Back in Walt Disney World

It had been 11 days since I had been in the Parks, the last being Epcot where I bought Hannah’s Mickey ears. After a great night’s sleep in my own bed, I woke up this morning and smiled at Craig. “Let’s go to Disney World today” I whispered and Craig’s goofy grin splashed across his face. I had truly missed the magic, and it’s funny to even think I could be saying “I haven’t been to WDW in 11 days…” It used to be “I haven’t been to WDW in years.” Kyra had friends from WI in town, so she headed to MK with us to meet up with them, while Craig, Emily and I hit the Park with no agenda at all- total bliss.

Emily has her costume set for Halloween, a super awesome find Mom and I found in WI, but I needed some extra touches that I knew we could find in MK. We strolled in and around the Emporium on Main Street, looking for that certain “thing” that would add to it. I loved the peaceful nature we all had as we just took our time with nowhere to go, it was just so relaxing. When I saw the Castle for the first time again, it was like a huge “Welcome Home” sign for me, and it just felt so “right” walking around the Park today.

As we were in Tomorrow Land, Kyra called us to tell Emily that a Disney Channel star was in the Park. “Rocky” on that show “Shake it Up” was on vacation and had a small group following her throughout the Park when Kyra had seen her. Emily freaked out, and all we heard for the rest of our visit was that she hoped and prayed she would be able to find and see the actress. As we ate at Cosmic Rays, I gently reminded her that it was a huge park, and there was no guarantee we would even be able to get CLOSE to the star, or even possibly see her passing by.

After a wonderful lunch, we headed towards Fantasyland to see the progress on the construction. We snapped a few pics, then headed for the Haunted Mansion. Seeing the line was a 40 minute wait, we decided we weren’t in a “line mood” today, and headed towards Pirates instead.

Pirates of the Caribbean was the same, a 40 minute wait, so we headed into the gift shop instead. We found some wonderful items we snatched up, including a Jack Skellington scarf. Every register was packed, and the place was buzzing with excitement. I really enjoy that store, as it seems more than that but more a stop on your pirate journey. On a side note, I really want those POTC keys for my house but I keep procrastinating on them.

As we were walking out of Adventureland, we saw a mob of people standing around a tall girl. I looked at Emily and said “Is that her?” Emily screamed! She said “Mom, it’s her!!” as she jumped up and down. There was an opening in front of the actress, so I walked Em right up to her and said “Can we get a picture?” Emily didn’t hesitate to hug her star, then I snapped the following picture of the two together. We told Zendaya that Emily had been looking for her all day since we had heard she was in MK and we were so happy we found her. She was super sweet to Emily and I was so happy she got to meet her.

After that moment, Emily couldn’t stop smiling. When I say this, I mean our youngest daughter was in the highest of highs. She was giggling, screaming, smiling- the kid was amazingly happy. She kept saying “I can’t believe I met her- and she HUGGED me.” We had to take a couple snapshots of Emily’s joy right after her moment.

After grocery shopping and a much needed nap, we headed back into WDW for an evening at Studios. It is an incredible thing to be able to just do whatever at home and then say “Hey, let’s go to WDW.” We actually had to put sweatshirts on tonight, but it was enjoyable to wear them in the cool evening air.

It was a fairly empty park, so we searched the stores for anything from “Shake it up.” We found nothing, so we headed to the back streets to see if the lights were strung up yet. Seeing the lights all ready to go for the Christmas season got us quite excited for our first Christmas here as FL residents. We can’t wait to be there opening night for the lights!

We finished up our awesome day with a carrot cake cookie at “The Writers Stop” and then a bit of playtime in the Animation building where there was NOONE. I’m talking no visitors, and no Cast Members… it seemed deserted except for the Art of Animation store. We had fun playing among the magic, taking Emily’s pictures while she goofed around. We had a beautiful day with beautiful moments… it is good to be home.

Joy is Contagious

Have you ever been walking in a store, or been sitting in Church and you see someone walk past you that just oozes joy? Where the smile on their face lights up the room and you just think “Wow, I wish I had what they had for breakfast?” Today’s post is all about joy, and how you can obtain it to make your day, and even your life, a bit brighter each and every day- enjoy!

I am going to be straight up honest with you- until we moved to FL, I had joy- lots of it.  I had it on my big moments in life- when I married the love of my life Craig, when our girls came into the world, when we bought our first home, and the list goes on. But if you have been following our story all along, you would know that both Craig and I were searching for a different kind of joy, the daily kind that we just couldn’t find in our lives in WI. It didn’t mean we didn’t love the Lord enough, or that we weren’t happy in our marriage, we just felt that another place was calling us to it and that our new source of joy waited there.

