Tuesday, 11 December 2012

My fave Disney purchase

Alas, my short, long-weekend getaway to WDW has ended. Short, but sweet. Was it worth it? Of course - Just as I suspected it would be! I even managed to fit in some shopping. However, if you are a "frequent frequenter" of WDW like me, you own mostly everything in Mouse Gear already! This was my first WDW visit at Christmas, though, so I had to commemorate the experience. Definitely my favourite accessories of the trip (that I purchased the first night) were the Minnie and Mickey Santa hats we purchased for the family! Fun AND warm for the cooler nights!

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Friday, 7 December 2012

Another Disney Moment

We are enjoying Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party tonight, and yet another special Disney moment occurred. My daughter volunteered to dance and sing on Main St. with a Walt Disney World dancer. A rare opportunity to snap a pic of just my girl and the castle... And not much else.

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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

WDW: Short & Sweet-Is it worth it?

As I'm sitting here blogging instead of packing for my upcoming WDW vacation, I'm also asking myself, is it worth it?

We are heading to the World for three nights, four days. I'm beyond excited at the prospect of any WDW trip, but I have to admit, I'm a little afraid of coming home after only three nights. Will the short duration be enough to give me my Disney fix or will I come home wanting more?

Well, who am I kidding? Even after our two week WDW trip, I came home wanting more. I don't think we, as extreme Disney fans, will ever come home from a WDW truly satisfied. There will always be things we wish we could have done, but didn't get to, or things that we just wanted to do more of.

But, I know that, while it will be a short visit, this trip still has enormous potential. We were in WDW this past August for four nights, and it ranks as one of our favourite trips! Despite the limited number of days, we made the most of each and every one! Not only did we go into the parks each day, but we took time to swim at our resort, visit Downtown Disney and visit with different family members who were also visiting the Orlando area.

So, I pose this to you... If you could take a weekend trip to WDW or none at all, what would you choose?

Some photos of our four-night August trip:

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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Including Disney in your holiday decor

It's that time of year when you switch out all your regular home decor for some holiday fun!

While I have tried to maintain some sophistication when it comes to Christmas decorating, being such huge Disney fans, it wouldn't be right to exclude the "Mouse" from this special holiday.

Here are our Disney Christmas pieces:

This artificial palm tree is in our kitchen. We've made it a tradition to get a new ornament from Walt Disney World every year, and this tree is reserved exclusively for these WDW ornaments.

This collector's piece is from Carleton Cards at a local mall. I thought it was too cute to pass up... Especially on sale.

Lastly, I always have a throw on my sofa, mainly because I have a tendency to be cold in the evening and I like to cuddle underneath a blanket. Each Christmas, though, I swap out my usual throw, for this holiday one we bought at WDW. It was part of those common promotions where if you spend so much, you get the throw for $15 or $20. I can't remember which one. It's a cozy blanket which features the whole gang snuggling up in front of the fireplace (Goofy and Donald couldn't fit in my shot).

How do you include Disney in your holiday decorating?

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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Who else is watching Sofia the First?

My little girl has been eagerly awaiting the premiere of Disney Junior's new show. Today has finally arrived. Here's my Little Princess watching Disney's newest Princess.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

A week in an OKW Grand Villa

As I'm sure most of you are in your circles of friends, I tend to be known as the Walt Disney World guru around my friends and family. People are always asking me where to stay when they head down to visit the Mouse.
It's common practice to visit the World in large groups. Whether you're bringing down the grandparents, or friends who have never been, or maybe you're even having a family reunion, lots of visitors come to Walt Disney World with more than just their immediate family.
Of course there are lots of off-site accommodations for large groups, but if you want to stay right inside the magic, you might want to consider a Grand Villa at a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort. These villas feature three bedrooms, four bathrooms, full-sized dining rooms and living rooms, full kitchens and a washers and dryers. Even if you're not a member, there are many websites dedicated to matching WDW guests with DVC owners wanting to rent out their points!
The most economical Grand Villa is at Disney's Old Key West Resort. We had the pleasure of staying in one in September 2011. Here is a photo tour of our Grand Villa.

This was our "home" for the week. We chose a Grand Villa this trip because we were taking our parents with us.

When you walk in, to the right was the full kitchen. The laundry room was off of the kitchen.

The dining room was adjacent to the kitchen.

To the left was one of four bathrooms (the only one which wasn't an ensuite) and the master bedroom.

The master bedroom ensuite was extremely spacious.

The focal point of the main floor, however, was the beautiful living room with cathedral ceilings.

This Grand Villa was the size of a house! Two bedrooms also awaited us on the second floor!

