Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Recurring Themes in Dreams

Aren't recurring dreams a strange, strange thing?

I often have them where I'm in school, usually high school, but sometimes college. I'll go to the first session of a class at the beginning of a semester, and then not go back. Then as the semester ends, I start to get nervous about needing to go to class so I can take my final exam, and not remembering where my class is located.

This is a weird enough dream on its own, feels weird when I'm in it. But its also weird because its SOOO not my character. Never in high school did I ever skip a single session of a class, much less the whole semester. And I'll admit, once I got to college I did skip a class or two (or once a week in the case of my engineering statistics class - but EVERYONE skipped that class so we just tried to plan ahead that someone was there to make sure we got whatever assignments were mentioned). But never in a million years would I skip a whole semester of classes.

So I wonder why this is something I dream about with some amount of frequency.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 7 - Return to Port and Off to Magic Kingdom!!!!!

Since we had second dinner seating we also had the later seating for breakfast at 8am in Parrot Cay. It was a fast breakfast but gave us some time to say good by to "J" as well as Nikola and Nicole. Then we were off. None of us got caught up by customs. The bummer about going to the resorts versus straight to the airport is luggage handling. When you are going to the airport they handle your luggage for you. You put it outside your room by 11pm the last night and don't see it again until you land at home (assuming you flew on a participating airline). But when you are going to the resorts you have to collect your luggage at the port terminal and bring it to the bus with you. Not a big deal for me since I had just the two smaller bags and my Get Carried Away Tote. But still not as nice as them handling it the entire way. We got over by the resort buses and were put on a shuttle van instead of a large motor coach - they told us it would be faster. It was super cramped (not sure HOW he got everyone's luggage inside!) but Boardwalk was the first stop so it probably was much faster than going on a motor couch.

We headed into Boardwalk (our first time staying there) and went to the on-line check in desk. We really wanted a room right away since I didn't want to leave my iPad and souvenirs with bell services when we left for the park. Because of this it took a little while for them to find us a room. I hit up the little shop for some OTC drugs I wanted and then bought my 1 day park pass (to be used the next day) at the Guest Services desk while mom waited at check in. Eventually mom got checked in (we did get a room). Donna got checked in, but not with a room yet. And they both got their park passes. Then we headed up to our room to drop our stuff off before heading off the Magic Kingdom.

I know some of you were interested in our thoughts on our Boardwalk Villa. We got a studio, same as at Bay Lake Tower, Beach Club (last year) and Old Key West (many years past). From a BED perspective I would rank my preference as Old Key West, Bay Lake Tower, Boardwalk, then Beach Club. Old Key West is at the top of my list because they are the only DVC that actually has two BEDS in the studio versus a bed and a sofa bed. Bay Lake Tower would be next, because as the one who has to sleep on the sofa bed - it had more of a foam type mattress, didn't seem/feel like a sofa bed at all. Boardwalk and Beach Club have the same sofa beds. Not particularly comfortable to me, but the Boardwalk one seem slightly better than Beach Club. From a space/room perspective I'd probably order my preference as Old Key West, Boardwalk, Bay Lake, then Beach Club. Old Key West has a different layout on their studios that is VERY roomy. We also were impressed with how roomy Boardwalk was. Bay Lake was smaller, but adequate. The bathroom sink in the kitchenette area didn't really bother us. Nor did the pocket door on the bathroom. Beach Club felt very small to us (plus not well maintained and rather dirty when we stayed there. From a resort LOCATION standpoint this becomes harder. But since I like being at the Epcot resort area a lot (perhaps even more so than being on the monorail) I'm going to say Boardwalk, Bay Lake, Beach Club, Old Key West. Although it seemed like our room was really far at Boardwalk - it probably wasn't any further than our Beach Club Villa was to get to Epcot, and catching the boat if need be is on the way versus at Beach Club where you would go out of your way to get the boat. I also like that you can boat or walk to DHS from Boardwalk pretty easily. Being on the monorail did seem nice...but we were only there one day so its hard to say for sure how much I liked it. And since there were many monorail issues the weekend we were here....I can't say being on the monorail was particularly convenient! Anyway...those are my thoughts on the DVC Studio Villas - now back to my report!

We headed off to Magic Kingdom after dropping our stuff in our room. Originally we were ONLY going to go to Epcot using our Give a Day free days. But when I saw that the Magic Kingdom was open until 2am this day we decided we could still get a full day in despite getting to the parks late. So off we went. I've been listening to the WDW Today podcast for some time, and am an avid reader of the Unofficial Guide. So I had a strong desire to test out the Touring Plans. Mom said she was okay with this..but she kind of mocked it the entire time and didn't really want to adhere to the plans. Donna and I tried to sneak peaks at them to move on..but she was onto us. The nice thing was, the park wasn't particularly crowded (Touringplans.com had it as a 4 out of 10). It seemed like there were a lot of people there, but none of the lines were particularly crowded. We lunched at Pecos Bills after hearing so many great things about it. Mom and I both had pulled pork. Donna had a burger. Next time I think I might try the taco salad, but everything was delicious. We also enjoyed sitting even though we'd only been in the park an hour so by then. It was SOOOOOOOO hot and humid in Florida last weekend things were really uncomfortable. We definitely found ourselves looking for ways to try and cool off.

I won't go thru the blow by blow on the rides we did during the day. I will say that every time we tried to go on Big Thunder Mountain it was broken. We finally got on that around 1am. Space Mountain also went down right when we were going to get fast passes for it. Took nearly an hour to get it up and running again. This was much later in the day (around 9-10pm I think). Once it was up and running again, the line was LONG...over 60 minutes. I wanted to wait and come back later since the park was open until 2am. I figured if we knew the line would be much shorter later we should do other stuff and come back. Mom insisted on getting in line. So we did. We waited 75 minutes. By the time we got off the ride it had a 15 minute wait. I was not pleased. By then I decided I was done and didn't want to be the parks anymore. That's when we did Big Thunder and left just after 1am. The other thing we did that we don't normally do, is spend a bit of time in ToonTown. Since ToonTown is going away we wanted one last chance to see it and say good-bye, and I took LOTS of pictures!

