Why We’re Going to Disney “AGAIN” for Our Fifth Anniversary
Those of you who know us personally are probably literally –facepalming– yourselves right now, which is exactly why I decided to write this post. Every year since our honeymoon, Disney has been involved in – if not been the sole destination of – our anniversary. Outside of our anniversaries, thanks to the court date(s) we’d have to go through to get a travel order if we wanted to leave Florida with the kiddos, our vacations pretty much consist of: Disney. For years now, we’ve been at the point where we say we’re taking a vacation and our friends, family, and/or coworkers roll their eyes and say (sometimes snarkily – if that’s a thing – sometimes just observantly) “Disney again”. I think it’s partly because of the sort of judgment we’ve gotten from the beginning about our love for Disney that I was determined to do something special for our fifth anniversary. New York was on the radar, Vegas was out there too, but then time just trickled by, as it always does, and our fifth is nearly upon us! After the whole near-death experience on my last airplane ride, I decided places that required such a long drive (e.g. New York & Vegas) would require longer vacations to cover, which we just can’t afford right now. (Hopefully it’ll make for an amazing road trip some day!) So, after coming to terms that we’d be stuck traveling somewhere in Florida again for our anniversary, I started exploring our options.
My first choice was the Keys, as I remember going there with my family, and Konrad has never been; however, after discovering that a nice place would still cost hundreds of dollars a night, and knowing that I wanted a weeklong vacation if possible, the Keys were quickly ruled out. So, we turned to our timeshare sampler with Diamond Resorts International. They have a program we can take advantage of that would allow us to buy their other customers’ weeklong timeshares. Unfortunately, the only places that were available during the time we were looking to travel were Orlando and St. Augustine. St. Augustine sounded promising; I had only been there once before and for only part of the day. Despite my mom making me question what we could possibly do in St. Augustine for 7 nights, after a lot of research, we decided there would definitely be enough for us to do. Neither Konrad or I were sure what we wanted to do, it felt like we were choosing between a new adventure or something old, but reliable. This morning, though, it was almost like I had an epiphany that led me to my decision. Deep down inside, I actually want to go to Disney again. Here are my reasons why, in reverse order of importance:
Okay, so this one is really silly, but the Orlando area has Shipt service and St. Augustine doesn’t. Because our place to stay in Orlando has a full kitchen, it’s not uncommon for us to bring or buy groceries while we’re there. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone to the store only to return and be like oh crap, we forgot –insert item(s) here-! If I’m going to pay $7 for a baby jar of mayonnaise (totally did that in one of our resort gift shops once), I want it delivered to my door, dangit! (Okay, so Shipt isn’t that expensive, but the gift shop sure was!) Not to mention, if I get frustrated with Konrad, I can just go shop for someone and make us some extra spending money for the rest of our vacation!
EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival (aka nostalgia)
We have nothing but happy memories from any time Konrad and I have been at Food & Wine by ourselves. The food is (almost) always good, and I love that we always make ourselves try new things, if new things are on the menu. Sometimes we find that those things are so good that we wind up going back for more the next year (like Konrad and escargot!). Not to mention at the low costs per single serving appetizer portion, it makes it feel like something is actually affordable at Disney! We love to walk around to the different countries, try something, and get our passports stamped – maybe this year we’ll finally fill the whole thing again! (I think we got it filled for stopping at each country on our honeymoon, but never since then.)
There is still new stuff for us to do
This is what gets most people when we say that we’re going to Orlando again. They always think haven’t you guys already done everything there is to do? The short answer? No. Even without consulting the internet for new ideas, I can tell you enough things we haven’t gotten to try yet that could take up nearly the whole week!
- Meeting the new Star Wars characters at Hollywood Studios – Sure we’ve done Star Wars Breakfast, but since they’ve gotten rid of Star Wars Weekends/released The Force Awakens, there are plenty of new photo-ops for us here!
- Trying restaurants on property we haven’t eaten at yet (our goal is to try them all!)
