Sunday, December 19, 2010

My thoughts on Tron: Legacy

The fam went to see TRON: Legacy on Friday night.  In 3D, of course.

I can honestly say that I give it a solid 7/10, and most of that was because it was a great 3D experience.  I can also honestly say that ...


OK now that's done ... here's what I think.

Starting with what I didn't like ...

I think that they didn't do nearly as much as they could have with the possibilities presented by the storyline.

I think that Garrett Hedlund was only marginally pretty to look at.

I think that Flynn's character was less "Flynn" and more "The Dude From The Big Lebowski".

I think it's DUMB that TRON didn't remove his helmet.

I expected SO MUCH MORE from Daft Punk.

The ISO subplot was weak.  It seemed like merely a MacGuffin to get Olivia Wilde in the flick.  Don't get me wrong, I liked the Quorra character quite a bit.  However, I think I'd have liked it better if she ended up being Sam's sister or something. The sheltered weirdo that followed The Dude around?  Not the best use of her talents.

And where the Mickey Mouse were the TANKS?  Seriously - just the discs and lightcycles?  And really, since when do lightcycles have curved trails?  Just sayin'.

Now, here's what I DID like ...

I cannot express my love for Michael Sheen enough.  TEAM ARO!  I had to, of course, interrupt my husband's nerdgasm to inform him that Aro is my favorite vampire.  Clearly, I am not Team Sparkle Vamp.  Gah.

They knocked the Sirens' costuming out of the park. Home run, people ... simply fabulous.

When they used the 3D effects?  BRILLIANT.  Sadly I think too much of the movie was shot in 2D, but when they did the effects of the programs shattering?  Brilliant.

The re-imagining of the uniforms of those in the Grid, by the way, was awesome.  And I really liked when TRON was falling at the end, and his "lines" changed from the red (CLU loyal) to white (Flynn loyal).  Even though I know that it was clearly a set-up for a sequel to the sequel, it still made me squee.

All in all ... I liked it more than I didn't.  Will I buy it on Blu Ray when it's released?  Maybe.  But it's not the ZOMG MUST HAVE IT NOW!!1! that I expected to feel.

And here ... via the awesomeness that is EPBOT ... check this out.  This year's IceHotel?  TRON THEMED.  This is at least twenty kinds of awesome.  Maybe more.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Clearly, Someone's Wished For My Freedom.

I've been in total purgatory over the past two weeks.  Between the pending holiday season (I just love Christmakwanzakkuh), finishing my first MBA class (I am officially 1/10 of the way to my MBA), and the usual cat-herding that ensues in a family ... writing for pleasure has taken a back seat.

To that I say ... NO MORE!

I have a lot of pent up Disney energy, and I'm not afraid to use it. 

But before I do that ... I need to get a decent night's sleep.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

ESPN: The Weekend

My Panda and I are huge sports fans.  And I may or may not have a schoolgirl-like crush on Mike Golic (of Mike And Mike In The Morning fame).  So, the opportunity to mix two of my favorite things (sports and Disney) is really appealing.

At this year's ESPN: The Weekend, I'd have the opportunity to actually stalk meet Golic face-to-face.  Of course, this will require me to actually get out of bed at a relatively early hour (when one fine female is usually just getting to bed), and to stand in line to get a table.  I'd also have to decide what's most important: Golic, or rope drop?

Also - if I get to the radio show's broadcast at oh-dark-thirty, will I have to stay the whole time?  I'd honestly want to get in, get my hero-worship completed, squick out my husband, and give up my table / seat to another fan in line.  I really don't need to stay for the entire show, merely just long enough to not get arrested for trespass / stalking / other inconvenient misdemeanor offenses.

Also scheduled to appear is Chad Ochocinco.  I've been a fan of his for a while now, and would actually enjoy stalking meeting him as well.  If Jared Allen ends up being scheduled to appear, I may be forced to move in to the Polynesian (or the Yacht / Beach Club, as I hear that most of the talent stays there) to catch him too. 

So, in case anyone has been keeping score, we're planning a Christmas trip next year.  And this trip in March ... so that means we'll be at The World twice next year, minimum.  WIN.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

This is my confession.

Channeling my inner Usher here, apparently.

So, I know that this may come as a bit of a shock to everyone, but I'm a bit of a planner.  I'm kind of a control freak.  Stop laughing at me.

Disney vacations are really an OCD planner's dream.  So many options, so many details, so many variables ... of course, all must be researched and discussed.  It can be very overwhelming to some people, to the point to where they ask random people their opinions (or trust a travel agent that doesn't specialize in Disney travel).  This logic is flawed because most of the information that's given will be that of conventional wisdom.  You know ... Christmas is the best time to visit, make sure you hit those extra magic hours, and sleep in as much as possible. 

To quote my daughter: Oh noes, mommy.  Oh noes they didn't.

When planning my first trip, I scoured the interwebs for information.  There are literally thousands of Disney planning sites out there - some are based upon the books you'll find in the stores, some are web-only resources, and some are provided by travel agencies or those that have some other sort of "skin in the game".  Understanding each site's "angle" or philosophy is key, because if the site's philosophy doesn't match yours, then it's a waste of your time to even review its most basic information / guidance.

Personally, I am a pretty seasoned traveler.  OK, that's an understatement.  Travel is my drug of choice.  And my daughter has had her own frequent flier account since she was 3 months old.  My kid is better at navigating the TSA checkpoints than most adults!  So I don't need basic travel advice - I need location-specific guidance, and to-the-point facts. 

