Square Life Round World

I'm navigating through this round world while living a square life, and it fits exactly as it should.

Tales of a Castaway Cay Cabana Convert

This is the time of year when I start dreaming of tropical beaches, citrus sunsets and colorful umbrella drinks. January and February are my least favorite months, and I can’t be alone in that. Lately, my thoughts have been wandering to the paradise that is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, only accessible via a Disney Cruise Line ship.

The Disney Wonder

The Disney Wonder docked at Castaway Cay

More specifically, I’ve been dreaming of my private cabana on Serenity Bay, the adults only beach on the island. It took me seven years of cruising Disney before I finally bought into all the hype. For years I thought they were an over-the-top extravagance that couldn’t possibly be worth the high price tag. Less than five minutes after setting foot into our precious piece of real estate for a day, I knew my past thoughts had been misguided. Wayyyyy misguided.

Serenity Bay Cabana 25

Cabana 25 on Serenity Bay

Getting a cabana on the island had never been on my radar, partly because they are almost impossible to get but mostly because of the high costs. As of now, Serenity Bay cabanas are $399 for up to 4 guests before tax. Family beach cabanas are $599 from September 25, 2018-March 17, 2019 and $649 from March 18, 2019-September 24, 2019. These prices are also before tax and are for up to 6 guests. On both beaches, you can have up to 10 guests in the cabana for an additional charge of $50 per guest over the number already included in the price. Not exactly cheap!

So, how did I get from there to here? It’s pretty simple, actually. I mainly wanted a more comfortable beach experience for my parents, my mom in particular. They are both in their seventies, and over the years I’ve watched as my mom has increasingly struggled with the beach. It’s harder for her to walk on the sand, and the beach chairs hurt her back. She also is sun-sensitive. While there are plenty of umbrellas on both beaches, getting full coverage from the sun is easier said than done. In 2017, my parents stayed on the beach just long enough for lunch to be served. It was hard to watch them not enjoy this highlight of the trip. I thought a cabana might be the answer and rationalized the cost by thinking of it as an all-day excursion. Per person, it’s really not that much more than other all-day excursions. Disney math at its finest!

Sign at the entrance of the private cabana area

So, after I made up my mind I wanted one for our 2018 cruise, how on earth was I going to get one? Let’s first break down why they are hard to get. First, there are only 24 of these beauties on the island (numbering goes up to 25 but 13 doesn’t exist); 20 are on the family beach (one is a double sized Grand Cabana at, you guessed it, an even higher cost) and 4 are on the adult beach. So, there aren’t a lot to go around. Second, Disney has a tiered system for booking activities, cabanas included, based on number of cruises you’ve taken and room category. Concierge guests (top room categories) get first dibs at them. There are more rooms in this category than there are cabanas. Often, they are all snatched up by this group first. Then, Platinum (10+ cruises) cruisers get a shot, followed by Gold (6-10 cruises), Silver (1-5 cruises) and finally, the newbies can try.

As a Silver cruiser not staying in Concierge, my chances were slim-to-none. As expected, they were all gone when it was our time to book. I stalked the site daily for cancellations to no avail. My next plan was to immediately go to Guest Services after boarding the ship and get on the wait list.

On the day of embarkation, something magical happened! We were on our way to the port when we learned of a change in our itinerary. We were supposed to go to St. Maarten, but due to a storm in the Caribbean, we weren’t going to make it. Instead, we would be making two stops at Castaway Cay. Thank you, Mickey! Many people were disappointed to miss St. Maarten, and I can totally understand that. I was elated, however! Immediately my brain went to the cabanas. A surprise stop meant all cabanas were available for the bonus stop, and I was determined to get one. Or so I thought.

I went straight to Guest Services when we boarded, thinking I would just book one right there on the spot. Not so fast! I learned that the cabana list is owned by the Concierge staff on board. That means Concierge guests still get first dibs. The Concierge staff would call me if there were any available after they were offered to their guests.

A few hours later, we got a call that there were two left, and one had my name on it! Success! Later that night, we received our wrist bands and cabana check in information.

