Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What's Your Favorite Candy Bar? Or Why Crowdsourcing Your Trip on FaceBook Is A Bad Call

You've seen it before; someone on your Facebook feed asks for recommendations for their upcoming trip to Walt Disney World. It's likely they have never been and are looking for tips and tricks to get them started. This post may or may not phase you. Maybe you get all excited and recommend all your favorite attractions, and where your favorite parade seats are, and where they just have to get dining reservations. Or you may just scroll right past thinking, that's a nightmare I don't want to get involved with. When I see those posts, I cringe. I cringe because not only will there be a ton of erroneous information, I cringe because their friends are cheerfully letting them know all the things they liked (and didn't) while in no way considering your family's needs and desires. They are telling you what their favorite candy bar is, not telling you where you can find your favorite.

Remember that jingle from Almond Joy and Mounds? Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't. This is what a good travel planner can parse out for you. When you are considering a trip to Walt Disney World the last thing you need is the conflicting advice from your friends; some of them like nuts, some don't. What you really need is the help of a Disney travel planner. These people are trained in all things Disney. They have experience and knowledge your friends who went two years ago don't. You need to think about what it is your family likes, what your needs are, how you like to travel, and where you like to stay.

Consider this: Are you foodies, and if so, do you have food allergies? Are you the family that likes to go till you drop, or do you like a more leisurely pace? Does your family like to swim, or do you prefer a playground? Are you into broadway shows, or thrill rides, or both? Do you like a high level of convenience in your trip, or do you want to travel on a shoestring? Do you want autonomy, or do you like to have someone else handle the details? Maybe you want a resort with a lot of kitsch and activity, or maybe you like to stay in a quiet, out of the way place. These are not the questions your friends are considering when they recommend their favorite candy bars. They are assuming you like the same ones they do. Maybe you do, but odds are, there are some things that you like that they just don't.

So the next time you see a Facebook post asking for Disney recommendations, the best recommendation you can give is to refer them to a Disney travel planner, preferably one like me who has been over 50 times and can offer sound advice with up to date, accurate, information on all the policies and practices at Walt Disney World. I can't tell you the number of times I have seen downright incorrect information given by well meaning individuals. It's not that they are trying to sabotage your vacation, but if you listen to only the advice of friends, you are bound to be disappointed. Walt Disney World is constantly changing. They add and take away experiences on a regular basis. It's an amazing trip, but it can also be a disaster. It would be such a shame to think you are going to get one sort of candy bar and end up with your least favorite in return. Call a Disney travel planner. You will be so thankful you did.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Celebrate Flag Day with Margaritas!

Hello readers! Did you know it's flag day in Mexico today? I think a little margarita celebration is in order, don't you? Let's take a look back at one of my favorite Cinco de Mayo posts ever!

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we decided to do our own Disney Margarita Tour. If you are a margarita fan, you will no doubt know that La Cava del Tequila is THE place to go for some of the best and most inventive margaritas on property. But it's not the ONLY place. We chose to recreate some new and some vintage recipes to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some of the the old crew. What a blast!

And special thanks to the hubs for the incredible food!

Here are the recipes we tried. We salted all of our glasses with pink Himalayan salt. Enjoy them! And until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Sun-Kissed Margarita
From Mickey's Gourmet Cookbook
(Outer Rim, Contemporary - which is no longer there)

Lemon Rind
Kosher salt
1.5 oz 80 percent oak-aged tequila
3/4 oz brandy-based orange liqueur
3/4 orange liqueur
4 oz sour mix
crushed ice
lime wheel
1 oz orange juice

Rub the rim of the cocktail glass with lemon rind & dip into kosher salt. Combine tequila, liqueurs & sour mix in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into salt-rimmed cocktail glass. Top with orange juice. Garnish with lime wheel.

Seven Seas Sunset -- same as above, but substitute cranberry juice for the orange juice.

