Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guest Post: Rain, Rain, Go Away!

So you’ve done everything to plan for your trip to Walt Disney World. You’ve researched the weather, picked out your clothes and packed your bags accordingly. It’s Florida! The weather’s probably going to be warm and sunny right? Not always. Weather can be unpredictable, especially in Florida. We’ve learned this the hard way and now I’m passing some tips along to you so hopefully you won’t have to!

Our very first family trip to Disney World was in September 2007 and it was HOT! For 2008, we decided to go in October since it would be cooler and on that trip we got a lot of rain. So then we decided to try the Spring in 2009. May sounded great! I researched the weather and found that May was typically very dry with the average high being 88 and the average low being 66.

I became obsessed with the weather the week before we were headed south. I stalked all the online weather forecasts. It was going to be perfect! Nice temps and no rain, just as we had hoped! Orlando had been in somewhat of a drought with no rain for awhile (yippee for us)! I packed all of our summer clothes: shorts, short sleeve shirts, tanks, skirts and flip flops.

We arrived in Orlando May 15th 2009 for our 8 day stay and were welcomed to sunny blue skies…ahhhh. Little did we know a strange (and did I mention total surprise) storm was about to hit Orlando. More details on this storm can be viewed here.  This particular storm would stall out in the central Florida area for DAYS which was completely unexpected, bringing non-stop record breaking rain, the wettest May on record in 75 years. Total rainfall amounts for Central Florida can be viewed here.
Not only would we have rain but we would also have wind gusts and the highs would barely reach 70 degrees. Let me reiterate, I packed ALL summer clothes. We were in Orlando for 8 days and of these 8 days we would continue to get drenched constantly for 6 of them. At one point, rain was literally almost up to my knees when we were walking to the bus station. It was at this point when it was so bad, I literally had to crack up laughing. When we arrived to our hotel, water was rising and inches away from our door. The weather forecasts mentioned NOTHING about any of this until we arrived in Orlando. So what’s one to do when something like this happens?

Here are a few pointers:

 *ALWAYS bring a poncho and umbrella no matter what! We learned this after our first trip when we had to buy the expensive Disney ponchos for each of us unexpectedly. Florida has pop-up thunderstorms. You will see the dark clouds moving in and they usually arrive and leave as quickly as they came in but you need to be prepared.

*Buy your ponchos BEFORE you leave home. You will pay a fraction of the price that you would pay for one in the park. However, don‘t go too cheap because I’ve learned from experience they don‘t hold up well.

*Carry a poncho/umbrella at ALL times! For example, my son and I went in to the American Idol Experience with blue skies. I left the poncho/umbrellas in the stroller. We came out to torrential rain and Disney has a policy that doesn’t allow guests to wait under cover at the exits so out to into the rain we had to go. Oh, how I wish I didn’t leave my poncho in the stroller! We got drenched! TIP: I now prefer to carry a backpack to WDW and I always have a rolled up poncho in case of emergency in my bag.

*Bring an extra layer of clothing just in case. A sweatshirt or jacket would be great and won’t take up much room in the suitcase.

*Bring an extra pair of shoes. I brought various shoes but all were flip flops which don’t stay on when sopping wet. I ended up kicking them off and barefooting it at times…gross, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

*Bring a towel. This would have been great for drying off. A towel would have also been nice to sit on after all the other wet people riding rides before us.

*Research purchasing weather (travel) insurance ahead of time. We always go on a budget and have never paid the extra cost but if you can, this could be a wise investment.

*Do some research before your trip and have an alternate indoor plan if needed. You may want to spend some time at Disney Quest, hopping on the monorail to check out some of the resorts, or go to Cirque du Soleil.

 We decided to put our ponchos on and make the best out of it! One of my favorite quotes is, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain“- Dolly Parton. On our May 2009 vacation we surely did put up with the rain but we also got to view a beautiful double rainbow while at Epcot. It’s definitely a vacation we’ll never forget!

Contributed by Corby C. of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a proud wife and mom to Banks and Henley, a Disney Destination Planner with Travel with the Magic and one of our Minnie Moms.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Photo Flashback - E Ticket, May 1979

Amy and DisneyDad at Walt Disney World in May 1979. Note the paper tag hanging from Disney Dad's belt. That is his ticket. While WDW still had the famous "E TICKET," they started experimenting with a ticket to allow unlimited admission to all rides. This was in the form of a paper ticket you wore. Wish I still had a copy of that ticket.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Swanky Stitch Review and Giveaway


Recently, I discovered a business being launched by another local mom and I knew Growing Up Disney readers would love her products.  Sara, owner of Swanky Stitch, is making custom SLR/DSLR camera and camera bag strap covers. 

