Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bringing a Little 'Ohana to the Dinner Table

Wishing I were at the Polynesian right now!
As the cold, snowy weather continues here in New Hampshire, I decided to bring a little Disney "warmth" to our house with yet another recipe.  This time it is from one of our favorite restaurants on Disney property ~ 'Ohana.  It is located over at Disney's Polynesian Resort and is next to the Tambu Lounge, which is my husband and I's favorite lounge on Disney property. 

'Ohana is an all you can eat meal served family style.  This means that the food is at your table rather than you having to make your way to the buffet line.  Depending on your server, each appetizer and side dish will be filled automatically or upon request.  When you are seated, you have bread and a bowl of salad with Honey Lime Dressing.  Both are delicious, but be careful not fill up on these, which is easy to do!  The menu has changed a few times over the years, but on our last trip, there were stir fry vegetables and lo mein noodles to go along with the skewered meats.  Throughout the meal, cast members come to you table with large skewers filled with either beef, pork, turkey or shrimp. Though all are very good, the beef is my favorite.  To accompany the meats, there are several dipping sauces, including chimichurri, peanut and a sweet and sour like sauce.  All delicious!  Finally dessert, which by the way is one of my most favorite desserts on Disney property, is bread pudding with a banana fosters sauce.  I think I could eat just this for my meal!   We were even lucky enough on this last trip to have a view of the castle from our table. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Avoiding Tantrums and Time Outs in Disney

Here's Hayley loving Pluto - I figured since it is her
tantrum I discuss, I would post a pic that shows
how sweet she really is!
Just because Walt Disney World is the most magical place on Earth, it doesn’t mean it makes things magically disappear, meaning certain behaviors like tantrums. They happen, even to the best of children. Sometimes it is in the middle of Fantasyland, where you just may get a lot of sympathetic looks from people who know what it feels like, or it may be in the middle of World Showcase where there seem to be far fewer strollers and even fewer of those sympathetic looks. I would like to keep the talk of tantrums to just children, but let’s face it, we’ve all seen the adult tantrums too. They may not include the stomping of the feet or screaming at the top of the lungs, but they happen.

When traveling to Disney, it can be overwhelming to the best of us. You know your children better than anyone and you know when they are running out of steam. As soon as my children start to fade, we know it is time to make our way back to the resort for a nap or to find a comfortable bench and have a snack. Sometimes just a little break is all we need to regroup. I know if I push my children beyond their limits, I will definitely have some cranky kids on my hands. Now my kids in general are really well behaved. We can take them anywhere without issue. But on our last trip to Disney my three year old had a tantrum of all tantrums. I literally have never seen her like this in my life! I was completely embarrassed and really shocked. I kept with our normal routine at home, which is to give a time out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Disney Things I Do for My Kids

Making Magical Memories Column
WDW Daily News
December 2010

When it comes to the thrill rides at Walt Disney World, I must admit that I avoid them completely. I have always been a roller coaster wimp and gladly waited in the gift shops or people watched while my family rode these types of attractions. But now that I am a mom, I do not want my kids to avoid certain attractions simply because I am afraid of them. They should decide on their own if it something they want to try. But this last fateful trip, my husband, unknowingly, cornered me into having to try Rock N Roller Coaster.

I have ridden Splash Mountain and Space Mountain just once each, and this past trip, against my better judgment, I added Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster to that list. One morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, my mom, the kids and I were sitting down by Tower of Terror waiting for my dad and husband to come off the ride. When my husband finally caught up with us, he asks in front of the kids if I wanted to ride Rock ‘N Roller Coaster. My daughter asks me if I was scared of it. To which of course, I responded I am not scared but I am not sure it would be my favorite ride. Then, my son pipes in asking, “How will you know if you don’t try it?” Seriously? This is the moment he actually listens to me and uses my words against me? With my three kids staring at me and waiting for an answer, I hesitantly tell my husband I will ride it with him. My heart was already beating out of my chest!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hoop Dee Doo Cornbread

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Disney Magic at Home, one of the things we like to do to keep Disney magic alive between trips is make some of our favorite Disney recipes.  Last night we made Hoop Dee Doo Cornbread, from the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue over at Pioneer Hall.  If you haven't experienced the show, I highly recommend it.  You can read about our experience in my post Family Traditions in Walt Disney World.  This is one of the best cornbread recipes I have ever made.  The center is moist and fluffy, while the crust is crispy and sweet. 

