Thursday, April 28, 2016

Off to Monaco!

I am off for some time with Mr. Photos From The Parks! I'll be out for a week and then back with more ideas for your enjoyment. Until then, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

DIY Disney Tote Bags

The links for the posters in this post are no longer available. But you can find some great Disney poster art on the Disney Movie Rewards website under digital rewards. They seem to rotate in and out with some regularity, but if you keep a look out, you can find some very fun and unique stuff in there! And of course you can run an Etsy search to see what else might be out there. Enjoy this rerun of one of my favorite Disney gift ideas!


Breaking up is hard to do, and it's always hardest when we have to say goodbye to Walt Disney World. We all tend to be tired and cranky, and we usually like to maximize our time there, so we are leaving on the last plane home - our friends like to call it the Disney Express. It's a plane filled with other tired, cranky, bloody stumps of people. I think it's incredibly important to have a little something special for the ride home.

I decided to make these cute little tote bags for each kid for "leaving day." I filled them with homemade Rice Krispie treats, a game to pass the time, and a few other little treats I found along the way. If you have a dining plan with snacks left on it, this is a great way to use them up. Stop by any gift shop and pick up bags of pretzels or other packaged goodies that fit within the plan.

For the tote bags I used Transfer MAGIC's Inkjet Transfer Paper for Light Colored, Light Weight Fabrics. I still got a plasticy finish to the transfer, but on the canvas bags, it was fine. The images are from the same series of vintage Disney poster images through Nukes at Etsy. These are top quality and big, so at a dollar an image, you can't go wrong. I used Photoshop to size and reverse the image for transfer. If you have text on your image, DON'T FORGET TO REVERSE your design before you print!

I found these tote bags fairly inexpensively at Hobby Lobby. I found a 4 pack for $8.00. (If you use your 40% off coupon, they are really a steal!) They are 100% cotton canvas, and the iron-on paper worked beautifully on them. Since I already had the transfer paper they were only $3.00 a bag. That's a price I can live with!

Leaving The Mouse is never easy, but a little goodie bag can help ease the transition home. Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Monday, April 25, 2016

New Promotions for Travel to WDW Just Released!

I would be remiss if I didn't share the new fall travel promotions just released for travel to Walt Disney World this fall! If you are thinking about a WDW trip, now is the time to book! Message me or call for a quote today!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Disneyland Snickerdoodle Knockoff Recipe

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!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

DIY Disney Gift Bag from Upcycled Park Map

Every now and then you need emergency gift wrapping while in Disney: someone in the party reveals it's their birthday, you find the perfect just-because gift, or you remembered the gift and the occasion, but forgot to pack wrapping paper. Whatever the situation, I know I've had need before. Well, here is your solution.

Every park, every resort and many other places around Walt Disney World have free maps available. I always grab two or three when we enter a park because I know my family, and they have a tough time keeping track of theirs. This means I usually come back to the hotel with extras. Even if you don't, just stop by the check-in desk. They always have them. This map is your new gift bag - it just needs to be folded. You may need to stop at guest services and ask if they have a glue stick (or tape) and a ruler you can borrow - or scope out the gift shop. It's Disney. Someone is bound to help a guest in need.

I'll save you the double post and simply direct you over to How About Orange's awesome tutorial on how to make a gift bag from a newspaper. The steps are easy to follow. The only change you will want to make is in the folding dimensions. The Disney maps are a bit bigger than the rectangle she uses. Instead of the sides of the bag measuring 4 1/2", you will want to make them 6 5/8". Everything else is the same.

Viola! You have the perfect wrapping for the perfect Disney gift, and it was upcycled to boot. Wouldn't Jiminy Cricket be proud? Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DIY Disney Fused Plastic Rain Bucket Hat

As Earth Day approaches, I thought I would run one of my all-time favorite upcycled projects! Enjoy this oldie but goodie from last summer!

Are you looking for the perfect accessory for your Disney rain poncho? Well, look no further! You can upcycle some old shopping bags for this unique Disney look!

For this project I used 8 grey shopping bags for the lining, (available from Kohls, Lowes or Walmart in this area) and one large Disney shopping bag for the exposed side of this hat, as well as some white seam binding I had in my stash and purple thread for contrast! Which means that this Disney hat was completely free to make and helps the environment by not putting all that plastic in the landfill. Wouldn't Jiminy Cricket be so proud?

