Thursday, July 2, 2015

Summer Reading From Belle's Library | Peter and the Starcatchers

This summer I thought I'd rerun some of my favorite Disney related book titles for summer reading recommendations. I know I am always looking for another good book for summer travel! This book captivated me and I think it would be perfect as a summer read: lighthearted and eternally young!

Today we want to share our love of Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (of the Kingdom Keepers series). As many of you know, I am a fan of audiobooks. I'm not sure I'd get anything read if it weren't for listening to them with the kids! And here's where the first little delights comes in.

I must confess, I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books (we're not talking about the movies here); I read them all as they were released, and then listened to ALL of them again on our various road trips. I think Jim Dale must have envisioned the same thing I did when reading these books, as his voices and cadence were perfect. I was DELIGHTED to hear the familiar narration of Jim Dale again as he read Peter and the Starcatchers! What a treat. His voice is one of my very favorites for audiobooks.

And the story delighted me as well. If you've ever wondered how Peter Pan and the lost boys, Captain Hook and Tinkerbell came to be, this story will tickle your imagination! I throughly enjoyed the twists and turns, the adventure and the magic of this first book in a series of (what I imagine will be) fantastic books. I do love young adult fiction (especially fantasy and adventure), and while reading the Kingdom Keepers I was recommended this Peter and the Starcatchers series by an Instagram friend, Kaifers. I am so very glad I took the recommendation to heart! And I hope you will too. This is a marvelous series; I highly recommend it! I think it's perfect for both boys and girls (and certain young-at-heart adults!).

If you have a book that is (if loosely) related to Disney in some way, I would love to know about it. Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

From Mrs. Potts' Cupboard | Megara's Brew

Megara is one of the more obscure Disney heroines. She's Hercules' love interest, for those of you struggling to place her. She starts off a little iffy, indebted to Hades, not quite on the up and up,  but she really comes through in the end. This tea blend, on the other hand, is a winner from the very start. Perhaps the way Megara wished it had been for her, definitely the way it was for the gods on Olympus.

All the ingredients of this tea are from the Mediterranean area, so I figured it's something Megara could have concocted. It's so much better if you have the fresh ginger, but dried ginger could be used in a pinch. I love the freshness of this tea and the hearty homey feel it has. It would be perfect with some shortbread cookies or snickerdoodles.

This all-around brew and would be interesting as an iced tea too, as the days continue to stay warm and stuffy in these parts. I hope you decide to try it and enjoy it as much as I do. And until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Surviving July 4th at WDW | Wish With Amy

Did you know that July 4th is one of the peak travel days at Walt Disney World? Here are my six best tips to help you be prepared for and actually enjoy your Disney vacation:

1. Use My Disney Experience (MDE) Now- even if you missed some of the big things, even if it's the morning before you go in the parks, make your Fastpass reservations now. Also, if you plan on having a table service meal, make your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) now. You can use the MDE app for that too. Having a plan for the day will help you navigate the crowds and assure that you get to do some of the fun things you've been looking forward to doing.

2. Use My Disney Experience in the Parks - know your wait times, check to see when the next show is in your "land", use it to book last minute dining reservations. This is your biggest tool to help you navigate through the parks on a busy day. I use it while I'm waiting in line. I check the wait times for the next thing we want to do and for any nearby meet and greets, shows, experiences that we may want to hit on our way to the next thing. If you don't have an ADR you can see if there is anything available on the app and make the reservation right there!

3. Be Flexible - realize that during busy times, you won't get to do everything you'd like to do. Too many other people are trying to do that too. If you have planned for your Fastpasses and ADRs use these as benchmarks for your day. You know you can do those things, you have a reserved spot. Enjoy the journey to the next thing. You may run into an experience you haven't had yet, or something you might never had considered. There is plenty to do in Disney. Find the magic.

4. Consider a Resort Day - crowds will be heavy at the parks, this is a known fact. Consider spending a day at your resort; all resorts have a recreation line telling you what there is to do while you're there. In the past our family has spent time at the mini golf courses, using the arcades and pools at our resort, planning our own cocktail tour, even eating at resort restaurants we haven't tried yet. All the transportation on property is free. Consider taking a boat from Downtown Disney to Port Orleans for a pleasant stroll, or riding the boat from the Boardwalk or the Yacht Club round trip, or taking a monorail tour. If you are staying on property, none of this will cost you a dime.

5. Hydrate and Use Sunscreen - I cannot emphasize this enough. Even this veteran Disney traveler (with 40+ trips under her belt) finds herself in a spot every trip realizing we don't have allergy-friendly snacks, or another water bottle, or forgot the sunscreen for myself! You can usually find these things wherever you are, but the frustration can seem insurmountable. Find a cast member if you need help locating something. Also, set an alarm on your phone, or have your significant other double check you before you leave the room. These are the things that make happy Disney people into bloody stumps of human beings. Protect yourself.

6. Enjoy your family - I know it can be hard when everyone seems to be needy at the same time. I hate seeing people upset with their families in Disney. (Like, maybe, shouting at your husband on the bridge to Be Our Guest; guilty!) I try to say yes as much as possible when in Disney, and try to remember that this trip is making memories for me and my family. I want to make them good ones. Although that's not always possible. As my therapist likes to say, it's either a great trip or a great story!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Eggs Kamehameha from Disney's Papeete Bay Verandah | Forgotten Disney

At that time there were no autograph books or handlers rushing the characters from table to table. In fact, it looks like we were one of two families in the restaurant in these photos! It was fun and we used to get Mickey balloons and a small token to remember the day by. I think leis were also given from time to time.

The 80s, perhaps, were not know for their amazing culinary moments. Even in Disney. I have mentioned before, one of my favorite Disney cookbooks for it's vintage recipes, Mickey's Gourmet Cookbook. Mostly, I love it for the cocktail recipes! But the Eggs Kamehameha reminded me of Minnie's Menehune and I just had to give it a try. The recipe is pretty simple, but I was suspicious of it's wine sauce. I was right to be. Suffice it to say, this recipe has potential, but needs some reworking in my opinion. I hope to work that out soon and post an update.

Here is the recipe for Eggs Kamehameah. It's good, and it's fast; two things that matter to this busy mom:

4 eggs
4 slices of bread, fried in butter
1/2 C Gruyére cheese, shredded
1/4 C dry white wine
cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Arrange fried bread in oven-proof serving dish. Melt cheese in a saucepan with wine. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. Pour wine and cheese over fried bread.

Melt butter in frying pan and fry eggs. Place 1 egg on each slice of bread. Put dish in oven or under broiler for 2 minutes to glaze tops of eggs.

Serve at once; yields 2 servings.

I tweaked it by not using the oven. The sauce, did not come together as a sauce for me (as I suspected it wouldn't), but I put the cheesy wine on the toasted bread and  then put the cheese lump under the egg so it still looked good. And I used paprika instead of cayenne, as I prefer the flavor. Not a bad dish, just not as good as it could be. Definitely worth the stroll down memory lane!

Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer Reading From Belle's Library | Jim Henson, The Biography

This summer I thought I'd rerun some of my favorite Disney related book titles for summer reading recommendations. I know I am always looking for another good book for summer travel! This book remains, for me, one of the best Disney reads ever.

I grew up watching the Muppets and Fraggle Rock. It was appointment TV! I have an incredible love for the Muppets and for Jim Henson's creative genius. Reading Jim Henson, The Biography, by Brian Jay Jones was simply inevitable. But it WAS a commitment! This book is long and Mitchner-esque in scope. No stone is left unturned. But if you feel the same way I do about the Henson creations (including that work which is NOT highlighted by Disney), you will find this book an incredible journey into the creative spirit that was Jim Henson; this book is a joy to read.

I have an affinity for non-fiction. I realize it doesn't appeal to everyone, but I love to know how people have dealt with the challenges of this world and come out the other side the people they are (or were). Even with all the history and rather dull information that was included in this book, the personality of Jim Henson comes through in such a way as though I feel like I actually knew him. And to hear about his creative process, the incarnation of his imaginings, the successes and the failures, the collaborative process, and the joy he had for life was thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, I'm not sure I can convey how touching this portrait of Jim is, except to say, I actually was brought to tears in the end. Not something that generally happens to me!

Even realizing how many projects Jim Henson was involved with in his short life was truly amazing. I bet you didn't know the Muppets were a part of Saturday Night Live for a while, did you? Reading about his collaboration with Frank Oz, and his friendship with David Lazer were simply fascinating. And finally getting the details about the negotiations with Disney and how much Jim enjoyed working with the imagineers was inspiring.

If you are involved in the creative arts in any way, or just loved the work of Jim Henson and that of his Creature Shop, then this book is definitely for you. I highly recommend the audiobook, as the narrator does a bang-up job of voicing all the people (and muppets) in Jim's life.

Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

DIY Disney Upcycled T-shirt Dress

This dress came about on a whim. Millie loves her dress that this was copied from, and it too is made from jersey knit fabric. Her favorite dress is from Christmas and has long sleeves and matching leggings. It's beyond cute, but we needed an alternative for our sweltering summers here in the midwest. Especially since she was insisting on continuing to wear said Christmas dress!

So I traced the pieces of her favorite Christmas dress, adding a half-inch seam allowance to the pieces and made this little sleeveless number from two old t-shirts that were begging for new life!

The Donald Duck t-shirt wasn't quite wide enough for this pattern, so I had to use an additional T. This one was actually from my alma mater, but it didn't really matter since you couldn't see the design. I used the overlock stitch on my machine to create the rough edges of the ruffle you see here. I completely made this up and won't even attempt to explain how it was done. I'm not even sure myself! But I love that we gave new life to a grumpy old Donald shirt and a this girl seems pretty happy with it.

Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Merryweather's Top 5 Father's Day Disney Movies

Disney movies have traditionally been about mean step-mothers or absent fathers. There is no doubt that these themes are relatively easy to find in the classics. But there ARE some Disney movies that highlight some really great Disney Dads. We thought we'd share our list of favorites with you here before Father's Day. There's still time to order a digital copy or plan a family viewing if you need a last minute gift!

5. 101 Dalmatians: Here we have a movie about a father who goes to extraordinary lengths to save his children from a murderous villain! It's charming and the music is great. Particularly good if you have a dog lover for a dad.

4. Hercules: This movie is all about finding your place next to your dad, be it a peasant or a god. The Greek chorus is what keeps me watching. Especially great if you (or your dad) love that Danny DeVito dry/sarcastic humor.

3. Finding Nemo: Leave it to Pixar to make a dark and scary story into a heartwarming one! This dad will meet almost every hazard in the ocean, dealing with his friend Dory along the way. If your unassuming dad loves adventure and maybe hovers a little too much, you should pop your corn and snuggle up together to watch this classic tale.

2. The Lion King: Ok, I bet you thought this would be #1. I love this movie. It's the best thing to come out of the Michael Eisner Disney era. It has is all, a coming of age story, a beautiful family, comic relief. It's perfect. This is always a winner. Watch it with your dad.

1. A Goofy Movie: I think this is the ultimate Father's Day Disney flick. I mean, Goofy as a dad has to be a trial, but he is such a great dad to Max. And Max finally sees the light. If you've never watched this one, you need to have it in your repertoire. Watch it with your classic-Disney-loving dad. It's a keeper.

No matter how you spend your Father's day, I hope you enjoy it. And until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Reading From Belle's Library | Creativity by Ed Catmull

This summer I thought I'd rerun some of my favorite Disney related book titles for summer reading recommendations. I know I am always looking for another good book for summer travel! This book remains, for me, one of the best Disney reads ever.

Creativity by Ed Catmull is one of the best reads of the year for me. I adored this book. If you are
creative in any way, or work with creative people, this should be required reading. I think Ed Catmull has a unique experience finding a way to manage creative people without stifling their creativity. That has to be one of the toughest jobs around! I'm glad he took the time to put pen to paper on this one. We need more managers (of work, and of life) reading this book and thinking about their own management style/work ethic with this scaffolding. Heck, I'm thinking about it in the way I manage my own family.

I think Creativity, Inc. is a little like The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron. There is a lot to chew on when it comes to fostering creative forces. Catmull's perspective on creating an atmosphere of candor and enrichment, not fearing the inevitability of failure, and knowing when a change in leadership is needed, all still have me pondering. It's a refreshing take on meshing management and creativity so that it is not only successful, but enjoyable too.

And then there's the chapter on Steve Jobs and how, at least in Catmull's opinion, there has not been enough written about the other sides of the Pixar executive. In all honesty, I love my Apple products and now I would jump at the chance to work at Pixar, so I know I come to this biased; but Catmull paints a touching portrait of Steve Jobs and does share a different side to him than that which has been prevalent in the mainstream media. It was nice to read; I even found myself tearing up.

This book resonated with me and I can't recommend it highly enough. It would be an excellent Christmas gift to anyone you know who has an affinity for Disney or Pixar, a creative streak, or is now or soon to become a creative professional. You can't go wrong.

Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What Are The Best FastPass+ Selections? | Wish With Amy

If you are headed to any of the Disney Parks, then you may be wondering about FastPasses and how to choose them. FastPasses are a reserved time slot for a particular ride or experience at one of the Disney Parks. If you are staying at a Disney Resort, you will be able to make your reservations 60 days in advance of your trip. If you are not staying at a Disney Resort, you can make your FastPass reservations 30 days in advance. This is another reason I highly recommend staying at a Disney Resort.

This is a question I get all the time: What are the best FastPass+ selections? And while the answer completely depends on your touring style, the ages and heights of the people you travel with and your personalities, there are a few ways to figure it out.

First: There are some rides that have wait times that consistently exceed the 60 minute mark no matter the time of day or time of year. If you are at all interested in them (and tall enough to ride them), these are the FastPasses to get first. Peter Pan's Flight (MK), Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (MK), Meet & Greet with Anna & Elsa (MK), Toy Story Midway Mania (DHS), Test Track (EP) and Soarin' (EP) are all in this category. If you want to do these things without spending and hour or two, a FastPass is your best option.

Secondly: If your children have high expectations and don't deal well with adjusting and/or being flexible, you might want to consider opting for their favorite(s) at the best time(s) for them (like making sure you are there after breakfast but before nap).

Third: Decide if you are willing to use one of these strategies to go without a FastPass:

  • Use the single rider line; if you don't mind riding as a single rider, you can easily cut your wait time in half.
  • Be at the park for rope drop; if you can get up early and walk in as the park opens, you can go straight to your favorite ride. This has worked for us at several of the biggies with less than a 30 minute wait.
  • Utilize extra magic hours; as a resort guest you can often get into a park an hour before it opens to the public, or stay an hour (or more) after the park closes to the general public. This allows for much shorter lines, and wait times.
  • simply wait in line; sometimes it's just what you need to do. Arm yourself with snacks and games and just wait. More and more queues are becoming interactive too, with things to do/games to play as you wait.
If you are trying to make your decisions for FastPass selections, feel free to use this FastPass+ Selection printable we give to our clients. And until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!