Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Photo Flashback: Calling Spaceship Earth

Growing Up Disney Spaceship Earth phone
AT&T Phone at EPCOT
An iPhone it's not.  In August 1993 AT&T was the sponsor of Spaceship Earth.  When you exited the ride one of the displays was a "portable" phone.  Here Ridge is trying to make a call.  I don't know if this phone would work, but for a while they had one like it in a booth so you could phone home.

Do you remember this "little" phone?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Girls' Trip Day 4: "The Lion King Show"

We didn't have plans for Wednesday. Our original idea had been to go shopping or to a resort for lunch or just generally relax. Since our trip had not gone according to plan, we decided to make it another park day.

My friend, Amy S, had not seen Festival of the Lion King and I really wanted her to catch it before the show is closed or moved to make way for Avatarland. We had discussed Amy and Minnie going alone but Tink insisted she had to "see the Lion King show." After about 6 hours at the emergency room the night before, I wasn't in a hurry to take her anywhere. But her nausea was controlled by her medication and I thought maybe the fresh air would be good for her, so I agreed she could go.

After Uncle Chris arrived with medication and supplies, we headed over to the park with a backpack filled with powerade, a change of clothes, and anything we might need to clean up if this went wrong. Both of the girls fell asleep on the bus and stayed asleep when we transferred them to the stroller.

We were going to Africa for a snack/lunch, but the band was in full swing so we detoured through the Oasis and found two beautiful parrots to admire. Nothing snack-wise appealed to us in Asia other than camomile tea for me so we went to Restaurantasaurus to get a quick bite and sit inside with the sleeping children. Since the kids were snoozing, we were able to take in the double stroller. I was thrilled that the airstream trailer was available and gave us a private nook for lunch and resting.

After a late lunch, our next stop was Camp Minnie Mickey. Tink still wasn't interested in eating but Minnie enjoyed sharing a worms and dirt ice cream sundae with me. Aunt Amy took our littlest one to see Minnie Mouse while I worked with Tink and stowed the stroller. My Minnie was ecstatic to see her mouse namesake.

The former Pocahontas theatre is now just a stroller parking area. Tink wasn't up to much walking yet (her medication made her very sleepy) so I carried her in to the theatre, where we got the second row behind the reserved section.

The grown-ups both loved Festival of the Lion King and we agree that it is the best live show at Walt Disney World. Tink was fascinated if still not cheery and Minnie paid attention to most of it.

After the show dismissed, Amy took Minnie to play and Tink and I headed to first aid. The afternoon parade was coming by so we weren't able to get there until it was over. I'm glad the Tree of Life provides some nice quiet corners. Once in first aid, the nurse checked Tink's temperature (normal) and gave her a bottle of red powerade, explaining that was what Mickey drinks when he doesn't feel well. That didn't really fly but again Tink listened just well enough to hear the nurse say she could eat at Popsicle. We went in search of an itsakadoosie, the long swirly ice pop sold in the parks. Well, it was 4:30 on a day when the Animal Kingdom closed at 5:00 so most everything was closed. The one cart I found did not sell what we wanted. Oh well. Aunt Amy bought us a frozen lemonade from another kiosk. I thought it was tasty but the kids found it way too tart.

Another journey by bus and we were back at Old Key West, again calling it a night early. Another round of DVDs from Hank's Rent and Return and a delivery pizza were our plans for the night. After barely or not eating for days, Tink ate most of two slices.

We had had some improvement that day but sadly, I cancelled our princess breakfast at Akershus for the next morning. This had been the thing we were all looking forward to the most while planning this vacation but we had to be flexible.

**We did have one great day on this trip and I'll share that very soon.**

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Girls' Trip Day 3: Walt Disney World and the Emergency Room

On Tuesday morning, we had planned to start the day with breakfast and shenanigans at Whispering Canyon Cafe. After eating, we'd explore the Wilderness Lodge a bit before taking a boat to the Magic Kingdom. Well, as I've mentioned before this trip didn't go according to plan.