Castaway Cay Cabana Wristbands

Our wristbands! We were official!

The next day, we docked at Castaway Cay for our bonus stop. We could not get off that ship fast enough to head to our private slice of paradise! Upon arrival at Serenity Bay, we headed straight for cabana check in. We were greeted by our cabana host for the day and taken via golf cart to Cabana 25. They were clearly expecting us as we found our name on the welcome sign.

Welcome Sign

What a warm welcome!

Our host showed us around our cabana, where we found very comfy chairs and loungers, a ceiling fan, changing area, bar menu, snack basket, fridge stocked with sodas, water, fruit and cold towels, outdoor shower, floats and tubes, a hammock and sunscreen. The most important feature was the button to push in order to call our host. All was included in the cabana cost except drinks on the bar menu.

Cabana 25

The back entrance to Cabana 25

Inside the Cabana

The cozy interior of the cabana

Cabana Interior

So inviting!

Cabana Lounge Chair

Super comfy lounge chairs

Cabana Lounge Chair

Another comfy chair. I tried them all out.

Cabana Ceiling Fan

It was a little chilly so we didn’t end up using the ceiling fan. It would have come in handy on a warm day, though.

Castaway Cay Bar Menu

If we wanted something from the bar menu, our cabana host was a push of a button away.

Snacks

Snacks

Stocked Fridge

Fully stocked fridge

Floats and Rafts

Floats and rafts right next to the cabana

Personal Hammock

We had our own personal hammock.

Complimentary Sunscreen

Complimentary sunscreen

We lounged around the cabana for a bit before taking a walk on the beach. It was kind of chilly that day (March) so the water was much too cold to enjoy. We went back to the cabana where we agreed it was nice to be shielded from the cool air. I found a sunny spot on the cabana porch and relaxed in the sun until it was time for lunch.

Beach Selfie

The obligatory beach selfie

We called our cabana host to come get us for lunch. Within moments he arrived to whisk us off in the golf cart. While we could have brought lunch back to our cabana, we chose to eat there. After lunch, I picked up my favorite drink there, the Konk Kooler, and we headed back to our tiny home.

We decided we could almost live there, it was so nice! Before we knew it, they were announcing that it was time to leave. Our cabana host came to collect us, and we enjoyed the biggest surprise of all! The cabana host drove us back to the ship, past the customs check, and dropped us off right at the gangplank. No extra walking for my mom! She was all smiles! It was then that I realized this was the first trip to Castaway Cay that my parents were able to enjoy the island for the entire day. Mission accomplished!

Happy Parents

Seeing how much my parents enjoyed the day made it all worth it.

Four days later, we got another call from Concierge. One of their guests had cancelled their cabana for the second visit, and they were calling to see if we wanted it. Without much hesitation, we wholeheartedly said yes! The next day, we got to do it all over again in Cabana 22.

Cabana 22

We got Cabana 22 for our second day.

Cabana 22

The back entrance to Cabana 22

We are now cabana spoiled! I’m happy to say that we’ve already secured Cabana 25 once again for our next cruise. We are Gold this time, and we got lucky. I found a Platinum cruiser on our cruise who kept monitoring the available inventory for me until our booking window opened. I knew there was one available on the adult beach, and I was laser-focused on getting it! Luckily, I had fast fingers and a fast internet connection. We can hardly wait to visit our little haven in paradise once again.

Cabana 22 Sign

We are looking forward to once again calling Cabana 25 home for the day.

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A Lucky Thing Happened…

…and I’m going to Disneyland!!

 

Melanie, you just won a sweepstakes. What are you going to do next? I’m going to Disneyland!

 
Back in May, I entered a sweepstakes. I don’t remember if I got an email, saw it on Facebook or saw it on Twitter, but DirectTV was promoting the On Demand debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by giving away a trip to Disneyland to one of its subscribers. You could enter daily, and I had the best intentions of doing so. I even saved the website on my phone’s browser. Alas, I only entered that one time and promptly forgot all about it.

Until June 9. My phone blew up that day. An unknown caller called. And kept calling. And kept calling. I never answer calls from unknown callers, but finally, on my way home from work, I decided to take the call. The conversation went a little something like this:

Is this Melanie Adams?

Yes

Do you recall entering the Star Wars Awakens Sweepstakes from DirectTV?

Yes

You have been identified as a potential winner and I have some qualifying questions to ask. 

Ok

Are you a U.S. Resident?

Yes

Were you over the age of 18 on the date of your entry, May (something, I don’t remember), 2016?

Yes

I’m not going to ask you what it is but do you have a social security number?

Yes

I’m going to read a paragraph and I need you to answer yes or no. Do you work for any of the following companies? (Proceeds to read off all the Disney companies, PR firms and DirectTV companies)

No

So I can confirm this, what is the name of the company where you do work?

St. Jude CRH

That’s wonderful!

I have some paperwork that I need to send out to you. Do you remember the prize?

I hope it’s a trip because that’s what I entered for. 

Yes! A 4 night trip to a Disneyland Resort Hotel, park hoppers and air for you and up to 3 additional guests, a VIP tour guide and a $500 Disney gift card. I will be sending paperwork out to you tomorrow. Should I mail them or email?

Email

I have your email as (proceeds to read it out). Is that correct?

Yes

I will include a FedEx label for return and we need it back in 5 days.  Congratulations. 

And then I started shaking. Did that really just happen? As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for my skepticism to set in. I tried to tune up my spidey senses so I could make sure I wasn’t being scammed in some way. Remember when I said I saved the sweepstakes website on my phone? This came in handy as I began my investigation into the legitimacy of my sweepstakes win. 

I read the official rules word-for-word, and everything matched up with what I was told on the call. I noted the name of the company administering the sweepstakes, and that’s the company that called me. I looked the company up on the Better Business Bureau and confirmed the phone number the representative gave me to reach them with questions. I looked her name up on LinkedIn to confirm she works for that company. Satisfied that this was legit, the next step was for me to complete my paperwork and send my affidavit of eligibility back in. This was for real, y’all!

The thing about winning a sweepstakes, however, is that there isn’t much information out there about what to expect. I knew I was responsible for paying the taxes, and I’d calculated approximately how much that would be prior to accepting the prize, but I was clueless about how to actually claim it. I assumed it would be a quick, easy thing, but as it turns out, there was quite a bit of waiting involved. 

Stay tuned for more about that later. For now, though, I have the trip booked, and I’m so excited I can barely stand it. 

Have you ever won a trip in a sweepstakes?

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What I Ate (and Drank) at Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Runners and walkers from all over the world will soon converge at Walt Disney World Resort for runDisney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend.  The only fall east coast runDisney event is also not-so-coincidentally the final weekend of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  Given that it’s fast-approaching, I thought now would be a good time to share what I enjoyed at this year’s Festival. 

 

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

 
Let’s start with my faves beginning with a cocktail, shall we?  My favorite beverage just happened to hail from France, La Passion Martini Slush.  This comes as no surprise since the France Pavilion is known for their martini slushes. In fact, I’ve never met a French martini slush I didn’t like. They do them up right!  The Festival edition consists of Grey Goose Le Citron vodka and cranberry and passion fruit juices. Tre bien!

 

La Passion Martini Slush from France


Up next is my favorite savory item, the Grilled Beef Skewer with Romaine, Apricots and Feta Cheese. This one comes from the Chew Collective.  This is one that I would love to recreate at home. The beef was tender and full of flavor with a light marinade. The apricots were grilled and caramelized, and their sweetness was perfectly offset by the saltiness of the feta cheese. 

 

Grilled beef skewer

 
And my favorite dessert goes to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspberry Torte from The Chocolate Studio. This was a very generous portion that could easily be shared. Thankfully, I didn’t have to. This was a rich and creamy dark chocolate ganache filling a crisp chocolate crust with a few whole raspberries sprinkled in. Y’all, this was definitely one of the top ten desserts I’ve had in my life. 

 

Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspberry Torte from The Chocolate Studio

 
As I was basking in my chocolate heaven, wondering how on earth I was ever going to recreate this at home, I noticed this. 

