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Chewbacca

Chewbacca, Boba Fett, even Darth Maul.

It doesn’t matter who your favorite Star Wars character is, odds are you can meet him (or her) at the Star Wars Weekend celebrations at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios.

The weekends are an annual celebration that start in mid-may and end in mid-June.

Star Wars fans will absolutely love these festivities. And even borderline fans are bound to have a good time with the food and other fun you can find during these celebrations.

For me, the parade is the coolest part of all of this.  The characters march by and pose, along with volunteers who are some of the biggest Star Wars fans in the country, and the actors who have found fame in many of the movies and subsequent TV series.

The next thing to love about this weekend is the special drink concoctions and food offered to fans.

star wars food

 

cupcakes in carbonite

There are themed cupcakes,  popcorn served up in keepsake Han Solo in Carbonite containers, even special Darth Maul chips and salsa.  The drinks are also unique for the celebration (pricey, too, but it’s hot at Hollywood Studios this time of year…you’re going to need to stay refreshed somehow!).

star wars drinks

There’s also a ton of special merchandise that you can only find at the Darth Mall (be prepared for a long line).

  star wars merchandise

 

Fans have the chance to see themselves frozen in carbonite, just like Darth Vader did to Han Solo.  Disney Imagineers use a 3D high-resolution face scanner to grab an image of your face.  That’s  processed by computer and sent to a high resolution 3D printer, eventually creating a seven-inch figurine of the you frozen in carbonite.

star wars disney merchandise There are other figures for sale, along with themed t-shirts that you can buy.

And if you like the suitcase you see above, check it out at the American Tourister site.  They’re even marked down right now!

Oh, and I haven’t even touched on the fabulous fireworks each night.

The bottom line: if you know a Star Wars fan, get them to this event if you can.  Between the celebrity meetups and autograph sessions (FastPass options available), the parade, products and food, they’ll be overwhelmed by ‘The Force’ all weekend.

You can find out more here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/hollywood-studios/star-wars-weekend/.

darth mall

 

 

 

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What you need to know about CoolSculpting

(Disclaimer: I was provided with complimentary CoolSculpting treatment to be able to accurately write this review. I am not otherwise being compensated and, as always, my opinion remains my own.  The shot above is of me before the procedure.  That gut and those rolls are what I’m hoping to eliminate.)

Last summer while snorkeling in Costa Rica, an octopus latched on to my arm with his little suctions and wouldn’t let go until I peeled him off, dropping him back into the ocean.  That’s exactly how the CoolSculpting suctions felt on my stomach during my recent fat-freezing procedure.  Just like that octopus…holding on for dear life, to the point that it feels a bit like a vice, but not too painful.  More agitating than anything else.

octopus on arm

I’d only heard of this CoolSculpting a few weeks ago during a TV commercial.  I called about it, but didn’t book an appointment.   It appeals to me because I just haven’t liked the way my clothes are fitting lately.  I want to fear no mirror and feel comfortable not just in the clothes I’m in, but the body I’m in.   So, I was happily surprised when a PR company asked if I wanted to give it a try for an article review.

coolsculpting device

So, there I was, three days later, in a plastic surgeon’s office, connected to two machines at once, essentially freezing my fat, with the hope that in several weeks we will see my true waist again.  I’m having six spots sculpted…four around my belly button and two on my flanks (love handles).

The point of the CoolSculpting machine is to help me whittle away my waist…to help me find my flanks again and make it not so embarrassing to show my midsection at the beach this summer.

Each section takes an hour on the machine, but we doubled up, so we ended up with three one-hour sessions.

two coolsculpting machines

Why would I sit through this procedure for so long?

Well, diet and exercise hasn’t helped my trouble spots.  This is a medically approved procedure by the FDA.  It’s not designed for weight loss.  It’s truly meant to help with small spots that haven’t responded to diet and exercise (for me, the thigh area is next).  The CoolSculpting® procedure is the completely non-surgical, clinically proven, safe and effective way to freeze away stubborn fat for good without surgery or downtime. It is FDA cleared in the U.S. for three areas of the body – the abdomen, flanks (also known as love handles), and the thighs.

More than 1.5 million CoolSculpting treatments have been performed in 70 countries around the world.

