A Visit to Winter Park, FL

Street scene in Winter Park, Florida | Ross and Jamie Adventure
Ryan, Emily, Ross and Jamie at Animal Kingdom Lodge | Ross and Jamie Adventure
Ryan, Emily, Ross and Jamie at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Ross and I have been extraordinarily blessed to have family and friends visiting us throughout the time we’ve been back in Florida.

For Christmas, his sister Emily and her husband Ryan joined us, and we made the most of Disney’s options outside of the park.

Then my friend Danny visited me while he was in town (on vacation from New Hampshire), and soon my sister will be visiting too!

Jamie and Danny at the Magic Kingdom | Ross and Jamie Adventure
Jamie and Danny at the Magic Kingdom
Jamie, Ria, Robbie and Ross | Ross and Jamie Adventure
Jamie, Ria, Robbie and Ross in Winter Park

But since I’ve gotten to visit Winter Park twice now (once with my dad and his wife Karen, and once with my brother Robbie, his girlfriend Ria and Ross), I wanted to write about it.

Winter Park, Florida is a lovely part of Orlando, with charming streets, parks, museums and a railroad running through it all. It’s very upscale, and extremely walkable (a rarity in central Florida!), with restaurants and shops reminding me a bit of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Further explorations farther from the downtown area further confirmed the Cambridge vibe, as we found quirky vintage shops, music, gaming and an amazing ice cream shop. So here are some of the highlights we’ve gotten to experience. We look forward to more on future visits. Special thanks to all of the family who are really the reason we got to this part of Orlando!

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Tiffany Stained Glass at the Morse Museum | Ross and Jamie Adventure
Tiffany Stained Glass at the Morse Museum
Original architecture from the home of Tiffany | Ross and Jamie Adventure
Original architecture from the home of Tiffany
The restored Tiffany Chapel from the World's Fair | Ross and Jamie Adventure
The restored Tiffany Chapel from the World’s Fair

Of everything I’ve done in this area, the Morse Museum is probably the destination I’d most recommend a trip to see. I’ve always found Tiffany’s work to be beautiful, but it was only in the fall of 2016, when we visited a museum in upstage New York with a Tiffany exhibit, that I realized how insanely gorgeous Tiffany’s stain glass work is. I’m just completely enchanted with it. The museum is a great place to spend a few hours, with audio and booklets to enhance your tour, two videos and the opportunity to step inside a recreated chapel from the World’s Fair and Tiffany’s recreated home, in part. It’s gorgeous and perhaps best of all? It’s free on Friday evenings! Tip: No food and drink are allowed, so leave them out of site or outside; and if you must wear a backpack, you’ll be asked to wear it across your front. 

Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine

Bosphorous Chocolate Mousse | Ross and Jamie Adventure
Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine has a to-die-for chocolate mousse. And it’s gluten-free!

Well, if you’re not into good food, you can skip Bosphorous. But this restaurant is really wonderful – it must be good if Karen, a dedicated foodie, was happy to go back when I suggested it as a lunch location! They have a Winter Park location and two Orlando locations, and they have wonderful gluten-free options, but be sure to read the gluten-free menu before you go (or pull it up on your phone) because they don’t have a copy available in the restaurant. I went with lamb shanks and the dark chocolate mousse!

Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream

Kelly's Homemade Ice Cream in Orlando, Florida | Ross and Jamie Adventure
A few scoops from Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream in Orlando, Florida

When it’s got homemade in the title, it’s time to try some ice cream! Seriously, there’s lots of homemade ice cream out there, but this stuff is very, very good and sometimes exceptionally so. Homemade ice cream is impossibly difficult to find in Orlando. Make a trip for this one. My full review is here. Don’t miss the vintage shop next door!

Mead Botanical Garden

A walkway at Mead Botanical Garden in Orlando, Florida | Ross and Jamie Adventure
A walkway at Mead Botanical Garden in Orlando, Florida

If you need a place for a picnic or to take a walk or what have you, it’s hard to beat a beautiful botanical garden. Orlando has a few options that seem promising, but this one is free, and it’s awesome. Consider some bug spray, wear some sunscreen and go have an adventure.

