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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Flying the Friendly Skies

100_0755 I think that most people who have been traveling for more than 20 years would agree with me that flying is just not what it used to be.  What was once a special, comfortable event with complimentary chocolates and pillows has, over the years, been turned into a mass cattle call fraught with anxiety while being herded from point a to point b.  Americans have demanded cheap flights to commute across the country on a whim, and with that they have encouraged the airlines to create an atmosphere where flying is no longer special, and passengers are treated in mass instead of by person.

It may sound odd, but I'm actually really looking forward to my flights for this trip.  I was spoiled with a complimentary upgrade from United to Economy Plus on my last flight. At first I didn't think that an extra 5 inches of leg room would make a real difference, but it really was a huge change in comfort.  As someone who suffers with chronic pain, having that extra room to stretch out a bit while in the seat eased the discomfort and created a much more enjoyable ride.  Between that and the premier line line I had added, it made the March trip so much more enjoyable I decided I may never fly just straight economy again.

For next week's flights I decided to get even fancier (though still not first class) and I upgraded to Premier Travel.  I know that we'll have room in our seats, our checked bags are already paid for, and we'll fly through lines.  In addition I'm excited to have the opportunity to check out the Red Carpet lounges.  Primer Travel cost us roughly an extra $400 for two round trip tickets, which is still $600 less than first class would have cost us.  Primer Travel is an excellent opportunity to still travel comfortably, without paying first class prices.  Primer Travel is a bundled package of perks, but United also offers it's passengers the opportunity to purchase travel options al la carte for smaller fees.  For instance Premier Line from Chicago to Orlando is only about $10 extra.

 United's Premier Travel service includes:
  • Extra 5" of legroom with Economy Plus® seating (room to stretch out)
  • Early boarding with seating group 1 (makes sure your carry on bags stay with you)
  • Priority security line access (saves time)
  • Premier® check-in line access (personal service)
  • Bonus miles equal to 25% of your flight miles (earn perks faster)
  • First two standard checked bags free (like they should be) [1]
Yes, it's not the most economical way to fly, and if money is more important than the experience, then United's travel options may not be for you.  However if you long for the days of not having to wear protective gear while queing up in line, a comfortable flight with room to stretch out, and personal service, you might want to give some of these great ad-ons a try.

[1] united.com
Disclaimer: 2011 Land/Sea Vacation was paid for and scheduled by DVCMom. I am not a United employee nor do I speak for the company.  All activities, reviews and opinions expressed on this website are entirely my own.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Relax on Wordless Wednesday

Grand Floridian Marina

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who are you going with?

So ya, umm...  uh... umm... Want to go to Prom?  Disney's new teen movie "PROM" opens this Friday, April 29, 2011, and with it come all the trials and tribulations of teenage angst.
"Every couple has a story and no two are exactly alike. Several intersecting stories unfold at one high school as the big dance approaches; “Prom” portrays the precarious passage from high school to independence as some relationships unravel and others ignite... There are hundreds of nights in high school, but there's only one Prom.” 
Katie and I are headed into Chicago tonight to attend a screening of PROM.  I look forward to bringing you my thoughts later this week on how parent... I mean kid, friendly it is.  Find our more about PROM at these great resources:

Become a fan on Facebook: http://facebook.com/DisneyPROM
Check out the Official PROM Website: 
http://disney.com/PROM
Follow on Twitter: 
http://twitter.com/PROMdirtalert

PROM hits theaters April 29, 2011. 


So, who are you going with?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Land/Sea Pre-Trip Report

Where you can follow the trip:
Twitter Kristen @DVCMom
Blog http://www.dvcmom.com

I will do my best to update and post pictures to the photo stream live for the first 3 days.  However we'll be out of touch while out of the country. Also there will be no virtual window for this trip because the view from the concierge rooms at AKL is mostly roof. 


Travelers:
Kristen - Main organizer, blogger, foodie
Erik - Traveling Companion, guest blogger, foodie

Details:
5 Nights - May 3rd - May 8th, 2011
Mode of Travel - United Airlines, Chicago O’hare to Orlando International then Mickey’s Magical Express, limo to port

Hotel - Animal Kingdom Lodge, Concierge Studio Villa
Disney Dream - Family Stateroom with Veranda


Itinerary:



5/3 - Travel, Arrive, Monorail Crawl, Dinner at California Grill, Wishes

5/4 - EPCOT,  Eat & Drink around World Showcase, Dinner at Le Cellier, Illuminations

5/5 - Boma for breakfast, limo to port, Settle in on the Cruise Ship
 
5/6 -  Nassau, Garden Tour, Thor Opening, Dinner at Palo

5/7 -  Castaway Cay, Jet Ski Tour, Lunch on the Island, Erik's Shave, Dinner at Remy


5/8 - Disembark, travel home



I’m getting ready to head back down to Florida for two nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge followed by three fabulous nights on board the Disney Dream! Erik will be my traveling companion for this trip (DH Geordon didn’t have any desire to cruise) and it will be his very first trip down to Walt Disney World. I can’t wait to see his face when we walk into the Animal Kingdom Lodge and they cheerfully welcome us home. I think it’s going to blow his mind.