Sara decided to jazz up the camera she had purchased to chronicle her young son's life.  After making covers for herself and her sister-in-law, she posted her creations on Facebook and was soon flooded with requests for more.  Swanky Stitch was born. 

I received a cover in a red Mickey Mouse print and have thoroughly enjoyed testing it.  I take LOTS of pictures with my DSLR and loved the idea of making the camera both more personal and more practical.   The strap cover went on easily and we headed off to the park. 

My cover (and the one for the giveaway) is made from two fabrics: red Mickey print on the outside and black "minky" fabric on the inside.  The minky fabric is plush and makes the strap very soft your neck, great for occasions when you are wearing the camera for an extended period of time.  I haven't needed to wash mine yet, but Sara tells me you can machine wash them on cold and let them air dry.  If I used it at Walt Disney World in the summer, I'd rinse it in the sink as needed and let it dry overnight.

The cover is padded and slightly wider than the standard issue strap so it really helps spread out the weight of the camera.  I especially noticed this when I wore the camera across my body to chase my daughter.  The minky fabric also kept the strap in place as we walked around. 

Another great feature of my camera strap cover is the lens cover pocket.  I'm always shoving my lens cover in a pants pocket and then checking and rechecking to make sure I haven't lost it.  Now I put the lens cover in the pocket on my strap cover and know it's secure.  It's easy to get the cover in and out of the pocket but it's a snug enough fit that it won't fall out. 

Check out for all of the different styles offered.  You can get one or two fabrics, a lens cover pocket, and even a ruffle if you want.  All of the pictures in this post are from Swanky Stitch and are just a few of the many, many possibilites.  If somehow you don't see what you had in mind, contact Sara to discuss options.  Guys, she's recently added some collegiate prints to her collection.  See if your favorite school is offered.  These would make a great gift!

The first 10 Growing Up Disney readers to order will receive a free lens pocket.  Be sure to mention Growing Up Disney when you order.

Just a few of the nearly endless fabric choices

Style 1

Style 2B

Style 3B


Ready to enter to win a Mickey Mouse print camera strap cover from Swanky Stitch?

You get one entry for each of the following. Please note each as a separate entry in the comments section below so I know what you have done. (If you are already following us through any of these channels, just note that. Hey, free entry!)

MANDATORY ENTRY: Visit and choose your favorite style number and fabric number and note it in the comments below.  Other entries won't count unless you do this one. 


This contest ends at midnight Central time on Monday, October 4, and is limited to residents of the United States and Canada. The winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries. You'll be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received a Swanky Stitch camera strap cover for reviewing purposes. No monetary compensation was received or offered. All opinions expressed are my honest thoughts on these products

Comment #14 is the winner.  Congratulations Susan!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weekly Round-up: 9/25/10

I hope you are having a great weekend.  It's Free Museum Day so get out and learn something. 


Trip Planning:  Amy appeared on a recent episode of The Mom Podcast, helping one of the hosts plan her first Walt Disney World vacation.

Mommy Monday:  Amy shared creative new ways to honor a special memory.  Enter the giveaway today!

Team Tuesday:  The Growing Up Disney family discusses what we'd like to change at Walt Disney World.

Photo Flashback:  Ridge recounts his participation in Magic Music Days.

G.U.D. Trip Report:  Part 2 of Tink's first birthday trip to WDW

DisneyDad on DVC:  Aulani's construction is moving along well.  DisneyDad had some new details for us.

A Walk Around The World with Ridge:  Chris volunteered as a part of the "Give a Day. Get a Disney Day." promotion.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--Give One Get One

This year Disney teamed up with Habitat for Humanity and the Hands On Network and started the “Give A Day. Get A Disney Day.” program to encourage everyone to give back to their communities. 1,000,000 tickets were to be given away through this promotion and much to the surprise of everyone involved, all the vouchers for the free tickets to Disney were applied for by mid March. I know, I was one of them.

I volunteered at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in my city of Birmingham, AL. The store sells leftover materials from their home builds and other donated items. I, being the prompt person that I am, was at the store well before opening so I had an "easy" task (he says sarcastically) to organize a storage area where the kitchen cabinets were stored. To say there was a lot to move is a severe understatement. But I signed up for it, I have all the pre-requisites to move a room full of cabinets...a strong back and a weak mind....

My day of service was in February 2010 and my trip was in April 2010. This worked out perfectly because not only did I do a day of hard labor but I was rewarded in kind, with a discount equal to the cost of a day’s ticket off the price of my annual pass. To a man on a budget that was worth all the sweat I put into earning my VoluntEARs. When I purchased my pass, it was really simple. All I had to do was give the cast member my voucher that I printed at home and then I asked them to apply it to my annual pass. I was given a hard ticket as a souvenir and a special button to wear while at the parks.

