Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The countdown to a new Disney baby

The countdown is almost over to our New Disney Baby's arrival. Amy is at the hospital as we watch over Tink. Tomorrow should be the Big Day.
Stay tuned!

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, May 30, 2011

Heading Home

So once again it's time to get back on the road and head home and I find myself at BabyCakesNYC for a little pick me up before getting on the road. Today I'm trying the chocolate dipped and the vanilla dipped donuts. Wow these are good.

It has been a crazy week long adventure with driving time bordering 40 hours by the time I get home tonight. There has been so many laughs this trip it really makes want to stay. It's is truly a wonderful community of friends I have become a part of. A full trip report will be forth coming once I get home and sit down to write. More photos, this time I have three rolls of real honest to goodness film to have developed and fingers crossed I learned how to use the camera before I took all the pictures.

It is a Minolta St1 something or other from about 1973 when my dad (DisneyDad) purchased it. I would wager a guess that it hasn't been in a park in at least 20 years so I can't wait to see how they turn out.

So again, it has been so wonderful just being around so many friends and not thinking about work or the regular worries of life for a few days. I'll be back soon kids so hopefully you locals won't have to miss me for too long.

Safe travels to all those moving about the country today and thank you to all the veterans out there that have allowed allowed all of us to come and enjoy a place like Disney. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Here are just a few of my pictures from this trip. Enjoy while I drive. :)

- Posted by Ridge using BlogPress from my iPhone

Maternity Leave

I'm writing this in advance and right now, the baby seems in no hurry to come out and join us.  She's due on Tuesday, May 31, 2011.

Due to our new bundle of joy (and buying a house and moving), I'll be going on a bit of a maternity leave from Growing Up Disney.  The team will still have new material for you this summer and I'll be back once things settle down a bit around here.  In the meantime, please browse through the tabs and check out some of our past articles; we have hundreds for you to enjoy.

Thank you for joining us here at Growing Up Disney and I hope you'll stick with us.


(And, I'll post pics of the new baby when I can.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The little things

You really never know what you're going to see when walking around the parks. This being Star Wars Weekends you'll see people dressed in costumes and just plain running crazy. But the thing that caught my attention yesterday was simple, understated, and is used to make your parks better.

Have you seen any little extra special touches just laying around?

- Posted by Ridge using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 27, 2011

Minnie Moms: Advance Planning Tips, Beth

Beth is wrapping up this month's Minnie Moms topic: advance planning tips.  Thanks for joining us this week!  If you've missed an installment of the mini-series, I invite you to spend a while with us.

(Note: Beth normally travels with her family of 5 plus her parents and sometimes her brother and his family, up to 12 people.)

We are hardly on the plane home from a trip to Walt Disney World when we are already beginning plans for our next trip. There are many things we do to plan a Disney vacation, but one thing is for sure, we start as soon as possible.

Year Round: Whether we have vacation dates determined or not, the one thing I do year round for Disney trips is to start looking at the Dollar Store and other department stores for Disney goodies I can pack for the kids. These range from Disney playing cards, band aids, glow sticks, etc. I find if I pick these things when I see them, then when it is time to pack, I have quite a selection of items for the kids’ carry on bags, as well as things we use while in the theme parks. By looking year round, I can also purchase things I find in the clearance section or on sale! It can be quite a money saver.

1 Year Out: We book our room one year out from our vacation dates. The great thing is the travel agent we use, and many of the travel agencies out there, will keep an eye out for deals. So it is well worth putting down the deposit early to make sure we don’t miss out on any great Disney discounts.

6 to 8 Months Out: Being in New Hampshire, we have limited options for direct flights out of Manchester airport. As a result, we only fly Southwest. It is one of the only airlines that has direct flights to Orlando from Manchester. We book our flights the day Southwest releases the schedule for our dates. Just a quick tip: if you want to know when Southwest will be releasing flights for your dates, you can call or e-mail them, and they will let you know. By having this info, we are able to book the first day they are available, which is usually when we can book the flights at their cheapest.

180 Days Out: Before we have our countdown to our trip, we have our countdown to ADRs (advanced dining reservations). This is one of my favorite parts of planning our trip. Being a large group, we make our reservations on the 180th day out as early as the online reservation system will let me. This is my best strategy for getting the places and times we want.

2 to 3 Months: At this point, I purchase my children new sneakers. This gives them plenty of time to break them in. Plus at this point, we start taking longer walks around the neighborhood to prepare our little legs for all the park touring we will be doing.

1 Month Left: With just one month left, we start watching our photo montages from previous trips, the Disney vacation planning video, and start preparing the kids for what we will see in Disney. This is also when we take out our Countdown to Disney Chart, which we created all together with a little help from my Cricut machine. It is a great way to start getting ideas of what we will have on our “must do” lists for each park.

