Monday, December 22, 2014

Adventures by Disney ~ New York Dreams ~ Part Four ~ Day 1

Time to start the adventure! We met in the lounge at The Manhattan Club for a provided continental breakfast, to meet our guides and get our welcome gift. We had time to socialize with our fellow travelers and share the excitement. Breakfast was a tad below average, company was way above.

We were then herded downstairs and out to the street for the wildest and most fun tour bus you will ever experience...The Ride. Two highly energetic and fun tour guides accompanied the true star of the event, which was the bus. Not to give away surprises, but be prepared to learn, laugh, sing, and sit dance.

After working up an appetite with all that excitement, we headed off to John's Pizzeria. As usual with Adventures by Disney, we were escorted right in to our tables, given a history of the restaurant and treated to an authentic and delicious New York pizzeria lunch.
Next up was a sobering and meaningful visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Included in our visit was the audio guide narrated by Robert DeNiro. The museum is extremely well done and is built on the footprints of the old towers. We had time to explore alone as well as spending time as a group with our guides filling us in on items of history only an expert would know.
We then boarded our bus and headed toward Battery Park to view the Statue of Liberty from a distance and have some gorgeous photo ops. If I had a complaint about this Adventure, it would be that this is as close as you get to the Statue of Liberty. I spoke with a guide about this and it was shared that that is a common concern. There would be many ways to incorporate a visit to the Statue of Liberty, and perhaps even Ellis Island, in the Adventure and I hope that's considered in the future.

Our evening ended at the Tribeca Grill, a restaurant partially owned by Robert DeNiro and decorated with artwork by his father. We had several delicious choices to make on what to eat, and beer and wine were included with our meal at no charge. We then had a special guest (no, not THAT special guest) who filled us in on history of the area and restaurant. That is one of the great things about Adventures by may be able to visit the same locales, but you will not get the history and the feel and the atmosphere provided by the guides and guests. Their insights and stories richen the experience greatly.

Thank heavens for our wonderful bus that took up back to our hotel at the end of the evening! No taxis or subways for us. Style all the way and door to door service.

Next up? Stay tuned.







Monday, December 15, 2014

Disney Heritage Recipe ~ Gingerbread Mickey Cookies ~ Monorail Cafe

Originally served at the Monorail CafĂ© at the Disneyland Hotel, these seasonal treats are still a favorite at Disney locations. There are no eggs in this recipe, so don't be nervous when you don't see this ingredient. This is a very stiff and dense dough, and can be hard to work. Even when rolled out thin, these cookies puff up when baked, so be sure and roll fairly thin. These are good and addicting. It's clear I need to work  on my decorating skills (again), so maybe that's a more fun resolution that many I could come up with.
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup water

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add dark molasses and blend until completely absorbed. Sift all dry ingredients together and add to butter mixture in thirds, alternating with water. Blend completely.
Store dough, wrapped in plastic, in refrigerator until well chilled.
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes.
 Bake on a greased cookie sheep for 8-10 minutes, depending on size (the really big ones needed 12-15 minutes). Cool on a wire rack.
Decorate with royal icing. ( 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar & 2 egg whites whipped until soft peaks form. Slowly add 3 to 3/1/2 cups powdered sugar until of good spreading consistency. Hardens quickly, so cover with a damp paper towel when not in use.)



Monday, December 1, 2014

The Christmas Adventures of Mickey (on the) Mantle

I love the vintage knee hugger elves with their felt bodies and whimsical plastic heads that originally came from Japan. And then, someone got an admittedly very clever idea, and made them into a franchise and new Christmas tradition. Good for them. But...but...the whole premise of this elf is that he moves around your house and spies on you so he can tattle (or to use stronger language, narc) to Santa about bad behavior. Not very festive and verging on the creepy. To counter this Bad Elf movement, we need a Good Elf, and who better than our favorite mouse who, because of his typical home, got to be named after a star baseball player.

Join Mickey as he prepares for Christmas and tells Santa only good things.

First things first. Since those other elves tend to cause problems, Mickey coaxed them into cozy winter sleeping pods (aka lidded cups..with a breathing hole! no worries), for the duration of the Christmas season.
Let the preparations begin! Mickey heads out in the snowy wilderness and begins to round up the reindeer to ensure they are ready for the big night.
Olaf, of course, always wants to be a part of happy and fun times, so popping in unexpectedly is just his speed
Spontaneously flying apart is also Olaf's speed. You don't think innocent and always sweet Mickey would have a hand in this, do you? (and if he did, I'm not telling).

It takes a crowd to make this special delivery.

Mickey knows it's important to practice, even if you're an angel, but something is not right. Has someone's hair caught fire? 

Mickey, the non narc elf, meets with Santa often to make sure that you and yours are on the list, with names spelled properly.
You work so hard getting everything set up for that perfectChristmas picture. And then...someone blinks, has their shirt all askew, or drops their candy cane. No time to re-do! Send out a real family moment this time.

Mickey stumbles upon the North Pole Music Theater storage shop, and pal Olaf is more than happy to try on different styles.
Even elves need to sleep. Sweet dreams are guaranteed swinging on a moonbeam.

Busy days build big appetites! Eat your sandwich first, and then you may have the candy cane. What's tucked away in that thermos, Mick?

What's better than a cup of coffee to perk you up? A cup of coffee made with the same blends used at Disney locations. You can find  them all at
Let those over exuberant folks help out! The memories are worth it.

Embrace the mess and relish the season.

Tinkerbell, full of sparkle, is worthy of her own tree.
Even Mickey is not past wishing on a star.

So how DO Santa's reindeer fly and cover the world in only one night? Sheldon knows.

 Sleep tight, Mickey. Still a lot to do before the big day!