 

Ahhhh…the recipe!

 
Um, that’s the recipe, y’all! Even better, it looks pretty easy. I will be attempting this. 

Also found in The Chocolate Studio was probably my biggest disappointment of the Festival, the Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel.  

 

It’s science!

 
It’s basically chocolate mousse flash-frozen right before your very eyes in a bath of liquid nitrogen, drizzled with warm caramel and sprinkled with an almond nougat crumble. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? And it might have been had it not been my most anticipated dish from last year.  This was my very favorite thing last year. I craved it all year and was thrilled when I saw it back in the line-up. However, it didn’t live up to my memory and was quickly replaced by the torte. 

Rounding out The Chocolate Studio offerings was the Red Wine Chocolate Truffle. 

 

Red Wine Truffle

 
As you can see, this thing was coated in cocoa powder. Waaaaaaaaaay too much cocoa powder. The truffle within was a quality dark chocolate truffle with a smooth, yet dense center. I could not detect the red wine, however. I enjoyed it, although it’s not something I would repeat if given the chance. 

Back in France, I’m never disappointed, not by the food, the drink or the Cast Members. I had the Beef Bourguignon with Mashed Potatoes. Can’t you just hear Julia Child say, “boof?”

 

“Boof”

 
The beef was tender and savory with a rich wine sauce that I would have been perfectly happy drinking out of a glass. The potatoes were nothing to write home about, but nicely helped offset the richness of the “boof.”  

Since I mentioned how nice the French Cast Members are, here’s this gem of a CM handing me a St. Germain Sparkling Kir, sparkling wine with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur. Doesn’t he look super nice and friendly? 

Such a nice Cast Member!

Brazil, in the spirit of the Olympics, was represented this year, and I tried this Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans and Tomato. It was rich but oh, so tasty. 

 

Brazil represented with Crispy Pork Belly

 
To wash it down, I tried this Kaiser Brewery Xingu Black Beer. It was very dark and full of smoky flavor but very smooth. Yummy!

 

Black Beer

 
Rounding out what I was able to try at the Festival was the Loaded Mac and Cheese with Nueske’s Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions. 

 

Loaded Mac and Cheese

 
This was rich and creamy, with a bit of a kick. It was a very generous portion that I recommend sharing. 

With it, I ordered the Florida Orange Groves Mango Mama Wine. What a fun name! It tasted exactly as I expected, very sweet and light with a hint of mango. 

 

Mango Mama Wine

 
All good things must come to an end and such is the case with the Festival. I never get to enjoy as much of it as I want, but it’s always a joy. As I left the park one night, this was my sight. 

 

Goodnight, Epcot! Until next time!

 
I was reminded how lucky I am to live in a free country where all this fancy food is a real luxury, as is the vacation itself. 

What was your favorite Festival dish?

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Five Halloween Faves

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is my second favorite holiday. What’s not to love? Cute decorations, pumpkin everything, costumes, treats, candy. I love it all!  I want to share with you a few of the ways I’ve enjoyed the spookiest season this year. 

I kicked off this Halloween season, as I almost always do, with a trip to Walt Disney World Resort. While I decided to skip Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this year, I still enjoyed the Mickey-themed Halloween decorations. 

 

Glowing Mickey in Magic Kingdom

 
I also enjoyed a fondant workshop led by celebrity cake artist Bronwen Weber, which you can read about here. I made sweet Halloween fondant figures while sipping Prosecco and eating cake.  There’s nothing scary about that, except maybe the quality of my fondant work! That tongue!

My Fondant Ghost

Cute Halloween leggings from LuLaRoe are also a favorite of mine this year. How fun are these?

 

LuLaRoe Halloween Leggings

 
I made a yummy Halloween dessert for a work party, Dirt and Worms. It’s a confection basically made of pudding, cream cheese and Cool Whip with crushed Oreo cookies and gummy worms. 

 

Dirt and Worms Dessert

 
Finally, today I’ll be celebrating with one of my favorite events of the entire year, Halloween in the Hospital. Each department at work has a booth, themed as we choose, and the patients and their siblings get to trick or treat. Can you guess our theme? Here’s a hint. I’m going to be a star fish. Look for photos on Instagram later today. I’m squareliferoundworld

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!

How are you celebrating? Tell me in the comments. 

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Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! Starring Bronwen Weber

Most people who are interested in attending the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival know about the kiosks located all around the World Showcase. For a few bucks per bite and sip, foodies can nosh their way around the World to their hearts’ content.  

Welcome to the Festival from the International Gateway

 

However, special events are also a huge part of the Festival. When I visited a few weeks ago, I attended one of the Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! workshops. 

Admittedly, I didn’t do a ton of planning for this trip like I usually do. A few dining reservations and FastPass+ selections pretty much summed up all I put into it. About 2 weeks before the trip (last minute, much?), I began to peruse the list of special events taking place during my trip and found this new workshop. Even better, there was one with Bronwen Weber, celebrity cake artist from Dallas who frequents the Food Network. I was sure it was sold out, as all celebrity special events do, but thought I’d call just to be sure. Imagine my surprise when the Cast Member I spoke with told me spaces were still available. Sweet (pun intended)! 

Spaces were still available two weeks before the event.

Since this was a brand new event and I was visiting toward the beginning of the Festival, I couldn’t find out very much in advance about what I could expect for my $49. All the website said was we would leave with our very own edible masterpiece. What does that meeeeeeeeaaaaaannnn??? Still, I was optimistic that the Disney folks would do it up right, and I was not disappointed!

I arrived about 45 minutes in advance, and people were already beginning to line up. They started letting us take our seats 15 minutes prior to the event. I was lucky enough to score a seat at the front and center table, and I was thrilled. At each place setting was some colored fondant, a small pastry brush, child’s safety scissors, a skewer, a tiny bit of water, cornstarch and a cup for water.  

Place setting for the Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! workshop.


There were also a few pages of instructions, which hinted at what we would be doing. They were hand illustrated by Bronwen herself, no less!  

Bronwen Weber hand illustrated our instructions.

Yet, I was beginning to wonder if I would find the value to be worth the cost. 

Soon after Bronwen took the stage, glasses of Prosecco were passed out.  

A bit of bubbly to set the mood

Ahhhh…much better! Then, we began to work on our masterpieces. Bronwen was an absolute doll, walking us step-by-step through each creation. We made a pumpkin, ghost and bat, all out of fondant.  

Fondant pumpkin made by yours truly

 

My ghost-my fondant skills are a bit scary!

 

My bat–clearly I don’t need to quit my day job.


I’ve never worked with fondant before because I don’t like the taste, and the workshop didn’t inspire me to change that. However, Bronwen was very entertaining and personable.  

Bronwen Weber and Pam Smith, Festival hostess


About halfway through the workshop, huge pieces of neopolitan cake were passed out.  

So delicious!

The cake was made by Bronwen and her bakers in her Dallas bakery, Frosted Art Bakery. I have to admit it was the very best cake I’ve ever had!

As the workshop concluded, bakery boxes were passed out to transport our fondant figures home. We also each received a packet of recipes from Bronwen and a bamboo cutting board featuring the Festival logo as a very nice take-away gift.  

Each attendee received this bamboo cutting board as a take-away gift.

My conclusion? I found the workshop to be, not only an excellent value, but a fun way to spend the afternoon. I can’t say that I will use any of the skills I learned (I use that term loosely), but I was thoroughly entertained. With so many of the Festival special events rising significantly in cost year-over-year, I say bravo to Disney for offering a new, high-quality, mid-level priced event. 

What’s your favorite Festival special event?

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Freebies at Disney

The words “free” and “Disney” are not exactly synonymous with each other. Quite the opposite, in fact. Using them together in a sentence will often incite laughter among Disney veterans. However, I received several freebies last week when visiting Walt Disney World Resort, and I thought I’d let you know about them.

First off, when we entered our room at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, these little beauties were waiting for us.

These little beauties were waiting for us in our room when we arrived.

