Our Villainous Family Day

I want to start by thanking all the wonderful sponsors: Disney Parks, MomSelect, Duff Goldman, HP, All, Wisk, Twinings Tea and My Image Bracelet Maker for supplying free products and providing me with the opportunity to host a #DisneySide @Home Celebration.  Although I’ve received free products, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

disneyside box

Once my @Home Celebration kit arrived it was time to start the planning.  To me Disney is about making memories and spending time with family and friends so what better day to have our party than on Family Day.  It also meant I had a long weekend to get organized, or at least try to.

We received a Villains themed celebration kit so I sent out the invitations saying Disney Villain costumes were encouraged but not required.  I’m lucky enough to have a bunch of friends who are more than willing to dress up and act silly just because it’s something different to do on a cold Family Day.

I’ve come to the realization that roller derby girls and their families are some of the most fun and outgoing people I know and I love them all the more for it.   They take my Disney obsession in stride and never think twice about joining in with my craziness. They even dressed up as Darla, Jafar, the Sith Lord and the Evil Queen among others for the party.

In addition to the Villains theme I decided to focus on the tastes of Disney.  I invited a large number of people who have never been to a Disney Park so it was fun to introduce them to some of the more famous Disney dishes and ones that are personal favorites of mine.

The menu consisted of:

Cheese Soup from Le Cellier Steakhouse at EPCOT

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad from Sunshine Seasons at EPCOT

Kalua Pork Sliders with Spicy Pineapple Chutney from EPCOT Food & Wine Festival

Buttermilk Fried Chicken from Pop Century Resort

Beignets from Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

Dole Whips from Aloha Isle at Magic Kingdom

There were also poison candy apple cake pops and a beautiful Maleficent cake to go along with the Disney Villains theme.

Once everyone had “stuffed their faces” (as someone put it) it was time to move on to the games.  The kids enjoyed playing tape the smile on Mickey, creating custom creations with the My Image Bracelet Maker and doing the Villains puzzle while the adults watched and chatted. Our youngest attendee was only 2 ½ months old and even he got in on the action by getting his photo with Maleficent horns on.

It was a lovely evening and one that probably would not have happened in the middle of a cold and nasty Canadian winter if not for the #DisneySide @Home Celebration so again I say thank Disney Parks and MomSelect for this opportunity.

When all was said and done I cleaned up and then sat down with a soothing cup of Twinings Goodnight Blend Tea.  Although it’s not my usual brand of tea is was a pleasant change and a great way to end the day.

All I have left to do now is print off some of my favorite party photos on all the HP photo paper that was provided and deliver them to my friends as mementos, oh and plan the next party because this one went so well.  Everyone who attended has decided to make it a monthly event to get together with our families and come up with some theme for the evening.

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I AM going to run a half marathon this year!

So after a year off from running and roller derby due to a knee injury and life getting in the way I’ve set myself a new goal.  I AM going to run a half marathon this year!  There I’ve said it and put in it writing.  I can’t turn back now.

I haven’t always been the best at keeping fitness goals I set for myself so my thought is that by putting it out there for everyone to see I am forcing myself to stick with it this time.  I know I need to make myself accountable but if the prospect of public embarrassment is what it takes I’ll do it.

I’m lucky enough to be married to my best friend for 20 years this summer and have tentatively booked a Disney cruise to celebrate but I hope to run the Wine and Dine Half Marathon while we are in Florida just before our cruise.

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Well, now that I have a goal and a date it’s time to get started with the training plan and deal with my 2 biggest excuses.

Firstly, running for me (and many others) is a mental game as much or more than it is a physical game.  In this game I have realized that it doesn’t take much to distract me from my runs so my husband came to my rescue and bought me a treadmill for Christmas.  Why does this help? Because I get bored when I run and then the mind games start.  On the treadmill I can put a movie in the DVD player and lose myself in the story while running.  This means I don’t get bored and want to quit.

Secondly the treadmill is inside.  I know this sounds silly, but to state the obvious, inside means warm.  I truly dislike winter and since I live in Canada winter is long and cold.  With the treadmill I don’t have the excuse that I can’t run because it’s too cold, dark and slippery to run outside.

Well now that I have those excuses defeated I have no reason not to train for a half marathon.

Wish me luck.

I will do it.

Eating Quick-Service at Walt Disney World Resort

Over the years I have purchased most of the different Dining Plans available at Walt Disney World Resort (“WDW”).  I prefer to purchase the Dining Plans because I like to have my costs figured out ahead of time and I don’t want to think about how much I’m spending on each meal.  The great thing about the Dining Plans are all the choices available depending on what style of restaurant you prefer and how many meals a day you want to eat.

With all the different Disney Dining Plans available at WDW the one that I seem to keep returning to is the Quick-Service Dining Plan.  This plan consists of two Quick-Service meals and one snack each day.

Now some people have told me I’m crazy to want to eat “fast food”  for an entire week but these are the people who don’t understand the vast array of options available for Quick-Service at WDW.  I’ve spent entire weeks at WDW and never eaten a single hamburger, which truly amazes some people.

Quick-Service at WDW basically means you eat cafeteria style instead of being waited on.  It has nothing to do with the quality of the food or options offered.

The following is a sample of the Quick-Service meals offered and some of my personal favorites:

Salmon with Couscous and Broccoli from Columbia Harbour House;

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Photo courtesy of Mary Morales of Disney Food Fans Group on FB.

Beef Udon or Tokyo Sushi Combo from Katsura Grill;

Ginger Chicken Salad from Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes;

Barbeque Pork Sandwich from Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café;

Half Rotisserie Chicken from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café;

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad from Sunshine Seasons.

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Photo courtesy of Mary Morales of Disney Food Fans Group on FB.

All this choice and no need to figure out and book reservations months ahead of time is why I keep returning to the Quick-Service Dining Plan.

Don’t get me wrong the Table-Service restaurants are fabulous too but after having purchased the Deluxe Dining Plan  a few years ago and booking reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day for a week, it felt like all my family did was run from reservation to reservation.  There was no spontaneity and it was far too scheduled.

With the Quick-Service restaurants you just stop to eat when you are hungry and see something on the menu that looks appealing to you at that moment.  No planning needed.

I still book the occasional Table-Service restaurant for special occasions but am more than happy with the less expensive Quick-Service options and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone who asks.

I Love Disney’s FastPass+

I’ll admit I was skeptical when Disney rolled out its FastPass+ program.  It just seemed like this was one more thing I would have to plan long before we actually arrived at WDW and as much as I like planning for our vacations, my family doesn’t like to have every element of our holidays “scheduled” in advance.

For instance, after purchasing the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan one visit and booking dining reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, it felt like all we did was run from one reservation to the next and it took some of the fun out of the visit for us. Now I only book one or two Table-Service meals per week to avoid the dreaded “schedule”.

If you are staying at a WDW Resort you can book your FastPass+ experiences 60 days in advance of your check-in date and if you have purchased advance tickets (without a WDW Resort stay) you can book FastPass+ experiences 30 days in advance of your use date.

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From either your computer or your smart phone you can access the My Disney Experience web page or App to set up your FastPass+ experiences. You select 3 choices from the available attractions and the system will provide you with a number of time slot options for you to select from. It’s so easy.

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I liked the fact that for most experiences you get a one hour time slot and not just a specific time.  This one hour time slot provides a lot more flexibility to arrive at the attraction at a time that works for you within the hour window.

The hardest part about the whole process was deciding which 3 attractions/experiences are your favorites that you want to guarantee a time slot for.   We have a few must do’s every vacation that do not normally have very long lines so we decided to forgo using FastPass+ on those rides and used them for the rides that traditionally have longer lines (such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Toy Story Midway Mania)  so we didn’t have to wait as long.

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When all was said and done I loved the FastPass+ system and being able to book 3 attractions ahead of time.  I hadn’t realized before this trip just how much my family likes to sleep in.  We aren’t early risers.  We would much rather sleep in and then stay at the Parks until they close.  Under the old system, by not getting to the Parks early we were often too late to get a FastPass for our favorite attractions and would just have to wait in line.  The new system shortened our overall wait time immensely.  I loved it and can’t wait to use it again.

It’s here, it’s finally here. My DisneySide @Home Celebration kit is finally here and I still can’t open it.

One day that seems like an eternity ago but was really only back in December I opened my email to find an invitation to apply for a DisneySide @Home Celebration.  I was over the moon with the thoughts that this year I might get selected to be a host.

I followed the link provided to submit my application. Imagine my surprise when I got to the section to fill out where I was from and there were no options available for Provinces only States.  Oh no, did this mean they were only accepting applications from people in the US? I hadn’t seen any disclaimer/rules saying it was not open to Canadians and since I’m not one to give up, I improvised.  I didn’t select a state; I let the survey default to the blank selection and then entered in Ontario, Canada on the second address line and hoped for the best.

A few days later I received the following email.

disney side problem email

Again I was thinking oh no, did my not selecting a state mess up the submission.  Well I wasn’t going down without a fight so of course I promptly filled out the survey and submitted again

In early January I started to see other Disney lovers and bloggers that I chat with post about having received congratulatory emails that they had been selected.  Since I hadn’t received an email, I was feeling a little discouraged until I spoke (ok, I texted, but spoke sounds more personal) to another Canadian who was in the same situation and she encouraged me to email BSM Media directly. As some great philosopher once said the answer is always no, if you never ask, so I emailed them directly and asked.

Well guess what, I had been selected and was told I would be receiving my email soon.   YIPPEE!!! I was elated.  What a great excuse to show my #DisneySide (not that I need one) and have a party.

Disneyside email

Now it was time to wait, and wait, and wait and wait some more for my package to arrive with items to help throw my party.

Finally today after stopping in eleven different cities in 2 different countries over 6 days my package has arrived.  But guess what, I have to wait some more.  Why?  Because it’s my husband’s birthday today and he deserves to have his special day without me jumping up and down in excitement over something besides him.

disneyside box

So my package sits on the table waiting and taunting me.  I REALLY, REALLY hope my husband takes pity on me and suggests we open it tonight. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Why I love Disney PhotoPass Photo Books

Photobook covers

Before I get into why I love Disney PhotoPass Photo Books to show my #DisneySide, let’s start with some basics in case you are unfamiliar with the Disney PhotoPass service.  Here is a quick summary.

As you wander around Walt Disney World, Disneyland, ESPN Wide World of Sports or even Aulani you may see photographers (often wearing a tan vest) with camera in hand or on a tripod and wearing an official name tag.  These are Disney PhotoPass Photographers who can take your picture when asked and then scan it onto either a PhotoPass Card or your MagicBand.

To claim your photos after your holiday is over, you will need to create an online account for Disney PhotoPass Service then enter the code from your PhotoPass Card or MagicBand to retrieve your photos.  Once you have retrieved your photos you can edit them with the multitude of options available for customization including stickers, borders and graphics.

As a word of warning, if you don’t purchase the photos taken by the Disney PhotoPass Photographers they will expire 45 days after they are taken so if you plan to use any of their photos in your Photo Book you need to create it within this time frame.

Disney offers a Memory Maker product for $199 that provides digital copies of all photos taken by their photographers and scanned to your PhotoPass Card or Magic Band.  Memory Maker can be purchased more than 3 days before your trip, at a reduced rate of $169.  Memory Maker appeals to many people who want to be able to post the pictures taken by the Disney PhotoPass Photographers to social media and/or share with friends and family.  You can then also print your photos for putting in an album or use for scrapbooking, etc.

memory maker

Now back to why I love the Disney PhotoBooks so much. My husband was a professional photographer for years and takes a LOT of pictures when we are away so we always have way more than enough photos for me to post to social media sites without having to purchase the Memory Maker package, so as great as it is, I prefer to use Disney PhotoPass website to create a Disney Photo Book.

I upload my favorite pictures taken by my husband and also use some from the Disney PhotoPass Photographers to make my album.  I get to pick my album cover, layout (pictures per page), background and stickers to make it exactly the way I want it.  Once finished, I place the order and a few weeks later this wonderful Photo Book arrives.  It is essentially a professionally produced hard cover book like I could purchase in a book store with good quality glossy paper for the pages.  The only difference is it is designed by me with the photos and comments I want.

6 pages

I know I could create a beautiful scrapbooked album myself but honestly I have better things to do with my time than print my photos, hunt for funky paper, cut and paste everything together all without monopolizing the kitchen table for a week or more, or having one of my cats think it’s a great game to scatter everything across the floor so I have to start all over again.

Aside from the reasons set out above, for me using Disney’s website to create my Photo Book and thereby show my Disney Side is more cost-effective.  The basic Disney Photo Book comes with 20 pages for $79.95 but you can add extra pages in increments of 2 for $3.50 each extra.  I always go over the original 20 pages.  I would end up paying way more than this if I purchased Memory Maker, scrapbook paper, an album and printed the photos.

Black photobook cover

There is also the option of just saving the photos my husband takes on our external hard drive to pull up and view on our computer when we want to but I personally prefer having a book to take to family events to show everyone or just to look back at and reminisce with the kids.  They are keepsakes filled with love that I cherish and they sit in a place of honour on my book shelf.

I can’t wait for my next one to arrive any day now.

My take on “Into The Woods”

into-the-woods-banner

Last week my daughter and I went to see the movie “Into the Woods” and having heard many mixed reviews ahead of time I was concerned we would not enjoy it, but we did. I am glad however that my husband and son did not join us.  I know my husband would have gotten up and walked out like a surprising number of people did during the movie.

This movie, to me, is a musical in the true sense of the word because a lot of dialog is sung not just a few sporadic songs.  This reason alone would be enough to deter many from watching it, my husband included.

The basic premise of this movie is that a baker and his wife who have been unable to have children discover the witch next door has cursed their family and if they want the curse lifted they have to obtain a list of items and bring them to her.  All of these items can be found within the stories of various fairy tales and this is how the fairy tales are intertwined.  It is a creative mix of stories and characters that you would not originally think could be combined into one plot.

Meryl Streep plays a convincing witch and while I adore Johnny Depp his lecherous wolf character made me uncomfortable.  If that was the intention then he was successful but I had a hard time reconciling myself to seeing him in this roll. Anna Kendrick’s portrayal of a Cinderella, who walks away from the royal life she initially craved, was both sensitive and strong as required.

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As a lover of the Brothers Grimm I appreciated the dark twists that were included from their original telling of these stories.  Unfortunately many people have not read and are therefore unaware of the often macabre and violet nature of the original stories.  The cutting off of one step-sister’s toes to try to get her feet to fit in the glass slipper garnered an audible gasp from some in the theatre who were obviously unaware of this version of the story.

The movie was not all doom and gloom however; I loved the light hearted, corny interplay between the two princes as they waded through a stream singing about their romantic woes and tearing open their shirts in a show of male ego and competition with one another.

All in aIl, I am definitely glad I ignored the negative reviews and went to see this movie anyway.