Cybertron Video Games

Not my thing, but this place is retro and pretty awesome. Ross was in heaven here!

And finally, another place we enjoyed:

Le Macaron French Pastries

This little chain carries tasty macarons and

Gelato at le macaron in Winter Park, Florida | Ross and Jamie Adventure
Gelato at le macaron in Winter Park, Florid

gelato from France. There’s also a macaron ice cream sandwich option, although the flavors are pre-made so you’ll have limited options. Great for gluten-free folks and gluten eaters alike. I wouldn’t go out of my way for this one necessarily, but if you’re craving gelato or a macaron, it’s a great spot. 

We’ve still got plenty of exploring to do in the greater Orlando area, and our time is running low, so we know we won’t be able to see it all. If you’ve got a recommendation for us or for others, please let us know!

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Last Days at the Disney Parks

Well, it’s arrived. The day we dreaded one whole year ago.

What is this dreaded day, you may logically be asking?

Well of course – it’s the day that our Disney World annual passes expire.

Alberta Bound performs in Canada at Epcot, Walt Disney World
Our final chance to watch Alberta Bound, our favorite performers at Epcot (and maybe Disney World).

Some of you may be thinking, finally! We’ll get a break from this Disney stuff! And if that’s you, yes, you’ve got lots of non-Disney posts to look forward to. Others may be saying – wait!? Why would you let them lapse! Go renew them, and enjoy them while you’re still in Florida!

Well, we could certainly do that. And if money weren’t so tight for us, we probably would! After all, our current plans have us in the area for another month, so we’d get more use out of them for sure. But the passes, even for Florida residents, still aren’t that cheap. We pay more than $500 for annual passes. Compared to a day rate to visit Disney World, that’s pretty great (It would only buy you 5 individual tickets, at best) but for people without a lot of disposable income, $500 can go along way toward other fun adventures. (One of them will be the Kennedy Space Center!)

Epcot Festival of the Arts, Walt Disney World
A gorgeous day for our final Epcot visit for 2018.

Plus, you may have noticed that while we’ve been in Florida, we haven’t done much that isn’t Disney. Sure, we’ve performed a few concerts, attended a few open mics, shopped for sneakers and for a video game…but have we seen a concert? Visited a state park? Checked out a museum? Negative on all fronts, so far, although we plan to do at least two out of three in the next month.

Jamie's brother Robbie, his girlfriend Ria, and Ross and Jamie
Jamie’s brother Robbie and his girlfriend Ria made sure to visit us while they were on vacation in Florida. Thanks for the company and for the museum visit, and for the gelato – it was delicious!

We’ve also got lots of social time scheduled with visiting family and friends, and when you’ve only got one or two days free for adventuring, that can be a challenge. Without the impetus to go to Disney and use our passes, we can visit the beach or grab lunch with friends and not feel like we’re missing out on something.

So will we miss Disney World. Yes! Definitely. But we are estimating that we’ve visited the parks at least fifty days this past year. How amazing is that!? Disney World will be there in the future. And in the meantime, we’ll be enjoying everything else life has to offer.

Like friends.

And family.

And planning for the future.

If you want to learn more about RVing at Disney World, I wrote about that here.

Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful day!

A full year on the road: So long, 2017!