This is why I'm a devotee of TourGuideMike.  Now, many people will say "why should I pay for Disney planning advice when I can get it for free some other places?"  Well, although places like The DIS are wonderful ... sometimes the quality of the advice that's given isn't the best.  As registration isn't well-controlled (anyone can join), you will get basic and publicly available advice.  TGM, on the other hand, is a wealth of information from "the best of the best".  Not only staffed by Mike himself, the forums are a group of Disneyphiles that visit often. 

Mike (and his staff) analyze the park calendars, known group outings (such as Pop Warner, Wide World Of Sports / Disney Endurance races, etc), and other pixie dust.  They then assign each day a "color", and tell you what parks are the best to visit that day (and why).  Now, you could likely do this yourself.  But honestly, once you're paying thousands of dollars for a Disney trip, the meager TGM subscription price (approximately $20) is worth every penny.  And since I've used TGM for my last two trips, I can honestly say that he's yet to steer me wrong.  Also ... if you look around on the internet, you can find discount codes published by partner sites (one of which is the DIS), to even make it a more economical purchase. 

I highly recommend TGM.  Give them a try.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pizza. Epic Mickey. Glee. WIN.

Sorry that I'm MIA.

Panda got me some delicious pizza.  And the Collector's Edition of Epic Mickey.  And Glee's on.

Even my Sam-Cat is in on the action ...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tomorrow is the day!

I am giddily anticipating the release of Epic Mickey tomorrow.  I've already had my fit at GameStop for not having a midnight release party.  After all, if they can have one for stupid Halo ... why not My Favorite Mouse?

Harumph.  Clearly they just don't understand how important this is to me.

Anyhow, I'm ecstatic.  The release date is upon us.  Panda pre-ordered the collector's edition for me, so I can't wait to get home from work tomorrow and play it.

Also on the docket for release tomorrow:  Waking Sleeping Beauty.  This documentary chronicles the reworking and resurgence of the Disney Animation team.  I've heard such wonderful things about this movie, so I really am anticipating it.

Besides ... I need something to occupy my time until next Tuesday. What's that, you ask?  Why, it's the Blu-Ray release of Eclipse. Yes, I admit it.  I'm one of "those women" ... the Twilight moms.  ***paperbag over head*** 

Here's to some great video and gaming releases this week!

photo courtesy Game Informer / GameStop.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday FTW!

So, my husband got his first taste of the madness that is Black Friday today.  He's never went shopping on this fateful and joyous day.  So of course I schooled him.

During our travels today, we came across two things that were for mommy (me) ...  Check them out.

First, my hubby threw this in the cart ... the Epic Mickey Wiimote Charging Station.

You sit the Wiimote in the inkblot cradle, and it charges.  He also snagged a black Wiimote for me.  Get this - its eyes light up!  It's really spooky, but very very cool.  You can't see the Mickey figure very well, but it is on the lower right corner.  He's wielding the paintbrush!  Speaking of ... check out my other exciting purchase:

 Yes, that's the paintbrush nunchuk.  Seriously, it's really cool.  I'm really excited about using it to play the game. 

Tuesday will be quite the stressful day for me ... so many choices!  Do I zone out with Epic Mickey all night?  Or do I take an hour-long break for my weekly Glee fest?  Of course I'll break for Glee.  But still.  Decisions, decisions.

(photos courtesy of Toys R Us)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's a holiday post!

But not the one you think.  Yes, I know today is Thanksgiving here in the US, but I have to wait for the turkey to finish cooking.  So ... while we wait ... let's talk about Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.  Or, in the lexicon of my fellow Disneyphiles ... MNSSHP.

This year was our first outing to MNSSHP.  I'd heard wonderful things about it, and was really excited about going.  At first, I balked at the extra admission price.  But then I realized that the price of admission was a small price to pay for the possibility of very low lines.  I figured that it was worth a try.

I cannot express how happy I am with that decision. 

My daughter and I arrived right after the 4:00 PM "cutoff".  We had a very short wait in line for admission, and we walked into a magical park.  Cast members were everywhere ... they asked to see our admission ticket, and gave us a wristband.  These wristbands were wonderful - because I personally witnessed some guests being denied entrance to a ride queue and being "gently ushered" toward the gate later in the evening.

Upon admission to the Magic Kingdom, we snapped a photo on Main Street USA.  We were given a special MNSSHP PhotoPass card to use that day - because it allowed us a discount and access to some stock Halloween photos.  This is a very good thing, in consideration of the fact that my fabulous little Fujifilm "point and shoot" didn't capture very good photos of some of the key moments.

After getting our photos taken, we quickly headed back toward Adventureland and Frontierland.  Our goal for the night was to ride The Mountains as many times as possible.  In fact, we had discussed our "game plan", and had bets on how many times we could just walk on to each of Maddie's favorite rides.  It turns out we ran the Splash / Thunder Mountain circuit four times back-to-back before we got bored with the rides.  Isn't that funny ... we bored of two of Maddie's most favorite rides on the planet!

After our ride-a-palooza on the two Mountains, we decided to pop in to Pecos Bill's for a quick bite.  I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the burgers we received.  And oh, the toppings bar was a very welcome surprise.  The fries were the same fries as are found throughout the parks, but the burgers were much tastier.

During the first "Boo To You" parade, we took the train around to the Toontown stop.  We disembarked, and made a beeline toward Maddie's other favorite ride ... Space Mountain.  We rode it twice in a row and then went to stake out our spot on Main Street USA for the HalloWishes fireworks.

