"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Impressions from a Pretty Nice Weekend

I spent a lot of last year using this space to vent frustrations. I have dedicated myself to making this year different; not just trying to ignore the bad and focus on the good, that's mumbo-jumbo, I mean changing circumstances to lessen the bad and create more good. So far, so good, as evidenced by my weekend. I started out Friday getting all my work done that I wanted to while also visiting the BLT prop and costume storage and figuring out some geeky stuff on my new GPS. Saturday was a great day spent with Lisa while John was at band Districts Auditions (he didn't make it, but had a good time). So to celebrate, I'm going to share highlights :-)

The Crazy Uncle's Attic -- I always liken the Brunswick Little Theatre storage units to the crazy uncle's attic. I've loved digging through old stuff since forever (hence the anthropology minor) and BLT has lots of old stuff. Looking through this stuff for props and costumes for use in our upcoming Once Upon A Murder mystery party (buy tickets today, it's going to be great) and the Winnie-the-Pooh Let's PLAY! show was every bit as fun as I expected it to be. Well, digging through this stuff with Jen was every bit as fun as I expected it to be. She's like having your crazy uncle (aunt?) around to ID the stuff you find. Max or I would hold up a kimono or a jacket or an urn or a crystal ball or a plumy hat or a giant fake joint and ask "Hey, what was THIS used in?" and Jen would rattle it off. Great fun! For Max and I at least. And just having time to chat with a pal is always good for the soul. Better than any medicine when you've been feeling blah.

My New Toy -- OK, so I recently came into a little bit of money from my grandfather's estate, long story. Anyhow, I used a small bit of it on myself and bought a brand new handheld GPS to replace one that had died about a year or so ago. This new one looks much the same but it's color and has much more memory and new capabilities for geocaching. One feature is its ability to accept map downloads to augment its internal maps (which suck). I spent some time Friday tinkering around and found a great site full of free maps for download, and also figured out how to get them on my new toy. It's pretty damned cool, trust me. I just bought a micro SD card so I can find MORE free maps. I have a thing for maps.

Big Retail Sucks -- Ok, it's hip to hate on Walmart and "big box" stores and all, but I resist that as much out of my distaste for group-think as anything else. Saturday, though, really brought the failures of major retail outlets to my attention. We went to Kohl's so Lisa could spend a gift card that has been burning a hole in her pocket. While we were there and she was looking around, I was tasked with finding a few long-sleeved shirts and a jacket for the boy. Turns out almost all the clothing that is even remotely fit for the weather we are actually experiencing outside has been thoroughly picked over with the residual inventory on a collection of 70% off clearance racks. Really? No long sleeved shirts in January? I'm too much of a realist to get all choked up about the clothing being produced by 5 year old Bangladeshis, but at least have the freaking little slave kids churn out some sleeves for sale in January, ok?

Next stop is Target, where they carry everything. Everyhting, it turns out, except the two things I wanted to buy. I wasn't looking for anyhting exotic, just some tupperwares to hide in the woods (see Geocaching above) and a micro SD card for my new toy. I batted zero, so today I placed orders on Amazon.com that will be at my house Wednesday. Easy peasy. Screw driving to Wilmington.

But Local Kinda Rules --  I love the "Buy Local" movement in theory. In practice, if you define local as really close to home, the SE Brunswick County area, it only really works if you're in the market for weird artwork, quasi-locally grown produce, or other people's discarded items. The retail options in the Southport-Oak Island area aren't exactly expansive. But Wilmington, now there is some cool stuff. We went to a camera shop on the advice of an ex-reporter friend and camera aficionado and I can't wait to go back. The place was a little like the Crazy Uncle's Attic of photographic......stuff. They had all sorts of new and shiny things, but also loads of old and funky things. I can't wait to go back and browse for, like, ever.

