Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sitting With Grandmother Willow | Carla of WDW Travel Prep

As part of our on-going series, Sitting with Grandmother Willow, I am happy to introduce you to Carla of WDW Travel Prep, and Etsy store Magic Travel Prep! This series of blog posts highlights artists and fellow bloggers of all stripes with one thing in common: a passion for Disney!

Carla has incredible planning tips and planners on her blog and in her Etsy shop, sure to give even the most seasoned planner a little help in making the most of the magic! As most of us know, the more you plan, the better your Disney vacation can be. And as the Disney experience grows, so does the need to get your ducks (or mice?) in a row! Carla is a terrific resource for making all those Disney plans. I'm so glad she could join us on the blog this month!

Disney by the numbers (with apologies to Harpers):

# of trips you have made: 3
Date of first trip: December 2011
Date of next trip: January 2015
# of Resorts stayed in: 3
Usual # in your travel party: 2, just me and my boyfriend
Pairs of mouse ears in your cottage: 2

WDW or Disneyland (or other)? Both!
How do you usually travel to Disney? Plane
Do you have any tips for trips? My favorite tip is to not over plan! Although Disney planning is my favorite thing to do, it’s important to make sure you don’t try to lay out every single second. Give yourself some wiggle room.
Do you have a favorite place to eat while in Disney? There are so many to choose, but the only place I go to every time is Aloha Isle for some Dole Whip.
What is your absolute DON'T MISS attraction? Expedition Everest is a must for me.
Stage shows, yes or no? Yes! The ones at Epcot are wonderful.
Parades, yes or no? Yes! Festival of Fantasy is my new favorite.
Best Fast Pass to get: Toy Story Mania.
Favorite park: Magic Kingdom
One piece of advice you'd give a novice about WDW/DL: It will always be more crowded than you think!
How do you create extra magic for your family? We buy matching pins to wear J

How can we connect with you? You can check out my website for all my current social media links!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12 Days of DIY Disney Holiday Goodies | Grapefruit Cake from the Brown Derby

This is my go-to cake recipe. I know, the grapefruit sounds really weird. I hear that you either love it, or you hate it. I happen to love it. And at every event I've taken it to or served it for, it has been a roaring success. I first ran across it in a copy of Flour, Butter, Sugar, Eggs (which appears to be out of print, but still available through Amazon). I didn't even realize you could get it at Disney until a few years ago. This is a photograph of the slice I had during our lunch with an Imagineer in October 2012. THAT was as amazing as this cake. (If you've never done this and your family is full of Disney geeks, this is SO the event for you. We were with 10 others who were just as geeked out as we were. Squee!)

The Grapefruit Cake very dense and the frosting is of the cream cheese variety. I also tend to like my sweets a little less sweet and a little more savory or tangy. So there you have it. If you like a dense cake with cream cheese frosting, give this recipe a try. It could really surprise you. I think it's the perfect thing for finishing off your Christmas Dinner. Oh, and I make two cakes so my layers aren't super thin. Here's the recipe:

Disney's Hollywood Studios Grapefruit Cake:

1-1/2 C sifted cake flour
3/4 C sugar
1-1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 C water
1/4 C vegetable oil
3 eggs separated
3 T grapefruit juice
1/2 t grapefruit zest
1/4 t cream of tartar

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into mixing bowl. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add water, oil, egg yolks, grapefruit juice, and lemon rind. Beat until smooth. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar separately, until whites are stiff but not dry. Gradually pour egg yolk mixture over whites, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just blended. Do no stir the mixture. Pour into an ungreased pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 min., or until cake springs back when lightly touched with a finger. Invert pan on cake rack until cool. Run spatula around edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan.

Yield 4-6 portions

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 6-oz packages of cream cheese
2 t lemon juice
1 t lemon zest
3/4 C powdered sugar
1 16 oz can grapefruit sections (or one grapefruit, sectioned)

Let cream cheese soften at room temperature. Beat cheese until fluffy. Add lemon juice and zest. Gradually blend in sugar. Beat until well blended. Crush several grapefruit sections to measure 2 T. Blend into frosting (this makes it so pretty!). Spread frosting on bottom half of cake, cover with second layer of cake. Frost top and sides. Garnish with grapefruit sections.

It's a bit of work, but SO worth it! Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The reality of our hectic life! And a Holiday pause...

So the reality of any blogger's life is NOT what you see on the screen. We all know that's true. You can be sure the the staged photos and projects you see here are not what the cottage looks like 90% of the time! And the end of this year has been particularly rough for us. Flu has descended upon us (5 of the 7 are struggling!), our nanny situation has been fluid for over month and the pressures of the holiday season abound!

I have been struggling to keep it all running on schedule, and still spend time with the family, but it is now evident that I need to just stop the madness, take care of the family in their sickness, and enjoy some quality Christmas time with them before it's over. And that's just what I plan to do. This will be my last post to the blog until January.

But do not despair! I still love the blog and will continue to keep it up once the new year is underway. We DO have a new nanny starting in January and I hope all this sickness will have run it's course by then. We all know that sometimes a family just needs some time to take a step back and regroup. I know my readers will understand. I sincerely hope you all have a very happy holiday season with your friends and family. Until then, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

12 Days of DIY Disney Holiday Goodies | Mickey's Strawberry Santa Hats

I found these delicious looking strawberry santa hats on the Disney Family website. And this is a direct lift from their page. These look great and I fully intended to make them, but Miss Minnie ate all my strawberries before I had the opportunity to give it a try! (She absolutely loves her berries!) I hope I will be able to get to it before the season is over, if not, we may have ourselves a little Christmas in July celebration this summer!

Enjoy this post from, and until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

What You’ll Need
Large fresh strawberries
White chocolate
Vanilla wafer cookies
Small chocolate disks or chocolate mints
How To Make It
  • 1
    Wash the strawberries with cool water, and carefully remove the hulls. Pat the fruit dry with a paper towel.
  • 2
    Melt some white chocolate in the microwave or on the stovetop, following the directions on the package.
  • 3
    Working with one wafer cookie at a time, dip the surface in the melted candy so that it is generously coated. If needed, dip it twice.
  • 4
    Place the dipped cookie on wax paper (coated side up), and immediately set a strawberry (hulled side down) on top. Quickly, but gently, push two small chocolate disks against the base of the berry for ears, holding them in place for a few seconds to make sure they stick. If they don’t hold, use a little more melted candy to attach them.
  • 5
    Repeat steps 3 and 4 to make as many more hats as you want, reserving some of the melted white chocolate for the pom-pom tops. When you’re ready to add the pom-poms, let the melted white chocolate cool slightly so that it will thicken a bit. Then spoon a small blob onto each strawberry tip.
  • 6
    Finally, add a little texture to the hat trim, if you like, by using a fork to gently “scramble” what’s left of the partially cooled white chocolate (it should resemble flaked coconut). Gently press some of the white chocolate flakes onto the candy hat brims while they are still warm so they will stick in place. Once the candy is completely set, arrange the finished hats on a plate to serve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

12 Days of DIY Disney Holiday Goodies | Matterhorn Macaroons

I am a fan of macaroons; not the almond kind (which are verboten around here anyway). I love the coconut macaroons, the lesser known and harder to find variety, naturally. The bakery in the France Pavilion used to sell them in Epcot, but not anymore. Since the recent remodel, they are strictly about the nut variety. I miss those coconut peaks!

A caveat: I find macaroons tricky to make. They take patience and this is an area in which I lack. When I saw this recipe for Matterhorn Macaroons (from Rumbly in My Tumbly), I decided I would give them a try. They don't sound difficult, and I am always looking for a new and different cookie recipe for the annual cookie exchange in my sorority. Unfortunately, these were a bust for me. Well, mostly a bust. The resulting cookie tastes delicious! But I could not get them to make peaks. Once in the oven they flattened right out. I didn't bother with the topping since they didn't hold their shapes. And don't forget to store them in an air tight container. If you don't they will get very hard on the outside.

Here's the recipe if you want to give it a try:

Matterhorn Macaroons
A Rumbly in my Tumbly original

4 egg whites
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flaked coconut

1 bag of white chocolate chips (or white candy melts)
2 tablespoons milk or cream
confectioners sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl or mixer, beat egg whites, vanilla, almond extract, and ream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar and whip until stiff.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and coconut. Fold into the egg whites. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets, shaping each one into a “matterhorn mountain.” This is messy, and I found it worked best if I wetted my hands before shaped each one.

Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on size) until slightly golden.

Melt the white chocolate with the cream over a double broiler, and dip the top of each cooled macaroon into the melted chocolate. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

12 Days of DIY Disney Holiday Goodies | White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

These cookies have a reputation in Disneyland. They are said to be swoon worthy, cookies you make time for, cookies that might deserve their own FastPass! Well, they did not disappoint!

These cookies are some of the best we have baked, bar none. I mean it. They live up to all the hype around them and they are really fairly easy to put together. The hardest part is not over mixing the jam! Everyone in the cottage (and that's a fair amount of people right now!) raved about them. And they are vanishing into thin air. Proof positive that this is a keeper.

If you are looking for a new recipe for your traditional cookie exchange, this one will have the other members of your organization begging for the recipe. Thanks to bakerlady for this one.

Disneyland’s White Chocolate Raspberry Cookie
adapted from Rumbly In My Tumbly

2 1/2 C Flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Raspberry Jam (I used about 4 TBSP)
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Cream the butter & sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg/yolk, vanilla and almond extracts. Mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add white & semi-sweet chocolate chips.

2. Scoop out about 1/4 of the dough into a smaller bowl. Add about 1 T of jam and cut it in using a butter knife. Be careful not to MIX it, or your dough will turn pink, you want more of a swirl.
3. Take the jam swirled dough and scoop by spoonfuls (I used a large melon baller/ice cream scoop) onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon or spatula and place in a 350° oven for 12-17 minutes. *Your bake time may be less depending on the size of cookie you make. I wanted mine big and bakery sized, so they took a little longer. Take them out when the edges are set but the center is still puffy and soft. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 until all the dough is used.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

12 Days of DIY Disney Holiday Goodies | Mickey Mouse Snickerdoodles

This was originally posted to the blog in March of 2013. I'm sure some of you are new here. This is a great, easy cookie recipe to add to your cookie exchange list!

Sometimes it seems like a really long time between visits; that's when a little kitchen magic can really come in handy. I found this Disneyland Main Street Bakery Snickerdoodle knock-off recipe on Pinterest and decided a rainy afternoon was the perfect time for a little Disney pick-me-up. The family was happy to oblige!

It was simple to make them into Mickey heads. Instead of rolling only one ball, I rolled one larger and two smaller balls and laid them out on the cookie sheet as such. I tried not to smash the ears on too much, as they do spread in the oven.

They took a little longer to assemble than regular snickerdoodles would, so I was able to assemble one pan while the other was baking. It was just about the perfect amount of time. Be sure to let the cookies cool just a bit on the pan before moving them to the cooling racks - we lost a couple ears by being impatient! (Although, it was a good excuse for an early taste!) My apprentice chef became quite good at rolling and pressing out the Mickeys.

One small deviation from the recipe - I like a lot of cinnamon sugar on my snickerdoodles, so we employed the Joy of Cooking technique of rolling each ball of cookie dough in a bowl of cinnamon sugar, instead of sprinkling the tops as the original recipe suggests. A personal preference, but worth it, in my humble opinion.

And because someone will ask, the WDW serving tray was one of my parents' first souvenirs. It lived in our motor home until it died and now it comes out whenever we need a little shot of Disney magic! Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

12 Days of DIY Disney Holiday Goodies | Disney's Famous Gingerbread

I know some of you may have seen this post before, but I wanted to share this incredible gingerbread recipe for all you Disney lovers out there. It's perfect for Christmas! This comes from our vintage Disney cookbook, Mickey's Gourmet Cookbook. It's the same thing you'll find at the Monorail Cafe in the Disneyland Hotel (is that place still around? -- I'm no expert on Disneyland!), and the Candy Cauldron in Downtown Disney.

If you've never made gingerbread cookies, I will start by saying, this is a process! The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to a week. And this dough is stiff. It takes some real muscle to roll it out! But the payoff is TOTALLY worth it. Here is the recipe for the cookies and the icing. They are good without the icing; they are incredible with it! And if you don't have a pastry bag and tip for the icing, don't fret. Just put it in a ziplock bag and snip a hole in the corner of the bag as demonstrated here.

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

Gingerbread Mickey
yield: approx. 3 dozen cookies

1/4 C unsalted butter
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C dark molasses
3 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 C water

In a lage mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add dark molasses and blend until completely absorbed.
Sift all dry ingredients together and add to butter mixture in thirds, alternating with water. Blend completely. (I added at least 2 tablespoons more of water and I think I could have even added more. the dough did not want to hold together.)
Store dough, wrapped in plastic, in refrigerator until well chilled.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease cookie sheet (or use Silpat mats)
Roll dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes.
Bake on cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes, depending on size. Cool on a wire rack.
Cookies can be decorated before baking with nuts and candies, or when cool with royal icing.

Royal Icing

1 pinch (1/8 tsp) cream of tartar
2 egg whites
3 1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted

Add cream of tarter to egg whites. Beat egg whites in a small bowl with electric mixer at high speed until whites hold a soft peak. Reduce speed and gradually add sifted powdered sugar. Continue to whip frosting until a smooth, spreadable consistency is reached.
At this point, frosting can be separated into small bowls and colored with food coloring, as desired. Frosting will become very hard when dry.

Note: before preparation of frosting, make sure all utensils are free of any grease or oil and egg whites are free of any yolk. Egg whites will not whip if mixed with any type of oil or fat.