Thursday, March 28, 2013

Orlando: Disney's Hollywood Studio's

After a two full days of amusement parks {The Magic Kingdom and Universal Studio's} it is important to recognize by this point you are tired and your feet hurt. You know you have walked a lot but you have no idea how much. 


 This is our second Disney day. We were up late the night before at The Magic Kingdom and we needed some rest. We let the kids sleep until they naturally woke up. Then we casually headed to the park. 
We arrived at Disney's Hollywood Studios around noon. The Boys quickly went and got FastPasses for Star Tours. While they were doing that, The Short Chic and I headed over to Animation Court to see characters from Disney Junior. The Short Chic was so excited to see Jake and Handy Manny.

We were really hoping to see Princess Sofia but she is not a character to meet yet. We did see her at the Disney Junior Live on Stage show but it certainty was not the same. Maybe next visit. The Disney Junior Live on Stage show was cute. We enjoyed singing theme songs to some of The Short Chic's favorite shows. And only at Hollywood Studios do we get to experience snow in Orlando!

As I said in a previous post, seeing characters takes up a lot of time and we saw a lot of characters this day.  We were able to meet Wreck It Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz as well as Mr. Incredible and Frozone. Surprisingly, The Short Chic gave Mr. Incredible a kiss on the check.

We continued to see characters. Daddy and The Short Chic waited to meet Woody and Buzz.They also saw Phineas and Ferb. They opted not to wait in the line to see the Stars of Cars 2.

The Boy and I went to a taping of American Idol. Each and every day, Hollywood Studios holds auditions for park visitors to try out for American Idol. There are five shows and a finale every day. Three people compete during one of the shows and then the winners compete in the finale every day in hopes of winning a gold ticket. The gold ticket allows the winner to go to the front of the line at any American Idol audition across the USA.

It was silly, the judges try and take on the roles of American Idol judges. At one point I looked behind me and realized the contestants were really just singing karaoke {the words were flashing across the back of the studio audience}. But it was some good bonding time with The Boy.

After meeting up with The Husband and The Short Chic, we found a quiet, almost empty dining area and we decided to sit. We were right next the Honey I Shrunk The Kids playground area. While The Boy played with his sister, The Husband went and got us a few "adult beverages". We actually decided we were in a good place to linger, so The Boy headed to our locker to retrieve our dinner.

Sometimes, it is important just to sit and relax. And that is exactly what we did.

When we were ready, we got up and started heading to find The Beauty and The Beast Live on Stage show but we got way sidetracked. We were walking a back street and all of a sudden we saw a character walking down the street. We hollered and said hi! Then we noticed more characters.

We were in the right place at the right time for an impromptu character greeting.  We end up meeting Pocahontas and Meeko, Captain Hook, Pinocchio, Geppetto, Dale, The Queen from Snow White, A Toy Story Army Man, and Minnie Mouse herself.

We also saw Jafar, the villain in Aladdin.  As we approached Jafar, The Husband asks The Short Chic if she was going to tell him that Princess Jasmine is her favorite princess. Jafar turned and looked at The Short Chic. When I tell you that The Short Chic turned and planted her face in my stomach. She would not even look at him. She would not ask for autograph, and she absolutely would not take a photo.

We had prepared her to meet Princess but we never thought about preparing her to meet villains. Maybe it is because she is a girl but she did much better when meeting The Queen a few moments later.

The Boy and I enjoyed walking around and just looking at the empty streets that were all movie sets. Where else can you visit, New York, San Francisco, and Orlando in a few short steps?

Overall, the day was busy. We still walked a lot but we were not crazy busy. We would have left early had we not wanted to stick around and see the nighttime spectacular...Fantasmic! We wanted to catch the early show so we could leave the park right after. We were told to get there early because seating is limited, so The Boy and I went an hour and half early. When we arrived there, the line was already huge.

However, it went by quickly, we got in, got great seats and were quickly joined by The Husband and The Short Chic. In case you all do not know, my Husband has never met a stranger. He sat down and immediately started chatting with a man who was from Florida.

I had actually brought a bunch of glow sticks from home and I broke them out during our wait. Lots of children were playing with lighted toys and a box of glow sticks kept her entertained and kept her from feeling left out.
More Mickey shaped food! He would not even share. 