Much of this vacation is going to be all about the food & wine. We’ll start out with a Monorail Crawl that ends just in time for dinner at the California Grill, followed by Wishes Fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. Day two finds us at EPCOT where we will endeavor to eat and drink around the world on our way to Canada for the new signature dinner at Le Cellier. I haven’t eaten at either of these places in 20 years so I’m really looking forward to an exciting culinary experience. Boma, La Cantina de San Angel, and the Concierge Lounge will round out our dining options for the land portion of our trip.

On the morning of the 5th we take a limo (another first for Erik) to the port for our next exciting adventure. I’m so excited that for my very first cruise, we’ll be sailing on the newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line’s fleet. With her maiden voyage just a couple of months ago I’m sure it will be a spectacular time.



I’m all checked in online for our hotel and the cruise, our documents are printed, cash is all allotted out in envelops (I love tip envelope day), and I have started to pack. Not that I’m excited or anything, but it’s going to be a great adults only get away! Some of the kidless options onboard the Disney Dream include:

The District, “a nighttime entertainment area on the Disney Dream with five unique venues. This playground for grownups features sophisticated lounges, each with its own unique design, look, feel, and palate-pleasing delights.” The Disney Dream carries Banfi Rosa Regal, so you know what I’ll be drinking every night. I’m also looking forward to trying the sparkling rose’ that Tattinger designed especially for the Disney Cruise Line.

Senses Spa & Salon, “offers adult tranquility with 17 private treatment rooms, lavish spa villas with indoor treatment rooms and private outdoor verandahs, and Rainforest, a special section of the spa offering the benefits of steam, heat and hydrotherapy to relax the mind and body.” Erik (my traveling companion) and I have Rain Forest Passes, and he’ll be getting a shave while onboard.

Remy, We’ll cap off our magnificent food & wine experience with a treat for the senses at Remy for Dinner. “Disney Cruise Line’s first-ever premier dining option. With French-inspired, gourmet cuisine by two award-winning chefs, Remy melds classic and contemporary styles in a sophisticated new dining concept exclusively for adults.”

At Palo, I’m most looking forward to trying the legendary chocolate soufflé. The “sweeping ocean views, rich décor and epicurean excellence create the setting for a romantic escape aboard the Disney Dream in a redesigned version of Disney Cruise Line’s signature specialty restaurant. Guests also may dine al fresco on Palo’s private outdoor deck.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guardian Shrine

Yeti Shire and Forbidden Mountain

We linked up for Wordless Wednesday at The Angel Forever

Saturday, April 16, 2011

DVC Members Can Run Disney for Less!

LIVESTRONG Card
The kids and I after
finishing our Disney 5K
Running the roads of the Walt Disney World Resort may not sound like your style of vacation, but every year tens of thousands of people put on their sneakers and hit the streets to Run Disney.  My kids and I ran a Disney 5K last year, and it was an amazing and emotional experience for us.  Running Disney is fun, addictive, and like many other special events at Disney, expensive.  This morning I had a discount code for DVC Members on my email box and thought that I would share it with you.

Registration for DVC Members is open to compete in the Walt Disney World Marathon, Sunday January 8th, which is presented by CIGNA.  You can run through all four theme parks, and have fun along every mile.  As usual there is a Marathon, Half Marathon, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, and this year includes a Marathon Relay.  Grab your sneakers and take advantage of this very special offer that's available for just a limited time.


Code must be entered at time of race registration, and expect to be able to provide your membership number.  Act fast because this discount turns into a pumpkin on April 24th!

Friday, April 15, 2011

DVC Concierge Collection - The Whitehall Pt 1

I love my DVC, and up to this point, I haven’t really played with number for getting the best value out of my point, so far, I have just been happy to use them. My family has stayed at non-DVC Disney Resorts, at the AKL Concierge, and booked a Disney Cruise all with our points and I must admit that it has been easy and convenient for us to do so. That convenience is one of the reasons that I don’t nickel and dime my DVC budget. The money comes out each month, if I have points to use; I book them as I wish. That was until I started doing research on a Hotel review I plan on sharing with you in June.

Curious to see what the DVC Concierge collection was offering in Chicago, I decided that my husband and I should book a night at the The Whitehall Hotel. The Whitehall is an elegant boutique venue that is part of the DVC partner offering. It looks amazing and I can’t wait to stay there. According to my 2011 DVC point guide, I can get a superior room there during this peak for just 50 points per night. That’s a little steep for a gal with only 185 points a year, but for some people it might be acceptable for a great weekend at this exquisite Downtown Chicago location. Or is it?

Not wanting to use my precious points, I booked The Whitehall using cash. We’ll be staying 1 night (Friday) in a superior King room, booked with a package that includes valet parking ($50) and continental Breakfast (about $25) all for a grand total of $262.85.

So, here comes the lecture that I HATE, LOATHE, and DESPISE reading on DVC sites all across the web. Yep… indeed… I’m going to say it.

Rent out your points and pay cash
instead of staying on points at The Whitehall.

Now, seriously, I understand that the whole purpose for some people of having points is that they don’t have to deal with cash. I understand that renting out your points can be a hassle, complicated, and a risk when dealing with unknown renters. I love the simplicity of not having to worry about any of that and just going on vacation with the knowledge your hotel is taken care of. But in this case it really doesn’t make any sense at all.

If you rented out your points, even at the bargain rate of $10 per point, you’re going to get $500. That’s almost twice what it cost to book on cash with a breakfast and valet package that you don’t get with points. TWICE. That’s just crazy. Who would voluntarily pay double the going rate for a hotel room? I know that I can’t.

I’m really looking forward to bringing you a look at this exquisite hotel, but being real… I’m paying cash.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sweet! Wordless Wednesday

Colorful Candy

Sweet Attack

Candy Table

Monday, April 11, 2011

Disney Signature Dining on Foodspotting.com

Lunch PlateGood morning and welcome to Monday!  I had a busy weekend and honestly I'm woefully unprepared for today.  However, as you know, last week I introduced you to my newest obsession Foodspotting.com.  One of the fun things that you can do with Foodspotting is create all sorts of guides, lists, and scavenger hunts to help others find your favorite foods.

Over the weekend I was playing around on the website and created a Disney Signature Dining Guide, to highlight the best (or at least most expensive) eats that Walt Disney World has to offer.  So, how many Disney eats things can you spot?  Earn "D" badge for just five signature spots!

Did you miss my review of the Foodspotting App?  No worries, just click here to see what I had to say!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wollershiem Winery Celebrates

The year is off to a great start for my favorite Midwest Winery.  Wollersheim Winery's nationally acclaimed semi-dry white wine, Prairie Fumé, is once again proving to be a star as the well-balanced flavors.  At the Jerry D. Mead New World International Wine Competition in California, Prairie Fumé 2010 was awarded a platinum medal, along with "Best of Varietal" and "Best of Class" out of 1,300 entries in the competition.  Prairie Fumé It also took "Best of Show White" at the San Diego International Wine Competition and GOLD at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in Rochester, NY.  Without a doubt this is a jewel of the regional wines that has even been profiled by industry giant, Andrea Immer Robinson.  One of the staples of wine in our household Wollershiem Winery continues to turn out stunning quality wine year after year. 


The winery is open daily for year round tours and I encourage everyone to stop by and visit this historical site.  Just announced, Wollershiem will be honoring parents with some upcoming special events. We plan on making our annual trip to Wollershiem again this year on Thanksgiving weekend. 


A SALUTE TO MOTHERS
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Open to the public. 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Winery open for tours and tasting plus mother's receive a complimentary tour when accompanied by their family. 


A TRIBUTE TO FATHERS
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Open to the public. 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Winery open for tours and tasting plus Fathers can receive a complimentary tour when accompanied by their family. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Save the Savanna



Once again DisneyNature is offering viewers a stunning epic look at life on our planet with an awe-inspiring adventure blending family bonds with the power and cunning of the wild. Out to celebrate Earth Day, April 22, 2011, this true story is set against the backdrop of one of the wildest places on Earth, the African Savanna.

African Cats” captures the real-life love, humor and determination of the majestic kings of the savanna. Narrated by the indomitable voice of Oscar®-nominated actor Samuel L. Jackson, the story features Mara, an endearing lion cub who strives to grow up with her mother’s strength, spirit and wisdom; Sita, a fearless cheetah and single mother of five mischievous newborns; and Fang, a proud leader of the pride who must defend his family from a rival lion and his sons.

As with it's previous two Earth Day releases DisneyNature "African Cats" offers movie goers the opportunity to really make their tickets count. It's not just about entertainment, it's about giving back to our planet and it's wild inhabitants. During the film’s opening week (April 22-28), a portion of the proceeds from that week’s ticket sales will be donated to the African Wildlife Foundation through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to ensure the future of lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, giraffes and a host of other animals in the vibrant African savanna.

Would you like to do a greater good? Launching during the week of April 18th, Disney Tickets Together, is Facebook's first social ticketing application, which allows fans to engage with the film by inviting friends to see "African Cats" and purchase tickets for local theaters without ever leaving Facebook. For all "African Cats" events created in Tickets Together, Disney will increase the donation to the Save the Savanna fund for every "Yes" RSVP that the events receive.

African Cats 
True Life Adventure   G
U.S. Release Date: April 22, 2011
Website and Mobile Site: Disney.com/AfricanCats
Like us on Facebook: Facebook.com/Disneynature
Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/Disneynature

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Are you pirate enough?

Okay, I admit it, I'm a gigantic Pirate fan. From Disneyland, to the major motion pictures, and all around the world, my pirate crew will stop to devour anything swashbuckling and adventurous. Like you couldn't already tell, right? I am so looking forward to the May 20th release of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”. Another romping adventure with Captain Jack, this time in 3D! Come on moms, admit it, more Johnny Depp is always a good thing... did I mention 3D?

Pirates of the Caribbean is classic Disney entertainment, it doesn't matter if you and your crew have climbed aboard a vessel to set sail through the world famous attractions or struck camp in the theater with your pop corn and candy, you know that you're about to have a fabulous time. Once again producer Jerry Bruckheimer has captured the fun, adventure and humor which ignited a hit franchise. Captain Barbosa sent out a message today... from Disneyland to the big screen, watch the video and decided, are you pirate enough?



I almost forgot! Have you been over to “Like” PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN on Facebook yet? You know you really should, just follow the link, because it's kinda like a little treasure map. http://www.Facebook.com/PiratesoftheCaribbean

Bicycle - Wordless Wednesday

Edited Bike

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lunch at Torgua Tavern

Just open Tortuga Tavern

Recently El Pirata Y El Perico the rarely open Adventureland counter service location was reimagined into the Tortuga Tavern. While I applaud Disney for putting forth the effort into redeeming this location, it didn’t quite seem to go all the way. The new piratey atmosphere was enjoyable, my companions and I sat in the shade and enjoyed a beautiful day, but the food was seemed disjointed. The menu at Tortuga Tavern remains decidedly Mexican, which I find confusing with the restaurant’s recent name change. I would have liked to see a creative Caribbean menu. The (historically seasonal) eatery isn’t a staple of Magic Kingdom dining for a reason, but still I can’t help but feel like they missed the opportunity to do something better. A fresh coat of paint is nice; but restaurants need to have fresh, creative menus to survive. The location does suffer from a very small cooking space, but these days even food trucks are turning out amazing cuisine, I feel that’s just an excuse.

Burritos (Beef, Chicken, or Veg), Nachos, a Taco Salad are the extent of the entrees served at this location (Menu board image can be seen here). The burritos and salads come from the window as a shell of whichever type of tortilla your dish calls for and a large scoop of the protein filling straight from the steam table. Honestly, not an appetizing plate to look down at when you pick up your tray. The joy of the meal is at the toppings bar where you can fill your shell with offerings of lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and salsa. My biggest issue, as you can see from the picture, is that once I had what I wanted, there was no way to close the tortilla to eat a burrito. I ended up eating the filling out of it with a fork. It was quite filling, and I only made my way through about half of it.

Beef Burrito

The Nachos were passed through the window completed and I thought the best option available there. Crisp tortilla chips were topped with ground beef and covered in the oozy goodness of bright orange melted cheese food, then topped with a nice salsa of onions, tomato, cucumber and black beans that had just a little tang to it. Hot sauce is available at the toppings bar for those who want a little heat.

