Sunday, October 31, 2010

Disney Resorts make Conde' Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards

Conde’ Nast Traveler
is the world’s most trusted travel resource. It’s travel reporting is completely free from the industry which allows reporters to speak openly and honestly about all of their travel experiences. This truth in reporting has earned Conde’ Nast Traveler a high reputation for excellence and a loyal reader base of jet-setting world travelers. Amongst those loyal readers, every month I page through hoping to find a new article of mention of what their writers think of Disney Parks vacation destinations.

In the November 2010 issue of Conde’ Nast Traveler came their 2010 Reader’s Choice Awards. I’m happy to say that even though Conde’ Nast doesn’t do much Disney Reporting, their readership put Disney Parks in the spotlight. Four Disney Resorts made the Top 100 US Mainland Resorts list:

In spot 51. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
In spot 58. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
In spot 86. Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa
In spot 88. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Also mentioned on the list (rumors say they will soon be on Disney Property) were three of the Four Seasons Resorts (p.150)

In addition to this honor at the four Disney owned resorts, the Disney Cruise Line was voted #1 of the Top Mega-Ship lines. Not only was the Disney cruise branch honored in the Readers Choice Awards, but we are reminded in the issue (p.22) that the Disney Cruise line is a leader in environmentally friendly and humanitarian tourism. In 2008 Conde’ Nast Traveler honored then with a World Savers award.

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this blog post.
Photo of Animal Kingdom Lodge: Copyright © Kristen Kirk

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - My Desktop


Monday, October 25, 2010

And I’m Okay…


A little over a week ago Disney sent out letters for the folks that made the cut for the second round of applications for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. For the second year in a row, I wasn’t chosen to move forward. Even though I didn’t expect to move on, I was really sad when I found out. I had spent a year of my life “preparing” for the 2011 Panel application process, unlike last year’s off the cuff responses. I live and breathe Disney it’s hard to know that they didn’t find my application interesting enough to move on. The thought that maybe I'm not "fan enough" is hard to swallow. Overall though, I’m ok with it.

I know that there were other fabulous people that also didn’t make it to round two. I know that there were people who are much “more fan” than I am who didn’t move on. There are better bloggers than I, better mothers than I, more frequent travelers than I, all who didn’t get chosen to be part of the WDW Mom’s Panel. The esoteric process of who Disney wants is lost on me. I don’t believe that it’s a popularity contest, as some have suggested, because if it were the popular people would have been picked. As far as I can tell, many of the “cool kids” of the Disney Internet community were passed right over with the rest of us.

The Moms Panel was a great idea when it was introduced three years ago. The application, and rejection, process has brought people together, created new Internet communities, spawned blogs and tweets, and has been a benefit to millions of people planning their next trip to the Wonderful World of Disney. However there's just no doubt that it creates hurt feelings, smashes self confidence, and leaves nearly thousands of Disney fans around the world feeling like they aren't good enough to do what they are most passionate about. Our consolation prize is something called the "Mickey Moms Club" and in concept is fun, but in actuality has been neglected, and doesn't live up to it's idea. I believe that it's time the Disney Company re-consider not the Moms Panel in whole, but how the selection and rejection process is managed. I’m a giant Disney fan, but sometimes I disagree with the “company line”.

I don’t have the cash to get down to the World as much as I want, and anyhow, where I really shine is when I talk about DisneyLAND. So, overall I’m okay with not being picked for the Moms Panel. I’m still a D23 member, DVC owner, Disney Store shopper, avid Disney vacation planner, and all round go to gal for all things Disney for my friends, who wears her Mickey Mouse tattoo proudly.

My life is no less, my Disney is no less, and I’m OK.

Apple Girls

Apple Girls

The girls an I took a trip to the apple orchard on Friday afternoon. We were excited to harvest our own apples to bring home. We went to the orchard as a lesson on how important it was to Harvest food during World War two and how women played many important roles in making sure that the country kept running while the men were overseas fighting for freedom. From 1941-1945 the U.S. Government campaigned to recruit pickers that would harvest the fruits of our orchards. The Women’s Land Army was a specialized branch of the U.S. Crop Corps that got laborers in the orchards and fields to harvest food during this where farm workers were serving their country on another front. The women at home knew how important the timely harvest of fruits, vegetables and other farm products was to prevent spoilage and waste.

We picked a small bag of apples for $15. It’s rather a pricey bag of apples compared to the amount of apples that we could buy for that same amount at the local grocery store, but we enjoy the experience and like to support local business. However this time it seemed different. As we walked through the rows of trees the girls and I were struck at the amount of food lying on the ground going to waste. During today’s hard economic conditions it seemed to us that there was too much waste and that the country should be putting into practice some of the programs that helped the country get through difficult times in the past. As consumers it’s good that we continue to support small local businesses and farms, however it’s also important for those small businesses to give back to the community when they can. A van with a couple of people from the homeless shelter and some bins could keep people in need feed with healthy locally grown fruit. Yet there it laid on the ground to spoil.

In the 1940s American’s realized that the bounty produced from a plot of land was too valuable to waste. Families were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens, which supplemented the food rations that were allotted to a family. Not to grow a garden or care for fruiting shrubs and trees was considered unpatriotic. For a farm, or family, to not use and preserve the harvest was downright un-American. Every single person pitched in to make sure that we all had enough.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Look, she is alive! Just catching up.


My family suffers from allergies, but until this year mine haven't been all that bad. usually a Dayquil takes care of things and I don't miss a beat. That has not been the case this year. I have spent this week in a crazy drug induced haze from a cocktail of multiple over the counter and prescription allergy medications. My body is itchy, achy, sneezy, watery, and dry all at the same time. My doctor, in her infinite wisdom, pretty much told me to take one of everything. So I did.

Now I ask, how in the world is it Friday already!? I swear to god, I lost two entire days. I wasn't on twitter, I didn't pick up my email, I don't think I even left the house. It's all a blur, and I really hate feeling like I haven't been productive. Today however I'm down to just one, it's prescription Singulair. It's new, so we'll see how that goes. Hopefully I'll be out of that foggy medicine head and be able to function again. If nothing else, today has been productive and I can hang onto that.

This weekend is a Halloween extravaganza of volunteer time for my kids. Katie will be at Midway Village supporting their All Hallows Eve event as a Junior Interpreter, while Tori & Kirk spend their time at the Discovery Center Museum supporting "Grossology". Kirk will even be sporting the Nigel Nose-it-all costume, Tori will be acting as his handler. I think I convinced him that it would look good on a job application at Disney if he already had experience being a character. I'll be sure to post pictures after the events!

Tonight Katie and I are off to the YMCA for a Trunk-or-Treat event. Wonder Teen has generously lent Katie her "Organization 13" (from Kingdom Hearts) coat to wear for Halloween this year. One less thing for me to worry about and a great sisterly gesture. Rocket Boy is marching with the school band at half time tonight as well, so I'm hoping that Katie and I will be able to snag some candy and then hit the High School for a little football pep band.

At some point I would also really like to get to the apple orchard to harvest some nom-worthy fruits. What's on the schedule for you this weekend?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Help me fight chronic pain...

jingle Bell logo Like many people these days I do my best to stay healthy. I have made efforts to change my lifestyle. I eat much better than I used to, I exercise, and I try to get enough sleep. For me however, these things are methods to combat a painful, debilitating syndrome, with no known cause, and no known cure. I May not look sick, but I suffer from Fibromyalgia. Each day is a challenge to live my life to it’s fullest without overreaching my physical reserves and winding up curled in bed crying in pain.

When I go on vacation, I do my best to attack Walt Disney World with gusto and vigor, yet some days my body simply doesn’t agree and I end up in an electric wheelchair (ecv). I was very Self-consciousness of being in an ecv this year because I was going to meet so many people from the Disney community. I wasn’t sure if I would be treated differently, looked down upon, judged. Happily what I was met with was understanding and consideration. The truth is that conquering Walt Disney World can take an incredible physical toll on even the healthiest of people. For those of us with disabilities, it can be akin to climbing a mountain.

I have found that exercising is a huge benefit in my pain management strategy, and because of that I get out and walk as much as possible When I can, I even participate in the occasional 5K race. It’s reaffirming, and crossing a finish line validates that even though I live my life with disability, if I manage my condition carefully I can live an exciting, full life.

Fibromyalgia is a confusing and often misunderstood condition. The overwhelming characteristic of fibromyalgia is long-standing, body-wide soft-tissue pain, that can be described as deep-aching, radiating, shooting and burning. My symptoms include memory and cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbance, and tingling as well the wide spread pain. The severity of the pain can range from mild to severe, with time periods where the condition flares up and symptoms worsen significantly.

Though Fibromyalgia is not a form of Arthritis, it is often considered a sister of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The Arthritis Foundation is a significant leader and contributor to fibromyalgia research and education. Every year The Arthritis Foundation holds a holiday 5K run/walk Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis® that I try to participate in in order to raise money to help this worthy organization. I didn’t think that I would get to do the Jingle Bell this year because I couldn’t afford the entry fee.

I’m thrilled to say that I’m being sponsored for the basic registration so that once again I’ll be participating in this fabulous event! This holiday season I will tie bells to my shoelaces and dust off my reindeer antlers as I participate in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk® for Arthritis, a 5K fun run/walk to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. And YOU can help, too! Won’t you please sponsor me in my effort to raise funds for this great organization that works so hard to find answers about Fibromyalgia. The Arthritis Foundation not only touches my life but the lives of more than 46 million Americans who live with arthritis and chronic pain syndromes.

jingle donate

Please visit my sponsor page and make a contribution
so that I can walk to be pain free.

I need your help to keep walking strong.

2009 Jingle Bell

Visit these great websites for more information on Fibromyalgia:

Arthritis Foundation
National Fibromyalgia Association

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Light Tanks and Tomorrow City - Gamer Goodies from G4

There are six people in my household and four of them are serious gamers. You can be sure that whenever they are looking for the latest information on industry news, they're tuning in to G4TV. Right now G4TV.com has a great retrospective up on the history of Disney Gamer goodness "A Brief History Of Disney Video Games -- From Aladdin to Kingdom Hearts" that wets our appetite for what is soon to be coming down the line.

Speaking of down the line, we were thrilled to have G4 send a sneak peek of the upcoming Disney releases Epic Mickey and TRON Evolution, so of course, we're sharing it with you! G4tv.com is featuring all Disney exclusives that show a brand-new level for the upcoming Wii title Epic Mickey and Light Tank gameplay for the multiplatform release TRON Evolution.

Disney Epic Mickey – Tomorrow City  

TRON Evolution - Light Tanks

We thank G4 for sharing these fabulous gamer goodies with us, and hope you enjoy them too!

Wordless Wednesday


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tony's Town Square: The Ugly and The Sweet

Last Sunday my kids and I were in the Magic Kingdom getting ready to celebrate Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party with a huge group of Internet friends that were celebrating #EpicOctober2010.  To kick off our night we had reservations at Tony’s Town Square. The atmosphere was lovely and the staff very helpful however overall the kids and I were under-whlemed with the the food at Tony’s.  We ordered Spaghetti, Lasagna, and Chicken Parmesan for our entrees and really didn’t have a single good thing to say about them.  I know that when cooking color = flavor, but there is such a thing as too much color, and that’s called burnt.  I didn’t bother taking pictures or anything except for Tori’s burnt chicken.  In that picture below you can also see a side order of anemic meatballs. The lasagna and meatballs were super dry, it seems like they’re not baked with any sort of sauce, and the items are just sauced to finish.  If the meat was juicy and flavorful on it’s own that would have been fine, but this was truly dry, bland, and tasteless. My kids had rallied for this reservation, because they had memories of going there with their Grandmother on previous trips.  Even they left saying that we didn’t ever have to eat there again.

Why Not to eat at Tony's

But!  I can’t bring myself to just say bad things because they did offer something good. The Halloween themed desserts were delicious and everyone enjoyed sampling the sweet fall treats.  We ordered the “Build it Yourself” Cookie Sundae, which came with lots of sprinkles and cookies to decorate a simple scoop of vanilla gelatto. Tori enjoyed crafting the sundae to her liking.

Build your own Sunday

Everyone tried the Pumpkin Gelatto which was creamy and delightful.  I was worried that the pumpkin flavor would be too much, but it was actually very light and delicate on the palate. I could have eaten the whole thing if I hadn’t have had the very amazing distraction before me of Pumpkin Cheesecake!

This was not a dense New York style cheesecake, this dessert was a fluffy, airy dome of pumpkiny goodness.  The cheesecake offered was almost closer to a dense mousse, and the spicy flavors of fall really stood out in this delicious sweet treat.  I could eat these all year long, I wish that we could get them at home.  Everyone tried a bite and agreed that it was the winner of the meal. 

We may or may not go back to Tony’s Town Square for a meal ever again; but next time we’re at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, we’ll stop in for cheesecake!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mickey's Halloween 5K

I'm home and resting after a crazy Wine & Dine Weekend. It was a whirlwind trip that I throughly enjoyed.  I found Mickey’s Halloween 5K to be a lot of fun, and I know that there are more Disney 5Ks in the future.

The kids and I arrived at the Ticket and Transportation Center at 6:00am for our 7:00am start time.  They were dressed in costume as characters from the Kingdom Hearts video game.  Kirk was Valor Form Sora, Tori was Kairi, and Katie was Olette.  We walked towards the starting line and looked for the friends we were going to be walking with.  Katie found the found the Be Our Guest Podcast Crew right away.  They had brought signs and would be cheering on the Podcast fans who were running the race.  I can’t thank these guys enough for coming out that early in the morning to cheer us on.  Knowing that there is someone there for you is a real boost, and when they sent up a loud cheer as the kids and I came close to the finish line gave me the boost that I needed to get across those last few feet.

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicBut let’s get back to the beginning.   After standing around and meeting several twitter friends, I gave the other half of our walking team a call.  Friends from Twitter, John and Sarah-Irene Donahue would be walking the race with the girls and I.  John and Sarah are two of the best people I have ever met.  Their spirits are so generous and lovely, it was an honor to spend so much time with them this weekend.  They had just arrived at the site and we chatted on the phone until we found each other in the crowd of 4,000 plus people.  We were in a sea of runners, volunteers and spectators that I had never before experienced at a 5K.  The DJ at the starting line blasted music across the sound system to pump up the participants.  Where you stood in the crowd and started the race depended on your usual pace, so my son Kirk said his goodbye and told us he’d meet us at the finish line.  Then, he bounced off into the wave of runners to take his place in the 10 minute coral.  Tori, Katie, Sarah-Irene, John, and I found our way to the “walkers” coral and waited there. We had fun checking out all the great Halloween costumes that people had put together for the race, and tweeted our status to those who were cheering us on from home.   It wasn’t long before it was time for us to start and fireworks lit the way.

Share photos on twitter with 
TwitpicThe start was really congested, and even though I began in the back with the rest of the walkers, I wasn't able to take a full stride until at least .4 miles. I remember thinking that if I couldn't start to take a full stride soon that I would have to drop out because it was painful to be short stepping and I was going to get hurt.  We made it under the water bridge and up to pass the Contemporary Hotel, it was there that we found the lead runners headed back to the finish line.   Our group cheered for them, and then officially declared our hatred for their speed. We rounded the bend towards the bus terminals at the Magic Kingdom where we hit the first Mile marker.

My pace for the first mile was 24 minutes!!! I haven't been at 24 minutes since the very first day I started walking.  Disney had stated at 16 minute pace requirement to participate, so I was pretty far behind.  All I can think of is that I was slow because it was so very crowded, and I knew that I needed to keep moving.  AdventurelandThere was a short line for pictures with a character at the start of main street and I stopped so one of my team members could use the restroom, however there was a woman on a bike that told me the last walkers were right behind and I needed to get moving. My girls and I made our way down main street the best that we could.  I was doing a pretty good combination (for me) of walking and jogging so that I could snap some pictures.  I made it through Adventureland and thought I was doing alright but just as we were turning into Frontierland Sarah-Irene saw the sweepers coming towards us so we started running.   That was the point that I lost Tori and Sarah, I just couldn’t keep up, but Katie and I kept moving and encouraged each other to keep going through Frontierland, but I knew that I was falling behind, and John was still behind me about 25 yards.   As Katie and I came through Liberty Square The EMT bikes were riding along side of us.  I pointed them out to Katie and she took off like a rocket catching up to our crew ahead.   She thought for sure that I John and I had been swept.

Castle in the distanceI was fighting a really bad cold and I'm sure that my wheezing was audible I jogged then walked and jogged then walked as fast as I could because I knew that I was not far in front of the sweepers. I was waiting for those EMTs to say something to me,from liberty square until the point in tomorrowland that a little boy fell down. I can remember crying when I passed he castle, and saying Thank You to my Aunt Pat for passing on the love of Disney to me.   Years ago when Disney held it’s first marathon, she and I talked about how fun it would be to run through the Magic Kingdom, neither of us thought that it was something we could ever do.  Though it wasn’t a marathon, I felt like completing this race was a life long goal that I was doing for the both of us.

I don't really remember anything through Tomorrowland other than I was jogging and had to dodge a lot of people, I felt like I was weaving in and out of folks trying not to get pulled off of the course. I did notice that at mile 2, I had made up a lot of the slow time from mile 1 and the sweepers weren't as close to me as they were before. I had managed to keep other participants behind me.

