September 17, 2014

Food & Wine Festival ~ Out to Sea


Welcome to those of you joining me from Rolling with the Magic and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail."

If your Disney vacation plans bypass Walt Disney World this year (sniff!) or you want to continue the Food and Wine Festival goodness as you take to the high seas, you are certainly in luck! Disney Cruise Lines offers several different cooking demonstrations, wine pairings and tastings during each cruise.

On the classic ships (aka the Disney Magic and her sister ship the Disney Wonder), "Anyone Can Cook" is offered several times throughout the cruise. During a fun informative presentation, adults can learn how to prepare a new appetizer, entrée or dessert. Recipe cards are provided, as are samples of both the dish and a wine pairing.

If you have youngsters who are budding chefs, they offer a similar program in the clubs. Their project often results in chocolate chip cookies ready to eat rather than sea bass. No complaints from my children!

My favorite demonstration, by far, is exclusive to the longer cruises. Chef v. Chef provides an Iron Chef-esque throwdown. Complete with mystery ingredients, volunteers from the audience acting as sous chef and a panel of esteemed judges (again volunteers.)

Iron Chef Style Throwdown, complete with a mystery ingredient!
My husband experienced judging this competition with an extremely unusual mystery ingredient, which nevertheless resulted in two ridiculously delicious three course meals. It's fun and already included in your cruise, so check it out!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Sparks of Magic.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog - F&W Perfect Meal
2nd Stop ~ Home is Where the Mouse Is - Duffy's International Food Festival
3rd Stop ~ Rolling with the Magic - Food & Wine Fun Outside of Epcot
4th Stop ~ Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere - Art of Entertaining
Final Stop ~ Sparks of Magic - Gluten-Free Goodness at Disneyland Resort

September 4, 2014

Three Things Thursday ~ Forests of Books!

It's time for one of my new favorite blog hops: Three Things Thursday!

(Be sure to link up on her blog!)
Since I already have a blog (and three blogs preceding this one) what haven't I already shared?

Once Upon a Time There Was a Princess With Her Nose Stuck in a Book.

Actually I'm reading three different books right now. For a change, all three are new (to me) books rather than old favorites. (I think I'm reading a few of those as well.

1.) A Candle for Saint Jude
by Rumer Godden
This book is the prequel to one of my childhood favorites, Listen to the Nightingale. A few chapters in, I remember why this author won my love. The intricate world of the ballet boarding school unfolds like a flower in ever widening sketches. Like interpretive dance, this story skips and shades and doesn't fill in all the details but is delightful and lovely all the same. I finally found a copy on Amazon about a month ago and ordered it. I'm about halfway through and enjoy it immensely.

2.) The Brainy Bunch: The Harding Family's Method to College Ready by Age Twelve
by Kip Harding and Mona Lisa Harding
I love researching anything, especially new things! A large part of the joy of my new adventure of homeschooling is reading everything I can find about different theories of homeschool, be it pins on pinterest, blogs, or books. I think this is an easy, yet interesting read. Equal parts autobiography and homeschooling hint book, I enjoy their unique perspective. How many people routinely enroll their tweens in college? So far, seven out of their ten children have entered college before age twelve. I enjoy the affable and entertaining presentation but I'm not sure how applicable it is. I'm about eighty percent of the way through the book.

3.) The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
I hadn't read the book that inspired my favorite movie? Inconceivable! I'm only a half chapter into this but I suspect it will leapfrog ahead of the other two. I borrowed this from the library this morning after watching the classic film with my kids the other day.

Which one would you want to read first? Do you have anything I should add to my reading list?

Just realized that I am also in the midst of The Iron Trial on my Kindle as well.

August 31, 2014

How NOT to Apply for the Disney Parks Moms Panel

I'll be the first to admit: I do NOT know how to successfully apply for the #DisneyMP. Sure, I made round two last year, which is both an honor and an incredible way to make friends with a great big beautiful group of Disney fans, but that's not quite the same as serving on the panel.

I did pick up a few different ways to NOT make it onto the panel. Here's hoping I've learned from these mistakes and that they might help you in your application adventure!

Ignore Social Media
My peaceful, lazy Labor Day weekend is about to give way to the exciting adventures of the #DisneyMP search. If you've caught the Disney Parks Blog last Thursday, you noticed that Leanne's lovely article finally let us peek behind the scenes. Yes, it's that time of year again. Disney Park Moms Panel Search 2015 begins next Tuesday the second of September at 10am EST and runs through Friday the fifth of September at noon EST.
Let the spell checking commence!

A whole week early with a day and a half less time?
"Hang onto your hats and glasses, folks, cause this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness!"
If I did not follow the #DisneyMP hashtag and @Gary_Jerry on twitter, I could have happily floated through this weekend. Late next week, I might remember to check if applications would open the Monday after Labor Day "as usual." At the very least, I end up filling out the application last minute; worst case scenario, I miss the application window entirely. If you do follow along on social media, the second comes as no surprise, but the confirmation of a fortnight of clues.
Gary Buchannan is very kind and helpful to us applicants, so feel free to ask questions about the process as it goes.
If twitter isn't your thing, there are many different Facebook groups that will keep you abreast of news, clues and other antics of the applicants. I love the ladies (and gentleman) in Amazing Adventures of the DisneyMP 2014 Search! Ignore the name. There were too many of us to change the name after last year's search.

Don't Read the Fine Print
If you know and love Disney, chances are you help anyone and everyone with their vacation plans.
After all, your husband completed the Disney College of Knowledge through his travel agency so you must be a complete shoe-in for the panel!
Not so fast.
Being a travel agent (or living with one) is a no-no (or at least it was last year.) The same rule applied to cast members, as well as member of the travel, hotel and theme park industry. You needed to have completed your "qualifying trip" in the previous calendar year for WDW and Disneyland (or 24 months for runDisney, DCL, DVC and WWoS) We'll have to read the rules on Tuesday, I guess!

Type How You Text or Tweet
Do you see all of those lovely Disney specific acronyms in the paragraph above this?
Forget that you know those.
The application ventures far into both the land of fantasy and the realm of the Oxford comma. These common place acronyms and nicknames for the parks and attractions are not your friend.

"Stay on target..."

Basically everything you learned in high school English regarding spelling, spacing, and spell check suddenly becomes very important.

Cut and Paste Your Answers Directly From Other Programs
With all  of the pressure to use proper grammar and spelling, running answers through a word processor seems to be the way to go. So you copy it and paste it back into the application (creating unreadable alphanumeric soup on the receiving end, hence the end of your journey.)
Please just don't.

Expect to Find Out Quickly
Round one will "be reviewed at least five weeks."
There will be four or more rounds.
This is a marathon not a sprint so get on your comfy pants and get ready to make friends!

If you need me on Tuesday, I will be cuddled up in my yoga pants and Minnie Ears filling out my application at

Have a magical week!

August 27, 2014

The Beginner's Guide to Disney Cruise Line

With so much riding on picking out the perfect vacation (time, stress, money) it always made sense to me to stick with what we knew. Growing up, our vacations alternated between Walt Disney World and beach condos. Until one day, during my junior year of college when I agreed to chaperone a high school Europe trip. That trip taught me many things, but mostly that I wanted to see more than just a part of this world. As a fan of all things pixie-dust related, I wanted to follow Disney and set to sea with the newest cruise ships.

How do I go from my beloved home away from home at Walt Disney World without finding myself adrift? The "fish out of water" feeling sent me straight to the DVR/library/discussion boards/Google for more information. Armed with entirely too much information, much of it contradictory opinions on what I "must do" for a fabulous first cruise, I finally shipped out on my first cruise. Guess what? We didn't do most of the things on that list of "must do" activities but loved every minute of our vacation and planning ahead for our "next cruise."

So where should you start your adventure?

1.) Pick an Exciting Destination
The majority of Disney Cruises visit either the Bahamas or the Caribbean. The Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy currently visit Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private paradise, year round.  Although many Disney cruisers started out on the three or four night Bahamian cruise in order to "get their feet wet" first time cruisers make up a significant number of cruisers on all but the rarest itineraries. I prefer at least four nights with at least one day at sea for a first time cruiser to really get a taste of being on a cruise. Whereas port days offer a chance to explore the world and get a taste of a new culture, sea days let you relax and reenergize; a great vacation balances both.

Seven night Caribbean itineraries allow a wonderful mix of both. Europe and Alaska tend to be port intensive while a Transatlantic cruise offers many sea days. For something longer and a little further out to sea, Europe, Alaska, the Transatlantic crossing, the Panama Canal, Norway and even Hawaii host these graceful vessels for anywhere from a seven night Mediterranean itinerary to a fifteen night voyage through the Panama Canal.

The least you need to know:
Picking out your destination first leads you to which ships and then what time of year best suits your dream vacation! (e.g.: I want to go to Alaska, so I will be traveling during summer season on the Disney Wonder.)

2.) Pick a Date and Book
Once you know where you want to go, figure out when you should set sail. Disney Cruise Line, much like the parks, enjoys much busier holidays and summer seasons. Holiday seasons feature special events on board (everything from gingerbread house decorating to trick or treating.) The trade off for cruising during the holidays and school vacations is that they can be more expensive than the same itinerary on a different week. If you are more concerned with making your voyage economical there are quite a few tips and tricks to sail Disney Cruise Line on a dime.

Hurricane season for the Caribbean runs from June first through November first each year, if you prefer to avoid that. Disney unfortunately still can not control the weather, so trip insurance might be the way to go.

The last piece of information to be nailed down at booking is your stateroom category. You've seen the promotional materials flaunting inside staterooms on the classic ships "up to twenty five percent larger than the cruise industry standard." This is wonderful, until you realize that this makes a stateroom a smidgeon smaller than the average American dorm room. Fortunately, this "Itty Bitty Living Space" is quite accommodating even for a family of four or more. Although Disney breaks the staterooms into eleven categories with an even greater number of subdivisions. Thankfully, there are four basic categories to consider.
  • Concierge with Verandah - Whether you're living the suite life in the Walt Disney Suite or enjoying the service of your concierge from a family oceanview stateroom with verandah, you get a little more elbow room than the average cruiser and unparalleled luxury and service to boot!
  • Staterooms with Verandah - Enjoying room service coffee on a private verandah is a lovely way to wake up.
  • Oceanview Staterooms - A room with a view! Either a single large porthole or a pair of smaller portholes will let you enjoy sunrises, sunsets and natural lighting.
  • Inside Staterooms - These rooms do not come with an exterior view (unless you are on the Dream class where magic portholes provide lovely outside views.) 
As the ship fills up for a particular sailing the pricing will jump to the next tier, so booking as early as possible doesn't just allow for plenty of planning time but also saves cash in the long run.

The least you need to know:
The bulk of the difference in price between cruises will be based on time of year and cabin category. Avoid times of year when school is out and book as early as possible for the biggest savings

3.) Pack (Less Than You Think)
Though you will want to pack appropriate clothing for dinner, excursions and perambulating about deck four, you don't need to worry that you will appear on What Not to Wear: Disney Cruise Line Edition anytime soon. Keep in mind that mid-winter the Caribbean is still very warm and mid-summer Alaska is still fairly cool. "Cruise Casual" is the rule of the day on deck and even most evenings. For dressier evenings, mixing and matching stretches your wardrobe. Palo and Remy each follow a slightly stricter dress code.

The shops on board carry a variety of resort wear, with one shop focusing on children's wear and the other tending toward more adult sized clothing from swimwear, sweatshirts and beach cover ups to dresses and polo shirts. If all else fails, or if you're enjoying a two week vacation, laundry services or self service (detergent, fabric softener, washers and dryers) can charged on your Key to the World card.

The least you need to know:
Disney keeps a fairly loose dress code with exceptions in Palo and Remy. Laundry is available on board.

4.) Embrace the Pixie Dust
The one thing that you can rely on when setting sail with Disney is that magic will appear around every corner. I've run into dozens of Disney characters just by walking the halls. Peter Pan on the staircase, Donald Duck while walking my daughter to the restroom and Belle reading to a cluster of little princesses on the floor in the hall?

The Royal TreatmentReally?

Yes, that's just another day on a Disney cruise.

If you're lucky Donald will do the potty dance with your daughter and remind her she should be on her way somewhere.

Food more your speed?
From Mickey bars to chocolate soufflés, they've got you covered. From breakfast time to the wee hours counselors entertain the smaller sailors in the Oceaneer's Club and Lab so that adults can take advantage of all the amazing adult activities. With more activities than you can shake a stick at, it's entirely possible to run from dawn to dusk on board, or kick back, relax and let Captain Mickey do the driving while a lounger and fruity drink call your name.

One of the best parts of Disney Cruises, in my book, is the opportunity to entirely unplug from the outside world and spend some time with my family making memories. Whether taking an animation class, shuffleboard, putt-putt or competing in something a little higher tech (Midship Detective Agency, anyone?) it's all a little bit more magical when everyone can relax and enjoy together.

If you're looking for an adventure a bit off the beaten path (but still on the ship) try one of these ideas for a bit of hidden pixie dust. Cruising tends to be one of the unique situations in life where you are encouraged and expected to sit back relax and go with the flow, so enjoy!

Even Platinum Castaway Club members (DCL's return cruiser program) started out unable to tell the port from the aft! With a little bit of faith, trust and pixie dust even the biggest landlubber can earn their sea legs. Just cruise on over to Disney Cruise Line's website to start picking out an itinerary and soon you'll be saying "Bon Voyage!" to your normal vacation. I hope to see you soon and "Welcome Aboard!"

Want more tips on how to plan your first Disney Cruise Line vacation?
Cruise on over to my Disney Cruise Line 101 tab for answers to FAQs and my favorite tips!
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