Saturday, July 30, 2011

Something About Me Saturday

Welcome to my first "Something about Me Saturday," sponsored by Disney Bird!

I meant to hop on last weekend, but the post I wrote was very negative, and I prefer to leave that kind of stuff off of the blog (mostly).  Last week was one catastrophe after another (sick toddler, flat tire, sick toddler with no power b/c the 117 degree day blew some fuses or something, followed by husband with strep, and last but definitely not least, a blown water heater which flooded our carpeted basement.  Good times) and most of this culminated by Saturday night.

However, after all that, I headed out of town with my coworkers and fellow clarinetists (yes, if you've missed that before, I'm a professional clarinetist) to visit my old stomping grounds of Brevard, NC and the Brevard Music Center.  BMC is an amazing intensive training festival for high school and college aged musicians to practice, study, and have a lot of fun (I turned 21 there.. and yes, we celebrated ALL summer).
Our morning view
Our trip was 5 of us in a van for 8 hours each way.  Sunday through Tuesday, so 1 day in the car - that day we rehearsed in the morning and performed at night, followed by a discussion on military bands (a great place for musicians.. hopefully it will remain that way - Congress is trying to cut our funds, so who knows if I'll actually have a job for 20 years.  Not to promote, but  this link may help.. and if you're willing to help, we all really appreciate it!

Anyways - back to non-political talk.  My coworker, Cheryl, is planning to run the WDW Half Marathon in January, so I enjoyed trying to help her plan her trip.. and, I always love an excuse to talk Disney!  I think if I don't end up in Celebration, I'll join the travel agent crowd.  But, no time for that now!

Brevard is just about 30 minutes away from Asheville, NC in western NC.  It's STUNNING.  Enjoy some pics :)

Looking Glass Falls - Pisgah National Forest

Friday, July 29, 2011

Foodie Friday - Coffee and Sweets!

Tucked away around the Streets of America in Disney's Hollywood Studios is a hidden treasure of the Disney Parks - The Writer's Stop.  A coffee shop/bookstore that was originally created to reference the then popular show, "Ellen," and was known as "Ellen's Buy the Book."

Now, however, it's much less themed and is sometimes just used as a waiting place for those with reservations at the Sci-Fi Diner.

I've stopped in before and just sort of walked through, but in June, our little one decided to fall asleep and take a nice nap midday, when it was about 20,000 degreese outside.  With a stroller, it's difficult to find a place to stop in air conditioning.  We walked through stores, I pleaded  with the cast member outside of One Man's Dream, to no avail, and still had nowhere to relax.  Until I decided: time to find the infamous Carrot Cake Cookie.
Excuse the pic - it's hard to not just dig in!

If you've ever listened to a WDW Radio Podcast, you've probably heard of these cookies. 

The Writer's Stop is one of my favorite snack places in all of WDW because they brew their own coffee.  I'd been hoping for an iced coffee while we were there, but all that I'd seen were the coffee-like slushee drinks which are just way too sweet for me.  I tried a frozen coffee at the Main Street Bakery and had to toss it a few years ago.  

But this coffee?  Perfect.  I may have had 2, actually.  They even had skim milk (hey, I gotta save on calories somewhere if I'm going to have that cookie!).

The carrot cake cookie is basically 2 large round cuts of carrot cake (minus the chunky goodness of raisins and walnuts in a standard carrot cake) filled with cream cheese-like frosting.  The cookie is gigantic and more than enough cookie for 2 people.  

I will say this: the carrot cake cookie will not be on my must-have list.  It's going to remain on the "glad I tried it, but what else is there" list.  But that coffee?  I could use one right now.

Have you had the carrot cake cookie?  What are your favorite treats at WDW?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursdays with Mel: The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

For years, I have wanted to go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Notice - I did not say that I wanted my daughter to go - I wanted to go to the BBB. However, I knew this was one experience she had to have before she got too old... Coincidentally, the oldest "Princess Transformation" on record was a princess in her 80s.

Here is  the "Before" in front of the amazing stained glass window.
The story of Cinderella's transformation is told throughout the boutique.

Each princess gets her own Fairy-Godmother-in-Training

Here's the princes (She chose the Diva makeover)

Disney does have a PhotoPass photographer in the Boutique, and she was as fabulous and funny as our Fairy-Godmother-in-Training. You are in there for a while so you get to know the cast members and photographers pretty well. And instead of paying for the big photography session at the end (which is a separate option - you do not need to purchase the session to get the PhotoPass pics), we headed out to Sleeping Beauty Castle and took pictures out there!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday!