Avocado Margarita 

La cava del Tequila - Epcot's Mexico Pavillion
(recipe from Disney Food Blog)

1/2 ripe Haas avocado
2 oz white 100% agave Tequila
1 oz Midori melon liquor
juice of one lime
1 oz. Agave syrup

Blend all ingredients in a blender until very smooth and creamy. Serve in salt rimmed glass. (use Hibiscus salt if you can. Look for it at the market next time you're in the Mexico pavilion in Epcot!)

Habanero Lime Margarita
available at any resort lounge
(Recipe from Party Through The Parks)

1 part Patron Silver tequila
3 parts Mr. & Mrs. T's sweet & sour
pour ingrédients over ice and add a good drizzle of Monin habanero lime syrup and the juice from half a lime

Agave Nectar Margarita
available at any resort lounge
(from Party Through The Parks)

1 part Tierras Organic Blanco tequila
3 parts simple syrup made with agave nectar (50% agave/50% water)
Pour ingrédients over ice and add the juice from 1/2 a lime

Jalapeño Margarita Recipe
(Cava del Tequila - Mexico pavilion, Epcot)

1/4 fresh cucumber (peeled and seeded and then cut into 1.5" pieces)
2" piece green bell pepper (seeded)
1/2 of 1 small jalapeño (seeded and cut into 1.5" pieces)
1 shot Silver tequila
Fresh lime juice
Triple Sec - orange flavor
Simple Syrup / agave nectar

Method: place fruit in the bottom of your glass and muddle to release some of the juices. Don't go crazy here, muddling shouldn't create a mush of fruit, just sufficiently bruise them. Top off the glass with ice and add 2 parts tequila, 1 part triple sec, 2 parts lime juice, 1 part simple syrup made with agave nectar. Shake and serve in a Himalayan salt rimmed glass.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Walt Disney World 101 | 10 Of Our Favorite Touring Tips

We are gearing up in the cottage for a Spring Break trip to Walt Disney World! It's been a while since we have braved the madness of a packed theme park. And a little refresher is always a good idea! So today I share my Top 10 WDW Touring Tips with you.

These are tried and true and used on every Walt Disney World vacation we take. Some are obvious, some are not. Some have taken us a while to realize, some have been with us from the very beginning (and I do mean from the VERY beginning!). I can still hear my dad shouting, "Left side, Amy!" I hope you enjoy them and they come in useful for you and your touring party too.

  1. Stay To The Left. This may be the single most important tip we have. Our American tendency is to stay to the right. And most tourists will choose the line or the attraction that is to their right. As we've continued to travel to WDW this rule has morphed somewhat into, take the path farthest from the door (or humanity). You'd be surprised how much faster you can get your burger and fries if you just move to the farthest line.
  2. Wait To Leave The Parks. It sounds a little nutty, but if you don't have toddlers having historic melt downs, then stay a bit after the fireworks and linger in the shops or buy one last sweet treat. Let the transportation crush happen without you. Waiting to leave the park (especially the Magic Kingdom) can make everyone's night much better.
  3. Arrive Early. If you can't manage the late nights, consider arriving for rope drop. The MK has a fun celebration prior to opening and all parks are clean and sparkling early in the morning; often you can get some nice photos with just your family in them.
  4. Make A Dining Reservation For The Hour Before Park Opening. Some character meals allow for early entry to the parks. You must have a reservation and all the members of your party before you can go in, but you can eat in the park before it is officially open. This has two advantages; obviously you can maximize your time in that first line or two and you can get some really great photos without the crush of humanity.
  5. Get A Haircut At The Harmony Barber Shop. This is strictly a Magic Kingdom experience, but I love doing this! Our first kid had the privilege of having his first haircut there. I HIGHLY recommend this! There was all sorts of kitsch and celebration and they are excellent with a wiggly kid.
  6. Watch The Parade From Frontierland. Again, this is specific to the Magic Kingdom, but we have had excellent luck finding a good spot for viewing the parade and it's usually much less hectic. This is not the best plan if you want to see the fireworks after the parade. And as an added bonus, we can hit the Pirates of the Caribbean on the way out!
  7. Hit Your Favorite Rides During the Evening Entertainment. If you are not watching the parade, the fireworks, or Illuminations, this is an excellent time to ride your favorite (usually crowded) rides. E-ticket rides were the most expensive and usually most desired rides when Disneyland and Walt Disney World opened. We still have a tendency to refer to them as such around the cottage.
  8. Use The Single Rider Lines. If you are not opposed to riding next to someone you don't know, the single rider line can be a great time saver. Usually Mr. Photos From The Parks and Doc can ride the same coaster, or consecutive coasters and come out beaming. 
  9. Grab A Button At Guest Relations. Especially if you are celebrating a birthday, first visit, or anniversary, get a button! The cast members are wonderful at making a little extra magic happen. You can even request a birthday phone call at your resort when checking in! 
  10. Talk To Cast Members. They are incredibly willing to help, share Disney trivia, tell jokes, trade pins, hand out stickers and trading cards, and just in general make your trip enjoyable. One of my favorite interactions was with a street sweeper in Animal Kingdom who kept my kids entertained with jokes as we were all headed to the exit together. 
Remember to try and stay positive while you're touring and enjoy the time you have, even in the small moments. It's the happiest place on Earth, and you deserve a great vacation! Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Magical Coffee | Tinkerbell Coffee Cup Cozy

Sometimes a project just falls into your lap: you realize that you have all the supplies you need and suddenly you go from idea to finished project in less than 48 hours. This Tinkerbell Coffee Cozy is just such a project. and I really love the way it turned out!

Last Thursday I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while. As we were chatting with one another we suddenly realized that we went to the same very small college but had just missed one another by a year! It's not something that happens too often and so we had to do all the requisite reminiscing about our alma mater. Later, she mentioned that she loved my Mickey Coffee Cozy (which I almost always have with me!) and further mentioned how she needed one (like NEEDED one) that was Tinkerbell. So how could I resist? I knew I needed a new project for the blog too, so voila! Here you go! Magical Tinkerbell coffee at your service!

This one is not knit, it's crocheted; so you'll need to get your hooks out! But if memory serves, March is national crochet month, so it's the perfect time to dust them off and get this party started! If you want all the details on how to make one for yourself, you can see my notes on Ravelry. I didn't make an actual pattern for it, but if you are willing to do a little guess work, and you don't mind fudging a little bit on the pattern, it's fairly simple. 

I'm really pleased with how this project turned out! I would love to hear if you have done anything like this yourself. Let me know in the comments. And until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Life Get's In The Way

You know, I had this great blog post all written up about this amazing Adventures By Disney trip that I was going to take with my niece. We were going to head to London and Paris and be pampered like queens. We were going to meet Beefeaters, and make our own English tea and cycle around Versailles. I was SOOOO looking forward to it. And then, our oven broke, and our furnace crapped out and there goes my vacation budget right down the drain! I'm not going to pretend I'm fine with the whole thing, I really wanted to go on that trip! But, I am going to brush myself off and get busy saving again so we can try to go next time.
And here's my plug for travel insurance. You just never know when things like this are going to happen. I feel like a healthy gal like me probably wouldn't need to "waste my money" on something like travel insurance. But today, if you ask me if it was worth the $700 to get the other $9000 back? Yes it was. Every single penny. Did it seem superfluous at the time? Yes. Was I hesitant to get it? You bet I was. Am I glad I did? So glad.

Life happens. Parents get sick, kid's fall and break bones, and furnaces decide to give up the ghost. We can't control that sort of thing. But we can invest in our own peace of mind. I highly recommend getting the travel insurance. As a travel agent I have seen far too many trips have to be cancelled for circumstances out of our own control. Do yourself a favor and don't skimp.

