Friday Favorites – July is Hot!

july

 

1. My air conditioner is fixed! I was AC-less for 3 entire weeks after getting back from Florida! I’m usually alwys cold, so I don’t use it much even in summer, but a wave of 90+ degree days with no air was AWFUL!

2. Current Meal Obsession:

Do you ever go through one of those phases where you eat the same thing pretty much every single day? My current thing is Morning Star Farms Black Bean Burger + cheese + fancy bun + pickles + Silver Dollar City Sweet Hickory BBQ sauce. It’s a magical combination of goodness that gives me life. Typing this out made me realize I should probably upgrade the cheese I’m using (store brand cheese food product slices – heh) since everything else is all fancy.

3. Okay, yes, I’m posting two favs about food – This is why you shouldn’t blog while hungry! – But I’ve developed a pretty serious addiction to Triple Double Oreos. triple-double-oreo

Do I want chocolate cream? Or regular? BOTH! And they hold up especially well for dunking. I don’t even want to think about how many packages of these I’ve gone through lately.

Speaking of… has anyone tried the cookie dough kind yet? Contemplating these as my next purchase!

cookie-dough-oreos

4. TWO of my amigos have just announced that they have books coming out! I’m super excited to read both, even though they make me feel like a failure for not writing a book yet.

 

Time Spent Falling is a book of poetry by my velvety voiced, amazing haired friend Nick Holmes. He’s an amazing photographer and has a beautiful way with words, so I can’t wait to dive into this book of his poetry. Oh, he was also on Gilmore Girls.

They Can’t Kill Us All – The Story of #blacklivesmatter is by Wesley Lowery, one of my favorite people to ever be arrested in a McDonalds. I got to know him via Twitter when he was covering Ferguson two years ago, and would probably totally hate him for already having a Pulitzer and a book and countless incredible Washington Post articles while still in his mid-20s, but alas, Wes is pretty rad and a crazy hard worker.

5. I just stumbled across this video from over a year ago. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I watch All In with Chrs Hayes (aka bae) every freaking night. I totally remembered when this originally aired – it was the first time I heard about a brand new off-Broadway show called Hamilton. I dunno guys, I think it might be big.

 

BTW, if you noticed this in the video?

If you add to this derpy photo of me…

I’m tooooootally 1 degree of separation from being in Hamilton.

 

Linkup time!

Friday blog linkup fri-favs 5-friday

Exploring Skeletons: Animals Unveiled – A Totally Unique Orlando Attraction!

Huge thank you to Skeletons: Animals Unveiled museum in Orlando for helping me share their awesome attraction with you by providing tickets for us! 

Skeletons Animals Unveiled museum attraction in Orlando FL

Orlando has grown quite a bit since I last lived there 6 years ago. We have SunRail now, our own MLS team (#GoCity!), and quite a few new attractions. One area I really wanted to check out while I was in town was the new (to me! It’s been there over a year now) I-Drive 360 group of attractions that includes the Orlando Eye (kinda like the London Eye, but more Orlando-y), an aquarium, a Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, some cool looking restaurants and bars, and a really unique attraction called Skeletons: Animals Unveiled. I only got around to visiting the last one on that list this time, but hopefully I’ll get to visit the others soon after I move back to FL!

Entrance to Skeletons Animals Unveiled museum at idrive 360 in Orlando

As you might guess from the name (Clever girl!), this is a museum that features a whole lot of animal skeletons. It’s fascinating if you’re interested in science-y things, and definitely educational. I can see a lot of kids LOVING this place, but if you’re not sure if your kids will be into it or freaked out,  I suggest a stop in the gift shop first, since they have a few skeletons on display there and you can see how the kids react.

elephant-skull

Just chillin’ with a former elephant.

One note before we get started – I was a little worried at first about how the skeletons used in the museum were obtained.  (I think we’ve all heard the creepy rumors about the sources for the human bodies used in human anatomy exhibits). I was relieved to learn that the Skeletons museum isn’t out hunting hippos and giraffes for their skeletons – all of the bones on display were donated by zoos and rescues after the animals died natural deaths. Kinda like humans donating their bodies to science, I guess? Good to know! (The museum contains a few human skeletons, which I’m guessing WERE donated to science, rather than maybe coming from a zoo with a really terrible retirement plan.)

Read more »

Show Us Your Books – July

Show Us Your Books monthly book review linkup

 

It’s been a couple of months since I participated in the Show Us Your Books linkup (my last one was in April!), so I wanted to be sure I got a post up for this month’s linkup with Steph and Jana! Appropriately enough, I’m writing this post at the library because my AC has been broken since I got back from FL, so I needed a serious break from the hot house.

