Monday, April 30, 2012

The Beauty of Not Planning (aka I'm leaving on Saturday!)

Last week, my dad posted a couple of photos from the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.  He also said that he and my mom were heading down to Walt Disney World to catch the end of the festival.  They had invited us when he booked the trip but I declined.  My husband couldn't get away from work and I didn't want to go without him.  But then I saw those pictures from Dad and that afternoon, Tink started in on me about wanting to meet princesses.  Next thing I know, I had agreed to the trip.  (A big thanks to my blogorail friends for being the best enablers ever.)

Now Tink, Baby Minnie, and I will be joining DisneyDad and Mom on their trip.  And we leave on Saturday.  AAACCCKKKK!  I have one week to get us ready.  Thank goodness this isn't my first rodeo and I already have packing spreadsheets.  My parents weren't going to make any ADRs (advance dining reservations) for their trip but now that the little girls are going, I'm making a loose plan and a couple of ADRs so that Tink can have breakfast with Minnie.  I've been working on the plan for our November trip recently since we are almost at our 180 day window but we'll save the bigger things for that trip.

Now to the title of this article---The Beauty of Not Planning.  I am the family trip planner.  I make the spreadsheets and work the plan until we have every park and ADR scheduled.  I've done this for years and while I can throw together a basic plan pretty quickly, it's nice to have nothing in my "events" column.  No races, no big milestones; just time for the kiddos to play, grandparents to enjoy watching the little ones in the parks, and if I'm lucky, for me to take photos with my new camera.  My big must-dos this visit are let Tink play on the playsets at Epcot (I WISH they'd keep some version of those up year round.  Pretty please.) and at Magic Kingdom, I want to have silhouettes done of the girls.  I've looked at the attractions I think they would like best and am thinking in terms of this YEAR.  If they don't see something in May, we'll get there in November.  We'll just go with the flow and let the magic happen.  There's no time to plan much at this point and also no pressure to do so since we won't have been looking forward to the trip for long.

This will officially be Minnie's first Walt Disney World trip but I am also considering it a testing ground for the longer, busier vacation this fall.  I've decided to go with the two stroller option rather than buying or renting another double stroller.  While I think now that this will really work for us, it's nice to have a chance to try it out.  And I am way overpacking since it's short notice, especially on food for the girls.  Minnie has learned to eat from these baby food packs in the last couple of days and is a really good eater in general.  However, Tink has turned three and is still hard to feed away from home but it's getting better.  I took her to WDW at 12 and 18 months and really wished on the second trip that I had carried more food for her.  Yes, I will be the park sherpa this time but this is a short phase in our lives and if I have to drag more around than I'd like for a trip or three, well, that's ok.

I may not be around much this week as I scramble to get us all ready to go but stick with us and next week, DisneyDad and I will be posting our adventure from the parks.  See you real soon!

Friday, April 27, 2012

To all who come to this happy place, Welcome!

To all who come to this happy place, Welcome!  for TWO YEARS!! WOW!!

It's amazing the numbers of guests who stop by daily to visit with Growing Up Disney.  April 26 was the Second Anniversary of this labor of love.  While we don't get the millions who visit, I am surprised at the HUNDREDS who come by to visit daily.  Thank you for taking time to stop by, look at a few pictures, and share the stories of our and our contributors lives.  Amy is the editor-in-chief of this effort and Ridge is her second in command.  I'm just the dad, so I get the responsibility of causing my children's obsession with Disney.  Amy has made many friends who have become contributors, thank you all for your work.

It is hard work to keep something like this going, make it interesting, and not repeat yourself over, and over, and over, and over.  Amy and Ridge work hard to keep this site going and I enjoy helping out where I can.  If you think it's easy, sit down and start writing your story and see how far you get. (email it to and Amy may just post it here!)  I have seen many blogs that have started strong, but in a few months the blogger has quit.  I have one friend that said he was "officially the worst blogger in the world" when he quit posting.  This article will be the 591st post to Growing Up Disney over the past two years. That is averaging one post every 1.2 days for two years.  Not bad when most blogs go by the way side.  Many of our guests even take time to comment on posts.  I was surprised to so many took time to comment on my Photo Flashback this week on the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival and my picture of Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Our most popular page on Growing up Disney is "The Family Behind the Blog".  We have averaged about 5 visits to this page a day for the past two years.  Guess there are a lot of people who wonder who would spend this much time on Disney.  There you will find the story behind why Amy began writing about taking a child to Walt Disney World.  Chris or Ridge as he has been know since high school has his own writing style and has developed into quite a photographer.  And as for me, DisneyDad, I have been a Disney fan from before there was a Walt Disney World and have been a Disney Vacation Club member since 1993.