- Tours – We’ve only ever done the Keys to the Kingdom tour, and we LOVED that one!
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
- Frozen Ever After
Not to mention things in Orlando that aren’t Disney!
- Diagon Alley
- Cloak & Blaster – We wanted to visit this board game café when we were up in Orlando for the ALA conference, but it turns out the only day we tried to go (Monday), they’re closed!
- Um, hello, the new Orlando Cat Café?!
- Cool Stuff Inc AND Four Rivers (two of our Orlando favorites!) opened new locations that are only a 15 minute drive from our resort – we’ll get there in less than half the time it took us to get to the other locations!
- Ripleys Believe it or Not – As hokey as it sounds, that was one of the things on the to-do list for St. Augustine, so why not try the location in Orlando?
- Laser Tag – For one of our previous trips, I had looked into Hard Knocks
- Escape Rooms – So I don’t know of any particular escape rooms in Orlando, but I’m sure they’re there! And I’m sure Groupon will have deals on them!
Can you imagine what else we’d discover if we did things like consult the great Google? Or ask locals?
We won’t have any kids
This was really what tipped the scales for me. Throughout our fostering experience, we have been big on including the kids in family plans as if they were really part of our family. In my opinion, though, even if we had biological kids, it’s okay (probably good, even) to leave them behind to have some special moments with your spouse. For me, this means Valentine’s Day and our anniversary. Somehow, until this morning, I didn’t realize (or remember) what “no kids” would mean for us. As huge Disney fans, we (and others) always thought of how magical it would be to get to take kids and watch them experience Disney, too. Don’t get me wrong, some magical memories have been made with the kids (all of them, really), but with our boys’ behavioral issues, sometimes it feels like a majority of the time is more borderline-tears I JUST WANT TO GO HOME than magic. Without the kids, we can be selfish without being selfish. We can stay out late and not worry about it causing grumpy or overly tired kids, we can ride rides together rather than worrying about height restrictions, we can spend all day at the game store without worrying about the kids being bored out of their minds if their tablets die…
Thanks to the experiences my parents gave me (Key West, Washington D.C., and weeks spent in Arizona stick out most in my mind here), I enjoy historical sites and places! I would like to go to St. Augustine some day for an extended amount of time (as in, not just the afternoon). But I would also not at all mind waiting a couple of years to go with the kids and give them that kind of experience, too! Not to mention, I can’t imagine St. Augustine is as miserably crowded as Disney is during the summer! In the meantime, I choose Disney.
Our Ten "Highest Scoring" Games From 2015
Well, we haven’t kept up with the blog as much as we wanted to… and January is already over. HOWEVER, I thought I’d talk about my favorite games from 2015.
A couple quick things to note:
- We started getting into the “hobby” about Christmas time 2014, so this list includes games given to each other during Christmas that year. It’s close enough to 2015, right?
- The games on this list are games we played/discovered in 2015 — not necessarily games released in 2015. We’ve spent the last year getting more into the hobby, so we’re discovering games released over 8 years ago.
- This is MY list. I know Elisabeth likes most of these games, but her order or list might be a bit different... which will be at the end of this post. :)
Smash Up. There’s a lot of fantastically nerdy things in the world, so why choose one to be your favorite? Take two of them and… smash them together! Want to put the feud to rest and play as Plants & Zombies? DONE! Want to be a Time Traveler (Such as Dr. When) riding Dinosaurs (Dinosaurs… on a spaceship!!)? Go for it. Once you have your team, you can attack bases laid out on the table with Minion cards. Once a base breaks, you score points. First to 15 wins! I like this one a lot, but it can be quite chaotic. You can try to plan ahead, but chances are, someone will do something THEY think is awesome, and completely thwart your plans (I’m looking at you Jarred). Because of the chaos, and my lack of winning, this was the strongest debate with Pandemic, but ultimately, I always enjoy it. I mean, I can have Cats fighting alongside Giant Ants… and who wouldn’t want that?
