Square Life Round World

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

Walt Disney World During a Pandemic? Let’s Boo This! Day 2, Part 2

After leaving Magic Kingdom, the plan was to head to Disney Springs. Because transportation to and from Disney Springs isn’t available from the parks, we knew we had to catch a bus at a resort. To save time, we planned on doing this at one of the Magic Kingdom resorts. It would have been fastest to take the Monorail to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, but since we left Magic Kingdom earlier than planned and we love Disney’s Wilderness Lodge so much, we decided to go there instead. It felt like home, and we moseyed through the Mercantile before heading to catch a bus to Disney Springs.

I just love the Wilderness Lodge lobby!
We had to rub Humphrey’s nose as we entered the Mercantile.

We had a 7:45 dinner reservation at Wine Bar George. I made the reservation through Open Table a few weeks prior to the trip when I found none available in My Disney Experience. Because they aren’t owned or operated by Disney, I knew many of the restaurants at Disney Springs also offer reservations through Open Table. That’s your Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah tip for today!

Because we were early arriving at Disney Springs, we did a little browsing before heading to dinner. This was my first visit since the World of Disney remodel, and I loved what they’ve done with the place! It’s so open and much easier to navigate.

After killing a little time, we decided to see if Wine Bar George would seat us early, and, as luck would have it, they quickly found us a table. I was really looking forward to trying this place out, and it did not disappoint. I found Wine Bar George to be right up my alley! To say the wine list is extensive is a major understatement. They also specialize in the meats and the cheeses, and I do love the meats and the cheeses. Even though I love wine, I also love a good novelty cocktail so I decided to go with one of their frozen concoctions in one of their signature Corkcicle tumblers. I got the Friezling made with Dole Whip lime, Riesling and vodka. It was delicious!

The Friezling–it was tart and refreshing.

We decided to get the Big Board for dinner, which is pretty much all the meats, cheeses and accompaniments. I was in heaven! I also ordered a glass of pinot noir from Macedonia because in my book, meats and cheeses call for wine. I’d also never had a pinot from Macedonia so I was curious. It was a bit spicy but also delicious. We had thought we might get a few warm appetizers, too. The meatballs and mac and cheese bites looked incredible, but the Big Board was more than enough. In fact, we took leftovers with us.

The Big Board had all my favorite things.

Each time I visit Disney Springs, I have to stop by the Ganachery to pick up chocolates to take home, and this trip was no different. As I get older, I find that I want fewer “things” from my vacations, so lately I’ve been gravitating toward what I like to call consumable souvenirs. These are things like snacks or coffee beans, beer and wine, also called liquid souvenirs, to help extend the vacation a bit further after I’m home. I loaded up on consumable souvenirs at the Ganachery with a box of 16 chocolates and some chocolate skulls for Halloween.

These are made fresh daily in the store. Each design is a different flavor of chocolate covered ganache. I will be enjoying these at home for several days.

I also had my sights set on their homemade smores. They make every part of them, even the graham crackers, right there in the store. We were still pretty full from dinner so Dad and I split one. It was definitely enough to share, really gooey and messy, though.

Each component of their smores is made in house and assembled in front of you.
Gotta love anything garnished with a Mickey head!

By then, we were ready to call it a night. We caught the bus back to our resort and turned in so we’d be rested and primed for Epcot the next day.

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Walt Disney World During a Pandemic? Let’s Boo This! Day 1

Here’s a little background about how my pandemic experience has gone so far this year. I’ve been working from home since early March. I order my groceries and either have them delivered or I pick them up curbside. All of my shopping has been either online or curbside. I’ve been inside Costco a handful of times, and I’ve been to restaurants four times, two of those on patios. Up until now, I’ve had makeup on exactly five times, those four restaurant visits and a very socially distant wedding with an outside reception. When it was announced that Walt Disney World Resort would be reopening in July, I was all the nope about that. My stance was that no vacation was worth risking the lives of myself, my family or anyone else. I was prepped to dig my heels in and wait until this thing was all over, whatever that meant.