The most popular article on Growing Up Disney was one Amy posted November 13, 2010 on "Mickey Mouse Christmas Lights".  It has averaged one person reading the article every day for two years.  Some one must like reading about Christmas lights to read it every day for two years! :-)

We get a lot of visits to Growing Up Disney from guests searching on Google for Growing Up Disney or the Disney Vacation Club.  Lots come from finding us on Facebook and Twitter too.  We also get a lot of visits from those who have jumped on the Magical Blogorail for a trip around the Magic Kingdom.  Please Stand Clear of the Door  - Por favor,  mantengase alejado de las puertas.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment or two and help us celebrate!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two Years--Ridge

Two years… yowzer…. It’s hard to believe and soooo much has happened in that time. Big thanks to my partner, editor, boss, big sis, mother to my two beautiful nieces and my friend Amy for getting me to do this with her. Thanks to my parents for allowing me to go crazy with the DVC points in the last two years and go to the World for “work” about nine or ten times and buying me my camera for my birthday a few years ago and really sparking my already existent photography interest and making it a full blown obsession that I have dumped so much money into and invested so much time into reading and practicing and believe it or not I’ve even gotten paid a few times for my work. To all my friends I have met in these two years from twitter and the blogosphere I can’t wait to see you all again in about three weeks for Star Wars Weekends. One of my favorite memories was from One More Disney Day being on Main Street for Less than a half an hour before running into a group of friends and instantly having a picture taken as a group. Thinking of that Todd if you still have access to that picture I would like to get a copy :)

Thank you all for reading and becoming our friends. It’s nice to meet people that share our disease.

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Two Years at Growing Up Disney

Today turns two years old.  What started as a forum to share what I had learned about traveling with my small child has grown, almost as fast as she has.  Now, I am proud to say, we cover a wide range of Disney topics and experiences.  Not only have my talented brother and father come on board, but we also have amazing Disney friends from around the world who regularly share their love too.  And I have another beautiful Disney baby to spoil since I began this blog.

I want to say a big thank you to all who have contributed in some way to Growing Up Disney be you staff, team member, guest author, commenter, or reader.  

It's been so much fun to share our family's stories and hear those of others.  Connecting with other Disney fans has to be the highlight of this experience.  I look forward to continuing the adventure and seeing where it takes us as our third generation is Growing Up Disney.

Thanks for two magical years!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Photo Flashback: May 06 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival May 2006

I enjoy going to Walt Disney World any time of the year and each time of the year seems to hold something special.  March to May is the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.  It is one of the prettiest times of the year at Epcot.  The gardeners at Epcot really out do themselves for the Festival.
Mom and I are heading to WDW in May to catch the end of the Festival this year.  I hope to post some pictures of the event.

Part of the Festival every year is the Flower Power Concert Series.  In 2006 we were lucky to see Paul Revere and the Raiders.  I saw them in person when I was about 12 during their "Where the Action Is" TV days.  In 2006 the music was good and brought back many memories and the jokes were just as corny as they were when I was 12.
Not the best picture, but you get the idea.
-- DisneyDad
Focused on the Magic

Monday, April 23, 2012

Minnie Moms: Disney Birthdays

Happy birthday Tink! My daughter (and the mascot here at Growing Up Disney) turned three on Saturday. The blog will be two years old this week too. So in the spirit of celebration, I asked our Minnie Moms to share a special Disney birthday memory with us. 

Amy: Tink was born a Disney kid, so her birthdays are no exception.  Her first birthday was celebrated at Walt Disney World.  The party for her second birthday was just after our big move last year so we stayed home, but the Mickey cupcakes were a big hit.  This year, Little Miss is three and we have moved on to Princesses.  It was a very regal weekend of celebration.  The photo below is one of my favorites.  I just asked her to stop so I could take her picture and this was the pose she came up with.  Ah, I love this girl.  (The new Snow White and Belle dresses and Princess shoe collection were gifts from my parents.)

Natalie: Birthdays are something extremely special to each person. For myself, I was greatly excited in 2009 to hear the “What Will You Celebrate?” Disney campaign offered guests free admission on their birthday! I had long been an annual passholder for Walt Disney World, so I decided I would seize the opportunity to get in free at Disneyland. I had only been to Disneyland once, for 4 hours during a business trip and only remembered riding it’s a small world! Planning for the vacation was wonderful!

On the day of my birthday, I arrived at the parks very early, wanting to allow myself plenty of time to take in all of the attractions. I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to experience Disneyland at a more mature age (no comments please!) in hopes that I would remember the parks offerings a bit better than after my first visit! The day was magical, being spent with my mother, cousin and her son and my son. The highlight of the day was eating at Blue Bayou. The themeing of the restaurant was wonderful, the food was great, though the service terrible! The kids really enjoyed wearing their pirate hats/menus and waving to the guests as they floated by the restaurant on the Pirates of the Caribbean boats.

Anytime you get to spend time in Disney with friends, family and ON your birthday, you are in for a memorable, amazing experience. And thanks so much to Disney for giving me the opportunity to have such a special birthday celebration.

Janine: Although we have not celebrated a birthday in WDW itself, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is a Disney theme to our special days, especially when it comes to Tink.

This year she turned 2 and was lucky enough to have 2 parties - a Mickey and Minnie themed one for her family and a Princess one for her friends.

I made a Mickey head shaped cake and cupcakes for the family party and had a wonderful Mickey head banner, along with table decorations.

The Princess theme for her friends tea-party was a lot of fun, centered around her main present, a Disney Princess singing kitchen. There were Princess cupcakes and cookies, Princess banners and table ware and beautiful party bags. Even her presents from her little play-mates were in keeping!

I can't wait to pick up a few bits in DLP ready for next year.

Corby: I am greatly looking forward to celebrating our daughter's 2-year-old birthday next month at Disney World. Obviously, she's young and probably won't have a clue or remember. Really, we're surprising our son on the last day of school. We'll be celebrating school being out for summer when we drive up to school with bags packed, ready to head to Orlando. Her birthday just happens to fall the day after we check out so I'm going to try to incorporate it in someway, which should be fun. Since we haven't enjoyed any Disney birthday celebrations yet, I will say my favorite Disney related birthday was last year when we decided to surprise our son with a Disney Cruise for his 7th birthday. As you can see from the picture, it went over quite well.

Beth: With three kids, who are all Disney fans, each and every one of our birthday parties has had a Disney theme. I actually think I would be crushed if they didn't choose a Disney theme! Other than a Winnie the Pooh party for Joey's first birthday, he has had a Cars party every year. Emily has always chosen princesses or Minnie Mouse. Hayley has always had princesses from Sleeping Beauty to Ariel and this year, she has chosen Jasmine. Since Hayley's birthday is in July, for her second birthday, we created an all out Little Mermaid Party. We bought an ocean mural that we hung up around the kitchen and our family room. Then out on our deck and yard, we decorated with shells, fish and Little Mermaid toys. It was the perfect theme for the hot summer day. We set up the Little Mermaid sprinkler and the kids were able to keep cool! My mother in law even brought Little Mermaid tattoos for all the kids, which was a big hit, especially with Hayley. The photo I am sharing is one of my favorites from her party. We had just served the cake to everyone, and Hayley and Daddy ate their cake together with Hayley giving him a big sugary kiss!

Thanks to NatalieJanineBeth and Corby for joining me today.  Please visit the Minnie Moms page for past articles and more information about these fabulous ladies. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Magical Blogorail: Disney Snacks, Mmmm...I'll Have That

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Red. Enjoy the ride as we share with you our favorite Disney snacks.

Right out of the gate, I'm going to bash two Disney favorites...turkey legs and churros.  They just don't do anything for me. 

However, Walt Disney World has a plethora of other tasty options to tempt the palate and tide you over to the next meal (or snack.) Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

1. The fish and chicken basket at Columbia Harbour House.  This is a meal, you say, and you'd be correct.  But if you split it with someone it makes a nice, hearty snack and the second floor provides a delightful and well air-conditioned escape from the craziness on the street below.

2. Ice cream.  I used this picture because my brother took it and thinks it's very funny that I didn't notice characters behind me.  Hey, it was good ice cream.  This was at Animal Kingdom but Chris is also a big fan of Storybook Treats at Magic Kingdom.  

3. Afternoon tea at Garden View Lounge in the Grand Floridian.  This one is stretching the definition of snack a bit but with service between 2:00 and 4:30 it does fall between what I consider as traditional meal times. 

4. Anything from the Food and Wine Festival.  This was my husband in 2007, preparing to enjoy a selection of goodies from the Ireland kiosk.

5. Dole Whip.  This is one Disney Parks classic that I adore.  I prefer mine plain but Chris likes his as the float.  I'm looking forward to trying a citrus swirl on my next visit.  I'm not old enough to really remember Orange Bird, but I do remember having those orange-shaped cups around the house.

6. Goldfish crackers, Cheerios, raisins, or anything else your small child likes.  Sometimes it's really important to have something for kiddos NOW.  Those little snacks that have prevented or at least delayed a meltdown are certainly worth carrying around.

