It’s perfectly normal to plan your next trip to Disney while you are still there…

Because, who really goes to Disney and doesn’t start thinking of when they might get back for another magical visit.  Yes, that was the underlying rhythm of my time at Disney Social Media Moms.  “It’s ok if we can’t do that because we’ll be back in November.”  “Won’t IT Boy enjoying doing that…in November!”

In December of last year, I started looking to 2012 to try and plan a vacation for the family to WDW.  I knew that Grandma and the kids were in, I just had to work on Mr. IT.  Once I got consensus from the whole crew, I started looking for a hotel.

At first, we thought staying at one of the Disney Vacation Club villas was the way to go.  A one bedroom would give us a good amount of room…and beds…for the family.  Unfortunately, since I didn’t want the kids out of school for a long time, we were going during Thanksgiving week and that means peak season rates.  The villas were just crazy expensive.  So I checked out Art of Animation, where they have family suites.  At this point, the resort wasn’t open and I knew little about it.  But it sounded nice, so I looked.  I could get a suite for a decent rate.

My last step was to check out the Swan and Dolphin.  We’ve stayed here a lot.  So much so that Soccer Girl and I are truthfully a little burnt out on them.  They are lovely properties in an ideal location, but they aren’t Disney.  They’re operated by Starwood, which means they are top notch hotels, but a little lacking in the pixie dust.  They also cater to a convention crowd, which means their peak times aren’t necessarily in sync with Disney properties, and sometimes you can use it to your advantage.  I was able to do just that, securing two rooms for about what the Art of Animation suite would run.

However, once Soccer Girl saw the Art of Animation resort, she was determined to stay there.  And I really couldn’t blame her.  It’s new, it’s stunning, and it’s dripping in pixie dust.  But I kept thinking about how our ROOMS at the Dolphin offered 4 beds for 5 people – nice heavenly beds too.

Leave it to K, who has the office next to me at work, to come up with a solution.  She patiently listened to my dilema and suggested we stay one or two nights at the Art of Animation to give us a feel for the place, and then transfer to the Dolphin.  I initiatlly resisted, because I just hate packing and unpacking.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  One day would be enough to allow IT Boy the time to climb on every car in the Cars area, and allow Soccer Girl to soak up all that the Nemo pool has to offer.  It would also provide us with the Magic Express service to Disney, which you don’t get at the Swan and Dolphin hotels.

In the end, I think we’ll be really happy with that compromise.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – Cars!

In my previous posts, I showed you a bit of the inside and outside of the Finding Nemo areas of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.  Soccer Girl and I were completely falling in love with this place.  She desperately wanted to change our November vacation plans to stay at this resort.  I, tho a fan as well, felt the resort might be a bit better for a family that wasn’t 5 people including a grandmother.

She dragged me over to the Cars area to help make up my mind in her favor.  While not open and a little dark, the area could be viewed through some barriers.  You could see that this was something special.

This was the path away from Animation Hall and the Nemo area leading to Cars.

The pool wasn’t visible, but just hearing it called “Cozy Cone” made me smile.

Good thing IT Boy wasn’t there or he would have been climbing all over Doc Hudson.

Even though it was dark and hard to photograph, it was plain to see that you were in a completely different world from Nemo.  You felt like you were walking right into the set of Cars.  As if there were a set.  Which, as a digitally animated movie, there wasn’t.  But you knew that, right?

So, what to do, what to do?  Soccer Girl was making her case, and continuing to make her case all the way home to NY.  It wasn’t until I put on my Winnie the Pooh think think think hat that I came up with what I think is a brilliant solution.  Oh yeah, and I also got the idea from my neighbor at work.  Giving credit where credit is due.  More about that in my next post.

Where do you like to stay at WDW?  What are your priorities when it comes to accommodations? Location?  Transportation?  Themes?  Let me know in the comments below.

Disclosure: As an attendee of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, I received for a fee hotel accommodations, park tickets, many meals and access to special events not made available to the public.  Disney did not ask me or anyone to blog about this event, but being a fan of the company I can’t help myself. This post originally ran on ConfessionsofanITGirl.com.  

 

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – The Suites

In a previous post, I started my sneak-peak at the new Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World.  Art of Animation is a new value resort featuring family suites and standard rooms that put you in the world of some of your favorite Disney animated films.

The closing night party of Disney Social Media Moms was held at the resort.  As you can see, we had a great time.

But as great as the resort was from the outside, we couldn’t wait to see what the rooms look like.  I haven’t stayed in the value resort properties, so I had never experienced what Disney considered a “family suite.”

