of tea, but I think if you are in the mood for a good rainy, wallow day you could give it a try. 
2.) The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: So I found this one when scrolling through Netflix for Rex Harrison movies. It is an old black and white, in which Rex plays the role of a ghost. He is the ghost of a sailor that haunts the seaside house he once owned. When a widowed woman moves in with her young daughter he is determined to scare her away like other occupants who tried to purchase his home, that is until they form a friendship that goes deeper. I watched it in two parts, started it at night and finished in the morning because some parts were slower. Overall though I thought it was a sweet film that is worth a go. 
3.) My Fair Lady: I don't really think I have words for this. If you have seen it, you understand why and if you haven't? Well, what are you waiting for?! I LOVE this movie!! It is the reason I was searching for Rex Harrison. His combination with the always wonderful Audrey Hepburn makes for a perfect movie night. 
"Let a woman in your life and you invite eternal strive..." and then that closing scene?! Oh! It gets me every single time!! 
4.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Also in need of no explanation, other than I was able to watch it without having to hear, "Not again!" In his defense, he has watched those movies with me probably over 50 times, maybe even nearing 75. It's a problem I may need to get looked at, but I will wait until I can find someone to invent a charm for that- and there are far more important things that one may need a charm for, like finding out how I can get a Dobby! Just want to squeeze him and give him hugs! 

5.) Scandal: My new found Netflix show that I am not sure if I should keep watching (I can not start another show)... I started watching season 3 with a girlfriend this afternoon, as we cleaned out my closet (she made me remove 30 items!! It is so bare, but she was under the impression that clothes owned for over 10 years should be gotten rid of. Crazy girl!), and I was hoooked!! Hooked!! Granted, this is probably a show Babe would also enjoy so now that I am four episodes in he may have some catching up to do. 

What about you? Watch anything noteworthy lately? 


Linking up with Christina and the other lovely ladies of the 5 on Friday! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Words of Others

Sometimes, often a lot of times, there are words that belong to other people that seem to speak to your heart better than your own words could. It's as if they say all the things your heart has been trying to transmit to your brain, the words that get stuck and jumbled between the feelings that are mixed into them. After posting on Monday, and reading through it again on Tuesday, I remembered a post I read quite a few months back on Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience. I love her blog posts, but this was one that had touched me and that would constantly pop back into my head from time to time. It was her words that first had me wondering about what it meant to be married to a stranger... 

"Everyone always marry wrong.
Because what’s wrong in the world is always us.
Marriage and love and time, these are the enormous forces that inevitably chisel and change us into strangers. The springs sag. Mattresses sigh. Marriage changes us into strangers who have to meet again and introduce each other to love."
and it was her words that encouraged my heart and my marriage in all it's "boring" love ways. 

I was laying here, watching My Fair Lady and scrolling through posts and I opened the link and the rest of the world faded away. I thought I would share it with you, because as I was reading it (again) I found myself in awe at the way her words reached places hidden deep in the far corners of thoughts. Maybe they will do the same for you. 

This is a beautiful post and I hope you find the same encouragement in it that I do! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Stranger I Married: The UnDisney Side of It All

If you read this post then you know that I found it humorous, the things I didn't know about the man I am married to. But I have also been thinking about the other things I don't know, or else no longer know, about him. I love all of him. Each facet of what makes him the man he is. And yet, there are things I don't know. There are things I don't know because time has made us strangers. This may sound wrong, this may sound distant, but it isn't. It is more than that and it is less than that, too. 

We are close; right now, we are closer than we have been in a very long time. We are close because we have poured into the people we have become, these new people with the same faces, though wrinkled some with the weight of the world. Marriage is not the beginning of a life with one person. It is the beginning of a commitment, to love one person with all the that they were, all that they are and all that they will come to be. 

And sometimes that will mean loving someone that is, in some ways, vastly different than the person you said "I do" to. I know this because when I compare my own face in the mirror to the face in the picture that adorns my mantle -the one of a 23 year old girl with the world at her fingertips- I see a stranger. I see someone that I myself am still learning to understand. I had so many questions about who I have become in my late 20s. That meant he had to have questions too right? They were the questions we were too scared to ask. Questions that when finally spoken out loud leave you hanging on to each decibel of speech that follows it.

Life has a way of doing that. Of making you scared to ask the questions that are begging for escape. The ones that whisper in the darkness... 
Are you really ok? Why do we keep waiting? Are you just as scared as I am? Do we want the same things we wanted five years ago? What are your dreams now? Where does life go from here? Where do we? 
Death, birth, trials, joy... they all have a way of chipping away pieces of your heart and adding others into new places. Your heart comes out changed; with holes where there had been beating flesh, mountains where there had been nothing. Pumping to a different rhythm, setting a tune for a new version of who you are from that point forward, until something comes along that will reshape it again. 

And so, in the wake, in the stillness between those moments you work to get to know the stranger you have married. You work to get to know the stranger in the mirror. 

And you get to fall in love -with both of them- all over again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Trader Joe's Top 5 Finds!

