Monday, July 30, 2012

Walt Disney World - is it as cool as it used to be?

EPCOT 2003

The cool I'm thinking of is temperature and not cool like "_____" (fill in your favorite actor/singer).
After reading Dewayne Bevil's article in The Orlando Sentinel titled "No Sweat: Cool Theme Park Spots," the only one I can think of as "cool" is "Fonzie" from Happy Days.  He seems to think Disney and "other" Orlando theme parks may have bumped the thermostat up a little to save some $$$'s like a lot of us do.  With temperatures soaring in Central Florida (mid 90's for the week of 7/30/12) where do you go to cool off?

The first thing I can think of is DON'T GO when it's HOT!  My wife's favorite times are between October and February - with February being her favorite.  Of course we don't have children in school to worry about any more so we can "avoid" the hotter times of the year.  But if you have to work around school schedules, here are a few ideas.

First, be sure to drink plenty of fluids.  Bring a water bottle and keep refilling it as buying drinks can get expensive.

Next find the cool spots out of the sun.  Bevil's article starts with The American Adventure.  The Rotunda is open 30 minutes before a show, and sitting on the cool floor can help cool you off.  But don't leave too soon and miss the Voices of Liberty singing.  They are wonderful.  Then stay to see the show.  It is an absolutely "don't miss" attraction in EPCOT.

Two other cool EPCOT attractions are O'Canada and Reflections of China.  These are Circle-Vision 360 attractions and are dark and cool.

At the Animal Kingdom, the 3-D movie It's Tough to Be a Bug is a good place to get out of the sun and is fun.  Just watch out for Claire de Room.  Other 3-D attractions at the Studios and Magic Kingdom - Muppet Vision 3-D and Mickey's PhilharMagic are great places to sit down for a while.

At EPCOT there is a fountain I've seen lots of small kids running through - just bring a change of clothes - and there is a cool water mist for bigger kids near Test Track and one in the Magic Kingdom in Tomorrowland. 

At EPCOT there is also Club Cool.  It's not so much an attraction as a place to taste some Coke products.  It's free and it's cool.
DisneyDad and Mom on the People Mover 2003

Another treat to cool off can be found at the ice cream carts.  Get a Mickey head ice cream sandwich or the ultimate treat - Frozen Bananas.  One place that is a "don't miss" regardless of the temperature can be found at the Magic Kingdom's Aloha Isle - Dole Whip!!!  A frozen concoction of pineapple juice and soft serve ice cream is a treat not to be missed - especially when it is hot.

Other times when at the Magic Kingdom we will jump on the WEDway People Mover aka Tomorrowland Transit Authority for a 10 minute ride above Tomorrowland and into the dark of Space Mountain.  Or we may jump on the Monorail and visit the Contemporary or the Grand Floridian.  My wife loves going for afternoon tea at the Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian.  It is a good place to get away for a while.

So if you find yourself in the heat at Walt Disney World drink plenty of liquids, enjoy some cool treats, and take in as many of the "cool" attractions as you can.  Oh! yes - don't forget the sunscreen!


Friday, July 27, 2012

A Walk Around The World With Ridge: Solo Trip Advice

I love traveling alone, especially to Walt Disney World. In the last few years I have traveled to WDW 7 or 8 times. Now my situation is different from some.  I have plenty of friends I can hit up once I get there but I don’t have to do so if I want some time to myself.

Here are just a few of my ideas for a fun solo trip to the world.
I like a mix of half structure and half free-to-go-where-the-wind-takes-me. So depending on your personality your experience may vary.

out of the window from Feb 2012

Travel:  Not everyone likes to fly.  Me, I love it and have a license from our government that says I met the basic proficiencies of the FAA to call myself a private pilot.  So I will hop on a plane in a second and bingo, an hour and a half later I am waking up at Orlando International Airport. Southwest is my carrier of choice because they seem to have a friendly staff and cheap fares.  However if driving is your thing, I have done that more than my fair share too. From Birmingham, Alabama, it’s a solid 10 hours in the car. Before I had a bad back that doesn’t like sitting still for very long (my apologies to anyone that sits next to me at the movies, movement is a necessity or pain sets in), I would drive, getting up before the sun even thought about it and heading out so I would get as much daylight as possible. If you want steady driving, I75 south from ATL will take you all the way there. If you want something a little more scenic from Birmingham, try highway 280 south, till it becomes 82/520 in GA then when you get to Tifton, Georgia, you get on 75 South again and move right on in. Amazingly these two paths from Birmingham are almost the same time wise. I love to fly!