So how did we find it? We fought for it, every single day of our journey and dream.  It is exactly like Figment says “One little spark…” that is all it took to keep our eye on the prize and continue to move forward.  I will never understand people who say “I wanted to be this, but I wound up being this.” Why are you being what people expect you to be instead of who you WANT to be? I have decided that my joy lies in writing, as you know if you are reading this.  The joy doesn’t come from the money I make, because I don’t make any at all. It doesn’t come from my numbers every day, although it affirms my work is being read. The joy comes from the comments people leave, and the way it makes me feel to type out what’s on my soul every day in print.  Nothing is scarier than putting your life story out there for the public to read and ridicule, but I do because it brings me joy to help others.

How do you find your joy? Well, think about what makes you smile the most, that when you think about doing your favorite thing in the world that it gives your butterflies. What repeats at the end of the day, over and over in your head that you can’t stop smiling about- THAT is your joy! If you want to cook, cook. If you want to make your life better, do it. If you want to relocate and move to FL to be closer to the magic, DO IT.

As much as I touch on how home sick I was in FL, the joy that I have felt in the small amount of time that I have lived there is this- “My cup over floweth.” I am over the moon happy when I get to walk hand in hand with my husband around the Resorts, or hang out with my girls on Main Street eating Cotton Candy. I am filled with joy when someone says hello to me in the Parks, or when I make a new friend.  I don’t think I have ever NOT worn my smile while in Walt Disney World, and that’s because it brings me so much joy.  Even when drama ensues, or I am having an off day, it’s something about the music, the lights, the feel of those places that calms my heart and just makes me want to spread the love I feel for it.

I want to leave you with this. If you are in a dark place in you life right now, in the Valley instead of a Mountain top, I want you to really think about what made you the happiest in your life and go there. Whether you do it physically or mentally, I want you to go there and find your joy. Find what makes you smile, what fills your heart with so much love you don’t know what to do with it all, and then live your happily ever after- I know that I’m incredibly blessed to live mine. Love to all of you and God bless your day!

Eat to the Beat

Everyone has that “list” of what they want to do when they go to Walt Disney World- whether it be on paper or in your head- it’s what YOU want to do with your time there. Before ever moving here, I always wanted to attend a concert from the “Eat to the Beat” Series during the Food and Wine Festival held at Epcot.  I was more than excited to see that several bands and singers were coming this year that I really enjoyed, so I thought I would share with you my first experience with all of it and maybe some tips to help you when you decide to rock it out.

I had been in Epcot all day Friday, meeting up with several friends, and hanging out with new pal, Beth.  I was so excited to go and see Starship, as it was yet another new experience that I was more than ready to have.  There were three times you could see them- 5:15, 6:30, and 7:45 p.m.  Here was my thought process, if I went and saw the first show, then I would be coming into it “fresh.” What I mean by that is that I didn’t want to stand in line for the 2nd or 3rd show and wind up hearing all the songs anyways- I wanted it all to be brand spanking new!

I got in line around 4:00, and they allowed us to sit 30 minutes before the show, finding a spot right in the center of the stage at 4:45. Standing in line wasn’t too bad, but it was right in the line of the hot sun. I would suggest bringing an umbrella to cover anyone in your party who cannot stand in the sun for long periods of time.  At 4:00 the line was very small, maybe I was the 30th person in line. When they opened it to sit though, it was wrapped around the area in front of Italy.  Many people in line were holding places for others, and several Cast Members let people come in and out of line while waiting. That’s great news for those who don’t want to wait and want to do something else, and for others it stinks because you never know how many people are REALLY in front of you.

Once they let us in the Theater, it was basically a free for all. Several rows were roped off for what I assume were the dining packages, or for other groups, but there were plenty of benches open.  You could definitely see the “groupies” who grabbed the front rows, and honestly, they were as much fun to watch as the show!  By the time the show started at 5:15, the Theater still wasn’t filled to capacity, so I would guess that the first show is probably your best bet to get a great seat with less people.

You know how you go to a regular concert and someone warms up the crowd, then the opening act plays, and then BOOM, it’s who you came to see- right? Well, here at “Eat to the Beat” they just kind of walked out… I almost wondered if it was a joke. Nope, they just walked out like some high school band you would see at school concert, and then introduced Mickey Thomas – which was at least SOME what exciting!

