Square Life Round World

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

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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runDisney #Tower10Miler Costume Reveal

It’s here, y’all!  The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler is this Saturday!  Squeeeee!!!!  Costumes are a HUGE part of any runDisney race, and this one is unique because of the villains theme.

I tossed around several costume options before landing on my final one.  I really wanted to do a group theme with my Princess Posse girls but our initial idea wasn’t coming together.  So, I decided to go out on my own and go as one of the villains.  I had already purchased most of the elements for my costume when my group came up with a really cute matching outfit idea.  We had skirts custom-made by our friend Vicky with RUNWay Gear and we ordered super cute matching shirts.  So, I ended up with TWO costumes and ONE race!  It was such a hard decision to make but I ultimately could not let go of my villain.  I really have no plans to ever run this race again (yes, I’ve said that before but I mean it this time, I think) and since this is the only villains themed race at present, it’s either now or never.  I will have the opportunity to wear the other outfit in the future, even if I won’t be with my girls then.

So without further ado, I give you…………………………………………………………………………….

I'll be Hades at the runDisney #Tower10Miler.

I’ll be Hades at the runDisney #Tower10Miler.

Hades!

I purchased the running skirt online and got the gray tech top from a mall department store.  I bought the blue wig online and made all of the embellishments out of different colors of felt.  Yes, I sewed them on myself.  I’m no seamstress but I have a sewing machine and I’m not afraid to use it.

Since we are on the subject of costumes, I have a bonus one for you.  I also plan to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which is one of the few times adults are allowed in the parks dressed in costume.  Because I had already purchased TWO running outfits for ONE race, I didn’t want to buy yet ANOTHER costume.  So, that could only mean one thing, that it was time to dig in the closet and see what I could make with what I already owned.

I give you……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I'll be Sulley at the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

I’ll be Sulley at the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Sulley!

You may recognize the base of this as my Jasmine costume for Princess Half Marathon 2013.  I spent a total of $2 on more felt with which to make purple polka dots to sew onto the skirt and top.  My friend Bettina had this Sulley hat she no longer needed and gave it to me for the cost of shipping, $6.  Mission: accomplished!

What are your costume plans?

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Packing For runDisney: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler

Welcome, y’all, to my stop on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler Virtual Blog Hop!

It’s getting closer!!!  I’m talking about the runDisney Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler!

Tower of Terror 10 Miler

Tower of Terror 10 Miler

It’s only 2 and a half weeks away.  How did that happen?  That means it’s time to start packing, which is the inspiration for my part of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler Virtual Blog Hop.

American Tourister

American Tourister

The thing about a racecation is there are so many different elements to packing.  First, you are packing for a vacation.  Next, you are packing for a race.  Third, if it’s a runDisney race, you also might want to give some thought about the gEAR bag (see what they did there?).

I’m sure you’ve taken many, many vacations and don’t really need any help with regular vacation packing.  So, I’ll skip right to race packing.  I have some rules about this.

  • Make lists!  Sure, when you are running at home you probably have it down to an art.  You have your stash of gels, you know exactly where your favorite socks are, you have your headphones and GPS watch right by your keys, and you grab water from the fridge on your way out.  However, when you are hundreds or thousands of miles from home, it won’t be that easy.  Make lists of what running gear you need to pack and also what you need to carry with you to the race itself.  Trust me, if you don’t have the exact gel you’ve trained with, it will wreak havoc on your mental state.

    Make sure you have everything you need for your runcation.

    Make sure you have everything you need for your runcation.

  • Bring more than you think you will need.  This applies to socks, undies, gels, tape, even shoes if you have multiple pair you rotate through.  Why?  It’s happened to all of us!  You put those tried and true socks on and something just doesn’t feel right.  When you are at home, you can simply grab another pair.  You pull out your favorite gel and, for some reason, you just aren’t feeling that flavor.  At home, you grab another.  Away from home that’s only possible if you brought extra.
  • Pack all your running gear in your carry on. This is very important!  Do not tempt fate by putting your trusted running gear in your checked luggage.  Yes, you can even pack your gels in your carry on.  Call me crazy but I also don’t trust the resort baggage handlers with my running gear.  It stays with me at all times until I get to my room.