Five Tribes. I actually like this game better than several on my list. In fact, I even did a full fledge review of it in my last blog post, so I’m not going to get into the game mechanics of it all. The reason it’s lower on my list is because I don’t love it as a two player game. Every other game on this list I’ve enjoyed just as much when it’s just me and Elisabeth. It could possibly be in the 3 or 4 spot, but as it stands, I LOVE this game, but have to deduct points for a weak two player variant.
Steam Park. Want to entice robots to come to your theme park that you build based off dice you roll and put on your mechanical pig? OK, then this is the game for you! This really doesn’t hit the table as much as I think it should. The artwork is beautiful & the gameplay is fun. I’ve discover the mechanics sometimes confuse new players, but once you get the rhythm of the game going… I’m always happy when I’m done, looking at my cute little amusement park.
7 Wonders. When we first got this game, we played it. A lot. I personally HATED the two person variant, so after one play of it, we came up with our own, where we played two cities each. THAT was fun. It’s a card drafting game, playing one from your hand and passing the rest to your neighbor, all the while trying to build your civilization. How much goods do you need to produce? Military? Science? As one of the first games we purchased and with lots of new games to try, it hasn't hit the table as often as we first got it, but I’ll always be willing to play it. One of Elisabeth’s gifts to me this Christmas was the Babel expansion, and I really look forward to getting that to the table.
Takenoko. Such a great gateway game. It’s simple to teach and relaxing the play. The goal is simple: get the most points by growing bamboo, eating bamboo, and laying down land. We’ve even recently added the Chibis expansion to this game, which adds just enough variety, without making it too complex. What’s wonderful is that I can have just as much fun playing it with two players as I can with four, which is not always the case.
Lost Cities. Our friends the Angels gave us the two player card game. Then, the amazing Mishnes showed up in Ohio with the board game, and we were hooked. It’s a betting game. Can I get the cards that will send my explorer far enough along the track? Should I put my guy worth double the points here, knowing he could score me double negatives? It’s simple, it’s fun, there’s a little of a “HA! I got here first!” element.
Seasons. I’ve been interested in this game for a long time, and finally received it as a gift from Elisabeth on Christmas! I was not disappointed. Rolling & drafting dice to help make you a powerful sorcerer, controlling the elements of nature. The ultimate goal is to play the cards in your hand which help get you victory points, but there's other ways to get victory points and things you need to do... there's no clear "Oh, that guy's winning." In fact, when we played with Jon, I swore he was killing us. But Elisabeth won and Jon came in last. After our first game, I was immediately ready to play again, and that's a sign of a fun game to me.
Mysterium. It's Dixit meets Clue. This is a co-op game where a murder has taken place in a manor, and a ghost is trying to tell us who killed him and have his/her soul put to rest. You must find the murderer, the location, and the weapon (sound familiar?) within seven "hours" by interpriting visions cast by the ghost. Elisabeth loves this game. I love this game. We fight over who gets to be the ghost. It plays up to 7, meaning we can pull it out with a larger group. The art is beautiful. I'm gonna say this probably about all the games here on out, but go buy this game.
Dominion. I first saw this nearly 5 years ago on a friends Instagram post. I asked about it, and for some reason never bothered picking it up. So when Elisabeth and I wanted two player games to play together, I bought it for her for Christmas and it sat in the shrinkwrap for two months. When it finally hit the table... it kept hitting the table. It's a game about deck building, starting with 10 cards and building up. The base game is fantastic and allows for a vast amount of variety, but we've since aquired 3 other expansions. If you get another one, get Seaside. I LOVE this expansion, especially with the addition of Action-Duration. Thanks to Eric & Natalie for giving it to us!
Legendary. I like Marvel. I like Deck Building. What a perfect combination! I got this for myself, but man alive... Elisabeth just fell in love with it. When I took her to buy games for her birthday, we got nearly every expansion, and other than one out of print expansion, we have every Marvel additon. Another co-operative game, you recruit heroes to kick villian butt. You need to manage the city crime and take out the Mastermind. I love this game so much, I've played it multiple times solo.
BONUS: Elisabeth's Top Ten˙
- Lost Cities
- Smash Up
- 7 Wonders
- Kingdom Builders
A few honorable mentions, aka, should Konrad have a top 15?
- Agricola: This is a heavy Eurogame. So much so, that reading through the instructions made my brain hurt. When Elisabeth and I tried to play it, we didn’t understand it that well, and Elisabeth, who has told me she will try it again someday, has not in the year that has passed. So why does it make my honorable mentions? I played it again with our friend Jon, who explained it a bit better… and I REALLY like it. It’s hard.There’s a lot you have to think about and keep track of to win, which makes me enjoy it. Plus, it was a Christmas gift from my wonderful bride, so of course it holds a special place in my heart.
- Kingdom Builder: It’s a simple and fun game. In it, you are building a little empire on various plots of land: Flowers, Grass, Woods, Dessert, & Cavern. A single card determines where you go, which is not my favorite mechanic, but can limit your options if you don’t think about every move you make. You can gain powers to enhance your turn, and those can make the difference depending on the goals. Not heavy in theme, but I feel it holds a lot of replayability between the different boards you can pick out, as well as the various goals. This one just barely misses for me, because I’ve had a LOT of fun playing it, particularly on our Disney Cruise with the amazing and wonderful Angel family.
- Pandemic: ARG!! If there’s a game I’ve gone back and forth on, its Pandemic. I kept fighting back and forth between this and a few that made my list, but ultimately decided to hold off, since we just started our Pandemic Legacy campaign. It’s a co-op game, meaning it’s all the players vs. the game. You’re a team traveling the world as it outbreaks with various diseases. You need to cure them, while at the same time doing your best to treat diseases so they don’t outbreak and overrun the cities they are in… oh, so much fun. We recently got an expansion which we have yet to bring to the table, but we know we’ll enjoy. Win or lose, we’ve always enjoyed this game.
Five Tribes & the Camwhales
"Five Tribes" is a fantastically fun game that provides both diversity & complexity for the experienced player, but is simple enough to include a new gamer. In it, you are in charge of moving members of, well, five tribes across dessert landscape, making sure they meet up with one of their friends, or fellow tribesmen. When you meet your matching colored meeple, it'll do one of several things:
- Work towards points
- Work towards resources, including Djinns that can help you throughout the game
- Assassinate meeples to gain yourself points or take points from other players
Things I Really Like
Randomization. While other games in our collection have even more variety, Five Tribes still offers enough randomized elements to create a unique game every time. You start by shuffling the land tiles and placing them in a 5x6 grid. Next, you finish setting up the board by the placement of meeples, which is decided by pulling 3 at random from a bag to place on each tile. It's nearly impossible to start the same way twice.
Purchasing of Turn Orders. I found this unique, as it is the first of our games that used this particular game mechanic. Every round (each player takes one turn), you bid for turn order that round, from 0-18. The catch is, you're bidding with your victory points, so you have to decide if being able to take a specific move is worth losing victory points. It may appear to help you now, but cost you at the end of the game. NOTE: Elisabeth and I both found this mechanic a little tedious in a two player game. With multiple players, this mechanic weighs heavily in the strategy, since even if someone doesn't "steal" your move, their move may render whatever you were planning useless. As we played just the two of us (in which, you use two turn markers instead of one), we discovered that most of the time we were just rotating turns as you would in a normal game, so instead of enhancing game play, it really became a way to just spend our Victory Points.
No Single Way to Win. How you approach winning is in itself is a strategy. There are several things that earn you points:
- Claiming Land Tiles. If you finish a move by clearing a tile, you claim it and the points associated with it. This is done by placing one of your Camels, or as we've come to call them, Camwhales*, on the tile. The tile's value can increase if, through game-play, a Palm Tree or Palace has been placed down on the tile.
- Collecting Victory Point Coins by playing Blue Tribesmen (Builders)
- Djinns (Each has a point value, but can also provide extra points throughout the game.)
- Gathering Resources. The more varied the resources you collect, the more they are worth at the end of the game.
- Collecting Yellow & White Tribesmen (Viziers & Elders)
We played one game where it seemed that Elisabeth would be the clear winner. She had lots of land, tons of Victory Points piled up, and many, many Djinns. However, I had one Djinn that increased the value of my Yellow Tribesmen (Viziers), creating a 20 point increase, which enabled me to edge her out by 2 points.
Things I Didn't Care For
We already talked about turn bidding for the two player game, but there was one other thing I didn't quite love. Lack of clarity. There were several places in the rule book that I would have appreciated a little more clarity, specifically when it came to scoring the Viziers. All things considered, these are two very minor complaints.
Score: 9 Victory Points
This game has quickly become one of my favorites. As I said at the beginning, it is simple enough for your average player, but for someone who likes a more advanced game, this really hits the spot. I think that that is a really hard place to land, and for that reason, I would feel good recommending this to anyone. Even 7 Wonders, which I think has much simpler game mechanics, has a more difficult learning curve. While Five Tribes has a high price tag, I would argue it is worth every penny. It's one I expect we will be playing in our house for a very long time.
*So, when we were first unboxing this game, people were a little confused about the camels. Because the camels are laying down, from one direction they look like camels and from the other it looks like whales half out of the water. There ended up being a lot of silly debate at the table on whether these were camels or whether they were whales or whether or not they were some sort of weird camel-whale hybrid. Hence the name "camwhales".
A Tabletop Marriage
Welcome back! We're gonna try to get this thing going again. When we first started this blog, We had some different interests, including Vinylmation. That has changed a lot, and I decided to change that category to "Tabletop" so we can talk about one of our favorite things: games!
For Elisabeth and I, 2015 has been the year of strategy board games.
Back in college, nearly 10 years ago, one of my friends came back from a break with a board game called "Settlers of Catan." It wasn't quite like anything I had played before. First, the board was different every time, meaning no two games ever felt quite the same. Second, unlike most board games where the game mechanics is how you roll the dice, spin the wheel, or draw the cards, there seemed to be a great deal of strategy involved. You haggled and traded resources with each other, as well as strategically blocked others from getting resources, all while figuring out what the next best move was for you. Needless to say, I was hooked. I spent many a night with friends playing this game and it is highly addictive, but be warned ... never, and I repeat, NEVER play with Dennis Lunt. That guy is pure evil.
In 2010, one of the first things Elisabeth and I first did together when we started seeing each other was play Catan in her garage with some friends. Soon after, we sat down to play a round of one of my other college-discovered strategy board games: Heroscape. I learned she had a love of "Sneaky" Dinosaurs, and truly enjoyed strategic game-play. However, since then, we haven't really played. Heroscape can be a beast to set up, take down, and buy your armies, while Settlers really requires at least 3 people to play.
Then, last fall, a couple of friends invited us over and we ended up playing "Munchkin" with them. While not a board game, it is a highly strategic card game, requiring a lot of teaming-up and backstabbing that, if played with your wife, could end up leaving you sleeping on the couch. We thought it was FANTASTIC and ended up buying a version of it. However, this again required 3 people. On our anniversary, we bought a 2-person, much simpler game called "Fluxx" and remembered Oh, yeah! We really like doing this together! Plus, ever since we got kids we've been looking for ways to have time together at home, or at-home-date-nights, that didn't include sitting on the couch watching TV or a movie.
So began the quest for strategy games we could play together with just 2 players. During December 2014 and the months that have followed, through sales and a gift from the Mishne, we've added more than two dozen games to our collection, including several expansions. Some are easier then others (King of Tokyo), some we still can't play by ourselves, some have become absolute favorites (Dominion & its expansions) and some are meant to be played by me and a friend because Elisabeth was not a fan (Agricola).
It has become one of our favorite things to do, both by ourselves, and with friends. We hope to share some reviews & opinions to encourage you to, in the words of Wil Wheaton, "play more games!"
