Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Affiliation for me = Disney Gift Card for You!!

Once I started really learning about Disney vacations, I realized that Travel Agents are a great asset to travel planning.  Disney travel agents are special in that, unlike other travel agents, they work for no cost to you.  Normally plan trips by booking directly through Disney?  Well, you're still using a travel agent, but one that works directly with Disney, so they are less likely to be there for you.

If you book directly through Disney, you have to pay attention to all the new offers, discounts, specials, etc... if you work with a travel agent, they do the research for you.  A good travel agent will also go above and beyond - they will let you compare rates at different resorts, different views, etc... And, they'll help you with any special requests and so much more.

That's why I'm so excited to share with you my new affiliation with Kelly, the WDW Guru!  She, along with her fellow "Gurus" put out a great blog with tons of information and different view points and I'm positive she can help you plan an amazing Disney vacation!  If you need to plan a vacation, she's your Guru.  And to celebrate our new affiliation, Kelly has offered to share an amazing giveaway - a $50 Disney gift card!  These can be used at Disney parks, stores, and even online, so that's literally just cash in your pocket!!

Make sure if you stop by Disney Guru, you let them know that Jenn from DBB sent you!  Good luck to all!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Dad’s View of Disney, the DVC, and the Most Magical Place on Earth

In hopes of making my job easier and my blog more versatile, I've found a couple of new additions!  Today, I'd like you all to welcome my old college friend, Brandon!  Brandon and I haven't actually seen each other since 2004, but we became friends both sharing the same major - music.  And, Brandon also sung bass with my neighbor's barbershop quartet!  Which is why I made him share this perfect picture.  Enjoy learning about Brandon and his relationship with Walt Disney World!

Brandon's in the middle!

**Let me begin by saying I am not much of a writer, but I am a college friend of Jenn’s (Geaux Tigers!) and told her I would contribute to her blog from time to time…

I have always been a Disney person. When I say a Disney person, I mean someone who believes in the ideas that Walt Disney stood for: creativity, imagination, fun, wonder, hard work, and determination. When I was young, my parents took me to WDW every other year or so. I loved it as a kid because I could truly be, see, or do anything. I had no idea what went into the process to make WDW what it is - I just enjoyed it.o I REVELED in it! 

As I got older, I realized what Disney stood for as a man, and why his theme parks and movies are second to none. My father is an engineer and would marvel at the different things the Imagineers could create; I am pretty sure my mom still has my first Disney hat.

One of the reasons I knew my wife was so perfect for me was because of how much she loved WDW. I took her there while we were engaged, and that was when we made our first big purchase together: a Membership to the Disney Vacation Club. Overall, this has been one of the best investments I have ever made.  We both work hard - she works graveyard and stays home with our child while I generally work 12 hour days. Needless to say, vacations are very important to us. 

Since Jenn doesn't know much about DVC, I thought I would help explain it!  The use of the DVC membership is easy and we have already stayed in so many GREAT places. The points are valuable around the world and just about anyone will trade. We traded the minimum amount of points (160) and got a 2 story, 2 bedroom suite in Scotland for our honeymoon.  Awesome.

But the most important reason for all of this is being able to have the leniency to stay where and when we want, and be able to bring loved ones with us. I have seen several friends and family see Disney World for the first time because I was able to give them a place to stay, on Disney property, in a great room. As a father, it is very important to me to be able to provide my family with the wonder of Disney. 

Our daughter was born 3 months premature and had to stay in the hospital to grow.   Even then, people were always bringing her Disney gifts.  After my wife's favorite Disney character, we named her Alice and she has already been to WDW twice, each time enjoying the magic and recognizing her favorite Disney friends. 

The DVC has provided us with endless vacationing opportunities, but more importantly, with the ability to give the gift of the Disney Experience to my loved ones for many years to come. I see my little girl’s eyes light up when she sees Mickey, the castle, and the fireworks. My family can eat great food, stay in a great place, enjoy great amenities  all while having Disney customer service to help with whatever may come up!  No wonder one of Alice’s first words was “Mickey”!

I am looking forward to sharing our experiences with you and thanks for reading!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Foodie Friday - Tusker House/Donald's Safari Breakfast

 Located in Disney's Animal Kingdom, the Tusker House is home to Donald's Safari Breakfast.  I had heard so many great things about this breakfast with characters from the fab 5 that I knew this had to be on our to-do list.