I’ve read WAY more books since my last post than just the ones I’ve written about below, but things have been so busy and crazy that I just haven’t gotten around to writing about them yet. Hopefully next month’s books post will be a supersized edition full of reviews I’ve been meaning to get to! Until then…

 

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Goodreads * Amazon

I don’t read a lot of fiction, but I’m always excited when Emily Giffin publishes a new book. This is the first time I’ve gotten one of her books free through NetGalley instead of from the library, so getting to read it before it came out made me feel fancy. It’s an interesting look at love loss and and family told through the voices of two sisters. Probably not my favorite Giffin book so far, but enjoyable and fairly light – a good summery chick lit-ish read that’s not too sweet and fluffy.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Goodreads * Amazon

This was my beach read while I was in Vero Beach last month. I think I may have actually enjoyed this more than Gone Girl, but I do want to put the warning out that it involves the murder of kids, so avoid if that kind of thing is going to seriously disturb you. If you can get past that aspect, it’s a suspenseful, engrossing read that I found myself picking up as often as possible throughout my vacation days.

As usual, I’m in the middle of like half a dozen books, and I have Shonda Rhimes’s “The Year of Yes” sitting next to me here at the library, just waiting to be checked out despite my total lack of time for it right now. Anyone know where I can get a clone so that I can manage to read AND get work done? That would be rad.

Weekending: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Pulse Vigil

Vigil at Lake Eola

Linking up with B Loved Boston for Weekending – it would be weird to put linkup stuff at the end of this post, so sticking it here instead!

I feel a little weird combining things like Disney World and a candlelight vigil in one blog post and considered splitting them up, but then I realized – wow, that’s life. There’s often no space between the highs and the lows, and you’re never quite sure what’s going to come your way next. The best you can do is really enjoy and appreciate the good, and do your best to “just keep swimming” through the bad.

OMG, I’ve been back in Orlando a week and I’m already quoting the Finding Nemo musical. I’m such a Disney nerd.

Speaking of which! On Friday my friend Megan and I hit my 2nd favorite Disney park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We had Fast Passes for Festival of the Lion King, Kilimanjaro Safari, and a meet & greet with Mickey & Minnie that morning, after which we had to run back at her house because a new fridge was being delivered. (YAY! The old fridge died while we were in Vero Beach, so we had to bravely drink all the wine and live on non-refrigerated stuff for a few days.)

dak

Festival of the Lion King is my FAVORITE stage show at Disney, and definitely up there among my favorite attractions in general. I still want to be the snake when I grow up.

 

 

You can find more videos of the show over on my Instagram!

I was surprised to see that they had renamed the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to Gorilla Falls. There are so many little changes since I left, things other people might not even notice (front desk cast members at Wilderness Lodge got new costumes! There’s new carpet in the hallways at the Beach Club! They replaced the reticulated giraffes on the safari with Masai giraffes!), but that keep stopping me in my tracks to be all “Heyyyy! When did THAT happen?”

gorilla-dak

I felt like this gorilla and I had similar life philosophies.

We’d kind of been hoping it would rain during our safari, since that tends to change up the animal activity, but the rain stopped a bit before our Fast Pass time. We still got to see plenty of animals, including that time we were totally stalked by giraffes.

Got stalked by a giraffe today, like ya do. #DisneysAnimalKingdom #giraffes #massaigiraffe #dak #kilimanjarosafari

A video posted by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on


dak-treeObviously had to break out the Snapchat for fun filtery photos!

One thing I love about Harambe at Animal Kingdom is the rare chance to practice my Swahili. (Yes, I speak a LOT of languages very badly.) Any time I see or hear something I can’t quite understand, I snap a pic and look it up later.

harambe-swahili

This roughly translates to “Every door has its key”.

Last night was the vigil at Lake Eola for the Pulse shooting victims. It was so much bigger than I expected – the report is that around 50,000 people turned up. There was so much love around that lake,  you guys.

lake-eola-vigil

My friend Todd, who I lost a few years ago, was a funeral director. He always talked about loving his job so much because although there was sadness, what he saw more than anything was love. He saw families and friends come together to hug and reminisce and talk about how much they loved someone. That’s exactly what I saw last night. Yes, the reason we were all there was incredibly sad. But what I saw was love. I saw pretty much every race, religion, and sexual orientation represented. I saw more love and acceptance and hugs than you could imagine fitting into a little lakeside park. I saw love everywhere I looked, and it was unbelievably beautiful.

eola-vigil-2

 

 

pulse-vigil

We built a pulse symbol from 49 candles.

One moment that hit pretty much everyone there right in the feels was this:

Rainbow over Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando during vigil for the Pulse shooting victims

Minutes before the official start of the event, a giant rainbow popped up over the lake. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to the night. I don’t even have words for how cool and serendipitous it was.

You can find more photos of the vigil on Facebook.

