Eat This: Fleur de Lys at Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

I’ve shared before that I tend to overlook (or intentionally skip) the offerings at the various festivals’ France and Italy booths, as they tend to offer heavier foods that I don’t crave in the Florida heat. In part because of the cooler temperatures that we’ve had (on and off) so far this year, I’ve managed to try both menus early on and, while I was disappointed in Italy, I was thrilled with France and so excited to share my thoughts here.

As you’d expect, France’s Flower & Garden Festival booth, Fleur de Lys (see what they did there??), is located just outside and to the right of the France Pavilion in World Showcase, just after you cross the bridge from the U.K. pavilion. This year they are offering two savory dishes and one very sweet, along with a number of drinks.

  • Tarte à la Tomate Provençale: Provencal Tomato Tart with Sautéed Onions, Fresh Thyme, and Rosemary on a Flaky Pastry Crust ($5.50)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival France Pavilion Fleur de Lys Tarte a la Tomate Provencale

This was so simple and so good – fresh tomatoes and olives atop a light flaky crust. And I’m a sucker for rosemary and thyme. It was France’s take on pizza and it was wonderful. I’ll definitely be back for more…especially if I can dip it in the leftover sauce from this…

  • Confit de Canard aux Gnocchi à la Parisienne: Braised Duck Confit with Parisian Gnocchi ($5.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival France Pavilion Fleur de Lys Confit de Canard aux Gnocchi a la Parisienne

This is as delicious as it is ugly…. and I am *not* an indiscriminate fan of duck. It doesn’t take much for me to find it too greasy or fatty if it isn’t chosen or prepared well. This almost could have passed for a very rich chicken or turkey. And the gnocchi was far from the dense round type that you’d expect in Italian food. Instead is was a flat sort of dumpling. I cannot recommend this ugly little plate of food more strongly…especially if you are smart enough to get the tarte too and dip it in the leftover sauce.

  • Macaron au Chocolat en Sucette: Large Chocolate Macaron Lollipop (gluten free (?!)) ($4.95)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival France Pavilion Fleur de Lys Macaron au Chocolat en Sucette

You guys. Look how pretty!!

This was SO good. I’m not even a big sweet eater – and when I do have a dessert it’s rarely chocolate. Last year the French kitchen at Flower and Garden offered a raspberry macaron that got one bite from me before I had to pass it along to someone else because it was sweeter than I could take or enjoy. This is also very sweet but not nearly as overpowering. The macaron is light and filled with a rich, soft chocolate and then dipped in these pretty little balls of white and (milk?) chocolate that make the whole thing that much more fun and pretty. This might have been one of my favorite desserts at F&G so far.

  • La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush: Grey Goose Vodka L’Orange, St. Germain Liqueur, White and Red Cranberry Juice ($10.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival France Pavilion Fleur de Lys La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush

This thing is light and refreshing enough that I can forgive the obnoxious “glass”. The perfect thing for a hot day, especially when you have a macaron’s sweetness to cut. 😉

Have you eaten at Fleur de Lys yet? If you have, let me know what you thought!

Disney Parking: The Fly on the Wall

So yesterday Walt Disney World made the oh-so-earth-shattering announcement that resort guests will now generally be charged an overnight parking fee. The fine print can be found here – but the gist is that for reservations made on or after March 21 of this year, standard overnight parking for resort guests will cost $13/night for value resorts, $19/night for moderate resorts, and $24/night for deluxe resorts. There’s a carveout for DVC members staying in DVC deluxe villas for cash or points or staying elsewhere for points.

The Disney community was of course all a’flutter over the change and I’ve been among the people curious about the thinking behind it. Having slept on it, I think I’m now in a position to share with everyone my entirely fictional take on what the fly on the wall heard during this particular meeting.

fly on the wall.jpg

* * * * * * * * * *

Executive 1: Okay John. I know you said you had something important to talk about. I hope that’s true because I moved the yeti meeting AGAIN for this and that situation is starting to get ridiculous.

Executive 2: This is going to take about 5 minutes. Tops. You didn’t need to cancel anything.

E1: Meh. I already canceled it. Those guys are getting irritable. I don’t want to call them back again.

E2: Fair enough. Anyway, this will be quick. Basically tons of resorts are charging guests for overnight parking. Even Universal is doing it.

E1: You know we don’t care what they do.

E2: I know. I know. But stick with me here. I’ve been running the numbers and if we charged just $13 a night for value resorts, $19 a night for moderate resorts, and $24 a night for deluxe resorts….

