Thursday, September 29, 2011

Berry Gratin

This is the Seasonal Berry Gratin from Citricos. It may very well be the best dessert I have ever eaten. The thin twill cookie shell was filled with fresh, ripe Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries and Blackberries, then topped with a Champagne-Grand Marnier sabayon. The Sabayon was light and fresh with an almost effervescent quality to it, and very little alcohol flavor, it was simply divine. The brown speckles you see on top are from them torching the sugar to give it a slightly toasted flavor. All together is was FULL OF WIN like no other dessert I have ever tried.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Arrived Safe and Sound

We've arrived safe and sound in Orlando! I'm such a dork, I cried while on Magical Express because I was so happy.

Our room was ready at Kidani when we arrived. We settled in, changed clothes, and now we're off to the Magic Kingdom!

I'll try my best to get the webcam up this evening after dinner. I am so very happy to be home, there just aren't words.

Sent from my iPhone

And Away We Go!


It's finally here! Our Epic October adventure began at 4:45 this morning when Hurricane Dad and I were out the door and on our way to O'Hare to start our vacation!  If all goes as planned we should be landing in Orlando around Noon. You can be sure that I'll tweet when our flight lands safely.  I can't wait to get "home" to Disney.

Plans for this morning are mainly active transportation with an early flight and then Disney's Magical Express to the Resort.  Then we're on for an afternoon include in the Magic Kingdom to visit the newly refurbished Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland.   After that we'll be on our way to the Grand Floridian for a romantic dinner at Citricos.

I hope to have the web cam up before the end of the night, but I'm not sure what time we'll get in the hotel room, so look for our savanna view video feed, as well as the first round of photos loading to the Flickr Stream by tomorrow morning!

The right hand column on the website is going to be your place for up to date information on where we are and what we're doing while in "the world".  Up the minute Twitter Updates. The latest pictures from the Flickr stream, you can expect new images every night!  Also you can see which fan meets we plan on attending by looking at our Plancast. It's all there one the right hand side of the website.

You can follow our tweets at @DVCMom and @HurricaneDad411

Monday, September 26, 2011

Organizing my Travel Documents

Today I'm organizing my travel documents. For a decade I simply kept everything in my Passporter PassPockets. However over the past year, since keeping my Itinerary on TripIt, I've been experiment with alternative methods of trip organization. I bought a generic travel document case from Target, and have been using it to hold my documents. The case is large enough to keep everything together, but small enough to tuck in my purse or in the front of my carry-on bag.

My Document Case Contents:
Once I have everything that goes in the case together I organize the documents by day. I then paperclip it together and stick e post-it on the envelope, marked with which day I'll need it.
Documents Organized by Day

On the side of the case with the card pockets I keep extra ID, club membership cards, and emergency credit cards, and a spare checkbook.
ID, Club Cards, Insurance, Xtra Money, Checkbook

All of my day "packets" get gathered together and slipped into the right hand file pocket.  Once we're at the hotel I pull the packet for the day that I need day and have everything I need ready to go.  I drop the day's packet into my purse, and then I stick the document case into our room safe.  Once it's locked up away we go!  Every morning I  pop into the safe and can quickly grab the packet for that day.
Inside Ready to Go!

On the days that we're in transport (arrival day and departure day usually) I slip what we will need into an outer pocket. This is usually Airline Tickets and Magical Express Vouchers, and a Travel Day food money envelope.
Transport Docs in Front Pocket

This method has been working pretty well for me the past year, though my actual document case needs a little tweaking.   In addition to what's in here, I also keep a record of everything on my iPhone, just in case.   So, that's it!  You now know how I organize my travel documents.  How do you keep everything together when traveling?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you use.  If you know where I can get a nicer document holder than my pink one, I would love to know that  too!

Friday, September 23, 2011

DFB 2011 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Mini-Guide

There's just about another week until my husband and I head down to Florida for the 2011 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival!  I'm so excited about this trip, last year I had a blast with the kids and I'm really looking forward to sharing it with my husband.  Last year I went without any sort of plan of attack, and I missed so much that the festival has to offer.  This year Geordon and I have just 2.5 days scheduled to fit in all the foodie fun we can handle at Epcot, so I thought I might try and be just a little better organized.

DFB Food & Wine Mini-GuideThe fantastic Disney Food Blog has been my go to resource for Food & Wine Festival planning this year and the phenomenal AJ Wolfe has not disappointed with her offerings to aid in festival planning for everyone.  Aside from the full coverage she's had on the blog, she has also put together a Festival Mini-Guide available for download!  Now you can take all the information needed along on your mobile device!