Have you ever had to cancel your Disney vacation? I'd love to hear your horror stories too! Leave them in the comments below. And until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

DIY Disney's Bambi Valentine's Day Onesie

It's almost Valentine's Day and I thought I would re-post this adorable onesie from 2014. We have a lot of new readers who may not have seen this post and honestly, I just love it so much I wanted to share it again!

Have a very happy Valentine's Day.

We have a new little addition around the cottage these days, and I just couldn't resist whipping up a Bambi inspired Valentine onesie for her. It was so simple with the Silhouette SD and some fabric paint.

I used the baby deer shape (Design ID #5505 ), the hearts from the sheep card (Design ID #25095), and the font Coolvetica. The text is lifted from the main musical theme from Bambi, "Love Is A Song." I made sure that my design would fit a 4"x4" box, which was just right for a 0-3 month onesie. 

Once I had everything placed as I liked it, I cut out the shapes on stencil vinyl. This tutorial from the Silhouette blog was extremely helpful in getting it transferred to the fabric. From there, I painted the shirt with two coats of fabric paint and let it dry. Voila! A cute Disney themed valentine for our sweet new bundle of magic! I'm tempted to make one in an adult size for me. Happy Valentine's Day to you and your family. Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sitting With Grandmother Willow | Erin of My Fantasy Bands

As part of our on-going series, Sitting with Grandmother Willow, I am happy to introduce Erin of My Fantasy Bands. This series of blog posts highlights artists and bloggers of all stripes with one thing in common: a passion for Disney!

Erin sells high quality, water-safe, vinyl decals for your MagicBands in a whole host of themes! Whatever your Disney passion, she has something that will make you squee! Our family and friends (and my travel clients) have been using these for over a year and we just love them! They are durable and adorable. I hope you will enjoy getting to know Erin as much as I have. A big thanks to her for taking the time to interview with us and offering a special coupon code exclusively for my readers! And be sure to visit her shop for a great selection of Disney themed decals for your MagicBands.

Disney By The Numbers (with apologies to Harper's)

# of trips you have made:  As an adult, four   I lived in Orlando for about 3 years as a child, and had a few day trips during that time.
Date of first trip:   February 2007, The Husband Unit and I were 28 and I was pregnant with our first daughter.  
Date of next trip:  Undecided, sometime in 2017 I hope!  
# of Resorts stayed in:  Five  (Pop, Art of Animation, All Star Music, French Quarter, Caribbean Beach ... my top 3 of these are AoA, French Quarter, and Pop)
Usual # in your travel party:  4 or 5, we had a neighbor friend who has come with us twice, but we have moved away from her now.  :(
Pairs of mouse ears in your cottage:  3 headband ears, 4 or 5 ear hats.

WDW or Disneyland (or other)?  I have never been to Disneyland  :(
How do you usually travel to Disney? We have driven twice and flown twice.  I prefer to fly!
Do you have any tips for trips?  Don't try to plan every moment of your trip.  Sometimes the best memories are ones that happen spontaneously.
Do you have a favorite place to eat while in Disney?  I love the Rose and Crown at Epcot, and Wolfgang Puck's Express at Disney Springs.  There are many table dining locations we have not experienced yet.  We usually have the Quick Service dining plan.  
What is your absolute DON'T MISS attraction?   Magic Kingdom is my favorite park, so all my favorites just happen to be there.  My top 3 rides are Peter Pan's Flight, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and oddly enough, the People Mover.  I could ride the People Mover all day. Some people think it's boring, but I find it relaxing and enjoy the vantage point of the park from the elevated track.  

My don't miss attractions for other parks:  In Epcot I love Test Track and SOARIN (although I have not experienced the new revamped SOARIN), and I enjoy the hydroponic tour ride at Living with the Land.  At Hollywood Studios I enjoy Toy Story Mania, and the Rockin Roller Coaster, and the Little Mermaid show.  At Animal Kingdom I love the Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Finding Nemo show, and the Kali River Rapids.  