Once you get settled into your accommodations, there is one more bag you might want to think about packing:  your gEAR bag.  At the expo, a runDisney gEAR bag will be part of your packet.  How big is the bag?  I get asked that a lot.  I measured it just for you!  It’s 17.5 inches by 24 inches.

runDisney gEAR bag

runDisney gEAR bag

You will also get a sticker with a number on it to stick on the bag.  Pro tip: the number on your sticker should match that of your bib.  Check it closely before leaving the expo.  If it does not match, head straight to runner relations.

This is where you'll stick your sticker that should match your bib number.

This is where you’ll stick your sticker that should match your bib number.

Why do you want to pack a gEAR bag? If you are like me, there may be things you will want as soon as you finish.  For me, it’s wipes, a Luna bar, and flip-flops.  Bandages and deodorant are also smart additions.  I usually pack a change of clothes, too.  This is especially true of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler because runners get access to the Villains Bash after party at Hollywood Studios.

There are a few things to know about gEAR check for this particular race.  First of all, where you check your bag will not be where you pick it up.  You will check your bag in the parking lot of Hollywood Studios when you arrive for the start of the race.  Just follow the signs.  It will be well-marked.  While you are making your way through the 10 mile course, your bag will magically be transported to the theater where the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is held.  Bag pick up will be on the stage.  Here’s where it gets, um, interesting for this race.  You will finish the race in the backstage area behind the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  From there, you will be ushered back into the park by way of the walkways around the theater where Beauty and the Beast is performed.  If you know anything at all about this park, you know these two areas are nowhere near each other. This means you will have to walk a ways across the park to get your bag.  You will also have to tackle a few stairs in the theater when you pick up your bag.  It’s really not that horrible.  I mean, you just ran 10 miles.  Surely you can walk across a theme park and take on a few stairs, right?  It is something to be aware of, though.  If you have family waiting for you at the party, an alternative is to just give your things to a family member and bypass gEAR check altogether.  I’ve done this in the past for this race, and I plan to do it again this year, too.

If you do check a bag, here is where double checking your sticker comes into play.  The volunteers working bag pick up will match your bag to your bib number.  Make sure you are still wearing your bib when you go to get your bag.  If the numbers don’t match, the volunteers will not be able to give your bag to you.

What if you lose your sticker before checking your bag?  Or what if you forget your bag altogether?  Not to worry!  Volunteers working gEAR check will have extra bags and blank tags if the Villains decide to show up early to the party and throw a wrench in your plans.

You know the drill.  An ounce of prevention yields a pound of care, and it’s really true when packing for runDisney.  Have a great race!  Say “hi” if you see me on the course!

The start of something EPIC!  Any guesses?

The start of something EPIC! Any guesses?

Thanks for hopping on over to my blog.  For the other posts in this virtual blog hop, click the Mickey runner below.

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

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Getting Ready to runDisney

My next runDisney race, Tower of Terror 10 Miler, is coming up in, oh, about 2 months.  Yikes!  There is so, so, so, so much left to do!  It can be overwhelming without a plan. 

The thing is, runDisney races aren’t like your normal race in your home town where all you really have to do to prepare is train.  No, runDisney races involve so much more!

  • Training, of course!  I do not want the other details to overshadow what still is the most important part of getting ready for any race, training!  You must have a plan.  You must follow the plan.  It just has to be done.  But what if you find yourself, say, 2 months from the start line, way behind in training?  I’m not talking about myself.  Noooooooo!  Well, maybe I’m talking about myself.  Whatever you do, DON’T start where the training plan says you should be by now.  For example, this past weekend’s long run was supposed to be 6 miles.  If you are like me and are way behind, don’t do the 6 miles.  It’s better to get to the start line healthy than not get to the start line at all or get to the start line injured.  So, I’m adjusting the plan, and instead of getting up to a long run of 11 miles, like my original plan called for, I’ll back my longest run down to 8.  What does this mean?  It means the race won’t be quite as easy for me as it would have been if I were completely trained, and recovery may be a bit more uncomfortable, but it does not mean I should just throw in the towel and quit.

    Training is important! More importantly, #LetMeTakeASelfie

    Training is important! More importantly, #LetMeTakeASelfie

  • Costumes!  One of the things that makes runDisney events unique is that so many people have fun with dressing up in costume.  It’s not as easy as heading to your local party store and picking out something like you would for a costume party.  It still needs to be running-friendly, meaning made of breathable tech fabrics.  Lots of people like to wear normal running clothes and throw a tutu on over it and call it a day.  I say people because, yes, men do it, too.  Don’t judge!  Some people who are super-crafty go all-out and either have their costumes made or make it themselves.  You’ll see a lot of group costumes, too.  These can be anything from a group that has each person depict a character from a certain movie or even a group that all dresses alike.  To be honest, I’ve never loved a costume I’ve done yet. 
    Does this even count as a costume?

    Does this even count as a costume?

    This time is going to be different!  To start with, I have an EPIC Disney Villain idea. 

    The start of something EPIC!  Any guesses?

    The start of something EPIC! Any guesses?

    I already had all the elements purchased for it when some of my BRFs (best running friends) decided we should do a group thing.  So, now I have 2 costumes and 1 race.  What to do?  Well, at least I have options.  Time will tell which one I’ll be wearing.

  • Reservations!  For most, runDisney races are more than races.  They are racecations.  That means making hotel reservations and sometimes even booking flights.  If you stay at a host resort, runDisney makes transportation to all race events really easy.  Plus, to me you just can’t beat staying on property. 
    Wilderness Lodge: my favorite!

    Wilderness Lodge: my favorite!

    Even if you are on a budget, you can find a competitively priced resort.  The key, though, is to book early for the best selection!  I cannot stress this enough.  Race weekends bring in lots of people, and hotels book very quickly.  The good news, though, is even if you didn’t plan ahead, there are a number of travel agents who have room blocks to sell.  The downside to this is you may not get your first choice and you may not have a ton of flexibility when it comes to arrival or departure dates.  The room blocks are often for the weekend only so if you are planning a long family trip before or after the race, this may not be an option.  I go back to this:  book early!

  • Dining!   For Walt Disney World, dining reservations are accepted 6 months in advance (up to 180 days +10, to be exact, but I’ll have to save that explanation for another day).  Believe it or not, for the most popular restaurants, you really do have to be on the phone or on a computer the second reservations open to even stand a chance of getting in.  Of course, you might get lucky later on if there’s a cancellation but if there’s a place you really want to visit, you better be sitting on ready when the time comes.  Since runners are often concerned with digestive issues leading up to a race, this will be something else to think about 6 months in advance. 
    You probably don't want to eat this Mom's Meatloaf Dinner from Prime Time Cafe the day of or the night before a race.

    You probably don’t want to eat this Mom’s Meatloaf Dinner from Prime Time Cafe the day of or the night before a race.  Just Sayin’.

    I hear you, though.  Many of you have no idea where or what you’ll want to eat in 2 days, much less 6 months.  If this degree of pre-planning isn’t for you, fine!  There are a number of counter service places available, many of which rival some of the sit down restaurants.  There will also be tables available somewhere.  It might not be what you want or convenient to where you are at any given time, but you’ll have options.  

  • Park Planning!  This one kind of gives me a headache as of late.  It used to be so easy.  Back in the good ol’ days (up to about a year ago) your hardest decision was how many days your park hopper needed to be.  Unless you had a dining reservation, you didn’t even have to decide what park you were going to until the day of.  Those days are gone, unless you really don’t care what you see or do once you get to the park.  Now they have these things called Magic Bands and Fast Pass+. 
    Magic Bands CAN be pretty magical, but the planning is anything but.

    Magic Bands CAN be pretty magical, but the planning is anything but.

    Your Magic Band contains your room key, tickets, charging ability, and your attraction fast passes.  So 60 days before the first day of your trip, you’ll log on to My Disney Experience (explanation for another day), and schedule 3 fast passes per day of your trip.  This means, if you don’t have a package, you will already need to have purchased your tickets and loaded them into your My Disney Experience.  The kicker is that you can only schedule them in one park per day. 