We did leave the parks for a while to go to the Polynesian for dinner at Ohana. I hadn't eaten there in YEARS and spotted potsickers on the menu so it was a must do for me. Mom and Donna were happy to go along. Dinner was WONDERFUL. We got seated quickly despite showing up nearly 30 minutes late due to the monorail issues that day. My favorites were the potstickers and the noodles. But the beef was also super yummy.

The BAD thing about this day, and probably contributing to my crabbiness as the day wore on were my feet. Last time we were on vacation - I wore my crocs exclusively for the 1 week at WDW and the 1 week on the Magic. I did have my socks on much of the time then, but definitely not all. So this time I went with my crocs again. But it was raining, so my socks came off before we even left the Boardwalk. And unlike last time it was super hot and super humid. I finished the day with blisters in places I didn't even know I could GET blisters. By the time I realized I was going to HAVE issues...I couldn't find socks in my size in any of the stores I went into! So by the end of the day I had a good 5 blisters in various places on my feet making it incredibly painful to walk anywhere. No fun!

We were back at Boardwalk and I was in bed by 2am.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 6 – Return to Castaway Cay

This would be Thursday, our second trip to Castaway Cay this cruise. Since we didn’t relax on the beach at all the first time that was plan for this time.

We started with breakfast at Tritons. Hristo was greeting people, so he can and chatted with us for quite a while as we were waiting for our servers and food. Then we were off to the island!

We were greeted by Mickey and Minnie as we disembarked. Sadly, it was SOOOOO humid all our camera lens were crazy fogging up. I got a semi decent shot of us with Mickey. Minnie is very hazy. Then we grabbed our towels and headed near Pelican Plunge. Now normally, mom and I head STRAIGHT to Serenity Beach at Castaway Cay. But she wanted to go out to the Plunge, and when we’d scoped it out earlier in the week the beach seemed way less crowded down there, so I agreed. We got there while the beach was still empty, got some nice chairs under an umbrella (a must for me with my fair skin) and mom headed off to the Plunge while I read for a while. It was SUPER hot in addition to the humidity, so I did go in the water to get wet a couple of times. Mom and Donna decided to drag some chairs into the water to keep cool, but I needed to stay more shaded so I headed up to the chairs under the umbrella. I got a lot of reading done for a while. Then noticed more and more gigantic families coming to that beach and complaining about how their were no chairs. Like, complaining a LOT. Mind you, if you watch, there were lots of people dragging chairs over there from other areas – so its not like there weren’t areas with chairs, just not RIGHT there. Anyway, about the same time mom and Donna came back we got surrounded by 2 particularly noisy families making it difficut to read. So I decided it was time to head back to the ship for me. Mom can with while Donna hung out a little longer.

We headed up to the Quiet Cove pool to relax. Shortly after getting there Ducky Williams joined us in the pool. We spent a good hour to hour and a half with him chatting. It was great to hear more of his story, and he talked about the different cruises he does for Disney, the cruises he takes with his partner, what its like working in Celebration, etc. A very nice chat we had with him as we all sat in the water of the pool staying cool. As we got out, Donna came back and we all decided to grab lunch and bring it back to the pool. I think I stayed by the pool til around 3pm and then decided it was time for me to get out of the sun. So I headed to the room to clean up and relax and pack our bags since this was our last night on the ship.

That nights show was Disney Dreams, which I’ve seen several times and love. However, its also the the night Prince of Persia was playing, and I still had to watch the 2nd half of that movie. So I skipped Disney Dreams to check out the movie. I was worried towards the end that I was really NOT going to like how it ended, but it redeemed itself and I’ve decided I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Our final dinner was back in Parrot Cay. It was a new menu for them since it was the first 5 night cruise the Wonder has ever done. But it wasn’t a new menu to us – it was the Til We Meet Again menu they do on the Magic on the last night. Kind of mixed in with the International Menu they do on the Magic (waiters in vests with flags on them, and the parade with the Baked Alaska at the end of the meal). I’m sure I got beef again for dinner but I can’t remember for sure…… Our dinner went really late, so we had to get back to our rooms to put our bags out in time for pick up at 11pm. I crashed right away, and mom and Donna went to the final show that the cruise staff puts on. Mom said it was just as cute as the last time (they do the same thing on the Magic).

Day 5 - Sea Day

Today was planned as another leisurely day. Because everyone was on board, it was not our plan to spend time at the pool today which I figured would be mobbed. Plus we had both brunch and tea at Palo reserved.

I woke up even earlier than normal and headed up to deck 9 for some coffee and to claim my normal reading spot outside the Cove Cafe. I did pick up a light breakfast at the Beach Blanket Buffet. Because it was so early it was not that crowded and I could hear the fun sixties music playing.

After breakfast I headed over to check out the shops again, and then down the cabin. I was surprised to find mom already gone, because normally she'd still be in bed then. I headed back up to deck 9 then and found her there. She was trying to get in some pool time today before everything else.

At 9am there was a scrap booking session. I have a vague recollection of checking this out on one of the other trips and it not being that exciting. But couldn't remember details. I figured if nothing else I'd go for my "special gift" and then take it and run. The special gift ended up being a couple of 12x12 inch scrapbook papers. They then had all kinds of cruise brochures and the like strewn on the table you could cut up and use in your book. I cut some things out and then headed for the shops yet again. Although I'd bought a couple of the scrapbook kits in the shop, I'd not bought the scrapbook pad which I assumed was just paper. Donna confirmed that in the scrap booking session and said there was now one open so you could look at it. The papers were Disney Cruise Line logo and super cute. In addition, there was a LOT in there for only $10. Therefore, I bought that along with a bunch of postcards to include in the scrapbook.

