Walt Disney World Thanksgiving at the Last Minute

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Walt Disney World Thanksgiving 2014 last minute vacation

You have a to-do list the length of the Empire State Building, and the thought of cleaning the house that hasn’t been cleaned since last Thanksgiving is giving you panic attacks.  What the heck, you think to yourself.  Let’s do a Walt Disney World Thanksgiving!

But wait.  You’ve heard that everything books months in advance.  The parks will be mobbed.  You’ll be sleeping in your car and eating Thanksgiving dinner at Taco Bell.  That’s not what you were hoping for.  You want a nice kick off to the holiday season.

2014 Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Day Dining Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy; Anne Burrell

Fear not, nervous traveler.  You can head to Walt Disney World for a last minute Thanksgiving getaway – just get planning NOW!

2014 Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Day Dining

As of today, you’ll find many restaurants with open tables throughout the day.  While there is no official word on which restaurants may feature a traditional holiday meal, with turkey and all the trimmings, several of the restaurants with dining reservations available have had the whole big turkey dinner available to diners in years past.  You’ll find space at Boatwright’s, Portobello, Fulton’s, Wolfgang Puck, and Kona if you are looking to dine at a normal dinner hour.  Go earlier or later – like around 1 or as late as 8 – and your options open up to include places like the Captain’s Grille, Jiko, Boma, and even the character dinner at 1900 Park Fare.

2014 Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Rooms Are Available

Although DVC rooms were a bit scarce, I was surprised to find resort options available in every category.  Everything from the All Stars to the Beach Club had rooms available, even at this late date.  Shades of Green is booked through Friday, but if you want to do a shorter weekend, after turkey dinner at home, you can still find room after Friday at Shades of Green.

2014 Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Roms - Shades of Green entrance

What can you expect at Walt Disney World on Thanksgiving in terms of crowds?  Let me put it as simply as I can – you’ll find crowds.  Make your FastPass+ reservations as soon as you have your tickets booked, and plan to be at rope drop to take advantage of attractions before the bulk of the crowds begin to turn up.  If you were lucky enough to snag a dining reservation in a theme park, get there early and plan to stay.  The parks can close due to capacity on the busiest days – which are likely to be Thursday and Friday.

Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Fun - check out the Disney's Grand Floridian Life Sized Gingerbread House

If nothing else, grab a turkey leg at the park and enjoy a tour of the resorts.  Everything will be decorated for the Christmas holidays by the time you arrive for Thanksgiving, and it’s always so much fun to see the decorations at each of the resorts.

Walt Disney World Thanksgiving starts the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World can be busy, but if you haven’t thought about going until now, you still have options.  But delay no more.  Book today and leave those dust bunnies until next year.

 

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down on Disney World – All in the Same Day!

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There is absolutely no doubt – I love me some Disney World.  Some of my most magical moments and favorite memories were made in Disney parks.

My cousin Margaret is in Walt Disney World right now, and the entire first day of her vacation has been a stressful, tear-filled disaster.  Through no fault of Disney’s, her airline lost her luggage, claimed she never checked a bag, said Disney’s Magical Express team picked it up by accident, and ultimately found it this afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale.  In the suitcase were all of Margaret’s clothes, the princess dresses she bought for her two nieces, and other personal items – in other words, everything Margaret needed for her vacation was in that bag.

She spent hours on the phone with the airline, stressed over the girls’ having their dresses for their long awaited dinner in the castle, and worried about not having the allergy medicine she packed “just in case”.  But, like other plus sized girls, Margaret’s biggest concern was getting clothes that fit.

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So, here’s what Disney did oh my gosh, so right.  They very generously offered Margaret a credit on her account to help her either replace her clothing or enjoy a meal or two without worrying about the extra expense of taking taxis to replace items at stores away from the resort area.  Again, this was in no way Disney’s responsibility, and this little bit of pixie dust is the midst of such stress was really the one bright spot over the two days of agony.

But here’s where I think Disney fails some of us sometimes.

It’s one thing if you lost your luggage and you were a regular sized person.  You can find virtually everything you need at Walt Disney World – underwear, shorts, bathing suits, dresses – both fancy and casual.  But when you’re a big girl, you are, for lack of a more appropriate term, screwed.

