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Friday, July 30, 2010

A simple pleasure

I have a confession to make. Ever since my giant Mickey bag fell apart and I decided that I no longer needed to carry a diaper bag (about six years ago) I’ve been in a sort of purse limbo. I’m loathe to spend more than $30 on a bag, yet I can’t seem to find one that I’m happy with. This spring, I was medically required to tailor down to a smaller purse size when I injured my back. I love purses, and I’ve followed several designer bag brands for years. But, I’ve never bought one for myself. I’m also really picky about the design of a purse, it has to work for me. So here I sit with a rubbermaid bin full of Target/Kohls/Walmart purses that I hate, wishing and dreaming that I could find something that would equal the joy that was my giant Mickey Bag. My dream purse is small, but has room enough to keep everything I need in it, must have a pocket for easy access to my phone and the lose car key that I carry, and I prefer two handles.

For the past year or so I’ve been drooling over the “Sketch” Disney Dooney collection. I’ve been saving money with the hope of buying one this October while on vacation. However a couple of weeks ago Stitch Kingdom made a post saying that Disney Dooney’s were on sale at the DisneyStore.com. Knowing that I had a gift card with some money on it I headed out to the web site and browsed around. There I found a Disney Dooney on sale for $44 down from $70. $44!!!! Even though it wasn't the one that I had been wanting, how could I not buy it? I threw caution to the wind and bought it, here it is, my very first designer bag.

My 1st Disney Dooney


Just a few days later it arrived in the mail and I… hated it. It’s small, very small, so I sat it aside on a shelf for a few days. I’d walk by and look at it, loving the look, loving the fabric but just not knowing if I could use it. A few more days passed and I transfered my belongings into it. I can only fit about half of the things I need in the purse, but the more I carry it, the more I seem to love it.

Why? Why do I love this little purse that doesn’t function the way I need it to? Two Words…

Mickey Mouse


Every time I drop my little Disney Dooney on a counter to pay for something Mickey’s cheerful face is gazing up at me. He reminds me of vacations past, of family members lost, he reminds me that we leave soon to experience the magic again. He’s there for me. Mickey doesn’t judge me, he doesn’t care if my wallet is empty, or if I’ve stuffed to much junk inside. He doesn’t care if he’s resting on the counter of Abacrombie & Fitch, or at Target. He accepts me just the way I am with a cheerful smile each and every day.

Even though it’s not my dream purse, I love my little Disney Dooney, and I can’t wait to buy another.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Makin' Memories Monday

Kristen on Main Street 1981

The Main Street Vehicles let you take a ride in a replica early fire engine, a antique car or a horse-drawn trolley. It takes about 3 minutes for your trip puttering up or down Main Street USA. You can catch a ride from down in front of Main Street Station or when leaving the hub in front of Cinderella Castle. The number of vehicles available changes depending on the season and repair scheduling.

I don't know what to say about this one other than my Aunt used to make me pose for a picture with every cute male cast member in the park. Drivers, Skippers, Servers, Balloon guys, you name it. This photo, circa 1981, was taken at the Castle Hub. Do you have pictures from Disney with random cast members? If so post a link and share them with us!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

They're Bringing Magic Back...

I can remember being a teenager and going to the Disney Store. Beautifully decorated and appointed, with Disney theming right down to the display cases. Our store even had a travel desk where we could get all the latest news and information form the parks, or maybe even book our next trip. The Disney Store of my youth was a special, magical place that I could escape into for just a bit to reclaim my calm, to feel like I was at home between vacations. With mountains of plush, collectible art, home decor, clothes, and toys walking into the Disney Store always brought some new magic into my life. But after a number of executive departures in early part of the decade something went wrong, and the magic started to fade. It was like they had dared to say they don’t believe in fairies. Then Disney did the unthinkable, and converted it’s stores to licensed operation.