2 Weeks Out: This may sound odd, but this is when we buy our park tickets. Yes, we wait until the last minute. This way I do not have to worry about purchasing tickets early, and then find out a package deal is released that is better than purchasing my room and tickets separately. Also, the tickets are nonrefundable and you just never know.

1 Week: With just one week left, the packing begins. We line up our suitcases in the dining room. Over the week, I start adding things from my list (yes, I have a permanent list that I use every trip! I am thinking of getting it laminated!) Having to pack for three little ones, I find giving myself the week makes the last night a stress free night.

So for us, we are always in the process of planning a trip to Disney. By starting early, we can find deals to save us money, and it keeps the Disney magic alive here at home while waiting to return!

Contributed by Beth D. of Meredith, NH.  Wife to Pierre, proud mom to Joey, Hayley & Emily, creator of Pursuing the Magic, founder of The Magical Blogorail and contributor to Growing Up Disney's Minnie Moms.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Minnie Moms: Advance Planning Tips, Amy

Now it's my turn to contribute to the Minnie Moms topic of the month: advance planning tips.  See you tomorrow for the end of the mini-series.

My travel party is usually me, my husband, our daughter, Ridge, DisneyDad and Mom.  Sometimes an extra friend will join us.  Andy and I don't live near the rest of the group; we meet them at WDW. 

Accommodations: 6+ months out
We usually begin our planning by booking accommodations.  As Disney Vacation Club members, we can book at our home resort 11 months out and other DVC resorts 7 months out.  Generally, we don't worry about these timeframes too much, but they are important to remember if you want to try for something special like a Grand Villa or a concierge room at Animal Kingdom Lodge, both of which have rather limited numbers available.  Otherwise, DisneyDad or I call DVC whenever we've chosen dates that work for our group, typically with the help of disneyworld.com/AllEars.net and TouringPlans.com.  Most of the time, we request a 2 bedroom villa at Old Key West, but we are flexible and will stay wherever is available.  Saratoga Springs usually has some space since it is such a huge property.

Travel Plans: 6+ months out
We now live close enough to drive again (YAY!) so this isn't a big deal anymore, but I used to begin watching flights and bargain shopping as soon as we had chosen dates.  Southwest frequently worked best for us since their prices vary less and bags fly free.  Once Tink was a part of the plan and carry-ons weren't an option, not paying for bags saved us a ton.  Also, with her in tow, we had to be more particular about our travel times.  No more super early or super late flights for a while.  We love Magical Express and I usually call them about a month out to reserve our space.  You can call before this but I've had flight numbers change on me before and I don't want to have to call twice.  (I had a heck of a time getting DME booked for our trip in October 2010.  Unfortunately they didn't know what to do when we were arriving on a DVC reservation and leaving on a cash reservation booked through a Disney Vacation Planner.  But it all worked out.)

Dining & Park Touring: 3-6 months out
Now the fun really begins.  As the family vacation planner, I like to book our ADRs (advance dining reservations) 6 months out, but if we aren't planning that far in advance, we'll just be flexible with our restaurant choices.  You never know, you might find something new you really enjoy.  I create a spreadsheet that lists the crowd calendar information from TouringPlans.com as well as any additional special event information I've found on AllEars.net or Disney's official site.  We use that information to choose which park we'll visit on each day and we generally like to book one ADR per day.  Any more than that is too much time, food, and money for us.  Since we generally split up during the day, having an ADR for lunch or dinner gives us a planned time to come back together as a group and relax and chat about what we've seen and done.  I ask everyone for any favorite restaurants they'd like to visit on that trip and do my best to work them all in.  On the occasions that we've used the Disney Dining Plan, the spreadsheet and all its iterations became rather complicated before we've reached our final goal.  (I'm not against the dining plans but I don't think they work for everyone.  Tables in Wonderland is better for us.)  I really like the new ability to make online dining reservations since it lets me work on our plan at any time of day.
NOTE: I find that this is where first timers really run into trouble.  I've had lots of people ask me about planning their first trip and they are all shocked to find out that they need to make dining reservations so far in advance.  Some are even surprised that they need reservations at all.

Kiddo Prep: As soon as the idea of a trip begins
With really small children, each trip is a whole new experience since they change so quickly.  As soon as we start talking about the next trip, I find myself in research (and sometimes shopping) mode as I look for a stroller, bag (I'm always on the hunt for the perfect diaper or camera bag), think about what attractions would be appropriate this time, which restaurants would work best for our current stage, and how sleeping arrangements will work out.  Add to that travel concerns and you'll want to allow yourself plenty of time to ask lots of questions of parents who have been there, done that.  (The Minnie Moms are always glad to help!!!)