Up to a certain extent, you can probably find t-shirts or sweatshirts at Disney World if you are plus sized.  You may even find shorts or sweatpants.  But you’ll have to spend your trip pretending it’s panty-free Friday if you’re a plus sized gal in the House of Mouse.  There will be no underwear to be found.  Forget finding a bathing suit bigger than a 14 or 16.  Even if you settled for living in your bathing suit for the whole vacation (and just adding pearls to go to Victoria and Albert’s), you won’t find one in your size if you’re a bigger person in the pixie dusted domain.

Now, of course, you can take a taxi to the mall, the local outlets, even WalMart for essentials, but that adds an additional expense, takes you away from the parks and the vacation fun you are looking for, and when you’ve got kids in tow (Margaret is traveling with four of them), now you’re talking about a cab ride for the whole crew and keeping the kids corralled while you try to find the things you need in an unfamiliar mall.  Definitely not the way to start a vacation.

I’m not saying it’s on Disney to carry every article of clothing in every size.  It would be unrealistic to expect to lose your luggage and have options such as boxers or briefs (I have found men’s boxers, by the way); Michael Kors or Zac Posen; or every color of the rainbow.  But maybe just a few more items in a sistah’s size would go a long way to making a stressful start to a vacation a little bit easier to swallow.

 

Last Minute Disney World Trip for Valentine’s Day? What’s a Procrastinator to Do?

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You’ve just realized you have a long weekend over Valentine’s weekend because of the President’s Day holiday, so you’ve decided to take your Sweetheart to Walt Disney World.

What are you, crazy?

No, I didn’t mean that.  You’d be crazy NOT to jump at that last minute trip to the House of Mouse!  But what the heck are you going to do, with no dining reservations, no FastPasses, and no chance to choose the romantic color red for your Magic Bands?  Well, let’s just see what we can do to make this trip not only happen, but happen with many wonderful, romantic memories to boot!

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Let’s start with dining reservations.  I’m going to break this to you gently.  You are not getting into Cinderella’s Royal Table.  And there are probably a few other options not available to you at this late planning stage, but fear not.  You’ll be glad to know that a quick search today, just 9 days in advance, shows dinner reservations available at many Walt Disney World resort restaurants, both inside and outside of the theme parks.  You may not get prime time for V-Day dining, but if you don’t mind eating before six or after 8, options include my favorite Artist Point, the way under talked about Turf Club at Saratoga Springs, Sanaa, Jiko, Paradiso 37, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, or numerous options at EPCOT.  That romantic dinner can be something intimate and quiet, like Artist Point; or you can opt for fun and rambunctious, like Raglan Road.

And while this may not be the romantic dinner you had in mind, there is all sorts of magical moments dining for lunch at Be Our Guest.  You don’t need reservations to eat there at lunch time, and you can sit in the West Wing with the enchanted rose, or check out the room with the giant music box.  Great memories to be made if you are willing to wait in line a little bit.

FastPass+ encourages you to book your ride times in advance, but you may not have time to do that.  Thankfully, you’ll find locations at each theme park where you can choose your FastPass+ options after you arrive at the park.  I’ve seen pretty good availability last minute so far on rides and attractions, so if you want to steal a smooch with your Sweetie as you kick his butt on Toy Story Midway Mania, you may still find a FastPass+ available.

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How about those plain grey Magic Bands you’ll be stuck with, since you didn’t customize them in advance?  Gotcha covered.  You’ll find virtually every resort and gift shop now stocks a supply of Magic Band covers and Magic Bandits, which are little pins you can stick in the holes on your Magic Bands to make them more personal.  You can choose from solid colors, patterns, favorite characters – any combination of accessories to make the bands ones you love.

There are rooms available, plenty of park passes to hit up the places where you’ll find the most magic, and if you decide to wait until the moment strikes to pick up the perfect gift for your Valentine, you’ll find everything from delicious smelling bath products, watches, jewelry, clothing, accessories, or the gift that keeps on giving – annual passes!

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So pack those bags, book those flights, and get your hiney down there with your honey.  A Valentine’s Day full of love, romance, and magic – what could possibly be better?

Oh How I Miss Disney’s Guest Assistance Card – and I Never Even Used One!