I got back to the room then and mom was there getting cleaned up for brunch. She had me run back up to Mickey's Mates with HER card to buy HER the scrapbook pad. Joseph from Canada (who has helped me pretty much every other time I've been in Mickey's Mates and on Castaway Cay) laughed when I told him mom decided she didn't have time to shop and would I buy her the scrapbook pad. He said "yeah, its not like we are open until midnight or anything". He's super cute. The other day when he heard we are knitters he said he wished he'd learned to knit. Then today he was saying he really needed to learn to scrapbook and when I mentioned my craft room he said how amazing that would be.

Next up was brunch. As I expected, there were many things there I would not want – seafood lovers would be in heaven – but that’s not me! That said, the things I did eat were fantastic and I enjoyed them thoroughly. There was caprese salad, lots of yummy cheese, delicious cheese croissants, and prosciutto and melon. I also enjoyed having the same waiter from last night, Hristo, who we also had for tea this afternoon.

We spent a good 2 hours at brunch, and then headed down to the Buena Vista Theater where Don "Ducky" Williams was talking and drawing. He's AMAZING! His story about how he came to be an animator at Disney is really inspiring. If everyone wanted things that much and worked that hard to make things happen this world would be a very different place. Plus he talks while doing the sketching because he sketches so fast! Someone asked him how many characters he can draw without the model cards and he said probably 200 but if its something important he may look just in case. At the end of his session he gave away the 19 drawings he'd done before and during his session. I didn't win one, but mom won the Sorcerer Mickey one. She was so excited she jumped up and screamed. They mentioned that he was doing private drawing sessions for a nominal fee. I went to inquire and it was $40 for a 10 minute session. So I signed up for one tonight. $40 seemed a little pricy since it was only 10 minutes, but he did draw fast and some hand drawn original art by the ONLY person still doing the official art for Disney seemed like a must do for me. I didn't know if he will only do one thing during that or if he can do two. But they said he'd draw whatever I wanted. If I only got one I decided it needed to be Mickey Mouse for my living room. If he has time for a second I would ask if he can do Sebastian. Anyway, after Ducky mom and I went on a mission to find her a poster tube to transport her drawing home (its huge) and also decided to head to the shops yet again (I've bought SOOOOOO much stuff this trip! good thing I packed extra luggage!).

While we were shopping they announced that the special 1:30pm show (Toy Story) was starting in 10 minutes. I love that on sea days they do the show in the afternoon too. We didn't really have anything else planned then so we decided to catch the show. I loved the characters/costumes, but not the new songs they wrote for it. And the Sid music/actor were particularly annoying. This didn't totally surprise me since I'm not a fan of the Finding Nemo show at Animal Kingdom either with its special – just for the show – songs. I will say, I caught some of this later in the day on the TV in the cabin..and it looked way cuter then…like I was watching an animated movie!

Next up was Tea at Palo. I loved this so much more than brunch and it will definitely be a must do for me on future Disney cruises. Hristo took great care of us again of course. But I loved the food options. Delightful little sandwiches. YUMMY scones (seriously, like sweet little biscuits with sugar on top – not dry like scones usually are) with the special cream and some nice jams. And of course little tiny pastries. Oh..and it finished up with a trifle. It was supposed to be cherry but sure tasted like strawberry to me. But the cream part was YUMMY.

Then it was back to the room for me to relax a while before my session with Ducky, and mom took off for the final jackpot bingo. Alas she did not win. She was sad, she almost always wins final jackpot bingo!

We went to my session with Ducky at 5:50pm. I told him I wasn’t sure if I wanted Sebastian or Mickey, and how my living room was Disney themed with more of an emphasis on the fab five. He said Mickey would turn out better so we went with that. Just a CLASSIC Mickey. He gave him a “formal” bow tie so that the head wasn’t just floating on the page. And he autographed it (he’s Mickey’s OFFICIAL autographer) from both Mickey Mouse and himself and signed it to me. I LOVE it. Can’t wait to get it framed and decide where to put it.

After Ducky mom went to see Toy Story again with Donna and I went back to cabin more to relax. If you are noticing a theme there you aren’t imagining it. I do tend to go back to the cabin a lot to just chill out between stuff. It’s a nice way to get away from the crowds, catch up on my journaling, and just get some alone time. Plus there’s Disney movies running on the TV all the time! I was less thrilled with the live action movies this time….though there were a couple of good ones. But I didn’t watch those over and over like I did with Iron Man on the last cruise!

Dinner this night was Animators Palette. I’ve always loved this, but at least on the Wonder I think it needs some refurb. The televisions are showing HORRIBLE color and contrast. The menu was just so so. There was a lemon thyme chicken, but I’m not a fan of lemon chicken so Nikola got me a regular chicken dish instead. Can’t remember what I got for dessert – it wasn’t memorable. I did try and get lots of pictures because I know this restaurant will be a LOT different on the Dream next year.

As with most nights, after dinner was off to bed for me and out to “party” for mom and Donna.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Day 4 - Nassau

Day 4 - Nassau, Bahamas

Up early again, I dressed for the pool and headed up to Cove Cafe again. This time I watched up pull into Nassau. Not particularly impressive other than seeing the Atlantis resort for the first time. Port was overwhelmed with 3 Carnival ships already (Sensation, Fantasy, and Fascination - a fourth, the Glory showed up later). All the Carnival ships meant no good views from the Wonder while in port.

This was a LAZY day. Breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet. We decided the themeing was much nicer here than the buffet on the Magic. The rest of the day was at the Quiet Cove pool with lunch brought back over there from Pinnochio's Pizzeria for me. The fun thing we'd not experienced before...all the characters were walking through Quiet Cove after their appearances next door and surprising people who were sleeping (or just not paying attention).

I headed back to the room to get cleaned up and relax for a while before watching the first part of Prince of Persia which is tonights "show". We have 7pm Palo reservations, so we can't watch the movie all the way through unless we got the 11pm, which will be way too late for me. So I'm going to watch the first part of it at the 5:15pm showing, go to dinner at Palo at 7pm, and then catch the 2nd part of it at the 8pm showing.

(now continuing from the next day so forgive the variation in past / present / future tense!)