I scheduled our ADR for first thing in the morning - 8 a.m. on a day with a 9 a.m. park opening and no extra magic hours.  If you're considering an in-park breakfast, this is the best way to go! Get in an hour early so you can be in the park before it opens and still not have to wait in lines when you're done!

It's almost a misnomer to call this Donald's breakfast.  As of now, he is only found outside of the restaurant taking pictures while his pals are the ones who actually visit with you while you eat.  There is a photo pass photographer there ready to go to take a picture of you with Donald before your breakfast that they'll happily show and offer you for the low Disney price of $30.  Yup.  We passed on that one!

Back to the breakfast - being some of the first inside the restaurant, the food was fresh and really good.  They even had Krispy Kreme donuts that day!  I made Adam take some pictures for me when he took his turn on the buffet... but I can't seem to find them.  Again!!  Our pictures from this past trip are so disorganized, I apologize!  But, basically - this buffet has all your standards and a few with an African twist.
Check out the Disney Food Blog's review for some great pictures of the unique offerings!

Immediately as you are seating, you served what they call "Jungle Juice."  Not quite what I had in college, but it was delicious!  Noah rarely ever gets juice, but we let him enjoy some that morning!  I made sure to try the 'signature' foods - Mealie Pap, which is a version of oatmeal/porridge and the Beef Bobotie.  The Mealie Pap isn't for me but the beef bobotie was interesting in a good way.  My husband wasn't a huge fan - it's a South African beef pie, so definitely different than my normal breakfast foods, but I enjoyed it!  I actually had seconds!

They have the standard Mickey Waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, pastries, and anything else you could imagine for a breakfast.

But, for me, this breakfast wasn't just about the food or even the fantastic character interactions.  It was about the dance.  We were done eating and getting ready to leave when we heard mention of a dance - and within a few minutes, Noah's favorite of the morning, Goofy, walked into our room along with some cast members carrying musical instruments (mostly shakers) and invited all the children in the room up for a parade!

We coerced Noah to the front, and he picked up a shaker and joined in with a huge smile on his face!  Music plays in the entire restaurant and Goofy leads the children around to music singing "Jambo, Jambo" weaving their way around the tables.

Overall even compared to the great experience we had at the Hollywood 'n Vine last June, I would absolutely recommend this one and eat here again.  Now, this is also a character meal for lunch and the waitress told me she personally prefers the lunch food, so I'll be excited to experience that again on a future trip.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Character Interactions!

Our first day in the parks, Marathon Sunday 2012, had a very limited rope drop and an introduction by a character that I wasn't too familiar with - Scoop Sanderson, reporter for the Main Street Gazette.

Then, later that same day while we enjoying lunch at The Plaza, we noticed Scoop standing outside.  Melissa noticed that he had some amazing pins and it made us curious... do the big time guys pin trade?  Well, we figured we had our shot so we should go ask!

We headed out front to say hi and had a wonderful conversation with a great 'character' of Main Street.  And, though he wasn't sharing his pins that you can clearly see, he unbuttoned his vest to display 2 full strands of amazing pins!  We said we could each trade 1 from each strand.  
Opening Oct. 1971

WDW Monorail System
Board at Hotels and Main Entrance

Cool, huh?  Well, not only did we experience that much of Scoop, but he gave us his card!
Scoop Sanderson
Main Street Gazette Reporter
Town Councilman and Pinthusiast
"All the news that fits!"

I'd heard prior to that about cards, but had never seen or received them!  A few minutes after we traded and sat back down, Scoop walked into the restaurant to announce that two children were guest reporters for the day!  It was all very ceremonial and the kids loved it!

To top it off, later that week while we were at the Animal Kingdom, I noticed some Cast Members standing with a giant pin board - all for trading!  As I looked, I happened to notice a very cool pin.  Well, very cool for me on this trip:

Gotta love those special characters!  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Window Wednesday!

Focused on the Magic

The Human Dynamo Machine Co.
Michael Bagnall - Office Mgr.
Top Financial Executive for Disney, helped arrange finances for WDW
David Snyder- Program Supervisor
Head of Creative Content for Disney TV - developed, produced, and programmed hundreds of hours of animation, live-action, and documentaries for the Walt Disney Company

Cool side note - I found all the David Snyder info on his new website!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Magical Train Ride

My two year old loves trains.  In fact, he has two separate train sets that he switches between during the day.  The big one he refers to as his monorail!
Noah with his monorails
So, of course, we had to take Noah on the Walt Disney World Railroad.  The first time Adam took Noah alone.  I pulled a completely selfish moment and ran to register for the testing of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  They went from Main Street to Frontierland where I met up with them.  Not so surprising, Noah didn't want to get off the train.
WDW Railroad Logo
The second time, it was starting to rain so we parked the stroller at the top of the Main Street Train Station - out of the elements - and headed to make the next train. Noah was playing around and having a great time... until he ran, looking back for our approval, and landed face first in the gate.  As soon as the tears started, a WDW Railroad Conductor walked up and saw the crying toddler.  He was a more reserved cast member, but still very friendly and we tried to convince Noah to say hi and his favorite phrase "all aboard" but the tears continued.