For all the details and instructions from fusing the plastic to creating the hat, I used this tutorial from Makezine. The only change I made was adding the seam binding to the two brim pieces before sewing them together. You could always just seam it the way the pattern suggests, without the seam binding. But I like the extra touch it gives this hat. So cute!

To fuse the plastic, I set my iron to somewhere between cotton and wool/silk, the highest and second highest settings on my iron. Fusing the plastic was the longest part of this project. It seemed to take forever! But setting the iron too hot was also a mistake; when it was set to the highest setting, the plastic shrank so quickly it pulled holes in the "fabric." Not so good for keeping the rain out!

To cut the pieces out, you can actually trace around them with ballpoint pen. That way you can see exactly what parts of the design will show. Just keep in mind that you will have a 1/4" seam around the pieces. And if you do try this at home, make sure the words will not be upside down when you sew the hat pieces together. You CAN pick the seam out of this plastic, but it is no picnic! My advice is to check everything twice before sewing!

I hope to see several of these hats the next time we are in the Disney parks! After all, what better place is there for a fabulous hat than Disney? Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

DIY Disney Monorail Scavenger Hunt Cards

I've always had a love-affair with the monorail system in Walt Disney World. It's magical in it's own right, and such a cool way to travel! As a kid I longed to stay in the Contemporary Resort so we could see the monorail swishing through the concourse on a regular basis.

And as a kid, we always played a monorail version of the license plate game, keeping track of the different colors we'd seen. Today there are twelve monorails operating in WDW. Rarely are they all on-line at once. But if you are lucky, you could see most of the following: Red, Orange, Yellow, Gold, Peach, Coral, Green, Lime, Blue, Teal, Silver and Black.

In the spirit of making the most of our wait time (there can be A LOT of wait time in Disney, depending on your travel dates), I created these scratch-off cards for the kids in our party. I used a heavy card stock to print these, and I would recommend making several extras as you may need them for those adults kids who tend to lose theirs in the parks, or for a learning curve with the scratch-off paint.

Then, I used this tutorial from Artmind to make scratch-off paint. A couple of tips regarding the scratch-off paint: 1.) It bubbled up when I applied it, but most of the bubbles went away as it dried. The more you agitate the paint, the more bubbles you will get. 2.) A lighter color of paint is recommended. I used copper and it didn't scratch off cleanly - as you can see in the photo below. The gold was much better.

To create the actual card, I used a scanned image of the monorail from a promotional Disney flyer. You may want to clean up the edges of the image in Photoshop. To create the different colored monorails, I selected the color stripe so it could be changed to the different colors I needed. Due to copyright laws, I can do this for my own personal use, but not, I am sorry to say, to distribute it to others. Therefore, I cannot offer you a PDF as I would like to. I can, however, refer you to my March 5th post about how to select an image and create a PNG from your own photo, and this tutorial on how to select an area of a scanned image in Photoshop and change its color. It was much easier than it sounds. Give it a try. And remember that if you are scaling down your image significantly, you will not have to be so worried about little detail areas that don't look right on a larger scale. Some of them just disappear. Don't stress yourself out about the little things.

Of course, it was only logical that each kid got a pressed penny to use as a scratch-off tool! The edge was perfect for removing the paint. I hope you give this scavenger hunt a try. We had a blast using them. Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pirate Night T-shirt Design Now On Redbubble

 If you have been looking for just the right thing to express your true geekery and love for all things Disney pirates, then I have just the shirt for you! With this nod to the original Pirates of the Caribbean, you can rock pirate night on the cruise, or just look amazing while touring the parks in this fun new design now up in my Redbubble shop!

And don't forget that Redbubble is always adding new items, so head on over there and take a look at all the pirate-y goodness I have to offer! Yo ho! Yo ho! A pirates life for me!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

DIY Disney Inspired Knitted To Go Cup Cozy

I like to advertise my love of Disney everywhere I go. Let's face it: it's good for business! I wanted to have a little something for when I am at meetings. I can't always wear my Disney Inspired T-shirts from my Redbubble shop! So this little guy was born. It's just about one of the simplest knit projects I've ever done. If you can knit and purl in the the round then you can do this. It took me 40 minutes from start to finish. I found these little buttons in my stash; they are 1/2" for those wanting to duplicate this look.

I posted the simple pattern for this on my Ravelry project page. Feel free to knit and modify it to your heart's content! It would be a terrific gift for fish extenders or as Tinkerbell Treasures! I'd love to see a picture of your completed cozy when you make one! Be sure to tag me if you do.

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dining at Remy on the Disney Dream

Those of you who are regular followers know that Mr. Photos From The Parks and I are Disney foodies. Not only do we love a dole whip whenever we can find one, we've also dined at Victoria and Albert's more than once, enjoyed Lunch with an Imagineer in Hollywood Studios and have mourned the passing of our favorite Bistro de Paris. We like to try new things and love inventive foods. And for the most part, we are always pleased by what Disney has to offer.

It is no understatement for me to say that the meal I had at Remy, aboard the Disney Dream, is quite possibly the best meal I have ever had. Ever. In the movie, Ratatouille, Anton Ego remarks in his review of Gusteau's that "to say that the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement." I have to concur with this foodie. You will not be disappointed.

Remy, the restaurant, is themed beautifully to the movie Ratatouille. If you have not watched it before and you are a food lover, you must stop what you are doing this minute and watch. If you find yourself on a Disney cruise, you can always pull it up on demand before your reservation. It is amazing the attention to detail in this restaurant. Everything from floor to ceiling is like you would see it in Ratatouille. And Little Chef is there too. Your server can help you spot him if you wish. But don't be deterred by the theming. It is as elegant as any restaurant we've been to in Paris. We were seated in the Gusteau Room. It was very intimate with a gorgeous view of the sea. We had the privilege of watching a storm roll in and may have made a few bad jokes about how our meal tasted "lightening-y."

I will not go through the entire menu, but I will offer up this bit of advice. We let our server know that we considered him and our chef the experts of the evening and we were entirely at their mercy. We did not order from the menu, but let them choose for us what we would be served. I had never before had the experience of a server telling me that he was proud to be serving me that evening. And our server, Juan, was amazing. He walked us through the water menu (yes, I said water menu), brought over the sommelier who helped us make the perfect selection for a bottle of wine that paired with every course, was only as attentive as we needed him to be, determined our food preferences and dietary restrictions, and brought us stunning course after course. Our cheese master, BB, was exceptionally knowledgeable  about the cheese course too, letting us know which ones would be for the more adventurous palate.

I never once had to worry about my food sensitivities; once they were mentioned, I was all set. From the start, they brought me gluten free bread that actually tasted and felt like baguette. And they brought me ghee instead of butter. The entire meal was that way. Before I even had the chance to ask, Juan would tell me about the special changes to my meal that made them gluten and dairy free. I felt like a princess! And everything was delicious. More than delicious. It was delectable.

From the moment we arrived to the last bite of the evening (and the sweets they sent home with us!) we were delighted. The experience of dining at Remy is one I will not soon forget. For my money, it's worth every dime. If you are hesitant about taking the time out of your cruise or finding the money in your budget, I would encourage you to do it. I am still dreaming of the loveliness of that evening.

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Easy Upcycled DIY Disney Travel Game

When I saw this idea on Pinterest, I knew I wanted to recreate it using the Disney ephemera I had collected over the years. I tend to be a pack rat - every now and again, this winds up being a good thing. It's nice when that happens! If you are a pack rat too, then this project is free to create. I know I love a budget friendly DIY.
I had an old sturdy tube from some Silhouette stencil vinyl that was just right for this project, perfect for outlining the shapes of some old Disney stickers I had lying around. (I believe these are from the 90s - when I was still paper scrapbooking. Disney had a terrific scrapbooking store back then; I'm not sure if it's still around today.) If you don't have any stickers, they are very easily obtained from the Dollar Store, or a craft store. And they are usually fairly inexpensive, especially if you have a coupon.

The idea here is simple. I removed the outer edge of the sticker paper, leaving the actual stickers on the page. Then I used the "blanks" as a stencil to trace the shapes of the stickers onto the paper tube. I used a fat Sharpie to trace them and then a fine point Sharpie to label the shapes. (I have a bit of a pen addiction as well. I love my Sharpies!) Happy isn't quite able to read yet, and I wanted Poppins or Doc to be able to help him if I wasn't available.  So now there are several Disney shapes and characters to match to the shapes on the tube. I figure this could last him a good 20 minutes if he takes to it! Stickers are generally a favorite for him. For our family, the trick is finding new and different things to keep the little ones occupied on our drive. It's a LONG way to Orlando from our cottage in the midwest! I'll let you know if this works for us. And if you try it, let us know how it worked for you!