I watched the first hour and fifteen minutes of Prince of Persia...not outstanding, but good action and I'm definitely interested in checking out more of it. Then I left to make my way to Palo. Dinner was AMAZING (as I expected!). I had the plum tomato and mozzarella to start with. Then the procuitto pizza. Then the "Palo" Beef Tenderloin. I'd forgotten about the stack of super thin potatoes that came with. And of course the fantastic chocolate souffle. One of only 3 food items on the trip I was really looking forward to (along with the Pluto's Dog House chicken fingers and Parrot Cay Banana Bread). To make things even better, Donna wanted a bottle of wine with dinner. She said she wanted a Cabernet. When I looked at the menu I noticed Silver Oak on the menu. My FAVORITE wine hands down. So Donna bought a bottle for the table. A generous gift at the retail price, much less the crazy marked up cruise price.

Palo took over 2 hours, so .. I missed getting back into the movie at the time I needed to pick up where I left off. That doesn't play again until Thursday so I'll have to catch the second half then. So, after Palo while Mom and Donna went up to catch the pirate party and fireworks I headed to the cabin to get ready for bed. Though I did watch fireworks from the porthole!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Day 3 - 1st day at Castaway Cay

Day 3 - Castaway Cay, Stop 1

Monday, Memorial Day, was our first stop at Castaway Cay. As usual, I was up early. I dressed and headed up to the Cove Cafe with some magazines and grabbed a latte. I sat and enjoyed my latte in one of the comfy seats up there while I watched us pull into Castaway Cay. Mom found me a little before 9am, and we found Donna shortly thereafter and headed to Triton's for breakfast.

This was my first inside view of Tritons, and as I expected I absolutely loved it! The decor is beautiful, particularly the beautiful mosaic mural on the back wall of Triton, Ariel, and Sebastian. I ordered a menu item with Sebastian in the name that included French Toast, Pancakes, and a Belgian Waffle. It was YUMMY!

After breakfast we ran back to our stateroom to change for our bike rides on Castaway Cay. Mom and I have done this once before and LOVED it. We were hoping with the expansion more trails would be open now. There weren't any, but I did get some lovely photos, including some of the new things going in. After riding for a few hours we walked a bit, took lots more pictures, and ate lunch at Cookies. This was our first time at Cookie's since we normally eat out at Serenity Bay.

While at Cookies we ran into Alen. We actually thought we'd spotted him in the morning but we weren't expecting to see him, it was far away, and we couldn't sure sure. The very first time we cruised on the Magic back in 2000, Alen was our server.When we were on the Magic again in 2003, Alen was a head waiter. As we walked to our table the first night we realized it was with this incredibly obnoxious woman we'd seen at the sail-away party. We couldn't stand the idea of sitting at that table all week so we walked back up front to try and change tables and ran into Alen. Not only did he move us, but he remembered us for 2000, and he put us at a 4 top table for just the two of us for all week. When we were on the Magic again in 2008 we spotted Alen and he was a maitre de. Now, in 2010, Alen as switched over to the Wonder and he's the Dining Manager. So nice to see how well he's done for himself. He took down our info and promised to come see us at dinner that night.

After lunch we headed back on board to catch the 1pm showing of UP showing in 3D in the Buena Vista theater. I'd seen the movie, but not in 3D so we thought that would be fun. After the movie we headed up to the pool to relax, read, and rest. I stayed up there until around 5ish. Then down on deck 4 for a while - it was HOT in the sun and I wasn't ready to go back to the room and get ready just yet. I checked out the shops then and finally went back to the room to get cleaned up.

Our show was a new one for us, Once Upon a Song. As a music lover, and particularly a Disney music lover, I was excited about the idea of this show. It included lots of lessor know, less popular Disney songs. Unfortunately, the songs they picked were not the ones I would have picked. In fact some were my least favorite songs from the movies they represented. Worse than that, was the choreography. The vocal talents were excellent, just thing they could have pulled the show together better.

Dinner was at Tritons. I forgot to mention before that J has a "Pal Mickey" with her, and he wears a different outfit every night. He was dressed up in a sombrero with a little poncho on this night. The story was "he thought we were going to Cozumel". Very cute. I had tomato basil soup, the avocado and citrus salad, and the beef tenderloin for dinner. All fantastic. Desert was Grand Mariner Souffle. Our head waiter Richard from France stopped by. He spent some time working under some famous chefs (like Gordon Ramsey) and entertained us with some of those tales. Then Alen showed up to say hello and we took some pictures with him while we visited.

AFter dinner was off to bed for me. I watched the movie Dear John on the stateroom TV curled up in bed.

Day 2 - sail away

Day 2 - Sail-away!!!!

Today got off to a rocky start. I woke up in the middle of the night last night violently ill. The good news is, seemed to be over by morning. But neither mom or I slept well so we were up at the CRACK of dawn this morning. We got ready so early that we had a good 45 minutes to wander around the Contemporary property and take pictures before our Chef Mickey's breakfast reservation.

I got some super cute pictures at Chef Mickey's this morning. And the pancakes were fantastic! Breakfast was short and sweet, but it allowed me a chance to make sure I had a picture with each of the fab five for this trip.

After breakfast we took the monorail over the the Poly to do a little more shopping and just kill time. Then back to Bay Lake to check out. We hung out in Donna's 1 bedroom for a little while and then headed down to the lobby for the cruise.

Seemed like the transfers took FOREVER this time. Our bus started with Bay Lake, then went to Wilderness Lodge were we sat for quite some time, then onto Saratoga where we ALSO sat for quite some time. Finally we were on our way. The nice thing was we got to watch CARS on the bus so thats always fun.

Check in was a breeze since we did online check in and are Castaway Club members - there was no line. However, we TOTALLY missed that we needed to see some other lady first for a "boarding number". Fortunately, we walked back to the lady at the Castaway Club desk and she got us one.