Focused on the Magic

I've just spent 3 wonderful days on a work trip to the stunning mountains in western North Carolina (Brevard!) to visit my old stomping grounds of the Brevard Music Festival.  Of course, with an 8 hour drive each way, I'm happy to make my first post back a Wordless Wednesday.  So, in honor of absolute simplicity, I'll just share one of my favorite shots my husband took.  Point and shoot camera, nothing fancy.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Movie Fun - The Incredibles

The Incredibles is one of the Pixar movies I've seen the least, though I really enjoy the movie.  Noah prefers movies with inanimate objects (Cars) or animals (Finding Nemo) as the main characters, so The Incredibles hasn't lasted very long.  But, it's still fun to have an easter egg hunt while watching!   Here's what I've found:

  • When The Incredible Family and Frozone fight Omnidroid, a Hudson Hornet (Doc Hudson!) can be seen in the background
  • Lee Unkrich, co-director and supervising editor said that there is no Pizza Planet truck - the only Pixar movie to date without that truck!
  • In the short film Jack-Jack Attack, the famous Luxo Ball can be seen!
  • Mr. Incredible is held in prison level A-1 in cell #13 (A113)
  • John Ratzenberger voices - The Underminer

I haven't found as much for this movie.  Do you know any Incredible trivia?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Movie Fun - Finding Nemo

After Noah truly discovered Nemo at the Living Seas Pavilion, Finding Nemo moved to the top of the movie request queue.  So now that we're watching it... a lot, I decided it was time to start finding the typical Easter Eggs that Pixar leaves behind.

As with all movies, they always show tribute to Toy Story, Pixar's first full length feature film, and their other films among other inside jokes.  Finding Nemo is no different.  Starting with...
  • Buzz Lightyear and other friends from Toy Story are on the floor near the toy chest in the Dentist's Office
  • The Pizza Planet truck quickly drives by while Gil is explaining the escape.  If you don't know it's there, I'd bet money that you wouldn't see it. 
  • In the dentist's waiting room, a child is reading a Mr. Incredible comic book!
  • Mike Wazowski snorkels by during the closing credits
  • During the actual escape scene, Luigi from Cars makes his debut appearance
  • A113 - the classroom that the animators studied in at Cal Arts, is the model of the camera the scuba diver uses!
  • John Ratzenberger, who has voiced in all of Pixar movies, is not left out - he's the school of fish!
  • In the Dentist's Office, Boo's fish mobile (from Monster's Inc) can be spotted.
Next time - I'll finally do The Incredibles!

Happy hunting!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Babies Blog Hop!

I'm honored today to guest-host the Babes in Disneyland Blog Hop, a favorite weekly Disney Blog Hop!  
Lisa being a mom of 3 and me being a mom of 1, this week's blog hop theme is: babies!!

I've heard too many times "what a shame you're taking a baby at his age.  He won't remember anything."  I'm absolutely okay that he doesn't remember anything; I remember enough for both of us.  And, I have a lot of photographic evidence that he loved being at the Walt Disney World resort.

Even before our first trip, Noah frequently wore Mickey Mouse clothing (thanks to my wonderfully festive baby shower) and already loved the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse:

Our first full day at Walt Disney World during Noah's first trip (June 2010), we saw the Rope Drop Parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  At 6 months, Noah stared in awe as he saw his beloved friends in person:

And later when he met Goofy:
At home, Noah had a strict 6:30 p.m. bedtime.  At WDW, he was outside after dark.. and loved it.

Now, with crazy parents who were trying to become runners, we took him back for his second trip in January of 2011, at 13 months old.  And, at 13 months, Noah earned his first medal:
And had the most magical and memorable haircut a boy could ask for, mouse ears and all:

He got to run through Mickey's country house one last time (actually, one total time, since his first trip he couldn't walk), and head directly into the Judge's Tent to meet the mouse himself without a line:

When my husband realized he had an entire week off in June for vacation, we scrambled to plan a vacation with only 3 weeks of planning and with an 18 month old... that left us with one option:
Yup, you guessed it.
18 months is a lifetime away from 13.  He's so much more aware of his surroundings.  He really recognized all of the characters and loved meeting them.  He wasn't scared, more overwhelmed when he met his favorites from Toy Story:
Again, we were first in line for the day, so we had a few extra seconds for him to take it all in:
High 5 for "Woowy"

And one for "Buh"
And how many kids can say they got their "drivers license" and first drove at 18 months old?

Driving his Daddy around the track
Noah impressed us with his memory, when he recognized the Living Seas Pavilion our 2nd time in EPCOT  before we could really see the signs by saying "Nemo", which has since become his favorite, above Cars:
Fish tank filled with Clown Fish
Or, eat dinner with a view of an African Savannah:
Dinner at Sanaa at the Kidani Village

The list goes on and on.  There are too many reasons to count why I love Walt Disney World and why I love sharing it with my son (and husband, and all of you!).  I hope you've enjoyed some of these; I'd love to know your thoughts and opinions.  Now, make sure to link up your Disney post - baby related, or otherwise, and check out the other bloggers on the way!  Make sure you're publicly following both hosts - myself and Babes in Disneyland (we'll follow you back!), and hopefully you'll find a couple of other great blogs  to follow as well.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday!

It's another Wonderful Wordless Wednesday!  If you've hopped over, thanks for stopping by!! If you're a regular, thanks for coming back :)  Hope you enjoy!

Focused on the Magic

and the Info Mouse blog hop (I can't find their button code!)
the latter, inspired the theme: 
Disney's Animal Kingdom

I present to you- a music major/professional band geek at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Near where Flights of Wonder, on a corner in Asia, a Cast Member played an instrument made of bamboo.  
The Angklung is considered the "bamboo rattle" and is different than any other instrument I'd ever seen.

She was playing A Small World!

Then I played A Small World!

I'm ready to be apart of the Streetmosphere!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another Wonderful 'Do

Back in January, Noah had his first haircut ever at the Harmony Barber Shop.  What a fantastic experience.  The woman who cut his hair did such a fantastic job, and she kept him entertained all at the same time.  Which, with a wiggle-worm like our little man, is quite a fete!
At 13 months, post haircut
As soon as we got home, I joked that we'd have to go back for his next haircut.  Of course, I was just joking - that boy's hair grows like weeds!  He got his 2nd haircut (after weeks of his father harassing me) a few months later.  We knew we'd schedule another cut for him for our next planned trip - for marathon weekend 2012.  But, when we scheduled our last minute trip, I quickly called to see if there was availability - and there was!!  Of course, the only time available was during our original Via Napoli ADR, but obviously, that worked itself out.

With the Harmony Barbershop, you have to leave a credit card number on file - without 24 hours notice, you will be charged.  Luckily, unlike our January 2011 trip, this one worked out without a hitch (other than a tired/fussy toddler!).  Of course, in January, I rescheduled and wasn't charged, but just a warning!

We walked in and the place was packed!  Several families were in, multiple children having their hair cut or decorated (glitter/hair paint) while their entire families watched.  I quickly noticed that the famous Michal *as spelled on his cast member name tag* was cutting hair that day.  There were two other woman, neither of which was the woman from Noah's 1st cut, but either way, I crossed my fingers that we would end up at Michal's chair.  A few children later, we were greeted by Michal and shown to his chair!
Covering Noah in Mickey stickers
Michal worked quickly while we talked a little.  I told him that I've heard many stories of him and was very happy that he would cut Noah's hair.  After a little conversation, I learned he's from Chicago and has been cutting hair at the Harmony Barber Shop for 16 years - he's met children graduating high school that he did their first hair cut.  I'd love for him to be there in 16 years, to cut Noah's hair as he's graduating!  
He quickly cut N's hair, making sure it was even, without cutting a wiggly little man, and made our little baby look like a big boy.  I never knew how much a haircut could change an appearance for an 18 month old!
Of course, he's still sitting on the seat riser, so I guess he's not that big, but he's now had 3 total haircuts, 2 at the Harmony Barber Shop.  And, we have planned to have his 5th haircut there as well in January.

Outstanding, as expected.  I'd love to hear your HBS stories!! Please leave them below, or share over at the facebook page!  Pictures are absolutely welcome!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reader Question - Last Minute ADR's and Planning

As some of you may have seen over on the facebook page, Katie R. asked about last minute Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR's) - with a trip with her family just around the corner, they haven't made a single plan.

Now, obviously, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I made my first ADR last June, and even since, have walked up to many amazing restaurants and been seated easily without them (Kouzzina by Cat Cora, Via Napoli, and even Le Cellier).  However, if you aren't the type to want to eat dinner at 5 pm (wait, people eat later than 5? Oh, right.. those without toddlers who have a very strong internal clock like mine), having an ADR takes a lot of the pressure off.  And, more than once, I've seen people, or have personally been, turned away for dinner, even at restaurants that had same day reservations available.  

Plus, Katie mentioned that both her dad and younger brother are low-carb dieters, so places like Via Napoli, or one of her favorites, Tony's Town Square, probably aren't the best bet.  

And, I should mentioned, I've known Katie since probably 1999 - she's from my home town, we graduated from the same high school and college, even though they're around 1300 miles apart.  So, when she jokingly asked if I'd want to make ADR's for her, I thought this would be a fun idea!  

When you're planning a trip, you want to start by checking out the Touring Plans Crowd Calender.  For $10 a year, you can know which parks to avoid on which days, and check wait times in the parks.  Amazing, right?  Plus, like their name, they have actual touring plans so even in the crowded days of August, you can maximize your rides.  Or, "touring" if you will.  And, no, they don't know I exist, so I did not get paid for that advertisement.. I think I've simply listened to 1 too many podcasts sponsored by them to hear the spiel!

