My name is Diana Elizabeth. My husband and I live in a restored 1952 red brick home that sits on a former citrus grove in Phoenix. I'm a journalist who went from writing about fashion and reporting on the LA red carpet to a photographer and FORD model. When I'm not behind or in front of a camera, I enjoy blogging about my home projects, and the things that make me happy with camera in hand.
I appreciate old homes, love adding fruit trees to our yard, and I firmly believe making a house a home is a wonderfully fun ongoing project. I'm bravely jumping into the domestic life hoping one day I will bake a homemade pie so I earn my badge. This is a glimpse into my life and work.
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Diana Elizabeth says she still doesn’t know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, she was paying more attention to the crazy shows!
Yep, no kids in our party at Disney World, but was it odd? Not really.
My girlfriend Kate swore, “There’s something magical about Disney, you’ll see,” she reassured me over our regular happy hour dates. I had expressed my concerns about my seven days at Disney World.
The last time I was at Disney World I was around 10 or 11, my brother was 7. The only thing I remember was that the big silver ball at Epcot Center was a ride, and it was my favorite and it was dark and had stars. So revisiting it 20 years later I was happy to discover it all over again, as an adult. Some of you may not have gone since you were a kid too, so let me tell you what the experience is like as an adult.
Favorites include: Yak & Yeti Restaurant, a pan-Asian restaurant at Animal Kingdom -and Jiko an African restaurant located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge – the lamb was amazing (below), you will most likely need to make reservations way ahead of time. Duck and lamb, my two favorites. Also if you can, go to the Beauty and the Beast’s Be Our Guest restaurant, it’s so uniquely fun, I loved it!
2. If you’re celebrating something, wear your button!
My parents were celebrating their anniversary and got about 6 free desserts! You can get your free button at almost any store or information kiosk – just ask around. You can get a First Time at Disney, a Birthday, whatever! You never know what you might get but you’ll definitely be welcomed all through the park with a greeting, it’s so fun!
3. You should stay at a hotel in the Park. So you can take the bus that comes every 15 minutes back and forth – for those naps, if you want to go back earlier, or sleep in, it’s so convenient. And you can also get shuttled from the Orlando airport straight to the resort, your entire traveling to and from is handled.
And if you do have kids, the hotels are crazy entertaining, look at our Cars themed hotel at the Art of Animation Park. The inside was even more themed and so adorable.
I also loved the Animal Kingdom Lodge where you could wake up to a giraffe right outside your balcony.
4. The off season is winter. We went middle of January and lines were 10 minutes or less. No bugs, too.
I asked an employee the best times and she said from Thanksgiving time through March is great, minus Christmas because that’s a popular time to attend. I know that might not work with some of your kid’s school vacation schedule but if I were a parent, I’d pull them out for a week, plan their homework accordingly and go. Unless you think it’s worth waiting 1.5 hours in line for a 1.5 minute ride.
5. Disney’s technology is incredible. If you stay in the park, you get shuttled to the hotel from the airport on the Magical Express – bags included. You don’t even touch them.
And you get a wristband (you pick the color ahead of time) which is your key to your hotel, entrance to the hotel park (if you also have a car) and Disney Park pass, and fast pass. You also get to head into the park and depart the park 1 hour earlier and later than everyone else.
6. You should plan your vacation using My Disney Experience, an App.
You can add people to it, make your dining reservations, fast passes including meeting the characters, and you can move them around just open up the App. You can also use their free wi-fi to do this, it keeps you on schedule and you can plan out your days at the park.
There you go adults!
And then when you get bored at night, you walk around the Art of Animation Studios and you take pictures like so.
The above photo I just want to tell you Blake just kept telling me, “Lean more!” to which I replied that was not possible without me bending my knees. In which he then said, “Lean like Michael Jackson!” Oh, yeah that’ll do it.
And what do you buy at Disney World as an adult for a souvenir? A silhouette! I’m not going to lie when I tell you I had a fit when Mr. Wonderful wouldn’t do it at first because of his “hat hair” and to my frustration he then found another silhouette cutter the next day and was happy to do it.
These will be new return address stamp and stationery y’all. I’ll show you tomorrow what they look like.
Diana Elizabeth had an amazing time at Disney World, truly. It is a magical place, and she had a great time with her family.