The Short Chic literally fell asleep moments before the show started. We had the hardest time waking her up but she did wake up half way through the show.

Fantasmic! is an amazing show and I highly recommend using your Park Hopper pass to spend one evening at Hollywood Studio's just to see it.

Since The Short Chic had a power nap, we decided to stay after the show to try and catch one of the last two rides we had wanted to ride. The wait time for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was now over 180 minutes, so we skipped it. Areosmith's Rock 'n' Roller Coaster had an hour wait time. We picked it.

In the end, the ride broke down. We waited close to an hour and half but we did ride it; The Boy and I. It was fun. Unique. And loud. Loud rock music and roller coasters just seem together. Why has this match not been made sooner?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WW: For The Love of A Mouse

I am linking up to these Wordless Wednesday Linky Parties:

Wordless Wednesday

Blog She

Over Protective

Create With Joy

Feeling Beachie


In Him We Live and Move

Carrie With Children

Mama to 4 Blessings

Busy Working Momma

Monday, March 25, 2013

Orlando: The Magic Kingdom

On the second full day of our vacation we were up early, picnic lunch packed, and headed to Disney's Magic Kingdom.

I will concede here that this vacation is about introducing my youngest, The Short Chic to The Wonderful World of Disney. But I will also concede here no none in my family loves Disney more than I! As we were driving to the park I was a bundle of excitement anticipation.

I believe this is my sixth trip to Disney; my second to Disney World. I learned a few new things this visit. I had no idea that Disney hands out celebratory buttons to guest. If you happen to be celebrating an event {Birthday, Anniversary, Graduation, First Visit, ect} make sure you stop by City Hall as soon as you come through the gate and get your free button. The Short Chic was given a "First Time Visit" and a "Happy Birthday" button.   Every cast member and often other Disney guest who saw her that day hollered out a "Happy Birthday, Princess!" Disney is where you want to be on your special day because they honestly just make you feel like a Princess.

Some other things you should know before you go to the park. Disney does allow you to bring in food and drink, with some minor exclusions. They even allow coolers, within predetermined size limitations. Disney  has lockers to rent right by the front gate so you can safely leave your cooler and return to it when you need  to {$14 which includes a $5 deposit}. If you are looking to save a little money while at the parks, packing your own lunch is an easy solution.

I love Disney's Fast Pass. We were able to FastPass many rides, run off and grab an autograph and then go back and complete the ride. Unfortunately  one of the rides we could not fast pass or even ride was Splash Mountain. It is currently closed for renovation. I guess my date with Briar Rabbitt will have to wait until our next visit. The Short Chic did ride Big Thunder Mountain and really liked it. She is not sure what to make of all the "big people" screaming on the roller coaster, but other than that, she did like it.

I remember my very first trip to Disney. I so wanted to see Mickey Mouse and outside of a parade, I never even caught a glimpse of him. I remember leaving happy yet disappointed as well. Now days, there is no reason to leave a park without your dream character experience. The Short Chic went to Disney loving two Princesses specifically {Jasmine and Mulan}. She came home with a bunch of new ones. There are two types of character experiences: the planned ones and the random sighting.  I actually prefer the organized ones over the random sightings. The organized ones tend to have a line with some structure to it. The random sightings are often free for all's with people edging each other out.

Seeing characters is so much fun. With Disney's Photo Pass the entire family can get in on the photo and don't forget your autograph book! But seeing characters is also very time consuming. We were able to FastPass Meeting Mickey and Meeting the Princesses so they had virtually no waits but other characters we waited over an hour to see.  My suggestion, make a list of the must-see characters. Balance character sighting with shows, parades, and rides.  If necessary, split up! There were a few times two of us went to see a character and the other two went on a ride.

One of the places I always brings a smile to my face during my Disney visit is the sweet shop. One of the benefits of packing a lunch is you don't feel guilty splurging on sweet treats for the whole family! Who does not love a Mickey Mouse shaped treat? I so wanted one of those caramel apples but felt it was impractical to walk and eat it. I settled for a Mickey Mouse chocolate chip cookie.