We got on board before Donna so we made a beeline for her room to put up her door decorations i made. She LOVED them. Said we should have come to the room with her to see her reaction. After dropping the door decorations we headed to OUR stateroom to drop our stuff. We then met Donna in WaveBands where she was trying to change get into Palo brunch with us. Then we went to cancel our spa treatments (spent too much money yesterday!) and Donna went to drop HER bags. Next was lunch at Parrot Cay. Although my beloved banana was not at lunch, they did have these yummy little banana cupcake things.

Then Donna came to check out our stateroom and we went to see hers. Mom wanted to unpack before muster then so back to our stateroom again. Her two bags were there, and only one of mine. My second bag didn't show up until just before 4pm but alas it finally did! So we were officially all unpacked JUST in time for muster!

After muster we did the first of our onboard shopping and then headed off to our first show. Opening night was the Golden Mickey's. Just as much fun the second time around as it was the first time we saw it on our last Magic voyage. After the show we wanted to go back to the room to drop our shopping goodies and hang out before dinner..but our stateroom attendant was just then doing our turndown. So instead we dropped or stuff and headed towards the first restaurant. It was nowhere near dinner time, so we hung at the Promenade Lounge. Music was entertaining. The incredibly obnoxious group cruising (the Castaway Cruisers) were less so. They were having a good time, but made it difficult for anyone else to enjoy it between crowding their entire party into a tight space and inching others out. Not to mention hooting and hollering right in my ears!

Dinner that night was Parrot Cay. Our Server is Nikola from Serbia - he's GORGEOUS (we've since learned he has a french girlfriend working onboard as well. Our assistant Server is Nicole from Germany. We teased them about "nikola and nicole" and how we'd keep them straight. Dinner was good. Though neither Nikola or Nicole caught on to our pleas for extra banana bread. Unlike our last trip on the Magic there would be no nightly banana bread on this voyage. To eat I had a salad that was kind of like a cesear but called something else. For dinner I had the ribeye of beef. Didn't taste very ribeye like but it was tasty. Dessert was the french toast banana bread. YUMMY! I had them substitute the coconut ice cream for vanilla and I thoroughly enjoyed that. We're seated at a table for 6 for dinner. There's the three of us, and then a woman traveling alone (we'll call her "J" from here on out). She mentioned that she'd been sick recently and a friend gave her his DVC points to take this cruise. The other two people at our table never showed. We told Nikola to find some single men for us. He looked up his info and said its supposed to be two women with us.

After dinner it was off to bed for me and mom and Donna went to check out Wave Bands, but said it was dead and mom came to bed soon after.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

2010 Disney trip, day 1

Day One - Travel and Shopping

Finally our day came! I left my house at 5:15am this morning to head to the Hartford airport. Just as the parking shuttle was pulling into the terminal I saw my first flight status notification from Delta that we were delayed approximately 35 minutes. I started to get a little worried cuz I knew big storms had come through Florida the night before. I got in past security around 6:15am and hit up McDonalds for some breakfast. It felt like I'd been up for hours already. I got to the gate a little after 6:30am. Original flight time was 7:55am with a 7:15am boarding time. New departure was 8:30am. They made an announcement that pretty much ALL the delta flights were running late that morning because all the planes had gotten in really late the night before and the crews have mandatory rest time. We took off at 8:30am as we were told and off to Orlando we went. Pilot made up a lot of the time in the air. I didn't even get the entire way through my ipad movie - Valentines Day - though I only missed the last 10 minutes or so which I watched on magical express as we headed to Bay Lake Tower.

Check in went really smoothly since we'd done the online check in. Our room, a studio, was small but nice. This sofa bed seems better than the one I had to sleep on at the Beach Club Villas. Though it wasn't easy to undo. The directions say "lift handles and walk away from bed". I did that. The bed walked away with me. I was in the room by myself at that point while mom was in her friend Donna's room checking out her pool view at nighttime. But eventually I got it figured out.

After settling in we left for Downtown Disney. In a CRAZY downpour. That kept going and going and going. Donna and I packed our umbrellas in our carryon. For some reason mom packed HERs in her checked bags. So she got wetter than we did...though we were all pretty wet.

Lunch was the Earl of Sandwich, which was OH MY GOD delicious. How have I missed this place for so long? Line was long but moved swiftly. I got the Caprese Sandwich. Mom got the BLT. We split both sandwiches and also a potato salad. The bread is fantastic. We thought we liked my Caprese Sandwich best, but we decided it was a little heavy on the balsamic so we liked the BLT better.

After lunch was the shopping...and boy did I shop. I'll have to do a whole other report on that, with pictures! I LOVED Tren-D. But of course, I pretty much knew that I would from the minute I first heard of it..I mean all of my non-work clothes are Disney!

After shopping, as it started to pour again, we headed off to WIlderness Lodge for dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe. We were early, so we did some more shopping there. Dinner was fantastic. We got a great table in the corner that overlooks the lobby. Our waitress seemed great early on..but less so as dinner wore on. Food was fantastic. We all did the all you care to eat skillet. We loved everything, but the table agreed the best parts were the corn, mashed potatoes, and corn bread. We didn't ask for ketchup, but the table next to us did so we got to see that. We also saw one of the giant drinks come out. Very cute.

After that we took the boat to Magic Kingdom and then another to Grand Floridian to do some shopping there. I think I didn't buy anything there.....then back to Bay Lake to go up to Top of the World for Wishes. Top of the World is nice. Smaller than I expected, but cute. Watching Wishes from there was great. Even though the angle isn't ideal (fireworks over space mountain rather than the castle) its totally worth it not to have to deal with the crowds...and BOY were there crowds today! After that..a little more shopping at Contemporary, and then back to the room to get ready for tomorrow! Speaking of which..time for me to go so I can re-organize my stuff for the cruise!

Friday, May 28, 2010

My May 2010 Disney Trip!!!!

As I type I'm sitting on my couch, ipad in lap, typing on my blue tooth keyboard also in my lap. I'm wondering if I should bring my keyboard with on vacation....if I'm going to do a good job keeping a detailed travel log of my trip I probably should...it is tiny....

Anyway...its hard to believe its time already. If feels like its been months and months...but really..looking back at my "May 2010 Disney Vacation" folder in my email the planning for this particular trip just started in January. Quite a switch from our Disney Dream Cruise next year which we booked last November to sail in February 2011!

Anyway....the excitement has been building and building. I think part of it is all our new friends through the WDW Radio Show Dream Cruise. We've had so much fun talking Disney with all of them that it just helps build up the excitement even more.

Anyway, I decided a few months back I wanted to get back to my scrap-booking which has been nonexistent since I started knitting back around 2004. This trip was a good excuse to really start looking into this again. To get me in the mood, I decided to make a door sign for mom's friend Donna, who is traveling with us. This is her FIRST time on the Disney Cruise Line and I thought it would be fun for her to be able to partake in door decorations. Plus we get to board the ship before her since we are Castaway Club members so I'm hoping we can get it on her door before she even gets on board. Making up this door sign, which I did basically as a 12 x 12 scrapbook page figuring she could put it in her book later (she's an avid scrap-booker), got me itching to do more. Over the past two weeks I've been scouring craft stores looking for Disney scrapbook supplies. At the same time, I recently saw a Cricut presentation on HSN. I was intrigued by the idea of the Cricut machine (seemed WAY easier and way more versatile than my clunky Sizzix machine). As I started looking into it more I found all the Disney themed Cricut cartridges. All the sudden I knew I had to have it. My Cricut arrived Tuesday (thank you Amazon prime $4 one day shipping!). I proceeded to spend Tuesday and Wednesday nights playing with it. Tuesday night I made up a 12 x 12 sign for mom and my own cabin. I also made up cute little Mickey's for all three of us with our names on them. Wednesday I just decided I wanted to play some more - to explore the capabilities of the Cricut (I got the expression model) which I'm sure are far more advanced than I've figured out so far. I cut out like 6 12 x 12 pages of various shapes trying out the different features. Then as I sat there looking at them I figured why not create a few pages for my scrapbook for this trip! So...I pulled together four "starter" pages so far that I can use in this trips scrapbook.

Now...to remember to take lots of pictures FOR my scrapbook and not just stuff I think my Dream Cruise neighbors might like!

My other activity this week has been deciding how and what to pack. I got my 21inch vera bradley blue rhapsody wheel aboard packed earlier in the week. Thats the bag I plan to check and its been sitting by the front door with my Magical Express tag on it for 4 days already. I knew that I was taking my Vera Blue Rhapsody rolling duffle on the plane with me, and have been trying to decide what personal item to carry on. I know that I have a habit of coming back from vacation with more then when I left....so I have my Blue Rhapsody Get Carried Away and my Daisy Daisy Small Duffle packed away in my 21 inch suitcase already. This week Vera Bradley retired the Large Backpack...so I was really hoping to find a Blue Rhapsody backpack on sale this week (why oh why did I not just by the Frill Blue Rhapsody backpack when I was at the outlet sale in Fort Wayne last month??????). No luck. I have a Blue Rhapsody tote that I got at the outlet sale that I thought might work as my personal item. But I was worried it would be too small for the items I wanted to bring on the plane with me. So, although I didn't find a Blue Rhapsody large backpack I DID find a Blue Rhapsody Vera. And lets face it...the Vera is a great bag...so I got that.... But now that I'm all packed...I think I can actually get away with just using the Blue Rhapsody tote after all (assuming my keyboard fits too since I really think I do want to take it...though that would fit in my rolling duffle for sure ... there's still loads of room in there....

Anyway...thats my pre departure portion of my trip report! Gonna snuggle Miss Elphaba for a little bit longer before taking her to the PetHotel tonight. Then (assuming I'm not too excited) it will be early to bed for me so I can leave nice and early for the airport...I'm thinking the airport could be jammed tomorrow due to the holiday weekend. Hope you enjoyed!

Stay tuned for more!

Friday, May 07, 2010

I'm a Connecticut Resident!

It has been a LONG, drawn out, relocation full of challenges. I'm too tired to recount the tales here just yet. But my closing that was supposed to be Monday May 3 - ended up not happening until Wednesday May 5. My movers arrived just about the same time as the wire transfers FINALLY came through from the bank.

I've been super lucky to have some amazing help through this move. My best friend Mandy and I made a whole trip of the move itself. The annual Vera Bradley Outlet Sale in Fort Wayne Indiana was last week. With our newfound love of Vera....we had to make that a part of the drive from IL to CT. It did not dissapoint! But in addition to the fun of the sale, and spending lots of quality time together. Dear Mandy also put up with my cranky, crying, nocturnal, climbing all over her in bed, animals for 5 days. I know I love my animals, but it takes one special person to love them like I do, and Mandy does. You are a great friend sweetie and I love you!

My next helper was my friend Mark from our Harrisburg office. Mark drove up late the night of the 4th so that he was here to help me on move in day. He patiently checked off the inventory worksheet while I directed the movers on where to put things. He tracked down lunch for us. And he helped me start unpacking boxes. He gave me explicit orders to boss him around, and he took my direction really well. There's no way so much of this house would be unpacked (and the boxes in my outside storage area!) if not for Mark. He also kept track of my Lowe's list and helped me get started on some of the little things that need to be taken care of. Thursday I sent him home to be with his family. But he's promised to spend more time up here on subsequent trips to help fix up little things here and there that I need done.

Finally, though she hasn't arrived yet - my mommy. My mom is not able to take any time off work right now between our vacation later this month and my brothers wedding in November in Mexico. But she's flying out after work tonight and home on Sunday night. Mom wants to make sure I'm properly settled into my new place so I can start enjoying life out here. So she's flying in JUST to help me unpack and organize more. I'm hoping maybe we can sneak in a showing of Iron Man 2 on a break at some point. And how exciting it is that she'll be here on Mothers Day! I hope she likes the goodies I have picked out for her!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Relocation Updates!

Goodness time flies!!!!

So....on 2/11 I drove my rep car from IL back to Harrisburg, PA. This was my FUN way to break up the long drive back to CT with a visit with my knitting friends in PA. I got to enjoy a leisurely day Friday at yarn-love where in addition to knitting and shopping and visiting I also got the yarn-love facebook page up and running. Friday night was dinner out and a movie (the green zone, I don't recommend it). Saturday was a road trip to visit The Mannings (can't believe I never made it down there while living in the area!) followed by a night in with knitting, a Lost in Austen marathon, and yummy dinner with friends.

Sunday was up and at 'em early to finish the drive to CT. I had an appointment that day to look at some more places with my realtor. I had a full week of meetings planned and appointments with the realtor every day after work. Didn't find any places I liked on Sunday which was dissapointing. However, I did get a couple of interesting phone calls. One from a realtor who showed my house on Saturday and wanted to bring the people BACK to see the house again on Sunday. And one from my realtor wanting information on my HOA and my utility bills. I started to get excited. Around 9pm Sunday night my IL realtor emailed and said he had an offer and to give him a call if I was still up. I of course called immediately. I won't get into the details on the sale except to say....these buyers clearly still believe its a buyers market and didn't respect what a bargain they were already getting! We ran thru 4 rounds of negotations that night and Monday and finally came to agreement Monday afternoon. At that point, the offer goes to my relocation company - I'm not allowed to sign anything or take any money. The home sale stuff dragged on that week as apparently my relocation agent hadn't provided all the right paperwork to my IL realtor, who hasn't done relocations before (I'm assuming that he hasn't...I think my LAST blog mentioned how worthless he's been and how he probably wasn't going to BE my realtor when I got home from this trip - lucky for him we DID get an offer). Anyway....at this point...were still I think trying to get all the right paperwork in. My relocation agent wants to take possession asap, because the buyers inspections are Monday - and if the relocation company has possession at that point then anything that comes up is on them instead of me. But....my realtor was just getting the last of the papers signed today I think..and we're still trying to find out if we can give money, or drop price to handle some house and carpet cleaning the buyers wanted rather than ME needing to do it so relocation actually CAN aquire right away rather than having to wait until I've vacated and THEN we get the cleaning done and confirm to them it was done.

Sellers asked for a 4/15 closing. We got them to 4/30. My plan is to be out by 4/23 on the IL end. I talked to mom about hotel costs, and she said as long as I furminate the kitties before coming home. and THOROUGHLY clean the house once the kitties are out, we can all come stay at home until we start the drive to CT. This will save me lots of money so it makes me very happy!

Okay...back to story in process. Monday night we go see some more houses in CT. And find...THE ONE. I kid you not...its beautiful. Its actually a condo - and 3 years older than me. But its been totally remodeled inside - and really nicely done. It quickly knocked my top 3 off the list entirely and made it difficult for me to say what my 2nd and 3rd choices would be should this one not work out. We had plans to look at the last 5 possibilities Tuesday night, and this place had been on the market for about 35 days at that point. So my realtor let the other realtor know we were interested and would be making a decision later this week. Tuesday night we looked at the last 5 places...and they were NO comparison. My mind was made up! I had plans to go to NJ for the day Wed and thought I'd get back late, so my realtor agreed to pull the comps and we'd talk via email on Wed and decide on the offer and then I'd sign off on Thursday.

Wed I ended up getting back from NJ way earlier than normal. I let my realtor know and we decided to go ahead and write the offer Wed night. The comps came in WAY lower than the asking price...which made me a little nervous. Except they were without basements (mine is finished) and with only 1.5 baths ( I have 2.5 baths). Looking at the pictures they also didn't have NEARLY the updates mine does..and what updates were there weren't nearly as nice. But it was concerning none the less since the comps were between $40-50k less than what the seller was asking. In the end we decided to offer $20k below asking and we asked for his big tv hanging in the living room. This seller was much more reasonable and we settled at $11k under asking. No TV, but I do get a home warranty. Let the excitement begin!

If you haven't peaked at the pics in the sidebar, my photoalbum of the new house is here.

Inspection happened on Tuesday of this week. I was pretty concerned about a few things that popped up, but upon further review and discussion most of them weren't a big deal. Inspector is worried about age of my air conditioner and furnace, and actually thought the furnace may have a cracked heat exchanger. We got a hvac inspector in today and he gave the furance the all clear. And my home warranty will cover a failure of either so I'm not too worried. That said, there's one minor electrical concern along with the attic stairs which the inspector says should be replaced. So we're going to go back and ask for that with the buyer.

Also, I was still a bit concerned about how high even my negotiated price was compared to the comps (even tho it was well under what I was willing to pay). So...I tracked down what the seller paid when he bought the house 3 years ago...and its only about $1500 less than what we agreed on. And that was PRIOR to all the remodeling done...so I can see why he wasn't really willing to go much lower than he did...he has to be losing money on the sale.

Okay..so back to plans... outta the IL house by 4/23. Up to mom's until 4/28. BFF Mandy flies in from Nashville to Chicago that day. Lunch with mom so Mandy can say hello and I can say goodbye. Then Mandy and I head home to mom's to put everyone/thing in the car and de-hair the house (mom's super allergic). The afternoon of 4/28 Mandy and I, and the animals will drive to Fort Wayne, IN. We are staying there that night so we can hit up the annual Vera Bradley Outlet Sale first thing on 4/29. We are SOOOO excited! Don't ask me where we are going to put our purchases...we may be riding on top of vera bags the rest of the drive...but we're so excited. So we'll do that early in the morning and then spend about 8 hours in the car Thursday to get to our next stop in State College, PA. Relocation policy says we have to drive 400 miles per day...with the length of this move that means only 2 nights on the road. Our drive Thursday will be way long compared to Wed or Friday, but because of traveling with pets we are somewhat limited on where we can stop for the night. And since we'll be together it will be great fun! Friday we'll finish our drive, and end up in Southington, CT. I'm hoping we can schedule the walk thru on the CT place for Friday afternoon or Saturday so Mandy gets to see it, because she has to fly out FIRST thing Sunday to get home to her doggies since her DH is headed to California that morning.

