Disney Pin Trading – Chaser Pins Explained

IMG_2382If you’ve never tried Disney Pin Trading, you can read about getting started here.

Once you’ve dipped your toe into the pin trading pool, so to speak, you can’t help but come across the silver Disney Chaser Pins.  These metalic doppelgangers of some of our favorite, colorful pins first appeared in 2011.  They are “Hidden Mickey” pins (small Mickey head appears on these).  All Hidden Mickey pin collections (painted and chaser) are released on Cast Member lanyards.  Chaser pins, interestingly, are not released as part of the set they seem to belong to – they’re released (after the original, colorful ones) as part of a larger set of chaser pins belonging to a particular year.  Disney releases other chasers that are painted and also pins called “completer” pins, but today I’m just focusing on what little I know about the silver Hidden Mickey Chasers.

Steven Miller (Disney Merchandise Communications Manager) is a contributing writer on the Chaser 3Disney Parks Blog.  Mr. Miller describes chaser pins this way, “These pins are slightly more rare than their full color counterparts.  We don’t have as many produced which prompts the “chase” to find them (though I encourage walking carefully and slowly to your next trading destination :-))”

I’ve traded for chaser pins before, but had absolutely no idea what they were – only that the ones I received were silver duplicates of pins in a set I was collecting.  I actually felt they were an inferior, colorless, boring substitute for the “real” pin I was trying to find – little did I know that they were more rare and belonged to a set of their own.  Now that I know the Chaser pins are limited edition pins and are more challenging to locate – I’ll be giving them the respect they deserve!

In case you missed it and are a pin collector (or thinking about becoming one) – Mr. Miller has a fantastic post about pins for 2014 here.  I cannot wait to get to Disney World and dive back into pin trading / collecting – I’ve got a certain flying Orange Bird to find.  I’d also love to pick up an Chaser 1Alice in Wonderland Doorknob pin (one of the new ones this year).

So?  What about you?  Are you a pin collector?  Do you have many silver chaser pins in your collection?

Disney at Home: An Adorable Dalmatian Teapot

Teapot 2We have Disney dinnerware with Mickey on it and a Ratatouille wine print on our kitchen wall.  I’ve got that Haunted Mansion bottle-stopper and a spiffy Disney cookie jar.  Know what else you can find in my kitchen?  An adorable Dalmatian teapot.

To be honest, I can’t remember exactly where I bought it, but I can tell you the happy circumstances under which I discovered my little spotted treasure.  Raymond’s family, until very recently, had a traditional annual get-together – a trip + family reunion that allowed everyone (parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren, you get the idea) to meet up at a different location every summer and enjoy a long weekend of family togetherness while exploring new destinations.  Over the years we’ve been to places as far away as Disney World, San Antonio, and Fredricksburg, Texas – we’ve also traveled not so far, to off the beaten path places like Broken Bow Lake (Oklahoma), Gaston’s White River Resort (Lakeview, Arkansas), Branson (Missouri) and once, some funky little cabinsTeapot 4 in Breaux Bridge (Louisiana).  Some of these locations offered exceptional antique shopping!  The Fam is always game for that.

It was in a small-town antique store – I may not remember which town (I suspect it was Eureka Springs, Arkansas) , but I can picture the store perfectly.  On the far right side of the shop, in the very back, on a crowded lower shelf, I spotted Roly, the Dalmatian teapot, among an eclectic group of kitchen oddities.  He’s rather small (about 8″ tall) and in perfect condition – as soon as I saw him, I knew he’d be coming home with me.  Usually, I just go along for the entertainment of watching Joseph and Raymond find amazing items – some Disney collectibles, some in need of a little TLC, some quirky (like a rather scary looking antique metal dentist’s chair Joseph bought once on a whim).  For once, I was not leaving empty handed!