One of the fun perks, which sadly I wasn't chosen for is the Honorary VoluntEARS Cavalcade parade that serves as a pre afternoon parade at the Magic Kingdom. The parade comes just before the 3 O'clock parade and Disney Cast members go around the park looking for folks wearing their buttons and invite them to be part of the parade. I missed out on this experience... What do you think, should I wear my button again when I go in October?

If you have volunteered or have signed up and still haven't performed your day of service, check out Disney's FAQ's about the program.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tink's First Birthday Trip Part 2

This is part 2 of the trip report I posted on Audrey's blog.


Audrey had breakfast with Mickey and the gang on her birthday. She wore a birthday girl t-shirt and a pink tiara with a 1 on it. We went to Chef Mickey's at Disney's Contemporary Resort. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto visited with Audrey and signed her birthday card. This meal and the overall experience were better than Monday's character breakfast. Audrey charmed a cast member in one of the stores in the Contemporary and they were playing in the floor. Before heading to the park, we checked out the new DVC property. The afternoon was spent in the Magic Kingdom.

Thursday was a great day. Audrey napped while Andy, Granddaddy and I meandered through the Oasis at Disney's Animal Kingdom park and then toured the Maharajah Jungle Trek. We got great views of the tigers and were really close to one of them. Such a beautiful animal. We met Chris and Granny at Tusker House for lunch. Everyone had a great meal and a great time. After lunch, Audrey played with Granny and Granddaddy while Chris, Andy, and I rode Expedition Everest. What a great coaster!!! We all met back up and walked through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Audrey especially liked watching the fish and hippo.

One of my favorite memories of the trip was Audrey in line for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. We were in the handicapped line and people were passing us in the regular line below. Audrey took it upon herself to greet everyone who passed her. I guess the Princess needed to thank everyone for coming out to her birthday celebration. Chris took lots of pictures, but it still doesn't capture the joy Audrey had in waving to and smiling at all those people.

On Friday, after we all packed up, we played at Epcot for a while. Audrey ate a great lunch at Sunshine Seasons. The fairy garden was next on the agenda. There were beautiful topiaries and a butterfly garden with hundreds of butterflies. We got a special character meet and greet with Mickey and Pluto as Disney Visa cardholders. Pluto saw Audrey and got down on all fours to be at her level. She loved playing with the puppy. Audrey did great on our flights home on Friday evening, charming people everywhere she went.

We really enjoyed our trip to WDW and I can't wait to take Audrey back.

Photo Flashback! School Days

In 1999 my high school had the opportunity to be part of the Magic Music Days at Disney. I am one of the drummers farthest from the camera, I played the tenors, quads or whatever your local drumline calls them. If you can't tell we are marching through Future World at Epcot. Our route took us from behind The Land and ending behind Horizons. There was lots of renovation going on at the time fixing up Innoventions. Horizons was freshly decommissioned and there were ride vehicles behind the building, if I could have only gotten one of them under our bus.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Team Post: What would you like to change at WDW?

DisneyDad: This post requires a lot of thought. I have been going to Walt Disney World since it opened in 1971 and I have seen a lot of things change over the years. Some things for the better, others I’m not so sure. I am on an email group of DVC members and I see a lot of complaints voiced there. There are always complaints when admission prices go up. One person was complaining about the bullfrogs outside their room at Old Key West. They could not stand the noise and wanted to know why Disney didn’t do something about it. I on the other hand, stayed in almost the same room, and heard the same frogs and just absolutely loved it. It wasn’t noise; it was some of God’s most beautiful music. Restaurants change menus; attractions are updated or changed out. All in all I guess it fits with Walt’s vision that the “Florida Project” would never be completed.

My complaints:
1) Olivia’s changed menus years ago and took Key Lime White Chocolate Mousse off the menu. I still miss it.
2) Prices keep going up on everything; admission prices, room rates, food, souvenirs. Prices go up, but it keeps everything open and people working and someone making big profits.
3) The selection and quality of souvenirs, especially DVC Member merchandise. I need a new jacket with DVC Member on it and can’t find one.
4) I don’t get to go as often and stay as long as I’d like.

Ridge: We drink the Disney Kool-aid here.  We all like Disney because it is good family entertainment, the parks are clean, there is a feeling of security on the premises, free transportation while staying on resort property, and there are hundreds of DVC destinations around the world.  Is it hard to find something to complain about?  For me, it is but for others it isn't. But I thought let's find something to talk about that isn't the best. Again I have a hard time with this, but here it goes. I love the classic attractions as much as the next person, being able to share an experience with parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren but some things need to be updated and renovated. Number one on my list is the Carousel of Progress. It's a definite classic and one that Walt personally oversaw when it was being designed for the World's Fair. However, now is the time, now is the best time to update the animatronics and give everything a cleaning and polishing. The last scene is the only one that I think needs to be changed a little because the future of 1994 has come and gone.

Amy: What would I change at Walt Disney World? As a mom, I'd love to see more playgrounds within the parks. They wouldn't need to be large and the ones tucked into open and unused space at Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival proved this is do-able. One of my big concerns for this fall's WDW trip is letting the little one burn off some energy in a safe environment. She's only a toddler so she can't run free just anywhere. Walt Disney World does have some fabulous amenities for small children, but it seems like they underestimate the number of babies and toddlers. When we took Audrey for her first birthday, the smallest "My first WDW vacation" t-shirt was in a size 3T. Seriously?!?! Look around. The first visit is much younger for lots of kids.

Time to vent a little.  What would you like to change/fix/upgrade at the Walt Disney World Resort?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mouse of Zen and Knell Studio Works


Last month, I received a tweet from J.B. (Brad) Conway (AKA @mouseofzen) asking for the picture I was using as my Twitter avatar.  He said he wanted to write a haiku based upon it.  It's a really special photo to me and I liked his work, so I was excited.  I edited the color as requested and emailed it over.  During the next couple of days, we came to an agreement upon:
baby steps to dreams
closer to becoming my
wish of a princess
I won't get into my love/hate relationship with the Princesses, but I'd like to thank Brad for graciously changing a word from the original version with which I was uncomfortable.
The picture and haiku were sent to John Knell to work his graphic design magic.  The resulting image is above.  Isn't it fabulous?!?!
Below are some other examples of the collaboration of these two talented guys.  The images below combine John's photography and graphic design with Brad's haiku poetry.

Brad and John will be selling these pieces of art soon on  These are just a few of the creations they plan to make available.  Here's a link to even more.  Or if you have your own very special moment captured in a photo, contact the guys for a custom piece. Brad had this to say about the project, "We are moving towards producing WDW-inspired artwork that will touch you emotionally and delight you visually. They will be complete/self contained moments of magic that will not only be based on our passion/ideas/vision but we are also hoping to add a customized element which will make it even more personal and special."

I asked John how their collaboration began and he said, "Wow...the collaboration came about fairly simply and organically. Started following each other on Twitter thanks to our mutual passion for Disney. Brad found out that I do graphic design for a living so he asked me to design his Mouse of Zen logo. We worked well enough together that he wrote haikus for some of my photos that I have been posting on Facebook and Flickr. I did a few quick layouts, combining his words with my images, and we got some positive feedback from our respective audiences. Encouraged, Brad wrote some more haikus and I did more photo illustrations, which yielded more positive responses, and now we are looking to build on what we've started and see where it goes."

This isn't the only big news from these guys.  Brad's first book of Disney-themed haiku poetry, Mouse of Zen, was recently released and is available on  Inspired to write after his children's first trip to Walt Disney World, Brad chose haiku to express his creativity.  Haiku compels the poet to follow a 5 syallable,7 syllable, 5 syllable pattern.  This very short format requires words to be chosen carefully to convey the desired message.  Brad's work does that beautifully, taking you to the place in Walt Disney World he is describing and stirring your own memories of a special vacation.  What I consider to be "Audrey's poem" is #5 in the book and I am glad it is being shared.  My other favorite is #83 since I love Epcot and IllumiNations.

reflections of earth

fire dancing in the sky

tugging on heart strings
With 350 poems, the mood ranges from sweet to sad and covers practically every WDW topic.  He's even written poems on the marathon, IllumiNations cruise, and the Partners statue.  Below are a few more I couldn't resist sharing.


eyelids of kids drop

after counting mouse shaped clouds

dancing in their dreams


upon my shoulders

my son takes rightful place as

king of his kingdom


raise those mickey ears!

fought a hell of a battle

and won lifetime friends!

This book of "mouse-sized" poetry would make a great addition to any Disney fan's collection.  While you could sit down and read this book fairly quickly, I think you'll find yourself reaching for this book over and over,flipping to a page and taking a little meandering trip down memory lane as the poems take you back to the mouse. 

Best wishes to John and Brad on these creative projects!

Use the code "autumn" to receive 10% off Mouse of Zen at

Ready to enter to win an 8x10 print of this beautiful castle art?