Simply amazing.  I think that Disney really does fireworks "right", and this show was absolutely no exception.  Ordinarily, I"d say that you can get a better view of fireworks to the side of the castle - but I highly suggest actually staying in "the hub" for these.  You are immersed in the magic, as they explode all around you.

After our fireworks experience, we then ran quickly to the front of the stage.  One of the biggest perks of MNSSHP is the rare appearance of the Villains.  My daughter just LOVES Maleficent (or, as she says, Falefficent).  Of course, we giddily waited to snap a photo with her:

After this, her night was nearly complete - but wait!  There's more!

The Boo-To-You parade is wonderful.  In my opinion, it's second only to SpectroMagic.  Every float was amazing, there were rarely seen characters on board, and the song (heard by clicking here) is so catchy that it'll be in your head for MONTHS after the party. And the best part?  The last float, with Goofy.  It blows bubbles!

All in all, I give MNSSHP two thumbs up.  It was a great time, the lines were super short, and we got to see some things that we never see in the parks during regular hours.  In my opinion, it's worth the extra money.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gowalla ... Foursquare ... Facebook Places? Stalk-tastic!

I admit it ... I love Foursquare.  I have been "playing" for a while, and have amassed such fabulous badges as "I'm On A Boat!"

However, I must say that I'm intrigued by Disney's partnership with Gowalla.  They have several "trips" outlined; including one for kids not tall enough for "The Mountains" at Magic Kingdom.  I think it'll be a fun distraction and a fun project to do while in the parks.  Granted, I'm a Liner, so I'm already furiously tappity-tappity-tapping on my phone while visiting.  But this really seems like a good thing to try.  And of course, they have park-specific "pins" to earn by checking in at different places!  Fun!

As I'm an Android user, Gowalla wasn't available for my preferred platform until very recently.  I have just installed and downloaded it to my precious (aka my Droid), and will give it a whirl this weekend.  Add me as a friend ... connect with me by clicking here.

I'm off to visit with some of my Second Wives Cafe friends (and by "some", I mean "at least ten").  We're going to Foxwoods Casino to play bingo, and we plan to catch up with each other.  We haven't been together for a year and change, and there's much to celebrate (new boyfriends, new husbands, new jobs, and even Heather's pregnancy).  I can't wait to see my friends.

Have a wonderful and magical weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

I am an enigma wrapped in a riddle. I am a girly-girl that loves handbags and lipstick ... but I'm also a sucker for a sleek sports car with a fast engine.

Obviously, I love Disney. But I also love my BMW ... almost obsessively. So when I saw this ... I nearly squee'd out loud in my office.

Photo courtesy:

Check it out ... that is a BMW (I think an M5 or maybe one of the X6 crossovers with a lowered chassis). And I am in love.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Question

So, Panda and I have decided to visit Disney for Christmas next year. Hurray!

However, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party ends the week prior to Santa's Big Day.

Which would you rather do: MVMCP, or wake up there on Christmas Morning?

PS ... trying a new app for posting. Not sure if i like it yet.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sneaky. Very Sneaky.

One of the few things that my daughter actually requires out of a Disney trip is breakfast in Cinderella Castle.  I'll have a separate review of Cinderella's Royal Table (CRT, for short), but I think that there's one facet of Maddie's preferred experience that rates a mention.

Take a look at this photograph.  It's one of my favorites from our recent trip.  It's my friend Theresa and her absolutely ADORABLE daughter Vici, with my daughter and I.  Now, once you're past our hotness (and the girls' cuteness), focus on what you see.  Or more accurately, what you DON'T see.

Do you see (or not see) it?  I promise, it's not a trick:  That is a TOTALLY EMPTY MAIN STREET U.S.A.  We are alone on the Magic Kingdom's Main Drag. 

How did I manage this, you ask?  Well, it's because I'm special and amazing and twenty shades of awesome.

Seriously, it's something that just anyone can do.  You don't have to be a magical Fairy or a Princess! 

Simply schedule your ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) for anytime between 8:00 AM and 8:30 AM.  Yes, it's prior to park opening.  But CRT and Crystal Palace offer reservations beginning at 8:05 AM.  I prefer to have reservations at about 8:30 AM.  Security lets the first "wave" of people into the park at 8:00 AM, and you can enter at about 8:15.  By that time, most of the crowd has cleared out, and you can luck your way into awesome photos just like this.

Hot babes - and adorable kidlets - not included. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Epic Mickey

I'm sure that it comes as no surprise that I'm a bit of a nerd.  I love video games, and all sorts of things that are nerdy.  Just because we have an Xbox360, a PS3, a Wii, and our own individual DSi's doesn't mean that we're THAT nerdy.  Right?

Anyway, imagine my giddy reaction when Epic Mickey got a November 30 release date.  Squee! 

From early synopses of the game, it seems a bit dark and more of an adventure than just mindless repetition.  This is a good thing.  I like games with compelling storylines.  I wish it were on the Xbox or the PS3 though ... the video resolution on the Wii is totally subpar.  The desire for motion control is a nonsense reason to make it Wii-exclusive ... the PSMove and Kinect have removed that barrier (excuse?) from game programming now.  I'd prefer to have a controller-based game with high-quality video, folks.

And now I'm even giddier (more giddy?) that Hot Topic has started releasing clothing and accessories to accompany the game.

Here's a few cool things that caught my eye.  I might have to fight the mall crowds this weekend to pick myself up something new (and likely shiny).

