Trop-Rockin’ with Balmy Palms

Palm TreesBorder

Balmy, breezy palms are my photo obsession.

You don’t have to read very many of my posts to figure out what an island girl I am.  I mean, really, I named my blog “Somewhere in the Sand.”  How much more of a clue do you need? Give me a swaying hammock, a shady palm tree and some nice, soft sand beneath my (bare) feet and I’m all set.

You’ll probably also notice what a big Jimmy Buffett fan I am (islands … Buffett … palm trees and soft sand … I’m noticing a pattern here).  The sound of steel drums and island tunes is, well, music to my ears.

Besides being a writer and promoter of prose, I’ve always had a secret desire to be a songwriter…not necessarily a singer, per se.  I’ve been told by my wise nine-year-old that I was not “made for singing” so we will just leave it at that.  But the writing, now that would interest me.

That brings me to the topic of this post (you’ll also notice I can be a bit long-winded…).  I just received a very cool press release from the tropical lifestyle brand Balmy Palms.  If you’ve never heard of them, you should really check them out.  They’re right here on the good old world wide web-o-sphere at BalmyPalms.com.

The "pop of trop rock" Jimmy Buffett - Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, Virginia, 2010

The “pop of trop rock” Jimmy Buffett – Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, Virginia, 2010

The fine folks at Balmy Palms are on the search for an original trop-rock song to represent the brand on its website, radio and other media outlets.  Balmy Palms is inviting up-and-coming singers/songwriters to submit an original song for consideration.  The ideal song will give off the laid-back image of a stress-free island lifestyle as well as the company’s tagline “No worries, no qualms … just Balmy Palms.”  They want to put listeners into a “Balmy Palms state of mind.”  Hey, I like that philosophy.

With roots in the ‘60s, trop rock, or tropical rock, is a blend of country, Caribbean, reggae and rock with the use of island instruments and tropical themes.  Jimmy Buffett, Jack Johnson, the Zac Brown Band and Kenny Chesney (all favorites of mine) are a few of the big-time trop rock crossover artists.  Buffett is often called the “pop of trop rock.”  Other trop rock singers/songwriters include John Frinzi, Sunny Jim White, Dave McKenney and Keith Sykes, as well as the Jimmy Buffett tribute band, A1A.

The selected song will receive airplay on the trop rock internet radio station, BeachFront Radio.  BeachFront Radio has won the number one “Trop Rock Station of the Year” title several times at the annual Trop Rock Music Awards.  I have recently started listening to BeachFront Radio and it is quite good.  I go back and forth between it and Radio Margaritaville.

In addition to radio play, the artist of the winning song will receive $400 and select Balmy Palms apparel.  They will also receive publicity by way of the Balmy Palms website and press releases.

Balmy Palms plans to enlist the public’s help in the song selection process (Yippeee!), but the final selection will be made by the staff at Stratosphere Media Group, along with input from the DJs at BeachFront Radio.  Even if a song is not selected, this is an excellent opportunity for exposure (radio exposure that is, not…other kinds of exposure), as all of the songs will be listened to and considered for eligibility.

Kara Benson, Balmy Palms Marketing Director, says

“This is a great opportunity for an aspiring musician to receive valuable publicity for his/her talents.”

All music and lyrics must be original as well as written and performed by the submitting artist.  Songs must be submitted in an MP3 audio file format, and be ready for radio play.  The date for songs to be submitted in the Balmy Palms songwriting contest is June 30, 2013.  Submissions can be made at BalmyPalms.com.

Please visit BalmyPalms.com for a complete list of rules and regulations.  I wouldn’t want to waste any virtual ink by posting them all here since you have to hop on over there anyway.

So, all of you talented trop rockers out there, pull out those steel drums, congas and marimbas and get the inspiration rolling.  I’m expecting some great things.

BalmyPalmsLogo

Photo: Balmy Palms

SandySignature

Ben & Jerry Go Greek

It's all Greek to me.

It’s all Greek to me.

From the cute cow (who doesn’t love a cute cow?) to the creative use of flavor names like Chubby Hubby, Imagine Whirled Peace, Phish Food, Chunky Monkey, Coffee Caramel Buzz and Karamel Sutra, and those dedicated to celebrities such as Jerry Garcia (Cherry Garcia), Jimmy Fallon (Late Night Snack) and Stephen Colbert (Americone Dream), Ben and Jerry’s always manages to stay at the top of the frozen treat counter.

