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October 2011 Archives

October 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Magic Kingdom Walt Disney World

40 years ago today, Roy O. Disney officially opened Walt Disney World - the Vacation Kingdom of the World.

To help celebrate the Birthday, I have scanned the cover of what I believe might be the very first Eyes and Ears, Cast Member publication.

Dated October, 1971, Roy writes:

"To the Cast,

On the eve of Walt Disney World's opening day, may I thank all of you for your spirit--your cooperation and the fine job all of you have done in getting ready for our opening.

Years of planning and long hours of work have brought about this historic moment. It will be an experience none of us will forget.

At this time I think it is appropriate that we remember Walt's comment:

'You can dream, design and build the most wonderful place in the world but it requires people to make the dream a reality.'

You, the cast, are responsible for making Walt's dream come true .... yesterday, today and tomorrow."

Roy O. Disney
Chairman of The Board

Were you at the Magic Kingdom 40 years ago? Please share your story with us in the comment field below.

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October 6, 2011

Spotlight on 40 Year Cast Members at Walt Disney World: Darlene Kennedy

When Magic Kingdom celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday, October 1, AllEars.Net had a chance to both attend the ceremony held in front of Cinderella Castle, and also to interview a number of current and former cast members, including several who have been with Walt Disney World since opening day, October 1, 1971.

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Pictured from left above:

Chris Beatty - Senior Concept Designer-Director (Fantasyland Expansion), Walt Disney Imagineering. (See our interview with Chris talking about Fantasyland construction HERE.)

Charlie Ridgway - former Director of Walt Disney World Public Relations, Disney Legend and author.

Forrest Bahruth - Epcot Show Director, Walt Disney World Resort - 40 Years!

Heather Will-Brown - Horticulture Area Manager, Walt Disney World Resort - 40 Years!

Darlene Kennedy - Creative Costuming, Walt Disney World Resort - 40 Years!

Kevin Myers - Vice President Resort Operations - 40 Years!

Today we feature an interview with Darlene Kennedy, Manager Creative Costuming Walt Disney World, who was wearing a red polyester pantsuit and a Coca-Cola hat as a server at the Tomorrowland Terrace on opening day. Darlene says she was able to watch Roy O. Disney take part in the pageantry along Main Street U.S.A.

"We could see all the balloons going up and could hear the opening ceremony," Darlene notes with a smile.

Darlene has since spent her career in Disney Entertainment, coordinating parades, shows and Disney Character activities.


October 7, 2011

Spotlight on 40 Year Walt Disney World Cast Members: Kevin Myers

When Magic Kingdom celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday, October 1, AllEars.Net had a chance to both attend the ceremony held in front of Cinderella Castle, and also to interview a number of current and former cast members, including several who have been with Walt Disney World since opening day, October 1, 1971.

The other day we featured an interview with Darlene Kennedy, Manager Creative Costuming Walt Disney World. You can see that interview HERE.

Today we have an interview with Kevin Myers, currently vice president of Resort Operations for Walt Disney World. But 40 years ago, Myers was a "custodial host" at the Adventureland Veranda restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.

"One of the huge memories I have from opening day is watching the rope drop on Main Street USA and watching thousands of people stream into the various lands of the park and occupy this place for the very first time ever," he recalls.

After about a year, Myers moved over to the Fort Wilderness Campground, and spent the next 39 years in Resorts.

See the rest of our interview with Myers below:

October 13, 2011

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic - Part 1 The Basics and Friday

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Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

The 2nd Food and Wine Classic hosted by the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin took place October 7-8. This event is a fantastic opportunity to sample many foods and wines, as well as attend seminars for more in-depth experiences.


THE BASICS

The Classic has two components - Beverage Seminars and the Causeway (the main event).

The beverage seminars ($35) are, well beverage seminars: Wine Blending, Riesling Rendezvous, Spanish wines, Modern Mixology, All Things Sake, Beer Please, and Base to Bubbles. Seminars were held 4:30-5:30 p.m. We attended four different sessions and share our reports below.

The Causeway, the large walkway between the Swan and Dolphin hotels, is where all the action takes place. You can purchase an unlimited wristband ($65) or individual tickets to sample just a few items. It was open 5:30 to 9 p.m.

After attending for one evening in 2010 and having a great experience, I decided to book the Food and Wine event package with the hotels.