The first thing I noticed, via today's Stitch Kingdom email, was the Epic Mickey necklace ($12.00).

The neckace comes in both the basic black and the art scene (what I posted above).  It's a little big for my usual tastes, but it sure is cool.  It would be a great accessory to wear with a simple crew neck black (or the right shade of blue) sweater.  Wonder how many comments I'd get at my uber-conservative workplace about that necklace?

The next thing is a key cap.  It goes over the top of a regular key.  I think I'm going to grab one of these for my office door key.  It's a whopping $4.99 ... a small price to pay for a giddy smile while at my cubicle farm, no?

Finally, no 1337 Gamerz would be found dead without a totally nerdy novelty t-shirt.  Of course, Hot Topic never disappoints ... they have two really cute shirts.  Prices vary (extended sizes are more expensive), but are about $25 each.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Frustrated, Incorporated.

I've written several posts from my beloved Droid, but it appears they have not posted.  That's okay, I will just have to re-live our most recent trip as I re-write them.  As a random nerdy-girl aside ... Blogger is a Google product.  My Droid, although made by Motorola, runs Android (another Google product).  So, pray tell, why can't I post properly to my Google blog with my Google phone? 

OK, end of rant.  On to the important stuff.

I'm having a serious case of MTM today.  You know, Missing The Mouse.  I long to relax and people-watch at the International Showcase this afternoon.  The dole whip from Orange Leaf is lovely, but it's not the same as eating it on the Polynesian beach.  And oh, how I'd love to listen to my daughter's delighted squeals while riding Expedition Everest today.

Alas, living in Ohio has certain drawbacks.  And by "certain drawbacks", I mean ... it's not Orlando.

So, I'll have to cure my MTM and re-write my posts.  Sit tight - I have a lot to say.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


And now a break from my regular Disney mutterings for this message.  :)

I recently started using SwagBucks, on the advice of a friend.  I was skeptical, but have really found that I enjoy the experience.  And I'm busy racking up "bucks" to spend on gift cards (Disney is one of the offerings).

If you're not a SwagBucks member, you can click here to sign up.  Also, here's the "swidget", it'll also help you sign up if you're not already a member.

Monday, October 25, 2010

There she is, Miss America ...

I've always loved (and believed in) the Miss America program.  Did you know that it is the single largest source of scholarship funds for women in the world?  Bet you didn't.

This year, Miss America makes her triumphant return to network television.  Disney partner ABC will televise the 90th annual pageant, live from Planet Hollywood hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

In the interest of full disclosure, my family and I are former local Executive Directors.  We're proud to have some of the most amazing women as part of our pageant family, including (but not limited to) Miss Ohio 2004 Amanda Beagle. 

As part of Value City Furniture's partnership with Miss America, Caressa Cameron was here in Columbus to kick off the campaign.  She hosted a public "meet and greet" tonight at the flagship store on Sawmill Road.  Of course, I wasn't about to miss a chance to meet her!

Caressa could not have been a more lovely and gracious young woman.  My daughter was completely star-struck!

My stepdaughter enjoyed clowning around with Caressa, and talked about her Halloween costume.

The girls were also lucky enough to meet Katie Stam, the former Miss America from Indiana.

It was a fun night, and my excitement for the finals (televised on ABC on January 15, 2011 at 9:00 PM EST) is renewed.  Hurray!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Aloha to the Spirit of Aloha dinner show!

One of my favorite dining experiences at Disney is the Spirit of Aloha dinner show.  Now, I know that it's much maligned with die-hard fans.  It's often derided as "kitschy" or even sometimes "silly".  On both counts, I must agree.  It's very kitschy and silly!  But that's what makes it fun.

On the dining plan, this is a two table service credit meal.  And with the dining plan, you can only sit in section 2 or 3 (section 1 is "front and center").  Your table placement is decided by your party size and your reservation time (180 days out with a 2-person party is going to yield the best seat).

So, there are two questions here:  1, is the SoA show worth the time commitment on a busy trip; and 2, is it worth the price (cash or dining credits).  Each one is separate, I think.

First of all, I do think the SoA show is worth the time.  A wise man once said that your vacation shouldn't exhaust you to the point where you need to rest when you come home ... and really, I think SoA is a great bit of down time for a family.  The food is good and plentiful, the show is interesting (at least the second half, in my opinion), and it's fun to meet families from all over the world.  And, if you're staying at the Polynesian, it's a lovely (and short) walk back to your room after the show.

Upon arrival, you'll check in and receive a lei.  They're the simple silk-flower type, and the kids love them.  Well, until they start making your neck itch.  The cast members herd you over for the obligatory photo (not included with the price, don't worry they'll print it and stalk you during dinner) ... but you can graciously decline, of course.  Then you're herded into a large waiting area, all in a group.  There is a mobile bar available that serves wine and beer and some limited mixed drinks (cash bar, room charge wasn't accepted both times we visited).  At your reservation time (usually either 5:15 or 8:00 PM), you are then herded down a ramp toward the entrance point for the theater.  It feels disorganized and very confusing (and as my daughter says "hurry up and wait"), but when you make it to the front of the line you realize that they have this chaos very well orchestrated.

You'll be escorted to your pre-assigned table, and given a drink menu.  Soft drinks, beer, and wine are included with your meal, but of course there are other drinks available for a nominal charge.  While you wait for the show to begin, your server will bring some bread (which tastes a lot like Ohana's welcome bread).  It is worth noting that if you have a finicky eater, you can always request a na keiki (the child's) boxed meal.  This is usually a PB&J Uncrustable and some other kid-friendly fare.  However, I think that most kids will like what's offered and should really give it a try.

