Kyran Pittman's Blog, page 4

March 27, 2014

Navarre Beach Spring Break


All my life I’ve watched other people go on spring break beach vacations without me, so I wasn’t going to feel one bit sorry about posting updates of me basking in the Florida sun and surf this week while 90% of my friends and family are living above the new North American permafrost line.

Though spring temperatures had finally arrived in Arkansas last week, I drove to the gulf coast as if a blizzard were at my back, eager to discard as many garments as local law permits and let the full UV spectrum soak into my bones.

Except that spring must have gotten pulled over for driving drunk somewhere around the Louisiana state line, or else we lost it when my mom’s GPS navigator detoured us to the not-so-scenic scenic route of backwoods Alabama for two hours. Either way, spring has been nowhere to be seen since we got to Navarre. If I knew where to direct my irate and indignant tweets, #WTFsunshinestate would be trending right now.

Good thing I packed all these breezy skirts and summery tops.

Photo Mar 22, 8 40 39 PM


On the bright side:

The beaches aren’t crowded.


The drinks stay cold.

beach bag

We need less sunscreen.

buried in sand

The bikini diet has been abandoned for the who-the-hell-cares diet.


 (Related: I would endure any kind of weather for another lunch at Joe Patti’s in Pensacola.)

I don’t feel quite as bad that Patrick couldn’t join us. Though I still feel guilty for having to leave this guy:

 rosco in the car


I’m with my mom.

mom on the beach

I’m with my boys.

jonah at navarre

alden at navarre


 It’s not snowing.


In fact, the sun just began shining, so we’re off to carpe the crap out of this diem.

to the beach

Before the rain that’s forecast for the next two days rolls in. 

This post is from my blog, Planting Dandelions. Let's hang out on the FB.

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Published on March 27, 2014 09:03 • 5 views

March 12, 2014

2014-01-22 18.03.17-2

On the bad days, when nothing–not even crappy writing– makes it onto the page, I take consolation in the thought of someday telling the hilarious story of taking ten years to write my first novel, and making countless hung-up writers feel better by comparison.  There are no ifs, I tell myself, only when. Every day is an act of suspending my own disbelief.

To those writers who think finishing/publishing a book will vanquish their beasts for once and for all, I’m sorry to tell you that my doubts and self-sabotage still circle and growl. But I’m better at taming them. I can’t always make them go away, but I can usually make them sit and lie down.

Here are some things to help you tame your beasts:

HumorThe Twelve Types of Procrastinators  by Angela Liao of 20px 

I’m a chronic List Maker, a hopeless Side Tracker, a compulsive Social Sharer, and a dedicated Internet Researcher — what about you?

Habit: Content, Creativity, and the Role of Habit by Jason Konopinski

Familiar advice about cultivating good creative habits, but I need reminding over and over again. As the world’s slowest writer, I was especially comforted by this anecdote:

James Joyce famously labored over every single word, sentence, and punctuation mark. It was a process that took days. In an oft-repeated story, Joyce encountered a friend on the street who asked him if he’d had a productive writing day, to which he happily replied, “Yes, I wrote three sentences today.”

I wrote three sentences yesterday afternoon. It took me only two hours, but then, I’m not writing Ulysses. 

Journaling: A New Way to Think About Journaling  by Karen Walrond

My friend Karen showed me her “global capture” approach to keeping a journal during break between sessions at a writer’s conference where we were presenters a few years back. It was a game changer–like installing an overflow valve for my brain. I’ve adapted the practice to suit myself (including a switch from an unruled Moleskine to a similar notebook with heavier paper, so marker ink doesn’t bleed through), but the basic concept of putting it all between the covers remains the same. It’s sort of like dumping your handbag out so you can sort the trash from the useful things you carry around all day. 

Endurance: Surviving the Myths of a Writer’s Life

This is a wrap-up of a talk I gave last month to creative writing students at the University of Central Arkansas. I was surprised and happy to be asked to give a craft workshop, but a little perplexed about what to teach, since I’ve never actually been in a writing workshop myself. I thought about what would have been most useful to me as a young writer starting out, and decided to leave the teaching of writing to the writing teachers, and pass along some endurance skills instead — approaches that have helped me navigate the personal hazards of creative work. 

