Things are getting kinda squirrely!
Hey guys! I just arrived home from a quick, unexpected trip to Florida. I literally had four days notice since airfare prices were pretty great but I had to act quick so that was fun. For those who don't know, my parents own a home in Ocala, Fl since they are pastors here in NY and live in a parsonage (home owned by the church). My in-laws, as well as a bunch of extended family and friends, also live in Ocala now so I'm always taking little trips down when my parents are also there on vacation so that the kids get to see our family and friends. Ocala is a nice little town about an hour northwest of Orlando so I usually head down to Disney for a day or two while I'm there. Since I just started this new adventure as a Travel Agent, I wanted to get down there this trip to take a bunch of pictures for social media use, so I ended up spending three days at the parks just taking pictures and eating everything I could. It was a "research trip". Best job ever! As usual, I have been posting my food from those three days on the Disney Foodies Facebook page with some fun fanfare. If you found this blog from the Disney Foddies page on Facebook, congrats on your successful Facebook stalking! I am not allowed to advertise my blog on the Disney Foodies page so when people ask me if I have a blog I try to use cryptic messages to get you guys over here. So if I told you to "FB stalk me", now you know why. I'm not trying to make you work hard for the opportunity to read my blog, I'm just trying to not get kicked out of my precious Disney Foodies page while also sharing this blog that was started thanks to all those wonderful, encouraging messages from a lot of the members over there! So if you follow me on my personal Facebook page or on my most recent Disney Foodies post, I very briefly mentioned a crazy experience I had with a donut and a squirrel, but I thought I'd elaborate on this insane story while also proving that squirrels seem to have a thing for my extended family too.
On my first day visiting the parks, we headed to Epcot. It was my mom, the kids, and myself. We started the morning with the most amazing GLAZED cronut ever. Luckily for me and my gluttony, my mom was on the Soarin ride with Benjamin so I only had to share this slice of heaven with Vivian and like a terrible mom that I am, I told her that it tasted like broccoli and bought her a colorful Funfetti muffin instead! No shame in my foodie game. In the past, when Matt & I were eating something amazing that we didn't want to share, we'd tell the kids it was "spicy". It worked flawlessly for a while, but unfortunately our little Vivian is an adventurous eater so she "likes spicy" as she'd inform us, while simultaneously lunging in for a bite. Most parents are frustrated that their kids aren't adventurous eaters and we're over here complaining about it because we have to share. So enjoy those chicken nugget only years, parents! There's much more great food for you to not have to share that way! After devouring my "broccoli flavored" cronut in seconds, I went off to take some pictures while my little mini-me foodie happily ate her Funfetti muffin in the stroller. My girl! A little while later my mom and Benjamin joined us and we headed for the World Showcase, a foodies dream, in Epcot. The World Showcase is the second half of the park that is a collection of eleven different mini-lands, if you will, representing different countries from around the world. Each land has either a ride, or maybe a special movie representing their country, as well as shops and the most important part, restaurants selling their wonderful meals, snacks, and drinks. It's a foodies' dream! The World Showcase doesn't open until 11am so at about 10:45 we started heading over.
My kids' favorite ride of all time is this little boat ride in the Mexico pavilion, The Gran Fiesta
Tour featuring the Three Caballeros. It's a cute ride with Donald Duck and a catchy song. What's not to love? It's a must do for us. Also, a must do for us is Mexico's nachos!! So amazing. They come with WHITE QUESO! Need I say more? Obviously, after riding our little boat ride, we headed outside for some nachos. They're a pretty big serving so my mom was starting to feel it. Next though was Norway and Norway is never to be missed. The not to miss attraction at Norway for most is the Frozen ride, for the Wain family though, it's the bakery. Seriously. Norwegian bakeries, I'm sure, line the streets of heaven. Forget French bakeries and their fancy, foo-foo desserts. Norwegians know how to make the stick to your ribs (and thighs and love handles...) desserts! There are so many amazing goodies in that little bakery of love, it's so tough to pick! We went with our old tried and trues, Rice Cream and School Bread, while I made my kids eat lunchables from home. #sorrynotsorry
After our Norwegian bakery visit my mom tapped out of this eating adventure. #amature I was just warming up. My mom decided to head for a bus to Disney Springs to spend her afternoon seeing a movie at the AMC theater there while I continued pushing my little tax deductions around the rest of the World Showcase totally pigging out without any witnesses. Next up, we hit China, where I fought the urge to get an eggroll. "I can get one at home. I can get one at home." I chanted in my head as I walked on by... ala Dionne Warwick. Next was Germany where I also had to fight the urge to enjoy a pretzel literally the size of my head and an entire store dedicated to Werther's caramel. You can literally get anything with a coating of caramel on it in there. My husband loves their "butter bar" which tastes similar to Milk Bar's "Crack Pie", if you're taking notes. I successfully fought the urge to splurge in Germany since I had some other goodies on my mind and just continued taking pictures of each land while throwing fruit snacks and popcorn at my kids to keep them quiet. After Germany is Italy which is SO easy to skip for me. It's "Florida Italian", need i say more? I will say though, one of their main restaurants is really good, Via Napoli, but I can get it whenever I want because there's a carbon copy, sister restaurant in the city adjacent to Grand Central, Naples 45. It's on 45th street in the Metlife building. Check it out for some really great pizza & arancini- that's what I always get anyway. After Italy, is the US and well, no thanks. I took pictures of the pavillion only until their new BBQ restaurant opens later this year, that is.