Room Packages

If you wanted just a room for one night with causeway tickets for two adults, rates began at $255. A really good deal considering that included $130 in Causeway tickets!

The two-day for two adults included one beverage seminar each day and a wristband for the causeway for the two evenings, $329. Another super deal which included $200 in Classic tickets.

Before going any further let me HIGHLY recommend you cost out and seriously consider next year's packages when they are released!

The Causeway - There were booths with wine tastings from around the world (26 actually), and food stations (10) from each of the Swan and Dolphin restaurants and a caterer or two. This year, the causeway area was expanded to include a whole section of the Swan near the lap pool. You could have easily spent half the night in each section, there was so much to enjoy. There were plenty of tall tables set up to enjoy the food and wine.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

The beverage stations were all wine except the following: Beer, Sake, Champagne and Moonshine (yes, you read that correctly). In addition to country wine stations, several encompassed regions within that country -- five Italy stations, three for France, six for California and even one Ohio station! There were plenty of wines to choose from and taste.

The wines appeared to be the same both Friday and Saturday, however all but four of the food stations offered different items.

The guide map was informative and listed the wines that would be served in each station, as well as the foods and which night they would be served.

The food was excellent with just a few exceptions.

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FRIDAY NIGHT

While the weather for both nights in 2010 was near perfect, the same couldn't be said for this year. The weather just did not cooperate. The days leading up to the Classic were beautiful, but on Friday things began to go downhill. We were actually surprised that the event began outside on Friday evening, as predicted storms were approaching and the winds had picked up. It was a beautiful evening until the rains came around 7:30 p.m. My awesome Wine Blending seminar ran over to almost 6:15, and so by the time I got to the Causeway, I only had an hour, which didn't allow much time for photos.


Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic


Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

The crowd favorite from the evening (actually of the whole weekend) was Todd English's lobster roll.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Other favorites from Friday night included Cib's Smoke Shop (a caterer), who offered Carolina-style pulled pork with coleslaw and a side of fried pickles.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Todd English's bluezoo's Shrimp Cocktail Steamrollers (think shrimp shooters); and Kimono's Dragon Roll with crispy shrimp, tuna, and avocado.


Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

The skies opened up at about 7:30 p.m. and everyone scattered. The lobby of the hotels quickly became crowded. Since we were staying at the Swan we went up to the room to continue the evening's festivities.

I later learned that Shula's and Kimono's set up shop at the Java Bar in the Swan and a 20% or 25% (I received conflicting information) discount was being offered to wristband holders in the resort's restaurants.

The rain had let up a great deal by 8:30 p.m., but it was still sprinkling out. Apparently many of the beverage booths had reopened, at least to pour.

I was glad we purchased the two-night package!

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THE SEMINARS

All Things Sake:

Eight different sakes were available to taste during the seminar.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

The individual place settings had both the sakes, as well as pineapple shrimp salad, tuna tartare, and a bottle of water.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

The presenter was Chad Lobner, Certified Sake Expert and General Manager of Todd English's bluezoo.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Chad told us about the history of sake and how it is produced. We learned some important information, such as what differentiates a premium sake from a table sake. With each individual sake, Chad gave us ideas of what to look for regarding aroma and taste. He also told us to remember the word "GINJO" -- apparently it is only found on bottles of really high-grade sake.

Chad was straightforward and his passion for sake was abundantly clear. This was a great seminar for both sake lovers and those who have always wondered, but never tried sake before.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

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Wine Blending AKA Bordeaux Rocks!

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

While I had a general idea what this seminar would be like, it far exceeded my expectations in every way.

Our individual place settings included five glasses of red wine, four cheeses and some bread (to share with your neighbor), and a pipette.


Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic


Our presenter was Tony Porcellini, Certified Sommelier and Director of Food and Beverage for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort.

Tony shared interesting stories about wine-making history as we tasted each of the individual grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

One unique thing Tony shared was how wine characteristics relate to the tastebud sensations on our tongue. For instance, the tip of the tongue tastes sweet - to put that in wine lingo it is "Fruit Forward." The back of the tongue picks up bitter, which in red wine would be tannins.

The final part of the seminar was for us to blend our own wine. Tony gave us approximate percents of the various wines found in the Bordeaux and meritage blends and we used that to create our own wine.

Tony was quite entertaining, as well as very educational. The seminar went way over the allotted time and was a bit rushed at the end, but it was worth it!

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Did you attend the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic? What did you think? Any questions? Leave me a comment below.
And be sure to leave your thoughts on the Classic in our Rate and Review section HERE.

Part 2 - Saturday and my Final Thoughts



October 18, 2011

Spotlight on 40 Year Cast Members at Walt Disney World: Heather Will-Browne

When Magic Kingdom celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday, October 1, AllEars.Net had a chance to both attend the ceremony held in front of Cinderella Castle, and also to interview a number of current and former cast members, including several who have been with Walt Disney World since opening day, October 1, 1971.

First, we featured an interview with Darlene Kennedy, Manager Creative Costuming Walt Disney World. You can see that interview HERE.

Next we interviewed Kevin Myers, currently vice president of Resort Operations for Walt Disney World. You can see his interview HERE

Today we showcase Heather Will-Browne, Horticulture Area Manager at Walt Disney World.

When the Magic Kingdom first opened, Heather was 17 and working at Coke Corner (now Casey's Corner). "You wouldn't believe how many people had hot dogs for breakfast," she laughed.

Heather stayed on with the company and was the first female on the horticulture team. She reminisced that the costuming department had to resize the men's clothes to fit her.

See the rest of our interview with Heather below:



Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic - Part 2 Saturday and Final Thoughts

This is Part 2 of my report on the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic.

Click here to read Friday's Report (including the Wine Blending and Sake seminars).

Friday's rains continued through Saturday so it was announced fairly early in the day that the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic would take place Saturday evening in the Swan Ballroom. I must say, in some respects this actually was a fantastic venue. Would we have loved to be outside on a perfect night? You bet! But did the fact we were inside take away from the experience? No Way. The venue turned out to be perfect!

Most of the food and beverage booths were in the main ballroom but some were outside in the hallways. This was a good thing, as people flowed from one area to the other and back again. While there was a good crowd, I don't think any of us felt "crowded." The first two photos below are from the outer area and the last is of the ballroom.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Once again, we got into the spirit earlier by attending more seminars (scroll to the bottom for those reviews). When we arrived at the ballroom we walked around to get a lay of the land.

The beverage stations remained the same for both nights, but much of the food was different.

The Saturday night winner (in addition to the "can I stuff another lobster roll into my body") was Il Mulino's hand-cut tagliatelle pasta, braised lamb ragu (and I'm not a lamb lover) and pecorino romano. I had it before I knew it was lamb and I would never have guessed. This was outstanding and I believe it's on the regular menu at the restaurant.


Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Saturday's favorites included Kimonos Spicy Yellow Fin Tuna, the Cabana Bar's Crab Eggroll...

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

...the Garden Grove's Shrimp Po' Boy...

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic


... Bluezoo's Heirloom Beet Salad...

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

... and I always enjoy a good falafel.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

The only food I didn't care for was the Pork Belly from Cib's Smoke Shop -- way too fatty and greasy for my tastes. But others in my group thought it was awesome.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

We got to sample lots of different wines and found some favorites, including a Robert Oatley Shiraz from Australia, a Beringer Merlot from California, Chandon Chardonnay and a couple others I neglected to note.

A stage had been set up for the entertainment. I neglected to mention in the previous blog that there was some dynamite entertainment this year. I remember last year the band was at the base of the Dolphin fountain. And while I recall them being very good, they were more background than anything else. We rarely wandered up and just listened to them. But this year, because we were inside, was much different.

The four groups this year were: The Groove Masters, The Current, The Beu Sisters......

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

... and the overwhelming crowd favorite, Four Divo.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

These gentlemen were absolutely amazing. At one point during their set, it was as if the whole ballroom was up near the stage in silence listening to them. I had seen Il Divo in person a few years back and Four Divo are every bit as good! When "Unchained Melody" ended, the room erupted in shouts and applause. Many folks raised their wine glasses high in the air in appreciation (similar to the old days -- yes, I'm dating myself -- when we held up cigarette lighters!)

The evening ended all too soon, but a great time was had by all!

The clear food winner of the weekend was Todd English's Browned Butter Basted Lobster Roll. Many folks made multiple visits to this station both Friday and Saturday, plus there was the bonus of Chef English serving the rolls on Friday and mingling with the crowd on Saturday. He was friendly, approachable and happy to take photos with everyone who asked.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic


Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

If there was a disappointment, it was the shining food star of the 2010 Food and Wine Classic, Shula's Steakhouse, which served filet of beef medallions. I had several and each was tender and tasty, they almost melted in your mouth. It was the talk of the 2010 Classic and everyone raved about it.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

However this year, Shula's was the big disappointment and not just with me. Everyone in our group of 8 and most folks I spoke with felt a huge letdown. Both nights Shula's served Carved New York Strip. In addition to having too much gristle, the beef was tough. The seasoning on the outside of the steak was tasty, but the pleasure ended there. We tried again on Saturday night and it was the same thing.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

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SEMINARS

Base to Bubbles
This seminar was presented by Olivier Zambaux, certified Sommelier and General Manager of Shula's Steakhouse.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

At Base to Bubbles we learned the history of champagne including its five regions and the thre grape varietals typically used in its production. We enjoyed tasting each varietal: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. We then got to taste the champagnes that are brut, rose, and sweeter and learned what grapes and methods produce those. On the side we enjoyed three cheeses, slices of bread, water, a chocolate covered strawberry and French biscuit. We walked away with a better understanding of how champagne is produced, the history, and reinforced our preference of Brut.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

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Spanish Wines

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

The instructor for the wines from Spain seminar was Maria Marcano, Certified Sommelier and Catering Sales Manager. Maria was very passionate about Spanish wines, which shined throughout her presentation.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

We learned the history of wine-making in Spain, as well as the five regions. We tasted five different wines, learned about the classifications of the wine, the major grapes and the terms for the age of the wines.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic


Maria also helped us decipher Spanish wine labels.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

We were served two cheeses (one was manchego), Serrano ham-wrapped melon, bread, two small appetizer bites of potato.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

We also had three small ramekins for scents: clove, anise, and mushroom. Maria encouraged us to take a whiff of the scents as we smelled and tasted the various wines. It really help define and put into words what we were experiencing. I'm a bit tempted to start experimenting with this on my own.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

I came away with a better understanding of Spanish wines, a better understanding of what "earthy" means, and was surprised I enjoyed the Cava, a sparkling wine.

The real value of Spanish wines is that they are ready to drink now!

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FINAL THOUGHTS

First, thank you to everyone who said hello to me during the event. It's always great to meet fans of AllEars.Net and even better to share great food and wine together!

My friends and I had an awesome time at the 2011 Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic. In fact, we made a "pact" for next year: "Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel."

I was happy to see an additional food table (Cib's), as my issue last year was that there was not enough food to balance all the wine. I realize I'm in the minority here.

My suggestion for 2012 is to have a gourmet cheese table with breads! This is the one thing I think is really missing from the experience.

Clearly the weather impacted the plans for the event, however, the Swan and Dolphin staff went right to Plan B and it worked. The staff kept the food supplied at the tables and were hustling all night to keep things cleaned and orderly. Kudos to them.

An area that could use improvement is communication. When we checked into the hotel a few days prior to the Classic, the front desk had the same public information we did and really couldn't answer any questions we had. An informative flyer (with the event map) to those who booked the package would have been a nice addition. A table was set up in the Swan lobby Friday and Saturday, but the folks there were not as informed as I had hoped. Also, there should have been maps available for those who had already purchased tickets instead of waiting until the event began to hand them out.

Also, on Saturday I stopped at the table to discuss a small issue I had on Friday. I asked for someone to call me (gave my cell) and was assured someone would, but I never received a phone call. I realize it was quite crazy for the team over the weekend, but a call even on Monday or Tuesday would have been nice.

I highly recommend attending the 2012 Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic. The seminars were great and the "causeway" experience wonderful. The $65 fee (note that the 2010 price was $50) for the unlimited food, wine and beverages PLUS live music is a great bargain, especially when you consider the quality of what you are getting. If the $65 (or whatever next year's price is) is too steep, at least visit one of the evenings, purchase a couple tickets and get a feel for the atmosphere. If you love food and wine, you'll want to return!

The seminars are well worth the $35. They were educational and fun, plus offered some wonderful wines/beverages to taste. I love going to tastings and seminars, no matter what level of audience they are geared toward. I always learn something new and get to taste wines I may not have had or desired to taste before. Sometimes you are surprised to find a wine you thought you wouldn't like but do!!

Check out the resort package for 2012 as well. This year's was a great buy, and how nice it was to just stroll back into the hotel to get to your room at the end of the evening!

I hope to see you there next year!

Please click on the comments link and share your thoughts about the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic.

Disclosure: There is none. I paid for everything myself -- and yes, I am still raving about how much fun it was and can't wait for the 2012 Classic!!

October 23, 2011

Walt Disney World Dining Bits and Bites

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During my stay in Walt Disney World earlier this month, I was able to visit many restaurants and experienced many delights... and the occasional low-light. These bits and bites are based mainly based on this trip only, your experience or even mine in the future may be different.

To try and sum it up for you, here are my Dining Bits and Bites!

BEST NEW ITEMS

Kouzzina Breakfast Skillet! Savory eggs on top of sweet potato hash and topped with arugula salad - Super Yummy. The funny thing was I had been to Kouzzina early in my trip and breakfast was the menu I had grown to know and love. When I went back several days later, I couldn't figure ou what had happened to the menu! Finally asked the server and she explained it was brand new. While I will miss the breakfast flatbread and open faced omelet, the new breakfast skillet is a winner! I will be back next trip.


Whispering Canyon Café - Cheddar Cheese Soup $6.99 - with candied bacon and popcorn - wow!!!! We got to sample a small portion of the soup while dining at Artist Point and all 4 of us LOVED it!

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PLEASANTLY SURPRISED

Looking for a last-minute dinner can be very difficult, even for two. But in the Epcot resort area, we knew someplace had to have a table open.

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I have often gone to the Captain's Grille at the Yacht Club for lunch, but finally tried out dinner. We had a great meal. Linda had the Grilled Rib-eye which she said was tender and flavorful. I had the Pan-Seared Chicken with white beans and smoked bacon - it was yummy! The only odd thing was that both of our knives seemed incredibly dull. We talked to the manager and he assured us the knives are sharpened on a regular basis. We suggested he take a look at the two we were using. The server was great and overall we were pleased! We will return!



BIGGEST SURPRISES

Biggest Surprise #1 - Dinner at Boatwrights Port Orleans Riverside.

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While we got off to a slow start with our server, eventually everything picked up and we had a wonderful dinner. We enjoyed the Grilled Pork Chop ($21.99), Tenderloin Medallions ($27.40), and the Prime Rib ($27.99).

I suggest making an evening of it - dine here then go see the YeeHawBob's show!


Biggest Surprise #2 - Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge has a flight of SAKE and it's $15! Believe it or not, a place in Oregon makes SAKE!

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LOVING MORE AND MORE

Il Mulino (Swan) - best Italian food on Disney property! The Carpaccio Di Tonno - Thinly Shaved, Center-Cut Tuna served with Arugula, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Fresh Lemon Juice $14 - melts in your mouth! Really enjoyed the well aged Parmigiano Reggiano (listed as an appetizer), or as I like to say dessert, for $8.00. If you are looking for a great red Italian wine, try: Antinori guardo al tasso - Brusciato with cabernet, merlot and syrah 2008 for $79.



BEST OF THE BEST

Flying Fish (Boardwalk) continues to provide an outstanding dining experience in terms of service and food. Fresh Breakfast (Dolphin) wonderful, Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge), Jiko - awaiting a new chef (Animal Kingdom Lodge) !



DISAPPOINTMENT

Coral Reef - I so wanted to have a great experience here. The reviews we get are always mixed. Our food was good, however the server was far below average and made a couple huge mistakes that put a damper on the whole experience. The good news - there was a sea turtle was swimming by and hanging out through most of our dinner. You can't beat the atmosphere.

Coral Reef Turtle

SAME OL'

Big River Grille on the Boardwalk
- Nothing fancy or special here. Consistent average pub food. The highlight is the microbrews and the option to dine outside and watch everyone strolling the boardwalk.



BEST KEPT SECRET

Best Kept Secret: Garden Grove (Swan) for non-character breakfasts and lunch. Food was consistently above average as was the service.

The breakfast buffet including Strawberries and Blueberries - my favs! Also, eggs made to order plus yummy bran muffins with raisins. Of course, all the usual breakfast foods are here as well.

Garden Grove at the Swan

Garden Grove at the Swan

For lunch, try the French Dip OR Mahi Fish Tacos.

FUTURE DINING

I'm in search of an excellent theme park dining experience that combines food, theming, and service on a consistent basis. What do you recommend and why??!! Leave your comment below.

Photos from the DisneyFoodBlog.com are here with permission.

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About October 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Deb's Digest in October 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2011 is the previous archive.

November 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.