November 15, 2011

The Dog Days of Disney: Day 5

Saturday, we devoted the first half of our day to Hollywood Studios. We arrived before rope drop, which was our goal all along. It was hectic and crowded, but we were able to scurry back to grab our FastPass to Toy Story Mania and still hit the other big rides before the lines got long.

Didn't Sassy and Tink look adorable in their Dulu Designs shirts? Two days in a row, and oh-so-CUTE!

We headed straight to Rock'N'Roller Coaster. I rode first, and Tyler was able to use his Rider Swap Pass to ride immediately after.

The ride: holy hell. It was AWESOME! Shocking. Fast. Smooth. Dark. Loud. Blasting Aerosmith tunes. Umm... can I say perfect?

The girls seriously had a ball dancing outside to the Aerosmith music that was blasting for all to hear. They went to town!

For real...

Sassy just had to show off her new, grown-up dangle-y Mickey Mouse earrings she bought as one of her {many} purchases throughout our trip.

It makes me smile that the girls can have fun no matter the circumstance. I was so, so super impressed with the way they handles lines throughout the trip. The had the mindset that they were on vacation, and vacation is FUN! Disney does a fantastic job of aiding in this by providing visual stimulation, interactive displays, and even employees placed to entertain children throughout lines. Thank you Disney!

Next, Tyler took Sassy on Tower of Terror while I hung out with Tink. When they were through, Sassy looked as white as a sheet and very leery, but she agreed to go on it again with me, so it couldn't have been too bad. Very fun ride, as well! Sassy did cling on to me with a super-death-grip the entire ride, but we loved it!

We checked out some of the scenery...

...and caught a showing of Disney Junior- Live on Stage, which the girls loved! Tyler and I could barely stand up afterwards, but hey...

We watched Voyage of The Little Mermaid, The Great Movie Ride, and caught Beauty and the Beast- Live on Stage, which was fantastic! A must-see, in my opinion!

We grabbed lunch at FairFax Fare, where we enjoyed some surprisingly tasty chicken and ribs. We checked out some of Hollywood Studios centerpieces...

I love how each Disney park has a central showpiece to enjoy!

Then, we headed back towards Toy Story Mania. Besides being arguably the longest wait in all of Disney, I didn't know much about this ride. Even with FastPass, we had to stand in line for a while, but oh my goodness, how fun! The entire ride is one giant video game, and we had a BLAST. I really wish we could have ridden it again!

There was a lot we didn't get to do or see at Hollywood Studios. We probably would have stayed longer, but Sassy was not feeling well, so we decided that some rest was in order...

Later that evening, we had dinner reservations at Biergarten. The girls brought along their dirndls to wear for the occasion. They looked super adorable!

Dinner was fun, and the girls got up and danced on the stage for all to see. Everyone seriously got a kick out of their dresses, and several employees asked if they could have their picture taken on their camera with the girls. ♥

After dinner, we continued to tour the remaining pavilions.

Germany. Italy.

...and, of course the UK!

The girls really enjoyed the World Showcase Pavilions, and they enjoyed decorating their Duffy bears at the KidCot Fun Stops. Even is Tink did get PERMANENT MARKER all over her dirndl straight from Germany. Tear.

It was a long, wearing day and we were all ready for some serious R & R. Day 5, out...

The Dog Days of Disney: Day 4

Friday morning, we had no choice but to arise early. We had 8:00 breakfast reservations at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. This was completely by design. One of the ingenious tips I read prior to our trip suggested making an early breakfast reservation here, gaining you access to the park prior to opening, and the perfect chance for stellar castle pictures without a crowd.

I was SO excited.

The park was beautiful in the morning. I had to wait a minute for my camera to catch up with the humidity, but the fall/Halloween decorations were great. The girls even showed us their "scary" faces...

Magic Kingdom has lots of neat architecture near Main Street and in the front corridor.

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll towards the castle...

...Then, I saw it. I mean, c'mon. For real? Are you kidding me right now? UGH!!!

I still put on my happy family picture smile.

But, I was non too happy. Why, you ask? Now do you see it?

Yeah, the giant eyesore of a construction crane right in the way of all of my fabulous, highly anticipated castle pictures. I wanted to cry. But, we made the best of it.

Even princesses have construction on their homes.

The one neat things was that because of the construction (or maybe because it was before the park opened?), there was a lack of ropes and barriers around the front platform of the castle, so we (perhaps illegally?) gained access to spots like the eave and the floor where the princesses perform before they were blocked off to the public.

When you walk through the castleway, the mosaics are incredible! The girls and I probably could have stood there for hours examining every inch!

Now, I could have returned home and spent some time photoshopping the cranes out. Yeah, maybe I should have. But, you know what? That wasn't our experience. I felt it better to just leave them in. Maybe we'll try again next trip!

We made our way to breakfast. After a short wait outside, it was our turn to be seated.

The buffet was actually pretty good. they had children's buffet lines that were just their size, which the girls LOVED! As we ate, we got to meet a variety of Winnie the Pooh characters.

We ate and mingled and acquired many autographs. And hugs.