Stage shows, yes or no?  
Parades, yes or no?  For both of these, it depends on crowds and weather.  If we are able get to a parade or stage show early with a good vantage point, we will.  We really play it by ear.  If the parks are crowded or the weather is hot, we avoid parades and try to stay on the move and hit more ride attractions.    Indoor stage shows are a great way to escape the heat. If crowds are lighter and weather is mild, we might slow down to watch a parade or outdoor stage show. We try to attend a fireworks show at least twice during our vacation, often more.  

Best Fast Pass to get:  SOARIN, Mine Train, Toy Story Mania.   
Favorite park:  Magic Kingdom!
One piece of advice you'd give a novice about WDW/DL:  Don't try to see and do EVERYTHING, it's impossible.  Make a list of your must-do attractions, and prioritize.  Also, be prepared for the unexpected, and try not to be too bummed at the end of your trip if something didn't happen.  Remember that you were at DISNEY WORLD and your trip was probably pretty amazing even if you didn't see that one show or ride that one ride.  
How do you create extra magic for your family:  I casually shop around for months ahead of time gathering little Disney-themed trinkets from clearance sales and dollar stores.  I pack them in a secret bag to give my girls gifts throughout our vacation, and also have left "Mickey Mail" in our resort room for them to find.  This saves on spending big bucks on park souvenirs.  Each family member has a gift card to spend on a few special items in the parks.  

How can we connect with you?  Email or Instagram!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Doc Terminus's Magical Potion Bottle | DIY Disney Halloween

I have been holding on to this idea for a while and I FINALLY had the time to sit down and hammer it out! And I am so glad to be able to share this downloadable with you too!

My regular readers will know that I have a love for all things Pete's Dragon. (The original Pete's Dragon - the jury is still out for us on the remake.) I grew up watching the original from the 70s as well as the Main Street Electrical Parade. It just isn't the MSEP until I see Elliot and Pete come lumbering down Main Street all aglow! This movie and its characters hold a special place in my heart. I've already posted two Pete's Dragon t-shirt designs here. You can sport your Passamaquoddy Tavern shirt or your love of Elliot design instead. And remember, as I always say, these designs come on several different products - not just Ts! I love my Be Brazzle Dazzle pencil case! It's so versatile.

One of my favorite characters in the original movie is Doc terminus, the snake oil salesman who comes breezing into Passamaquoddy in his crazy land-boat and even though he has duped these townspeople time and again, he plows forth and sells them his snake oil once again!

I was inspired by this great bottle (and empty Uncle Val's Botanical Gin bottle - which I HIGHLY recommend!) to make an homage to Doc Terminus to add to our very Disney Halloween Decor! If you would like to have this bottle label for you very own, you can download it for FREE by clicking here. If you use it, I would love to see how! Tag me on IG @merryweatherscottage or here on the blog! Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Customizing Your MagicBands with My Fantasy Bands

If you have been to Walt Disney World lately you will notice that the DIY and customized Disney experience is at an all time high! LOADS of us are sporting our special shirts, hats, bags and now MagicBands. Of course, we at the cottage are TOTALLY into that!

Today I wanted to introduce you to one of my favorite products for customizing your MagicBand: My Fantasy Bands. These decals are professionally printed and can withstand the abuse of my family! We are still using these same magic bands a year later. And they have all been in the pool and the shower/bath and remain on the bands with no peeling. I am really impressed with the quality of these decals. In fact, if you have booked a trip with me in the last few months, you may have received a surprise package of these for your very own MagicBands!

These decals were really easy to apply, and they come with instructions on how to make them last. Plus she has ALL SORTS of great themes, some seasonal, some Disney related, some just for fun! I can't recommend these highly enough. And if you are on Instagram, you can see lots of her designs modeled by actual guests by following @myfantasybands. Have fun perusing Erin's site! Until next time, may all your days be filled with fairy dust!