They started right in on the song “Sarah” – which if you grew up in the 80s, you would have slow danced to this song at your prom.  It was very exciting to see them so close, and yes, right there in front of me! It was almost unbelievable because it seemed too easy to just come and see them perform. I have many a memory attached to Starship songs, so it was great to be singing along to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “We Built this City.”

They sang about 5 songs total, and were off the stage exactly 30 minutes after they started. I was disappointed that they only sang that long, I had hoped for at least a 45 minute show. I realize they are “free,” but it still would have been nicer to hear more.  Because there are three shows offered each evening they are here, like everyone else who comes, you have the opportunity to hear them all night if you can get back in line and get a decent seat. Of course Disney is not going to let you stay in your same seat for all three shows, so like the rides, you have to get up and back in line. Many of the “groupies” were leaving during the last song to get a place in line for the next show, which I will be doing when Richard Marx comes next month. Yes, he was my 80’s crush. Enough said.

Beth and I decided to watch the second show, but this time we just waited up near the top of the Theater, and after the line emptied in- they let all the ropes down. So we found a seat towards the back, in the center, and still could hear and see everything great. With the sun set already, it made for a much more comfortable concert than the first one. They did sing a couple of different songs, but still also sang their popular ones.  Craig and Tim joined us for the 2nd concert, so it was fun to hang out all together for it.

By the time the 3rd concert was ready, it was packed and crazily busy in World Showcase. You also have to remember that going to one on a weekend evening makes it quite busy, and with the later concert you have those who have been drinking all day enjoying it as well.  Craig and I fought the crowds to grab some beef and rice at the Caribbean stand, then a romantic ride on Spaceship Earth before calling it a day.

I will definitely be going back to enjoy many more bands, and of course, my Richard Marx. I felt my experience couldn’t have been any better, and I look forward to making more memories with the “Eat to the Beat” series.  A HUGE thanks to Beth for rocking it out with me and making the memory even better- love ya girl!

It’s Only a Nightmare- Halloween Horror Nights 2011

What’s in your nightmares? Well, if you don’t want to see them in the real world, face to face, you probably want to avoid special events like Halloween Horror Nights hosted by Universal Studios. It’s not for the squeamish, or the faint of heart, but if you can handle a zombie or two, you will do just fine.  Most of you probably don’t think of me as the “scary movie” type, but I like them for the excitement they bring, how they can make my pulse race, and that’s why since I had heard about this event years ago, I wanted to attend some day.

My day came last night, October 6th, 2011, when good friends Ken, Anthony, and Joe asked if I would be interested in going with them. Craig wasn’t interested, I would never let Emily go, but Kyra did have an interest in it. I thought it best for myself to try it out first before introducing it to anyone else, just so I had a clear idea of what I was getting in to. So after some red wine and a fantastic dinner made by Anthony, we were ready to get our scare on.

Because Anthony is a passholder to Universal, the parking was included. We parked in Cat in the Hat, and took the long walkways to the main hub of Universal, heading through security then having to walk through City Walk first, and then the area splits off to either Islands of Adventure, or Universal Studios. We headed to Studios, taking in all the cool stuff that City Walk has. I do have to say that Downtown Disney is so much nicer and accessible than City Walk- you can park at DTD and walk in to grab a sandwich or something, but here you would have to pay for parking, then walk forever just to get to grab a quick bite of food. I don’t forsee us ever having Annual Passes here, but I still would like to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter once.

We grabbed a group photo before heading in, because of course you need one before you look like you have been scared to death. We headed through the turnstiles, and before we could even put our passes away, the Chainsaw gang was out in full force, revving up the chainsaws as close as they could to you. Yes, it caught me off guard, but it also got me in that “prepared mode” for what was all to come that night.

Anthony bought express passes for us, because he is so awesome, and because he and Ken had done this event in past years and had waited up to three hours in one line for a haunted house, and they just weren’t going to deal with that again.  What the Express Pass is, is a pass in which you carry on you at all times, and can be used only ONCE at each haunted house, attraction, and show. Unlike Disney’s Fastpass, this is an extra cost, so purchasing it for this even or any Universal park day would have to be worth it.  I could see using it on a busy holiday week, or weekend, but at any dead time I wouldn’t bother with it.  But, I will tell you it was an amazing thing to have, because as the night went on, the crowds got bigger and bigger and we were bypassing lines with no problem. It is a great feeling to know you can walk right in without stopping once to wait and it was honestly probably better for me, because the nerves start to get to you when you have to wait to experience you know what is going to be scary. Check the Universal Studios site for more details on express passes and how much they cost, as they vary from event and Park to what day of the week you need it for.

