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!!

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    My Disney Tea Cup List

    Everyone knows what a bucket list is. A list of things you want to do before you "kick the bucket". A quick Google search on the words "bucket list" will turn up 16 billion entries. I know, because I Googled it. Places to go, books to read, foods to try... the possibilities are endless. But I think the term "bucket list" is kinda morbid. I mean, I suppose the idea is that you just keep adding to the list but if you're adventurous and cross off all 800 things and can't think of anything else, do you then just say "okay, I'm done?"

    Yeah... I don't like thinking that way. I do, however, like to overthink which I'm sure is what I'm doing in the above scenario! Hey, at least I'm honest.

    I wanted to start a Disney list... things that I really want to experience at Walt Disney World. But because of my aforementioned overthinking, I wanted to call it something else. So I came up with "My Disney Tea Cup List". (At no point in time will the teacup ride actually be added to this list. Spinning. Dizzy. Nausea. No thank you!)

    Look, I even made a logo and everything!!

    I'm going to see if I can figure out how to create a page just for the tea cup list items! I want to be able to look back on my list when I'm planning on my future trips and know right away what I want to do. I've always been a planner, so this will be a fun little project for me.

    In an attempt to update it regularly, I'm planning on doing Tea Cup Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I will post a new item to the list!

    So, whatcha think?? Do you keep a ongoing "must do" list for Disney or anything else?

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

    The Best There Ever Was

    In case you didn't know it, I am a self-proclaimed entertainment junkie. I love movies, music, sports, television, books and, of course, celebrities. When you can take two of those things and combine them together, it makes it even better.

    For the past eight years, Buffalo has been home to the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival (BNFF). I've always been intrigued by it, but never actually attended. That all changed this year when the event organizers announced that they would be premiering a documentary entitled "The Natural: The Best There Ever Was".

    I adore sports movies. All of them. And "The Natural" holds a very special place in my heart, since it was filmed in Buffalo! That's right... Robert Redford, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey... all came to Buffalo over thirty years ago to film this gem of a movie. Buffalo was chosen as the location for the film because of our architecture and the fact that we had an actual baseball field for them to use.

    The documentary was directed by Bill Cowell, who founded the BNFF. It's a celebration of the filming of the movie. He interviewed a lot of major players from the movie including the actors I mentioned above as well as director Barry Levinson, producer Mark Johnson, and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. Randy Newman scored the movie and he was interviewed as well. In addition, several of the local Buffalonians who appeared as extras in the movie were interviewed for the documentary.

    It was incredible hearing these famous people talking about how wonderful Buffalo was to them and how much they enjoyed their time here. The movie was filmed during a time when chicken wings were not yet popular, and most the actors commented on trying them here for the first time!

    In attendance at the premier and also debuting his directorial debut at the festival was Barry Kivel, who played Pat McGee in the movie. He has been in a lot of TV shows including Scrubs, Murphy Brown, and Judging Amy as well as parts in Crocodile Dundee and One Fine Day. Barry was awarded a star on the Buffalo Walk of Fame.

    This was an awesome way to spend a Friday evening and I will definitely attend the festival again in the future!