    Fast Pass+ in My Disney Experience

    Fast Pass+ in My Disney Experience

    Gasp!  Hold on!  They do allow additional passes to be scheduled in another park but you have to wait until your last pre-scheduled pass expires and you have to use a kiosk in the park where your additional one will be.  Want the Cliff Notes version?  Sorry, there really isn’t one.  It kind of is as complicated as it sounds.  I’ve had 3 trips since this new-fangled way of park planning was launched, and the rules weren’t exactly the same for any of them.  My best tip for this is read, do your research, stay on top of it, and try not to lose your mind.

  • Packing!  This is important. 
    American Tourister

    American Tourister

    First and foremost, it’s a race so do not forget your race essentials!  Shoes, clothes, socks, underthings, and gadgets are all things you don’t want to have to figure out how to replace once you get there so double, triple, quadruple check that they are packed.  Also, pack them in your carryon if you are flying.  Unfortunately, lost baggage happens so don’t tempt fate by leaving these things in the care of the airline.  It’s a vacation, too, so pack all the things you would normally pack for a regular Disney trip, also.

    #PackMoreFun

    #PackMoreFun

Whew!  See what I mean?  Lots to get done and not really a lot of time to do it in.  Training is my top priority at the moment, and then the park planning will begin next week.  I’ve already told my family to expect a lot of crankiness once that process begins.  Once it’s done, though, I’ll be ready to relax and have a great race and a great vacation.

What’s your next runDisney event?

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Throwback Thursday: Walking Down Disney Memory Lane

I don’t always participate in Throwback Thursday but this week I thought it was appropriate.  I’ve been looking at a lot of old photos lately triggering multiple walks down memory lane. 

Currently, there are several fun Disney contests going on with trips up for grabs.  One is Relive the Magic.  Disney is looking for pics from trips to Walt Disney World taken in the 70s and 80s.  From this little exercise, I’ve learned that my parents didn’t take a lot of vacation pictures when we were growing up.  However, I did find a couple of pics that put me right back in the year of our first trip, 1987.

My sister and I at Epcot Center in 1987

My sister and I at Epcot Center in 1987

My sister and I at the France pavilion at Epcot Center (it was still called that then) in 1987

My sister and I at the France pavilion at Epcot Center (it was still called that then) in 1987

Another contest is Disneyland Through the Decades, in preparation for Disneyland’s 60th Birthday celebration next year.  They are looking for Disneyland photos from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.  Sadly, I’ve never been to Disneyland.  My dad, however, went in 1966 after completing his service in the Air Force. 

My dad in front of Pirates of the Caribbean in 1966

My dad in front of Pirates of the Caribbean in 1966

He had been stationed at Nellis Air Base in Las Vegas, and once he was discharged, before heading home to start the rest of his life, he and one of his Air Force buddies headed to Disneyland.  I can almost hear the conversation now.  “Guys, now that you’ve finished your duty in the Air Force what are you going to do next?”  “I’m going to Disneyland!”  Ok, it probably didn’t go exactly like that.  Still, I’ve loved looking at the photos from that trip.

Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle, 1966

Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, 1966

 

One thing that has made me really happy is the memorabilia my dad kept from his trip, like this stir stick from the Tiki Gardens and his guide book from the park. 

Disneyland memorabilia from 1966

Disneyland memorabilia from 1966

Walt was alive and well at that time and knowing he had more of a hand in these items than anything I’ve ever experienced at Walt Disney World makes them even more special.  So I think this photo is fitting for the 3rd contest they have going on right now, the Disneyland Get Happier contest.  They are looking for Disneyland photos that make you happy. 

I can’t think of anything that makes me happier than walking down memory lane with the people I love starring in those memories.

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Disney’s Hoop Dee Doo Revue Review

Back in January when I was at Walt Disney World for Marathon Weekend, some of my friends and I shared an evening of fun, food, and laughter at Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue. 

Program

Program

Hoop Dee Doo is the nation’s longest running dinner show and is held up to 3 times nightly at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  

This was the second time I’ve gotten to experience this show.  The first time was when I was somewhere around the age of 16 so I was so excited to see it again. 

Getting there takes a little bit of planning.  We spent the day in the Magic Kingdom so when it was time for dinner, we took the boat from the Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness. 