Planning: If you are going to plan out a day, then please take advantage of the resources available to you. A wealth of knowledge is out there. My favorite two sites for planning info are and Both are packed with information and touring has a book called The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and I got to be a fact checker/research person in the 2011 guide. Check page 11 for my nameJ
When planning out my day for my first solo trip I wanted to have some projects to fill up my day with photography. I was doing it for several reasons. 1) I wanted a catalogue of pictures to use for the site 2) I needed to practice with my camera 3) I made sure that I documented the things I was doing because no one would remember them for me 4) it made me look at things like I hadn’t before.  I think Disney is one of the best places for people wanting to practice photography because you’ll never see most of those people ever again and you can get away with being as silly and artsy as you want to be. I’ve lain down on the ground to get an angle I wanted since what did I care what they thought? 
fun pic I took in Africa of Tamu Tamu Refreshments
Also on a first solo trip you need to decide what is it you want to accomplish: time in the parks, exploring resorts?  What is it that you want to do that you have never done because someone was with you and didn’t want to do it? I highly suggest the Keys to the Kingdom tour. Tours are wonderful ways to have fun while still technically alone, you are in a group and everyone cuts up and has a good time. The tour guides are wonderful and usually very funny and will keep you on your toes. A tour I am saving up for is the Wild Africa Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  It is pretty pricey in the peak seasons and you have to try and do it early or else the animals are all napping.  Check out my trip recap with the Keys tour.

A nice perk for the attractions are the single rider lines. If one is available, use it and cut that wait time down.
End of Keys to the Kingdom Tour

Dining: We have to eat right? Well, when I am alone I sometimes forget then have low blood sugar hit me while standing in a queue that isn’t moving. So decide early if there are any ADR’s you want to make. Never be afraid to have a meal anywhere by yourself.  The cast members see it all the time and you deserve you enjoy yourself as much as possible. I recommend Via Napoli as a great spot to dine alone. If you want some interaction, Oktoberfest in Germany is family seating so you will not be alone and if you’re like me then it is a great time to chat up families from all over the globe. I met a family from Leeds, England, and the father and I talked about Football (soccer) and the differences in our countries. It was brilliant. However if you aren’t wanting to take lots of time out of your day of adventure, try some quick service or a snack you have never had before. Sit on a bench and people watch, catch your breath and just listen to the park in action. It’s a weird cacophony of sounds.    

Transportation: Late night leaving the parks… ok this one works best at Epcot and Hollywood Studios. When you are waiting on that bus to take a million tired cranky families back to the resort, I keep a few bucks just for a taxi. They take credit cards too; I just like dealing with money sometimes. Nothing is really much more than 10-15 dollars and the high end is going back to the resorts that are the farthest away like AKL. I have used cabs on several occasions where I might have been an extra hour just waiting to get on a bus. Now at Magic Kingdom the taxis are found over at the Contemporary and I do not actually know where they are at AK, since that park closes early I have never been on a packed bus. Check out The Great Escape.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Photo Flashback! Granny and Grandaddy at The Crystal Palace

Margaret Ann and Tigger
Granny and Tigger

Buck and Pooh
Grandaddy and Pooh
In 1997 Amy was working at The Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom while in the College Program.  Mom and I, along with her parents, Buck and Margaret Webb, went to visit just before Thanksgiving.  Granny & Grandaddy had a ball when they visited WDW.  Here we were at dinner at The Crystal Palace having fun with Pooh and Tigger. 

She passed away less than two years after this visit and he died just over four years after her.  I still miss them both.


Focused on the Magic

Monday, July 23, 2012

Minnie Moms: Extra Magic Hours


Amy: One of the perks of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel is Extra Magic Hours. Each day one of the parks is open a little longer than normal for resort guests only. Not everything is in operation during this time but the most popular attractions will be available.

