50s Prime Time Cafe – Disney Dining Review

Comment 1 Standard

Imagine walking into your Mom’s kitchen back in the 1950s.  You’re probably being told to set the table, while the smell of Mom’s pot roast swirls around you.  Dad may be sitting in his chair in the living room, watching Father Knows Best on the black and white TV.  Then Mom yells, “Kids, come and eat!”, and the family gathers around the laminate topped table with the chrome chairs to dig in to the delicious meal Mom has slaved over all day.  This is the same thing you’ll experience at 50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Entrance to 50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Entrance to 50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Whether you enter into the lounge area – where you’ll find a full bar and some retro furniture to relax in while you wait for your table – or through the main entrance, you are transported to that era when life was as simple, families ate dinner together, and the food was made with love and home in mind.  All the servers here are your relatives, and you’ll find some are like the mean older sister, bossing you around, telling you to set the table; others are the helpful younger brother, reminding you to keep your elbows off the table so you don’t get in trouble with Mom.

Dining room, featuring black and white TV

Dining room, featuring black and white TV

The menu is heavy on American comfort food favorites.  A tender and delicious pot roast, swimming in a gravy with carrots and celery, accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes; a crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside homestyle fried chicken; even meatloaf the way you remember it – sliced thick, covered with gravy, and with a healthy helping of mashed potatoes on the side.  This is not gourmet cuisine, it’s comfort cuisine, and it’s done absolutely perfectly.

Mom's Pot Roast

Mom’s Pot Roast

Menu favorites include the peanut butter and jelly milkshake – a creamy and cold blend of your two favorite childhood flavors, served in an old fashioned milkshake glass with the extra on the side.  Beer battered onion rings are a crispy and delicious throw back to 50s diner food, and a great way to start your meal.  And if you can’t choose among the flashback entree favorites, try the sample platter that gives you a taste of the meatloaf, fried chicken, and pot roast.  There is even a daily blue plate special that can offer a delicious menu alternative to the traditional favorites.

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

This is a must do meal for our family each time we visit Walt Disney World.  They do accept the Disney Dining Plan, and your meal here is one table service entitlement.  The restaurant also participates with Tables in Wonderland.

Daily Blue Plate Special of shrimp and grits

Daily Blue Plate Special of shrimp and grits

 

Let’s Put Doc McStuffins in Charge of Peace Talks

Comment 1 Standard

The Sunday New York Times published an article describing how Doc McStuffins was a financially successful “crossover” toy – popular equally with minority children and non-Hispanic white children.  The article talked about how “minority” children make up just over 50% of children in this country, and this growing demographic is influencing the sale of merchandise on a wide scale.

It wasn’t always like that.  African American children had their dolls, white kids had their dolls, and never the twain shall meet.

I remember when Christie was introduced as the first African American Barbie doll.  Christie was actually the second in the line of minority Barbie dolls, as a year prior, Mattel manufactured Colored Francie (yep, you read that right).  The problem with Colored Francie is that she was basically tan Francie (Jersey Shore spray tan color), complete with top knot pony tail and slightly darkened Caucasian features.  But I digress.  None of my white friends had Christie dolls.  I was about five when she came out, fully into Barbies, Barbie cases, Barbie houses – the whole ordeal.  But I didn’t have a Christie doll.  Because she was African American.

When the Julia doll came out, I wanted one.  I saw the show on TV, and I wanted the nurse Julia doll, especially because this was back in the day before Barbie had real jobs – like astronaut and doctor.  Julia had professionalism.  She was a working woman, a strong female role model, raising her child alone and succeeding.  But I didn’t dare ask for one.  I knew my parents wouldn’t buy Julia because she was also an African American doll.  I don’t know where the perception came from, but white kids played with white dolls, and the African American dolls belonged to African American girls.  Even my own kids played with white dolls until Dora the Explorer hit big.

Doc mcstuffins

Doc McStuffins, though, has really crossed the line.  She transcends race and gender.  This little girl who plays doctor to her stuffed animals is not a doll for African American children, although the appeal to African American children, who see a doll in the store that looks like them, is unquestionable.  Doc is everyone’s doll.  White kids don’t see her color, they see Doc McStuffins, the beloved character from TV.  Little girls see a strong role model, even in Doc’s pretend world, and even little boys are wearing Doc’s lab coats and checking out their animals.

Doc McStuffins is single-handedly changing the perception of the buying public – the public at large.  Gone are the moms from my parents’ generation who believed a doll of color wasn’t for “us”.  And going are the moms who think their boys can’t play with toys from a “girls'” TV show.  The borders this character is crossing are farther reaching even than the borders crossed by Dora and Diego.

There are some African Americans who see this as a victory purely for African Americans.  It’s not.  Doc is a victory for all of us.  As Margaret Atwood said, I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one ‘race’ – the human race – and that we are all members of it.” 

Doc McStuffins has gone further to bring together people of all races than any politician or any government.  Imagine if we could take a page from her book and apply it across the board.

doc

Squish: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse App Review

Leave a comment Standard

Remember when you gave your kids Play-Doh, and they squished it and shaped it, then got it embedded into your carpet so tightly that the only way to get it out was to call the dogs in to lick it out?  The little crumbs were all over the dining room table, so you combined them all together and told your husband they were rainbow peas that you added to the carbonara sauce you had for dinner.

Never again!

icon_256

Squish:  Mickey Mouse Clubhouse takes all the fun of playing with clay or Play-Doh, adds your kids’ favorite cartoon characters, and keeps you from having to clean up the mess!  Kids can twist, shape, inflate, and even melt their own clay creations with the help of their friend Mickey Mouse.  There are a variety of tools that let the kids pull the clay, make it bumpy, and shape the clay into anything they want.  They can add accessories, like mustaches, bow ties, and Goofy hats.

screen520x924 (1)

Kids choose the colors they want to work with, the things they want to add to their creations, and they can even take a picture of it when they’re done.  Your child is limited only by their imagination!

For use on the iPad or the iPhone, the app is recommended for children ages 5 and under.  Honestly, though, I played with it for a while, and my nine year old had a blast with it.  This app definitely lets your child create and be inspired!

screen520x924

The app is $4.99, and then you can download a free bonus pack to add additional shapes and features.

 

*Disney Consumer Products provided me with a code that allowed me download this app for free for the purposes of this review.

The Hundred Foot Journey – A Taste to Whet Your Appetite

Comment 1 Standard

100FootJourney539b2906cfd77

I cannot wait for this movie – which arrives in theaters on August 8th.  A young, untrained chef from India and his family set up a competing restaurant directly across the street from one of France’s great chefs (Helen Mirren).  The story that unfolds is both beautiful AND full of flavor!

To help get you ready for the movie, enjoy this delicious potato recipe (diet be damned!).

Gratin_Digital_FoodieFriday

And while you are waiting for this to cook, enjoy the official trailer, which you can find at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fv1JSQJKRXs

 

Magic Bands, FastPass+, ADRs, OH MY!

Comment 1 Standard

Remember, back in the day, when you could just show up at Walt Disney World, ride the rides, eat nice meals, have a great time, and go home?  Yeah, me neither.

For as long as I’ve been planning Walt Disney World vacations (approximately 7, 459 years), I’ve had to get up at the crack of dawn at some distant light year from the actual vacation to book a dining reservation at a restaurant for which I personally have no fondness, but I have deemed it an experience my children MUST have to prevent them from ending up in years of therapy for the mental cruelty they suffered at the hands of a negligent mother.

But as if that fun and excitement wasn’t enough to give you hives, there’s more!

Bands-2-500x283

You have, no doubt, heard of the latest technology rolled out at the Disney theme parks.  The aptly named “Magic Bands” have debuted, and boy oh boy are they fun!  They come in pretty colors, you can add little charms to them, a cutie patootie frame around your Mickey head – what’s not to love?  They even have your name on them!  Adorable!

But the responsibility that comes as a Magic Band owner! While planning for a recent vacation, I spent the better part of my days trying to make sure everything for our upcoming vacation is going to be magical for my family.  I spent hours on the phone with Disney IT, when somethings weren’t working out right, and I went back into My Disney Experience dozens upon dozens of times, trying to make sure I wasn’t overlooking things.

And as the vacation date loomed, I didn’t feel ready.  For the first time, I was afraid our ability to navigate the park without stress was going to be impeded.  I worried that the FastPass+ selections I made were not really the ones my kids want.  I feared the kid who could easily ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster a half dozen times would be disappointed when I had to drag her away after one ride, not having the ability to snag FastPasses throughout the day.  It’s like the old fashioned ticket books!

disney-magic-band

Well, I can say that the vacation wasn’t a total disaster, but it was super stressful.  My husband declared it “not fun” to have my head buried in my cell phone as we tried to make adjustments to our FastPass+ selections, made 60 days in advance, to accommodate our schedule.  My kids were disappointed I couldn’t snag extra FastPasses to come back to things like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Toy Story.  And we did race through a meal or two in order to make sure we were able to run to our FastPass+ attractions before our time was up.