They are a set of pins as a gift for tolerating all the construction happening at the Lodge as they build new Disney Vacation Club cabins on the property. Mickey in a hard hat is just too cute! Wouldn’t you agree?

The next day, this was placed in our room along with an offer to receive a $100 Disney gift card for attending a Disney Vacation Club open house and tour.

This in-room gift was accompanied by another offer.

So, naturally I had to take them up on that offer. $100 Disney gift card for an hour of my time (which ended up only being 38 minutes)? Yes, please!

Thank you, Disney Vacation Club!

And at the open house, they gave me this.

I received this Disney Vacation Club tote bag at the open house.

I also attended a Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! This is a new offering as part of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Attendees received this bamboo cutting board as a parting gift.

This parting gift was given to attendees of the Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It!

Technically, I did pay for this hands-on workshop, but I did not expect to receive a gift for attending and truly feel the cost of the workshop was worth it even without the gift.

Speaking of the Festival, as an Annual Passholder, I received this very nice glass tumbler for attending the Festival on three separate days.

Passholders can pick up this free glass tumbler for attending the Festival on three separate days.

In even more Festival news, all attendees can pick up a free Festival passport with stickers you can place on pages as you visit each location. In previous years, you had to wait in line to get a stamp, so I think this new method is much-improved.

All Festival attendees can receive a free passport.

Here are all of my freebies together as one big, happy family.

All the freebies I received last week.

Not pictured are the 3 extra fast passes I also received for each member of our party for attending the DVC open house.

And it didn’t end there! When I returned home, this gem was sitting in my mailbox.

I won this The Jungle Book combo pack from the Disney Parks Blog.

This was a Disney Parks Blog sweepstakes prize I won. They conduct a few fun sweepstakes throughout the year, and in the past, I’ve won several posters, a tote bag and now this!

What freebies have you received while visiting a Disney park?

Disclosure: This post does not contain affiliate links.

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2016 Disney Parks Moms Panel Search Happy News

  Hey, guys and gals! I told y’all I’d keep you informed of any news. Monday night just before the clock struck midnight EDT, many of the 2016 Disney Parks Moms Panel hopefuls (myself included) found their inboxes filled with Bibbidi Bobbidi magical news that they had advanced to Round 2 of the search. I knew my Round 2 notification was coming, but it was enchanted, nonetheless. 

  

So, what’s next? This Thursday morning, Round 2 begins with a short video submission and more essay questions, due by the following Thursday. My heart is a flutter with anticipation of what the video topic and essay questions will be. I only hope that I am inspired and can let my best shine through. 

Do you have news to share, too? Are you advancing? 

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Hello October

It’s October! This is one of my favorite months of the year! So many fantastic things happen in October. 

First off, it’s my Birthday month! It’s the one day out of the year I expect the world to revolve around me. Ok, not really, but it’s a nice thought. Still, it’s a day when I do get to feel more special than normal. I’ll take it. I tried to find a photo of a birthday cake from years past, and do you know that I could not find a single one? This needs to be rectified! Who’s sending me cake?

It’s also the start of boots season.  

Boots

Yes, I’m totally wearing my boots today. I realize there’s no real fashion rule around when to begin wearing boots. I mean, I see them all summer long, even. However, I have a self-imposed rule about when to wear boots, and October 1 is when it starts. 

Halloween! Aside from the biggies of Thanksgiving and Christmas, Halloween has to be my favorite holiday. I love to dress up! I love candy! Plus, what’s not to love about glowing carved pumpkins and the colors of black, orange, green and purple? This year, I have several fun things planned for Halloween, so it’s sure to be a fun month!  

I’ll think about what I’m going to wear this year another day!

 

Did someone say sushi?

 It’s also Disney month! Yes, AGAIN!  

I’m coming for you!

This time I’m going primarily to visit a friend, who lives in central Florida. I can’t be that close to Mickey and not pay him a visit, right? 

Yes to Disney Halloween decorations

 One thing I don’t get into very much is pumpkin spice everything. As a food, I can take pumpkin or leave it. Most of the time I leave it.  

I may not care much for pumpkin spice, but I’m always up for pumpkin shaped sugar cookies. Yes, I made these.