For morning Extra Magic Hours, the designated park will be open one hour in advance. The Cast Member at the Theme Park turnstiles will ask for your Resort ID so be sure to have it handy. If you are an early riser, morning Extra Magic Hours are a great way to make tracks before the crowds form. It's especially nice for those Fantasyland attractions that get so busy during the day and let's face it, little ones just don't have the patience for long lines.

For evening Extra Magic Hours, the park can be open up to an additional three hours after the published closing time. If you like to stay up late, evening Extra Magic Hours might be for you. It takes a little while for the non-WDW resort hotel guests to filter out of the park, but the crowds get lighter as the night goes on.  (Note: EEMH will be a maximum of two hours beginning in January 2013.)

Valid park admission is required for Extra Magic Hours so if you don't have a park hopper option on your ticket, be sure to plan accordingly if you would like to take advantage of this perk.

Natalie: Extra Magic Hours are a great tool when staying in a Disney Resort. The Morning Extra Magic Hours are helpful if you and your family are used to getting up early, however, they typically only provide you an extra hour of fun before other non-Disney Resort guests arrive at the park.

I personally am a night owl. As such, I always choose to take advantage of the Evening Extra Magic Hours. I find that after the nighttime shows are done at the theme parks, the crowd levels decrease dramatically. This allows for park touring during the cooler times of the day while being able to also enjoy reduced lines!

Like so many others, I enjoy going to the parks for a few hours in the morning. Then as the day heats up, I head back to the room for a dip in the pool and a nap. Sometimes I eat foods I have brought with me in the room for lunch or have a nice air-conditioned meal in the hotel. Often the Resort's restaurants are less crowded than those in the parks and are often less expensive.

Typically around 5 pm, I head back to the parks for many more hours of fun out of the sun! Evening Extra Magic Hours last for at least an hour, but often times provide an extra 3 hours of time.

Corby: You know the saying, “Do as I say not as I do”? Well, that pretty much describes my thoughts on using Extra Magic Hours. Having young children, I find it very difficult to take advantage of them. We are not early risers in my family. Shockingly, we've never even made it to rope drop. Ever. It's not that I don't want to. We just can't get it together in the mornings. So, seeing as how we can't make it to the park for regular opening, the early EMH's clearly aren't going to happen for us. I tried to take my son out for a date one evening at the Magic Kingdom when it had an evening EMH. I had visions of he and I riding the rides until midnight with no lines. What ended up happening was he was falling asleep by 10:00 and begging for me to take him back to the hotel. The nerve of him, I tell ya!

Now, as a travel agent, I highly recommend that my clients who are staying on Disney property use this perk. I think they are wonderful! If you have young children that wake up at the crack of dawn as I know many do, take advantage of the early EMH. If you have children who are night owls, or if you are adults traveling without children, definitely take advantage of the evening EMH. You can get up to 3 extra hours with fewer crowds and not to mention less heat which is a no brainer in my opinion. I would advise if you are in the parks late to sleep in the next day. Similarly, if you go to the park early, be sure to take an afternoon break or leave early that day. If your family doesn't get enough rest, you'll end up being crabby and miserable from being overtired so try to take it easy.

Janine: As we have not stayed on-site at WDW, my only experience of EMHs was during this years short trip to Disneyland Paris. Here the EMH was from 8-10am in just the Disneyland Park. We didn't make it for rope drop either day but were there shortly after 8, between 815 and 830. Although we enjoyed the park being quiet for a few Castle shots, we found the number of rides open quite disappointing. There were only a few open in Fantasyland (it's a small world was meant to be open at 8 but didn't til 10 both days, this would have been super useful as was Tink's fave ride), a couple in Discoveryland (Buzz and Space Mountain: Mission 2) and Pirates over in Adventureland, which was again supposed to open at 8 but didn't. Another issue that we found was that there were barely any dining options. The Deli on Main St was one of the only places for coffee and we had a real issue with the CMs here (see my review of DLP here).

That being said, being able to wander around the park, soaking up the atmosphere and just enjoying seeing the sights without hoards of people everywhere was priceless and well worth getting a 2 year old up extra early (France are an hour ahead of the UK) and missing breakfast to get into the park ASAP.

We were only there for 2 nights so I am unsure if there is sometimes EMH for the Walt Disney Studios but as far as I am aware there is only early EMH, not after general closing.

I would definately recommend EMH to anyone considering staying at a Disney hotel, if soley for the wonderful photos you will get.

Danielle: Since I have two very young children who love to wake up early (even on vacation!!), we are a get-to-the-parks-for-rope-drop kind of family. If we are up early enough, we do enjoy taking advantage of the EMH in the morning. We find we can stay on top of the crowds this way, since most guests still arrive at the parks around 10 and later. Having said that, if we are not going to be at the park for rope drop, we steer clear of the park with EMH. Even though most guests don't arrive for rope drop (thus taking advantage of the morning EMH), most resort guests still gravitate to the park that has EMH for some reason. If you arrive late, you will be among the swarms of people, and that is just not appealing for us. Unfortunately, I can't speak to the evening EMH because my little ones are too young to take advantage of it.

A big thanks to DanielleJanine, Corby, and Natalie for joining me on today's post.  Please visit our Minnie Moms page for all our past topics and more information on our whole team of moms.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Magical Blogorail: My Favorite Time to Visit Walt Disney World

Welcome to those of you joining me from A World View and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the Final stop on our Magical Blogorail.

My favorite time to visit Walt Disney World  

We'll look at this month's topic a couple of ways.

First, time of day.  I just love the parks at night when we have lingered after the fireworks.  I don't often get to stay late like this anymore since the kiddos need to get back to the room for bed but occasionally, thanks to grandparents, I am sprung from mommy duty and can play late in the parks.  Everyone else scurries for the buses but this is a fabulous time of day to capture a few pictures of the castle, pavilions, etc without anyone around.  I love to stroll toward the park exit enjoying the relative calm, listening to the music, taking in the details.  This is also a wonderful time to chat with Cast Members who aren't in a hurry either.  We've had some terrific Cast Member interactions during these late evening hours.

Favorite time of year: Fall  I'm a huge fan of the Food and Wine Festival.  World Showcase is my favorite part of Walt Disney World and it's only made better by the addition of all of the yummy food and beverage choices.  Seriously, how can you beat walking around the gorgeous promenade sampling tasty treats inspired by cultures from around the world?  This year we are catching the very end of the festival in hopes of also taking in the first part of the Christmas decorations.

Fall is also a great time to participate in a Disney race.  Over the years, I've run in a number of 5k or 10k races during this season.  RunDisney is offering two big race weekends this year.  During the first weekend of F&W will be the Tower of Terror 10 miler.  The Wine & Dine Half Marathon is the last weekend of the festival.  I was planning on running the half this year but after our May trip with the girls, I decided a night race was just a bad idea while traveling with small kids.  As much as I want to run that race, I'm not willing to kill my whole trip for it.  Traveling with little ones is tiring and running 13.1 miles in the middle of the night might not be my best plan.  I'm going to find a local goal race for this year and jump back in with RunDisney another year.

I haven't heard yet about what special foods/drinks/cuisines will be featured this year but regardless, I am really looking forward to the trip.  The weather is usually very pleasant in October and November.  But be sure to check the reports before you go.  It was unusually hot during our visit in late October/early November of 2010.  I was expecting Minnie on that trip and had to sit on the floor of "O Canada" to cool off but it's still much better than the height of summer.

When do you like to visit Disney Parks? Are you a night owl or an early bird? Does fall tickle your fancy or do you prefer another season?

Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Red this month. We will be back in August with an all new theme. Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney info, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
2nd Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
4th Stop ~ A World View
Final Stop ~ Growing Up Disney

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Photo Flashback! Sea Base Alpha

This shot was from my first or maybe second trip to Disney and I loved Sea Base Alpha! This Deep Ocean Diving Suit mock-up really kept me entertained. What do you remember about Sea Base Alpha and the Original Living Seas? Hydrolators anyone?

Focused on the Magic

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nine's Report on her First Visit to Disneyland Paris

Hello!  If you've been following this series, you know that we have just returned from our first trip to Disneyland Paris.

I would like to share with you a brief review of my own personal thoughts and feelings about the visit. 