Someone has to get those stockings prepped for filling, right?
 Christmas parties are a favorite for princesses.
 Curl up with some cocoa and cookies and watch a classic Christmas movie.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Adventures By Disney New York Dreams ~ Part Three ~ The Statue of Liberty & Wicked Broadway Performance

We found the ferry leaving Ellis Island and heading to the Statue of Liberty to be much less crowded than the ferry that originated from Battery Park.

Be prepared for a security check before you can enter the Statue. If you have items that are not permitted, there are lockers you can rent during your visit. There's no change machine available, so make your life easier and have some dollar bills and change handy.
Again, the headphones and guided audio is invaluable. Depending on your time allotment, you can spend a great deal of time learning the wonderful history of this icon, and if you're short on time you can skip bits that are more in depth than you need.

Depending on the type of ticket you bought, you may have access to the pedestal or the crown. Stunning and dizzying views abound. You'll come away with a tremendous appreciation of this national treasure.
Then it was back on the ferry, making sure to pick the one headed to Battery Park, a search for the subway line we started on in reverse, and back to our 57th street stop. A quick bite and pleasant walk found us arriving at The Gershwin Theatre on 51st Street with enough time to look around and settle in. Here I discovered what I call the "Broadway Sippy Cup". Brilliant. I'm sure this was started to avoid spills and glass breakage, but these plastic lidded cups given with drinks at Broadway shows are a great idea and a great freebie souvenir. Of course the cost of the drink is crazy, but here's a tip. I ordered wine and asked to have ice and seltzer added, so my cup was filled to the brim and lasted for the entire show.

I've seen Broadway shows on tour, and they are wonderful, but seeing a show in their permanent home is a quite a few steps above. Fantastic sets, highly talented performers and a historical venue. An amazing treat.

Walking back to the hotel was very nice, plenty of people in good moods sauntering along with us, and with no feeling of unease at any time.

A lovely day, and off to sleep with excitement for the Adventure to begin early in the morning!





Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Disneyland Resort Pumpkin Twists ~ My Take

I saw these treats on my latest Disneyland Resort visit, but found that even I couldn't eat all day, so missed these.
 Therefore, I was glad when the recipe and 'how to do' video showed up. The video was short and left out some steps, so I was a bit confused. So I printed out the recipe and was still a bit confused since the recipe says makes six. Six what? Six twists? Six huge sheets? Nope, the original recipe used 3 boxes of puff pastry so made 3 large sheets cut into 1 1/2" twists, etc. It just seemed easier to cut it down to a home sized treat, so here it is.

2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I didn't have this so used a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice)
1 teaspoon instant pectin (What? I had liquid pectin. Is this that? I didn't know so just left it out)
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (I heaped it)
Milk wash of 1 egg plus a bit of milk
Sanding sugar (none to be found in my town so just used regular)

Combine brown and white sugar, 1/2 of the pumpkin pie spice and pectin in a small bowl. Add pumpkin puree and mix well.

Lightly dust wax paper with flour, and place on it one sheet of puff pastry.  Roll lightly to remove creases. Spread pumpkin mixture over pastry, almost to, but not at, edge.
Roll out second sheet on another piece of flour dusted waxed paper.

Gently flop this second piece on top of the pumpkin coated piece and  lightly press down.

Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then cut into 1 1/2 inch strips. Preheat over to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully put your pumpkin strips on the sheet and twist.. Coat with egg wash and sanding sugar mixed with rest of the pumpkin pie spice, and bake for 22-24 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.
Verdict? Winner!



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Adventures By Disney New York Dreams ~ Part Two ~ Ellis Island Review

We arrived a day prior to our Adventures By Disney New York Dreams trip to specifically visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Neither of these is done during the Adventure. They need to address this! A guide and I discussed this as many want that experience during  the Adventure. I know just how they could fix this and will share later.

Goal for the day…get to Battery Park and visit both attractions, then make it back in time to see our very first Broadway show.

I dithered a lot on how to get to the ferry area, should I take a hop on hop off tour bus thing? Take a cab or brave the subway? We braved the subway, armed with a little map handily supplied by the Concierge at The Manhattan Club, and after only momentary panic figured it all out and made it safely and quickly to the final stop, Battery Park.

I cannot stress this enough. Pre purchase your ferry ticket! Purchase at the official site: where you can choose your time and if you want pedestal and/or crown access. Find your way to the line for those who pre purchased tickets (there are plenty of workers around to direct you), and be prepared for security checks.  The Ferry goes to the Statue of Liberty first, and then Ellis Island. Since I had relatives come through Ellis Island, I was more interested in visiting there and wanted to be sure I had plenty of time, so went there first. We simply skipped getting off on the Ferry until it reached Ellis Island.
Take your time to tour this wonderful, historical place. Much of the island is still under initial renovation and also sustained damage during Hurricane Sandy, so exhibits have items missing and construction is underway. This did not detract from the experience. Take advantage of the audio tour as you make your way, and hear experiences by actual immigrants who passed through the rooms and halls. There is much to explore, and even giving ourselves a good bit of time, we still missed a great deal.
There is a room for a bit of genealogy research, and if you have a family member listed on the Wall of Honor, which I do, you may find where your names are located on the Walls.  There is a fairly decent outside snack bar and the views in the eating area cannot be beat. You’ll also find a well done gift shop.

I found this a meaningful time of reflection and patriotism and think every American should make the effort to visit Ellis Island.

If you get back on the New York Ferry, you will go back to Battery Park, so since we skipped the Statue of Liberty and wanted to visit it second, we were directed to take the Ferry that originates in New Jersey. Since that Ferry visits Ellis Island first, and the Statue of Liberty second, this was the best way for us to go to the Statue of Liberty from Ellis Island. This worked great, and off we went for our second big attraction of the day.