My first foray into the world of Ben & Jerry’s was their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  The forbidden goodness of cookie dough mixed with cream, milk and sugar was one of  the best things to ever grace a spoon.  My tastebuds have never been the same.  Nor has my waistline, which is what brings me to this posting.  Well, not my actual waistline…that would be weird….you know what I mean.

In addition to their world-famous (and waistline-widening – let’s face it, nothing that good can be calorie-free) ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s also has a nice selection of sorbets, no-sugar-added and frozen yogurt products.

The latest endeavor involves delving into the world of frozen Greek yogurt.  Greek yogurt seems to be everywhere lately.  Ben and Jerry’s has taken the newest cool kid in town and given it a tasty spin with the addition of pineapple, lemon, passionfruit, blueberry and other yum-a-licious flavors.

Ben & Jerry's new line of frozen Greek yogurt.

Ben & Jerry’s new line of Greek frozen yogurt.

There are a few other flavors besides the ones pictured above but, as I said, I was thinking of my waistline when making my purchases.

Liz Lemon is a swirl of blueberries and lavender swimming through a sea of lemon frozen yogurt.  Lemon is one of my most favorite flavors, and smells, in the entire world and I really thought I would love this creation.  The lemon frozen yogurt is quite light in taste, not at all tart and citrus-y as I expected.  The blueberries and lavender are also on the subtle side.  Don’t get me wrong, it is very good but I can’t say that it is my favorite.

The flavor, named for Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” character, actually debuted at a party the night of the “30 Rock” finale.  Proceeds from the sale of Liz Lemon frozen yogurt go to an organization near and dear to Tina Fey, Jumpstart.  Jumpstart is an early education organization that helps kids in low-income areas to develop language and literary skills needed for school.  They train college students and community members to work with the preschool kids to help develop these much-needed skills.

Strawberry Shortcake is right on track with what I expected.  The strawberry flavor is subtle and the small pieces of berries and shortcake pieces sprinkled throughout are fabulous.  I think the shortcake pieces are my favorite.

BenJerryCloseup

Pineapple Passionfruit

Pineapple Passionfruit is a pleasing package of pineapple frozen Greek yogurt with perfectly placed pineapple pieces and delicious swirls of passionfruit.  Tropical in taste, it sends a burst of passionfruit to the palate while mixing in just a hint of pineapple.  If you haven’t already guessed, Pineapple Passionfruit is my favorite.  I also like alliteration.

Ben & Jerry’s frozen Greek yogurt selections weigh in at under five grams of fat and under three grams of saturated fat per one half cup serving.  They are all smooth, creamy and ahhhhh-inducing.

Besides the taste of their super yummy flavors, Ben & Jerry’s has a strong stake in environmental and global issues.  Ben & Jerry’s uses milk and cream from family farmers who do not treat their bovine employees with rBGH.  The company uses fairtrade sugar and vanilla and is working on being able to acquire other ingredients in a fairtrade manner.  Go Ben and Jerry.  And cows.

I think I’ve strayed from my original reason for writing this review/post (so what else is new?).  Basically, I think I was trying to say that frozen Greek yogurt could be a bit less pound-inducing than a regular scoop of ice cream.  And Ben & Jerry’s has it.  And it’s really good.  Yeah, that’s about it.

I’m proud to say that I’ve actually been to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont.  It was super cool.  And equally yummy.

SandySignature

It’s All in the Bag

I have a confession to make.  I’m a bit of a bag lady.  No, not that kind.  I mean literally, bags. As in those fabric-covered treasure chests in which to stuff all of the various junk deeply important items that I think know I will need at any given time.  Not one for shoe shopping (that alone keeps the spouse happy), I can’t resist scooping up the latest pretty print in the form of a beach bag, travel tote, shoulder bag or cute cosmetic case.

Of course, I have my go-to bag for quick trips to the pool or water park, and ones for longer beach trips, but there is always room in the bag basket for at least one or two (or three or four) more.  This is my current go-to beach bag, just throw a few things in and you’re ready to go.  Of course, I also have one with multiple pockets and a gigantic interior for towels, goggles, cover-ups and such but this one is tried and true.