Shortly after the bread, a most delicious salad appears.  It's served with fresh pineapple, and topped with mandarin oranges.

photo courtesy of user pauliek on DisBoards

If you're anything like us, you'll tear through the salad quickly.  The dressing is sweet yet tangy, and the fresh sweet pineapple is the perfect complement to the crunch of the salad.  Try not to fill up on the salad, because there's even more delicious food coming.

After the first "act" of the luau (as part of the show), your server will then bring out your main course ... family-style. On one of the trademark pewter serving plates, you'll be presented with delicious barbeque pork ribs, rotisserie chicken with the most lovely seasoning, and sides of polynesian rice and veggies.  I'm not ashamed to admit that my 51 pound daughter and I tore through the ribs and had to ask our server for more.  The sauce was delicious, and the ribs were well-cooked.  Neither my daughter nor I were huge fans of the chicken either time we visited, aside from eating the seasoned skin and a bite or two as a change of pace from the massive amount of ribs we consumed.  The rice was acceptable, but not memorable.  Honestly, we may have eaten a small spoonful each.  The ribs were just that good.

The show continues, and before the traditional dance showcase portion begins, dessert is brought out with great fanfare.  The name "volcano delight" is a bit misleading, as the dessert that's served isn't the sparkler-laden attention grabber that's presented.  However, the single-serve chocolate mousse pyramids are certainly tasty.  Nestled on a bed of pineapple syrup and drizzled with sweet raspberry syrup, it's a diabetic's nightmare.  Sweet, rich, and oh-so-good. 

photo courtesy of Chip & Co.

After dessert is served, the best part of the show begins.  The cast members share dances from several different islands - all are beautiful and evoke feelings of the islands, but all are different and interesting.  From the hula of Hawaii, to the careful poi ball acrobatics of Tahiti, to the beautiful courtship dance of Samoa ... the dances are well choreographed and interesting.  But the highlight (and finale) of the evening is the Fire Dancer.  He is legendary amongst children and grown women alike ... for different reasons.  He is very skilled, and suffice it to say he's easy on the eyes.  He's my daughter's favorite performer, for sure.

All in all, it's a great night to kick back, have a good meal, and relax.  Cash prices are currently listed on AllEars, and vary based upon seating choice and age.  This is a two-credit dining experience if you are on the Dining Plan.

Back to my initial questions:

1. Is the SoA show worth the time commitment on a busy trip?  Absolutely.  A well-planned trip should include a meal or experience that causes you to slow down and appreciate your good fortune to be at The Happiest Place On Earth.  I think that SoA does just that.  The first part of the show is kitschy and a bit silly.  But if you have a child with you, I promise they'll love it.  The second part of the show is very well-done, and the food is great.  I prefer the 8 PM show, because it is easy to do a park in the morning and swim in the afternoon.  Even with the 8 PM show, we were tucked into our beds in Samoa 3607 by 10:30 PM. 

2. Is it worth the price (cash or dining credits)? This is a personal choice.  My family enjoys a good meal, and we like to linger and talk when we're finished dining.   We were not opposed to the price tag, as we considered it the equivalent to a dinner at Cosmic Ray's (with a bit better side dishes), and a nice show.  As a deluxe dining plan family, we carefully budgeted our credits for this meal and decided that it was worth the expense.  Personally, I say "yes, it's worth it".  And when planning our trip this year, this (and Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast) were my daughter's only two requests.

Score: I give the Spirit of Aloha dinner show a 9 out of 10.  As the gratuity is included in the meal price, I've noticed that the service is not nearly as attentive as other places on Disney property.  Don't misunderstand me ... our server both times did an acceptable job.  But they didn't play the part well - simply brought food, dropped it off, and cleared plates.  I've had similarly attentive service at a buffet meal on property, and the price was half of this experience.  The food is always well-prepared and very tasty, the show is acceptable, and it's a great night to enjoy with your family.  Give it a try.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Short and Sweet

Some days, life just does not cooperate. Like today, for instance. For some reason, my blog software isn't working properly from my beloved droid. Please excuse all punctuation and capitalization errors.

I plan to catch up this weekend, including a review of my favorite dinner show ... the Spirit of Aloha dinner show.

See ya real soon ...

Edited to add:  my OCD just couldn't take it.  I had to edit this post.  Sorry.  :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You oughta be in pictures

So.  Let's talk scrapbooks and memories. 

If you're anything like me, you are the photographer of the family.  Sure, you have hundreds - maybe thousands - of photos.  But are you in many of them?  How about even just SOME of them?  Nope.  Not me.

Disney has a great solution - PhotoPass.  Get this:  You get yourself a credit card sized card either from a photographer or in the mail before you leave.  Photographers, stationed throughout the World, take this card and scan it.  It associates the photos taken with your number.  You get home, claim your photos, edit them, order a CD, and TA DA!  In a week, you have photos.  With you in them!  Amazing.

Even cooler:  They have some "trick shots".  One of my favorite photos of my daughter from last year was on our arrival day - they put Tinkerbell into the shot, like magic.

Another bonus is that Disney has several borders that you can choose from to enhance your photos.  One of my favorite tips is to put a border on every photo, and save it as a copy.  That way, you have the original to work with, but you also have a cool border to show off.  As there is no extra charge for more photos, you may as well choose to put all sorts of borders on them.  In fact, my most recent PhotoPass order required two full CDs to contain all of the joy and happiness!

