I Love Cocoa Beach

Let me tell you where to find the best fish tacos. Ready? The Sandbar on Cocoa Beach. It’s one of those seat-yourself sand-everywhere type places that just screams, “Beer and tacos and surfing all day!”

I think I’ve hit up The Sandbar every time I’ve been in Cocoa Beach, and I love it to death. Trust me, it’s great. After a few rounds of beach volleyball, crashing on the sand and sipping ice-cold lemonade, my group stopped for lunch here and then reclaimed our spots on the beach. Between the sand and the surf and the sunset, it was absolutely gorgeous and a total blast.

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But the highlight of my Labor Day was not the perfect weather, the great friends I was lucky enough to join or even the delicious fish tacos. No, the highlight of my day was discovering ‘I Dream of Yogurt,’ the frozen yogurt shop based off of my favorite old TV show, I Dream of Jeannie.

It’s perfect, and intentionally so, because the show takes place on Cocoa Beach.

We were literally driving out of Cocoa Beach when we passed by the sign. I let out a tremendous gasp of excitement, to which the girl beside me asked, “Do you want to stop here?” (A reaction possibly due more to the fact I was freaking out than anything).

“Yes!” I exclaimed. “Yes, yes, yes!”

Inside, episodes of I Dream of Jeannie were playing on a television. Signed paraphernalia from Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman lined the walls.

You don’t understand,” I tried to explain. “I’m the biggest I Dream of Jeannie fan ever. I don’t even have words to describe my excitement!”

The froyo was great, the company was fabulous and the atmosphere was unparalleled.

This was, by far, the best Labor Day I think I have ever had. It was … (wait for it!) … just beachy.

And that is certainly not my last time in the most magical frozen yogurt shop I’ve ever encountered. I will be back faster than you can blink and say, “Yes, Master!”

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Discovery Day: Take Two

To anyone who has ever been an Epcot Cast Member, you remember Discovery Day. (Probably.)

You know the drill–a run-through of the Four Keys Basics (repeat after me, class: Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency!) and a mostly-walking tour of Future World, followed by a boat ride around World Showcase and a visit from your respective Coordinator of Training.

And the magical secret Epcot initiation that I want so badly to share but swore not to, with my right hand raised and the oath “So help me, Mickey!” ringing in my ears.

This is my second Discovery Day, which is to say I have been re-Epcot-ized. No more Magic Kingdom for me! Not for the next few months, anyway.

And boy does it feel good to be back. I love Epcot, love with a capital LOVE.

There are some things I was reminded of on today’s walking tour, a refresher course in the magical world of Walt’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. For example, there are over 11,000 triangle tiles on Spaceship Earth (the actual number seems to vary depending on who you ask or which website you use) and Ellen’s Energy Adventure is 45 minutes long. And Innoventions is a really awesome way to get out of the heat.

The best part about Discovery Day is arguably the ride portion. A quick trip to the past and future on Spaceship Earth provides air conditioning, a good synopsis of what Epcot is all about (uniting the world through technology, without forgetting our past) and some good fun facts.

“I can smell Rome burning from here,” one girl behind me said, inhaling deeply in the queue line. This is a reference to the piped-in scent featured on the ride, the smell of smoke (faintly like bacon, really) pouring from the scene where Rome burns the scrolls of Alexandria.

That launched the group into a discussion of other piped-in smells, like the Main Street sweets and confections scent and the popcorn in Storybook Circus. This, as most conversations do when speaking with other Cast Members, turned into a fact war. Who has the most information? The craziest Guest story? The most magical moment? (Cast Members are both defensive and territorial, and the ‘True Believers’ all like to out-magic each other, a rather angry defense system I think comes from smiling day-in-day-out).

“Have you had Beverly?” someone asked in a challenging tone as we walked past Club Cool. For the uninitiated, Club Cool is a Coca-Cola sponsored store in Epcot where you can taste various carbonated drinks from around the world in shotglass-sized portions. Beverly, an Italian aperitif with a horribly bitter aftertaste, is a bit of an initiation for Cast Members. It tastes gosh-awful, and it’s a running joke to not warn people about the taste and laugh at their reaction.

“I once chugged five portions of Beverly on a bet,” the girl I was with said. We all made respective disgusted faces, because most people refuse to even finish a single sip.

We strolled past all sorts of landmarks and discussed important facts at length. We made friends with our fellow Cast Members and checked out our costumes for the Festival.

Most of all, though, we got to high-five each other for escaping our respective locations for the next five months. Because everyone loves Food and Wine! (And those Hollywood Studios Cast Members were relieved to get away from Frozen.)

Actually, during the introduction portion of the day we were asked to list our name, location and favorite Disney song. When we’d gone around the room, our guide applauded and said, “I noticed not a single one of you mentioned Frozen. That’s how I can tell you’ve all been Cast Members for a while!”

(For the First Time In Forever, we do not want to Build a Snowman and think it’s time to Let It Go.)

No matter the reason or season or how we all ended up in the same room, there was a tangible zip of enthusiasm in the air. It’s a new season! A new Festival!

Hello, Food and Wine 2014! Bring it on.

This Is A Post About My Mom

Today is my mother’s birthday.

*Insert cheers and applause here!*

If I were to try and begin describing my mother, I’d use up the whole internet. That’s right–I’d burn out the World Wide Web. So I’ll keep it rather brief.

