Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Your Dream Stinks... I Was Talking to Her."

You would expect that someone who idolizes Walt Disney, has Disney songs on her Ipod, kinda sorta has a Disney blog, and quotes Disney movies on the regular would have a dream list a mile long. The truth is... I'm annoyingly pragmatic. A dream may, in fact, be a wish your heart makes. But a steady job puts food on the table. I've never really been a dreamer regardless of how many cheery, inspirational quotes I post to social media that would suggest otherwise. If you asked me right now what my biggest dream is, I would stumble around and eventually mumble something highly unlikely such as my standard "I want to win the lottery and open my own animal sanctuary" (which might not be so bad if I ever actually BOUGHT a lottery ticket) or something that doesn't really involve me at all, such as the Buffalo Bills winning the Super Bowl.

You know what else I'm not? Athletic. Not even close. As a spectator, I'm a sports fanatic. But personally I'm about as graceful as Bambi on his new legs, trying to maneuver around on the ice. So what would prompt me to think that doing a 5K (for the first time ever) with a ton of people on a hot summer night would be fun? The official diagnosis? FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. My friends were doing it, and I wanted to hang out with them.

It wouldn't be a fun blog post if everything went as planned! It wasn't the greatest time. Feelings were hurt. And I made the ridiculous decision that I would run the entire thing the next year and be really fast and then I would do a race at Disney! I downloaded Couch-to-5K. I bought magazines! I bought running shoes! And what I learned was that I'm a really lousy runner. My body hated it, so I gave up. Well, not entirely. I just did a LOT of walking. And I got better at it.

And I continued to get better at it. One winter I signed up for a 5K and walked the entire thing. I was thrilled that not only did I NOT come in last place, but I finished in under an hour. And then I kept signing up for more races. And every once in a while, on the treadmill, I would increase my pace and run. For like a minute. And then I would wonder if I was going to die. But I didn't. So I would throw in a couple more minutes. And then I would be SURE that I was going to die. And I didn't! I would start throwing in a little bit of running when I was outside. I would get really excited and post my times on Facebook and then the craziest thing happened.

One day, about a year and a half ago, my best friend from high school messaged me. She said we should sign up for a runDisney event together. We hadn't seen each other in over twenty years, but we are both huge Star Wars fans and she had been running and even doing triathlons. (I know, I'm tired just thinking about it too!) What could be a better way to finally see each other after all that time? And... here's the crazy thing. We actually DID sign up for it! I mean, come on. How often do we say to each other, "hey, we should do this?" and then get all happy about it... and then never actually DO it?!

So yeah. What actually started out as a silly thought after getting my feelings hurt (partly because people are mean, but also partly because I'm a baby) actually came to fruition! We went to Walt Disney World! We did the Dark Side 5K together! We actually RAN part of it. And I smiled. And I had a blast. We had so much fun getting out of Epcot as quickly as we could. We high-fived cast members. My friend spoke in German to the CMs at the Germany pavilion. We got our picture taken with Ewoks! And I cannot wait to do it again. My body still hates running. But I am getting better, just much slower than most people. But it's okay. Because I actually DO have a dream. I want to be a runner. Or at least, someone who doesn't just sit around doing nothing. And I'm kind of there.

So I guess now I need a new dream. Or do I? I mean, the Bills still haven't won the Super Bowl. But every year, I KNOW that THIS is the year!

(Disney Photopass photo)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

America on Parade

If you're a Disney lover like me, you probably have some Disney books. History books, guidebooks, biographies of Walt Disney, cookbooks... I have all of these. Not a huge collection compared to what some people may have, but a nice mix of Disneyana. My most recent book purchase is a cookbook, Kitchen Magic with Mickey that I got when I was in the Most Magical Place on Earth in April. It's my second Disney cookbook... the first one I bought is called Mickey's Gourmet Cookbook and I bought it for a dollar at a garage sale!

