Friday, January 22, 2016

Thanks to Disney D23 #4 ~ Shanghai Disneyland Preview

One of the best things that happen at D23 events, is a chance to see new attractions, movies, and even theme parks, before they even exist. The process of how the creativity flows, from blue sky to finished product, is fascinating at every step along the way.
Very often, this process is highly secretive. I was fortunate enough to visit Imagineering before Cars Land at Disneyland opened and saw work on a scale model of the land. Unforgettable. But do I have pictures? I do not! Not allowed.
But, at the D23 Expo in 2015, the curtain was lifted on an amazing and beautiful display of Disney's new park in Shanghai, China. Disney raises the bar at each and every turn, and this park is no exception.
Opening in June, 21016, the park promises to offer a blend of classic Disney imagination and magic, all while blending in the rich culture of the park's location. I will most likely never be able to see this place in person, but thanks to Disney D23 for allowing me to experience it somewhat through all the beautiful displays that were presented.



Saturday, January 16, 2016

Zeppole di Ricotta ~ Walt Disney World ~ EPCOT Italy

Served at Via Napoli, these tasty little ricotta based donuts raise the bar in the donut world.
Easy and you can't eat just one.

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
2 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar for dusting

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add ricotta, eggs and vanilla; stir well to combine
Pour oil into a deep fryer or saucepan to several inches deep, and heat to 350.

Drop batter by heaping teaspoonful into hot oil, a few at a time. Fry until golden brown, turning once, 3-4 minutes.
Drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar and serve hot.





Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Top 7 Tips to Afford a Disney Parks Vacation.

1.       Plan way ahead
My Dad always told me it was important to have something to look forward to. Oftentimes that ‘thing’ is a vacation. By planning ahead, I don’t mean a couple months, I mean a YEAR…or more. You have to commit and have a plan. This guide will help you.
First, check with your travel agent (me) for prices on where you go about a year in the future. This is your goal. It may change but you’ve started somewhere. For example, about a year from now estimates for trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World for a family of 2 adults and 2 children is:
Walt Disney World: Little Mermaid Room at Art of Animation for 6 nights with 5 day base tickets is $2,245.
Disneyland: Candy Cane Inn for 4 nights with 3 day Park Hopper tickets is $1,929.
Hurrah, you have a starting point. Now! Put down your $200 deposit to hold your ideal hotel. You are going! The countdown begins.
2.       Plan smart
WHEN you go can affect pricing and crowds. During slow times you can easily get double (or triple) the amount of rides and experiences you’re able to enjoy at less cost. If at all possible pick these times, even if (gasp) your child might need to miss a bit of school. As you noticed in step 1, pricing only includes room and tickets. You still need transportation and food. You might want to add the price of a dining plan at Walt Disney World into your goal price. At Disneyland, many Good Neighbor Hotels provide breakfast so one that does might be a better choice than one that doesn’t. I suggest you have THREE line items in your vacation plans…the actual vacation, food and spending money, and transportation. This article deals only with the first, (a future article will deal with the other 2), but many of the tips can be used for all three to grow that fund.
Using the examples above, let’s see how much per month you need to save. Since final payment is due a bit over 30 days out, we’ll divide by 11.
Walt Disney World: $185.90 a month (you paid a $200 deposit, remember?)
Disneyland: $157.18 a month
That doesn’t look so bad, now does it?
3.       Trick yourself
You’ve heard of the “Latte Effect”, right? The idea that if you just take a small daily purchase, like that $5.00 fancy coffee, and put it away towards something you want, the total saved raises quickly. In this example, you’d save $100 a month on that item alone. I don’t buy coffees, but I do have other little money wasters. We all do. Tuck that away and apply it to your trip., Memories last forever, other things don’t.
Do you allow yourself a certain amount monthly for food, eating out, entertainment? Cut that amount by a certain percentage and put the savings in your trip stash. How about saving every single $1.00 bill you get? Or $5.00 bill?
4.       Disney Gift cards
Since you’re going to Disney you can pay for pretty much everything with Disney Gift Cards. Do you shop at SAM’s? they often have a 3 pack of $50 gift cards for around $143.00. Target shopper with a Target charge Card? You can buy those Disney Gift cards at 5% off with your Red Card. You can also use the prescription bonus to get the cards. One word about these, be sure and check immediately if they are activated. I had a nightmare scenario where a bunch of cards I bought online at Target arrived un-activated.
Even if you don’t shop at these places, you can still buy Disney gift cards online at the Disney Store with free shipping, or in person if you have a local store. Watch your stash grow! Cards can be combined online for larger denominations, so can be easily consolidated if desired.
5.       Enlist Others
There are two ways to build a savings. Spend less and make more. Now we move on to the ‘make more’ section. Put the word out that you are planning a Disney trip and Disney gift cards would be great gifts. Have a yard sale, list items on selling sites, come up with a craft you can sell on Etsy or at craft fairs. Proceeds go to the trip fund.
Do you take advantage of on-line apps to make a bit extra? Ebates, Swagbucks, Iobbata, etc. These are small amounts, but combined over 11 months can be a nice little chunk .
6.       Make payments
Did you know that your travel agent (me) can make payments for you on your trip? You can make as little as a $20 payment, and I’m happy to call in every day if need be to apply it. You saved $20 by skipping a fast food meal? Authorize a $20 payment and then send that $20 off to the credit card company to cover it. It couldn’t be easier, and it’s so nice to see that total due drop steadily.
7.       Make it Fun
Eleven months can be a long time to stay motivated. Just ask any New Year’s resolution maker.
Stay motivated by making it FUN. Have a special bank (Disney themed is a good idea), to stick away those savings. Better yet, make a Disney themed bank involving the whole family. Make a countdown calendar and watch those days tick down. As your Travel Agent, I’ll send you one.
Or make it a family activity and create an old fashioned paper chain to count down the days. Reward your family at milestones. Paid in $500? Make a Disney dessert to celebrate. Have a Disney movie night and talk about a ride that ties in. Play Disney trivia, or another Disney game. Keep motivated and make it fun at the same time.
Before you know it, you’ve made your final payment and can go make those memories without a penny of debt. Doesn’t that feel great?







Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Disney California Adventure Toy Story Zoetrope

Once upon a time in a darkened but magical corner of the Animation Building at Disney California Adventure, there was a tiny exhibit that provided amazement to all who ventured there.
The Toy Story Zoetrope was a required visit for me on many visits as well a place I would drag all first time visitors. It never failed to impress.

A Zoetrope was an early form of animation. Viewers would peer through vertical slits cut in the side of a cylinder. Inside was a series of drawings, each with a tiny change..a hand raised a bit, a foot dropped, so when the cylinder spun an illusion of movement was created. In fact, the word zoetrope comes from the Greek, meaning 'life' 'turning'.

Disney being Disney, they created a magnificent 3D version, showcasing all of our favorite Toy Story characters. Sculpted and placed in a large circle on a multi level platform, these figures followed the zoetrope standard of each piece having a slightly different pose.

The platform then spins at a high rate of speed, lights flash and magic happens. The figures come to life jumping and twirling and galloping. Multiple watches were needed to get the full impact of all the activity seeming to be happening, when in reality the individual figures never changed, your perception of them moving did. Unfortunately, pictures cannot capture just how cool this is...the camera sees a blur, your eyes see living characters.
This gem was removed to make way for a an Anna & Elsa meet and greet area, but there's always hope it will one day return to a new home so it can be enjoyed once again.