We Regress -- Lately, Lisa and I have been able to have more "couple time" than we've been accustomed to having. John's involvement with marching band and indoor percussion have him busy all day on a bunch of Saturday's, leaving Lisa and I up to our own devices. John's having fun and we have discovered that we still have as much fun together, just the two of us, as we did when we were dating. In fact, we kind of tend to regress to those days a bit. This is great for our mental health, sometimes not so much for our physical health. Yesterday, for example, we had hamburgers with Marianna sauce and fried mozzarella sticks on top of them for lunch. Then, since we decided we had eaten so much and weren't hungry for a "real dinner," we had Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and popcorn for supper while sitting on the couch watching Penny Dreadful on Blu-ray. Good times :)

Museum Book Stores Are Nirvana -- Even small museums have them and they are ALL awesome. The one at Brunswick Town-Fort Anderson is no exception. I found so much worth buying I need to go back. They have Stamp Act Defiance t-shirts (if you don't think THAT'S cool, you were probably the kind of person the opposite sex talked to in high school). None in my size yesterday, so darn, I need to check later. I did declare that since Lisa made me leave the house before my coffee I was buying myself a book. A Big Book. With lots of maps. So there!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Morning Random Thoughts After One Cup of Coffee

I saw this morning that I wrote ten more posts to Pooh Sticks in 2014 than I did in 2013, hooray me. But it was half of what I wrote in 2012, so I can do better. There are a few pretty unrelated things bouncing around my head this morning so instead of picking one I'm going to share them all. Aren't you the lucky one!

Into The Woods is a good movie. It was. Really. I highly recommend it to everyone, even those not inclined towards musical theatre. It has ethos and pathos and it's visually gorgeous. The acting is top-notch and the singing is very good. I'm not a fan of Meryl Streep the person (from what I can tell of her at least), but as an actress, she deserves the huge salary she pulls down. Wow, just wow. The choices they made as far as what to leave in in and what to cut out will grate on the nerves of theatre aficionados, but they make the movie work well in its own right rather than a screen version of the stage show. I do hope, though, that this movie's popularity will drive tons of people to see their local theater's stage versions. Live theatre trumps movies. Period.

My "Moment In The Woods" had zero to do with the show. One of the themes of this show is "moments" and people like to draw one that especially speaks to them. Despite watching BLT's performance many many times and enjoying it from start to finish, I realized watching the film version that I wasn't particularly married to any one part of the show or song or line. My moment came after the show was over, after all the audience had left, after all the actors and crew had left. My moment was, as we were leaving at the end of the night, seeing the glow around Jen, the director, that came from those nights when what she had just seen on stage matched up with the vision that she had been carrying around in her head for who knows how long. Her happiness some nights was almost palpable and seeing that in a very close friend was worth all the effort.

Galavant is on tonight. I can't wait. This thing looks absolutely awesome. It's a musical comedy that looks to be going completely over the top in a delightful way. Kind of Monty Python-ish, I'm hoping. AND this is my chance to do something completely frivolous and watch this show from start to end, for however many weeks it runs, no matter what I am "supposed" to be doing. So there! :)

The Winnie-the-Pooh Workshop kicks off this afternoon. I'm headed to the theatre this afternoon for an hour or so to help wrangle parents and paperwork as almost 30 children prepare to venture into The Hundred Acre Wood. I loved Pooh growing up, I shared it with my sister when she was young, John's first stuffed animal (you know, the one you buy him before he's born?) was Pooh Bear and he came home in a Winnie-the-Pooh onesie. If it's windy I always announce that it's a blustery day. If it's cloudy I say "Tut tut, it looks like rain". I play Pooh Sticks. A piece of me has always and will always reside in the Hundred Acre Wood. This Let's PLAY! session is making me very happy.

It's time to take the Christmas stuff down and I'm OK with that. Usually this day depresses me. Not this year. It's not that I didn't like Christmas this year, it was actually one of the best ever. But I am happy. Lisa and I are happy with life and the way it's developing for us. John is happy and growing into a wonderful man-child. My family is happy. Life is GOOD. I'm just happy and satisfied and fine with moving forward into a really cool 2015. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

I don't do these. Never have. I don't have a good reason, it's never been my thing and I'm kind of generally opposed to doing what you're "supposed to do" in pretty much any case. But this year I'm giving it a try and hoping to take it seriously. But they aren't going to be the kind of self-improvement, make the world a better place resolutions that are called for in politically correct society. Nope, tried that, not the resolutions, but the branching out into new things and giving of one's self to the benefit of others thing this year and it's left a sour taste in my mouth.