 I am looking forward to so much this month! What are you looking forward to?

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Disney Parks Moms Panel 2015–When Failing Isn’t Failing

If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you may know that for the past couple of months I have been a candidate to become a member of the 2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel.

Disney Parks Moms Panel

Disney Parks Moms Panel

Why have I not been more vocal about this here?  It’s simple.  I’m not a mom.  Some might think it’s quite silly for a childless person to want to be a part of something called a Moms Panel.  However, the Disney Parks Moms Panel really has very little to do with being a mom.  More than anything, it’s about helping Disney Parks Guests plan their vacations.  Anyone who knows me well knows that something like this is right up my alley.  Still, for years I have applied and the selection committee has never even blinked at me twice.  I always assumed it was because I lacked the whole kids thing, but this time was different!

See, looking back, I really think the reason I never advanced past the first round of applications had less to do with my lack of children and more to do with my lack of effort.  As much as I wanted to be a part of the panel, deep down inside I never really tried.  I think somewhere in the dark recesses of my psyche, I thought if I didn’t really take it seriously, it would be easy to assume my failure was due to my childless state and not because of me.  It would also be really easy to get that rejection, and it was.

This time I did something else.  I tried.  I tried really hard!  I put everything I had into the process.  Not only that, but I liked the work I submitted.  I still assumed that as soon as the selection committee found out I didn’t have kids, I would be done, but I was going to ride that wave for as long as they would let me.

The first round did not contain any questions that would give it away that I wasn’t a mom.  We did have to submit a Disney family photo, but my favorite family photo is of our whole clan, my parents, my sister, her husband, and their 4 kids.  It wasn’t obvious in the photo that none of the kids were mine so even my Disney Side photo didn’t give it away.

Disney Side Family Photo

Disney Side Family Photo

We often travel to Disney the same week each year, and we’ve been on a Disney Cruise Line cruise together.  So, it’s not like I don’t know what it’s like to travel with kids or even plan a trip with their needs in mind.  About 5 weeks later, I got a magical email!  For the first time in forever, I had advanced to Round 2!

Round 2 Email

Round 2 Email

My elation quickly turned to panic when I saw what Round 2 entailed.  There were 8 essay questions and a 71 second video that had to be submitted.  Two of the questions were the source of my panic.  I had to tell the committee about myself in 100 words or less and I had to tell about my family in 200 words or less.  There was no way around it.  They would know my secret and surely toss me to the curb.  I agonized for days about this.  Do I talk about my nieces and nephew without referring to them as such and let them draw their own conclusions?  Do I skip over the fact that I have no kids and pretend it’s not there?  What I finally decided to do is wear it like a badge.  I dealt with it head-on.  I wanted them to know I am childless and I wanted them to want me anyway.  Guess what!?  They did!  About 3 weeks later another magical email arrived inviting me to Round 3!

Round 3 email

Round 3 Email

I really started believing this could be possible.  I began to want it more than I think I’ve ever wanted anything.  I knew I was still a long shot, but the thing about being a long shot is you still get a shot.

Round 3 consisted of a 15 minute phone interview with Gary Buchanan, a man I admire and respect a great deal.  For me, he embodies the spirit of Walt Disney himself.  When I found out I was actually going to get to talk to him, I felt like I had already won.  Following the interview was a Round 4 Moms Panel question that had to be answered in 45 minutes or less.  Then came the longest week of my life.

Yesterday was announcement day, and was filled with enormous anticipation!  Finally, my email came, and for the first time in this year’s process, it was not what I had hoped it would be.

The nicest rejection letter I have ever gotten

The nicest rejection letter I have ever gotten

I cannot even begin to explain the emotions I felt.  Sadness for not making it, pride for being a finalist, pain for others who didn’t make it, pain for Gary because it wasn’t easy for him either, excitement for those who did make it, confusion over what I could have done differently, emptiness for something I tried so hard to get but didn’t, love from friends and family who supported me are just a few of the emotions I went through.