Finally, I reached Japan where I was planning to get some food to get my taste buds primed and ready for my upcoming trip to Tokyo. Yes, I'm going to Tokyo in May!! Such a cool story but basically, my brother is going there for work and his wife had no desire to go, so I offered myself as comedic relief and he actually fell for it. Poor guy! Has he not been paying attention to all the calamity that ensues when I travel?! So I will be in Tokyo for a week wandering aimlessly in Tokyo, and of course at Tokyo Disney, while he's off at work. Sound familiar, Disney Foodies? #heworksidisney In the Japan pavilion, I enjoyed some shrimp tempura udon noodles which unfortunately I had to actually share with my kids since they never met a piece of pasta they didn't love. I raised them well. After that long food parade, I was pretty content. I started to head back towards the US pavilion rather than finish the rest of the world showcase since France has a big hill that I was not about to push the kids up in their stroller in the 85 degree temps with a full belly. I should have just taken on that hill because what I experienced next was pretty crazy.
You see, on my walk back towards the front of the park I noticed a coffee cart, Joffrey's, that always has yummy donuts and muffins. You'll remember, I started my morning with a glazed cronut from another Joffrey's stand so they've been offering some goodies lately. Well, like a beam of light pulling me in I spot a s'mores donut from clear across the walkway. I decide that I must have it no matter how full I was. I mean, I can always pawn it off to the kids when I start to feel my waistband buckling under the pressure. I am a responsible adult after all. I don't want anyone to lose an eye from my short's top button as it shoots off my shorts from the intense pressure my gluttony has caused to my waistline. I am thoughtful of others' well-being. So I head right over to that cart and order that s'mores donut and a passion fruit smoothie to wash it down. I notice that right by the coffee cart is a nice comfy brick wall to sit on and it's in the shade! I also notice that it's near a long walkway to a back gate only for employees that is known to have characters hang out at giving autographs and taking pictures. I think they use this area for newer (employees) characters just getting used to meeting with the public as it's always kinda obscure characters and it's never advertised so it's rarely very busy. So I take my goodies and head over to have a seat while the kids enjoy watching the characters. Goofy's son, Max, was there and an unrecognizable bear that I'm assuming is from Country Bears Jamboree, though he didn't look familiar to me.
Pretty quickly the bear comes over and starts interacting with my kids. It was a really touching moment or maybe I just felt that way because I was sitting in the shade eating a glorious donut. Either way, I was feeling the magic while I watched this bear spend some serious quality time with my kids and no one else. He was pretending to take their popcorn, then he took Vivian's straw and pretended to play the fiddle with it. Then the bear spots the donut in my hand and starts acting as though he's going to steal it. I'm cracking up watching him until the cast member with him that communicates for him, looks at me, puts her hands up and says, "I don't want to alarm you but there is a squirrel on your right." Sure enough, I look over and there is a squirrel on the wall I'm sitting on about two feet away from me. So I just look over but continue to watch the bear's interactions. Well, no sooner that I look at the bear, the bear starts freaking out and pointing. Unbeknownst to me, the squirrel had been slowly moving closer to me, his eye on my precious donut, and everyone around us started freaking out. Before I could get up, the squirrel had climbed into my lap!! He was literally sitting in my lap eyeing my donut that was not even a foot from him. Everyone around us is going nuts and I'm just sitting there wondering how to proceed. I mean I had a real life squirrel in my lap with Disney costumed-characters watching and freaking out! You can't make this up! So I start to shimmy a little but he's staying put. So I start to lift him off of me with one hand and I slowly slide out from under him while praying to God that he doesn't bite me, or worse yet, my donut! The bear is joining in on the freak out and once I'm out from under the squirrel the bear starts to try to "defend" me by doing kung fu moves towards the squirrel. Well, like watching a cartoon, this squirrel is not having it and kind of "checks" the bear. The squirrel then turns to face the bear and stiffens up while staring him down. The bear continues to do silly kung fu type moves and then the squirrel actually lunges at the bear like he's ready to fight! The bear goes running as did basically everyone else in the area, me and my donut included! Now, I should easily be able to say that this is the craziest experience I've ever heard of, yet experienced, with a squirrel ever, but alas that is not the case. I find it funny that my mom had just missed my experience with this squirrel because she too has a crazy squirrel story that beats mine for very different reasons!