I started out all hopeful and ready to jump into it, as evidenced by this first post of 2014. By August the stress was getting to me. We'd just put on a show that drained our resources to almost nothing and didn't attract the ticket sales we hoped it would and then began the lease of a new facility that threw us into totally uncharted waters. My complaint at the time was purely personal, that it was changing me in ways I didn't like and causing me to run past roses I normally would have been smelling. That sentiment only grew the rest of the year. And it is the basis for this year's resolutions. I would normally feel bad about resolving to do LESS good for others, but not this time. Others frankly don't appreciate it.

That sounds incredibly self-serving, self-centered, self-everything, but damn it, it's true, so sue me. I never wanted a parade or any sort of recognition for the work I did as BLT president, I know that in the performing arts it's the artists who seek and get that, and that's perfectly fine by me. I'm not a spotlight kind of guy and am not out to impress strangers. But I do feel I am entitled to a little respect and the benefit of the doubt, and I got neither. I got the required "thank you's" and "good jobs" and all from the people who have to say such things, but even the people closest to what was happening all year never actually grew to trust me. Despite guiding this organization through some very difficult times and leaving it in rather better shape than I found it, if there is a negative conclusion to leap to, it's leapt to. And if anyone says "B" after I've said "A" a hundred times, "B" is what even those who should know better believe. That really hurts. It makes me feel like I've wasted a lot of time that would have been better spent on family and job and even self.

So that's what I'm resolving to do. I'm going to spend more time watching TV. It sounds like an anti-resolution, doesn't it? But it's symbolic of how this year will be different from last. I'm not a huge television guy, but there are amusing things on there I'd like to enjoy, things friends watch that I'd like to be able to discuss, things our whole family can sit and get into together, things Lisa and I can experience as a couple. It starts Sunday night with ABC's Galavant, which looks hilarious and Lisa and John have both expressed interest in. No more writing press releases or answering a dozen inane emails or updating the website or editing and sharing photos or balancing the BLT checkbook as first priority. I'll get around to the things I agree to continue to do, but it won't be as fast or as consistent. It won't be first on the list, and I regret that it ever was.

The television thing is just a start, an example. I'm also going to read. I am partway through about 8 books and I'm going to finish them all. Stephen King's "Revival" is gripping me right now, and I've devoted time to it the last week or so, so I have a head start on that one. I'm going to buy a new handheld GPS and begin geocaching again. It gets us out of the house together, it shows us the world and it leads to paths full of roses to smell. I'm going to walk on the beach again. I'm going to play our new Disney Infinity game. I'm going to take naps, dig out the computer room and plan weekend or day trips to new places. I'm going to write on this blog much more.

I'll keep up my involvement with the theatre, I have one more year on the board, though as 1 of 9 I am going to point out to everyone as often as I can. But I'm going to pick and choose. There are things about BLT I enjoy and things I don't. I'm done with the things I don't. I'm looking forward to helping plan and put on another murder mystery the end of this month. I'm really excited about the Winnie-the-Pooh workshop and show. I'm trying to cajole the board into scheduling a show I will help produce for the fall. I may stage manage this summer. All things I have found I love.

It's all a part of the new year for Jeffrey, do the things that make me and my family happy. Self-improvement without sweating and pain, baby, that's me in 2015 :)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Safe Zone

Remember playing tag, or kick the can or any number of games with a "base"? It was that one place you could go to escape for a minute, re-charge and rest? Sometimes we need them in real adult life, don't we? We need a known safe zone where we can go regroup, de-stress and then re-enter the situation ready for another go at it.