I finally made it to Trader Joe's!! One recently opened (and by that I mean a few months ago) in Winter Park and I have been dreading the crowds and the parking that I had heard were horrendous. However, a friends birthday led to a visit to Shake Shack (also a 'never-been-to-before' and yummy destination), which then led to an impromptu trip inside Trader Joe's. I also found parking right away (apparently Thursday at 11:30 is prime time for parking finds). I must admit I found Trader Joe's slightly intimidating. I had no clue where to start, but luckily I had a trusty Trader Joe's veteran who helped show me the ropes. She would mention something good, I would throw it in the cart. The only issue was, I was heading to work... but don't fear, I stocked those fridges up with my home groceries and they sat nice and cozy until I could to leave for the night. 

I have so far loved everything I have tried! It is amazingly priced and everything has been so yummy! But my top 5 happy choices were: 
1.) Trader Joe's Goat Cheese with Honey!! 
While I would have loved a more blogpropriate picture, I did not even think to get my camera out because this cheese-from-heaven was gone that quickly! The girl I was with said they had great cheese and my first thought was "I can't get cheese, I can't refrigerate it". Then I read 'cheese and honey', two of my favorite things already together in one one glorious package and the game was over. This little thing of cheese changed the whole trip from, "I will just grab a few staple, cabinet items" too, "load the cart, buy the whole store, work fridges here I come"!! 
2.) Trader Joe's Creamed Honey!! 
This should probably have been number 1, but I still have dreams about that cheese. The honey is still very happily sitting in the cabinet where I can partake whenever needed, therefore leaving the dancing buckets of honey out of my nighttime sleep sequence. I have been wanting to make creamed honey for a while (or attempt to anyways) so when I saw this little golden goodness just sitting there for the taking I didn't have to think twice. Honey speaks to my soul and someday I will have my very own bees, but for now, this shall suffice. I used it the other night when cooking chicken (recipe below). Some went into the skillet, mostly though I just ate it straight off the spoon. 
3.) Trader Joe's Organic Apples!!
One of the very best things about Trader Joe's is that everything is priced as each, not by the pound. I don't have to fill a bag full of fruit, walk it to a scale and add or remove items depending on how much I want to pay. So, there I was reaching to grab an apple or two when I saw a whole bag of apples... organic apples... for less than 4 dollars!! Why is the bag not full of apples you ask? Brought them home and they were gone in a day (there are only two of us in the house). 
4.) Speculoos Cookie Butter!!
I have heard about this, I think we have all heard about this. The cookie butter, the Trader Joe's wonder, that of course had to go in my cart. I must admit that I was not at first sold on this. In my mind I had imagined a chocolate chip cookie doughish tasting peanut butter. This has more of a snicker-doodle, cinnamon taste to it but the more I ate it the more I loved it. Yum!! 
5.) Green Tea Mints!! 
These I also had to warm up to. I grabbed them thinking they could be neat to try. I love green tea, so I thought I might enjoy them. At first I found them a little odd, but I think it was mainly thinking of it as a mint that threw me off. However, after the first one I found myself wanting another- and then another. Now I eat at least two each day. I keep them in my car and always eat one on my way to work and then usually again on the way home. They are refreshing and come with antioxidants included! 

My Trader Joe's Inspired Recipe! 
I haven't cooked in about 2 years, give or take! This may be a slight exaggeration, but only slight. I never have time to cook anymore. I enjoy it though. I enjoy trying new things. My newest fad has been to try anything and everything I can get honey into. Well, I used my new found "happies" as a reason to turn on the stove and here is the result. 

Creamed Honey Chicken 
Super easy and so very good!! 
- Chicken cutlets
- Creamed Honey
- Regular Honey 
- Flour
- Seasoning 
- Coconut Oil 
- Apples
Place coconut oil, spoonful of creamed honey and apples in skillet and allow to heat over medium-high. While heating wash chicken and smother in honey and seasonings of your choice. I used garlic salt, season all and onion powder. Then I spooned on the honey and added more seasoning. Dredge chicken lightly through flour and add to pan. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, turning once, until chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!! 
*I am not typically a measurement sort of person, unless I am baking I throw a little of whatever I want in, whichever way I want. I love honey so there was a lot of that and garlic. 

I accompanied the chicken with some wonderful butternut squash, also purchased from Trader Joe's. 
Peeled and cut the squash, placed flat on a pan covered in olive oil. Spread more olive oil across the squash and sprinkled with garlic salt and a bit of cinnamon. Baked at 400 degrees for 25- 30 minutes. Take out squash and flip halfway through, sprinkle a dash more garlic salt and place back in oven for the remainder of the time. 

I know it may be Monday, but I am linking up with the gals of 5 on Friday [darciaprilchristina + natasha]!! Nothing like a little Friday fun on a Monday! I had full intentions of having this posted before the weekend, but ya' know... life! They are doing an awesome giveaway to kick off the 5 on Friday being back in the swing of things, so hop on over and check them out! 