The Hotel
This the first time we chose to stay on-site while at a Disney Park, both for proximity and Extra Magic Hours (EMH).  There are 6 DLP hotels and we stayed in the Sequoia Lodge.  This hotel is modelled on American National Parks and having visited the Grand Canyon myself, I have to say I was pretty impressed.  The room was adequate: 2 double beds, a chair and table, a bureau with a flat screen TV, a small hanging space with rental safe, a vanity area and small seperate bathroom with a toilet and shower over the bath.  

A small note, there is no kettle or any kind of tea making supplies.  I have since learnt you can buy a refreshment pack at the front desk and you will then be given a kettle for the duration of your stay.  We had asked for a cot but there wasn't one. As it was late when we arrived, I just let Tink sleep with me but I was a bit annoyed.  There was air conditioning (there isn't in every hotel), the beds were comfy, the shower was ok and it wasn't too noisy.  You can't ask for too much more.

There was a small gift shop, which also sold a few sundries such as milk and 2 restaurants.  We didn't use them but the rest of our party had the buffet breakfast that was included (continental - therefore croissants, rolls, cheese, ham, cereal etc) and said it was very nice.

Sequoia Lodge was very conveniently located to the Disney Village, about a 10-minute walk and about 15 from the parks.  This was great for getting back for nap time.  Overall I would definately stay there again and would pay the extra for the tea and coffee supplies/kettle.

The Parks

Disneyland Park
This park is the Walt Disney World equivalent of the Magic Kingdom.  It is what I imagine Disneyland in California is like.  The architecture was beautiful.  Fantasyland and Main Street were in particular just stunning.  It is Sleeping Beauty Castle here, as is it in CA, and it was gorgeous.  There were times when you could easily have believed that you were in WDW.  It was also nice that there were lots of differences to the Florida park too though so I wasn't constantly comparing it.  There are many classic signature rides such as It's a Small World, Peter Pan, Dumbo, the carrousel, Pirates of the Carribean, Big Thunder Mountain etc but there were many different ones too.  The only French ride we went on this time was the Phantom Manor, which is very similar to the Haunted Mansion, yet a lot darker, and we were glad we left Tink with her grandparents.

The shops were amazing and we spent far too many Euros.  We did find things a lot more expensive than the US.  For example, a kids tee shirt was approx €20 which is about £18 which is about $27!!!  There was a lot of 20th Anniversary merchandise and some of it was too good not to buy *winks*.

We did find eating in the parks was an issue.  A LOT of the counter service places were shut and we often had to walk all the way back to Main Street just to get a sandwich. (Where was Cosmic Ray's when you need it, huh?)  

This brings me on to customer service.  Most of the Cast Members we met were nice and helpful.  However we had a disgusting encounter with 2 CMs in the Main Street Deli.  It was Extra Magic Hours and we were the first customers.  We ordered a coffee and a coke in a souvenir cup.  The cash register wouldn't work.  Two members of staff pushed at buttons while we stood there like idiots on our last morning while Tink got more and more fidgety. In the end since nothing was happening I said we would have to leave.  Now had we been in WDW I truly believe the CMs would have apologised and given us the drinks for free since they were only going to throw them away anyway right? But no, they took the drinks off of us without even a sorry.  I was not happy and will be complaining.

The parade - in a word, fantastic!!!  I cried throughout, and Tink loved it.  The crowd around us?  Awful.  We waited for almost an hour to get a decent spot and as soon as the music started all hell broke lose with people pushing and shoving, crossing barriers, climbing onto the grass, screaming in your face to get out of their way even though you'd been there for ages and had a small child in your arms.  Tink was terrified and clung to me.  Appalling. We stood our ground and didn't let anyone get in front of us, but it almost spoilt it.  I'm not blaming Disney for rude patrons but they need more staff to marshall this.

Overall impression of Disneyland Park?  Beautiful scenery (but start pumping some cinnamon and candy smells in, too much cigarette smoke and not enough to disguise it), great rides, lots to buy but please open more eateries (they were there but not open!) and please train CMs better.  Oh and do something, anything about the blatant rudeness of people when it comes to lack of manners and queuing etiquette.

