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October 2, 2008

An Autumn Day at Disneyland

Warning: This is going to be a rambling collection of various observations.

On Friday, September 26, the first official day of Disney's HalloweenTime, I made a day trip to DL with my friend Kristin(e). (Spelled Kristin, but pronounced Kristine - got that?)

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Weather was beautiful and the crowds were minimal - the longest line we waited in all day was 20 minutes for Toy Story Mania. We practically walked onto Space Mountain at 11:30 that morning. And even Soarin' and Grizzly Rapids had less than 15 minute standby lines - we really didn't need Fastpasses, though we used them a few times. (Since it was Friday, I'm sure crowds at Disneyland picked up in the afternoon/evening, but we left at 6:00, so we missed that.)

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Disneyland continues to have big problems with the Indiana Jones attraction - it was down when I was there last month, and it was down when we walked by it just after park opening. We went back later and it was up, and we got as far as getting into our jeep and belted in - and then it stopped. And after a few minutes the lights came on. And then they started sending Cast Members into the attraction to walk people out of it (which would have been really cool, but we weren't in the attraction at all!) They gave us a Fastpass to return later, which didn't end up happening, but Kristin gave it to a group of very nice young teenage boys who rode Grizzly Rapids with us. Anyway...seems like Indy is in major need of an extended rehab.

Haunted Mansion Holiday is back, and still a lot of fun, though I didn't notice any new additions to it this year. But I took a few movies inside (movie mode on my camera handles low light a lot better than still photography!) and noticed something I'd never noticed before: the gingerbread coffin on the table in the ballroom scene has a lid that opens and closes, with a gingerbread man corpse that sits up then lays back down! The scent of gingerbread in the air is a nice touch.

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Other things that have returned in Disney's HalloweenTime:

The Halloween displays along the tram route.

The huge pumpkins over the Disneyland park entrance, and the large Mickey pumpkin in Town Square.

The Dapper Dans on Main Street in their orange and black striped vests

Woody's Halloween Roundup in the Big Thunder Ranch area, with live shows featuring Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye - and your host, Tex Tumbleweed (and sponsored by Cowboy Crunchies!)

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Free coloring crafts for kids at Woody's Roundup, or there are bat and pumpkin-shaped Halloween cookies available to purchase and decorate.

The pumpkin carver at the Roundup

Special menu and food items - especially sweets like Halloween-decorated apples and cookies.

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Lots of Halloween merchandise - both quite a collection of Nightmare Before Christmas stuff and Disney Halloween plush, pins, Mickey ears, etc.

Goofy's Candy Corn Acres at DCA, which features character greetings and "corny" shows.

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Over at DCA, one thing that is NOT back this year is the Halloween decorations around the Tower of Terror - the last couple of years there has been a glowing-eyed bat banner outside, and decayed Halloween party decorations inside, but those were missing this year. Golden Screams has also not returned.

I collected menus from some of the Disneyland and DCA restaurants, and there have been some significant changes in the Blue Bayou lunch, dinner, and kid menus. Price is up, of course. Cafe Orleans also has a few changes, though mostly in their dessert items and the kid's menu. I think the kid's menus were changed just about everywhere that I looked. More "healthy" options - like a turkey dog, or string cheese, fruit, and yogurt, or a turkey wrap. All kid's meals come with fruit (e.g. grapes or apples) though parents can request chips or fries. Prices have gone up slightly - most kid's meals start at $6.99 now - and the price of the Arroz con Pollo Toddler Meal has gone up from $2.99 to $3.99.

Ariel's Grotto had the most significant changes, though - they have completely redone their menu with more of an Italian theme. It actually looks a whole lot more interesting to me - I might actually consider eating there now. They've also changed their pricing - $29.99 if you eat outside, and $31.99 if you eat inside. (Sorry, I didn't get a kid's menu for Ariel's, but maybe someone has one they can photograph and send to me???)

Some of the updated menus:

Blue Bayou Lunch

Blue Bayou Dinner

Blue Bayou Kids

Cafe Orleans

Cafe Orleans Kids

Tomorrowland Terrace (updated kid's menu)

Ariel's Grotto

Wine Country Trattoria Kids

(You can always find all the menus on our Disneyland Menus page.)

We had a very nice lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria at DCA - that's one menu that had NOT changed at all. With the demise of the Vineyard Room, that's my favorite park table service restaurant now. Kristin had the Tuscan Salad and I had the Chicken Bruschetta Salad. They were both really good.

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An unexpected surprise - I ran into my IRC friend JD in line at Soarin'. I knew he had an upcoming trip to Disneyland, but thought it was in October. After Soarin' we all went to Grizzly River Run - JD and I got drenched, but Kristin escaped most of the water. It was nice to see JD!

Toy Story Mania continues to be way fun - Kristin had never been on it before but she had a good time, and she scored very well - better than I did my first time!

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(If anyone would like to help with All Ears menu updates for Disneyland, please let me know - it can be as simple as taking a picture of a menu and emailing it to me. You can contact me at laurag at allears dot net)


Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

October 5, 2008

Mickey's Trick or Treat Party

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The special after-hours Halloween party at DCA has returned this year with a new name - Mickey's Trick or Treat Party. It's being held on 11 nights in October, with the final night on Halloween itself. We attended on the first night, Friday October 3.

We had a good time, but as far as I could tell the party itself is pretty much the same as last year - the biggest difference I saw was new signs with the new name.

The October 3 party was supposedly sold out as of several weeks ago, but Disney was still selling tickets at the ticket booths that evening. I'd have to say that this party seemed a bit more crowded than others I'd attended in the past - though the crowds were NOTHING like Disneyland, where we went for dinner before the party, which had its typical busy Friday night activity.

For any of you who aren't familiar with the party...activities include trick-or-treating at treat stations all around the park, pirate games and crafts for the kids at Pirate Wharf, DJ-led dance parties at Candy Corn Acres, Pirate Wharf, and the Bat-Lot Bash, character meet and greet areas throughout the park, and the Mickey's Trick or Treat on the Street character cavalcade (because it's too short to call it a parade) at the end of the evening. One of the big draws is that *anyone* can dress in costume - even those of us who are grown-up kids! Normally you can only go to park in costume if you are age 9 or under (chronologically - your mental age doesn't count! ;-) )

Most attractions in the park are open, including Toy Story Mania. I was hoping smaller crowds might mean shorter lines for that...while the line was ~15 minutes about 45 minutes after the party started, it was 40 minutes at 10:40 p.m., and the party ended at 11:30. We rode it twice - and we both keep getting better at it. (Attractions that are NOT open: Grizzly River Run, Maliboomer and all of the shows.)

It's always fun to see the characters themselves having fun at the dance parties - we saw Goofy and Pluto at Candy Corn Acres, Chip & Dale (in pirate attire!) at Pirate Wharf, and Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone at the Bat-lot Bash. In fact, one of my favorite moments of the party was watching the Incredibles dance with each other.

Incredibles dancing

It's also a lot of fun to see all of the costumed Cast Members dancing, interacting with guests, and just looking like they are having a blast. I would hope that the parties are fun for them, too - they sure make it look like they are enjoying themselves as well!

The wisecracking scarecrows are back at the entrance to "a bug's land" - they were having a good time just "hanging" around...You might think they'd be down to their last straw, but even if their job is for the birds they were still very down-to-earth - no stuffed shirts here! You could even say that they are outstanding in their field! :-)

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They had MUCH better candy this year - last year it was mostly what I consider "junk" candy - Laffy Taffy, Lemonheads, Starburst - and hardly any chocolate. There was a lot more chocolate this year - Butterfingers, Baby Ruth, Clark Bars, Nestle Crunch, Kisses, etc. Early in the evening they were giving out candy by the handful, though around 10:00 they decided they were running low and held it to 2-3 pieces/person after that. (And there were a few stations that ran out of candy before the end of the party.) I found one treat station that had Ghirardelli chocolate squares - unfortunately I didn't find it when they were giving it out by the handful! :-) The lines at the treat stations were never too bad (and they got shorter), but the lines at the treat trails, particularly the one in the Animation Building, got very long, though that one improved by 10:00. (On the other treat trails, if you just walked past a long line and went to the next treat station it wasn't too bad.)