During our 2008 trip to Walt Disney World, Emily was just 10 months old.  We had a challenge during the week to give her a variety of foods, especially since she still had no teeth!  When we were seated at our table for Hoop Dee Doo, our server delivered the cornbread.  I gave a piece to Emily to give her something to munch on while we settled in.  I swear I turned to help Hayley (just two at the time) with something and when I turned back, Emily had eaten the entire piece of cornbread!  We actually ended up asking for more, and Emily could possibly have eaten a tray of it herself!  So this recipe always reminds me of her first trip.  You can see my video below of Emily "enjoying" the show!  The picture above is Emily eating the cornbread.  I figured that would be much more appealing than a picture of the cornbread we made last night!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Disney Magic at Home

Making Magical Memories Column
WDW Daily News
Published December 2010

Some of us are lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World several times a year, but though we all may dream of that, it isn’t possible for everyone. We used to travel every year to Disney, but now with three children and our oldest just starting school, we are planning to start going every other year. So in between trips, there are many things we do here at home to remind of us of Disney. There are some quick and easy things we do everyday, such as wear Disney clothes, use our refillable mugs from our resort and spot hidden Mickeys here at home. We also like to listen to Disney music (you can read more about our favorite Disney music in my post Music to My Ears ~ Disney Music That Is!), watch Disney movies and read Disney books. There are Disney photos, scrapbooks and guide books out year round that the kids can choose to look through to remember previous trips or plan for future ones.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Change is Good, Right?

I finally decided it is time to make some changes to my blog.  I have come up with a new title and a new look, but I will still be posting my favorite Disney moments, tips and photos. 

The changeover should be taking place by Monday.  The new name of my blog is going to be Pursuing the Magic (thanks to my friends Natalie (Meet the Magic) and Chad (Days in the Park) for letting me bounce ideas off them).  My new web address will be  As I looked over my blog archives, I realized that is what I am always doing.  Whether I am at home or in the parks, I am always looking for a little of that Disney magic and use my blog to share what I have learned to help you find the magic too!

Thank you to all of my followers and subscribers!  As you see the changes take place, feel free to let me know what you think.  I am very excited to get it underway!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Traveling to WDW with a Large Group

2008 ~ All the kids in their Patriots shirts and we
were chosen as the first family to enter
Payhouse Disney Live on Stage
Making Magical Memories Column
WDW Daily News
Published October 2010

For our next trip, we will be celebrating a family reunion. There will be six adults (my parents, brother, sister in law, my husband and myself) and five children. The kids will be 6.5, 5, 4.5, 3.5 and 1.5.  This will actually be my family's 25th anniversary of our very first trip to Walt Disney World in October of 1986.  Our family has grown just a bit since that first trip with just my parents, brother and I!

Traveling with a group takes some planning and some compromising. I think we all know that you can't make everyone happy every moment of every day - not even at the happiest place on Earth!

Here are a few tips I’ve learned for traveling with a large party:

2006 ~ Joey's first trip to WDW and our
family's 1sy character meal
1. Make one person your "leader" - I think we all know the saying "Too many cooks in the kitchen . . ." With one person the contact person, you can stay organized and everyone is informed. Though that one person should not dictate the vacation. Everyone should have a say in what they would like to do.

2. Because you are all in Walt Disney World together, it does not mean that you must spend every waking moment together. Plan days where you split up and then meet for dinner. Or, spend the day together and enjoy a dinner alone. We always plan which days we will be in which park and make a reservation for one sit down meal per day. This gives everyone the freedom to go where they want and then meet up with everyone at one designated place and time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Family Traditions in Walt Disney World ~ Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue

2010 ~ Our most recent trip
to Hoop Dee Doo
Making Magical Memories Column
WDW Daily News
Published October 2010

Every trip to Walt Disney World there are certain things we make sure we do not miss. Our favorite thing on our “must do” list each trip is the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness. It is a dinner show with an all you can eat and drink meal and a performance that is a bit corny but fun and interactive. It runs three times a night in Pioneer Hall.

Traveling to Fort Wilderness is like traveling for any other dining reservation. If you do not rent a car, you would have to travel to a theme park or Downtown Disney and then transfer to a bus or boat to Fort Wilderness. We take a bus to Magic Kingdom and then take the boat to Fort Wilderness. When you step off the boat, Pioneer Hall is just a short walk from the dock. If you are at another of the theme parks or Downtown Disney, you would take a bus to Fort Wilderness. Then, you would board the internal bus that would take you to Settlement Depot, which is the stop closest to Pioneer Hall. We find the boat to be the quickest route, plus it is nice change from the busses.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Flights of Wonder in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Caravan Stage
Animal Kingdom is one of the theme parks in Walt Disney World that I did not truly appreciate when it first opened.  At the time, I didn't have kids and our park touring included hitting all the major mountains before the lines became too long (If you want to see what changed that thought process, you can read my post A Disney Mom's Lesson: Quality not Quantity.)  But on a trip in April 2003, before kids, my husband and I were strolling around the Asia section of the park.  It was really hot and we decided it was time to head back to our resort.  As we walked by a theater, which honestly I had never noticed before, a cast member asked if we had seen Flights of Wonder yet.  We hadn't and he let us know a new show was starting within a couple of minutes.  We decided we would take a look.  Not only had I never seen it, I hadn't even heard of it. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort ~ A Review of Our Favorite Moderate Resort in Walt Disney World

Port Orleans Riverside is one of my favorite of the Disney moderate resorts.  My husband and I first stayed there in 1997 for our friends' Disney wedding.  We had always stayed at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, but for this trip, our first ever trip to Disney just the two of us, we decided to try a new resort and loved it as soon as we arrived.  At the time, it was called Dixie Landings.

The resort is split into two sections - Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayous.  Over the years we have stayed in both sections.  Magnolia Bend is lined with plantation style mansions along the Sassagoula River.  The landscaping is just gorgeous.  The year we visited in May, the Magnolia trees were in bloom and there were bunnies everywhere!  Though we have stayed in several of the mansions, Magnolia Terrace is our favorite.  It is convenient to the food court, the pool and a bus stop.  Plus, there is a beautiful gazebo along the walkway, which a couple was using for the vow renewal service one day during our stay.  I would highly recommend requesting Magnolia Terrace if you are planning to stay at Port Orleans Riverside. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Souvenirs ~ Preserving Your Magical Memories

Making Magical Memories Column
WDW Daily News
September 2010

Every trip to Walt Disney World is an amazing experience with the best souvenirs being those precious memories and moments you share with your family. But who can leave Walt Disney World without a few pieces of the Disney magic in your luggage – meaning souvenirs. The parks and resorts are filled with great treasures to decorate your house, add to your Christmas tree, and fill a toy box or closet. You can’t exit an attraction without being deposited into or near a gift shop. Now as a mom and Disney fanatic, I can honestly say I could bankrupt my family if I were to purchase everything I love in those gift shops. But the reality is that our luggage can only fit so much and so can our house! I pretend that I don’t know they will ship your purchases home for you – that would open a whole new issue!

Each trip we set a limit on souvenirs. There are things that we make sure we purchase each year and then we each get to pick one thing that we just “have” to have. Luckily, my kids are very good about not getting upset when they can’t have everything they want, though like everyone they have their moments. If this would be difficult for your child, before going to Walt Disney World, my suggestion would be to take your kids out and about shopping and get them used to seeing things that they can look at but can’t buy. This is pretty easy to accomplish since these days, even the grocery store is filled with things my kids claim they have to have. Even the best of us adults can sometimes find it hard to contain ourselves in the gift shops, so imagine a little one?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Random Lessons Learned as a Mom in Disney

I have decided to make a list of some of the most valuable “little things” I learned so you can be prepared for your trip to Walt Disney World with your little ones:

1. The toilets are loud in Walt Disney World: I realized that the toilets in Disney are extremely loud for some small children. A child in the middle of potty training could certainly be set back by this, my daughter was! Using the bathrooms became a very big deal because she refused to go in because of the sound. As the week progressed her fear definitely started to disappear, but be prepared if you have a child who is potty training!

2. Don’t let your guard down because you are in Disney: Walt Disney World may be the happiest place on Earth, but that certainly does not mean you can keep your eye on your children any less than in any other place. Every morning before leaving our room, I took a picture of the kids so that I would know exactly what they were wearing in case at any point they became lost. This came in handy when my son was three and lost between Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain (of all places, right?).

3. Pack the Palmolive: Don't forget to bring the dish liquid! I forgot this on my first trip as a mom, which made cleaning the pacifiers, bottles and refillable mugs quite an ordeal. This is the first thing I pack every trip.

4. Do your laundry in Disney: I always thought my mom was crazy for doing laundry in Disney, but now I can see why she did, and I do laundry every trip. The stack up of laundry from five of us on return from vacation is just too much. Besides, since my parents travel with us every trip, my kids are spoiled the entire week with Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars and other delicious treats, which means a lot of melted chocolate and ice cream on clothes. Those stains are much easier to get out if I do laundry while in Disney than at home. But even better, since I know I will be doing laundry in Disney, I can pack less and leave more room for souvenirs!

5. Budget for souvenirs and make them meaningful: Souvenirs are one of the things that we work hard to contain each trip. I swear we step on Disney property and we become spending fools! It is hard to resist the princess dolls for the girls or the Buzz Lightyear laser for my son. Add to that the Disney themed clothes and scrapbooking materials. Each trip we designate certain “must have” souvenirs for the kids, which include a pin for each child representing the one thing on the trip they tried for the first time or just something they loved. The second souvenir is one ornament and, same as the pins, it has to represent one thing that was really special for them on the trip. Finally, we let them each choose any one item they really “have” to have.

What is your best lesson learned while vacationing in Walt Disney World with children?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Disney's Pirate League of the 80s

My very first trip to Walt Disney World was back in 1986 as a thirteen year old.  My parents had never been on a vacation and had been married 17 years.  They decided that they would take their very first vacation to Walt Disney World for us kids.  Being new to Disney theme parks, we really did believe it was a place for kids, but I am sure you know how that turned out!  I am lucky enough to have two parents who really would sacrifice anything for my brother and I (and now our spouses and our own children), which they did for this trip and many other events throughout our lives.  Before leaving, my parents let us know that we would never be able to afford to go back so we would be getting up early, going all day in the parks and getting back to the hotel late to make sure we saw everything.  It was a busy vacation but the best one I had ever been on.  Let's just say, my parents quickly realized this wasn't just a trip for the kids, but the whole family.  They loved it so much that we ended up returning every other year until my brother and I were in college.  Then my parents started going by themselves!

One of my most favorite pictures I have of my family is the one you see here.  It was from that very first trip.  I remember getting into the costumes and how much fun it was, especially seeing my dad get into the spirit of it!  I don't think before that trip I would have ever thought he would participate.  This particular set up was just outside of the Pirates of Caribbean, one of the first attractions that gave me a true appreciation of Disney animatronics.  Of course, there was no makeup or lessons in being a pirate, just good old family fun of dressing up and being together.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Kids are Listening and Speaking Up ~ It's All About the Crowd Calendar

2006 ~ Joey's 1st Trip to WDW & I was
6 months pregnant for Hayley
Since we are planning a Walt Disney World trip for this year, there has been a significant amount of Disney talk around here at home.  If you have already read my previous post Vacation Planning is in the Air, then you know we travel with my family, which this time around includes 11 of us.  As I was on the phone discussing potential dates for our next vacation, Joey yells out in the background, "You better check the crowd calendar!"  Let me tell you, I was so proud and shocked at the same time.  Here is a kid I have to remind 15 times to brush his teeth before school, but yet, I'm in another room, on the phone and he hears me talking Disney and thinks to mention the Crowd calendar!  My kids never cease to amaze me!

If you haven't checked out, then you definitely should.  I wouldn't plan my Disney itinerary without consulting the Crowd Calendar or without purchasing my favorite Walt Disney World guide book, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, by Bob Sehlinger with Len Testa.  On my last four trips, the crowd calendar has proved to be 100% accurate.  You can't beat those odds! If you haven't subscribed to their site, you should!

Only 299 more days until Walt Disney World and only 119 days until ADRs!