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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winter Survival Camp At Pioneer Ridge

The husband and the boy headed to Pioneer Ridge Nature Center to learn about winter survival and ended up with their pictures on the front page of the newspaper!

The afternoon session was geared towards families to work and learn together to build a shelter to survive the elements.

There were many variations of shelters.

Making fire was another segment of the session.  I was informed that this part was very difficult due to the materials that were at hand. 

The afternoon ended with some hot chocolate at the Nature Center and a photo op with Annette, the Naturalist leading the program.

Pioneer Ridge is one of our favorite locations for free or low cost family fun.  We find ourselves there at least once each season, if not more.  Check out Pioneer Ridge’s web-site for a list of events—click here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday Gifts--Disney Style!

Did you know there is a new trend to display one’s holiday gifts via You Tube?  I didn’t until I was listening to a morning news show the other day.  But, I had already taken pictures, due to the husband’s suggestion, of the stash of Disney gifts that had come my way!  Take a look:

Can you believe all that Disney in one spot?  And, if I had waited a day or two, I would have added a cup from Typhoon Lagoon/Blizzard Beach and a Mickey Mouse keychain.

All of the gifts were from colleagues;  people I work with.  

The snow globe is displayed amongst my other snow globes and music boxes on a shelf in our living room.  Minnie Mouse has joined the shelf as well.  The Minnie Jammies have been worn and are so snuggly!  It was great to wear them with our flannel Disney sheets.  Toasty warm!  The Mickey clock is on display on top of our entertainment center in our living room.  The pendulum hands are pieces of Mickey—gloves, shoes, etc.  The water bottle is filled and in the fridge.  I take a refillable water bottle with me to work and you can plan on seeing this one often!

Disney gifts work the other way, too.  We have given many Disney inspired gifts over the years.  This year, the list included a Disney watch given to the boy’s teacher, a Disney throw given to friends, and photo inspired gifts—calendars, prints, etc. that came from photos taken during our summer Disney Cruise and Walt Disney World vacation.

Santa even knows about our affection for Disney and brought the boy Disney Cars 2 AppMates for the iPad, Phineas and Ferb plush toys, and Cars 2 toys.

Hope your holiday was filled with love and happiness!

Monday, December 26, 2011

One More Disney Day--Speculation About Disney's NYE Announcement

I sometimes forget that not everyone is a Disney fan like me and our family.  So the blank stares from friends and relatives were a bit of a surprise when I told them that Disney is making a big announcement New Year’s Eve during Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rocking Eve—if that is still the name of the show.

The internet is all a buzz as to what the announcement might be.  Disney’s theme for 2012—The Year of More Magic—has already been announced.  What else could it be?

Some speculate that the announcement will contain information about the opening of at least some of Fantasyland during its extensive refurbishment.  Maybe a firm date?  Or, maybe some of it will open the next day?  The timeframe already given was early 2012, but that would be VERY early!

Some speculate that since 2012 is a Leap Year, and the tag line for the announcement is “One More Disney Day”, that there will be a special celebration on February 29, 2012, that will include the parks being open for 24 hours.  Hmmm. . .  That time of year isn’t exactly “peak” season for travel to the parks and resorts.  This would be a one time cash layout for labor costs that would only last one day.

Others speculate that the announcement will include information about the 2013 itineraries for the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, as they have yet to be announced.  And, since Disney Cruise Line just recently announced that four of the Wonder’s Mexican Riviera itinerary sailings have been canceled for Dec. 2012—click here to read more—it would make sense to include information about the Wonder would be doing in December of 2012, too. 

I’m going out on a limb here with some guessing, speculation, and intuition. It’s the tag line for the promo/announcement that really got me thinking—One More Disney Day.  Hmmm. . . My prediction is some sort of year long special that adds on a “day” at the Disney parks for free for guests.  I shared this thought with the husband.  He told me not to “put it out there.”  I’m doing it anyway.

