My HGTV tour of Bay Lake Tower’s Grand Villa

You have probably heard me rave about our upgrade in October 2010 to the Grand Villa at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower. If not, you can find my over-the-top ecstatic post about it here at the Disney Driven Life: a-villa-with-a-grand-view-abe . Anyhoo, I also attempted a video tour of the property since I figured this was a once in a lifetime moment. Samantha Brown of the Travel Channel has nothing to worry about-I am definitely not going to quit my day job to pursue a career in TV (Ugh-am I the only one who HATES how her voice sounds?) That being said, I had a blast filming it because it made me appreciate being there all the more. And believe me, I explored every inch of that space! From the bathroom TV to the sliding door beside the master garden tub, everything blew me away. I wasn’t surprised though-Disney does everything top-notch and the Grand Villa was no exception! So without further ado, I give you my HGTV tour of BLT’s Grand Villa!

-Sherry

Can You Help Me Out? Disney Dream Questions!!!

Photo by Disney

Disney Dreamin’ 2011 is a reality, people! In two short months, we head south to embark on our first ever cruise on the Dream. Yes, we have a countdown calendar going but I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to give too much specifics online (paranoid, I guess). So I’m moving into overdrive on the details. Excursions? Check. Brand spanking new 9th edition Passporter DCL book? Check. But I still have questions, and I need the advice of my “oh so knowledgeable” friends who are cruising experts. So PLEASE post comments to any and all of my queries. I would SO appreciate it!!!!

1. Seriously, what time should I register for check-in? Any advantages beyond the obvious to “getting in early” besides being able to gawk at everything and take tons of photos of the ship uninterrupted? (Yes, I am dorky like that!)

2. To spa or not to spa? Sounds crazy to question it but the price is really blowing me away because all I can think is how many treatments I can get back home for the same money! I know, it’s the Dream, live a little, but deep down, I’m a frugal gal, and it’s hard to get past that budget-conscious self.

3. Ok, we’re doing a 3 day cruise so do we stay onboard at Nassau, go ashore part of the day, or dive in and do stuff all day in Nassau? I’ve heard mixed reviews of this port of call, and am leaning towards doing the pool and Aquaduck while the masses head for the shore. Thoughts?

4. What souvenirs do you like to pick up? Or what have you gotten home and thought-shoot, I wish I had gotten that! I know Disney Store online is now carrying some DCL items, but would love a heads up on what are your hot-ticket items!

5. Castaway Cay-stingray encounter: yes or no? (Kiddos are 10 and 6.) And if not, what DO you recommend?

6. Have any of you done second seating for dinner? If so, how did the whole “pick the kids up at 9PM so grownups can linger over dinner” thing work out for you?

Thanks, everyone!

“My Yard Goes Disney” Inspires Disney Dream (literally)!

Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

OK, so if you haven’t heard about HGTV’s My Yard Goes Disney, then you should check it out! (Mondays at 8PM) Because you never know what might result from watching an innocent little show…
So here’s the backstory: my kids and I are sitting in the den, cozily curled up in front of the TV to watch this new HGTV show which pairs two of my favorite things: home improvement and Disney! My kids like the show because 1) hello, it’s Disney and 2) they love to see the kids reactions to the amazing yard transformation! My son always prefers the youngest kid-go figure! Well, on this particular show (titled Disney Shaped Pool if you’re interested), the Farrell family had recently cruised on the Disney Dream and wished to have a Dream-inspired backyard. And the Imagineers obliged them and simply went wild! They designed a Mickey shaped pool complete with lighthouse slide! Who has a Mickey pool in their backyard? That is sick (in the cool sense)! But the episode also showed footage of the Farrells on the Disney Dream, along with the kids splashing down the Aquaduck, the ship’s 765 foot waterslide!

Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

And that’s when it happened…my kids vaulted off the sofa, hurtling toward the screen and screaming, “We want to do that! Can we go there? Please, Mommy?” If witnesses had been present, they would think my kids lived a caged existence by the way they reacted. It was as if they had never been ANYWHERE before (akin to when you send them in public and they eat like you never feed them). Hanging on every word of the show, the kids had been transported to the Disney Dream, and they knew one thing: they want to go there for real! Well, unbeknownst to them, my husband and I had been talking about a tropical getaway, but hadn’t reached the planning stage yet. And now I had my marching orders: the kids vote clearly was for a Disney cruise!

Of course, the concept of a Disney cruise really floated my boat (bad pun, I know) but I wasn’t so sure about Hubby. We’ve never cruised before, and someone in our family who shall remain nameless is prone to motion sickness (ahem, I am the designated roller coaster rider just to clarify). He was on the fence and needed some selling on the idea. But when you combine two cherubic faces intent on sailing with Mickey, a fanatical Disney mom, and the Disney Dream itself, you will soon find yourself with a confirmation number and a squealing family! So I owe it all to a little show called My Yard Goes Disney for the inspiration that catapulted us in the direction of the Disney Dream!