Back when I worked at Disney, I worked with a guy that was so much like me (to the point that we discovered we lived in the same apartment complex and drove the same car) that we adopted each other and he became my little brother. That beautiful person who I chose as family is now my little sister, and I was proud to walk beside her as she carried her transgender flag around the lake last night. We went out for drinks with a couple of her awesome friends after the event was over, and ended up dancing to cheesy pop songs and throwback 80s and 90s music at I-Bar until after 2 am. It was so good to share the night both with someone I love so much and new people I was blessed to meet.  We shared a lot of hugs and laughs and tears and screamed out Beyonce lyrics.

Not gonna lie, there was a moment as we were dancing around to lighthearted music, wrists covered in rainbows of glow stick bracelets waving in the air, lyrics we’d forgotten we knew being sung into the night, when I realized that this was exactly what the people at Pulse were doing when the shooting happened. They were out having fun with friends and family, dancing carefree late into the night, until they weren’t. I had to stop for a moment and look at our little circle of love – gay, straight, bi and trans – and think about how all we could do was keep dancing, keep celebrating life and friendship and love and acceptance, for those who are no longer here to dance with us.

We remember them.

pulse-vigil-love

Friday Favorites – Florida Edition

I’ve only been Orlando for a week now, and it’s crazy how much has happened in that short span of time! I have so many posts coming up about my travel adventures, I just need a nice chunk of free tie to actually write them!! Until then, here are a few favorites from the past week or so:

1. The way the community has come together after Saturday night’s tragedy. Lines to donate blood stretched on for blocks, so many fundraisers have been organized, there are vivils being held in pretty much every neighborhood (I’m going to one Sunday night), and even billboards popped up along the interstate literally overnight. What happened is unspeakably horrible, but as Mr Rogers said, “look for the helpers”. I’ve seen so much love and desire to help out in any way possible this week.  That’s love.

The #OrlandoEye, lit in #rainbow colors. 💜 #OrlandoStrong #Orlanfo

A photo posted by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on

 

2. If you follow my personal Twitter, you know I have a big ol’ nerd crush on MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. (“Big” is definitely an understatement there.) When I found out he was flying down to Orlando on Monday morning to broadcast live from a location close to Pulse that evening, there was no question that I’d be doing whatever I could to at least go say hi. It’s a good thing I’m determined and stubborn as hell, because making it happen was an endeavor. Every single street was blocked off by police cars, and there were media vans everywhere.

I parked at the ginormous Target since it has a parking garage where I was pretty sure my car would be safe and pulled up walking directions on my phone. I was only about 1/2 mile away from where Chris was going to be filming, but even walking wasn’t possible in a lot of areas due to filming in progress. It took about a mile of walking in 90+ degree FL heat and humidity, drawing upon that ever important skill of walking quickly with purpose and looking like you totally know where you’re going and belong there, but I made it. I didn’t have the best view, but I could actually see him every now and then.

He knew I was there thanks to the wonder and beauty of Twitter, so moments after he finished that night’s show, this happened:

 

Yes, I know that photo of me could appear next to the term “derp” in a dictionary, but OMG HE IS SO BEAUTIFUL I COULD NOT EVEN. I would have happily chatted with him for the rest of the night about news and politics and his upcoming 2nd book and how he got his eyes to be so freaking blue, but he had another live show to prepare for in just two hours, so after a few minutes of conversation I had to let him go. (I then proceeded to get totally turned around walking back to Target, because my brain had totally stopped functioning.)

Definitely NOT the circumstances under which I would have chosen to finally meet someone I’ve absolutely adored for almost 2 years, but timing is never perfect, and getting to meet him was such a nice break from the overwhelming sadness of that day.

 

publix

3. PUBLIX!

I don’t even want to add up how much I’ve spent at the best grocery store ever since I’ve been back in Florida. That black bean humus was amazeballs. Also addicted to the brownie pudding their deli makes. (I also got the Orlando City soccer shirt I’m wearing in the pic at the top of this post there for $14!)

 

alice

4. The creator of Welcome to Night Vale has a new podcast called Alice Isn’t Dead. I listened to the first 6 episodes on my drive to Florida, and it’s so good! And a lot of the storyline takes place on the road, so it’s perfect for a long drive.

5. Florida rainstorms. It rains almost every day here in the summer, which I’d kind of forgotten. It goes from zero to downpour in like a minute, rains like crazy for about ten minutes, and then stops as abruptly as it started. Then you get that glorious post-rain ozone smell, and everything is just kind of… refreshed. Plus, there’s usually seriously badass lightning involved.

Heading to Disney’s Animal Kingdom tomorrow, which I’m pretty excited for since I haven’t been in like 6 years! I miss my gorillas and Festival of the Lion King and everything else!!

Check out some of the other awesome Friday posts in these link-ups!

fri-favs Friday blog linkup 5-friday