Packing for a 10-day trip isn’t really easy. So I brought a ton of layers. January isn’t a popular tourist month for the parks which is AWESOME because it meant no crowds. But, it’s still a little chilly – in the 60s and sometimes 70-80 so you never know what you’ll wear. So, lots of layers to change if necessary was all I did.
My favorite thing to wear that was the softest thing ever, was this Crest Mock Jacket by US Polo Assn (c/o). that I could wear alone or under the vest. It kept me so warm and comfortable. I am pretty sure I’d like to nap in it too, it’s like wearing a warm blanket.
Here I am wearing it under my vest which got an equal amount of wear:
By the way, that Mickey shirt was a family shirt and we were all wearing it only every one else wore it under their clothes because we picked the wrong day to wear it. Oh well. We found ours at Target in the men’s section and bought the entire family one. Only $12 each!
Here’s my younger brother at Epcot who is doing what he calls a “Diana Pose”. Pretty close.
Check out the baby stroller behind me. Plenty of those around the park of course!
And here’s what my mom wore and I told her if she kept wearing that St. John’s outfit she’d be mistaken as a Disney employee. And to prove my point, check out their outfits. She was approached twice being asked for help which cracked me up. Oh all in good fun, whatever! Love that my mom doesn’t care.
Speaking of not caring, I totally added to my sweatpants collection. I fit in size XL in girls. So, I got these Princess Letter Sweatpants. I will only wear them to bed, don’t you worry.
And if you ever forget to be fashionable, Disney has some discrete Mickey apparel in scarves and shoes that I found pretty creative.
And don’t forget your poncho. Because when it rains sideways and all over, and mists too, a rain jacket isn’t going to cut it. Don’t worry, about 90% of the park will be wearing one so you won’t feel out of place.
Diana Elizabeth sent Mr. Wonderful home with her dirty laundry so she had more suitcase room to buy stuff. He went home a few days earlier, he stayed 7 days instead of 10.
My version of London and Liberty at Disney World
For those who already know me, you’ve heard me say how much I dislike amusement parks. I liked them when I was little, loved those thrill ride parks that make your brain rattle inside your skull from extreme force, but once I got older, I didn’t go often and I lost interest.
My brother who is a civil engineer and is fond of the layout of the Disney Parks was willing to organize most if it, while my parents as generous as they have always been my entire life, spared no expense, sponsoring the trip to have us all together. Thanks mom and dad!
This week I’ll be blogging about Disney World and a few tips here and there if you plan on going as well as photography tips for the common situations you’ll find yourself in while at a park. I also want to tell you about Gatorland which was something I was not expecting. I’ll even do a video soon!
I fell in love with this guy again:
I caught myself smiling at the light show parade when I saw Mickey, and I got a little nervous when I got to meet the characters like I was small again. It’s true. Disney is a magical place, and we all have a childhood bond to these adorable characters that it made me so happy to be there. If this girl who’s too cool for
school Disney can tell you how much Disney World rocked, then you know you’ll have a great time too. Here I am with my little brother, he was too excited about this meeting.
If you have not seen Wreck it Ralph yet, I totally suggest it. I’m not a cartoon person but it was so adorable and creative.
Why not have a little more fun and take some selfies with characters instead? Me and some old friends of mine!
Plus, Disney knocked it out of the ballpark for what the offer. So creative with their technology and so imaginative visually.
I also have to add that I ate the best food I have in the longest time there. Disney Parks has really high end restaurants so you an eat well. More on that later.
So that’s it for today as I’m catching up around the house and working on blog posts this week. I hope you have a wonderful start to a fresh new week.
Diana Elizabeth sometimes thinks she’d run out of things to talk about, but then she comes back from a trip and all she thinks about are all the posts she can share.
Ok maybe not the politics or a few things out there, but gosh I still do love the Irish (minus the mean Dublin bus driver who left me at the stop!) but anyway, this is one of those trips that totally changed me.
I was so in awe in Ireland, especially the fact that plants could just hang. And yes, I know I could buy them and do that in the desert, but it’d be so unrealistic. I’d have to water that thing a few times a day. I just knew with the Ireland weather which is comparable to Seattle they didn’t have to water their flowers at all.
And they were everywhere. Hanging off windowsills, flowers, flowers, flowers! Cascading flowers!