After breakfast, we made our way back to Frontierland. We all rode the WDW Railroad and Tyler and I took turns taking Sassy on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, officially Sassy's first roller coaster ride, which she LOVED! In between attractions, we visited Jessie from toy Story!

The girls rode The Magic Carpets of Aladdin with Ty and Sassy and I checked out the Haunted Mansion.

Then, we purchased the ever-famous Dole Whip desserts for everyone and parked ourselves in the very long line to meet the Disney Fairies at Tinkerbell's Magical Nook.

It felt like we waited FOR-EVER, but the girls really wanted to do it. So, we did.

They got to meet Rosetta...

And, the little sprite herself...

Before leaving, we used our FastPasses to ride Peter Pan's Flight, which was really neat! We also checked out Mickey's Philharmagic, which three of us really enjoyed. So cool! Tink... not so much. She was pretty frightened. We definitely learned on this trip that she is not a fan of 3D effects!

We even ran into a certain Fairy Godmother on our way towards the front of the park!

After a nice, long hotel rest, we decided to cancel our dinner reservations and have a relaxed evening. We headed to Epcot, had dinner at La Cantina de San Angel (YUM!) and checked out a few attractions. We walked around the Norway and China pavilions, caught a little bit of Illuminations (although Tink wanted nothing to do with the fireworks) and rode Maelstrom.

I took very few pictures Friday evening, but I just had to share this one- cracks me up!

Tyler had the chance to ride Mission: Space (Orange) and we all had the pleasure of riding Journey Into the Imagination with Figment. Ahem.

And, so concludes our very full Friday at Disney World!

November 10, 2011

Shutterfly Holiday Cards

It's that time again! I can't believe we are ordering Holiday cards! Just like last year, Shutterfly is one of my go-to places for holiday cards. They have a plethora of fun, fresh designs and really great style.

While I haven't chosen the perfect design just yet, my eyes naturally wander towards the Erin Condren designs found here...

You know, to match my awesome life planner! ♥

In addition to holiday cards, Shutterfly offers a great selection of invitations and thank-you cards, which can really come in handy after the holiday season. I know we always have a million people to thank, so why not do it in style?

Shutterfly has always been good to us, and this is the perfect time to go check out their wonderful product line!

The Dog Days of Disney: Day 3

Thursday morning, we woke up early and got started on our morning in hopes of getting to Epcot as they opened. Didn't happen. It was quite a struggle for us- trying to find balance between our urge to be a well-oiled Disney-touring-machine and our desire for a relaxing-get-away-from-it-all vacation. This morning, sleep won out just a little bit.

When we did manage to get to Epcot, we rode Spaceship Earth again right off the bat. Well, after Tyler and Sassy went on a FastPass mission for Soarin' and Test Track. It was fun to ride again because for the interactive last leg of the ride, you can change all of your choices and see a completely different future world unfold. We ♥'d this ride!

The girls had chosen their signature books the night prior, and were pretty anxious to get started on their autograph collecting, so we took them over to the Epcot Character Spot.

I will just let it be known now that the time we waited to collect autographs on this trip far surpassed the time we waited for any other ride or attraction. But, Tyler and I decided early on that this trip was truly about the girls. After a couple days of touring, things didn't feel quite right. Our schedule was off, everyone was a bit out of sorts, but even still, it didn't feel like it was supposed to feel for the girls, and we could tell.

From that point on, we made the trip a little less about taking pictures, a little less about riding every.single.ride, and a little more about soaking in the experience, all four of us. I don't mean to sound cliche, but I'm being dead serious. So, when both girls shared that meeting the characters and getting their autograph books filled was most important to them, suddenly those lines didn't seem so long.

Anyway, Character Spot. The girls watched cartoons throughout the line and it was finally their turn to meet their first characters!

The loved it! I was a little nervous about Tink, because she is in a stage where she is seemingly frightened of everything, and we'd noticed things heighten since we'd been in Disney. But, she was grinning from ear to ear and ready to love on all the characters!

Both the girls thought it was hi-larious that Pluto signed his name on top of his nose. They were just perplexed as to why he would do such a thing. HA!

The girls were so proud to pose with their new friends!

Even the really tall ones...

You could totally see Tink's grin from behind. That's the BEST kind.

After the Character Spot, we headed towards the back of the park and into the World Showcase area. We had lunch reservations at Akershus, which was also our first character meal. When we first arrived, after waiting a bit, we were whisked away to meet Belle and have a professional portrait taken. The girls were about in heaven. The restaurant was beautiful and princess-like in every way.

After we sat down and ordered, the princesses made their way around to each table and took some time to talk with the girls, sign autographs, answer questions, and take pictures. Magical. First, it was Jasmine...

Then Cinderella...

Then Snow White... Tink was very proud to point out her shirt to the lady herself, who just giggled...

And, finally, Ariel...

The girls truly loved every minute of it. I didn't hassle with trying to get a reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table. I'm sure it's super fabulous to eat there! But, this was great, and it only counted as one table service credit instead of two!

