Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A look back & a look forward...

New Year's Eve.

2013 was filled with many new experiences for me- some fantastic, and some not good at all. I'm hopeful and ready for a new year- bring on 2014!

I spent a little time looking back over my year of blogging today. I've learned a lot, I've made great friends and connections in the blogging community, and I've had the pleasure of a few trips to my favorite place. I'm grateful for it all.

The year was full of some Disney firsts for me:

  • My first visit to the Food & Wine Festival (and I realize I never recapped the food or the wine! I'm saving them for some of these upcoming cold, wintery days...)

Here are a few things I'm looking forward to in 2014. They're not all guaranteed to happen, but a person can set a few goals, right?

  •  I'd love to run another runDisney race. Wait- let me change that: at least one more runDisney race. (Maybe two...)

  • I want to do at least one new (to me) thing in each of the four parks. My initial ideas:  Go to Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios, see the films I've missed in Epcot (Canada and China), check out the queue for Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom (still can't believe I haven't done this yet), and Magic Kingdom has to be the Mine Train. I sure hope it's open when I visit in the spring! I'd also love to do a new tour at one of the parks.

  • A return visit to Flower & Garden Festival would be fantastic. I love that time of year in Epcot!

  • I hope to visit the parks again with my husband and daughter. I've been lucky- spoiled, really- by their awesome support for my quick getaway trips. Whether it was for a race, a sisters trip, a visit tacked on to a work trip, or just "Blog research" ;) ... they support me in my habit. As much as I love these quick visits, I really want a longer, more relaxing trip- with my family.

  • I'd like to stay at a new resort. I tend to stick with the ones I love- but every time I've tried a new one, I've never been disappointed! I might want to check out Port Orleans, and of course, Yacht Club has been calling me forever. Maybe this year!

  • I want to write more, enrich my content, make new friends and connections, and continue to be party of this dynamic community! Changes will be coming to the blog this year. I'm still in the planning stages, but I can't wait to keep things going in a little bit of a new direction!

Thank you all so much for reading, visiting, and helping me have a place for this outlet. Have a fantastic New Year! Cheers!

photo shared via Disney Parks Blog

Friday, December 27, 2013

DIY: Plussing the ornaments...

My sister and I share a deep love of Epcot. She's my usual partner-in-crime for Disney getaways, and we've spent many a memorable trip strolling through World Showcase or racing around Future World together. She's also a tough person for whom to find just the right gift. She seems to have everything, and she isn't one for just having extra "stuff" around. A gift really needs to mean something. She's also a great lover of the Christmas season. This year, I had a DIY idea that was perfect for her:

Some Mod Podge, a Christmas ornament, and an Epcot map led to a fun little project that helped capture the spirit of some of our trip memories, while tying in her favorite time of year...

What do you think? Have you ever done any DIY Disney projects? Tell us about them in the comments...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: JOY!


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting 
the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links by clicking below, 

and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sharing Magical Memories...

The talented proprietress of Mouse on the Mind has been running a stellar series this holiday season- Magical Memories. She invited a group of bloggers to share Disney holiday memories, and I was excited and honored when she asked me to participate. I wasn't sure I could do it, though- after all, I have never been to the parks during holiday time. There was an important Disney-related memory that had been tickling the back of my mind for a while, though, and I decided this was an apropos time to share it.

Click here to head over and read my contribution to the Magical Memories series...

Have you been to the parks & resorts during the holiday season? What holiday-related memories do you have? Share with us over on Mouse on the Mind, or right here in the comments...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: The Letter R


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting 
the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links by clicking below, 

and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Monday, December 16, 2013

Plussing the tree...

Christmas: I'm a sucker for the nostalgia, the sentimentality, the childhood memories. I'm one of those decorate-early/leave-the-tree-up-late people. I've always wanted to put up a tree the day after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the rest of my family does not share this early enthusiasm. 

Last year, in the midst of post-holiday clearance sales, they bought me a little artificial tree for my office. It was a perfect idea! I could put it up as early as I wanted, and the big family tree downstairs could wait until the rest of the crew was ready. 

I put up my tree shortly after Thanksgiving, but I forgot that I would need special decorations. Small ones. 

Then, it hit me! 

PINS. This was quite the stroke of genius for me- it was a perfect solution. I have piles and bins and lanyards of pins, and I'm always trying to find something fun to do with them. By myself. (The sad life of a pin trader living far from WDW...) 

They are the ideal size for my tree, I can switch them up at will, and I get to actually look at them brightening my tree all day long!

How do you get your WDW fix for the holidays? Tell us about it in the comments...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kill~ Refurb~ Marry: Thrill Rides Edition!

This month I'm playing Kill~Refurb~Marry with Mouse on the Mind and This Happy Place Blog! If you're not familiar with this game, it's the one where you choose three related things within a given theme: one you have no use for (Kill), one you'd like to revamp a bit (Refurb), and one you love (Marry). This month's theme is Disney Thrill Rides!

Here we go.....

Kill:  Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

Evening sky with a convertible hanging upside down from a sign for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
photo credit: official Disney website
There's a lot wrong for me here. First and foremost- I hate the launch. The launch leaves me dazed, queasy, and unable to appreciate/enjoy any part of the rest of the ride. Am I too old for this ride? Perhaps. I've heard the aging process messes with ones ability to deal with this kind of equilibrium shift. Not fun at all for me. Add to it the cheesy recording studio intro, the pseudo-"rock-n-roll" gifts and decor, and the huge footprint it occupies, which could be better used for something else- this one is at the very bottom of my attractions list. And Aerosmith? No.

Refurb:   Space Mountain

Building exterior and sign for Space Mountain
photo credit: official Disney website
I love the theming, I love the iconic nature of the building and the attraction. I love sci-fi, I love space exploration themes, I love retro space design. But man does this one leave me hurting! This is a painful ride to endure. A chiropractor should set up shop just outside the exit. I'd love to see a refurb that makes this ride a bit more smooth, a bit less whiplashy. I really want to be able to enjoy this attraction... but it's honestly quite painful.

Marry:   Indiana Jones Adventure

Indiana Jones Adventure attraction statue with large beams of light from eyes
photo credit: official Disney website
We head to Disneyland for my very favorite Disney attraction. I would marry you, Indy. I love everything single thing about this attraction. The extended, highly-themed queue, the story line, the vehicles, the wild edge-of-your-seat ride, the giant snake, the sense of being right in the Indy action....I could go on. Yes, I know it's the same ride platform as Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom...but even though I love Dinosaur, there's just something about the Indiana Jones theming that gives this version of the ride the upper hand. I once rode this attraction (single rider line) six times in one day. That's how much I love Indiana Jones Adventure...

Play along! Tell us about your ideas for Kill~Refurb~Marry in the comments. Better yet, write a post and participate in the blog hop!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Character Encounters



Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting 
the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links by clicking below, 

and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Finally Stay at The Polynesian...

The Polynesian was always the quintessential Walt Disney World resort when I was growing up. I had never stayed there, and only visited (for food) for the first time last year- but it was always the place I'd picture when I thought about resorts. Sure, I'd think about the Contemporary as well- what's cooler than the monorail going right into the building when you're a kid? But there was always something about the Poly that seemed extra special to me. Exotic, I guess...

I finally got my chance to stay at this storied deluxe resort, when I visited recently for Wine & Dine weekend.

Some of the highlights...

The grounds:
Beautiful, lush, winding paths. It's not super easy to find your way around (at least not for a first-timer)...but this is a good thing. It made it feel more natural, less over-planned.

The Great Ceremonial House:
This central lobby, shopping, and dining area really is beautiful, with its lush tropical foliage and immersive decor. So much going on in here, I think I'll save the details for its own post.

The Volcano Pool:
It was way too cold for a dip during our visit, but this looks like a really fun place to swim and splash around.
The themed slide, cozy alcoves, and beach side zero-entry end all made this seem like a top resort pool. It did seem a bit small, though- and I saw it completely empty. I wonder if it feels cramped when it's full of swimmers.

Our room location:
We were in Rapa Nui, which was one of the longhouses farthest from the Great Ceremonial House. I like a decent walk through the grounds, though, so I never really care about the distance to the lobby. On the other side, we were just a hop and a skip from the Transportation & Ticketing Center- so grabbing a monorail to Epcot or to to other areas on the monorail loop was very convenient.

The only thing that left a bit to be desired for me was the room layout- specifically, the bathroom. I guess I've grown accustomed to the sink-outside-the bathroom layout found in other deluxe resorts (as well as some moderates). This was actually the first Disney resort I've stayed in that didn't have a separate sink area- and I missed it. With three adults sharing the room, getting ready in the morning was a bit of a time crunch when the shower, toilet and sinks were all behind one closed door. The room itself, though, was spacious- that was definitely a plus! I slept on the daybed during this trip (the youngest sibling will always be the youngest sibling, no matter how old...), and I'm happy to report that it was perfectly comfortable.

Overall verdict: I really loved The Polynesian! With deluxe monorail resort prices being what they are, though, I would have a hard time justifying this expense again any time soon. The bathroom situation would make me consider this as an option only if I were sharing the room with no more than one other person. Any more than that, and too much time is wasted waiting around for the facilities. I love the feel of the resort, I love the Great Ceremonial House, and I love being on the monorail loop- so I won't count this one out! It's an indulgence I hope to partake in again one day soon...

Have you stayed at The Polynesian? Tell us about it in the comments...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: December Calendar Shot


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting 
the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links by clicking below, 

and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My First runDisney Race: Recap Part II

I shared Part I of My First runDisney Race last week. As we join Part II, it's the morning of the 2013 Jingle Jungle 5K, part of Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend!

I don't often see this alarm set, especially not while on vacation:

The official race start was 7:00 am, but runners have to be in corrals by 6:15. The buses start running from designated resorts at 5:00, and word from runDisney was that all runners must be on a bus no later than 5:30 in order to make it in time. Thirty minutes seemed like a really short window of time. I had no way of knowing how many runners would be leaving from the Poly, nor how many buses would be cycling through during that 30 minute period. Would there be a steady stream of buses? Would there be just a few during that period? No idea. Since I hate being late for anything, and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time for pictures, food, drink, etc. before getting in my corral- it was the 5:00 am bus for us. Add in three adults sharing the same room, time for coffee, costumes, and the trek over to the bus stop... the 4:20 wake up call was a necessity. We boarded the bus a few minutes after 5:00, and we were on our way to the Jingle Jungle 5K, with about ten other runners. I was really surprised by this tiny crowd waiting for that first bus!