Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Photo Flashback! Goodbye Rosie

This past Friday, I said goodbye to an old friend, my beloved dog, Rosie.  She was a good companion to me for almost 16 years.  I couldn't let her passing go without sharing a few photos.  After all, she was quite a cutie and full of spunk.  Rosie became a part of the family while I was in college and was my sidekick and protector through 4 states, marriage, and two babies.  I will miss her greatly but I am very thankful that we had so many years with the 'furry kid'.

Still looking good at age 15.  July 2012
Amy and Rosie on our first day together.  March 1, 1997
Just checking out this new thing (Tink) we brought home.  April 2009
She was patient when the girls wanted to sit with her, put hats on her, etc.  I'm sure the fact that they gave her lots of snacks helped.
Sweet Rosie

When we named Rosie, of course I went through all of the Disney options first.  Ironically, I really wanted to name her Tinkerbell however it just didn't fit her.  So she didn't have a Disney moniker but she wore her name on mouse ears.  I picked up that tag years ago at the Emporium and had it engraved at the watch shop across the street.  

Recently on our Facebook page, I asked about your fur babies and it cheered me up to read all the creative names.  Do you have a pet with a Disney name? ~Amy

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Minnie Moms: Favorite Character Dining: Akershus

Today I have the honor of completing our Minnie Moms series on our favorite character dining at Walt Disney World. Please also take a look at the previous posts while you are visiting us. ~Amy

Growing Up Disney Minnie Moms

In the trip report for my girls only vacation last month, I began to tell you about our visit to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall but stopped short so I could devote an entire post to it.  And here it is.

To review, we had been looking forward to breakfast with the princesses more than anything on this vacation.  I was at Walt Disney World with my two young daughters and my best friend from college.  Nothing went according to plan since my oldest daughter had a stomach bug bad enough to land us in the Celebration Health ER.  I had cancelled our 9:30 a.m. reservation but when Tink felt better that morning, I called Disney Dining and they found a spot for us at 11:00.  A little pixie dust if we ever needed it.  We arrived at Akershus few minutes early per the standard instructions and were almost immediately escorted inside.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall sign

Akershus Royal Dining Hall exterior

Tink was thrilled to meet Belle and ran over for a hug.  Minnie was a little more apprehensive even though she loves Belle at any other time.  This meal is pricey ($40+ adult, $25+ child) but a photo package is included in the cost.  We chose to have our whole group in the photo as a special souvenir but I could have opted for it to be just the little girls.  The photo package was delivered to our table during the meal.  It consisted of one 8x10 and four 4x6, all of one pose, and was presented in a lovely folder.  For larger parties, you get more poses and photos. Basically one set per four guests but I am not sure if children under three would count in that total since you don't pay for them here.  Minnie ate for free!  There is a PhotoPass code on the pictures so you can add them to your account if you'd like.

Confession time.  I actually did a happy dance in the restaurant when I realized they were still serving breakfast.  I had thought we were there for lunch.  My girls eat breakfast foods far better than anything I had seen on the lunch menu.  And as a bonus, the place was nearly empty during the switchover period.  Score!

The food at Akershus during breakfast is pretty standard but the great thing is that most of it is brought to your table family-style.  The hot food (eggs, bacon, sausage, and potato casserole) was served on a big platter and we could have requested more of any of it.  Mickey waffles are available but you have to ask for them and of course, we did.  The buffet is for the cold items and offered a nice selection of fruit, yogurt, granola, cheese, etc.  There were also several smoked or pickled fishes, several flavors of cream cheese and bagels.  We all ate plenty.  My youngest was 19 months old and seemed to care more about her Mickey waffles than she did about the princesses.  

cold buffet at Akershus in Epcot

breakfast foods from Akershus in Epcot

Mickey waffles

Ah, yes, the princesses.  That's really why you dine here.  No disrespect to the lovely Norwegian Cast Members but we were here for royalty.  Belle stays in her meet and greet area at the front of the restaurant but the other princesses visit you at your table.  They were all understanding when I wanted to take a moment to pull Minnie's high chair away from the table for photos.  I hate seeing dirty dishes in my pictures.  No specific list of characters is guaranteed to appear but we met Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella (!) and Aurora.  All of them took time to chat with the girls.  When it was time for the Princess Processional, Aurora came back to our table.  Tink happily pranced around the dining room with her but Minnie wanted to stay put with us.  And since they don't want you following your child during the parade, that was really for the best.

We used a Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount.  For those on the Disney Dining Plan, this experience is one credit versus the two required to dine at Cinderella's Royal Table.  

Overall, we were thrilled with our experience here.  Quick seating, good food, and time with our favorite princesses; what's not to love!

