Happy to have my blogging interrupted by time suckers!

When I started my blog I had great dreams of writing all these profound and interesting articles. Of building a massive group of followers and doling out Disney vacation planning advice and passing on life lessons I’ve learned.  Instead I have learned yet another life lesson. Blogging is hard work and it doesn’t happen easily for me.

I have countless articles I started writing when the idea struck me but couldn’t seem to come up with the right words to express myself or more often life interrupted me, causing me to lose my creative genius for the article.

Victoria and Justice at Halloween

My life


My loves

Like many of the mothers I hoped would follow my blog, my kids are my life and my priority and that priority is extremely time-consuming.  Whether it’s volunteering my “free” time with my kids or for my kids; driving them to work, school and sports activities or from them; or just spending time with my kids, they are unquestionably gigantic time suckers.

2013 Run or Dye

My occasional running partner

With my “free” time sucked up, blogging fell to the back burner and as much as I admittedly get jealous of all those bloggers I see being invited to amazingly informative and fun blogger events, I know that I am no where even close to being in their league. I haven’t earned the right to be invited to those events because I haven’t put the time and effort into my blog that they have and do you know what? I’m okay with that.  My time is spent on my kids, providing for them, taking classes to better myself to earn more to spend on them or just by being with them. I’m not saying other bloggers don’t do this as well, it’s just that I haven’t yet found a way to do it all and blog too.


My happiness


Quality Customer Service The Disney Way

Recently I had the good fortune of attending a Disney Institute course on Quality Service that was sponsored by DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University. As an avid Disney fan there were a number of people who questioned my motives for wanting to attend this course. I will admit, the fact that it was a Disney Institute course was what first peaked my interest and how I became aware of it but after reading about what would be discussed I felt it would be an excellent course to take and I was not mistaken.  I gained a lot of insight into a different way of looking at and addressing customer service.

As the Executive Officer for a Not-For-Profit Association my members are my customers (not the general public) but many of the same principles apply.

In this post I will discuss some of my take-aways on the ideas/points I felt were most relevant for me, but this is certainly in no way the full content of what was discussed at the class.  Some of the following information is taken directly from the workbook provided but most is my paraphrasing and interpretation.

I know I'm at the right class when there are Mickey and Minnie balloons at the door!

I know I’m at the right class when there are Mickey and Minnie balloons at the door!

One of the first discussions was on what Disney terms “Overmanagement”.   Overmanaging is not micromanaging; it means paying extraordinary attention to the details surrounding general business processes.  If the business processes are very detailed and deliberate it takes the guess work out of what needs to be done and empowers employees (“Cast Members”) to make quick decisions without having to seek approval first.

It needs to be stressed that customer loyalty is influenced by each and every contact or “touchpoint” they have with your organization. “Touchpoints are ANY medium that engages with the customer.”  Many of these touchpoints are often overlooked such as finding your phone number online or ease of locating your office, etc. By overmanaging all touchpoints you create a better likelihood of a positive overall experience and the more positive touchpoints a customer has the more likely they are to overlook a negative one, if it occurs.

Disney feels there are three core principles for service design: Purpose, Customer, and Business.

Principle 1: Your organization must have a purpose or essential foundation on which all other service decisions, policies and processes can be developed.

Principle 2: Understand your customer.  Move beyond the obvious and try to understand what their needs, wants, stereotypes and emotions are so you can create a positive experience.

Organizations should not make assumptions about what a customer needs or wants from their service experience.

Organizations should not make assumptions about what a customer needs or wants from their service experience.

Principle 3: View service as an economic asset. I really liked their following statements “Customer service costs must be viewed in light of an unshakeable belief in service as an economic asset, even when the returns on those costs are not immediately measurable” and “Service investments are about people, not issues” .  Building relationships with your customers takes time, effort, and money but these are investments not just costs.

Organizations need to identify, define, prioritize, and communicate their quality standards.

To identity quality standards start by looking at how your customers would describe their ideal experience with your organization and what service they expect. Examples: efficient, accurate, friendly etc.  With these words you can start to define exactly what is meant by them.  From there you prioritize the standards and finally you communicate all this information to everyone within your organization.