What a year it’s been! We hit the road in October, and we’re so overjoyed that we’ve been able to make this crazy adventure work for another year. How amazing is it that we were full-time travels for all of 2017? And we’re cautiously optimistic that 2018 will be the year we see our income increase and our lives become more sustainable. (Believe me, we have some serious plans to make that happen.)
2017 was the year we:
Celebrated the New Year at the most amazing Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum aka the only way I’ve found to get the equivalent of my Disney fix outside of Disney. (It’s that great!)
Visited Austin and participated in the Women’s March.
Visited New Orleans and the one and only Eric Bolivar after WAY too many years of saying we’d get down there.
Stayed at a Walmart with views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Experienced wonderful museums & historical sites.
Visited Savannah and Charleston (we’ll be back) and got tastes of many other cities, including Brunswick, ME, for the first time.
Spent many months visiting Disney World, experiencing Flower & Garden Festival, Festival of the Arts, Festival of the Holidays and Food & Wine Festival. We also had a truly special Christmas dinner and some amazing treats and fun at Disney Springs. Plus Jellyrolls and Sanaa with Ross’ sister Emily and her husband Ryan.
Ate a ton of homemade ice cream, custard, gelato and frozen yogurt!
Spent an outstanding summer visiting all there is to see on the Outer Banks and making the best friends we’ve met on the road so far. Way too many moments to name, but a few include our first blue crabs, beaches, all the historical sites, lighthouses, a seafood buffet for our third anniversary plus wine, whiskey, a first martini and more with our friends.
We made friends with multiple cats.
We purchased a car, an adorable Chevy Sonic that we’ve nicknamed “Hedgie”.
Explored Delaware for a weekend, including John Dickinson’s plantation and Dogfish Head Brewery.
Played music in assisted living facilities, senior centers, preschools, bars, churches, theaters and open mics, including one with outstanding homemade ice cream.
We got a few enjoyable tastes of upstate New York, including Rochester, Albany and Binghamton.
Jamie played keyboard in a genuine praise band at a contemporary Methodist church service.
We led a ukulele workshop for seniors that was literally a dream come true – we were paid to teach music for free!
We visited with family and friends and despite the distance, had Christmas with a few family members too.
Jamie finally updated this blog to make it easier to search and follow our travels!
We held our first music recital in Bethlehem, NH!
We’ve continued to build our businesses, from teaching online music lessons to working as a virtual assistant (Jamie) and as a podcast editor (Ross). We even auditioned at Disney (Jamie, two times) and entered a competition to handle social media for Cancun.com (both of us). We’re thinking big and bold as we head into 2018.
Ross got a Nintendo Switch after patiently waiting until we had the money for it! Jamie got a Groot (from Guardians of the Galaxy) that she enjoys dancing with.
In addition, Jamie flew back to NH to lead the band for the musical The Drowsy Chaperone in Littleton and Ross held down the fort in Florida for almost a month without her. Jamie also had a birthday party while on the Outer Banks that included homemade ice cream cake and some of her favorite people – thank you Ross for the nudge to make that happen!
We are so lucky that we’ve been able to do this, and we’re so thankful to all of you who’ve supported us, whether in promoting our work, purchasing an EP, taking lessons or sharing gifts that have helped make all of this happen. What’s amazing about this lifestyle is that these things have almost exclusively happened as a part of our normal week. We rarely take “time off” for more than a day or two each week, and yet we’ve been able to have an incredibly fulfilling year with tons of adventures and even some relaxation (thank you, Outer Banks beach access!). We realize every day how incredibly fortunate we are.
As we look ahead to 2018, we’re setting goals, designing schedules and finding ways to make even more success in the upcoming year. We hope you’ll follow along and join us now and again.
With love,
Ross & Jamie

Holiday Touring at the Disney Resorts

Surprising as it would be to Ross and Jamie of 2014, Ross and Jamie of 2017 are addicted to Walt Disney World. So faced with a few weeks where our annual passes are blacked out, I wanted to check an item off my bucket list: visiting the Disney resorts during the holiday season.

All of the resorts (aka hotels) decorate for the holidays, but while some of them keep it very simple, others are known for going all out, from Christmas trees and wreaths to gingerbread houses and trains.

I knew that realistically, I wouldn’t get to see them all. (Could I? Sure. But it would get old and I don’t want to spend all of my free time driving to busy parking lots.) So I narrowed my list down to a Top Ten, with the goal of seeing at least two resorts and more, depending on how much energy Ross and I had this past Wednesday.

The day got off to a slow start. We both slept in. I was ready to go by 11:15, but Ross needed another half hour or so, and ultimately after some stress and discussion and debate we decided yes, we’re doing this, and we’re in the car by about noon, with a cooler for lunch, lots of water and a sunny day to explore.

If you decide to do this, I recommend a car (even if it’s a rental) because Disney doesn’t have direct buses from resort to resort. I also recommend bringing lots of water because most resorts don’t seem to have very good water fountains.

My number one choice was Port Orleans – French Quarter. I fell in love with the beautiful, Mardi Gras-inspired color scheme and decor here. The resort itself is really well themed and Christmas made it even more special. I had heard it was a pretty walk by the water to Riverside (during the daytime, a boat is also available, and the boat goes to Disney Springs all day too) so we walked there to check it out. Their dining hall and bar looked amazing!

After walking back, we headed to my real reason for wanting to come here. They have gluten-free beignets! The kitchen staff were perfect, making me feel so safe, and I got hot chocolate sauce to pair with it. You can order 3 or 6, and though I planned to share half, I ended up eating 5 out of 6 because my husband loves me.

The beignets are outstanding. Not quite the melt-in-your-mouth texture you’d expect from the gluten kind, but out of this world delicious, and even better paired with chocolate.

After stuffing myself with sugar, we headed out to the car to make our way to my second choice resort: Grand Floridian.

As you can tell by those two photos, our initial attempt failed. We tried to park at Grand Floridian itself, but their lot was too full, so it was restricted to those with a reservation. Instead, we parked (with ease) at the Polynesian, one of our favorite deluxe hotels thus far. It was a good excuse to tour an old favorite and visit Stitch before taking the monorail to our destination.

Grand Floridian is extravagant and old-fashioned and too fancy for Ross and I. Nevertheless, there are parts of it (like some of the architecture, and the orchestra) that I love. They host some very special holiday decorations. Last Easter we visited the incredible Easter egg decorations their chefs had made. This time I had to see the gingerbread. They also carry a variety of gluten-free treats (most made fresh), but all except for one had run out by the time I got there.

After GF, Ross needed a break from the crowds, so instead of taking the monorail (and going through security a second time), we followed the walking path to the Polynesian. It’s a nice walk along the water mostly, so we enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure if Ross would be too tired to continue, but he eagerly put the Boardwalk area into his GPS. First stop: Beach Club!

I have passed the outside of Beach Club many times. It has the most epic pool and bar area, with a giant pirate ship and a sandy bottom, all shared with Yacht Club, and it has a beautiful beach.

When we walked into the lobby, I was pleased by the decorations. Not a ton of character, but they looked really pretty. And I enjoyed the carousel gingerbread display a lot! The smell was really delicious too.

Next up was Yacht Club. It reminded me of my grandfather. I’m sure my mom’s parents would have loved vacationing here, with the nautical influences, proximity to Epcot and the Boardwalk and even a miniature village and train for the holidays.

Our final destination was Boardwalk Inn. They had a fun gingerbread display that recreates many of the shops at Disney’s Boardwalk. They also had some treats for sale.

The Boardwalk Inn feels a bit like a less fancy version of Grand Floridian. It’s pretty, but in a fairly non-descript way, and it feels too fancy for me. But the reality is I’d love to stay at any of the Boardwalk resorts. You can’t beat walking distance to Epcot (and Hollywood Studios and Boardwalk as a bonus) in my book!

After our final stop, we walked the Boardwalk and visited the beach, where Ross recorded a video for Instagram. Then we made our way back to the car.

I loved our resort tour and I’m so thrilled we were able to fit so much in. Next time, Wilderness Lodge is a priority, and I want to see Fort Wilderness and Pop Century lit up too.

And of course we skipped Animal Kingdom Lodge, our absolute favorite. But that’s because we are visiting there on Christmas!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Peace, Joy and a Happy New Year to you all from Ross and Jamie. Wishing you a wonderful 2018.

Enjoying the perks of “settling”

We’ve been staying in the Orlando area for almost two months now, and in settling down for a while, there are a lot of perks. We’re enjoying full hookups and access to high-speed internet (we never thought we’d be so thankful to have Comcast), and we’ve been Squeak tonguebefriending a lot of cats, including one who has adopted us that we’ve nicknamed Squeak due to her adorable squeak instead of a meow.

We’ve gotten tons of Disney parks time in, seeing the Halloween decorations in the Magic Kingdom, enjoying the Food and Wine Festival and experiencing the holiday magic throughout the parks. Probably the biggest highlight was our gift from Ross’ parents – dinner at San Angel Inn, Mexico at Epcot followed by a reserved seat for the Candlelight Processional with Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel, the Little Mermaid) as the narrator.

  

Jamie has also auditioned twice for roles at Disney – once for Finding Nemo: The Musical and once to be an improv performer. No luck thus far, but it doesn’t hurt to try! The absolute dream would be a role as a musical director or performance coach, but we hope this gets me noticed at least.