This far, anyway. 

What are some of the beasts that stalk your work lately?


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Published on March 12, 2014 11:42 • 6 views

March 7, 2014

Sponsored by TestRocker, an online SAT/ACT preparation program


I’m so proud of my high school freshman–last Saturday, he took a seat among students who were mostly juniors and seniors, and wrote the ACT for the first time, for real (he got to give it a test drive in seventh grade, as part of a program for gifted students, but it wasn’t graded “for keeps”).  


 It won’t be the last time he takes the test. I hope he scored well, but the main goal at this stage was to get him familiar with the testing  process and get his (and my) head in the college admissions game. The experience has taught both of us what it takes to prepare for the ACT: serious commitment and planning. The TestRocker program provided a structured study plan and progress report that kept him on track and on pace. Maybe there are other students and other parents who can keep up with self-directed test preparation while juggling regular studies, but we aren’t them.  It was so helpful to be able to pull up his progress with a click, and see exactly how far along he was. 

Sometimes he was behind, and had to put in overtime to catch up. Listen, it’s hard to find time for extra study when you’ve already had  full day at school, have regular homework, and want time to skateboard, practice guitar, hang with your bros, and text your girlfriend. I’d never cut it as a tiger mom–I have too much sympathy for the complexities of adolescent life. So it’s a sincere and significant endorsement when I say that TestRocker was blissfully nag-free. I braced myself for protest when he had to cancel plans last Friday night after I reminded him that it was his last night to study, but there wasn’t a single groan. He camped out on my bed, fortified by his favorite junk food, and did the three hour practice quiz without complaint.  


 Here’s what the scholar had to say when I asked him about writing the ACT with TestRocker in his corner:

Q. How prepared did you feel going into your first ACT?

A. I felt fairly prepared and confident. 

Q. What was the testing experience like? Were there any big surprises?

A. It was easy and relaxed. There were no real surprises.

Q. How would you approach the study plan next time?

A. Stay more devoted.

Q. What did you like about the TestRocker study program? 

A. It was easy to follow, with lots of reinforcement.

Q. Was there anything you would like to see changed?

A. I would love to have a paper version of the study program to follow along with.

It will be at least another two weeks before we have his score. I won’t be sharing any numbers, and I’m scaling my expectations to his grade level, but I’ll let you know if his perception of the test matches up with the results. 

Thanks for following along on this whole new set of “baby’s firsts,” and please share in the comments if you’ve got questions or helpful advice to give.

 I’m very happy to disclose that TestRocker is providing my son with six months of access to a customized ACT study plan, and sponsoring a series of posts about the experience. All opinions are mine and his. Get a sneak peak of TestRocker’s SAT & ACT programs by taking a free Diagnostic Test, previewing your study plan, and attempting some of the free questions (no credit card required).

This post is from my blog, Planting Dandelions. Let's hang out on the FB.

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Published on March 07, 2014 11:24 • 13 views

March 3, 2014


I’m looking out my window at a blanket of sleet that fell last night, wondering if we have shifted into a Game of Thrones universe, where winters are counted in years. I’m so tired of complaining about the weather, but I don’t seem to be able to stop, either. I’m starting to take it personally. In the last couple of weeks, the birds had begun nesting, and the bulbs have been blooming around the yard. The winter weather alert on my phone Saturday afternoon felt like a slap in the face.

So when the ice started raining down yesterday, I took up arms. Kitchen scissors, to be precise. I threw on my hooded parka, grabbed a bucket, and marched outside to liberate every last one of the daffodil blooms from the oppressor. 



Do you hear the people sing?




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Published on March 03, 2014 13:35 • 23 views

February 28, 2014

Another fantastic giveaway sponsored by

The other night, my fourth grader got out his homework, and handed me a worksheet.  “Can you help me with this?”

I looked. “Discover Your Roots” was printed above a family tree chart. He had already filled in his immediate family, but the upper branches were still blank. I was being called up from the bench.

Could I help with this? Oh, I DON’T KNOW, how much extra paper do we have?

Except I didn’t say that, because I didn’t want to scare him with my enthusiasm. His older brothers had already sensed the intensity, and were keeping their heads down.


I opened up the computer and went to our family tree, so he could copy the names of his grandparents and great-grandparents onto his worksheet. As we looked, he was able to see the photographs I’ve saved to their profiles. Like these ones of my grandmothers:

mary and ferne

As he copied their names, I told him how much his great-grandmother Mary loved fly fishing, how good she was at it, and how delicious those trout were. I told him about his great-grandmother Ferne’s gift with animals—what a great horsewoman she was, and how I saw her coax a trapped bee out of our car one time, cupping it in her hand without it stinging her.

After he had all the grands and the first set of greats copied over to his sheet, I zoomed out on the tree, with his name and birth date at the base. We counted exponents. Two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and all sixteen of his great-great grandparents had names and dates. Then some branches stopped, while others scrolled on and on.

I was able to show him things like an obituary for his 5th X great-grandmother, who was born in Germany, and died in South Carolina, “a friend to all mankind.” A few months ago, we didn’t know her name, much less her reputation. But Patrick’s Ancestry DNA matches turned up a distant cousin who was able to extend his branch back many more generations. She, and several other Ancestry members with whom my boys share roots, have been so generous and helpful. Community is one of the greatest resources in online genealogy. Nobody walks the ancestral trail alone for very long.


Photo Jan 26, 6 42 30 PM

One of the homework questions was to find out if anyone in the family tree fought in the Civil War, and on which side. I told my son what I learned from a telephone interview with family historian Lisa Elzey: if your tree has an American male born in the 1830s, chances are good that he fought in the Civil War (and that one great place to look is the National Park Service database of soldiers). We went across the American side of his tree laterally, looking at candidates. I had already located records for three soldiers – two for the Confederacy, and one for the Union.

“What about him?” my son asked, pointing to a 3rd X great-grandfather who was born in 1845.

I clicked “search records,” and found a pension application by his widow, which told us he enlisted from Missouri, but not which side. We had the name of his regiment, though, so we started googling. By this time, my older boys were fully engaged, looking over my shoulder and scanning through wikipedia entries to see if we could find a mention. I confess I was hoping we would turn up another Union man to even things out, but it turned out that great-great-great grandpappy PJ wore gray.

“But look,” I pointed out on the next row. “His daughter married a man whose dad fought on the other side.” In just one generation, enemies had become a family.

I printed out the longest branches of his tree to bring to class –one of Patrick’s that goes back to 1666, and one of mine that goes back to 1614. “I know one fourth grade teacher who is going to deeply regret sending home a family tree worksheet,” I quipped to my Facebook friends, who are probably so tired of my genealogy updates, they’ve all got me on mute.

He brought the appended branches home in his backpack the next day. “She only wanted the first sheet,” he reported.

Considering all the history we covered in one night, I think I should have at least gotten a happy face stamp.

“That’s alright,” I told him. “it’s for you to have, anyway.” Which sums up one of the most satisfying things about researching our family tree – the sense of assembling something for the ages, a record that our kids and future generations can look back to, and build on. So that when my 5th X great grandchild comes to his mother with the same damn worksheet that teachers have been xeroxing for 500 years, they can have as much fun climbing the family tree as we did.

IMG_4848 is kindly sponsoring a series of posts on my incredible Ancestry journey. Leave a comment below to win a free 1-year World Explorer membership, valued at $299 (international entries welcome). Winner will be randomly selected on Friday, March 7 at noon CST (and congratulations to Brad, who won the DNA test from in January’s giveaway)!

This post is from my blog, Planting Dandelions. Let's hang out on the FB.

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Published on February 28, 2014 11:55 • 18 views

February 8, 2014


It began snowing yesterday evening, and we woke up to three inches of powder this morning—a real snowfall! The Littlest Who was out in it before the coffee was done brewing. He, his big brothers, and the dog went romping around the empty streets in our neighborhood last night, and he’d gone to sleep scheming and dreaming of what to do with all that snow.

“Remember that syrup we had in that snowy place?” he asked me. “Can we make that?”

“You mean the maple taffy they made in Quebec, where we went skiing? No, honey, we can’t make that here.”

“Why not?”

Well, why not, I thought. So we don’t have maple trees to tap, or even a bottle of maple syrup on hand. It’s basically a simple sugar that’s heated up and then cooled. Science, right?

A little research backed up my hypothesis. Tire sur la neige can be made with and without real maple syrup. After comparing a bunch of recipes, I came up with a hybridized formula, using dark brown sugar. Unfortunately, my sous chef had taken all his snow clothes off, and the syrup cooked too long while he was suiting back up for the pouring. It turned to brittle in the snow, and he didn’t care for the dark molasses flavor.

 Photo Feb 08, 9 47 42 AM

Photo Feb 08, 9 24 54 AM


But I believe in science and evolution, so I tried again, this time using a blend of brown and white sugar to lighten the flavor, and making sure my sous chef was ready to hit the snow the second the candy thermometer registered 240 degrees.

Photo Feb 08, 10 48 31 AM

The second time was a charm. The golden strips of syrup were as pliable in the snow as we remembered the real thing being.


And it tasted amazing. Not maple flavored at all, but a mild, smooth butterscotch.

 Photo Feb 08, 10 56 24 AM

We love science.

Photo Feb 08, 10 56 06 AM

Below, you’ll find my snow taffy recipe for your next snow day. Because once the kids are tired of playing in the cold, and everyone’s cooped up indoors, what you really want to give them is sugar on a stick.

Photo Feb 08, 11 07 44 AM (HDR)

And lots of it.

Here you go:

Photo Feb 08, 11 37 34 AM

Snow Taffy 2014-02-08 13:19:53 Save Recipe Print Ingredients 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed 1/2 cup white granulated sugar 4 T water 2 T butter 1 t white vinegar 1/2 t vanilla extract (or maple)
Instructions Pack clean, freshly fallen snow into a baking sheet, and keep it ready outside, or in the freezer. Have popsicle sticks or chopsticks ready for winding the taffy. Mix all ingredients together in a heavy bottom saucepan tall enough to allow for foaming, small enough so the syrup is at least one inch deep. Boil mixture over medium heat until candy thermometer is at 240 degrees F (soft ball stage), then immediately pour onto snow in strips about an inch wide, 6-12" long. Wind each strip around a stick by rolling the stick along the strip of taffy. Eat right away.
By Kyran Pittman Planting Dandelions

This post is from my blog, Planting Dandelions. Let's hang out on the FB.

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Published on February 08, 2014 11:07 • 64 views

February 2, 2014


Would you believe that the most popular post on this site is my recipe for Mason Jar Spiked Lemonade? Pinterest people love some booze in Mason Jars. Which perhaps explains a lot of the things we see on Pinterest.

I love a fun cocktail, too–all the better if it can be made ahead, and better still if it can be transported to a party. The genius thing about drinks in mason jars is that they have lids. So you can pre-mix them, store them, tote them, and cover them when you need to go tend to the burgers or jump in the lake. They’re also great for home entertaining, since they can be made ahead of time.

Sangria is perfect for mason jar cocktails, because it benefits from sitting around while the alcohol picks up the citrus flavors, and the fruit gets good and boozy. I’ve been making this recipe for Classic Spanish Sangria for years. You can make it by the batch, and decant it into wide-mouth mason jars, or you can use my adaptation to make it by the pair.

For two pint-size jars, mix 1 cup of red wine (I go with cheap and fruity, like a grenache, or a zinfandel), 1/2 cup spiced rum (I prefer Sailor Jerry’s), 1/3 cup orange juice, and 1-2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, depending on how dry the wine is, and how sweet you like your drinks.

Photo Feb 01, 5 57 08 PM

Stir to dissolve the sugar, and pour into two wide-mouth, pint-size mason jars over two half-moon slices each of a lime, orange, and lemon (scrubbed well before slicing).

Photo Feb 01, 6 03 36 PM

The jars will be just over half full, which is how you want them, because for those of you keeping track, that’s a pretty stiff drink. You’ll be diluting it with seltzer or mineral water at serving time.

Photo Feb 01, 6 07 45 PM

Screw the lid on, give it a shake for good measure, and put it in the freezer. If serving these at home, you want to thaw them in time for your guests, so they are icy cold, maybe even slushy. If taking them to go, just pop them in an insulated bag along with a bottle of mineral water and let them thaw en route. If they have a long journey, put them on ice.

To serve, top with mineral water and stir.

Photo Feb 01, 6 13 14 PM (HDR) 

Pro-tip: when the sangria’s all gone, and you’re staring forlornly at the fruit at the bottom of your jar, fill it up with mineral water and ice, and enjoy a light cooler.


This post is from my blog, Planting Dandelions. Let's hang out on the FB.

                  Related StoriesSteno Pad Recipes: Millie’s Chocolate Oatmeal Drop CookiesSteno Pad Recipes: Chicken Cornbread DressingSteno Pad Recipes: Strawberry Cake 

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Published on February 02, 2014 09:29 • 21 views

January 31, 2014

Win a DNA test from

So show me family, all the blood that I will bleed…

I belong to you, you belong to me. You’re my sweetheart.

Ho Hey’ by The Lumineers

The first time I saw my husband’s face was in a black and white photograph he sent me in the mail. He didn’t look like anybody I had ever known. He was very blonde then, and his hair was straight and long. He was just 32 in 1995, but his face already had deep lines around the mouth and  his eyes looked like they gazed out from an old soul. I thought if I ran into him on the street, I would know he was from the American South, or at least my romantic idea of it.

I showed my mom the photo of my new penpal. “He looks very Scandanavian,” she said, but what she thought was, that’s the father of my grandchildren. If she had spoken the words aloud, I’d have insisted  we were just friends, but I was already deeply preoccupied by our strange and sudden friendship, and it showed.

 ”What’s your background?” I asked him in my next email. Where have you come from? Where is this going? He responded that he didn’t know–his family had been in the United States for so long, he guessed they were just “American mutts.” That was so foreign to me. In Newfoundland, almost everybody’s ancestors came from the same southwest corners of Ireland and England. They came to the island to fish cod, and they pretty much stayed put for the next few hundred years. Even the accents stayed the same. They hadn’t melted into a new culture, so much as preserved an old one.

When my mother’s prophecy came true, and I had three children with my “just friend,” I became even more curious to know about Patrick’s ancestry. Sadly, his parents both died within a few short years of starting our family. Our link to the past consisted of a few old photographs, a couple of antiques, and an assortment of cherished family anecdotes that I learned to be grateful were told over and over again at Patrick’s family table. 

Enter the magical time travelling machine that is online genealogy. When I started building our combined family tree on several years ago, one of the most gratifying experiences was how quickly I was able to extend Patrick’s branch through the research of others. I started with so little information, but a little was plenty. Hints started popping up, pointing me to other family trees and historical records that concerned a common ancestor. Not only could I suddenly fill in dates and names, but I found photographs of people we thought were lost to history. Images of gravestones we wouldn’t have known where to find. 

It’s hard to restrain myself from going over the top when I discuss digital genealogy, because it’s a very emotional experience to be on the receiving end of the generosity and labor of people who have chosen not just to trace their family history, but to share it. 

The smiling little girl in the top right hand corner of this photo is Patrick’s grandmother, whose chicken cornbread dressing recipe we make at Thanksgiving. Patrick had never seen a childhood photo of her before I found this on, posted on the public member tree of someone who is descended from one of her sisters. 


It wasn’t that long ago that these kinds of keepsakes would be jealously hoarded or accidentally lost, but now they can be shared across families. There’s plenty of pixels to go around (and in case you’re wondering about privacy, does protect the identity of living people, even in publicly shared trees).

Patrick was right when he answered my question about his background. His family has been in America a long, long time. My boys’ seventh great grandfather, from whom they get their last name, was born in North Carolina in 1666. Another seventh great grandfather was born in Pennsylvania in 1720. Their fifth great-grandparents came to South Carolina from Europe a generation before the War of Independence. They have ancestors who were colonists, revolutionaries, Confederate rebels, Union soldiers, plantation owners, poor farmers, and pioneers. 

I know many of their names, where they were born, where they lived, who their neighbors were, where they are buried. I’ve traveled across time with them, learning the history of my adopted country along the way. Mornings after a late night research session, I’ll joke to Patrick that his dead relatives kept me up all night, but they are alive to me now. A cloud of ancestors, the communion of saints. I knock on the door with the census takers and I visit them in their homes. I see how their lives change and the land changes beneath them. I meet the children who are born, I mourn the ones who die, and I follow the ones who live, all the way to a young man in Arkansas who puts a photograph of himself into an envelope one day, and mails it to a girl, who studies it like a map. Where are we going?

I belong to you, you belong to me. You’re my sweetheart. is kindly sponsoring a series of posts on my incredible Ancestry journey. Leave a comment below to win an Ancestry DNA test (available to U.S. residents only at this time). Winner will be randomly selected on Friday, February 7 at noon CST (and congratulations to Meg, who won the one-year world explorer subscription to in December’s giveaway)!

This post is from my blog, Planting Dandelions. Let's hang out on the FB.

CommentsThe first time I ever used a compute I found the ship's log ... by marilee pittmanI go into Ancestry in the past month and have been down the ... by Josh ONeillI learned through a dna match that my adopted great grandmother ... by Kyran PittmanI was required to trace my heritage for a paper in Arkansas ... by ErinNot only would I like to know more about my mysterious family, ... by ShannanPlus 5 more...Related StoriesThe Gift of Time TravelRedrawing the homework battle linesGifts of Wisdom 

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Published on January 31, 2014 12:30 • 23 views

January 29, 2014

My mother-in-law, Millie, raised her family on classic Southern cooking. When she died in 1998, I inherited her wedding dress, her cast iron skillet and a steno pad of recipes my husband grew up with. Some of these have become our own children’s favorites. Others, I’ve never gotten around to making, so I’ve decided to blog my way through them all, building a digital record of her recipe pad. A printable recipe link can be found at the bottom of this post, with her ingredients and directions transcribed exactly as written. My adaptations are in brackets. Feel free to repin, test, tweak, and share. Millie would be pleased. 

chocolate oatmeal drop cookies

A lot of people know these chocolate oatmeal drop cookies as “no bake-ums.” I’ve been making Millie’s recipe for years, and everyone in the house gets excited when they see the cocoa box and oatmeal canister out on the counter together. They’ve got a ton of sugar, so I won’t go so far as to call them healthy, but they’re healthier than lots of other sweets, and they have raw oats and peanut butter to cushion some of the impact of all that white sugar. We love them for after-school snacks and lunchbox treats.

Also, they dirty exactly one pan (if you line the cookie sheet). What’s not to love?

making cookies


Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies 2014-01-29 13:28:42 Save Recipe Print Ingredients 2 cups sugar 1 stick butter 1.2 cup milk 1 T corn syrup 3 cups oats (rolled, old-fashioned) 1/2 cup peanut butter 4 T cocoa 1 tsp vanilla
Boil 1 minute 2 C sugar 1 stick butter 1/2 C milk 1 T corn syrup 3 C oats 1/2 C peanut butter 4 T cocoa 1 tsp vanilla Stir well and drop by spoonsful on waxed paper.

Adapted from Millie's Steno Pad
Adapted from Millie's Steno Pad
Planting Dandelions

This post is from my blog, Planting Dandelions. Let's hang out on the FB.

CommentsThanks, Kyran! I'm going to mix up a batch of these tomorrow! by Kath HaleRelated StoriesSteno Pad Recipes: Chicken Cornbread DressingSteno Pad Recipes: Strawberry CakeSteno Pad Recipes: Coke Cake 

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Published on January 29, 2014 11:57 • 22 views

January 24, 2014

The laid-back fun of Disney’s Animal Kingdom 1458

It was nine degrees Fahrenheit when I woke up this morning, the first time in all my 18 years of living in Little Rock that the temperature has been a single digit. Spring, and spring break, can’t get here soon enough. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some more memories of last year’s Orlando theme park vacation, to keep me warm, and to help anyone who might be planning their own visit to the parks.

To recap, we spent the first day at the Magic Kingdom—the first visit by any of us to Walt Disney World. We spent the next day at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and went back the day after that for even more time at Harry Potter’s World of Wizarding. We sent Patrick home to get back to work, and the rest of us took a day off from the parks to visit Cocoa Beach. Our last day was spent at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

It looks like such a light itinerary now, but if you’ve never been on an Orlando theme park vacation, you can’t imagine how exhausting it is. Not to say we weren’t having the time of our lives, but by Day Five, we were all fading.   


Animal Kingdom was just our speed, with a pace that was way laid back compared to the carnival atmosphere of the other parks. Also, it’s beautiful. You don’t want to rush through this place.

We arrived a little past opening, and went straight to the Kilamanjaro Safari, in case the lines got long. Getting to popular attractions early in the day was a great piece of advice from my friend Natalie that served us well, but didn’t much matter at Animal Kingdom that day. We were able to take the Safari twice without a long wait either time. Basically, you board a tram, and enjoy a leisurely tour of the savannah.


It’s a bit of a bumpy ride, and I only had my iphone for a camera, so I didn’t get a lot of great pictures of the animals, but we had a great view of all of them. The enclosures are built into the landscape as to be practically invisible. In fact, the boys made it a game to figure out where the barriers were.


Of all three parks we visited, Animal Kingdom seemed like the most ideal for the very young. I found it hard to imagine why anyone would bring a toddler to the Magic Kingdom, but the Animal Kingdom has lots for little ones to look at without overwhelming them. The safari lets you sit back and relax.

The Safari is in the Africa section of the park, which has most of the live animal exhibits, including an African forest trail. We had a snack from a food cart at the African marketplace, Harambe. The food in Animal Kingdom was much more interesting and healthier than what we’d seen at the other parks that week, with more international flavors.


Then we were off to Asia, to walk the Maharajah Jungle Trek.


It was exquisitely serene.



But the Asia section of the park is also where the big thrill is: the Expedition Everest rollercoaster, ranked in one of my guidebooks among most extreme theme park rides.


I already recounted the trauma of my first-ever rollercoaster ride on Space Mountain on Day One, which I was pushed into by my mother. And I haven’t gotten around to the story of being goaded by my cousin Shelley into riding the Hulk at Universal, which I may one day turn into a Ted talk on finding the power of the present moment, even when you are upside down.

Especially when you are upside down.

At the Animal Kingdom, I decided to take destiny in my own hands, and voluntarily got on Expedition Everest. And that, my friends, is the day I fell in love with a roller coaster. I rode it at least three more times. I loved it so much, I broke down and bought one of those ridiculously expensive and cheesy souvenir photos.


I will never know who those people in front of me are, but our life stories are now entwined forever.

There are other fun rides in Animal Kingdom. The boys enjoyed the Kali River Rapids. I enjoyed pushing the button to spray them from the bridge.




Asia was my favorite part of the park. It was so beautiful, and as friend who has been to India many times said, the faith to detail is amazing. We also enjoyed a great meal of curry there, at the Yak and Yeti restaurant. This was our only table service experience at a Disney park that week, and it was fantastic.


This was taken in the lobby of the restaurant. I think it says everything there is to say about the mood of the setting and the day.

We did get around to DinoLand, USA, which seemed like a bit of an odd fit within the rest of Animal Kingdom. It’s much more in line with traditional amusement parks, and the big featured ride there, DINOSAUR, was okay, but not as fun as Jurassic Park at Universal. In my opinion, DinoLand was entirely skip-able, even for dinosaur buffs. There was some neat stuff on Discovery Island, including a fun 3-D show called, It’s a Bug’s Life (not for very little kids—one toddler was freaking out). We also had our one and only up-close character encounter there, with the backpacking kid and talking dog from “UP.”

Our curtain call at Animal Kingdom was one of the highlights of the vacation, and something I might not have done if I hadn’t been encouraged by other guides to take in the live shows. I’m not a big fan of musical theater, and you have to make a point to catch those events at certain times, often in out of the way corners of the parks. The Festival of the Lion King was playing just as we were ready to call it a day, and though I think everyone would have gladly skipped it at that stage of the game, I’m so glad we didn’t. It was spectacular.


Our time at both Magic and Animal Kingdoms was so special, I hope we’ll get back to visit the other two Disney World parks (Hollywood Studios and Epcot). And make a return trip to Universal to see the newly expanded World of Wizarding! More on that, and our first two visits to Hogwarts, very soon.

This post is from my blog, Planting Dandelions. Let's hang out on the FB.

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Published on January 24, 2014 12:06 • 22 views