I'm a bit of a misanthrope, not real fond of strangers or large groups of people even if I do know most of them. I don't mingle well, I am awkward socially. I do enjoy parties but I'm never really completely comfortable at them. It's a weird contradiction, I know. Our great friends the Iapaluccis love to throw big parties, ones with lots of people I don't know, people I do know who I 'm not so sure about and lots and lots of really wonderful mutual friends. We love to go, *I* love to go. But they can be really a lot to handle sometimes, for someone like me.

I have a "base" at Jen and Adrian's house, though, that makes it much easier. It's the kitchen. Almost every time we are over there, I end up spending time in the kitchen, and not just hanging out. Probably why it's such a great escape is because I tend to do proper kitchen-y things in there. I wash up, put out food, cook. Often Jen is in there, she's the hostess with the mostest and head chef so it's perfectly natural, but sometimes I think she's on "base" too. And when she is there, she usually gives me a mission, which is awesome. The other night, for example, it was well into a party, 10:30 when the festivities got going at six, and Jen announces she's forgotten to cook the shrimp and I need to toast the coconut. So there we are, with all the dozens and dozens of guests milling about and partying, at the stove cooking coconut shrimp late at night. Yes, 10:30 is way late for me, don't judge. When we were done, we plated up and I followed the shrimp out into the yard and re-joined the party. It was great. I just love the idea that there's a place to decompress. It involves the magics of shared cooking and friendship at the same time and it's a really cool thing.

See, it's not hiding, it's essential party stuff going on :)
Coconut Shrimps!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

16 Days and Props To Roy

That's until midnight, December 31, when I am no longer president of the board of directors of Brunswick Little Theatre. I know because I have a phone widget counting down for me. It can't come soon enough for me, I'm kind of sorry to say. I'm just worn out.

I'm sitting here and should be writing an agenda for the last meeting under my leadership.  And writing a treasurer's report. And figuring out revenue/expenses for the last three shows. And sending all the paperwork needed for a temporary alcohol permit to the Rotary Club. And answering the email from the promoter wishing to rent the theatre for a concert in February. All this really needs to be done tonight. But just can't till this glass of bourbon starts to take effect. My wanna is gone.

I find myself admiring Roy Disney more and more every day. He was Walt's "reality man." Walt imagined and dreamed and built and filmed and created and made real magic. And he ran out of money and time and space over and over and over, but every time he just knew Roy would find a way.

It's been that kind of year with me and BLT. It's been money, yes, we've run frighteningly low twice, but that's not at all the only thing. It's been finding a way to get a story or a photo in the papers. It's been negotiating with a theater manager and taking the chewing out when the agreement is ignored by a third party BLTer. It's been selling tickets and keeping track of seats while a director constantly adds them and takes them away. It's been dealing with patrons angry when we sell out and directors angry when we don't. It's been playing accountant while three people run around with debit cards and refuse to report spending. It's been trying to explain to a board enthusiastic about a new home that "want" and "need" are two very different things and that money doesn't grow on trees. It's been trying to find directors and shows to fill a season. It's been thermostats and propane and riding mower batteries and ADA compliance and fire codes and playground signs and pinestraw and storage and ashtrays and piles of lumber and security deposits and ASCAP licenses and solar powered night lights and temporary stages and yoga classes in our rehearsal space. It's been reading and negotiating and signing a rental contract and scaring off prospective buyers of our rented space a couple months later. It's been facing canceling a show due to the very possible condemnation of the old theatre we had planned to perform in and then meetings with government officials to ensure we didn't have to cancel that same show due to permitting issues in our own space. It's been threats and angry phone calls. It's been negotiating a contract for another theater troupe to use a space we barely even used ourselves. It's been finding new board members and re-writing by-laws and tracking down members and donors and grants. It's been a lot and I'm just tired.