The rest of our Minnie Moms shared their favorite Disney character dining earlier this week.  Did your top pick make the list? What is on your "must-do's"?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Photo Flashback: ESPN and NASCAR

Growing Up Disney ESPN NASCAR Richard Petty #43
Ridge in front of the ESPN Club with a Petty Enterprise Car
This Sunday is the kickoff of NASCAR's 2013 season with the Daytona 500 so I thought this picture fit for this week.  What better love affair than a teenage boy and a car.

This is from November 1999 outside the ESPN Club over at Disney's Boardwalk Resort.  I'm not sure the car number but #43 is the number forever associated with Richard Petty.

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Minnie Moms: Favorite Character Dining: Hollywood & Vine, Chef Mickey's and Hoop-Dee-Doo

Thank you for joining us for the next installment of the Minnie Moms' look at our favorite character dining experiences. 

Janine: We've only done 2 meals so far - Play n Dine at Hollywood and Vine at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club. Both were all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets. Play n Dine was with Disney Junior characters, at the time they were Jake, Oso, Handy Manny and June from the Little Enstiens. Cape May was Minnie, Donald and Goofy in their swim gear. We really enjoyed them both. Personally, both hubby and I preferred Cape May. The Beach Club is exquisite and we loved eating there. It was clean, luxurious, the buffet was delicious and the characters were fab. Tink loved it too, but she definitely favoured Hollywood and Vine. Being a confident 2 and a half year old though, it was just what the Doc ordered, singing, dancing, a real easy going atmosphere with the characters really making a fuss of the kids.

The food was pretty similar, again Tink preferred Play n Dine and ate more (she liked the scrambled eggs and yoghurts) but we all ate well at Cape May too. And thankfully there were Mickey waffles at both :)

For next time we are hoping to do Tusker House with Donald and Cinderella's Royal Table. Very excited already!!!

Kelly: My family dined at Chef Mickey’s for dinner back in 2006 and had a wonderful time. I do not love Chef Mickey’s for breakfast because my boys are not big breakfast eaters and I feel it’s not a good value of a table service credit on the Disney Dining plan. That is a debate for another time though. I find the dinner to have good quality food and it offers a chance to see the Fab Five all together. My sons are now 13 years old and 8 years old so Chef Mickey’s is no longer on the “must do” Disney Dining list. I remember this dinner fondly though as kids were eating up the food aka ice cream sundae bar and the atmosphere. The characters, the singing, and the napkin twirling were all too much and they loved all of it. We did dine there several more times over the years but this is the meal that stands out to me and I have some wonderful photos of that evening.

Natalie: If you have never seen this show, you really need to invest the cash to do so! I will admit that I am always looking to save money so I waited to see this show when I had free dining. The show is located at the Fort Wilderness Campground and it can take up to 1.5 hours to get to the dining location so be sure to plan accordingly!

For my first show, I went with my mother and three-year old son. We had a table that was located on the bottom floor in the back of the hall. The seating was pretty good. We had a wonderful server that was both attentive and entertaining. He was even able to sweet-talk my son into sitting in his seat the ENTIRE show. (I say sweet-talk. He told him that he would glue him to the seat if he didn't sit there the entire time. At first, I was a bit flabbergasted at his words. But then when his words worked, I thought he was brilliant! An entire meal without me pleading for him to stay seated!)

The show was interactive, entertaining and catchy. I found myself attempting to sing along, but rather looking the fool because I didn't know the words ;) The food was excellent! I had read the menu before coming and was not overly impressed. But somehow they make "cowboy beans" or country-style baked beans that enter my dreams since seeing the show! Bring me more beans, bring me more beans... All of the food is all you can eat so loosen that belt!

I have since been to this particular show 5 to 6 times. Of those times, I have had someone in my party get onstage half of those! So, know, you may just get called up onstage to help out with the hilarious performance! You may ask why someone would see a dinner show that many times. Well, it is loads of fun and something you will want to experience with others.

So, go ahead and get your dinner to the Hoop Dee Doo Revue booked for your next Disney vacation! I bet you too make it a Disney vacation tradition!