After lunch, we spent a little time checking out the Norway Pavilion and then headed back front. Tyler and I took turns riding Soarin' with Sassy. It was very cool. I was super impressed by the smells! It really brought you into the ride. While Tyler and Sassy were on Soarin', I took Tink to ride Living with the Land, and we learned all kinds of neat new things about the cutting-edge methods of agriculture. I love how much we learned on this entire vacation!

Last, Tyler and I took turns taking Sassy on Test Track. Tyler went first, and then Sassy and I got all the way to the top, where they proceeded to take a lengthy rain break. Ugh!! We finally did get to ride, and it was pretty cool. A few times it really felt like you were going to crash right into something, but Sassy took it all in stride! I thought the hot and cold simulations were pretty fun. Sassy enjoyed the speed- 60 mph, baby!

We headed back to the resort and contemplated an afternoon swim, but it really started to rain. We decided to rest, hang out int he room, and head to Downtown Disney for the evening. The rain came down, let me tell you! The girls enjoyed a little bit of souvenir shopping for their friends and themselves. Sassy started a charm bracelet, and added to it profusely throughout the week. The giant Disney Store was something! So was dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express!

Day 3, Disney World, Done.

November 5, 2011

The Dog Days of Disney: Day 2

While we were eager to start our second day at Disney, I would remiss if I didn't mention that it truly took us a couple of days to recover from crazy un-schedule and get our groove on. Things were a bit slow going Wednesday morning.

Tyler and Sassy took a walk to the food court at our resort to retrieve fruit and muffins while Tink and I attempted {feebly} to get going. We headed off to Animal Kingdom for the morning.

I think I went into our Animal Kingdom visit a bit jaded. Most of our experienced Disney World friends like this park the least. I even decided to leave behind my big fancy camera lens and travel light. Once we arrived, i was super disappointed that I had. What a gorgeous place! Out of all the Disney parks that we visited, i think Animal Kingdom has some of the prettiest backdrop and scenery for photography. I'll know better next time!

I found the Tree of Life to be spectacular. What an amazing sight to see!

We sent Tyler off on a FastPass gathering mission while the girls and I took in some of the animals. It was sort of funny because one tour guide was talking to the girls about how awesome it was to have the chance to see one of the rarest zoo animals ever, the lemur. She just went on and on, and Sassy was like, "Uh, yeah, I pet one before and it sat on my lap!" Well, then...

Once Tyler met back up with us, we decided to take in the show entitled It's Tough to Be A Bug. BAD IDEA! Tink was terrified. The show is 3D and has several physical and odoriferous effects. Tink wanted nothing to do with it, even without the 3D glasses. Thankfully, mommy and Tink sat close to an exit, and we hightailed it out of there in no time flat. She was hysterical, sobbing, clinging to my neck like a spider monkey. Epic fail. Sassy and Ty enjoyed it, though, and by the time they were finished, Tink was breathing somewhat normally again. Poor girl.

We made our way over to Kilimanjaro Safaris, and the girls were pretty excited to see the animals. We saw a lot of neat things on our trek...

I was pretty excited, too. What a neat looking creature this little guy is, wouldn't you agree?

We saw a lot of butts and bottoms...

It was a little bumpy, rocky, and fast to get a clear shot all the time...

...but, it was fun!

After our ride, we got a closer look at a different angle of the tree of life. So cool!

We ventured over to Asia and took in the sights of the Grand Himalayas!

Tyler and I took turns taking Sassy on Dinosaur, and then each of us rode Expedition Everest while the girls waited patiently. We even fit a little snack in! Expedition Everest was really cool- I was like what the... when we got to the point of the twisted, broken tracks. They give you just enough time to look around and think to yourself, "Where the hell am I going," and then, well... I believe it's the first backwards roller coaster I've ever ridden.

Animal Kingdom, while lacking the number of attractions that some of the other parks had, was really nice. We fully intended on spending another half day there, at least, and I was really looking forward to checking out a few of the trails and taking some nice pictures, but we never did make it back. Next time!

We headed straight from Animal Kingdom to Animal Kingdom Lodge for our lunch at Sanaa. It wasn't my favorite meal, but it was decorated beautifully and the lookout scenery from the restaurant was unreal- there were just wild African animals everywhere! I just don't think that the food was my thing, but the bread sampler was really great!

After lunch, we headed back to our room and took a much needed NAP! All four of us slept for a few hours- it was fantastic!

The forecast looked glum, but we decided to head out to Magic Kingdom for the evening, anyway. The girls were set on wearing their princess nightgowns, and really, who were we to say no? So, princesses they were!

Even though their mood matched the weather, especially Tink, it was still magical for them to see the castle for the first time.

And, Sassy decided to choose her Mickey ears. We told the girls we would buy them each a pair of their choice, separate from their piggy bank money and money from Nana & Graycop. Sassy chose princess ears with a veil.

As it grew dark, we had the chance to take the girls on a few famous rides- Prince Charming's Regal Carrousel, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and Mad Tea Party...

I did not partake in any of the three because I do not do rides that travel in circles. Ever. Nevertheless, Tyler and the girls had a ball!

We grabbed a late dinner at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe and enjoyed the rest of the magical scenery on our second night in Disney!