Packing: 1 month out
My husband loves to pick on me for this one, but as I think of things we need for Walt Disney World, especially for Tink, it either goes on a list or in a bag.  If I can live without it, I'll go ahead and set it aside.  For things we use more regularly, I have lists.  Andy is a last minute packer but he only has to worry about himself.  I take care of everything else and don't want to have to worry at the end.  If it's on a list, I know I'll get it when the time comes and it keeps me relaxed.

Disney Visa Rewards: 1 month and 1 week
We use our Disney Visa for everything and then pay it off each month.  This helps us rack up Disney Reward Dollars to use on our vacation.  At about a month out, I make sure I have a card (they use a gift card-like system) and if I don't have an active one, I will go online and place my order.  If you aren't requesting overnight shipping, then requesting the card is free but you need to allow a week or two for arrival.  About a week before our trip, I will transfer any new Reward Dollars onto our card.  You can use this card practically everywhere on property, and we typically use it for treating the group (or ourselves or both) to a nice meal or for things we might not have splurged on otherwise, such as a massage after my first marathon.

Shoes and Clothes: 1 month + out
While this one may seem silly, it can be hard to find shorts out of season, so be sure in advance that you have appropriate and comfortable clothes that fit well.  I think a good pair of running/walking shoes is essential, but be sure to get some miles on them prior to your vacation.  You don't want to put a damper on a trip because those really cute shoes are rubbing enormous blisters on your feet.  Trust me, comfort is more important than fashion when you are on feet for the better part of a week.

--Amy, founder of Growing Up Disney and the Minnie Moms

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hollywood Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake Recipe

Today on their Wedding Cake Wednesday feature, the Disney Fairy Tale Weddings blog shared a fantastic recipe and I wanted to pass it along to those of you who may not follow them.

Hollywood Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
  • 1 can (16 ounces) grapefruit sections, drained well
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease a 9-inch by 2-inch round cake pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and lightly grease the paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, water, grapefruit juice and lemon zest until smooth.  Whisk in the flour mixture.
  4. In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar just to stiff peaks.  With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture until just blended.  Pour into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched lightly in the center.  Invert the cake, still in the pan, and cool on a wire rack.
  6. Run a spatula or a table knife around the edge of the cake.  Carefully remove the cake from the pan.  With a serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally.
  7. Spread the Cream Cheese Frosting on the bottom half of the cake.  Top with several grapefruit sections.  Cover with the second layer of the cake and frost the top and the sides.
  8. Serve the cake garnished with remaining grapefruit sections. (Serves Eight)
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer beat the cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the lemon juice and the lemon zest.  Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until well blended.  Add the food coloring, if desired.

Minnie Moms: Advance Planning Tips, Corby

Today Minnie Mom Corby shares her advance planning tips.  Don't miss the other posts in this week's series!

Thinking of planning a vacation to Disney World? Many are shocked when they begin planning what an overwhelming process it actually can be. There are lots of decisions to be made such as dates, which parks to attend, park hoppers, dining plan, travel insurance, what to pack, just to name a few. I consistently get emails from friends/clients wanting advice on what to do.

First you need to decide on which dates you would like to visit. Depending on the season, rates will vary. Typically, you will find when rates are the highest, the crowds will be as well and vice versa. Some will need to go when school is out depending on the child’s age and may be limited as to when they can travel while others have more flexibility and can go anytime. You may want to plan around certain special events such as Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, Star Wars Weekends, Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival or when certain decorations are up such as fall or winter, for example.

My philosophy is it’s never too early to go ahead and book. As long as you are planning more than 45 days prior to arrival, all that is required is a $200 deposit. You can get refunded should you decide to cancel as long as you are prior to 45 days before arrival. So really there’s nothing to lose! Sometimes, prices can’t be guaranteed if you are planning more than 6 months in advance. Also, Disney will typically announce promotions 4-6 months in advance for select dates. Some want to wait until promotions come out. I typically recommend going ahead and booking and should a promotion become available, switch it to the better price. Disney has not been hurting for business and the promotions haven’t been the same as previous years so don’t count on a certain one being available when you need it. Promotions are typically given to those that book ahead of time and not for last minute travelers. Another perk of booking ahead of time is you have from the date you book until 45 days prior to arrival to make payments. If you’d like to pay a little as you go, you have that option which is nice.

Dining Plan:
Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR’s) can be made 180 days in advance. You actually get 180 + 10 days if you’re staying on Disney property as an extra perk. I always recommend booking them as soon as possible. If I’m taking care of them for a client, I start making them the very first day I am allowed so they will get their location and time of choice. There are some really popular restaurants such as Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey, ‘Ohana, Le Cellier (lunch since it’s 1 table service credit), and more that are difficult to get into. I always recommend booking 6 months in advance when possible. I would recommend viewing menus and narrowing it down to where you want to go before the 180 day window approaches.