Finally, Monday, 5/3 is the closing on the new place! I'll have my air mattress and blanket with me...so the animals and I will plan to check out of the hotel and head "home" after closing. Hopefully my delivery date for the movers is sometime that week...preferably EARLY that week so we're not living on the floor for too long!

So those are the plans....!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vacation Planning!

Okay..I promised to talk vacation plans in my last entry!!!!

So later this year the whole family is headed down to Mexico for my baby brothers wedding. And next February, mom and I are cruising the Disney Dream with the WDW Radio Show Podcast Crew (go deck 7!!).

But mom who is a member of Disney Vacation Club had a year's worth of points expiring this October with no plans to use them. So I thought....we've been on the Disney Magic three times, and will be on Dream next year....what about a cruise on the Wonder! Mom agreed...and hence our next Disney trip was born!

We booked for the first 5 night Wonder sailing this summer. The Magic is headed back to the Meditarranian this summer, so instead of its normal 3 and 4 night Bahamas itineraries - the Wonder is doing some special ones. We are due to spend 2 days at Castaway Cay, one day in Nassau, and a day at sea. I can't decide what I'm more excited about - the delicious chicken fingers up on deck 9 or eating at Tritons and getting my picture taken next to Ariel out in front of Tritons.

As we started planning, it occured to me, that if we did the Disney Give a Day, Get a Disney Day promo that we'd earn a park ticket and get into one of the parks as well. This not only was something that made us feel good, but also, helped us maintain the low cost vacation we were looking for.

Then plans expanded...one of mom's best friends also needed to use some DVC points, and hadn't been on the Disney Cruise Line yet, and we invited her to join us.

So...here are the plans so far:

Saturday, May 29

Fly to Orlando
Check into our studio at Bay Lake Tower (bay view rather than Magic Kingdom but we are still excited!)
Spend the afternoon shopping at Downtown Disney (Tren-D here I come!)
Dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe (never been!)
Watching Wishes from Top of the World Lounge

Sunday, May 30

Breakfast at Chef Mickey's
Travel to Port Canaveral and board the Wonder!

Monday, May 31 thru Friday, June 4

Cruising - planning to stay on ship in Nassau..and do lots of relaxing by the pool. Will hit up Serenity Beach on Castaway Cay and rent bikes there one of our days too. Also have dinner, brunch, and tea booked at Palo.

Friday, June 4

Disembark the Wonder and head to the Boardwalk Villas
Head over to Magic Kingdom (its open until 2am so we decided to spend 2 days in the park instead of just one).
Dinner at Ohana (I'm still having my obsession with pot stickers and can't wait to try the Ohana version).

Saturday, June 5

Head to Epcot for the day
Dinner at LeCellier (never been here before either!).

Sunday, June 6

Head home (I'm sure I'll be sad to leave, but happy to get back home to my furbabies who will still be adjusting to our new home in CT when I have to head out on this trip!)

So...thats the next vacation in a nutshell!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Quick update

I'm behind in my posting again!!!!

A quick update for those wondering.... At this point I'm still living in Illinois and traveling back and forth between here and Connecticut. My CT have been more once a month this year due to weather, and other meetings. My last trip I had to DRIVE home thanks to the crazy snow storms in the Northeast in mid February. Not really looking forward to having to drive back - except of course that I'm planning the drive back to stop and PA and see my friends there for a few days! Haven't been there since June so I'm really looking forward to that!

I have so far had one househunting day in CT. I'm really not happy with the quality of the single family homes in my price range - so I'm probably looking at condos. Sadly, most of the condos in my price range are way smaller than what I have..and without garages. Which means getting rid of a bunch of stuff or renting a storage space. And in some cases both...I may not be able to use my washer dryer in CT..and I really don't want to sell them...but without a garage to store them I won't have much choice. Anyway, from my previous trip there are two strong possiblities for condos there...and next week I'm in town all week and have most nights planned with my realtor to look. Plus now that I have my buyout offer/date in Illinois - I feel confident making an offer on something in CT next week.

On the Illinois end things aren't going as well. The house was listed for sale Jan 25. We listed it higher than what I was expecting us to, based on the comps - though it was still less than what I paid. In the first 3 weeks I had about 11 showings. Since then...nothing. I realize of course that the market is not good right now. However, since I moved in about 18 months ago...there have been 4 or 5 houses on my street go on the market and all have sold within 1-2 weeks. So okay, you are thinking...things msut be worse now right? Thats what I thought. Until my next door neighbor, with EXACTLY the same house, put his house on the market 2 weeks ago - for $1000 less than me. AND SOLD IN A WEEK! My realtor hasn't said two words to me about it. Nor has he dropped off the new fliers with my now lowered price that he promised to drop off 2 weeks ago. And I'm realizing he pretty much hasn't lived up to ANY of the promises he made during our initial meeting which is why I went with him...so....I think the relocation company will be exercising our "non-performance" clause to get rid of him. Unfortunately I'm headed out of town Wed for 10 days....and in meetings all week the week after that...so not sure when we'll be able to get me relisted with someone else. Also, my buyout price SUCKS. To come up with the buyout we get two appraisals to estimate what the house will sell at and average the two. My two appraisals came in more than 5% apart so they had to order a third. Turns out...one of them SCREWED me. The first and third appraisal are within $2000 of each other and close to my current list price. The second appraisal...nearly $20,000 less. And they average all THREE to come up with the buyout price...so that took my average way down. Now before you get too upset for me....Its still within our loss protection guidelines...so I'll get back what I paid eventually. But it makes the transactions more complicated because its less than what I currently OWE on the house. And it takes some time to get the loss protection check which means I need to have the cash to close on the new house on hand. Fortunately I do..but it will wipe out my savings until that loss protection check comes. Hopefully I don't have to spend a lot of money on stuff for the new house. Anyway, I get to accept my buyout at the end of April if I so choose. So hopefully by end of April / early May I'll be headed out to CT full time.

Thats it for now folks....will try and come back later this week and post about something fun...like my upcoming trip to WDW and the Disney Wonder!