Of course, this is the very basic gist of it.  One of my most favorite sites is also (in my opinion) the most comprehensive explanation of PhotoPass.  Check out Stitch Kingdom's PhotoPass Primer, and read carefully.  They have tips about how to save money (I suggest finding some friends you can trust to do a "share"), what to look for when searching for a photographer, and even some sample photos.  Check it out.

PS - happy anniversary to my BFF, my love, my everything ... Brad a/k/a "The Sad Panda".  Or just "panda".  I love you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Club Cool

Club Cool is a fun little place in Epcot.  Tucked in the Innoventions Pavilion by the beautiful fountain on your way to the International Gateway, it's a nice place to cool off on a hot day.

Sponsored by Coca-Cola, this lovely little shop offers the usual souvenirs, but with a bonus:  free drinks.

There are samples of several different types of Coca-Cola branded drinks from around the world; from my personal favorite (Krest Ginger Ale) from Mozambique to my daughter's favorite (Smart Watermelon) from China.  This has been the subject of much discussion amongst families, sometimes rather heated too.  However, everyone agrees on one things:  Beverly is awful.  In fact, I think that many families have one of these photos:

That's my daughter, trying a sip of the very bitter Beverly soda (from Italy).  Clearly, she's not a fan.  Even after I tortured her this way, she still looks forward to a Club Cool visit whenever possible ... even on our World Showcase days.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My thoughts on 'Ohana Dinner

'Ohana is one of the table-service restaurants at the Polynesian.  'Ohana serves both breakfast and dinner. We had a chance during our recent trip to the World to enjoy both meals.  In Hawaiian, the word 'ohana is loosely translated into "family".  Meals are served family style, everyone's your "cousin", and it's a great deal of fun.

Due to my not-so-BFF Tropical Storm Nicole causing torrential downpours on our Not-So-Scary Halloween Party night, we decided to reschedule and hit 'Ohana for dinner instead.  We were tired and drained from our experience with the weather, but the lovely concierge got us a last-minute ADR (advance dining reservation, for you folks that don't know all the lingo yet).  And hey, according to CurlyKristen ... "MEAT ON A STICK! GOOD!"

 Upon arrival, they greet you and you walk in with one of your "cousins".  Stopping by the service counter, you are shown their special drinks (sadly, I was too tired to indulge), and you pick up a basket of "Welcome Bread".  I thought this a bit bizarre at first, but oh.  OH.  The bread.   It's this soft and delicious pineapple laced goodness.  It's crusty on the outside - but not TOO crusty.  It's smooshy on the inside.  Oh, so tasty.  You carry the loaf of golden brown goodness through the dining area, and past the grilling area.  There, you will see tens (close to hundreds, if they're busy) of stakes of meat.  I wanted to stop and marvel at the meaty goodness, but our "cousin" hurried us to our table.  I was annoyed, but then my stomach gently reminded me that A, my daughter was carrying delicious bread to eat, and B, it had been hours since I'd eaten anything.  So I sulked and followed along.  mmmm bread ...

As the saying goes ... "But wait!  There's more!"  Why, you ask?  Because shortly after being seated, the parade of food began.  And I do mean a parade of food.  We literally ran out of room on our table.

I have dreams about the salad dressing ... oh my.  I piled it HIGH on my plate, knowing that sticks-o-meat were coming.  It's a lovely version of sweet and sour - with a bit of a honey-lime kick.  I may or may not have licked my fingers a few times.

And then ... it ramped up.

The most delicious honey-barbeque chicken wings showed up, accompanied with one of my weaknesses:  dumplings.  Steamed dumplings that had been gently browned a bit on each side on a griddle.  Delicious!

After I'd considered lying these items on the table and making snow (food?) angels, even MORE food showed up!  Steamed veggies, dipping sauces, and lo-mein noodles were brought to our table, along with our first serving of meat.   Through the meal, we were offered:  steak, chicken, shrimp, and pork.  All were adequate, but a bit dry.  They were well-seasoned, but a bit overdone for my tastes.  That's not to say that we didn't eat more than our fair share though.

We had several "rounds", and finally said "no more".  The dishes were cleared from our table, and the heavens opened.  The angels sang.  One of the most amazing things happened to me.

'Ohana. Bread. Pudding.

This amazing concoction is mooshy challah bread soaked in caramel and sunshine.  It is topped with a scoop of cool vanilla ice cream, and placed on a plate with a serving of bananas foster topping.  When they brought it to the table, I think I heard the sound of my rear end growing larger.  And I just didn't care.

I may or may not have consumed the entire plate alone, while my daughter finished her birthday cupcake and the bowl of ice cream with sprinkles (also pictured).  You can also see the remnants of our second loaf of Welcome Bread in the back of the shot.

If you're interested, you can find the full recipe (with a video to help) for the bread pudding over at A Taste Of Disney.  I am planning to make some of this stuff here pretty soon.

During dinner, the entertainment abounded.  There were conga lines, shaking of maracas, limbo contests, and more.  There also was a sighting of a buttoned-down corporate dad wearing a coconut bra and grass skirt over his clothing.  It was fun, but got loud at times.  It's a great place for kids, that's for sure.

Would I suggest 'Ohana for dinner?  Yes.  I think that it's a good use of a table service credit.  However, I don't know that I'd schedule my day around it.  If I were staying at the Polynesian and / or was having a "slow" day (park in the morning, relaxing dinner in the evening, early to bed for rope-drop the next day), this would be a great fit and one of my top choices. 

