Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Working Song

Wow! In case you couldn't tell from our tweets, Kyle and I had an amazing time at Walt Disney World, and there is SO MUCH to tell you all! With it being the holiday season, it's hard to find time to get the entire trip down on my blog; however, I promise it will be worth the wait!  We have some incredible dining experiences (with lots of pics), some crazy bird stories, and tons of great holiday events excitement to tell you about.  I also have about 400 photos to sort through and videos to edit!

Oh, and as a special treat for you to look forward to, Mike from the Be Our Guest Podcast tweeted an interview request while Kyle & I were in Walt Disney World.  We did a 45 minute interview over skype last night where we talked all about our trip and shared some fun stories about our adventures.  Hope you can tune in on January 2nd for Episode #399!

While I work on writing all of the trip report posts (and keep poking Kyle begging him to give us a treat of a guest post or two), why don't you catch up on our Pre-Trip Report, and familiarize yourself with what our plans were before we left. 

Trip Announcement: Two Months From Today
How did we decide to go AGAIN?: Wanna Go to Walt Disney World... Again?
Resort Plans: Tie-Dye Cheesecake Makes All the Difference
Holiday Event Plans: This Trip is Going to be Legen.... wait for it...
Dining Plans: I Can't Wait to EAT!
Dining Plans Revisited: Where do you REALLY Want to Eat?
Snack Credit Dreams: Snacks to Try
Mid-Planning Project: DIY Craft Project & Giveaway
Contest Winner: And the Winner is...
Packing Tips: My Disney Bag of Tricks
Audience Participation: Choose Our Adventure (Again)!
How to Join Us: Follow Our Adventure

While you read those, I'll be doing this, hoping that some friendly woodland creatures will come help me write my posts:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Follow Our Adventure!

The "Choose Our Adventure (Again)" poll is still going on along the right side of the blog.  See this post if you're not sure what fun you're missing!  

I just wanted to do a quick post to make sure you can follow along with Kyle's and my Holiday Disney Adventure.  We both tweet A LOT while we're at Walt Disney World.  In fact, I've been told that some people practically stalked us online during our June trip, and that they really enjoyed following us around the parks from the comfort of their homes.  You can stalk us too!  (Oh yes, I just invited you to stalk us.  Kyle, you're welcome.  You know... stalkers really are a form of flattery.)

Kyle is @Drantis82, and I, Joanna, am @goddessofmath.  

The beauty of Twitter is that you don't have to have an account to follow our fun.  You can just click those links above and keep our separate Twitter pages open on your Internet browser of choice.  

Following us means you will...
  • ...know where we are and which attractions we're on at all times.
  • ...see TONS of photos from the Parks.
  • ...feel like you're at Walt Disney World.
  • ...be able to find us to say "hi" if you happen to be at WDW too!
  • ...be able to interact with us from home and request things (like a tweeted pic of your favorite spot at the Park we're visiting that day)!
  • ...get to read our random banter back and forth (like when Kyle won't sit across from me on the bus - my tweet, and he claims it's because I put my feet on the seat - his tweet. 

It really is endless fun (well, except for the fact that it has to end on the 14th)!  Feel free to reply to our tweets as we do try to reply to mentions as much as we can.  Please don't forget to vote in the poll to the right.  You get to pick the Epcot attraction we ride as soon as we get there on Saturday!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

This Trip Changed Everything!

My first trip to Walt Disney World as an adult was in January of 2009, and it changed my life for the better.  I stayed at the All-Star Music Resort in a room with my, then, 5 year old niece and 2 year old nephew.  (It connected to my sister and brother's-in-law room.)  Also joining us were my sister's in-laws: father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law x 2, sister-in-law, and their 2 kiddos.  It was definitely a lot of people to keep up with, but we mostly just met them for meals.
Me & my family (not the in-laws though)
I'm getting ahead of myself though.  My love of Disney started long before I ever visited a Park, but this trip changed my love into something new.  Before I go into my first adult trip, let me tell you about my previous Park experiences.  I had been twice before: once as a 4 year old in 1987, and EVERYTHING scared me.  I don't remember much from that trip except that Mr. Toad's Wild Ride really freaked me out, and Epcot, all of it, terrified me to the point that my dad had to carry me through the entire park. I also visited Walt Disney World with my high school marching band as a Junior in 2000.  Oh how different that trip was!  The wand over Spaceship Earth was so darn neat, and marching under SSE in a parade was a memory I'll never forget.  I wanted to spend more time in World Showcase, and I was so sad to leave.

This brings us to January 2009.  I was almost 27, and I'd been chomping at the bit to get back to Walt Disney World.  My sister said they were going again, and somehow I ended up on the guest list.  Immediately I realized I was out of my league when it came to trip planning (which we started almost 6 months out)!  I joined the disboards and designed family shirts as a way to countdown to the trip.  Basically, though, whatever my sister told me was good for our plans, I went with.  After all, she really was the Disney expert!  The pre-trip excitement was contagious, and our conversations always drifted back to our trip.

