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March 31, 2015

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 3/27/15

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 27, 2015.

The side of the Soarin' building facing Downtown Disney is being repainted.

Here you can see the second coat is being applied and what the final color will be.

The annual Egg-stravaganza kicked off today at both parks (plus Epcot in WDW).

The way it works is you purchase your map and then set off to find the various eggs and match the character sticker to the location you find.

Here is the kit you get.. a map, sticker, and then a prize egg. In this example it is Tinkerbell.

You can redeem your map at any point and pick your prize.

Under each egg is a character. The one you pick is the one you get. To keep this post spoiler free I will not include any pictures of the eggs or locations here (I do have a separate picture set on my site with them if you wanted to see).

Dale came running by while I was walking through Town Square.

Work continues on decorating Sleeping Beauty Castle for the 60th Anniversary.


I think this confirms the new items will be lit at night. Notice the light bars under the jeweled roof section.

Two turrets have what appears to be a plastic diamond on them.

The Big Hero 6 signage is all gone as the theater prepares for the sneak peek of the Tomorrowland movie.

A check of the Grizzly Peak Airfield from the Monorail. A large crane is in place to install trees.

Time to check out the latest egg creations at the Springtime Roundup in the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree

A closer look at a couple of the eggs. Bunny Olaf and snow babies.

The Merlin egg we saw in progress last week.

The Hatbox Ghost

An in progress egg of Sleeping Beauty

The Hungry Bear is just about ready to reopen along with the rest of Critter Country.

Passing through the Candy Palace

DCA maps for the Egg-stravaganza are available in Elias & Co and that is also the redemption point.

The redemption area.

At Clarabelles.

The Spring Buena Vista Bugle is now on newsstands.

The rock work at the entrance to Grizzly Peak Airfield is taking shape.

The Cinderella preview has ended and the regular "It's Tough to Be a Bug" film has returned. The cast members were enticing guests to enter by saying plenty of ice cold air conditioning inside.

The show building mural is showing some wear.

Spotted a butterfly in the garden area.

The pool closest to Storytellers is walled off at the Grand Californian for some work.

Work continues on this store at Downtown Disney

Looks like they split the space. No indication of what is going in on the left side. But the right has a Disney Vacation Club sign.

Work continues very slowly on the fall protection at the Disneyland Hotel.

Work on the Downtown Disney entrance arch is still going on.

An ice chair at Freeze the Night

The Spring Break shirts

A look at Sleeping Beauty Castle this evening

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 30, 2015

Disneyland Egg-stravaganza, 2015

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It's almost Easter - that means it's time for the annual Egg-stravaganza Easter Egg Hunt at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. (It is also being held at Epcot at Walt Disney World.) This year the event runs from Friday, March 27-Sunday, April 5, or while supplies last.

The Easter Bunny has placed large Easter eggs, decorated like Disney characters, around the parks, and guests get to find them. Luckily the Easter Bunny has also provided a map. :-) There are different maps for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The maps are available are various locations in both parks, at a cost of $5.35, including tax.

There's a sheet of stickers included, with pictures of the various character eggs. Once you find the egg, you apply the appropriate sticker onto the designated space on the map.

In each park there is a redemption location, and the maps can be redeemed there for a character Easter egg - there are six different characters available. You don't have to complete the map to get your egg - you can redeem it at any time. You get to keep the map no matter what: a cast member will stamp it on the back to show that you have received your prize. I saw a number of people purchase their maps and then immediately get their prizes.

We started at Disneyland, figuring (correctly) that it would be the busier of the two parks as the day went on. We purchased our map at Disney Showcase on Main Street.

The maps give you approximate locations of the eggs, but not an "x marks the spot" kind of thing. For example: "Emporium (Outside)", "Emporium (Inside)", "Frontierland (Entrance)". There were quite a few other people also hunting for them, so sometimes it was easier to just watch for a small crowd of people. :-) Cast members were also happy to provide clues - we had a couple who told us one of the eggs (which was harder to spot than many of them) was at an "Eggs-it". (Groan.)

I'll have spoiler photos at the bottom of this blog - with plenty of warning in case you don't want to know where the eggs are located.

We had fun hunting the eggs - we did it while wandering the park doing other things, so we weren't just going from egg location to location all of the time. Once we'd finished we went to the redemption center, next to Disney Showcase on Main Street. There were several tables set up, each with six eggs of different sizes and colors set up. You point to the egg you want, and the cast member picks it up to reveal the egg you have won - though you receive a new packaged egg from one of the bins behind them.

The different eggs are: Goofy, Pluto,Tinker Bell, Thumper, White Rabbit, and Mr. Toad.

If you want a specific egg, you can just watch for a while and see what other people choose, and determine which egg to pick. It's not a shell game - the cast members don't rearrange the eggs in between guests. :-)

After we'd finished in Disneyland we went over to Disney California Adventure. There weren't quite as many people hunting eggs over there - in general the park was a lot less busy than Disneyland. We bought our maps in Elias & Co, which is also where the redemption center was located. This time we went ahead and redeemed the map for the prize before actually hunting the eggs.

Most of the character eggs were the same in the two parks, but there were a couple of differences: Disneyland had Mr. Toad and Tinker Bell, and instead of those two DCA had Mater and Lightning McQueen. The prize eggs were identical, though.

It seemed to me that the hunt at DCA was a little easier, but neither of them was difficult. Though it would be a lot harder at night, since there's no lights on any of the eggs and they would be hard to see.

We really enjoyed this - it was a fun way to spend a few hours in the parks. We saw a lot of other adults on the hunt also - I think there were more adults than kids! I thought the price was reasonable, too. I ended up with the Mr. Toad egg, and Lee got Pluto.

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Mickey at the Emporium.

Minnie in the toy section of the Emporium - this was hard to find.

Goofy near the Astro Orbitor.

Tink near Pixie Hollow.

Chip in Snow White's Grotto.

Mr. Toad at Dumbo.

Dale behind Stromboli's Wagon.

White Rabbit at Fantasy Faire gifts.

Donald Duck, near the Frontierland entrance.

Daisy at the Adventureland Bazaar.

Thumper near the fountain in New Orleans Square.

Pluto at the "Eggs-it" of Haunted Mansion


Mickey above the entrance to Trolley Treats.

Minnie at Disney Jr.

Dale in the window of Tower Gifts.

Chip on the wall outside Tower of Terror.

Thumper at It's Tough to be a Bug.

Mater on the roof of the jukebox.

Lightning McQueen watching the cars at Radiator Springs Racers - I thought this one was very creatively placed.

White Rabbit at Ghirardelli.

Daisy at Treasures in Paradise.

Pluto at Boardwalk Games.

Donald at Silly Symphony Swings.

Goofy at the Embarcadero.







March 24, 2015

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 3/20/15

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 20, 2015.

Starting off on Buena Vista Street this trip. Trolley Treats has some Cinderella inspired offerings.

Grizzly River Run has returned to operation after its annual refurbishment.

Part of the Bay Area is under refurbishment.

The entrance arch to Paradise Pier is being refurbished.

Over at Disneyland, work continues on Sleeping Beauty Castle. The turrets are in various stages of decorations. They are overlaying the blink/diamonds on top of the existing structure. Much like they do with the snow each holiday season.

Here you can see some of the shinier 60th and some areas that have yet to be covered.

Over on the east side the new tower

A closer look at the new tower

A closer look at the overlay.

The tower on the west side

The rest of the Frozen snow has been removed from Fantasyland.

Passing over Grizzly Peak Airfield onboard the Monorail.

Most of the scaffolding is down from Small World.

Back to Disney California Adventure. In Paradise Pier where the Maliboomer used to be they have closed the smoking area.

A sign directing smokers to Grizzly Peak.

Now that Smokejumpers Grill has opened the menu at Paradise Garden Grill menu has returned to Mediterranean specialties.

Fountains warming up for their performance this evening.

Freeze the Night had started for the evening and due to the time change kicks off in the daylight now.

Marshmallow out for pictures.

Some Cinderella merchandise in Elias & Co

A few items based on the new live action film

Back to Disneyland. The Primeval World has returned to the Disneyland Railroad.

World of Color returned last week. The show is the regular one and will be until May when the new 60th Anniversary Celebrate! show starts.

A video clip of the Pocahontas segment from this viewpoint.


The back screens looked sharper. Not sure if it was my position, wind, or new equipment. My guess is a combination of all three.


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 23, 2015

Disneyland Springtime Roundup @ Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 20, 2015 featuring a look at the Springtime Roundup at the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree.


In the center is a food stand as is the norm now.


Checking out the Chuck Wagon Delights for spring.










I missed their name, but a trio provides the music for the Roundup.






Mr Easter Bunny arriving for the Bunny Hop





The highlight of the event for me is the egg artwork. Here is a look at some of the early creations this year.


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Hard at work creating the next egg.


A choir from South Dakota performed.

Pluto was dressed as a rabbit for the roundup.

Mickey and Minnie


The White Rabbit from Alice


There is also an arts and crafts area to create your own bunny ears.

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Springtime Roundup at the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 22, 2015

A 1st look at Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos taking a quick look at the he Smokejumpers Grill which opened on Friday March 20, 2015.

I have an extended look plus my full pictures set on my site. This dining location replaced the Taste Pilot's Grill. The full project Grizzly Peak Airfield conversion from Condor Flats is not scheduled to be completed until summer. They will be opening pieces as they are finished.

Approaching the new grill from Carthay Circle.

Heading toward the front door.

A menu preview posted outside.

The board on the opposite side of the entrance (this would be the left side as you enter)

A closer look at what is posted.

Heading inside. Looking toward the ordering area. The configuration is the same as before, just new props, paint, etc... so seating is to the left and right. Cash registers and food pickup straight ahead.

Looking to the left some of the props above the seating area and on the wall.

The menu is more or less the same. Some new names and a couple tweaks but your standard burgers and chicken remain.

Thought the True Life Adventure movie posters were great.

The seating area to the right of the registers

The Bearpaw Basin patches and logos are throughout

The outdoor dining on the Soarin' side is still being worked on. So the door and windows are covered.

Walking outside. This is where the engine used to be.


I walked by again after dark to see the lights and get some more detailed shots of the interior.

A closer look at some of the props around the dining spaces.

I thought the model planes were a great touch.

A closer look at the boards in the back of the seating area.

Hope you enjoyed this first look at the new Smokejumpers Grill in Disney California Adventure. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 13, 2015

Review: Cinderella

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"Cinderella," a new live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale from Walt Disney Studios and Director Kenneth Branagh, regally depicts the well-known story of a girl, a fairy godmother, and a glass slipper.

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Loosely based on the 1950 animated film, this version is gently updated for the modern times, with more backstory given to Ella's happy early days with her parents, and a longer look at the Prince who inevitably wins her heart.

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It is her mother (Hayley Atwell) who encourages Ella's imagination and perception of good in everyone, and who leaves her with the strong commendation to "have courage and be kind!" Unfortunately, her father's second choice for a wife, Lady (Cate Blanchett) Tremaine, only holds truck with the first part.

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Ultimately, as in the 1950's edition, Cinderella does make it to the ball, with a little help from her friends, and loses a shoe but gains a Prince in the end.

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As the unwaveringly gracious Cinderella, Lily James gives a charming performance of a young woman determined to adhere to her dying Mother's advice (who wouldn't listen to Agent Peggy Carter?) and see the best in everyone. Helena Bonham Carter does her usual quirky best as the Fairy Godmother, and if her sequence alone seems to have dropped out of a Tim Burton film, that may just be by power of association.

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The star of the film however, is Cate Blanchett. As the mostly-fearsome Lady Tremaine, she strikes a powerful image clad in sharply angled outfits reminiscent of Joan Crawford at her most hard-boiled. Treading a thin line, she manages to make the archetypal Evil Stepmother understandable, if not sympathetic: A product of love lost, thwarted ambition, and seething resentment. Her portrayal is so vivid that although you might wish she was given more screen time, to do so would likely overshadow the film's less-defined protagonists.

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As a work of art, the movie looks gorgeous: Branagh is no stranger to sumptuously designed productions, and it shows here. Between the elaborate, striking costumes by Sandy Powell and the colossal baroque sets by Dante Ferretti, the world of "Cinderella" is as magical as any Fairy Godmother could wish.

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While most of the film is a direct callback from the 1950 film, the new scenes meant to make the story a little more accessible to contemporary audiences work very well, with the most successful being the initial meeting of Ella and Prince/Apprentice Kit. The brief hint of "mansplaining" that goes on as Kit tries to help Ella control her horse, and her subsequent indignation at his tradition-based conservative viewpoints helps to establish them as equals and makes their exhaustive efforts to be together more believable.

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Probably both the best and the worst thing about "Cinderella" is that it is an unabashedly unironic retelling of a very familiar story. There are no dramatic reversals at the end--the Stepmother is not revealed to be the heroine and Cinderella does not learn kung fu and slay any dragons. It is an elegant, straightforward tale that dares to recommend kindness and courage over anger and vindictiveness in a world that, like ours, seldom distinguishes between them...and perhaps, sometimes, that's all that's required.

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Also playing with "Cinderella" is "Frozen Fever," the animated short sequel to "Frozen." It has Elsa planning a grand celebration for Anna's birthday, when she abruptly finds that a cold maybe bothers her anyway. With the same cute characters everyone loved from the original movie, and another catchy tune from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, there's little chance that this one's not going to go over like gangbusters. All they have to worry about at this point, is whether the Disney Stores will subsequently be able to keep the Snowgies on the shelves.

“Cinderella” is presented by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Rated PG, it stars Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Derek Jacobi, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and produced by Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur, and David Barron. Screenplay by Chris Weitz.

The film enters general release on March 13, 2015.

March 11, 2015

Eating to Run: Marathon Dining at Walt Disney World

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OK, I'll admit it...one of the reasons that I run is so that I can eat. I don't think I'm alone in that...Still, it's important to at least try to make those calories count, especially when I'm coming up on a race day (or two or three).

This food blog covers my last two WDW race weekends: WDW Marathon Weekend in January, and Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February. My goal is always to keep myself sufficiently fueled, try to eat what I normally would when I can, not eat anything too exotic that might upset my system, and yet still indulge myself a little bit. So far I've always been pretty successful.

We almost always stay at the Boardwalk Villas for Disney race weekends, and so we frequent many of the restaurants in that area for our meals. One of our "go-to" restaurants is The Dolphin Fountain over in the Dolphin hotel. We ate there twice on our WDW Marathon Weekend trip in January: once for lunch and once for dinner.

For dinner I tried something new: a Falafel plate with chickpea croquettes, sesame tahini, and a side salad. Everything was good, but I thought the portion size was a little small.

Lee's favorite here is Build Your Favorite Burger. There is choice of cheese and toppings like chili, bacon, sauteed onions or mushrooms.

It's our tradition to have lunch at The Fountain after the half marathon - we get there around 11:30 when they open and get right in. Though lately it's been quite popular and is often full by the time we leave. My favorite is the Turkey Burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion. Nice lean protein and it really hits the spot after running a half marathon in the morning!

Lee wasn't very hungry so instead of his usual burger he had some chili with a side of sweet potato fries. The sweet potato fries were pretty good.


A lot of people talk about the burgers and ice cream at Beaches and Cream, but I think the Fountain is as good, and much less crowded. Also, there's a 20% discount if you show your DVC Membership card!

Dolphin Fountain Menu

Since we stay at the Boardwalk, breakfast is often from the Boardwalk Bakery. Thanks to a recent expansion, the Bakery has a few more food items (especially for breakfast) than they used to. The Breakfast Sandwich is bacon, egg, and cheese served on a croissant-type roll, with a small side of fruit. It's pretty good, though I would prefer more fruit and less bread.

Lee had the Biscuit and Sausage Gravy. This looks pretty disgusting to me...he said it was just ok. I wish they offered oatmeal here rather than the biscuits and gravy.


One of our favorite lunch spots is Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion at Epcot. I usually order the Tempura Shrimp Udon Bowl along with a side of steamed vegetables. I've learned to eat the shrimp first, otherwise the tempura batter gets all soggy and falls off. And I dunk my veggies into the broth of the udon bowl to give them some flavor.

Lee had one of the curry dishes with rice, and he also ordered a side of vegetables.

Katsura Grill Menu


The night before the half marathon we had dinner at Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion at Epcot. I don't find that I need to carb-load before a half marathon, but it is important to eat a good dinner, and preferably an early dinner, too. 5:30-6:00. Sunshine Seasons has a lot of pretty good choices, though you won't find pasta there other than the kid's mac-n-cheese meal.

I had the Rotisserie Chicken, which comes with black beans and rice. It's a half chicken (a small half chicken), but that's still more than I can eat. The chicken can be a little dry sometimes. I wish it came with a green vegetable, but it's still a pretty good meal for me.

Lee ordered the Slow-roasted Pork Chop with mashed potatoes.

We shared the Butternut Squash Soup which was surprisingly good! The pepitas on top added a nice crunch.

Sunshine Seasons Menu


We're almost always in a DVC unit for race weekends, so we at least have a refrigerator and toaster, if not a full kitchen. For race mornings we like to have yogurt and a bagel before we leave the room. So one of our challenges is always to find yogurt and bagels once we get to Disney so we can have them available in our room in the mornings. The Boardwalk Bakery is usually an option for both, but for whatever reason I've had a very difficult time getting yogurt at the bakery on recent trips - even in the mornings they have been out of it. They have had the yogurt parfaits, but those are too sweet and I don't like them. I've had better luck finding yogurt at the nearby Hess station, which has a mini-mart. The price is a lot lower, too. We bring packets of peanut butter and almond butter from home, and we can usually find bagels either at the bakery, or a package of them at the Hess station or in the grocery section of the Thimbles and Threads store at the Boardwalk. Lee usually has a banana, too, and fortunately those are pretty easy to find - though they aren't usually ripe enough for him. :-)

The night before the Marathon we had dinner at the new Trattoria al Forno, on the Boardwalk. It replaced the Kouzzina restaurant. We were a large party, and were at three different tables all across the restaurant, all with different servers.

One thing I noticed very quickly is that the new restaurant is much quieter than Kouzzina was - in Kouzzina you almost couldn't hear yourself think. Now there's some carpet on the floor, as well as wall hangings and other furnishings that help absorb the sound. It's still far from quiet, but we didn't have to yell to make ourselves heard.

The menu is Italian, but I would call it more up-scale Italian, and not family-friendly spaghetti-and-meatballs Italian. They serve pizza, but it's Neapolitan style with a very thin crust, and odd toppings - you won't find pepperoni pizza here. There's a Margherita pizza, but two of the others are broccoli rabe with fennel sausage, and smoked prosciutto, potato, and rosemary.

It being the night before the Marathon, I asked our server if there was a "Runner's Special", and he had no idea what I was talking about. I've eaten at other Disney restaurants (including Kouzzina) the night before Disney races that have offered a pasta special, so I was very surprised. The Trattoria really doesn't have a simple spaghetti with marinara dish on the menu - he tried to direct me towards the "Polpetta Gigante - giant meatball with ricotta cannelloni and marinara", but that's not the same thing.

I had the Chicken Breast alla Parmigiana with tagliatelle. This was a HUGE serving of chicken, and it was very good. Not quite as good as the chicken parm in Palo on the Disney cruise ships, but I liked it. The pasta was just ok - it was heavy and it needed more sauce. But the whole thing was a pretty generous serving and I ended up taking half of it back to the room (we devoured it the next day after the marathon).

Lee ordered the Baked Lasagna with shaved fennel arugula salad. He also thought this was excellent. He said it was very light, but still satisfying and filling.

We had decent but not great service. There were 9 at our table, so that was a fair bit of work for our server. But I think only a couple of people ordered appetizers and no one ordered dessert.

Trattoria al Forno Dinner Menu


The night after the marathon it was time to celebrate, and any ideas of trying to eat light or healthy go out the window. :-) We had dinner at Flying Fish - yet another Boardwalk-area restaurant.

I tried the nightly fish special - I think it was barrelfish, but I'm not positive about that. Whatever it was, it was very good. Of course I don't think I've ever had anything at Flying Fish that wasn't - it's always been consistently good.

Lee had the Potato-Wrapped Red Snapper - this is a signature dish at Flying Fish, and it's always excellent.

Where we really indulged was on dessert: there were four of us, and we ordered four different desserts and shared. The first was a special seasonal sundae - I don't remember now what was in it - maybe cinnamon ice cream, raspberries, and spiced nuts? It was pretty good.

This is the Signature Flying Fish Cafe Caramelized Banana Napoleon. I'm not a banana fan, so I didn't have any of this, but Lee really enjoyed it.

The surprise, and my favorite dessert of the evening, was the Spiced Bing Cherry and Chocolate Bread Pudding. I interpreted it as cherries IN the bread pudding, but instead it was cherry sauce served with it. The chocolate bread pudding was VERY good - more "chocolate" than "bread". It also came with a scoop of "sinful chocolate sorbet", which was excellent. While everyone tried it, my tablemates generously allowed me to eat most of this one. :-) It was quite filling and very satisfying.

We also sampled one of the "no sugar added" desserts: Chocolate Sable-crusted Peppermint Cheesecake. I'm not a big cheesecake fan, but this was pretty good. It had a light mint flavor rather than being overwhelmingly minty, and that was nice.

Really a lovely meal, and a great way to celebrate completing a successful Marathon weekend.

Flying Fish Menu


Before heading home from Marathon Weekend we went back to Trattoria al Forno to try their breakfast menu. Lee and I both ordered Scrambled Eggs with Tomato, Basil, and fresh Mozzarella, though he requested no tomato on his. It comes with choice of bacon or chicken sausage, with breakfast potatoes. As they put peppers in their breakfast potatoes I requested fruit instead. It was a pretty small serving of fruit, but I was glad that it was mostly pineapple and blueberries rather than melon.

People at the next table ordered the Poached Eggs with sausage and tomato gravy served over polenta. That looked pretty good, and they enjoyed it.

Trattoria al Forno Breakfast Menu


Fast forward about 6 weeks to the end of February...

For Princess Half Marathon Weekend I was also staying at the Boardwalk with my friend Deb. Deb is a planner, and she planned almost everything from dining reservations to Fastpass+. That was quite a treat for me and I LOVED having someone else do it for me!

I arrived on an evening flight on Thursday, which meant I'd want dinner soon after I arrived at the Boardwalk. Deb suggested Spice Road Table in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot - and with a reservation time of 7:50, it meant we should be able to watch Illuminations from there, also! She's brilliant. :-)

It was a very chilly evening, and we were bundled up in coats and scarves and gloves. Initially they sat us outside...it was a table right on the water, and on most occasions it would have been a prime location, but after a few minutes we knew we'd be too cold there, and asked to move inside. They had no problem doing that. We didn't have a window table inside, but we could see through one of the windows. And it was SO much warmer and more comfortable!

I'd never dined at Spice Road Table before, but Deb had. Apparently the menu has gone through a number of iterations in the time the restaurant has been open. It started off as small plates for sharing, but now in addition to those there are full dinner entrees as well. We ordered some of both.

We started with the Hummus Fries. Deb had had these before, and said they were served differently - these were large sticks instead of the squares she's had in the past. And they were also MUCH spicier than she'd had before. Not only was the sauce spicy, but the fries themselves were, too. A little too spicy for my taste, unfortunately. They were also very filling.

We also ordered Spicy Garlic Shrimp. As promised these were a bit spicy, but fortunately not as spicy as the fries. :-) Deb enjoyed them, I thought they were just ok.

On the entree side we tried the Lamb Sliders. These came with another order of hummus fries - though the menu didn't say anything about an accompaniment, nor did our server mention it to us when we ordered the hummus fries separately. I really enjoyed the sliders - maybe a bit more sauce would have been nice. I'd order those again.

For dessert we ordered the Chocolate Pyramid. That was a wonderful surprise! It was really excellent. The outer layer was not really cake, but was sort of spongy, with more of a chocolate mousse underneath, and in the center was a white custard. It was served with almond ice cream, though I didn't taste much almond in it. It was an excellent dessert.

We also shared the Spice Road Digestive Flight, which seems like a very odd name for a flight that included Grand Marnier, Godiva Liqueur, and Frangelico. Each was a 1-3/4 ounce pour.

Just after our dessert was served Illuminations started. While we didn't have the best view from that location, it was certainly a good view, and a very interesting place to watch the show from. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The restaurant is not very busy, so it would be great if they would offer some kind of dessert/Illuminations experience here. I'd definitely do it - as it is I'd certainly return to do dessert and wine/liqueur before Illuminations again.

The meal itself...I wasn't too impressed. Which disappointed me, because I'd really wanted to like this place. The sliders were good, but the others were just too spicy for me. And I'd steered away from a couple of the other appetizers because Deb had tried them before and thought the spice level was a little too high. But I really did enjoy the dessert and the liqueur flight.

Spice Road Table


Deb and I went to Magic Kingdom on Friday and had lunch at Columbia Harbour House. I ordered the Broccoli Peppercorn Salad - mixed greens, corn, peas, chicken, broccoli, and parmesan cheese. It is normally tossed with peppercorn dressing, but I requested it on the side. I was expecting the broccoli to be warm, but it was cold. The chicken was warm, so that made for a somewhat strange combination. But it was a pretty good salad.


That night we went to Trattoria al Forno - Deb hadn't been there, and I didn't mind returning. DebW and Linda joined us, also. We started with the Margherita Pizza. I thought it was ok - it needed more basil. And I'm not a big fan of the thin crust Neapolitan style of pizza.

DebW and Linda had dined at the Trattoria before, and they recommended we share the Grilled Treviso. Treviso is a type of radicchio, which is an Italian lettuce (I had no idea what it was). This was served with Gorgonzola and pistachios. Not something that I would ever think about ordering, but it was delicious!

Since I was running the next day I stuck with my Chicken Parmigiana as my appetizer. It wasn't quite as large a piece of chicken as I had in January, but it was still good, and I still had leftovers. The pasta seemed kind of glued together, though - and it still needs more sauce.

We tried several different desserts. The chocolate gelato was excellent, and I really enjoyed it.

The Piedmont Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake was just ok. It was a very small serving, and I thought the cake was dry. It had a lot of hazelnut flavor, though.

We also had the Tiramisu, but we ate this one so quickly that no one took a photo of it! It was very good, and very light. Deb and Linda said it was served much differently than when they had it before, but said it was just as good.

After eating dinner at the Trattoria twice, I'd give it a B-. They do some things very well, and other things not so well. I'm not sure how wide an appeal the menu has to the average WDW visitor looking for Italian food...I'll be surprised if the menu is not significantly changed later this year.


One afternoon we had lunch at Tangierine Cafe in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot. This has always been one of my favorite counter service locations. I had one of my usual choices: Falafel Wrap served with lentil salad and couscous. The wrap was pretty good, but I don't remember the lentil salad having red peppers in it before. And I don't like peppers. Sigh.

For dessert I had a piece of Pistachio Baklava. It was pretty good - not as good as my mom's - but good. Nutty and crisp and not cloyingly sweet or sticky.


The night before the Princess Half Marathon we had dinner at Il Mulino in the Walt Disney World Swan Resort. I'd never eaten there before. Because it was an Italian restaurant, and it was the night before a big race, it was crazy busy - I'm told it's not usually like that. So we had slower service than usual, unfortunately.

I ordered the house salad to start. It was a nice salad with mixed greens, sliced red onions, carrot strips, and pine nuts.

For my entree I requested a half order of Pappardelle and Tomato Basil Sauce Even a half order was plenty of food!

The menu had lots of interesting things on it, and I'd like to go back again on an evening that's not quite so busy.

Il Mulino Dinner Menu


My last meal at WDW on this trip was Fish and Chips from the shop in the UK pavilion at Epcot. The two pieces of fish were pretty large, and nice and hot and crispy. It's not something I eat very often, but I'd run a half marathon - I could indulge myself. :-)

So there you have it...two long weekends of running and eating.







March 8, 2015

Disneyland Resort Photo Update - 3/06/15

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 6, 2015.

In this picture set I take a look around the resort at many of the ongoing and recently completed projects.

The posted closure list by the security tents.

Since my last visit prices have gone up. Here are the current Disneyland Resort posted options/rates.

First stop for me Disneyland. The Big Hero 6 poster as you enter has been removed.

It was a great spring afternoon with many of the trees and flowers in bloom on Main Street (temperatures were in the upper 80s when I arrived and cooled down to the low 70s/upper 60 when I left).

The scaffolding has been taken down and Sleeping Beauty Castle is now a lighter shade of pink and much of the gold added for the 50th has been removed or repainted to silver.

The silver trim used to be gold

The light/projector housings around the Castle moat have been removed.

Scaffolding still up in the grotto area.

Moving around to the Fantasyland side.


Another wall set up in the extended queue for Buzz near Pixie Hollow.

Work continues on the Small World facade. Some of the tarps were down. Not sure if it was wind-related or because they are done.

A closer look

This is where the small fire was last week. You can sort of see some of the facade looks a little charred but hard to tell from this angle.

In Fantasyland Olaf is MIA... did he learn what happens in Summer?

Splash Mountain is still closed and has scaffolding over the drop this week.


The new roof for the Hungry Bear is being installed.

A new wood fence has been installed along the Briar Patch.

The Fortuosity Shop clock is back on Main Street.

Over to Disney California Adventure...

Work continues on Grizzly Peak Airfield. A look from Carthay Circle. Some new trees have been planted.


The former Taste Pilots Grill has a new wood/worn look and a new wood overhang is visible.

Water has returned to Paradise Bay since my last trip. World of Color returns next Friday, March 12.

As of now they have not done anything to the roof or Downtown Disney side of Soarin'. Scaffolding is still covering the park side of the building.

A look down at the submerged World of Color platform from the Fun Wheel.

From this angle no visible progress on the Flying Tires replacement

Redwood Creek Challenge has reopened.

I took a very quick look around. No big changes jumped out to me. Just some new railings, paint, etc.


Grizzly River Run remains closed for annual refurbishment.

Storytellers Cafe at the Grand Californian has reopened since my last trip. Looking through the windows no major changes jumped out to me.

A look at the Grizzly Peak Airfield work. Taste Pilots is now brown and green and trees are being planted.

More concrete has been removed. So all that is left is some right up next to the buildings. All the rest is being replaced. The restroom building is now brown and green to match Taste Pilots and blend in with the Grizzly Peak feel.

In Downtown Disney, the Winter Village and ice rink are all gone.

They are repainting the entrance sign near ESPN.

Work continues on the Fantasy Tower of the Disneyland Hotel

The Monorail slide refurbishment at the Disneyland Hotel is complete. Monorail blue is gone, it is now yellow. So we have Red and Yellow (I commented in my tweet on this that there must be a USC fan at Imagineering!)

To close out this picture set, Sleeping Beauty Castle after dark.


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.




March 6, 2015

Cinderella and Frozen Fever: Press Conference with the Cast and Crew

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"Have courage and be kind."
--Ella's Mother

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The next big release from Walt Disney Studios and director Kenneth Branagh is a live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale "Cinderella," preceded by the new short "Frozen Fever," a sequel to the blockbuster animated film "Frozen."

As part of the press junket for the film's opening, a selection from "Cinderella's" prestigious cast and crew took a few moments for some roundtable interviews.

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(Audio selections from the Q&A follow. WARNING: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT ALL THE INTERVIEWS. PLAY AUDIO AT YOUR OWN RISK)

The first interviewees were Co-Director Chris Buck and Producer Peter Del Vecho for "Frozen Fever."

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Next up was Cinderella herself, Lily James.

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Just as Cinderella is always one step ahead of the Prince, so Lily James was followed by Richard Madden.

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We were then joined by "Cinderella's" Director, the wunderkind Kenneth Branagh.

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(Hopefully you cannot hear me hyperventilating because OMG, KENNETH BRANAGH.)

Afterwards, we were joined by Screenwriter Chris Weitz and Producers Allison Shearmur and David Barron.

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With a movie as dependent on wardrobe changes as "Cinderella," Costume Designer Sandy Powell had her work cut out for her. Our morning ended with her giving us a glimpse into the creation of the film's impressive gowns.

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"Cinderella," rated PG, will be released in theaters March 13, 2015.

March 3, 2015

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, Half Marathon

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I think I got even less sleep on Saturday night than I did on Friday night. Frustrating, but not unusual for me. Maybe I perform better when I'm sleep deprived...

I was awake before the wakeup call, and I canceled it so that it wouldn't wake Deb up. Did the usual routine of having something to eat (yogurt, though I also had a bagel and almond butter available - and I should've had at least half of the bagel because I was hungry an hour later), and getting ready to go, with last-minute checks to make sure I had essentials like my bib, hydration belt, Magic Band, car keys, phone, driver's license, and throwaway clothes. I was wearing my favorite Cinderella running outfit again. But that's the third time for it this year...I may need to change it up a little bit. :-)

I went to pick up Jill and Hilary before going to Epcot. I arrived in the Epcot area a little later than the day before, and with twice as many runners as for the 10K there was more traffic headed to Epcot, but it still didn't take long to drive there. Once past the parking booths I Chose Wisely (stay left) and ended up parking closer to the Family Reunion area (aka the start/finish area) than I had the day before.

The temperature was 57 outside - balmy compared to Saturday. It really was significantly warmer. I had a trash bag and a throwaway t-shirt, but probably would've been fine with just the trash bag. It was one of the big ones and came down to my knees.

There's a security bag check outside the Reunion area and we all had to go through that, but it was pretty efficient - lots of lanes open.

With twice as many runners the Reunion area was much more crowded than it was on Saturday. And people also weren't huddled together for warmth near heat lamps, either. No heat lamps this time!

I said goodbye to Jill and Hilary, who were in an earlier start corral, and went to find the Mickey Milers - even made it in time for the pre-race photo! It was nice to see quite a few running friends from all over the country. Most of them were really enjoying the warmer weather in Florida.

The 1/2-mile walk to the start corral wasn't bad at all - it hasn't been bad the last several times I've done it, but the memories of the times when it was an agonizingly slow shuffle still linger. I have to say that Disney has done a much better job of supplying lots of porta-potties. In addition to those in the Reunion area there are more in the "runner's only" area, and then there are also several sets of them near the start corrals. That's really made the lines much shorter. (During the half marathon I also thought that there were more along the course as well.)

I was in Corral E. Close enough that I could actually see the stage and the start line, unlike marathon weekend when I was in Corral J and couldn't see it at all. I had the same proof of time for both, but there's so many more faster (male) runners at Marathon weekend that there were a lot more people ahead of me. In this race the ratio of men to women was about 1:11, which improved my corral position a lot. :-)

Before the race started a runDisney spokeswoman came on stage to play a video and make an announcement. I wasn't close enough to a video screen to see much, but as soon as I heard the music, which was recognizably French, I knew that they were going to (finally) be announcing the long-awaited Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend. And sure enough, the Inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend is scheduled for September 23-25, 2016. Disneyland Paris is the only Disney resort that I haven't yet visited...and of course this race will have that "I" word, too! :-)

There's not much real information available yet, but you can visit this web site to be added to a mailing list.

I think that because of the announcement the race started about 5 minutes late - a bit unusual for a Disney event. There was a nice burst of fireworks at the start, and again for each corral.

The earlier corrals are smaller than the later ones, and they were sending us off about 2 minutes apart. I started just about 10 minutes after the official race start. That was nice - it made it much easier when I was at the mile markers - I just subtracted 10 minutes and that was pretty close to what my net time was.

Over the last year or so Disney has gotten much stricter about proof of time submissions, and I think that has really improved the course congestion in the early part of the races. I know that my experience has been that when I start I'm with people that are going approximately my same pace. Yes, some are a little faster, some a little slower, but overall we've been able to have room to spread out enough that the single lane parts of the course that we encounter in the first two miles are much less crowded and frustrating than they have been in the past.

In the first mile I could tell that my legs were a little tired after the PR the day before. Not a surprise, and I was planning to take it easy for this one anyway. But this is why you don't PR two days in a row! :-)

This is the same half marathon course I've run a number of times, and which you may have read about a number of times. But just in case this is new to you: the 13.1-mile half marathon course leaves Epcot and heads to the Magic Kingdom, then back to Epcot.

There are several character stops between miles 2-4, but they are always the most crowded, so I rarely stop. One of them is the villains - this had a huge line so I just stopped long enough to take a quick photo. There's also the pirates and the heroes, but those we also hit on the way back, and I wait until then when the lines are much shorter. People seem to be much less willing to stop for photos at mile 9 than they are at mile 2. :-)

We arrive at Magic Kingdom about mile 5 and run down Main Street towards the Castle. It doesn't matter how many times I've done it - it's always a thrill for me.

The course takes us through quite a bit of Magic Kingdom: Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Frontierland. I was surprised not to see any characters in the new Fantasyland part - I've seen Gaston and Belle/Beast there in the past. But Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff were on the balcony behind the castle, cheering on the runners as we prepared to run through the castle.

There weren't any characters in Liberty Square, either. Another surprise. Woody was in Frontierland. Just after we went backstage near Splash Mountain there were Snow White and her prince, but a very long line so I didn't stop. I was kind of glad it was Snow White, because if it had been Cinderella I would've had to think about stopping...

My least favorite part of the course is the section after leaving the Magic Kingdom: about mile 6.4 through mile 8. A lot of it is single lane and we call it "Cone Alley" because of the wall of cones in the center to keep the runners out of the traffic lane. It can get very congested for the runners. This time it wasn't bad for me, since I was still among the top 20% of runners, even though I'd stopped for quite a few character photos. Those later in the race probably had a different experience.

In the mile 7-8 section Luna Bar had some fun inspirational signs posted - things like: "My other shoes are glass slippers" and "Run like a beast, sleep like a Beauty". It was nice to see the signs because there aren't too many spectators in that area, and I know that's often when I start to get tired and need a distraction.

Just past mile 9 were the Heroes again. Aladdin, Prince Eric, Flynn Rider, Phoebus (that was a surprise) and Hercules. The line was a lot shorter than it was earlier - I only waited about two minutes before it was my turn. This is one of my favorite photo ops in the Princess Half Marathon.

There was an even shorter line for the pirates. This is a terrible photo of me, but he was a really excellent Jack Sparrow.

Mile 10 is always a milestone for me in a half marathon, since it means there's only 5K left in the race. And I know I can do a 5K. I was still feeling pretty good. Though I was getting pretty warm and sweaty - it was a lot warmer than the day before. The sun had come out and even though it was only about 60, that's warm when you're running.

The next two miles went pretty quickly, and I was soon backstage at Epcot less than a mile from the finish. I stopped for a photo with Princess Sophia - no line!

I managed to pick up the pace in that last mile to make the final kick to the finish line. My time was 2:28:20, and that included lots of photo stops. I was very happy with that, especially on top of the PR the day before. I felt really good - my legs weren't sore at all. Tired, yes, but not sore.

After I got my half marathon medal there was a Fairy Godmother to sprinkle pixie dust if I wanted it. :-) Oh, and they were handing out mylar sheets, too, but it was warm enough that I didn't need one.

I went to the Glass Slipper Challenge tent where they quickly verified that yes, I had finished the 10K, and that yes, my photo matched the runDisney mug shot taken at the Expo, and I received my Glass Slipper Challenge medal. Ah...that familiar "clank clank" sound of multiple medals as I walk! :-)

I guess because of the Frozen theme the medals are silver this year instead of gold, and they all have snowflakes on the ribbons.

There was the usual runDisney MRE box...though it seemed like it had a lot more items in it this time than in the January races. Almond Roca...yum. One of my boxes had a chocolate coconut Luna bar that was really good.

I wanted to celebrate with a glass of champagne but the line was long...and I really needed to get back to the room since I still had to pack because I was checking out and headed home later in the day. (Fire the travel agent who set that up! Oh, yes, that would be me...)

There were 20215 finishers this year: 18498 women and 1717 men. Or "1717 of the smartest guys on the planet", as race announcer Rudy Novotny puts it. :-) It's really fun to see the guys get into the Princess theme - I saw quite a few running as princes alongside their princesses, as well as some dressed as princesses themselves. I saw a couple of men dressed in Belle's yellow ball gown, and others as Cinderella or Snow White.

It didn't seem as though I saw as many runners in costume this year as previous years. But there were lots of sparkle skirts and tutus. And while I expected LOTS of Elsas (and there were quite a few) the most popular princess by far was Cinderella! (Another reason to re-think my costume.) I think the most unique costumes I saw were a couple who finished just ahead of me in the 10K - he was dressed as Quasimodo, and she wore a really detailed Esmeralda costume.

As they did for the Marathon in January, Disney live-streamed the start and the finish. You can see the finish HERE It was fun to go back and see myself run across the finish line! (You can see me at 1:56:28.)

I want to say "Thank you!" to all of the wonderful volunteers and cast members who work so hard and get up so early to make it possible for us to run. And to all the bands and groups and individuals who come out on the course to cheer us on - we love your signs and your enthusiasm!

I really enjoy this race weekend. The Princess theme is a lot of fun, and I think it's great that it's an event that encourages friends to share it together. This year was extra special for me, not just because of my 10K PR, but because I was able to spend some quality time with some very dear friends. I'm hoping we can do it again next year - but next year I'm not leaving until Monday! :-)

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:







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