7. Mickey ice cream bars.  I know I already mentioned ice cream but these beauties deserve their own mention.  This photo is of Tink but Baby Minnie also got to sample this treat while we were in Hilton Head.  I don't know exactly what it is, but the combination of premium ice cream, yummy chocolate, and being on Disney property is magic, frozen and on a stick.

8. Carrot Cake Cookies.  Oh, thank you, Lou Mongello for bringing these babies to my attention.  If you haven't tried one before, the next time you are at the Studios, while everyone else is running to Toy Story Mania, you go to Writer's Stop.  And you are welcome.

No, this isn't #9.  I know cupcakes are trendy and everyone seems to get all excited about Disney cupcakes, but the ones I have tried at Magic Kingdom and the Studios didn't wow me.  I think WDW has much better choices available.  Although some of the cupcakes are darn cute.

9. Fruit.  Duh-huh?  I love that fresh fruit and healthier bagged snacks are available more often now.  As a mom, it's so nice to know that I can pick up something healthy for the girls.  As a sweets fanatic, I prefer my bananas dipped in chocolate and frozen and I always crave one at Animal Kingdom.

10. Something new.  Walt Disney World is an ever-changing place and this applies to snack choices as well.  Last trip, I tried a sweet cream cheese filled pretzel at The Lunching Pad in Tomorrowland.  That was a new one for me and I really enjoyed it.  

Hmm, now I think I need a snack.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Disney Donna Kay.

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 ~ Growing Up Disney
2nd Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
4th Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
Final Stop ~ A World View
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Photo Flashback -- Using Film

Here take two pictures today, they are small file sizes... here are a couple of shots from May 2011 using film and not being all digital. I have inherited DisneyDad's 1970's Minolta and enjoy using it. Film and manual setting are a challenge and I love it. These are two unedited pictures (other than adding the watermarks)

Focused on the Magic

Monday, April 16, 2012

Are My Kids Still Chasing Me?

With perfect timing to coincide with today's special Run Disney Magical Blogorail loop, check out the awesome running shirt I received from a dear friend today. Miss Heather, you are the best! Thanks for the encouragement! Much love to you!

(The shirt is from
No sponsorship (I wish!), I just like the ladies who run it.)

Magical Blogorail: Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend

Welcome to those of you joining me from A Disney Mom's Thoughts and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 5th stop on our Magical Blogorail.

Only 206 days to go until I take off running into the night with thousands and thousands of my new best friends.  Ok, thousands and thousands of strangers and a few online friends that I can't wait to meet.  What is this event?  It's the 2012 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon on November 10, 2012 beginning at 10:00 PM.  Huh?  A night race?  Well, that's a new one for me.  Run 13.1 miles around Walt Disney World in the middle of the night and finish with an after-party in Epcot on the last day of the Food and Wine Festival.  This has promise.  

This isn't my first half-marthon or Disney race but it will be my first of both after having my gorgeous girls.

In years past, I ran the precursors to the current Wine & Dine event.  During our fall vacation in 2004, I ran the Disney 10k Classic and a Race for the Cure 5k during one weekend.  The 10k course was essentially the last 6.2 miles of the full marathon, covering Wide World of Sports, the Studios, the Boardwalk Area, and finishing through World Showcase at Epcot.

We moved from Alabama to Oklahoma in October of 2005, but I was back to run again in the fall of 2006.  Now the event was called the Race for the Taste 10k and was tied to the Food and Wine Festival.  We were given wristbands with tabs that acted as tickets for food items at the finish line area.  I ran this alone and no one came to see me at the finish line (at the time, I was running races all the time, so my family didn't feel the need to wait around on me.)  The lines were insane so I passed on the food and walked back over to the Epcot bus stop to catch a ride back to Old Key West.  I still love the swag from that race.  Instead of a(nother) t-shirt, we were given lunch bags and matching water bottles emblazoned with the event logo.  I used them for work for years and still have the insulated bag handy.  

I didn't get to run again in 2007 since we visited earlier in the month before annual passes expired.  However, I participated in the Race for the Taste 10k in October 2008 about 3 months pregnant with Tink.  The finish line tasting area seemed to be a little more organized this go round.  This time we got pint glasses and DisneyDad drove me back to the resort.  :)

Two years ago, the Race for the Taste 10k became the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend as Disney goes toward more and larger races throughout the year.  The 10k distance is not included in the new event but a 5k and kids races are a part of the weekend's activities.  Some people have attempted to run the 5k (7:00 am) and the half (10:00 pm) in the same day but that's just too much loss of sleep for me, especially since I will have my then 17 month old and 3.5 year old daughters along on that trip.  When I told my husband that he could buy a ticket for the late night party, he gave me this look that said, "can't you hang out with some of your friends?  I'd prefer to sleep."  And I don't blame him.  I am questioning the sanity of this idea, but with 4 other adults in our travel party, I should be able to sneak in a nap and some strong coffee.