Our first experience would be the Scare Zone named “7.” Here the ladies during the daylight are beautiful and charming, but once it got darker out, they would reveal their 7 deadly sins.  Since we caught in the daylight, it wasn’t anything bad, except for people coming to scare you in your face, you just got used to looking forward and not making eye contact. I learned very quickly that if you LOOK scared, they will scare you- so I put my poker face on through every scare zone we encountered.

We walked past the Pantages Theater which would host the “Ghost Hunters- Steve and Tango” later that evening, and already the line had started. I had hoped to meet them, but I really wanted to experience everything there, and standing in line all night for a 2 minute meet didn’t seem as appealing anymore.  We passed on them and headed into another Scare Zone called “Grown Evil” which was like a garden that had went all crazy.  Animals on stilts, monsters coming out of every corner- it was hard to take pictures because you were constantly being scared.  We made it through and headed to our first haunted house for the evening.

You have to imagine this- I hadn’t been to Studios in many years, so I was already in awe of everything we passed. E.T. made me smile, as we had taken little Kyra there back in 1999.  I laughed as we passed the Fievel playground (um, does any child know who Fievel is anymore?) and then got in line for the first house- “The Forsaken.”

Of course walking up to this house was a bit nerve wracking, until we had to walk through the “Barney” soundstage to get to it. Again, seriously, does ANYONE know who Barney is anymore?? Universal, wake up and work on that Park! So anyways, we walked up to the first house and I looked at Anthony and said “I am going to grabbing your arm or hand, it’s my gut reaction, and I apologize now.” He was such a sweetheart about it, why wouldn’t he be- best guy friend a girl could have.  We headed in to “The Forsaken” which was an abandoned Spanish fort where Columbus’ forth ship went missing- basically ghost pirates took over.  It was cool to walk over planks, and you could feel the wind and spray of the ocean water on your face.  Once someone got scared in front of you, you were pretty much guaranteed to be left alone by that character. They also had many hallways in the houses where you could see the actors hiding, so it gave you a heads up on where to watch for them.  Once we got that first house done with, I felt empowered to do the rest. You knew what it was going to be like now, so the actual scared feeling was something you were ready for.

The next house was right next to the first one, which was a bit confusing. They had signs to mark it, but with all the ropes for lines everywhere, and being right next to another one, it could have been confusing for some. Also a lot of the houses emptied into the same exit area, so you felt you were having constant déjà vu.  Our second house was the “The In Between” which was a 3D glass wearing experience in which you went into room after room like you were tripping on something.  I wound up not wearing my glasses as it could be very disorientating experience with them. Walking through a tunnel full of neon graffiti, then a room full of mirrors with neon string attached from ceiling to floor- it was very, very cool. It wasn’t as scary as just visually stimulating.

The next house was super exciting, as it was based around the madness that was Edgar Allen Poe. I figured ravens would rule pretty much everything in the house, and I was right. I loved the rooms, and  my favorite was a ballroom where the dancers dressed in masquerade clothes would dance and then scare you as they went past you. It was a very unique house and I thought they did a great job with it.

We decided to hit one more house before getting a seat for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so we expressed passed it again into “Saws N’ Steam.”  Every time we used our express pass we would need to show it first to get into the line, then they would scan it before you walked into the house. I was a bit weary of this house, the sound of steal slamming down could give me an instant headache, but it actually was nothing to bad.  Every time we walked into a house, Joe led in first with Ken, then Anthony and I screaming and laughing together.

After another house under our belts, we found a seat for the Bill and Teds Excellent Halloween Adventure show. Before we even walked in, I wanted to buy a T-Shirt with Bill and Ted on it because I truly loved the movie and the concept of it.  The show started minutes after we sat down, and I would have to say that there is no point to getting there early- there were plenty of open seats left.  Maybe the reason why was because the show was seriously horrible- besides the fact that Bill and Ted just didn’t have much of a plot line, the pop culture references just weren’t that funny. I laughed once when they poked fun at Twilight and True Blood, but that was about it.  I would say to anyone wanting to see this show, save the time and do something else.

After that disappointment, not only didn’t I want the shirt anymore, but I was now even more excited for another haunted house because they were actually interesting and exciting. Next house was “H.R. Bloodengutz: Holidays of Horror” which was a comical look at different holidays. I can tell you this, Santa’s elves were very unhappy, and the Easter Bunny had quite a lot of tooth decay.  The standby line for this house was very long, so again, happy to have the express pass.