3 Mile MarkerI caught up to my daughter Katie by a pond on the back side of space mountain. There was an alligator in it which I thought was really neat. Katie and I stayed together back past the contemporary and under the water bridge. I slowed down a lot in order to stay with Katie, and I kept looking back over my shoulder for our friend John who was about 50 yards behind us. I saw the sweeper van one more time before we went under the water bridge toward the finish. There were people in in, but they didn't seem to be pullig folks off of the course at the point I was because I kept going.  Having that hill at the very end was a torture by the way. It seemed twice as tall as it was when we ran it in the beginning. We found Tori and Sarah waiting for us at the 3 mile marker, and we decided to wait for John to catch up as well. My son Kirk (who finished in 40 minutes) jumped the fence and refinished the race along side mom. We headed to the finish, and I broke down in tears as I crossed over.

 I couldn't believe that I had done it and I wasn't even last. 
Our Team Finish
Sara-Irene, Katie, Kirk, Kristen, Tori & John

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pictures from our Epic October Trip!

Sadly my camera died during this vacation.  However before it's demise I got some great pictures from the first few days.  I’ll be looking for a new one before my next vacation.  Follow the links to view the photos we snapped from this Epic October Vacation!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Dole Float

Dole Float

Friday, October 1, 2010

Trip Report - Reflections on Day Two

I woke up before the kids, around 7:30, and meandered down to the concierge lounge to check out the offerings. I had read mixed reviews from other guests if the food was worth while or not, and I was happy to see that the morning offerings were looking scrumptious. I made my plate with fresh fruit and pastries perfect for a morning pick me up. Then I made my way over to the Nespresso machine. There it sat, the little magic box that was going to tell me if I was drinking double Americanos or Starbucks Via for the rest of my trip. I slowly read the instructions and then slid the little plastic disk into it’s slot and preformed a classic “PHD” (push here dumby). The black box gurgled and chugged before it started dripping a beautiful carmel colored liquid. The honey like shot fell into hot water and cream leaving a crema on top. I stared down into the little cup and smiled, the pour looked good, the smell was intoxicating, carefully I took a sip. Success! Chicago, we have espresso, and good espresso at that. No more coffee worries on this trip.

100_2296Three cups later and the kids began wandering out of bed. It was about 9am at this point and though I wanted to get going, I was unsure if we could spend an entire day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Eventually we gathered downstairs for the bus and just made it onto a standing room only transport. We arrived at Hollywood Studios around 10:30 am and headed off for adventure. We did Muppets 3D, The Great Movie Ride, and the Backlot Tour, before we found it. The Writers Stop.

The Writers Stop is a tiny little book shop tucked away that is home to some decadent sweet treats. I had been hearing about the amazing carrot cake cookies and I just had to get one for myself. Oh my god, they were so huge! I had seen pictures of them but I just wasn’t expecting this. Tasty and delicious I put the kids to taste testing with me as we samples two of the baked goods. Next we did some shopping and walking around before lunch at 1:00. My son Kirk bought a new hat and decided to channel Indiana Jones.100_2258

Our lunch reservations were at the Sci-Fi Drive In. I have never heard much about this resturaunt, but I liked the look of the menu so that’s where I had made ADRs. I’ll do a full review once I’m at home, but for now I just want to say that I was thrilled with both the experience and the food.

After lunch we headed down Sunset Boulevard towards the roller coasters. Katie and Kirk went off to ride, Tori and I strolled the boulevard and shopped. We found some great new Disney gear. The rides weren’t crowded at all, Katie and Kirk pretty much walked on them and rode each twice.

We were talkig with a charming young cast member named Chad in front of Rockin’ Rollercoaster as we waited for the other kids to get off of the ride. He tried to pick up Tori for a date at F&W Festival this weekend, until he realized that she’s jail bait. He advised us to line up as early as possible for Fantasmic! because they (the park) were expecting the park to get super crowded after 7pm. When Katie and Kirk returned Chad escorted us over to Tower of Terror and took Kirk and Katie in the VIP entrance to ride again. Tori and I continued our shopping spree and even found a Christmas gift for someone.

100_2268Tori and I lined up for Fantasmic! Next, which will get it’s own post once I get home. After watching the fabulous show we headed out and grabbed a cab bakc to the hotel where we ate dinner at the Mara, Katie went swimming and we finally hit the hay around Midnight.

Pictures from Day Two up HERE!