Friday, September 21, 2018

Planning your 2019 Walt Disney World trip

Toy Story Land's Slinky Dog Dash at night

This morning I was excited to see an email from my friends at Walt Disney World. Funny enough. last night L and I were talking about our next trip to WDW now that Waverly (who just turned one!) will be joining us on our Walt Disney World vacations! We're excited to try the new experiences with Wave but we're also excited to show her IllumiNations (Epcot's nighttime spectacular with music, fireworks, torches and more), one of our favorite ways to spend an evening at Walt Disney World.  We're looking forward to seeing it at least a few more times before a new show debuts. (Did you know the show debuted in October 1999?!)

Before you go, be sure to download both the My Disney Experience app and the Play Disney Parks app. My Disney Experience will organize all of your vacation (resort and park) information in one place, You can book dining, see your resort accommodations information, see wait times for attractions etc. Play Disney Parks will allow you to explore the parks interactively with your mobile device.  My favorite thing about the Play Disney Parks app is that when I click on the music symbols throughout maps, I can listen to music played or inspired by that location. This feature works even if you aren't at the resorts!

If you're thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World, here's what  to expect throughout the four parks in 2019.

Starting Jan. 18…

1. In honor of the true originals, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Mickey & Minnie’s Surprise Celebration will bring new music, dancing and all sorts of other fun to Magic Kingdom Park.  (January 18 - ongoing)

2. The new “Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party” at Magic Kingdom Park will invite you to dance with Mickey, Minnie and their pals in front of Cinderella Castle. Shake it along with live singers belting out new arrangements of classic “Mickey Mouse Club” songs.  (January 18 - ongoing)

3. The Dapper Dans and other entertainers on Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom Park will sing songs in honor of Mickey and Minnie. January 18 - September 30)

4. Look for special Mickey- and Minnie-themed merchandise and food at Magic Kingdom Park to make this party complete.

5. And this is a Surprise Celebration, after all, so you can expect more Limited-Time Magic entertainment and other experiences to pop up periodically around Magic Kingdom Park. (January 18 - September 30)

6. The Incredibles are coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as Pixar Place will transform into a Metroville city block.  (January 18 - September 30)

7. At the end of the block, a party will be held in honor of Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible and Frozone to celebrate their Super deeds.  (January 18 - September 30)

8. Meet the one and only Edna Mode – the greatest super suit designer! She will set up a special location on Pixar Place showcasing some of her best creations (no capes!). (January 18 - September 30)

9. Also on Pixar Place, look for clues to the whereabouts of the youngest Incredible, the mischievous and multi-powered Jack-Jack.  (January 18 - September 30)

10. Elsewhere at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a door to the monster world will open inside Walt Disney Presents, where you’ll have a chance to meet Mike and Sulley from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (January 18 - ongoing)

11. Celebrate the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney Pictures’ “The Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom along with Timon and Rafiki in the “Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party” on Discovery Island. Let your inner animal roam free on the dance floor in this raucous party! (January 18 - September 30)

12. Also at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, have fun posing in front of special three-dimensional photo opportunities re-creating scenes from the animated classic.  (January 18 - September 30)

13. The Epcot International Festival of the Arts is back! This year’s special event takes place Jan. 18 – Feb.25, allowing you to indulge in world-class culinary, visual and performing arts. (January 18 - February 25)

14. The Disney on Broadway Concert Series is expanding to seven days a week during the Festival of the Arts, so you’ll have even more opportunities to experience some Disney musical magic live on stage. (January 18- February 25)

And later in the year…

15. Welcome spring’s arrival with the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, returning March 6 – June 3 with its wide selection of delectable bites at outdoor kitchens and dozens of Disney-themed topiaries blooming around the park. (March 6 - June 3)

16. Even better, this year’s Garden Rocks Concert Series expands, as well, to seven days a week during the Flower & Garden Festival, which means a total of 270 concerts over the course of the 90-day event. (March 6 - June 3)

17. Ka-Chow! Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy rolls into Disney’s Hollywood Studios in spring 2019. In this new show experience, you’ll come face to face with Lightning and learn from his years of experience on the track. (spring 2019 - ongoing)

18. Outside the Racing Academy, you’ll get to meet Lightning McQueen’s speedy pal, Cruz Ramirez.

And finally…

19. If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World Resort recently, then there’s even more for you to explore and experience. Become an honorary toy at Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, travel to the bioluminescent planet of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or wish a fond farewell to “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” – the nighttime spectacular at Epcot– before its conclusion scheduled for the second half of 2019.

Monday, September 17, 2018

happy things: trader joe's pumpkin spice coffee

Having flown back from Massachusetts to Seattle a few weeks ago after spending the summer back home, I just missed the seasonal launch of Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin coffee which to me, heralds the beginning of fall as much as red maple leaves and top down drives to Vermont. I'm a New England girl and my love for fall and Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin spice coffee runs deep.

(If you're thinking "Um, you know Starbucks has Pumpkin Lattes now, right?" I know but for me it's simply Dunkin'. Here's an interesting article from the Seattle Times explaining the love New Englander's have for their Dunkin' Donuts versus Seattlites and Starbucks.)

This weekend I was in Trader Joe's and I saw that the flood of TJ's pumpkin and pumpkin spice flavored products had begun. I picked up a few, including Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Coffee. Yesterday (Sunday) as I made brunch, I brewed some of the pumpkin spice coffee in my French press. As the coffee brewed, the kitchen filled with the scent of fall. With just a splash of Trader Joe's vanilla creamer, the coffee had a strong creamy vanilla pumpkin spice flavor. It was similar to the Dunkin' Donuts version and reminded me of all of the reasons that I love fall. This morning, I made an iced coffee with the remainder of the coffee from yesterday but it missed the mark. (I also don't like DD iced pumpkin spice coffee. I think pumpkin spice coffee needs to be enjoyed warm.)

If you're pulling out your fall sweaters and dreaming of crisp days, Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Coffee is a true pumpkin spice flavor and a happy way to start your morning.

Note: Be sure to read the labels well when choosing a pumpkin flavored product. Some are pumpkin flavored, tasting like pumpkin pie but some are pumpkin spice flavored and tastes more like the spices (typically cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice among other flavors) and not at all like pumpkin itself.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The lesson from actor, Geoffrey Owens

The recent situation with former "Cosby Show" actor, Geoffrey Owens touched a nerve.  What gives someone the right to shame someone by taking a picture of the person at their job? I was incensed and all I could think about was how Owens was feeling. Did he see his picture plastered on social media and feel shamed that he was caught working at Trader Joe's?

While I liked him as Elvin on TV, I admired him even more after seeing his talk show appearances and hearing his explanation of how he felt when the pictures came out.  He's owning his own story. He explained that while he was initially upset that he was being shamed about his job, he was doing what he needed to do to support himself when the residuals stopped coming after Bill Cosby's legal issues caused networks to pull Cosby's show from syndication.

Whatever the reason was for the original poster to take Owens photo (even if it was "Guess who I saw working at Trader Joe's!"), I'm happy to see that it has become something greater than shaming someone. It launched a discussion of being proud of doing whatever it is that you need to do to take care of yourself.  You are not your job. You are what DRIVES you.

I get it. The first question when you meet someone is almost always "What do you do?" When I worked at Microsoft, people treated me differently.  "Oh, you're at Microsoft" meant to them"Oh! You're making bank!' and there was implied respect for that. Later, after the Cinco de Mayo layoff, I started writing this blog that I was excited about but it was different. "Oh. You have a blog. Good for you!" as if that wasn't a respectable enough thing to do. The thing is, whether I was at Microsoft, or writing a blog or working at my old high school,  I respected what I did. I had to learn that it didn't matter what anyone else thought of me. It was about self-respect.  (After I was laid off at Microsoft, I realized how the "What do you do?" question can cause angst so I changed that question to "So, what makes you happy?")

When I was growing up, my mom was a NICU nurse. She was divorced and did what she needed to do to own her own home and keep me in Catholic school. I remember that there were times that she tried to make extra money, from working extra shifts at the hospital to piercing ears and making pillows. I admire that.  Before her, my grandparents worked in factories after the war and later when they retired, they cleaned homes and businesses. I remember going with them as they cleaned a local bank after hours. At the time, I was about six years-old. I would sit on the carpet in the bank with a pen and some blank deposit slips as they cleaned. I remember being very proud that my Meme and Pepe were so trustworthy that a bank would trust them with all their money when the bank was closed. (I was little and clearly didn't know much about banking.) My grandparents, my mom, Owens, millions of people do what they need to do and they did it proudly.

It's been an extraordinary lesson watching how Geoffrey Owens is managing this situation in which he has found himself.  Because of the notoriety of his role at Trader Joe's, he's had to quit his job but he has new opportunities. Tyler Perry has offered him a role on "The Haves and the  Have Nots."  He recently landed a role on "NCIS: New Orleans." That's great. Owens is booking TV roles again. However, I think the greatest role he has played is in teaching us a lesson in how to handle a less than ideal situation with pride and respect for yourself.  And if someday, he's back at Trader Joe's, I hope the question he's asked isn't "What are you doing working here?" but rather "So, how's your day?"

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

be the reason

I love that moment when you get a text message from someone exactly when you need it the most. This happened to me yesterday. One of my girlfriends sent me a text that reminded me of a hilarious drive we had when we got lost and almost ended up crossing the border by mistake. I was having a stressful moment, trying to make a tough call and that giggle was exactly what I needed to clear the moment and give my brain a break. It seems a laugh was all I really needed to get the clarity that had eluded me.

I am grateful that I have friends who had good ESP. They know just what to send at just the perfect time. I think of moments like this as gifts from the universe.  This text was a good reminder that it doesn't take much to have a positive effect on someone else's day. Making someone else feel happy or light is a great way to make yourself feel happy too.
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