Fort Wilderness

Fort Wilderness

Once we arrived at Fort Wilderness, the show, held in Pioneer Hall, was a short walk from the boat dock.  If we had not been at the Magic Kingdom already, we likely still would have taken transportation to the Magic Kingdom first anyway.  The other alternative is to take transportation from any other park to Fort Wilderness then take an internal bus to Pioneer Hall. 

Once we arrived, we checked in with the hostess, and pretty soon they called our party to be seated.  One tip about seating, you are assigned your table according to when you make your reservation, not when you check in with the hostess.  There are 3 seating categories, and the earlier you book, the better your table will be within the category you booked.  We booked Category 1, and I highly recommend it, if you can swing the few extra bucks for it.  There’s only about a $5 per person difference between the categories, so, really, it doesn’t add much to the cost.

The menu

The menu

A big silver bucket of salad was already waiting for us at our table once we sat down.  Pretty soon a warm loaf of sweet cornbread with butter made its way to us.  Our server took our drink orders (soda, coffee, tea, wine, beer, and sangria are included in the price of the event) and explained that the meal would be served family style, meaning platters and buckets of food would be brought out for our table to share.  In addition to the salad and cornbread, dinner was barbecue ribs, fried chicken, baked beans, corn, and mashed potatoes. 

Plate of food minus the fried chicken

Plate of food minus the fried chicken

We saw some tables being served mac and cheese so we asked our server about it.  He said that was for the tables with kids but he happily brought us some.  Everything was all-you-care-to-eat so if we wanted more of something, even adult beverages, our server would have brought it.

Beverages were served in mason jars.  How cute!

Beverages were served in mason jars. How cute!

 

By the time we had all our food and began chowing down, it was time for the show to start. 

Hoop Dee Doo

Hoop Dee Doo

The show was seriously hilarious!  They started by picking a few people out of the audience and singing a cute little song about where they were from. 

Great audience interaction!

Great audience interaction!

They also did a little diddy for people celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.  Since earlier that day we ran the 10k and still had our medals on, they acknowledged us, too. 

They performed right at our table!

They performed right at our table!

Fun, fun!  I won’t give away any more of the show but we could.  Not.  Stop.  Laughing.  The unlimited sangria had nothing to do with this, either.  I promise.  Towards the end of the show, it was dessert time.  Each table was presented with its own whole strawberry shortcake.  Yum!  I was so full by then that I could barely hold any of it but I did manage a few bites.  I would have been thrilled to take the rest back to our room for breakfast the next day.  Sadly, as with any all-you-care-to-eat meal, that was not an option.

After the show, they directed us to a row of buses waiting to take us back to our resorts, which was so nice since getting there is not super easy.

I highly recommend this experience and would love to do it every trip if it weren’t for the pricy tag.  Tax and all came to just under $75 each, making this a special splurge.

Have you been?  What were your thoughts?  Tell me in the comments.

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Feel the Force Premium Package

You all know that Walt Disney World is one of my favorite places on the planet.  One of the things they are famous for is coming up with a really unique thing (or TEN) that is season-specific, making me want to come back almost on a monthly basis.  Where’s my money tree?  I did go to the Rock Your Disney Side 24 Hour event in May as well as Star Wars Weekends.  

Star Wars Weekends

Star Wars Weekends

Yet there are also several other things they’ve come up with since then for the summer that I’d really love to go see including Harambe Nights held on Saturday nights in Animal Kingdom, the Hollywood Studios villains party coming up on August 23, and now Frozen summer fun also at Hollywood Studios, just to name a few.

The Frozen summer events particularly caught my attention because it seems as though they’ve created these using the same model they used for Star Wars Weekends.  They have a Frozen opening show, a Frozen parade followed by a show on the stage in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat, Frozen sing-along shows throughout the day, a Frozen ending show at night capped off with Frozen fireworks, and there’s even a merchandise area in the same soundstage as the Star Wars merchandise for Star Wars Weekends.  Not only that, but there’s ICE SKATING in there, too!  For $10, you can ice skate for 30 minutes.  That is, if you can get in!  Really, the set up of all of these events is identical to Star Wars Weekends.  They have even brought back the Premium Package, which includes reserved viewing for the parade, guaranteed seating for one of the sing-alongs, and reserved viewing and dessert party for the fireworks.

