Saturday, 29 October 2016

Four Go To Florida #2 Getting Around

Four Go To Florida #2 Getting Around

Ok I did say I was going to do my resort this week but I have changed my mind and have decided to broach the subject of getting around in Orlando or to give this post its alternative name -Four go to Florida 2016 #2 Getting Around, Have you not heard of indicators you f***ing idiot or a speed limit????

I want to talk about driving and I also want to talk about the radio station we listen too, I have a lot to get off my chest so lets go.

Okay first of all I live in Scotland and driving is a little different for the following reasons-
  • We drive on the correct side of the road!!! 
  • Our roads are narrower
  • Most of our cars (with some exceptions) are smaller
  • Fuel costs roughly the same as a bar of gold
  • Fuel = Gas
  • Our roads are not always straight
  • We have higher speed limits
  • We have less cup holders
  • Boot = Trunk
  • Stop sign = I totally paused officer
  • Red lights mean stop, not turn if nothings coming
A narrow road near home!

As you will remember, because you read the last post didn't you? (what do you mean you didn't) we had hired a car for the first time and as we had so many cases and other shit we needed something with a big boot, so we ended up with a 5.3 litre Chevy Tahoe which was christened Redfire.

Our chariot Redfire
It was badass and I have no idea how big the fuel tank was, but that bad boy could probably have driven around for weeks without a dent in the fuel gauge.

We had survived our trip from the airport to our hotel, a few things were noticed as we drove along. The obvious one was we were on totally the wrong side of the road but this of course wasn't a surprise, what was a surprise was the speed of the other cars.

As a Brit, we are led to believe that America drives slowly, everywhere.  This did not seem to be the case, we were sticking to the speed limit according to the handy signs and cars were winging past us. In a 45mph zone, things were zooming past us.  Was 45 just a suggestion, a handy hint?

We did get a little bit of a complex with this but decided even if they knew best, well it was up to them as we didn't want to get caught by the Mickey Mouse fuzz.

Something else that I found hysterical was the lane changing, cars would just appear out of nowhere and caught right across you to get to the other side, I'm glad I let my husband do all the driving as I would be effing and blinding at them!

Indicators as well are a handy invention but they don't seem to get used either.  But hey us Brits are guilty of this too.

Something else that took a bit of getting used to was this whole turning on red thing, with us red means stop, don't move or else but I actually think this is a brilliant idea as I have been frequently stopped by a red when nothing is coming.  It still felt like we were breaking the law though!!

OMG huge spaces!  Don't ask why I took a pic of this!
Now I don't want to be down on driving in Orlando because there was good things such as....
  • Massive wide roads
  • Massive big parking spaces
  • Awesome multi story car parks with green lights to show spaces
  • Cheap fuel
  • Straight roads
  • Lots and lots and lots of cup holders
Awesome wide roads
I also had a love/hate with our radio station that was deemed by the kids to be the best, I think it was called XL106.7, it some great pop songs including our own darling Adele and those scamps Coldplay plus they played a mix of other songs including cool dudes of the moment The Chainsmokers and Justin Beaver.  After a few longer trips in the car I discovered that they only seemed to play the same dozen songs over and over again, sometimes within the same hour.

Because of this I now love Justin Beaver, ok that is a lie but those current songs of his are great pop even if he is a sociopathic little twerp.

To sum up my post I will honestly say that we loved having a car in Orlando, it made it so much easier to see things at our own pace.  Yes we did feel like Driving Miss Daisy a lot of the time as 80 year olds in Porsche's passed us by but it was a learning curve and next time we will be ready.

Heather x

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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

REVIEW - The Million Dollar Blog by Natasha Courtenay Smith

Title: The Million Dollar Blog

Author: Natasha Courtenay Smith

Publisher: Piatkus

Release Date: 29th September 2016

Source: ARC

In a world where everyone wants to blog and blog posts are ubiquitous, how do you stand out? How do you blog your way from nobody to somebody?

How do you make money blogging, how do you start your own blogging business, and how do you, as a business owner, use content to build your brand and drive your success?

What do the world's most successful bloggers know that you don't know (yet)?

No matter who are you - a mum at home, a budding fashion blogger, a lifestyle blogger, a food blogger, a big business owner or a small business owner - The Million Dollar Blog is about blogging the smart way.

It is the ultimate guide to:

*Starting a successful blog
*Blog writing
*How to monetise your blog
*How to develop a personal brand that grows your blog
*How to blog for business
*How to write
*How take your existing blog to the next level

Learn to blog, learn to monetise your blog, discover how to build a successful blog for your business and hear the insider view from those in the blogosphere who are already making big incomes blogging. Plus, discover revenue streams beyond advertising and see how the income of million dollar bloggers is structured for maximum profit.

Through a combination of practical advice and interviews with some of the world's most famous and successful bloggers, vloggers and content strategists, including Seth Godin, Lily Pebbles, Grant Cardone and Madeleine Shaw and dozens more, entrepreneur and digital strategist Natasha Courtenay Smith shows you how to build a blog that will increase your profile, create new opportunities, earn money and change your life.

No wonder The Million Dollar Blog has been described by leading and award winning mummy blogger Vicky Psarias from Honest Mum as 'Brilliantly written, engaging and inspiring'.
I will freely admit in the last two or three months, my blogging mojo has pretty much crawled away and hidden under a rock with its eyes closed and its fingers in it ears.

An invitation to read this book appeared in my inbox and it intrigued me.  Yes it sounded like there was a lot of info for the blogger just starting out but it also sounded like it was full of info and ideas that could help a seasoned and slightly jaded blogger like myself.

Natasha Courtenay Smith is a former journalist who has very successfully turned her hand to (amongst several other things!!) digital marketing, she knows her stuff and I was excited to see what the Million Dollar Blog had in store for me.

Quite frankly it has a wealth of detail, from interviews with pro-bloggers who have been there and done that to helpful tips on how to monetise your blog.

From my point of view it has given me a lot of food for thought, at the moment I don't have any proper advertising on my blog, now I am highly unlikely to become a pro-blogger but a small (or tiny) income from advertising on my blog is something I have seriously considered.  The books takes you through the different ways advertising can be placed on your site.

There is also a lot of helpful information on SEO optimisation and getting social, I already love Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram but it has given me inspiration for sorting out my Facebook page and maybe downloading Snapchat - those filters look seriously cute.

I really is an inspiring read, I'm not going to make a million dollars but this book does show that blogging is a seriously business and there are opportunities round every corner for all bloggers from the likes of me to super uber bloggers like Zoella.

Whether you have been blogging for six months or six years, I think you will definitely get something from this book, I did and as for my blogging mojo?, well its came out from underneath the rock!!

Thanks to Piatkus for sending me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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BIZARRE BOOKS #38 - Cheese Problems Solved

Whilst looking through the hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon I discovered hidden gems, books that maybe have been overshadowed and have not had the credit they deserve.

They may be a bizarre, they may be funny or even unintentionally funny, they may be wonderfully cute or they may just be a total WTF!!! book.

This weekly post is a tribute to these wonderful gems and to be honest some of them are worth looking at for their reviews alone!

I like cheese, in fact I would go as far as saying I like cheese a lot but not the blue mouldy stuff, it can take a hike.

Cheese, as you all know is a very troublesome dairy product, it often causes me such problems as.....

How much cheddar is too much?

Would it be acceptable to eat a whole block of Wensleydale and Cranberry in go?

Can they make Babybel any cuter?

You know they may all be first world problems but they are problems as such.

This weeks Bizarre Book, Cheese Problems Solved doesn't seem to solve any of my problems but if you are a large scale producer of cheese then hey, this may be useful.  Also it is £160!!!!

Is your cheese causing you trouble? I'd love to know!

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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Four Go To Florida 2016 #1 Getting There

Four Go To Florida 2016 #1 Getting There

Florida 2016 has came and went, as I get older time really does seem to press fast forward on my life and our two weeks in the (nearly) Sunshine State went by quickly but each day was full of fun, food and freaking shocking driving from people on the I-4, I mean c'mon Americans do you not know how to indicate, seriously!!  

Anyway I digress.

I thought about doing this as a day by day trip report but I have decided to break it down in to categories such as the Magic Kingdom, Kennedy Space Centre, Food, Bad get the idea but today I will share with you our first day which will be all about getting there.  

This was a long day starting with this alarm.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Early Alarm Call
Early alarm call!
I still don't trust my alarm or my ability to wake up, so of course two alarms where set.  I literally sprung out of bed at 1 second past 2am full of sleepy excitement and a dash of nerves.  

The kids and the hubby needed no help getting out of bed either, my girls even though they are 7 and 9, give teenagers a run for their money with their amazing ability to sleep for hours and hours and hours.
Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Early Alarm Call
Awake and ready to go!
The taxi was booked for just before 3am and we had about a 90 minute drive from our home in Perthshire to the first airport of our travel day - Glasgow International.  The time spent looking out the window for the taxi dragged, I always get mega nervy before a big flight like this and minutes where dragging by but our taxi arrived on time, our suitcases, hand luggage full of stuff we wont use on the plane and bags of sweets were loaded in to the boot, we were ready for the off.

The drive flew by, I always feel a kinda shiver as we drive through hills and glens, past sleeping houses in the wee small hours, feels like we are on the run!  The only incident on the drive was some sheep strolling about the road, thankfully not on our side.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Glasgow International Airport

Glasgow airport arrived, taxi was waved off and dropping off of our suitcases commenced.  Now I know it is early in the morning (must have been 0430 ish) but why the hell cant the check in ladies and gents at least look like they are happy to be there.  Are they pissed off we are going to sunnier climes, do they hate their jobs, you know what I don't care I am full of nerves and you had better put a smile on your face check in person to make me feel calm!!

Just a quick segue re my nervousness, Our holidays are planned months and months in advance, I am the primary planner from booking the flights to reservations for dinner.  If anything is going to go wrong I will take it personally.  I just get so worked up about making it go smoothly and without any hiccups that my nerves do tend to get a little frayed.  Talking about smoothly, I don't mind flying and I am totally in awe of planes but I hate turbulence, I know I am not the only one but as I get older I hate it more and I think it is also because I know we will get it going across the Atlantic.  My mantra to ignore involves pretending I'm in a car on a bumpy road or chanting inwards "safest form of travel" or imagining the captain sitting in his cockpit reading Airplane Monthly totally unfussed by his bouncing plane.

Anyway I digress, again.

Glasgow International is not a huge airport but it is a criminal, daylight robbery happened when we purchased our breakfast which I half expected to come in solid gold cups with our breakfast pastries covered in expensive truffles and gold leaf.  I mean they really are robbing b*****ds.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Glasgow International Airport
It cost HOW MUCH?????!!!!!
Our flight wasn't leaving till 0645 so we had plenty of time to have brekkie and go through security. Now security I always find long and painful, I can put up with it as I know they are there to keep us safe, what I cant put up with is people who ignore the signs.  You know the ones, they still have bottles of water, that haven't put their toiletries in a plastic bag and they seem surprised that they have left something sharp in their bag.  

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Glasgow International Airport
FFS, read the sign people!!!
I mean FFS, read the signs people, read the info that comes with your tickets.

Anyway security cleared with ease we then found ourselves in the wonderland that is duty free, everything is so white and shiny, brightly coloured boxes are everywhere full of exciting things like overpriced perfume, booze, chocs and cigs.  The floor sparkles as you walk across it.  It truly looks like the grown up department at the North Pole but instead of elves you have pissed off Glaswegians manning the tills.  Shopping bought here=Zero!

Now I haven't mentioned that we are flying with British Airways, believe it or not it is cheaper for us to fly down to Gatwick Airport outside London then take another plane out to Orlando instead of flying direct from Glasgow, lots cheaper.  The only downside is the extra hours it adds on to the days which was probably about four hours waiting going out and five coming back.

BA are a great carrier and before we knew it our Airbus A319 was waiting outside in the cold Scottish morning waiting to take a mixed bag of business and holiday passengers, most of which were also Orlando bound.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Glasgow International Airport - British Airways BA2953
Our BA chariot
Gatwick is only a 90 minute flight, you know the kind, you literally getting to cruising altitude to find the plane getting ready for landing.  I was sitting with the girls and the other half got to sit with the strangers.  

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Glasgow International Airport - British Airways BA2953 Wing Pic
Obligatory wing picture
My kids thankfully are good flyers which is good because we had gentle turbulence and I could feel my palms starting to get sweaty!!
Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Glasgow International Airport - British Airways BA2953
A picture of calm!
Landing at Gatwick, the skies are grey and gloomy, a much bigger airport than Glasgow it does take a little while to get from the runway to the gate.  Of course once we reach the gate everyone has to get off the plane at the same time, it is like wacky races.  We didn't have this problem as we were in row 4 putting a finger up to the people behind us desperate to get off.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Gatwick International Airport EasyJet
Sunny Gatwick with one of the many Easyjets that are about
Gatwick Airport always seems to be under construction and as we got off the plane and were bussed to the terminal, there was building work everywhere as well as the general hubbub of airport life.  I find the underbelly of airports fascinating, these places are truly labyrinthine and I am always amazed when our suitcases actually get to where they are supposed to.

Now we did have several hours waiting here, the North Terminal at Gatwick once you are through security is full of everything you could possibly need.  From Starbucks to Harrods, there is something to cater for every taste.  The one thing they do not have is comfortable seating, my other half thinks its because they don't want you sitting down, they want you spending money in the shops, he could be right.

With not much to do for a few hours we snacked (kids), drank coffee (me) and people watched, my favourite thing to do here.  I love watching people at airports, not in a creepy way just in a "I wonder where they are going?" sort of way.  Oh and I like to internally critique peoples travelling outfits.  I still am in awe at people who think short shorts and high heels are appropriate plane attire.    I mean what were you thinking?!! Apologies to any readers who think short shorts and heels are great for travelling!

As our departure time grew nearer we meandered down to the gate and entered the holding pen to wait for the announcement that we could board.  Travelling on a Boeing 777 plane fans, after the lucky shits that are travelling fancy class have boarded they starting calling us, back of the plane first of course.  It is funny as you watch people listening intently, its like bingo, you almost expect somebody to jump up when they have their row shouted out to shout BINGO!!!

Our row was called, we were roughly in the middle of the plane over the wing, and we slowly made our way down the jet bridge to our carriage for the next 9 hours, our metallic tubular carriage filled with tons of jet fuel and a shitload of hard liquor for us Brits who were going to be taking advantage of the free booze on board.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - British Airways Gatwick to Orlando
The only booze I touched!
BA planes are fine, as a short arse, seat pitch is not a problem but for my very tall husband, well he does find it a bit of a pain.  I didn't care, as once again I ended up with the kids whilst he had the chatty strangers.  Before we knew it we were making our way in to the clouds and heading west towards Ireland and out across the Atlantic heading towards Iceland and Greenland, then making our way down the east coast of Canada and the US.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - British Airways Gatwick to Orlando Sky Map
Are we there yet?
It took hours, I mean it took 9, but each of those hours dragged like nothing on earth.  I couldn't be bothered eating much and I usually take so much joy in those plane meals so tried to watch a film. The kids had already pulled themselves in to what could be compared to yoga positions to get comfortable whilst they watched the films that they had chosen.  

My film of choice was Angry Birds, the trailer looked good when I had seen it earlier in the year, I managed 15 minutes (I never did manage to watch it but today I bought the DVD and it was really fun!), then I tried Zootropolis which I had already seen and loved, again couldn't settle.  There was episodes of Friends and Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory too, nope not happening.  I then tried the film Midnight Special, success I managed 30 minutes and at this point there was still 7 hours left to go, I was getting really fidgety so I went to the one thing I knew would entertain me - the sky map.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - British Airways Gatwick to Orlando Wing Picture

I love the sky map, every airline is different, Virgin Atlantic's has points of interest like the Titanic and they also would have you believe there are treasure islands with pirates in the middle of the Atlantic, BA's map is not as exciting, just a great big map with a dotted line and a itsy bitsy plane slowly getting closer to its destination.  

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - British Airways Gatwick to Orlando Are We There Yet Sky Map
Seriously, are we not there yet?
I ended up falling asleep on a pile of cushions stacked up on my tray table, more comfortable than I thought.  The kids bless em stayed mostly awake until the last hour where the fell soundly asleep. 

The flight was smooth from what I remember with just a little bit of bump, not being in the window seat I didn't get to appreciate the stunning view of the east coast as we made our way down, so to get my fix I did what every good parent does, left my kids watching inappropriate tv and hot footed it to the back of the plane to look out the window by the loo.  Which I was already very familiar with as my kids especially my youngest love plane loos and visited every hour. 

Slowly and surely we neared Orlando and when the sky map showed us as being in Florida my nerves started to disappear and at this point this is when I truly love flying and feel in awe of planes. I just feel amazed as these great big metal birds start descending and turning to start their approach, it was one heck of a view as Orlando came in to sight.  With a gentle bump the plane landed at Orlando International.

I love this airport, if you have been you may know what I'm talking about.  The fact it has that big ass atrium with the fountain and all those tropical looking plants, its just beautiful.  But before we even got near that we had to go through US immigration.  

We landed roughly at 1530, I think we finally got through Immigration about 1700.  I hate it, there is no air con apart from some shitty fans, everyone is pissed off as they've just come off a 9 hour flight so they are stinky and tired, and now we have to tackle these bloody automated machines to let us in the country.  

The last time we travelled here in 2014 we got big black crosses across our face and this ended with us in another queue for ages, we feared this was going to happen this time as we could see that same queue and it was long.  Imagine our joy as none of our pics from the machine had crosses and a lovely gentleman pointed us to another queue which flew past the other one.  I felt like a star!  Finally after a quick stamp from the border officer dude we could get our bags which had managed to get from Glasgow to Orlando and head to the main terminal and that fountain I mentioned.  This meant the monorail.

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Orlando International Monorail
You know the song!!!
I always get the song from the Simpsons in my head when a monorail is involved and this 60 second journey was no exception, we arrived at the main terminal, the doors opened and we were assaulted by the Florida feels, it was worth the plane trip, the wait at immigration and the fact we all felt minging.  

However our day was far from over, this time we decided to hire a car, something despite many trips to Orlando we have never done.  Our mission was to find Avis's garage, get a car and head to our home for two weeks - Animal Kingdom Lodges, Kidani Village.

Of course having an amazing sense of direction I quickly found where we needed to go and with our suitcases behind us we headed off to find our sweet ride.  It was easily found and acquired with about ten words from the Avis dude we found ourselves in possession of a Chevy Tahoe that my kids christened Redfire (yes we are a family that names our cars, my car is called Stormie because it looks like a Stormtrooper), it was a beast.  

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Orlando International Monorail Avis Chevrolet Tahoe
Redfire!! Gangsta Kids!
My poor husband commented that he didn't know if he could drive it and the man drives big ass diggers for a living.  On looking inside he quickly got over his initial fear and we then went about doing the most important thing which was getting picture of our tiny kids against the big ass car! 

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Avis Orlando Florida Number Plates
Love these plates!
Suitcases eventually packed in, sat nav set we slowly set off to our destination joining the queue of other gingerly driven cars making their way out of the parking garage.  Soon we came out blinking in to the sun on to a beautiful wide road, unlike our narrow, windy roads back home.  I was worried about the drive as I had seen National Lampoon's Vacation and pictured us ending up in the wrong part of town, thankfully thanks to a wonderful navigator (me), the satnav (christened Sally) and the patience of my wonderful husband we found ourselves heading through the gates of Walt Disney World heading towards to Animal Kingdom Lodge, we were home!

Four Go To Florida #1 Getting There - Walt Disney World Entrance
We found it!!
So I hope you have enjoyed this first instalment and if you got this far, thank you!!!

I plan on posting this every Saturday so next week I'll talk about our beautiful resort.

Heather x

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

5th Annual Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveway!!

It's that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler and the nights are getting spookier. Yes, it's time for tricks and treats, goblins and ghouls, chills and thrills and huge amounts of sugary sweets. But at the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog it's also time for the 5th annual Attack of the 14 Nights of Halloween Giveaway. Join Laughing Vixen Lounge and our bewitching co-hosts The Kids Did It, The Mommy Island, Herding Cats and Burning Soup, The Hopping Bloggers, Mama Smith's Reviews and Women and Their Pretties for a spooktacular Halloween event.

Looking for a good Halloween read?

Try this, it freaked me out totally earlier this year, guarantees a fright!  Click the pic to read my review of this awesome 5 star read!!

Enter to win a $250 Prize Pack filled with goodies from 10 wickedly fabulous shops. All shops are offering Gift Cards or your choice of item(s) so there will be something for everyone. Many of the shops have items perfect for any book lover along with lots of unique, handcrafted and custom designs to choose from.

Visit the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog daily during the giveaway for the Halloween Movie Marathon. Test your movie knowledge with the Guess the Movie Game. Then try to solve the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt, if you dare! Each event will get you daily entries in the giveaway plus a special giveaway for the Scavenger Hunt. Find full details for these events HERE.

You can start by entering the Rafflecopter widget below. To experience all the games, movies, shop features, giveaway info and all around awesome fun make sure to stop by the Laughing Vixen Lounge blog HERE.

The giveaway runs October 18th - November 1st and is open worldwide to anyone 18+. 1 winner will win the Prize Pack and 1 winner will win the Scavenger Hunt Prize Pack. Laughing Vixen Lounge is responsible for all giveaway details. Click HERE for full details.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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