She is a wonderful lady, and I don’t say that lightly. I love the phrase “wonderful lady” and use it with the utmost rarity, because to me it connotes a person that shines like a diamond in the rough, makes people feel good about themselves and inspires generosity. When I hear anyone call a person a “wonderful lady” it elevates the way I think about them. It’s an automatic response.

So, truly, I mean that my mother is a wonderful lady in every sense of the word.

Those fortunate enough to have wonderful, caring mothers will all argue that their mom is the best, makes the best apple pie and is, in general, Mom of the Year every year. I am here to tell you that my mother is the best, and even though you might think your mother is the best, I’m sure we’re all right in one way or another.

I used to kind of think that having a person to depend on made me less independent, less strong. I thought of all of the people who didn’t have supportive families, and thought if they could do it, so could I. This was a ridiculous way of thinking, because I am blessed with a fantastic family, and they are an incredible asset.

It’s not to say people who aren’t surrounded by a great family can’t be phenomenal, because they can.

I’m just saying it took me a while to appreciate how great people, like my mom, can be more valuable and influential than I ever realized.

You see, my mom is fantastically independent. And pretty much a superhero, because she works, raises four children, two cats, a dog and fifty acres of wild Wyoming land without missing a beat. She has dinner on the table every night and a smile on her face. And even though she has a tendency to work much harder than she needs to and stress out (deservedly) about many things, she is somehow always content– incredibly happy, even– with life.

She is the one that inspired me to cook, taught me everything I know and stood by me when I had meltdowns over the phone.

She buys me maple syrup when she comes to visit because good heavens, that stuff is expensive. (I’m talking real maple syrup, the 100% Canadian kind. That corn syrup Aunt Jemima nonsense is unacceptable.)

She passed onto me her addiction for coffee.

She taught me that anything is possible through lists, logistics and prayer.

She taught me that balanced eating does not consist of green M&M’s and Starbucks. (To which I argued, “I’m eating my greens!” and didn’t get away with that answer.)

She gives great hugs and can’t sit though movies because they’re unproductive. And sometimes when I open my mouth to say something, I sound exactly like her.

(And even though I keep telling her scrunchies will never come back into fashion, she keeps ignoring me, wearing them, and leaving them in my apartment. Next thing you know, I’m wearing a scrunchie, wondering just when it was my resolve crumbled and I literally turned into her miniature.)

Yeah, I know a lot of young women dread becoming their mother.

All I know is, if I turn out half as great of a person as my mother is, I’ll be doing just fine.

(Thanks for sitting through my sappy post. Hi, Mom! And Happy Birthday. You don’t look a day over 29.)

College, Coffee and the Hipster Underworld of Late Night Poetry Slams

I attended my first poetry slam, guys. That’s been on my bucket list since I read about it in some teen novel while I was in grade school. It was held at Stardust Video and Coffee in Winter Park, one of the best café locations in the world, complete with cement floors and quasi-vegetarian health food. And delicious loose-leaf tea.

The poetry slam was everything I ever imagined. It was an experience that popped straight out of my imagination and into real life. The emcee had both a beard and plaid shirt (hipster announcer: check and check!) and the rounds were decided by a rock-paper-scissors match between readers.

The poetry was, on occasion, dark and moody, born of the minds of students who sat in the back of the room in high school. One poet was shaking so badly she couldn’t hold her tablet still to read the words, and another contestant had to hold it for her. She finished to loud applause and cheers, but didn’t advance.

This was far from being ‘professional’ in any sense. The prize was $20, which the winner kindly used to buy the other contestants “a cheap beer” from the bar.

Poems about pennies on train tracks, wolves and desserts, the Brooklyn Bridge and Florida heat crackled over a wheezing microphone as the contestants read on stage. A red curtain provided a great backdrop with brightly-lit Edison lightbulbs piercing the dim, buzzing room. It was, simply, the place to be. No question.

The evening’s featured poet (who I hadn’t heard of and still don’t recall her name) read a good twenty minutes worth of artistic, slanting words. Her tone was moody and monotone, her hair a mess of curls. She was rocking a pair of grey skinny jeans and hefty black combat boots. I didn’t understand a single poem she read, and she later let slip on stage, “I really have no idea what my poems are about.”

The evening’s winner was a lanky man with great stage presence, whose poems featured great lines like, “In life, you have to break a sweat sometimes. Anyone who doesn’t is F***ing tourist.” (That was a paraphrase, and a reference to his poem on Florida, which was the single most entertaining poem I have ever heard.)

Afterwards, everyone sat and mingled, reveling in the vibe of the company of fellow word-lovers. My previously-mentioned hipster/vintage school friend Alex and I drank French sodas and loose-leaf chamomile tea and listened to the hum of happy poets, chatting about school and English and the nonsensical words spilled on stage.

(Before the poetry slam, we’d had a charming dinner and stopped for two-dollar ice cream at a roadside stand the size of a lemonade stand, painted to look like a house. It was charming and unusual and the perfect fit to the night.)

I can now cross ‘Poetry Slam’ off my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to go, and this is an experience that hit the nail on the head. It was exactly what I expected, and surprisingly wonderful. Looking at the readers, you’d never guess the thoughts that run through their heads and spill onto their pages.

Although really, I doubt even they understand the words that they find after a good brainstorm.

Anyway, if you’re curious about this weird and charming little café of quirk, here’s a slightly older video that holds all of the strange hipster charm Stardust Video and Coffee has to offer. See for yourself!