Since I took advantage of the Feel the Force Premium Package during Star Wars Weekends, I thought now would be a good time to tell you about it since they are doing something similar right now.  Advance reservations were required, and I booked it the day it was announced.  It sold out very quickly.  Instructions told us to check in near Bill and Min’s Dockside Diner at 10:30 for the first part of the package, which was reserved parade viewing. 

Feel the Force check in

Feel the Force check in

I had read the previous weekend’s reviews and knew to arrive much earlier.  As I was walking towards the check in around 10 am I saw, just as I knew I would, people already camped out waiting for the parade but there were still several decent spots left.  The reason I knew to get there so early is because, even though there was plenty of reserved viewing, the area was very deep, meaning there was plenty of room to stack people but not very much room right at the ropes.  They also had a reserved area just for kids.  They let the people who had an even more inclusive VIP package in first, so by the time the rest of us were let in, there was no front row space left. 

Feel the Force Wristband

Feel the Force Wristband

Being short, I took up residence behind the kids.  I figured I had a better chance of seeing over the littles than I did the bigs. 

Highlights from the parade

Highlights from the parade

It was ok.  Mickey ice cream bars and strawberry bars were available as part of the package as were bottles of soda and water. 

Snacks for the parade viewing were included with the package.

Snacks for the parade viewing were included with the package.

Honestly, I would have had a much better view of the parade had I staked out my spot on the street at the same time I arrived at the package check in. 

The second part of the package was the Symphony in the Sky fireworks and dessert party. 

No seats were available for the dessert party, just tables for standing.

No seats were available for the dessert party, just tables for standing.

I was really excited for this because, hello!  Darth Vader cupcakes!  Seriously, though, the Magic Kingdom has done a Wishes dessert party for years, and I’ve always wanted to go.  Unfortunately my family does not share my enthusiasm for copious amounts of expensive desserts prior to watching fireworks obstructed by the roof of the building in which the party is held.  My family wasn’t with me this time so it was all mine!  I arrived a little after 8 to check in, and we were allowed in right around 8:30.  They had LOTS of desserts!  LOTS!  And plenty of each. 

This is just a sampling of what they had.  I somehow missed getting a pic of the Darth Vader cupcake tray.

This is just a sampling of what they had. I somehow missed getting a pic of the Darth Vader cupcake tray.

It was quite hot and humid so the icing melted off the cupcakes a wee bit, but they were all headed for my belly anyway so I was ok with that. 

The Darth Vader cupcake at the bottom is on its side because the icing fell off.

The Darth Vader cupcake at the bottom is on its side because the icing fell off.

It just meant my pictures weren’t going to be as good.  Also available were 2 different adult beverage options.  Now, one might think you could get your money’s worth on the alcohol alone, and I’m sure some did.  However, I learned really quickly that fruity adult bevs and lots of super sweet desserts don’t really mix very well.  So, I just had a few sips of each one. 

2 different adult beverage options

2 different adult beverage options

Shocker!  I stuck to water and Diet Coke instead.  Not long after I decided I was done with the goodies, it was time for the closing show to start.  The reserved viewing area had great views of the stage and show. 

We had great views of the stage!

We had great views of the stage!

The fireworks set to Star Wars music were what I was there to see and were the real reason I had paid the premium price for the Premium Package.  As soon as the fireworks started, I realized right away that the fireworks view was not good, not good at all!  Remember that stage that we had such a great view of?  Yeah, it pretty much blocked a lot of the fireworks. 

Not so great view of the fireworks

Not so great view of the fireworks

So for me, this killed the Premium Package.

In short, if I had one day for the individual elements, I would go the free (with admission) route and stake out my parade and fireworks viewing spots.  You are likely going to get better viewing with about the same amount of time waiting and standing so why not?  Just buy your ice cream, sodas and cupcakes, and you’ll come out way ahead, even if you throw in an adult beverage (or 3).  If I had multiple days, I might spring for the premium package just for the experience, but not for the views. 

The Frozen version of this has gone up $5 per adult but there’s the added element of the sing-along show.  From what I understand, Frozen Premium Package holders get seating in the first 4 rows, which is a really nice added feature.  Also, since there isn’t the even more inclusive VIP package for this event, it stands to reason that prime viewing along the ropes would be easier to get for package holders than it was for Star Wars Weekends.  The viewing for the Frozen fireworks is still going to stink, though. 

Have you experienced either Premium Package?  What were your thoughts?

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Random Ramblings About Frozen

I’m pretty sure most people would agree that the Walt Disney Company employs some pretty creative geniuses.  If they don’t have all the ones they want, they just buy the company they work for (i.e. Marvel and Lucas Films).  Being a life-long Disney fan, I’m often excited by the new things they come up with, but I’m rarely surprised.  I’ve come to expect cutting edge technology, engaging (even if not always original) storylines, loveable characters, and top-notch marketing to draw me in.  But I have to say that I think Frozen takes it to a whole ‘nother level!

Disney's Frozen

Disney’s Frozen

Of course there’s beauty and artistry above and beyond what we’ve seen before.  The costumes are just gorgeous!  Of course the music is beautiful and catchy so that we’ll sing the songs around our houses and won’t be able to get them out of our heads.  There are so many versions of “Let It Go” out there that I don’t even try to keep up with them.  Of course it’s star-studded.   And with any new Disney film, there comes merchandise.  This time, it is a doozy!  They can’t keep it on the shelves, even now, coming up on 7 months after the release of the film!  Even I spent 2+ hours in the Disney Store one Saturday morning securing the elusive Elsa dress for my niece.

I spent more than 2 hours at the Disney Store to get this dress for my niece.  Aunt of the year, right here!

I spent more than 2 hours at the Disney Store to get this dress for my niece. Aunt of the year, right here!

Then there are the characters.  Wait times to visit with Elsa and Anna have been as high as 3 hours!

Wait times can be as high as 3 hours to see these 2 in the park.

Wait times can be as high as 3 hours to see these 2 in the park.

However, none of this is really all that surprising to me.

So if it’s not all of this, what is it that makes it truly genius, in my opinion?  It’s that little snowman Olaf!

Olaf

Olaf

Here’s the thing.  It’s a movie, released just in time for winter, about a perpetual winter.  So of course it was going to be appropriate for the holiday season.  However, it’s not particularly Christmas or holiday themed, so it had staying power throughout the winter.  Then just as winter was wrapping up, the DVD came out, carrying it through the spring.  Still not too surprising because most blockbusters get that second surge as the movie is released on DVD.  Here’s where Olaf comes in and does what no other movie has done before (that I know of).  Olaf is a snowman who loves summer!

Olaf loves summer!

Olaf loves summer!

He is all about it!  So now Olaf is taking it past the DVD surge, giving the movie yet even more longevity, and taking Frozen into pop culture phenomenon territory.  Also, what the creators did with this character never even occurred to me while I was watching the movie.  Sure, I thought it was cute that a snowman loved summer.  I just didn’t realize that we, the consumers, were being set up for more Frozen saturation 2 seasons into the future.  This just hit me this week, the first week of summer, and now Olaf and Frozen are popping up in full force everywhere again.  Since the hype never really died down, it seems as though it’s actually gaining strength with this 3rd push.  Do I think this is an accident?  Absolutely not!  I think it’s pure genius!

I can just imagine the planning sessions the creative minds of Frozen had in the early stages of development.  One person pops up and says, “I’m not so sure about this guys.  It’s a winter movie and no one’s going to care about it in the summer.”  See, another thing Disney does very well is they create stories that they can use any time, in all of their platforms.  Parks, merchandise, dining, attractions, even Disney Cruise Line and their luxury destination travel arm, Adventures by Disney, get in on the action.  Another guy or gal chimes in with, “What if we take this little snowman here and make him have a love affair with summer?”  The room is silenced as everyone looks around at each other.  Finally, someone says, “How would we do that?”  Yet another person drops in with, “Let’s put this little song and dance number in about summer.”  There ya go!  Problem solved!  I bet they are all on a beach somewhere, smoking cigars, grinning and high-fiving each other, sitting on their Olaf beach towels.  What will they think of next?

I bet this is what the Frozen creative team is doing right about now.

I bet this is what the Frozen creative team is doing right about now.

 

Congratulations to Katie Hughes, for winning my Coppertone Clearlysheer giveaway.  Now, just think of all the fun you’ll have, in summer!

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