Our view from the second floor.
It was so nice to have the space to spread out and not get in each other's way. I would definitely stay here again with a party of 6 - or more. The living room sofa converts to a bed, as does the chair.
I would highly recommend this Grand Villa, and the resort, as well. Old Key West had a very relaxed and welcoming feel about it... And relaxing is just what we did. :)
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Saturday, 7 July 2012

My Real-Life Prince Charming

In between the kids' temper tantrums, arguments, and the other stresses that come our way, I remember how lucky I am to feel like I am living a fairy tale straight out of a Disney movie. I have my children and my castle, but it really all started with my Prince.

On the anniversary of our 6th wedding anniversary, I thought I'd dedicate this post to him, because without him, this blog probably wouldn't exist.

As I've mentioned in the past, I've always been a big Disney and Walt Disney World fan. Every year I'd ask my parents to take us to WDW, and I was very lucky that some years they listened! We always had a great time, and I secretly hoped that whomever I married would enjoy it as much as I so we could return when we had a family of our own!

Once my soon-to-be-husband and I got closer to marriage, I began to put the bug in his ear: "You know, we should really visit Disney World one day," I'd say. Unfortunately for me, it seemed to go in one ear and out the other. He had absolutely no interest in visiting an "amusement park" (as he called it).

That all changed, however, in October 2007, when for some reason, he decided to give it a shot! I don't remember how I convinced him, but I think the perk of free dining helped. Of course I thoroughly enjoyed that trip. I cried at the end of the week because I didn't know when we would ever come back. What if once was enough for him? Well, to my surprise, he wanted to return just as much as I did! That was music to my ears.

We defied the misconception that WDW is just for kids. Only 8 months after our firat trip, we returned, newly pregnant with our first child. Again, we had an amazing time, despite my all-day nausea.

Now, two children later, we return to Walt Disney World two to three times per year, and have also included Disney cruises into our repertoire. We love it even more now with our children, than we did by ourselves.

I am so thankful to my husband. He has a job that allows us to frequent the World so often, but what's more is that he doesn't just agree to the trips for me. He gets it. I don't have to explain what's so great about seeing the Castle when you first walk onto Main Street or why I get goosebumps when I watch SpectroMagic or Fantasmic. I just look at his face and I know that he gets it. I am so thankful to have him to share the Disney magic with.

So, today, and everyday, I am thankful for what he's brought to my life. Happy Anniversary to my very own real-life Prince. I love you.

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Friday, 22 June 2012

Letting Disney in

My husband and I often joke that my sister and brother-in-law need to "let Disney into their lives". They don't have children yet, so they feel they have no need to visit Walt Disney World. They like to tease us about going to WDW so often and about how we probably have just as much fun there as the kids.

They're right. We go to WDW just as much for us as we do for our children. Probably more so right now, as our children are very young. But, letting Disney into your life does not simply mean making the obligatory once-in-a-lifetime visit to the World.

In my household, Disney is not just a brand of movies, toys or the Most Magical Place on Earth. It's a lifestyle.

Some people take issue with what Disney promotes. One such example is the focus on princesses for little girls. The argument is that girls should be taught to be strong leaders, rather than to be dependent on a "prince" for happiness. Well, we have no issue exposing our children to Disney's overarching mantra: believing in your dreams and making them come true.

As such, we have no problem "letting Disney in". Our children regularly watch Disney movies, wear Disney clothing, listen to Disney music and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Knowing that one of my son's first words was Goofy makes me proud. Watching as my daughter asks to be measured every day by my husband in order to see if she will be able to go on a new ride at WDW makes me happy.

We have definitely let Disney in and will never go back. I am proud to show my children that, in a world with so much negativity, anything is possible... dreams do come true. And when we sometimes forget this, there is a "World" out there, filled with pixie dust, waiting to remind us.

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Monday, 11 June 2012

Why we never tire of Walt Disney World

I have been coming to Walt Disney World since I was a child, but my visits became more frequent after I got married. One trip was all it took to get my husband on board and he was converted. We have been coming two to three times per year since 2007. This is partially due to the fact that in 2010, we became Disney Vacation Club members. We have been truly blessed to be able to vacation at the Most Magical Place On Earth as often as we do.

Of course, not everyone sees it as a "blessing". We often hear, "again?!" or "aren't you sick of that place yet?!". Yes, it becomes annoying feeling like you have to defend your vacation choices, but I decide to try to enlighten people with my answers instead.

I tell them it's not just about the rides. It's about the feeling I get when I step on the Magical Express and all my worries and stresses of the real world vanish. It's not about seeing people dressed up as stuffed animals. It's about seeing my daughter's eyes light up as she approaches Mickey, thinking she is about to meet one of her best friends. Surely, you can never grow tired of those special feelings and experiences.