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ice Cold Breathing

... It's like that last sip of ice cold water before heading out to face a hot, humid afternoon. That last refreshing taste to quench your thirst until the sweating kicks in. Has a breath ever felt like that to you? They feel like that to me sometimes. They feel like that last needed bit of something sustaining; the sip you take to help put the smiling face on life. The face you show the world around you. The face that says that life is alright. I had this thought today, as I got out of the car to pick up some of "my kiddos" from school. This was no where even close to an I need a breath moment and really more so all about the sip of water that I took to fend off the heat. And yet, as the "ahh, that felt good going down" thought left my brain all I could think of was the way breathing has seemed to feel as I get older.

We have had a few days of cool, fall weather in Florida and it was a needed reprieve. Yet, it made the heat of yesterday a surprise I was not ready for. Like a breath you didn't realize you had taken; one that goes down a little too hard and comes up with a little bit too much life. The kind that comes when a hard day hits you after days that seemed to go so smoothly. It's that breath you take to remind yourself that the world is still watching, that you are still living and that sometimes you have to pick your head up and keep going.

As I processed all of this... all the breathing and the smiles that sometimes seem harder to wear than an itchy sweater, I realized, we are all doing it. At some point in every moment of each day, someone around you is the person who is smiling in spite of the fact that breathing hurts sometimes. They are smiling and holding up their own world, in their own way, because we are all doing it. We all have moments when we need that breath, that refreshing sip of ice water on a hot day, to remind ourselves to keep going. It's that breath that you hold in just long enough to pray, "Lord, I need you here."

So the next time I hear you breathe in- that really deep, down to your gut breathing, that seems to expel with it all that you are not saying- I promise to smile at you and simply nod my head, as if to reassure you that it will be ok. You are not alone and tomorrow the breathing may be easier.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Disney Lesson #3: The Stranger I Married

So, I have been away for a while. I have missed this space and thought about it often. Life has been busy, changes galore and this space has been set on the back burner (along with a lot of life) unfortunately. I will be sitting in the car on my way from one job to another and be writing in my head, but then I have no ability to sit down and jot down all the words!  I plan to change that!! 

Schedules have settled and I intend to carve out time to say 'YES' to this, mostly because it is good for my soul. My soul craves it. My goal for the last few weeks is to work on my ability to say 'no', I promise you it is very small... minuscule really, but it has been getting stronger! I want to say 'no' to certain things so that I have the time to say 'yes' to others, like this space. I figured the best way to jump back in was with another one of those wonderful lessons that Disney has been teaching me. Mostly because it is light and fun and gives me a chance to warm-up before diving into the meatier bits. Here we go... 
Disney can be a place full of wonderful and glorious surprises!! And then, it can be a place full of shocking, life-questioning surprises!! The kind that leave you rethinking if you know the person standing next to you in the line; the one you came with, not the actual stranger in the party behind you. Ok, so maybe the following story is not that dramatic but I found out a shocking truth in my husband!! The man I love and have been with for nearly a decade does not know that there are only 7 dwarfs. Hold the phone!! Say, what?! I was shocked!! So shocked that the moment needed immediate documentation and then of course its own spotlight here!! He was not fond of the instragram post that followed and I am sure will not be thrilled by another call out, but look at that face?! He originally found his lack of Disney knowledge humorous! Did he not read the sign on the ride as we walked in "Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train"?! Apparently not, for there we are standing in line to finally ride it. We are playing with these spinning barrels that paint pictures of each dwarf on the ceiling when you spin them. He then calmly turns to me and says, "there are 9 right?" "9?! Not there are not 9! Are you joking? You are joking, right?" Well folks, he was not joking! The man was serious. His justification? "Well I have never seen the whole thing, only parts." My life!! Questions... so many questions!! Next time we have one of my nieces, you can guess what movie we will be watching! 

********************************* Disney Insider Tips *************************************************
Said night in question, left with many new Disney revelations! 
1.) Short Mine Train Wait Times: We finally got to ride the Mine Train!! We have been trying to get fastPasses forever, but the ride is always stand-by only every time we try to book them and we haven't been willing to wait in the over 60 minute line. We usually go on a week night and the line is still usually that long if not longer. Well we hit the timing just right, just as the electrical parade was ending and fireworks were starting. The line stated 20 minutes, but only took about 10. We got to watch fireworks both from the line and on the ride. It was wonderful!! 
2.) Reasonably Priced, Good Food: At Gaston's Tavern they have a pork shank for $9 and a warm cinnamon bun for around $4. This is the perfect stop for a meal!! Plus, it is plenty enough to feed 2. There were no long lines, it was a beautiful spot to sit and the food was amazing!! I loved the cinnamon bun (at least the gooey bits, some parts were bready), but the pork shank was great! Better than pork shank we have had at some nice restaurants. It was moist, juicy and filling. The pork shank would have been enough for the two of us, but I really wanted the sweet treat! That could mean a good meal for two for under $5 a person if, unlike me, your sweet tooth doesn't need filling