Knowing which parks to hit or avoid, really helps scheduling ADR's.  If you're headed to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, you don't want to have a dinner reservation in EPCOT!  

So, Katie and her family plan to stay off property, which to me means: skip the park opening with Extra Magic Hours -normally I think they're probably the most crowded, but really, you don't get to see the Rope Drop

and hit up The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (who else go to Islands of Adventure) on one day, so hopefully they can take the busiest WDW day and head over there.

So - Low Carb last minute ADRs  -
My mind went 2 restaurants in the World Showcase - La Hacienda de San Angel and to Biergarten in the German Pavilion.  The latter for 2 reasons - one, as Eric from the SorcomReview tweeted at me when I made the ADR, bring out your inner carnivore for that meal.  Plus - Katie had mentioned that she thought it would be a fun experience.  Win, win, right?  Plus, it's usually a LOT of availability.  Breakfast buffets are always fun, and very easy for the low carb dieters!

I just checked on Disney's Dining Reservation Page (google it!)  and there are absolutely too many restaurants available to choose from for dinner for Katie's trip - including an ADR for Le Cellier.  So, Katie - get on there, and point and click!  

Set out a tentative plan - pick which 1-2 parks you plan to visit in one day.

Schedule in the shows (Hey, Fantasmic is showing nightly, no excuses!), etc... and have fun!

Enough vague scheduling?  Yeah, probably.

And, now I'm jealous because Katie will be at WDW on August 1st!  Have a wonderful trip :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Foodie Friday - Via Napoli

Via Napoli, one of two new restaurants in the World Showcase (the other being La Hacienda de San Angel) originally made our ADR schedule, but didn't happen as planned.  Instead, we walked in around 5:15 one evening, asked the hostess, and were seating within 10 minutes.  Yes, in June, walk ups at excellent restaurants are possible - just show up early!
The Hostess Table
The inside of the restaurant really is beautifully adorned and made us very excited to order to get a table.  We quickly looked over the menu and started with the arancini, which to my cajun-food loving mind sounded basically like an Italian version of the boudin balls I great to love living in Louisiana.
Arancini - served over amazing Marinara sauce
Noah, our odd eating little man, loved these, but mostly loved the Marinara.  He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that a server brought him a dish of marinara which he enjoyed with a spoon.

As for our entree, my husband and I completely differ on pizza.  I like my vegetables and he likes his meat, and neither of us really like both.  So, we split!  Half veggie, half meat.
Now, I should tell you - I don't generally enjoy pizza.  I like making my own at home on whole wheat dough, with my own toppings and ingredients, or from a restaurant like Z Pizza, but I can (and have for many years) live without take out pizza.  Via Napoli, however, changed my mind on restaurant pizza.  This pizza was fabulous.  Gooey, delicious, and loaded with great toppings.

Plus, for 2 adults and 1 kid, we still had leftovers from a medium pizza!

When we saw the dessert menu, we knew we had to indulge.  Adam ordered the pistachio gelato, a fruit bowl for Noah, the zeppoli - fried donuts for 'me'.


Zeppoli with whipped cream and chocolate dipping sauces
The fruit plate was delicious and our little man devoured it in a matter of minutes.  Adam still drools over that gelato.  But, the zeppoli?  Not so good.  I've had great zeppoli - basically it's just fried dough.  This dough wasn't flavored.  The dipping sauces were the only flavor, and that just wasn't for me, so we didn't finish those, even sharing 3 ways.  Should have gone with the waitresses recommendation of Tiramisu!

Other than that one order-mishap, I would absolutely eat here again.  Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering how we can work it in for our January trip...

Have you been to Via Napoli yet?  What is your favorite?  I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Winnie the Pooh!

Don't tell, but this is the first time I've actually participated in this particular blog hop!  I've wanted to for ages, but with my amazing series, Thursdays with Mel, I was afraid to step on her toes.  But, I've decided - maybe I'll simply have 2 posts some days!  That's not crazy, right?  Okay, maybe a little, but others do it, so why not!

Plus, I love having a topic decided for me!  Makes my job so much easier.  And by job, I mean hobby.  

Today's theme is Winnie The Pooh

Which for me means - Interactive Queue!  Let the pictures begin.

Noah had fun playing in the tree house!


And he enjoyed climbing through Eeyore's Gloomy Place 

 Then, he had fun making music with the flowers!

 And trying to find the gophers!

There they are!

And, playing with the bees!

Then, he loved wiping away the honey to find the characters!

We love the new interactive queue at Winnie the Pooh.  How about you?