Walt Disney Studios Park
We only spent about an hour in this park on our last morning and by no means did it justice.  I doubt we saw even one fifth of the park.  One of our party watched the parade and said it was good but the Disneyland Park one was better.  The only ride we did and even saw properly here was the Tower of Terror, which is my favourite ride in Disney's Hollywood Studios in FL.  It did not disappoint and was really good.  The rest of the park looked really great and I look forward to exploring it next time.  We didn't buy anything from a shop or eatery here except ride photos from ToT so I can't comment on the shops or restaurants or the theming of the rest of the lands, but what little I saw was very impressive and similar to HS in FL.

Overall impression? Can't wait to see more especially the Toy Story Playground.

The Disney Village
We really like it here.  This is Paris' equivalent of Downtown Disney and had a number of shops and restaurants/cafes.  We ate at Annettes (an American style diner with yummy burgers), Rainforest Cafe (FAB!!!), Earl of Sandwich (can't wait for another Caprese at DTD) and Starbucks (very slow, remember to ask for milk and you can't take it into the parks).  Lots to choose from and nicely done.  There are bag checks here that make sense as the main train station is here too.  I did find that a little strange as there were a few buskers and street sellers around which you'd never find at WDW. Cafe Mickey is here which is the closest DLP has to Chef Mickeys in the Contemporary Resort at WDW.  We didn't do it this time as we are waiting for our FL trip in September for Tink to meet the Big Cheese.  The World of Disney shop was just being completed and wasn't yet open during our stay but it was due to open on July 12th.

Overall?  Liked it a lot but not as much as DTD, not as much to to and not as scenic. However I didn't spend 3/4 of the holiday spending allowence here like i usually do at DTD (um, WOD and 12 Days of Disney Christmas shop??? How could you say no?).  Worth it for the yummy EOS alone though *licks lips*.

Being a shareholder
Well, well, WELL worth it.  I had discounts on all the merchandise bought from shops (not from the carts as they need to call for a supervisor) and all Table Service non-Franchise eateries, as well as EOS.  We also had access to a members only club for coffee and cake between 9am-12pm and the chocolate and nut pastries were worth buying the shares for by themselves...

We also had a VIP Fast Pass one morning with unlimited Fast Pass access on all Fast Pass rides.  That was again amazing.

Overall?  I got my money back and more with the savings we made.  A great decision.  And I'm proud to say I own a bit of Disney!

So, that's it.  My first impressions of DLP.

We had a great time but would stay for at least 3 nights next time.  We didn't arrive until 5pm and left around midday on the last day.  Even with using the EMH there just wasn't enough time to see everything with a 2 year old.  But it gives us a great excuse to go back :-)

We also learnt some valuable lessons for the trip to WDW -
1. Go to all the other parks first and do MK last or Tink will refuse to go anywhere else and cry when she doesn't go to see the castle.
2. When we do go to MK ride IASW last or Tink will refuse to go on any other ride and cry when she doesn't see "the little people".
3. Only attempt to meet face characters and mice.  Big bears and monkeys are especially scary to a 2 year old.
4. Make use of the Baby Care centres and First Aid (no private rooms for nursing at DLP it would seem, so you can ask to go into a room with a curtain in the First Aid station which is next door instead). Do not worry if child won't eat anything apart from junk, they're on holiday.
5. One present a day is MORE than enough.
6. Take more photos!  FIL took loads but we shamefully took hardly any.
7. Have a wonderful time!

Contributed by Janine P. of Swindon, England. She is a proud wife, mommy to Felicity and one of our Minnie Moms.  Check out her  monthly series which followed her as she planned her family's first trip to Disneyland Paris.  Learn more about Janine here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Best Of" Week: Toddler Feeding Made Simpler for Travel and at Home

My husband saw me working on this post and asked if I was going to title it "My Best Idea Ever" because he thinks it just might be.

Minnie turned 13 months old yesterday and is a fiercely independent child.  She's never been very interested in being a baby.  She wanted table food early, walked early, etc.  Basically, she's your normal second child who is trying her best to keep up with her big sister.  This has led to a set of challenges to keep her safe and fed while maintaining my sanity.  Hence, my latest baby breakthrough.  