Cost wise, it wouldn’t cost Disney a bunch to add on an addition “free” day to park tickets.  Going from a 4 day ticket to a 5 day ticket is a minimal cost--$7 or less per person.  Disney would recoup that money with the additional overnight stay in the resorts for guests taking advantage of the special, money spent on food, souvenirs, etc.  Now, if the special includes the overnight stay with the promotion, then we are talking about some serious incentive.  But, it’s not the first time Disney has offered “buy some, get some free” type specials for park tickets and resort stays.  We’ve taken advantage of two similar offers.

You heard it, well read it, here first. 

My e-mail is set to receive the announcement directly from Disney in case I drift off to sleep.  The DVR is set to record the program, again for the reason previously mentioned.  Let’s see what all this fuss is about!

Dreaming of Christmas on the Disney Dream

The guests have all gone home.  The leftovers are stored in the refrigerator.  The presents have all been opened; the tree looks a bit bare.  It’s the day after Christmas.

And while we didn’t have a white Christmas, and some people are still wishing for a bit of snow, my wishes are turning towards next Christmas.  It’s 365 days from today—2012 is a Leap Year!  We are dreaming of Christmas on the Disney Dream!

Yesterday, amidst the cooking, cleaning, and entertaining, my mind kept going there. . . to Christmas next year on the Dream.  No cooking, no cleaning, no navigating extended family schedules and expectations.  Even the husband was daydreaming a bit about what Christmas would be like next year.

We know some people who are on the Dream for this Christmas.  They are disembarking today.  I can’t wait to hear all about the festivities and celebrations.

Already my mind has gone into planning mode. (I’m chuckling as I write this as the boy stated at the dinner table on Christmas Eve the plan for the next day—he comes by that quite naturally!)  Do we need any special holiday items to take with us that might be on clearance right now?  It’s too early to set the flight alerts on Kayak.com—we need another 3 weeks or so.  This will be our 5th Disney Cruise, our last as Silver Castaway Club Members, so when we book our next cruise on board, we will be able to get the Gold Castaway Club on board credits—that means more!  See, already thinking ahead.

In the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming about Christmas on the Dream. 

I found this video on the Disney Parks Blog.  It made me smile and I hope it makes you smile, too.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Believing In Magic

It’s Christmas Eve day as I compose this post.  The spirit of the season is all around, especially with the boy.  As we prepare for family, friends, and feasting, I am peppered with questions and comments.

“When I write my letter to Santa, I’m going to ask him how he will find us next year on the ship,” proposed the boy last night.  “How will he find us, Mom?”

“Magic,” I replied.

“I know, instead of a sleigh, he’ll have a boat with dolphins.”

I thought that was pretty creative.  “Oh, so he’ll have a boat instead of a sleigh and his boat will be pulled by dolphins instead of reindeer?”

“Yes,” the boy stated confidently.  “I think I’ll draw him a picture.”

People have been warning me that the era of “believing” may be coming to an end very soon.  And, while I know that is on the horizon, I hope it goes on for a while longer.  There’s something magical about believing. . . in Santa, in the spirit of Christmas, well, in magic.

Maybe our Disney experiences have kept the magic alive—the believing.  At Disney, anything is possible—Santa appears on Main Street, it snows in the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Darth Vader appears for battle, Tinker Bell flies nightly from Cinderella’s Castle before the sky lights up with a spectacular array of fireworks, ship horns sound like melodies, Aladdin hugs your mom, Cinderella kisses your cheek, you get to be in parades, Stitch sneaks up behind you because he knows he is your favorite, birthday cupcakes with lighted candles appear on a whim, towels shaped like animals greet you regularly, your Dad stars in shows, and your parents relax and have fun because driving and luggage handling get taken care of for them!  And, these are just a few ways that Disney makes magic.

All of this and more makes me a believer too! 

And, because of that magic, the Disney Parade will be on our TV tomorrow morning while we hear “I’ve been there” or “Mom, there’s Stitch!”  I’ve queued up Disney park videos into our Netflix Instant Play queue so while I’m cooking today and tomorrow they will be playing on the iPad.  Tonight, when our boy is tucked in bed, next to his stuffed Stitch, I will wish him sweet dreams and Disney dreams.  And, I’ll let you know Santa’s reply to the question about how he will find us on the ship next Christmas.  I’m sure there will be something about magic!

Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 Disney Dining Plan--Downtown Disney Area Restaurants Added

Changes are underway for the 2012 Disney Dining Plan, as 10 Downtown Disney Area restaurants are added to the list of Table Service Restaurants that accept the Disney Dining Plan.

Just recently announced, Bongos Cuban Café, House of Blues, Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant, Planet Hollywood, Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant, Wolfgang Puck Café, Paradiso 37, Portobello, Rainforest Café, and T-REX Café have all been added to an extensive list of Table Service restaurants accepting the Disney Dining Plan. The biggies for us, at least, are Rainforest Café—including the location at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and T-REX Café—click here to read about dining at T-REX Café. 

Another change to the Disney Dining Plan for 2012, is that all plans now include a refillable mug.  Previously, only the Quick Service Plan and Deluxe Dining Plan included the mug that can be refilled with soda, tea, water, and coffee at the food court in a Walt Disney World Resort. 

And, one of the biggest changes, not specifically to the Disney Dining Plan, but to the Advanced Dining Reservation or ADR system is the credit card guarantee that charges a per person no show fee if the ADR is not cancelled 24 hours prior to the reservation.  This went into effect towards the end of October 2011.  We made our ADR’s in September for our upcoming trip in March and missed this change in the policy.  The reasons behind this change are several, but specifically—no more multiple ADR’s for the same time for the same traveling party (the “I don’t know where we will be so I’ll make several ADR’s for the same time and we will pick which one when the time comes” type).  If people are doing this, they are going to have multiple per person cancellation fees added to their bill.

There are definitely mixed feelings about the Disney Dining Plan and they are mostly at either end of the love it/hate it spectrum with very few in the middle.  We LOVE it and haven’t visited Walt Disney World without it.  The Disney Dining Plan gives me peace of mind when it comes to planning and paying for meals while we are on vacation.  We have eaten at restaurants we would not have normally chosen due to price because we have used the Disney Dining Plan.  And, it doesn’t hurt that out of 8 trips to the World, we have had Free Dining for 5 of those trips.  Alas, free dining is not available for our upcoming trip.  But, I am excited about the refillable mugs!

Deciding if the Disney Dining Plan is for you and your family may be a difficult decision.  The Advanced Dining Reservation or ADR policy will affect anyone who makes reservations to dine at a Table Service restaurant whether or not they are using the Disney Dining Plan.  Now, there’s just a bit more homework or planning that goes into preparing for your Walt Disney World vacation.  But isn’t that half the fun?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wondering About the Wonder!

Disney Cruise Line announced yesterday that they are canceling the December 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2012, sailings to the Mexican Riviera on the Disney Wonder.  They are canceling holiday cruises for next December!

The Disney Wonder has been on the West Coast for less than one year, making its arrival last January and has been offering Mexican Riviera, Alaskan, West Coast, and even one Hawaiian itinerary.  The Mexican Riviera cruises had changed itineraries, with no stops in Mazatlan, and offering two stops in Cabo San Lucas instead, citing political unrest in the area.  Has the Mexican Riviera itinerary become less desirable?

So, what is the Wonder up to?  Disney Cruise Line has yet to announce the itineraries for 2013 for the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. (The 2013 itineraries for the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy were announced in October—click here to read more.)  Will the changes or new itineraries be announced on New Year’s Eve as part of “The Year of More Memories” opening celebration?