This is my current all-around go everywhere type of bag.  You can't go wrong with Margaritaville.

You can’t go wrong with Margaritaville.

Given that I also have a big, and I’m talking BIG, theme park obsession, this latest round of bags I’ve discovered is now at the top of my “must acquire” list.

The Dooney & Bourke company was one of the first to get in on the Walt Disney bandwagon  with their well-known name, high-quality materials and pricey price tag.  Dooney certainly does Disney well.  Take a look.

Dooney does Disney well.

Dooney & Bourke wristlet
Photo: ©Dooney & Bourke

DooneyToteMickeyDisney

Dooney & Bourke Mickey tote
Photo: ©Dooney & Bourke

I especially love this design and bag style.

DooneySatchelCreamDisney

Dooney & Bourke Disney satchel
©Dooney & Bourke

This cute letter carrier bag is tied as a favorite, as well.

DooneyLetterCarrierBagChipDaleDisney

Dooney & Bourke Disney letter carrier bag
©Dooney & Bourke

Being the paranoic that I am, I don’t know if I would trust myself to spend a day at the theme park carrying around one of those super cool, but super pricey, Dooney bags.  Water rides, slippery snacks and the chance of rain would all but have me worrying more about protecting the bag than having fun in the World (or Land as the case may be).  I would probably reserve it for a special occasion.  That being said, there is another great looking bag in town that I am currently drooling over.

Lesportsac has a very happy version of Disney in their “Small World” collection.  Based upon the classic ride and the artwork of Mary Blair, the patterns are taken from the various countries, or rooms, of the ride and feature colorful scenes and ride icons.  It’s a Small World is my favorite ride/attraction at Walt Disney World (Yes, really, it’s my ring tone.  Don’t judge), so I am particularly fond of these bags, which are a bit lower priced than the Dooney ones.

Photo: ©Lesportsac

Lesportsac Well Wishes bag
Photo: ©Lesportsac

Well Wishes is based upon the Holland room.  Happy young ladies peer out from pretty pink and pastel toned fabrics.

LeSportsacWellWishesCharmTote

Lesportsac Well Wishes tote
Photo: ©Lesportsac

I am actually torn between the girly pink pattern above and the one below.  I really like the iconic buildings and architectural elements depicted on the tote below.  I can definitely see myself using this as a beach bag or carry-on for books, sunscreen, snacks and what-not.

Lesportsac See the World totePhoto: ©Lesportsac

Lesportsac See the World tote
Photo: ©Lesportsac

The Fancy That pattern is from the England room of Small World.  The pattern features famous English icons and scenes.

LesportsacFancyThatBigDisney

Lesportsac Fancy That bag
Photo: ©Disney/Lesportsac

I love this bright, colorful Moroccan Sun pattern. It is, however, from the summer 2012 collection and is most likely not easy to find.  I just had to include it though.  You can also get an idea of what the backpack models look like.

LesportsacBackPackMorrocanSunDisney

Lesportsac Morroccan Sun backpack
Photo: ©Disney/Lesportsac

There is even a Lesportsac Small World diaper bag for the well-traveled baby and mom.

LesportsacBabyBagWondrousJourneyDisney

Lesportsac Wondrous Journey baby bag
Photo: ©Disney/Lesportsac

There is a great review of the Lesportsac Small World bags at Onezumiverse.com.  Check it out.

Next up is the big bag announcement of the week.  This was all the rage in my Facebook news feed the other day.  Yeah, I subscribe to a lot of Disney blogs, sites and pages.  It’s a weakness.  Now, without further ado….

It is none other than Vera Bradley, the queen of the widely popular and equally beautiful quilted bag.  Disney and Vera have joined forces, and these fabric designs will eventually be found in the form of the usual selection of Vera Bradley bags, totes, pouches and cosmetic cases.

Photo: ©Vera Bradley

Disney and Vera Bradley team up to bring a bit of the World to the quilted bag.
Photo: ©Vera Bradley

Here is a close-up of the pattern.  I wish they had done more of a “Hidden Mickey” type of design with the pattern, but that is just my opinion.  The colors are great and I can’t wait to see the completed product.