The conductor walked back up to us and handed us a "Co-Conductor Card" and when he still didn't cheer up, I explained why he was so upset.  

He already had a bruise showing up in the exact same place of a previous black eye - he could be a stunt man with his falls.  I explained this to the conductor just randomly and he walked away for just a minute.  He walked back and handed us this:

Certificate for a free popcorn

Magic Kingdom Park 
Complimentary popcorn
Reason - other

We at the Magic Kingdom Park, strive to make ever Guest part of our family.  We apologize if any part of your visit is less than Magical.  Please accept the voucher as our thanks for bringing this situation to our attention.  Just present this voucher to a host or hostess at the location described.

We're not big popcorn eaters, but the thought was incredible!  I had no idea they did anything like this.

Of course, the magic didn't stop there.  The conductor invited us to sit in the back with them - there's a special seat for the co-conductor!
Their special seat!
Then, when we arrived at Frontierland, we planned to continue our ride back around, but the conductor let Noah announce "All Aboard!" to the entire train.  Then, he announced Noah as the guest conductor and we were applauded!  Talk about a magical experience!

Monday, January 23, 2012

5k Complete

Our official reason for our January trip is Marathon Weekend.  We knew after our first runDisney event - the half marathon in 2011 - that we would be back.  In my mind, I'm planning to head down for marathon weekend for many years to come.  Of course, this year turned out differently than planned.  We ran the 5k together and I watched the half marathon as a spectator.
Nearing mile 3
Though I did witness a very pregnant woman cross the half marathon 13 mile marker in a remarkably fast time (2 hours!?), I know myself - I'm not a super athlete!  I'm not one who runs 13 miles on a regular basis.  To date, I've run 13 miles twice - 2 separate halves.  So, doing that distance 26 weeks pregnant wasn't my option.  Luckily, the 5k is completely casual.  There is no real organization in corals (starting positions) and it's not officially timed, so I could be as slow as I wanted and take as many pictures as possible!

I will have to admit - the 5k is a bit lackluster compared to the half.  There is little in the way of entertainment and characters weren't nearly as frequent.  However, the run is through the World Showcase for the most part, so there is enough there to see!  We did stop for a few pictures and we even met hosts, the Three Caballeros, before the race even started.  

I had to walk more than I had originally expected - some days are great run days and some aren't, and unfortunately, race day just wasn't.  But, again, that's okay!  We enjoyed our stroll through the World, even though Adam tried to run off for a bite to eat...
Review to come - but another amazing experience!
People of all levels join in the fun of the 5k.  There were numerous people attempting the "Dopey" Challenge (Goofy + the 5k... that's 42.4 miles in 3 days), people walking, and people entering their first race ever.  If, in the past, you thought I was nuts for doing the half, you should absolutely consider doing the 5k.  Honestly, 3.1 miles is far less than you walk around Disney in a normal day, plus this adds the fun of a challenge/goal, and a medal!

And, to make that even better - we're adding another level to runDisney events!  Along with friends and members of the Magical Blogorail, we're creating a new running team for upcoming races!  I've loved running with the WDW Radio Running Team in the past, but when I realized so many of my fellow writers were thinking of running, that we could join in on a common purpose - Autism.  Several of our writers are affected by Autism and I know so many people that spend so much time at different therapies.  I wanted us to join together, and hopefully encourage some readers as well, to join in with us! 

We have created the Magical Blogorail Running Team to be at upcoming evens.  We're positive that several of us will be at the WDW Marathon Weekend 2013 (I'm running the half and possibly the 5k) and others are interested in the Tower of Terror 10 miler this coming October.  If you're interested in joining in on the fun, cheering us on, or even donating, these will all be options!  The required donation won't be too high and we plan to make race shirts and maybe more, depending on the interest!  