The technology was developed by Harvard scientists and is based on science of Cryolipolysis®, a process demonstrating that when fat cells are exposed to extreme cold, they die, and are naturally eliminated from the body for good.

Results can start to show up in about a month, though the best results sometimes take 12 weeks to appear.

Check out the results from other people who’ve given it a try.

before and after cool sculpting

 

It’s different from liposuction because it’s non-invasive.  There’s no surgery and you can truly have it done on your lunch hour if that’s what works for you.  You don’t have to take it easy the rest of the day…and you can honestly work right through the procedure.  That’s what I did, though I was tempted to take a nap.


working during coolsculpting procedure

It was painful (as in ‘wowza, that’s some serious suction’, but not ‘get-this-contraption-off-of-me-now’ kind of hurt) when they put the suctions on at first, but that went away within a minute the first time.  The second time it took two or three minutes.  The third time it didn’t hurt at all (that was on my flanks).

You sit very still for the 60 minutes that the machine is attached to you.

At the end of those 60 minutes, the CoolSculpting specialist massages your frozen area for two full minutes.  They say that’s critical.

The machine doesn’t feel cold when it’s on you, but once the suction is off and the massaging starts, you feel a bit out of body…like you know it should hurt a little, but it’s more like someone is putting pressure on your body and in all honesty, that feels good after the suction feeling.

The part that was suctioned will look really red, like a bad sunburn, for a few minutes.  In my case, it was less than ten, though it’s possible there can be some bruising.

Overall, the entire procedure wasn’t what I’d call fun, or a day at the beach, but it should make that day at the beach in about a month a whole lot more fun since I won’t be focused on my mid-section so much.  At least that’s what I hope.  Maybe I won’t need to wear that one-piece Spanx brand suit that I broke down and bought on my trip to Mexico last month.  Two pieces are my pal, or at least they used to be.

I’ll be posting a follow-up to this article in about a month, and again after 8 weeks and 12 weeks.

I’m more excited than anyone to see just how well it works.

If you want to try it to, here’s the link to use to get a free consultation.   That part is free, and it’s truly the only way they can tell you how many treatments you’ll need, and that will determine what the procedure costs.  You’ll want to be sure the person you work with is certified by the CoolSculpting University.  There are few side effects listed, but why take any chances?

Here’s the link to the Consultation Request Page: http://bit.ly/1Hwserl

You can also see more examples of CoolSculpting procedures and get information on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/coolsculpting.

Let me know if you end up trying it…I’d love to see your results, too!

**Follow up note: It is about 24 hours since the procedure and I’m noticing some bruising on my sides near my love handles.  I was told that was to be expected, but feel it should be mentioned.  The sides hurt to the touch this morning, but most of the ache is gone away now at the 24 hour mark.  

If you are near Atlanta, I highly recommend you work with Beaty Plastic Surgery.  Cherylyn Woody, their Advanced Certified CoolSculptor University graduate, helped me with my procedure.  They are based in Alpharetta. 

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May 21st and My Dad

by Desiree Miller on May 21, 2015

My dad and daughter. This was taken six months before we lost him. (My dad and daughter. This was taken six months before we lost him.)

 

May 21st.

The date my whole world shifted.

It’s been eight years now of marking this date with dread in my stomach, hurt in my heart.

Eight years since the day my dad was told he was dying.  And there wasn’t anything he could really do to stop it.

He couldn’t be cured.

The doctors told him he might have six months if he didn’t do anything.

Maybe a year with chemo.

He met their diagnosis with denial.

Nope, he said, he’d make it a few more years because he wanted to see his 50th anniversary with my mom.

And one thing we knew for certain.  If my dad set his mind to something, it happened.

So he fought like hell for each and every day after that.

Each and every minute, actually.

They were hard days.  Chemo took a lot out of him.

Still, he fought.

He was a stubborn, determined man on a mission.

It all seemed so unfair.

His life was hard.  Always had been.  Even as a child.  Shouldn’t he be able to enjoy his 60’s with the woman he loved, watching his children and grandchildren live their lives, too?  He felt such pride for each of us.  Our success was his success, too.  We got our fortitude from him.  We’d watched him selflessly work harder than any other human being each day of our lives, then hand over every paycheck to put a roof over our heads, dinner on the table.  We weren’t rich.  But we were loved.