I've recently met a new running buddy in my new town in North Carolina and I'm so excited that she is training for a half-marathon on the same weekend.  It's too bad that we can't run the races together but how nice for training schedules to line up.  She's also a mom of two young children so we're both flexible to working around ever-changing schedules.  I'm glad to be running again but I am having a hard time settling into a routine.  I'm beginning to think I may not have a "normal" schedule again for years so I'll just have to jump in and do the best I can.

Two babies born 25 months apart, an insane 2011 and returning bad habits have set me back weight-wise.   But as my husband likes to say, "this ain't my first rodeo."  I became a runner at first out of a sheer desire for efficiency.  I was working out at lunch and I could burn more calories in the time I had by going faster.  It was simple math that over time resulted in a loss of more than 80 pounds.  My very first race was a Race for the Cure 5k in Birmingham, Alabama.  There is something addictive about crossing a finish line and I went from there to a 10k about six weeks later, a half marathon the next spring and a full marathon in the winter.  Of course, my first full marathon had to be at Walt Disney World.  Over the years, I've run races of all lengths in a bunch of different places and Disney puts on some of the best with great organization and fun pre- and mid-race entertainment. 

The ultimate runDisney swag.  My Mickey medal for the full marathon.  That's me and my Alabama running buddy, Andrew, in 2005.

So now I am training for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon and I need to lose some weight along the way.  This time, while I'd love to look cuter, I'm more concerned with being healthy and full of energy to keep up with my two young children.  And as I read on a t-shirt recently, "The more I run, the less I want to run away."  I'm logging my miles through Daily Mile and there is a widget on the left column listing my mileage if you'd like to run along.  

My littlest running buddies (Hey Nine, this is "your" house.)

For all the details from Run Disney, here is a link to the official event site.

Are you going to be running the Wine and Dine Half Marathon or attending the party as a guest?  I'd love to hear from you.  

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

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 ~ Disney Babies Blog
2nd Stop ~ Adventures of a Disney Princess
3rd Stop ~ The Disney FAITHful
4th Stop ~ A Disney Mom’s Thoughts
5th Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
6th Stop ~ DIStherapy
Final Stop ~ Tips from the Disney Diva
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Wedding Anniversary: Food, Glorious Food

Today is our 7 year wedding anniversary.  Andy and I have lived in three states and had two amazing and gorgeous little girls during this time.  I am truly blessed to be married to him. 
The Eastman family at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort
January 2012

I feel like I talk about our wedding often here, but it was the most amazing Disney event I will ever be a part of, well, unless I become a Disney mother-of-the-bride.  And other than the cake, I haven't shared the food from our reception on Growing Up Disney before.  A wedding is but a day; that is, unless it's a Disney Fairy Tale Wedding and you are a Disney blogger....then it goes on forever.

The cake.  Isn't it beautiful?!?
We had a sit-down dinner and a small group, so we all sat at one long table.  The flowers at the center had been on the altar during the ceremony.  
This was my brother's place card.   
Each guest received a copy of the menu.  I warned our guests to come hungry.  While the wedding party took pictures in the Wedding Pavilion after the ceremony, everyone else enjoyed pre-reception nibbles at Summerhouse.  It was a beautiful day and they all got to relax and look over the water.  Then they were guided to a ballroom in the Grand Floridian for the dinner.  There was a per person minimum that we had to spend on food and beverage.  And since we didn't have alcohol at the reception, there was a ton of (delicious) food.  I know it's crazy but I actually got to eat and visit with my guests at my wedding!
Our toasting glasses from Arribas Brothers  
Mickey and Minnie on the toasting glasses 
We were given his and hers Disney Fairy Tale Weddings watches 
Favors for the guests.  I brought the cake candles and the wedding team got the Mickey treats for us.  Andy just loves those so we had to include them.
Double cream brie cheese en croute
With poached pear compote and sliced baguettes
Cinderella's White Chocolate Slipper
Filled with fresh cream and raspberries on a castle silk screen plate
Accompanied by dark chocolate mousse 
Our fabulous surprise guests  
Thank you for joining me as I remember this wonderful day.  Its memory is made even sweeter as time goes by and I fall even more in love with my outstanding husband.  (Seriously, he's doing dishes right now so I can complete my blog post.  How awesome is that?!?)
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