Travel Insurance:
If you are thinking of adding travel insurance, I would advise waiting until right before the 45 day window to add as it is non-refundable. Insurance is an extra expense but it could be well worth the money should you run into problems.

I typically wait until 7-10 days before arrival day to start stalking the weather websites. You will need to be prepared ahead of time should it look like weather may not be cooperative. I always advise purchasing umbrellas, ponchos, squirt fans, snacks and water before you leave as they will be a lot less expensive than when you are in the parks.

Online Check-in:
If you’re staying on property, take advantage of using online check-in up to 10 days prior to arrival. It will speed up your check in process allowing more time for fun.

Remember, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the details that go into planning a Disney vacation, you don’t have to! You can always contact Travel with the Magic. We’ll be sure to take care of all your needs so you don’t have to worry about a thing and it’s at no additional cost to you.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Minnie Moms: Advance Planning Tips, Heather

Our Minnie Moms mini-series continues.  Today Heather shares her family's approach to Walt Disney World vacation planning.

Yay for considering a WDW trip! I dare say that if you are a first time visitor the amount of resources and websites can be daunting. Starting at a year out is optimal but our first time we managed a great trip in a 5 month planning window. With 4 theme parks and 2 water parks even the most seasoned traveler benefits from preplanning a WDW trip. I personally found the following sites helpful in pretrip planning.

12 months out-Discuss time of year, crowd levels, possible holidays themed events, impact on school schedule, begin to research on vs. off property lodging, discount programs, airfare.

9 months out- Settle on time to visit, lodging, book tickets and any other prepaid plans. Consider travel insurance. Investigate restaurants, character meals, and plan your top restaurants to book reservations.

6 months out- If you haven’t booked lodging and airfare already DO. You are now 180 days from your trip allowing you to make all dining reservations for WDW restaurants. These can be changed at any time without penalty. DO NOT TAKE FOR GRANTED THE POPULARITY OF CERTAIN DINING LOCATIONS. Many sell out within minutes on the first available day. Have a backup plan for character meals and premium restaurants. TAKE advantage of your preplanning to schedule optimal times around park closing, parades and fireworks. **One of the best meals we had was a late dinner at Ohana while we watched the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom.**

3 months out- Finalize travel. Consider renting a vehicle or alternate modes like Amtrak if airfare is expensive. Orlando is serviced by the Amtrak Silver Star line on the east coast. Begin to develop a plan for which days you want to tour each park. Note Magic hours and special events. Check the WDW Moms Panel and the Minnie Moms past topics for great ideas about doing WDW.

1 month out- Confirm all reservations, check travel insurance policy, finalize a daily plan including restaurants, parks with Must see/Hope to See/Ok to Miss by park area. Break in shoes and pack a medical bag to avoid premium prices on site. Get your kids involved with a 30 day countdown to Disney Chart. Buy an extra battery and memory card for your camera. Begin to set aside travel snacks, games, and advanced packing so you can enjoy a stress free final week.

1 week out- Reconfirm reservations, pack, get extra sleep if possible and anticipate a wonderful, memory filled trip.

Once there… play things by ear. Even the best laid plans sometimes benefit from extra time at the pool, skipping a ride, sleeping in after staying out late, letting the kids pick.  Enjoy the time together as a family regardless if your plans take a detour.

You can always go back. We did.

Contributed by Minnie Mom Heather V. of Raleigh, NC. Wife to Bill, proud mom to Ben and Ian, and creator of Freeze Ahead Frenzy

Monday, May 23, 2011

Minnie Moms: Advance Planning Tips, Janine

This month's Minnie Moms topic is advance planning tips.  Since everyone had such great ideas to share, I'll be posting them all week.  Enjoy this installment from Janine in the UK!

There's very little in life as exciting for me as going on holiday, especially if the letters WDW are involved.  As this is something we don't get to do every year, the planning for me is a big part of it.

For our first trip back in 2001, with my dear in-laws, we didn't do much beforehand at all. My husband and his family had been twice already, in 1997 and 1999. His dad paid for the flights with air miles. We found a villa on the Internet (thank God it was legit!) and my father-in-law bought the Park tickets on the plane.

I'd read a book about Florida in general and had a few ideas about what I wanted to do and see, but it was pretty much go with the flow.

It was an awesome holiday but left me chomping at the bit to go back and do all the things we missed.

The next time we went wasn't until June 2006, this time just my husband and myself. However we booked it in January 2005 which meant I had lots of time to plan!!!

This time I spent night after night researching rides, restaurants, shops etc. I watched planning DVDs, read guide books, looked at things online. I even knew what I wanted to buy from Walmart by looking at their online shopping site. I knew which Parks I wanted to do on each day and even where I wanted to eat. I became obsessed with looking at menus, and checked loads of them out before we went, so that I pretty much knew what I wanted to order before we had even left the UK.