Hope to see you there!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Foodie Friday - Kouzzina revisited

I first visited Kouzzina by Cat Cora in June of 2010 to celebrate my 29th birthday with friends and family.  And then headed back last January for another amazing experience.  I'm honestly not sure if we made it back there in June, though I don't think we did.  So, we had to make sure to head back there on this trip.

We made reservations (honestly not usually necessary, but I love making ADR's!) for our first night in Florida - for great food and to celebrate my mother's birthday!

This visit, we had an awesome view of the kitchen - watching the chefs cook and shout "Opa!" the whole night!

We started with the standard - 2 olive oils, one extra virgin olive oil and one kalamata olive oil, olives, and bread:

Then, I noticed a change from the sampler we'd previously loved, the chicken skewers, were no longer on the menu, so instead, I ordered something I'd always wanted to try: Avgolemono - Traditional egg-lemon soup with chicken and rice.  If you're a fan of soup and lemon, this one is for you.  It was too lemony for Noah - he made a great face when he tried it, but for me?  Heaven.  I found Cat Cora's recipe on the food network, but it didn't quite work out the same...

My mom ordered a greek salad - huge chunk of feta with a side of vegetables.  After that, she enjoyed Spanikopita - a triangle shaped phyllo stuffed with feta and spinach.  I generally love spanikopita though didn't sample this one.  She said it was delicious!

Adam ordered, on recommendation from the waiter, the Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank.  The meat literally fell off the bone!  He enjoyed the dish, minus the gigante beans it was served on.  He didn't completely read the description on this one - he doesn't like beans!  But, other than that, he really enjoyed the lamb.

My meal was something new for me - Greek- Style Lasagna, or Pastitsio.  I have to say, this dish was incredible.  Cinnamon-stewed meat and a bechamel sauce... oh cheesy goodness.  Even Noah dug in.  We ate at a lot of amazing restaurants on this trip (reviews and pics to come!) and this was by far my best meal.  I think I'm meant to be Greek - the seasonings and all that lemon.. heaven!  If you haven't checked out Kouzzina yet, I definitely recommend adding it to your list.  Don't be afraid - it's delicious!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Character Interactions!

Since Noah came around, we started doing more and more character meets.  Mostly just the standards-
Mickey, Minnie, and whomever is at the Disney Visa Reward cards meet (2 out of 3 times, it's been Minnie and Goofy).

This trip, I hoped to meet Peter Pan.  After seeing so many amazing videos of the Peter Pan out at DLR, I really hoped to run into the East Coast Peter Pan.  I can't remember ever seeing him before and I planned to use the Disney Parks app, Mobile Magic, to find where and when we could find him.

Instead, after running into my favorite piano player at Casey's Corner,

we headed back towards Fantasyland and right there on the way was Peter Pan

After a short line, we got to meet Peter Pan!  Noah was a little hesitant, and as I told Peter, he was afraid of his ride.  Peter's response?
"That's okay.  It does smell a bit like codfish in there."

I love it!!

Do you have a character you want to meet?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Window Wednesday and Giveaway!

Focused on the Magic

Town Square Tailors
Tailors to the Presidents
Bob Phelps - Prop.
Vice-President of Costuming for Disney Parks and Resorts

Now onto the giveaway!!

I saw this book and new I had to do a giveaway of this!  And, I had to buy one for myself, of course!!  The feedback from Window Wednesdays has been so positive, that I thought you may want one of these as well! It has many windows from both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World - some I have yet to find and some I'm not sure I'll ever get the chance to fully see when I visit DLR.. one day.  

For entries below - please comment in the blog your facebook user name/twitter name if there is no room for information on the giveaway.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stroller Rental - yes, please!

You probably know that we just got back from our Happy Place last Thursday.  Headed down for our now-annual Marathon Weekend trip, Adam signed up Noah and himself to join me in the Family Fiesta 5k.  
Good morning with the 3 Caballeros
Knowing that we generally travel with a Maclaren umbrella stroller, I immediately thought it was time to get to know some of the Orlando companies that rent out strollers.  No way could we run with that thing.  It's great for the parks - light weight, folds well, etc... but to run with?  Nope. With our 2 year old, we didn't need a stroller in the airport, though we brought ours just in case.  It became just another hassle that we had to carry with our luggage.  

So, I reached out contacted the owner of Kingdom Strollers.  I'd heard good things from fellow Disney travelers and was hoping to have a good contact and finally someone to recommend to you, my readers.  Luckily, I now have a great recommendation!  