E1: Wait – why in the world would it be tiered based on the resort level? It’s the same parking space.

E2: Oh. Um. I don’t know. That’s just how I ran the numbers.

E1: Gotcha. Carry on.

E2: So as I was saying, if we charged just $13 a night for value resorts, $19 a night for moderate resorts, and $24 a night for deluxe resorts…here look. I made a spreadsheet.

E1: John. You don’t need to make your own spreadsheets. We’ve talked about this. We have people for that. And they have the actual numbers.

E2: You know I love this stuff. Look!

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.49.06 AM

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.49.14 AM

*Yes. I mocked this up. Don’t judge me. I pulled the room numbers from Touring Plans and didn’t cross check them. If they’re a little off they’re still close enough. People with cars is a total guess for the sake of running some numbers. I reduced the number at DVC resorts drastically since members staying there are generally excluded from the new policy.

E2: We’d be making an extra $170K. EVERY NIGHT.

E1: You totally made up these numbers, John. And you’ve assumed 100% occupancy every night, which is close but a little high.

E2: Some of them. And yeah. But you get the idea. Oh and I excluded DVC members since there’s something in their contract that made it seem like we couldn’t increase the cost of their stays. Also those people kind of scare me when they’re angry.

E1: Good thinking. Have you run through how this is going to affect behavior otherwise?

E2: We’ve talked it through. With these numbers the effects should be minimal at most. The mega-fans that obsess over everything we do will yell for a minute. But they’re not going anywhere.

::muffled laughter::

E2: Anyway, like I was saying. No one is going to fly instead of drive because of this because the price of air is still way over this new charge. People are probably a little less likely to rent cars, but that’s a good thing because it keeps them using park transportation and on property. And we all know there’s a congestion problem with traffic and parking so even a few less cars is good.

E1: Fair enough. But this meshes strangely with other recent decisions – like when you talked me into offering perks like 60 day out FastPasses to guests at the good neighbor hotels. Are we trying to push guests off property?

E2: Have you tried to book a room on property lately??

::raucous laughter::

E1: True. Maybe the people complaining about room availability will like this.  I don’t know though. It still feels cheap to me. We’re not Spirit Airlines. We’re Disney. I don’t like the nickel and diming. Walt wouldn’t either.

E2: I know. I know. It’s a slippery slope. But this isn’t even going to hit the average family’s radar. It’ll show up as a charge on the bill at checkout. And everyone is doing it. People will complain for a few days and then this time next year people will have forgotten that this ever wasn’t our policy. Everyone is doing it. Let’s just rip the bandaid off and do it too. It’s a lot of money. And we’ve got a lot of projects. These road projects aren’t paying for themselves. And don’t get me started on Galaxy’s Edge.

E1: Enough said. Write it up for the website and let’s announce at noon next week. Leak it that morning to make sure that no one but the crazies threaten to storm the castle.

E2: Done and done.

 

 

******Our legal department (aka my paranoid alter ego) would like me to stress that I made this up completely and have absolutely no access or insight into the actual situation that led to this change. No harm was done to any flies (or DVC members) during the creation of this post.

 

 

 

 

Eat This (Maybe): Italy’s Primavera Kitchen at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival

Let’s start this review with some stark honesty:

Confession 1: True to my family heritage, I love Italian food – but I almost always skip Italy at the festivals because the last thing I want in the Florida sun is pasta and fried shrimp.

Confession 2: I ate this full slate awhile ago but was holding off on the review because I didn’t want to open reviews of my favorite festival of the year with a buzz kill.

All of this being said, let’s tear the bandaid off and get this done.

Italy’s Primavera Kitchen at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival is, of course, located just across the promenade outside the Italy pavilion. While it usually takes me awhile to get to Italy’s festival booth, I was with some dear friends with food restrictions that limited options – so we hit Primavera Kitchen to get the allergy-friendly frittata that they offered and knocked out the rest of the menu at the same time.

So, for starters, I love the Bulls and miss them already and thank them for letting me hang and eat my face off with them after Princess race weekend.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Photopass

But if you’re reading this for nothing but the food review you’re probably getting annoyed at this point. So I’ll save you further scrolling and get to it.

Italy offers three savory dishes and one sweet, along with a variety of wines, sparkling options, and an Italian margarita that I still need to get my hands on.