While I totally get that the luxury of working from home during a pandemic is a privilege, one that I feel so incredibly fortunate to have, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t taking its toll on me. I needed a break. I tried taking a few days off, but that didn’t cut it. I saw friend after friend going on vacation, and no one got sick from it. All over my newsfeeds, I kept seeing the rhetoric that theme parks and air travel were not making people sick. So I decided to roll the dice and take a super short, three day trip to my happy place.

Once my Dad caught wind of this, he couldn’t stand it and decided he wanted to go, too. At 76 years old, I was a little apprehensive, but hey! If it’s safe enough for me, I figured it’s safe enough for him, and he’s old enough to make up his own mind about what he wants to do. So, flights were booked, hotel was booked, tickets were bought, theme park reservations were made (’cause that’s a thing now), and we were ready.

We flew on Southwest, and let me tell ya, middle seats open are soooo nice! Before I left, I had heard that keeping the air vents wide open on the plane would help keep any viral particles away, and on all of our flights, they were either already open or the flight attendants made an announcement for everyone to open them. We felt really good about everything we experienced while traveling.

Dad and I were feelin’ the luv aboard Southwest Airlines.

We landed around 3:45 and headed straight for Disney’s Magical Express. We were told there would be a 45 minute wait for a bus, even though the area was completely empty.

A completely empty Disney’s Magical Express area

Luckily, we only waited about 20 minutes before we were loaded and on our way. We got a kick out of getting to ride in a Disney Cruise Line bus. Since the ships aren’t sailing right now, it’s not surprising to see more of them being used for other purposes.

I sure do miss Disney Cruise Line. It was so exciting to get to ride this bus.

We arrived at Disney’s Pop Century Resort a little before 5, and we received a text that our room was not ready. We didn’t have much luggage so we decided to keep it with us as we headed out to the pool bar for a beverage. I had the special Halloween cocktail, Pop Potion. It was fun with layers of colors and gummy worms, but was quite syrupy. I’m a sucker for specialty anything, especially cocktails, yet I always end up wishing I had stuck to something simple like wine or beer. This was no different.

By then, it was 6 o’clock, and still the room was not ready. I decided to head to the front desk to inquire. The Cast Member assisting me said the problem was that I had requested a room in the 50’s buildings, and special requests always slow them down. Ok, but I had also checked the box to prioritize a room being ready over my request. That doesn’t matter, they told me, but not to worry because they were going to find me a ready room, just not one in the 50’s. After a few pecks at the keyboard, we had our room assignment…in one of the 50’s buildings. Insert pretend hard eye roll here because I didn’t actually roll my eyes. I thanked him very much for his hard work in finding a room and honoring our request.

Off to our room we went to get settled in for the next few days and acclimate ourselves to the lay of the land. We were happy to have a view of the bowling pin pool beneath us and the Skyliner to our right.

Once we got settled in, we decided to head back down to the main building for dinner at Everything Pop. The modified experience for health and safety protocols meant that they were limiting the number of people in the gift shop and/or dining room at any given time, and mobile ordering food was required. In fact, we weren’t permitted to enter the dining room until our food was ready, and even then, there was sometimes a line to gain entrance. The menu was also very limited, but adequate for our needs.

Shopping to the left, dining to the right

We always get the refillable mugs because we like “popping” in for a beverage as we are heading to and fro. One thing that was different with the new protocols that I had not heard about was that they wouldn’t fill the mug. We just had to show it, and a Cast Member at the beverage station would give us a fresh beverage in a paper cup. We also learned that if you just want a drink, all you have to do is show your mug to bypass the line and gain entrance to the dining room. Talk about VIP! Ok, not really, but I’ll take any chance to bypass a line.

I ordered the chicken parmesan. It was not stellar but served its purpose.

After finishing our meals, we headed back to the room to call it a night since the next day involved an early wake up call to visit Magic Kingdom.

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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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