Going back to my prior statement about empowering Cast Members to make decisions, this is what makes that possible.  When there are clearly set, defined, and communicated quality standards the employee can quickly go through them in their head when a situation presents itself and act accordingly.

In this and many areas I find communication is always key.  You can have all the policies and processes you want, but if no one knows about them what good are they?

Disney’s Quality Standards priorities are:  1. Safety, 2. Courtesy, 3. Show, and 4. Efficiency.  Every decision by anyone in the organization is questioned against these priorities.  An example was given that even the finance department uses these priorities.  If funds are being requested to improve safety measures they are given priority and approval before funds being requested for an efficiency issue.  Another example would be if a Cast Member is in costume for Fantasyland (part of the “show”) they normally would not be allowed to be seen in Tomorrowland in that costume but if it were a matter of safety that breach of protocol would be overlooked.  Safety trumps everything.

In conclusion “Exceptional service is achievable for every organization because exceptional service is ‘architected’ from systems and processes you control.”

If you ever have an opportunity to attend a Disney Institute class I would highly recommend it and I look forward to attending more in the future.

I want to thank Carmen Garcia and John Hill of the Disney Institute for facilitating such a thought provoking discussion and sharing some of Disney’s approaches to Quality Service.  Oh, and thank you for the PPIR’s below (Positive Plastic Intermittent Reinforcements) that now sit on my computer at the office.

Positive Plastic Intermittent Reinforcements

Positive Plastic Intermittent Reinforcements

Love my Rubba Ducks

I love rubber ducks.  It may stem from my love of Sesame Street as a kid and singing the rubber duckie song along with Ernie but whatever the reason when I had kids of my own I made sure there were rubber ducks to play with in the tub.

However, I had a bit of love hate relationship with them because of the hole in the bottom.  Water would get in there and then get all moldy and when squeezed the disgusting “gunk” (a technical term of my kids) would come out and contaminate the bathtub water.   Well, not any more. Not with Rubba Ducks.

I was thrilled when given the opportunity to review a couple of Rubba Ducks.   They are adorable and best of all (to me anyway) they DO NOT have the dreaded hole to collect water and mold.

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My Rubba Ducks showed up in August and I had every intention to writing this post about them right away but life got in the way.  My son broke his hand and had to have numerous trips to the orthopedic surgeon and fracture clinic as they tried to determine if there was more than one break or not.   I’m happy to report it was only one but it was still a hectic few weeks.

Why does this have anything to do with Rubba Ducks, well he was the first in our house, to finally get to play with the ducks we were sent, while he soaked the medical tape off his hand.  As he splashed away the Rubba Ducks stayed upright.  They have weights in the bottom that keeps them floating upright, all the time.

We received Duckanderthal and Giddy-Up Duck and the attention to detail with their colour, sculpturing and decorative costumes and designs is amazing.  Each Rubba Duck also comes with its own hatch date which is a cute feature.

GiddyUp_Bubble Duckanderthal_Bubble

Rubba Ducks can be purchased online at www.rubbaducks.net but they are also the only Non-Disney Toy to be found at The BOATHOUSE Restaurant in Disney Springs.


Would you like to win a Rubba Duck of your very own? Just leave a comment below by 12 noon EST on September 14, 2015 and one lucky person will be randomly selected to win your own Rubba Duck.

Even though I received my Rubba Ducks for free to review on my blog, all opinions are my own.

Is there really something for everyone at Walt Disney World® Resort?

Is there really something for everyone at Walt Disney World® Resort (“WDW”)?

Could this possibly be true? I had this idea to put it to the test.

I decided to use some of my family and friends and their widely varying interests to see if I could match them with what I think will interest them at WDW. Some of these people (in particular my immediate family) have been to WDW before and I have therefore used a few of their favorite activities.

First the obviously easily matched.

Wayne, the thrill seeker (and my husband) –   Tried parasailing with Sammy Duvall’s Watersport Centre located behind Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Even I who am terrified of heights tried this and it was AMAZING. There are also a number of rides geared towards thrill seekers such as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® staring Aerosmith at Disney’s Hollywood Studios® where you get to take a ride in a stretch limo through 3 inversions and reach speeds of 60 mph.


Justice, the pre-teen gamer (and my son) –   At DisneyQuest® Indoor Interactive Theme Park (at Downtown Disney® Area) he found a 5 story gamer paradise. He also loves Toy Story Midway Mania! (at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®) which puts him in the middle of a midway-style game. I should also mention the resorts on WDW property have arcades in them as well.

Rayne, the little princess –  Princess Fairytale Hall (at Magic Kingdom® Park) is a magical place where she can meet various princesses and have her picture taken with them.  Dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (at Epcot®, World Showcase) is also a wonderful place to meet some princesses as they mingle with diners.

Mairi, the animal lover –  Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park is a whole park dedicated to animals, need I say more!


Hailey, the artist –   Up until recently I would have suggested Animation Station and Animation Gallery, however, with them scheduled to close soon I’d suggest checking out the amazing artwork at The Art of Disney in Downtown Disney® Area.

Dwayne, the foodie –  SOOOOO many restaurants to satisfy his food cravings but here are a couple of my suggestions:  Boma – Flavors of Africa (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) where you can sample selections from over 50 different African countries or Narcoosee’s (at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa) for a mouth watering seafood treat.  I also like to walk around Epcot®, World Showcase and sample all the different cuisines at each country as I go past.  Doing this during Epcot® Food & Wine Festival is an extra special treat.

Photo courtesy of Mary Morales and Disney Food Fans Facebook Page

Desserts from Boma –  Photo courtesy of Mary Morales and Disney Food Fans Facebook Page


Ed, the car guy – Test Track® presented by Chevrolet® (at Epcot®) allows him to design his own virtual concept vehicle.  You then get to ride a SIM car around a windy circuit with 50 degree banked curves and reaching up to 65 mph.

Candice, the Star Wars™ geek –  Visit the world of Star Wars™ on a motion-simulated space flight with Star Tours® – The Adventures Continue Attraction or build her own light saber at Tatooine Traders both in Disney’s Hollywood Studios®.

Now for the slightly less obvious.

Victoria, the clothes hound (and my daughter) –  Marketplace Co-op and Tren-D are her favorite places to shop for those unique articles of clothing and are both located at Downtown Disney® Area.

Sharon, the creative crafter –  Disney Design-a-Tee (at Downtown Disney® Area) would be a great place for her to put her creativity to use and design her own custom t-shirt.

Ted, the quiet country lover – Tom Sawyer’s Island (at Magic Kingdom® Park) is a quiet little island you get to by barge and where you can wander across suspension bridges, check out a giant waterwheel at Harper’s Mill or sit an relax in a rocking chair and just people watch.

Harper's Mill

Josh & Kristy, the newlyweds –  Book a reservation at Victoria & Albert’s for a high end romantic dining experience or visit Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for a relaxing massage for two.

Michelle, the nightlife lover –  Visit Atlantic Dance Hall for an evening of non-stop dancing or House of Blues® for amazing live entertainment, but don’t forget in Florida you need to be 21 to legally drink alcohol.

Rob, the sports fanatic –  ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill is a great place to catch a game on one of the many HDTV’s while munching on wings and drinking and beer.

Valerie, the semi-antisocial sun worshiper (and my mother) – She isn’t as enthusiastic as she used to be about the various parks but is more than happy to situate herself in a lounge chair beside the pool at whichever WDW property we are staying at and enjoy the sun, while reading a book and sipping on an adult beverage.

Well, it seems I’ve succeeded in matching everyone with experiences they should enjoy and confirmed something that I’ve always known.  There really is something for everyone at Walt Disney World® Resort.

My Continuing Fitness Journey

How is it that you can wake up one day and suddenly realize you’ve let yourself go.  That is what happened to me.  Pants that had been getting tighter no longer fit at all so I stepped on my enemy, the scale, to realize I was heavier than I have ever been, including when I was pregnant.  Now I know ladies are known for not wanting to say what they weigh but I’ve never understood this.  We are what we are and we should not compare ourselves to anyone else. I was 165 pounds and a size 12.

My giggly self before the 21 Day Fix program

My squishy self before the 21 Day Fix program

I’ve never been thrilled with my body image but neither was I depressed by it.  I just didn’t have the drive to do anything about it.  I was great at making excuses and finding reasons not to put the effort into myself.  As a mother there are always things your kids need or want, whether those things have a monetary value or a time value they still kept me (at least in my mind) from anything close to a health/fitness plan for myself.

When I got married I weighed a mere 112 pounds soaking wet but for years I thought that was how much I was supposed to weigh. How was that possible?  I rarely ate and when I did it was all crap food.  I was also dealing with an ulcer. I may have been skinny but I was far from healthy.

Fast forward to a few years ago I started running and then playing roller derby.  I had set a goal to run the Tower of Terror 10 mile race at Walt Disney World and it kept me focused.  Honestly, any excuse/reason to go to WDW will keep me focused. I soon saw the benefits of those activities in how my clothes fit; however, with the activity came an increased appetite.  I was again eating anything I wanted, whenever I wanted.

My first ever outdoor run for a 10 km race a few years ago.

My first ever outdoor run for a 10 km race a few years ago.

With all that activity it would seem I was on my way to healthy town but my path took a major detour.  I received a severe MCL injury from an awkward hit while playing roller derby and I was sidelined for over 6 months.  I tried to return to activity too soon and made matters worse.  The injury did a nasty number on my psyche too.  After one setback from early activity I was terrified of doing anything more that would re-injure my knee so I did nothing for over a year.

I thought that setting another goal to run a half marathon this year was going to help but without having registered for a particular race it was back to the same old same old procrastination for me. I had been hoping to register for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World but was on a plane when registrations commenced and it was sold out before I landed.

That was quite a list of excuses wasn’t it?  It is time for some accountability.

About a month ago I saw a friend, Michelle, post that she was going to be starting a fitness challenge group.  Maybe having to report in daily would be what I needed so I decided to give it a try.

Michelle is a Beachbody coach and talked to me about what I wanted to accomplish.  She suggested I try the 21 Day Fix with Shakeology.  I’m not normally one to take any type of supplement or meal replacement but figured why not give it a try, it couldn’t hurt. I appreciated that she let me purchase a few samples of flavours before I placed my order so I didn’t order something I could not drink.  I must confess I actually really enjoy the vegan chocolate especially when I add a banana and a little peanut butter.  So yummy and it does wonders for curbing my after dinner munchies craving.

The 21 Day Fix program is not what I consider a diet but more of a portion control meal plan with an exercise program.  Aside from the reduced carbs and missing my large glass of OJ every morning, I haven’t found it hard to follow.  Even when I no longer actively participate in the program I’m sure I will continue to follow the basics of the food plan and in particular pay attention to my portion sizes.  It’s amazing to think what I used to consider a proper portion size was.

The program also comes with 2 DVDs of workouts that are 30 minutes long.  These workouts are planned to cycle through all major muscle groups, while working multiple muscle groups at a time to burn more calories.  The workouts are set up in rounds with varying numbers of exercises within each round but each exercise only lasts a minute at a time with a 15 second break in between.  Easy enough right.  “You can do anything for a minute” is what the instructor, Autumn, keeps reminding us.

I really appreciated that there is a modified version for those of us who aren’t initially up to the intensity of some of the exercises.  I cannot for the life of me do a push up so the fact that there was an allowance for this eased my anxiety of the program.  Don’t get me wrong this program is not a walk in the park.  A minute worth of non-stop burpees or surrenders will get the blood pumping and if you are anything like me make you yell at the instructor on the TV as you tell her where you want her to go for thinking up this particular torture.

I’ve now finished my first round of 21 days and fully intend to do another but I am rather happy with my results to this point.

I have lost 9 pounds and 10 inches total in 21 days.  My legs no longer have that jiggle that continues for minutes after I have stopped and my pants are no longer threatening to split at the seams.

My before and after the 21 Day Fix

My before and after the 21 Day Fix

Another angle of before and after 21 Day Fix

Another angle of before and after 21 Day Fix

I didn’t start writing this blog post with the intention of it being a promotion of the 21 Day Fix but rather a commentary of my journey; however, the program has been a large part of my recent success and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to make a change and is willing to put in the effort to get the results they want.

I fully intend for this lifestyle of clean eating and exercise to be a permanent change and I’m looking forward to the future.

My Visit To Vancouver

I recently had the opportunity to visit Vancouver, British Columbia for work and I was looking forward to it since I haven’t been there since I was about 14 years old.  I must say, although I didn’t get to sight see a great deal, Vancouver exceeded my expectations.

Vancouver is a thriving multi-cultural community situated between a breathtaking mountain range and the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The city appears to have invested a lot of money and effort into developing its harbour and shoreline trails.  As a former roller derby player I was envious of the miles of smooth pathways and wished I had brought along my roller skates to get some exercise and take full advantage of these wonderful trails.  Without my skates I had to settle for a leisurely 10 km jog around the scenic Stanley Park. I say leisurely because there were many photo stops along the way to photograph the natural beauty of the area as well as cherry and apply blossoms which were in bloom while I was there.






Not far from my hotel, the Hyatt, was the 2010 Olympic Cauldron which was considerably less magnificent than I had remembered from watching all the television footage of the event.  In its defence however, I did not get to see it lit up and there was a barrier around it to the mar the visual effect.

One item that was as good as the hype from the Olympics was the Japadog food truck.  A juicy hotdog with traditionally Japanese toppings like seaweed and wasabi sauce may sound odd together but came together in a surprisingly tasty meal.  I completely understand why they were in such demand during the Olympics.

As with most conferences I attend I seem to eat my way through them and the conference in Vancouver was no exception.  I can’t even remember how many mouth-watering salmon dishes I gorged myself on, especially sushi.


One of my favorite meals was at the Cactus Club across the street from the Hyatt. I had the butternut squash ravioli with truffle butter sauce and jumbo prawns for an appetizer and the raincoast greens salad as my main.  Everything was so fresh and tasty and the Bellini and their Signature Sangria weren’t too bad either.

They Hyatt itself is a newer tastefully decorated hotel with the most attentive and helpful concierge staff I have had the pleasure to deal with in recent years.  Not only did they provide maps, directions, suggestions and arrange multiple tours and transportation for our diverse group. They also (without us asking them to) called around to confirm attractions we wanted to see would be open and thankfully too, since the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden was not open on the day we wanted to visit.

My one minor complaint with the Hyatt was the new elevator system that could not keep up with the extremely large volume of guests that wanted to use the elevators all at the same time when the sessions let out.  I took more than one elevator trip with a repair technician as he tested the system but I was comforted by the fact that they were actively trying to correct the problems.

One of the tours that the concierge suggested was a free tour and I love free. Tour guys operate in a number of larger centers and their guides work strictly on tips.  Emma (I believe her name was) was our guide for the morning, leading us around the downtown core telling us about some of the more interesting buildings, like the Marine Building and Christ Church Cathedral.  She also pointed out some of the many art pieces, like “The Pendulum” and “The Drop”.

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I found it commendable that in the current climate of cutbacks for the arts Vancouver has implemented a policy whereby for every square foot of new private sector re-zoned space built in the downtown core the builder is required to contribute $1.81/per sq. ft. to a public arts process.  These art projects have certainly lent themselves to the beautification of the area and created more interesting items for tourists (like me) to admire.

All in all I had a great conference in Vancouver.  Oh, and I learned some stuff for work too.  LOL

As I said at the start of this post Vancouver exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to return.


My Disney Dream

A few years ago I remember seeing the posts of the new Disney Parks Moms Panelists during training as they had their pictures taken early one misty morning before Magic Kingdom Park opened to the public and it gave me chills.

Now I dream of what I imagine would be an almost surreal experience of walking down Main Street, U.S.A. towards Cinderella Castle without anyone else around and being able to gaze in wonder and appreciation at one man’s dream and the creativity and talent of so many more who brought it to life.

I dream of having the time and space to absorb all the nuances and layers of imaginering that often go unseen and unnoticed as crowds rush to their favorite attractions during park hours.

I imagine in the peace and tranquility of a misty morning I could almost hear Walt as if a whisper on the breeze saying “If you can dream, you can do it” as I walk under the archway and into Cinderella Caste.

This is my dream and even 30 minutes of it would be the beginning of an absolutely, perfectly, magical day.

Cinderella Castle