Teapot 3Roly was Made in the U. S. A. by Treasure Craft, a pottery company founded in California in 1945 and later purchased by Pfalzgraff.  Treasure Craft made a number of Disney-themed items ranging from teapots to cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers, and cups and saucers.  I know Roly’s not very old, but he’s precious and adorable and he cost me $12 – which is an excellent price to pay for a happy memory AND a Disney collectible perfect just for me.

What’s the best Disney treasure you’ve ever found?

What-if Wednesday: The ONE Disney Restaurant Dilemma

What if WednesdayLadies and Gentlemen!  Once again, it is time for What-If Wednesday!  The game show where we use our Disney imaginations to debate a weekly “What if?” question.  Contestants from Twitter and Facebook go head to head and compete to invent the most popular answers.  Get ready to let your
imagination run wild!  As Drew Carey would say, this is ”the show where
everything’s made up and the points don’t matter
.”  Let’s talk about FOOD!

This week’s What-if:  You’re going to spend a week at Walt Disney World!  (YAY!)  What if you had to eat every meal in the same restaurant then entire time?  Which place would you choose?

Holy Guacamole!  I should have known food would really get people talking – and thinking!  So many participants this week – I’ve divided the answers into three categories…

Category 1 – Table Service

In this category, we’ve got the folks with a particularly discerning taste and a BIG budget.  If IMG_5074you’re going to eat in the SAME table service restaurant every day for the duration of your Disney vacation, you have a passion and you don’t care how much it costs to feed it!  I admire that in a foodie!  So who fell into Category 1 and where will they be eating?

-A (@SaratogaSprings) voted quickly and decisively for “‘Ohana…soooo delicious”  Yes, indeed, ‘Ohana (at the Polynesian Resort) has a lot to offer.  Personally, I’m not as enamored with the meat (served Brazilian Barbeque style) as I am with the starters!  Noodles, salad, wings, dumplin’s …oh, MY!  I’ve always been so sad they stopped serving those cheesy potatoes.  Anybody remember those?

Disney Tutor (@Disneytutor) weighed in with “Raglan Road for every meal-great entertainment & food options, could never get sick of the bread&butter pudding” – Having eaten at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney several times myself (with an upcoming ADR there, to boot!) – this is an excellent choice.  Super fun atmosphere, great food, Irish dancers…and what a beer selection!  Yes, Disney Tutor, you do know how to pick ’em!

IMG_5077Raymond (@Southpaw9989) – said, “It would have to be Jiko. Such great food.”  A man near and dear to my heart (I’ve been married to him nearly 25 years) voted for a table service restaurant (at the Animal Kingdom Lodge) with a bit of fancy style, upscale atmosphere, and terrific food – someday we’ll get to eat there alone (without the offspring) and see if it’s as romantic as we think it may be!  In the mean time, the food at Jiko is truly excellent.  As is the service.  Oh, and the wine.  Good choice, Honey!

Bill Maguire (@wfmaguire) played in this week’s What-if round with this response:  “Good Q!  I’ll take Kona Cafe please.  4 reasons:  Tonga Toast, Sushi!!, The rest of the menu, and Kona beer!!”  Okay, Bill – you have a point!  Even though (I must confess), I’ve never had even one bite of Tonga Toast, I can appreciate the huge fan base this breakfast confection has cultivated over the years (at the Polynesian Resort).  I am a huge sushi fan – would not be put off eating it every day, and Bill had to trump it all with the beer!  Certainly a hearty breakfast, raw fish, and BEER! have all the makings for vacation dining perfection.  Well played, Bill, well played.

Disney Sophisticate (@StyleOfDisney) – new Twitter follower (Welcome and Thanks) jumped right on into the game with gusto, “Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria – at Epcot! Authentic, fresh  ingredients and wood-fired pizza to dream about” – way to join the game!  I have to disclose – we are huge Tutto Italia (also table service in Epcot’s Italy pavilion) fans and have never tried Via Napoli in spite of all the rave reviews.  Disney Sophisticate’s enthusiasm is pretty convincing – we’ve got to give this place a chance!