But both our 2006 and 2008 trip were relatively easy to plan as we booked a package deal through a travel agent, including hire care and insurance. In 2006 we even bought the Park tickets from the agent.

In 2008, we booked the flights and hotel through Virgin but DIY'ed the tickets, buying from Disney, Discovery Cove and Universal direct (yes, as we go for a fortnight we do allow ourselves to do non-Disney things too.)

However, in 2009 I really had to get my act together. After we had returned from WDW in 2008, my father-in-law suggested that he would like to treat the whole family to a holiday to Florida. Various things occurred throughout 2008 which meant although I kept an eye on things, such as prices of flights, possible villas etc., and nothing was set in stone.

Queue January 2009, with me working difficult shifts as a Police Officer - "Oh Nine, since you're the Disney expert, how about I transfer some money into your bank account, and you chose and book EVERYTHING." For 6 of us. For May.

Now I was used to about 18 months worth of list making and faffing about, this was Pressure!!!

First thing to sort was the flights and villa.

I was 99% sure I would use Virgin as although you pay more, you get a better service. I don't know about anyone else, but we feel that you pay so much for a Florida holiday anyway, that you may as well spend a little extra to get the best that you can. There is a time and a place for scrimping and saving (to be able to afford Disney holidays in the first place) but not whilst you're there, and most certainly not when your father-in-law is paying for it all.

So it became a daily ritual for about a week or so of checking flight prices.

In the mean time I also had to find a villa. Because, what if I bought flights for a fixed date, and couldn't find a villa to accommodate us? Or, vice versa?

Luckily, back in 2008 I had joined a website called The DIBB. This is basically a Disney information community for Brits. And they have a section with villas to rent. Back in 2001 we had stayed in Claremont and really liked the location, so that was my starting point. Luckily I found one really quickly, and exchanged some lovely emails with the owner. I emailed all the details with photos to the inlaws, just to double check. Yes, they thought it looked great. So, with a date in mind, I checked with Disneybabe, the owner, and then checked the flights, and by February, we had a way to get to the US and somewhere to stay while we were there, yippee.

Next up was car hire, which we do direct with Dollar, and tickets. We always buy them direct now, so it was the 14 day Park Hopper (only available to UK guests) and 14 day flex ticket including Busch Gardens.

We also book tickets to see a Tampa Bay Rays game (this was one of the deciding factors about what time of year to go, as DH loves baseball) and a three night stay at The Grand Plaza Hotel in St Petes as everyone loves the beach time and the break from the Parks (except me of course, I'd much rather be in WDW but I'm not paying so can't argue too much ...).

As soon as we start to get to a double digit countdown, well that's it really. Mega excitement begins and planning goes into overdrive. I end up with lists of my lists. My husband will enquire where a certain tee-shirt is, only to be told it's already packed. Each week in the grocery shop, something extra for the holiday will appear in the trolley as I stock up on sun cream, puzzle books, new flip flops, shower gel, you know, all the essentials.

I find myself addicted to The DIBB and the Walmart websites.

I make myself a 'touring plan' of each Park and an itinerary for each day. As my brother-in-law's girlfriend was a first timer, I hand wrote her a day by day guide to what we would be doing, with a rundown of the Park/shops/restaurants etc.. I know what days we'll do parades and which nights we'll stay late for fireworks. I read and re-read planning guides, so much so that I could write one myself. Every Facebook or Twitter status mentions the F word, by which I mean Florida of course. Everyday folk run away from me as I can now tell them which film I'll be watching on the flight and which refreshment stand I'll be getting a drink from in MK before the parade ...

Of course, what I didn't know at this hectic but hugely enjoyable planning stage, was that the day we set off on yet another 'Once in a lifetime' holiday, I would be 6 weeks pregnant with Tink.

So a lot of the planning went out the window when we were there, as I was too sick, too tired or unable to do things!

I only found out that I was expecting Tink on 28th April and we left on 9th May so this time was spent frantically making sure Virgin and the insurance company knew I was pregnant, and researching which rides would still be safe for 'us' to go on.

Anyway, that's how I tend to plan our holidays to The World.

I realise a big missing thing here are ADRs (advance dining reservations.) We've never made one. This will change with the 2014 trip as we want to do Chef Mickeys, CRT and California Grill at least.

It may be about 3 years away, but I'm already thinking about it. I may need to buy Tink so thicker soled shoes or put her on a stretching table if she's not big enough for some of the rides!

And most importantly, Amy and I need to plan our meets! So far we're having tea at the Grand Floridian, carrot cake cookie at The Writers Stop, a 'veggie Southern dinner' at her DVC property .....

