Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don't Let the Bugs Bite

It appears that all it takes for me to have a huge case of writer's block is to put a little "Spring" into the air....

The weather has been absolutely fabulous the last few days here in the midwest, and I am all but living outdoors. Of course, just my luck - I got stung by something awful on Monday afternoon while working in the yard. Hurt like a son-of-a-gun, too - thought for a minute I may have to go to the emergency room. (Hey - they don't call me the "Drama" Queen for nothing....) I still don't know what it was, but I sure have a heck of a bite/sting on my right hip....So, it must be Spring when the bugs start biting, huh? They've woken up from their winter's nap and I guess they're hungry.

I guess I'll back off and let the bugs have their space - if they let me have my space. And what a beautiful space it is...I hope you're getting an opportunity to get outside and enjoy this weather.



Monday, March 29, 2010

Hershey's + Easter Baskets = Money!

I was given this virtual Easter Basket by my blogger buddy, La'Tonya, at 40s - Reason's to Live, Love, and Laugh Out Loud. La'Tonya and I are twins separated at birth. Her posts crack me up because she's just like me... if you haven't already, be sure to check her blog out.

Today, our posts are going to help Hershey’s raise money for Children’s Miracle Network. For each #betterbasket blog post they are donating $10!

Hershey’s has pledged to donate up to $5,000 to The Children’s Miracle Network.

Here’s how you can help....

I am passing along Hershey’s Better Baskets to a few of my blogger buddies today! Check out these blogs - they're all wonderful!

Melanie of Pressing Forward
Dual Mom at We're At Dad's That Week
Niki at The Grounded Drink Lady
Diva Ma @ Mommy Fabulous


* Copy and paste these rules to your blog post.

*Create a blog post giving a virtual Easter Basket to another blogger – you can give as many Virtual Baskets as you want.

*Link back to person who gave you an Easter Basket.

* Let each person you are giving a Virtual Easter Basket know you have given them a Basket.

* Leave your link at comment section. You can also find the official rules of this #betterbasket blog hop, and more information about Better Basket with Hershey’s there.

* Hershey’s is donating $10 per each blog participating to the Better Basket Blog Hop to Children’s Miracle Network (up to total of $5,000 by blog posts written by April 4th, 2010).

* Please note that only one blog post by each blog url will count towards the donation.


Can You Feel the Love?

Honestly, I am so blessed with my sweet, loving children that sometimes, I can hardly stand it.

I mean, there is SOOOOO much love flowing through this house that it's more sweet than Hershey Park in Pennsylvania.

Take, for instance, this homework assignment that my daughter did for school recently. The assignment? To write and illustrate haiku. I really am so proud of her in that she was able to so deeply express the love that she feels for her older brother:

(Click on the photo to make it you can take in every detail...)

And notice the hole in the ice at the bottom of the photo. Is that not awesome?

Siblings....gotta' love 'em.



Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Friday was our wedding anniversary.

Eleven years ago on that day, Hubby and I were married in a very small, very intimate ceremony in a little chapel. Last year, because of the flooding disaster in Fargo, I was out of town on our anniversary and so we didn't get to celebrate the "big" one - 10 years.

So, Hubby tells me early Friday to be dressed and ready to go by 6:00 p.m.

"Where are we going?" I ask...because, honestly? I hate surprises. I want to be in charge. I want to be in control. That's the way I roll.

"Can't tell you that," hubby sweetly says. "Deal with the fact that you aren't always in charge."

See how we've managed to stay married for so long? This oh-so-sweet repartee.....

So, I'm dressed and ready to go by 6:00...going nuts because I don't know where we're going....Hubby is still in the closet, getting ready, when the doorbell rings...I go to answer it, assuming its a playmate of my daughter's....

But - oh, no....

It's a stretch limousine....

...waiting to pick us up and whisk us away. Oh, that hubby - full of surprises!

The limo took hubby and I downtown for an intimate, 7-course meal at the Bluestem restaurant....I have no idea what I ate that night, but it looked like this:

...and this:

...and a little bit of that:

...and for dessert, it was this:

....and this:

...finishing with this:

...and it was all so, so good. Very tasty. Very romantic. Very wonderful.

And there were roses on the table, waiting for me, when we arrived at the restaurant:

...and they were peach, because Hubby knows that I do not like red roses (reminds me of blood...weird? Yes. Sorry.)

And after dinner, the limo pulled up and whisked us back home.

That hubby. He really is a great guy. And I guess it doesn't hurt to let him be in charge. Once in a while.



Friday, March 26, 2010

The Perfect Storm at Hollywood Studios

I concede defeat.

I've given glowing reviews in the past week of three parks we visited last week as we invaded Disney World, along with thousands and thousands of other Spring Break-hyped barbarians: Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.

But...the fourth park - I saved for last, because frankly? It pretty much kicked our butts.

Hollywood Studios.

We attempted - not once, but twice, no less - to conquer this theme park - and in both cases, we didn't exactly fail...but we didn't exactly succeed. And a perfect storm was brewing that only led to this disaster, and I'm kicking myself for not seeing this storm brewing.

To begin with, Hollywood Studios really only has three rides in the entire park: Tower of Tower, Rock 'n Roller Coaster, and the new Toy Story Mania. All the rest of the attractions are shows or exhibits....So, cram thousands and thousands of visitors inside the gates - and three rides doesn't exactly give those visitors good opportunities to disperse. Oh no. The visitors all have to concentrate on just 3 rides - causing HUGE lines and congestion.

The second factor leading to this perfect storm is the show called "Fantasmic!" Fantasmic is the long-running night time show at Hollywood Studios - and is a very popular draw for guests. In the "old" days - before cutbacks - Fantasmic would be shown every single night at Studios...but now, it's only shown 2 or 3 times a week. So...this forces guests who want to see the night time show to cram themselves into this park only on those 2 or 3 days that the show is being shown...causing huge lines and congestion elsewhere in the park while waiting for the night time show to begin. I hope this is making sense here....

And the last factor leading to this perfect storm? Spring Break. The crowds last week at Disney were heavier than expected - catching even the Disney executives off-guard. Once again, this caused huge lines and congestion in the park.

Now...on top of these factors, we made two mistakes in our planning and execution. The first was a planning error on my part - but I guess I could claim it wasn't entirely my fault.

When originally planning our days of when we'd visit this park, Tuesday, March 16th was not listed as a "Fantasmic" day. Disney was not planning on showing "Fantasmic" at the park that night - so, I planned for us to go that day, hoping the crowds would be thinner. We planned to go back to the Studios on Thursday, March 18th in the late afternoon to catch Fantasmic. Well - so much for the best-laid plans...because of the huge Spring Break crowds that week, Disney threw in a Fantasmic show on Tuesday. Well - the crowds came. On Tuesday. When they weren't supposed to be there.

The second mistake we made was in the execution. In order to have a successful experience at the Studios, you MUST be there at rope drop. Seriously. No other park is this so imperative, but here - it is necessary. And we would sleep in...not getting to the park until 9:45 a.m. or so. Big mistake. By then, the Fastpasses were virtually gone for the day, and the lines were already at 90 minutes each for the 3 rides, and eventually getting up to 2 hours. Yikes.

Both times when we visited the Studios, we'd arrive around 9:45 a.m...and we would leave by 10:30 a.m. and go visit another park. The crowds were simply too overwhelming. Then, around 2:30 pm on Tuesday and Thursday, we'd return to the Studios and ride some rides and see some of the shows. We did manage to ride the 3 rides - and Rock 'n Roller Coaster, we rode several times, utilizing Fastpasses and Single Rider Line. But - Tower of Terror? Only once. Toy Store Mania? Only once. Oh well.

And a confession on my part...because we were so busy fighting through the barbarians, I really neglected to take pictures at this park. I have very, very few photos. Sorry about that. When you're fighting for your life and sanity and your 8" of space, you can't be worrying about taking photos of the atmosphere. Imagine a can of sardines. Yeah. It was like that.

We like the Lights, Motors, Action!™ Extreme Stunt Show's a do-not-miss show, and every one of the 5,000 seats was taken with 30 minutes before show-time! Luckily, we snagged seats - up in the nosebleed section - but hey, at least we got in! If you are there on a crowded day - and you want to see this, my suggestion is "Go early!"

The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is another great show - we've seen this in the past, but could never fit it into this year's will give us something to look forward to on our next visit, I guess.

The newest attraction - and hence, the big draw for crowds - is Toy Story Mania.

One morning, when we arrived at 9:45 am, I immediately ran back to get Fastpasses for this - and the soonest time I got was 2:45 pm. (This was on Tuesday, March 16th). A normal standby wait line was 2 hours on the days we were there. And I'm not waiting 2 hours for anything - not even for a date with Brad Pitt. When we returned that afternoon to ride it, the ride was closed. Our assumption was it was broken down - but we heard later it had been closed because a guest had "jumped" out during the ride, and so security will shut down the ride to insure the guest didn't damage anything. By the time we went back around 5:30 pm that night to ride it, the Fastpass line was 45 minutes. Geesh. So much for riding it fast.

The smash-hit attraction takes guests on a raucous 3-D ride through virtual-reality carnival games. Guests wear 3-D glasses and use a spring-action shooter to break plates, play ring toss, burst balloons with darts, hit moving bull's-eyes, among other virtual games. For the attraction to respond to every pull of every guest's shooter while shuttling trams through the Midway course (as well as propelling virtual 3-D objects that pop out of the screen and whir past guests), there are more than 150 computers communicating over multiple networks.

It was fun - it's very similar to Buzz Lightyear at Magic Kingdom - but the difference is, it's in 3D. We liked it - but would we wait 2 hours? No. Would we wait 90 minutes? No. It was not our favorite. Not even thrills and chills. Here's a photo of the area where you disembark:

So - on to Tower of Terror.

Daughter and hubby love this, not so much. I don't like having my stomach end up in my throat. They rode it one night around 9:00 pm - and said it was awesome to see the park lit up at night, from way up high. Uh, no thanks. Here's a bit of trivia - did you know that this building was actually struck by lightening when it was being built? That's kinda' interesting, because the whole storyline of the ride is about an elevator that goes wacky because it's been struck by lightening. I know Disney is a stickler to details - but even that is going a little far!

While they rode this, I sat at a little table in an outside diner in the park. An older gentleman - also solo - came up and asked if he could share my table while eating his dinner...I graciously agreed, and we ended up having the most wonderful conversation. His name was Dan, and he was from Indianapolis. We talked and talked and talked - and come to find out, he has adopted grandchildren from Guatemala! In fact, he himself has visited there several times. Talk about a small world!

And now - our last, but certainly not least attraction - as it truly is my most favorite ride, probably in all of Disney World - the Rock 'n Roller Coaster. Best. ride. ever. Period. We rode this several times, and each time is a unique and wonderful experience. There are three inversions in the ride -- two rollover loops and one corkscrew. As riders enter the first inversion, they are feeling a G-force between 4 and 5, more than astronauts feel. It is quite the thrill - I LOVE it!

I love the sensation of going upside-down...and the initial "take-off" is exhilarating. On Tuesday evening, after Hubby and Daughter got off the Tower of Terror, they came and got me from the diner and we began walking down to the Coaster - to just check out how long the Standby line was. While walking, a man walked up - asked if we had Fastpasses to the Coaster - and we regretfully said, "No...we wish!" He then handed us 3 Fastpasses. To the Coaster. Just like that. WOW! Disney magic!!!! We were very effusive in our thanks and appreciation - what a guy!

As far as dining, we had lunch on Tuesday at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. We've eaten here before, and the food is usually pretty good, and the "theme" is pretty fun. This is the table we sat at - where we got to enjoy the old black-and-white T.V. shows.

Our service was rather slow this day - but we did enjoy the food. I especially loved the S'Mores dessert....scrumptious. Tasted just like if I had been sitting around a campfire. I would have taken a photo, but I was so busy eating, I didn't get a chance. Sorry. :)

On Thursday, we had dinner at Hollywood & Vine.

Our service was very good - and the buffet offered a wide variety of choices, including boiled shrimp. We were surprised with a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries because we had on our "Happy Anniversary" buttons.

(Hey - we learned to wear them all week - we never knew what Disney magic would be coming our way because of them!)

So - we enjoyed what limited time we had here...I just wish it hadn't been so crowded, so we could have done more. We saw a few of the other minor shows - but really didn't get to appreciate the park for what it our future trips, I'll make an extra note to work around "Fantasmic!" and to make sure we get there. Early. Argh.

Because as we all know, the Drama Queen just loves getting up early.




Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Hidden Red Cross at Disney World? YES!

I'm sure you've all heard of "Hidden Mickeys" at Disney, right?

...Those little ubiquitous mice hidden all over the parks, resorts, property, etc - that are so fun to search for, especially while waiting in long, long lines....

...such as this one in Epcot in the United Kingdom pavilion:

...or this one, found in the waiting area at the Buzz Lightyear ride at the Magic Kingdom:

...or this one, found on a mural in the Snow White ride at Magic Kingdom:


Did you know....there's a hidden Red Cross???!!!

Yes, being the ever-observant American Red Cross volunteer that I am, I spied - with my little eye - a "hidden" Red Cross while visiting Walt Disney World last week:

Can anyone tell me where this can be found????


Buehler? Buehler? Anyone?'s a's in a very "neutral" place...up very high....

Give up? can be found in the "Swiss Family Robinson" treehouse at the Magic Kingdom....

See if you can spot it next time you visit - and if you do, give a shout out to the American Red Cross!




Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Happiest Place on Earth? Uh....Not So Much.

The happiest place on Earth.

That's what I kept telling myself last week as we fought the hordes at Magic Kingdom in Disney World. Barbarians everywhere - storming Cinderella Castle...swarming Dumbo...even temporarily leaving the Pirates of the Caribbean shivering and quaking in fear as the masses descended.

Daughter and I in front of the castle....

Now, don't get me wrong. We had a great time. We did. We got to ride every thing that we wanted to - and multiple times, in some cases.

However - I made a crucial strategic error while planning our own assault on the House of the Mouse, and so I am passing this on to you, dear readers, so you can learn from the error of my way.

Are you ready for it? I know - the sheer enormity - and rarity - of the Drama Queen making a mistake probably still has you stunned. In disbelief. But it does happen - albeit very, very rarely.

Here it is. (big trumpet sound here). We went to the Magic Kingdom on a Monday.

Don't go on a Monday. Like we did. Big mistake. According to ALL of the guide books, all of the other barbarians were supposed to be visiting Disney's other theme parks on a Monday - such as Animal Kingdom or Epcot - leaving the Magic Kingdom virtually empty. I repeat - it was supposed to be that way. But the reality, alas - was that the MK was overtaken - to the point where Disney themselves released a statement that they, too, had been caught off-guard by the sheer numbers of visitors last week - resulting in a flurry of changes on their part in trying to accommodate the masses.

But on with our tour...I'll talk about the crowds and wait times as we go through the different areas. And as far as why the barbarians all chose Monday, March 15th to visit the Magic Kingdom? I have no idea. But it sucked. Until we learned how to zig when the rest of the hordes were zagging.

When we first entered the park, this is how I WISHED it had looked:

Ha. Not to be. It was packed. However, later in the week, we had a 9:00 am tour - and so we were let in the park early - and I was able to snap that photo before the masses entered. Cool, huh?

Main Street, U.S.A.

Did you know that the only "real" flag in the park is the one here, in Town Square?

All of the other flags in the park aren't real - so Disney doesn't have to take them all down at night, as required by law. They only have to take this one flag down. If you look closely at all of the other flags in the park, you'll notice they're not real.


On Monday, March 15, the day of the crowds, we stood in line for over 40 minutes to ride Pirates of the Caribbean. Here's a photo of the crowd I took while standing in line:

As Captain Jack Sparrow would say, "Argh!"

Later in the week, we walked on the ride with no wait. None. Nada. Zippo. Amazing. They've redone this ride, adding "Captain Jack Sparrow" to the story line - and using the music from the movies. I liked it. Of course, I've always liked this ride - it's a favorite. But - try to ride it later in the day - when there's no line. Seriously.

Our other favorite ride in Adventureland is the classic Jungle Cruise.

We won't wait more than 20 minutes for this - but on Monday, during the day - the line was up to 60 minutes at one point. Geesh! So - we walked on. Later that night, after the parade - we walked right on - no wait - and had a boat to ourselves. Chris, our captain, was a hoot. For only 3 passengers, he really put on a show. Later in the week, we had other captains - but none were ever as good as Chris. And yes - the narrative is nothing but puns - corny puns - but we enjoy it.

The last ride that we rode in Adventureland was the Magic Carpets of Aladdin...on Monday, it was more than a 60-minute wait. By Friday, the wait was only 25-minutes, so Daughter and I hopped on. (Because it spins, hubby opted out...but it really doesn't spin fast - its very, very mild.) Would I do this again? Only if it was a walk-on, with no wait.
Daughter here - is looking ornery because she has the controls in the front...

And here's me - with my Mickey ears displayed proudly - in the back seat.


On Monday, the only way we could ride Space Mountain was with a "golden" Fastpass - which went quickly and were gone by 11:00 a.m. I call it "golden" because they were so difficult to get. After that, it was a 120+ minute wait...which we refuse to do. Later in the week - the wait was down to 60-minutes, at the worst.

We rode this several times - and once, I managed to snag the very last seat of the! What a ride! Talk about a true "crack the whip" experience - I was flying everywhere on that ride! I got to giggling so hard during the ride, I was crying when it was over - it was too funny! So - if you want a "wilder" experience on the ride - get the very last seat!

Our other favorite ride in TomorrowLand is Buzz Lightyear. Normally, hubby kicks my ass on the shooting scores, but this time, I kicked his. It could be because he was busy taking our picture while I was shooting like crazy, but I like to think it's because of my extremely improved shooting skills. Yeah, that's it.

The line for this was about 45 minutes - at 9:30 in the morning! It only got worse as the day went on. Here's Daughter, in line - showing extreme patience. This is rare, so I had to take a photo of it.


On to Fantasyland...where on Monday, it was virtually log-jammed with frustrated parents, crying & tired children, and overwhelmed Castmembers. We steered clear of Fantasyland on Monday - visiting it later in the week when it was virtually empty.

Daughter loves the Mad Tea, not so much. But I'll ride them to give daughter a chance to try and make me puke. She likes to spin the cups as hard and as fast as she can. Hubby won't even get close to them - so he kindly took our picture as we went whizzing by.

On one instance, I went to go get us some Fastpasses for the Winnie the Pooh ride - because it ALWAYS seems to be at a 50-minute wait - no matter when you go. Anyway, the Fastpass machine spit out a "bonus" Fastpass for PhilharMagic - woo hoo! Every now and then this will happen - but not always. A little bit of that Disney magic. Pooh was a fun ride, but certainly not waiting 50 minutes for. Seriously.

PhilharMagic is a GREAT 3D show - we love it. It's better to sit towards the back on this - and don't forget to sniff and smell the air during the'll smell jasmine and apple pie at some points during the show.

Cinderella's Golden Carousel is usually a walk-on ride; no wait - not even on the most crowded days.

And - we couldn't leave Walt Disney World without riding It's A Small World. I know - it's cheesy - but how can you NOT ride it and get that incessant song stuck in your head for the rest of the day??!! Here's Daughter and Hubby in line - which was about a 20-minute wait...and it moves pretty quickly.

Liberty Square

In Liberty Square, our choice is Haunted Mansion, of course. This is in my top 3 rides at Magic Kingdom...they've recently redone it, and although the changes are subtle, I think they've added to the story line. Daughter and hubby were in the Doom Buggy in front of me - at one point, the "buggies" are pretty close together - allowing me to reach over and grab daughter - in the dark. Oops. About scared her half to death. She didn't appreciate the humor of the situation, but I thought it was funny. :)

Some trivia - the same actor who does the "voice" that talks to you while in your Doom Buggy is the same guy who does the voice of the Pillsbury DoughBoy. Yup.


Now - onto our favorite area: Frontierland. Because here - we have the other two mountains in the park (besides Space Mountain.)

There's Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Railroad Mountain.

On Monday, the sign outside Big Thunder said it was a 30-minute wait. This was at about 10:00 a.m. Not bad, we thought - so we hopped into line. Well......that 30-minutes stretched into 60 minutes. Argh. If we'd known this, we wouldn't have done it without a Fastpass!!! It's a very claustrophobic queue, as well - making the wait just that much worse.

But it was SO worth it once on!

Splash Mountain always had a huge wait, so we used Fastpasses for this ride, as well. And yes, we got wet. Although - Disney will control the size of the "splash" depending on how hot it is - the hotter the day, the more you get wet. Because it wasn't super hot, we didn't have a super giant splash at the end - and we used our ponchos as "covers" for our heads.

We did take the time one night to watch the 9:00 pm parade - SpectroMagic. It is a beautiful parade...we stationed ourselves over in Frontierland - the parade starts here, and so after it was over - we could quickly run over and hop on Big Thunder with no waiting.

And as far as watching the night time fireworks show, Wishes - we'll save that for a future we did something VERY special for that! And it was a lot of fun!