First picture  in MK
When we arrived at the All-Star Music Resort, a cast member welcomed us "home", and I just about cried!  It did feel like home!  The magic in the air was overwhelming!  We unpacked a bit and headed to Magic Kingdom.  We had just enough time to walk into MK before dining at Chef Mickey's.  My sister and I stayed on Main Street to find me a pair of Minnie Ears and to watch the Castle show while my brother-in-law picked up my niece and literally ran with her to her favorite attraction, It's a Small World, for one ride before dinner!  This was yet another time I teared up on this amazing trip.  The sight of them rushing off in excitement was so poignant!  

Dinner at Chef Mickey's was the first we saw of the in-laws.  (I'm risking a writing an entire trip report here, I know!) I was blown away by the yumminess of the food and fun we ALL had with the characters.  As a little girl, all I wanted to do was meet Minnie Mouse, and I never got to.  (Back then there weren't set meet and greet areas like there are now.)  Meeting her and getting a picture was such a great memory!
Me, Minnie, and my niece
My sister's planning paid off, and we had a wonderful trip (so much so that we went back in May when we unexpectedly got out of school for a week for the Swine Flu Panic).  I remember smiling the entire time and knowing this was a trip I would be making over and over again.  This trip is the one I where I wore sequined Mouse Ears every day.  It's the trip where we realized that my niece gets super nervous when she meets characters and makes this face:
It's the trip where we realized I was scared of the characters too and did what I call a "Pic & Run" where I got the pic so quick no one knew I was gone and the character was waving at my dust clouds as I retreated!
Hate this picture, but it's pretty darn funny.
I did get better though! November 2010
This trip gave me hope, as a single gal, that I could have vacations without having a "special someone" to make them with.  Nothing is sweeter than walking through the Parks and having a little hand sneak in to hold mine!  Oh the amazing memories I have with my family thanks to this trip!

After returning from this trip, I started becoming more and more entrenched in the Disney Community.  It really started my journey toward becoming a Disney Blogger (but that's another story for another post).  We took another Walt Disney World trip May 2009 and November 2010 together (no in-laws though), and we're going on a Disney Cruise November 2011.  I've been back with a friend once in June 2011 and will be going back on Saturday with him (surely you know this - haha!).  This trip matured my love of Disney into something that is almost indescribable and definitely odd to some of my friends.  Odd how one trip can be the turning point in someone's life...

(Speaking of future trips, did you vote in the poll under the Castles on the right side of this blog?  Kyle & I need you to help pick which attraction we visit in Epcot when we arrive on Saturday afternoon!  It's up to you; our fate is in your hands!)

PS - No idea what's going on with the spacing on this post! When I added the pics it messed things up, so I either end up with double spaces between paragraphs or none at all! O_o

Friday, December 02, 2011

Choose Our Adventure (Again)!

Last trip Kyle and I let my blog readers pick which Magic Kingdom attraction we would ride as soon as we got to Walt Disney World.  We greatly enjoyed putting our "fate" in your hands, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover won (which we both loved)!

These are the pics that we tweeted in June 2011
from the TTA: Peoplemover to prove we rode it first!

(See the POLL right there under the Castles? ------------------------->
Remember it! You'll come back to it later!)

In celebration of the fact that in one week we'll be at Walt Disney World, we've decided to allow you, the readers, to choose our adventure again!

Epcot is going to be the first park of our trip, so we've picked 5 rides that don't usually have crazy wait times (who wants to stand in line for 2 hours for Soarin' the second they get into Epcot??).  Like last time, I'm posting videos of each ride for my non-Disney readers to use to help them vote.  (Most of these videos are from a GREAT YouTuber that goes by the moniker of holyRONANempire. Check out his channel to see more excellent videos of Disney World attractions.) 

All of these attractions are "dark rides" meaning that videos of them aren't super easy to see, and (PSA moment here) FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY is NOT ALLOWED.  Some of the attractions have sections in sunlight or brighter light that are easier to see. 

1. Spaceship Earth: SSE is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the world (in my eyes at least).  The ride inside is historical and iconic.  Anyone who loves Epcot will tell you that there are times when they miss the smell of Rome burning.

This is the only non-holyRONANempire video because this one has better audio. The YouTuber for this video is disneyrob. Spaceship Earth is currently narrated by Dame Judi Dench.

2. Living with the Land: I don't know if it's the catchy song, the absurdity of 10 pound lemons, the short wait time, the peacefulness of this boat ride, or just the neat information inside this attraction, but this is one of my favorite attractions at Epcot.  It's calm and fascinating and a nice rest stop.

3. The Seas with Nemo: This attraction is best experienced with Katelyn and Joshua at my side, but I always like to visit it at least once during a trip to ride the EAC with Crush!

This video walks you through the queue too. The ride itself is towards the final third of the video.

4. The Three Caballeros: I could go on this attraction over and over and over again! I love singing along with the music (and that Kyle sits next to me and sings along as well), and the wait time is always short.  I think it's one of Epcot's hidden gems.  I can't count how many times we rode it in June!

