Living a Disney Life – 2015

You guys are the best!  I don’t tell you enough how much I appreciate you.  Another year has come and (nearly) gone – it’s hard to believe it!  2015 was incredibly busy and also full of life’s joys and sorrows.  I know sad times are necessary for us to truly appreciate happy ones, but that knowledge doesn’t always make those tough times easier to bear.  What did make a difference in my life in 2015 was all of you.

Through this blog and the Disney Exchange Podcast, on twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – you and I have formed friendships.  In many cases, we’ve shared life’s challenges and successes and cheered and supported each other along the way.  Our common interests brought us together and the kindness of the Disney fan community is humbling and amazing.

Living a Disney Life – 2015

In February, I ran in my first three runDisney events and you were there via social media with words of encouragement.  From the Frozen 5k (very appropriately named as the weather was certainly freezing) to the Enchanted 10k and the Princess Half Marathon…I shared my view along the way tweeting pictures as I ran and your responses kept me going when I got tired.  Thanks for that!Princess-Half-Main-Street

In June, family tragedy struck.  Just before The Fam and I sailed through the fjords of Norway on the Disney Magic, I lost my mom after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  This blog would have gone dark for weeks if not for my Disney friends’ help.  Mike and Gary from the Por Favor Podcast, Keith and Sean from Enchanted Tiki Talk, Andrew from The Mouse for Less, Curt from Geekin’ on WDW, and of course Nick and Barbie from Disney Musings all provided entertaining and informational Disney articles for your reading pleasure.  They also offered me kind words of friendship and support during a difficult time in my life.  That meant more than I can say.Mount-Floyen-Selfie

In September, Raymond walked Megan down the aisle and suddenly our little Princess became a grown-up married woman and our family of four became five.  The entire pixie-dusted wedding was as perfectly perfect in every way as any of our imaginations could have dreamed up.  We are as proud to call Grant our son as Joseph is to call him brother.  After a honeymoon at Walt Disney World, the newlyweds have settled well into their new life together.  Thank you for all the well-wishes and kind words during that time.Father-Daughter-Wedding

The year is coming to a close – Many months ago, Raymond and I decided that we couldn’t let 2015 end without one last visit to our favorite vacation destination.  In a year packed with hellos and goodbyes, we consider ourselves blessed with the very best family and friends any two people could ever wish for.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!  We love you guys!  We’ll be back with more Disney adventures in 2016 and we hope you’ll be along with us again!  Wishing you a very Happy New Year – LisaDCL Norway Raymond and Lisa

Walt Disney World Dining- Resort Loop Table Service (Part 3) Grand Floridian

RM-Grand-Floridian-EntranceThe last stop on our tour of the Resort Loop table-service restaurants is the Grand Floridian.  I’ve saved the best for last!  The restaurant choices are outstanding, the menus are fantastic and the setting is absolutely gorgeous – There’s no place at Walt Disney World quite like the Grand Floridian.

Grand Floridian Table Service

1900 Park Fare (Buffet, 1 TS credit) – This character meal is unlike any other.  At dinnertime, guests enjoy the above average buffet offerings while meeting Cinderella and her Prince along with Lady Tremaine and her lovely daughters.  For older children and adults, the Tremaines provide (to us) the very best and funniest character interactions to be found anywhere.  The full review from our most recent visit is here.1900 Park Fare / Drizella and Anastasia

Grand Floridian Café (1 TS credit) – I’m not going to lie – I’ve never eaten here, but I do have a breakfast reservation booked to give it a try in my immediate future.  From what I understand, this restaurant is a hidden gem.  Among fans, a certain item on the lunch menu is a standout – The Grand Cafe Sandwich “Open-faced hot Ham, Smoked Turkey Breast, Bacon, and Tomato with a rich Boursin Cheese Sauce and Fried Onion Straws”.  What doesn’t sound delicious about that?

Narcoossee’s (2 TS credits) – It’s been almost 26 years since I’ve eaten at this great place.  Our long absence has not been because we had a bad meal, but rather we’ve passed on return visits in favor of trying new places.  We remember it well – the food and service were great!  It’s time for a re-visit and, like the Grand Floridian Cafe, I have an ADR for Narcoossee’s coming right up.  I’ll post a full review shortly – in the mean time, Nick’s review is here and certainly makes me want to try both the calamari and the scallops!Citricos-Window

Citricos (2 TS credits) – For us, Citricos is what Disney signature dining is all about.  Expect outstanding service in a bright, welcoming atmosphere with a broad, creative menu selection that is sure to offer something for everyone.  Raymond and I enjoyed our last dinner here tremendously.  You can read that review here.  There were some children in the dining room, but this place is best suited for a date-night or adults-only evening out.Citricos- Copper-Pot-Mickey

Victoria and Albert’s (Platinum Dining Plan Only) This is, without a doubt, the nicest, most deluxe and expensive place EVER – I had the chance to eat here last year in October and didn’t take it.  *Sigh* Maybe someday.  I do know this – I’ve never heard anyone complain about a meal at Victoria and Albert’s.  The experience is costly, but worth the time, money, and effort of bringing along some fancy duds to enjoy.  If you’ve dined at Victoria and Albert’s, I’d LOVE to hear about it!

Is the Grand Floridian one of your favorite places to eat?  Which restaurant do you like best?

Walt Disney World Dining – Resort Loop Table Service (Part 2)

RM-Polynesian-Lobby2Hop on the monorail with me for part two of our tour of resort loop table service dining options.  Today we’re headed to the Polynesian Village Resort and the two sit-down dining options there.  While choices seem somewhat limited, both restaurants are well-priced, and offer delicious fare in a casual atmosphere.

Walt Disney World Dining – Resort Loop Table Service (Part 2)

Polynesian Table Service

‘Ohana (1 TS credit) – Looking for great atmosphere and all you can eat?  This is the place for you…unless you failed to book an ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) then getting in is probably impossible.  This place is wildly popular!  For dinner, gather ’round and enjoy the family style dining and parade of grilled meats from the open fire pit. There’s something for everyone at this family friendly location.  'OhanaStarters include some mighty awesome wings, pork dumplings, and salad.  The pineapple-coconut bread is outstanding!  Chicken, shrimp and steak are brought to your table throughout dinner Brazilian Barbecue-style.  Sides include noodles and stir-fried vegetables. Sadly, my favorite Maui Potatoes, once the best (to me) part of an ‘Ohana dinner, are long gone from the menu.  Dessert is bread pudding and you’ll want to save room for it!

RM-Kona-SignKona Café (1 TS credit) – Home of the world-famous Tonga Toast!  On our upcoming trip, Raymond and I are staying at the Polynesian and may finally get to see what all the hubbub’s about over this breakfast specialty.  I can say, Dinner’s great, if a bit crowded table-wise, and the menu is full of excellent choices that make the eating part of this place feel more like a Signature (2-table-credit) place to me. RM-Kona-EntranceIn spite of the bad service we had here on our first visit, we already have a dinner reservation booked for Princess Half Marathon weekend.  As an alternative to ‘Ohana, Kona Café is a great choice.  The Pan-Asian menu includes delicious appetizers like pot-stickers, sticky wings, and Samoan corn fritters, a variety of sushi options and reasonably priced entrees ranging from lamb, beef, and pork to chicken and duck, to shrimp, scallops, and other seafood options.RM-Kona-Wings

Again, the Poly may not offer as many table-service options as the other stops on the Resort Loop (and no signature dining), but the two options there are, plus excellent quick service choices and the dinner show available (Spirit of Aloha) mean this iconic, original resort has something delicious for even the hungriest guests!

What’s your favorite place to eat at the Polynesian? 

Epcot’s World Showcase – Holiday Storytellers

Epcot’s World Showcase – Holiday Storytellers

by Nick

I love Santa Claus. Always have, I am, after all, named after the Saint himself.

I also enjoy hearing and reading about the various gift givers that different cultures have.
One of my very favorite things about the Holiday Around the World at Epcot is the storytellers that several of the countries have.

My wife, friends, and I caught as many of the offerings as possible on our recent trip, and I’ve shared a brief look in my trip reports, but I thought it appropriate to share a more in depth look at them on this Christmas Day.

Heading around to the right of World Showcase, we’ll start with Father Christmas, who can be found in the United Kingdom.

Each pavilion’s storyteller has a scroll describing customs and traditions from that country, and you can find appearance times in park guides.

Father Christmas shares a few of the traditions that started in the UK, such as the sending of Christmas Cards in 1843, and the hanging of mistletoe which dates back to the Druidic ceremonies of the Winter Solstice.

Many storytellers also pose for photos with guests.

Left to right: Barbie, Nick, Father Christmas, Jill, Nicole, and Josh

Moving on to France, we find Père Noël, who delivers gifts to children on Christmas Eve.

He tells of the importance of the Creche, or Nativity Scene. Traditionally, candles are lit around the Creche, or a special Yule Log is burned on the fire.
He continues telling us of le reveillon, a feast after Midnight Mass, and how children set our shoes around the Christmas tree in anticipation of a visit from le Père Noël.

Continuing on to Japan, we learn about O-Shogatsu, the Japanese New Year. lasting from January 1st through the 3rd. An important symbol of the New Year is the Daruma Doll. There are no pupils in the Darumas eyes. The tradition is to make a wish, and paint a pupil in the left eye. If the wish comes true, you paint in the right pupil.

We’ll come back to The American Adventure later. Our next stop for now will be Italy.
To me, the most heart wrenching tale of a gift bringer is that of the kind-hearted witch La Befana who arrives on the eve of the Epiphany, January 5th, to grant gifts to good children.

As her story goes, the Three Wise Men visited Befana at her home and asked if she knew where to find the baby Jesus. She did not, but offered them shelter for the night. The magi invited her to join them on the journey to find the baby Jesus, but she declined. Later, La Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out the astrologers and Jesus. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the little baby. -sniff- This story gets me every time I hear it.

In Germany, we meet Helga, who teaches us how to say Merry Christmas in German. She explains how many Christmas traditions such as the advent calender and Christmas trees began in Germany. She also tells us of her first nutcracker.

Norway has, in my opinion, one of the most entertaining gift givers, Julenissen, the Christmas Gnome.

But before we meet him, we meet Sigrid, who cannot see Julenissen, only we, the audience can at first.

While we learn of the traditions of Christmas in farm communities in Norway, Julenissen gets up to mischief, and plays tricks on poor Sigrid, with the help of the audience, until, in the end, he reveals himself to her.

Back to The American Adventure, where Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are represented, both of which we never did get to see this trip.

Here, you won’t hear a story from Santa, but instead, get to sit on his knee, and tell him what you’d like for Christmas. He is joined by Mrs. Claus.

Did we get our photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus? Of course!
In fact, Barbie made the dress she is wearing for just this occasion!

Regardless of how you celebrate, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season!

Don’t miss a moment of Nick and Barbie’s Disney adventures!  Follow along at the Disney Musings Blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Pinterest. You can listen to Nick, our friend Dave and me on The Disney Exchange Podcast where we talk about…well, you can probably guess.

Headed to Walt Disney World in 2016? The Disney Exchange Podcast will be having a meet-up in February during the Princess Half Marathon Weekend! Details will be available on The Disney Exchange’s Facebook Page and also on Twitter. We’d love to see you there!!!