We thought there were more adults in costume this year, though I'd still say that more people don't wear costumes. We went in our Belle and Jedi costumes again this year. The CMs actually got my costume this year - last year several called me "Alice" or "Dorothy", but this year those who commented on my costume got it right. :-) Lee's costume again got rave reviews, though a few kids were disappointed that his light saber didn't *really* work. :-)

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I always enjoy the decorations at the Trick-or-Treat party. They do it more with lighting than anything else, except at Pirate Wharf, which has more elaborate decorations. But considering they only have 1.5 hours from when DCA closes until the party starts, I think they do a good job!

It always looks like huge spiders have been at work around the park - Grizzly Peak is covered with a huge spider web, as is the Orange Stinger, the side of the building on Pacific Wharf, and the Tower of Terror, among others.

spider web on Grizzly Peak

spider web on Tower of Terror

And there are projections all over the sidewalks - they whirl and spin and get bigger or smaller - there are pumpkins, ghosts, spiders, or phrases like "BOO!", as well as the party logo. I've noticed that the kids enjoy running along with them. :-)

spider web on Tower of Terror

A few projections that I had not noticed before:

The skull and crossbones on the side of the Pacific Wharf:

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Bat eyes in the "Bat-lot" area:

Bat eyes in Bat-Lot

And these flying ghosts on the water wheel at Grizzly River Run:

ghosts at Grizzly River

The Mickey ghost and pumpkin lights are always fun:

Mickey ghost light

Mickey pumpkin light

And they also decorate with those blowy air-filled things. (Though they had one set up in the villains meet-and-greet area that was out of control and kept "attacking" the CMs standing near it. :-) )

Redwood Creek decoration

The lighting around Paradise Bay is always beautiful - but its normal colors are oranges and yellows so it's already "Halloweenish" to start with. I was happy to see the smiling jack-o-lantern back on California Screamin' this year - it was absent last year because of the Toy Story Mania construction.

Pumpkin on California Screamin'

They have a lot of backdrops set up for the various character meet and greets - at the end of the party after the characters have gone these are nice places to pose your own photos! This smiling Mickey pumpkin is in front of Playhouse Disney:

Pumpkin backdrop'

I wish they would do more with the parade...it takes maybe 5 minutes to pass by, so if you blink, you miss it. (It does have three longer performance stops, though.) At least it has its own catchy "Trick-or-Treat on the Street" theme song, though. I don't suppose it will ever be as elaborate as Mickey's Boo to You parade at Magic Kingdom's Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party - but on the other hand, Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party is about half the price of that one!

Trick or Treat on the Street'

I have posted more party photos in two photo galleries on AllEars:

General Photos

Parade, Party Activities, Characters

And you can find more information on the party, including dates, times, and ticket prices on the Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party page.

If you'd like to share your comments on the party with others, please visit our Rate and Review section.

October 13, 2008

Tower of Terror 13K: Two Weeks Away!

As I mentioned a while back, Lee and I will be running the Tower of Terror 13K at Walt Disney World on our upcoming trip - and the race is just two weeks away!

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While we have both been doing some running, I haven't run more than 6 miles since the ToT 13K *last* year. So Lee and I went out and ran 8 miles around Mission Bay this morning.

It was just about as opposite the ToT run as can be:

1. It was daytime.
2. It was early in the morning.
3. The temperature was in the low 60s.
4. The humidity was under 30%.
5. There was a strong, cooling breeze.

But it WAS mostly flat, and we DID do 8 miles. :-)

All things considered we were quite pleased with our time (1:22), so hopefully that will carry over to the *real* race in two weeks. My main goal is to finish the race in around 1:30 and then go ride Toy Story Mania over and over at the party afterwards! :-)

Are any of you going to be joining us?

October 17, 2008

Disneyland Dining: The French Market

The French Market is a buffeteria-style eatery on the edge of New Orleans Square. Disney introduced a new menu over the summer, and we hadn't been there to try it yet, so that's where we went for dinner before attending the Mickey's Trick or Treat party later that evening.

In addition to the new menu, the French Market usually has some special menu items and decorations during the run of Haunted Mansion Holiday. As far as I know, it's the only counter service restaurant that does much decorating. They did a great job again this year - notice the zombie gingerbread man in the window?

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And the huge spider web overhead:

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One of my complaints about the French Market in the past is that the service is very slow...and unfortunately that hasn't changed. Once you get inside there are two sides to choose from, each offering the same menu items. Cast Members take your order, plate it, and hand you the plate. When we arrived at about 5:30 on a Friday evening only one side was open, and the line was out the door - but it's almost always out the door. They opened the other side and put us in that line, but they weren't quite ready for guests, so it was still slow.

The new menu features items like citrus chicken, four cheese pasta, roast beef, and seafood and chicken jambalaya. Lee wanted to try the jambalaya but was told it wasn't ready, and it would be a 20 minute wait for that. Gee, thanks. (We'd already been in line about 20 minutes to get to that point!) So he had the Herb and Garlic Salmon Creole instead. It was served with wild rice, seasonal vegetables and cheddar corn bread for $13.99. He thought it was fine - not Artist Point quality, but ok.

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I had the Four-Cheese Pasta & Vegetable Gratin - A creamy blend of Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, Provolone and Asiago surrounding tender pasta and smooth, subtle bites of Shiitake Mushroom and Cauliflower Florets topped with Seasonal Breadcrumbs. Oven-baked to a golden finish. With Seasonal Vegetables and Cheddar Corn Bread. $12.49. It was pretty rich - I could definitely taste the smoked gouda! I ate most of it, but wasn't impressed - I wouldn't get it again. The vegetables were fine, though I received mostly carrots (Lee got more yellow squash and zucchini). The corn bread, though, was inedible. I didn't taste any cheese in it - it tasted like orange to me. And it was dry and tough. Really bad.

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Here's a photo I took of the Dixieland Cajun Chicken Salad - I think I would've been happier with that.

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There is no indoor seating - it's all outside, though the main seating area has colorful cloth banners overhead that provide shade. Like most of the other buffeteria-style restaurants, your food is served on real plates with real stainless flatware, and that's a nice touch. Disney cast members will clear the table for you when you're done - I always feel a bit guilty about leaving it on the table, but in fact there isn't a place for guests to deposit their used plates/flatware themselves.

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According to Disneyland's "HalloweenTime" press release, Zero's Ghostly Ghoulash was supposed to appear at the park this season - and in the past the Mansion-themed menu items have always been at the French Market. No sign of that when we were there, although there was this Haunted Mansion Holiday-themed dessert:

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I believe it is the only place in the park to buy the Haunted Mansion Holiday-themed souvenir mug, but I'm not positive about that.

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I'm glad we tried it, but it's not something I will be rushing back to try again. The service is too slow and the food is expensive and just not worth it. For my money I'll eat at Plaza Inn or Rancho del Zocalo.

The full menu is HERE.

Speaking of menus - I'd like to extend a HUGE thank you to Mukta, who sent me a bunch of DL/DCA/DTD menus last week. So I've been able to continue to update a lot of the menus on our menus page. There's still some that need updating, if anyone else would like to help.
Thanks again, Mukta!

Disneyland Resort Menus page


Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

October 20, 2008

Getting a Disneyland Annual Pass

When my friend Kristin(e) and I went to Disneyland last month, Kristin got her first Disneyland Annual Pass, so I thought I would share that experience with you. (Those of you who have WDW APs will find it's quite a different process!)

Here's she's smiling with anticipation as we take the tram from the parking structure to the park entrance. :-)

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First thing, Kristin had to decide which kind of Annual Pass she wanted. If you live in Southern California you have a choice of 4 different ones. The main difference is the price and the number of blockout days.

Premium Annual Pass: No blockout days, $389 (also includes parking)
Deluxe Annual Pass: 60 blockout days, $269
outhern California Annual Pass: 150 blockout days, $174
Southern California Select Annual Pass: 195 blockout days, $134
(Parking can be added to any non-premium AP for $59 - since parking is $12/day now, if you're going to go to the park more than 5 times a year you'll want the parking feature.)

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Kristin chose the So Cal Select - yes, it's quite restrictive, but the days she is likely to go are on Fridays with me, and most Fridays when we would go are open.

She purchased her ticket at the Disneyland Main Entrance Ticket Booth - but she could have gone to the Disneyland.com website and purchased it on-line and printed it out at home. Since it was one of the Southern California-type passes she was required to show proof of residence (Driver's license in her case, though they also accept utility bills, etc.) Another thing to be aware of: if the day we had purchased her AP had been a blockout day for her pass (it wasn't), she still would have been able to get in and activate/use her AP on that very first day.

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Once we entered the park we went straight to the Annual Pass Center at the Bank of Main Street so that she could actually get her REAL Annual Pass (unlike WDW, where the ticket they give you at the ticket booth before you enter the park IS your Annual Pass, at Disneyland you must go to the Annual Pass Center to get your permanent AP).

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After a brief wait she went up to one of the "teller" windows where they asked various information of her (at this point she would have been able to upgrade her pass if she'd changed her mind and/or add the parking feature):

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And then took her photo:

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And then handed her her bright, shiny, new AP, customized with her picture on it! They also gave her a nice color blockout day calendar and a copy of the October issue of Backstage Pass, the Disneyland Annual Passholder news magazine that we receive ~quarterly.

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After we were finished at the bank we went into the park to Haunted Mansion Holiday where she used her AP for the very first time to get a Fastpass.

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And then, as I wrote in this blog entry, we went on to have a wonderful day at Disneyland and DCA - and since she's now got an AP, I look forward to at least one, and hopefully more, fun days at the park with Kristin in the next year!

Other miscellany:

If you're adding parking to an AP, bring your parking receipt with you to the AP Center - they will credit the money you already paid that day to the cost of the parking feature. Note: the parking feature is not valid on your AP's blockout days.

If you want to go to the park on a blockout day you can do that by purchasing a blockout day ticket for $40 at any of the ticket windows. (If you're staying at any of the Disney hotels they are also available for purchase at the Front Desk.) Disney advertises blockout day tickets as "subject to availability", so it's possible that on very busy days you could still be denied entry.

Once you have your AP, you can register it on the AP section of Disneyland's web site: http://www.disneyland.com/ap. This area of the web site lists offers available only to AP holders, such as sneak previews of attractions, hotel and restaurant discounts, etc. You can sign up there to receive special AP-only email from Disney.

Disneyland APs can be renewed either by mail or via the Disneyland.com/ap web site. There is a small discount for doing so, and it also means no standing in line at the AP Center again! In addition you usually receive a 20% off merchandise coupon, plus choice of AP design - the standard one available at the park or a special design available only to renewing passholders.

If you must vist the AP Center, go first thing in the morning right after park opening - the line can get pretty long as the day goes on. Though I have occasionally seen a short line in the afternoon on a not-so-busy day.


Have you visited the Disneyland Resort recently? Share your experiences in our Disneyland Rate and Review Area!

October 21, 2008

Cooking With Disney: Pumpkin Muffins

One of my favorite treats at the Disneyland Resort during the autumn holiday season is their pumpkin muffins with cream cheese icing. I'd never considered actually trying to make them myself, though, until the recipe turned up on Disneyland's Annual Passholder web site (www.disneyland.com/ap) a few weeks ago (it's in the "News and Events" section).

It looked pretty straightforward, and I like to bake, so I decided to give it a try. So here's a photographic record of my attempt!

Recipe:

Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese Icing

Pumpkin Muffins:
2 cups pumpkin puree (canned)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 F.

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In a large mixing bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla until well blended.

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Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until just blended. Overmixing may result in less tender muffins.

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Fold in the raisins until consistently distributed.

Portion mixture into muffin pans and bake at 325 F for 25 minutes.

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Insert a toothpick into center of muffin and remove. If toothpick is clean, the muffins are ready. If not, allow muffins to cook an additional 1-2 minutes or until toothpick is clean. Allow muffins to cool for 30-60 minutes.

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Cream Cheese Icing:
1 cup unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Allow cream cheese and butter to soften at room temperature for about an hour.

Mix cream cheese and butter together until smooth.

Add vanilla extract, powdered sugar and cinnamon, and mix until well blended.

Remove from mixer, and cover and refrigerate until needed.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with icing.

Poke a hole into the center of each cooled muffin and squeeze icing directly into the middle of the muffin, finishing with a rosette on the top.

Special Tip: The icing recipe makes a generous amount.

Ok, now for MY notes...

The recipe makes 24 regular-sized muffins. I filled the muffin cups about 2/3 full.

I like cinnamon, so I used 1 t. - and even that wasn't enough. I will probably increase the amounts of the cinnamon and cloves the next time - maybe add some ginger, too.

I don't care for raisins, so I used chocolate chips instead! It might sound like a strange combination, but they were really good - and they disappeared at work about 5 minutes after I put them out. :-)

I didn't use the cream cheese icing, either - that's just too sweet for me. And these muffins are so good they don't need it.

The next time I make these I'm going to cut down on the oil - they were a little too moist. I'll probably try using 2T of oil and 1/2C of applesauce instead.

October 23, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 1

Hi everyone!

We have left the west coast for a week, and are here at WDW in Florida - mostly doing the Food and Wine Festival, but we'll be visiting all the parks, too, and running the Tower of Terror 13K on Saturday night.

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We're here with our friends Jim and Sherry, who haven't been to WDW in 18 years! So we're looking forward to showing them all the things that are new since their last visit - like Animal Kingdom - a whole new theme park!

We have a two bedroom villa at Boardwalk Villas - it's SO nice to be at the Boardwalk during the Food and Wine Festival given its proximity to Epcot.

Today was our travel day, and the travel part actually went quite smoothly! We were on two Boeing 767s for our flights - I'd never been on one of those before. It was really nice - it seemed to have quite a bit more leg room than a lot of the smaller planes. But my favorite part was the personal entertainment units - one of the things passengers can do is play an in-flight trivia game against other passengers. I had a lot of fun with that...and I won a few games. :-)

Jim and Sherry's flight landed not long before ours, and they actually had their bags by the time we met them in Baggage Claim. We landed at 3:50 and were in the rental car headed out of the airport by 4:30.

We checked in and went to our room, and Lee said that they'd given us the wrong room, because for a change it is NOT all the way at the end of the hallway! :-) And fortunately, even though it overlooks the main pool area, we can't see the scary clown that vomits children. The room DOES have the dreaded swans glaring into it, though.

After we unpacked we (what else?) walked to Epcot for our first round of Eating Around the World. The weather was just great - warm enough for shorts, but comfortable if you were wearing jeans, too. I really hope it'll stay like this at least through the race on Saturday. (But there's a high probablilty of thunderstorms the next two days.)

We made it all around World Showcase in a couple of hours, and between the four of us, we tried items from 13 different food/wine/beer booths.

As you can see, sometimes careful study of the menu was required... :-)

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Things we tried:

Cheddar Cheese Soup and Maple Glazed Salmon from Canada
Spanakopita from Greece
Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies from Poland
Plantain and Beef Casserole from San Juan, Puerto Rico
Chilaquiles and Chorizo Quesadilla from Mexico
Chilled Tomato and Garlic Soup from Barcelona
Pork Pot Stickers from China
Samosa, Red Curry Shrimp and Mango Mousse from New Delhi
Prawns with Sweet Potato Hash from Melbourne
Spaetzle with Mushroom Ragout and Apple Streudel from Munich
Cream Puff from Bologna, Italy

And the guys had beer from Belgium, Ireland, Mexico, and Australia, and I had wines from Barcelona and Munich.

A couple of the standouts: the guys really enjoyed the Plantain and Beef Casserole from Puerto Rico - which was also a VERY generous serving for only $2.75!

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And one of my perennial favorites, the Chicken Chilaquiles from Mexico, was back again this year. That's also a pretty good-sized serving, for $4.00.

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The Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie was another hit, and I really liked the Pepperberry Prawns with Sweet Potato Hash.

We didn't try too many desserts, and nothing was really outstanding, though the Mango Mousse from India was good, and Sherry said the Cream Puff with Mascarpone and Gianduja Chocolate was very good.

Though we made a pretty good start, there's still a lot of booths that we didn't hit at all - good thing we're here for another 6 days! :-)

We ended our evening by watching Illuminations - the park wasn't crowded at all, and we got a great spot in front of Italy only 5 minutes before the show started - there were people in front of us, but they were short enough they didn't block our view.

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It was a great day - we're looking forward to tomorrow! Lots more Epcot - not just the Food and Wine Festival - we want to hit Future World, too - there's a number of attractions there that will be new to Jim and Sherry.

October 24, 2008

Blue Sky Cellar: Tomorrowland for Disney's California Adventure

AllEars Reader Jeanine Yamanaka visited the new Blue Sky Cellar at Disney's California Adventure last week. She shares her photos and thoughts about the new preview center in this guest blog.

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October 16th, Blue Sky Cellar opened its doors to Annual Passholders and Cast Members in Disney's California Adventure, taking the place of the old Seasons of the Vine attraction. It is, in essence, a preview center for the new changes planned to update the oft-dissed park into something more suitable for Disneyland's second gate.

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On entering, we were held in a pen outside (despite the fact that there was no one else around) so that a cast member (CM) could come and orient us in a group. Apparently they are expecting bigger crowds than were there while I was there. The CM eventually explained the "Blue Sky" concept, and seemed to make a point of emphasizing that not everything shown within would necessarily come to fruition.

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Once inside, the decor seems fairly unchanged from its origins as the Golden Vine Winery, with a heavy emphasis on barrels and crates. The idea is supposed to be that the Imagineers were using this empty space as a spare office, and you're touring their papers and diagrams just as they left them on their desks or bulletin boards.

One of the first boards you come to is that of Concept Development, which is covered with drawings and notes on the new overlay that will come to the current Orange Stinger swing ride. It will be refashioned into the Silly Symphony Swings and themed around the animated short "The Band Concert." It is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2010.

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Interspersed between a lot of the development art, is an abundance of Toy Story Midway Mania concept art - possibly to give the onlooker hope for the completion of all the projects, since this one was actually finished.

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Under Show Ideas, they have a great deal of art and planning for the proposed lagoon show World of Color, which looks to be the next generation of Fantasmic! It will utilize some of the same water projection technology, along with light/fire/pyro effects showcasing scenes from Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Pocahontas, etc. To accommodate viewers, a lot of landscaping changes will have to be made to the surrounding area, including more foliage and giving it more of a park-like feel. This is also predicted to open in the Spring of 2010, and the CMs said they might start draining the lagoon to work on it any day now.

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Another small board shows the beginning drawings for the Little Mermaid ride, currently planned to go into the now-vacant Golden Dreams theater, and the new overlay for Mulholland Madness, Goofy's Sky Skool. It doesn't seem as though it would take that long to just change out the billboards on the tiny roller coaster, so it's almost encouraging that they're taking their time with the overlay. Perhaps the changes will be more substantive.

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On another side of the room, two large casks have been converted into makeshift desks displaying mostly art and sketches of the cosmetic changes coming to the Paradise Pier area, always the sparsest in the way of theming. The pictures on the wall above show how the current carnival-style games will get retooled with various animated characters - Casey at the Bat, Dumbo Bucket Brigade, Goofy About Fishin', and Bullseye Stallion Stampede are all scheduled to reopen in the Spring of 2009. One change already taking effect is the replacement of the Sun face in the middle of the Sun Wheel with that of the pie-eyed Mickey face, bringing it more into the time frame of the rest of the area.

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In the middle of the room are various display cases with maquettes of the current Toy Story Midway Mania ride vehicles showing the wheelchair accessibility available, and also of the entire Paradise Pier area, as they envision it when finished.

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Another case shows miniature models of the carnival games with their new 1920's exterior, and mock-ups of the inside character theming.

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Another wall is covered with wine barrels and a few computer displays which allow you to take a quiz on various aspects of Disney Imagineering and California history. They give you five multiple-choice questions which change with repeated testing.

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Anyone can get over 400,000 in Toy Story Mania - but just try getting 5 out of 5 on the quiz!

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The back half of the room is arranged with a video screen that shows a short film on all the projects displayed in the room, with an enthusiastic John Lasseter describing some of the new attractions. There isn't much seating - about the size of 3 large couches, so it's a good thing the film is as brief as it is, to allow for frequent audience turnover.

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On the wall adjacent to the video screen is a large map of the projected new Disney's California Adventure. The new entrance with the Studios-esque Pan Pacific Auditorium facade and the central hub transformed by the Carthay Circle Theater and matching 1920's architecture can all be seen.

The big addition is of course, Cars Land, which will ironically signal the end of the last remaining bit of parking lot on the same side of the street as the parks. The representation of Radiator Springs is planned to include three new rides: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, Luigi's Flying Tires (modeled after the old Flying Saucer ride in Disneyland's Tomorrowland of yore,) and Radiator Springs Racers, which is described as the "E-ticket ride of the land." There are also spaces designated for both quick service and table service eating, and possibly live entertainment. Cars Land is scheduled to open in 2012 as the last part of the planned rehab.

There's also a small glass building off in the upper right corner - although it's not mentioned anywhere, the CMs believe it may be intended to be a fancy dining establishment, but that's subject to change. Interestingly enough, the map is not even printed, but is a projection on a screen - proof of its impermanence.

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The last display before the exit is that of the Red Car Trolley, a throwback to the Pacific Electric Red Car. It is planned to run from the entrance hub up to the Tower of Terror-the only change predicted for the Hollywood area of the park.

Blue Sky Cellar is planned to evolve as the plans for the Disney's California Adventure rehab grow, with updates every six months or so. It's a nice display and one worth checking out if you have any interest in the upcoming construction, or just while you're waiting for that Soarin' fast pass to come through for you. It opened to the public on October 20th.

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 2

Day 2 of our Food and Wine Festival trip.

We got a late start this morning - still on west coast time. I'm actually trying to STAY on west coast time until after the Tower of Terror 13K race Saturday night - my body will be much happier (ok, so "happier" isn't really the right word) running if it thinks it's 7:00 at night than if it thinks it's 10:00 at night.