I’m jealous, can you tell by my tone?
And probably no drip system needed either. NO DRIP!! Sure this was at Ashford Castle and they have landscapers but come on, I’m pretty sure this didn’t require much watering. Unlike that one time I was trying to mess with our drip system timer and realizing it hadn’t gone for a few days nearly killing everything we owned. Oops.
Let’s not forget Cullen’s Cottage.
I loved that there were just green things growing in the stone. I’d like to plant a fern or some flower between stone crevices here only chances are they’d get eaten by a bird or burn up.
I woke up this morning really missing Ireland. Can you tell?
I miss seeing these little creatures too:
Look what I found to make that happen in my own backyard:
Outdoor sheep and lamp lawn ornaments anyone? Just kidding.
Diana Elizabeth says she still thinks that’s awesome.
Rocking Sony’s noise canceling headphones on the way to IL (in-laws)
It reduces up to 99.4% of ambient noise. You can take cell phone calls with it. It’s dang sexy looking too.
Great for airplane trips, or long car rides with little ones screaming, even if they are right next to you. I used to jump when the captain would come on the air, now I can’t even hear him – haha.
So what exactly is noise canceling? Does it just pump way louder music into your ear canal? Well, sorta. What it does is it senses outside noise with a built-in mic and sends an equal-but-opposite canceling signal to the headphones.
Also comes with…
It works with Apple and Android devices. Buy it here.
On a side note, since I gave away my iPad and use the Sony Xperia Tablet, I use a feature that really makes the sound pop. Something that really only Sony can do on their Walkman app on the tablet.
I have a HUGE crush on Sony. They really just gave me the best job in the world reviewing their products.
Diana Elizabeth won’t go on a trip without her noise canceling headphones. She also noticed over Christmas travels that many people take their music seriously with some hefty headphones. Earbuds are so not good enough!
Disclaimer: I am part of the Sony Club Blogger Program by Sony Electronics where a group of selected bloggers have been given the opportunity to test and review Sony gear.
You’re right, that’s not me and Mr. Wonderful, those are our friends who I decided to do a little impromptu fun session over a recent Sedona weekend.
For the record, since this is a mixture of personal and photography on this blog, images taken for this post were taken with my Sony NEX-5R - a mirrorless camera with DSLR quality. I don’t shoot with this professionally, but I think it’s absolutely worth taking note how amazing the image quality is with the right lenses. Plus, if you just know how to pose and find light, you can still secure some fantastic images.
Here’s a shot I took before a golf ball nearly whacked me a foot away and I darted back inside. I shouldn’t have been standing on the green, my bad.
I also figured you might be curious of the grounds, so I took a few pics.
The only photos I edited a wee bit were the ones I took of Jill and Ryan. I primarily used the E-mount (Sony) 50mm f1/.8 lens which is fantastic. I love the compression and the lens gives a pretty close feel to how I regularly shoot with my Canon 5D Mark III.
Yes I backlight for the most part, but when you have scenery like this, who cares if your subjects face the sun? So worth it.
After we all hopped in the car (4 couples total and a few babes and toddlers) and wanted to get some views.
What a fantastically fun weekend. Thanks JM for being one of my best girlfriends and inviting us along on this trip. So grateful for all you have been to me and how you’ve been there for me since I’ve met you. I love you.
On another side note, I’m really struggling with the idea of blogging every day, but then when I thought I wanted to quit/lay low for a bit, I received 3 sweet messages that very day out of the blue that really encouraged me. It’s amazing how a few nice words can really spur you on or put things in perspective even when you feel discouraged. It also reminds me to give more compliments and encouragement so that I could help others when they might feel they just need a little bit of a push.
Things I’ve learned/done this week:
Diana Elizabeth will soon show you what equipment she packs for travel and professionally. She’s jotting down a list of blog post ideas, for those (many) times she wonders what to write about. Have a fantastic weekend!
My Ireland earring turned necklace charm came back from the jewelers earlier this week. I am absolutely crazy about it. It’s 10K gold and Melayne and I decided it was the perfect size for a necklace charm, so we split it.
The Claddagh ring originated from Galway (one of our favorite places we visited) and the heart represents love, the hands represent friendship, and the crown represents loyalty. It’s typically used as friendship rings but commonly used as engagement rings too. I just read that in Ireland and the States it’s handed down from mother-to-daughter or grandmother-to-granddaughter. How special is that?
My girlfriend Kate told me that when she and her twin were young and traveled with her grandparents, they would encourage the girls to pick, “something that would last forever.” We had a good chuckle over the things we would have picked as a child to the reality of collecting things that truly last forever. What wisdom. Kate still has her paperweight from London and I know I’ll always have this to remind me of the pure beauty and memory of our Ireland trip.
And of course made in authenticity on the back.
Diana Elizabeth thinks buying things that she can use all the time are great souvenirs too. She can use them every day and think of the places she’s been.
You call people English, not British, FYI, only Americans are the ones who call the Brits, I mean, English, British. I was happy to return four years later, much sooner than I thought to enjoy this beautiful city. London is just a 50 minute flight from Dublin so after our Ireland trip we decided to explore London since Melayne has never been. If you fly into LHR, there’s the Heathrow Express train that takes only 15 minutes above ground and 20 pounds to take you into the train station at Paddington in London. You can then get a cab to wherever you need. Super fast and really affordable, the best way to go.
This is my friend Hitch, also known as James. He is an Irish boy living in London, and a friend I met four years ago when I was in corporate marketing helping open up the London base. He was spelling Fulham to me, and when he said the letter “H” it sounded like “Hitch” and I wrote, Fulhitcham. A little confusion back and forth made us realize that he was saying the letter H. And so, I gave him this name. I adore old friends, even when they have the guts to ask if you’re wearing pajamas when you’re wearing flowy jogging pants. That English bluntless, sheesh – wouldn’t sound as nice if they didn’t have a nice accent to get away with it.
Melayne and I jumped on a double decker Big Bus Tour to enjoy the sights. Your 24-hour ticket doesn’t start until you get on your first bus stop and they scan it. We got the 48-hour pass.
We were suggested by a sales person from Fortnum & Mason to check out Sketch. Um, let’s just say the place is a trip, like Alice in Wonderland on acid. The egg pods? Oh, that’s the bathroom and that’s where you do your thing as a man talks to you and tells you what type of animal you are hatching into.
A few more sights after detour shopping…
Ah, the Parliament!
We also saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace which I was thrilled to finally see. When I went in October they had just changed the schedule, wasting my time of freezing my tush off as I waited at the gates. Make sure you check the schedule and times before you go!
My favorite structure in all of London, Westminster Abbey. I think I love it so much because of all the royalty happenings that have taken place here. I love the royals!
This is on the side of the building and I had to take another photo of it.
Melayne also had this thing with jumping in front of things – castles, structures, it was hilarious. By the fourth time I had to time it, I nailed it and I could probably catch her in perfect jumping form by the first shot. My speedy trigger finger helped especially in very busy situations when there were a ton of people observing us crazy Americans.
After hot dogs on the lawn of Westminster, we jumped on a little cruise that was included in our Big Bus Tour and headed over to the Tower of London. Here’s the London Eye.
This is not London Bridge. I repeat, Americans, stop getting it confused. This is the Tower Bridge, it’s beautiful.
Now this is is the London Bridge. Not so impressive right? I know it seems suiting that a nursery song would be after the pretty bridge, but it’s not. The bridge is even labeled probably due to people mistaking it constantly, can you see it below the arches?
Behold, the Tower of London! Where the kings and queens lived, beheaded people, where hangings occurred, lots of murders of royalty and well, home to The Crown Jewels. Built in the early 1080s, it’s been lived in by successful monarchs. It was spectacular to check out especially since I hadn’t done this the last time I was here.
I was not allowed to take any photos inside – just incase I were to attempt to pull an Oceans Twelve.
This guard was totally looking at our selfie screen by the way. I’m sure he was super curious how my LCD screen flipped up on my Sony NEX-5R so we could see ourselves. I tell you, that selfie screen sure has come in handy!
We rode the tube and walked through Kensington Gardens, another favorite place of mine. This is where lots of royalty have lived, including the late Princess Diana until her death. It was closed by the time we got there, but you can’t do London in 3 days, there’s just too much to see. We walked all the way through Kensington Gardens and into Hyde Park before shopping for the evening and retiring to our hotel, Flemings Mayfair.
But of course.
London, I hope to see you again real soon, you are just as lovely as I remembered.
Diana Elizabeth was told that Americans stand out because we are well manicured and groomed with good hair and makeup, and we also have straight white teeth.
This pretty much sums up how I felt about shopping on vacation.
If you aren’t familiar with Liberty London, good Lord, get yourself familiar with them! They have collaborated with J.Crew and Target, and their prints are just amazing. I’ll show you what I bought later in this post.
When it comes to buying souvenirs, I’m very particular since the last thing I want is to buy something that has a “Made in China” sticker slapped on it. I look at tags to see where it’s been made, and if it’s something I’d use so I can remember that lovely time. If so, then it’s worth my suitcase space and weight.
Now a peek into Liberty London…
Here’s what I bought for Mr. Wonderful – most items from Ireland.
The lemon curd didn’t make it home – it got taken away at security, boo. You gotta pack those things and check it in apparently. The gold coins are chocolate (he likes metals) and the grandfather sweatshirt is made in Ireland. Coke is also doing a campaign of “Share a Coke with ___” on the side of bottles so I had to buy one with his name. Melayne was trying to find a specific name (only certain names were on there, and some were very interesting names) and she said, “I just keep finding all your exes names and your husband!” and we had a good laugh. We thought about lining them all up and taking a picture but that would just be a terrible memory. *wink*
When we headed up to Northern Ireland to check out the Giant’s Causeway we stopped in the gift shop. My parents love ceramics, I’ve seen them buy Alaskan ceramics and things from local artists so I knew they’d love this little sheep.
And here’s what I bought for myself, I mean, us.
This lace is called Carrickmacross Lace which is famous because it’s all handmade. Kate Middleton’s dress had lace that was inspired by the stitching techniques and also the late Princess Diana’s wedding dress had Carrickmacross Lace on it. I bought an Ireland ornament and a patch that I’ll frame in my office. Not pictured are two maps – one of Northern Ireland and another a sketch of Ashford Castle’s property layout which I can’t wait to frame in my office. The silver ornament is Ashford Castle, I cannot wait to return one day!
This is one Claddagh ring earring (pictured below), and here’s the reason why there’s one – Melayne has the other. We decided to go dutch on this set and go to our local jewelers and have them turn it into a necklace charm for each of us. We wanted real gold and a very particular size of the Claddagh ring (which represents love, loyalty and friendship) and was created in Galway. When we couldn’t find what we wanted, we knew this was our best compromise. Oh, and here’s my insane collection of Irish tea towels. I’m only keeping the top two, the rest are gifts.
I’m clearly crazy about tea towels. Also bought a glass bottle from Cabra Castle, it was only 5 euros.
Above are all goodies from Fortnum & Mason - the most amazing favorite store of mine in London. More tea towels and a silver orange butter knife, Christmas ornament, ceramic herb jar, and a cooking book. They sell all home goods – and not that Home Goods, but home goooooods, and you can shop online, woohoo!
I bought a tea towel from Liberty London, a purse mirror and coaster for my office. At Westminster Abbey I found a darling small KJV Bible, watercolor mug and Prince George Christmas ornament. I love getting ornaments from where I’ve traveled.
And now the inside of Fortnum & Mason…(this is a clock that goes off every hour and does a little display dance and has been happening since 1964).
They also just put out their Christmas room!
Just floors and floors of home good themed floors! Here’s the market downstairs where we bought yummies for dinner to take back to our hotel, Flemings Mayfair right off Picadilly, so central and perfect!
Back in Ireland, in Galway, Melayne saw a vendor on the streets who knitted caps, so she bought one for her niece. Now she has a story and a photo to go with it!
So that was the shopping I did friends! The exchange rate wasn’t awesome for Americans, as 1 Euro = $1.32 and 1 Pound = $1.56, plus or minus. So, unfortunately things weren’t exactly a deal in Ireland or London.
And some things you just take a photo in and that’s your souvenir!
I’ve realized that I collect two things while traveling – ornaments and tea towels. Do you collect anything?
Diana Elizabeth can’t wait to return, if she lived on the East Coast she would go to Europe all the time.
Hi! I’m Diana Elizabeth, named after Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth. I'm a photographer, wife, model, and Christ follower. I'm just learning as I go and sharing my stories!
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