Saturday, October 29, 2022

Book Review: Walt Disney World, Official Vacation Guide 2023

I am thinking so hard about doing our next Disney trip soon, and visiting two, maybe three, parks. Olivia and Jackson have been to all of them, Matt and I have been to all of them (and Typhoon Lagoon), but Pep and Lu have only been to Magic Kingdom. It would just be fun to see other places, but with a family of six, it is really hard to plan it out. Enter this book and I am obsessed with planning.  

Birnbaum's Walt Disney World

The Official Vacation Guide 2023

Walt Disney World honors its fiftieth anniversary with "The World's Most Magical Celebration," an incredible 18-month event that lasts until March 2023. As the resort celebrates and continues to grow and evolve, trust Birnbaum as your 2022-2023 guide for:
  • insider tips on how to see and do it all--and according to enhanced health and safety measures
  • detailed descriptions of all attractions, resorts, and eateries
  • money-saving strategies
  • a fold-out property map on the inside back cover
Get the scoop on what's new at Walt Disney World:
  • The latest additions to your "must-do" lists: the groundbreaking attraction Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance the, the exciting Slinky Dog Dash, the zany Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, and the Disney Skyliner--the aerial gondola system connecting EPCOT, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and four resorts.
  • Epic new resorts: the now-open Disney's Riviera Resort and the forthcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience.
  • The insider's updates on Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, the upcoming expansion at EPCOT, and more!
Inside we'll also tell you how to:
  • Plan a Walt Disney World vacation that's right for you, including deciding when to go
  • Stretch your dollar with money-saving tips and great value resorts like the Art of Animation and Pop Century
  • Utilize the latest options for Extra Magic Hours, the MagicBand, and Disney's FastPass+
  • Choose (and book) a Disney dining experience with our extensive restaurant coverage
  • Understand the Disney Dining Plan program
  • Reserve a breakfast with Mickey Mouse and his Disney pals
  • Enjoy Disney Springs, a vibrant dining, shopping, and entertainment district
  • Sign up for behind-the-scenes tours
  • Detect dozens of Hidden Mickeys throughout the theme parks
  • Plan the ultimate "land and sea" vacation with our Disney Cruise Line bonus chapter
If you're the kind of vacationer who wants someone to just hand you a schedule and tell you what to do and where to go, this book has you covered. If you like to plan everything down to pee breaks, you are going to get all of the information you need to do that. It covers all of the extra experiences in each park, most of which I had no idea even existed, including an Epcot Seas Aqua Tour, which doesn't even require park admission! So even if you maybe don't want to spend time in the park, you can still partake in Disney oriented attractions. 
I also liked that it broke down where to find food, specifically something your kids (or you) will eat, every food option is listed and broken down by what kind of fare it is. It'll tell you what park you'll find it, and it even includes ice cream AND kid's favorites, plant based selections, kosher, locations with the best views, open late, a great spot for those dining alone, or where to splurge if you're going on a fancy date night. 
I have to also mention there is information in here about the Disney Cruise Line (which Pep and Lu always shout for me to watch the commercials because they believe we can just go on a boat ride... I wish!), which is helpful because I feel like people don't always connect that with the parks. 

The frugal mom in me was SUPER thrilled to get pages and pages of coupons at the end because this mama also be a broke mama. At the very end there is a fold out map that shows you all of the parks and the resorts around them. It at least gives you an idea of where you want stay in relation to the park(s) you plan on going to. 

Overall? If you're a Disney newbie, THIS is a great starting point. If you're a Disney expert, this is still something you need to really maximize your vacation beyond what you've already done. I absolutely loved this and already have pages tabbed off and some plans coming together. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

A book roundup? You betcha!

I haven't done a book roundup in awhile, and I feel like it is more than overdue, right? Of course I'm right, so hang onto your butts! 

The Take-Over Friend - Carol Dines

A solid YA about a friendship we have all had at some point in our lives, and then the awkwardness of learning how to navigate it. While this book does have quite a few triggers in it, including mental health, suicidal ideation, self harm, and even animal cruelty, and you should definitely know that going in. I liked this one, it's short, I liked that it didn't have a lot of fluff (you know how I feel about book fluff), and I liked having one likeable character (Frances) and one not so much (Sonja). It hightlights the complexities of their upbringing, how that shapes them as people, and how that affects relationships going forward. I think your teen would like this one. 