We were loaned a single Bob Revolution for the week - it's designed for running, but unlike our personal Bob (we have the one most recommended for running), this one was much better for park touring!  I've never even considering traveling with a Bob.  Though Noah has always preferred it, it's simply too big and bulky to travel with.  Plus, the size of it is too much to travel through the parks.

But, the Bob Revolution that we rented?  Smaller - perfect for the 5k and for park touring.  Kingdom Strollers left it at the welcome center at Windsor Hills, where we stayed (again) and we picked it up our first night.  If you're staying on Disney property, they will drop it off with concierge and I'm sure it's a similar process if you're staying in a nearby hotel off property.  We left it in the same place on our way out - easiest return ever!  

We ended up leaving Noah at home for the race - a cold and early morning, we figured we would save our toddler luck for a long day.  Instead, we first used the stroller at the ESPN Wide World of Sports to head to Noah's race.  It unfolded super easily and the tires were fully inflated - a concern I had, considering ours seem to need to be pumped up on a weekly basis.  Noah loved crawling into his Blue stroller and it traveled perfectly through the ESPN WWoS and the parks for a full week.

I should also mention - when we were leaving after our first use, Adam and I were both standing there trying to fold it up.  We've used so many different strollers and every one folds in a different way, that we didn't know where to start.  That's when Adam noticed the handy laminated piece of paper on the side with simplified folding instructions.  Two steps later, it was in the trunk of our car and we were on our way!

Happy as can be with his Dumbo
Another perk of this stroller?  They come complete with a cup holder that holds 2 cups plus a zipper pocket for anything else.  And, unlike our umbrella, the basket is actually big enough to hold everything.  Seriously - our book bag filled with goodies and diapers stayed underneath for the majority of the day.  

So, would I recommend Kingdom Strollers?

Will I rent from them again?

Oh, and pricing?  You should check it out.  For a week with a Citi Mini - not jogging, but a great touring stroller?  $55!  Ours rents at $70 per week, but we did that one thinking we would actually be jogging with it.  And, next year with 2 kids?  Definitely seems worth the investment to rent as opposed to carrying 1 more thing through the airport!

Kingdom Strollers also rents full size cribs (wish I had known about that sooner!) and sell cases of water for very reasonable prices!  We were both fully impressed with our stroller and wish we could trade ours for the Revolution!

I was supplied a stroller at no cost for this review, but all opinions are my own.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blogorailing around the World Showcase

Welcome to those of you joining me from The CanaDisney Blog and those of you just hopping aboard.  I am the 5th stop on our Magical Blogorail.

This month, we're talking about our favorite World Showcase Pavilion.

For me - this was an easy choice: Italy.  While I would absolutely love to travel the world, being a mother of 1 youngster and another one on the way, the only world traveling I'm planning for the foreseeable future is at the World Showcase!  One day I plan to really discover Europe, but as for now, I love stopping by the Italy Pavilion for a snapshot of what I will one day see.
Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney World's Official Website
With fountains, shops, and two fantastic restaurants, I love stopping by this pavilion on every trip.  I've actually never seen the different performers - musicians, jugglers, and more performing throughout the day, but I simply enjoy the ambiance.  I've dined at both restaurants and had amazing food each time.

One of my favorite experiences in the Italy Pavilion was discovering new wine - when I found Rosa Regale, a sparkling dessert wine, I fell immediately in love.  I love to stop by and grab a glass to go with a piece of chocolate - which completely accentuates the amazing flavor of the delicious wine!

Another experience I had in the Pavilion was discovering an amazing perfume, which became my standard "scent" for a few years!  I don't wear perfume on a regular basis, but the Versace Perfume I found there smelled so good that I had to buy it (elsewhere at a non-Disney price!).

I can't exactly pinpoint why I love that pavilion, but it is without a question my favorite.

Thank you for joining me today.  
Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail is Cooking with Mickey.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop ~ Meet the Magic
3rd Stop ~ Days in the Park
Final Stop ~ Cooking with Mickey

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Traveling with a Toddler

This trip will be very different than other trips with Noah -
This is the first trip we've taken since he stopped sleeping in a crib...

And learned to push over a pack 'n play.

So, no more travel crib, pack 'n play, etc...

This trip, we're staying at our favorite off property house where Noah will sleep on the bottom bunk in his own room.

Now, obviously there are a couple of worries about this -

  1. It's not a toddler bed!
  2. There are STAIRS.  Not sure about other toddlers, but mine surely would be trying to climb up those at all times and most likely hurting him self.
Luckily, I know the house supplies bed rails.