Contributed by Minnie Mom Janine P. from Swindon, England.  She is a proud wife to Steve and mommy to Felicity.  You can follow her on Twitter, @Disneynine.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Good morning from Walt Disney World

The last couple of days have been a blur of activity and not nearly as much sleep as I would like to have, but have fun or have sleep...or have fun sleeping I guess. On this trip though I'll just have to sleep when I'm dead because I'll leave here Wednesday to go home work 2 days then come back to see my friends for one more weekend. Jim if you read this I'll bring you back a souvenir in exchange for leaving early next Friday. *wink*
The previous statement in no way was a bribe. lol. So on with the recap.

So as you read on Thursday my trip started off with a bang having my O2 sensor go out and causing a two hour layover while I had it repaired. Good times, at least the best circumstances surrounded a bad situation and I was able to get back on the road quickly. That night check in was late and the next morning came early for it was opening day for Star Wars Weekends as well as Star Tours the Saga Continues. It is technically a prequel but we will not go into the continuity issues and just focus on the fact the 3D that is being used was the most vivid and real as seeing in everyday life. As a matter of fact nothing in real life looks that good so now regular vision is kind of a let down.
The opening day hoopla was impressive so I understand. In a fit of failure that is beginning to sum up my Friday morning, I misread the schedule of events and missed the festivities, however I was in the line for merchandise and able to get a couple of exclusive pins that were sold out by the end of the day. In that respect I won, but I missed seeing George Lucas on stage giving his blessing to Disney for all the hard work that goes into Star Wars Weekends and Star Tours.

The fun was shared by meeting up with the Startours2live.com and Studiocentral.com crew as well as other bloggers and friends. Twitter brings people together and destroys 3rd world countries (not really but it has great power for some reason). Oh the social media gatherings are always so much fun. Here is just one picture of it all.

Friday was long but somehow Saturday was longer. I meet up with the WDW Radio fans to see Lou Mongello and all the other friends from the day before then a group of about 30 of us went to Momma Melrose for lunch. Fantastic.

I'll go into detail later about how much I enjoyed lunch and having it with that many friends was incredibly entertaining. After lunch we did several activities as a group then ended the night at Hyperspace Hoopla a dance party type show with all you favorite characters. When I can get my pictures off my camera I'll be posting more about that show but I'll say one thing: Ewok dressed as Slash. My night was complete.

Now I am up and just being lazy meeting up with my friends Mary and Christa this afternoon at Epcot once Mary flys in. I dropped of some film at Walgreens and am right now having Breakfast at BabyCakes NYC at Downtown Disney just killing time. I will say though I am a new fan of it here. Is a Vegan bakery and the eats are great.

Pictured are a vanilla cake crumble donut and a cinnamon roll. They worked for me and bonus they took a DVC discount. Discounts make everything better.

Before I go out and play a little more today I wanted to say thank you to Kelly from Travelwiththemagic.com for helping me book my trip this go 'round and for all the advice she has lent me for October. Kelly I'll be in-touch with you soon about all that. Thanks again.

- Posted by Ridge using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 20, 2011

Star Tours E-Postcard

Check out this link to create your own e-postcard from one of several Star Wars locations.  Disney currently offers Tatooine, Hoth, and Naboo; more will be released in the coming weeks. 

I made one with a picture of Tink, diving Lake Paonga.  It turned out very cute and reminds me of e-postcards we've sent in years past from Innoventions.  The catch seems to be that you can only post this to Facebook.  So much for adding it to this blog post.  It's still a fun diversion on a Friday afternoon.  Have a great weekend!


Star Tours 2

Is fantastic. Smiling me.

- Posted by Ridge using BlogPress from my iPhone

Watching the Star Tours opening ceremony

Are you?

Unlike my brother, I couldn't be there in person but I really enjoyed watching the webcast of today's event.  George Lucas is definitely more comfortable with a light saber than is Bob Iger.


Magical Blogorail: The Best of World Showcase

Welcome to those of you joining me from A World View and those of you who have just hopped aboard.  I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.

This month, Magical Blogorail Red is discussing the World Showcase pavilion where we like to spend the most time.  Well, I can't ever pass up a chance to hang out in Canada and catch a show or two from Off Kilter.  (LOVE THEM!)

Jamie from Off Kilter, me and Pal Mickey

However, the pavilion where I spend the most time is United Kingdom.  I have been in love with British history since elementary school.  In college, I had the opportunity to live in London for a semester, studying and working for a Member of Parliament and traveling on the weekends.  I love wandering the streets of the pavilion and taking in the architecture.  Next time you visit, slow down, notice the detailing of the buildings and think about the eras represented.  

Can't pass up a phone booth pic!

