Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Photographic Countdown 6

It's been a few days since the last picture shared. We're now down to 38 days till Disneyland! I've been busy with work and photography and life, but it's still going by super slow and I just know that when I am actually down there it will go super fast, but it is what it is, right?!

Today's picture is not from Disneyland, but it is Disney. It was taken at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Donald Duck's star is forever visited by his best bud, Mickey outside of the Soda Shop next door to the El Capitan. We did not get ice cream last time, I want to go this time. I want to visit the theater as well... Hollywood's changed so much since Walt was a part of all the action, but he still lives on and influences every part of entertainment in the USA.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Join Iditarod Champion Dallas Seavey, promote his sport!

Dallas Seavey is the youngest Iditarod Champion at age 25, and is working hard to bring the Iditarod and mushing into a more global awareness. This is the new generation of musher and hopefully the new face of mushing. Dallas is pushing for mushing - especially the Iditarod - to embrace social media and other forms of technology to branch out. The Iditarod's made it 40 years, it's time to make sure it continues.

Dallas' passion definitely helped me become completely obsessed with following the sport, so hopefully everyone else who sees this catches the bug as well. Be sure to share this video with everyone!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down - Winnie the Pooh

It's still raining... No fun... From what I hear Walt Disney World is getting hit pretty hard thanks to "Deby". Stay dry whereever you are. Hope the sun comes out again soon!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Park Hours!!!

Rain may be needed for the soil, but it makes
everyone and everything very grumpy!
Today I spent time in a funk. Part of it was brought on by eating things I know I shouldn't eat and making myself sick, the other is - I dunno - the weather or something. I was just very blah, so I completely forgot that today would be the day that Disney would release the hours for the first day of our Disney Vacation! I popped over to their site a few minutes ago once I remembered and, just as I thought, it's following the same time as July. But, now it's kinda official.

I've also been watching the app for droid on line wait times. So far Disneyland seems pretty manageable - waittimes for most of the rides are at the most 20 minutes. With Carsland being the new big thing, it's not surprising. What is surprising is that really the wait times at DCA aren't must longer than Disneyland - except in Carsland and Toy Story Mania. I know it's still June, and not the PEAK of PEAK season, but I can still be hopeful.

I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks. I have work to get done, but then there's my cousin's wedding. I went online and ordered a dress for it - it will be cooler than pants for July in the Sierra Mountain region of California - got it from Macy's. It looks really cute, I just hope it fits right. The way my body holds fat I just look like an old frumpy cow. I hate it.

Just a month and a half - ish left till Disney! Wish it'd get here already!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Disney Mail!

Disney's Photopass is now better than ever!
Nothing makes one feel like their trip is really happening like Disney Mail. For WDW goers, this is normally a few packets with their package information followed by - a few months later - their Magical Express luggage tags and other fun goodies. With Disneyland, since we're not staying on Disney property, everything is pretty much online, and in our email box. No reason to anxiously wait - or be surprised by -  the arrival of mail in the mailbox from The Mouse.

However, earlier this week that's exactly what I got! Disney Mail! If you follow me on instagram (tonichelle), twitter (tonichelleak) or facebook then you already saw my celebration, but this deserves more than one celebration.

Last weekend I pre-ordered Disney's Photopass+, a new package by the photographers of Disney. You may remember my explanation of Photopass in the Character Interactions Tip post last September. That was with the basic photopass, but Disney has charged it up. Walt himself always wanted to plus everything he did, so I love that it's simply called Photopass+.

Disney finally listened to the park goers and is now including attraction photos (splash mountain's drop for example) as well as certain character meals. This goes hand in hand with the basic package that's always been with the company. The PLUS feature also includes a disk of stock images of the parks and characters.

Pre-ordering gives you a discount (it's pricey) and I know it's going to be so worth it. Better still, you can return it if you don't get enough photos to justify it! Great stuff!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Photographic Countdown 5

We're at 43 days out. Disneyland is toying with my emotions, as they have released the latest set of hours that go up to the day we get into the Anaheim area. Meaning my trips dates SHOULD be next, but I HATE WAITING! I want to get the hours now so I can kinda get a game plan in mind for at least myself. You can bet a blog post will be coming when I finally get my way!

Today's picture is Haille on one of the bazillion rope bridges at the Redwood Creek Adventure Camp. It's a pretty neat little area that was themed for Brother Bear - I think it still does have Brother Bear elements but you also get some Up references. Haille is a daredevil and I am not. To get these pictures I had to get up HIGH. I hate up HIGH. Haille knew this and told me to "suck it up" because she wanted to explore. I did my best and got through the course, but I didn't want to go a second time, breaking her heart. Thankfully her mom came through about that time and took her up again. It's probably some of the best theming and definitely a great place for younger kids to burn off energy after having to stand in line after line for attractions.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Photographic Countdown 4

Yes I've missed the last few days, I've been working hard for the money. And the sun's been out and the weather's been wonderful. I'm trying to get a little color before California or I'm going to burn. Well, I spent too much time outside today and I'm burnt. Go figure.

Today's picture is of one of my favorite details in the park. Above the Disneyland Fire Department is Walt Disney's apartment. It was where Walt and his family would stay when they visted the park. Cast members knew the boss was there when the light was on. After Walt died, the light was kept on as a kind of "Eternal Flame" tribute to Uncle Walt. I always take time to reflect - not as a sign of worship or anything, just out of respect for one of America's greats. 44 days till I get to say "hello, again." To Uncle Walt. I was born several decades too late. LOL!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Real Big Wild Life

While a sight like this would have Anchorage Alaska media and "newer Alaskans" (and I use Alaskan soooooooooooooooooooooooo sarcastically here) would freak out and scream for these animals to be moved to "the woods" so they can't "hurt us", here in Kenai we welcome and embrace the wildlife. Such a bizarre notion, I know.

I took 100 pictures today, went to upload them and realized that photos I downloaded to the computer earlier today were corrupted. So I'm in a very gloomy mood. Not sure I'll be sleeping tonight or not. UGH!

Cars Land character road trip to Radiator Springs at Disney California A...

I won't be road tripping it to Disneyland - I'll be flying - but Haille, Judy and Gaylord will be! They get to pick me up at the airport and then, dang it!, I want BubbaGump!

Disneyland 2012: Photographic Countdown 3

We're 47 days out, and it's taking forever. This photographic countdown isn't really helping like I thought it would. All I keep thinking is "I wanna be there" when looking and remembering each photograph!

This shot was taken at the finale of the Aladdin The Musical show at Disney's California Adventure. Aladdin is, quite possibly, the best stage show Disney has in any of its parks - and I've seen a few of those. It isn't just a retelling of the movie, but stays very close to it. The music is familiar, with one song made especially for the stage production. Jasmine and Aladdin fly on a magic carpet, over the pyramids and sphinx... and audience! But the real magic of the show comes from the Genie himself. He's just as funny as Robin Williams' animated character, and just as spontaneous. He uses current pop culture in his jokes, and he leaves the audience in stitches.

It's a well done, well acted show, and EVERYONE who visits the park should see it at least once!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Photographic Countdown 2

48 days until we're in Disneyland country. Today's photo is of Grizzly River Run. I spent a day by myself in Disney's California Adventure and made it a photographic tour. I absolutely loved the theming around the park's water ride. So "authentic" in my mind. The ride is a lot of fun as well. Pretty sure more pics of GRR will pop up on this countdown.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Photographic Countdown!

As I suggested that I might do, I'm going to keep the magic going while I countdown to Disneyland with photographs. I'm not sure I will keep up with it everyday, but I'm going to try. These are some of my favorite photos I've taken over the last couple of Disneyland trips. Some will people of people, some of characters, some the amazing attention to detail Disney has.

I think one of the big reasons I love going back again and again to the Disney parks is the photographic experience. The rides are fun, and who doesn't love getting a hug from their favorite Disney Character?, but as a photographer it's paradise! It's so clean, and the archetecture as well as lighting and detail is incredible. I can spend a full day in the park and not do any rides and have a blast. I've actually done that at Disneyland, just toured the parks and not do any rides (shows, yes, rides no).

This picture I share today is of Haille's first morning at Disney. We didn't stay on Disney property, we stayed at a Good Neighbor hotel. For Disneyland that means the hotels around the parks that aren't Disney owned but are partnered with. Gaylord's timeshare/vacationclub is partnered with this hotel so he and Judy got a killer rate (we're staying there this time as well). The Peacock Inn & Suites is so comfortable. We got a three bedroom suite last time, hoping for that again.

Haille knew better than to come into my room and wake me (I'm not a morning person), but I think I was just as excited as she was. I felt eyes staring at me, I peeked threw one eye and there she was quietly looking at me. She noticed my eye open and whispered "DISNEY!". She'd been waiting for four years for this day - I had, too, not going to lie - and it was here. Problem was the park didn't open for another three hours. So she crawled into bed with me and we watched Mickey Mouse clubhouse till it was time for her to jump in the tub.

I absolutely LOVE this pic, she was still sleepy, but there was nothing going to keep her from being awake. I can't wait to see this face in August! 49 days to go!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Countdown!


Kids Race Power Wheels to Cars Land

This is a pretty adorable ad for Carsland. I have to admit I'm very excited to see the new land, even though I worry that John Lassetter is trying very hard to become Walt Disney - or make Disney over into a Pixar image. He's a definite improvement from Eisner, but maybe they just need to build a third park for Pixar? I dunno. Carsland does look amazing.

As long as Marvel comics stay OUT of the parks I think I'll be okay.

Disneyland 2012: Final ADR made!

Haille will reunite with her favorite chipmunk
at the Storyteller's Cafe on August 9 for breakfast.
I've dropped the ball on blogging again, however this week has been massive photo editing, and there seems to be no end in sight for the next two weeks! I'm not complaining, though, because it keeps me busy and makes me feel successful! Sunday's Triathlon was so much fun, but I was wiped out after an all day shoot. So wiped out, in fact, that I forgot to call Disney to book our finald dining reservation!!!! How does that even happen to me?! It's unheard of! Forgetting Disney?! No way!

...But, I did. So first thing Monday morning I woke my sunburnt self up and called down to Disney. I did not get Deanna a third time, but Heather was more than able to take care of me. But, as I've stressed so often on my blog, being a day late to the ADR can make getting the time you want difficult. I ran into that problem Monday. We wanted a 10am breakfast, but for our number of people there wasn't room - DANG IT! So I settled for 10:30 (the other time available was way too early to get seven people up, ready, and out the door).

This got me thinking that should we want anymore table service - on a whim - that we may not get it. The best thing to do is go to City Hall and see what food places still have openings (first thing in the morning) and have them book it for us. Still not as spontaneous as some like, but I'd like to know I'm going to eat.

Anyway, we'll be eating at the Storyteller's Cafe Character Breakfast on August 9th. We've never been, but it gets great reviews on all the Disney sites I follow, and it's hosted by Chip and Dale - you can't beat that! It's located inside the Grand Californian Resort - which has it's own entrance into Disney's California Adventure park. I've wanted to visit this resort for a long time, and I finally have an excuse to go! I think I'm more excited for the hotel than I am for the meal!

This will be our final BIG meal that we've planned out. We may still try for a World of Color dining package, but as far as ADR's go, I'm finished with that duty until July.

Now it'll be a long wait till Disney. We have 50 days to go, and I feel the days will somewhat drag on. Thankfully my trip to Northern California next month will break up the wait a bit (it's kinda like the mid way point from here to Disney in countdown. This is when the WoC package will be decided. I may still try for maybe myself and Haille to do it, because I don't want to fight back the crowds and it's one of the things Haille missed last time.

I think to help with the countdown from Now till Then I will do a photo a day blog of pictures I've taken at Disneyland. What do you think?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Another day, another ADR made

My very excitable breakfast buddy - Christmas 2010.
After saying today was a day off from getting in touch with Disneyland, I couldn't help myself and booked a breakfast at Disney's Carnation Cafe. It's a tradtion of mine to have breakfast here at least once in my Disneyland visit. I always get the same thing, a Mickey Waffle, Sausage, and an apple juice. I booked for just me and Haille Rae for 10am on Tuesday August 7. This will give me a bit of one on one time with her and then we'll meet up with the rest of the family later on. I think it will be nice to give everyone a break.

As stated previously, Haille Rae is probably one of my favorite kids to be with. She's too funny, even if she does think I'm a moron, I think she enjoys hanging with me. She asked me if I would come with her to Disney for her trip this year, and I couldn't say no. I want to keep the Disney magic alive for her as long as possible. She's a girly-girl, and a daredevil, so she enjoys both worlds at Disney. She's trying to talk me into going on California Screamin', but that ain't happenin'.

The Carnation Cafe is beloved by many Disney regulars. It's found on Main Street USA, and generally has no problems with walk ups, but it never hurts to have a reservation. It's been closed for months as part of the refurbishments going on in the Disneyland Park. It is set to reopen on June 13 (after originally being set to open on the first).

Oscar is a mainstay at Carnation Cafe, and retires this year.
It's also "home" to the longest working Cast Member - Oscar - who is a mainstay and one of the few non Disney characters who gives autographs and poses for pictures. The man is a Doll. It's been said he's retiring sometime this year - if not already retired. I met and chatted with Oscar when I was there in 2011. While he never *knew* Walt Disney he did begin working at Disneyland very early on and saw Uncle Walt walking in his park. Oscar's been a Cast Member for over 50 years. That's impressive.

I decided to do this around 7:30pm tonight, so instead of calling down I emailed Disneyland. It's a new system they're using and I've heard only good things. I sent off my information request and got an automated response that the hours were until 9pm Pacific. Knowing that I am an hour behind and that others were also emailing, I figured I wouldn't be getting a response until Saturday. However, I was surprised a half hour after closing with a confirmation code for my request! Score!

Tomorrow I don't expect to make any reservations, however I may send an email late tomorrow night requesting a booking that can't be made till Sunday. I will be attending - shooting rather - the Tri-the-Kenai Triathlon and that will be an all day thing. I'm not sure if I will be up for a Disney call afterwards, so email might be best. We'll see. As much as I enjoy the simplicity of the email, I still enjoy calling down and booking that way!
I guess it's just not Disney without the hold music.

You're going to Disney? You must be rich!

You don't need to be Scrooge McDuck to go to Disney.
We all do it. We hear of someone's vacation plans and we immediately start thinking of how much they're spending and if they can afford it. Some trips, by name, just sound extravigant. Disney, apparently, is one of them.

Don't get me wrong, I know there are vacations less expensive - and I've discussed this several times on the blog - but you have to weigh in everything and not just the dollar to see just how much one is spending. As noted in the Disney Math blog post a few days ago, breaking down costs can really put a Disney trip into perspective.

I recently got a few comments saying I must be really well off to be going to Disney so often. (The Disneyland trip will mark my 9th Disney trip, the Disney World trip next year will be #10.) This is a general misconception. I don't make big figures. I don't have a financially stable business. It is not cheap to live in Alaska - and I work a second job while fighting to keep my fledgling photography business afloat. I have more money going out than coming in most months.

So how is Disney possible when I am not Donald Trump? Well, for one, you have to remember some of my trips I didn't pay for. My first trip to Disneyland I was five - grandparents paid for it. Of the Disneyworld trips, however, I have paid for most (2004 being the only exception). Disneyland I've only paid for once. That's not to say I don't pitch in my own cash for special items and food at Disney, but the main chunk of change is taken care of by others. Family trips and gifts have made a lot of my travels possible over the years.

Secondly, I don't normally go during peak season. Peak season is just that, peak. It's when everyone goes. There's no incentive for Disney to give deep discounts to entice people to go. Summer and Christmas week are to be avoided if you want those special deals. I typically go to Disney World in January or November. Crowds are lower and we've gotten some killer deals in the past. Yes, things are closed for refurbishment, but the discounts make up for that in many ways.

Third, I live at home. There. I said it. If it weren't already well known, it is now. I moved back into my parents' house a year ago next month. It's easier to save up when I don't have rent, utilities, food, etc. I pitch in and buy things that the family wouldn't otherwise get, but really I'm not obligated to pay for things noted above. Some consider that a mooch, but it is what it is. My jobs are not consistent moneywise, and until I am financially more stable it makes more sense to live at home. Granted my dad is getting a little pushy, and I know things have to change, but ultimately this is how we roll for now.

I don't use every penny to plan disney trips, I do use my money wisely, but I have a Disney vacation fund. It's something I decided to have for myself. Others budget in a general vacation fund, which is what this savings originally was, but I keep going back to Disney. I normally go with others to keep costs down by sharing costs. I don't splurge and stay at the most expensive hotel. There are many ways to cut the costs of a Disney trip.

I've also been told instead of Disney I should use my money to help the poor. This suggests that all of the money used for vacation is ALL the money I have. Again, this is not the case. My Disney trips come out of their own savings. It's all extra. Not that I have anything to prove, but I do give to others. I help out in my own way. I do not, however have to sacrifice one for the other. It's caled a budget, and anyone can have one of those!

I like Disney, and I like to visit the parks. It's my "happy place." I don't feel guilty for having one. I believe before people start judging about how much someone ELSE gives to organizations and what not they should be looking at themselves and decide if they are giving "their all." It's not my business what you do with your money.

Yes, vacations are extravigant. And, yes, they are not a right of anyone. You can have more relaxation duing a staycation - and you'll be saving money, too! I've done that as well. My trips are not me bragging, showing off how much money I have (honestly I don't have much). It's something I'm excited about. Something I enjoy sharing. Not everyone in their life will get a Disney trip, that's not my fault nor is it my job to get them there.

Basically if you want a Disney trip - take one. Figure out how to save the money and go. There are tons of resources out there - in books and online - that can help you. I even give tips from time to time. But, please, don't email me or comment on the blog saying I need to give money to charity instead. I'll decide where my money goes, what groups to support, and whether or not I get to go on a dang vacation!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Bring on the Fairy Godmother!

What could be better than Disney Magic?
No, I didn't get up early just to call down to Disney. I got a "wake up call" from my dog who wanted outside. After our morning ritual of me threatening starvation if she didn't go potty outside before being fed, I did - however - get on the phone and call down to Disneyland to book the next special something for our August trip.

Today was the reservation for Haille Rae and Haile Elizabeth to get made up as princesses at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. We are booked for 2pm on Monday the 6th of August, with the Crown package. After listening to the hold music for several minutes I was surprised to hear a familiar voice! Deanna from yesterday's reservation took my reservation request again today! I don't even know what the odds are that that could happen but it did!

While booking for the BBB, they ask for the first name(s) of the princess(es). We had a little bit of a laugh because not only do we have two girls with the same name, it's almost the same spelling. This will go on all of their extras that they get from their Fairy Godmother In Training, and that also gives the Fairy Godmother a heads up on their name.

It's a pretty cool experience. Haille Rae got to do it for her birthday, so this will be routine for her. Haile Elizabeth will also enjoy getting dolled up - she's a little doll anyway!

It was another quick and easy reservation and another checkmark off the list. I'm still debating if I'm going to call tomorrow and make a reservation for myself for breakfast at the Carnation Cafe or if I'll wait and decide to do that on the fly or what not. It's just not Disney, though, until I get that Mickey Waffle!

The next for sure reservation can't be made until Sunday - when I will be shooting the Tri-the-Kenai Triahtlon - and that's a breakfast at Storyteller's Cafe, another character meal.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Disneyland 2012: First ADR made!

Nothing makes me dance more,
like making our ADRs!
I called down at 8am Alaska Time this morning to book our first ADR for Disneyland. Actually it's not an ADR, it's "Priority Seating" but close enough. It works basically the same. Deanna was quick and easy to work with - just what you want in a Cast Member when booking anything.

Before chatting with the Cast Member, however, I sat on hold for about 8 minutes. Not bad considering it's summer, but it still had me a little worried. With Carsland openning next weekend it's no doubt they are busy, still I started worrying about our own plans in August. I got to listen to nearly the entire soundtrack from the animated version of Alice in Wonderland before getting my turn at the reservations.

My worries were for naught, however, because it was easy-peasey for Deanna to plug our party of 7 into a dinnertime of 6pm. I also took the time to ask her to make a note of the different celebrations - engagement, first time, and kindergarten graduation. I also asked about dietary concerns with Deanna. With Goofy's Kitchen being a buffet I wasn't sure it much mattered but Deanna took down the big ones anyway. We didn't have a problem finding things for Haille Rae to eat last time, but it never hurts to have the Disney staff aware.

So over all the first reservation of the trip was a breeze. Tomorrow I get to call again to book the girls' Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience, and then it'll be a couple of days before I can book our last reservation. I may also book a couple for myself - I gotta have breakfast at the Carnation Cafe - but I'm still debating that one.

I'm pretty much riding a Disney High at the moment. 'Tis a good feeling!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White & The Huntsman

Save the money and rent the movie on DVD this fall.
The tagline for Snow White and the Huntsman should be "Never believe the hype." A film that was supposed to be a fantastically dark retelling of the classic Snow White story is a garbled mess of special effects, CGI creatures, and missing storyline. The film leaves the viewer creeped out - and not in a good way - with it's topics of incest and life stealing.

The cast is promising, Charlize Theron is always certain to get people in the seats. Chris Hemsworth is riding high after his turn as Comic Hero Thor, and do I really need to remind you what Kristen Stewart is known for (hint: she was in that vampire/werewolf series of movies). However, "Monster", "Thor" and "Bella" do not make a good casting trio.

Theron, of course, was the big gun during promotion of the film. The Oscar Award winning actress (for her role in "Monster") has the chops to pull off the Evil Queen hell bent on killing the princess - still the rival for the throne and title of "fairest of them all" - but she's limited due to the film's need to have her turn into tar puddles and ravens. If you've seen the previews you've seen the majority of her contribution to the film.

Thor actor, Chris Hemsworth, plays the drunkard huntsman who - of all the characters - is the most fleshed out... but that's not saying much. He is forced to hunt down and bring back Snow White after she escapes the tower the Evil Queen locks her in. We find out that his wife has died and he's lost the will to do or be anything. He is hired for his knowledge of the dark forest (which is not as intimidating as they try to make it out to be), and off they go. Within the first few minutes of meeting his quarry he is talked into changing sides. So much for scary, right?

Kristen Stewart is no rookie to the simple and overhyped films. Her role as Snow White seems similar in most ways to that of Bella from Twilight. She says very little, but is the one everyone is after. Typecast? Maybe a little. Snow White spends most of her time running, feeling guilty, sympathising, and looking stoic. Not your typical Princess. She's supposed to be the heroine of the story, but honestly it's such a jumbled mess I can't tell who really wins - though I do know it was not the audience who claimed a win.

The actors should not be blamed for the flatness of the film, that sits squarely on the storyline. Which, as noted before, there is none. The story does not hold up against the many scene changes which looks to be 85-95% CGI. We meet secondary characters flippantly and never really learn who or what they are. There are scenes that make absolutely no sense, and do not advance the storyline. The graphics are incredible, but the cost seemed to be that the story no longer fit with what they wanted to do in the computer.

My friend and I were left with a very high creep factor and disappointment. We had such high hopes for the film and had been waiting for days to go see the movie, only to be met with a story that went no where. The only entertainment we had for the more than two hours in the theater was our own snarking.

This movie is not family friendly for the darkness and incest (the Evil Queen has a brother who... um... is very creepy... like Dateline Predator creepy), and I was surprised at how many children were in the theater. Like the previews didn't give you enough heads up?!

My advice? Skip the boxoffice and netflix it when it comes out later this summer on DVD. It's not worth the price of admission.

Pinterest Find: Lasagna Soup

Pinterest is the latest greatest social media craze.
Who knows if Pinterest is here to stay, even I was sceptical, but with everyone talking about it and friends sharing their finds on facebook I bit the bullet and joined. It's a dreamer's paradise. Everything you could possibly want at your fingertips. Boards for travel, reading, movies, life, children, clothing... and, yes, food.
For a picky eater like me, most recipes are intimidating because they are typically food stuffs I don't like. However, we do eat with our eyes and pinning a picture that looks amazing before you know what's in it? Makes it hard to pass up.

There have been some misses - smoothies just aren't for me it seems - but lately we've found some great finds. There was the nacho cheese (fake cheese!) during football season, and the glueten free chocolate cookies...

Photo from Deen Bros.
And last night we tried the Lasagna Soup that's floating around the Pinterest Boards. It was AMAZING. As a big lasagna lover I was not disappointed. It's basically just a deconstructed lasagna, but it is oh so good -and it's faster than baking one! The recipe used is Bobby Deen's version of his mother's Lasagna Soup. It's deemed "lighter", but it tastes pretty filling to me.

In the soup you have everything that makes a great lasagna, the only thing I would change is the portion of red pepper - I'd use about half of what the recipe calls for. I would also make a double batch, three people cleaned out a full pot of the stuff with just a little left for one of our lunches. I've never been so sad to see no leftovers in my life!

The depth of flavor is what, I think, makes one want more. At first taste you think it's your basic tomato sauce, and then the other flavors kick in. It's almost a religious experience. It really is like eating a lasagna, but it's not as heavy. Even though it was a hot day it was well worth it to have soup!

You MUST try it, you will NOT be disappointed! -

Monday, June 4, 2012

New look!

Disney won out, not surprising, as my new design for the blog. Layout is still the same, just the colors and pictures have changed! :)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Doing the Disney Math

Sometimes crunching numbers and breaking down costs
makes choosing to go on a Disney Vacation worth it!
Disneyland is still two months off, so what better way to kill time than to begin the pre-planning of the next Disney trip. My parents, myself, and the sibling are looking at going to Walt Disney World September of 2013. Mom has been apprehensive due to costs. This finally came to a head this weekend as she basically said a Disney trip would be impossible.

Considering the subject was Disney, and Walt himself was the master of making the impossible, possible, I jumped at the chance to prove her wrong. Crunching numbers is not normally my thing, but Disney Math - as we Disney-holics lovingly call it - is simple enough. Admittedly the total amount is a huge chunk of change, but once you begin to break down costs it's much more manageable.

Disney has not released the rates for next year - aside from their hotels. It's anyone's guess when we'll know the vacation package prices for 2013, but typically they release middle to late summer so folks have time to plan and budget. Basic budgetting, however, can begin well in advance of packages by using the current packages and rounding up. It may not be completely accurate - I round up to the nearest 50 or 00, which typically makes it far more expensive than it will be - but it gives you a figure to work with.

Attention to detail outside the Tusker
House in Disney's Anitmal Kingdom.
We're looking at going in September of next year. There are several reasons, the main one being my dad's 60th birthday will be September 15. He has been very vocal with his desire to go for his birthday over other options. Considering he's the bread winner, it's the least we can do for him. Another reason is that, in the past, September is the time Disney gives deep discounts like their free dining plan promotion. This is never promised, and should not be a deciding factor or even budgetted for, but it's good to keep in mind. When estimating I never budget with discounts in mind, I go for the full fare so I will not be disappointed or unprepared later on.

For our family of four we will need two rooms - to give the parentals some privacy. This bumps up the fees a bit, but not terribly so. For me Park Hopper is a must have for tickets. We also will have the Dining Plan. With four adults who do enjoy food, and want to be pampered once in a while, the Dining Plan works well as we can eat at places we would normally pass up because of costs. Tip is the only thing not included and that's just fine by us, we can take care of that. And, while not believing it will be available to us, we could get it for free should they offer another promotion (with the opening of the new Fantasyland, though, I don't see them offering deep discounts next fall).

Dad also chose Port Orleans Riverside as the resort he'd like to stay at. This makes me happy as I enjoy the moderate resorts over the values or even deluxe options. Again this adds a bit of expense, but if need be we *could* go down to a value, but with Disney Math you really don't need to. Little splurges are a good thing for a relaxing part of the vacation.

After visiting the Disney World Website and plugging in our "wants" out came the cost: $6293.44. This is a huge number. Rounding up to $6500 makes one gasp even more. Again I always try to give myself a little buffer so when the real price comes out I'm not under-estimating, and it's always nice to feel like we're getting it cheaper.

Even though the cost seems steep, this is for four "adults" with the extras listed above. It basically comes to 1575 or 1625 (depending on how you round up) a person. Granted we haven't added in airfare, but even after that it's not a bad deal. Did I mention this is for a 10 night, 9 day trip. That's a huge bang for the buck. If I wanted to get really detailed I could go down to the day per person cost, but I'm not THAT crazy about Disney Math.

With this info in hand, it makes the Disney Budget seem much more doable. With just a little bit of game planning, saving for the trip becomes something that doesn't seem impossible. Once again, Walt Disney is making the impossible, possible (all the while making a killing).