5. Maelstrom: The queue for this ride makes me claustrophobic, and the attraction itself is really kinda of weird, but I always enjoy it. The trolls are fun, yet spooky, and the exit from the boat is different than most exits (looks like you're walking onto the dock in a town in Norway). 

Around the 3:00 mark the ride goes into a lighter section that's easier to see. It's like the Internet: you have to look out for TROLLS!

Here's the fun part!  You get to vote using the poll on the RIGHT side of my blog (under my Castle icons - way back up there at the top of the page)!  Just click on the circle next to your favorite attraction.

We would love for you to leave a comment below to let Kyle and me know why you like the attraction you chose.  The poll ends at noon on the 10th.  We'll check the results on our phones on the way to Epcot and then tweet pics of us on the attraction of your choosing.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Disney Bag of Tricks

When you go to Walt Disney World often, people start to ask for tips, and I always have a hard time picking which ones to share.  But before I head out on my next trip, I want to share a few of my favorite tips that have to do with what I'm packing.  About a month before I head to Walt Disney World, I start gathering items that are WDW specific.  Let's check out what a few of my favorite things are!
I start gathering all my WDW stuff in one spot
about a month before the trip.

My sink at home
How many of you are used to sharing a fairly small bathroom area with multiple people?  I know I go from the photo on the left to one sink and about a third of the space that I'm used to and I have to share that space with a man (or kids when I'm with my family) that I don't normally share a space with.  I've found a few items that make this experience absolutely pain free!

This year's bins
Dollar Bins: I love the $1 section at my local Target. A few years ago, I found some adorable cardboard cups and bins in this section, and I realized they were perfect for organizing my bathroom at home. (You can see them in various shapes and sizes on my counter above.) They're sturdy, inexpensive, cute, and Target changes out the designs regularly.  I like to grab some before my trip to use on the bathroom counter to keep my items out of the way.  They're so cheap that it doesn't matter if they get messed up, and you don't mind tossing them at the end of the trip to make room for souvenirs!   (This trip my bins are Christmas themed!)

 Usually "Buy 2, Get 1"
Yankee Candle Travel Room Freshener: Maybe I'm the only person who worries about this, but bathroom smells embarrass me, and when I was faced with traveling with a non-family member, I got crazy concerned about this issue.  Yes, poop happens, but I like to pretend it doesn't, ok? In my quest for non-aerosol sprays (didn't want one to explode in my bag), I found these little bottles of awesome at my local Yankee Candle before my last trip.  They pack a big scent in a tiny bottle.

Last trip I put one in the bathroom withou Kyle realizing it, and he came out with one in his hand with a confused look on his face.  Hehee. No, it's not a new Mousekeeping perk, but it will always be in the bathroom when he travels with me.  This year I found Christmas scents.  Now I know "Christmas Cookies" is an odd scent for the bathroom, but that's ok!

Cord Organizer: Wherever I travel, I typically carry my iPad, iPhone, digital camera, digital video camera, Nintendo 3DS (as of recently), an extra phone battery charger, and a small tripod.  As you can imagine, that's a LOT of cords to keep up with and that can be easily misplaced or left behind.  Since I'm all about cute containers, I found this purse in my closet, and it's now become my cord organizer both at home and while I travel.  
Small enough for my carry-on in case my luggage gets lost,
but just big enough for all my cords: it's perfect!
Shoe Organizer: While I'm not bringing one this trip, families can benefit from an over-the-door shoe organizer.  My sister always gets one at the Dollar Store before our trips and puts one in her bathroom at WDW to keep everyone's bathroom accessories separate.  All those little pockets get filled with ponytail holders, hair bows, shampoos, conditioners, extra soaps, etc while keeping counter space clear for larger items.

A couple other items I always carry with me to Disney World are not resort specific.  Aside from the typical use and toss poncho, sunscreen, pills for anything that might ail me, and special Mickey wallet (it's nice to only carry what you need instead of your every day huge wallet), I like to carry these items:

10 trader Vinylmation
Trader Vinylmations: Thanks to a tip from my brother-in-law, I buy Vinylmations in a lot on eBay at about $5, so I can trade them in the Parks.  This ends up saving me money, and it entertains me throughout the trip.  I love trading, and this trip, I have about 10 traders traveling with me!  (Want to learn more about trading?  Check this post out.)

Carabiners: I've written an entire blog post about these little wonders!  I love clipping a couple on my purse to help me carry small bags of souvenirs around with me. 
Carabiners on my purse
Crocband Flats (I have them in brown too!)
New Crocs: Over the years I've discovered that nothing feels better on my feet than Crocs.  I have high arches, and even good sneakers cause my feet to ache and swell after a day in the parks.  My first two trips as an adult, I ended up buying an expensive pair of Mickey Crocs in the parks.  While I loved those shoes, they were clunky, and I could get them at the Outlets back home for much cheaper.  My pair for this trip (and my last) are less Croc-looking which appeals to my fashion sense.  These are the only shoes that I've worn that I can put on new, walk for miles and miles, and not worry about breaking them in.

Those are my favorite things.  What items are in your Walt Disney World bag of tricks when you pack?  Have I forgotten any tried and true Disney essentials?