I wonder how many people have any idea what it takes for even a tiny little community theatre production to get off the ground. Things having zero to do with the show itself. I imagine movies are the same. When I start to think about all that had to happen for the groundbreaking work of Walt Disney to be possible, the movies and theme parks and inventions and all that, I'm just amazed. Hat's off to Roy.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Disney Trip 2014; or I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

I talk on here a lot about Disney planning and my sort of obsessive compulsive approach to it. I'm a Disney planner, plain and simple and I make no apologies. This trip just completely validated everything I believe about the importance of pre-planning, especially on a trip that tries to cram as much Magic into two days as possible. I'm going to sound self-congratulatory in this post because I am. I nailed this one 110%.

We left home just before lunch Thursday to drop the dog off at "camp" and pick the boy up from school. I figured we'd be able to reach Kissimmee by 9 or 10 considering we'd stop for dinner on the way. As it turned out we passed the Disney World exits from I-4 at about 9:30, which just so happens to be when the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party fireworks are launched. Yep, the Stites Fam was welcomed to Disney with a fireworks display. As the fireworks ended we reached the Comfort Inn Main Gate and checked in and went to sleep with the alarm set for 6 Friday morning.

See, I wanted to drive to Florida Thursday so that we could experience a whole Disney Day on Friday, the lovely Lisa's birthday. Who wants to drive down I-95 on her birthday? Nobody, that's who. If one is going to have a Disney Day, one must rise early. Chop chop. We all sprung out of bed with varying degrees of vigor, ate at the most horrifying free hotel breakfast buffet in the history of hotel breakfast buffets, stopped to get dad a cup of coffee that didn't smell like sewage, and made our way to Port Orleans French Quarter Resort.
The Birthday Girl welcomed home

I know the official check-in time is 3:00 in the afternoon, but I also know the resorts will hold your bags for you and even put them in your room when it's ready, so I figured we'd go check in and then be off for adventures in Disney World. We walked right up to the registration desk (not a lot of people checking in at 8:15 am, it seems) and breezed right through the procedure. She told us our room was going to be in Building 5, third floor and that it was ready for us. That threw us for a loop and just as we were getting that bit of good news through our heads, she showed us where Building 5 was. Right outside the main entrance. And our room overlooked the pool. Holy room upgrade, Batman. We were like, are you sure, this is just too cool. And she said, "I guess you are my VIPs for the day!" Indeed. I'm not one to spring for a "preferred building" room or water view for that matter, but this time it was really, really nice. Our room looked over not only the pool but also the canal and water taxi docks. And being so close to everything was a Godsend given Lisa's bum leg. Disney magic came through big time.
View from our room. Yep. :)

We oohed and ahhhed over the Christmas decorations at the resort then took the bus to Downtown Disney, on account of the boat doesn't start running until 10 am. We shopped and looked around and ate at Earl of Sandwich (a first day at Disney Stites Fam tradition), and people-watched and mocked the New Yorker whining about where was the StaaaarrrrrrBucks? The Characters In Flight balloon was grounded due to high winds, but I'm not taking the any blame for that part of the plan not coming through. We had a ball anyhow and ended up having plenty of time to grab the boat back to POFQ to grab our jackets before heading out to hop the monorail resorts and be ready to enter the park at 4:00.

This bat to DTD is a very nice perk of staying at POFQ
Our plan was to grab a drink and a bite to eat at the Grand Floridian so we hopped the Magic Kingdom bus and then the resort loop monorail which conveniently hits Grand Floridian last giving us a nice monorail ride. I've always been impressed with the Grand Floridian's Victorian decor and architecture, so I was really excited to experience the inside for the first time. I remembered being blown away by the Animal Kingdom Lodge as soon as I entered its lobby, so I expected the same WOW factor from the Grand Floridian. Nope, didn't get it. It was very nice, don't get me wrong, but it had no magic feeling to it for me. It wasn't terribly over-crowded, but it was busy with arriving guests and families milling about. These families included the worst behaved, brattiest, horrid children I think I've ever seen all in one place. I love kids and have an above average acceptance of a wide range of children's behavior. I give them the benefit of the doubt. But holy cow, this was insane. People, it's not only ok to tell your child "no", it's kind of a requirement of parenthood. These were NOT "our people" from a socio-economic perspective, maybe that affected my perspective, but these kids got on even my nerves really fast. I couldn't imagine staying among that crowd, it would be stressful and uncomfortable and totally non-magical. We are moderate resort people.
Yep, it IS really big. And gingerbread. Now, if it only contained a real witch that ate bratty children.....

Coolest topiary ever.

We saw the gingerbread house, which was very big for a baked good. The tree hadn't gone up yet, which was a bummer. The bar wasn't open. Eating at the quick service place without an adult beverage among this crowd was not an option. We boarded a boat for the Polynesian, home of the Tambu lounge and its nectar of the gods, the Lapu Lapu. Unfortunately they weren't serving food yet either. We could probably have eaten at Kona or even Capt. Cook's, but those places don't have Lapu Lapus, so of we didn't. Too bad, boy, food has to wait, mom and dad needed to drink the brat memories away. It was a good choice. I am going to enter the Magic Kingdom fresh from a Lapu Lapu every chance I get. Can't beat that feeling.
Lapu Lapu

We hit the gates of the Magic Kingdom, as planned, just at 4 pm, picked up our MVMCP wristbands, rented a wheelchair for Lisa and entered the park right on schedule. We lined up and all got the special MVMCP exclusive Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card (one for the awesome Max Iapalucci) then headed for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. We were slowed down a bit by the wheelchair situation. One wheel kept buckling under and threatening to dump the birthday girl onto the pavement. We have zero experience with wheelchairs so sorta thought it was operator error (John and I being the operators) and pressed on. The posted wait time for the Mine Train was 90 minutes, but we really wanted to make sure we got on and it was early, so we decided to wait. As it turned out, it wasn't quite an hour wait and it didn't even seem like that long, to be honest. It's an interactive queue with several games and gadgets to occupy yourself. And the ride is totally worth it. Really fun and very Disney. We left happy, but also convinced our wheelchair may be defective.
Loved these guys in the Mine Train queue

Of course this year's card featured Elsa.....
I left Lisa and John to find some food and headed back to the entrance to trade in the chair. Just as the Frozen castle show was getting ready to start. Uhg. About a half hour and lots of excuse me, pardon me's later, I rejoined the family, who had not actually acquired any food as the place I left them was a mac-n-cheese only establishment. I'm not a fan of mac-n-cheese. It was still early (see, getting into the park at 4 for a party that starts at 7 is key) so we were not deterred and headed to Pinocchio's Village Haus for dinner. It was great, much better than I expected. The flatbreads are really, really good, not just good for park food good. Yum.

With that we began our night enjoying Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. I'll probably give this its own post, but for now let me say that while I'm  certainly glad we experienced this, we feel no need to do it again. It was a sell-out, so a bit crowded, but not so much it bothered us. We were using the party as much as a discount shortened second day in a park as anything else, so we weren't heartbroken the castle-front shows were jammed and the character meet-up lines were huge. I'm sorry we didn't check out the dance parties in Diamond Horseshoe or Cosmic Rays, but we were figuring out the whole wheelchair thing and that sort of slowed our roll a bit. But we DID see and do about all we wanted with zero hassle. We rode all our favorite rides with no wait. We saw the Holiday Wishes fireworks and the absolutely incredible Celebrate The Magic Castle Projection Show from the bridge between Tomorrowland and the hub. We got set up about 20 minutes before the show and never got enveloped in a crowd, it was a really pleasant place from which to watch. And that castle projection business blew us away. We sat with mouths open for the entire 15 minutes. The fireworks were great, but after the Halloween show, nothing is going to match up. After the fireworks we made our way through Adventureland to Frontierland and grabbed a prime, uncrowded, no fist-fights or shoving involved spot in front of the Country Bear Jamboree. The parade was totally underwhelming. I didn't even enjoy it as much as I do the regular Main Street Electrical Parade. We did get to check out the Notorious Banjo Brothers and Bob. John was waaaayyyyy impressed with Bob, the tuba player. He has major chops, according to the boy.

Yeah, yeah yeah....
After the parade we walked straight back into Adventureland and got on the Jingle Cruise with no wait. I loved the Jingle Cruise. Apparently they've plussed the experience since last year, and for my money it worked. I got to see one of my favorites in a whole new way and that was really cool. We closed out the park in the Haunted Mansion and were bummed to just catch them locking up Momento Mori just as we exited the attraction. Oh well, we have to go back soon now, right? All in all, it was a great night, we took the bus back to POFQ (with no wait) and made it to bed by 1:00 or so with a wake-up call scheduled for 6 am so we could make....

The Akershus Princess Breakfast in Epcot at 8:20. This worked out great. So great in fact that I'm dedicated to making as many pre-park opening ADRs in the future as humanly possible. Getting into the parks before opening is super cool, period. We were the only ones on our bus from the resort to Epcot, we walked right up and rented a scooter (the wheelchair experience combined with the Grand Floridian lobby experience taught us it was well worth the possibility Lisa would run down several small children. She didn't, by the way, but it would have been totally worth it if she did), and headed through a drizzly, overcast day straight through Mexico and into Norway. The Princess Breakfast deserves its own post, maybe one by Lisa because she was in heaven. It was really a lot of fun and the food was terrific. Where else can you get four different types raw fish for breakfast?
The boy's enthusiasm for rising early to meet princesses was hard to capture in a photo

Santa Mickey Topiary. I like topiary
Norway Christmas featuring St. Nick

She was kinda excited....

Ariel was terrific :)

Here is where we descend into my self congratulations. I was not at all sure how I felt about the prospect of making attraction Fastpass+ reservations months in advance. Would it kill the magic, make my already heavily planned days even more like a military maneuver? No. No it did not. It made the day completely stress-free and easy. Everything worked exactly as I had planned. I left enough time before our first FP at Test Track to go ride Soarin' via stand-by line, hopefully early enough that it wouldn't be too long. As it turned out, we walked over to The Land from Norway and had only a 30 minute wait for Soarin', which left plenty of time for a boat ride through Living With the Land before heading over to Test Track. Our FP was for 10:15 and we went through the kiosk at 10:17, waited maybe 5 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I had planned to have time for something to eat and to hit Innoventions before our next FP at Spaceship Earth at 12:15, which is just what we did. John and I designed and virtually rode our own roller coaster and we walked into the FP line at Spaceship Earth five minutes after our scheduled window opened. Again the line went quickly and we had time to wander around and relax and shop some before John and I went to use our last Fastpass+ at Mission Space, once again scanning our Magicbands two minutes after our time started. It was perfect, we had all the time we needed to see all we wanted to see in the morning without a bit of rushing and very little waiting. This is why Disney offers Fastpass. You need to know a bit about the parks and a lot about your traveling group for this to work, but I do and it worked like a charm for me.

We had the rest of the day to explore World Showcase (where there is a coffee kiosk at the entrance with a very attractive woman named Xamary from Bolivia that is a bad influence. Did you know they had Jameson for your coffee?) John got some delicious-looking tacos from Mexico and we headed to Germany for beer and pretzels. The rain was coming down harder now and we had bought ponchos, so we were in and out of them. We hit American Experience and the giant Japanese department store. We cruised around a bit then went back to Future World for Journey Into Imagination and Living Seas. It was relaxed and no pressure and fun. We laughed a lot, we talked a lot, we had a buzz. We drifted back towards England to find a spot for Illuminations and because Lisa was in a scooter got invited into the handicapped viewing area right between the dessert party and Rose and Crown, which is about as good a spot as you can get. And once again there was no shoving or crowding or anything, just a calm, wonderful experience.

Our dinner reservations, such as they were, were at Beaches and Cream, so we planned to drop off Lisa's scooter at the International Gateway and take the boat to the Boardwalk. This ended up facing two difficulties. First, Lisa's scooter refused to accept its key and we had to be escorted with the key but not the scooter by the very friendly Cast Member Bill from Albany to the scooter return. He explained our situation and it was no problem and we got our deposit back and hopped the boat for Boardwalk. Where we discovered our second problem. Beaches and Cream is NOT at the Boardwalk, it's at the Beach Club, which I will point also begins with "B", soooooo. So, Lisa had to walk much further than her bum knee wanted to at the end of a very long day, but we arrived in plenty of time for our reservation. We got sandwiches, I got the pork belly Cuban on the recommendation of Jen who was completely right, it was out of this world. We ordered and completely failed to eat the Kitchen Sink, grabbed a cab back to POFQ and hit the sack, fat and happy.
Pretty pathetic attempt, really

We slept in Sunday, ate breakfast at the resort, visited Downtown Disney for a few last minute purchases and headed home into a blinding rain storm. Worst. Drive. Ever. But we made it home safely and that's the important part. What a trip! We crammed  an unbelievable amount of fun, family camaraderie and leave-the-world-behind relaxation into just a few days. Disney magic works. Time and again.

Thanks Walt and Roy.

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's ALL New To Us

I ran across this article called "6 New Elements of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party 2014" and figured it would be a good start on planning what to see and do.

1. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade gets new characters including Frozen favorites

 What the what?!?!?!?!?!?!?! FROZEN stuff at Disney World? Who'd a thunk it? I was getting really annoyed at all the Frozen branding and tie-ins going on, but knowing Disney would full to overflowing with Frozen-alia I decided to watch the movie again this past weekend to remind myself why I liked it in the first place. It worked. I'm not saying the sarcasm will stop, but I'm not really going to be annoyed by the Frozen-ness on this trip because I kinda think Anna is pretty awesome and that the story speaks to the human spirit in an important way and that "Reindeers Are Better Than People" will wind up being one of the enduring anthems of our time. I'm not even hating Olaf anymore.

 So bring on Frozen in the parade. We LOVE a parade. Parades are like the circus, one of the classic things that make humans human. I'm bummed we're going to miss out on Festival of Fantasy, but a new parade is a new parade, right? 


2. Brand new dance parties debut in Tomorrowland and Frontierland

We are definitely checking these out. Big Al has always one of my favorite characters and I hear tell he's in the Frontierland Dance Party in the Diamond Horseshoe Revue. I'm not sure John's ever been inside this building, so there a draw as well. And Lisa wants to meet Clarabelle, and who can blame her? We love Cosmic Ray's, host to the Tomorrowland Dance Party, so we'll stop by to see wha they've done with the place. And since Phineas and Ferb will be there, I'm holding out hope for a Dr. Doof sighting. A boy can dream, right?



3. Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom gets Frozen

We enjoyed this game on our last trip and I'm a geek for collectible stuff like these trading cards. So we may not play the game during our limited time in the Magic Kingdom, but we'll certainly score a few sets of cards, and bring back the Frozen special card for Max, our little Disney buddy back home. 

--see? I didn't say a WORD about it being another.......... 

4. A Frozen Holiday Wish gets two showings

Really can't complain about this.  I mean, you had a show where a castle was seemingly turned to ice via lighting effects, then you produce a movie featuring a girl who builds magic ice castles...... Disney really had no choice here, and shouldn't have. This will be brilliant, I suspect. We may have to catch both showings  :)



5.  New merchandise options

Love me some merchandise! I have an eye on those ugly Christmas sweater t-shirts....... I don't know if they are among the "new", but I might need one. And the new Momento Mori shop full of Haunted Mansion stuff? Really Disney? Not sure if it'll remind me I have to die, or make me think I did and ended up in Disney Geek heaven.



6. New “Sandy Claws” meet and greet

 Yeah, so I WOULD all of a sudden find the need to participate in the whole character hounding thing just because I want see the guy with likely the longest line of the night. I don't know if I'll get to meet Sandy Claws, I'm going to try late and see what happens, but we are planning to visit with a few other characters during the party.


And then of course there's all the old new stuff we need to see--- Jingle Cruise, Seven Dwarves Mine Train, the special fireworks show. We hope to do and see it all of course. 

Any advice from those who've been before? What have I not mentioned that I NEED to see?