Score:  I give 'Ohana dinner a solid 8 out of 10.  If the meat were juicier (and included sausage), it may have been a 9.  However it was a good value for the price, and a great meal.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Magic Kingdom Meme

According to Wikipedia, "...the term "Internet meme" (pronounced /ˈmiːm/, rhyming with "cream") is used to describe a concept that spreads swiftly via the Internet."  Many times, I've participated in memes to combat writer's block or to just be part of the cool kids' crowd.  And from time to time, one pops up that's even - gasp - FUN!

So when I ran across this one on MousePlanning, I had to do it.  I'm having serious Disney World withdrawals (specifically Magic Kingdom), so this is helping a bit.  May I present ...

Hilary's Personal Magic Kingdom Quiz

What are your top 3 favorite attractions in each land in the Magic Kingdom (MK)? (note - I picked out my favorite THINGS from each place, not necessarily a ride or attraction.)

Main Street USA:
1. The Fire Chief that comes out at Rope Drop
2. The view of the castle as you enter the park - nothing quite like that feeling
3.  The Emporium, much to my bank account's chagrin

1. It’s a Small World
2. PhilHarMagic
3. Dumbo (I'm a recent convert)

Liberty Square:
1. The Haunted Mansion
2. Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe
3. The Liberty Bell replica (rumor has it that it's from the same mold as the original famous bell)

1. Splash Mountain
2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
3. Briar Patch shop

1. Aloha Isle (must we delve into my Dole Whip psychosis again?)
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
3. Magic Carpets of Aladdin 

Tomorrowland (this is my favorite land):
1. Space Mountain
2. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
3. Tomorrowland Speedway (it brings my daughter such joy)

Mickey’s Toontown Fair (my least favorite, due to lines)
1. Minnie’s Country House
2. The WDW Railroad Station
3. The Barnstormer

What are your top 3 favorite MK attractions?
1. Splash Mountain
2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
3. Space Mountain

What are your least favorite MK attractions?
1. Stitch’s Great Escape - this made me want to hurl
2. The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) - Bring the old one back
3. Character visits (particularly Fairies and Princesses), due to lines

What are your favorite “extinct” MK attractions:
1. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
2. Enchanted Tiki Room (original)
3. Storytime with Belle

What is your favorite table service restaurant in MK? 
Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast, prior to park opening.  The walk down an empty Main Street, USA is amazing.  And the food isn't bad either - they really do have the BEST scrambled eggs in the World.  A close second is Crystal Palace - I like the character interactions and the food choices.

What is your favorite counter service restaurant in MK? I have a tie for this one:  Either Casey's Corner, or Cosmic Ray's.  In a close second place to those, I'll say Columbia Harbour House.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Handbag Lust

For a long time, I lusted after one of the original theme park print Dooney And Bourke bags.  I wanted - nay, needed - one of the little wristlets.  I currently carry a rather large Vera Wang tote, so keeping my identification and debit cards handy (along with my trusty Droid) requires a wristlet.  At least, that's what I keep telling myself as justification for having lots of these little gems around.  So when my daughter and I got to go to the World earlier this month, I budgeted $50 to capture one of the Dooney And Bourke Disney themed wristlets for myself.

Disney has licensed several different Dooney prints for their crack-bags (I mean handbags), but the white background theme park print (officially titled "sketch", in case you were wondering) is my personal favorite.  You can find several photos of the other prints at Disney Shopping.  I know that the other prints have fans, but I suppose I'm a purist.  I just can't help but smile when I see the park icons on my wristlet every day.  The Mouse Ears, the fireworks, the castle, Dumbo ... all of them make me somehow go to My Happy Place and forget for a brief moment that Ohio isn't the best place on Earth.

So this morning, to my giddy surprise, I noticed that ZannaLand (I feel like such a stalker sometimes, but I just love her site) posted some photos taken at Downtown Disney (Tren-D, I think).  Those photos showed the MICKEY BALLOON THEMED DOONEY AND BOURKE HANDBAGS.  My husband (the Panda) has an unnatural love for Mickey balloons (it's a funny story, really, but it's his to tell).  Really though, I love Mickey balloons, and I love handbags, so I'm failing to see the problem with this product.

Anyhow, I must have the black drawstring handbag ($225).  I'm hoping that Disney Shopping has a purchase link posted soon, since I am currently deliberating my next trip to the World.  And I just can't WAIT to get my hands on that handbag!

This photo, courtesy of the aforementioned ZannaLand, shows the handbag object of my lust, as well as a white Clochette (same price) and a white wristlet.

Pardon My Sawdust.

I'm still working out what I want my little magical corner of the interwebs to be.  I've noticed that I follow several blogs about the World, and they follow some pretty clear trends ... Planning, Eating, and my Peeps.  So, I've divided my web links into those few sections.

If I've missed adding you (or I'm not your BFF yet), please either just comment or E-Mail Me.

Mickey hardhat graphic courtesy of this Zazzle site.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I have seen heaven, and its name is Orange Leaf.

Really. Orange Leaf.

Let me back up a second here.

My love for Dole Whip is legendary.  I have an unnatural obsession with the frozen pineapple goodness.  One of the things I love most about the Polynesian is the dispenser at the Polynesian.

So, when I was so sad that I had to leave the Dole Whip behind, I vowed to find a way to get some of that frozen deliciousness for myself.

Would I have to order some from Hawaii? If I did that, I'd have to also buy an ice cream maker and make it myself.