I remember starting in middle school taking a lot of pictures. a LOT of pictures. A down right annoying amount. I liked capturing 'moments," which often would end up with random shots of people and scenery. My friends would often ask why I didn't take more posed photos. I took plenty. I just wanted to capture the moment. I think I often spent more time capturing the moment then living it. I even remember an outing in college when a friend of mine, Geoff, said "Enough with the pictures. Just bowl with us."
Somewhere along the line I slowly stopped taking picture. I have my theories as to why, but that's another story. I've actually gotten to a point where I find my self say ing "oops, it would've been nice to have captured that memory." But those are rare.
However, as I've become less obsessed with taking photos, it seems our culture has become increasingly more. We take photos of the food we're eating on our dates and upload it to Instagram. We post pictures of the person we spent a month arranging to have coffee with to let the world know "Hanging out with this guy right now." As my bride and I sat at the Billy Joel concert last weekend, I noticed so many people, rather then soaking in the music, snapping photos and opening apps, trying to come up with clever captions and hashtags, and posting. Facebook. Twitter. Vine. Instagram. I even had people asking for it on the post I made before we left. I'm not saying it's bad to take photos. I did take a couple. But it struck me how obsessed we are with letting other people know the good times we are having rather then maximizing them. Personally, I was satisfied with having my arm around my bride and watching one the greatest musicians I never thought I'd get to hear live.(only because my wife is thoughtful, generous, and better then I deserve).
There is, however, something I've found that I really like: the hashtag #latergram. The concept is that you're posting photos that you took earlier at a now later time. I think this is brilliant, and it is my challenge to you. Especially to spouses out there. Whether you are spending time with friends or having a special date night with your wife, ignore the urge to share. If you want to take photos, go for it. But then put the phone back in your pocket. Don't steal time or moments with those in your presence to validate it or share it with those on the internet. Live in your moment. You spent a month arranging coffee with a good friend because your lives are busy. Let that be your focus. Don't lose a second of that time to Social Media. People can know later that you had coffee. I promise. They can even know later that it was with your really awesome friend. On your dates... let your spouse be your focus. Don't let technology rob you of or cause a break in the intimacy, even for a second.
My goal for 2014, whether Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, is that any moments I share are a #latergrams. If it breaks into the moment I'm sharing, then I don't want to do it. I don't want to rob my wife, kids, or friends of my attention. Sorry internets, you just don't deserve me more than them. You can find out about it later. Cause no number of likes or comments can validate that fact my life is absolutely brilliant more than actually maximizing my time with those I love. I look around and see its true, and who cares if anyone else knows it but me.
7-Eleven's Free Slurpee Day
7-Eleven convenience stores are giving away free slurpees today from 11 AM - 7 PM! Supposedly you should get an actual small size this year, but we still got the 7.11 oz. cup where we went. So grab your husband/wife, and head our for a quick (kid-friendly, if you so choose) date before it's too late!
As shocking as this may be, this was my first time ever having a slurpee. I tried orange and it was pretty good! :) Did you participate in free slurpee day? What flavor did you get, and what size was your 7-Eleven giving away?
SONIC's Summer of Shakes
Sunday night I was craving a milkshake, so Konrad suggested going to SONIC. When we pulled in, I saw this sign and freaked out! In fact, our friend "Emergency Konrad" can attest to that as they were on the phone at the time and all they both heard was a bunch of high pitched squeals as I read it really fast and squeaky-like.
While this might not be a doable date idea for you if you have young children at home, I highly recommend you make it a point to head to your nearest SONIC after 8 PM for half price shakes. I'm not saying to leave the babies while they're sleeping or anything, but if you can get a sitter/relative, or if you have children old enough to leave home alone, GO TO SONIC!
We got one small (which looked like most mediums) and one medium (which, you guessed it, looked like most larges) milkshake in amazing flavors (coconut creme pie and peanut butter & jelly) for only $2.98 including tax! I know what we'll be doing more often this month! :)