United Kingdom's shops are always a must-do for me.  For one, I love hearing the accents of the Cast Members.  It takes me back to my London days.  Secondly, I almost always buy something at the tea shop and my brother is likely to cross the street and buy something with the logo of his favorite soccer team.  Even if you aren't a tea fan, pop into the tea shop on your next trip.  British chocolate is SOOOO much better than what we are accustomed to here in the States.  My personal favorites are Penguins and milk chocolate Digestives.  (I said they made good chocolate.  I didn't say they came up with the best names.)

For @disneynine

This was in one of the shops on my last visit.  How many can you answer correctly?

She almost had to come home with me.

The British Invasion. (Recently replaced. Boo!)

The architectural photos were taken by my brother
and co-blogger, Chris.  Thanks!
The table service restaurant in the United Kingdom pavilion is Rose & Crown.  It's pub-style dining with a fantastic water-front location.  If you are lucky enough to dine outside here during IllumiNations, you are in for quite a treat.  However, we typically eat here for lunch every few trips.  I am a big fan of the midday break and this is a super place for one.  The food and service are always good.  Of course, the fish and chips are tasty, but don't hesitate to branch out and try something else from the menu.  I always enjoy the cheese and fruit appetizer.  With the more relaxed atmosphere comes a little more wait.  It was too much for Tink to handle on her first trip to WDW at one year old but an older child would be fine.

A trip to Walt Disney World usually includes plenty of food and we find the fish and chips take away to be just enough for a lighter meal, especially when you need a little more after a day of nibbles at the Food and Wine Festival.  Notice I didn't say quick.  Yorkshire County Fish Shop is a popular counter service location and sometimes the line can get quite long.  

And of course, there is the beer.  While I recommend reservations to eat at Rose & Crown, you are welcome to stop into the pub for a pint at any time.  There isn't a ton of seating but it's worth a visit.  Some of the bartenders are quite unique and so is the entertainment.

Speaking of entertainment, I now can't find the picture I want but the World Showcase Players are a clever improv troupe that performs on the streets of the UK pavilion.  It's usually very funny, but if you are shy, don't stand too close as there is lots of audience participation.

Wandering World Showcase is among my favorite activities at Walt Disney World and it's not complete without a visit to the United Kingdom.  What pavilion in World Showcase draws you in and captures your imagination?

Thank you for joining me today.  Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is WDW Backstage.

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 ~ Makin’ Memories
2nd Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
3rd Stop ~ A World View
4th Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
Final Stop ~ WDW Backstage

Thursday, May 19, 2011

AU breakdown

Sounds like a country song. Just to follow up on the last piece. The car is now fixed and driving smooth. Wesley Tire & Auto was fast and super friendly. Thanks!

- Posted by Ridge using BlogPress from my iPhone

Mishap for the day...

I left work on time and programmed the GPS to take me away however in my infinite wisdom knowing much better the direction I wanted to take I ignored my GPS and started out. Using it more as an estimate for time rather than a direction.
This arrogance soon backfired as I got trapped in traffic due to a pretty bad wreck. Then while taking to my sister the check engine light came on. This was then followed by then engine running very rough. I was so close to my old stomping ground Auburn University that pulled on in to the local auto parts store and had them diagnose the light. "O2 sensor, we don't carry that one". After a call to DisneyDad, I was calling the local dealership to see if they had it. They DID! But surprise! The service department sucked so they couldn't put it on. Luckily one of the guys there called a local mechanic and he said he could get it on now and save me burning my hands (these things are not located conveniently). So that leads me to right now, delayed but not deterred. I'll be back on the road in no time hopefully with a functioning car and a lighter wallet. I would have fixed it myself in a pinch and was prepared to since I carry a set of tools in the trunk. However, I don't have a split wrench that you need to do something like this so paying a professional seems like my best option right now.

Back on the road soon....

- Posted by Ridge using BlogPress from my iPhone

It's Go Time.

It's finally here: day zero, party day, travel day oh, and still a working day. Not complaining though, my job and manager Jim are flexible and very understanding of the fact I seem to have a Disney problem. Thinking of that I have to take a drug and alcohol awareness in the workplace compliance do-hicky before I leave out today. So hi, my name is Chris and I have an addiction to good entertainment, a large mouse and the world of family fun that Walt built. The byproduct of all this is a large collection of camera gear, movies, trips to Florida and a pretty large group of friends, some of which I'll be seeing Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as next week.

So I'll be posting as often as possible to the blog here as activities allow at Star Wars Weekends and other fun times from my trip.

- Posted by Ridge using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Photo Flashback! Cinderella's Stepsisters

The next time you are at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, take a look at the beautiful murals in the castle.  Look carefully at the stepsisters and you'll see that one is red with rage and the other is green with envy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Toddler and a Newborn: A Survival Guide

Earlier this week, I put out a call for help. On Twitter and Facebook, I asked the following question:

"I'll soon have two girls, right at 2 years apart. What are your best tips for surviving an infant and a toddler? THANKS!"