Les Davis (@LesDavis) – is going all out!  It IS vacation, after all.  Here’s what Les had to say: ” V&A, of course . . . Sorry to be so obvious with my answer.”  Way to dream BIG, Les.  Bravely willing to dress for dinner daily, Les would be dining in style and enjoying gourmet meals (hopefully with the appropriate wine pairings) at the Grand Floridian’s Victoria and Albert’s (affectionately referred to in our home as Vicky and Bert’s).

DisneyPrincess83 (@OzGoofyPrincess) – A return player for this week’s game, the Princess chose Epcot’s Teppen Edo (World Showcase, Japan pavilion).  “Love the food and feel of the restaurant.  And family style is a great way to meet other people.”  Food and friendship!  Who could ask for more?  Plus, watching those chefs cook the food ON your table is highly entertaining.

Category 2 – Counter Service / BuffetDSCN2611

Wesley Snyder (@365DaysOfDisney) – Would choose Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom Park.  Wesley didn’t say what it was about Tusker House that makes it his choice, but I bet I can guess!  Start of each day with Donald’s Safari Breakfast and enjoy a wide variety of unique dishes at every meal.  The special kids’ station serves food like corn dog nuggets, chicken drumsticks, and mac & cheese + much more.  Let me add: warm banana cinnamon bread pudding.  ‘Nuff said.  Good choice, Wesley!

Rebecca Kelly (rkellyWDW) – Rebecca took her time deciding – thought it over – and settled on Boma at the Animal Kingdom Resort.  This was the first thing that popped into my mind when I first thought of this particular “What-if” question.  Rebecca’s choice of this extraordinarily varied buffet would allow her to eat for a week and try different things everyday.  And eat unlimited Zebra Domes!

IMG_5370BRGUEST (@goodbye7407) – Like Rebecca, BRGUEST chose a great buffet, but this one is over at the Contemporary Resort – Chef Mickey’s!  “Food is great and will be with the characters always.”  Oh, yeah – Chef Mickey’s serves breakfast and dinner so you could start and end the day with the Fab Five entertaining you while you dine.  Also, while it’s a buffet that’s trying to cater to all eaters (even picky ones), the food’s pretty good.  I can’t imagine anyone not being able to find something tasty to enjoy.

Another Character Buffet fan, Amanda Payne (@RavenAven82) is going with “The Crystal Palace. They have the best food and endless Eeyore hugs!”  While we’ve not yet eaten there, Crystal Palace seems to have a lot of fans – Characters from Winnie the Pooh, beautiful location in the Magic Kingdom,

Paul Boudreau (@YoPaulieNJ) – Paul brought to the table (cough, pun intended) the well-thought out, Sunshine Seasons.  This counter service gem in Epcot’s Land pavilion has everything you’d want in a one-stop shop if such a vacation restriction actually existed.  Plus, it has THE chocolate croissant I love so much.

Dennis (@oakmanner) waded right on into the fray with Port Orleans Riverside food court (aka Boatwright’s Dining Hall).  I can vouch for Dennis’s choice.  We’ve stayed and dined at Port Orleans Riverside and the food court was great!  Fun atmosphere (themed as a boat-builders workshop), good variety of food with a Cajun flair.  Need a hearty Southern-style dinner?  This is DSCN2612the place.

Finally, Niki on Facebook had a very difficult time choosing, but in the end said, “my heart tells me Cosmic Rays….my belly tells me Cape May Café”.  Let’s take a quick look at each, shall we?  Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café is located in the Magic Kingdom.  This eatery, specializing in American fare, is a very large and popular cafeteria.  Ray’s is the place to be if you need to satisfy a varied group of eaters with things like burgers, sandwiches, and salads for a reasonable price.  Cape May Café is a buffet within walking distance of Epcot over at the Yacht and Beach Club Resort area.  The addition of many delicious seafood items to this particular smorgasbord is what makes it so special.

Category 3 – Food Item Obsession!

Daniel Grote (@dangrote) wanted to know, “Does the Main Street popcorn cart count? I could live off popcorn for a week…”  This popcorn has its own cult following.  Seriously – people wax poetic about it.  Jump on in and comment if you have absolutely any idea WHY!?! – Other than everything tastes better at Disney World!

David Hodges (@thedislife) – would live off waffles.  No, not Mickey waffles, but the very popular and unique “Sweet and Spicy Chicken Waffle Sandwich at Sleepy Hollow (Magic Kingdom). All day, Every day.”  Waffle obsessed, Dave then added, “while you’re there you need to pick up a Nutella Waffle also. It will be like a meal with dessert”  I cannot resist the idea of these waffle-meals.  So, yes!  I’m going to give them both a try in the very near future.  They sound GREAT!

Honorable Mention: 

Our Hawaiian friend, Dave Tupper (@dstupper) did not choose a restaurant at all.  Dave’s vote was for enjoying each meal in our DVC villa.  Dave’s confidence in my cooking abilities was absolute – he said, “Because I’m sure your cooking is Da Bomb Digity!”  Dave also asked a question of his own, “Can you make Cheesecake?”  Indeed, Dave, I can.  And it’s pretty epic – My Aunt Millie’s recipe, in fact, cranks out what I affectionately refer to as MOAC (the mother of all cheesecakes).  Served with a homemade caramel topping and you’ve got something really special.

That wraps it up for this week, folks!  As always, thanks so much for playing.  Watch Twitter and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LivingaDisLife) for the next chance to play What-if Wednesday!



Our Disney Mediterranean Cruise Part 6 – Palo and Evening Shows

IMG_1758Welcome to Part 6 of our Disney Magic in the Mediterranean trip report.  Links to the other pages of this trip report can be found at the very end of this post.

So, when we last parted, our group had just returned to the Magic after our first day in Italy (Tuesday, August 13th).  We had an unbelievably amazing time in Pisa and Florence, but the day was not over yet!  For that evening, we had dinner reservations at Palo.

If you’ve not cruised with Disney before, Palo is an adults-only Italian restaurant that offers quiet dining, exceptional service, and beautiful views from the top of the ship.  There is currently a $25 per person up-charge for this dining experience – we’ve always felt the price was reasonable.  Raymond and I had been to Palo several times before (sans offspring) – but part of DSCN3126the reason we waited until late in the summer to sail was so Joseph would be 18 and could finally enjoy Palo with us.  Megan could have eaten with us in Palo on our Alaskan cruise in 2011, but we decided it wouldn’t be fair to only take one child, so Raymond and I managed to tough it out on our own.  Twice.

When we arrived back on the ship, our original plan was to get ready for dinner (Palo has a dress code, so we wore cocktail/semi-formal attire) and see the early show before our 8 o’clock reservation.  We were too late returning to catch the show – “Walt Disney The Dream Goes On”.  This was a little disappointing because we love the Disney shows and try not to miss a single one – however, it DSCN3331was worth missing it – we would not have sacrificed a single second of our time in Pisa and Florence for anything!

All gussied up, our little group of six made our way to Deck 10 and into Palo.  We were greeted by our server, Sylvester (from India).  Sly escorted us to our table by the window and brought the sommelier over to help us select our wine.  Raymond and I have grown accustomed to the really great service in Palo, but on that night, once Sly realized that Megan, Grant, Joseph and Jason were visiting Palo for the first time – he pulled out all the stops!  In addition, I’ve got to add that the sunset that night as we sailed off the Italian Coast was stunning.

DSCN3333Plates quickly began arriving – appetizers we ordered and also surprises Sylvester brought for us to try.  Having eaten hours and hours earlier (and only pizza and gelato, you may recall) – we tried not to fall upon the feast like a pack of ravenous dogs!  The calamari was the best I’d ever had.