The 2011 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Mini-Guide is written in the same fun, conversational tone and light hearted nature that the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining (read my review here) is written in.    In this special mini-guide AJ explains the Festival Center and all it has to offer, including bios of all the guest speakers and authors that will be joining the festival this year.  She talks about the special events, tastings, and seminars that you can reserve before moving on to the heart of the matter.  The food booths.   This little guide is your on hand resource for all you need to know about the Marketplace booths situated around World Showcase Lagoon, with full menus and stunning pictures it is the tool you want to make your plan of attack!

My copy is already downloaded an on my iPhone, ready to go!  Download yours TODAY!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Travel Tech - iPhone Applications for a Working Vacation

iPhone 4 I still do a lot of my travel planning and scheduling on paper, I read the guide books and write copious amounts of notes in preparation for our vacations.  I must admit though that once we leave the house,  I would be lost without my iPhone, and all the super abilities it gives me to call up any information I need at a moments notice.  I'm wired for mobile access to anything I may need while we're gone and these are a few of my favorite applications that help me stay on top of it all.

TripIt - Where I'm going, when I need to be there, reservation numbers, confirmation codes, even personal notes, TripIt stores all of my important travel information for me.  This great app has actually replaced my Passporter as far as what I carry with me (I still use the Passporter Guide for planning but don't carry it) to the parks.  With this app and the handy itinerator, you can organize trip details into one master online itinerary, and it automatically includes maps, directions and weather!  If only it had park maps too.

Lines -  I simply wouldn't even think of leaving for a Disney vacation without the mobile app from TouringPlans.com.   Called "Lines", this handy application keep me up to date with park hours, a crowd calander, highlights special events, suggests which parks are the best to visit on a given day, and up to the minute information on wait times for every single attraction at Walt Disney World.  It also allows me access to the touring plans, lets me submit ride times, has a chat, and gives me a 10 day park forecast.  If you don't have Lines... well, why on earth don't you have Lines!?!?

TweetDeck -  This is just one of the tools I use to share my vacation with you!  TweetDeck organizes my Twitter account for easy mobile access.

Weather.com - Rain or shine I'm headed to the parks, but I like to make sure that I'm dressed well for the day!  Current conditions, 10 day forecasts, and tropical tracking during hurricane season make this a must have for my vacation!

Dropbox - Like it or not, since I'm a Disney Blogger when I'm in Disney, I'm working!  Dropbox gives me the opportunity to access important files and share them with contacts all from my iPhone.   With 2GB of free space, I can store, share, and edit my working documents on the go.  It's my office in super mobile form.

PDF Reader - Another application for instant access to the information I need, I have a PDF reader so that I can read the DFB 2011 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Mini-Guide while I'm touring!  All of the Disney Food Blog's Publications, like the must read DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining and the DFB Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks come in PDF format, don't eat the world without them!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Spaceship Earth - Wordless Wednesday

Spaceship Earth

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DVC Members Can Take Advantage of Disney’s Online Check-In Service

Hoorah! Our Wine & Dine Vacation is getting closer and closer every day!  Geordon and I are so excited and rushing to get our last minute details taken care of.  All of the little details are starting to come together.  Yesterday I bought him a new swimsuit, so that we can take advantage of the hot tubs at the Samawati Springs Pool.  Today I was able to do my pre check-in online!! 

Beginning 10 days prior to a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) reservation arrival members can check in online at the DVC Members website for most of the DVC Resorts (The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel® & Spa does not offer this service). By completing this simple online form before actual arrival, the resort knows that we’re on our way and will be ready to welcome us home!

Online Check-In is super easy and a great touchstone that you’re almost ready to go!
  1. Log into the DVC Member web site and select "Vacation Details" in the "My Membership" module in the right column of the home page.
  2. You'll see a list of your upcoming vacations. When you are within 10 days of your next Walt Disney World vacation, a link will automatically appear allowing you to access Online Check-In Service.
  3. Complete the check-in form. The form will ask you to add a credit card, confirm your itinerary and guests, offer a mobile contact number for use during your vacation, estimate your arrival and departure times, and allow for special request. Once the form is filled out simply hit the submit button!
  4. Once Disney receives the form, they will send you an e-mail confirmation and you're all set!

Now, when Disney’s Magical Express drops us off at Kidani Village, we’ll head to the Online Check-In Service location at the Front Desk. There we’ll grab our keys and welcome folder, DVC rooms are typically are available for occupancy beginning at 4 p.m., since we’ll arrive around 1:00 p.m. we’ll store our carry on bags with Bell Services.

Next we’ll quickly be off to enjoy our first day at the Magic Kingdom!  Have you used online check-in?  Do you like it?  Have you been happy with the rooms that you've been given using online-check in?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Abita Purple Haze - bEARsom Buddies

Today's bEARsom Buddies begins to explore the brews of the 2011 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival! I must admit, I picked this beer for the guys to try because I thought the name was cool, and I hoped that it might be something that I could sip without making horrible faces. Yes, that's how it goes when I pick out beers for the menfolk to try. Obviously, they don't let me pick the beer very often. However armed with a list of brews being offered at the "Craft Beer" Marketplace Booth I headed off to the market to find something for them to drink. Thanks so much to Erik for writing today's review of Abita's Purple Haze. ~Kristen
As I continue to broaden my horizons and palatte, this time I looked to Disney's upcoming Food and Wine celebration for my next beer. And what a beer I Found! The folks at Abita Springs Brewery, out of Louisiana, are showcasing Purple Haze.

Purple Haze is a wheat beer that has had a raspberry puree added after the filtration process.  Now, I can probably guess what you're thinking "a flavored beer... really?"  Let me tell you, I thought the exact same thing.  I have tried flavored beers over the years (pumpkin, vanilla, creme brulee) and have been horribly disappointed at the total lack of flavor, or by the overwhelming flavor that drowned out the beer entirely.  Purple Haze is none of these.  The raspberry in Purple Haze adds some wonderful component to this beer.

Just looking at the color you can see the difference as it's golden tone is slightly hazy with a purplish hue (hence the name I assume).  I was  hoping for a darker shade, but the lightness of the purple was a definately a conversation starter in the house,  The aroma is a perfect blend of hops and berries, nothing that overpowers the other.  It doesn't seem to come across as "raspberry' per say, but it does have that fruity, berry quality that I was hoping for.  Flavorwise I was very pleased overall.  Purple Haze lets the tartness of the berry speak for itself.  It starts out as a flavorful, crisp wheat beer that leaves the mouth with that wonderful, raspberry tartness that really compliments the overall lightness.

By no means is this beer heavy, sitting at 4.2% ABV it is one of the lightest beers that I have had.  It's perfect for summertime drinking.  Abita suggests pairing Purple Haze with salads, fruit, and chocolate desserts, foods that will draw out the raspberry flavir,  I think, however, that they are missing out on spicy food.  Since Purple Haze is so crisp, bright and fruity I think it would pair exceptionally well with a hot and spicy food profile.  However you plan to enjoy this offering, you won't be disappointed.

Muppet Domination
Click It

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pathway to the Forbidden Mountain

Yeti Shire and Forbidden Mountain100_3121


Yeti GuardianYeti Mask


Friday, September 16, 2011

Three Magical Motivating Disney Podcasts

Working out is by far my least favorite activity during the week.  I just don't get that "high" some people do from pushing their bodies.  It doesn't really feel good, and I'm left afterwards exhausted and quite often starving.  So my challenge has been finding ways to make exercising more enjoyable.  So, like so many other things in life, I plus it up with Disney!

I keep some great guys in my pocket (on my iPhone that is) to help me pass the time and make my workouts fly by!  These are three of the nicest guys and they love to share their passion for all things Disney.  There's no way that I could pick one that I like the most because they all offer a little something different for your listening pleasure.  If you're looking for a way to pass the time working out or just want to hear some fantastic Disney fans talking about the most magical place of all, tune in and find your motivation!

WDWRMy favorite VidCast comes from Rick Howard of Kingdom Magic Vacations.  Travel with Rick offers video tours of fantastic Disney Destinations around the world on land and sea.  He's also done some great ride-a-longs with special guests, Disney food tastings, and fun interviews.  Rick is my go-to video when I'm on the recumbent bike at the Y.
Follow on Twitter @TravelWithRick

Lou Mongello hosts the WDW Radio show and has all the latest information you need to get your Disney on.  Not only does Lou's show offer all the latest in Disney news and event coverage, but he's got what's happening in the community covered as well.  Lou's the ultimate source of information in our house, and his Disney History episodes are THE best out there.
Follow on Twitter @LouMongello 

Mike Rahlmann hosts a rollicking good time with this fun roundtable of fabulous Disneyphiles. On the Be Our Guest Podcast, Mike is joined by a bevy of lovely ladies that laugh and talk about their vacation adventures in a friendly accessible manner. This is the crew that keeps me walking when I just want to sit down.
Follow on Twitter @BeOurGuestMike

So that's it!  The sounds that keep me motivated when I'm working to stay fit and feel fab whether it's on Friday or any other day.  What do you listen to when you're working out?  Do you have any tips to help get your Disney on, on the treadmill?  Leave me a message below and let me know how you "Keep Moving Forward!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Disney Parks Exclusive Wines from Banfi!


This year at the 16th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Banfi Vintners (the makers of Rosa Regale) will be debuting two new wines made exclusively for Disney Parks!  Festival goers can head over to the Enoteca Castello wine shop in World Showcase's Italy Pavilion to get their first sip and dream of Italy.  

The Sogno d’Ialia label is offering up a classic Chianti for their red wine with "a note of cherries and plums and a hint of spice."  For those who prefer white wines, it's a crisp Pinot Grigio that Disney Parks Blog says "reminds us of pears and flowers."

Tasting glasses are $6 per glass at Enoteca Castello, and bottles can be purchased there or at the wine shop in the Festival Welcome Center for $16.95 each. Don't worry though if you can't make it down for the festival!  These two new exclusive wines will continue being sold at Enoteca Castello after the festival is over and eventually will be making their way onto wine lists at select Disney restaurants.

Dragon and the Phoenix - Wordless Wednesday

Golden Seal At Walt Disney World Resort you should never forget to look up, because if you don't you'll miss some of the most amazing details. This one is inside the Temple of Heaven, in Epcot's China.
"The dragon and the phoenix, mythical creatures that date back into antiquity and only gradually took the form we know today, served in classical art and literature as symbolic of people of high virtue and rare talent. Together, the two symbolize happiness and married love." [ref]

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Planning How Much to Tip on Vacation

It's tip envelope day! I know that I've talked about making tip envelopes before, but it's that time again in my house, and so I thought I'd revisit it for those readers who have just joined us recently and show you how I do it!  

The first things I do is print off a copy of my vacation spreadsheet.  This is my go to tool for all of our vacation planning. I use a one page "at a glance" structure for my planning, that you can see in the below image. This spreadsheet lists every checkpoint in our vacation, where we need to be, with times and reservation numbers. For our upcoming trip we won't have housekeeping, so my anticipated tips will be for Magical Express, Bell Staff and Table Service meals. I take a marker and notate how much money I will need to tip for each situation.  Then I list it out how many of each type of envelope I will need.

Tip Envelope Spreadsheet
My previous post on tips has guidelines for who you should tip and how much to tip them.  Being on the Disney dining plan, we don't tend to pay attention to the amount that we would have spent on our check.  To figure out how much of a tip to put into our dining envelopes, I hit AllEars.net.  I've been using AllEars.net as a planning tool since 2000 and it's very much my go to resource when I want to know what's on the menu.  AllEars has a menu listing including prices for all of the Walt Disney World restaurants.  By looking up the menus and adding up the amount of money I think we'll spend (plus alcohol) I can guess at what sort of tip I'll need to leave.

Over the past several vacations I've noticed that I use some pretty standard tip amounts when traveling with 2 people.  $5 goes into the envelopes for the magical express and bell staff, $10 for breakfasts, $20 for table service lunches and $40 for signature dining experiences.  These amounts may seem high for you as we often order wine or cocktails with a meal.  You should figure out what amount will work best for your family.

Next I print our labels for the front of the envelopes with a couple of graphics and little note of thanks for the service.  This year I used the new DVC Mom logo for our envelope image.  Included in the design I usually add something that says "Tip Inside," because I have on occasion run into the odd cast member that just thought I was giving them a note.

envelope stickers

Finally I place the labels onto the envelopes and stuff them with the appropriate amount of money and seal them lightly. Handwritten on the back of the envelope I add a note stating where the tip should be used such as "Bell", "Boma", or "Magical Express. This way when I grab an envelope I'm sure that the appropriate amount is inside.

I then group my envelopes by the day that they'll be used. If you use the Passporter Guides, you can slip the tip envelopes into your pass pockets.  These days I use a document holder when traveling so I group all of my envelopes by the day that I will be using them and clip them together with a paperclip.  Then I stick them in my document case and I'm ready to go!