So, why is failing not failing?  What I got out of this may be worth more than a spot on the panel.  I got validation.  I’m an easy one to say no to.  I don’t even fit the profile of what they are looking for.  Yet, members of the Disney marketing and PR team noticed me.  Me!  They noticed my writing ability.  They noticed my passion.  They may not have ultimately picked me, but I know I made them pause and think about it.

Would I still like a spot on the panel?  Absolutely!  At the same time, I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned about myself through all of this for one.  Don’t think for a second I won’t be trying again next year, though.

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runDisney Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler Race Recap Part 1

It’s hard to believe that the runDisney Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler (#Tower10Miler) was over a month ago!  This was the second time I’ve been lucky enough to run this one, and it stands as the only runDisney event I’ve ever repeated.  In fact, other than this, there are only 2 local 5ks I’ve repeated.  I guess I’m not really one to repeat races, but my experience in 2012 with the #Tower10Miler was so bad it almost made me stop running.  I needed redemption.  Did I find it?  Hmmmmm, I’m not too sure, but I did have a much better experience so there’s that.

My issues with this race in 2012 were partly runDisney’s fault and partly not.  The expo was awesome and more than exceeded my expectations!  It was a great first impression as this was my first runDisney event.  The event staging area and event transportation were also huge hits!  The corrals were much more organized and closer to the drop-off than I thought they would be.  There were even port-a-potties in each corral, which was awesome.  However, it was all downhill from there.  The heat and humidity really got to me and made for a miserable night.  Also, I felt the entertainment and course theming were lacking, even for a newbie like me.  Fast forward to 2013, and from reports I read and heard, course theming and entertainment had really been stepped up.  When registration opened for 2014, the event date coincided with an already-planned family vacation so adding this on to the beginning seemed like a good idea.

I went into this event ridiculously under trained.  I considered bailing at least a hundred times.  I just couldn’t let it go, though, and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I didn’t arrive until Saturday morning, so the expo had already been open for a day when I got there. 

The expo was practically empty when I got there Saturday morning.

The expo was practically empty when I got there Saturday morning.

I did arrive shortly after it opened on Saturday, which was right after the Happy Haunted 5k.  I enjoyed seeing all those runners with their cute Hitchhiking Ghosts medallions and all the cute costumes.  The kids races were about to get underway, too, so there was a lot of hustle, bustle, and excitement in the air, perfect for setting the stage.  The expo, on the other hand, was completely empty.  This worked to my benefit because my first order of business was getting the special runDisney New Balance shoes.  I wanted both the Minnie and the Cinderella ones and anticipated long lines.  However, I walked right up and 5 minutes later had my shoes in hand!  Next up was merchandise.  My only complaint about the event is that they were out of almost all merchandise.  I only got an “I Did It!” t-shirt, and had to settle for men’s at that.  I don’t understand why they can’t get the merchandise right.  They either have way too much and lots ends up in the outlets weeks later or they run out very early, and late-comers don’t get anything.  I’ve even heard reports of things being sold out at the expo, only to show up in the outlets weeks later.  What’s up with that?  I digress.  My next stop was the KT booth for the special Minnie KT tape.  I’m a sucker for all the things I can only get at a runDisney expo.  I needed tape anyway, so what of it?  Next I stopped at the Florida Hospital booth to pick up my free draw string bag.  Have I mentioned I love bags?  I do.  All types of drink ware and bags are totally my thing!  My dad came to the expo on a later bus than I did, so next I met up with him, picked up my bib, had a cute runDisney Instagram photo taken, picked up my shirt, and started to make our way back to the buses. 

I love that runDisney offers these special photo ops for free.  You just have to show them you follow runDisney on Instagram.

I love that runDisney offers these special photo ops for free. You just have to show them you follow runDisney on Instagram.

On the way back, I noticed the beer carts were selling beer in cute runDisney cups.  I didn’t want beer at 9 am on the morning of a long race so I stopped to see if they would sell me just the cup (hello, drink ware!).  They did, and $4 later we were on our way back to the buses for real this time.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll share my experience with the race itself.

Have you ever seen an almost-empty runDisney expo?

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