But, what about those stairs?  I emailed the owner and asked if the stairs came off - she said they were screwed in.  So, on our packing list for this trip?  A screwdriver!  We'll be taking that down ASAP and hiding it in our closet so he doesn't climb on it even on the floor.

The other concern?  Stairs.  This is a 2 floor house with Noah's bedroom upstairs.  And, even though all the outlets are covered, there are no baby gates for those stairs.  

How to handle this one...  - safety door locks!  We have the same problem at home and once we took Noah out of his crib, I didn't want him leaving his room (he's fearless) and playing upstairs or even worse, opening up the baby gate and falling down the stairs.  So, we got those door know covers and he's locked in.  May sound crazy, but it's safer than the alternative.

I bought an extra set for traveling - one for his room and one for the bathroom connected to his bedroom. 

What other tools of the trade do you use when traveling with a toddler?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Whispering Canyon Cafe Review

Mayhem. That is the best word to describe the Whispering Canyon Cafe. My family and I experienced this pandemonium at a dinner during my August trip to Disney World.

I was on the monorail heading to Epcot when I overheard a group of off duty Cast Members discussing their recent meal at Whispering Canyon Cafe. My Mom asked them what restaurant they were talking about because it sounded like a lot of fun. They told us it was Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge hotel. I had read this review of Whispering Canyon on the Disney Food Blog and I was excited that my family wanted to try it. After some rearranging of ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations), we were able to get a reservation for the next night (our last night at Disney).

When we walked in to the huge, open lobby of Wilderness Lodge, the restaurant was off to our right. We arrived around 4:45 p.m. for a 5:05 dinner reservation. It seemed a little too quiet, judging from what I had read and heard. It turns out that dinner starts at 5:00, so the restaurant was empty. We checked in at the hostess stand and waited for a few minutes. While we waited, there were Lincoln Logs for the kids to play with the in waiting area. What a blast from the past! The Lincoln Logs were the perfect toy to have there because the lodge looks like a giant log cabin.

One of the things I love the most about Disney is the show, and Whispering Canyon has plenty of it. A few minutes before 5:00, one of the hostesses asked a child to come ring the dinner bell. She had a giant triangle, gave it to the child and they rang it and screamed, "DINNER!!!" to signal the beginning of dinner. After this, each party was seated within a few minutes.

We met our waitress and she took our drink order. She brought us our drinks in Mason jars and threw our straws on the table. Make sure you drink yours as fast as you can, like my Dad did. He was thirsty and drank his iced tea right away. He was rewarded with a giant Mason jar full of iced tea and our waitress said "Maybe you won't drink this one quite as fast!" If you haven't noticed by now, the waitstaff here like to give you a hard time, all in fun. It's kind of like at 50's Prime Time Cafe, another favorite of mine.

There are individual menu options, but everyone in my family decided on the "all-you-care to enjoy" Canyon Skillet. At dinner, this includes Smoked Pork Ribs, Pulled Pork, Oven-roasted Chicken, Beef Brisket, Mashed Potatoes, Cowboy Beans, and Corn on the Cob. Since my Dad has food allergies to milk, the waitress said she would bring him his own personal skillet and some fries instead of the mashed potatoes, which have milk in them. Then we got our cornbread and butter, our salad which came with a lot of dressing on it (if you want dressing on the side, make sure to ask!) and our coleslaw, all of which were good.

Shortly after, our skillets arrived. The skillets are served "family style" so we got two: one for my Dad because of his allergies and one for the other three of us. Since my Dad got fries in his skillet, he asked the waitress for some ketchup. She yelled at the top of her lungs, "WE NEED KETCHUP!" but nothing happened! I had already been warned not to ask for ketchup, so I figured maybe the waitress was just trying to embarrass us. After a minute, she realized that no one else had asked for ketchup yet- we were the first ones of the night! So our waitress and a few other servers brought us every bottle of ketchup they could find- it was about 15 bottles. A few minutes later, another family had to stand up and yell "WE NEED KETCHUP!" and then we had to go and bring them all of our ketchup. This game continued the whole night. It was the funniest when 3 or 4 tables yelled it one right after another. Then no one knew who to bring the ketchup to. During dinner, I managed to drop my fork. Our waitress brought me about 10 forks in case I dropped another fork! My family and I could not stop laughing the whole time we were there.

The food was delicious! I am not a huge fan of beans, but I did try the Cowboy Beans and they were good. Everything else was amazing and we asked for seconds of almost everything. The Corn on the Cob is cut up into smaller pieces (but still on the cob). It was sweet and delicious, but dripping in butter. Call me a corn purist, but good, sweet corn on the cob doesn't need butter. Luckily, they made my Dad some corn without butter, and I had some of that. Much better. Make sure to ask your server if you want some corn without butter.

We were all way too full to try dessert, but the desserts all sounded amazing, and they also have bottomless milkshakes that looked delicious. That's right, I said bottomless! They will bring you all the milkshake refills you can drink! Our waitress and the other servers were all hilarious and put on a great "show." I haven't even mentioned half of the shenanigans that went on during our dinner there. We laughed and laughed, which was a great way to spend the last night of our vacation!

This is the perfect restaurant to bring babies or kids of any age to. There is a kids' menu. (well, there is everywhere in Disney World!) It is already loud to begin with. There are Lincoln Logs to play with as you wait. There are stick pony races around the restaurant and lots of other antics that kids of all ages (from 0-99) will love. If you or your child isn't into the antics, you can ask your server not to do them... but honestly, they are all good, clean fun that I think most kids (and adults) will get a kick out of. This is Disney, after all!

If you have never been to the Wilderness Lodge, you must go! It is beautiful inside and a meal at Whispering Canyon is the perfect excuse to visit. You don't have to stay there (it is a deluxe resort, after all!) to enjoy its restaurants or just to wander around the grounds for a bit and explore. There are tons of Hidden Mickeys to be found and if you ask at the front desk in the lobby, they will even give you a list of clues to help find them! There is also a geyser called Fire Rock Geyser that goes off intermittently throughout the day. For more information on the hotel, visit this amazing fan site: http://www.wildernesslodgesite.com

Thanks also to AllEars.net for the menu to WCC.

The picture above is of me next to the totem pole in front of the gift shop and the only picture I took in all of Wilderness Lodge. (Yes, it was 80 degrees outside, but it was cold in the air conditioning so I brought a jacket!)

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Making Good Decisions at the World

I recently heard on a WDW Today podcast a question about Weight Watcher points at the World.

Until Florida enforces a law that all restaurants must have ingredient lists and calories counts, like I've seen in NY, it's highly unlikely for WDW to post calorie counts, making those trying to be strict about counting points or calories nearly impossible.

I've mentioned before that even on vacation, I try to make good decisions about food.  I definitely splurge more, especially during marathon weekend (and/or pregnant!), but that doesn't mean I'm having 2 mickey bars a day.  Maybe 1 a trip - if for nothing more than I like variety and those chocolate covered frozen bananas are not only delicious, but calorie friendly, too!  Many people comment that I'm crazy or that it's vacation so they don't care, but if you're like me and making huge progress, a set back - a week of gaining, can not only set you back a week, but take a hit on your attitude and mentality of dieting.  Plus, being in the  military and have to maintain a specific weight to keep my job, so gaining 5 lbs on vacation is a set back I'm not willing to make!

And, with Weight Watchers, attitudes on food change.  Or, at least that's the goal.  Instead of a diet, it's a lifestyle change.

So, what does that mean when you're at Disney?  Since you can't necessarily choose based on points, you can take what you may have already learned about food and pick wisely.  And, by no means does that mean eating salad all the time.  I love salad, but it doesn't necessarily work for me as a meal at all times (I'll never be a size 2, and I'm okay with that).

Take for example the Lunch Menu at Pecos Bill (courtesy of AllEars.net) - the best options:
Veggie burger or the Chicken Wrap.  Caesar Salad is always coated in dressing, cheese, and croutons making what seems healthy to be incredibly high in fat and calories.  Same with taco salad!  And, if you're feeling extra good, choose the apple slices instead of the fries.  Or simply don't eat all of the burger and fries if that's what you want - eat what you want, just think of portion control!  I like to eat a lot, so I generally choose healthier options.  And steal a few fries from my husband!

Craving Mexican?  Try to avoid extra cheesy (I know, my favorite) and lots of chips.  Oh, and alcohol and other beverages loaded with calories (coke has 140 calories in 12 oz. - so if you're like me, you could easily drink down hundreds of calories before you even get your meal!).

And then again, remember you're walking the parks for hours a day and are definitely burning hundreds of calories, so splurging is totally okay!

What's your take on dieting at the parks?  Any other weight watcher lifers like me?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

ChEAR Squad

Last year, as we waited around in the ridiculously early morning (3-4 am) at a parking lot near EPCOT waiting for the WDW 2011 Half Marathon to begin, I said - "wow, it has to be awesome just to come be a spectator!"  As I said that, I was told "yeah, it's fun, but running it is way better."  And last year, I loved running the Disney half marathon.  13.1 miles of early morning - the race begins at 6 a.m. but you have to be ready to go in your coral (starting point) by 5.    I know it sounds crazy, but it's amazingly rewarding and then I had absolutely no guilt about eating whatever I wanted for the next few days!
Early morning - pre race, about 3 a.m.
We were both so excited about it that we registered within a few days of registration opening for the 2012 half marathon.

Of course, our plans changed.  At 6 months pregnant (I'll be 25.5 weeks on race day), my goal of 13.1 went down to 3.1 and honestly, I may be walking the whole thing after some recent issues (nothing major - just normal pregnancy pains!).  But, this time, I get to see the other side -  I'll be on the sidelines cheering on my husband, friends from work and college, Disney friends, and the other 27,000 people the race!

Disney even has a special name - the ChEAR Squad!  At the expo, they have an area to make posters to cheer for your friends and then the mornings of the race, you can actually go into the parks long before they open to get a spot to cheer on the crowds!  If you want, you can even pay a little for special restrooms, a warming tent, and a designated seating area.

Our plan - along with my fellow Buffalonian (Buffalo, NY), LSU alum, and guest writer, Katie, is to meet up with everyone before the race and then get on the monorail to head over the Magic Kingdom to get our spot! Hopefully, we'll be able to keep track of where our people are, thanks to the runner tracker - sending texts to our phones letting us know when they reach a certain point!

After, we'll hop back on the monorail to head to Epcot, where the race ends, so we can meet up with our runners after the race.  I'm still a little bummed that I won't be running through Cinderella Castle this year, but I've got the World Showcase to look forward to as well as the WDW Half Marathon 2013!

Hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Trading Fun

There have been a few posts on this blog about Pin Trading - a fun souvenir and way for visitors and Cast Members to interact at Disney.  We didn't start pin trading until June 2010, over a decade since pin trading was introduced at Walt Disney World.

Adam wearing his lanyard for the first time - June 2010
Our go-to plan has been to buy a set - 5 or 6 pins of a similar theme together for around $25 - for each trip.  We have both enjoyed trading and them taking them home as a souvenir.  Our first trip's pins are in a shadow box, but I still haven't figured out the best way to store them.  Suggestions welcome!

Anyways, sometimes we'll find a goal pin to search for - my trip, I searched for Thumper.  Turned out to be fruitless, so Adam bought me a stuffed Thumper instead :)  Another trip, we let Noah pick his favorite and I looked for a great Mickey Mouse pin for him.  That trip, a cast member gave us a Mickey pin for Noah trade free!
I pin traded with my medal lanyard last January!
For this trip, we're trying something different.  After hearing this trip several times, I looked on ebay and found a deal that seemed too good to be true.  Someone else mentioned they had received fakes which worried me, but I paid about $25-30 for maybe 40 pins (numbers escape me!) and they all look great!  

Some of them may have to stay in my final collection!  They all have the collection number and counts on the back, several of them are obviously from different sets.  And now, we can both have 10 pins to trade freely, no attachments!

Are you a pin trader?  I'd love to know your style of trading or collecting!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tables in Wonderland

For the past couple of years, we've been traveling to WDW for 2 4-day trips a year.  Every time, I've thought "we should check out Tables in Wonderland" but somehow ignored it.  This time, we're actually going to check it out.  

I should mention - since I'm active duty military from the state of Florida, I'll be a Florida resident until I retire.. of course, I still hope to move to Celebration, so it may never change!

Tables in Wonderland - once known as the Disney Dining Experience - is a special discount for both Florida residents and Annual Pass holders.  For $100 for FL residents and only $75 for AP holders, it offers a 20% discount at nearly every sit down restaurant on property, including several at Downtown Disney.  The pass is valid for 1 full year - if had purchased this in June, we would have easily made up for the cost.  

This time, we'll be there for a week, most likely having at least 1 sit down meal each day for 8 days.  We'll have anywhere from 2-4 adults and most likely 1 kids meal per meal.  Plus, on vacation especially, I love appetizers... so, we'll see!

We'll be saving our receipts to figure out the details - worth it or not for a 1 week trip.

What are your thoughts on these discounts?  Anyone ever tried TiW?