Janine of Growing Up Disney and Meet the Magic, Kelly of Travel with the Magic, and Natalie of Meet the Magic, thank you for these terrific stories!  Readers, please visit our Minnie Moms page to learn more about these ladies and to read our past articles about all things Walt Disney World.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Minnie Moms: Favorite Character Dining: Cape May Cafe and Garden Grill

This month, our Minnie Moms are sharing their favorite Walt Disney World character dining experiences.  I love these team posts because while we all love Disney, we all have such varied points of view and we have each chosen a different restaurant.  Be sure to check out all three posts in this series.  ~Amy

Beth: For us, a character meal on our first day of a Disney vacation is a tradition. Not only are they fun, but I use them to see how my children will interact with characters before heading into the parks. Over the years we have tried almost all of them, and in all honesty, have loved all of them. Deciding which was a favorite was a bit tricky, since my girls would say a princess dinner, Joey would say Chef Mickey’s, and well, the list goes on. Each one holds a special place in our hearts for a different reason. But there is one spot that no doubt our entire would family would agree on, and that is Cape May CafĂ©’s Goofy’s Beach Club Character Breakfast at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

This particular character meal, for me, has a few perks over the others. First it is much quieter than some of the others. It is a relaxing, peaceful atmosphere and the interior of the restaurant has very soft colors. The buffet offers foods for even the pickiest eaters in your travel party from breakfasts breads to fruit to hot dishes. It would be hard to leave this place hungry! This is also the meal that we have experienced some of our favorite character interactions, such as Donald squeezing into our booth for Hayley to give him a big kiss to Chip and Dale playing peek-a-boo with Joey when he was just 14 months to Joey at the age of 4 who didn’t talk, strike up a conversation with Minnie Mouse – it doesn’t get more magical than Minnie kicking off your child’s speech development. For me, we have such an emotional attachment to Cape May because of all the amazing magical memories we have that it by far is tops on our list of character meals.

Corby: My favorite character meal at Walt Disney World is Chip and Dale's Harvest Feast at Garden Grill. It is located at Epcot inside The Land pavilion. I will admit I'm not a huge buffet fan and that's one of the reasons I like this particular character meal the most. It's one of the few character meals that's not a buffet. Food is served family style, for dinner only.

At Garden Grill, you'll find Chip and Dale and their friends, typically Mickey and Pluto. On the menu, you'll find items such as roasted turkey, sustainable fish, char-grilled beef, fresh salad, smashed potatoes, fresh vegetables and fresh baked fruit cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. Ever wonder what they do with all those veggies when you're riding Living on the Land? It's possible you may be eating them at Garden Grill since some of the vegetables served come from the Living on the Land greenhouses!

As if the food and characters weren't enough, the coolest thing about this restaurant in my opinion is that it is slowly revolving as you dine! So not only do you get the characters stopping by but you also get an awesome view of the Living on the Land ride scenes such as the prairie, rainforest (my favorite), farmhouse and more. And don't worry, it moves extremely slowly so you really don't feel it. Did I also mention Mickey's wearing a farmer outfit? Seriously, how cute is that?

(Corby couldn't find the photo she wanted to use but Mickey is too cute not to share, so this is me at Garden Grill in 2007. ~Amy)

Many thanks to Beth from Pursuing the Magic and Corby from Travel with the Magic for contributing to this series!  Please check out our Minnie Moms page for more information about these terrific ladies and tons of past articles.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Magical Blogorail Red: A Few of My Favorite Things

Welcome to those of you joining me from A World View and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

A few of my favorite (Disney) things...

Favorite Resort: Old Key West

Favorite Park: Epcot

Favorite Time of Year to Visit: Fall

Favorite Disney Wedding: Mine

Favorite Disney Honeymoon: My Mom and Dad

Favorite Place to Announce Grandbaby #1: IllumiNations

Favorite Place to Announce Grandbaby#2: Olivia's at Old Key West

Favorite Restaurant (Theming): Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

Favorite Restaurant (Food): Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table

Favorite Live Show: Festival of the Lion King

Favorite Thrill Ride: Space Mountain

Favorite Dark Ride: Pirates of the Caribbean

Favorite Background Music: Epcot Entrance Plaza

Favorite Attraction Music: Soarin'

Favorite Show/Movie/Theater-type Attraction: American Adventure

Favorite Hidden Mickey: the ear hat on the Viking in the Maelstrom loading area
(Thanks to Mike at My Dreams of Disney for sharing this photo! Check him out on the next Blogorail stop.)

Favorite Food with a Cult Following: Dole Whip

Favorite Afternoon Break: tea at Garden View Tea Room

Favorite Random Smell: lobby at the Polynesian

Favorite Pre-Show: MuppetVision 3D

Favorite Christmas Special Event: Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Favorite Nighttime Show: Wishes

Favorite Boat: MK to Poly/Grand

Favorite Place to Jog: Port Orleans Riverside

Favorite Live Entertainment: Off Kilter

Favorite Place for Baked Goods: Writer's Stop

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 ~ A World View
4th Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
Final Stop ~ Colorado Mountain Mom