Visit Orlando*sigh*

If there’s one thing we won’t be doing with regards to our wedding it’s taking a honeymoon as our date is slap bang in the middle of term time and like I say we’re a family first and foremost so we won’t take them out of school and we wouldn’t go without them.

I imagine (hope) we’ll be one of those OAP couples living it up big time when the girls leave home but in the meantime a girl can dream, right?

So when it comes to choosing a location for your honeymoon where do you start looking?

Like I said IF we were to go, we’d take the girls with us and we’d like to go to a warm climate with lots of different things to do for every member of the family, a honeymoon is also a dream holiday so one that is classed as special and one location that springs to mind is Orlando.

visit orlando header

I think you’ll be thrilled to learn that Orlando isn’t just theme parks, there’s a ton of exciting stuff to do over there and recently Visit Orlando have launched this amazing tool Orlando Holiday Planning where you can go and plan your holiday from your sofa making sure that there are things to do for all the family. Not only that each topic is packed with tips that you can save to personalise your unique family holiday.

Tabs at the top include When to go, getting there, where to stay and of course what to do. Orlando is so packed with opportunities that it is most certainly a place you can revisit time and time again and still find new attractions to discover.

Visit Orlando

As a girl can dream, I did. I went over and made up my dream Orlando holiday. I chose how and with who I would fly, I got some great ideas on accommodation and love the idea of a hotel within the theme park plus Mickey Mouse dining package where kids eat free. I picked up important tips on what to pack, to book tickets in advance and WHERE TO SHOP sorry was I shouting then? Yes, peeps shopping, don’t forget iPads, Jeans, trainers and a ton of designer labels are much cheaper in their home country than back in Ol’ Blighty.

Here are a few of the ideas I bookmarked

  • Check out the alligators on an airboat ride
  • hire surfboards at Ron Jon Surf Shop on Cocoa Beach
  • Race fans can whizz round a track in a IndyCar or stock car (Paul would LOVE this)
  • Pamper yourself in a luxurious spa (me time)
  • Visit the largest Legoland in the world in Florida – the girls would love this

So if I can get the school to move their term dates, save up a couple of grand I am sure I can convince the Mr to take us all away and spend our honeymoon in Florida, what do you think?

key lime pie slice

There are some dishes that evoke a memory one that is special and deep and will never leave you and Key Lime Pie does that for me. We arrived in Key West Florida and the heavens opened but it was warm and we were having fun so we dived into the nearest bar The Hogs Breath Saloon and we fell in love with Key West.

This is one place I’d go back to again and again, it has a happy-go-lucky feel to it, the bars are lively, the town is gorgeous, the sunsets are to die for and the Key Lime Pie is sublime.

So when the recipe cropped up on Dad’s Cooking Tonight I knew I had to try it just to get me a tiny bit of Key West back again and it worked too. The best thing about this recipe is it is easy in true Mari’s World style, just how we like ’em. Time spent making it is minimal, cost of ingredients will not require a new mortgage and the hardest part to this recipe is waiting the two hours required for it to chill.

Key Lime Pie


For the base
180g digestive biscuits
85g melted butter
1tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp caster sugar
For the filling
397g tin of condensed milk
2 limes, thoroughly squeezed
Finely grated rind of the limes
4 egg yolks


Place your biscuits in a bowl and crush them until they are fine breadcrumbs add the cinnamon and caster sugar (I omitted the sugar as the biscuits were sweet enough but purely optional).

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add to the biscuit crumbs mixing in well. Grease a 9 inch round tin with a loose bottom if you have one and press the biscuit mixture to the bottom and raise around the side to about 1/2 inch in height. Bake in the oven at 160C for about 5 minutes.

To make the filling, tip the condensed milk into a bowl and add the lime juice, rind and egg yolks. Whisk until all blended together, pour on top of the base and spread around evenly. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

key lime pie

That is it!

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool place in the fridge and allow at least two hours so it can set

Can it get easier than that? I don’t think so, you’ll spend more time clearing up than actual preparing. Serve with a drizzle of cream or on it’s own as if you were in Key West and talking of Key West allow me to indulge in my photos taken from that glorious place back in 2007.

hogs breath Key West

Our first bar stop in Key West


key Lime Pie shop Key West

Eat Key Lime Pie and enjoy the sun


Key West sunset

A truly magnificent moment watching the sun go down at the harbour


key west florida

another bar – this time the smallest one but we managed to squeeze in ;)

Visit Orlando A couple of weeks back, I took the girls out of preschool and we went on a train up to London, a journey they both adore. It was the Highspeed into St Pancras which I love as it saves so much time.

Our destination was Holborn, just a couple of stops on the Piccadilly Line and our appointment was, very excitingly, a morning with Visit Orlando, the sunny, fun destination in Florida that most of us associate with theme parks.

Visit Orlando is the tourist board for that enticing part of the world and time and time again they come up against tourists who think of them as theme parks and that’s it so, they want to get the message out there that there’s loads more to do. In fact, there’s something for everyone from the youngest members of the family to the oldest.

Whilst we enjoyed lattes and croissants at the Aveda Institute, Amy introduced us to the magical wonders in Orlando and of course, like any girl who knows what’s best she told us about the shopping…

Did you know that Orlando has now surpassed Miami in the shopping stakes? It’s now the 4th best place to shop in the USA. 12 shopping malls, top department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and one of the largest outlet locations of the South East, they even have a tour called Shop Orlando and I’m assured there is something for purses of every size.

Then we talked about spas or more specifically, pampering yourself. The City Beautiful lives up to its name with internationally known brands like the Waldorf Astoria by Guerlain or the Ritz-Carlton Spa, many of them also having menus for children too!

Enjoying a fabulous manicure – thanks Visit Orlando :)

It seems the perfect place to point out there are numerous golf courses should the man of your life not want to enjoy some pampering. Like I said, there is something for everyone.

Of course, one thing you can enjoy as a couple or a family is the dining out. Casual dining, Upscale Dining even themed dining are all on offer. I remember one of our favourite places to eat on our last visit to Orlando was the House of Blues in Downtown Disney where I ate my first ever Jambalaya. Amy told me of a Pirate’s Dinner Adventure which is perfect for a swashbuckling family evening, coined as the world’s most interactive dinner show.

Light on the bar in The House of Blues in Disney Downtown

Top tips for planning a visit to Orlando

  • Book car hire from the UK to make sure you have the correct insurance cover.
  • Quietest time to visit is October half term.
  • July – August is VERY hot, remember to drink water, wear a sunhat and cover-up with sun cream.
  • If visiting with little ones in the summer, visit the parks early in the morning and in the late afternoon.
  • Book Swim with Dolphins before you go, they only take 1000 people max per day.

So yes, Orlando is home to the world’s best theme parks and it has water parks where you can swim with the dolphins but there is also plenty of nightlife and more entertainment than you can shake your hips at. There is a huge range of sports and recreation; hot air balloon rides or flying an open-cockpit 1930’s biplane. There’s plenty of art, history and culture and spa and wellness too, heavens you can even get married there!

Now there’s a thought to put to my other half…

Disclosure – Visit Orlando treated me to coffee and croissants at the Aveda Institute. They also treated me to a fabulous Aveda manicure and a cupcake (see top photo, do you like the colour?) but I checked out the website and I am the one dreaming of returning to Orlando one day with my girls, did you know the Magic Kingdom has had a complete revamp? *sigh* one day I’ll get there too.

The Gallery time again today and Tara has set this weeks theme as A Happy Memory which of course meant going back through the albums, a past time I love to be honest. My photo albums go right back to when I first met my ex, documenting the birth of both of our children, our wedding, our holidays, our days out as a family and of course include lovely memories but each one leaves a bitter sweet taste in my mouth when I think of how it all ended so I had to look harder and I came up with this as the moment I saw it my heart strings started playing and my mind was taken back


I look at this photo and I miss her so much. She is my friend Enrica, probably my best friend. I’ve known her since … I can’t pinpoint when she first came into my life but she’s seen both of my children grow up, she’s been there for me when my marriage broke down picking up all the pieces that were the broken me and she did her goddamn best to put me all back together. We have laughed together, we have cried together and we’ve even sent the whole wide world ‘You know where’ together when times got really really tough.

The real beauty of our friendship lies in the fact we can talk to each other, many a time we’ve had to sit the other down and tell her, ‘This is not good, it/you can’t do this and it needs changing.’ probably one of the hardest tasks a friendship asks of you, complete and utter honesty. Not everyone is able to talk openly and not everyone is able to accept truth especially if it comes under the umbrella of criticism. But Eri and I can. We crossed that hurdle years ago and even now when we catch up (which sadly is very rarely) we pick up exactly where we left off.

There are people who don’t like my friend, my ex was one of them, mind you he hated anyone getting close to me and befriending me. He once was very cruel and told her things that apparently I had said about her and she was very upset, our friendship took a massive knock and it took a hell of a fight from me to try and prove his words were lies, thankfully we made up and from that moment onwards we vowed that if ever there was something to say between us we would do just that.

It works. I can go months without speaking to her or emailing, or even contact via Facebook but when we meet we share a bear hug, a glass of wine (or two) and we’re back on track like not even a day went by. The last time we met was in London last autumn and now we’re concocting a plan to see if we can organise an Italian meet in the new year.


Here we are again celebrating another friends’ Hen Night a good few years ago. Of course if I had to declare who is my very best friend of all well that’s easy

Yosemite National park

It’s always Paul. The man who sticks by me in thick and in thin. He’s certainly not afraid to tell me his thoughts! Here Paul is against the breathtaking backdrop that is the Yosemite National Park – now don’t be an idiot like me and pronounce it like a jar of marmite, it’s Yo-se-mi-te. I’ll save you that embarrassment as I have been there and done it for you :) This was a three week break to the USA and this stop was in the gorgeous national park which really deserves more attention that it’s getting here, a holiday that we both enjoyed immensely and talked about for years after and I’m sure for years to come.

I am lucky to have these wonderful memories, these lovely people in my life and I look forward to sharing many many more memories with them. Head over to Sticky Fingers to see what everyone else came up with today.

Blogging photography workshop

NASA space centre FloridaFinal is a sad word and today in just under 7 hours as I write NASA will launch Atlantis on its final shuttle mission. I am lucky enough to have visited the John F Kennedy Space Centre in Florida in June 2007. Paul and I were on a tour of Florida and we were only a day or two into the trip of a lifetime starting in the north, reaching Key West on the most southern tip and ending in Orlando, home of the fun parks; 21 days of immense fun after going through such heartbreak.

To be honest, when I saw this stop in our program, I turned my nose up, thought, boys stuff, bound to be boring but heyho, let’s check it out. It was a coach tour so I had to check it out anyway! I was so excited to be in Florida and to be going on to Miami after that I would have gone anywhere, add to that I love visiting new places too. I sat back ready to see the John F Kennedy Space Centre. Crawler track NASA

Entrance to this centre is set up very much like a theme park, enormous car parks, and coach stops, turnstyle ticket booths that then allow you through to the centre itself set out with rocket gardens, shops and ice cream stands.

After a quick peek in the shop and a fill up of water as it was a very hot day, we were guided through to a bus stop where we hopped on a NASA bus which tool us on a lengthy tour around their massive plot. We drove past an extensive flat gravel roadway where we learnt the crawler would literally crawl for days from the ‘hangar’ to the launch pad.

The crawler transporters are 131 feet long and 113 feet wide, with a flat upper deck measuring 90 feet square — about the size of a baseball diamond — that serves as the carrying surface. They move on four double-tracked tread belts, similar to those on a military tank. Each contains 57 “shoes” weighing more than a ton apiece.

NASA space shuttle hangar

Each transporter is powered by two 2,750-horsepower diesel engines. The hydraulic system includes 16 jacking, equalizing and leveling cylinders, which keep the crawler’s surface level at all times. This leveling system keeps the shuttle from deviating, only allowing the top of the orbiter to move in an arc about the diameter of a basketball during its journey — even as the crawler climbs the short hill to the launch pad.

We climbed a station and were able to view the launch pad  and on the way back down we were directed into a large air conditioned room which was very refreshing and we could see various models of how the crawler worked and the engineering magic that went into making it.

A trip to an enormous hangar which housed a massive rocket stretching the entire length of the room, a moon buggy and a model of the international space centre too was utterly gob smacking. The sheer size of these things is unbelievable until you stand up close. we feasted on American burgers with the rocket hanging over us which was really quite something.

Before I left the centre, I popped into the shop and bought some moon rocks, a brochure to read up on and a couple of souvenirs and I left the whole experience a lot wiser and extremely happy I had visited, I never would have guessed I could have been so blown away by a space man!

I am linking up with Karin over at Cafe Bebe today in her Flashback Friday where you can find many more flashbacks