I am confident that in time, this will be an awesome system.  I loved, for example, not carrying a bag with me, because I didn’t have to store keys or passes or FastPasses.  I breezed right through the “No Bags” line like I’d done it a hundred times before.

But I did need a vacation from that vacation.  The stress of making sure we were where we needed to be so we could enjoy things killed some of the enjoyment.

Or maybe I’m not so good with the winds of change?

Making your Disney Cruise a bit More Magical

Comments 12 Standard

There is only one thing my family loves as much as Walt Disney World vacations, and that’s cruise vacations.  When we can combine both of those loves by doing a Disney Cruise, which we’ve done now nine times, we know it’s gonna be one awesome trip.

Over the years, we’ve tried some things that have always given us even more amazing memories of our cruise vacations.  If you are new to Disney cruising, you might want to think about trying some of them, too!

1 – Board Ready for Your Close-Up!

After you’ve checked in, you will at some point be ushered through to your adoring fans – we call them “Photographers”.  They will take your family’s embarkation photo, the first of many you might have taken during your cruise.  I like to try and have the family dressed similarly – and if I can get away with it, the kids all dressed alike.  You don’t get many chances at home to have the whole family posing together, so take advantage!

0006

2- Have your bathing suit ready when you board!  Most guests tend to follow the crowd when they get on the ship, and that usually means heading to grab some lunch before you can gain access to your stateroom.  Most guests will have their bathing suits packed away in their luggage, so this is a great time to hit the pool.  My girls have had the whole pool to themselves on a cruise or two in the past, and the shortest wait you’ll have the whole time you’re on the ship for the AquaDuck is just after embarkation.

3 – Door Magnets!! – You will find this is unique to the Disney cruises, where the metal doors make the perfect canvas to express your inner vacation artist.  You’ll find people bring everything from just a few magnets to a whole door full, decorating the “porthole”, changing magnets to reflect the port, or even using magnetic dry erase boards to communicate with travel companions in other cabins.  It’s always fun for the kids to the see different magnets, and a unique way to show your Disney Side!

DCL 6

4 – Ahoy, Me Hearties!  On most Disney cruises, you’ll get to experience the Pirates IN the Caribbean deck party.  Complete with fireworks and turkey legs, this is a fun night, where you’ll see lots of your shipmates decked out in their Scurvy best.  Pack your eye patches and be ready to party, but in case you forget, you’ll find the finest pirate couture collection at the gift shop on the ship.

0238

5- Dine and Play for the Kid that wants to Dine and Dash – Not every guest on a Disney cruise can score early dinner seating.  For our family, that works out just fine.  I can usually convince my kids that they need an afternoon nap, especially if we’ve been busy on Castaway Cay or touring another exotic destination, so we always request late dinner seating.  We can be seated at our table around 8:15 in the evening, and the kids have the option to order their meal from the kids menu right away, and by about 8:45 – 9:00, a cast member from the Kids Clubs will come gather up the interested children and escort them back to the club.  The service allows the grown ups to linger a bit longer, enjoy a leisurely dessert and coffee.  You could even go snag a nightcap at one of the adult only hot spots before snagging the kids to head to bed.

6- Castaway Cay 5K – Have you ever wanted to attempt a 5K, but were afraid of being swept up at the end for coming in last?  Neither had I.  But on a recent cruise, when a group of friends wanted me to walk the 5K, I realized it was unlikely that I would spontaneously combust and get out of it, so I embraced it.  It was FUN!  The event is free, but the number of guests permitted to register is limited.  Head to Guest Services on your embarkation day to get your number, and get ready to enjoy an early morning stroll (or sprint) around the beautiful private island.  There is no time limit, so it’s a great first experience, and the “medal” is cool, too.  They also have t-shirts you can buy when you’re done!

5K

7- A Vacation With Character – One of the biggest differences on a Disney cruise is, of course, Disney characters!  Not only will you find meet and greets scheduled throughout the day, longer cruises also have a character breakfast you can attend.  Characters may also pop into the kids club, on the beach when you dock at Castaway Cay, and even at the Sail Away Party as your ship gets underway.  Keep a camera at the ready!

8- Don’t Miss the Shows!  Entertainment is what Disney does best, so why would you want to miss a great show?  You’ll find a different stage show each night of your cruise, and some of the performances are really Broadway quality.  The shows are kid friendly, and they’ll love seeing some of their favorite characters on stage.

9- Fish Extenders – Fish what?  Is that on the menu?  No!  Outside each stateroom door, you’ll find some variety of sea creature that acts as your “mailbox” during your cruise.  You’ll get invitations to various events or find your final bill tucked behind the fish mail holder.  Well, a group of incredibly creative people decided to start a bit of a Pollyanna type of thing.  You join a Fish Extender group on the DisBoards at http://www.disboards.com/ or find a group on Facebook, and you sign up agreeing to deliver some little gift to your fellow cruisers.  In return, you hang your Fish Extender on your fish mailbox, and the other cruisers who are participating will bring you little surprises as well.  Kids love getting the little surprises, and even grown ups will enjoy seeing what little treats have been left while they were gone.  It’s a must do for my girls.

Fish Extener

10- Milk and Cookies at Bedtime – You will not go to bed hungry on a Disney cruise, but as an extra little treat, we have gotten into the habit of ordering cookies and milk from room service for the girls.  There is no extra charge for the midnight delivery, and we often sit on our balcony, enjoying a recap of the day or watching our favorite Disney movie on TV.  The cookies are delicious and home-made tasting, and the memories we create in those waning minutes of a day on vacation – pure magic!

Why I Love “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

Comments 2 Standard

The holiday movie crush can be tough.  There are all sorts of movies throwing themselves out there for Oscar consideration, and the biggest stars release their best work so you – and the Academy Awards – will notice them.

As a result of the stiff competition, you may have overlooked the underdog of the holiday season – the movie that didn’t have Disney punch behind it or an Oscar winning/contender face starring in it.  But after seeing some of the best of the best this holiday season, the one that will stay with me, making it onto my top 10 movie list – Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

20131126010558!The_Secret_Life_of_Walter_Mitty_poster

The thing that I love about this movie is that from start to finish, it’s about personal connections.  Real people meeting real people, changing their lives, influencing the way they live.  It’s ironic, really, because the movie starts with Walter trying to use eHarmony to wink at a woman who works in his office – a woman he could walk up to, wink at personally, strike up a conversation.

The movie is about living in the real world, having real life experiences, being present and making the most of the life you have, instead of living in the what if world of fantasy.  Again, this is ironic, since Walter spends the first half of the movie living in his head.  In scene after scene, he daydreams himself into a world he wishes he could live in, ignoring opportunities to make life in the present more appealing.

Ben Stiller in a still from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller is perfect in the role of Walter Mitty.  There are no stupid faces like the ones you’d see in “Zoolander”, or bad puns and off color remarks as you would see in “Dodgeball”.  This is Stiller at his best.  He is vulnerable, determined, normal almost to the point of quirky.  The dream sequences give you a glimpse of the Stiller you either love or hate, but the rest of the movie, he’s just your average Joe, trying to find and make personal connections in this internet world.  He’s all about living in the moment, once he realizes the real moments are the ones that are so much more important.

I love this movie.  I’ve seen it twice, and have come out both times humming and feeling happy.  With a free two hours, especially on a gloomy day, I’d go see it again.

 

Showing My Disney Side

Comments 6 Standard

No one loves to throw a party as much as I do.  Well, unless you consider my husband, who knows the house undergoes a thorough scrubbing in preparation for a party.  I guess, therefore, he loves to throw a party more than I do, since he doesn’t do any of the scrubbing but benefits from a clean house.

But I digress.

IMG_3424

When I found out I was selected to host a Disney Side @Home Celebration, I thought it was the most fan-freaking-tastic way to combine my love of all things Disney and party planning!  I didn’t peek at anyone else’s posts to see what was in the box, so it was a complete surprise when the amazing celebration in a cardboard box showed up today!

The first thing I saw when I opened the box was this adorable overnight bag –

IMG_3425

 

Even making me think about Walt Disney World or a Disney Cruise is enough reason for me to throw a party, but wait, there’s more!  In addition to some great Bingo games, RunDisney chEAR posters, ESPN Wide World of Sports bracelets and bumper stickers, instructions for face painting with a Disney flair, Disney trivia cards, a Disney vacation planning DVD, and recipes/activities, the box came with:

IMG_3435

Boxes of HP Photo Cards, so we can capture the memories and share them with friends!

IMG_3433

Adorable cookie cutters – or sandwich cutters – as the case may be!

IMG_3432

An iPhone case

IMG_3431

Yummy Craisins snack boxes!

IMG_3430

Stickers! Who doesn’t love stickers!

IMG_3428

Measuring cups from The Chew! Do you think Mario Batali packed these himself?

IMG_3427

Mickey paper goods – napkins, plates, cups, cupcake wrappers, and decorations

IMG_3426

Sweetie posters – how cute would these be as a Valentine gift?

I can’t wait to celebrate with some Disney friends!

 

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man – A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Comments 3 Standard

…But you’ll have to wait until November 22nd!

Vince Vaughn, everyone’s favorite funny man, learns he is father of 533 children (and I thought I was having trouble balancing things with my three!) in this funny, heartwarming film. Check out this sneak peek – you’ll be waiting at the door to race out when this Delivery Man finally arrives!

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man - A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man – A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man - A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man – A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man - A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man – A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man - A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man – A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man - A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Vince Vaughn’s Delivery Man – A Package You’ll Want to Open Right Away…

Christmas at Walt Disney World – What We Love, What We Love Less

Comments 10 Standard

The smell of Christmas ham may still be wafting through the house, and you may still be walking past those last three Christmas cookies that no one really likes, tempting you to break your New Year’s resolution to lose weight.  So why on earth am I talking about Christmas at Walt Disney World already?

If you’re a DVC owner, you probably know why.  We are already coming up on the 11 month booking window for next Christmas, and if you want the resort preferences you want, you’ve got to book early!

For those who are always on the fence about whether or not to book their Walt Disney World vacation during the busiest time of the year, here are the reasons why we do.

Christmas Dinner at Artist Point – The Wilderness Lodge location just screams Christmas.  The rustic lodge with the roaring fireplace and the giant Christmas tree make this a natural choice for the holiday.  The cozy, warm feeling of Artist Point is as close to Christmas dinner at home with family – if your family lived in a Norman Rockwell painting – as you’re going to get.  The food is delicious (is it wrong that my mouth is still watering over the pork belly and corn and crab salad I had?), and the location ideal.  It’s a perfect Christmas meal.

The Decorations – Remember the year that you had all that free time at Christmas after the shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking and cleaning, so you decided to deck every hall in your house with boughs of holly, elegant wreaths, themed Christmas trees, and giant gingerbread houses?  Yeah, me neither.  But guess what?  You’ll have all of that at Walt Disney World!  Wreaths and garlands dripping with ornaments, trees that soar towards massive ceilings, and life sized carousels and gingerbread houses can be found in every corner of the resorts.  The best part?  You won’t get sap in your hair setting the tree up, and you don’t have to vacuum all the pine needles out of the carpet.

The Lights – I wish I could say that our house is like the Griswold Family Christmas, where the dad wants so many lights on the house you can see it from outer space.  It’s not.  My husband is the king of understated Christmas lights.  We usually have a battery operated candle in each window, but the batteries usually die by December 4th, and they don’t usually get replaced until the following year, when my husband decides it’s cheaper to throw the lights out than replace the batteries, and the whole process begins again.  Any other lights are usually put out by the kids and I, and I gotta tell ya, if it’s cold, I’m darn near tempted to dump the light box into the bushes, plug in the first plug I find, and pray it’s on a string of lights that actually works.

The Osborne Spectacle of the Dancing Lights is the ultimate holiday light display.  Snow, music, and millions of lights makes it more festive than I could ever dream at home!  No matter how ambitious I am with my own lights, there’s just nothing that compares with the amazing display.  You just want to walk down the street hugging people.  Seriously.

Candlelight Processional – If you are lacking Christmas spirit at home, you will surely find it here.  This is a narrated story of the birth of Christ, read by a celebrity narrator, with the accompaniment of a brilliant choir and amazing orchestra.  There is nothing better to do on Christmas eve than to enjoy a wonderful family meal, followed by the Candlelight Processional, followed by Illuminations.  It’s another hug everyone experience.

So, I’ve convinced you to be on the phone with me later this week to make your reservations for Christmas, right?

Well, yeah, there are a few things we don’t love about Christmas at Walt Disney World.  It is crowded.  You can expect lines for attractions to top 90 minutes or more.  There is some stress trying to get dining reservations and the room you want at the resort you’d like.  And it’s really tough to pack a family’s worth of Christmas presents and decorations in your carry on bags for the plane.

But honestly, some of our best family vacations are the ones we’ve spent at Walt Disney World at Christmas.  We make it our annual holiday destination.