Like many consumers and Disneyfiles, the lackluster mass marketed Disney Stores as owned by The Children’s Place left me cold. From 2004 - 2008 the quality and variety of merchandise in the stores was less and less. At last we were left with a nondescript toy store without any magic. The store in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, IL might have well been Walmart, with it’s stark white walls and hastily built shelving. Many in the fan community were excited to hear in 2008 that The Walt Disney Company would be repurchasing the Disney Store chain. However, when they suddenly closed nearly 100 stores across the country by the end of the summer (including mine in Rockford, IL) the Disney faithful who frequented them only saw more doom and gloom.



These fallow times saddened me to the point that I stopped going to the Disney Store unless I had a specific item that I wanted to purchase. When I did, it was in and out, because the items on the shelf didn’t draw me, the cast members didn’t welcome me, and there was no reason at all to linger. Because I save for my vacation on Disney Gift Cards (only because the Disney Store stopped selling Disney Dollars) I’ve been in and out of the Schaumburg Store numerous times since fall 2008 and it’s never felt like home as it did once before.



Recently I’ve been following the Disney Store tweets on Twitter, as well as those of Disney Store President Jim Fielding. As an Apple fan I was intrigued by the announcement in November of 2009 that there would be a gigantic “re-launch” of the Disney Store, with help from Steve Jobs and looking to the future of interactive displays, as well as looking back at the root of all things Disney. Could it be possible? Would they be able to bring the magic back to this sinking ship of depression? Wether I believed or not (and I had my doubts) the re-launch was coming and all Disney fans could do was wait. On June 29th, 2010 the brand new Disney Store Imagination Park in Montebello, California opened with great success. The new clips and pictures posting to the internet by fans showed an exciting new concept with creativity and magic around every corner. Not only was the store ripe with entertainment for kids, but the merchandise intrigued the adults as well. The long forgotten Disney shoppers that had grown up were delighted again with merchandise for them as well. It’s an exciting new time, and as Imagination Parks begin to open around the world I look forward to the one closest to me in Chicago.



I hadn’t been to the Schaumburg Store since the relaunch in California and wasn’t expecting to see any difference in this small venue. As I walked in to add money to my gift cards, I noticed a change, something just a little different. There was a hint of magic in the air. Merchandise was available to delight the youngest shopper, but there were adult options as well. A purse, a coffee mug, water bottles, and desk supplies. Where had this come from!? Not only did I see displays from the latest movies, but Mickey and Minnie were back. Not only was there a wall of Princesses, but each had a Prince standing next to her. My heart beat a little faster... Vinyalmation? Pins? Something Collectible? Where was a Cast member for me to talk to!? Like an answer from above I turned around to see that smiling face. I asked about the things I desired, and some weren’t available… but the displays had been delivered and were waiting n the back!!! It actually brought tears to my eyes, and I fought to not start sobbing. I was so excited and joyful, like Tinker Bell being brought back to life, could it be that Jim Fielding was really going to deliver the magic?



The cast member and I chatted about plans for her store to be converted into an Imagination Park, though there was no date, I was assured that this was just the beginning. I learned that the Imagination Park being built in Chicago would be an additional store, and the Michigan Avenue location would remain. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! My hope has been restored and I look forward with great anticipation to visiting the new State Street store that is scheduled to open sometime in October. You can be assured I’ll do everything I can to be at the opening.



My deepest thanks to Jim Fielding and Steve Jobs in their endeavors with turning the stores around. Now just keep moving forward, and don’t let us down. It shouldn’t just be the “best 30 minutes of a child's day” it should be magic for the adults as well. We grew up in that 80’s Disney generation, you need to keep us coming home.



For all my readers, if you haven’t been into the Disney Store lately, and you live far from the magic of the Parks, it might be worth a visit. Though the change over will occur slowly, it is happening slowly, and quietly the magic is returning...



This post is part of the Disney Blog
Carnival
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articles.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Disney From A Kids Point of View: Food & Wine Festival

Katie's back as our guest blogger for another look at Disney from a Kids Point of View. Her take on the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is not only great for kids, but also adults who are more picky eaters. Take it away Katie!

Most kids just like the same old pizza and chicken nuggets you can get at any restaurant but the one thing I think is all kids should have a wild side with food. My mom always let me have a wild side with food. I like to have my mom taste the food to see if I would like it or not first, and if she thinks I will, I try it. Most of the time I end up loving it. So all you adults out there reading my blog post, I think you should encourage your kids to try new food.

The EPCOT Food & Wine Festival is big fun for parents, but kids will find good things to eat as well. I went through the menus for all the booths that will be at the 2010 Festival and made a list of foods that adventurous kids might like! Most of the silly names of food are just things we we eat normally, like the Nürnberger Sausage in a Pretzel Roll, its just like a really big hot dog in a small bun. It might sound really weird but its super duper yummy! Here’s my kid approved list:

Argentina: Roasted Corn and Cheese Empanada
Australia: Lamington (sponge cake dipped in chocolate)
Belgium: Freshly Baked Waffles with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream
Canada: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup, Nanaimo Bar
Charcuterie & Cheese: Cheese Fondue with Croutons and Roasted Potatoes (kids love to dip things)
China: Pork Pot Stickers, Xinjiang Barbecue Chicken Stick (might be a little spicy)
Desserts & Champagne: Strawberry Angel Verrine, Pear Streusel Pudding Cake, Dark Chocolate Sensation
Germany: Spätzle Gratin with Ham and Cheese, Nürnberger Sausage in a Pretzel Roll, Apfel Strudel featuring Werther's Original Karamell Sauce
Greece: Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki, Baklava
Ireland: Kerrygold® Cheese Selection, Warm Chocolate Lava Cake
Italy: Polpettine Toscane with a Rosemary Breadstick, Baked Cheese Ravioli w/ Creamy Bolognese Sauce, Cannolo Al Cioccolatol
Mexico: Tamal de Pollo, Churro
Morocco: Baklava
Poland: Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream (not all kids might like this but I think this dish really sounds good to me)
Spain: Almond Cake

The Disney Food Blog is a cool website where you can read about all sorts of things to eat at Disney. I get the food blog posts in my email through an RSS. From kid meals to ice cream and snacks there are pictures of yummy things to eat. You can read about all the different places and food. AJ, the maker of the Disney Food Blog is having a meet up during the first weekend of the Food & Wine Festival. My mom and I are going to go and meet all the other Disney foodies and have a fun time. Let us know if you’re going to be there too!

Pluto & Katie ~ Katie, is eleven years old and still lives at home with her family. A real DVC kid, she is a Disney Channel fan and enjoys exploring all things Disney in her own way.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Great Hotel Hops II - The Polynesian

The next stop of our Hotel hoping tour is my favorite resort on Disney Property, so by boat, bus or monorail come along make your way towards the seven seas lagoon because sitting on a white ribbon of sand across from the Magic Kingdom you’ll find the lush tropical escape of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. This monarch of south pacific beauty has inspired a cult following amongst Disney fans and Tiki lovers alike. Shop, eat, drink, play and hang loose amongst the palms, thatched roofs and koi ponds.

ShoppingA breeze of the Polynesian Islands welcomes you as you walk through the doors to the Great Ceremonial House to immerse yourself in island themed shopping and dining. BouTiki and Trader Jacks offer character and resort logo items, tropical-themed novelties, as well as surf style clothing from Quiksilver, and Tommy Bahama. A special treat for Art lovers awaits those visiting the Great Ceremonial House in the form of the Wyland Gallery. This spectacular showcase offers a phenomenal collection of art by world renowned Robert Wyland. Originals, prints, jewelry and sculpture are available for sale from the gallery as well.

Take some time to enjoy the beautiful Seven Seas Lagoon from this resort, looking out across the water you can see Cinderella Castle rising up a the symbol of this Kingdom. Grab a friend to catch a game of beach volleyball, rent a surrey bike or stroll the 1.5 mile trail through the exotic landscape of the grounds. Send the kids off to Moana Mickey’s Arcade while you get a Dole Whip from Captain Cooks and relax in a lounge chair, hammock, or cabana along the tranquil beach. If skipping across the blue with the wind blowing in your hair in a boat is more your style at the Mikala Canoe Club Marina you’ll find a variety of watercraft just waiting for you to rent and enjoy such as pontoon boats, sail boats and the exciting two person Sea Raycers by Sea Ray®! Specialty private cruises and fishing excursions on the water can also be arranged at the Marina.

Hula GirlDisney’s Polynesian Resort hosts several cultural activities that will acquaint you with the island rituals. Several times a week as the sun goes down you can delight in the enchanting torch-lighting ceremony, and on Saturday mornings hula dancing lesson are offered. Kids activities take place every day, some poolside, some in Keiki Korner at the Great Ceremonial House. Stop by the front desk and ask for a schedule in order to learn more about the inviting Polynesian cultures.

If you’re looking for something more exotic, be sure to book your ADRs for The Spirit of Aloha Luau. Tuesday - Saturday the luau offers a classic Polynesian dinner show, taking place at the Luau Cove. The 2 hour show still features music and hula from several islands, fire dancing, and a special guest appearance by "Lilo and Stitch." The menus is all you can eat meal with an island flavor and is served family style. Priority Seating arrangements are definitely recommended for this show.

AtruimDisney’s Electrical Water Pageant passes the resort on it’s nightly round. This sparkling series of lit floats is a delightful parade on the water, and cruises past the Polynesian Resort around 9PM each night as long as the weather cooperates. The Magic Kingdom Fireworks can also be viewed from the Resort’s beach.

Dinning options at the Polynesian plentiful including the family favorite experience 'Ohana. "Storytellers and coconut races, where children sweep coconuts with brooms across the hardwood floor down the center of the restaurant. The family fun continues as everyone is encouraged to play with hula hoops and dance to island music." The Polynesian is an oasis of exotic luxury, a soothing place to relax as the the palm trees dance in tropical breezes that kiss your skin. Floral scents float in the air and island music gently plays, it's a Resort not to be missed.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Makin' Memories Monday

Kristen & Megan 1983

I love this picture of my sister and I on Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel circa 1983. Lou Mongello over at WDW Radio just did a fabulous episode about the Carrousel's history which may be my favorite Disney related podcast to date. I highly recommend listening to Show 176 – June 27, 2010 for information regarding the significant story and history of this classic attraction.

I can't say that I'm fond of Disney's recent decision to change the name of this attraction. The Prince Charming Regal Carrousel just sits flat with me. I believe that it was unneeded and will largely go unnoticed by most guests, the back story they made up for it seems rushed and quite frankly, rather lame. The true history of this early 20th century attraction and the symbolic connection to the origin of Walt Disney's dream park makes the Carrousel a treasure all on it's own. It didn't need to be tied into a made up epilogue of Cinderella to be important.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Favorite Hotel Hops - Animal Kingdom Lodge

Katie and Friends
Walt Disney World is so much more than theme parks, and if you have a day to relax and explore the property you’ll be treated to some fabulous hidden gems of this expansive resort. Hop on a Disney Resort bus and let time slide away as you travel to this remote destination. Secluded in the WDW forests the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a unique and special location that treats it’s guests to magnificent natural surroundings.

Animal Kingdom Lodge always has something going on to delight your family amid the sanctuary of it’s lush landscape. Arts and crafts, cooking tours, hidden mickeys, pin trading, animal feeding, and storytelling are all a part of the Animal Kingdom Lodge experience so stop at bell services to ask for an activities list before you begin a wonderful exploration the massive grounds. The savannas are home to more than 200 animals live on the 33-acres exclusive to Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can view the animals in their habitats from balconies and landscaped rock outcroppings 24 hours a day. Just as impressive as the wildlife, the Animal Kingdom Lodge holds an extensive collection of authentic African art which decorates the property. The monumentous explosion of color that is the Igbo Ijele mask, is the only example known to exist outside of Igbo land.

Are you stopping by in the evening? Pull up a rocking chair and gather around for nightly storytelling next to Ogun's Firepit where cast members will delight you with traditional African folk tales. It may be after dark but doesn’t mean that you can’t still view the animals. Guides stationed from 9-11pm daily at the Uzima Overlook offer night vision goggles for use so that you can get a view of the animals nocturnal activities.