We made the loooong walk (NOT!) from our room at the Boardwalk Villas to Spoodles at 9:00, where we met our friends Paul and Ilene for breakfast. I hadn't eaten breakfast at Spoodles in years, and then it was a buffet. I think it has a very nice breakfast menu now - frittatas, breakfast flat breads, french toast, etc. You can find the menu on AllEars HERE.

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We had a very nice breakfast, and sat around chatting for a long time, until we realized that it was after 11:00! Our server came around a couple of times to check on us and make sure we didn't want anything else. :-)

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Eventually we said goodbye to Paul and Ilene and got ourselves together and into Epcot. The forecast for the day was heavy rain, though it was still looking ok at that point, and was actually very pleasant outside! But we brought our rain jackets and umbrellas with us. Jim was the group pack mule today - Lee did it yesterday. :-)

A performance of the World Showcase Players was just starting in the UK as we walked by, so we stopped to watch that. They've changed it a bit since I last saw it - they've included a third tourist in the cast - a woman to play the Evil Wizard Pelham. It was great fun, and the guy who played Galahad did a really good job. They even had a few new, but still bad, jokes. (Lee would have made a MUCH better King Arthur than the one they selected, though!)

Sherry had been asking to go on a ride, so we finally did one - Journey into Imagination. (They only get better from there, right?) After that, we steered them toward The Land pavilion and Spaceship Earth, and Lee and I went back to the UK, where we were meeting one of my long-time RADP IRC friends (and fellow AllEars staffer) Jack and his wife Judy.

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We got a few cold beverages and went back into the garden in front of British Invasion's stage to have a nice long chat. It was good to see them, and I'm glad our trips overlapped a little bit!

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Back in Future World we met up with Jim and Sherry again - they had just ridden Spaceship Earth and played a few games in Project Tomorrow. Sherry wanted to do the "Power" game, so we had a short wait for that, and Lee did it with her. They had a good time and did pretty well!

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We got Fastpasses for Soarin' (not good until 7:51 that night!) and went over to the Seas pavilion. Fortunately the ride through the aquarium, featuring Nemo and friends, was a walk-on, but wow, that is a looong queue!

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Our timing was perfect, and when we got off the ride they were just getting ready to let people in to the Turtle Talk with Crush show. Dude! It's so totally awesome!!! (Sherry wants to know how they do that. I wish we could tell her!)

We went upstairs to see the manatees, and talked to one of the Cast Members for a while about them. The two they have now they are still hoping to reintroduce to the wild. They eat romaine lettuce as the main part of their diet, since that mostly closely resembles the nutrients they would be eating in the wild. For treats they get things like apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

We wandered around the rest of the aquariums - I noticed this Mickey head on the bottom of one of them.

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From there we went over to Mission Space, where we did the "Green" side. (As I did not wish to *turn* green I chose that instead of the orange side!) Since there were 4 of us we were one complete team, and that was fun. (Sherry was our commander, though, so we thought we would be doomed!!!)

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As we walked into the Mission Control area they were just starting a Space Race game. We were the crew of the Orion - our four challengers on Team Triton were 4 pre-teen boys, so we figured we were doomed. And we were right - though we only lost by 2% - they had 97% and we had 95%. Which wasn't too bad. I'd never done the crew thing, though I have been one of the Mission Control players a lot of times. It took a little while to get the hang of it, but once we did the crew part was fun, too.

We had a 6:30 reservation for Marrakesh, and it was about 6:00 by then. Lee and Jim wanted beers from the Barley and Hops Market at the American Adventure pavilion, so we took the long way to Morocco. It was still a very nice evening - cloudy, but not raining, and still a comfortable temperature. Crowds were still not bad - none of the food booths seemed to have much of a line at all.

Marrakesh wasn't too busy at that time, and we got a table close to the middle of the restaurant. We all decided to order the Royal Feast, which included Harira Soup and Beef Brewat roll as appetizers, and then Lemon Chicken, Roasted Lamb Meshoui, and Couscous with Seven Vegetables for an entree, with assorted Moroccan pastries (which ended up being three kinds of baklava) for dessert. It was all good. The baklava was quite good - not syrupy sweet like some are. Sherry and I both had a white wine named Ksar with dinner - it was a very nice crisp, clean wine that I really enjoyed. Jim had a Casablanca beer, and Lee had a Marrakesh Express.

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The restaurant offers entertainment while you're dining - belly dancer accompanied by two musicians. We were there for about 2 hours, so we saw them twice. I think the guys enjoyed her act more than Sherry and I did. :-) Don't get me wrong, she was very talented and graceful, but just didn't have quite the same appeal to me. :-)

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We saw people coming into the restaurant who were wearing ponchos, so it looked as though the rain had arrived while we were eating. But it had stopped before we left the restaurant, so we started making our way to Future World to use our Soarin' Fastpasses. We got to the UK, and it started raining, so we broke out the umbrella (mine) and rain jackets (everyone else). And then it started to REALLY rain...we all ended up with squishy shoes and wet shorts/jeans, though it stopped raining just before we got to the Land.

At that point I'm not even sure we needed Fastpasses - looked like Soarin' was almost a walk-on. Jim and Sherry had never ridden this before, so I requested top row, center section - might as well maximize their first experience, right? :-) I think it was a little bit more exciting than Sherry expected - I heard a lot of gasps and screams out of her, and I think she had a death grip on the handles beside her seat. :-) She still enjoyed it and wants to do it again, though!

The rain had not restarted while we were inside and Illuminations was over, so people were streaming out of the park. Since we were headed back towards the International Gateway we were going opposite most everyone else, and felt like salmon swimming upstream until we got past Canada.

Jim and Lee went to Big River Grill to have a beer, while Sherry and I came back to the room to finish drying out. It started raining again about 20 minutes later...and rained for over an hour, though it sounds like it has stopped now. I hope it gets it out of its system tonight!

It was a great day, though, if you can believe it, Sherry doesn't seem to have gotten this whole "ride" thing out of her system, and wants to go on MORE rides tomorrow!!! :-) I think we're going to the Studios tomorrow, and tomorrow night we'll be attending a Food and Wine Festival event, City Tastes - Spain over in the World Showplace.

October 25, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 3

Day 3 - this is going to be a lot shorter, since it's after midnight already...

It rained most of the night and was still raining this morning, so we put off going to the Studios until about 10:00 when it mostly stopped - we had a few occasional showers after that.

Got Fastpasses for Toy Story Midway Mania at 10:30 - the return time was already 3:55! And then got in line for Narnia - where they were handing out lanyards for a Dream Extra Hour Event in the Studios tonight. We knew we wouldn't be able to make it because we were going to City Tastes at Epcot, but figured we'd give them to a nice family before we left. I was the only one who had seen the movie, but they show enough of it in the exhibit that you get a pretty good idea!

Terrorized Sherry on the Tower of Terror - she screamed most of the ride. But I think she still enjoyed it. Hard to tell from this photo. :-)

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Lee had to leave for the Apple store, to replace his iPhone which apparently got drowned in last night's downpour, even though it was in his pocket. :-(

Jim, Sherry and I went to watch High School Musical 3, which premiered today. Found my friend Kenny, who helped us get a terrific spot to see the 12:00 show center stage. (The 10:00 had been rained out, and it had been showering a bit so we were concerned about the 12:00 show, but it came off ok. I liked it - I can't say I'm a huge fan, but of the three shows I think I like this one the best. Here's a link to lots more photos of High School Musical 3!

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We got Fastpasses for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and had lunch at Rosie's - the Studios is probably my least favorite park to eat in. Then went to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular - good timing, since it was raining a bit by then. We tried to get Sherry volunteered for the show, but that didn't work. :-( Some of the stunt sequences got left out because of the wet stage/sets.