We’ve also done a wee bit of performing (an open mic here, a few church services) and have been booking future gigs like our lives depend on it – which they kind of do! And we’ve got a new website up for teaching online music lessons! New students can save big with our “holiday special” if you book before the end of December.

We’re also enjoying the opportunity to visit with family and friends. So far we got to see our friend and performer Judy Pancoast and we’ll be seeing Ross’ sister Emily and her husband Ryan for Christmas. We also plan to visit with some of our friends from the Outer Banks while they’re in town early next year, and we’ll be reaching out to my grandparents and aunt for a visit soon too. And there’s the chance for other family and friends visiting in early 2018 too! So all of that is really wonderful. If you’ll be in town by the end of February, please let us know!

I’ve been loving being a paid blogger for Outdoorsy, and my most recent article documents why I think ice cream should be a popular RV and road trip activity. In a similar vein, an opportunity to apply to manage the social media for Cancun.com has taken the world by storm, and it sounds so perfect for Ross and I (as a team) that we have applied for it. If you want to help us pay off our debts and spend six months living and working in Mexico, we’d greatly appreciate you voting for us here. No need to sign up for anything and voting is super easy – just click the button! And if you really want to help in an extra, above and beyond way, you can actually vote for us DAILY. Sharing our link and our story with your friends and family helps us get additional votes too!

Happy Hanukkah if you’re celebrating, and if you’re celebrating Christmas, we wish you a merry one. Lots of love and peace to all of you this holiday season, and thank you for your support and for following along on this journey with us!

An International Soda Adventure

We’ve been visiting Disney World for about a month, and prior to this we’d spent a few months visiting this past winter. So we feel like we know it pretty well and don’t experience a lot of surprises, beyond things like the festivals in Epcot.

So when we visited Club Cool and were treated to a delicious slushy, we were shocked and excited to hear that if we visited Coca-Cola at Disney Springs, there was a rooftop bar where Ross could get a mixed drink called Beverly’s Revenge, with the base of his favorite soda, Beverly! We had read the Beverly is only made for Club Cool at this point so we didn’t realize that was an option ANYWHERE.

Armed with this knowledge, I did some further research and learned that there are some amazing samplers available at this rooftop bar. Samplers are literally one of my favorite things. I’ve enjoyed wine flights, ice cream flights and appetizer platters. I love samples and wandering places like Epcot for miniature tastes of deliciousness. So I got really excited about this.

Note: If you really don’t care about reviews of international sodas, I won’t be offended if you stop reading now!

Unlike our attempt to go during Thanksgiving weekend (the lots were full), Disney Springs was downright pleasant this past Wednesday. The garages had tons of parking, and while there are always crowds, they were very manageable, both in shops and outside of them.

img_8365-1We had two major goals: to visit the Christmas Tree Trail and the Coca-Cola lounge on the top floor of the store. We also shopped a few of our favorite stores, but the focus of our trip was elsewhere.

img_8371-1The Christmas Tree Trail features a variety of themed Christmas trees. I especially enjoyed the ones that had wrappings that were unexpected, like the octopus legs on the Villains tree. This area got a little crowded, but it was a blast to see what they’d come up with, and it was a fun and free holiday activity. Santa is also here for visits.

img_8378-1After we walked the trail, we headed to Coca-Cola, resisting the pull of a burger or Eliza’s Bakery. The store itself is more fun than I realized. I managed to find an adorable shirt on clearance – it’s lavender so a purple pastel color with a rainbow on it, so it’s basically perfect for me. I paid less than $10 with our discount.

They also carry some awesome glasses and glassware, including some smaller Tervis styles we had fun debating. And you can meet the Polar Bear here.

img_8381-1

img_8382-1The walkway to the rooftop bar is awesome. It’s handicapped accessible and has fun facts about Coke throughout. So fun! The rooftop bar is beautifully done. White tables and countertops, plus see-through ones you can stand at on the outside edges for the full view.

Ross’ goal was to get Beverly’s Revenge. If you haven’t sampled the Beverly at Club Cool in Epcot, be sure to. It’s super bitter and a bizarre soda that some hate but Ross loves, and he knew it would be the perfect base for a mixed drink.img_8405-1

Ross of course ordered his dream, Beverly’s Revenge, for $13. It includes Hendrick Gin, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur and Beverly, Ross’ favorite (very bitter) soda.

Ross’ Beverly’s Revenge was pretty perfect! Mixed drinks are pricey at Disney, but Ross found this on to be very reasonable overall. It was everything he wanted in a mixed drink! Fun and the bitterness of the Beverly so it already had a very complex flavor…and then the orange, though sweet, is citrus-y so it’s not a sweet drink. Tastes like it means business. Doesn’t try to take away what the Beverly is, just compliments it and puts the bitterness into context. Done excellently and he can’t wait to have another one.

If you’re interested in a sampling adventure, you’ve got three highly-recommended options.

Float Tray – $10.50: This includes 8 different sodas with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Coke, Sprite, Fanta Grape, Cherry Coke, Pibb’s Extra, Barq’s Root Beer, Barq’s Red Cream, Fanta Orange

International Tray – $9: This includes 16 different sodas from around the world, including Inca Kola and Beverly, available at Club Cool in Epcot.

Combo Tray – $16: This is both the float tray and the international tray. 24 delightful beverages for you to consume. It takes 3 trays.

img_8401-1Of course, being the crazy sampler that I am, and someone who loves a bargain, I had to get the Combo Tray, which would retail for $19.50 individually but which costs $16 together. And given that we’re Annual Passholders, we saved 20% on the combo tray on top of that!

I started by sipping each international soda for a quick overview. Then I focused my attention on the floats. I drank most of them, but Ross helped me out with a few of them. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with a float. They were all delicious. I was especially excited about the Sprite float – unexpected and refreshing – and the Grape float, a taste of my youth combined with vanilla ice cream. And I’d never had Barq’s Red Cream, so I enjoyed that one a lot. But honestly, they were all delicious.

For the international sodas, I thought you might want the full run down. They do give you a cute booklet with the info on all of the sodas. So here you go!

Tray 1: 

1 Stoney Tangawizi from Tanzania – This is an amazing ginger beer. My favorite!

2 Fanta Exotic Fruit Punch from Uganda – This is tasty fruit punch; it’s not really fizzy.

3 Bon Bon Anglais from Madagascar – This is sweet, almost like bubble gum

4 Frestea Green Honey Tea from Indonesia – Wow, this was refreshing, Light and palate cleansing, definitely a tea. Lovely.

5 Minute Maid Joy Apple Lychee from Korea – This is sweet and light. Apple flavored plus the lychee awesomeness. It’s really great.

6 Fanta Apple Kiwi from Thailand – This is super fun, you can taste both fruits. Kiwi a bit artificial like a Jolly Rancher but very fun.

7 Smart Watermelon from China – This was one of my faves. I’m a sucker for watermelon.

8 Thums Up from India – A cola, with a little something else. I’m not big on normal colas so not my favorite. Ross liked it a lot.

Tray 2

1 Beverly from Italy – This is so bitter…but that does make it great for mixed drinks!

2 Aquarius Libre from Spain – This is like a nice lemon-lime soda.

3 FUSE Berries Tea from Georgia – A delicious, somewhat sweet tea. Definite berry.

4 Sunfill Black Currant from Mauritius – This is awesome! Fizzy and currants is a delicious combination. It has a slight bitter and sour richness to it.

5 Lift Manzana from Chile – A very light apple flavor with fizz; reminds me of sparkling cider.

6 Bjare Lingonberry from Sweden- This is a favorite. Sweet and sour lingonberries is fabulous!

7 Inca Kola from Peru – I adore this bubble gum stuff I discovered at Club Cool. So sweet.

8 Delaware Punch from Honduras- This tastes like fruit punch made with Dimetapp (artificial grape) as the base! Pretty bizarre.

So in conclusion, this is an awesome way to spend your day. My stomach still hasn’t recovered from the carbonation two days later, but it was so much fun! And this would be amazing to share with an entire family or a larger group. For the two of us, it was probably a little too ambitious. But we had to try it once!

Do you have a favorite soda? Is it listed here?