Of course, when traveling with children, it is about the rides and characters in their eyes. The beauty of beginning their Disney trips when they are young is that you can watch them grow a bit each vacation. My son, Max, is currently 19 months old, but has been to Walt Disney World five times. He has always been afraid of the characters, but this trip, something changed. For the first time yet, he approached Princess Tiana on his own and handed her a flower that he picked. That, to me, was Disney magic. On our first trip with Max, he was afraid of the Uzima Pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We spent most of our pool time that trip holding him above water. This trip, he was happily diving about, not caring whether we were there or not. My daughter, Claire, rode Splash Mountain for the very first time this trip! Although she has been to Walt Disney World eight times so far, she is just at the very beginning of her thrill ride adventures!

I am happy to explain this all when people ask. To my family, Walt Disney World is not just a theme park, but a wealth of memories that we add to each and every trip. Creating memories as a family will never grow old for us.

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Friday, 1 June 2012

[Disney] Decisions, Decisions

I know this is a good dilemma to have, so I'm definitely not complaining... But I still need a decision!

I guess it's no secret that I REALLY enjoyed our first Disney cruise: 4 nights on board the Disney Dream. We had cruised four times prior to this one, but none were on DCL. There was something about a cruise combined with the Disney atmosphere reminiscent of that found in Walt Disney World that made this cruise incredibly magical for me!

So, we are currently booked on the same 4 night Bahamian cruise in September. This is the vacation week we were supposed to spend in WDW, but have now made it into a land and sea-type idea. Because we booked it in May onboard the Dream, though, staterooms were limited, and we were booked into an expensive verandah cabin. Whatever.

Now, because I'm obsessed with Disney travel planning, I'm always trying to think of new ideas and find ways of getting good deals. Well, it turns out that if we book a 7 night Caribbean cruise onboard the Fantasy (Disney's newest ship!!), stay in an ocean view stateroom (no balcony), pay for part of it with the DVC points we were going to use on the "land" portion of our vacation, we could actually save some money. This is, in part, due to the fact that we will no longer have to pay for our meals while in WDW.

Well, I'm all ready to switch my reservation because I'm dying now to try a 7 night Disney cruise! My husband, though, is resisting. He really doesn't want to give up those days in WDW. I see it as Disney is Disney, and I get that same warm and fuzzy feeling whether I'm on a Disney cruise or in Disney World.... But he still really wants the WDW aspect!

Truth be told, when I really want something, I can usually work my magic to eventually convince him, but will it work this time? And in time before all the inside ocean view cabins sell out?! Oh, and I should mention that we are also already booked on the 4 night Bahamian in May again.

Any advice?

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Friday, 25 May 2012

Happy Anniversary Goofy!

It's May 25, 2012. 80 years ago today, a yet-to-be-named Goofy made his debut in the animated short, Mickey's Revue. In honour of Goofy's anniversary, and the fact that he's my daughter, Claire's favourite pal, I decided to blog about my favourite Goofy encounters.

One of my daughter's favourite Goofys is Pirate Goofy, located outside of the Pirates of The Caribbean attraction in Walt Disney World. I think she really enjoys his elaborate pirate costume, and his overall "goofy-ness". On our most recent trip, he made a big fuss about her Goofy doll and gave her a huge bear hug!

We had another great Goofy experience at Chef Mickey's this trip. Claire always gets a kick out of the spilled ketchup and mustard on his chef's smock. What really stood out to me that night, though, was that Goofy kicked my husband out of his chair so that he could have a seat beside both my daughter AND son for a picture. Most characters at character dinners usually make a bigger fuss over Claire because she is more excited and Max is usually more shy, and Max sits in a high chair so he is immobile. Goofy, however, took the initiative to include Max in the encounter, and that meant a lot to me.

Another fun Goofy, that we, unfortunately, missed on this trip was Epcot Goofy at the Character Spot. He loves to do "goofy" poses with Claire!

Finally, we had a really special Goofy experience in Castaway Cay this trip, while on our first Disney cruise. While it was a brief encounter, posing for a photo, it was a novel experience posing with Goofy in his swim suit in The Bahamas!!

Happy Anniversary, Goofy! Thanks for the laughs!

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Sunday, 20 May 2012

New in-room WDW toiletries

We returned from our day at Animal Kingdom to find new shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, bath soap and facial soap! This must be a very recent change since we were given the usual bottles when checking in. I'm not sure if this change affects all Disney resorts, or just the deluxe level resorts. We are at Animal Kingdom Villas.

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The end of a Disney vacation

It is the last day of our 10-day vacation. My daughter notices my sadness and when I tell her why, she reminds me, "mommy, we'll come back". Isn't it funny? My three year-old has more perspective than me.
She's right. As long as God wills it, we will be back, and in less than four short months. I have to admit, the planning of my Disney vacations is almost as fun as the trip itself! This prospect, along with the fact that our wait will take place during the summer months makes it all the more bearable! Swimming at our trailer every weekend is surely the best way to pass the time!
What will also make my wait more enjoyable is the fact that, again, this upcoming trip will not only be a Walt Disney World vacation, but also one which includes a Disney Cruise! We were bit by the Disney cruise bug and booked our September cruise while on board.
So, although we head home tomorrow, I return having lots to be thankful for and lots to look forward to!

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Saturday, 19 May 2012

Another reason why we never tire of WDW

We often get asked, "don't you get sick of WDW?" when we mention that we are vacationing there again. Besides the other answers I share, I also note that every trip is a brand new experience, since our children are able to enjoy and appreciate new attractions, parades, restaurants each trip. That's the beauty of starting WDW vacations with your kids when they're young: there's always something new to look forward to as they grow. This trip, we had the pleasure of taking Claire on Splash Mountain and The Barnstormer for the very first time! A whole new world of thrill rides is beginning to open up for her... I can't wait to experience it with her.

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Thursday, 17 May 2012

Back from our Disney cruise!

We're back at Animal Kingdom Villas today after our four-night cruise aboard the Disney Dream. What an amazing first experience on the Disney Cruise Line! I didn't have Internet on the ship, so I can't provide as much detail now as I would have liked. Here are my highlights:
-The ship (Dream) is absolutely gorgeous! Every space is perfectly appointed, every detail well planned out.

-Joining a Fish Extender group was a great idea! A fish extender resembles an organizer you would find in a locker or closet (see photo). It gets its name because it literally extends from a fish hanger outside the stateroom. As a member of a group, you leave small tokens (gifts) for other members in their Fish Extenders and they do the same for you. Claire loved coming back to the stateroom each day and checking to see if there were any new surprises.

-We loved our balcony! It was our first cruise with a balcony and we all enjoyed it. It was nice having a little retreat once the kids went to bed.

-The Atlantis Aquaventure Port Adventure in Nassau was a lot of fun but over-priced. I don't think we would do it again.

-Castaway Cay is a piece of Heaven right here on Earth! Disney thought of everything! It is absolutely gorgeous naturally, but everything Disney added was thoughtful. Having food on the island so we didn't have to return to the ship was great. Cookie's BBQ was delicious and efficient. The bike riding option was a great touch for people who wanted something that didn't involve swimming. If people are really ambitious, they can even partake in a 5km run! The kids loved the Spring A Leak splash zone - and it was completely shaded! A perfect place for little ones to get out of the sun. We loved the character appearances ashore, too. Fun and great photo opportunities. Everything was paved (aside from the sand on the beach), so it was easy to use our strollers.

-Pirate night onboard was a big hit! Claire was looking forward to it all cruise long. Disney did a good job of getting everyone involved. There was a pirate party for the little ones, pirate fireworks later at night for the older kids and then late-night activities for the older set. Dinner, and the servers were pirate themed. They even played pirate songs throughout the ship all evening. Everyone was also given "Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean" bandanas to wear. There were not as many people dressed in pirate garb as I would have thought, though.

-I loved the rotating restaurant schedule. It was nice eating at a different restaurant each night because they were each unique and beautiful in their own way. My favourite would have to be Enchanted Garden where the night's sky in the restaurant starts at dusk but turns to a starry night by the end of your meal. Max's favourite was definitely Animator's Palate. He was completely obsessed with locating all the fish swimming across the restaurant's walls. He also loved when Crush would speak, too.
-Babies in diapers are not allowed in the pools (public health rules across all cruise line). This is usually a major drag - but not with Disney. They have created a whole splash zone dedicated to little ones called Nemo's Reef. It's also completely shaded. Both kids had a blast there!

-We chose not to put the kids in the It's A Small World Nursery or the Oceaneer's Club, although we have only heard good things about the kids programming.
We went into this cruise not knowing what to expect with the kids. We were totally blown away by how easy Disney made the cruise experience for families. I mean, come on, they even give you Diaper Genies in the staterooms! They think of everything. We even had servers helping us cut up our son's food for him. What else could a parent want, but a place to have fun, feel comfortable, and welcome, with your babies? Thank you Disney!

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Location:Spences Trace Dr,Kissimmee,United States

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Epcot: Via Napoli

After Max's nap, we headed to Epcot. It is really beautiful there right now during the Flower and Garden Festival.

Of course, no visit to Epcot is complete without a stop into Mousegear. I love that store! My only purchase was a new iPhone case, though.

After looking at some of the wonderful topiaries and riding The Three Caballeros, we headed to dinner at Via Napoli. It was divine, as usual. One thing I don't understand: whenever we eat there, our server is always run off his/her feet, and is usually pretty non-existent throughout the dinner. Why not hire more staff? Despite the wait for the food, Max kept himself entertained with crayons and the drawings of Duffy on the colouring sheet he was given.

After dinner, the kids were still going strong so we decided to do a couple more rides. After Living With The Land and Spaceship Earth, we headed home. Another great night in the books.

Tomorrow: Cruise day!!

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Day 2: Magic Kingdom

We had a fabulous day at Magic Kingdom! I just have to ask, though, who are these wonderful children and what happened to my crazy ones?! That's all I'm going to say about that because I don't want to jinx it for the rest of the trip. Here are some things that stand out from our day:

Applying sunscreen while we waited for the opening show. We usually do this because it helps take their minds off the wait and seems to make the time go by faster. Here's Claire all lathered up and ready to head into the MK:

Pin trading. I've held out on doing this until the kids were older. Well, I'm glad we tried it this trip. She's thoroughly enjoying it (at age 3.5).

The Barnstormer is a lot of fun! Claire so enjoyed her first roller coaster that we rode it four times in a row! Thank you to the friendly Cast Members who let us stay on over and over. Max enjoyed walking around outside of the ride with Daddy.

Free fun can be found in Adventureland. We spent 15 minutes with the Tiki Men and could have easily stayed longer!

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin are just as much fun as Dumbo. If the lines at Dumbo are too long, head to Adventureland for the same fun and half the wait!

Walt Disney World got new kids Crocs since we were last here in January! I instantly fell in love and bought a pair for both kids. They even light up!

Tonight is dinner at a family favourite: Via Napoli. Tomorrow: Embarkation Day on our first Disney Cruise! Stay with us :)

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Friday, 11 May 2012

Rainforest Cafe at DAK

On our arrival days, we have usually been on an early morning flight and everyone is feeling the effects by dinner time. Because of this, we usually like to stay close to "home" for dinner. Since we always stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas, an obvious "fun" choice for us to eat is Rainforest Cafe at Disney's Animal Kingdom. It's always been a hit with the kids, but tonight was our best visit yet. Max is at a great age (19 months) to really appreciate the animals in the restaurant now and he was completely consumed by them the whole time. The wait for our food was a little long and I was worried about how Max would take it, but he just couldn't stop pointing out all of the nearby animals! I'd highly recommend this restaurant for families with toddlers... Not necessarily for the food (usual fare), but because the atmosphere is terrific.

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Day 1 - Travel Day

May 11, 2012
Eddie and I were up at 4:00am today. We got ourselves ready, loaded the suitcases in the car, then woke up the kids. Claire was bursting with excitement and eager to wake up her brother. By 4:45am we were on the road.

Check-in and security were routine. When we got to our gate, the kids did well with the wait to board. We only had about 20 minutes until boarding so we timed it perfectly! Just enough time for Max to burn off some energy, but not enough time for him to become bored.

We flew Southwest and purchased the Early Bird Check-In option. This allows us to avoid the check-in rush at the 24hr mark and pre-selects us a seating zone. Since it is open seating, Claire and I boarded when it was our zone's turn, while Max and Eddie waited until the end to board (another tactic to ensure the least amount of sitting on the plane as possible for Max).

Before we knew it, we were in the air. The flight went by quickly because both kids were SO well-behaved. Thank goodness for the iPad! Eddie and I were so proud of them.

The Magical Express can sometimes be another venue for misbehaving and chaos, but again, both kids made us proud. We actually had an enjoyable ride to Animal Kingdom Villas - Jambo House! I can't remember the last time this has happened.

When we arrived, our room wasn't ready, but Eddie and I were hungry so we just grabbed lunch at The Mara. My vegetable flatbread and Eddie's half-chicken dinner were calling to us, as usual. The kids were pretty full from snacking onboard so they played in the kiddie pool while we ate beside them.

By the time we finished lunch, our room was ready. Perfect timing! Now the kids could grab a nap since they had both been up since 4:30am! A beautiful 1-bedroom Value room, as always.

We were even lucky enough to get Savannah view... Again!

So now, both kids are napping, and we're just enjoying being back "home". Next up is dinner at Rainforest Cafe (a 1st night of the trip tradition).

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