Saw the Jedi Training Academy, which was cute (though this Jedi Master was not as good as the rest I've seen), and then went to see MuppetVision. It was fun - that show has held up pretty well for something almost 20 years old!

Planned to go to One Man's Dream after that, but it was 3:15 and it closed at 3:00. :-( We had 15 minutes to slowly walk back to Rock'n'Roller Coaster to use our Fastpasses. I called Lee, who had gotten his new phone and was on his way back.

Sherry screamed throughout most of Rock'n'Roller Coaster, but she and Jim both enjoyed it.

Went back to Toy Story Midway Mania, where Lee had arrived just a few minutes before, and we used our Fastpasses. The Standby line was 100 minutes!!! Sorry, but there's NO ride I'm going to wait 100 minutes to ride!!! It was great fun, even though Lee beat me this time (first time that has happened!) Still more fun than a barrel of monkeys! :-)

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On our way out of the park we gave our Dream Event passes to a nice family with two teen aged sons. They were very happy to get them. So I hope they had a good time!

Had a short break back in the room to get ready for City Tastes - Spain over at Epcot. We really weren't sure WHAT this was going to be - very little in Disney's description. Sounded sort of like Party for the Senses on a smaller scale. We were about half right. It was mostly a wine-tasting event - the guide they gave us called it "Great Match Wine & Tapas 08". It was sponsored by Wines from Spain. They must have had over 200 wines from over 30 Spanish wineries. Some very good wines, too! Not much in the way of food choices, though, and NO desserts, which I found VERY disappointing. Nice entertainment, though - a Spanish guitar group and a pair of flamenco dancers and their guitarist.

One of the best parts (for us) is that the event was quite *under* attended and not at all crowded - there were actually some empty tables. That meant the people pouring the wines could give us a lot of extra attention. One of them, from Grupo Faustino, became Lee's New Best Friend - I think Lee sampled just about everything he had (and most of it was pretty good!)

I'll be writing a lot more detail in a report that will be published on AllEars.Net - once I have time to write it!

We all really enjoyed it, though I wish we'd known a bit more about it before hand.

It was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, so we decided to stick around for that and do some attractions that Jim and Sherry hadn't yet experienced. Test Track first, though the line ended up being a lot longer than we expected. Tried to do Soarin' but Standby was 40 minutes, so we went back and did Ellen's Energy Adventure instead, then headed back to the room. I was surprised how many people were still in the park at 11:30.

Not sure about tomorrow...we need to go pick up our Tower of Terror race packets, and then we'll see what else we want to do - Lee and I should try to stay off our feet a bit tomorrow! The rain is supposed to subside by the afternoon...I hope so. I wouldn't have wanted to run in the weather we had tonight (it rained, though we were only out in it once).

October 26, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 4

Day 4

(I won't be including all of the events of today because the major event is the Tower of Terror 13K, and that's not until tonight - and I can guarantee I won't be blogging about it right after I get back to the room - the stops will be shower and bed - in that order!)

We all agreed last night that we were going to sleep in this morning and get up whenever. So it was quite a leisurely morning - we finally got out of here about 10:30 and went to Coronado Springs, where Lee and I needed to pick up our registration packets for the 13K.

First we had breakfast at the Pepper Market, though. It was almost 10:45 when we arrived and there was a short line to get in, and they stopped serving breakfast at 11:00. So they were trying to finish up breakfast while they were trying to set up for lunch - it was kind of a mess. And there were quite a few other people who were also breakfasting late!

Pepper Market is kind of a food court idea, with different stations serving different foods. Only instead of paying as you exit out towards the seating area, instead you pay as you exit the seating area after you've eaten. To do that they give each party a ticket, and at each station they stamp your ticket to show what you got. Of course a problem with this is when you want to get things from different stations, but you only have the one ticket - we ran into that.

It's an interesting concept...but I don't think it works very well. The permanent signage is all for their regular lunch/dinner menu, and even though they gave us a menu which showed which stations had which breakfast items, we didn't have that with us when we actually went to get food. They had breakfast signs for some items, but not for others. We were milling around trying to figure it out, and so were a lot of other people. Since it was late, they had run out of some breakfast items (like bacon) and had shut down others (like eggs cooked to order). And as I mentioned earlier, they were trying to switch over from breakfast to lunch, and that made things even more chaotic. Though the breakfast/lunch thing worked out well for Jim - instead of breakfast food he was able to order Kung Pao Shrimp! It looked very good - very nicely cooked and presented.

Another thing they do that I don't like is they tack a 10% gratuity onto your bill, even though YOU are the ones doing all the work getting your food - the servers simply take and serve your drink orders. (Though ours had to work a little harder because I spilled a puddle of syrup on the table - she was very nice about it, though.)

As for the breakfast...it was ok, but I was surprised at how expensive it was - we paid more for breakfast this morning than we did for our table service breakfast at Spoodles on Thursday - AND the food was better at Spoodles. AND we got a 20% discount there with the Disney Dining Experience card - or "Tables in Wonderland" as I understand it is now called. (When we were at Spoodles with Paul and Ilene the other morning, Paul, in his very best announcer voice, called it "Tables in WONderland" and I still crack up when I think about that.)

The packet pickup for the race was just down the hall from the restaurant in the convention center - it was a much nicer set-up than they had for it last year when it was at one of the clubs at Pleasure Island. They had plenty of very nice volunteers to help - it really wasn't very busy at all. We spoke to a man who is involved in staging the race, and he said they took at least some of last year's guest comments into consideration this year - though apparently adding character presence to the race wasn't one of them. :-( So sounds like it'll still be a rather boring race. Oh well.

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(Does the carpeting in the Coronado Springs convention center area mess with any one else's eyes like it does mine? That small reddish-orange pattern starts moving if I look at it very long...)

After that we were off to Animal Kingdom - we were planning a short day since we (or I) wanted to rest up this afternoon and NOT be on my feet all day, and we wanted to show Jim and Sherry something different. They had never been to Animal Kingdom before since it wasn't built when they were last here in 1990.

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A Festival of the Lion King show was due to start in about 15 minutes so we went there. Had no problems getting a seat, though the theater was well over 3/4 full. I hadn't seen that in a while, and had forgotten how good it is. The Tumble Monkeys are still my favorites, though Lee and I both thought that the pair of "bird" dancers were the best we'd ever seen. (The guy is the same one we've seen for years, but his partner was either better or they worked better together.)

It had turned into a beautiful sunny day, but had really started to warm up a little too much for my comfort. We wandered around a bit in the shade of the Tree of Life to show Jim and Sherry some of the animals on the tree and some of the (real) animals that live around it.

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Over in Asia we walked the Maharajah Jungle Trek - there were quite a few more people than we usually see, but not too many animals, though we did see three sleeping tigers. And we learned a lot about bats from the CM at the bat exhibit - like the fact that bats have no ankles so they can't stand up. So if they fall on the ground they are quite helpless - they can't just stand up and fly away. Instead they have to use their "elbows" to crawl on the ground until they get to something they can climb up to reach a height where they can fly away.

The park seemed fairly crowded to me - lots of congestion on the walkways and standby for Everest was 50 minutes. We went to Everest and asked for our friend Kenny who works there - he hadn't expected to see us there until tomorrow. :-) We had a short visit with him (he WAS working, after all!) and then took a ride on Everest - Jim and Sherry really enjoyed it. I'd warned Sherry in advance that the backwards-in-the-dark thing really messes with your head, and you think you're going upside-down even when you're not. Unfortunately the Yeti wasn't working - we only saw him with the strobe light effect. :-(

We got some ice cream at Anandapur Ice Cream - I'd told Sherry that I thought it was the best soft-serve in the parks. She thought it was very good. Unfortunately because it was so hot it was melting really fast - I didn't get a chance to eat it slowly and savor it as I like to do. And though I was careful I still got a drip on my (black) shorts - though at least the chocolate ice cream missed the white t-shirt! (Lee had a root beer float, so he didn't have the same drip problems.)

We exited the park the long way, going past Dinoland, because we wanted to show Jim and Sherry most of the park (haven't gotten to Africa yet, though!) And now we're back in the room resting up for tonight.

Jim and Sherry are planning to have dinner at the Brown Derby at the Studios. Lee and I are eating light - we picked up a couple of sandwiches at the Boardwalk Bakery (the multi-grain bread they use in the sandwiches is excellent!) and had part of those, and will have a little more later.

Ack! We're not going to get to Epcot at all today!!! We are waaay down on our Eating Around the World quotient for the week...this is day 4 and we've only done it once!

Added Sunday morning: We finished the Tower of Terror 13K in 1:27:27. I was hoping to finish in less than 90 minutes, so that was good. Weather was MUCH better than last year, and not so humid or warm, though still warmer than I like. And there were characters!!! Between miles 4 and 5 we had lots of villains - Frollo and the Evil Queen, Maleficent and Cruella, Smee, and Captain Hook. That was fun! There was a little more entertainment along the way - it was definitely an improvement over last year. We're glad it's over, though. :-)

October 28, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 5

(Yes, I know this is a day late, but those people we're with have been keeping us SO busy that I haven't had a chance to blog!!! :-) )

After our late night at the Tower of Terror 13K, we didn't get up very early on Sunday morning. It was almost 10:00 by the time we got moving - we thought we'd go to the Boardwalk Bakery for breakfast, but the line was huge, so then we thought we'd try the Bellevue Room in the hotel, but all they had left were 3 muffins, a banana, and a few containers of Sugar Pops.

Sooo...we headed to Animal Kingdom, hoping we'd get there in time for breakfast. Just outside the park entrance Jim spotted the coffee/pastry stand, which had NO line, and we picked up some coffee beverages and some pastries. They had a really nice cinnamon roll.

Jim and Sherry wanted to see It's Tough to be a Bug - it's been a LONG time since I've seen a line for this, but we were backed up a ways into the queue. We still got into the next show, and they enjoyed it - Sherry didn't even scream too much. :-)

Next we took them back to Kilimanjaro Safaris, and had one of the best safaris we've ever had - there were lots and lots of animals. One of the giraffes was *right* next to the road. The driver turned the sound way down on the "Warden Wilson" stuff, too, and downplayed the poacher stuff, which we really appreciated.

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After the Safari we caught one of the gorillas taking a nap. :-)

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And took a quick turn into Pangani Forest Trail, where the keepers were doing a training session with the Colobus monkeys. They were presenting different body parts to the keepers on command, and getting rewarded with various treats. It was pretty interesting to watch.

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We had a late lunch at Tusker House - we had not been here since it was converted from a counter service restaurant to a buffet. When we saw Jack the other day he'd told us it was "Boma without the soups", and since Boma is one of our favorites, we were hoping it would measure up.

And we all really enjoyed it. I thought the variety of food was actually better than I've seen at Boma the last few times I've been there. The Marrakesh couscous with roasted vegetables was outstanding - I had two servings of that. Lee and Jim really enjoyed the prime rib.

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I *was* disappointed in the desserts, though - they had a chocolate lava cake, but it wasn't very good at all - tasted like a boxed cake mix with Hershey syrup. The coconut macaroon was not bad, and Sherry and Lee enjoyed the pecan bar.

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Still, overall it was an excellent meal, our favorite of the trip so far.

We wandered over to Dinosaur to use our Fastpasses - the ride stopped for a while but eventually we got on. They thought that was fun, too.

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We were going to the Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom later that day, and Sherry had decided to get her face painted as part of her costume, and found a place in Dinoland to do it. (We wanted to do Primeval Whirl, but it was closed for rehab! :-( )
The lady did a really nice job - I've never seen anyone do the face painting before - it was fun to watch the process. And it actually held up VERY well, and still looked great 9 hours later!

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We left Animal Kingdom and I came back to the room to do finish some laundry, iron my costume, and take a short nap, while the other three went into Epcot to deal with some last-minute costume details for Jim and Sherry. That plus Jim and Lee needed a Samuel Adams beer fix. I think they are determined to try every beer at the Sam Adams booth before we leave.

The Mickey's Not So Scary Party started at the Magic Kingdom at 7:00 - we left the room about 6:30, and only waited a couple of minutes for the bus, so that worked out well.

Don't we look cute in our costumes???

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Once inside the park we got our wristbands (and they WERE checked by CMs several times early in the evening) and trick-or-treat bags and headed off for the Haunted Mansion. All of the CMs get to wear ghastly makeup for the party, and they look really cool. Sitting outside the Mansion on the lawn was one of the guests from Master Gracey's ball inside - she said she needed some air. :-)

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We hadn't had dinner yet, so we grabbed a quick bite at Pecos Bill's. It was nice to have additional tomatoes from the toppings bar to add to my chicken wrap! It was ok, but a little too much dressing - and waaay too much wrap and not enough filling.

Just down from Pecos Bill's we found an excellent front-row spot to watch the Boo to You parade. I really love this parade - after Tapestry of Nations, I think it's my favorite Disney parade ever. I used the movie mode of my camera, and was able to get a fairly reasonable photo of the Headless Horseman - he goes by so fast!

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There's just so much fun stuff in this parade, like the characters in costume, and the chicken "singing" Ghostriders in the Sky, and especially the Haunted Mansion segment, with the caretaker and his bloodhound, and the ghostly dancers, and, my very favorite, the zombie gravediggers shovel and drill team.

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Love the Villains, too - "It's Good to be Bad" is a very catchy little tune!

Speaking of the Villains...after the parade we rode Big Thunder Mountain (always way more fun at night!) and hit a couple of treat stops on our way to the Villains Mix and Mingle show at the castle. That was a rather surprising show - the music and the dancing were rather more, uhhh...suggestive, than we expect from Disney. Lee had the best line about the show: "Who knew that Maleficent had boy toys?" :-) Whew...is it hot in here???

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Since it IS a Halloween party, it was nice to see the Villains get their due, and this particular show had elements to appeal to the big boys and girls, too!!!

Quick break at Mrs. Pott's Cupboard for ice cream (where Lee's root beer float truly ranneth over - we'd never seen a root beer eruption but that's what happened as the ice cream sank down into it! :-) ) And then it was time to scope out a spot for the fireworks. Which it turned out we really didn't need to do very early - even when the fireworks started there was plenty of empty space. (I think this party was NOT sold out, and not as busy as the one we attended last year, which was very nice! It also didn't rain on us at all like it did last year.)

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What can I say, I LOVE the fireworks show, too.

Next up was Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. After doing Toy Story Mania, this ride, with all the little red dots that look all alike so that you can't tell which one is yours, was a lot more challenging, but we still enjoyed it.

Since Sherry was made up as Tigger, we HAD to go on the Pooh ride. And hit a few more treat stops on our way back to Frontierland to see the second parade. (See? I like the parade so much I wanted to see it again!)

It was just as much fun the second time. We went to Pirates of the Caribbean after the parade, and then over to Space Mountain. Space Mountain turned out not to be a good idea...the ride had stopped and the line was fairly long so we ended up waiting a lot longer than I'd planned. Towards the end of the ride some of the stuff I was carrying in my basket came out - I thought I'd gotten it all before I got out, but on the way out of the ride I realized my watch was missing. Told a CM and they checked for it but didn't find it. So now I have a Lost and Found report out on it...hopefully it'll turn up.

Unfortunately between the long wait for the ride and then me losing my watch it was after midnight and the party was over. We were pretty tired, though, and ready to head back. Just outside the park there were CMs with treat bags handing out Ghirardelli chocolate squares - I got in two different lines to get those. :-)

Fortunately the bus was already at the bus stop when we got there, and it wasn't packed as we drove back to the hotel.

A few random observations about the Halloween party.

This is my favorite of the Disney parties that I've attended. It's such a fun atmosphere - the Cast Members seem to be having a wonderful time themselves. We saw a lot of guests in costume this year - there were some very elaborate ones, too! We saw a Cinderella in a beautiful ballgown, and a really excellent Jasmine and Aladdin, and even Clopin (from Hunchback of Notre Dame) complete with the puppet on his hand.

I mentioned the CMs in makeup at the Haunted Mansion earlier - there were also other "ghostly" surprises...like some ghostly singing miners in Frontierland, and a ghostly river pilot on the riverboat (which is not called the Mark Twain here, but I don't remember the name.) I have photos, but I'll have to get post them later.

The party was a lot less crowded than the one we attended last year - even though the weather was a lot better this year (it rained on us last year and we missed the second parade). I'm guessing it's partly because our party did not have a discounted advance purchase price, making it a little less attractive to local residents. It was great for us, though - shorter lines for the attractions and at the treat stations.

While I think the Halloween Party at Disney's California Adventure has better decorations, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party has the parade and the special fireworks show that make it really an outstanding event. We all had a wonderful time.

October 29, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 6

Considering our late night Sunday night we got up fairly early on Monday, since we wanted to be at the Studios when it opened to try to get a couple of rides on Toy Story Mania.

It was another absolutely gorgeous day - clear and sunny, but a little bit cool - most of us were wearing jackets in the morning, but didn't need them the rest of the day.

We arrived on Hollywood Blvd just as the park was opening. As expected, most everyone headed for Toy Story Mania. We went straight to the Fastpass machines, which had pretty long lines...in the time we waited, the return time went from 9:45 to 10:15! Unfortunately Toy Story Mania was not yet up and running, so we couldn't ride it then. :-(

We wandered into One Man's Dream instead. The video on some of the exhibits wasn't working, and some of the sound in the movie was really awful - and the worst of it was Julie Andrews' narration - which was not something recorded over 40 years ago like the various excerpts of Walt's voice.

Over at the ABC Commissary we had breakfast. The last time we did that they were still serving stuff like eggs, bacon, french toast, etc., but they have really cut down on the menu - there was a bagel sandwich, hot or cold cereal, fruit, yogurt, and pastries available. Which was actually ok for us, but anyone wanting a more substantial breakfast would have been very disappointed!

The next Voyages of the Little Mermaid show was seating when we went by so we went into that - Lee and I hadn't seen that in a couple of years - not because we don't enjoy it, but mostly because the queueing and pre-show areas are so unpleasant - they pack you in like sardines. Which I guess is appropriate giving the theme of the show, but still. Anyway...this show was not full, and we walked straight into the pre-show area, and didn't have too long a wait before the doors opened. I really enjoy the puppetry, especially in the "Under the Sea" song. I think whoever plays Eric must have one of the easiest jobs in the parks, though - he's on stage for what, 3 minutes maybe?

By then it was time to use our Toy Story Mania Fastpasses - fortunately it was up and running by then. We had a longer wait in the Fastpass line than we did the other day, but it still beat the 60 minute standby line.

Lee had read some tips on the web the night before on how to score higher on the ride by cooperating, so we tried those - we were successful with one but not with the other. Overall it hurt our scores, though, and we didn't score as high as we did the other night.

Prince Caspian was hanging out in his meet and greet spot when we walked by - he wasn't too busy, so he was spending a lot of time with the kids (including the not-so-little girls!) that came to see him.

We went over to Epcot after that to eat around the world again and do a little sightseeing. We saw Serveur Amusant in France - or Sherry and I saw it, at least - Lee doesn't like it - he says it makes him nervous - and Jim was off getting some Crawfish Etoufee from the Louisiana booth. They have changed the chair-stacking routine a bit since we last saw it. The guy who actually does the balancing used to appear to be a tourist who was pulled out of the audience, and now he is one of the "waiters", and obviously a part of the show.

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Ran into an AllEars.net reader at the Tokyo booth - she saw my AllEars hat and asked about it. I'm sorry I didn't get your name, but if you're reading this, it was nice talking to you!

I was very disappointed to look at the entertainment schedule and find that Voices of Liberty was not performing at all. :-( That's one of my very favorite things at Epcot. Lee and Jim and Sherry consoled themselves with food (and beer) from the Hops and Barley booth, and then they went to the Beer School, which they enjoyed. While they did that I saw a cooking demonstration down at Italy - the chefs were making petate - the Italian version of fried dough balls. They looked pretty good, but unfortunately we didn't get to taste them. :-(

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As we ate our way around the world we explored a couple of the other entertainment options, like the two Circle-Vision films in China and Canada. I've only seen the Canada film a couple of times since it started showing - Martin Short's narration is fairly amusing.

Things we tried on our eating adventure around the World:

Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche - France

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Crawfish Etoufee and Pecan Praline Bread Pudding - Louisiana
Lamb Slider and Bay Scallops -New Zealand

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Spicy Tuna Roll - Japan

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Lobster Roll and Crabcake - Hops and Barley

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Boxty and Cheese Plate - Ireland

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It was a bit after 4:00 by then, and we had a 5:30 reservation at Jiko so we made our way back to the room to get a chance for a short nap before dinner. Lee set his alarm for 5:00 - good thing, because otherwise we would have all slept too long!

We still arrived at Animal Kingdom Lodge in plenty of time. Something that was new to us - when we went through the guard shack the guard gave us a parking pass on which he had written "Jiko". So I guess they are cracking down on parking a bit more now? Since we had some time we wandered around the lobby a little, and down to the Arusha Savanna - saw some birds and a zebra, but that was all.

At Jiko we were quickly seated at a nice table next to the window. And we had a wonderful dinner. Jiko has changed their menu quite a bit since we were last here a year ago, and I think it's even better. We shared two appetizers - the BBQ chicken flatbread and the vegetable samosas. Both were great - the samosas were especially good. We'd had samosas at the Food and Wine Festival and at Tusker House the day before, but these were SO much better!

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Our waiter had recommended a wine made from South Africa's pinotage grape and we shared that bottle. It was also really good.

For entrees, Jim and I had the maize crusted halibut, served with vegetables of the moment, and that was wonderful. Lee had our server's favorite - the beef short ribs with crushed potatoes and garlic. He'd told Lee it was so tender it would fall off the bone, and that's exactly what happened. Sherry had the Swahili Curry Shrimp with coconut rice - we all got to try some of her shrimp. Lee, Jim, and I cleaned our plates - our server told us he was going to show the chef how clean how plates were. :-)

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We were pretty full, so we decided to split two of the desserts - again, we went with our server's recommendations and had the Pistachio Creme Brulee and the Tanzanian Chocolate Cheesecake. They were both quite good. The cheesecake had a great chocolatey flavor but was not too rich. It was served with lavender ice cream, though we really couldn't taste any lavender.

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It was really a great meal - definitely the best of our trip. Jiko made a good impression on Jim and Sherry - whew. :-) (Yeah, because they have been SO hard to please this week...NOT!)

After dinner we went outside to see if there were any animals visible on the Uzima Savanna (the one next to the pool) but we didn't see any.

We headed back to the room after that - it was after 8:00 by the time we got back. We were all pretty tired after a couple of late nights, so no one was interested in trying to go to Illuminations or Downtown Disney.

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About October 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in October 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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