Nachos

It would appear that this is still going to be operated as a part time spot to ease the crush on the Magic Kingdom’s real restaurants. While we were sitting there eating the kitchen was closed and windows shut, somewhere around 2:30. I did really enjoy my meal here, but it was all about the great location and the spectacular company of WDWParkhoppers John and Sarah. The food at Tortuga Tavern is easily forgotten and I see no reason to go back. If you want anything more to eat than something to fill you up, go around the corner to Frontierland and eat at Pecos Bills.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary park tickets, and reduced rate lodging as part of my paid registration to Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. All opinions expressed on this website are entirely my own.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Foodspotting

ispotfood-iconYes, I take pictures of my food. I'm a blogger, I take pictures of lots of strange things. Lately though I've stopped worrying about the weird looks from the tables next to me as I style my plates to get the prettiest shot.  I often make my companions wait to digg in so I can shoot their plates too.  Luckily my family just laughs at me.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a fun little iPhone app developed for foodies just like me. It's called Foodspotting. The Foodspotting website and mobile apps make it easy to find and share your favorite foods with others using the applications. Instead of reviewing restaurants, you can recommend your favorite dishes using photos and see what others have recommended wherever you go. Foodspotting focuses on positive experience, because when you're hungry and in a hurry, you don't want to weed through a bunch of negative reviews.  They recognize that even the smallest eatery can have a hidden gem to be treasured and shared.  Users can search the app by people, foods, locations or guides, and instead of bringing up a text, it offers pictures of what Foodspotters have eaten and loved.

Instead of star ratings, you can give blue ribbons, called “Noms,” to foods you’ve tried and love. But there’s a catch: You only get 5 noms to start with and must earn the right to nom more foods after that! The more reputation points you earn by interacting with the Foodspotting community, the more noms you’re allowed to give out.

Since it's launch in 2010 Foodspotting has created a stir in the Foodie world and received support from some seemingly unlikely sources. Anthony Bourdain's Travel Channel hit "No Reservations" created several guides within the app so that you can eat where Tony eats. Even the James Beard Foundation has gotten onboard with Foodspotting by creating a series of Guides to eating with the best chef's in America.

So, what are you eating? Is it Nom worthy? Sign up at Foodspotting.com and let us know!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pirates Invade Hollywood's Walk of Fame

Penelope Cruz Gets A Star


In anticipation of the release of her new film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in theaters May 20, 2011, Penelope Cruz received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Friday, April 1. She was joined for a celebration in front of the El Capitan Theatre by her “On Stranger Tides” co-star Johnny Depp, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Rob Marshall. An Academy Award® winner Penelope Cruz has proven herself to be one of the most versatile actresses by playing a variety of compelling characters, and most recently, becoming the first actress from Spain to be nominated and to win an Oscar®.

Cruz's charitable works include the Worldwide (RED) campaign lead by Bono and Bobby Shiver, Artists for Peace and Justice in Haiti (APJ), UNICEF The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). She had the honor of working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity; volunteering in a leprosy clinic in India and she also worked with the Dalai Lama for the House of Tibet in Spain.

In Disney's “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” Cruz plays the enigmatic Angelica. Angelica crosses paths with Captain Jack Sparrow, and he’s not sure if it’s love—or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (perfectly played by Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know whom to fear more: Blackbeard or Angelica, with whom he shares a mysterious past.

opens in theaters May 20, 2011

This post was featured in the Disney Blog Carnival #20

Friday, April 1, 2011

Of Pirates and Pineapple Bread

Photo Credit: Peter Mountain  © Disney Enterprises, Inc. 



Did you know that because of filming for “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” the thick coconut grove at the famed (and now closed) Coco Palms Hotel in Wailua had to be harvested? 773 coconut palms were stripped of their fruits in order to prevent the heavy coconuts from falling on the hapless heads of cast and crew. The harvested coconuts were taken away by local residents to take full advantage of the meat and milk of the tropical fruits. I wonder if any of them used this recipe from the Walt Disney World Cookbook to bake up some fabulous Pineapple Bread.

Ingredients:
1 3/4 water
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons shortening
4 1/2 cups High Gluten Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast

Pineapple/Coconut Mixture:
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Combine pineapple & coconut in a bowl & mix together.
Combine sugar & cornstartch in another bowl & mix well.
Add this mixture to pinapple/coconut mixture & mix well.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Take the first set of ingredients for the bread mixture and combine in order in a large mixing bowl. Mix with the dough hook until all dough is picked up on hook and sides of the bowl are clean. Let dough rise until it doubles. Roll dough on a floured surface to 2" thick. Spread pineapple mixture on top of the bread. Fold dough into over & place in a greased 9x13 pan. Let dough rise in a warm ovenset at 110 degrees until double in size. Then bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let bread cool/ Serve warm.

Oh!  I almost forgot to tell you,  
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is out in Theaters on May 20th!

Tangled DVD Winner

Congratulations Tabitha! You are the winner of our Tangled give away! Please check your email for further instructions.

tangled winner