Our trip to the Magic Kingdom was interrupted  by a trip to Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney did not exist the last time I was at Disney World.  Downtown Disney is an entertainment area on Disney property but not a park. Anyone can go hang out there and have a fun evening.  Transportation was free but it did require some maneuvering. From The Magic Kingdom we had to take the monorail to one of the Disney Resorts {The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, or The Contemporary}. Then we had to take a bus to Downtown Disney. Our intent to go there was to take The Short Chic to visit to The Bippity Boppity Boutique. We could not get an appointment at the one in The Magic Kingdom so we traveled to Downtown Disney.

What is Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? It is a salon operated by Cinderella's Fairy Godmother. She is the absolutely best at making every little girls dreams come true. There are many packages available to turn a little girl into the Princess of their choice. My Short Chic transformed herself into Princess Jasmine. It is a pricey experience but watching her was worth every penny! She brought home such a great goodie bag from her evening at Bibbidi Bobbidi: a backpack, extra makeup, fingernail polish, body gems, hair clips, and she even had a professional photo shoot and got free photos.

By the time we finished at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, it was nearly 7 p.m. We had not made a plan for dinner so we decided to grab some food from Downtown Disney. We ended up selecting a hamburger place {Cheeseburgers, fries, and milk shakes for four people set us back $70.00! Another reason to do as much of your own food as possible!}.

After dinner we attempted to get back to The Magic Kingdom. The only downside to leaving The Magic Kingdom and going to Downtown Disney was the amount of time it took to return.  It took us over an hour to make the trip. By the time we got back, The Short Chic was cold. The fireworks were over. People were leaving the Magic Kingdom in droves.

If this had been my only night at The Magic Kingdom, I would have been extremely disappointed. But since this was Day 1 of 4, we made a quick decision to go against the crowd, re-enter the park and try to get a few more rides in. We visited Tomorrowland and got in three more rides before The Short Chic just passed out!  One of the funniest rides we did that night was Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. We had a blast competing with each other to defeat the evil Zurg. The Boy came out on top as the best lazer shot of the night. 

And as all good things do, our first day of Disney came to an end. We bid farewell to Cinderella's Castle in all of it's glory. Shining brightly and promising to make all dreams come true.

We got back to our condo around 1:15 a.m. with two passed out children. One of them...still dressed as Princess Jasmine.

Orlando: Universal Studios

 Self confession: I love Harry Potter. I knew as soon as we decided to go to Orlando that we had to make a trip to Universal Studio's to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

On the first full day of our Orlando vacation, we ate breakfast in our condo and packed a picnic lunch, and we headed off to explore all that Universal Studio's had to offer.

The last time I was at Universal Studio's was in 1993 and the first thing you notice is that some things sure have changed and other things are exactly the same. There is a new city walk very similar to the one in Las Angeles. The city walk connects Universal Studio's two parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

We entered the park and immediately started seeing characters: Betty Boop, The Minions for Despicable Me, and The Simpsons. While waiting in a fairly short line to grab a photo with Bart and Homer Simpson, I started studying the park map and quickly realized we were in the wrong place!

Harry Potter is not at Universal Studios. He is at Islands of Adventure. My heart sank all the way to my knees. As I was trying to figure out if I could live with coming all the way to Orlando and not see Harry Potter, a very nice staff member and I started talking. After confirming my error, he then made the biggest offer that saved the day!

He took our Simpson photo and then walked us straight to Guest Services. He explained to Guest Services what happened to us, buying the wrong tickets, and asked them to reissue us new tickets to Islands of Adventure. Within moments we were leaving the wrong park and heading to the right one.

The first area we checked out was Marvel Super Hero Island. The boys headed to The Incredible Hulk Ride while us girls wandered around. And who did we meet while wondering around? Spiderman.

Spiderman provided The Short Chic with lessons on how to shoot a web. She has practiced a lot and has gotten really good at it. Next time she meets Spiderman, she will be ready.

Before lunch we also visited Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park.We enjoyed riding The Spiderman ride, got totally soaked riding Ripsaw Falls and Jurassic Park River Adventure.  {When I say we, I don't actually mean ME! I did not get soaked. I waited on dry land for the family who got totally soaked!}I did chuckle to see Human Dyers outside the water rides. For $5.00 you can fit as many people in a human dryer as possible and warm/dry yourself.