Months ago, we discovered the baby food pouches and the spoon that attaches to them.  The pouch baby food does tend to be on the sweet side but getting some vegetable in her is better than none.  These were so wonderful for travel or just meals out at home.  Since Minnie wants mostly what we are eating, she's never been much for baby food.  This made the traditional jars or homemade food awkward because it's messy to deal with a partially eaten container.  With the pouches and spoons, we didn't dip into anything so the leftovers could be taken home.  I'd drop an icepack in the insulated pocket on my diaper bag and off we'd go to dinner.  I could safely and neatly bring home the rest of the food to try again within 24 hours.  I did this at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort since we had a full kitchen and didn't stay gone from the resort for too long.  At Walt Disney World, I carried a cooler bag with multiple ice packs anyway, so we were able to use this plan there too.  
Back to that independent streak, (which by the way, my parents think is hysterical. They have no idea where she got it. Not.) now that Minnie is older and able to feed herself even more finger foods and is learning to use a spoon, my previous plan doesn't fly.  I tried letting her hold the pouch without a spoon attached and eat straight from it.  That worked for a while, but eventually, she learned to squeeze it or bang it on the high chair.  A kid with a DIY banana squash volcano does not make for a pleasant meal out.  

Now for the sanity saver.  I bought a couple of Crayola juice box holders at Walmart for $2.50 each and they work perfectly.  Just slip the food pouch into the juice box holder and put on the lid.  She can't squeeze or remove it.  The ones I have are partially open on the bottom which is helpful if I need to squish the package halfway through the meal to help Minnie get to the rest of it.  Our juice box holder also has a large circular opening on the lid which allows me to put the lid on over the cap for the baby food if needed.  We've tested this system out at home and on a weekend road trip.  Minnie ate more of the fruit/vegetable combinations than usual and didn't make a mess with them.  If we had any leftovers, they went straight into the fridge at the hotel or on ice in the van.  This works with any size baby food or applesauce package, but the larger ones do need to be folded just a bit to get the lid on, just be sure not to remove the cap until after you've done that.

This idea helped Minnie feed herself which made her happy and kept her cleaner at mealtime which made me happy.  I hope it allows you to enjoy getting out just a little more too.  Please let me know if you try it.

This article originally appeared on Growing Up Disney on July 2, 2012. 
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Best Of" Week: Photo Flashback -- Old Key West

Ridge originally posted this shot on March 28, 2012.  It's one of my favorites and I think it certainly deserves a spot in "our best." ~Amy

My last adventure to WDW for "One More Disney Day" gave me a lazy day at the resort to just walk around and snap a few pictures. Here is one of my favorites.

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Best Of" Week: How Do You Do It?

I received an email from a reader today questioning how we go to Walt Disney World so often.  He also inquired as to the careers of our team.  First, thank you, Jerry, for the kind email.  Second, I am a stay-at-home mom but the men in the family work in engineering, computers and insurance.  They all make a good living but nothing outrageous. do we do it?

As you mentioned, we are a Disney Vacation Club family.  That has made all the difference.  My parents bought in 1993 and while it is still a good program, it was a better value back then.  Without that decision, this blog and most of its stories would not exist.  DVC members are eligible for reduced price annual passes and some discounts around property.  We also take advantage of the discounts offered to annual passholders and Disney Visa cardholders.  Speaking of Disney Visa, we get credits back on our purchases and we use that toward vacation.  My husband and I run everything we can through that card and pay it off every month.  This allows mundane purchases like groceries to add more magic to our trips.  I've given my brother a Disney gift card and my dad Tables in Wonderland for birthday gifts in the past. 

We all live within 575-650 miles of Walt Disney World which allows us to save money on transportation by driving.  My brother tends to travel solo but he watches Southwest and has been able to fly on some very low fares.  And now that we don't all live nearby each other, WDW gives us a chance to visit each other and catch up a bit.

Back to Tables in Wonderland, that is a discount plan available to annual passholders, Florida residents and DVC members.  For $75-100 per year, you get 20% off of table service meals plus a few other perks.  When we are going more than once in a year and/or traveling in a group, it can pay for itself quickly.

As far as the blog goes, DisneyDad has been going to WDW for 40 years so that's a lot of stories, plus when you add in the lovely friends who write along with us, it does look like someone is always traveling.

And I guess the biggest thing is that this is our main hobby.  Some people buy boats; we go to Walt Disney World.

This post originally appeared on Growing Up Disney on May 22, 2012.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Best Of" Week: Mickey's Birthday Blog Hop--Cake!

Joining us from Pinterest? Welcome!  Please check out our other posts on Minnie Mouse Birthday Party Ideas, Minnie Mouse Party Attire, and Winnie the Pooh Baby Shower Ideas.

Welcome to our Mickey Mouse Birthday Party Blog Hop! This year Mickey Mouse will be turning 83 and we thought it would be fun to all celebrate with our little ones. I’ll be sharing about cake for the party. You can find links to the other party ideas at the end of this post.

child's birthday party, Mickey Mouse birthday cake

It's time to celebrate Mickey's birthday 
and I'm bringing the cake to the party.  

We've celebrated lots of birthdays in the Growing Up Disney family with Mickey Mouse cakes.  DisneyDad and Mom used to own a bakery, so we've always been spoiled with beautiful and delicious cakes. 

For Tink's first birthday, I made her two Winnie the Pooh cakes for the celebration with Andy's family.  But the big day occurred at Walt Disney World.  My parents made her a Mickey smash cake and a large one for the rest of us to enjoy.   (They managed to successfully transport the cakes from Birmingham to Orlando!)  These photos are from our Grand Villa at Old Key West.  (Man, this is one lucky little girl!)
Mickey Mouse birthday cake
The large cake.  I think Mickey would be proud.

first birthday cake, Mickey mouse first birthday cake
Happy birthday to you!

Mickey Mouse first birthday cake, first birthday cake, birthday at Walt Disney World
Mmm, cake.

Tink had breakfast with Mickey on her first birthday.  She enjoyed the food but wasn't totally sure about the characters.
Walt Disney World birthday, first birthday
The birthday girl with Granddaddy about to board the Monorail.

Chef Mickey's sign
We hadn't been to Chef Mickey's since it moved from the Marketplace a billion years ago but we all enjoyed our breakfast.

birthday cupcake, Chef Mickey's birthday cupcake, first birthday cupcake
Chef Mickey's celebrates ALOT of birthdays.  So many that this cupcake was still warm when they gave it to us.

Chef Mickey, birthday at Walt Disney World
Tink with Daddy and the Big Cheese

For Tink's second birthday, it was just the three of us but I still wanted to do something fun and these Mickey cupcakes were perfect.  I made devil's food cupcakes in Mickey liners.  I took the easy route and bought some white icing.  Full size and snack size Oreos are just right for mouse ears.  I had read that you can roll out red gumdrops and cut out bows to make Minnie cupcakes, but at almost 8 months pregnant and having just moved halfway across the country, those didn't happen.  Thanks to modern technology, we FaceTimed with Uncle Chris on my iPad and Granny and Granddaddy on the iPhone so they were all able to join the party.  (Sounds like a scene from the end of the previous version of Spaceship Earth.)

Mickey Mouse cupcakes, Oreo cupcakes
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Mickey Mouse cupcakes, oreo cupcakes
The Mickey liners don't look like much after being baked.  They'd probably work better with a light colored cake.

Mickey Mouse cupcakes, oreo cupcakes

"Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you."

If the cake in the following pictures looks familiar, it's because it's the same pan as was used for Tink's smash cake.  My parents' pan had been loaned out and not returned but Uncle Chris found a matching one on eBay.  These are from my 2nd birthday.  Love the late seventies pants!
Mickey Mouse birthday cake

Mickey Mouse birthday cake
While I was showing this post to Tink, she was adamant that this picture is her and not me.  :)Posted by Picasa

Thanks for joining us as we celebrate Mickey’s Birthday! Don’t forget to check out the other blogs for great ideas on a Mickey Mouse Birthday Party!

Mary at Capturing Magical Memories- Happy Birthday Mickey Sign

Jenn at Disney Babies Blog- Mickey Party Invitations

Amy at Growing up Disney- Mickey Cakes and Cupcakes

Beth D at Pursuing the Magic- Mickey Party Favors

Jackie at Delightfully Disney- Mickey Party Snacks

Tricia at Return to Disney- Mickey Party Crafts

Beth G at A Disney Mom’s Thoughts- Mickey Mouse Party Games

This article originally appeared on Growing Up Disney on November 18, 2011.