You get one entry for each of the following. Please note each as a separate entry in the comments section below so I know what you have done.  (If you are already following us through any of these channels, just note that. Hey, free entry!)
This contest ends at midnight Central time on Monday, September 27 and is limited to residents of the United States and Canada.  The winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries. You'll be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!
Disclosure: I received a digital copy of Mouse of Zen for reviewing purposes. No monetary compensation was received or offered. All opinions expressed are my honest thoughts on these products.

****The winner is Lisa Battista.  Congratulations!****

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Growing Up Disney on the MOM Podcast

Amy recently appeared on an episode of The MOM Podcast, helping one of the hosts plan her first Walt Disney World vacation.

Here's a link to iTunes.

Thanks to Nancy Cadjan.  I really enjoyed speaking with you and hope you have a wonderful vacation!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekly Round-up: 9/18/10

My favorite line of the week, referencing the new Star Tours: "This new venture will have us all heading back at light speed."

Here's what else we had to say this week:

Mommy Monday:  Amy reviewed three children's apps for iPad.  We're giving away one of the games.  Enter today!

Team Tuesday:  The Growing Up Disney family discusses which roles we'd like to have if we were Walt Disney World Cast Members.

WDW Moms Panel:  Amy applied for the WDW Moms Panel this week and talked about what happens for most applicants.

Photo Flashback!:  Amy shared a photo from her Disney College Program days at Crystal Palace.

G.U.D. Trip Report:  Part 1 of Tink's first birthday trip.

Guest Post:  Kelly gave us a great overview of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

A Walk Around The World with Ridge:  Chris reminisces about one of his favorite attractions and wonders what the future holds for its refurbishment.

Have a magical weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--Star Tours

On arrival at Walt Disney World in 1991 Star Tours was tops on my list, being a Star Wars fan and 10 years old. I doubt I would have believed you if you told me none of it was real. I don't always take pictures but I stop and stand in the queue for as long as I can almost every time. On my most recent trip in April of 2010, I made it to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at rope drop and then headed straight to Star Tours. I had to take a commemorative trip knowing that it was going to be closing in September. Also one of my best friends from college was getting married the weekend I came home and I had to pick up a special edition Jedi Mickey and R2-MK for his soon-to-be stepson. What can I say; I had to get myself one too. (I tossed in a picture of me at 18 just for fun.)

I have been a fan of Star Wars for as long as I can remember and the Christmas that I got my VHS release (and not even the enhanced copy) of the trilogy was a big one. I collected the action figures, vehicles and magazines. A small fortune was probably spent in my youth on things we call "collectables." I even have a lightsaber I bought at MGM back in the day. It was one of the first ones that were produced en masse, the Luke Skywalker model. I remember spending all the money I had on it then having to ride 10 hours home with it on my lap because it couldn't fit in the trunk. I think that really shows a little love for Star Wars.

I always loved the attraction in its original form because of the combination of the outdoor and indoor queues made it really feel like you were no longer in Central Florida.

I can't wait to see what the new queue holds in store for us next year. I have been looking around on some of my favorite sites (, & as well as trying to find any information I can about the outside of the attraction as well. The story line is changing and the time line is changing; it will take place between Episode III & IV. The Ewok village being ominously lorded over by an AT-AT Walker is sure to be removed. So far I haven't seen anything that will indicate what, if any, new outdoor theming there will be. Since I couldn't be at the final flight to Endor, I want thank Rickey over at for posting a video of the final flight.

Only a little news has been announced about the future of the attraction. The new version is slated to reopen on May 17, 2011 so only 241 days till it is back. I only hope there is some kind of soft opening for annual passholders or DVC members or even D23 members (that might be my reason to join.) The new attraction is supposed to be in 3D and be a new (older) star speeder. The old one is the 3000 the new one is the 1000 and don't try and think about it, there is a new story that takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But be assured with Disney Imagineering and George Lucas together, this new venture with have us all heading back at light speed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Guest Post: Grand Floridian Part 1

My favorite place at the Walt Disney World Resort is The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. I know what you are thinking, that it is stuffy or too fancy but that is just not true. There are many families with children spending their vacations there so stop worrying about it and check it out. The Grand Floridian opened back in June 1988 and it is the Walt Disney World Resort's flagship resort. There are so many wonderful ways to spend your time at the Grand Floridian while you are on vacation. I have stayed at the Grand Floridian many times now and my family loves it. My children call the Grand the "Vonnie Hotel" because of a Cast Member who makes many of our stays memorable. I will be posting a series of articles all about the Grand Floridian Resort and why I love staying there. I will be passing most of them to Amy here at Growing Up Disney or on the blog on my website.

If you are looking for more information about the Grand Floridian Resort, you have to check out a website called Where the Magic Lives. This site created by Channing Wilson is truly amazing! Channing has been staying at the Grand for years with her family and she knows her stuff. Planning a vacation to Disney can be overwhelming so if you have chosen to stay at the Grand Floridian Resort, checking out Where the Magic Lives can help answer your questions and give you a real feel for what it would be like to stay there. The website has tons of pictures and information all about the Grand such as accommodations, suites, pools, dining, shopping, and so much more. The Grand offers beautifully landscaped grounds and some fabulous amenities.

The Grand Floridian has a "Main" building and this is where you check in when you arrive. You will only be staying in the "Main" building if you booked a club level room in the Royal Palm Club. I will be getting into the differences between the Royal Palm Club and Sugar Loaf Club later on. The only other things in the "Main" building are shopping, dining, Ivy Trellis salon, and the monorail station on the second floor. There are 5 outer lodges not connected to the "Main" building at the Grand Floridian and they each have different room categories such as garden view, lagoon view, and theme park view. If the view from your room is important to you and you are not sure of what building to request, then you need to check out this page all about it. This resort books up quickly especially during the Holidays like the 4th of July, Easter, and of course Christmas.

As you explore Where the Magic Lives you can learn about so many different experiences when at the resort. We rented a private cabana one day at the beach pool and I loved it. I found it relaxing to have some extra space of our own and some shade for the kids. It was expensive but I would do it again especially if I was there in the summer. There is the Garden View Tea or maybe you want to rent a boat from the marina. Are you celebrating a family reunion, birthday, or anniversary? If so then explore the Grand Floridian Bakery and Private Dining gift options available to you. Over the last several years we have had many cakes and treats made while at the Grand and with enough notice and money they can create some amazing things. This past January we had a cake made and it was spectacular. I love all things Alice in Wonderland and especially the Queen of Hearts so naturally I wanted a Queen of Hearts cake. We chatted with Donnie about what we wanted and a few days later we had this. I love this cake and it screams "Off with your head" and I really love all the details they were able to add to it.

These are just a few of the things that make the Grand Floridian Resort such a Magical place to make memories. If you have any questions about the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, please feel free to contact us.  Next time I'll share some pictures and my thoughts about dining at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

Contributed by Kelly H. Russo, owner of Travel with the Magic and one of our Minnie Moms.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tink's First Birthday Trip Part 1

I have been meaning to share my own trip report from our April vacation for a while now.  There's no time like the present, so here it is.  This was written while we were at Walt Disney World and appeared in Audrey's personal blog that we use to keep family updated.

On Sunday, we got up super early and headed to the airport. Audrey did well on the flight to Houston, but it is difficult to hold a curious, active, social little girl in your lap for an extended period of time. She napped in her stroller in the Houston airport while we pushed her up and down the terminal. The airline seat fairies smiled upon us for the flight to Orlando and we managed to have an empty seat in our row which allowed the little one to squirm with more freedom. Granddaddy picked us up at the airport in his new Mercedes (we've all had fun with the new car.) We splurged on DVC points this time and got a Grand Villa at Old Key West. It's two-stories, 3 bedrooms, 4 baths and fabulous. After dinner, Audrey got to dig in to a Mickey Mouse smash cake made by her grandparents. We all had fun watching her make a huge mess with the cake.

Monday morning, Chris, Andy, Audrey and I bought park tickets and then took the ferry to the Magic Kingdom. Audrey's first time in the park was a quick one. We took a few pictures in front of the castle and left for brunch. Granny and Granddaddy were waiting on us at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. It was chaos for the first little while, but overall we enjoyed our meal with Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins, Alice, and the Mad Hatter. We all wondered how Audrey would react to characters. Of course, she liked Mary Poppins and Alice and their pretty dresses. Thankfully she was also happy with Pooh and Tigger. The Mad Hatter was a different story and I was so glad he was last. He, just as a part of the character, is cantankerous and made Audrey cry. A monorail ride later and we were back at the Magic Kingdom. We took some cute photos on Main Street including some great ones with Audrey walking down the street with Granddaddy. Her first ride was "it's a small world." She seemed really interested in all of the dolls but poor thing was so tired that she was asleep by the end. Audrey tried pineapple Dole Whip but preferred the vanilla ice cream. That evening, Andy and I went to Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful meal.

Tuesday was full of firsts. Audrey's first trip to Epcot, first french fry, first lemonade, first time to really use a regular straw, first time to color and play with crayons. When we arrived at Epcot, it was about nap time so Andy and I strolled Audrey around World Showcase. We enjoyed the walk while she slept. We met the whole gang at Rose and Crown for lunch. Audrey didn't want to sit still so Granddaddy and I took turns walking with her. She had great fun trying fish and chips and feeding some to Granddaddy and Granny. Uncle Chris took the lead on a project to have a birthday card card signed for Audrey in all the languages of World Showcase. Almost all the signatures ended up coming from pretty girls...imagine that. The card turned out really cool and we had fun exploring the pavillions. Granny and Granddaddy took Audrey to dinner at Olivia's at Old Key West and she had the whole restaurant wrapped around her very small little finger. She makes people light up--her red hair and big smile always attract attention. Andy, Chris and I came back to the villa with Mickey ice cream bars for everyone. Audrey shared mine and ate it like she'd done that dozens of times. The little one went right to sleep after her big day.

Tomorrow is the big first birthday!

The next part of the adventure is coming soon.

Photo Flashback! Crystal Palace 1997

That's me in the oh-so-attractive Crystal Palace seater costume.  I participated in the Disney College Program during the fall of 1997.  It was a great experience.  I got to watch the parades and fireworks almost every night of my 5 shifts a week.  As a huge Winnie the Pooh fan, I adored working with the Hundred-Acre Wood crew.  The Main Street background music always reminds me of my CP days.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mickey Moms

Yesterday I applied for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. Me and up to 19,999 of my best friends. This isn't my first rodeo; I have applied for the panel twice before. While I think I would be an excellent member of the panel, the odds are against me. About 0.1% of applicants will be chosen for the final team.

So what's in it for the other 99.9% of enthusiastic applicants? Membership in the Mickey Moms Club. After the process is over, Disney sends out a very nice 'thanks for your interest' letter and a large magnet I think they want you to put on your car.  I've chosen to decorate the freezer in the garage with them. The other parting gift is access to the Mickey Moms Club site, which is only available to those who have applied to the Moms Panel.  It features special tips, planning tools, downloads, etc.

Best wishes to all who will apply for this year's panel!  And for most of us, look for your magnet in the mail.
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Team Post: If I could choose a job at the parks

DisneyDad: I have thought many times what I might do if I could work at Walt Disney World. My children have told me I should work for DVC talking to people about becoming Vacation Club Members as I have talked to many people when I visit the DVC booths in the parks and Downtown Disney and a few of them have become members. While this would be fun, I think the pressure of having to meet a quota of signing up people to tour DVC might be more stress than fun. I think my best job would be as Mayor of Main Street USA. I would love to be able to stand on Main Street and greet all the guests that have come to visit the Magic Kingdom. I think it would be fun to greet the kids and big kids (read adults) coming to see the Magic Kingdom for the first time or the 100th time. It has always been fun seeing someone who has never been to WDW experience the Magic of the Magic Kingdom for the first time. It would be fun to work where you could see that every day. On the days when I’m not acting Mayor, I’d like to walk around with a broom and dustpan to pick up around the Magic Kingdom talking to a few guests while keeping the park clean. But, since my back hurts after walking for long periods of time, instead I’d love to drive one of the steam engines around the Magic Kingdom. I’d love to be able to blow the whistle. I think the “all aboard” is recorded, so I’d just have to blow the whistle and wave.

Amy: I have been a Cast Member before. I worked at The Crystal Palace as a seater during College Program. It was fun but I wouldn’t choose it again, especially not in a hypothetical situation where the sky is the limit. I can’t sing or act but if I could, I would want to be a part of the Citizens of Main Street that perform in the morning at the Magic Kingdom. I have been pulled into their show before and was glad I knew “Sister Suffragette” from Mary Poppins. I love all the smaller “impromptu” acts around Walt Disney World and each park has multiple examples. Streetmosphere and Mulch, Sweat, and Shears at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, DeVine at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, The Jammitors at Epcot, and The Dapper Dans of the Magic Kingdom are a few favorites of mine.

Ridge:  If I were a cast member working in the parks I would like be to 1) a Jungle Cruise captain or 2) a safari guide at Kilimanjaro Safaris. Reason being is that I love both of these attractions and as my friends, family, former teachers, co-workers, and annoyed trivia teams from all over can attest, I have a head full of useless and I hope entertaining information (Donald Rumsfeld brother-in-law still hates me for that one.) I am a fan of the Jungle Cruise because it is delightfully tacky and with the right cruise director a boat load of laughs. I like the first couple of hours in the morning for the fresh tours or the end of the day because not only is the jungle cruise really cool at night, the captains are sometimes a little punchy and the delivery gets a little more risqué and passenger participation also seems to go up. As for the Safari, this is where my useless knowledge would come in handy, also I like driving, talking and animals so winner, winner chicken dinner!

What job would you like to have at a Disney park?

Monday, September 13, 2010

iPad App Reviews: My Numbers, ABC Numbers, and Baby Explorer


I am proud to share reviews of three more fun and educational children's apps from Punflay.  This time Tink and I tested iPad apps.  The larger screen of the iPad really lends itself well to games for little ones.  Thankfully my parents don't mind the kiddo playing with their rather expensive toy. 

First up is ABC Numbers.  This new app incorporates the previously released My Numbers app along with a really well done game for teaching letters.  Below is the first screen and the large buttons make it easy for little ones to choose a game.

Here are a couple of screens from the ABC portion of the game.  You run your finger along the letter wheel to select a letter.  If you touch within the oval containing the letter and picture, it says "La, L, Ladybug" in this case.  In the white box toward the bottom of the screen, the child can practice writing the letter by tracing within the outline.  The color of the "ink" can be changed by touching the blue, green, or red dots below the writing box.  My 16 month-old daughter's favorite part was the star on the right.  If you pull down on the ring, the star sings the ABC song.  It's really cute and just like a real pull-string toy, if you pull the string halfway, it only sings half of the song.   

For the numbers portion of the app, here is the screen you'll see.  The color of the buttons can be changed using the wheel in the upper right and the item to be counted is selected along the bottom of the screen.  Touching the musical note allows the user to choose one of three songs or to have no music at all.  The game itself is a pretty simple counting game.  In this case, the 8 button was pushed.  Eight flowers light up.  If you touch an unlit flower, it will count 9 in a pleasant child's voice.  If you choose a lit flower, it will say 7 and the flower you touched will no longer be highlighted.  It's a good game for practicing counting to ten.  I like that it also counts backward as this allows you to work on basic addition and subtraction with your child as well.

This is the intro screen for the independent My Numbers app if you choose to buy (or win!) it separately.

Tink loved Baby Explorer!  Here's the start screen.

This game is like a high-tech version of one of the many plastic toys you have, without the "cluttering the floor" aspect.  Starting from the left, the butterfly can be pulled down and it bounces back with a cool springy noise.  The wheel on the bottom spins and the 4 colorful rings slide back and forth.  Moving to the top right, the child can push the four buttons to get a corresponding noise.  Tink really liked this. 

The coolest part of this game is the center of the screen, which contains 5 games.  The wheel at the bottom right changes the game.  For the egg game, you touch the egg repeatedly, cracking it a little more each time.  Eventually a new friend pops out.  Pictured here is the duck but this one contains some surprises.  The bubbles and flowers games are similar.  The child can pop the falling bubbles or flowers.  Tink particularly liked the flower version and the notes played when the petals fell.  Another game lets the child help a frog jump from lillypad to lillypad and the final game moves three jumping fish. 

Again, Punflay has designed apps for children that are both educational and fun.  They've provided enough variety in each app to allow it to appeal to children for months or years to come.  We've really enjoyed playing with these apps.  In particular, Baby Explorer held my 16 month-old's attention for a long period of time and at that age, that's an accomplishment.  She'll get to play with these apps again at 18 months of age when we see my parents at Walt Disney World.  I look forward to seeing how her interaction with the games improves.

Click here for my review of two children's iPhone/iPod apps from Punflay.

Punflay has their educational apps (iPhone/iPod/iPad) on sale this week.  One of them is even free.  Check out their site soon.  The sale ends September 16.

Ready to enter to win My Numbers for iPad? You get one entry for each of the following. Please note each as a separate entry in the comments section below so I know what you have done.  Don't have an iPad?  Feel free to enter and gift the code to a friend who does.

Mandatory Entry: Briefly tell me why you think your child (or grandchild or you) will enjoy My Numbers.  No other entries will count if you don't do this one.

Extra Entries: (If you are already following me through any of these channels, just note that. Hey, free entry!)
  • Become a fan of Growing Up Disney blog on Facebook.
  • Follow Disney4Babies on Twitter.
  • Follow Growing Up Disney publicly on Google Friend Connect (see widget at right.)
  • Subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog.
  • Send a tweet about this giveaway (one per day). Feel free to copy and send this: "RT @Disney4Babies Visit for a #giveaway of a great children's app from Punflay, My Numbers #Disney #iPad"
  • Blog about this giveaway.
  • Add Growing Up Disney to your blogroll.

This contest ends at midnight Central time on Monday, September 20. The winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries.  You'll be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.  Good luck!
Disclosure: I received apps from Punflay for reviewing purposes. No monetary compensation was received or offered. All opinions expressed are my honest thoughts on these products.

And the winner is comment #3, Bill.  Congrats!  I'll be contacting you shortly.