My MomMy mother loved to sit in a rocking chair on a balcony overlooking the savanna, while the teens hit Pumbaa's arcade or the toddler set played at the playground. Young and old alike can enjoy hours of peaceful relaxation in the remote setting that seems to truly be a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the Disney Parks.

If you feel that you need a special reason to make the trip to this hidden part of the property, I highly recommend dining reservations. The flavors of Africa come alive at either the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s signature dining experience “Jiko”, or the exceptional family buffet “BOMA”. My favorite cup of coffee on property can be ordered here as well. Ask for a pressed pot at either of these restaurants for a rich African Blend that will delight even the snobbiest of coffee drinkers.

For more information on the Animal Kingdom Lodge visit Disney’s Overview of the resort or this great unoffical fansite.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Shock to the System

After viewing a recent episode I really wanted to write about Bravo's "Work of Art". In the episode the artists are tasked with creating a "Shocking" piece of art. The contestant Miles decides to do his with a grotesque Disney theme.

Due to the adult nature of the piece I've chosen to post my review on another page behind the cut. If you are easily offended please don't read it.


Behind the Cut

Makin' Memories Monday

Marked

Snow White's Kiss. What more can one say? Do you have a kiss photo? Post a link and let me know!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Patriotic Makin' Memories Monday

Kristen & Pat 1989
Every serious Disney goer has experienced the wave of young Navy men and women enjoying the parks. When you see them you should offer your congratulations, because not only are they serving their country, but chances are good that they've just graduated from boot camp. In the fall of 1989 I was one of those trepid souls going out in public for the very first time as a US Service Woman. After 13 weeks of hell, the most rigorous experience of my life was rewarded with visit from my family and a trip to EPCOT & MGM (now Disney Hollywood Studios). Above you see me posing with my Aunt Pat on that first shore leave weekend. She was the original Disney fan in our family and made sure to instill the belief in all things Disney in my life. She was my rock, and my joy, she taught me about everything good and cultural.

Bootcamp Graduation 1989
My parents had rented a car during that trip, so that they could pick me up from the Orlando Naval base and take me to the magic. Our first stop for the weekend was EPCOT. The Character interaction I received during the weekend was amazing. They really go out of the way to help graduates celebrate and make special moments. The cast members are even more gracious and all voiced their appreciation for those of us heading out to serve our country. I couldn't have imagined a better place to celebrate the beginning of my adult life than Disney.

Bootcamp Graduation 1989
On my second day out we went to the brand new Disney MGM (now Hollywood) Studios. What excitement to get to tour the brand new park. My best memory was that Mickey Mouse got down on one knee and proposed to me, it was so magical.. at least until Minnie showed up. I laughed and laughed, a crowed gathered around to watch the scene being created and the conflict of this odd love triangle.

Disney is a magical place, and for those newly minted sailors out in the world for the first time, it's a delightful was to spend their first shore leave. When you see them, don't forget to say thank you, because without those brave souls willing to fight and die for the country America would not exist.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Penny Math - Disney from a Kids Point of View

Disney isn’t just all fun and games like most people think it is. It has so much to teach, and you have so much to learn. My first experience in Disney was when I was just three years old. Right then and there I thought it was just made for fun, then I got older and I learned so much more. Some people refuse to think that going to Disney can teach you anything. I do not agree.

Katie's Pressed Pennies

One of the first lessons I learned at Disney was math, because I love penny presses. Each night of our trip I would sit with my mom and get all of my money out and count out two quarters one penny, two quarters one penny, over and over again. I found it fun and I was learning both about patterns, and about money. It was a great young kid lesson because I got a “prize” out of it and that interested me.

Mom bought me a book to keep my pressed pennies in and now I have a collection. My favorites pennies are Alice in Wonderland and Rex from Toy Story. I have seventy pennies, at $.51 each they cost me $35.70 so far. See, my pennies still help me with math even today!

Trick you kids into learning while they’re having fun. There is so much to share. Have them do some work and collect prizes for an educational vacation!


Katie & Cinderella 2002~ Katie is almost eleven now and still lives at home with her family. A real DVC kid, she is a Disney Channel fan and enjoys exploring all things Disney in her own way. She was dazzled by Cinderella on her first trip at age three.