I'll feature each of my books at some point, but today I'm sharing one of the two oldest books in my collection. Both The Art of Walt Disney (the book on the very bottom of my stack; not sure why the photo is so blurry) and America on Parade have a copyright date of 1975 and, if my mom's memory is correct, these books were purchased by her mom for me from the Jewel Tea Man.

Now, I'm fairly certain that anyone reading this will have zero idea what I'm talking about, so here's a quick history lesson. Jewel Tea was a national company that went door to door selling all kinds of household items. Ironically, my research indicates that it started out as a individual who went door to door selling... wait for it... coffee beans! If you know someone who has the "autumn leaf" pattern of dinnerware, this originated with Jewel Tea. My mom and grandma had a lot of these items, and my mom generally would just say she got them from "the tea man".

So, back to Disney. I've loved Disney all my life and apparently I respected the main man himself so much that I referred to him as "Mr. Walter Disney". Because why wouldn't a child say that?! But, that's why my grandma bought me these books. With it being Fourth of July weekend (sort of, anyway... I still have to work tomorrow!) I thought it would be fun to talk about the America on Parade book.

To celebrate the bicentennial in 1976, Disney came up with the idea of this spectacular parade that was a celebration of our history. The parade was called, obviously, "America on Parade" and ran in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. According to the book, the parade consisted "of fifty units depicting milestones and important institutions in American history...". During the summer, the parade was held twice a day. The second showing was at night and concluded with fireworks.

It took almost a year to gather all the research necessary to put on such a huge parade. It was three quarters of a mile in length and lasted almost half an hour from start to finish. The parade featured giant doll-like characters, representing the people of the US. Part of the research involved making sure the costumes the dolls wore were historically accurate.

The cool thing about this book is that it's basically a history book. It tells the history that is depicted in the parade and includes illustrations and photos made by Walt Disney Productions as part of the parade planning. It also includes several pullout sections of photos that were taken during the opening week of the parade in June 1975. The pullout sections show Main Street USA, lined with people, watching the parade.

I love that I have this book in my collection. More than forty years later it's not only a US history book, but it's now also part of Disney's history!

On a side note, as I was pulling all of my books together I also flipped open a couple of my old Disney magazines and came across this gem from 1998. Further proof that nobody throws a birthday party like Disney! I tried googling to see which hometowns were picked, and the only I'm able to find was Sheboygan, Wisconsin (who doesn't like saying "Sheboygan"?!)

I hope everyone in the US has a fantastic Independence Day and that my Canadian friends enjoyed celebrating Canada's Sesquicentennial! And, if by some miracle, someone is reading this outside of either of those countries, I hope you have a magical day!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

It IS a Small World, After All

Welcome to my refurbished blog! I went back and forth between several different names and I think this is just about perfect. I love going places, doing things, talking about them. I would say I have wanderlust, which is partially true. For starters, I like to wander. Ha. And I crave new experiences and would much rather go to a museum than hang out on the beach. The only reason I'm not really a card-carrying member of the travel club is that I actually hate the process of traveling. Quite the conundrum. But I still have adventures. They just tend to be kind of close to home!

My first post on my updated blog was actually inspired by something that happened just last night that gave me an idea that I might run with. Or I might not. You never know... my mind likes to wander, too ;)

I actually DID travel this weekend. I took a little road tripe to Pittsburgh, which is a bit over three hours away from Buffalo. The reason for this particular trip was two-fold. I spent the majority of the day at the Pittsburgh Zoo and then headed to PNC Park to see my Chicago Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. I'm happy to say I wasn't the only Cubs fan there. I was actually surrounded by them. Sitting behind me was a dad and his two kids, all cheering for the Cubbies. After a foul ball wound up hitting the little boy (he was fine and quite happy about it), I discovered that in this crowd of close to 40,000 people these fans were also from Buffalo!

Small WorldI pondered this on my way home and it reminded me of my recent trip to Disney. I encountered three different people during my trip who were from towns close to me:

  • I met up with some friends at the Grand Floridian for afternoon tea. Our waitress was from Latrobe, Pennsylvania which isn't too far from where we all met.
  • My first day in the parks, I went to Hollywood Studios. I got there before the park opened and the Cast Member who was preventing everyone from running toward Toy Story Mania was from Buffalo. (A suburb, actually, but his name tag said "Buffalo".) We chatted for a while about Buffalo foods before the park officially opened.
  • On my Magic Kingdom day, I headed immediately for Peter Pan's Flight where I was greeted by a Cast Member who was literally from the suburb I live in! His name was Stan and he lived not too far from me when he still lived in the area. We took a selfie and I thought it was a great way to start the day.
  • I'm so glad I took that selfie and remembered Stan's name. And I will definitely include this information in the Disney photo book I'm working on. But then I thought it might be cool to take it a step further and I think my next trip to The World will include a new project! I'm going to make an autograph book titled "It's a Small World" and have the Cast Members who are from my town autograph my book! Maybe I'll even carry something with me from Buffalo to give to them. (My Hollywood Studios encounter DID ask me why I didn't bring him a pizza!) I think that would be a fun memento to look back on and see just how small our world really is!

    Sunday, July 13, 2014

    An Ode to the Grey Stuff... It's Delicious!

    July Fourth was not only Independence Day, but it also marked the one-year anniversary of deciding to go to Disney World! Best decision I've made in a really long time. To commemorate it, I wanted to bake something to take to work. So last weekend I spent some time looking through Disney recipes. My initial idea was to make Magic Cookie Bars. But, I've never actually eaten one of them at Disney World! My mom makes them for Christmas every year, but I wanted something Disney-related that I've actually had AT Disney.

    Then I remembered seeing a bunch of recipes for the Grey Stuff. If you don't have any idea what I'm talking about, you probably haven't been to Disney World in the last year or so! One of the highlights of the New Fantasyland expansion includes a restaurant called "Be Our Guest" and it is amazingly Beauty and the Beast themed. And one of the desserts they offer is called "The Grey Stuff"... as in Lumière's line from the song "Be Our Guest" -- Try the grey stuff, it's delicious! Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!

    Now, I would never have expected the grey stuff to be a dessert. But I'm really glad it is! It's had several different incarnations since the restaurant opened and this is a picture of what I had when I was there in February:

    The description was: Chocolate Shell, Cookie Crème topped with Lumiere’s special “Grey Stuff”.

    The grey stuff itself is kind of a mousse-y type thing and I would describe the cookie crème as being sort of like the inside of a truffle? Maybe? All of the recipes I've found online are ONLY for the grey stuff. I didn't know how my coworkers would feel about just eating a bowl of that, although I highly recommend it! Haha.

    So I decided to experiment a little bit. And while my version is NOT a replica of what I had at Be Our Guest in February, everyone loved it! I decided to make a cookie crust, bake brownies on top, and then frost them with the grey stuff! And I really wanted to include those edible pearls! Unfortunately, Target didn't HAVE edible pearls. But I actually LOVE what I was able to find instead!

    Here's what I came up with. I used a brownie mix, but you can obviously be ambitious and make your own. I wasn't too concerned with that part of the experiment. I used almost the exact recipe for the grey stuff as the link above. But because I was using the Oreos for two different things, the measurements are probably a little off, so I'll include mine here. I also used skim milk and it turned out fine. I sort of used this recipe for Oreo Crusted Brownie Pie as the starting point for my cookie crust, but I was using a 9x13 pan and not a pie pan. (That recipe looks delicious as well, by the way!)

    1 package of regular-stuff Oreos
    6 tablespoons butter, melted
    Packaged brownie mix (9 x 13 size pan)*
    1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1 (8 ounce) tub Cool Whip
    6 tablespoons instant chocolate pudding mix (use the leftovers to sprinkle on ice cream!)
    Edible pearl sprinkles

    * You will also need whatever ingredients are listed on the brownie box

    Preheat your oven to 350º.

    Spray or grease the bottom of a 9x13 cake pan.

    Crush the Oreos in a food processor until they are very fine, almost like sand. If you happen to eat a couple beforehand, it will still turn out fine. I think I ate three cookies and crushed the rest! Ha. Reserve two cups of the crushed cookies and mix the rest with the melted butter. Press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for five minutes. Remove from oven.

    Prepare the brownies according to the package directions. Pour over the cookie crust and bake according to the package directions.

    Mix the vanilla pudding and the milk together in a large bowl. Set in the refrigerator, about eight to ten minutes.

    Remove from the refrigerator and mix in the reserved cookie crumbs. Fold in the Cool Whip. Mix in the chocolate pudding and stir well. Let chill in the refrigerator for about an hour or so.

    Frost the brownies with the grey stuff and sprinkle with the edible pearls.

    This is what I found at Target instead of the edible pearls!!!

    Tell me those don't look like snowflakes?! As in... Frozen! So yay! My Beauty and the Beast inspired dessert also has a touch of Elsa in it. What more could anyone ask for?!

    Saturday, June 28, 2014

    In Which I Attempt to Write a Book Review Just So I Can Gush About Disney and Get All Philosophical

    It's 86º in Buffalo as I type this, and I have chills.

    Don't get me wrong. It's still miserably hot and I'm still hating summer. I even posted a picture on Facebook this morning of Anna and Elsa with Anna's quote, "Do the magic!" in an attempt to make it start snowing. Yeah. That didn't work so well. I have no desire to venture outside and I am almost 7000 steps short of my daily 10,000 goal. So I hung out on the internet for a while. And I watched two episodes of season two of 24. Yes, I'm a little behind the times, but courtesy of Amazon Prime and Roku, I can get annoyed by a TV show whenever I want!! Ha.

    Then I decided to finish the book I was reading. I started it last week, and made it through about 70% of it. That's where the chills come in.

    3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White

    This is the book I just finished reading, and my eyes are all puffy. It's a very easy read and it's almost like reading one of my beloved Disney trip reports... with the minor difference being that this family totally uprooted their lives so their autistic child could be closer to Disney World.

    The author, Ron Miles, is very quick to point out that this isn't a story of a miracle happening. His child, Ben, still has autism. Ron and Ben's mom get divorced. But they, along with Ron's new wife, get to watch their child transform because of Disney. And not only do we get to read about that, but we also get to read about the part the Disney company's employees play in Ben's life. And in some ways, we also get some unexpected closure in relation to a ride many of us have been on that is no longer a part of the Magic Kingdom.

    I picked this book because I wanted to hear Ben's story and wanted a dose of Disney and because I think it was cheap on Amazon. (Hey, I'm nothing if not honest!) But what I came away with was not just a touching story. It was more validation that My Happy Place is truly magical and that people who don't see that aren't looking hard enough. Not everyone needs to be a Disney fan. I get that. But honestly, it's more than that. It's about being the kind of person who wants to make the world a better place.

    And we can never have too much of that.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    Teacup Tuesdays #2

    Christmas at Disney

    Six months from today is CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!! I love doing the Christmas countdown on the 24th and 25th of every month, much to the annoyance of just about everyone I know. I love Christmas and I can't even imagine what it would be like to spend some quality time in Disney over the Christmas holiday. So in honor of the countdown, today's Teacup Tuesday will focus on Christmas at Disney!

    I've seen so many trip reports where fellow Disney enthusiasts share pictures of the Osborne lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios and numerous character photos of the gang all decked out in their Christmas finery. And Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. And the decorations. And the decorations. And did I mention the decorations?? *grin* People decorate their resort rooms for Christmas and I think I've seen pictures of little Christmas trees in the rooms.

    I think the #1 thing on this list however would be the amazing gingerbread house that is created in the Grand Floridian hotel. I so desperately want to be able to see that!

    How incredibly amazing would it be to spend part of Christmas in the most magical place on earth??? I need to find a way to make this happen!

    Sunday, June 8, 2014

    A Mysterious Light

    Last night was one of my favorite days of the year -- Star Wars Night at the ballpark! My Buffalo Bisons have been doing this for the past seven years and each year it gets better and better. It actually started out as one of several "movie" nights that the team hosted and the popularity has increased exponentially and the last two years (possibly more) have sold out before game day!

    I went a couple times with my mom and the last three years I've gone with friends. The gates always open early because the North Ridge Star Wars fan club are there in character. There is an assortment of original trilogy, prequel trilogy and expanded universe characters as well as characters unique to this chapter of the fan club. They will pose for pictures and last year I got a great picture with me and my friend's daughter hanging out with Chewbacca and R2D2. Unfortunately, the lines were SO LONG this year that we didn't get any character pictures. Moving through the concourse was extremely difficult because of the sheer number of people milling about.

    The players wear special Star Wars jerseys each year that are then autographed and raffled off for charity; this year it was the American Heart Association (can't remember if that's what it always is, or if it changes). Starting in the fifth inning and continuing every half inning, a special Star Wars movie unfolds on the big screen scoreboard. It takes place at the ballpark and includes the Bisons mascots, etc. The story concludes after the game is over... on the field with an epic lightsaber battle!

    There are always other fun little touches that go on throughout the game:

  • The grounds crew usually has some fun on the field:
  • One of the characters throws out the first pitch:
  • Instead of showing each player's picture on the scoreboard, a villain is shown for the opposing team and one of the heroes is shown for the Bisons. The box score will also show the opposing team as "Sith":
  • Darth Vader will lead everyone in singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame":
  • There are also lightsabers for sale during the game and once the game is over, the lights get turned out and everyone waves their lightsabers around. After the on-field battle, there is a fireworks display.

    I wasn't able to get a good picture, but the moon was out through most of the game and it looked an awful lot like the Death Star! Unfortunately, the Force was not strong with our team last night as we lost to the Sith. But it was an amazing time and I can't wait to go back next year!

    Saturday, May 24, 2014

    How to Eat a Cupcake in Ten Easy Steps

    Today is my nephew's fourth birthday. He is the youngest of all my nieces and nephews and I haven't seen him (or any of the other, either) in nineteen months. *sniffle* In honor of this I will be buying a red velvet cupcake from Panera for my dessert today! And just for fun, I decided to post these pictures I took three years ago on his first birthday. At the time, I turned them into a Facebook album with the same name as my post title. I also included them in this same format in a photo book I made for my sister. My Disney albums are my favorite albums on Facebook, but these pictures rank a very close second!

    Just a quick note.. Sydney is my youngest niece, and the birthday boy's older sister.

    Enjoy!!!

    Step 1:
    Go to McDonalds with Daddy and Sydney while Mommy makes an awesome cupcake cake

    Step 2:
    Wait patiently while everyone sings "Happy Birthday" and then blow out the candle (with a little help from Sydney)

    Step 3:
    Gently poke your fingers in the frosting

    Step 4:
    Forget about being gentle and just pick up a huge handful

    Step 5:
    Shove as much into your mouth as you can

    Step 6:
    Make sure you get it all!

    Step 7:
    Smile at the camera because you know Nanny Sue wants to post this on Facebook

    Step 8:
    Smoosh some of the frosting in your hair

    Step 9:
    Leave nothing behind

    Step 10:
    Wash it all down with a big drink

    Sunday, May 18, 2014

    Kill, Refurb, Marry: Disney Princesses

    I've been following the Disney in Your Day blog for a while now and it's my favorite Disney blog. Becky has a great mix of fun Disney stuff and one of the things she does regularly is the "Kill, Refurb, Marry" game. I never quite paid attention to the fact that it's a blog hop, but after reading the latest incarnation I was terribly intrigued, so I actually hopped over to the main page for the game and checked out other people's answers as well.

    The theme for this month is Disney Princesses. And I actually gasped at the idea of killing a Disney princess! Blasphemy. But I decided to put my creative thinking cap on and play along! So here we go!

    Kill: Merida
    Okay. I know. But here's the thing... I thought long and hard about this, and while I don't dislike her per se it was the Princess movie that I liked the least. And I wanted to LOVE it. The Irish accent, the I-don't-need-a-man thing, etc. But I thought the movie was mediocre at best. The whole bear thing was bizarre to me and as Disney fans, we all know that sometimes we have to suspend belief sometimes. But it still has to make sense, and I think it failed. Plus, I think there have been other Princesses who did the "I can do it myself" thing much better. And since Merida was the one Princess I didn't make any attempt to meet on my last trip, unfortunately she's the weakest link for me. And since I had to pick someone, well, there ya go.

    Refurb: Aurora
    The only reason I'm picking her is because it's been SO long since I've seen Sleeping Beauty that I honestly don't remember a whole lot about it. And as others have pointed out, her character has the least amount of storyline. I actually think Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are the stars of this movie. So I would love some additional backstory. I'm guessing we might get that soon with Maleficent, so maybe we'll all start to appreciate her a bit more. (On a side note, I'm not really looking forward to Maleficent; I'm not a huge Angelina Jolie fan and my gut reaction is that the movie is going to make us all feel bad for the poor, misunderstood evil queen. I'm hoping I'm wrong! And of course, I'm still going to go see it!)I've met Princess Aurora several times and she's always been perfectly lovely! And my favorite color is pink, so that's another vote in her favor.

    Marry: Tiana
    I went back and forth on this one, because there are so many that I love. My gut reaction was to choose Elsa, because anyone who can make it cold with a flick of the wrist would get my undying love. But she didn't stay a princess for very long, so I disqualified her.

    Ultimately, I picked Tiana. She was a hard worker, who didn't give up on her dream. She loved her family, and she didn't put finding a man to complete her as a top priority. SHE was her top priority and the love fell into place when she wasn't expecting it. She loved to cook and when I took one of the Facebook quizzes on "which Princess are you", I came back as... drum roll... Tiana! My meet and greet with her was pretty cool, too... even if she wasn't willing to part with her gumbo recipe. Hehe.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    Teacup Tuesdays #1

    Welcome to the very first Teacup Tuesday!! I hope everyone is having a great day. It's very hot and humid here today, which unfortunately makes me a bit crabby! But I'm excited to start my perpetual list of things I want to see, do, taste, and experience at the most magical place on earth!

    I'm going to include things that will be easy to cross off the list and other things that may take a while to accomplish. So with that in mind, I decided to start things off with something that should be REALLY easy, assuming it doesn't go away any time soon and I do better at remembering to do it.

    Drum roll, please!!

    Walk Around the Art of Animation Resort and Try the Nutella Gelato

    Sounds simple enough, right? Yeah. It was actually on my list of things to do on my last trip but I had a complete brain freeze and never actually made it there. *sigh*

    I actually looked into staying at AoA, but it was a little pricier than the All-Star resorts and since I don't spend a whole lot of time in the room, I couldn't justify it. Taking a little trip over there should have been easy, though... but no. As for the gelato, I only learned of this deliciousness from reading someone else's trip report over on the Dis. It's amazing what you discover reading about other people's adventures!! It was immediately added to my list, and just as quickly ignored when I was there.

    So hopefully, I can cross this one off the list on my next trip. Which I hopefully won't have to wait another five years for!

    If you've stayed at the Art of Animation resort and/or tried the gelato, please share your thoughts!!!! Have a great day!!