After lunch we headed straight to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My initial reaction to this part of the park was WOW! It looks just like a village with a school looming above it. Then I noticed just how crowded it was. It was beyond crowded!

Hogwart's Express has just arrived at Platform 9 3/4.

 While The Boy and I waited in line and rode The Dragon Challenge, Daddy and The Short Chic found a nice spot to sit and wait in The Owlery. The Owlery was perfect, it even had fake bird poop all over the rafters as you would expect in a place that housed hundreds of owls. The only thing missing {and I so wish they had} was a real working post office. They had a post office type building but it sold souvenirs  But how cool would it have been to send a parcel {Post Card} home to all of our friends with a Hogsmeade post mark? {Come on Universal, think it all the way through!}

Hogsmeade itself was pretty. The buildings where dark and full of alleyways. We went into Ollivander's and shopped for wands {they cost about $35.00 each and you can get your own wand or a reproduction of a famous wizard's wand}. The Hog's Head was there {a cafeteria you can eat at}, Zonkos {toy shop}, Honeydukes for all of your sweet needs {We purchased Chocolate Frogs with Wizarding Cards}.

By the time we went to ride Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey we had the child swap program down. Child Swap allows the whole family to wait in line for a ride together. One parent gets to go on the ride with those children big enough to ride while the other parent waits in a lounge with those too small. After the ride, you reverse roles. It allows both parents to ride the ride with the kids and the bonus is that children big enough get to ride it twice.

Waiting in line to ride the Forbidden Journey brought us many moments straight from the book/movies: The Sorting Hat, The Photos on the wall really talked, the newspapers moved, the Monster Book of Monsters was even kept in a metal cage so it could not get out. I even got a kick out of the mandrakes. They were actually screaming the most annoying scream possible!

The ride itself was INTENSE! It is a 3-D ride. I literally felt like I was riding a broom and playing Quidich. We had close encounters with Dementors. We ran into Hagrid after he lost his pet Dragon. I will say, I kinda felt a little concerned for The Boy, he rode it back to back and was very queezy afterwards.

But nothing a Butterbeer could not fix!

The Boy and I hung out around Hogsmeade while Daddy and The Short Chic rode The Flight of the Hippogriff {she still says this was her favorite ride of the vacation!}. We watched the Frog Choir, shopped at Honeydukes, Zonkos, and enjoyed a glass...or two of Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice.

By the time we left The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I was exhausted and ready to head home. But we had yet to spend any time at Seuss Landing.

The Short Chic loved it because all the rides were her size. But we were also there late and it was starting to get cold. We failed to pack jackets or sweatshirts so it was pretty chilly.

Universal is selling turkey legs. And all I can say is, "You can take the boys out of the midwest but you can not take the midwest out of the boys!" Both of them had to purchase turkey legs.  In fact they served as our dinner that night.

Random thoughts for Universal Studios:

  • Parking is $14.00 but you can upgrade to $20 parking that gets you super close. 
  • If you are visiting in the spring, pack jackets. As the sun drops so do the temperatures. 
  • The City Walk is lots of fun. Margaritaville even has a walk up bar!
  • Universal Studio's does not have a fast pass but they do sell  an express pass. For extra money you can upgrade your admission ticket and it allows you to enter a completely different line that gets priority. 
  • The park let us come and go with our valid ticket. While we packed a picnic lunch, we left it in the car. I kinda wish we would have looked to see if they had lockers for rent.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Disney World: Our Lodging

We have been home from Spring Break for a week now. We took several days just to sit and relax and sleep! I have been wanting to blog about our amazing trip to the happiest place on earth but I have just felt so overwhelmed by the experience. How could I possibly fit it all into one blog post?

Well, I am not even going to try. This week I am going to bring you reviews and post of our trip.

This post is about our choice to not stay on Disney property. Staying on property has so many advantages: free transportation, extended park hours, a variety of budget options, and a complete Disney experience.

But there are some disadvantages as well. The rooms that would fit into my budget would put all four of us sharing a hotel sized room. We would be limited to Disney property.

We opted to stay at The Fountains, a Bluegreen Property about 10 miles from the park. To stay off property meant that we had to rent a vehicle to get around and we had to pay parking each day we visited the park but we saved a ton of money on food, which absolutely offset the cost.

We stayed in a two bedroom condo that was approximately 1,350 square feet, two bedrooms, two batrhrooms. No, it did not have a view of Disney but it did have a beautiful view of a small lake. We also had a full kitchen and our own washer and dryer. On our way to the condo we stopped off at a Publix {local grocery store} and bought a weeks worth of groceries. Every day we ate breakfast and lunch with the food we purchased. We even ate dinner in our room half the time. 

There were so many pools at this resort. The kids loved it! To be honest I kinda wish we had more "relax at the condo" days so that we could have enjoyed the pools. I loved waking up early and enjoying coffee on our screened in patio. {My condo neighbors did too, and I learned quickly I needed to dress before I went out on the patio!}

The Fountains also sold Disney tickets. They were slightly cheaper than purchasing them at the park but what  we benefited from was not having to stand in line to purchase tickets. We were able just to walk straight to the security and check-in lines.

The Fountains also had a full service bar. How could we not enjoy something cold, creamy and tropical on our first night there. They even had a wide selection of non-alcoholic drinks for the kids.

They even had two restaurants on-sight that delivered. How fun are these Domino's Pizza delivery bikes.  We never utilized this service, we wanted to one night but we got home right after they closed. The Boy was so disappointed!

Overall, if you have access to a time-share they should be a viable option in your Disney World trip planning.  I am positive if I compared The Fountains and its amenities to a Disney property, I would compare it to the big ones: The Grand Floridan, The Polynesian, or The Contemporary. And those properties easily rent for $500 a night.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow's post is going to be about our first full day in Orlando and our visit to Universal Studio's.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Surprise! We Are Going to Disney World!

For The Short Chic's birthday we gave her a HUGE surprise! We were giving her a dream trip to Disney World. It was time to meet all The Princesses!

She knew we were planning to go "some day." In fact, she has been saving pennies, and nickles and dimes in hopes of "getting enough money" to go.

This video is a little loud. We presented her with her surprise at her 5th Birthday party, where she had 15 friends over. Plus parents. Grandparents. Aunts/Uncles ect. There was a lot of people there.

Finding the perfect way to tell her was a little challenging. She still does not read, so we had to find another way. I thought about puzzle pieces and putting them inside balloons that she would have to pop and put together. But my puzzle pieces were too big.

In the end, we went to Build-A-Bear and purchased a voice box. My Husband, The Boy and I all recorded her a message. It said, "You've waited so long and now the time has come to go have some fun, so pack your bags, we are going to DISNEY WORLD"

As you watch the video I want to point out a few things. She played the voice box twice. After the second time you can hear her Papa ask her what did it say. You can't hear her response but she shrugs her shoulders and says "I have no idea!"

So then the three of us did a reenactment. And her response was, "Oh."

It was not until I read her a letter that described more detail, "We are leaving in 6 sleeps" does she get excited.

Dr. Seuss Inspired Birthday Pennant

My best friends sweet baby has turned ONE!  You may remember me blogging about her. We welcomed her to this world with a cute Welcome To The World Gift and again with a beautiful Sip and See Shower.

Now it is time to welcome her to the toddler years. Her party is inspired by Dr. Seuss and all of his bright colors and whimsical patterns. I volunteered to make a birthday banner for her high chair. Since it is threatening another snow storm this weekend, I needed a project!

(1.) Supplies. I used red and turquoise card stock, ribbon and some embossing folders.

I used my Cricut and the Pretty Pennants Art Cartridge. I cut out 6 inch triangles and banner tops.

(2.) and (3.) Then I took the triangles and banner tops and dry embossed them using the Cuttlebug embossing sleeves and the Sizzix Texture Boutique. I love how this machine transforms ordinary card stock into beautiful embossed card stock in no time at all!

(4.) Next, add some adhesive to the banner tops and  (5.) adhere them to the triangles.

(6.) I took my exacto knife and cut small slits through both layers of the card stock. One cut on each side of the pennant.

(7.) Weave ribbon in and out of the two slits and continue weaving until you have all the triangles on ribbon. I leave a little space between the triangles so that I can add additional ribbon.

I have linked up to these great blogs: