17 November 2015

Sand in Our Shoes

November 1971. Walt Disney World is just entering its second month of operation. Cast Members are still getting used to their on and off stage duties and what it means to be a part of the Disney family. New attractions and experiences are opening their doors to guests each and every day, with crucial information about these new happenings flying around furiously. In order to help Cast Members stay up to date, the internal newsletter, Eyes and Ears, has a section containing the most recent construction and opening briefings. It was called Sand in Our Shoes. So, just what were Cast Members looking forward to in November of 1971? Let’s read on to find out!

The Wavemaking Machine in the Seven Seas Lagoon is now undergoing testing. It is located on the west side of Beachcomber Isle and will create waves from four inches to four feet breaking on to Surfrider Beach. Surf boards and instructions will be available through the hotel Recreation Reception Desks. 
In Tomorrowland, America the Beautiful… sponsored by Monsanto… is scheduled to be operational by Thanksgiving. The Flight to the Moon will be open around Christmas. 
The Mile Long Bar in Frontierland serving guests Pepsi and Frito-Lay products is expected to be complete with the “Karen Anders and Tommy Russell” show by November 15th. Pecos Bill’s Cafe, also sponsored by Pepsi Cola-Frito Lay, will be fully operational by mid-month. 
Eastern Airline’s show, “If You Had Wings,” will take guests on a film and three-dimensional trip to tropical regions around the world. The show, utilizing the OmniMover, will open this summer. 
RCA’s exhibit, also in Tomorrowland, is now being designed by WED, the Disney “Imagineers” in California. The exhibit will give guests a preview of future inventions -- particularly in the field of communications.

16 November 2015

With Much Luck

It’s the time of year when some families start to consider what new ornament, or ornaments, they’ll be adding to their Christmas tree this year. With that there is always the attention grabbers for the latest and greatest, but sometimes the old traditions are the best traditions. Take the blown glass ornaments found in the Germany pavilion at Epcot for an example. A quick glance around die Weihnachts ecke, The Christmas Corner, will give you a glimpse of some rather peculiar, but traditional ornaments. Everyone knows the story of the Pickle Ornament, so let’s look at the tales of another pair of ornaments.

There are many symbols of luck and good fortune in Germany. At the top of the list are the horse shoe and four-leaf clover, but right there with them is the mushroom. It is a staple of storybook illustrations and greeting cards alike. So it is only fitting that the mushroom would also be found in ornament form. It is said that if you give and friend or family member a mushroom ornament as a Christmas present then you are wishing them luck in the professional endeavors and romance.

Another odd symbol of good luck is the frog, particularly when it comes to business. The belief stems from the fact that frogs are unable to move backwards or sideways due to their anatomical make-up, so they make the perfect symbol for financial security and prosperity because you can only continue to move forward. In terms of giving the ornament as a gift, the obvious choice would be to present a frog ornament to someone who is beginning a new business or starting a new position. However, they are also very common gifts for a recent graduate or newlyweds.

While we may be looking for an ornament that sparkles against our tree lights, or an ornament that reminds us of a particular time and place, perhaps the best thing we can gleam from our ornaments is a wish for a brighter tomorrow. Germany has you covered when tradition meets the promise of a new year!

09 November 2015

Yuletide Treasure

In just under a month we’ll be back at Walt Disney World for our first true holiday trip since 2011. With that comes some must do holiday favorites, anticipation about some new experiences, and even some bittersweet moments. All in all, a trip to Walt Disney World during the winter holiday season is like an overstuffed stocking, just ready to burst apart at the seam! There are a lot of things to see and do, and if you’re only in town for a week like we are, you could definitely miss something. To help you navigate the holidays around the parks and resorts, and to make sure we don’t miss something ourselves, we’re breaking out the old Top 7 Must Dos, Walt Disney World winter style!

7 Music Loops – I love the classic background loops that play near attractions, around resorts, throughout specific lands, and, in particular, the entrance loops to individual parks. In fact, there’s nothing more special to me than to hear those few rising notes of the fanfare leading into the score for Soarin’ or Ellen’s Energy Adventure as I approach the entrance to Epcot. That said there is a special place in my heart for the various loops of Christmas music that permeate the parks during this time of year. Each loop keeps to the musical landscape of the park it inhabits, such as the Christmas standards that float throughout Main Street U.S.A., and they get me in the holiday spirit almost immediately.

6 Resort Hopping – This is a must do for just about any trip, but it is especially critical to a holiday vacation! There are trees up at every resort, life-size gingerbread and other confectionery displays at various resorts, and trimmings can be found everywhere you look.  If I have one piece of advice to give you for this must do it is to make sure you plan out your touring. Don’t try and get to every single resort, you will burn yourself out and definitely knock yourself clean out of any holiday cheer you find around the Vacation Kingdom. Pick a few key areas and make the most of your time, or schedule in a few extra minutes to explore if you happen to have a dining reservation at a specific resort. You can always catch the resorts on the monorail loop and those on Crescent Lake between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios during your planned times at those parks.

5 Jingle Cruise – The skippers of the Jungle Cruise decided it was high time to get a little more jolly in 2014 and started running their excursions under the banner of the Jingle Cruise. The boats, boathouse, and various show scenes have all been given a festive overlay. Folks in Florida have fallen out of the custom of having an attraction or two spruced up with a special variation for the holiday season. That makes this an extra special treat during the winter season. We were unable to get down to see the Jingle Cruise for ourselves last year, so we’re especially excited to take a boat down the river a couple of times this year!

4 Holidays Around the World – Maybe it’s the storyteller in me, or perhaps it is the foodie in me, it’s more likely that it is a combination of the two, but whatever it is I love taking a tour around the World Showcase promenade. The festive set-ups that talk about particular holiday traditions, coupled with storytellers that share how their holiday began, or a particularly poignant tale related to it, gives guest a sense of where their own traditions come from and how they fit into the larger winter celebrations around the globe. Quick side note, one of my favorite displays is the miniature Christmas trees, lampposts, and other winter necessities made especially for the model trains in Germany.

3 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – This will likely shock a few people, but the missus has never actually been to the Magic Kingdom’s Christmas event. She’s seen the fireworks from across the Seven Seas Lagoon, and she’s heard all of my tales, but as someone that typically holds more fondness for Halloween, it’s never been on her must do list. Hot cocoa, snow on Main Street, cookies, fireworks, special shows, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card, the list goes on and on of reason why this is something that has to happen! I’m sure once we get the ball rolling the missus will be running around like, well, a kid at Christmas, making up for lost time!

2 Holiday Food – It doesn’t matter where you are, there will be something good to eat during the holidays at Walt Disney World. Cupcakes, cookies, the aforementioned gingerbread at the resorts, ice cream floats, special offerings as part of Holidays Around the World, chocolatey beverages, sundaes, warm cocktails, and, from the Main Street Confectionery, Candy Cane Fudge. Holiday vacations mean that we sometimes pass up our favorite treats and restaurants in favor of these limited time offerings. That said, please make sure you’re eating something besides straight sugar.

1 Final Osborne Spectacle – I am a big fan of decorating my house with as many brightly colored lights as I can, and I have been since I was a child. I remember walking down Residential Drive viewing the lights when they first arrived. I remember the first time the made the lights dance in time with Christmas music. I still enjoy putting on the special glasses that make each light a prism of snowflakes or other winter staples. I think my fondness for the lights stems from my personal belief that a house should be decked as brightly as possible to warm our hearts and keep the dark, cold winter at bay and to ensure that Santa Claus can find your house. For me, I want to see these lights twinkle and warm my heart one last time, one last memory I can hold onto.

06 November 2015

The Cup That Will Transport You - Part VI

When we wrapped up our reviews of Joffrey's Disney blend line a couple of months back it was a bittersweet cup. We felt that there were so many other offerings that could make their way to the brew at home arena. Luckily for us, Joffrey's and Disney thought so too, and recently released the Sanaa roast! After a couple of taste testing sessions, here is what our resident coffee aficionado, Aileen Sheehan-Wilson, thought of the new offering.

Sanaa (Dark) – There is no more amazing site than the splendor of exotic animals roaming the Sunset Savanna from the Sanaa restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom(R) Resort.  And while savoring your meal you can sip on the Sanna Specialty Coffee, a rich blend of Straight Origin Kenya AA and East African Beans roasted to a medium level.  Offering a bright acidity with great aroma and a dry winey after taste.  Let it bring out the wild in you.

What Aileen Tastes:
We have another dark roast, making it the eighth dark roast out of sixteen possible Disney blends. This was one of the smoothest dark roast of the entire Joffery’s Disney line, but that smoothness definitely didn’t come at the expense of the blend’s character. I enjoyed it a great deal and agreed with tasting notes, this cup had a great acidity and aroma. I didn’t catch a dry winey aftertaste but you may when you make it at home.  There was no smoky undertone or bitter aftertaste that you might expect from a dark roast, which should make those of you who hate bitter coffee rejoice.  I believe this coffee would pair well with the offerings at Sanna, but I also believe it would be a great morning or after dinner option in your home.  This is a coffee that may very well make it into my home rotation. 

Overall Cup of Disney Rankings:
1 – French Bistro
2 – California Grill
3 – Flying Fish Espresso
4 – Flying Fish
5 – Sanaa6 – Yachtsman Steakhouse
7 – Kona Blend
8 – Citricos
9 – Victoria & Albert's
10 – Narcoossee's
11 – Tusker House
12 – Jiko
13 – Artist Point
14 – Flavors of Africa
15 – Hollywood Blend
16 – The Wave

Previous Reviews:

04 November 2015

Company Hiatus

Once upon a time, everything inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios was considered to be a production set. Either it was on stage, in areas such as Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, or it backstage and could show off its inner workings, a la the Streets of America. Without security gates to demark these areas any longer, the line between stage and screen has become a bit blurred. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any Hollywood magic to uncover. Take the Writer’s Stop for example.

Originally, this sitcom set turned bookstore and bakery was dressed like Buy the Book, from the show Ellen. After the show had run its course, the bookstore and coffee shop fa├žade was kept intact, spruced up, and renamed Writer’s Stop. Overhead you can see the lights ready to switch on and illuminate our stars on set, and you can even see the wooden backs and spray-painted set names on the walls in some corners of the shop. Look closely enough and you can discover that they are currently shooting a show called Kelly.

I say currently, but the call sheet actually states that the filming is occurring the week of September 30 through October 4, 1996. It also turns out that the show is on hiatus this week, so we have run of the set ourselves. It would have been nice to catch up with the cast of Kelly: Edina Santiago as Kelly, Cory Hachmeister as Greg, and Theron Skees as Jeff.

If you seem to have no memory of this show or the actors, that’s with good reason; they never actually existed. Well, at least not in the realm of an actual show. Edina, Cory, and Theron were in reality the Imagineers who worked on the redesign of the Writer’s Stop. In fact, Theron Skees is currently the project leader on the Disney Springs project!

A name isn’t always a clue to the larger world of Disney out there, but more often than not there is a story to unravel if you give yourself the time to discover it. As for me, I’ll grab a carrot cake cookie, a comfy chair, and have an Imagineering daydream. You never know when they may need a script man for Kelly!

27 October 2015

Taste Your Way - Part III

Sometimes you want something sweet and sometimes you want something savory. Today’s stop on the home cook’s tour of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival delivers on both counts with a dish whose bark is truly worth the bite! We also ventured off of the beaten path for the featured recipe. This dessert didn’t come from a Marketplace kiosk of old or new, but instead from the festival’s gala event known as the Party for the Senses.

As we have been trying to do all season long, we’ve pulled this recipe because of its simplicity. A few ingredients, a couple of steps, and viola; a dish your family or guests would swear took you hours or that you purchased from a culinary expert. Today we’re kicking our chocolate up a notch as we dive headfirst into the Ghirardelli Chocolate Bacon Bark. I had some of you at chocolate and some of you at bacon, didn’t I?



7 Bacon Slices
2 Cups Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Pieces
3/4 Cup Almonds (Sliced or Chopped)
2 Tablespoons Butter (Melted)
2 Teaspoons Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla or Maple Syrup
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon


Cover a 13 x 9 baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat and set aside.
Line a second baking sheet with foil, arrange bacon on foil.
Stir together melted butter and vanilla, brush on bacon.
Stir together cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle on back.
Place baking sheet with bacon on center rack of a cold oven. Turn oven to 400°F and roast bacon for 17 to 25 minutes, or until preferred crispness.
Remove from oven, chop into small pieces, and set aside.
Melt chocolate in double boiler or in a glass bowl over a simmering saucepan of water over low heat.
Remove chocolate from heat and pour onto parchment or silpat prepared baking sheet, leveling with a spatula or butter knife into a thin layer.
Sprinkle almonds and bacon onto chocolate, patting gently to adhere to chocolate.
Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes or freeze for 20 to 25 minutes.
Break into pieces.

In or preparation, we opted for the vanilla instead of the maple syrup to give the bacon a different flavor. We also chose the option to refrigerated instead of freeze as we felt it would give the chocolate more time to set naturally. I would also recommend allowing the bacon to cool for a few minutes between roasting and chopping, but that was a personal preference. Last note on the cooking, watch your timer on the bacon. With the sugar added to it, the bacon can go from perfect to burnt in almost no time.

As good as you think chocolate and bacon are together? That’s precisely how good this is going to taste once you get it in your mouth! The chocolate will melt in your mouth immediately, the almonds give you some crunch, and then you have the bacon hitting all the right notes. You’ll definitely have to hide this entire tray from yourself. Oh, and that chocolate, it will melt in your hand just as fast as it melts in your mouth so, as Henry the host of the Country Bear Jamboree is known for saying, “You gotta be quick!”

Not that that will be a problem with this sweet and salty dessert…