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August 5, 2014

Upcoming Reader Question Show on AllEarsNet TV

Have you heard about our new show? It's called AllEarsNet TV. You can find us on our YouTube Channel!

Each week we will bring you a new show about the Disney "World"... from all corners of the globe. While the focus will be on the US Disney Parks, we may also include episodes discussing the Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Disneyland and Aulani!

We plan to film an upcoming episode answering YOUR questions! So here is your chance to be part of our show!

Leave your question in the comment field below. Whatever name you put in the comment may be used on the show. If you'd like your home state/country mentioned please include in your comment as well. Keep in mind it will not be possible to answer every single question, but we will read every single one you submit!

We will not be publishing these questions but will be answering some on an upcoming show that will air later this month. Thanks!!!

July 31, 2014

Food and Wine Feeding Frenzy



UGH! I feel as though I just finished the annual running of the bulls at Pamplona. And I am well and truly trampled.

OK, not literally, obviously. But figuratively that's what the annual frenzy to book Epcot Food and Wine Festival events has become for me.

For those of you who don't know, every year Deb Wills and I attend a variety of the Festival events, both to report on them for the AllEars.Net website and AllEars newsletter, and because well, let’s face it, we really enjoy food and wine!

We book these events just like you do, because, you may be surprised to learn, we pay for these events ourselves. (Yes, sometimes we get an invitation to attend something as a media guest, but those occasions are in the minority, as we really do try to maintain an independent perspective when we’re reviewing, not just the Festival, but anything Disney.)

We set our alarms and dutifully call 407-WDW-FEST at precisely 7 a.m. on the designated day(s). We get the panic-inducing ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY message and go through the infuriating phone tree. We wait an inordinate amount of time on hold (a long-distance call, by the way, not a toll-free number) listening to "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" while thinking, "Yeah, maybe, but right now today really stinks."

Once we get through to a real, live human being we endure as they slowly scroll through the computer screen searching for the event that we have asked about ("Is it at 1 p.m.? I don’t see anything with that name..."). We can practically hear our chances at reserving the event whoosh past us as a hundred other guests book our coveted lunch or dinner. I often imagine myself reaching through the phone and taking over the cast member’s computer, channeling Woody in Toy Story and screaming in exasperation, "Oh, give me that! Plus is positive, minus is negative!" If by some chance an event that we request is open, we hastily recite our Disney VISA card numbers and listen impatiently to the spiel about nontransferable, nonrefundable, yada yada yada, eager to move on and book the next event.

So, I’ve just concluded the 2014 bull-running, er, booking experience. I was attempting to reserve events for two trips: one for the first weekend of the festival, for research purposes, and one personal getaway weekend in October with my husband. Yes, I was planning on spending a lot of money, and I had my Disney VISA all warmed up. But after spending 45 minutes on hold on Tuesday, I was unable to book any Festival event that I wanted, save one. Today, I wasn't even able to get past the "ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY" message and gave up trying after 20 minutes of speed-dialing. Fortunately Deb Wills, who somehow managed to get in the phone queue ahead of me on both days, saw my frantic emails detailing my situation and was able to book several events for me while scheduling her own. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be attending ANY of the festival events that I wanted.

Now I'm left here wondering, just as I did last year, and every year for the last 10+ years that I've been "running with the bulls," WHY? WHY does it have to be so frantic and infuriating? Why does a company that prides itself on providing excellent customer service consistently get this wrong?

Oh, it's not that Disney hasn't tried to expedite this process. They've put a selection of events online, so that you can conveniently book them yourself at your leisure. And they have implemented several "early booking" dates for certain guests -- those with Tables in Wonderland memberships, Annual Passholders, Disney VISA card holders and residents of the Golden Oak Community. Since I qualify for three of those categories, lucky me, I can book some of these events a few days ahead of the general public. So why am I complaining? That sounds like a good solution, right?

No, what that really means is that now I can call on TWO days, wait a half-hour each time, maybe more, and find myself STILL shut out of the events that I want to attend. Yeah, lucky me.

I know that by now some of you might be saying, "What’s she complaining about? At least she can afford to go to these events -- they're too expensive for me." I know. First World Problems, as they say.

But I'm not alone. There are plenty of people who really enjoy the Food and Wine Festival and look forward to it as much as I do -- and dread the cursed "booking day" just as much, as well.

While I'm on interminable hold, feeling my normally low blood pressure skyrocketing, I'm surfing the Internet, reading message boards and Facebook. I see many folks chattering about the same thing. Some are triumphant: "I got through! And my cast member actually knew what she was doing! I got everything I wanted!" But most aren’t: "I was on hold on two phones, my cell and my home phone, for 45 minutes! By the time I got through, the reserved seating for the Walt Disney dinner was gone." "I couldn't get the tequila lunch I wanted." "The cast member couldn't find the Eat to the Beat package, and put me on hold for another 10 minutes. When he came back, he said it wasn't in the system yet! By then, everything else I wanted to book was sold out."

So what IS the answer? How can Disney avoid leaving a bad taste in so many people's mouths? And more importantly, how can we all reserve at least some of the events we want without having to go through this annual feeding frenzy?

Is the problem understaffing? Are there simply not enough cast members working at 7 a.m. on "booking morning" to handle the call volume? When I call exactly at 7 a.m. and am told that my wait time will be "more than 30 minutes," I suspect that to be the case.

Is the problem insufficient training? I recall last year when a cast member told me that he could see the event I wanted in the system, but he didn't know how to book it. How is that possible? This year, a cast member told me that he couldn't find the thing I was asking about in the system. (This actually has happened to me almost every year.) It took five full minutes before the cast member located the event. And believe me, those five minutes are precious when you're competing with hundreds of other guests for a spot at a limited seating dinner. Needless to say, by the time he found it, the event was sold out.

I can't put all the blame on the cast members handling the phones, though. Some of them are wonderful -- extremely competent and pleasant, on a day that must be awfully stressful. I'm sure it's terrifying to have thousands of calls light up your phones at 7 a.m. on Food and Wine booking day. They probably feel like they're being thrown to the wolves as they have to deal with thousands of cranky callers, some of whom are probably not as nice and patient as I try to be when hearing repeatedly, "No. Sorry. Not that one either. Sold out. Sorry." I don’t envy them at all.

I do have a few suggestions that might streamline the process. Like, if I'm calling WDW-FEST, which is presumably a phone line dedicated to festival events, why do I have to go through the usual Disney Dining phone tree? That takes up valuable time. Maybe there could be dedicated phone lines for specific events, so that people calling to reserve the Signature Dinners -- which have very limited seating and can be unbelievably pricey -- wouldn’t be competing with people wanting to book the Food and Wine pairings.

But the truth is, I don't know what the ultimate solution is. I only know that, as a consumer, this annual Food and Wine Festival frenzy is what I would call A Very Bad Customer Experience.

Still, by the time September rolls around and I'm biting into my first sample from an International Marketplace, I probably won't remember how frazzled I'm feeling at this moment. The Epcot Food and Wine Festival is truly THE event at Walt Disney World that I look forward to and enjoy the most every year, so I know that once it starts I'll get caught up in all the new tastes and experiences. I'll plunge headlong into sampling as much of the Festival as I can and will enthusiastically report on everything I experience for AllEars.Net readers. It's what I do, every year. And I love it.

It's just that until then I'm left with this "trampled by the bulls" feeling.

Good thing I have six weeks or so to recover.

July 29, 2014

Special All Ears Meet August 17, 2014 - Event at CAPACITY!

UPDATE: The event is now at capacity. You must have filled out the form AND received a confirmation email to attend.

Thanks everyone -- we are going to have a great time!

UPDATE: July 29th 1pm time slot is FILLED. Very few spots remain. Remember you must RSVP with form below.

UPDATE: As of July 18, 2014; 1:45pm eastern time, all confirmations have been emailed to everyone.

A special AllEars® Meet and Greet is being held on Sunday afternoon, August 17, 2014 between 1 and 4 p.m. in a Disney Vacation Club Grand Villa at Walt Disney World.

Our special guests for this get-together:

Steve Barrett - Author of the Hidden Mickey Guides

Jim Korkis - Disney Historian and author of many Disney-related books.

Steve and Jim will be available to informally meet with you and are happy to autograph their books. Please note: NO books will be sold at the event. If you wish to purchase a book for autographing and don't already have one please see the links below.

Meet AllEars® team members Deb Wills, Jack Spence, Linda Eckwerth, Jack Marshall, Kristin Ford and Deb Koma, too!

In addition, we will also have AllEars® Trading Cards, door-prize drawings and other goodies!


No strollers will be allowed inside the villa.
The villa may by two stories and therefore not fully accessible.
No food will be allowed in the villa and no food will be available.
We will have bottled water available while supplies last.

To avoid overcrowding at the event, YOU MUST FILL OUT THIS FORM and select the time(s) you prefer to attend. Your email and cell phone number are important so that we can notify you where the meet will be located. We check into the Villa on the 16th and will notify people of the location at that time.

Please allow up to 1 week to hear back from us once you submit your form. We will get to them as soon as we can (hopefully in just a couple days) Your confirmation will be sent from a YAHOO email address! Please bring that email with you when you come to the villa.

Any questions? Please leave a comment below.

We are all looking forward to a great afternoon!



June 6, 2014

Marketplace Co-Op Opens at Downtown Disney



As part of the "re-imagining" of Downtown Disney, a new retail space opened today on the site of the former Team Mickey spot in the Marketplace. Known as the Marketplace Co-Op, the location serves as a "testing space for new Disney retail concepts, shops and products," and houses six small boutique-type shops under one roof.

I was over at Downtown Disney early this morning for a Disney Vacation Club member preview before the official 11 a.m. opening and had the chance to poke around a bit. I confess that I'm not much of a shopper, but I really did enjoy the space, which is open and airy with a great variety of merchandise offered.

The Trophy Room's merchandise has a weathered, vintage look, and some really unique displays made from recycled materials -- an old leather suitcase, stadium seats and the like. There are t-shirts, caps, hoodies, and memorabilia, such as old-fashioned bobbleheads.



Beautifully Disney dedicates its space to a line of cosmetics and beauty accessories with color palettes themed around Disney characters. The most recent line, dubbed "Curioser and Curioser" with an Alice in Wonderland motif, is currently featured, and a new Villains line, highlighting nefarious females such as Mother Gothel from Tangled, is set to debut here in August. There's also a spot here where cast members will regularly help you apply their make-up for a mini-makeover.



At D-Tech on Demand, you can find the latest in accessories for your electronic devices, all with a Disney motif, but more than that, you can customize your mobile phone cases... right on the spot. With the aid of a touch screen, you can choose your favorite character, theme park or even resort, add your name and a black or white border (or bumper as they called it) and within five minutes your case is ready for you to take home. I saw iPhone, Samsung and Android cases -- will need to verify if others are available. Cost of these customized cases is $44.95, but there's an entire wall of other cases -- including a few Limited Edition "Frozen" cases -- available for $36.95.



Tween girls are targeted at the trendy Zoey and Pickles, with merchandise that includes funky accessories and casual apparel. I loved the sparkly shoes and some of the whimsical jewelry would be perfect for me teenage nieces.



Cherry Tree Lane is the place for more upscale women's accessories, including the coveted Disney-themed Vera Bradley and Dooney & Bourke lines of handbags. The shope also features jewelry and scarves -- but the real attraction is the bags, as evidenced by the mountain of soft Vera Bradley bags they had on hand to appease anticipated opening day shoppers.




Last but far from least is Disney Centerpiece, which sells housewares from dishes to textiles to wall art with subtle and not-so-subtle Disney designs and an emphasis on nostalgia. Of the six boutiques, this was clearly my favorite -- I was so tickled to see the small dishes with old attractions and logos, and so much tiki-type merchandise from the Polynesian resort. Although I don't really like to shop, I could be convinced to drop a small amount of my hard-earned pay here!




With all the construction currently taking place, Downtown Disney is chaotic -- parking and walking around are real challenges. Still, a trip to this new Marketplace Co-Op is worth the effort, especially if you love to shop. I might suggest taking Disney transportation rather than parking if you can, just to save that particular hassle.

Let us know what you think of the new shops if you get the chance to stop by!

May 10, 2014

After Hours Wind Down: Rose and Crown Pub


A few weeks ago, Walt Disney World announced a special spring/summer offering that allows you to stay in Epcot and "lounge around" after the park closes at one of four spots scattered around World Showcase. Called the "After Hours Wind Down," the program gives you the chance to hang out at either La Cava del Tequila in Mexico, Spice Road Table in Morocco, Tutto Gusto in Italy, or the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom, from 9:20 (after IllumiNations) to 11 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays.

Since I was in Walt Disney World last week for a few days, I managed to find a way to squeeze it into my schedule, and booked my reservations at the Rose and Crown Pub.

After an early dinner, my friend and I showed up at the door of the Rose and Crown immediately after IllumiNations had concluded. The greeter checked our names off her list and gave us wristbands, asking us to wait as the pub staff readied for our visit. After a few minutes, we were allowed to enter and had our choice of seats. The capacity for this event at Rose and Crown is about 50, but I'd say that on this Friday evening there were only about 20 patrons.


Soon after we settled in, a cast member brought us our beverage "flight" for the evening: 6-oz. pours of Bass Ale, Harp Lager, Guinness Stout and Strongbow Cider.


A few minutes later we were brought a plate with our food sampler of typical pub fare -- a Scotch egg with mustard sauce and watercress; English Cotswold cheese with chives with onion jam; and pork apple sausage roll served with picalilli.


Having visited the UK many times, I thought I would know what to expect from the food, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. The hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs and baked, was quite tasty, as was the savory pork roll. The cheese, creamy and oniony, was nicely accented by the sweet jam. The portions were a typical tasting size (though I could have used a bit more mustard sauce) and I really enjoyed them. Even though it wasn't an overabundance of food, I was glad I had skipped dessert at dinner, I overheard the couples at nearby tables complaining that they were too full from their dinners at Le Cellier and Monsieur Paul to really enjoy the food. No problem, though. The friendly cast members were happy to box up the snacks to be carried home and eaten later.

I have to admit that I'm not much of a beer fan, and had thought that there would be alternative beverage options -- but I guess there's not much in the way of British wine, is there? So I went with the beer, and surprised myself. I found that I really enjoyed the Harp Lager, which I'd never tried before. The Bass was, well, to me it was just beer. Not a fan. The Guinness, which I've tried before, was a little too thick and strong for me -- definitely an acquired taste that I haven't acquired. The Strongbow, however, was light and refreshing and went down easily -- and I noticed that the people at the surrounding tables seemed to feel the same.


While 24 ounces of beer-type beverages over the course of almost 90 minutes was plenty for me, you can order additional drinks (and food, too) if you'd like -- at a price. Also, if you decide to go non-alcoholic, you can still attend -- for the same price, of course -- and you'll be provided with soft drinks.

There's no entertainment during the Wind Down, which was fine with me, but I thought that some soft background music would have added a little to the ambience. On the other hand, I could have done without the janitorial staff (three of them!) who took up residence in the corner of the room, chatting on their walkie-talkies and sweeping up non-existent litter while I was trying to relax and enjoy my drink. It really struck me as Bad Show.

The other thing that disappointed me is that the Friday night I was there was evening Extra Magic Hours night at Epcot -- so what was supposed to be "after hours" really wasn't. I was hoping to have the chance to walk through a deserted Epcot after we'd finished, but there were still quite a few other guests in the park. Oh well.

But these are minor complaints. Overall it was a quite enjoyable experience and a pleasant way to end the evening. Was it worth $35? I'd say a qualified "yes" -- maybe it's just slightly overpriced, by about $5. Still, it was great to actually be able to sit in the pub and soak in the atmosphere. That's something that you can't normally do during regular park hours, due to the spot's popularity.

I think the next time I book the Wind Down -- and I do plan to try it again -- I'll make reservations at the wine cellar at Tutto Gusto. On a Sunday night!


The After Hours Wind Down is available Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now through September 15. Cost is $35, plus tax and gratuity.

Make a reservation at, call 407-WDW-DINE or stop by Epcot Guest Relations.

May 6, 2014

Coming Attractions Around the "World"



In wrapping up the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train media preview the other day, Walt Disney World executives gave us an “Around Our World” briefing -- basically an overview of everything that’s been going on and is to come at all of Disney’s business units. You’ve probably read all the press releases by now, and realized that much of the news was not really “news” at all (expanded Star Wars Weekends, the upcoming 24-hour Memorial Day Weekend event, Norway experiences for the Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney), or had been rumored around the internet. Still, it was good to get official word on some projects �" and I have to admit that there were one or two items that were actually news to me!

The biggest Walt Disney World news centered around Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While Walt Disney World Resort President George Kalogridis didn’t offer much in the way of details on the progress of the park’s Avatar-themed land, I did glean what I thought was an interesting nugget from the accompanying video.


Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs spoke about the work on the new land, saying that the three things the team wanted to accomplish were to allow guests to experience the grandeur and scale of the film's floating mountains and the beauty of the bioluminescent forest, and to ride a banshee. He noted that through a new array of technologies and techniques they have figured out how to do all three things! I think this offers some clues as to what we can expect from the attractions when the new land eventually opens... in 2017!

Aside from "Pandora" or "Avatar-land," or whatever the new land is named, Kalogridis did have specifics on several new offerings that will help convert Animal Kingdom into a full-day park �" and by that I mean that the park will have extended opening hours, well into the night.

To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Disney animated feature The Lion King, the park’s beloved attraction Festival of the Lion King will reopen in June in its new location -- the newly constructed Harambe Theatre in the Africa section of the park (artist renderings below).



Animal Kingdom then will begin to offer a series of special ticketed evening events, called “Harambe Nights,” which will include a 55-minute theatrical rendition of the Lion King story in Harambe Theatre called “The Lion King Concert in the Wild.” Running on Saturdays from June 7 through August 9, Harambe Nights will begin with a reception, complete with appetizers, beer and wine, in Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Village, followed by the stage show, which will include a live orchestra and choir and will be narrated by such actors as Joe Morton (from ABC-TV’s “Scandal”) and Viola Davis (Oscar-nominated for her role in the film “The Help”). The evening will conclude with a street party and buffet stations situated throughout that area of the park. For more details, see the official press release HERE.

In addition to this, the park will offer a new, “dark” version of the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction, and live performers will entertain guests in the evenings around the Tree of Life. Further down the road, a new “nighttime Spectacular” called “Rivers of Light.” The nighttime show will combine live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery on the park’s Discovery River, between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest. No estimated date was given for this new evening entertainment debut, but we were told that the night-time version of Kilimanjaro Safari, and the Tree of Life live performers would happen “sooner” than 2017.

A lot of the other announcements dealt with the renovations happening at the Polynesian Resort �" er, excuse me, I mean the Polynesian VILLAGE Resort.

That’s right, the hotel is reverting to the name it originally sported back when it opened in 1971. In addition to the room refurbishments that have been ongoing at the resort, the main pool and the lobby �" the Great Ceremonial House �" are also getting the treatment. The resort is also going to add a new lounge, Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, based on lounge at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. The new lounge will offer tiki cocktails served in souvenir mugs and Polynesian-themed small plates.


Another topic that Karl Holz (President, Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts) just touched on was the addition of Disney Vacation Club units at the Polynesian. Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows will include a collection of tropical structures right along the Seven Seas Lagoon, due to open in 2015.


Also starting to open next year will be the reimagined Downtown Disney area. The first section of the new Disney Springs, to be known as The Landing, will be rededicated in early 2015. Leading up to that, however, we can expect more new shops and restaurants to open, including a full-service Starbucks this summer, the collection of six small boutique shops known as the Marketplace Co-op, and a new soccer store, the United World of Soccer, to help us all prepare for next year’s World Cup.

So all in all, the presentation wasn't exactly brimming with NEW news, but there were a few little tidbits worth hearing, with the promise of a whole lot more on the horizon.

Having had the opportunity to spend time in Disney's Animal Kingdom at night for several press events over the years, I'm most anxious to see what they do with the new nighttime experiences there. What are you most looking forward to in next few months and years at Walt Disney World, or with Disney in general?

Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine


Hollywood and Vine has been transformed into a Star Wars™ themed venue where Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Chip & Dale will all be dressed as their favorite Star Wars™ characters. The characters will meet and greet and interact with Guests throughout the evening.

This special meal is offered from May 4 to June 15, 2014.







Times: 4:15 to 8 or 8:30 p.m. (sometimes 9 to 9:30 p.m. based on park close)
Price: Adult - $59.99 with Fantasmic! Package or $55.99 without; Child - $36.99 with Fantasmic! Package or $32.99 without

A digital photo of the party with the Ewoks Chip & Dale on a commemorative PhotoPass card is included. Scroll to the bottom for the Digital Photos you receive.


Dinner is the regular buffet offerings but with Star Wars "names" like: Cantina Corn, Greedo's Green Beans, C-3POs Cream Corn Spoon Bread and Tusken Raider Chicken.

Desserts are Star Wars themed!

Digital Photos Included with your Meal




You and the characters!


Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast w/Photos


The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater becomes the Star Wars™ Dine-in Theater for this character dining experience. This special meal is offered from May 4 to June 15, 2014.

Please post your review of the breakfast HERE!

First up, a Darth Vader Meet & Greet after check-in....


Characters include Stormtroopers, Jawa, Greedo, and Boba Fett:




Additionally, the traditional Sci-Fi clips shown in the restaurant will be replaced with Star Wars™ clips, trailers and music.



Times: 8 a.m. - noon
Price: Adult - $47.99; Child - $29.99 (ages 9 and under)

A digital photo of the party on a commemorative PhotoPass card is included.

Here's the menu:

Star Wars Breakfast Pastries: Vanilla Cream Turnover, Almond Pastry, and Double Chocolate Muffin


Anchored Appetizers: Greek Yogurt Parfait with fresh berries and Homemade Granola OR Seasonal Fresh Fruit and Berries


** The Dune Sea - house-smoked salmon scrambled eggs, wild mushroom potato hash with multigrain toast slatered with goat cheese butter

** The Kessel Run - grilled beef tenderloin on baby spinach with bacon and cheddar custard on a roasted tomato and cheesy horseradish potatoes

** Tatooine Sunrise - scrambled eggs, Nueske's bacon, sausage links and breakfast potatoes


** Imperial Delight - Caramelized banana-stuffed French toast with caramel sauce and strawberry compote

** Ackbar Surprise - Smoked paprika-dusted shrimp pan-seared with cheesy grits


** Mos Eisleys Morning - egg white omelet with shiitake mushrooms and caramelized onions, garlic roasted fingerling potatoes, and greek yogurt with berries


Greek Yogurt Parfait with fresh berries and Homemade Granola OR Seasonal Fresh Fruit and Berries


** Kenobi Cuisine - scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and breakfast potatoes

** Gamorrean Goodness - Puffed French toast sticks in cinnamon sugar with chocolate dipping sauce

Complimentary refills on: Blue Milk, Freshly Brewed Joffrey's Coffee, Minute Maid Light Pomegranate Lemonade, Hot Tea, Hot Cocoa, Soft Drinks, Ice Tea, Minute Maid Apple Juice, Minute Maid Orange Juice, 1% milk or chocolate milk.


** Bellini - peach puree and prosecco $8.75
** Mimosa - orange juice and prosecco $8.50

These Star Wars-themed meals are available for booking now at 407-WDW-DINE or online at

April 6, 2014

Flowers? Gardens? Not for me!

By AllEars Team Member Jack Marshall

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.

To me, that usually means hibernation until the fun festival - Epcot's Food and Wine Festival - opens. There's a good reason for that. I am not an outdoorsy kind of guy. Give me an indoor project like tearing out a wall or updating a kitchen and I'm all over it. Can't get started fast enough. But give me a yard project like planting flowers or landscaping and I'll put it off until it snows... and I live in Florida in the winter.

A little knowledge is a powerful thing. I did some research and found that this year's Flower and Garden Festival would once again present a different HGTV personality each weekend to talk about their field of expertise. I read the list of names and one jumped out at me: Taniya Nayak.

For those of you who don't know her, she is one amazing designer not to mention a fellow Bostonian. She cut her teeth on various TV remodeling shows (Knock First, Freestyle, Designed to Sell, etc.) where she had to redo a room or rooms with a limited budget. And I'm talking very limited as in $2000 to do three rooms on Designed to Sell. Not only did she rise to these challenges, she excelled in them. My wife and I used to watch every show and I don't think we ever saw a room that Taniya did that we didn't like.

So it was a no brainer when I saw her name. I knew I had to go see her. I set my alarm to be up early Friday morning so I could get to Epcot and see her first presentation.

She came out from the back of the room and held court on the floor in front of the stage. She didn't like being up there because she couldn't walk around like she could on the floor. I'm not one to be in awe in the presence of famous people but she had me hooked. She spent about 15 minutes dishing about Restaurant Impossible and Chef Robert Irvine, all of which I found very fascinating.


But on to the design talk. She gave several tips for things like choosing room colors (find one paint sample strip you like and work with the darkest and lightest chips on it) and repurposing old furniture (turning an old desk or table into a kitchen island).


Her presentation lasted about 45 minutes. She followed that with a meet and greet for the fans that wanted to meet her and get a picture taken or an autograph. It would have been downright rude for me to pass that up. So I had my picture taken with her. She is just so nice and easy to talk to. What a doll.


So the first half of my day was done. A few hours later, the second part of my day started. Paul Revere & the Raiders were playing in the Flower Power concert at American Gardens Theater. So I got in line for the first show and sat in row 5, right near center stage. Great seats.


The show started and my heart sank a little. Paul Revere, now 76 and using a cane, was assisted onto the stage to take his place behind the mock up of an old Ford Mustang front end. Once he was there, I never thought of his mobility problem until the set was over. He's billed as "The Last Madman of Rock 'n Roll" and that's a pretty fitting description. He never missed a beat on stage.


The members of the group had changed over the years but he still had two guitarists who have been with him for over 40 years. His son now plays guitar in the group, too. His current lead singer, Darren Dowler, is very good. He even does vocal impressions of Bill Clinton and Tom Jones that were very good.


They played all their hits in the 35 minute set. And while they do a great show and most of their fans don't know the difference, it wasn't the same as listening to those old 45's and hearing Mark Lindsay belt out the lead vocals. I was still glad I went though. I would highly recommend seeing them if you can.

So the day turned out to be one of the better ones I've had in a long time. Flower and Garden? No thanks. I'll take the "Home Improvement and '60's Band Concerts Festival " any day.

February 20, 2014

Testing.... Testing... 1... 2... 3



Have you ever thought about what would make AllEars.Net better than it is?

We do, all the time.

That's why we periodically conduct reader surveys, and why we read each and every email we get, even though we can't possibly reply individually. We take our feedback seriously, and we are constantly trying to improve.

Our latest attempt at improving the site is nearly ready to be unveiled. Over the past year and a half, we've been working on a comprehensive dining database that we think will be a useful tool in helping you plan your Walt Disney World vacations. Our goal is twofold -- to make it easier for you to have all the information you need about Walt Disney World dining at your fingertips, and to make it easier for us to keep that information up-to-date.

So we've pulled together all the information we have about almost every Walt Disney World dining location -- location descriptions, dining plan and discount info, menus, restaurant and food photos, videos, even recipes -- all into one place.

We're nearly done, but first we want to make sure that it all works the way we -- and you -- want and need for it to work.

So we're asking for your help -- call it a "beta test," if you will.

What we want is for you to poke around and try the new database, kick the tires so to speak, and let us know what you think of it. Here are the links you'll need to get started:

Dining Location Index

Menu Index

I want to stress again that it's not 100 percent complete -- we realize there are a few pieces missing, like the search function, and maybe some of the menus are a little out of date. It is still a work in progress.

Still, we want to hear what you think. After you've tried it out a bit, leave us a comment at the end of this blog.

We won't publish your comments, but we will read every one and take them all into consideration, as we continue to build what we hope will be the most comprehensive and useful Disney dining database around.

Thanks in advance for all your help and your continued support!

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