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If you’re big into Disney initials, you’ll know that last fall, the GAC – or Guest Assistance Card – was switched to the DAS – or Disability Access Service card.  There were numerous reasons the switch was made, not the least of which was national attention put on the abuse of the GAC.  Guests who were eligible for the GAC card were pimping themselves out to other guests who would pay them for front of the line access to some of Walt Disney World’s most popular attractions.

So, the way things used to work, a guest with a disability could go to guest services, without any proof of a disability, and snag a GAC card.  When these guests went to an attraction, they showed the cast member the card, and the guest with the pass, along with up to five “family members” or “friends”, would be admitted to the attraction either through the FastPass entrance, ahead of other waiting guests, or even via a back door kind of thing.  In any case, the wait time for these guests was significantly reduced.

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The new DAS card works more like a FastPass.  You go to an attraction, and based on the wait time for that attraction, you’ll be given a time to come back.  If the wait time, for example, is 30 minutes, you might be given a return time in 20 minutes.  There has also been, up until now, an accommodation for certain guests, specifically those with autism, who rely on the ability to repeat an attraction multiple times.  Those guests were given re-admission passes, which allowed them to return to the attraction immediately, something many guests with autism are compelled by their disability to do.

Here’s the thing.  Amid rumors that the re-admission passes may be eliminated, I encountered several guests during the holidays that made me realize how inadequate this accommodation may be.  I met one man, using the DAS, who had numerous back surgeries, required the use of a scooter to get around the park, but he required times of rest in the prone position in order to get through a full day.  With the GAC, he was able to get in most of the attractions he wanted to do with his family before the need to return to his hotel to rest became evident.  With the new DAS, he complained that he needed at least two days to visit one park, because the wait time required as a result of the DAS system meant he spent more time actually waiting, like a guest without special needs, and that forced him to go back to the hotel before he could see much of what he wanted to see.

I also spoke with the parent of a child on the autism spectrum who said the wait for her family meant there would be a meltdown sooner, requiring them to leave the park early as well.  They had attempted to keep their son entertained with snacks and shopping during his wait time for each attraction, but his comprehension of the wait, followed by the long delays with little or nothing to do, made a full day in the parks impossible.

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I hope that down the road, consideration is given to the guests for whom the GAC was imperative.  These are people who are truly suffering under the regulations of the DAS – guests who cannot spend a full day in the theme park due to their disabilities, or guests who cannot simply walk away for 40 minutes and come back without a meltdown.  I don’t think there’s anyone who questions the need to crack down on the blatant fraud that was taking place, but the crack down comes at the cost of an enjoyable vacation for many families.

Your Mom Must Be a Liar – Or My Day In the Principal’s Office

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Don't Mess With My KidsBack in the day of the dinosaur, when I went to school with the 12 apostles (Judas was a big tattletale back then, for those who wanted to know), when you were out of school sick, your mom wrote a note to the teacher, she absolved you of your sin of sickness, you were welcomed back into the fold, made up your work, and the world continued to spin on it’s axis (although we didn’t know that, because we assumed the earth was flat back then).

Up until my children began public school three years ago, illnesses worked pretty much the same way.  They got sick, I wrote a note, and back to school they went.

When we began public school, things changed.  Eilis missed a day of school during the first few months of sixth grade, and before I could get myself up and dressed after a night of Puke Fest 2011, the school was on the phone with an automated message threatening to send the police to my house for my obviously truant child.  I called the school to notify them that my sleeping child was indeed home with my permission, please don’t beat me or arrest me, and she would be back in the next day or two.  Just to cover my own ass, I sent a note.  And I took the time that she was home sick to familiarize myself with the district attendance policy.

In August, 2012, we got an update to the policy, which essentially just reminded us that “a note” needed to be sent into school when your kids were absent, a phone call to the office needed to be placed before 9 AM to verify a legitimate absence, and if they were going to be out 5 consecutive days, they needed a doctor’s note to return.  Fabulous.  I got this.

Let’s fast forward to this week.  In the mail, I got a letter from Eilis’ principal at Bell Oaks School which said she had five UNexcused absences, and as a result, she was ineligible to participate in extracurricular activities or class trips.  What?  UNexcused absences?  How could this be?  I send my notes in, I notify the school that she’s going to be out in time to avoid having the Paddy Wagon (it’s okay, I’m Irish, I can call it that) swing by and pick me up for a truant child, and I notified them in advance of the two days we would miss in December to go to Disney (our attendance policy has always afforded up to 5 missed days per year for family trips with an educational component as excused absences).

In response to the letter, I emailed Eilis’ principal, then I checked Granuaile’s attendance record online to see that she also has five UNexcused absences.  I emailed her principal.  Eilis’ principal emailed me back that I should call him to discuss the situation, and Granuaile’s principal emailed me that I should read the newly updated attendance policy, which was located on the school website.

I found the attendance policy, determined to find something I had overlooked.  Nothing.  Last updated August, 2011.  I found the student handbook.  Nope, I’m still right.  I patiently wait until our snow day was over and phoned the principal at Bell Oaks this morning.  He’s in meetings all day.  I call Burke.  That principal is in meetings all day.  Okay, who’s next on the list?  The superintendent of schools.

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I spend 15 minutes explaining my predicament to the secretary.  I have sent in every note, made every phone call.  My girls have never missed more than one day at a time, except the Disney trip.  I have phoned my pediatrician on several occasions.  If they have a fever, he wants there to be other symptoms before he sees them (ear ache, sore throat, etc.).  If it’s a stomach bug, chances are, it’s a virus, and he doesn’t want to see them unless they’ve been sick more than 24 hours with so many episodes of “fluid loss”.  He’s not the kind of doctor that makes you rush in for every little thing.  I haven’t got doctor’s notes for the cough that kept Eilis up all night one night, so I let her sleep in the next day.  I didn’t take Granuaile to the pediatrician for a fever that was high enough to keep her home, but broke late in the day and didn’t develop into anything else.  The secretary says I’m right so many times, I think I must be wealthy, and she’s trying to get on my good side so I put her in the will.  Finally, after telling me I’m right for the 15, 238th time, she tells me to hold on while she puts the superintendent on the phone.

Annette Castigliano and I have never met in person, but she has already determined that I am an idiot, so she speaks to me in terms and tone that would be sufficient communication for a toddler.  She’s not being condescending.  She’s busy thinking about important things that I clearly wouldn’t understand.  I try as long as I can to be patient while she’s explaining the attendance policy to me, as if I cannot read myself, and I finally – after 6 minutes – interrupt her.  I apologize for interrupting, and ask her where this policy is posted so I can read it myself – when I learn to read, which I clearly cannot do.  Annette has to admit that the policy is not published anywhere at all, because the person that updates the websites for the district was let go, but the policy was changed in September, and on the agenda for the principals to discuss at Back to School Night.  In September.  So I should know it.

And then, my bestie Annette says the unthinkable.  “You know, Mrs. Skamarakas, that if you hadn’t taken your daughters out of school for two days to go on a family vacation to Disney World, we wouldn’t have this situation, would we?”

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So yeah, now I interrupt her again and mention how if the policy hadn’t been changed, without any hard copy proof anywhere, my two days “learning” at EPCOT and Animal Kingdom would still be excused.  She then says she’ll bring my concerns up with the board, but she can’t promise that my Academically Talented children will be able to remain in extracurricular activities.  The new policy is mandated by the state as a corrective measure for excessive absences in our Title 1 school.

Let me get this straight.  The solution to excessive absences is to deny kids who are absent too many days the right to participate in school activities that take place at school, where these excessively absent kids don’t come?  WHAT?

I may be crying now.  I may be cursing.  I may be bordering on a schizophrenic episode.  So my pal Annette backs off and says she never said that the board can’t really do anything, as this is a state mandate.  She asks if I want her to help me.  No.  I made this phone call to see if I could get you on a episode of America’s Funniest Videos.  Except it’s not funny.

She’s offering now to talk to the principals.  One of them has called while I am on the phone and is told by Brighid that I am handling things with the superintendent.  He says he’ll work something out for me.

End result?  Everyone is back in extracurricular activities.  They are down to only two unexcused absences – we shall call those the last Disney days my children ever get during school.  The principal at Eilis’ school says there is clearly a problem that they only allow 5 unexcused days, and that they expect a doctor’s note for each individual absence.  They may have to regroup and make new recommendations.

The reason this policy is in place?  Parents lie.  They say their kids are sick when they aren’t, just so they don’t have to get out of bed to bring them to school.  Or so that they don’t have to fight with a kid to get ready in the morning.  Or so they can take them to Disney World and claim they are sick.

Well, Mrs. Castiglione, this mom is not a liar.  I hate this policy, and I hate that I was not issued a copy of this new policy before I had to go all cray-cray on your ass.  (not that I was issued a copy, however, there is no mistake now that I am familiar with it).

I may have to call my kids out sick tomorrow.  I know I sure have a headache.

 

Dining – The Real Disney Challenge

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So much to choose from!!  Am I the only one that gets overwhelmed when my 180 days draws near and I have to start planning my dining reservations for an upcoming Walt Disney World vacation?  It’s a bigger challenge than the New York Times crossword puzzle!

How will I know six months in advance if I’ll feel like Japanese or German when I’m standing in EPCOT waiting for the Candlelight Processional to begin?  How can I choose between the fun and family friendly 50s Prime Time Cafe or the upscale and delicious Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

I spend hours poring over reviews at http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/ – where the team of fantastic foodies tempts me with cupcakes and pastries, new menu items and must try snacks.  Then I hit http://allears.net/index.html, where I spend an equal amount of time checking out the menus at each restaurant that I’ve put on my short list (how did my short list come to include 40 restaurants??).

After thinking I had all my dining in place and ready to go for our Christmas vacation this December, I’m rethinking everything.  I’m trying to accommodate different palates, different personalities, and different pleasures.

Set in stone is Christmas dinner at Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge.  And yeah, pretty much nothing else.

So, what are some of your favorite holiday time dining experiences at Walt Disney World?  How about any other time?

Where Happiness Inspires Hope

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Even those of us who have been to Walt Disney World a bunch of times still have our favorite Walt Disney World vacation memories.  It may be the time that your husband proposed, or the time your baby had her first Mickey ice cream bar.  Maybe it was one of those vacations you took after a rough time at work or at home, and you just really enjoyed being able to get away from the worry and stress at home and relax as a family on vacation.

Now, imagine your rough time at home was your child being diagnosed with a life threatening illness.  Imagine the rough time included a prognosis so grim, you could barely get through a day, or even an hour, without crying.   Your days have been filled with trips to doctors and stays in hospitals, watching your child, sick with both illness and exhaustion, battle valiantly against a serious health crisis.  Even if you have good health insurance, there are overnight stays at hotels because you’ve had to go out of state and away from family and friends to seek medical treatments.  There are meals in hospital cafeterias, and babysitters to pay back home for watching your other children until Dad can pick them up after work.  Even if the stars aligned and things fell into place to take a vacation, there wouldn’t be money to spare to take one.

Unless….

This is where Give Kids the World steps in.  More than 120,000 families have walked through the doors of the villas at Give Kids the World, surrounded by love and comfort for a blissful week of vacation that money could never buy.  Instead of the focus being on medicine, it’s on magic, as children get to recapture a piece of childhood that has been ripped away by being sick.  Visits to theme parks, bed time tuck-ins by whimsical characters, swimming and laughter – and ice cream for breakfast if they want it – and all at absolutely no cost to these families.

Give Kids the World is all about making the most magical memories for families at a time when they most need smiles and happiness.  They bring Christmas to the children who may not have the luxury of waiting for December, and they give the gift of wonderful vacation memories to families who aren’t sure they will have the opportunity in the future to have this type of experience.

When you see the smiles on the faces – and the stars on the ceiling (each child who comes to the Village gets a star) – you know this is where happiness – and hope – can be found, even in the most desperate of times.  That’s why myself and a group of amazing and wonderful Disney Loving Moms join together through the spring and summer to raise money to send children to this wonderful place.

If you can find it in your heart to donate and help us bring families down to Orlando for some of their most incredible vacation memories ever, please just click this link http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/DisneyFansGKTW/disneyfansgivekidstheworldfundraisingpage

100% of your donation goes right to Give Kids the World so that another child can be immersed in the world of fantasy and fairytale, even if it’s just for a little while.  Give them a week where they can be kids, not cancer patients.

You have the power to make magic happen for these kids.  Help us to bring the happiness that inspires hope to these families that so desperately need it.

Five Things I Couldn’t Live Without – 2011 Edition

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Product reviews are a funny thing.  I hate having to say unkind things about products.  I’ll tell you if I really and truly hate something, or have a bad experience (Archer Farms scallops wrapped in bacon – NOT a good idea), but for the most part, if I don’t like something, I recognize that it might just be personal preference, and I keep my mouth shut.

But there are some things that I love, couldn’t live without, and as we close out the year, these are some things you should really check out.

1 – Wegmans Supermarket – I’m surprised at how much I love Wegmans.  It’s a supermarket, after all, and how much can one love a supermarket?  Not only have they done a price comparison in our area to find out that Wegmans offers lower prices than the other big name grocery chains in our area, but the specialty items are amazing.  No time to cook?  Grab a crab cake platter, some hot soup, or a complete Asian meal – hot and ready to serve.  Want to cook something fast and easy?  Check out their selection of ready to cook (or reheat) items – everything from freshly marinated fish to BBQ spareribs.  My favorite thing?  If you sign up for the Wegmans customer savings card, you get the Wegmans Menu magazine in the mail.  Some of our favorite family recipes have come from that magazine. Fresh sushi, all sorts of samples, people walking around in chef coats – way better than the Acme.  I definitely could not live without Wegmans.

2 – Kerastase Bain Satin Shampoo – Have you seen my hair?  It looks an awful lot like that stuff they use to make scarecrows – on a good day.  This year, I discovered this L’Oreal shampoo, and I think we might be on our way to better hair!  My hair is what I like to call “crunchy”, and Kerastase is taking some of the crunch out.  It’s a little bit pricey compared to your drugstore or grocery store shampoo, but a little goes a long way, and it really has done some remarkable things for my hair.  Combined with the Kerastase conditioner, you could be the next, ummm, you know, I can’t think of anyone with famous hair after Farrah Fawcett!

3 – Bill’s Wonderland of Pets – This is not your typical pet store.  You won’t go in and find aisle after aisle and bag after bag of discount, run of the mill pet foods.  Bill’s is sort of a health food store for your pets.  He carries foods that aren’t primarily some kind of filler or pet food nastiness that you wouldn’t feed your dog if you knew that’s what you were feeding your dog.  There are bones, treats, even freshly baked dog cookies – all made with healthy, good for you ingredients.  And the staff there is so knowledgeable!  I went in looking for a fish based food for Lusi, who was on a fish based food in Italy, and ended up switching Harper – guess what?  No more itchy dogs!  I didn’t even realize how much Harper was itching until she wasn’t doing it anymore with the better food!  And now, you can buy Bill’s own dog treats – small, cookie shaped morsels of deliciousness that causes your dog to do anything you ask in exchange for one!  (note that I said your dog, because mine are as incorrigible as ever).  Great store, great people, great local business.

4 – Starbucks – You knew it was going to end up here, didn’t you?  As routine as brushing my teeth is my morning drive to my favorite Starbucks – and not just for a morning coffee (well, a morning drizzle of coffee hidden beneath a half a cup of milk and a very healthy splash of sugar free syrup).  It’s a warm, happy way to start my morning, and it’s really one of the few things I do on a daily basis that I feel indulges me.  I may swap my Starbucks budget this coming year for a personal trainer budget, but at least in 2011, Starbucks was yet again one of those things I could not live without.

5 – Disney World – Everyone should have a happy place.  Whether it’s a far off destination or snuggled in your bed with your fuzzy pajamas and a good book.  In my life, it’s Disney World.  I’ve celebrated just about every occasion there, forgotten troubles there, remembered being a kid there, and made many friends through Disney.  I’ve gone right after surgeries to aid in healing (because happy helps healing), and I’ve gone with the expectation that I could do a 5K (I didn’t, but I know I could have!).  I know, no matter what else is going on in life, I find comfort and happiness at Walt Disney World.  I always will.

 

Happy New Year!

If You Could Take One Thing With You…

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So, as you’re well aware, especially if you live somewhere that the six o’clock doomsday hour has already passed, God saw fit to spare us miserable mortals for the time being, allowing us yet another day to mess things up.  Well, damn.  I had an awesome outfit chosen for the looting party I’ve been invited to on Facebook for the day after, when those of us not among the chosen were going to get us a five finger discount on some HD TV.

But, let’s just say today HAD been the day.  And on your way up to Heaven, God said, “Choose one thing from your life on earth – not something living, because frankly, I don’t do diapers, I don’t walk dogs, and I don’t want to have to set yet another place at the dinner table – and bring it with you.  It’ll be nice to have that memory of home, and it will reduce the chances you’ll moan and complain about your accommodations or the food if you have something to keep you company.”

What are you bringing?

I’ve thought long and hard about all of my worldly possessions.  I have photographs that I cherish, jewelry that I love, books that I would never want to be without.  It’s been really tough to decide on just one thing, but after much thought, I’ve chosen my item.

I’m taking my pink Walt Disney World Moms Panel jacket.

I know – I hate pink, for the most part, so why would I want to spend eternity with only a pink jacket?

Here’s the rationale:

Disney World is where I have some of the most wonderful memories of my family.  Brighid as chef of the day at the Crystal Palace when she was four; Eilis learning to walk at EPCOT when she was a year old; Granuaile at 8 months old looking directly into the eyes of the Santa at Downtown Disney; and my honeymoon with the one and only true love of my life.  The jacket will remind me of the holidays we spent at Disney World, the occasions we celebrated, the meals we all ate together, laughing and joking – not worrying about cheerleading practice or dance classes or a scout meeting.

The jacket will also remind me that I was a competent and qualified enough writer that I was able to write answers that helped at least a few people plan a vacation that would give them some of the same wonderful feelings I get when I think of my cherished family Disney memories.  I can say that being on the Moms Panel was a true highlight of my 46 years on earth (okay, the end of the world is surely coming now – I’ve put my age out there in print!).

And the jacket is a symbol of the friendships I’ve made.  The weekend that I got that jacket, I met the 15 people who will be friends for life.  They are the people with whom I bonded more quickly than I have ever bonded with anyone else (except Jim).  When I look at the jacket, I will think of when we met; our weekend in Chicago; my visit with Joanne in NYC; Margaret’s birthday weekend at WDW.  And I will cherish every Facebook conversation, text message, and Tweet that we’ve shared.  Not to mention the bonus friends I’ve made as a result of being on the Moms Panel – Moms Panel Erin, Jud, Anthony, the other Moms Panel members, and those Skurvy Monkeys.

So, while I rarely ever wear the jacket; pink is not my color; and I would hope that I could find the darn thing in an instant if God said I could take it with me, the one thing I would want to depart from this mortal soil with is my jacket.  And all the memories that come with it.

 

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Sci-Fi Dine In – a Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

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This review actually will cover more than just information for those gastrically altered, and I may be basing some of my opinion on previous visits to this restaurant in addition to the one we made recently.  Your mileage may vary at this point in time, as I found very little on the menu I considered safe for WLS post-ops, and the other food I’ve eaten here before was quite a while ago.

 Disney’s Hollywood Studios – formerly known as Disney’s MGM Studios – is restaurant deficient in my opinion.  I find it difficult to choose places to eat when we go there, but at the insistence of my 7 year old, on our recent Easter Week visit, I made a lunch ADR for the Sci-Fi.  You will not find a better themed restaurant ANYWHERE on Disney property!  You check in at the podium, and then when you are called, you are escorted to a 1950’s style convertible car, which is parked at a Drive In movie theater!  This could not be a more fun premise.  If you go here and eat nothing but dessert, you must go at least once to enjoy the trailers for a variety of B horror movies and commercials you might have seen at Drive In theaters back in the day.

And then they bring you food.  And you wish you were somewhere else.  Like a real Drive In, where you could escape to the snack bar and grab a hot dog or a slice of pizza or a box of popcorn.

 In the past, I’ve sampled the burger and the turkey sandwich.  Both descriptions read well.  They seem like mouth watering tummy pleasers.  But when they are actually delivered, it turns out that the descriptions were really ambitious and the guy in the back assembling things just throws stuff on bread and hopes you like it.  There’s nothing special or spectacular about either the Angus burger or the smoked turkey sandwich, and in the long run, you’ll be disappointed that you spent so much money on such mediocre food.

On this particular visit, my daughters each chose the kids’ meal burger.  Eilis ordered her’s with a garden salad, and Granuaile got a fruit salad, and then they split the two salads with each other.  They also brought french fries, which I thought the salads replaced, but the kids enjoyed them and after my meal, I was glad to have them as well.  I ordered them each a pirate punch, which is an outrageously priced lemonade, but it comes in a souvenir cup with a glowing Tinker Bell or Captain Hook, and the kids love them.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the kids’ meals – but nothing special, either.  And I wish there were more healthier options available on the kids’ menus!

Now when I looked over the menu for myself, I was stunned by how limited the choices were if you are watching what you eat.  I love salads, and the more packed they are with protein, the better.  The only salad entree offered is the Beef and Bleu – which is a wedge of iceberg lettuce, slices of steak, and bleu cheese dressing, sprinkled with bacon bits.  I can’t always eat steak, so I was afraid to order this particular salad, since iceberg lettuce for a gastric bypass patient is about as helpful as eating a cardboard box, so I skipped the salad.  Next, I tried to avoid anything with bread – so that left out the burger, the turkey sandwich, and the Italian Grilled chicken sandwich.  I was tempted to order the grilled chicken anyway, and just leave the bread off, but having had over-cooked issues here with a burger in the past, I was afraid the chicken would come out dry and inedible. 

At most restaurants, you can usually find SOMETHING you can eat on the appetizer side of the menu, so I browsed there and found a salad and a bowl of chili that sounded good.  The only dressing option on the salad was ranch, which I asked for on the side.  It is touted as a mixed green salad with diced tomatoes and onion, so there was no protein in it, but with the 7 bean and beef chili, I figured I had protein covered. 

The salad and the chili arrive together, to coincide with the arrival of the kids’ meals, and that’s fine.  It looks like a large, hearty bowl of chili, and the only problem I see is a huge pile of fried tortilla strips, which I can easily move off of my bowl, as long as I can find room on the table for the mountain of strips without blocking the view of the cars behind me.  The salad, however, is just ugly.  And the dressing is mixed in. 

Now, part of the problem here today is the service is so GOD AWFUL slow, I could have located one of the few remaining drive in theaters in the country, driven there, eaten something else, and driven back before I was going to see my waitress again.  I held off eating the salad until she came back, but it was getting sadder and sadder looking and I was getting hungrier and hungrier, so I started to pick at it.

You know how when you wash lettuce, it gets wet?  And then if you don’t let it dry – or use a salad spinner – and you pour dressing on it, it thins out the dressing so it’s watery?  And then you serve it and the plate gets filled with a white, watery substance while the lettuce drowns in a slow, wilting, painful death?  That’s what happened with this salad.  It had obviously been prepared WAY before it was served, and left to stew in it’s own juices quite a while.  Had it not been for the diced tomato, floating like jetsam in the watery ranch juice that covered the lettuce, very little of the salad would have been edible. 

That’s okay.  I have my chili to tide me over for the fortnight it might be until we see service again.

I remove a good portion of the Everest size portion of tortilla strips, and dig into the chili.  I want to tell you, the chili is GOOD.  It’s not too spicy – a problem for some people with gastric bypass surgery – but it has a really nice flavor.  There are chunks of ground beef, and lots of beans.  Well, not really lots of beans, because once you remove the very, very, very, very, very, very, very (did I say VERY?) generous portion of tortilla strips and dig your spoon in, you find that the large bowl is about as shallow as a saucer and your spoon hits bottom very quickly.  For about $7, you get half the size portion of chili that you might get in a Wendy’s large chili.  It’s so disappointing, because it does taste good, and my lettuce soup isn’t enough to fill me up, even with my pouched off stomach 🙁  I could have used another bowl.  Or two.

Just as I was getting frustrated enough to leave and ask for my check at the podium, our waitress came over with two ice cream sundaes for the girls.  The sundaes come with the kids’ meal, but they are made in advance and frozen, so you might find it takes a while for your kids to eat the sundaes.  In addition, she brought them two ice cold bottles of water, since they had the pirate punch, because she thought the ice cream might make them thirsty.  She did not charge me for the waters, so I felt awkward complaining to her about the food and the service.  She was trying to be nice, after all.

For the experience of the theming of this restaurant, I would say it’s a must do, at least once.  If you go in expecting crummy food and lousy service, you might be plesantly surprised, but at least you won’t be disappointed!

As a side note, if you are a smaller party – like I was with just myself and two little girls – you will likely share a car with another party.  We were in the jump seat of our car, with a family of four in the two rows in front of us.  If you’re not comfortable with that, you might want to just enjoy sitting in the car parked outside the restaurant.