Tink was certainly too sick to go anywhere. I called our nurse line a couple of times and they advised me to push fluids and have her seen by that evening if she didn't improve. Aunt Amy took Minnie to the Hospitality House where they had breakfast, did some laundry for me and had a good time in Community Hall coloring and watching movies. After this trial run, they headed off to Magic Kingdom for the day to meet up with Ridge and Shelley Caran and her daughter. Thankfully, Amy and Minnie had a fantastic day and I was grateful that Minnie was in good hands.

After a couple of hours of keeping down sips of powerade and perking up a bit, I was sure Tink was on the mend and I mentally started making plans to take Uncle Chris up on his offer to sit with her and let me get out of the room for dinner, even if it was just a quick meal at the resort. I'd only had things on white bread for about 24 hours and hadn't left our room.

About 4:00 Tink woke up from her nap and it became evident it was time to get her to medical care. Chris (Ridge) was thankfully in town on a completely unrelated trip and had a car. Shelley loaned us a booster seat and we went to Centracare. This is the urgent care center located very near Downtown Disney on 535. Once we walked in, we were advised it was going to be at least a 3 hour wait and that if she needed IV fluids, they couldn't help us. I called back to the nurse line (a fab benefit with our health insurance) and was advised to take her to the emergency room. Thankfully, Celebration Health was in network.

Let me just stop and say a big thank you to my younger brother and my honorary sister for their help on this day. Chris was a tremendous help and a huge comfort as we tried to take care of my sick little girl. It was also reassuring that I didn't have to worry about Minnie, knowing she was safe and happy. The Cast Members at Old Key West were also very helpful, bringing out fresh linens and taking away the soiled ones. Everyone I spoke with said to let them know if we needed anything else, which was very kind. I just wish the folks on the phone had not been required to end the call with "have a magical day." There is nothing magical about a vomiting three year old.

The wait at the Celebration Health ER also turned out to be about three hours. Chris had brought Tink a plush baby doll Tinkerbell to snuggle and Shelley had rounded up crayons and coloring sheets from the lobby at the Polynesian. I also tried letting her watch movies but ultimately I had a sick little girl who didn't feel like doing anything. My kids have been very healthy, knock on wood, so I don't have much experience seeing either of them look so pitiful.

Once we were escorted to a treatment room and the Disney Channel was turned on, things got better. We saw the doctor, our nurse brought medicine, and Tink took a nap. She woke up to a fancy Popsicle and some apple juice, both of which she quickly consumed and most importantly, kept down.

After several episodes of Jesse and Good Luck Charlie, we finally got out of there for the night near midnight. We drove through at McDonald's as it was just about the only place open. Tink had paid attention to the doctor at least well enough to know he said she could have ice cream, not that she stayed awake for more than a few spoonfuls.

The nurse had recommended using Turner Drug since they deliver to the Disney resorts and other area hotels but they don't take any insurance. Chris was going shopping for us the next morning anyway so he got Tink's medicine at Target. He was also there to get more reasonably priced powerade, Tink's requested strawberries and new shoes for Minnie since she had lost one while at Magic Kingdom with Amy S.

Once I finally got in bed for the night, I kept waking up to check on the girls.

What a day!

Walt Disney World lost and found

Walt Disney World and the emergency room

Walt Disney World and the emergency room

Additional notes on urgent care options:
If you call the front desk or housekeeping at a Disney resort regarding a sick member of your party, you will likely be referred to the CentraCare location I described above.  It is the closest to Disney property and offers a shuttle in case you don't have a car.  Or, as I was told, if she gets sick, it's not on your car.  Well, this isn't the only location in the area and if you do have a car available, call the other ones nearby to see if the waits are any shorter.  While I was talking to the nurse line, I had my brother call the Kissimmee location and it would have considerably less wait time.  In retrospect, the other CentraCare location probably could have helped Tink sooner but at the time it seemed most prudent to go wherever could offer complete care, in this case, the emergency room.

Additional notes on Lost and Found:
Unlike Cinderella, our missing shoe has not been found.  Items found around the theme parks, water parks, Downtown Disney shopping and dining, and bus transportation to any of the above are turned in to a central location.  If you can't find a lost item in the immediate area where it was last seen, check with Lost and Found beginning the following day.  Call 407-824-4245 for Theme Park Lost and Found.  You'll need the date and location where the item was lost and be prepared to offer a detailed description.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Girls' Trip Day 2: Not According to Plan

Our first full day was supposed to begin with a late breakfast at Chef Mickey's. Well, Tink wasn't feeling well so we called to cancel. Once she was doing a little better we headed to the Magic Kingdom. Since Tink has needed to rest more, I've been thankful for the comfy seats of our stroller from Simple Stroller Rentals.

When we arrived at Magic Kingdom, we were routed to the area testing MyMagic + for park entry. It caused a little bit of hassle that Tink and I had annual passes and Amy S had a ticket on her Key to the World card. Some of the cast members insisted we all go that way while a couple chastised me for being where I was told. In the end, a plaid-vested CM quickly scanned our APs and we were on our way.

We arrived in Town Square just as a Limited Time Magic Long Lost Friends meet and greet was wrapping up.

Then it was on to Pinocchio's Village Haus for lunch. Aunt Amy and the girls scored us a window seat overlooking the "it's a small world" loading area. I tried the caprese flatbread. The crust was soggy. A salad and tomato basil soup is a much better lunch.

Small world had a 15 minute wait so we queued up. Minnie loved it. It was precious to see her trying to take it all in.

With one little girl not feeling well, high MLK crowd levels and two adults who've seen this all before, we went for a walk. First stop: Contemporary. Minnie fell asleep while we were on the walking path. Tink just rested. After Aunt Amy got a frozen coffee drink, we took the monorail to the Grand. Amy and I both adore that resort so we went there to relax. I'd hoped to get Tink to eat something so we got some fruit and goodies at Gasparilla Island Grill. She didn't want to eat but I had a yummy pastry overlooking the marina with Cinderella Castle in the distance.

After buying Tink a new Tinkerbell coloring book, we headed back to Old Key West. Having a bus to ourselves was great, especially since Minnie's sippy cup leaked milk all over the place. Cleaning up on a moving bus was a challenge.

Back at Old Key West, we spent the evening resting and watching movies. DVC resorts offer free DVD rentals to members.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Girls' Trip Day 1: The Adventure Begins

The first day of our trip went really well. We had a direct flight from Raleigh to Orlando and the girls behaved nicely. We had a row to ourselves and they enjoyed getting snacks and juice. They watched Cinderella on my iPad for most of the flight. Tink was a champ. Minnie got fidgety at the end but it's hard to contain a 19 month old for long. An iPod Touch in a Fisher Price case and a few silly songs from Mom certainly helped.

We met up with my bestie, Amy S., near the Magical Express area. We waited about 10 minutes for a bus but the girls were thrilled to see Aunt Amy so it went by quickly.

Once at Old Key West, we got checked in (score! First floor room so I don't have to carry the stroller up stairs!), borrowed DVDs, bought dinner from Goods to Go, groceries from the general store and picked up the stroller loaned to me from Simple Stroller Rentals. (I am very pleased with it so far. Full review after I get home.)

Amy's suitcase was already here when we arrived at the room!

After dinner and a little settling in, we took a boat to Downtown Disney. It was packed. Somehow I've never gotten Ice cream at Ghirardelli before. We tried twice but the lines were too long for the kiddos. The highlight of the night was making shirts at Design A Tee. We'll wear them for our princess breakfast on Thursday.

Despite plans to the contrary, we stayed out too late and both girls fell asleep on the bus home. Tink crawled in the stroller when we got off the bus and went right back to sleep. She stayed in the stroller until I moved her to the bed about an hour later after I had unpacked and gotten Minnie and I ready for bed. Minnie happily watched Lady and the Tramp while I unpacked suitcases.

We didn't have the best night of sleep but I have plenty of coffee and another plan to get us home earlier tonight. Today we are off to a late breakfast at Chef Mickey's and then to Magic Kingdom to meet more friends.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Girls' Trip is Underway!

Tink, Minnie and I are on our Magical Express bus to Old Key West. The girls did wonderfully on our flight from North Carolina. Thank goodness for Apple devices and goldfish crackers.

We are on this vacation with one of my best friends, also named Amy. Chris (Ridge) is in town too so we'll get to visit with him as well.

I'm going to sit back and enjoy the ride. I know this movie is just a long commercial but I still love it.

Oh, one the of the cast members at the airport told me the Magical Express waiting area will look totally different soon as they integrate MyMagic+.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Magical Blogorail: Disney Breakfasts

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

The Growing Up Disney family loves breakfast and when you can combine that with Disney, all the better.

At home, we make Mickey pancakes and have three different Disney waffle irons: Cinderella, Pooh/Tigger and Mickey and friends mini waffles.  

Clean out a bottle from ketchup, pizza sauce, etc. and use it for pancake designs.

But the best Disney breakfasts are, of course, AT Walt Disney World.  We've been a Disney Vacation Club family for nearly 20 years and most often have our vacation breakfasts in our villa.  With a full kitchen at our disposal, those meals can be anything from a quick bowl of cereal to scrambled eggs for seven to sausage balls when Mom is in the mood to make them.

My mom and Aunt Suzie.  This wasn't breakfast but Mom did cook in the kitchen for this pre-wedding party.
The full kitchen in one and two bedroom villas at Old Key West.

When we want to go out for breakfast on vacation, Kona Cafe and its Tonga Toast are at the top of the list.  Even with the cult popularity of this dish, 'Ohana's character breakfast gets most of the attention at the Polynesian so we have always found mornings at Kona to be calm.  I tend to order the Tonga Toast and share it with my brother or husband, having them order something savory.  The press pot of Kona coffee is a treat but the carafe of coffee isn't too shabby either.  Tink wanted to ride a boat on our last vacation, so we took a bus from Old Key West to Magic Kingdom and boarded a boat to the Polynesian from there.  After breakfast, it's a quick monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom.

Tink enjoying a boat ride to breakfast.

Mickey pancakes from the kid's menu at Kona.  This was one of those "why didn't I think of that" moments.

Tonga Toast
This was at Kona for dinner.  Tink liked the umbrella in her cup.  They didn't do this at breakfast on our recent trip but you could always ask.

The classic Disney morning meal experience is the character breakfast.  Our favorites are Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey's.  I worked at Crystal Palace during College Program so it is a sentimental favorite.  Pooh and friends are my favorites so I love to begin the day with a hug from the silly ol' bear and his pals.

Our first visit to Chef Mickey's was in the early 90's, back when it was at what is now Downtown Disney Marketplace.  Our most recent visit was in 2010 for Tink's first birthday.  I wanted her to spend some time with the Mouse on her big day.  It was very busy but we got a good table and a warm birthday cupcake.  Next week, my best friend and I are taking my children to Walt Disney World for a girls' trip.  We will be kicking that trip off with a late breakfast at Chef Mickey's.

I haven't been to breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table but with two daughters, I am certain that is in our future and I'd like to wait until Granddaddy (DisneyDad) can go too.  Thankfully, that's not the only place to dine with the princesses because it is a must-do on a girls' trip.  We are all looking forward to  trying Akershus for breakfast.  I am glad that at least some of the meal is served family style.  Full buffets have the benefit of being able to get a plate in front of a wiggly child quickly, but they aren't the least bit relaxing.

Until I became a mother, I didn't totally understand the appeal of the character breakfast.  I knew it was a way to have a meal and meet characters without waiting in line.  Now I see the beauty of getting everyone up and out of the room and sitting down to a meal together before anyone needs a nap.  No matter how I try to work with my kids' current schedules, it seems that the ideal time for lunch is hard to predict.  

Using the theory above, our upcoming trip will include the two character breakfasts that I have mentioned plus a trip to Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge.  We aren't particularly in a hurry to get to the parks in the morning so we'll spend a little time exploring the resort after our meal.  I have enjoyed the restaurant's antics at dinner and think we will have fun at breakfast.  The Mickey waffles on the all-you-care-to-enjoy breakfast platter should assure that my children eat well.

Be careful what you ask for at Whispering Canyon.  You might end up with a little soda or a huge one.
What is your favorite Disney breakfast?

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is My Dreams of Disney.

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 ~ My Dreams Of Disney
3rd Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
4th Stop ~ Colorado Mountain Mom
Final Stop ~ A World View

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Photo Flashback: Liberty Square River Boat

Growing Up Disney Liberty Belle
Harper's Mill and The Liberty Belle
I took this photo November 2012.  The day was absolutely beautiful so I could not pass this shot up.


Focused on the Magic

Monday, January 14, 2013

Minnie Moms: What Kind of Camera Do You Carry to WDW and Why

"You know, they make those tiny now.  You don't have to look like the sister of Quasimodo anymore."  That was what one of the Cast Members at the 50s Prime Time Cafe told me about my big ol' camera.  

I asked the Minnie Moms to tell us what type of camera they carry at Walt Disney World and why.  

Amy: I've always loved taking pictures.  I had a nice digital point and shoot camera when Tink was born and so did my dad.  When she was about three days old, he decided that wasn't good enough so he and my husband went to Best Buy and somehow came home with a smokin' good deal on a Canon XSi.  Nothing fancy, just a nice entry-level DSLR.  While DisneyDad bought it for himself, it was left with me, figuring correctly that if I had a fun camera he would get a steady stream of photos of the grandbaby.  Last year, I gave DisneyDad his camera back and upgraded to a Canon T3i.  I really wanted to love the 60D but since most of my photography is of my children, the smaller camera made more sense to me.  I carried the XSi to Walt Disney World twice and to Disney's Hilton Head Island once.  The T3i has been to WDW twice and will make it's third visit very soon.  I love having a camera that takes excellent photos even in automatic mode and allows me a little creativity when I have the time.

The only thing I don't like about carrying a DSLR is the weight.  The Rebel line is lighter than the more expensive models but your shoulders will be sure to tell you that you've been lugging that thing all day. I have several camera bags that will safely and conveniently carry my camera and varying amounts of personal stuff.  Every trip seems like a new puzzle of which camera bag for me and/or backpack for the kids I should use.  (That sounds really trivial.  I am thankful to have such silly problems!)

There were a number of years where our family had maybe one camera with us at WDW.  Been there, done that syndrome.  Now if you get the whole Growing Up Disney family together, we'll have three DSLRs and 5 iPhones.  I love being able to share photos right away with my phone.

Taken with iPhone 4

Taken with Canon T3i

Corby: I used to carry a point and shoot camera around the parks with me. It was all about convenience. Who wants to carry heavy camera gear and the kids and all their loot was my thinking process. I needed as compact and lightweight as possible. Well, then I started getting frustrated with my shots. The kids were often a blurry mess if they moved (and what kid doesn't move?). If I used the action setting the photos turned out very grainy and I couldn't get a firework shot if I tried. Can you say frustrating? Dim light pics? Forget it. I decided it was time to purchase a new camera. I did a ton of researching online and in stores. I finally decided on a refurbished Nikon D3100 and it was the best decision for me starting out. I wasn't sure how I would do with a DSLR so I decided to try and keep it as simple as possible. I didn't want to have to worry about different settings. ISO, shutter speed, f/stop, aperture, etc. Yikes. Who wants to spend a ton of money on a camera and not know how to use it properly? I can honestly say that I am truly in love with my camera of choice. So much so, I don't even mind schlepping it in the parks. It is bulky and can get in the way when wrangling kids but getting amazing pictures at my favorite vacation destination is definitely worth the hassle. I'm now obsessed with taking pictures everywhere at the parks. I use the automatic setting the most. I can now get some good firework shots, clear action shots and the details are by far more crisp with my Nikon D3100 in comparison to my old point and shoot. I do still have some difficulties at times with low light though and I am starting to research a new lens so I can zoom in closer but overall I highly recommend it for anyone who may be interested in purchasing a beginner DSLR camera.

Kelly: I have a Kodak Easyshare M340. It was a great camera a few years ago but it is now time to upgrade. I keep reading all about cameras on the Disney Tourist Blog and wishing I could take amazing photos like he does (but I can’t.) If you need help picking out a camera check out their Photography Review section it is very informative. When I was at Disney last month for the Fantasyland grand re-opening I used my Kodak and the camera on my Samsung Galaxy S3. The camera on the S3 has some very cool options I really liked burst shot with “best photo” enabled. The burst shot allows you to take a photo and the camera will take a series of quick photos and they appear at the bottom of the screen. The “best photo” will display the thumbs up symbol on it and you can save that photo and the rest will be deleted. It was something I don’t have on the Kodak and was great for taking some many different types of photos. I am on the look out for a new camera for my next Disney trip.

Here are some photos taken with the Galaxy S3.

Danielle: I'm not sure if I'm in the majority now, since we're in the age of smartphones, after all, but my favourite camera to bring to the parks is simply my iPhone! I have the iPhone 5, so the outdoor picture quality is great, and it is just so super convenient to have such a small camera that doubles as my phone, as well! With two young kids in strollers, lugging around my DSLR is just not appealing at this stage of the game - especially at WDW, which we visit every few months anyway! Of course, if we were on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, I would totally bring a higher-quality camera! But, for my home-away-from-home, of which I already possess WAY too many photos, my iPhone works just great. Additionally, I can do super cool photo effects with the click of a button with the help of some free (or low-priced) photo editing apps. Here are the before and after pictures of the toy soldiers from Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. This particular picture (after) was created using the app, Tadaa.

Janine: I am a techno-phobe. I don't do anything fancy with a camera other than take a picture. We do have a digital camera, it's a Samsung NV3 7.2 mega pixel if that means anything to you ;). I point it at something and press a button! I can just about turn the flash on and off but that is all ... But it is the camera we have and use and it suits us just fine! This trip I also used my iPhone to take a lot of photos and again, this served its purpose. I see people with tripods set up who talk about shutter speeds etc but that just isn't for me. If anything we found we took far less photos this time with Tink because we were so absorbed in watching her we kept forgetting to capture it ... Thank God for those ever present Photo Pass guys :)

Natalie: Back many years ago, I purchased a Nikon N65. It was a great camera taking beautiful film shots. After having my son, I quickly purchased a few extra lenses, wanting to get the shots of his little feet and hands with the best available lenses. As time marched on, the way of the camera went to digital film. I decided I would also move on to a digital camera, the Nikon D90. I decided on this particular camera for its ability to use the same lenses I had originally purchased for my Nikon N65. I also liked the thought that this camera could also take film when needed.

On my first trip to the Disney parks with the new camera, I thought it weighted a ton! I was already wagging around a baby, a diaper bag, a stroller and a purse to the theme parks. The camera really felt like too much to handle. The camera would flop down and nearly hit everything as I moved to pick up my son or the diaper bag. The camera was pricey enough too that I refused to leave it in the stroller. Each trip to Disney, I refused to leave the camera behind. I knew it was going to be more for me to have to lug around the parks, but wanted only the best photos without the cost of getting the photo pass. I also found it comforting to know that the Disney Photopass workers were using my exact camera! This made me feel as though I not only had the best camera, but made it easy for the Photopass photographers to quickly change the settings on the camera when my son and I wanted a photo with the characters.

Looking back on the photos, I am excited I decided to purchase a camera that would capture many of our great Disney vacation moments. Now that my son is now 6 years old and I have had many, many vacations with using this camera, I hardly notice the weight of carrying it all throughout the day! 

Many thanks to JanineCorbyNatalieDanielle, and Kelly for sharing their camera tips this month.   Please check out our Minnie Moms page for past articles and more information about this terrific team.