  • Frittata di Asparagi: Asparagus Frittata, Mixed Greens, and Citrus Dressing ($7) (vegetarian) (gluten free)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Frittata di Asparagi

I confess that I don’t know the ingredients in this. But as far as I can tell, it’s eggs with asparagus in them with some lightly dressed greens on top. If you really, really want to pay $7 for a small amount of scrambled eggs, I highly recommend this. Otherwise, not so much. Let’s move on.

  • Fritto Misto: Crispy Shrimp, Zucchini, and Spicy Sauces ($8)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Fritto Misto

This was pretty bland. Small-ish fried shrimp and zucchini with lots of breading and a generous drizzle of the aptly named “spicy sauces”. It made me feel like I was eating actual calories in Disney World, which is not acceptable. Even if I liked it, I wouldn’t want to eat it in the hot sun…. If this picture makes you want to lick the screen, knock yourself out. Otherwise there are better places to spend your calories and money and then you can just get some firecracker shrimp at P.F. Changs after your trip.

  • Ravioli: Maine Lobster Ravioli with Vodka Sauce ($12)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Ravioli

These are quite tasty, as they should be for $12. (Yes, that’s $6 per ravioli….) They are nicely cooked and filled with lobster and topped with these funny little things that can only be described as lox-flavored boba balls. (If you don’t like the taste of smoked salmon, do NOT eat the balls.) I don’t really have any complaints here except that they were nothing extraordinary and they cost a fortune. If you’re craving ravioli, they will do the trick.

  • Panna Cotta al Melone: Cantaloupe Panna Cotta ($5.50) (vegetarian) (gluten free)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Italy Primavera Kitchen Panna Cotta al Melone

This was absolutely lovely. A soft, melon panna cotta with a pretty little square of white chocolate and a fresh raspberry. If you, like many, are aiming to sample at least one food item from each festival booth, the panna cotta should probably be your choice at Primavera Kitchen. It was refreshing and smooth and not overly sweet at all. A perfect dessert for a warm Florida afternoon.

  • Chianti ($8) and Prosecco ($9)

These are lovely. And help to wash down the bitter resentment of eating a $6 ravioli. Enjoy!

Eat This: Northern Bloom at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival

We’ve already raved about the Smokehouse at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival. Now it’s time to talk Northern Bloom – the second booth whose menu I was dying to tackle after I did a first flip through the festival passport.

Northern Bloom is Canada’s aptly named kitchen at this year’s festival, and is of course located just outside the Canada pavilion in World Showcase.

The menu looked absolutely amazing and the foods themselves did not disappoint. As usual, I took one for the team and ordered the full slate of options – and here are the results.

  • Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown-Butter Vinaigrette, and Applewood-smoked Bacon ($6.50) (gluten free)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Seared Scallops

I dig a good scallop and Epcot’s various offerings throughout recent festivals have not disappointed. But here they up the ante because these scallops have been cavorting with BACON. I don’t know if it’s typical of this dish, but my order didn’t have much in the way of visible pieces of bacon in it. It was more like I was eating scallops that had been making out with bacon earlier in the day and still had that smell and taste all over them. They were SO GOOD. The beans were crisp and the potatoes were soaked in flavor and the scallops themselves were perfection. The brown butter vinaigrette was definitely strong, so if you aren’t a fan of vinegar this isn’t for you. But if you love this kind of flavor combo as much as I do I beg you to hit this booth up and not be bashful about licking the container clean. Waste not want not and all that.

  • Beef Tenderloin Tips, Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, and Whipped Potatoes with Garden Vegetables ($6.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Beef Tenderloin Tips

So this is a solid little dish without a lot of fanfare. If you’re craving a good stew-type dish (and who isn’t in Florida heat in the spring??) this will hit the spot. To be honest, after all of Epcot’s pureed root vegetable experimentation, I had to do a double take at actual mashed potatoes that lacked the soft creaminess of celery root or squash. No complaints here – just not a lot to say. If you’re traveling with a meat and potatoes kinda girl or guy, get them this. They’ll like it.

  • Griddled Maple Pound Cake with Warm Peach Compote and Sweet Corn Gelato ($4.50)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Griddled Maple Pound Cake

This is grilled pound cake with warm, soft peaches, gelato, and popcorn. So, in short, it is delicious. Honestly the cake itself took a backseat to the peaches and gelato, which soaked into the cake quite nicely to make for a sloppy, delicious, and not entirely overly sweet dessert. The verdict was that all cake should be under warm fruit and corn ice cream (and popcorn if you’re feeling frisky).

  • Maple Popcorn Shake with Crown Royal Maple Whiskey ($11.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom Maple Popcorn Shake

This is basically a maple whiskey milkshake with popcorn floating on top. So you should get it and thank god that there are no calories in Disney World. Cheers and enjoy.

