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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Miss The Orange Bird

Throwback Thursday
Throwback Thursday Update 8/22/2013:  In the years since I've written this piece it's been my absolutely pleasure to see the Orange Bird make a return to the Magic Kingdom!  Though there's no costumed bird running around the park, my favorite little guy has returned to the Sunshine Tree Terrace, and in various merchandise!  I grab up every Orange Bird thing I can find these days from pins to antenna balls to t-shirts and ear hats.  I still love the Orange Bird!  I guess I was just ahead of the curve when I posted this back in 2010.

I know that the trendy thing, for at least the past 15-20 years has been the Dole Whip. I dare say that it's even created it's own cult following amongst Disney goers. Sweet soft serve pineapple sorbet swirled with ice cream, guests seem willing to wait in long lines to get their tasty treat. I'm not a Dole Whip girl, I tried to like them so that I was "in" but the pineapple just isn't my thing. I long for the days of the Orange Bird.
Kristen & The Orange Bird 1981
"Little Orange Bird in the Sunshine Tree
Won't you think of something sunny just for me?
Think funny thoughts or sunny words
That will make me happy, little Orange Bird"
~ Sherman Brothers Lyrics

As a child the friendly Orange Bird always greeted us to Walt Disney World. The Sunshine Terrance located directly next to the Tiki Room was our traditional first stop year after year. Created by Disney for the Florida Citrus Growers the sunny little bird could be found on merchandise and billboards throughout the State of Florida. That was a time when tourists were good, but the citrus grove was the life blood of Florida and the Orange Bird was it's Ambassador to the world. Since 1986 the Florida Orange Growers sponsorship demised, the Sunshine Tree Terrace is only open seasonally and it's just not the same.

It was the Citrus Swirl that always marked our arrival in Disney. Florida Orange juice frozen into a icy smooth concoction bursting with sunshine. It was the best thing ever, this tangy juicy goodness could be swirled with soft serve vanilla ice cream, but my beloved was the straight orange juice version. Alas The Sunshine Pavillion or Sunshine Tree Terrace no longer serves my fruity delicious dessert of choice. It's been replaced with an orangy sherbert type vanilla soft serve that's high in sugar and low in the natural goodness of Florida Oranges. So please, enjoy your Dole Whip, but for myself, I'll long for the days of the Orange Bird.

For more information visit these great site and their stories on the original Sunshine Pavillion.


What Happened to my Adventureland Treat?

Disney Food Blog's Is This Place Ever Open?
Widen Your World's Sunshine Tree Terrace
Mouse Planet's Thoughts of an Orange Bird

Monday, June 28, 2010

Makin' Memories Monday

Disneyland Matterhorn 1968

With it's summit towering 147 feet high above the park, the Matterhorn Bobsleds opened at Disneyland in 1958. Not only the first Disney thrill ride, this was the first tubular steel track roller coaster ever built and is a landmark in it's on right for coaster buffs. I believe this picture was taken was taken around 1968, the last trip our family made with my grandfather. The snowy peak always gives me a sense of cool when touring on a hot summer day. Not only is is one of my favorite spots for pictures, but I love taking a few minutes to watch the rock climbers as they climb and rapell this famous mountain.

Disneyland Matterhorn 2009

If you walk around the peaceful peak that you see from the hub, you'll find the Submarine Lagoon. Stopping here you're able to watch the bobsleds racing around the ominous Matterhorn track. Hearing screams from the riders you get a glimpse of the thrilling adventure ahead. This Matterhorn shot from the lagoon was taken in 2009.

In April Disney launched a new line of Retro Tees to Celebrate Disneyland's 55th Anniversary. Designs include one inspired by by a Vintage Matterhorn Poster.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Interactive Disney Store coming to Chicagoland

I remember shopping at the Disney Store as a tween. My Aunt and I would make an hour drive to the closest location in order to feel a little piece of the magic in between vacations. I delighted in it, we would shop and giggle like we were on vacation, we’d always begin to plan our next trip. Over the years the Disney Stores have lost their original magic. What was once a fully themed location for young and old with everything from a Disney specialist travel desk to the iconic mountain of plush like the Emporium on Main Street, with Disneyana and cheerful, helpful, cast members; has and become a boring, cookie cutter, mass marketed place to shop for junk.