I received tons of great advice and was asked by a Growing Up Disney reader to compile these tips since she will be in the same boat soon. I wasn't planning on making this a blog post, but y'all came up with such great advice that I'd like to share it. Since I didn't declare ahead of time that I'd publish this, I've removed names from the comments.

I hope this helps you or a friend. A HUGE thanks to everyone who shared their tips from the trenches.


~put several drinks and snacks out for the toddler. It never failed that as soon as i would start feeding baby, a toddler would want something to eat or drink.

~Well, I had 3 kids in 3 1/2 years. It is very hard but worth every second. Just keep the toddler very busy. Go to the zoo, park or even go to a friends house that has children or vice versa, have your friends come over. Get a mommy's group started & you will be amazed at the accomplishments!!! My kids are 21, 19 & 18 now. Enjoy while they are young cause they grow up too darn fast!!!

~try to include the toddler as much as possible. They can be the wipe holder or go get the diaper. Bailey would help us bathe Eli - she got a washcloth and was at his feet. If breastfeeding, you can read to her while feeding. Make sure to send special time with the toddler while baby is napping. You and hubby take turns staying with little one and take toddler out for some one on one. You don't have to spend money just go to the park or do their favoirte thing at home. Eli also brought Bailey gift for her to have when he arrived. I have a friend who said she went to the dollar store and bought several small things and wrapped them up and when it looked like toddler was about to have a hard time she would pull out a gift for them to open. I think she said that she had 10 things. She said it really helped.

~Ear plugs?

~My girls are two years apart...here's what I know..right now, you wonder how you will do it. When you get to the point I am at (they are now 14 and 16) you look back and wonder how you ever did it. But, when you are "in it"...you just do it. :) I honestly enjoyed that time greatly...wouldn't change a thing.

~Let some things go, ask for help, be reasonable! It will get easier!

~Run run run run. :)

~Mine are 2 year apart, and I have learned recently to pick my battles...one more curious george episode won't hurt her while i get the baby to sleep. don't worry about it being Quiet, the baby will learn to sleep through the noise of the 2 year old.

~enjoy every minute and love them loads because before you can turn around twice they are grown up having their own children. love you and hope you are doing great.

~All my advice would be unfounded since I don't have two, but I think you need to abandon that sweet husband of yours and come home for a little while so we can spoil them rotten and let you get some extra sleep. Totally unbiased - I swear!

~My two kids are just over 2 years apart. You need to lower your expectations. But you still do need to make a point to appreciate your older child and let her help. Letting them help thrills them to death, and that can include pulling laundry out of the basket or just fetching you a diaper.

~Try to get them on the same afternoon nap schedule!

~just relax! i know you heard it before w/Tink, but the laundry and cleaning will wait... enjoy the two of them together while you can! And let Tink help as much as possible! She can bring you diapers and help burp the baby and pick out clothes! It will really help form that 'big sister bond' from the beginning that will last a lifetime! but the best tip i got from one of the nurses in the hosp.... UNLESS there is some blood or real danger involved, take care of Tink FIRST! If she needs attention but the baby is crying, go to Tink and love on her... the baby (as long as she's ok and just crying) will be fine, but Tink is old enough to notice who you choose first. It will take the bite out of the jealousy... and it really worked for us! my two little monkeys are best friends! good luck and praying for you Hot Mama!!!

~WINE :)

~Same naptime is great! And keep the older one involved with everything - let her help you as much as possible with the baby. My 2 year old LOVED being a "big girl" and helping with the baby. She would also change her stuffed animals or baby doll every time I changed the baby.


~Get organized and try staying on a schedule it provides stability and comfort for the babies and provides grounding for you. You will always be prepared. Make sure to try and rest when they rest. And always have at least one date night a month. If momma ain't happy ain't nobody happy. Good luck.

~TV is your friend - especially at first!

~mine r 25months apart & there were days I didn't think I would make but but now it's awesome! They r best buddies!

~just remember the words of Darius Rucker..."It Won't Be Like This For Long". Take it 1 day at a time. :)

~if you get one something, you probably won't hear the end of it unless you get the other the same thing!!

~my girls are 17 months apart. My best advice is have the big sister be a part of everything.

~mine are 23 mths apart. The 1st year is tough, but then it gets easier as the get older and have each other to play with.

~I think making sure they have things (ie toys or activites) together & apart is important. Gives them individuality. ;)

~I second it - Coffee, and lots of it LOL!

~I'm thinking gin... Lots of it! ;) how much longer to go for you?


~well duhhh... a trip to Europe and no forwarding address. oh... you want to actually stay... ummm... prozac?? :)~
If you'd like to add your own tips to the list, please feel free to comment below.  It's always terrific when we can learn from each other!