Eat This: The Smokehouse at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival

I’ve eaten far too much at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, which has been underway since February 28 and runs through May 28, not to have shared any thoughts with the class. And so, without further ado, let’s kick things off with one of the booths that excited my taste buds the most going in: The Smokehouse Barbecue and Brews at the American Adventure.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Smokehouse

As usual, the American Adventure’s offerings are tucked away a bit to the right and in front of the U.S. pavilion in World Showcase. There are times when this causes me to miss their offerings for too long – but for this festival, between the enticing list and the unmistakable smell of the smoker at work as you pass the pavilion, I hit this booth early and will be returning often.

As I mentioned, you’ll find the Smokehouse kitchen to the right in front of the American Adventure pavilion, sitting beside a massive smoker and behind a topiary of everyone’s favorite deputy.

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The Smokehouse offers three savory dishes and one (very) sweet, along with a healthy list of beers, wine, and spiked or unspiked frozen lemonade. It was early in the day, so I skipped the drinks and kicked things off with the full slate of food items.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival The Smokehouse American Adventure

  • Pulled Pig Slider with Coleslaw ($6.75)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival The Smokehouse American Adventure Pulled Pig Slider

This is a popular sandwich and for good reason. I saw more of these than I could count being handed to guests as I waited for my own food. For $6.75 you get a good sized sandwich on a soft roll piled high with meat and crisp red cabbage coleslaw. Hit with some barbecue sauce, it went down easy enough to go back for more. But I didn’t…because this was waiting for me:

  • Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue, and House-made Pickle ($7.25)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival The Smokehouse American Adventure Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider

Hold onto your hats because in my (always humble) opinion, this is the thing to eat at Flower & Garden this year. I’m sitting here looking at the picture and calculating the minutes until World Showcase opens at 11 this morning. Eat it. And eat it often. The roll is soft and melds with the meat and sauces like butter. And while it’s melting in your mouth you can break to eat the crisp house-made pickle and sausage speared on top. The pickle is spiced perfection and the sausage is – excuse the ancient Greek reference – but if you’ve heard of Plato’s universal chair? This is the universal sausage. The Form of the Sausage, if you will. It’s everything you always wanted from a sausage but didn’t know it. Go eat some. But leave enough for me because I’m going back. As one should when a sandwich makes them pull out Contemporary Civilization class references.

  • Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalepeños ($6.50)

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival The Smokehouse American Adventure Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash

Is it weird to feel sorry for a dish? Because after eating the last two items I kind of wanted to say “bless your heart” to this ugly little pile of meat and veggies. It’s not terrible – it’s the same meat that’s in the other dishes with some soft veggies and sauce and a little too much of a kick – but it just doesn’t measure up and feels almost like an afterthought. If you’re avoiding bread, I’d get one of the above sandwiches and toss the roll before I’d do this one. Sorry hash. You are my red-headed stepchild of the group….

  • Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans ($4) (Vegetarian)

 

I’m not enough of a sweet (especially chocolate) eater to give this a fair review. If you’re a lover of warm, moist chocolate cake, you’ll love this. The cake itself is soft and tastes fresh baked, the caramel sauce is heavenly, and the spiced pecans give it a little welcome texture. Not surprisingly, the taste and texture reminded me of a German chocolate cake. If this looks like it’d be up your alley, it won’t disappoint.

Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival – The Menu Boards

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!! Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival is officially underway. It started late last week, on February 28, and runs through May 28, 2018. Disney has nearly eliminated the need to move most of the food booths around World Showcase Lagoon throughout the year, as Food & Wine rolls into the Festival of the Holidays runs into Festival of the Arts runs into Flower & Garden. But like many others, for me it’s this “last” festival of the season, Flower & Garden, with its colors and tastes and promise of spring, that tops them all.

This year, Flower & Garden hosts a very doable 15 kitchens. The options aren’t quite as pretty as those at Festival of the Arts – but the price tags aren’t as steep either. So as you roam World Showcase photographing the gorgeous topiaries and coaxing butterflies to land on you, you’ll be able to sample plenty of the goods for fairly reasonable prices.

Before I dig into the various options, perhaps it would help your planning to have every menu board at your fingertips….so without further ado:

The Honey Bee-Stro – Showcase Plaza

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Honey Bee-Stro

Pineapple Promenade – Showcase Plaza

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Pineapple Promenade

La Isla Fresca – Showcase Plaza

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival La Isla Fresca

The Berry Basket – Showcase Plaza

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Berry Basket

Jardin de Fiestas – Mexico

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Jardin de Fiestas

Lotus House – China

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Lotus House

Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market – Germany

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Bauernmarkt

Primavera Kitchen – Italy

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Primavera Kitchen

The Smokehouse: Barbeque and Brews – The American Adventure

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Smokehouse

Hanami – Japan

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Hanami

Taste of Marrakesh – Morocco

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Taste of Marrakesh

Florida Fresh – Between Morocco and France

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Florida Fresh

Fleur de Lys – France

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Fleur de Lys

Cider House – United Kingdom

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Cider House

Northern Bloom – Canada

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Northern Bloom

 

What have you eaten so far and what are you most eager to try??

Taking the Florida Plunge: Looking Back on Six Months as a Disney Local

We closed on our Florida home on August 11, 2017 – just 3 days before the kids were set to start at their new schools. The flurry of madness that preceded that day has, as these things do, settled into a barely remembered blur. And while I do still usually use my navigation system to get around, while I do still have the odd unpacked box in our house, and while there are still very much (and probably always will be) 2 places that I casually refer to as “home” – it didn’t escape my notice that this past weekend marked the six month anniversary of our becoming Disney locals. And that there was a first dose of perspective that came with this little milestone.

None of these things have come as surprises, honestly. But there’s a certain depth of understanding that comes with really living it. And I know so, so many of us daydream about taking these very steps. So, without further ado, the handful and a half of things that I can offer after half a year of life just behind the castle.

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1. This is still real life.

Again, worth noting, this wasn’t a surprise. But living it drives it home that much more. As the crow flies, our home is about 1.2 miles from Cinderella Castle. There are fireworks at my bedroom window every night. I wake up to the sound of the train whistle and TTC ferry horn and lie in bed with the lower notes of the Electrical Water Pageant streaming in through my usually open windows. Our local park isn’t a playground anymore – it’s Magic Kingdom. And it’s not rare that I take my kids to Epcot for an hour after school for nothing more than to watch the trains in Germany.

But it’s still real life. My kids still get sick. I still have to walk my dog. Most of my time is spent working and cleaning and folding laundry. Arguments and little tantrums still happen and groceries are purchased and budgets are made and life (and death) just otherwise continue as before. I am finishing this very post while simultaneously making dinner and helping my kids to mass produce valentines for school tomorrow. We are not on vacation. We are living our own reality – but we are living it in the place that is “home” for us as it always has been. The once dreamed of “lunch in Epcot” is a real thing. The train whistle still stirs my heart every morning and I am fully immersed in the world that I have always loved. My heart doesn’t have to ache for this place anymore. It is mine and we live our very real, mostly very normal, life with the honor of having it as our backdrop. I am not “living a dream”. I am living real life in the place that is right for us.

2. Parks and Fireworks.

Further to my above thoughts…I don’t go to the parks every day. Usually it’s once or twice a week – sometimes more, sometimes less, and often only for an hour or two. My days are more often spent working or running errands. But the parks are there. Even as I write this at my kitchen table, I’m aware of the train whistle blowing outside and grateful for its closeness. Even if today’s schedule doesn’t permit a ride on the Peoplemover – and it probably won’t – it could…and so could tomorrow’s. The “see ya real soon” note overhead as you exit Magic Kingdom used to make my heart ache on that last day of a trip. Now I simply know it’s true.

Similarly, I don’t run to the window every time the fireworks start. I watch them often. I take the 3 minute walk to the lake by the house when friends are visiting to watch them and their reflections on the water. When time permits, I pull my car over for a minute to take them in when they’re overhead as I’m driving home. But more nights than not their soft booms are just a comfort. A sort of clock chiming the known hour. A background din that’s become like the white noise of traffic when I lived in New York, or of frogs and crickets when we lived in Maryland. Fireworks and ferry horns and water pageants are the background noise of my day. I don’t necessarily run to them anymore. But they are there and I am happier for it.

3. It’s hot out but whatever.

As I type this we’re midway through February and high temps each day have been firmly in the upper 80s. Evenings have been breezy and beautiful. Days like this in February are the up side to half a year of extreme heat and humidity – not just the summer months but pigtailing into late spring and early autumn. I love heat and hate hate hate to be cold, so this works for me. Even my dog, a massive black Great Dane, has been known to lounge blissfully on our lanai in the August heat. We are a summer-loving family. But, while the season of heat and humidity are much longer here, the hottest days here are no worse or more humid than the ones in the DC area that we left. When you vacation here in August, you are running around outside all day in the sauna that is central Florida. When you live here, you’re more likely to be out for an hour or two on occasion and otherwise enjoying your AC like you would be anywhere else. So in short, for us this factor works and isn’t that big of a deal. We are happily trading ice and snow for February days by the pool. But if you hate the sun or something…you know….perhaps consider other locales.

4. Internet Friends and Friends in Real Life and the Madness that is Disney Social Media.

If you’re at all engaged in Disney-related social media, you know that the network is massive and at times almost overwhelming. Whether you interact on Facebook or Instagram or via blog or vlog or podcast, etc. etc., the Disney community is massive and oftentimes wonderful. Seeing how hundreds of online acquaintances have panned out in real life has been interesting. For the most part I’ve been incredibly impressed with the power of the community down here – even if it does need to be approached with as much common sense as anything else. If nothing else I’ve had to learn to draw boundaries for my own personal wellbeing, as I’m pretty introverted and just need time to myself to recharge for my own mental health. Not necessarily a point that will apply to everyone – but living in a place that is this social, where events are this constant, where the weather has you out and about constantly, and where friends and family that aren’t local are visiting frequently, it’s been an interesting thing to learn to handle day-to-day for an introvert like me in a way that doesn’t drain me empty.

5. Creating your own happiness each day isn’t easy.

Bear with me here because this gets a little deep. And it’s certainly not Disney or Florida life-specific. In fact it’s something that’s been with me since very soon after I walked away from corporate law well over a year ago.

Being tangibly responsible for your own happiness can be overwhelming – or at least something very new to get used to. It’s something that’s true for each of us no matter what our situation is – but having been effectively stuck in Big Law for well over a decade, unfulfilled by it but feeling that I didn’t have another viable choice that would be responsible to the people I loved, what was lacking in each day, and overall, was to some extent out of my hands. I did everything that I could to make the best of it and have talked about that ad nauseam, but all in all I justified it by knowing that I was providing for the people that depended on me.

When you decide to rewrite your life from scratch, those excuses go away. Your happiness and fulfillment – your feeling about the day when your head hits the pillow each night – are on you in a way that cannot be ignored. If I am not proactive in moving forward into something better, I am aware of it in a way that I can no longer deny. That is incredibly empowering. But it is also a bit intimidating. When your happiness and fulfillment depend on nothing but you, the excuses fall away.

And that brings me to my last sort of realization for the moment….

6. Life doesn’t have to be harder than it has to be.

Again – this isn’t Disney or Florida specific. And it definitely isn’t going to apply to everyone. But one of the big things that I’ve slowly learned to accept over the last year and change is that life doesn’t have to be a constant, self-imposed challenge to the extent that that challenge isn’t fulfilling you or moving you forward into the life that you want. This might all sound a little hokey – but as an extremely Type A person who lived most of her life up until fairly recently equating the “next step” with whatever was the next thing in line to conquer, it’s been an education to learn to be more deliberate and self aware in my choices. Growing up I chose the hardest classes and past times, chose an Ivy League college in New York, studied Japanese, went to Harvard Law, got a job at arguably the best corporate firm on Wall Street, did the biggest deals, tackled the hardest eating regimens. And on and on. I assure you that this isn’t a list of brags. It’s a list of the path that I wanted to conquer – and “conquering” has never been what’s hard for me.

Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty in there that I truly did love. At 18 years old, New York’s energy meshed beautifully with who I was. I adore Japanese culture. Harvard was an extraordinary experience. But so much of my larger choices were based more on what was objectively challenging than what was right for me. They say if you can’t make it in New York you can’t make it anywhere. And so I wanted to be in New York in my 20s – and make it. They say something very different about Florida. But I love it here. And I’ve been learning, slowly, that that’s alright. I’ve spent enough time proving myself to everyone else. I don’t need to be the most impressive person in your Facebook feed. Like I said above, my happiness (or, more appropriately, my fulfillment) is on me, and that’s where my focus is these days. Sometimes (and more) that’s much harder than meeting society’s predefined version of success.

So there it is in a nutshell. My perspective after the last 6 months as a Florida and Disney local. This is a little deeper and less about the fun of living here than might be expected – but it’s the honesty of what came to mind as I started to look back. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s similar for many others, because making a move like this usually comes with a list of reasons that aren’t as simple as loving Mickey Mouse.

But honestly. I really love Mickey Mouse too….. ❤

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