Something new and different

Spring is a time for growth and rebirth, so what better time to jump into a new, exciting project? So here’s mine: I just joined the Disney Driven Life (http://thedisneydrivenlife.com) as one of their 60 bloggers–get this, the Fine Arts blogger. See, Dad, you CAN do something with an English major/fine arts degree (haha)! So what better way to commemorate my Fine Arts blogger status than to include the Andy Warhol print, “The Art of Mickey Mouse.” Well, I like it: it’s colorful, bold, and has Mickey on it, so what’s not to like? By the way, I get to write on more than just artwork. Just sayin.

For those of you wondering what I’ve gotten myself into, the blog is defined as a community for neurotic Disney people (moi included). The concept is cool:  the site is driven by Disney fans who incorporate Disney into their everyday lives and provides an outlet for their passionate zeal for the House of Mouse (which some might call, ahem, obsessive.) Case in point: a friend of mine’s most recent post on the DDL discusses spring cleaning and how kids can and should help out using Cinderella and the other princesses as inspiration. (Though she found herself in the unenviable position of seeing her resemblance to the Wicked Stepmother–perish the thought, Ami!)

Anyway, you hopefully get my drift and will also jump over there and check me and the other NDP’s (neurotic Disney people) out! And join! And post comments! Because I know I’m not alone in my Disney enthusiasm, people.

-Sherry (aka NDM 393)

Disney Bliss

Just returned this Tuesday from Disney World and all I can say is…WOW! Highlights (in no particular order):
-Cinderella Castle with the gorgeous icicle lights (it was dripping in diamonds)
-The Very Merry Christmas Party parade
-Osborne lights (A-MA-ZING)
-Candlelight Processional…goosebumps from the music (and the cold) and Steven Curtis Chapman did the best job as celebrity narrator!
-Riding Splash Mountain in 40 degree temps three times in a row and managing not to get soaked (I think the kids will remember this one more so than anything else)
-Watching the kids fight Darth Vader in Jedi Training Academy
-Wishes (and that song makes me cry every time, darn it!)
-Meeting up with the Moms Panel crew at Magic Kingdom
-Spending family time with ZERO interruptions/distractions!
So now I have literally thousands of photos to go through…but I will post some soon, I promise!

Brick Walls and a Kick in the Teeth

OK, I know this is no news flash for most of you, but I didn’t make the Disney Moms Panel this year. Yes, I was disappointed but not devastated. All through the process, I kept getting these reminders that really helped me keep it all in perspective. Like the news that one of Clay’s colleagues has cancer again and the doctors are now saying the new treatment won’t work. Or the friend that’s searching for a new job and her mojo simultaneously because she hasn’t done the job search thing in forever. Or the family court case I immediately had to rush to after my “thanks for applying” call–where  my client was petitioning to get her twin 2 year olds back after A YEAR in someone else’s custody. No, I’m not thrilled that these people are dealing with hardships or facing insurmountable odds-but it was something I needed to be reminded of to keep my eye on the “big picture.” I’m leaning real heavy on FAITH and TRUST and hoping that the pixie dust will happen someday-but I’ll be OK if it doesn’t (just don’t tell the selection committee I said that!)

For whatever reason, I have really been thinking alot about Randy Pausch lately. I remember watching the Last Lecture. The goosebumps hearing his story. The “oh my gosh I’m gonna cry lump in my throat” watching his wife as he delivered this inspiring lecture and knowing he would leave 3 kids behind. Maybe my emotions were ratcheted up because like Randy, my grandmother died of pancreatic cancer. So when I heard “No”, I ran to pull Pausch’s book off the shelf, searching for the quote I wanted–no, NEEDED–at that moment:

“Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show us how badly we want something.” Amen!

Or as Walt would say, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” (Seriously, this one’s a stretch-that really sounds painful!) So, after my teeth kicking, what now? Well, I am willing to go on record and say Disney better watch out next year because I’m bringing it with everything I’ve got! And for every brick wall I face, I’m gonna go after what I want with even more determination, zeal, and gumption. You’re either a Tigger or a Pooh. Well, excuse my grammar, but I ain’t no Eeyore!

Gobsmacked

I love the word “gobsmacked.” Maybe it’s my fascination with the Great Britain, the English accent, or the fact my son first learned how to walk while we were in the UK, but I just LOVE the way it rolls off the tongue. Plus, it makes me think of Willy Wonka candy (Gobstopper, anyone?) Guess I’ve got Halloween on the brain! Anyway, you might ask, why not just say astonished, astounded, dumbfounded or shocked? Because gobsmacked just sounds WAY cooler! (And British).

So, this week left me positively “gobsmacked” when I got the news that I was advancing to Round 3-the FINAL round- of the Disney Moms Panel application process! Hopefully I didn’t scare any neighbors when I opened the email. Talk about an adrenaline rush! While I am humbled and thankful, I also remember how it feels to get the “thanks for applying” email, too. So I’m trying to keep it all in perspective, be confident and yet also grounded. I’ll let ya know how that works out-easier said than done!

This on the heels of returning from a three night Disney grown-ups only getaway! Which was pure bliss. After my Keys to the Kingdom tour (special shoutout to our awesome tour guide, Ames), I am even more awed and amazed at what goes on behind the scenes to make the magic happen! Utilidors, floats with characters loaded by forklifts, and secret staircases, oh my! Now, if only I could get a glimpse of the Cinderella castle suite…

Speaking of suites, our trip took a surprising turn when we entered our “home away from home” at Bay Lake Towers. Talk about gobsmacked-we found ourselves in the 3 bedroom Grand Villa! I mean, the villa has 4 balconies, each with stunning views of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon. Oh yeah, and a kitchen that seats 10. A whirlpool tub. A two story living room that is floor to ceiling windows. Six flat screen TVs. Seriously, the villa is literally is more spacious than our first home (we know because my husband “walked it off”). Capping off the evening with a bottle of wine, followed by dinner at California Grill while watching Wishes was the culmination of a marvelous day. Not to mention our fun “late night date night” at the Magic Kingdom during Extra Magic Hours. Lucky for us, we could stay past midnight (unlike Cinderella)- the park was open until 3AM!

So after having been immersed in Disney for a few days and getting good news about the panel, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a bit absentminded. I’m not ready to come back down from Cloud 9 just yet!

Round Two-wahoo!

Hey everyone-I made it to Round Two in my quest to join the Disney Moms Panel! For those of you who don’t know what the DMP is, it’s an online forum where people can get answers to their Disney vacation questions from enthusiastic Disneyphiles. I actually found out I made it to Round 2 while at a dinner for the local homeless ministry, so I couldn’t exactly jump up and down and do my best Goofy yell- W A H O O -but I did on the inside! My daughter gave me a big hug and then I was back down to earth. It’s probably for the best that I not get too celebratory so it will keep me grounded in the coming weeks.  

For Round 2, we had to answer how we first heard about the panel and our impressions of it in 100 words or less; upload our go-to planning document/tool; and upload a 60 second video of our favorite Disney memory. Gulp! By far. the toughest thing for me was the video-mostly because my cameraman (aka Hubby) did not get back into town until Friday afternoon. Deadline: Friday by midnight (how apropos, Disney-Cinderella’s deadline too)! All the while being ourselves and showing our passion for Disney. YIKES!

So Taylor made a cute sign for the video that said PICK OUR MOM and drew Cinderella Castle, balloons, and a Mickey helicopter. Why? I guess because she could. Between takes of the video, Clay would get the kids all amped up by asking “Who wants to help mommy?” and the kids would scream! My neighbors are probably still wondering what was going on. And in an ironic twist, our family vacation in December coincides with the DMP training, so I would have to redo our entire Christmas Disney trip! Not a complaint though. (Don’t want that to be a reason why they don’t pick me!)  No matter how things turn out, just having my family help me with the video made me feel supported in this endeavor. Although I am still holding out for my fairy tale ending. Just sayin’!

Here I Go Again! (Disney Moms Panel Application Time)

On Monday, September 13th at 9AM, Disney will be accepting applications from Moms and Dads (and anyone else who just loves all things Disney) for the Disney Moms Panel 2011. Pardon me while I do my Snoopy dance! Being the Type A geek that I am, I marked that morning as busy on my calendar ’cause I know I will be working on my application then! You might ask: what does a panelist do exactly? They share their Disney knowledge by answering questions and offering advice about planning Disney World vacations through a dedicated website: disneyworldforum.disney.go.com. Given the diversity of the panel, it is no wonder that they are able to field ANY question thrown at them. Even questions about if hermit crabs are permitted and if pack and plays can fit in bathrooms! Both no, if you were wondering.

One of the benefits of going through this application process is that I get all nostalgic about our Disney adventures and the fabulous memories we’ve made. Like when two year old Taylor met her first character–Goofy–and was scared to death! I mean petrified! I quickly learned to position myself between her and the characters. Incidentally, if I could pass along one bit of advice: perhaps you shouldn’t have your child’s’ first character experience with the tallest one around!

Meanwhile, our resident daredevil Jared has no phobias when it comes to characters, especially of the princess kind. I will never forget how proud he looked covered in princess kisses. His favorite? Sleeping Beauty! (Geez, what is it with boys and blondes?) My blonde haired girl Taylor has a love affair with the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Perhaps I passed that gene on to her, the one that loves pampering and spa treatments. Regardless of the source, my daughter has champagne taste (her favorite food is sushi, hello), so the BBB really meets all our needs. She gets the royal treatment and I get a front row seat to witness her total transformation. Priceless!

One of my most surprising Disney memories was receiving Dream Fastpasses during the Year of a Million Dreams Promotion while exiting Goofy’s Barnstormer. It felt incredible! The rest of the day, we were walking on air. If the powers that be at Disney were indeed keeping a tally of how many dreams were granted that year, then four people were definitely added to the count that day!

I could go on…but you get the picture. Disney means alot to me. So I am super psyched about applying for the Moms Panel. Send me some pixie dust because they will take as many as 20,000 applications! This will be my third time applying, and you know what they say…

And while you’re at it, please post a comment and answer this question: what was your favorite Disney memory? Or for those of you who have never visited the House of Mouse (shudder), what would be a dream come true for you?

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