For more tipping tips, follow this link to my check out my original tip envelop post here!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wells Banana Bread Beer Review - bEARsom buddies

100_1304Happy Monday Everyone! Welcome to another week closer to your next Disney Trip! Because you know, even if you don't have one in the planning stages, every morning you're still another day closer to Disney.  Isn't that a great thought!

We had fantastic feedback from last week's first edition "bEARsom buddies!" I really wasn't sure about doing beer reviews and I'm glad that I decided to let the guys give it a try. Today is our our second installment and my husband Geordon (Hurricane Dad 411) is joining us with a review of his favorite weekday treat. If you like what he has to say, tweet him @HurricaneDad411 and let him know!  ~Kristen


wells-banana-bread-beer I like odd, strange, and unusual beers. I also love banana bread. So, when I first saw Wells Banana Bread Beer on the shelf, I just had to try it. This tasty beverage is made by the Wells & Young’s Brewing Co. Ltd. Of Bedford, UK. Their label calls it a “Beer Brewed With Bananas” and has an alcohol content of 5.2% by volume. As such, it’s on the lighter side of potency, as opposed to some of the beers that I drink with alcohol in the double digits.

If you don’t love bananas or banana bread, definitely steer clear of this. It tastes exactly like what it claims: Banana bread with some malt and hops. The predominant flavor is definitely banana bread. The only thing missing from the flavor profile is the taste of walnut… I like walnuts in my banana bread.

Wells Banana Bread Beer is definitely an unusual beer. Its alcohol content is relatively low, and the flavor is not very “beer-y” in that the hops (which tend to be somewhat bitter) are not very prominent. They are just one small part of the overall flavor profile. The aroma is similar to fresh baked banana bread with a bit of yeast, which does not really follow into the beverage.

I really enjoy this beer. My family laughs at me because it’s “funny” beer and I pick up a bottle just about every time I see it. I would say that this is more of a treat beer, rather than an “evening with the guys” beer, since it tends to be on the more expensive side (about $5.50 per pint bottle) and is as sweet as it is. More than one would get cloying, I think. That being said, I can definitely see myself imbibing on a daily basis, if I could.

Disclaimer: All alcohol has been consumed by and tasted entirely by persons over the age of 21. This information is intended for those of legal drinking age, and is for entertainment purposes only. The author advocates moderation and caution when drinking and this Beersome Buddies is in no way intended to promote binge-drinking, alcoholism, underage drinking, hazing, drunk driving, or any other form of alcohol abuse. This review was not compensated in any way shape or form, Geordon simple loves this Banana Bread Beer!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Epcot's Mexican Fiesta

Mexico Pyramid 100_3405100_3402 100_3399100_3419 Tacos de Carne100_3390 IMG_0172 100_3414100_3409 100_3412

Friday, September 9, 2011

Talk Like A Never Land Pirate!

Pirate Mom
Disney Junior has climbed on board with a a ton of swashbuckling fun planned to celebrate National Talk Like A Pirate Day!!

Today!  September 9th, you can head over to the "Talk Like A Never Land Pirate Day" micro-site!  A fun and piratey way for fans to "create and share their own animated videos of their favorite "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" characters using different pirate sayings, sound effects and backdrops."  Once you and your little bucaneers are done creating,  you can post your pirate video to be showcased in an online gallery.  What a great way to entertain the crew and get ready for the bog event.

September 19th is the big day!! "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" will take over Disney Junior with a full day of pirate programming and the debut of a brand new episode, "Captain Hook's Parrot/Skybird Island Is Falling" (8:30 – 9:00 a.m., ET/PT).  "In the new episode, Jake and his crew use teamwork and quick thinking to rescue Skully from the clutches of Captain Hook and save Skybird Island from falling when Captain Hook tries to take all the leaves from the island's Golden Tree." I've had a sneak peek at the show and it's fantastic!

Monday, September 19th on Disney Junior
So do what you want 'cause a Pirate is free!

Pirate Concert P.s. On Tuesday, September 20th you can sing like a Pirate too!  The television soundtrack will be released so you and your little crew can sing along to the Never Land Band's greatest hits!  Loren Hoskins and Kevin  Hendrickson have a piratey good time as their animated alter egos Sharky and Bones, who pop up and sing pirate "ditties" in every episode of the show.  The "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" CD (18 swashbuckling songs) includes fan favorites like "Tick Toc Croc", "Yo Ho Mateys Away", and "Talk Like a Pirate"!