Growing up, my parents were children's evangelists who traveled doing weekly kids crusades (similar to VBS) all throughout the US. They stopped for a few years when they had my brother and I but when my brother was 5 and I was 4 they sold everything we owned, bought a 5th wheel travel trailer and continued as children's evangelists, but this time with their clown sidekicks, Buster and Bubbles aka my brother and I who were homeschooled when we weren't "working our night jobs" as clowns. We traveled the US for five years visiting a total of thirty-nine different states. Each week we were in a different city or even state. It was an incredible way to grow up for sure! We experienced so many awesome things, saw so much of our country, and met some pretty incredible people from all walks of life all over this country, some of which we're still friends with today. Maybe one day I'll post more about these five years of my childhood, but we have a squirrel story to get to.
For this particular story we found ourselves at a church in Beaumont, TX. We were there for five days and in that time we were invited over to someone in the church's house for dinner. This happened a lot when we traveled. The pastors in the church and sometimes the congregants would invite us over or take us out to eat. This is probably why I've become such an adventurous eater. You see, my dad was raised by a strict, English father who was hardcore when it came to table manners, so naturally my father raised us the same. We never dreamed of turning away whatever food we were offered, or put our elbows on the table. Those were big no-nos, especially eating in someone else's home. It was a cool way to grow up though. By the time I was eight years old, I had seen thirty-nine different states, met all kinds of people, and ate all kinds of interesting foods... from my favorites like country-fried steak and biscuits and gravy to the unusual foods like alligator, rattlesnake, & venison in all forms (venison pepperoni was my favorite) to the just plain terrible foods like spam. At this particular church in Texas, my brother and I had made friends so we were over at their house for dinner so my parents decided to accept an invitation to dinner at another couple in this particular church's home. So my parents headed over to their home which was out in the middle of nowhere. As they're driving there my mom notices a heartbreaking sight of a squirrel in the road that had just been hit by a car. It was so tough on my mom to see as the squirrel was trying to get to safety but his back legs were badly injured so he was dragging them behind him. Well, that was it for my mom. She was heartbroken. So my dad, trying to easy her pain at this sight, starts trying to convince her not to feel bad for the squirrel. So he starts saying, "Rose, it's a squirrel! It's in the rodent family. It's basically a rat with a bushy tail. They're disgusting creatures..." It does finally work and she starts to get over it and move on not making my dad pull over to help the squirrel like she had first insisted, much to my dad's relief. As they finally get to the home they were invited to, they right away start to regret accepting this invite. The home was as country as you can picture. We're not talking Chip & Joanna Gaines country. We're talking Adam Sandler, Waterboy, country. There were random car parts, old refrigerators, and the likes all over the property. As my parents entered the home they noticed everything including the dinnerware was coated in a thick layer of dust, cat hair was so thick on the furniture that it looked like an actual layer of fabric. It did not look promising and my parents felt so relieved that my brother and I weren't with them! At this point, only the wife is there to welcome them. So she greets them and explains that her husband is still out back from just catching tonight's dinner. My parents figure it's venison, but go ahead and continue the conversation by asking what they were having. The woman then says, "squirrel and dumplings"! Yup, not even joking. My poor mother just had an entire dissertation about the vile rodent that a squirrel is and now she's being offered it for dinner. Almost immediately the husband arrives and tells my parents all about how he got the squirrels while my parents slowly die inside. At the dinner table my mom took the smallest amount possible and swirled it around on the plate while my dad took one for the team and actually ate it!! Thankfully, my mom is allergic to cats and you'll remember the house is basically coated in a layer of cat hair so she used that excuse to get out of there quick before dessert could even be offered. So now anytime you see a squirrel I'm sure you'll think of me and my crazy family!