It was time for a drink and a sit for awhile, so we stopped by a quaint little pub and Restaurant located across from “Mummy’s Revenge.” Posh benches helped us relax for a bit, and I was able to check in with the family and let them know that I had not died of fright.  After getting recharged, the guys headed to the Mummy for a ride, while I enjoyed the Scare Zone called “Acid Assault” which was basically like every movie that looked like the atomic bomb had dropped on it. The surrounding buildings had a video on them, so they looked like the buildings were falling apart around you- like the images on the Castle during the Magic, Memories, and You Show.  I enjoyed talking to Craig on the phone while taking all the sights in, it was cool to enjoy something different.

Next we headed into the house called “The Thing.” Coming out soon in Theaters, they have revived the old classic movie, and revved it up with a bit more scare.  If I had seen the movie first, it may have may a bit more sense, but I think once I see it, I will go “Ah yes, I remember that!” It was snowing inside the house, which I told Anthony it’s the ONLY snow I want to see in FL, and basically you watched the movie play out with all the characters. Again, it would have been cool to see the movie first.

House seven would be “The Nightingales Blood Prey” which took place in World War 1.  Gun fire could be heard everywhere, and the good guys would warn you to get out. Overhead were the nightingales, peering over at you while they attacked the service men.  I didn’t like this house as much, only because they were using fake guns, but they would fire blanks over your head and behind you, and it was just too close to something that happens in real life for me.

“Winter’s Night” would be our last house of the evening, and I believe we left the best for last. The standby line for that was crazy, crazy long- so we were pretty giddy to walk right in.  I thought we had walked right into the land of Narnia- it was a beautiful winter scene. Too bad we were walking right into a Cemetary, which was incredibly creepy. The walking dead came out of every wall, and I would have to say that this house scared not only me the most, but Anthony as well.  Every time we came around a corner we would either slow down and wait or hurry to get past what was there- we were pretty good at looking for the dangers by the time we hit that last house.

Needing some type of snack, we came across a stand that sells potatoes on a stick. Different flavors were available, and they cut the potato right in front of you and fry it. Anthony got the salt and vinegar, and Ken got the Cheddar one. I tried both and they were delicious, definitely try them out when you are there! I think they were $5 each.

We headed back to the Simpsons Ride, as I had ridden “Back to the Future” before, so I knew what the ride was like. When Anthony told me in line it was like being on a rollercoaster, my head started to spin. I don’t do well on the simulators anymore, so I was a bit nervous. In the front row, I made sure to close my eyes when I had to, but otherwise did just fine. Still like Back to the Future better though.

We hit the rest of the Scare Zones we had missed, called “Nightmaze , Canyon of Dark Souls, and Your Luck Has Run Out.” Nightmaze wasn’t too bad, they moved the walls constantly while you walked through it, so you had to be quick if you wanted to get out without getting scared. The Canyon one was a bit more challenging, as they had large figures who didn’t move, but the actors were hidden near them, so you didn’t see them coming. I got really good at looking forward all night, so when I did get scared, it was almost fun like “You got me!”  The Luck one had the ladies that you have seen on the commercials that were pretty much the face of the theming this year. They weren’t scary as much as the Chainsaw gang that was back, and located in the very small ally.  It was a very small space and quick space, probably the smallest zone they had.

The thing about the Scare Zones is that if you wanted nothing to do with them, you could just walk up on the sidewalk around them. They were located mostly on the streets, and marked very clearly, so you knew what you were heading in to. For the life of me, I will never understand why I saw little children there last night- take them to MNSSHP, not HHN.

We wound up by the Pantages Theater around 11, and the Ghost Hunters were just wrapping up. The guy let me go in and look at Tshirts, so I did get to see them, but they wouldn’t let me take a picture.  Once I headed out, the Drums show came out, very loud but cool to see at least once.

The guys hung out at the Bakery while I shopped for awhile, getting excited at all the new merchandise I had never seen before. Seeing the Harry Potter stuff got me really excited, I hope to go there soon. It was an amazing night and it was everything I had hoped it would be. Because we got there right at 6:30 at the start of the event helped us tremendously get stuff done and see things in the day light.  Again, the express pass was definitely worth it, as we had done pretty much everything, plus stop and chill out, by 11 p.m.  We headed out before midnight, grabbing a pic near the HHN sign on the outside of the gate.