And he was loved, too.  Still is.

He didn’t make it to that 50th anniversary.

He lived longer than the doctors said he would.

Two years, three months, and three days after being diagnosed, he lost his battle, and we lost the greatest man we’ve ever known.

That was August 18th.  Another date I’ll never forget.

I’m trying hard to remember the good dates.  December 2nd—the date he and my mom were married, the date he so desperately wanted to celebrate with her.

July 4th, his birthday.   July 6th, the date my youngest entered the world, with my dad there at the hospital to celebrate her.

But I don’t know that I’ll ever think of May 21st and not think of my dad being cheated out of his biggest life goal.

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dogs

(Note to readers: I know these dogs look innocent enough pretending to sleep on the couch. They’re not. The Panasonic Home Security Camera I was sent to review was the perfect solution for these problematic pets. I was given the device for the sake of the review but not otherwise compensated for this post.)

Bronco, Rooney and Casper terrorize my home daily, and they don’t even have to break in to leave their trail of disaster.

They are our dogs.  Pets.  Adopted when nobody else wanted them.  And forgive me, but it’s easy to see why if you leave them alone for two minutes.

Bronco has jaws of steel that have torn apart couches, carpets, computers and cameras.

chewed up camera

Casper is old and has issues holding his bladder.  But he gives warning signs by going behind furniture to take care of his business, so if you can see him looking for a hideout, you still have time to get him outdoors.

And Rooney, well Rooney, who outgrew those horrible habits as a puppy, has now been contaminated by the others’ bad behavior.

When I’m in the room with them, they’re all good enough.  When I’m not, they’re not.

That’s why I’m hoping the Panasonic DIY Indoor/Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit will be my special gadget to keep better tabs on these boys.

Panasonic Surveillance Cameras

See, now I have a way to see what they’re up to when I leave the room for, I don’t know, a trip to the bathroom.  That’s really all the time they need to demolish something of value.  Lots of things of value.

This cool camera setup is from Panasonic and here’s the best part: it syncs with my WiFi router and smartphone or tablet, so I can see what they’re doing anytime, anywhere. phone screen

I can also record video.

And it’s not just the dogs  I can watch.

I have four kids, too, from 20 to 9 years in age, who can be just as good at finding trouble as the dogs are.

So, if I want to check in with them while I’m out running errands, or away for a weekend, I don’t have to wait for them to choose to answer the phone or a text.  I can just pull up the app and peek in on the action…and even say hello.

It was simple to set up and works night and day.  It has vision up to 40 feet at night and is equipped with sound and video motion detectors that, when activated, send an immediate alert to your phone or tablet.  That instantly triggers the recording mode, right to the MicroSD card in the hub.  You can take that out and view the recording on your computer.

And on top of all that, there’s no monthly fee!

All this for a system that runs about $300.

Something tells me life has changed for the dogs…and the kids.

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Four Seasons Orlando Chandelier

Relaxing on my balcony, 14 stories up, I gazed to my left and then to my right, watching simultaneous fireworks shows on display at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekend and the Wishes fireworks show at The Magic Kingdom.  The weather was perfect…not too hot, with a gentle breeze blowing.  The view below wasn’t bad either, the adult pool directly below, bordered by palm trees, and the kid’s area off to my right.

A video posted by Desiree Miller (@desmiller) on


 

Four Seasons pools

This was the perfect ending to a dreamy day, the kind of day when everything falls together in just the right way, and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend it.

My room at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World was the kind of place where I felt like a princess, where I wished I could stay forever.  Full of comforts and decorated like a dream, with colors you find in that perfect shade of sea glass, I felt a world away from the hot and crowded theme park where I’d spent several hours earlier, by choice, pursuing a different kind of thrill.  I got my fill of that fun and was ready for something more peaceful, and this room, this resort, offered exactly that.

Four Seasons is famous for luxury and lives up to it at every turn.  The bed felt as close to a cloud as I can imagine.  The bathroom was an escape all its own, with a tub to die for and a shower that is so relaxing that you won’t want to leave. There’s no reason you must, either, with the television screen built into the bathroom mirror for your entertainment.

Four Seasons bathroom

If you need anything at all, it’s as easy as tapping your request into the iPad in the room.  It’s equipped with everything you might need to know about the resort and the city.

This Four Seasons is also ready to serve any of your Disney needs with a concierge desk set up to handle those requests.

And the service is impeccable.  On my particular stay, I didn’t realize I’d forgotten my contact lens solution until around 11pm that night.  A quick call to the front desk let me know it was available in the kids’ gift shop, which was closed.  But not to worry, within minutes someone was at my door with a bottle of what I needed.  They went in the store to get it for me after hours.  I don’t know of another hotel that would have gone to those measures to make me happy.

The only thing I could say I’d change would be an adjustment to the doors.  They’re heavy enough that you can hear other doors shut from inside your room.  That said, I found it easy enough to get over while kicking my feet back on the balcony with my beautiful  view.

We had dinner at one of the many restaurants on property, choosing to relax at a floating restaurant outside instead of going with the options indoors, though I truly regret not having time for another meal so that I could have sampled the offerings at the Capa Restaurant and bar on the 17th floor.

That’s a great place to watch the fireworks that I mentioned earlier if you aren’t able to get a room with the pool view.  That’s additional and needs to be requested, but if it doesn’t work out for you, be sure to get up to that level and enjoy the fireworks from there.

I’ve seen the Disney fireworks dozens of times in my life and can honestly say, viewing them privately from the balcony of my room on the 14th floor beats out seeing them among the crowds in the parks every day of the week.  Especially when you can see all the fireworks shows in one night.

The videos below feature photos taken during my stay of the resort and a video walk-through of the room.  Enjoy!

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Gifts that Disney Lovers Will Adore (Calling My Fairy Godmother)

May 17, 2015

  Know a Disney fan who wants to feel like a royal princess?  Well, show them these products I recently discovered at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando gift shop and put their fairy godmother on standby to grant them their wishes. I’ll start with the purse in the photo above.  It’s from Anya Hindmarch.  That one runs $1995.  The bigger bag shown here is $2295. If jewelry is more her thing (it sure is mine), she’ll probably love this necklace inspired by The Little Mermaid. It’s from Kimberly McDonald and will cost  your […]

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Five Things to Love about the LEGOLAND Hotel

May 16, 2015

From floating LEGO bricks in a shallow pool to a disco ball and dance party in the elevators, there are several things you’ll love on your visit to the newly opened LEGOLAND Hotel, located literally steps away from the LEGOLAND Florida Resort. 1. The first thing that hits visitors the the hotel is a massive LEGO dragon guarding the entrance, and if they time it right, they’ll see the elevator blowing off a little steam (this happens every 30 minutes).  It will startle you, even when you’re expecting it. 2. […]

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How an Ugly Hotel Room Showed Me How Far I’ve Come

May 16, 2015

Tonight, I sit on a bed that is a far cry from the posh, luxurious bed I opened my eyes to this morning. I am in a room where the furniture truly should be tossed. In the garbage. I don’t even want to know how long it’s been here. There’s a pool outside my door. But I have no plans to dip my toes in it. I don’t want to walk out my door until it’s time to head to the airport. I don’t feel safe and have no intention […]

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Panasonic HX A500 Compared to GoPro and iPhone

May 12, 2015

If you know me, you know video is what I do…having been a television news producer for 20+ years and a vlogger since I think the word was created.  I just believe video tells a story better than anything else can, so imagine my thrill at getting to test out the new Panasonic HX A500 video cameras. I know that sounds like a mouthful, so let me just say this:  this is the next step up from the GoPro.  There, I said it.  And you know what a GoPro fan […]

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The One Thing You Must Do at Disney with Your Kids

May 8, 2015

From watching fireworks blast over the castle to kissing Mickey’s nose, there is a long list of things you truly must do when you visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland, but there’s another MUST that you may be missing when you bring your kids to the most magical place on Earth. It’s something that you’ll treasure forever, there’s no long line to wait in and it won’t cost you an extra penny. My must-not-miss tip: take a photo of your children in the same spot on every single visit. My […]

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