This is what you see when you first walk into the room.  It’s in the small entry area of the suite.  You think, oh, it’s a a table and chairs.  But it’s more than that, as you will soon see.

Off to the right, at least in the room I looked at, was the living area.  You can see some drawers for storage, a TV and all the way on the left is a rack for hanging clothes.  These rooms certainly make the most out of the space.

This is the other side of the living room area.  Anyone who has seen Nemo even half as much as I have will get a kick out of all the cute touches like the hanging school of fish.

To the right of the couch is this “kitchenette”.  It’s a microwave, sink and a fridge.  You’re not doing any real cooking here, but it’s great for snacks and light meals.

Here’s the bedroom and the queen sized bed.  Notice the special Mickey towel sculpture.

The rooms also have TVs and dressers – behind the door is another clothing rack for storage.

Remember the dining room table earlier in the post?  Voila – it folds down to be a second bed in the room.

I had to try it out.  It was pretty comfy all things considered.

The couch in the living area also folds out to be a bed.  Overall, the suites can sleep 5 – two in the queen bed in the bedroom, 2 in the pull down bed, and 1 on the couch.

The suites have two full bathrooms, which is a big selling point for me.

Themeing, as you can expect, is really everywhere.

We were all wowed by the attention to detail in these rooms.  You really felt like you were living in Nemo’s world.

I still had some reservations about us changing our vacation plans to stay here, as Soccer Girl was begging and pleading me to do.  I think the rooms are perfect for a family who might otherwise consider getting 2 rooms to fit everyone and all their stuff.  If it was just our family going, this would be perfect.  But Grandma was coming on this trip, and the sleeping arrangements would be complicated to say the least.

To persuade me further, Soccer Girl walked me into the still under-construction Cars area.  Cars is one of IT Boy’s favorite movies, and she knew that if she were going to plead her case, the Boy was the way to my heart.  Stay tuned…

Where do you like to stay at WDW?  What are your priorities when it comes to accommodations? Location?  Transportation?  Themes?  Let me know in the comments below.

Disclosure: As an attendee of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, I received for a fee hotel accommodations, park tickets, many meals and access to special events not made available to the public.  Disney did not ask me or anyone to blog about this event, but being a fan of the company I can’t help myself. This post originally ran on ConfessionsofanITGirl.com.  

First Impressions of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

The closing night party of Disney Social Media Moms was held at the soon-to-open Art of Animation resort.  We were all so excited to see what magic Disney had in store for us, but no one was prepared for how amazing this resort is turning out.

Here’s the view when we pulled up on the buses, and would probably be your first view of the resort as an arriving guest.  Right away, I knew we were in for some fun.

The resort celebrates Disney’s history of leadership and creativity in animation.   That’s on display right away when you enter “Animation Hall.”

Animation Hall traces the history of animation as only Disney could.  When you come through the doors, you see very simple pencil sketches lining the walls. You may also notice that the floor is black and white.  But as you walk along, the sketches start to evolve into more finishes images.

The floor too changes from monochrome to brush strokes and rich colors, finally to the pixels that represent digital animation.


This shot gives you a wide view of the other side of the reception area as it leads away from the entrance.

Once you’ve checked in, guests can head to their rooms, or get a bit to eat at the food court on the other end of Animation Hall.  It’s not functioning yet, but I got a few shots of the dining area.

Disney really knows how to roll out the welcome mat.  When we showed up at the hotel, there was a line of cast members who broke out into applause.  As if *we* had done anything to create this magic resort!  Plus, they had cocktails for us.  I liked these people immediately.

We soon left Animation Hall, because as lovely as it was, it was only the beginning…

There was FOOD!  Around the most beautiful sight you could imagine.  This is the Finding Nemo themed pool, and once open it will be the largest pool on Disney property.  The theming and imagery was OFF THE HOOK.

Soccer Girl was walking around with her mouth wide open in amazement.  Or maybe that was from the food.  Whatever it was, this place was winning her over.

If you have a kid who is into the animated films, specifically The Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid or Cars, you have got to consider Art of Animation when making your Disney travel plans.  It’s as if your favorite movies have come to life.

Soccer Girl was in heaven, and she knew her little brother would be too.  But I already had confirmed reservations at another resort on property and wasn’t sure we wanted to change.

In my next post, I take you on a tour of one of the family suites at Art of Animation.  You’re going to see how an already tough decision got tougher.

Disclosure: As an attendee of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, I received for a fee hotel accommodations, park tickets, many meals and access to special events not made available to the public.  Disney did not ask me or anyone to blog about this event, but being a fan of the company I can’t help myself. This post previously ran on Confessions Of An It Girl.  

DRINKING DIARIES book review

Disclosure: I received a copy of DRINKING DIARIES from Culture Mom Media for the purposes of this review. The links include my Amazon affiliate account where I would receive a commission for any sales made.  

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 5.10.31 PMLike most women, I’ve had a complex relationship with alcohol.  I lived with my mom and my grandparents growing up.  My grandfather was an undiagnosed and unrecognized alcoholic. Someone who was putting away 4-5 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, meticulously warmed over the stove for maximum impact.  To deal with this and blot it out, my grandmother drank a huge chug-glug of Harvey’s Bristol Creme after dinner.  Not to to be outdone, my mom would have a glass of boxed white wine when she got home from her teaching job.  The ironic thing about all of this is my parents divorced in part because of my father’s alcoholism.  He left the family and got sober.  The rest of them apparently didn’t get the memo.  It’s no wonder I couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever want to drink.

My first memory of tasting alcohol was with some friends out in Aquebogue NY, where we had a summer house.  I was 12, maybe 13, and my friends (all daughters of a local policeman I might add) decided we s

hould sneak into the woods for some beer and cigarettes.  Why is not really a relevant question here, because when you are that age, why doesn’t matter.  The girls took the smokes from their dad, and I was charged with sneaking some PBR (we did NOT call it that, back in the day, but it’s easier for blogging to call it that).  I brought two cans out of the house and we met in the woods next to their house.  We lit up the smokes and did the customary teen hacking cough (WHAT were we thinking?) and then opened the beer.  The cans were warm and very foamy and when we tasted the neither cool nor refreshing beverage, we quickly decided to give up on the afternoons activities and catch the end of Luke and Laura’s hijinks on General Hospital.

As a teen and young adult, moderation was not really a word I understood.  There are some classic drinking stories from my college days, and for the time being they shall stay out of this blog.  I found as I got older that it was really an all or nothing when it came to booze.  I was either in for a case or sitting on the sidelines.  Even now, I think about the calories in a pint before I decide that I want to forgo dinner to have some Guinness.

But after reading DRINKING DIARIES, the equal parts entertaining and thought provoking new book from Seal Press, I think the real reason I don’t drink is I don’t ever want to lose control again.  To be dependent on something, or someone, to such a point that you cannot live without it.  And yes, I judge.  I once was meeting someone for lunch and she had to change restaurants because the place we were set to dine at didn’t have a liquor license.  It was lunchtime.  On a Wednesday.  How could you need a drink that much, unless, as I reasoned, she was a alcoholic.  In my mind, anyone who drinks more than 5 times a week falls into that category.  Maybe I see it as a sign of weakness.  Maybe I’m totally off the mark.  This attitude I know would not fly in Europe where most people don’t bat an eye when you drink at lunchtime.  But I do.  Can’t help it.  One thing I took away from the book is that everyone has their stories and attitudes when it comes to drinking.  They’re not all the same, but boy, will they make you think.  I loved hearing the stories of the women in this book.  They’re great writers and boy can they spin a yarn.   I can definitely say that I’d like to share some margaritas with them.  Without judgment of course.

You can purchase DRINKING DIARIES through this link or at a bookstore near you.

 

 

 

 

All the World’s a Stage, March Edition

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 10.34.45 AMLast month, I had the pleasure of taking in two new productions on Broadway.

This was pretty unique for several reasons.  First off, both plays were in previews when I saw them.  What exactly does that mean in this day and age?  Well, productions in previews can still and often do make changes to songs, casts, and running order.  The performers haven’t done the play for months and months, so sometimes they miss a cue or the staging is off.  I rather like that – it can feel fresher than other plays where you know that someone has done the part 700 times and could do it in his sleep.  Secondly, I don’t often go to two shows in a month.  Really.  In the case of the musical, we had been planning since October to see it, and we knew we had to buy tickets first to get good seats.  When it came to the play, a group of theater going friends mentioned that we hadn’t seen anything in ages, and we needed to get another play in our diaries.  A couple of productions were suggested, but since it was a limited run, we decided on LUCKY GUY.

Also worth noting, neither of these tickets were comped or discounted.  That’s the sound of me paying full fare, in case you were wondering.

So let’s talk LUCKY GUY.  Here’s the description, directly from the Lucky Guy website:

Two-time Academy Award® winner TOM HANKS makes his Broadway debut in the world premiere of three-time Academy Award nominee NORA EPHRON’s play LUCKY GUY, directed by two-time Tony Award® winner GEORGE C. WOLFE.

LUCKY GUY marks a return to Ephron’s journalistic roots in a new play about the scandal- and graffiti-ridden New York of the 1980s, as told through the story of the charismatic and controversial tabloid columnist Mike McAlary, who won the Pulitzer Prize shortly before his untimely death on Christmas Day, 1998.

The story of McAlary is told through his fellow journalists and his wife. It takes place during the great newspaper wars of the late 1900s (sounds so old doesn’t it?)  I remember well reading the tabloids and following along with the strikes, columnist tantrums and the like.  I always thought it was so glamorous, the hard-bitten life of a journalist.  And so did playwright Ephron.  You can tell that she wants to bring back the glory of the newspaper man.

So overall, there are good things and not so good things about the production.

GOOD THINGS – First, the actors.  Even though Tom Hanks rules the marquee and does a wonderful job in the title role, it’s Courtney B. Vance who had me marveling at how damn good he was.  Sure, you’ve seen him in movies and on TV, you know he’s an amazing actor.  But in this show he ruled the stage.  The supporting cast was very good too.  All top notch actors.  Mostly.

Next, the pacing of the story was very good – kept you really interested and cut way down on the fidget factor.  The staging was very creative and well done.

NOT SO GOOD THINGS: Perhaps it is a fault of the story or of the times, but I found the female POV to be lacking.  Mike’s wife Alice is a part of the story, but I found her perspective to be lacking.  Also, at the end, she has what is supposed to be a long and touching monologue but it just didn’t move me.  Maybe it was the actress (Maura Tierney) but the character just didn’t bring it home.  It especially bothered me because there was a female playwright.  But I guess you cannot bring to the front that which is firmly in the back.  Deidree Lovejoy had a few scene stealing moments, but again, her character wasn’t written as a main part of the story, probably because there weren’t many women in the news room in those days.

There were one or two scenes that I felt could have been firmed up a bit – the part where Hanks’ and Vance’s characters are experiencing a heroin high felt particularly weak.  Maybe if the playwright had been around during the run she would have worked them differently?  We will never know.

Overall, this is still a play to catch if you have the time.  It’s a limited run, so if you are into it, don’t dawdle.  It’s been extended through July 3, so you have more options!

 

courtesy of RSC
courtesy of RSC

Next, MATILDA!  I saw this performance in London last year at the urging of a friend.  And when I say urging, I’m not kidding.  To pacify her, I literally walked off the plane, dropped my bags, and headed to the theater to snag a ticket.  It was a Wednesday, and I was looking for Saturday night, but by luck they had seats at that day’s matinee.  I was able to get a great seat in the stalls, walk around Covent Garden for an hour or so, enjoy a falafel on the street, and then head in for the performance.  Jet lag be dammed!  And you know what?  It was completely worth it.  The show is amazing, but you don’t need me to tell you that.  Reviewers on both sides of the pond have come out cheering for the story of the little girl dreams of a better life and took a stand to change her destiny.

I recall saying to a woman in front of me who had brought her daughter to the show that it was one of the best shows I have ever seen.  She agreed, having come from NEW ZEALAND with the specific goal of seeing it.  I said that I hoped the US productions would get the accents right and I would imagine they would do something like bring the amazing Bertie Carvel who plays evil Miss Trunchbull to the US in order to have some buzz from the get go.

I’m all for saying I’m right, and when the US production was announced, Carvel’s name was attached to it.  I was thrilled – I desperately wanted to take Sarah to see it.  I even called our theater friends from outside the show in London, yelling something unintelligible about WE NEED TO GET TICKETS TO THIS IMMEDIATELY.

As soon as tickets went on sale, we picked up some for one of the previews.  It was everything we hoped it would be.  The girls were amazed by the visuals of the production and power of the performances of all the actors, especially the Trunchbull!  I can’t wait for the Tonys to be announced.  Mark my words, just like in London, MATILDA will be nominated for EVERYTHING.  I hope they perform “When I Grow Up” on the awards show – that number just makes my heart sing.

So, two very different shows, appearing right next to each other, but both worth your time and money.

 

 

New Releases – Minnie and Daisy Books

The Pixie Dust Girls were the recipients of a lovely package from Disney Publishing.  It was a to-die-for Minnie Mouse tote bag filled with a few treats, including new books and a magazine all about Minnie and Daisy.

Have you ever wondered what Minnie and Daisy’s lives were like before Mickey and Donald?  Minnie and Daisy were friends long before they met their dashing duck and magical mouse, and they went through all the trials and tribulations of growing up just like all girls do.

 Now, Minnie and Daisy have their very own magazine and four chapter books that are the perfect read for tween girls who embrace school, sports, fashion, and growing up:

In Minnie & Daisy B.F.F. Magazine, girls will read about the power of friendship, take quizzes, do fun crafts, learn about caring for pets, read about fashion and their favorite music, and play games with their best gal pals. Surprise posters and comics are included, too! The magazine hits newsstands today at all major retail outlets nationwide for $4.99.

Even more fun is available through the Minnie & Daisy B.F.F. chapter book series! Two new books include “The Pesky Pet,” “Much Ado About Juliet,” “Dance Jitters,” with two additional books coming out in July.” Tween girls can read along as Minnie and Daisy get themselves in, and out, of some typical teenage situations. These titles are available for $6.99 wherever books and eBooks are sold.

PicMonkey Collage disney books

 

My girl is a little too old for these (13) but like a true pixie dust girl she squealed with delight anyhow and read the books for fun to her little brother.  Yes, the small man has quite a crush on these two fetching ladies, so he sat still for almost the whole read thru.  I think any tween girl would think these were awesome as they are a very girly take on the chapter book.

Disclosure: I received a tote bag with gifts and books from Disney Publishing but was not required or asked to review the books.    

 

 

A Night with ANN

0It’s time for the Pixie Dust Girl to get back to the theatre!  I’ve had quite a month when it comes to seeing shows, and I want to share it all with you, starting with ANN.

Last week, I got the chance to check out this new play written by and starring actress Holland Taylor.

ANN is an intimate, no-holds-barred portrait of Ann Richards, the legendary Governor of Texas. This inspiring and hilarious new play brings us face to face with a complex, colorful and captivating character bigger than the state from which she hailed. Written and performed by Emmy Award winner Holland Taylor (“Two and a Half Men”), ANN takes a revealing look at the impassioned woman who enriched the lives of her followers, friends and family.

Let me just say that I absolutely ADORE Holland Taylor.  She’s practically a master class in comic timing.  When I heard that she was doing this play, I was intrigued.  Where did she come up with the idea of taking on the story Ann Richards, Texas Governor?  Would my conservative Texas father disown me for attending the play, even though I was there for the actress, not the story?  Could a one-woman show that runs about 2 hours with an intermission keep my attention and ward off the fidget bugs?

The answers to these questions are here, don’t know yet but remember it wasn’t a political statement, and mostly yes.  Holland Taylor makes you forget you are watching Holland Taylor, and it’s not just the hair and makeup.  She truly embodies this woman, this myth, and makes her real.  From the openings of the play at a commencement address for an unnamed Texas school to the “day in the life” of the Governor, you truly get a sense of what drove this woman and what it was like to be a woman of power trying to lead her state.  The stories she tells about her parents (hint, there may be a reason for her having mother issues) and their place in putting her on the paths she took are intriguing.  There is a very good subplot (if a one-woman play can have a subplot) about a man on death row for murdering an elderly nun – will Gov Richards grant the man a stay of his execution?  She lays out exactly what a governor can and cannot do (issue a 30 day stay, yes, pardon him, no), weaving it expertly into all the other things that the Governor has to do in a day’s work.

Did I fidget?  A bit towards the conclusion of the second act.  After the day in the life ends, there seem to be 3 other scenes of Ann after death looking back that go on a little too long and could have been greatly condensed.  Would I take my husband, the master fidgeter, to see this?  Not sure.  On the one hand, I saw a few males doing the sleepy time head bob in the audience, including one gentleman right in front of me who was about to do a slumbering back flip into my lap.  On the other hand, he adores Holland Taylor too, and that can overcome a lot.  Overall, though, I really enjoyed the play and marveled at the tenacity of Holland Taylor – she’s no spring chicken but she can take over the stage for 2 hours straight, and let me tell you, if she flubbed a line, we were none the wiser.  The show is worth it, just make sure you keep your blood sugar levels even for maximum alertness.

The playing schedule for ANN is: Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets range from $75 – $125 and can purchased at the Vivian Beaumont Theater box office, online at lct.org or through Telecharge.com (212-239-
6200). A limited number of tickets priced at $30 will be available at every performance through LincTix, LCT’s program for 21 to 35 year olds. For information or to enroll, visit LincTix.org. A, limited number of $30.00 Student tickets for ANN are available two hours prior to curtain at the box office. Students must show
a valid student ID card. There is a limit of 1 ticket per ID.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE VISIT:
www.theannrichardsplay.com

Disclosure – I was provide with a pair of tickets to ANN by CultureMom Media.  I was not told what to say about the play, and I 100% own my fidgeting.