The time came to order our entrées.  I know Joseph ordered two (one of which was the rack of lamb)!  There was a huge variety of orders around the table.  When it came to my turn, I wasn’t starving anymore, so I had Sly surprise me and he selected the Osso Bucco which is very tasty, but comes in a really generous portion.  So large, in fact, that Sylvester thought IDSCN3334 didn’t like it because it looked like I’d hardly touched it when I was finished.  No one at the table ordered the special of the day which was lasagna – so of course, a couple of orders of lasagna appeared magically in the center of the table so we wouldn’t miss out on it.  We ate.  And ate.  Very little conversation took place – mostly just small exclamations of delight were all that could be heard around the table.

At this point, we were feeling pretty sated – but Palo’s famous chocolate soufflé was calling to us!  It is prepared to order, so we knew there would be about a 20 minute wait.  We ordered coffees and, of course, Sly brought big bowls of ice cream which he set down in the middle of the table – just to tide us over.  I was shocked at how fast that ice cream disappeared!  The soufflés are served very warm, straight from the oven, with a pitcher of vanilla sauce on the side.  The sauce is poured into the DSCN3330dessert’s center as soon as it’s placed in front of you.  It’s super-rich, gooey chocolaty heaven!

We walked in at 8:00 pm and waddled out exactly THREE hours later.  We told Sylvester that we’d be back on Friday for brunch and if it could be arranged, would love to have him again as our server.  Oh, so full and exhausted, we made our way to our cabins.  Tomorrow we would arrive in Civitavecchia and spend the day in Rome.  There was nothing – not one thing about our trip so far that could possibly have been any better.

A bit about the shows on Disney Cruise Line.  The Disney stage shows are absolutely excellent,IMG_0712 Broadway-quality entertainment – perfect for all ages.  The theater itself is wonderful and refreshments are available (even adult beverages) at the theater’s entrance.  There were five different Disney shows on our cruise and two shows by other entertainers.  We had main seating for dinner, so I’ll post our assigned restaurant on the rotational dining schedule in parentheses before the name of each evening’s show.  Here’s the recap:

8/10 (Animator’s Palate) All Aboard!  Let the Magic Begin! – We’ve seen this on all the Disney cruises we’ve taken.  It’s a great way to get excited about all the magic and excitement Disney has in store for you on your high seas adventure.

DSCN08768/11 (Anamator’s Palate) Twice Charmed – An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story – This is a cute story and as the title implies, it’s based on a favorite tale, but with a twist.  Songs, costumes, effects are all top shelf!

8/12 (Parrot Cay) Junk (Comedy and Percussion / Not Disney) – For non-Disney entertainment, these guys were great – hilarious, clever, and highly entertaining.  A little bit Blue Man Group-ish and a whole lot of FUN!

8/13 (Lumiere’s) Walt Disney The Dream Goes On – I’m sorry we missed this one since we’ve never seen it before.  I know absolutely nothing about it.

8/14 (Animator’s Palate) Villains Tonight! – This was the first time for us to see Villains and I’ve DSCN0865got to say it shot straight up the list to my most favorite Disney Cruise Line show EVER!  Disney does a great job of adding jokes to their shows specifically for adults – not inappropriate humor in any way, just clever references, puns, and bits only the more mature members of the audience will “get”.  Villains seemed to do a better job with this than other shows.  Plus – I’m a big fan of the villains in general and am very happy they get their own big stage production.

8/15 (Parrot Cay) Scott Pepper (Magic and Illusion / Not Disney) – I’m sorry, guys.  This show started out alright, but it was 8:30 pm after an entire day in Rome (next post on the trip report!) and I’d had some wine with dinner.  I’d love to give you details about Mr. Pepper’s magic show, but I fell sound asleep.

DSCN09008/16 (Lumiere’s) Disney Dreams – This is a show we’ve seen on every Disney cruise and we never get tired of it.  Honestly, it’s spectacular.  ALL our favorite Disney characters make an appearance in this show – they sing, they dance, the special effects are spectacular – what’s not to love?

Up Next – the port of Civitavecchia and an unbelievable day in Rome!   

Here are the links to the other parts of our Magic in the Mediterranean trip report: