Saturday, August 3, 2013

Living Disneyfied: Reading the Kingdom Keepers Series

Living Disneyfied: Reading the Kingdom Keepers Series: Over the past year my daughter and I have been reading the Kingdom Keepers book series by Ridley Pearson.  They are a great way to keep the ...

Reading the Kingdom Keepers Series

Over the past year my daughter and I have been reading the Kingdom Keepers book series by Ridley Pearson.  They are a great way to keep the Disney feeling alive.  Generally, the books are about a group of 5 Orlando area students who get into hijinks defending Disney property and the feeling of Disney goodwill from evil.  Each student takes a job as a hologram tour guide at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Then a phenomenon occurs where each student "crosses over" as their hologram while the real student sleeps and they come to meet, know each other and depend on each other's strengths and talents to defeat evil.  They meet a man who organizes them and gives them assignments to defend Disney.

The books take place in the various Disney parks in Orlando, then move over to Downtown Disney, the Disney electrical plant, the water parks, a cruise ship and Castaway Cay and I think, but I haven't gotten there yet, Disneyland Resort.  Along the way, you get to meet Disney characters you thought you knew well and get to know them in a different way.  Be forewarned, if your child is a Stitch fan like mine is, he'll be disappointed to learn that Stitch is on the evil side.  Boo hiss!  That said, while you get to know characters in a  new way, you also get a different view of the parks, their underbelly and how things work.

My child happens to be very analytical and would ask how things were possible as described in the books.  You have to be able to suspend belief to enjoy the series.  If you or your child is too literal, you're not going to enjoy these books as much.  It's not so far fetched, like Harry Potter, where you know this is just fantasy.  There are too many real possibilities that when you have holograms feeling pain, you have to learn to suspend belief and accept it to move on.  That said, I really enjoy the books.  I like learning about the history of the parks, how garbage is taken out, how rides are constructed, which are all included in the story in a seamless way.  Background information is well done.

Mr. Pearson has employed a continuity researcher who sometimes fails.  My kid picks up on continuity errors.  I tell her to move on. It's a mistake.  We all make them.  The errors don't affect the story.  I can't imagine having to keep all the previous facts straight.  There are a ton since these books are packed with character development, history, logistics and outright fantasy.

My daughter is ten.  These books are perfect for her age, both boys and girls.  They have her interested because they're based on a subject she likes, Disney.  They are well written, using strong vocabulary and conversation that makes sense to her.  There is a little romance, but nothing more than a quick kiss.  There is absolutely no swearing, political or religious agenda.  They consist of classic good versus evil struggles with technology thrown in which is pretty cool.  They are enjoyable as a daily read or as a book on disc in the car, although the narrator's girl voice sounds like a Valley Girl from the 1980s.  When one book ends, my daughter and I are intrigued enough to take the next one out of the library.  They are meant for a skilled reader at a 4th grade reading level who has enough stamina to read about 500 pages.  But best of all, it keeps the reader Living Disneyfied.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Collecting: What do you collect?

One way to keep the Disney dream alive is to collect memorabilia; to bring something home from the parks to add to the collection and to dust it occasionally, thinking, gee, I'd rather be at a park than dusting. But seriously, I'm a collector.  When I was a kid it was patches and buttons.  Gotta love the 70s!  I'd pick up pretty rocks and shells, shiny pennies (then I narrowed down the pennies to only Wheat Pennies).  When I got older I started collecting painted and glass eggs.  After a few moves, I learned just how durable those painted eggs really are.  I've only broken one.  But now it's Vinylmations that I collect.

For those who don't know what a Vinylmation is, it's a small Mickey Mouse shaped vinyl painted to look like various characters, most of which are Disney related, but not all.  They come in two sizes, 3 inch and 9 inch.  I only collect the 3 inch vinyls.  I also try to narrow my collection to those that are mystery vinyls, meaning you choose a random box from a collection and you don't know what you get until you open it.  I love the anticipation and for me, it keeps me buying when I have a goal to get a certain character.

There are plenty of already opened vinyls selling on eBay and I've resorted to bidding on a character at least a few times.  I'm not exactly close to a Disney park or a Disney Store, so to carry me over, I've trolled eBay and I've purchased vinyls online through Disneystore.com.

On a recent trip to the nearest Disney Store, I was lucky to go during the Twice Upon a Sale sale and with every 3 inch from some collections, I got a 3 inch free from another collection.   I came home with 4 new vinyls.  Yay!  For now I keep my vinyls in a cabinet in my bedroom, but we are soon to be house hunting and one criteria will be a house with a family room.  I'd like to move my vinyls to a place where the whole family can enjoy them.

My daughter collects pressed pennies.  Every time we go to the parks, she brings pennies and plenty of quarters so she can grow her collection.  Disney has great pressed penny machines.  You can find them in nooks, in arcades, in stores, outside of attractions.  My favorite are the attraction penny presses, but my daughter likes the character ones.  She's even grown her collection outside the parks.  We've found penny presses in zoos, museums, other amusement parks, even on the Interstate in rest areas.  Collecting pressed pennies might be the cheapest way to get a memento from the Disney parks.

One way to keep your pressed pennies neat and orderly is to splurge on a pressed penny folder.  You can find them in all the shops at the Disney parks where you'd find autograph books.  If your collection gets really large, I can imagine putting them in a coin collector's binder.  My daughter's collection hasn't gotten that big yet, but she's soon to grow out of the folder I got her a few years ago.

There are websites that dedicate pages to pressed penny machine locations and the image the machine will press. Before I go to a Disney park, I print out the machine location list, compare the image list to what my daughter already has and she circles the ones she'd really like that she's missing.  This project can take some time, so it's a good way to get her excited for an upcoming trip and keep her Living Disneyfied.

The one bad thing about penny collecting is the weight of the change in your pocket or bag.  Because we use a list of the pressings we want to do in a given day, we only bring enough change for those pressings, plus one or two extra just in case.  By the end of the day, my pocket is lighter with only the pennies left.  And the first thing my daughter will do when we return to the resort is pull out those pennies and put them into her folder.  She will look at those pennies for a long time reminiscing over the day and past days.  It's pretty cool.

Another thing that we've just started collecting is Disney pins.  My daughter is borderline shy, so approaching a stranger asking to pin trade has not appealed to her in the past, but she's now totally into it and can't wait for our December trip.

Again, I've found lots of 25 pins on eBay, won a couple of bidding wars and have amassed a stash of 75 pins.  Plus I've found some good sales on Disneystore.com and visited the Disney Personal Shopper website during one of their "live shopping" events.  My daughter gives me her rejects, the ones she doesn't want to keep.  Those I don't want to keep, she puts in her trade pile.  She's now got a good pile to start trading with and we still have 5 months till our trip.  No doubt I'll try bidding on eBay once more before December.

So far my daughter displays her favorite pins on a bulletin board.  I keep mine in a drawer until I get around to making a board for myself; busy working mom.

Lastly, my daughter recently got a Duffy Bear from the Disney Store.  She got a free outfit with purchase and I knew this December she was looking forward to buying Duffy and outfits around World Showcase in Epcot.  I can't pass up a sale, so I relented and got Duffy now.  As a fluke, the Disney Personal Shopper folks were doing a live shopping event at the outlet in Orlando and posted a picture of a Mad Hatter outfit for Duffy.  I jumped on it because I'm a fan of the Mad Hatter and it is so cute!  Now Duffy has two outfits and we haven't even been to a park yet.  What can I say?  I love Disney!

With Duffy's outfits being kind of expensive, this collection might be out of most parent's price range.  I will continue to look for sales, especially around Holiday time when Disney Store has a decent sale with Duffy merchandise.  We might have to take a trip to the outlet store when we get to Orlando in December.  Until then, we'll be Living Disneyfied with our current collections.





Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 180: Disneyphiles know what I'm talking about!

To keep my Disney dreaming alive, I pour over blogs, Facebook/Twitter posts and I read the annual editions of various books before I make dining reservations.  But day 180, the first day dining reservations can be made at WDW, is a big deal for those of us who really want the coveted time slots at fan favorite restaurants.  Since I've never booked a Disney vacation this far out, I've been actually planning for day 180.  This trip I might get inside le Cellier and eat something!

I'm working with a travel agent, something else I've never done before, and I warned her I was getting my notes together, breaking out the calendar and planning for day 180.  She told me to bring it on.  So I did.

You know, watching Disney movies, drinking out of Disney mugs, making meals from the Disney recipe books and reading blogs only goes so far to keep one Living Disneyfied.  Today's email to the travel agent with my reservation plans for December; yes, I said December, makes the trip feel more real than ever.  Six months until we go Home.

Looking at our list of restaurants, I notice that we're going back to our favorites like the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness, Hollywood Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios and Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. 

I learned that the lunch in the Magic Kingdom at Be Our Guest is a quick serve thanks to our agent which means no reservation needed.  This was a lunch I was sweating over, since the restaurant in the new Fantasyland expansion is extremely popular.

Other new to us restaurants where we're hoping to score reservations are le Cellier, Rose and Crown, and the breakfasts at 'Ohana and Chef Mickey's.  Keep your fingers crossed!  Our trip dates do not fall in the recently announced free dining plan window, so we're paying as we go instead of buying into a dining plan.  This works better for us anyway.  I can't eat a full meal off the plan.  I'm good with an entrĂ©e or soup and dessert.  I can't eat all three.  If food was free, well I'd just have to suck it up, right?

It would take a lifetime, or an annual pass that I used regularly, to eat my way through WDW.  I'm willing to try.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Disney Quotes

If you're like me, you quote Walt Disney or a Disney movie often, if not daily.  My favorites usually deal with dreaming and achieving one's dreams.  Here are a few:

1. All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
2. If you can dream it, you can do it.
3. The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
4. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.
5. All you need is a little faith, trust and pixie dust. - Peter Pan
6. Just keep swimming. - Dory
7. If you keep on believing the dreams that you wish will come true. Cinderella
8. I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse.
9. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
10. If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme. - Jiminy Cricket
11. That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.
12. A dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep. - Cinderella

I keep inspirational quotes in the smallest places.  They're little reminders to keep Living Disneyfied and to keep believing in myself.  No dream is silly and Uncle Walt reminds me if it's something worth believing in, you gotta go big or go home.  The biggest stuff was started with a little thing, even a little mouse.

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's Hard to Live Disneyfied: Moving Forward

Happy Easter!  First with the good news: we have a new car worthy of a Disney decal.  It also has an antenna.  I've already placed a Mickey head topper on it.  We are off and running Disneyfied!  Also, the sun is shining and while today is crisp in the 40s, the rest of the weekend and part of next week will feel like Spring in Western New York.  This has been a long winter and been difficult to keep positive and thinking as Walt would.  We persevere though and as our family priest says, with every Good Friday comes an Easter.  I truly believe that, so with all the nonsense we've suffered, I know our good news is coming.

It's funny how the universe works.  In early March I received a voicemail from an attorney I worked with many years ago asking if I was interested in applying for a paralegal position where he currently works.  The company has a few local offices, one very close to where I live, so I called back saying YES I'm interested.  He said the position was in the office furthest away from my home.  The location wasn't a deal breaker and it was very nice to be thought of out of the blue and commended for my work ethic and talents so I said I was interested.  The position was full time, hours I haven't worked since my daughter was born.  But with my husband working for himself as a plumber and there being weeks where he hasn't had the phone ring at all, I looked at it as a sign, an opportunity that I would be the primary bread winner in our family.

Working full time would mean I'd be unable to see my daughter in the morning.  Daddy would have to get her up, dressed, fed and on the bus.  I'd be coming home late, moving dinner to 6:30 or later.  I'd be unable to drive her to dance some days.  Those extra hours meant some sacrifice but a consistent paycheck would compensate, right?  Alternatively, I really like my present job.  I enjoy the people I work with and our clients.  I'd lose accrued vacation.  I'd be unable to take my daughter to doctor appointments.  Still, I interviewed twice, meeting with several attorneys and the company's vice president of legal.  I left feeling positive and started to think about all the extra money we'd have and house projects that would keep my husband occupied when the plumbing business was slow.

Also in the back of my mind I thought about my long-term goals.  I love Disney.  I love to travel, to see new places and experience new things.  People come to me for Disney advice and tell me I should be a travel agent.  I've been thinking about it for quite some time now.  If I took a full time job, I'd be unable to pursue becoming a home based travel agent.

I had mixed emotions after the interviews because it did seem like I was giving up an awful lot for money.  I guess if you listen to your gut, you won't be led down the wrong path.  I had to keep positive.  I had to keep confident.  I had to keep thinking What Would Walt Do.  When I got the rejection email sent to all applicants that didn't get the job, I was relieved.  I immediately started to pursue jobs in travel and even applied online to one agency where experience wasn't necessary.  Two days later I was rejected there too.

I'm moving forward with the idea of opening a home based agency, specializing in New England/Maritime travel and all things Disney.  I have no idea where to start but I'm eager and willing and moreover EXCITED.  I haven't yet mortgaged my home or sold my car to fund my dream like Walt did so I consider myself pretty lucky.  I'm going to do this thing.  I'm Living Disneyfied.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Had a bad time at Disney? That's crazy talk!

My step-son and his family just returned from a short visit to Walt Disney World and reports that he didn't have fun.  I wasn't present for the conversation, so I have to take my husband's word for it, but a small part of me isn't surprised.  I get it.  Disney isn't for everyone.  I've found there are four types of people living in their own camps.  The first camp consists of those who've never been to a Disney park and are eager to criticize the parks and fans.  The second camp are those who used to live in the first camp, but were dragged kicking and screaming and wept at the first sight of Cinderella's or Sleeping Beauty's castle (my husband lives here).  The third camp is where the Disneyphiles live.  They love Disney by osmosis.  That's my camp.  I love love love Disney.  The fourth camp houses the saddest of the lot; those who've been to Disney and didn't get the fever, resulting in a rotten time.

I'm convinced the fourth camp wouldn't have fun at Las Vegas or New Orleans during Mardi Gras either.  They hate crowds. They hate waiting.  They want instant gratification and let's face it, you have to be patient to enjoy Disney.

I also believe to have a good time, especially when you haven't been several times before, it takes research.  Our first family trip was not my first, but I still bought books, read blogs, visited the Disney website, joined communities that shared tips and experiences and I took notes. By notes, I mean I filled a notebook with must-dos, want to dos if time allowed, would be nice but not crucial dos, etc.  Everybody going on the trip had one thing they wanted to do and we managed to do all those things.  But if you're going to Disney for the first time and you think you can just wing it, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.

My step-son had three days at WDW.  They spent a day at Animal Kingdom mostly for the little kid stuff.  Our granddaughter is nearly 18 months old, not exactly old enough to appreciate meeting princesses or standing in endless lines.  That said, I suggested they spend time in Animal Kingdom to visit the play areas and to see monkeys.  They spent a day at Magic Kingdom and split the third day between Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

I am a huge Epcot fan. It's my favorite park outside of the California parks.  My husband tells me that his son thought Epcot sucked.  I hear this all the time.  I don't get it, but I can surmise that most people who don't like Epcot don't appreciate learning and expanding horizons, which is Epcot's objective.  My step-son doesn't fit the profile, but he does require immediate gratification and Epcot is more of a slow burn kind of place if you haven't gone on Test Track or Soarin'.  Since my step-son was busy pushing a stroller and standing in line meeting princesses in World Showcase, I can see why Epcot was a snoozer for him.  Had he done his homework, he would've found the Three Caballaros ride in Mexico and the Nemo ride in The Living Seas, both of which my granddaughter would've enjoyed.  If she was a little older, she would've hummed the Imagination song all day.  I vow one day I'll take her myself.  We can hum together.

Since we're going to WDW in December, maybe there's a chance we can talk my step-son into joining us.  It's a stretch, but a girl can dream.  I think if they're around true Disney lovers, they'll catch the infection.