Pink design:Black design: Midnight with MickeyPhoto: ©Vera Bradley

Pink design: Just Mousing Around
Black design: Midnight with Mickey
Photo: ©Vera Bradley

Visit the Disney Park’s blog for more detailed information on the Vera Bradley Disney bag, which will debut this fall at Disney parks and will eventually be sold online.  I have not seen any information on price point but I’m thinking that they will be along the lines of the current Vera Bradley items.

That is my roundup of Disney-themed bags.  Please let me know if you know of any that I have missed, including non-Disney characters and patterns.  I’m always on the look-out for a useful and great looking bag.

Carry on.

SandySignature

This sounds better than any pancake I’ve ever had. Lemon and blueberries. How amazing is that?

Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast

STOP!

If you are hungry and haven’t had a good meal in a few hours…

You don’t want to read this blog!

You have been warned!

Tonight I made a new recipe. It’s not anything out of this world or dramatic in appearance.

They just came out so good that I had to share them! 

They are….

IMG_4983

Blueberry and Lemon Pancakes!

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour

1/4 Salt

1 tablespoon heaping Baking Powder

1/3 cups Sugar

1 1/2 cups Milk

1 Lemon (juice and zest)

1 large Egg

1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla

2 tablespoons melted Butter

1 pint of Blueberries

Directions:

Heat your griddle or skillet to medium.

In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients (not blueberries). In a separate bowl, mix your wet ingredients (not blueberries). After mixing, add your wet ingredients to you dry ingredients. Mix until smooth, but may have a few limps in…

View original post 219 more words

Hoofprints in the Sand

I’ve always been a horse girl.  Posters, figurines and Black Beauty books surrounded me as a child, preteen and beyond.  While I don’t decorate my walls and shelves with equine icons anymore, I do still have an affinity for a soft mane and a friendly whinny.

Hi there.

Hi there.

When I can combine my love of horses with the sand and surf of the beach, that is just an added bonus.  We’ve ridden horses on the beach, or close to the beach, in Bermuda.  That was an awesome experience and, until recently, I’ve never seen beach horseback riding offered in less tropical locales.  Now, though, you don’t have to go all exotic to ride horses on the beach. From October through Memorial Day, Virginia Beach Horseback offers the uber-cool equine adventure of horseback riding along the sandy strand of Virginia Beach.

Giddy up.

Giddy up.

HorsesVABeach

Hoofprints in the sand.

This is a great activity even for a beginner.  No experience is necessary and the operators give helpful tips on riding.  My eight-year-old has never ridden a horse by herself and she looked like a pro.  These horses are super gentle and practically walk themselves.  They even know at which point to turn around and head back to the corral.  Horses gotta eat too, ya know.  They know what’s important.

A horse girl in the making.

A horse girl in the making.

Once a horse girl, always a horse girl.

Once a horse girl, always a horse girl.

Hello.  Nice to meet you.

Hello. Nice to meet you.

The corral is usually set up somewhere around 31st street.  Just look for the King Neptune statue.  You can’t miss it.  If you do, you probably shouldn’t be riding a horse.

King Neptune

King Neptune

It’s a good idea to call ahead to check on their exact whereabouts.  If there is a festival or special event going on, they may be set up at another location.  For example, I was there last year during spring break and the horses were around 27th street, but last week there was a lot of dredging and such going on in that area and the horses were at 31st street.

Reservations are not necessary, but are suggested.  When we were there during spring break, we just managed to get a spot before they filled up.  We’re not real up on the thinking ahead.

HorsesCorral

Virginia Beach Horseback.

Virginia Beach Horseback has been in operation since 2006.  They offer half-hour and hour rides.  Special occasion rides, proposals and wedding packages are also available.  During the summer beach season, when it’s way too crowded for beach back riding, they offer trail rides.

According to the website, Virginia Beach Horseback will soon be offering an experience where you can ride while the horses swim through the water.  Now, how cool is that?

I’ve compiled a list of a couple of other locations that offer horseback riding on the beach.  I’m hoping to get the chance to try out some more of them.  Let me know if you’ve been to any of these, or if you know of any that I’ve missed.  I would love to add on to the list.  Have fun and hang on!

Horseback riding on the beach venues:

Where's my carrot?

Where’s my carrot?

Another bonus of off-season beach excursions is the abundance of seaglass.  My up and coming horse girl is an expert seaglass searcher.

SeaGlass

Seaglass

SandySignature

Happy Wholidays from Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Seuss Landing is easily the most festively decorated spot in all of the Universe (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, that is).  Sure, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is always snow-covered and stocked with snowmen and steam engines, but all of the greenery and red-trimmed wreaths just add a special sparkle to the Seussical air of Seuss Landing.

The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular at Islands of Adventure is a magical journey of music by Mannheim Steamroller, singing and dancing courtesy of the Whos of Whoville, and gallons of  Grinchy-ness that should not be missed.  I have to admit that I am not generally one for shows – I like to get right to the ride action – however, I’m grinchishly glad I made time for this one.  Yes, there will be a lot of “Grinchisms” sprinkled throughout this post.  It’s just fun.

As you enter Seuss Landing, this is the scene you will see.  Bear to the right and get in line for the Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular, featuring everybody’s favorite green-skinned grouch and a whole bunch of happy Whos.

Caro-Seussal

Seuss Landing in all of its festive finery.

As I’m sure you already know the story, I’ll let you experience the show through the following photos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Grinch.

The Grinch.

DSCN1680

Enter Cindy-Lou Who.

DSCN1681

Peek-a-boo Mr. Who.

DSCN1682

The Grinch looks down on the Whos of Who-Ville.

DSCN1694

Mr. Grinch

DSCN1701

Mr. Grinch.

DSCN1708

…and the Grinch thought up a lie…

DSCN1717

Mr. Grinch

DSCN1721

…and the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

DSCN1725

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

DSCN1733

Happy Wholidays!

And, yes, Max is a real dog.

DSCN1734

The Whos.

DSCN1737

Merry Grinchmas!

And we, we ourselves, got to meet the grouchy, green one himself.  F.Y.I., this Grinch is very much in character.  Think Jim Carrey.  This was the funniest meet-n-greet I’ve ever had.

Everybody is a Who in Seuss Landing.

Meeting and greeting the Grinch. Everybody is a Who in Seuss Landing.

More Seussical scenes.

DSCN1743

Seuss Landing

The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the Hat.

Along with character breakfasts and meet-and-greets, Islands of Adventure is the place to be for Christmas cheer.  Come on over.  The weather is fine.

Merry Grinchmas to Whos everywhere.

281CD096D674AC9328F5297D1A431337

Very Vintage, Virginia: Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Welcome to Holiday Hills.

Welcome to Holiday Hills.

Miles of twisty, crinkly sparkly garland, vintage Coca-Cola signs, retro reindeer and more blow molds than you can shake a candlestick at, Christmas Town has gone retro with the all new Holiday Hills area.  If you’ve ever wanted to step back in time, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is the place to do it.

The Festa Italia section of the park has been transformed into a stroll through a 1950s Christmas card.  Oversized Santa heads, prancing reindeer, toy soldiers, singing angels, glowing candlesticks and classic Coke signs (complete with a sipping Santa) all give a nostalgic feeling of another place in time.  I really enjoyed this section and hope to make it back just to walk around some more, as well as catch a ride on the Peppermint Twist (teacups) and Snowman Summit.

Retro Reindeer

Retro Reindeer

Here are a few more of my favorite scenes from Holiday Hills.

Step onto Retro Lane.

Step onto Retro Lane.

ChristmasSnowmanSummit

Snowman Summit

Santa and classic Coca-Cola.

Santa and classic Coca-Cola.

The rest of the park is equally decked out in more than two, or three, or six million lights and holiday cheer.  The SkyRide takes guests high over the park for a great light-gazing show, while Mach Tower, operating at a slow pace, gives an even higher bird’s-eye-view of the park.  Take a frosty ride through the Black Forest on Verbolten, also open during Christmas Town evenings.

Mach Tower operates at a slow pace during Christmas Town - ©Busch Gardens

Mach Tower operates at a slow pace during Christmas Town – ©Busch Gardens

I like to take it easy, and Europe in the Air is much more my style.

Europe in the Air

Europe in the Air

Musical shows like Gloria! and Deck the Halls show off the immense talents of Busch Gardens’ performers.  Gloria! brings the story of Christmas and the nativity to life with songs like “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” while Deck the Halls, in Das Festhaus, offers a lively song and dance ensemble of Christmas carols, along with a few favorite characters.

Here are a few favorites from Deck the Halls.

ChristmasDeckHalls10

ChristmasDeckHalls9

ChristmasDeckHalls8

ChristmasDeckHalls7

ChristmasDeckHalls6

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Miracles, in the outdoor Il Teatro di San Marco Theatre, is another must-see production that takes guests on a sweeping journey of classical music, song and dance.  The little ones will enjoy A Sesame Street Christmas featuring Big Bird, Cookie, Elmo, Abby Cadabby and the rest of the furry, fun-loving gang.

A Sesame Street Christmas in the Globe Theatre

A Sesame Street Christmas in the Globe Theatre

My interests always run to the merchandise side of things and Busch Gardens manages to put as much of the Christmas spirit into their stores as the rest of the park.

ChristmasStore

ChristmasStorePink

ChristmasStoreNutcrackersDarkEdges

Nutcrackers of every size, shape and style.

Here is one of my favorite scenes at Christmas Town or any day of the year.  I can never visit the park without a stop at the Highland Stables.

Dear Santa...

Do you think he will fit under my tree?

Even rides that aren’t operating during Christmas Town offer the opportunity for magical decorations and lights.  Pompeii looks so dressed up in its coat of water-inspired lights.  I just adore the purple trees along the pathway.

Pompeii all lit-up in lights.

Pompeii all lit-up in lights.

Of course, Christmas Town can’t be complete without those cute, waddling guys in tuxedos.  Even if Mr. Popper is not around, penguins make any day much more fun.

ChristmasPenguinSign2

Magellanic penguins on loan from SeaWorld.

Magellanic penguins

Magellanic penguins

Magellanic penguins

Magellanic penguins

African penguins on loan from the Columbus Zoo.

African penguins on loan from the Columbus Zoo.

African penguins

African penguins

Polar photo ops.

Polar photo ops.

Hi there.

Hi there.

O Tannenbaum is a spectacular light show choreographed to a musical score.  This 50-foot Christmas tree in the Oktoberfest Village is the place to be for a magical ending to any Christmas Town adventure.

Das FestHaus

Das FestHaus

O Tannebaum musical light show in Oktoberfest Village - ©Busch Gardens Williamsburg

O Tannebaum musical light show in Oktoberfest Village – ©Busch Gardens Williamsburg

On a final note, it is almost worth the admission price just to try all of the food, desserts and tasty treats available during Christmas Town.  You’ll notice I don’t have any photos.  My traveling companions tend to quickly gobble things up that aren’t glued to the plate.  I recommend the pumpkin cheesecake and anything from Trapper’s Smokehouse, which offers a wide variety of frontier-style meals such as BBQ ribs, sliced brisket, super thick turkey sandwiches, smoked chicken and the best baked beans and macaroni and cheese around.  Also, and this is just me, but I cannot leave the park without a freshly made pretzel from the German bakery.  Guests can watch through the window as the pretzels are being made.

For more information on Christmas Town, please check out my theme park column at Examiner.com.

For a peek into Christmas Town Florida-style, including snow, head on over to Busch Gardens Tampa at AdventuresByDaddy.com.

Merry Christmas!

Disclosure: The author received complimentary admission to Christmas Town as part of Busch Gardens’ Social Media Event.  All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.

SandySignature

Going ogre at the Gaylord National with ‘Shrek the Halls’ in ICE!

It takes a lot to get this girl to leave the house when the temperature dips much below forty-five degrees, let alone to don a big, blue parka, fuzzy gloves and fur-lined boots and walking willingly into a nine-degree dome of ice.  Though, you have to admit, I do kinda rock the fur-lined boots.

If there is one event that can achieve this feat, it can only be the Gaylord National and their annual ICE! attraction.  I am a big fan of the Gaylord and would go even if it weren’t a special event.  This just happened to be Media and Blogger Family Day, with the added bonus of Shrek the Halls in ICE!  Yeah, I’m up for that.  Plus, they have cool treats like this …

Chocolate chip cookie and Shrek-inspired cake pop. Yes, that cookie is really as thick as it looks. There was even ogre-colored milk to go along with it (it was family day, after all).

So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorites from Shrek the Halls in ICE!  Oh, okay, they’re all my favorites.

Shrek the Halls is appropriately presented by the ice cold refreshment of Coca-Cola.

The proof is in the picture.  Me, all bundled up in blue and standing within a nine-degree dome of ice.  And loving every minute of it!

Everybody is offered a big, blue, incredibly warm, parka.

Shrek and Donkey

Come on in. The ICE! is fine.

The ogre youngsters – Fergus, Fargo, and Felicia

The detail is amazing.

Two members of the Piglet trio.

This would be my wee one in the ICE! outhouse.

Puss tips his Santa-inspired hat.

Five ICE! slides provide the ultimate slip-n-slide party with the Three Little Pigs, and lots of flying Dronkeys overhead.

Fiona and the triplets warm up by an ICE! fire.

If I absolutely had to pick a favorite ICE! sculpture, it would have to be Dragon.  Take a look…

Dragon

Pink Dragon

Shrek learns the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

In case you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be – this is amazing), ICE! is created by forty talented master ice carvers from the Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival in Harbin, China, just across the border from Siberia (and I thought nine degrees was cold).  They spend more than a month carving, slicing, dicing and even splicing ice to make this wintry wonderland.

Ice for the Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival, is retrieved from the Songhua River.  While the Potomac River might make a frosty enough plunge for a Polar Bear Club member, it just doesn’t get quite cold enough to produce ice for sculpting and carving exquisite images of fairy tale characters.  The clear, white, and precisely-dyed colored ice for ICE! is custom-ordered from a manufacturing plant in Ohio.

Every ICE! exhibit ends with a dazzling Nativity scene cut out of crystal-clear ice.

Nativity scene in crystal-clear ice.

…and an ICE! Angel.

ICE! Angel

Character meet and greets are always fun, and one of my most favorite things … as long as I don’t have to wait in too long of a line (I’m impatient like that).  The Gaylord National offers the fun of DreamWorks characters such as Shrek, Puss-in-Boots, Po from Kung Fu Panda, and Alex the Lion of Madagascar (Mada-who-ha?).

Everybody’s favorite feline, Alex the Lion from Madagascar.

The whole gang with the mighty ogre himself, Shrek.

Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating is a fun way to rest a bit.  Trust me, there is a lot of walking.  The Gaylord is gigantic.  A little down time is well worth it.

Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating

Carefully decorating Gingy.

We chose the train.  Icing and a large variety of candies are included in the kit.  I might add that our train did not make it home….Gingerbread is yummy and my “children” could give Cookie Monster a run for his money, or cookies, as the case may be.

Gingy and the Gingerbread Train.  Yum-O!

We did not do the meet-n-greet with Gingy (too busy gobbling ginger….uh, candy…) but he did wave to us from the shop.  He is quite the friendly fellow.

The back side of Gingerbread.

Overnight stays are not required to participate in ICE! or many of the other super fun activities, though some do require a fee.  If you’re not too tired after a day of ICE! and walking the gorgeous grounds of the Gaylord, stick around and check out this…

The fountain comes to life with colored water that dances to choreographed music.

…or this…

60-foot glass Christmas tree and cascades of “Northern Lights.”

Along with the incorporation of those iconic Coca-Cola polar bears, the other three Gaylord resorts celebrate the season with their own special events and DreamWorks themes.  Gaylord Opryland, in Nashville, Tennessee, hosts A Country Christmas and Shrek the Halls in ICE!  The Palms, Orlando, Florida, puts on Christmas at the Palms and Merry Madagascar in ICE!  The Texan, near Dallas, Texas, offers A Lone Star Christmas and Merry Madagascar in ICE!

Check out Examiner.com for even more cool info. on Shrek and the Gaylord National’s ICE! attraction.

For a look at the Gaylord Palms ICE! event, check out AdventuresByDaddy.com.

Merry Christmas!

Disclosure:  The author received complimentary admission to ICE! as part of the Gaylord National’s Media Day.  All opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author.