Friday, November 25, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Thank you all for participating in my first ever blog giveaway! I was so surprised to end up with 54 entries!  (I took out the mini-conversation between myself and my brother-in-law in the middle)  I was afraid no one would enter, so thank you all for stopping by and playing along!

And the winner is...

Drum roll please! 
(Yeah, sorry you have to click to get the full effect, but come on, join in the fun!)

I used random.org to pick the winner. 

Heidi from "What's Going on in Heidi's Head"

Heidi - I'll be sending you a DM shortly to get your address, and I'll get your photo frame in the mail by the end of Saturday!

Again, thank you all for participating!  I hope my video gave you fun ideas for a craft!

The next post will roll out on Monday.  Come back then to read about what's in my Disney bag of tricks when I head to the parks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

DIY Disney Craft Project & Giveaway!

After Kyle and I got back from our June Walt Disney World Trip, I decided to order some photos from our PhotoPass.  Since his birthday was coming up fast, I thought it would be sweet to send him a framed picture of us at Walt Disney World, so this is what arrived on Kyle's doorstep on his 29th birthday:
Don't you recognize that picture frame?

Wishing you had a frame like that but don't recall seeing it in the Parks?  Sorry, but I made the photo frame myself. Can you tell what I used to make it?  How about a couple of close-ups?  Now do you see what I did there? Yep! It's Walt Disney World napkins!

We had a joke before the trip in our "what are you looking forward to" countdown where we mentioned looking forward to napkins.  I thought a play on that would be really fun, so with a little Modge Podge and creative touches, I ended up with a couple of cute photo frames to hold our Disney memories.  

After making a frame for Kyle, I decided that I needed one for myself, so I made a second frame.  I added glitter to my frame (of course)!
His and Hers photo frames (one's in CT while the other is in TX)
Kyle's frame is the one on the left with Donald Duck in the corner.  I added the duck to his as a subtle reminder of me pointing out a tree stump and telling him it was a duck!  We both laughed at that quite a bit on our trip. 

It's like BFF bracelets only better! ;-)
Believe it or not, these frames are ridiculously easy and cheap to make.  It's a fun evening or afternoon project that you can complete with a child (most likely ages 8 and up - maybe younger with lots of adult help) for a family craft night.  Since I knew you'd all want a frame of your own, I completed a video tutorial for you!

Feel like that's a fun project, but you don't have time (or napkins) to complete it?  You're in luck!  Thanks to Zannaland sending me more WDW napkins (thanks for helping me out after a random DM on Twitter!), I was able to create a third frame for a blog giveaway!  That's right!  You can have a custom made @goddessofmath Walt Disney World 4x6 photo frame!  

There are 3 ways to enter the contest:
1st entry: Leave a comment on this blog post (required).
2nd entry: Follow me on Twitter - @goddessofmath (Comment here in a separate comment, include your Twitter name, and let me know that you followed me.)
3rd entry: Follow my travel buddy, Kyle, on Twitter - @Drantis82 (Comment here in a separate, 3rd, comment telling me you followed him. Be sure to tell me your Twitter name!)

Contest ends one week from today (Friday, November 25th) at noon Central Time.  Winner will be drawn using a random number generator.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Snacks to Try

I like to make lists.  (I could actually make a list explaining why lists are so awesome, but I'll refrain... for now.)  In fact, I keep a few Disney specific lists in the Notes app on my iPhone.  One of them is attractions I still haven't experienced (maybe I'll update you on those soon), and the other one I add to fairly often when I'm reading the Disney Food Blog is "Snacks To Try" at Walt Disney World.  While I don't live and die by these lists while I'm in the Parks, I find it's nice to have them on hand when I'm trying to remember what it was I wanted to try and where it's located.

Here's my current list:
Snack, Park, and Location all in one handy file!
Notice I've listed what the snack is as well as where I can find it.  Here's the trick, aside from World Showcase locations, I really still can't find most of these foods!  Last trip I told Kyle I had absolutely no sense of direction.  I don't think he believed me as much as he should have, but towards the end of the trip I proved it when I marched off toward some attraction in Hollywood Studios, and he had to herd me back in the opposite direction!  So basically we'll be in the right Park (and hopefully I'll be able to eat this time), and I'll be able to pull out my iPhone & show Kyle what I'm hoping to find, and he'll take me there.

In the last pre-trip report post about snacks I wrote about the White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake and the German Chocolate Cookie, so I'll let you go back to that post to check those out.

The Boardwalk Bakery has some amazing looking treats, and two of them are on my list.  I'm doubting we'll head over there this trip, but one day I want to try their Cheesecake Brownie (cheesecake layered on top of a chocolate brownie - yum!).
Photo via Disney Food Blog 
Oddly, while the Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake is on my list, as of tonight I have no desire to eat it.  It's one of those types of desserts that look super yummy some days, and other days I'm just not interested in it.  Below you can see a cross section.  I love how they scoop out part of the cupcake, fill it, and then put the scooped out cake back on top before they ice it!  I need to try to do this next time I make cupcakes.
Photo via Disney Food Blog
I don't usually put alcoholic beverages on my list of snacks, but Disney Food Blog wrote a report about the Marnier Orange Slush, and since I love frozen drinks, orange flavoring, and something that makes me slightly unpredictable, this looks like a must try!
Photo via Disboards.com
Don't laugh at me, but I have a major worry over this drink.  Have I ever told you about the time that I pronounced omnipotent as om-knee-poe-tent in AP English or the time I was reading the last Harry Potter book aloud to my sister, and I kept coming across the phrase "the Goblin-Wizard liaison" but kept saying "lesion" instead of "liaison" until my brother-in-law finally looked over my shoulder and humorously called me out for being a moron?  Yeah, I know big words, but I tend to have issues pronouncing them sometimes.  See where this is going?  I'm afraid to try to order this drink because I have no idea how to pronounce "Marnier".  I keep hearing "mariner" like The Old Man and the Sea when I say it in my head.  Someone please help me out!

Someone on Twitter posted a picture of Germany's Apple Strudel, and my mouth has been watering ever since!  I love love love apple desserts, and that's saying something because I tend to like my fruit separate from other stuff and in its regular just-off-the-tree/vine/bush form.  
Photo via Kokocooks.blogspot.com
Sadly when I google'd this image, I discovered that it seems like the Apple Strudel is a special dessert from the Food and Wine Festival.  Any of my Disney readers know if that's true?

Before I wrap this post up, I thought it would be fun to include the snack that Kyle is looking forward to trying on this trip.  When I mentioned the Apple Strudel, he agreed it looked good, but tonight he tweeted that he'd like to try the Raspberry Lemonade Slush at the Cheshire Cafe.  While I'm a huge fan of frozen beverages, I'm not crazy about raspberry, so I might snag a cookie on Main Street when we head over to find this drink in Magic Kingdom. Granted, I'm not really sure where this cafe is... sounds like it's near the Teacups attraction.  
Photo via Disney Food Blog
I *just* got this tweet from Kyle, and it made me smile, so I had to add it to this blog post.  Ever have one of those moments where you really want a specific Disney snack like right now?
Hehe! Me too! But have you seen those things?! They're huge!
Photo via (can you guess??) Disney Food Blog
As usual, I hope to get some Napoleon from the bakery in France as it's my favorite snack in quite possibly the entire world.  :)  How about you?  When you head to Walt Disney World, what snacks do you always look forward to getting?  Is there a snack you're dying to try?

Next Post: I'm waiting for a good hair day combined with one where I wear a cute outfit and do my makeup, so I can make a tutorial video to post the give-away that I've been wanting to do for 5 months!  Should be up in the next week or so!  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where Do You REALLY Want to Eat?

So after Kyle's and my odd "let's plan our meal reservations" conversation ended up so badly (I blame me), we talked again and worked in some of our plans for events to come up with a better dining plan.  

**Like last time, all links take you back to my favorite Disney dining review site, the Disney Food Blog, where you can find in depth dining reviews and photos.**

We're both going to land before lunch on the Saturday we arrive, so we decided a later dinner wouldn't hurt.  Kyle really likes the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, and I've never been before, so I decided I was game.  We threw out the Garden Grill for this reservation.  While I loved dining in one of my favorite pavilions in EPCOT, I am always game for something new (unless it's fruit on the entree - what's up with that food trend!?).  Besides, Kyle has never steered me wrong with humorous shows!  Last time I was skeptical about Yehaa Bob and the 50's Prime Time Cafe, but both were treasured memories from our last trip!

Dessert is strawberry shortcake (and a fun song)!
Photo via whimsicalworldoftravel.com
The more I read about the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, the more excited I get!  At first I had this weird Little House on the Prairie covered wagon image in my mind: kind of a on the trail, circle the wagons, have a campfire, and sing songs together event.  I couldn't be more wrong, and I've never been so happy to be wrong!  I can't wait to get back and tell you about this dining experience!

Sunday evening we're going to go to the Candlelight Processional (just realized we'll be there on "church day", so I guess I won't be a total heathen that day).  To be sure of seating to see Neil Patrick Harris narrate the event, we made reservations through the event dining package for lunch at Teppan Edo.  (We're paying out of pocket for this, this is how we ended up with enough dining credits to go to the 2 credit Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.)  I've never been to a Japanese Steak House, so I figure why not go to one for the first time in Japan (ok ok inside Epcot)?  The menu looks like it's full of tasty choices, and every time I look at it I change my mind about what I'll order!

Photo via TripAdvisor.com
**Side note: I've been told that went speaking of my WDW trips, I make dining and shopping sound fabulous like I'm a world traveler. "Oh and then we ate pastries in France, and I found the most darling fan in China, and oh the drinks in Germany were to die for!"  I refuse to add in "in Epcot" to every country, and yes, I do appreciate how it makes me sound like I even have a passport!**

This was another one that Kyle wanted to go to, and after reading a review on the Disney Food Blog about the Yak and Yeti, I'm looking forward to it as well.  I read that if you get a reservation for a late enough lunch and ask for a table upstairs by a window (fingers crossed that all of that works out), you can see the Jammin' Jingle Jungle Parade while you eat!  Since I haven't seen the parade in Disney's Animal Kingdom yet, we thought this would be a neat way to experience it, so we got a lunch reservation for 3pm.  Wouldn't it be neat to watch the parade while we have our meal? 

I *really* hope we get to see this from our table!
Photo via DisneyFoodBlog.com

When I entered all of our reservations on my Disney Dining app, I was surprised at how many lunches we had decided to do.  It frees us up for evening events like the Candlelight Processional, the Osborne Lights, and this evening's Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.  Tuesday's lunch will be at the Polynesian Resort's Kona Cafe.  Last trip I got to see the Wilderness Lodge and the Animal Kingdom Lodge when we went there for meals.  I'm not really into hopping resorts just to see them.  That said, I'm looking forward to seeing the inside of this resort!  

I know the Kona Kone is really a kid dessert, but it
looks so fun!  This might be a guilty pleasure that
I decide to indulge in while there!
Photo via wdwforgrownups.com

I'm very unsure of the food here.  I've looked over the menu multiple times, and I'm still not sure what I'll order, but the desserts all look awesome!  I'm debating the Kona Kone, Kilauea Torte, and No Sugar Added Apple Stacker.  I think I'll have to see what kind of mood I'm in when we get there!  Which one would you choose?

I'm really into traditions.  Do it twice, and I'm all like "it's a tradition forever!"  No joke.  See where I'm heading with this?  We've begun a new tradition of breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe on our last day of our trip!  OK ok it may not be a tradition, but it does have the required Mickey waffles, and I hear they're making them with chocolate chips if you like as well!  I love having a sit down breakfast on the last day in the Parks.  It gives you time to get your luggage over to the drop off and make your way over to the boat to the Wilderness Lodge.  Last time we had a private boat ride there which gave us some peaceful, uninterrupted time to chat while having a short tour of our happy place.  

When all was said and done, I think we were both happy with our dining choices.  Dining at Disney is a careful dance of finding places everyone can eat at (pickiness and food allergies considered) and of exploring new places.  

Ya know, Kyle brings a great balance to my pickiness by encouraging me to try new things.  If it were up to me, I'd go for cuisines that I'm used to like American, Italian, and Mexican food.  Without him I never would have tried Boma (can I say I tried it?) or most of the places we're going this trip.  In fact, I tried the Morocco quick service when I was at EPCOT with my family in 2010 because of his suggestion, and we also tried the Flame Tree BBQ because of him.  Both are new favorite places to eat.  I guess that means I should trust his taste... it's usually spot on.  Besides, he's never yet put something on my plate (*cough, cough Paul and the Pear Gorgonzola Pizza incident*) or made fun of me for not wanting to try something.  :)  Can't ask for a better dining buddy than that!

Next post: I'll keep with the food trend and share what snacks I'm dying to try this trip!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I Can't Wait to EAT!!!

Last time I went to Walt Disney World with Kyle I ended up barely eating most of the trip.  I have a sensitive stomach, so the heat, rich food, and honestly, stress of the trip really worked against me causing me to lose about 4 pounds on our trip.  Kyle was amazingly sweet to me while I was sick, and he didn't make me feel bad about it, but I was pretty bummed that I didn't get to try all the stuff I wanted to try.  (I mean seriously, the poor guy had *just* met me, and I was all loser-sick and such.)

This trip, though, I'm determined to toe the line and eat just enough bad stuff that I feel like I've been on vacation but not enough to make me want to die.  It's a fine line, y'all!  Besides, the stress on this trip is going to be waaaaay down.  Yes, I played it down for the last trip: I was that nonchalant "I always fly across the country alone to meet new men" kind of cool gal, but inside I was scared to death that I was about to ruin my happy place!  What if we hadn't gotten along?  I would have always had that disastrous memory associated with Disney World!  Thankfully the trip was AWESOME, and this time I can have soooo much less stress.  After all, my travel buddy has seen me sick, lost in the Parks (more on that some other time), crying (I was sad we were going back to our separate parts of the US!), without makeup, and singing Camp Rock 2 songs while dancing down the Streets of America.  If after all that he's still crazy enough to join me on another trip, there's nothing to stress about!

After deciding to go through with this trip, Kyle and I spent one evening talking on the phone about table service meals.  A few things worked against us though: 1) it was getting late, so Kyle really needed to head to bed. 2) I was super hyped up because I'd just finished a 30 Day Shred workout, so I was more than willing to share my weird food stuff.  Here's how a lot of our conversation went:

Kyle: How about ______?
Me: Do all their dishes have fruit in the entree?!
Kyle: I don't know. Let me check.
Me (talking faster than I ever should): Where are you looking?! Disney Food Blog has photos and reviews, but I want a menu!
Kyle: AllEars.net.  
Me: That looks gross.  I want food food not fruity food!
Kyle: Oh wow! You are a picky eater!
Me: No I'm not!  Well, yes I am, but I hid it very well last trip!  But seriously, what's up with all the fruit on the meat!?  (Said all in one breath...)

After figuring out menus and things I'd be willing to try (which was unusually little at that point), we decided to do a breakfast on our last day.  I'll save you from this entire conversation and tell you that every time Kyle suggested a place, I quickly fired back with "do they have Mickey waffles?!!?!"  I think that got old fast, but remember that I don't eat breakfast, so if I'm going to get up and eat in the mornings, I'd like a Mickey waffle!  

I need my breakfast to smile at me while I eat it!
By the end of the conversation Kyle was ready for bed, and we still hadn't made reservations, so I told him I'd make the reservations online for us.  This meant we ended up with dinners at 8:40pm, I kid you not, and late lunches as well.  The crowds for those days might be small, but the people visiting the Parks when we do sure snapped up the good dining reservations! 

As of that evening we had plans to dine at Garden Grill, Kona, Teppan Edo, Whispering Canyon Cafe, and Yak and Yeti.  About a week later I felt unsettled about the whole dining conversation (mostly because I had been so wheels off during it), and I begged Kyle to talk with me again about meals and maybe change some around to make sure we were both happy with the choices.  Since this post is so long, I'll tell you during the next post where we ended up deciding to eat!

**Sorry for the lack of photos in this post.  What photos do you post for crazy conversations about food??**

Friday, November 04, 2011

This Trip is Going to be Legen.... wait for it....


In my last post for the Magical Blogorail: Peach Line I discussed going to Walt Disney World during a high traffic holiday.  Thanksgiving 2010 was a crazy time to go to Disney, but I wouldn't trade that trip for the world!  However, in comparison to our trips in January and May of 2009 that had very light crowds, we were packed into the Parks like sardines on that trip!  I've always been a little jealous of people who get to enjoy the peak-level Christmas festivities in the Parks with an off-peak crowd, and I'm crazy excited about being one of those people on this trip with Kyle.

I am obsessed with crowd level calendars.  Kyle would tell you that most weeks I direct message or email him a screen shot of a new one.  He's used to this from our last trip, so I think he mostly rolls his eyes at my fascination with numbers, and politely doesn't spoil my fun.  This trip, on a scale of 1-10 with crowds being the biggest at a 10, we're looking at 1's and 2's!  One site ranked all 52 weeks of the year from best to worst time to visit, and our week is ranked #2 with #1 being the week before our week!  Come on, even if you don't care about numbers, and crowds don't daunt you, that's pretty awesome, right?!

Borrowed from BlakeOnline.com
Ok ok, I'll quit rambling about numbers, and I'll tell you the other reasons that our trip will rock.

First, I realized recently that I have seen the The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Disney's Hollywood Studios twice.  Both times it was during daylight hours, and they were not lit.  *sad face*  This trip we have planned an evening to see the splendor that is the Osborne Lights, and I absolutely cannot wait!  Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is covered in Christmas lights, and you can walk down the streets of America to see all of it.  Since the part of Christmas light viewing that I hate is sitting in long lines in a car, this is perfect for me! 
MVMCP Parade complete with Santa Claus!

Second, I've always wanted to attend a MNSSHP (Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party) or a MVMCP (Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party) in Magic Kingdom, and this year I get to attend the latter of the two!  That means we'll get to see it snow on Main Street, USA, enjoy free Christmas cookies and hot chocolate, and experience the attractions with very small wait times!  Also, I bought a super cute outfit to wear that night, and I was looking for an excuse to wear more than just jeans and a t-shirt, so yay! for excuses to dress up!  (OK not dressy, but fun... like more sparkles than usual... I realize that might be scary to some of you.)  When we started planning the trip, Kyle mentioned MVMCP like it was a given that we would go.  I'm glad that was his attitude toward it because I'm not sure I would have even dreamed of it until it was sold out. 

Finally, I got a tweet from Kyle a little while after we paid for our trip that said our trip was going to be "legen... wait for it... dary" or something along that line with a link to this page.  That's right!  HE's going to be narrating the Candlelight Processional!  Who is HE?  You can't figure out my excitement from the list?  It's the one and only Dr. Horrible, Barney Stinson, Glee guest star, Broadway-singing, Doogie Houser, MD: Neil Patrick Harris!  He is without a doubt one of my absolute favorite actors, and he will be at EPCOT in the flesh!  I just know we'll run into each other in the Parks, and I'll casually mention that I teach math, and he'll ask me to be their live in math tutor for their child, and I'll just have to say yes, and then I'll be able to afford WDW whenever I want it, and I'll ... ahem... I mean, how awesome will it be to see NPH narrate the Candlelight Processional?? 
And I shall pretend he is smiling at me and me alone!
Of course once we saw that he would be the narrator, we had to snag a Lunch Package to ensure we'd get seats to hear his narration, and that includes some reserved seating for IllumiNations.  How great is that?

I know this is horrible audio, but I loved this moment on Glee when NPH guest-starred, so here it is for your enjoyment.

Our first night we'll be heading over to Fort Wilderness for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue which I'll talk about more in the where we're eating post, but that's another night of awesome that we'll be having!  It's going to be an event-packed, amazing Christmas at Disney World vacation, and I am more and more excited about it every day!  Next post I'll share where we're eating our sit-down meals. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Celebrating Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is notorious for having amazing holiday celebrations.  The parks are fully decked out in orange and black for Halloween, and their Christmas decorations are like nothing I've seen anywhere else!  The parties in Magic Kingdom, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, are phenomenal (so I've heard).   The Candlelight Processional in Epcot is touching, and the Osbourne Lights in Disney's Hollywood Studios are out of this world!

However, sandwiched in between those two fabulous celebrations Thanksgiving occurs.  For Thanksgiving 2010, my family went on a week long vacation to Walt Disney World.  The first thing we noticed as we walked into any of the Parks was that they were decorated for Christmas the first sign of which was the HUGE Christmas tree greeting us at the entrance to each park.  In fact, Thanksgiving was mostly looked over in the Parks.  I'm not sure if this is because Thanksgiving is holiday specific to the United States, and Disney goes for a more International crowd; or maybe it is because their Halloween and Christmas decorations are so amazing that they just don't leave time for Thanksgiving in between.  No matter the reason, Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World has a very Christmas-y feel to it.
Me, Thanksgiving week in Magic Kingdom.
Can't you tell it's Thanksgiving?
If you are going to Walt Disney World for Thanksgiving, there are certain things you need to know:

Crowds will be HUGE.
You will experience level 10 crowds most of the week; although the first of the week isn't as bad.  That means lines are going to be LONG and parade/fireworks areas will be shoulder to shoulder.  How do you survive these crowds and still enjoy your visit?  I recommend tackling this vacation week ONLY if you are highly familiar with the Parks and do NOT plan for this visit to be the only one you make in years.  

You will need to go having a good understanding of the FastPass system (how to use it, what attractions are best to use it for, and when to use it).  Knowledge of how crowds tend to move around the parks can be helpful, and some families find a touring plan to be useful.  I recommend Touring Plans for this information.  Others really like sites that give more specific plans like Tour Guide Mike and RideMax.  (A quick warning, you must pay for those sites. Many people find free message boards like the DisBoards very helpful.) Because we were familiar with the Parks, we did not use a mapped out plan for the days, but the above sites were helpful for planning a bit in advance.

During our trip, we did not notice the crowds except for during parade and fireworks times.  We used FastPasses for anything over a 30 minute wait, and so we only stood in lines for 30 minutes at most (usually less).  Afternoons were spent relaxing in the pool, napping in our room, or shopping at Downtown Disney.  Believe it or not, we rode every single ride we wanted to ride including all of the E-ticket attractions.  Going with a plan during high traffic periods, like holidays, is a must.
My sister & I - PhotoPass lines can be a bit long. If the location you
like has a line, wait & come back later. We got this shot without
waiting at all.
Thanksgiving Day can still rock.
We went to Disney's Animal Kingdom for Thanksgiving Day.  Most touring sites will tell you that Magic Kingdom and Epcot are the most crowded on T-Day, and they're right!  We arrived at DAK right after it opened for the day and rode every ride in the park before lunch.  Enjoy Magic Kingdom and Epcot earlier during Thanksgiving week in order to have lower crowds there.
Thanksgiving Day (in front of a Christmas tree) 

Table services are booked well in advance.  Instead of battling it out for a reservation, we celebrated Thanksgiving by dining at Garden Grill earlier in the week.  On Thanksgiving Day we stayed out of the madness of a sit down meal and ate at some counter service places we had been wanting to try: Flame Tree BBQ for lunch and Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney for dinner.  The latter of the two was not crowded at all, worked with the Disney Dining Plan, had amazing food, and the service was over-the-top!  Find an out of the way place to eat your meals on Thanksgiving Day.

Christmas might cause you to forget Thanksgiving.
The Parks are decorated so beautifully for Christmas that it's easy to forget the holiday you are celebrating is actually Thanksgiving!  We, the adults on our trip, had sort of missed the boat until my then 6 year old niece asked us over dinner what we were all thankful for.  I admit, I stopped opening Vinylmations and got quite a bit choked up over that!  What a sweetheart she was to remind us to pause and be thankful!

Your photos will look like you were celebrating Christmas in July.
2 Days after Thanksgiving
The photo opportunities over this holiday are great!  Know that you will come back from the Parks with Christmas card-ready photos!  Ironically, the weather is usually mild at this time of year.  We started our morning with hoodies on and before lunch we had usually shed them for t-shirts and jeans.  We ended up with photos of us in front of winter-clad Disney characters looking like we were there in July instead of November! 

If you can handle the crowds, celebrating Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World makes for a beautiful vacation!  You can attend MVMCP (early or late in the week) if you'd like, and the Christmas parades and shows are in full swing.  This December I'll be going to the Parks during the actual Christmas season, so I'm looking forward to experiencing a Disney Christmas instead of a sort-of-Disney-Christmas-except-it's-Thanksgiving  vacation!
Ready for a Christmas card!