Speculation abounds.  Will the Wonder leave the Port of Los Angeles?  The internet and message boards have been buzzing since yesterday about what might be the future for the Disney Wonder.  Many are hoping for additional Hawaiian itineraries to be added.  Others are speculating on a Panama Canal cruise followed by a longer itinerary to Rio and the Southern Caribbean.  Could Asia be a future destination?

Hopefully, Disney Cruise Line will share the plans soon.  In the meantime, wondering about the Disney Wonder will continue.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Are Your Travel Gadgets?

When we took our first flight with the boy when he was three weeks old, or went anywhere when he was an infant, I felt like we packed the whole house and took it with us. . . trying to prepare for any eventuality; any situation.  Fast forward 9 years.  And, while we aren’t packing the whole house anymore, we do tend to prepare for various situations that may arise and we definitely pack more electronic gadgets.

Phones—the husband and I both have cell phones and they go with us on trips.  Before our current cell phone plan, I would contact the cell phone company prior to a trip and add on roaming minutes for a minimum charge.  This was much more economical than paying for the minutes after a trip!  Neither of us have “smart” phones or data packages.  Just talk and text—and texting is an upgrade from where we were even a year ago!  I envision that we will someday be a three phone family, but not yet. 

DVD player—we have one built into the car!  What a lovely invention that comes into play when we travel for more than 30 minutes.  We also have a portable DVD player that has been on many vacations with us and provided in flight entertainment.  It has been replaced by the. . .

iPad—a unique device that allows for fun and productivity.  When we are traveling it is a game center—with the game apps and entertainment center with either downloaded or “rented” movies and books.  Free wi-fi at airports and on airplanes gives us even more options for use.  We also learned that Coronado Springs, the Walt Disney World Resort we will be staying at for our next trip, has free wi-fi!

Nintendo DS—the small gaming device travels with us, too.  It is great to bring to meals on a cruise ship or at Walt Disney World.  Its portability is one of its strengths, as it is easy to carry around in a “day” bag at the parks.  And, is another option to the iPad, especially if the husband has commandeered the iPad.

Cameras—we usually don’t leave home with at least one, if not two. . . sometimes more!  Our trusty digital camera with 8G memory card has more than earned its stripes.  Add on the Flip camera for video to our entourage.  If we are traveling to a destination that involves water, we usually have some sort of waterproof camera, too.  I’m in the process of looking at digital waterproof cameras—have been for a couple of years.  When I find the right one, I’m sure it will come with us too!

And, the most important gadget of all?  The power strip!  We keep all of our chargers—phones, iPad, Nintendo, camera battery—on one power strip and it goes with us on any vacation!  Sure beats trying to hunt for chargers and outlets when traveling.  One plug and done!  (That sounds a bit like a commercial, doesn’t it?)

Before our gadgets were binkies, blankies, and books.  Now, most of our gadgets have a two pronged plug or battery life!  Evolution!

Is Preparing For the Holidays Like Planning For a Disney Vacation?

I’m a planner.  Sometimes the plans involve written lists, but mostly the lists are in my head.  I am able to stretch tasks over the course of several days or even weeks with an idea of how much time is going to be available based on life events.  I rarely procrastinate and often get things done ahead of time. 

As the holiday season shifts into high gear, I hear and witness the burden on others of the “to do list” as if it is some cross people must bear;  often stifling the actual enjoyment of the holiday season—friends, family, experiences, celebrations.

While working my way to the big day, it got me thinking about how getting ready for the holidays can be similar to planning a Disney vacation!  Or, at least, I go about them similarly.

When planning a Disney vacation, I have some deadlines:
180 days—Advanced Dining Reservations made
45 days—Trip Paid in Full
10 days—Check in on line and pre-order Photopass CD
1 day—bags packed

Somewhere in there other things are taken care of, like arranging care for the pets, communicating our itinerary to friends and family, purchasing any needed items, finding flights, etc.