If someone asked me if it is worth it, I would say YES! But, you have to like the scary stuff. If you don’t mind screaming and occasionally jumping, it’s a lot of fun. If any of that genre offends you, then REALLY don’t go.  I always took scary movies as silly fun, but that as an adult you have to make the choice to see. I don’t encourage the kids on them, as it’s not for children’s eyes AT ALL.  It’s something, as an adult, I wanted to try once, and I am glad I did. Thank you to Anthony, Ken, and Joe for a great evening!

Meeting the Dreamfinder ~ Ron Schneider

It would be a tweet by Mr. Lou Mongello himself that THE Dreamfinder would be making an appearance near the Journey into Imagination ride during the WDW Radio 40 hour podcast. Craig and I hopped in the car and booked it over to Epcot so we could meet him and grab  a picture.

As we parked the car and walked towards the tram, Kyra called to say one of our beloved hamsters had passed away. Jack and Gus Gus moved here with us from WI, and made the long 3 days trip.  We were so happy when we got them, and I am sad for the kids that they lost their first pet. The girls were upset, so we both were going to head back, but Craig encouraged me to go meet Ron Schneider and be a part of something very special.  Making sure the kids were ok with that, Craig went home and I headed into Epcot.

Dreamfinder was to be there at 3 p.m., and I knew that it was 3:00 or later as I headed in as quickly as I could.  I was feeling guilty about the kids grief, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to be there anymore. But as I walked up to the Imagination pavilion, I was greeted with warm smiles from good friends, so I felt better that I made the choice to stay.

He was sitting down with the entire WDW Radio Team surrounding him as Lou interviewed him with the Box. It was great to feel the excitement in the air and to see him sitting there was kind of unreal. I watched the show and enjoyed visiting with Beci again.

Then Dreamfinder decided to ride with everyone in the group, and I was ecstatic to think we would all be riding with him on the ride that he was born from.  We rode in the second group, but I think Anthony Ken, Liz, Kathy and I were pretty happy about that regardless- plus everyone clapped and sang along with the attraction- IT WAS AWESOME!!!

After we got off the ride I caught Ron talking to the Box again in the gift shop, and I truly enjoyed watching it all happen. Thank you Lou for letting me meet someone that is another piece of the Disney magic- it was a great moment and afternoon.

Magic Kingdom’s 40th Anniversary

After saying goodbye to Mom and Bob early that morning, we headed out for WDW’s 40th Anniversary Celebration that we had been looking forward to since last year.  After hearing about all the hoopla that was to happen in the Park, we knew we would have to get there early. We arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 7:30 a.m. and was parked nice and close in Aladdin, thrilled we wouldn’t have to take a Parking tram. We walked in and headed towards the Ferry, amongst many balloons and pavement covered chalk drawings. We boarded the Ferry with no wait, and we were happy to ride it over- along with many others because the Monorail was not operating yet. They did have Monorail line ropes up in anticipation for the heavy crowds that were to come.

We walked into the Magic Kingdom, hand in hand, looking for all of our friends. Lou Mongello was starting his 40 Hour Show in front of the Train Station, so I knew where to find him and everyone else. It was so exciting to walk into the masses and see so many friendly faces. Hugs, introductions, and miles of smiles- it was an hour of jubilation among the group who was there.

The kids were excited, we were excited, as the morning show started. We had all hoped they would do something different for the 40th Anniversary, but alas, they didn’t – BUT- it was still cool to open the Magic Kingdom with my family and friends around me.

Once the gates opened, it was a mad dash to the Castle.  First we had to make sure we all had a button, which they handed out as you walked in. The second freebie of the day was the exclusive guidemap, which we saw many grabbing in handfuls. We grabbed enough for each of us, I especially wanted the kids to have one to hang on their bedroom walls. The word was there would be a Character parade down Main Street then a presentation at 10 a.m. on the Castle Stage. The issue we ran into was, where do we stay put? We thought and hoped there would be Characters out that hadn’t been seen in awhile, so we wanted a great shot of them. But, if you parked it on Main Street, you would have a very difficult time seeing the Castle show. We wound up standing to the right of the Castle, in the hub, and close to the ramp Castle entrance to catch the Characters coming up.  We caught glimpses, but the crowds were thick, so we moved up to catch the show.

The Characters came up the ramp, each holding a bunch of balloons, and waved to the crowd. They walked up to the stage, as well as lined the ramps on the side. We heard from several speakers, then the Vice-President of Operations, then we all sang “When You Wish Upon a Star” together where they shot off fireworks at the end.  It was very moving, but I still wish they had done something a bit more.

After, we headed to ride some of the nostalgic ones to enjoy the atmosphere of the day.  Carousel of Progress was first, and we were honored to ride it with Deanna and her group, along with Ken, Anthony, and Joe.  It was fun to hear people clapping and singing along- very in the theme of the day. While walking through Tomorrowland on the way to Cosmic Ray’s, we ran into Candy Selby. I grabbed a picture with her and had a small chat, was great to finally meet her.

We enjoyed an early lunch at Ray’s where I experienced the “Can’t go to your table without food” line. It was only for the dining room area where Ray sings, as the outside patio was very open, along with the backside area near the restrooms. We ordered and then ran into Lou’s group again, chatting with Otis for awhile and saying hello to people I hadn’t met yet. After we got our food they had a remote controlled spaceship flying around the Restaurant, it was pretty cool.

We enjoyed Philharmagic next, followed by what we hoped would be Small World. After we got to the entrance, we saw a 20 minute wait, with a line outside the building- ah, no thanks. Haunted Mansion it was, and thankfully we walked right on. We saw one of our favorite Cast Members, Alicia, who gave the kids honorary Haunted Mansion Caretaker certificates- the kids geeked out at them!

We headed towards Lou’s Meet, where we came across Jerry, Suzannah, Nicole, and other friends we were introduced too. We chatted it up a bit, and it was nice to see their smiling faces on such a special day.

The WDW Radio Meet was in the Rose Garden, which was incredibly gorgeous. The day was full of blue sky, so it enhanced the mood and vibe of the day that much more.  Our family was happy to say hello to the “Box” and meet our new honeymooner friends. We came across others from Meets I had been to already, plus we met up with Liz and Kathy once again.  It was fun to see so many new faces, and to watch Beci and Lou in action. We even had some light fun with the WDW Radio microphone that was sitting at the kids table.  We left the park happy and exhausted.

No, we didn’t stay for the special Wishes. Again, the word was that they were going to have perimeter ones added to the end, like Hallowishes has, but that was all. From what I heard, the place was packed, and several fights almost broke out. Sad that that could even happen in the Magic Kingdom, but so many people in one place works on a nerve I guess.

We enjoyed a belated date night to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort for a soda and a stroll. Nothing is more romantic than walking among palm trees swaying in the breeze, past white sand, and just enjoying the sweet night air.  Walking around the Resorts is one of our favorite things to do, and we hope to do it a lot more.

We enjoyed the day, meeting and making new friends, and the great weather. Thanks to all those who spent time with us, we hope to see you again next year!

Our Day at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival

A Fall day in Florida is comparable to a crisp Summer morning in Wisconsin, a tad cold but nothing that won’t warm up over the passing hours of daylight. This sort of day came this past Thursday, and it was almost exciting to feel the change in the seasons. We won’t see trees change colors this year, unless someone comes and spray paints my palm trees, so the temperature is really the only thing that makes you feel the difference from season to season.  My Mom and Bob were itching to go to Epcot, so we headed in this past week to preview the Food and Wine Festival.  A great tip to know is that they have a Cast Member Preview the Thursday before the official start of Food and Wine, so it’s a great time to try everything out before the crowds hit opening weekend. I didn’t see any pins out, but I did see shirts and kiosks open with other merchandise.

We were blessed to meet up with THE Scott Otis for a quick hello and picture while he was on his lunch break.  My parents loved him and I have always thought he is a class act all the way.  I have a lot of friends, but the close ones like Otis are very special to me and my family.  We trust him, and he cares about all of us so when we see him it’s great to see the kids light up and run in for a hug.  He is truly like a big brother to me, and I hope he knows how much our family cares about him.  He looked so dapper in his Cast Member attire, I almost didn’t recognize him! We got a picture in front of the Food and Wine décor in the front of the park, then got to chat while Mom and Bob rode Spaceship Earth.

After Otis left, I found Mom and Bob exiting the ride, which they loved, and we headed to Soarin to see what the Fastpass situation was. You know it is a slow day when Soarin has fastpasses for an hour after standby.  We grabbed a couple of them and then rode Living with the Land so I could show Bob the greenhouses.  I really do enjoy watching others experience things for the first time- it’s like a spark is made in my brain that I forgot was there because of myself experiencing the attractions over and over again.  I probably shouldn’t watch the person as much as a I do, they may think I’m a creeper.

We had time left before using our Soarin fastpasses, so we headed back out into the sun and decided to grab some free Coke at Club Cool. On the way I got a text message from Shelley Jones that her and the family were at Epcot and could we meet up- OF COURSE! I always make time for my friends, so we found each other by the Imagination Pavilion and it was nice to introduce her to my family.   After we caught up, they headed their way and we chilled out at Club Cool. No, I didn’t make Bob try the Beverly, he would have killed me- just the others.

It was close to 2 p.m. at this point, which was the start of the Food and Wine preview, so we headed into World Showcase. At the start of it they have a Cranberry Bog, brought to you by Ocean Spray of course, and it was neat to see it all set up. Beyond that they have a large Donald and Daisy topiary to welcome you to the Festival, a great photo op before filling your tummy!

I like to start at the Canada end and work my way around- I always figure people like to head the other way first. Normally left is better, but it seemed pretty empty on the side we chose. The first kiosk is all about Beer- so if you are craving a different kind of Beer, you can hit it first before even touching the food part.  Since I’m not much of a drinker, we all passed and tried out Hawaii first. I loved the look of the kiosk, and Mom and I planned on splitting each food item so we could try them out.  We ordered the slider with pork and pineapple, and it was delicious! Yes, we split it, but its small enough for one person to enjoy as well.

You have to learn to pace yourself at F&W because just the eating alone will get you full by the 5th Country, but adding alcohol to the mix will fill you even faster.  Yes, you can try each and every one, but you may want to fast before doing so.  Our plan was to try anything that looked interesting, so that was our plan of attack.  Next we went Greek and tried the Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki and that was really good- also a great size portion.

We then hit the Ireland kiosk next, which is located towards the beginning of the UK area. I fell in love with the Lobster and Scallop Fisherman’s pie last year, so I was super excited to have it again. Funny how food can make you so giddy! Mom and I split this one as well and she loved it- I could have eaten another one, it was soooo good! The sauce they use is incredibly yummy, adding the mashed potatoes with it makes it a little dish of comfort food.

Since it was hotter than the surface of the sun that day, I decided to take Mom and Bob indoors for awhile to beat the heat. We headed into the France film, which truly has become a favorite of mine. I am a sucker for anything with Castles, and that film is filled with them. Doesn’t every woman picture herself in one? I hope to visit France some day, just so I can see all those wonderful sites.

After contemplating grabbing some drinks after the film, we decided to try the Belgium waffle instead. The line was incredibly short, and we were able to find a wonderful seating area next to it.  We enjoy the waffle, and Mom even bought the truffles to try- she said they were very good! My great buds, Ken and Anthony joined us here to tour the rest of the Festival.

After a stop in Germany, Anthony picked up the sausage in the pretzel roll while I waited with him. I know I’m going to get slack for this, but I hated that last year. Maybe being from WI, I am used to brats, and anything other is just weird to me- who knows! We bumped into Brent, Donna, and Reuben at the same kiosk. It was great to meet people you have met online, and Brent and I caught up on WI stuff.

Mom and Bob walked ahead- Mom was into it, Bob not so much. It was, again, very very hot, so I will give them that. We walked again to find them, clicking pictures of the booths along the way.  We basically ate on the Canada side of the Festival, and nothing on the Mexico side.  I think we were all full, and when it’s so hot, it’s hard to have a major appetite. Keep that in mind when you come to enjoy the Festival that you want to time it on a cool evening or afternoon- no one wants to eat something really hot in the sun’s heat.

We said goodbye to our friends, and Mom, Bob and I headed to ride Soarin. It would be Bob’s first time, and so he was incredibly excited. We wound up getting third row, but even with the feet he still enjoyed it. We fastpassed it again after we got off so they could ride it with Craig and the kids after he got off work.  I chilled out in Sunshine Seasons while Mom and Bob rode Imagination- he loved it as a child and I didn’t have the heart to tell him how much it had changed.  Craig and the girls finally made it in to The Land, and we all bumped into the Viteks and Shelly Jones. We gabbed for awhile, then parted ways to find Mom and Bob.

We rode Imagination with them, then crossed over to the other side of the Park for some Test Track fun. We wound up waiting in line for 30 minutes, but it was worth it to ride with Bob for the first time. Mom wanted nothing to do with it, as Kyra had already made her ride Potter and I made her ride Big Thunder. She enjoyed the evening air while we screamed our heads off on the ride, love the butterflies I get on it!

We ended our fun day at Epcot with a ride on Nemo, then Spaceship Earth.  Mom and Bob seemed to really enjoy it the first time, so why not one more time with the grandkids? They liked spending time with the grandparents in their happy place, as did Craig and I. Now when I head into Epcot I see the memories I made with them there, and it makes me happy and sad at the same time.  Thanks to everyone who made the fun day possible, we are blessed with wonderful people around us.