So, seeing as how that isn't the optimal thing to do (but another month without my "fix" would have made it very necessary), I set out to find something similar.  Little did I know that the magical elixir that haunts my dreams would make an appearance in a most unexpected way.

See, my Panda is a gamer.  Like, to the point where he has Xbox jammy-pants that are threadbare (and essentially shredded in places).  So we often frequent our local GameStop for midnight releases of video games.  The most recent release, Halo: Reach, wasn't the most fun at our usual location.  So we sought another location to patronize.  We happened upon the Kingsdale branch, and realized we were home.  So, for the next release (Medal of Honor), we pre-ordered and picked up there.

Upon arrival, we had about 40 minutes to kill before midnight.  So we walked around the recently renovated plaza and looked at the new stores that we haven't patronized yet.  One was very curious ... it was called Orange Leaf.  A quick zip of the Droid revealed that it was a wonderful soft-serve frozen yogurt place.  Curious, I looked to see what flavors they offered. And there it was.

Dole Pineapple.


I nearly fainted.

Seeing as how it was nearly midnight and this mecca of deliciousness was closed ... we vowed to wait until we had the kids (and time) to go investigate.  We went tonight, and BOY am I glad we did.  It was an awesome experience, and I got my "fix".  Everyone wins!

Now, the pineapple they offer at Orange Leaf isn't the creamy sensation that Disney has.  It's more of a citrus sorbet type substance than a creamy "whip".  I'm fairly sure that Disney's pixie-dust laden version is some sort of proprietary production method that whips more air into the raw mix than Orange Leaf does ... and I'm also not entirely sure that said Disney method doesn't involve Tinkerbell and a certain feeling of "if I tell you, I'll have to kill you."  But oh.  The Orange Leaf version?  A very acceptable substitute.  In fact, it was nothing short of amazing.

Here's my concoction.  It was delicious soft serve with raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, and the trademark orange shovel.

I'm now wondering if it's socially acceptable for me to show up there again tomorrow.  Maybe I can wear a disguise.  Maybe I can just pay one flat fee, put my head under the dispenser, and pull the lever.  A wise kitteh once said it best:  OM NOM NOM.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

If lovin' the Poly is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

In the past, when visiting The Most Magical Place On Earth, I've stayed off-site.  Last year, my daughter and I stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort.  CBR was lovely ... it was peaceful, even though it was crowded; it was clean and a happy place to be.  We made some lovely memories.

But this year?  I've discovered the most wonderful, peaceful, beautiful, MAGICAL place on the planet.

Disney's Polynesian Resort.

In the past, I was one of "those people".  You know, the "I don't care where I lay my head, I'll be too tired to care anyhow" types.  The whole "It's a hotel room.  I can save a lot by staying someplace cheaper per night" thing.

Ha.  Ha HA ha. 

From the moment we arrived on Magical Express, I was taken aback at the sheer beauty and comfort of the Great Ceremonial House (the main area).  Upon check-in, the cast members behind the counter treated me as if it were the most lucky thing EVER to happen to them, that I came there to visit.  Unreal.

And then, after we checked in to our room, I captured this magical moment:

That's my daughter, on the balcony, just taking in the magic of the volcano pool. She was amazed.  She was even more amazed at the Dole Whip machine at Captain Cook's (the counter service place that we frequented with our resort mugs and a never-ending quest for sweet tea).

Over the week, we fell more and more in love with the Polynesian.  The grounds are stunning, the cast members are amazing (especially our awesome Mousekeeper, Novlet), and the proximity to the monorail was the cherry on top of a lovely week together.  My daughter now refers to it as her "happy place" ... and I'm quite apt to agree with her.

I'm honestly so in love with the Polynesian that I'm currently stalking the prices for ESPN: The Weekend to see if I can sneak in a little Mommy And Panda Magic trip. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's TRON-tastic!

So. Many moons ago, I fell in love with a little sci-fi flick called TRON.

Now, for the friends and family of a little kid - a GIRL kid - my obsession with this movie was really a brain-bender.  But I loved it.  I couldn't get enough of it ... the movie, the video games, all of it.

So imagine my sheer shrieking squee-ing joy when I heard that TRON: Legacy was being released.  Not just in the theater, oh no.  IN SUPER FABULOUS 3D!


Only one thing could be better than TRON in Super Fabulous 3D.

You guessed it.  Shoes, nerdy gear, and sparkly things.  I guess that makes this a "3-squee" post.  Sorry.  Bad joke.

Anyhow, there's lots of super cool TRON: Legacy merchandise out there.  I have already decided that the XBox controller and/or the WiiMote will be mine.  Oh yes.  They will be mine.

Check out these amazing shoes ($795).

OOOH and the iPod dock shaped like a disc ($249):

Not to be outdone ...a pen to make my meetings just a bit more tolerable ($40.00):


And finally, some really gorgeous earrings ($495):

All photos are courtesy and (c) Disney ... you can find the entire TRON: Legacy collection here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So, I have this little problem.

I'm hooked.  Hooked on Disney.

My poor sweet husband, who is known as The Sad Panda (or just "Panda"), puts up with an inordinate amount of what he calls "mouse talk".  So I figured that I'd save his brain matter from being bombarded with talk of The Mountains, or where we should eat next time we go, or how much I can't WAIT to go to Orange Leaf and get some Dole Whip.

Poor guy.

Anyhow, I figured that if I had my own little corner of the web, I could share my Disney love with those who might actually enjoy reading it.


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