When She Disappeared - Steph Mullin & Nicole Mabry

If you are a fan of true crime, you're going to like this one. We have a little girl who goes missing while on a bike ride, and nobody finds her, or any clues, and the town is forever changed. Fast forward years later, Margo comes back but she soon discovers that her friend's body was found in the swimming hole they used as kids. A documentary crew arrives to look into the bungled investigation and suddenly Margo finds herself helping out. Being a small town, it's likely they know the killer and have been friendly all of this time, but who? 

Again, I really liked this one and I was intrigued to the end! 

Next in Line - Jeffrey Archer

I grabbed this one because I am on a suspense/thriller kick and this screamed "could be a movie" to me. Unfortunately, I think maybe I'm not the right reader. I had a hard time getting into it, and the ending fell flat for me. You know who would love this? My dad. He is really into the Jason Bourne type action books/movies and those are the vibes I got with this one. I will say, it's definitely not short on action, nearly every page had you running to the next and I never really felt like I could put it down, so in that regard, bravo!

A Beginner's Guide to Murder - Rosalind Stopps

Listen, if I'm not learning how to become a good murderer in an effort to save people I don't really know when I'm in my 70s, I don't want it. What am I even doing with my life? That's exactly the kind of friends I want, ones who wouldn't blink an eye if I was like, "come on, girls, let's just commit a felony murder, I've got time on Tuesday", you know? Are we even friends if you balk at that? I really enjoyed this, I laughed and I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to laugh but maybe I watch too much true crime shows to take this seriously. I'm reading this murmuring my own suggestions like I know what I'm doing or something. Overall? Loved this one. Honestly, I feel like this is one I should just leave out on the table for people to see when they come over, let them wonder about my hobbies. 

I have so many books coming up, I am truly out of room on my desk! I'm overflowing, so I need to get crackin'. What are you reading lately? Any of these calling your name? 


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Book Review: The Dukes Rules of Engagement

How is your weekend going? We have been busy between fitting in fall activities because the weather is unseasonably warm and winterizing the yard, so that's fun. 

Being an adult kind of blows. 

The Duke's Rules of Engagement 

Jennifer Haymore

Some matches are made in hell…

Joanna Porter loves being one of London’s hottest up-and-coming matchmakers. But her heavenly vocation is about to turn into a nuptial nightmare—thanks to the Duke of Crestmont. He’s as handsome as he is insufferable and obsessed with all things proper. Matching him would cement Jo’s status as England’s greatest matchmaker. Except, of course, the impossible-to-please duke refuses all of her most eligible ladies…confirming his status as a complete and utter pain in her petticoats.

The Duke of Crestmont can’t believe he needs a matchmaker—let alone this spitfire of a woman whose kissable mouth and dancing, impertinent gray eyes tease him ruthlessly. But the people of his estate are counting on him to find a duchess. A proper lady with a flawless pedigree and immaculate deportment. So why can’t he stop himself from wanting his pert, lively matchmaker…instead of the perfect duchess?

Now the entire ton is watching as this determined, audacious matchmaker takes on the most powerful man in London in USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Haymore’s lively new Regency romp. And this show might just be the most outrageous one yet…

If you are a fan of Julia Quinn and sucked into the Bridgerton craze, you are going to love Jennifer Haymore's latest offering, The Duke's Rules of Engagement. 

I can't say I'm a Mr. Darcy stan, but I do believe the Duke of Crestmont himself is quite possibly, the closest replica of Darcy I can remember reading. A little prickly, a lot awkward, a whole lot of reserved and enough pride to a fault. A fault that actually causes him to be in need of a matchmaker, which is where Jo comes in and honestly, she's got her work cut out for her. He's not even necessarily looking for love, basically just someone he can tolerate and honestly, I get that. Ha! I absolutely loved this book and it isn't often that a historical romance makes me squeal, but this one did it. The best part is that the.... steamy stuff doesn't wait until 3/4 of the book is done, its actually early on and the author makes innocuous things like pinky touches make your toes curl because you know dang well that if this was you, you'd have the little butterflies in your stomach leaving you wanting much more. 

My only complaint on this one is that while I appreciate good descriptions and scene setting in a historcal book, this one had too much. Easily could have pared it down a bit, but a fellow reader said I was being too picky, so keep that in mind. Maybe I'm just a brat, folks. As with every romance, we've got an almost dramatic ending but the reason why seemed... lame? I guess maybe not lame but the reaction didn't match the crime, so to speak, you know? Overall though, I really liked this one and I definitely want more from this author. I'm a fan of the snarky humor, I need something to lighten the days. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Entangled Publishing for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! I will definitely be picking up another one from Jennifer Haymore, and if you're in the mood for some historical romance, this is a great option! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Book Review: Never Meant to Meet You

Are you the kind of person who follows and reads what you see the most of online, maybe through blogs but also Instagram and TikTok? I'd like to think I'm a little more discerning than that but I'm a basic bitch and honestly, I'm OK with it at this point. I saw this one all over the place before it came out, and when I had the opportunity to review it, I jumped on it! I am so glad I went with my basic bitch gut on this one. 

Never Meant to Meet You 

Alli Frank & Asha Youmans

Self-appointed fixer of other people’s woes Marjette Lewis is uncharacteristically determined to keep to her side of the driveway when it comes to her flawless neighbor Noa Abrams. Professionally, Marjette has her hands full as she prepares for a new class of kindergarteners and her first year of teaching without her best friend, Judy, as campus “Black-up.” And at home, her son’s budding manhood challenges her expectations, and her vexing ex-husband continues to be a thorn in her side.

But when tragedy strikes Marjette’s street, and an unexpected child shows up on the first day of school with an uncle who has all the class moms aflutter, Marjette is forced to contend with both her neighbor and her own heartache over losing the life she once thought was guaranteed. Through laughter, tears, and the gift of found family, Marjette and Noa navigate the rituals of loss together and discover the strength to remake their lives—whether they meant to or not. 
First off, if I was the type of person to annotate my books, this book would have been defiled, I tell you. The book is literally full of bent corners (I didn't have sticky notes, stop judging me) but there were two moments that I absolutely howled because I was doing the snort laugh and both were pretty close to the front of the book so I knew I was going to love this one. The first being a story of how she (Marjette) , totally well mannered and thinking she was doing the right thing, let a set of gardeners in to fix up her neighbor's yard and it basically turned into a well oiled theft ring that robbed her neighbor's house blind. Now, that's not funny but you know I was literally howling in my car in the kid pick up line and I'm absolutely sure I'm on someone's Instagram as the crazy lady at school today. The book is full of sarcasm, funny day-to-day things we mutter to ourselves or under our breath to our friends in Weight Watchers meetings of coffee dates, and it was an absolute delight to read. 

Not to meantion we have the actual meet of the story, women overcoming and moving on in life after divorce or death, betrayals in their own ways, and what it takes to open up to someone else and actually let other people in enough to pull you to the other side. The most important part of this book though is the fried chicken recipe at the back of this book and I don't care what anyone says, diet be damned, I am all about fried chicken. (I'll also be damned if anyone thinks I'm rolling up here with an entire chicken and butchering it myself. Um, no ma'am, Gold'n Plump has done a fine job with their GMO chickens, I'm not trying to out-do them, I am not Gordan Ramsey, thanks.) There is also a recipe for sweet potato pie but if you know me at all you know I don't like pie and I don't like vegetables, so I'm not giving that the time of day but you healthy eating folks might be down for it. 

I only had a few minor critiques that got my eye twitching as annoying, one being some of the cultural references literally made no sense and I had never, in all my life, heard them. Now, is that a me problem? Absolutely, 100%, do not let that be any kind of guide for whether you'll like the book or not. The other one, that almost had me DNF this one was Marjette because her characters isn't really likeable and quite honestly, in the beginning it outlines how her marriage went (and ended) and never in my life have I said, "girl.... you are the dumbest broad there ever was" because if she couldn't see the writing on the damn wall when she got pregnant? I have zero sympathy for you, cut your damn losses and run. Those pages alone should be a 101 on how to tell if your man actually doesn't want you but doesn't have the balls to just say it. 

Overall though? It was fun, it was entertaining, it was definitely a good one to have in my purse to pull out as I waited endlessly for kids in pick up lines. (Which I don't have to do anymore....mostly.... because Olivia has her license, and a car, and it is now her job to shuttle herself and her brother around. It's glorious.)

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Montlake for sending me a copy for review! 

This post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Where oh where has Sara been?

I get lots of messages from people asking where I've been, how is my health, how am I doing (besides reading), how are things? And for the most part you'll get the, "Oh... you know... the same..." and I'm rather vague.  

Because honestly? I really don't know how I am doing. I have had a really chaotic year in terms of health stuff, doctor visits, lab work, and crying in my car and/or closet (depending on the day). Let us start with November 2021 though, because I feel like the latest series of events kind of kicked off around then. 

Since my AFE, I have had a series of awful medical things happen and I know I used to do a good job at updating things here, but honestly, it feels like it is coming at me fast and furious all of the time and I really don't know my ass from my elbow some days. It's not so much that I am getting diagnosed with new things, but the things that I have been diagnosed with are changing, getting worse, or kind of morphing into something else, but nobody is actually sure so we wait. What I have consistently dealt with though are things that I could narrow down to a few categories: 

  • Fatigue: Guys. When I say fatigue, I'm not talking about the, "I wish I got more/better sleep, I'm really dragging ass and could use a nap" kind of tired. I'm talking about the kind of tired where you're totally fine and functioning and all of a sudden (literally), you feel like the Energizer Bunny as his batteries die down. It truly is like everything around me turns into slow motion, things sound far away or like I'm in a tunnel/under water, and I truly feel like if I do not lay down RIGHT NOW and sleep, I am going to collapse. As it turns out, I actually will fall down and sleep. Why? Nobody knows! 
  • Vomiting: Why people choose to vomit meals daily, maybe even multiple times a day, I will never understand. I go in random stretches of feeling totally fine, I can eat like a normal person and things will be OK to being a person who walks around her house carrying a red bucket and never leaves the house without a plastic Target bag (or ten) because I will puke out of nowhere. Think about food because I'm hungry? Puke. Try to eat a meal? Puke. Have to go pee? Puke. Want to take a shower? Puke. Answer the phone? Puke. It literally phases nobody in my house anymore, mom just pukes and we plan around the what ifs. I'm not even puking food anymore, it's bile, and then whatever the thicker, almost pudding like bile that comes after regular bile? Whatever that is, it is absolutely disgusting, never in my life have I ever experienced that and once that starts, then I'm in real trouble because I'm going to pass out. In other news, if anyone is looking for a good gift idea for me, a really good kneeling pad for next to the toilet would be awesome. Currently I'm balling up towels and that's not really doing it. The only thing I know I can always keep down are Wheat Thins. I will almost always have Wheat Thins in my purse (like a whole ass box or bag from the box), on side tables, next to my bed, literally everywhere. You know how an alcoholic would hide alcohol? That is me... just with Wheat Thins. 
  • Dizziness/Double Vision/Everything is a Merry-Go-Round: Honestly, this is the most unpredictable, and easily the worst, thing that I'm dealing with. Sure, fatigue sucks but I can take a nap and usually feel functional. Vomiting is not awesome, but I've got a bucket and Wheat Thins, come at me, bro. Dizziness though? You are actually totally fucked. There are medications of course, none of which work so I don't even bother. I could be totally fine and just like that, I feel like I'm on the fastest Tilt-A-Whirl, there is two (sometimes three) of things, and I am so damn dizzy. I look like an actual drunk college girl in 5 inch heels on a cobblestone street in the dark. It has made leaving the house near impossible. If I'm going to, it's a whole routine to do before, a whole series of things to bring just in case, and having several back up plans. I haven't gone to a store alone in... well over a year. Someone has to be with me because there is a good chance I will fall or definitely need to hang onto someone. If I get dizzy, I can chug a ton of water like I've never had water before, eat a bunch of salty snacks, and wait. If that's not working, I chug a ton of water and then eat a bunch of sugary snacks, and wait. Usually one of those works. If it doesn't, I have to go home immediately and go to sleep. If I'm alone by chance? I'm locking my car doors, opening windows slightly and taking a nap and hoping for the best. I'm not even kidding. 
Now, you're asking yourself, "Sara- what the hell, don't you ask a doctor?!", to which I say oh child. Seriously. I have been to primary, endocrinology, gastroenterology, cardiology, pulmonology, rheumatology, nephrology, neurology, the ER countless times, accupuncturist, balance and movement therapy, physical therapy, opthamology, and any weirdo idea anyone has come up with? Done it. All of it. No answers. Everyone just points at each other, meanwhile I'm in the middle eating Wheat Thins and looking like I've been on meth for a week straight. 

The worst though, was in November. I had been complaining that it was truly just getting worse and nobody really understood what I was saying. Until the day I passed out in the shower without warning, for 45 minutes, only to be woken up by Lucy holding my cell phone and asking if I want to call daddy. I had no idea what the hell happened, or how, and I was so disorientated. 

I know I hit my back, shoulder, and arm on the water spout going down, and I think I hit my head on the side of the tub, and probably bottom. I woke up to the shower being off (so I know something hit the little button thing that you push down to fill the tub) and the water hitting my forehead, so how I didn't drown, I have no idea. That's what my back looked like right after and that was an AWFUL bruise for at least a month. 
I had bruises like this in weird spots, so under my arms, one on the back of my neck, one on the side of my boob (but on the other side of my body, so that was odd), a bad one on my knee, the top of my foot, and god knows my head hurt like hell for days. Pretty much everyone was in agreement that I had a concussion for sure. Nobody can agree on why this would have happened. I didn't feel lightheaded or anything before, I truly have no memory of going down. So that was fun. 

Since then though, the dizziness and vision issues have only gotten worse. I rarely drive. If I do, please know that I have had enough water to accomodate three camels for a year and my bladder is probably going to burst. I've eaten an exact amount, I have snacks and more water, I have a bag to puke in, and I have a list of people to call should I get into trouble and can't drive. I can tell well in advance if I'm going to be able to drive myself to an appointment or not, and Matt will leave work to take me. I no longer walk outside because I get dizzy and disoriented. 

Which means that I have literally become a recluse. I'm lonely and sick. I don't go places, I don't have people come over because nobody wants to hang with someone who can't shower alone, pukes all the time, and literally only has Wheat Thins to eat. My house is a wreck, I have no energy, I'm exhausted, and I'm frustrated. I think I've narrowed it down to either endocrinology or gastroenterology at this point. I'm shit out of luck with endo because the doctor I've had since day one literally just died, which explains why I can't get a call back or reply message on the portal to save my life. Gastro FINALLY agreed to see me this Friday, so I'm just crossing fingers something good happens. 

The last straw at this point for me was yesterday. Yesterday I took Jackson to a doctor appointment. Got so damn dizzy so him and I just watched weirdos walking around the Hillside area for an hour while I chugged water and ate snacks. I got him to school and I just felt... not great. I was going to lay down but thought, I better pee first, you know? I pee, and I feel like I am actually being stabbed with pins and needles all across my lower abdomen and I have just a dull, but not comfortable, pain in my lower left side. I was at the sink and I remember thinking, "holy shit, I think I'm going to pass out, this hurts so bad", and I have a pretty high threshold for pain by now. So somehow I get to floor and decided to crawl out and into the living room to lay on the couch. 

Fast forward almost an hour later, I wake up, flat on my damn back, spread out like a starfish in my dining room (which is like half-way between the bathroom and the living room), and I have no fucking idea how I ended up like that. I decide I need to get to the couch, so I was able to stand up, I walked the maybe five feet to the couch, and I curl up in a ball and sleep for another hour. Now, nevermind I had apparently taken the dog out and he's outside and my back door is WIDE FUCKING OPEN. Hi, just come murder me. Have some Wheat Thins on the way out. 

By this point it is almost 3, so I know kids are coming home soon, so I get the dog, butt scoot my way down the basement stairs to my room, get into bed and slept for almost three hours. I was able to go back to bed around 11 at night, and I feel fine today. I'm tired but that's about it, same as every day. 


Blood pressure is all over the place. Beats per minute? I could go as low as 40 and high as 120something one time and I was literally sitting on the couch doing nothing. I feel fine either way, no different. I keep telling Matt that if this is how the rest of my life is, this is pretty damn bleak because I am in misery right now.