I received word today from Jim Fielding, the President of The Disney Store that indeed Chicagoland would be getting one of the twenty fabulous new Disney Stores being redesigned and launched beginning this year. Slated for an opening in October 2010, the store won’t be located a the glamorous Michigan Avenue address of the current Chicago Disney Store, but instead will hold 4,464 square feet of the 37 block of State Street along with Anthropologie, Sephora, several other retailers and eateries. “Cook County Circuit Judge Margaret Brennan said the court will approve Disney's lease.” in order to help renew this embattled retail area that had a court appointed receiver take control last January. “She asked for several minor adjustments to the agreement, but said it was important not to jeopardize the deal with Disney, which she described as a "desirable tenant" for the shopping center in Chicago's Loop” (Wong).

With the new eyes of Apple’s Steve Jobs assisting in the designs the new stores are said to be designed from a children’s perspective with interactive features to keep kids enchanted and their parents shopping. Using iconic Disney characters and imaginative interactive features such as light up trees that crackle with fireworks, and a section rumored to be titled “What Would Tink Do” (Barnes). The Montebello, California Store opens to the public in less than 24 hours with it's new design, and an ace team of cast members that are dedicated to making it a magical experience for everyone. Six more of the new stores are currently under construction and soon the Disney Spirit will spread across the country beckoning us back home.

I hope to make it to the Grand Opening of the new Chicago store. I’m excited to see the new retail outlets with a revitalized face. I hope that this brings the breath of fresh life to the Disney Store and makes them once again a great destination for us fans to get a quick fix of pixie dust. Most of all I hope that they haven’t forgotten the adults in the design. I hope that they have remembered those of us who grew up a Disney kid and now spend the money for the next generation. It’s all fair and good to entertain my children, but please, make me want to shop there too. Give me that in between vacation escape that will keep returning (to spite an hour and a half drive) over and over again.


Refrences

Barnes, Brooks. (October 12, 2009) Disney’s Retail Plan Is a Theme Park in It’s Stores. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/business/media/13disney.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Fielding, Jim. (June 21, 2010) Retrieved from http://twitter.com/DisneyStorePrez/

Wong, Wailin. (May19,2010). Disney store to appear at Block 37. Chicago Tribune.
Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-05-19/business/ct-biz-0520-block-37-20100519_1_disney-store-prototype-store-disney-princess

Makin' Memories Monday

Gayle & Kristen WDW 1975?

This is my mom and I posing for a picture in front of the castle circa 1976/7. Even though we lived in Illinois my Mom and Aunt knew the magic of Disney. I was lucky enough to travel to WDW two or three times a year, for weeks at a time. It was a magical childhood experience and one of the reasons that I consider Walt Disney World home.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Yachtman Steakhouse

To celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary my husband and I took our first vacation ever without the kids. A three night getaway where Disney's exciting shopping and dining was our main focus. We chose to get the deluxe dining plan, and for $80 per person we were treated to three table service credits a day. On on special night we decided to splurge and spend two credits for a Disney Signature dining experience. Dressed in smart attire we made the voyage to Disney's Yacht Club Resort to enjoy a magnificent dinner at the Yachtman Steakhouse.

We arrived a bit early for our reservations at first seating. My husband amused himself watching the chef's in the showplace dry aging room cut and trim the steaks to be served that evening; as I made my way to the bar for a glass of wine. I ordered a glass of Magicale. This exciting pick turned out to be a luscious glass of sweet red sparkling wine, full bodied with the flavors of dark cherry and plum. It is by far the most delightfully memorable glass of wine I've had in the past year, and is on my top ten list of things to eat or drink while at Walt Disney World.

We were taken to our seats near a window in a charming rounded room with a modern northeastern feel to it. The starched white linens and glistening stemware highlighted the formally set table Our window overlooked a lush secluded nook of the adventurous Stormalong Bay. Waiting for us were custom printed menus wishing us a Happy 10th Anniversary. Our wait staff for the night was prompt and attentive, seeing that our every need was taken care of without feeling rushed.

Custom Menu / Yachtman's Steakhouse


We each ordered a starter course. My husband, feeling adventurous went for the Black & Blue Steak. In his own words, "The Black and Blue was my first adventure into steak tartare, but since this was intended to be an experience of a lifetime, I didn't hesitate to experiment. The dish was seasoned wonderfully, and the meat practically melted in my mouth. The seasoning was on the savory side, but melded with the sweetness of the beef with an excellent accord."