A holiday countdown looks amazingly similar:
1 month—tree up and decorated
2 weeks—cards mailed
1 week—shopping done
5 days—start thawing the turkey, bake and decorate cookies
1 day—all presents wrapped, wait for Santa!

And, somewhere in there, take care of communicating plans with family and friends, purchase needed items—a grocery store run is my “list” for today, etc.  Yep, a very similar process to planning and preparing for a Disney vacation.

Next year, we’ll be doing both at the same time—planning for the holidays and a Disney vacation.  I’ll keep you posted on how that works out.  In the meantime, happy planning and happy holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Lionel Christmas at the Dumont Museum

The second week-end in December marks the date for the annual Open House at the Dumont Museum in Sigourney—click here to check out their web-site.

Making the trek to the Dumont Museum is one of our annual holiday traditions.  We first discovered the huge model train layout several years ago and have spent hours watching the trains ever since.

The layout has many themes, levels, and intricacies.  One has to admire the hours of work that have gone into building, collecting, and maintaining the layout.

The Dumont Museum attracts visitors of all ages and is a great outing for multiple generations. 

When we arrived, I told the boy he had 90 minutes.  That was just the right amount of time.

Guests are also welcomed with cookies and punch for this annual event.

When the boy was younger and smaller, we would take a plastic step stool with us so that he could see the trains.  He would carry the step stool with him from location to location around the train layout.  Last year, it was evident he didn’t need the step stool anymore, so we left it, as a donation of sorts, at the museum.  Well this year, when we arrived, we were told thank you as it had been used throughout the year.  And, ironically, we asked to use it again, as the boy found that one of our neighbors was there and needed a boost.  The owners happily retrieved the step stool for us and the boy and his young friend proceeded to view the trains.  We gave the step stool back to the owners before we left.  We know where it is if we need it!

We’ll be back next year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

TUBACHRISTMAS Concert--An Annual Holiday Tradition

Holiday traditions abound for our family and one of them is to attend the free annual TUBACHRISTMAS (yep, all one word) concert held on the second Saturday in December at noon at our local community college.  Musicians from the surrounding area gather to rehearse that morning and then provide an hour long concert.  All Christmas carols on tubas!

TUBACHRISTMAS first started in 1973 by Harvey Phillips to honor his teacher Bill Bell, another great tubist, who was born in Creston, Iowa on Christmas Day in 1902.  TUBACHRISTMAS also recognizes Alec Wilder, a composer who arranged many of the songs performed at TUBACHRISTMAS who passed away on Christmas Eve in 1980.  TUBACHRISTMAS celebrates all teachers of the tuba and euphonium and composers who have contributed to the playing of these instruments.  You can read more about TUBACHRISTMAS at their web-site—click here.

Several sets of holiday favorites were played throughout the hour long concert.

The Lowly Brass provided a musical interlude in the middle of TUBACHRISTMAS.

This concert was the 8th annual TUBACHRISTMAS and we were trying to figure out how many we had attended.  It has been several!  We brought Grandma Carol along this time!

Enjoy the videos and the music!
 Carol of the Bells is one of my favorite holiday carols.  Hearing it played by tubas made it even more special!

The concert ended with a rousting We Wish You a Merry Christmas!  We'll be back next December!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Tree Full of Disney Memories

Happy Holiday Greetings!  Like many of you, our home has now been decorated for the holiday season with the focal point being the Christmas tree in our living room.

One of the things we collect on each trip—Disney or not—is an ornament for our tree—click here to read more about what we collect.

Each year, when we decorate our Christmas tree, we are reminded of the many adventures we have taken as a family.

So, it came as no surprise when our tree was full of Disney ornaments!  Each one represents a special Disney memory.  When we get home, I write the dates of our vacation somewhere on the ornament using a permanent marker.

Let me share some of them with you. . .
Ornaments from two different cruises are above.  Our first Disney Cruise in 2007 and our most recent, July 2011--on the left.  If you look closely, you can see the Aqua Duck on the ornament on the left.

Mickey shaped bells from our trip in November 2010 and a visit to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

Ah, Castaway Cay!  An ornament from our Disney Cruise December 2009.

A four parks, one world ornament from our November 2009 trip.

March 2009 was the origination of the above ornament.

The above ornament came home with us from our trip, March 2010.

This was our first ornament from our first trip, November 2006.

The ornament above is from our Mexican Riviera itinerary on the Disney Magic in July of 2008.  It represents all the ports of call.  Since DCL no longer makes a stop at Mazatlan, it is somewhat of a collector's item!

Our EPCOT ornament is a reminder of the time we were the Family of the Day at EPCOT.  Click here to read more.

This ornament was from a trip to the World in September of 2008.

The ornament on the left is from our trip to Walt Disney World in July of 2011--it commemorates our first time seeing "The Magic, the Memories, and You" castle light show.  It is also a 40th anniversary ornament.  The ornament on the right is from our cruise on the Disney Magic in July of 2008 and is signed by Captain Tom on the back.  Click here to read more about the Captain's Signing Event.

It is a pleasure to decorate for the holidays when it brings back so many memories of time spent together as a family.

From the Williams Family to your family, wishing you Happy Holidays and many happy adventures for the future!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Staying At a Different Resort For Our Next Trip to Walt Disney World

At this time of year, most people are counting down the number of shopping days left before Christmas.  Children are counting down the number of days until Santa makes a stop at their house.  We are counting down the number of days until our next trip to Walt Disney World—100 days!

We have decided to try a new resort for our next trip—Coronado Springs, a moderate Disney resort.

We have stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort twice, and learned that location really does matter!  Caribbean Beach was Disney’s first attempt at a moderate resort.  I think they learned from their mistakes.

Port Orleans Riverside was our “home” for five trips to Walt Disney World—click here to read more.  We were hesitant to move away from our favorite and yet, queen sized beds lured us to Port Orleans French Quarter during our last stay—click here to read more.

This time we were lured by savings.  A spring discount was available during our travel dates, but only at certain resorts.  Coronado Springs was available for the discount, so we made the switch.  Just like that!  The husband had no hesitation.  He said we could give another resort a try, add information about Coronado Springs to the blog, and save some money.  Bingo!

We told the boy this morning.  “Does it have a pool?” was his response.  He wanted to see pictures—thank goodness for technology!

100 days!  I need to get packing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

God Rest Ye, Gerry Mentlemen--OCCP Wraps Production

OCCP ended the 2011 season with God Rest Ye, Gerry Mentlemen, a holiday story with a holiday message.  The short, yet quaint, play is about Gerry Mentlemen, a shrewd businessman who ends up finding the spirit of Christmas, just like Scrooge!

About 50 children were a part of the cast while parents and other volunteers worked backstage.

The set consisted of 5 “boxes” that rotated to create 4 different scenes.  A local art teacher provided the details in the painting. 

Children and directors rehearsed for five weeks to bring the show to life at Bridge View Center during the first week-end in December.  If you weren’t in the holiday spirit before the show, you certainly were after, as holiday songs were sprinkled throughout.

The boy played a “townspeople” character.  He was on his way to school during the opening scene, as it was just after Labor Day.  Later, he was in a Halloween costume for another scene, and ended the play in a Christmas sweater, just in time for the holidays!

The husband painted set and worked backstage, while I managed the sound board.  The family that does theater together, stays together?!?  (The husband even got recruited for a small role in the next OCP production!)

After three performances, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the cast and crew celebrated with a Cast Party complete with food, cake, music, and dancing.
 The boy with Directors Marc and Becky!

In addition to this production coming together quite quickly, it featured many new faces from throughout our community.  And, after watching all of the kids interact and have a grand time at the Cast Party—hopefully, many of them will be back!

The boy's adoring fans: