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Save Me Before I Buckle Under The Pressure

Many years ago, when we were young, ambitious, and with new love bursting in our hearts, we decided to test our parenting skills on something we thought we couldn’t damage as much as we might a miniature person.  We went, just after the holidays, to the local pound, and we found a puppy.  We fell in love, we filled out an application, and then we went home and cried our eyes out, thinking that they would never allow us to parent this tiny little puppy – we lived in an apartment, we had no parenting skills, and we were completely unworthy. 

Imagine our surprise when they called us to tell us we could have the puppy!  For nine long years, we parented Lucy, a German shepherd mix.  We sat by her crate, tears running down our faces, the day we had her spayed, rubbing her head, giving her sips of water, regretting putting our baby through something so painful.  And the night she fell through the ice on the pool, Jim ran to get her out, wrapping her in blankets, racing to the vet to have her treated – all the while forgetting he was drenched in ice cold water.  When we moved to Florida, and the vet said it was not a good idea to take the aged Lucy with us, we cried all over again leaving her behind – knowing she would be loved and spoiled by Jim’s dad.

We have had dogs enter our lives over the years.  Some of them have come for a short time – like Molly, our fence jumper.  Living less than a mile off of a main highway, with a six foot fence surrounding our yard, the vet suggested we re-home Molly, who would go outside to pee through the back door, and then be barking to come in the front door every time.  And Daisy, for whom a dog behaviorist was hired to the tune of $45 an hour.  After a couple of meetings, the behaviorist told us this was a dog not meant for human companionship, and she should be removed from our home immediately before she hurt someone.  And then there was Grainne, my first Irish Wolfhound, rescued after being so badly neglected that she didn’t even know what to do with a dog treat.  She stayed so sick, and thousands of dollars went into surgeries to try and find out what was wrong with her, until we finally gave her to a couple who the vet recommended to us as hospice care givers.

You can see that we’ve had some bad luck in choosing dogs.  I seem attracted to the insane and infirmed – yes, I am talking about animals – I think.  And after having to get rid of Grainne, I always thought that I’d wait until timing was just right for another wolfhound.  So two years ago, when I learned of a litter of wolfhound puppies looking for homes, at the same time that a large sum of money had just been gifted to me by my husband, who sold his gaming website, it seemed destiny.  That’s when we got Roisin Dubh – Rosie.

This dog was my heart hound.  I loved her to pieces, and she loved being here with the kids.  We had a few early medical emergencies – including an infection on her neck that required mega doses of antibiotics, and an incident where she thought she could fly and jumped from one sofa in the living room to the other – missing the second by only about a foot, landing hard on her paw.  Rosie had a personality – a bit stubborn, but totally loving. 

But Granuaile was itchy.  And no matter what we did, she stayed itchy.  Finally, the pediatrician said it was Rosie, and while Granuaile was too young for him to recommend allergy testing, he did recommend we start removing potential allergens.  Rosie was an allergen.  We found a home for Rosie with a woman who owned one of Rosie’s brothers, I cried my eyes out over losing my baby, Granuaile became less itchy, and the world, believe it or not, continued to revolve.

So with the heartbreak behind me, and the decision made to NEVER EVER EVER NO MATTER HOW LONG I LIVE ON THIS EARTH NEVER allow another dog to be brought into the house, I have lived happily ignoring pleas from the children for another dog.

But the pressure is on.  It’s mostly Eilis, because she is of the age to be conniving enough.  She is the child who suddenly is watching dog documentaries, the Dog Whisperer, Dog Day Afternoon….Every book brought home from the school library is about dogs.  Everything from Clifford the Big Red Dog to Scooby Doo – if it has four legs, fleas, and the potential to drool and shed all over my house, she’s read about it. 

The two of them have been ganging up on me as of late.  They play dog.  Yes, that’s right, they pretend to be dogs.  They come wagging their fake tails in my direction, panting and licking, barking and growling.  Oh it’s cute alright, but it makes you long for the real thing.

I’ve been trying to arm myself by reading prices of veterinary care and dragging myself out at 2 AM in a cold, wet rain to remember – in addition to the allergy concerns – the reasons it’s good we don’t have a dog right now.  But they do wear you down.

I’m holding my ground, but I admit to losing my grip…….

Disney Dining Plan – A Glutton’s Punishment?

You already know I’m a big fat ass.  I have photographic proof that food has always been my best friend.

Anna in July 2006
Anna in July 2006

I was criticized the other day by someone because I said something unflattering about the Disney Dining Plan.  First they told me that it’s because I lost weight that I feel obligated to condemn fat people.  My answer to that – absolute nonsense.  Then they told me they couldn’t believe I would say anything bad about my beloved Disney.  Not being in love with the Disney dining plan doesn’t mean I don’t love Disney.  I love my husband, but I’m not crazy about the way he uses the same cup that he just drank milk out of to then drink orange juice out of.  Ewwww. 

Here’s the very basic rundown of the Disney Dining plan – Food.  Lots of Food. 

There are options where the Disney Dining Plan is concerned.  You could opt for the Quick Service Dining Plan.  For about $30 per person, you will get two quick service meals (these are the counter service meals), two snacks, and a refillable mug to use at your resort.  Honestly, this isn’t too bad, and counter service at Walt Disney World really runs the gamut.  The food court at your resort is a quick service location, and you can actually get some really good meals here – not the burgers and fries you are thinking of when I say counter service.  But even the theme park counter service locations offer such options as rotisserie chicken, salads, soups, and more.  Then you get the two snacks on top of your meals, and you really could skip breakfast completely and not feel hungry.  Is it worth $30?  It depends.  You could make it worth it by making sure you order the most expensive options, but I think it would still come out pretty close to a break even.  It does, however, allow you to budget food costs for your trip.

The Basic Dining Plan gives you one quick service meal, one table service meal, and two snacks per person per day for around $38.  You begin to get into a lot of food here, if you ask me. I always find the food portions to be quite generous at Walt Disney World, and we would easily have to skip a meal here to make use of all the other food.  Again, I’d be tempted to use my snack credits to grab something breakfast worthy, and then be obligated to book a dinner ADR every night.  The one thing that would save me from having to be rolled out of WDW would be the signature dining locations that require 2 credits to eat there.  It would save me from over eating the next day.

If you still think you’re going to come home from vacation hungry, there is also a Deluxe Dining Plan.  On this plan you get three meals per day – any meals you want, quick service or table service, plus your two snacks, plus a refillable mug.  Oh. My. Gosh.  Are you THAT hungry?  And it’s not just that – do you want to have to book yourself into that many meals?  I certainly could find that many WDW restaurants I’d want to eat in over the course of my vacation, but honestly, I wouldn’t be able to walk after a couple of days of this marathon eating regimen.  My arse is still pretty fat, but this is just Way. Too. Much. Food. 

If you have a family of big eaters, and you really think you can do this, it will set you back about $70 per adult (anyone over 9 is an adult when it comes to the dining plan).  You can very easily get your money’s worth on this plan, but would you want to?  I’m thinking we’d have the world hunger issue under control in a month if we just used the left over snack credits people don’t know what to do with on the last day of their trip.  Do you really need a suitcase full of Rice Krispie treats?

The biggest advantage to the Disney Dining Plan is that it allows you to budget your food money – it really does.  With the Deluxe Dining Plan, there isn’t another dime you would need anywhere for food, and even with the other two, you could make it so that your meals were covered each day and not need any extra money for food during your vacation.  That’s a great thing for some people.  But for my family, it’s just way too much.  Even if we tried to eat healthy and conservatively, some of these plans would still have us waddling away from the World.  Not a pretty picture.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Sanaa Restaurant Review Part 2

So my second visit to Sanaa was for Jim’s birthday.  We don’t often get to celebrate our birthdays without children, seeing as how we have a whole bunch of them, but Jim’s birthday happened to fall the same weekend as the Expedition Everest 5K, and we had a sitter back in Jersey with the girls.  Jim loves to try new and different things, especially foods, and I thought he’d really enjoy Sanaa.

We checked in at the podium, and our table was ready right away.  It would have been nice to sit near the windows to watch the animals, but our table was in a quiet location, which was good too.  Jim has on his birthday button, and the waitress wishes him a happy birthday before taking a drink order. 

In browsing the menu, we decide our best bet is to just order sampler platters, so we can try some of everything Sanaa has to offer.  We start with the bread service, and then order the appetizer Sampler for Two; the Salad Sampler; and finally, we opted for the beef braised short ribs and chicken curry for our entree.

If you have never dined with my husband, you may be unfamiliar with his penchant for spice.  He loves food that has some heat – and the hotter the better.  With the bread service, you choose three different types of bread and three of the dipping sauces.  We asked our waitress for recommendations, and she explained each dip to us, and we ended up choosing the red chile sambal; a mango chutney; and the roasted red bell pepper hummus.  I am not a fan of spicy food, and we figured this would give Jim a little bit of the spice with the red chile, but I would still have a nice selection to choose from.

As we were enjoying the bread service, the waitress came over to ask how we were enjoying the dipping sauces.  Jim made the comment that they were all very tasty, but definitely not “hot”.  She told us to hang on, and she would bring him something he found more to his liking, and she quickly returned with some garlic pickle.  That was a really interesting flavor, but not quite spicy enough for Jim.  We thanked her for the extra sauce, and she went about her merry way, but before we knew it, she was back.  In the ramekin this time was a red sauce that was singing the hairs inside my nose before she ever put it down on the table.  She told Jim that the chef had created this dip especially for him, and was anxious to see what he thought of it.  Jim slathered a good bit of it on some of the bread, and declared it amazing.  He really and truly enjoyed the sauce, and finished it himself, as I neglected to wear my asbestos gloves to move the ramekin close enough to me to take a taste, if I was so inclined, which I was not. 

A few minutes later, Chef Bob came tableside to check for himself how the dip was.  He had truly created it just for Jim and he was very excited to see that Jim really enjoyed the dip.  He talked a little about what was in it (brimstone; lava; and some other really hot ingredients), and they had a very animated culinary conversation for a few minutes.  After shaking hands, the Chef returned to his kitchen, and Jim proceeded to enjoy the remaining bread and personalized dipping sauce – which he declared the best food of the night.

The salad sampler is a course we would not repeat.  We opted for the roasted potato salad; watermelon, lime and radish salad; and the roasted beets.  I love watermelon, but for me, the combination of flavors was too severe.  The lime overwhelmed the sweetness of the watermelon, and it tasted like bad melon to me – the kind you should have tossed days before.  I am not a fan of beets, but Jim loves them. I did try the salad, but my relationship with beets being what it is, I wouldn’t order that again. 

The best of the salads we sampled was the roasted potato, but I could easily pass on that and not miss it.  It was lightly dressed and contained corn and spinach, and not my favorite bite of the night.

The entrees we chose were incredible.  The ribs were fall of the bone delectable, and I could have easily eaten a plate of them.  The chicken curry was delicious, and has quickly become one of my favorite dishes here at Sanaa.  I also really enjoyed the five grain rice pilaf.

We were way too full for dessert, but I thought just as a way to have a taste of something, we would split a chai cream.  That’s when our waitress came back with a piece of the chocolate cake with a candle in it to celebrate Jim’s birthday – with birthday wishes written on the plate.  It was very good, but we were way too full to appreciate it.

Overall, I have enjoyed both meals at Sanaa.  I will give tons of credit to our waitress this trip for making the meal, as she really was helpful and much quicker than our waiter the first time I ate here.  It’s amazing how much better a dining experience could be with a competent server.