Black and Blue Steak / Yachtman's Steakhouse


I ordered the Heirloom Beet Salad. This salad is the best thing I have ever eaten in my life. While all of the components were lovely on their own, when all were on my fork at once it created a symphony. One perfect bite of bright, fresh flavor that created a lasting memory.

Heirloom Beet Salad


Our main courses arrived at a leisurely pace that allowed our palates to settle and clear. Having finished the sweet Magicale, I ordered a glass of Fairytale Cuvee' to accompany my meal. This sparkling wine from Iron Horse Vineyards is much dryer than I usually care for in a sparkling wine, but turned out to be a fair accompaniment for my main course. I ordered the 8 oz Fillet Mingnon with red wine sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and onions caramelized in a white balsamic. This delicate cut was cooked perfectly to my taste and each savory bite melted in my mouth with each bite. The garlic mash was flavorful without being overwhelming, and the onions a celebration in their own right.

Filet Mignon / Yachtman's Steakhouse


My husband ordered the special for the evening which was a massive 24oz Cowboy Steak and it completely lived up to it's "special" billing. This mountain of meat was covered in marrow and accompanied with marrow still in the bone which he savored with great pleasure. He reflects fondly on the steak "Again, this was an adventure into unknown culinary experience. I had not previously had marrow with my steak, so I didn't know what to expect, but was very excited to taste it. The flavor of the dry-aged beef was incomparable in my experience. Savory without being overwhelming, and perfectly (yet lightly) seasoned, this was the best cut of meat that I have ever eaten. Our server suggested that I sample the marrow with a bite of the steak for the best flavor. I scooped out a bit of marrow, spread it on my first bite and just melted. It added an entirely new dimension to the flavor of the meat. With the marrow, the aged cut of meat was the most wonderfully intensely 'beef' flavor that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I look forward to visiting the Yachtman Steakhouse again in the future."

Cowboy Steak / Yachtman's Steakhouse


By the time we had finished our entrées the restaurant was bustling with dinners, yet the layout and our table by the window maintained a feeling of intimacy. Soft lights now flickered around the pool beyond the window creating a modern romantic setting far beyond what we had hoped for. We continued our meal by ordering desserts. My dear husband had the Chocolate Assortment, and I ordered the unique Trio of Sorbets. I thought that the trio was lovely, however there was so much I wasn't able to finish it.

Chocolate Assortment / Yachtman's Steakhouse Sorbet Trio / Yachtman's Steakhouse


This spectacular meal was one of the brightest spots in our vacation. We will surely eat there again in the future. With food and service taken to that extra level which makes a Disney Signature Dining experience a unique and memorable event every time, My husband and I highly recommend the Yachtman Steakhouse; especially for a couple looking to find a romantic evening away from the hustle and bustle of the parks.

..... Four Stars .....

*Menu offerings at the Yachtman Steakhouse are subject to change so that the Chef can bring you the best possible offerings for the season. Some of the items we enjoyed were special for the evening and/or are no longer on the menu.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Makin' Memories Monday

Kristen WDW 1975?

Ahhhh... Kodak and Disney memories, can you imagine your pictures any other way? This is the first installment of Makin' Memories Monday, where I'll venture back to Disney Parks of yesterday through family photos. This little gem shows yours truly pointing out one of my favorite rides, the Wedway Peoplemover. There's no date on the photo, but from it's age and condition we believe it was taken in 1976. Now called the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA), my family has always loved taking this brief respite from busy crowds while we cruise along for a panoramic view of Tomorrowland.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vacation savings, and how not to spend it on something else.

I wrote this in response to The Disney College Blog's post about ways to save money at Disney. Saving money on your trip can be vital, but for folks who have trouble keeping money in their pocket to begin with, sometimes you need a couple of mind tricks to not spend your savings before you even leave.

I will be honest with you. I’m not great with money and I don’t do frugal vacations, that can be a problem. Our room would now be paid for through our DVC points, but I still needed to develop strategy to be sure that the vacations happened. Everyone approaches how to save and pay for a vacation differently. I want my vacations paid for in advance. In theory, I’ll be vacationing once a year so I need to budget what will come out of paychecks in that time frame.

I feel that paying for everything in advance lends it’s self to an “all inclusive resort” feeling and a freedom to enjoy myself without worrying over what the damages will be on my credit card once I’m home. To get a better grasp on how to pay for vacations, first I looked at our spending habits, where our money comes from, and when do we usually have a little more.

Problem #1 - If the vacation money is in my bank account, times will arise that I will occasionally dip into it. This puts me back with Carl and Ellie never getting to go on vacation and wasting, renting, or giving away my DVC points. That would never do.

Answer #1 - Disney Gift Cards. By putting all of the money into a form that can’t be spent anywhere but Disney I’m ensuring myself that I won’t spend it on something else. Disney’s gift cards can hold up to $1500 and currently are good for use at the parks and resorts within the United States.

I use the gift cards to help me budget as well, I’ll get one to pay for dinning, one for park tickets, and third for spending. Once the amount of money needed is on the card, I can check that portion of the trip off my list as “paid” and move onto another.

I’ve found that this also give my kids spending limits that they can understand and limits the “can I have this” to what they had budgeted for. In a plastic world using gift cards that they can add on money to helps teach them money management skills for the future.

Problem #2 - Where will the money to travel come from? Is there any time that we have more money?

Answer#2 - For us, the time of year when we have the most money available is late February through March. This is the time that we know we’ll have out tax returns by and when we’re lucky my husband gets a small bonus. This is our season to gift card larger amounts of money or purchase airline tickets.

Spring is also probably our best travel season because it doesn’t give me much of a chance to spend the vacation money on other things. I make sure that I buy big purchase items like, airline or park tickets, as soon as the tax return is in the bank. With that out of the way, I can check another thing off of my list. This strategy even works for traveling later in the year when it’s combined with Answer #1.

Answer #2a - With the big things budgeted for, and money coming directly out of pay checks, I usually take care of tips and spending money with spare change. Every day when I come home I empty all of the change out of my purse into a piggy bank, then I take the bill that is the lowest denomination from my wallet and stick that in the bank as well. Sometimes it’s just a $1, but sometimes it’s a $20 and it rarely gets missed once I’ve moved it from my wallet. Once a month I turn in the change for dollars at the bank and then head off to put it on a gift card for the trip. Out of site, out of mind, and then in a form I can’t spend elsewhere.

A couple of months before my trip the piggy bank money is destined for another purpose, tip envelopes. Let’s face it, I can’t put it all on gift cards. I write a list of what services we will use that need to be tipped; ground transport, bell staff, housekeeping, waiters, concierge. I estimate (on the high side) what I’ll need to tip them, stick the cash in a small envelope and seal it. On the outside I usually write a thank you message to the cast member and notate in the corner what the tip is for. Every morning on vacation I put the tip envelopes that I’ll need for the day in my purse and know that it’s all taken care of.

#2b It’s true, I’m a Starbucks addict. I found that if I give up just one cup of coffee a week, I can save up to $260 for vacation. That $5 that would get me a latte, goes into the piggy bank.

#2c As a stay at home mom I have one more little trick to earn a little money for vacation. I work as an election judge. In the 2010/11 election season I’ll work on three days, which will give me about $350 in money to put towards vacation. Payment varies by county, but it’s easy work and often will pay for someone's airfare or a park ticket.

These strategies work for me and I wanted to share them. Knowing what your budget is, is fair and good, but knowing how you’re going to make it happen is important too. In addition, there are some great websites out there to help you figure out ways to spend less on your vacation like MouseSavers.com and CouponingToDisney.com.

What money strategies to you use for going on vacation? Do you discount your travel or do you have special tricks for saving the money? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The right time to buy DVC?

DVC Banner

Since I had heard the very first rumors of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) 18 years before, I had wanted to become a member. I tried to talk my mother who went to WDW twice a year to join, but she didn’t think that she needed it, or maybe she thought it was to grand of a luxury. I’ll never know, but I knew it made sense for me, however like anything else that gets put off until “the right time” I just never purchased.

One day late summer day my husband, my roommate and I went shopping at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Il. Regardless of the hour and a half drive, we had been there many times as it has the closest Disney Store to me, and most recently, it has the Doorway to Dreams. The Doorway to Dreams sales center gives you the opportunity to peak inside models of the rooms offered at the vacation club resorts, talk with Disney cast members, trade pins, and generally just get a small taste of the magic when you’re stuck miles away. I made it a ritual to see the models every time we were at the mall, and I especially loved the look that would be Kadani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL). I had stayed at AKL the previous year with my mother and youngest daughter and love it. The resort is quiet and secluded, with a savanna view room guests are treated to African wildlife perusing the ground in their daily routine. It was pure Disney Magic.

On this day however I was going to let it pass because our roommate was along and I didn’t want to burden him with my Disney obsession. As we passed the entrance, he looked at me and said “Don’t you want to go in.”

I shook my head no and told him “We don’t have to.”

He looked up at my husband and said “Do we need to buy this?”

My husband said “Yes.” and suddenly my world was spinning.

Armed with a new credit card the three of us asked to see a model, next thing I knew we were in a sales office getting the pitch so that my husband and roommate would understand what all the Disney Vacation Club was about. I listened to our DVC Guide and got a pit in my stomach when she brought out the financing options, this was always the point where they lost me. To my great surprise my husband and roommate agreed that with the deal on the table, we could afford to buy some points. Never in my life did I think I would get a loan, but my credit was approved, and the next thing you know, for $500 down we were buying 160 points in the Disney Vacation Club at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Within two hours, we were members. When I signed the contract, I cried with joy, The guys were laughing, and our DVC Guide was cheering for me. It really was one of the best moments of my life. After 18 years, I really had gone through the doorway to my dreams.

Though many people scoffed that we had done something that seemed so extravagant, on this one day all the stars had aligned perfectly. I had a deposit on me, credit was approved with payments we could handle, and we were in the right place, a place that I almost passed by. Everything just clicked, and once again I started planning a vacation.

I decided on that day there is never a “right time”, there is only here, and only now, and the active steps you take to get what you want most in life.
How do you decide when it’s the “right time” to make a major purchase? There are many good reasons to become a member that have nothing to do with “saving money”. How would DVC help you? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My DVC

The coming series will take you on a journey to learn a little bit about my DVC. I haven’t always be lucky enough to go to Disney, but during the lean years my passion for pixie dust never waned. Come along for the next few weeks to learn a bit about my journey, who I am, how I make our vacations happen, and why I chose the Disney Vacation Club. You can interact by leaving me a message in the comments, or follow me on twitter @DVCMom.

What a movie...

Have you seen that movie that uses a plot device in the form of forlorn dreaming to travel that is always put off due to the harsh realities of life stepping in. The couple saves and saves their pennies, but must cancel their trip time after time when unexpected expenses come up. A new baby, a new car, medical expenses, repairs to the house, yet they continue to dream and plan and try to get to their destination only to be thwarted year after year. Then, unexpectedly, one of the partners passes, without having achieved that dream, leaving their spouse to deal with loss and regret. Obsessively the final partner makes their way to the destination at all costs, taking along a token of memory to leave behind in their paradise. It’s so sad, I sobbed through the entire show. Upon leaving the theater I tearfully turned to my partner and declared “That’s awful! How could Disney make such a movie!?”

Through the tears of my own regret, I had just watched my life so far up on that silver screen. Years and years of my vacation dreams fade away due to unexpected issues that arose while I admittedly lived a pretty good life; but still there was regret. If my life paralleled this story so readily I would die without getting back Walt Disney World. I would never share the magic with my children or husband, this place that I loved so intensely from my childhood. Never share this wonderful world that is such a part of me, that shaped who I am today. Yes folks, the beginning of the movie “UP” had just ravaged my soul in a way that I never expected.

As a child I vacationed two or three times a year at Walt Disney World. I had made at least 45 trip from Illinois by the time I had turned 18. My parents and I stayed in the deluxe hotels on property that at the time were the only ones, I got used to traveling in certain manner. As a young adult I lived close to Disneyland and went frequently, however I moved back to Illinois during a divorce and that seemed to end my travel. I was married again, but we were lucky to pay our bills and get to go out now and again. I planned a Disney vacation every year, I budgeted and saved, but with three growing children and all of life’s little bumps I canceled ten years of vacation dreams. How would I ever manage to get back to paradise?

Little did I realize that just a few months prior I had made a purchase on a whim, that would change my life and take my regrets away. I had become a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Member.

Do you have vacation regrets, dreams, aspirations? Where is your paradise? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
Kevin