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

Saturday, April 2, 2016

How A WDW Expert Made All The Wrong Assumptions About Cruising With Disney

You’ve heard all your friends and family rave about how amazing cruising with Disney is and you have finally bitten the bullet. You’ve decided to book your first Disney Cruise! You love Walt Disney World. In fact, you’ve been so many times you’ve lost track. You dream of one day being a DVC owner (or maybe you already are) and your expectations are high. Yup. This is exactly how we started with our first Disney Cruise. We made ALL the wrong assumptions about cruising based on our extensive knowledge of traveling to WDW and Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort.

If you are in the same shoes we were, here are some things you may want to consider when taking your first cruise on the Disney Cruise Line (or what I wish I had known before we went). With adjusted expectations, your cruise becomes much more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone!

How It Works At WDW
How It Works on DCL
We make our ADRs and Fastpasses well ahead of time. It takes a lot of planning up front, but then we have our plan and go! Fastpass windows are an hour long, so we can flex our schedule for hungry/sleepy toddlers a bit.

We generally find it easy to get from one attraction to the next and still have some fun (even magical moments) along the way.
Think of your dining time as an ADR. You have made them all for the same time each night. And remember that the posted times for events in the navigator work like the times guide at a theme park; they are not windows of time (as with the Fastpasses), so if you want to see or do something realize they will start at the time posted. This is a more scheduled vacation, but perhaps less hectic (running from attraction to attraction.) 

And we did have some magical moments, like the time we saw Goofy get off the elevator in his pajamas! Or the time he showed up in his pirate outfit in the concierge lounge.
Check in and check out is a virtually painless process for us. It is not demanding and we do not feel stressed while doing it  (although we might be feeling blue that we have to leave.)

We often spend time hanging around the resort or at Disney Springs the day of check in and check out. We tend to be amblers.
You’re embarkation and debarkation are highly regimented experiences. Do not go into this with an ambling attitude! You need to be organized and ready for the process on both ends.

Debarkation has a very specific process (which you can find in your Navigator app) including leaving your luggage outside your door the night before. Prepare for this. You should check and double check that you have everything you need with you (and that you can carry all of that with you) the morning you leave. You will have it at breakfast and there will be very little room for it in the dining room.

You will be off the ship by 9am, so don't consider it a day on the ship. You may also want to have a plan for what to do with that window of time between debarkation and when your hotel room will be available. Disney Springs was a great option for our family.
If I need something, WDW almost always has it. I don’t stress out about packing because we can always just get it when we arrive at WDW. Between the hotel shops, theme park shops and Disney Springs, you can find virtually anything.
The ship’s shops were closed anytime we were in port. This made it very difficult on just a 3-day cruise to pick up anything we may have forgotten at home. I was really unprepared for this!

Make sure you pay attention to the packing list Disney supplies and make sure all your essentials are packed! Remember that the ship has limited space and they are only supplied for a week or so. You cannot count on the ship stores making up for your lack of preparedness. Pack with intention.

Also, ask a cast member if you really need something (like sunscreen). Chances are they can find something as a stop-gap for you.
Dining with allergies is not hard for us in WDW. Even as foodies we have always had wonderful dining experiences at the WDW resort. We understand the process of meeting the chef and “touring” the buffets for safe food options. We have 3 years of this experience under our belts.

We love Disney’s attention to those with special diets and it is a large part of what keeps us going back. We don’t worry about improper handling of foods, and the chefs usually do something to make our meals better than expected.
We struggled a lot with this on DCL. Here's what I would say to those with allergies:

1. Note your allergies and special diets before you leave. Be sure it's on your paperwork so the crew has time to prepare for you.

2. Realize that (at least on the Dream) there is one kitchen for all the allergy free meals and one chef who is preparing them.

3. We never had problems with the peanut/tree nut allergy and the kid foods. They were all already nut free.

4. Communicate very specifically with your service team. They will do what they can to accommodate you. I found I had to speak up more than I was used to doing at WDW.

5. Preorder for the next day and save yourself the hassle! You can preorder every meal if you like, even on Castaway Cay. Remember to be specific, even giving the chef permission to substitute for ingredients that may be off limits for you.

6. Consider packing some go-to snacks for yourself or your kids with allergies, especially that first day. We all know that hungry kids are cranky kids!