Day 1:  De-Stress, Just Enjoy Being Home

snowwhite-dwarfs

Up until a week ago, I was supposed to be traveling tonight to Walt Disney World, but once again I found my sucked into the Twilight Zone with the floor dropping out from under me.  Instead of ending up with another anxiety attack over it, I gave myself one more Disney day and really treat myself because it is well deserved and VERY earned!

home

Today is about de-stressing and being home, but still within the  perimeters of new experiences…

Plans for today include:

  1. Breakfast at Be Our Guest (I hear they now mimosa’s)
  2. Massage at Senses in the Grand Floridian

-I might end up at All Star Pool, hotel room for a nap. or Food & Wine in the afternoon.  All of these options are on the table.

  1. Dessert Party and VIP Seating for Fantasmic!

-Afterwards, the night is still relatively young in terms of Disney time so I might go to Disney Springs or enjoy All Stars at night.   

Remember that I am doing a full out social media blitz this week to make you part of my “working vacation.” Content will be different on each site to make it fresh, so you will want to follow me on…

ta social page

I am also going to be giving everyone* following along and interacting, a chance to win up to $200 in a Disney Vacation Credit* as well as a few daily giveaways as a thank you for being a part of my “working vacation.”  The more you interact, the better chance you have to win.

“Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho It’s Off to Work I GO” Contest Rules & Details

There is so much magic waiting for me that I need to get going, I will C U real soon and remember that life is always better when you are wearing ears.

I’m Done Adulting…I’m Going to Disney

If you were to ask me what my favorite ride in Disney Hollywood Studios is, hands down I would say Tower of Terror.  But…

4 ME9

The last few months I have felt like I have been living in the Twilight Zone.  My life and emotions have been very similar to that of the Tower of Terror thanks to the constant changes in my job.  Just when it seems to get close to normal, the floor drops out from below me…

My Favorite Things - Page 012

I am DONE ADULTING!  To quote my favorite Disney bear, Koda, I want to “tell everybody” that I am on my way home to the most magical place on Earth for my annual Heigh-Ho trip.  What you don’t speak Disney? (We will have to fix that.)

Translation:  Tonight, as soon as I finish my day job, I will be traveling to Walt Disney World for my annual working vacation as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.  

snowwhite-dwarfs

I just love telling people that I “HAVE TO GO” to Walt Disney World, it’s a tough job. My working vacation is all about you, my Disney Travel clients. It is during this trip, that I  try to pack in as many NEW EXPERIENCES as I can to make your trip more magical. No matter how many times I go to Walt Disney World, I always seem to have a long list of NEW experiences.  Walt Disney World is constantly changing, growing, expanding, updating, and refurbishing so it is very easy to create a list of things that I have not experienced. In fact, a whole new land opened in June that I have yet to explore .    

I want to invite you to come along on this working vacation through the power of social media.  We will be “whistling while we work” as I am planning a full out social media blitz this week, with different content across all of these 4 sites…  

ta social page

I am also going to be giving everyone* following along and interacting, a chance to win up to a $200 in a Disney Vacation Credit* as well as a few daily giveaways as a thank you for being a part of my “working vacation.”  

For complete rules and details…

Heigh-Ho Contest: Details & Rules

Get ready by following me on each of my social media platforms and then be on the lookout starting about 6 pm CST as we officially punch the time card…

I will C U real soon and remember that life is always better when you are wearing ears!

Friday Five: 5 x 5 for Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival 2017 & 2018

40347632_686479751712198_1256641477291802624_nYesterday, was opening day of one of my favorite events at Walt Disney World, Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.  This is the time of the time of the year where I unleash my inner foodie and throw out any kind of diet plan. One of my favorite things is to pour through the menus of each Festival Booth and stalk all the great Disney Food Facebook pages, dreaming of all the yummy sips and bites.  The menus were released a few weeks ago and I already have my list ready for my trip in 35! But before I look ahead to next month, let’s take a moment to look at back at some of my favorites (and misses) from 2017…

5 Top Bites from 2017

1 & 2 Piggy Wings (2nd year of my list) & Chocolate Picante-Dark Chocolate Mousse & Yellow cake with Cayenne Pepper, Chili Pepper and Raspberry Dust

IMG_0950

Roasted Pork Wings with a Korean BBQ sauce…sticky, sweet and just little after burn to remind you that you are at Flavors from Fire)  I love chocolate and heat, a yummy combination!

3. Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with a Warm Whiskey-Caramel from the Chocolate Studio (2nd Year of my list)

IMG_0998 (2)

Yummy and refreshing, love the cold treat on a hot day, and paired with a beautiful red dessert wine…AMAZING.

4. Warm Irish Cheddar Cheese and Stout Dip with Irish Brown Bread from Ireland

IMG_2082

I was a little scared to try this combination, considering I am not a beer fan but I love Irish Brown Bread.  The flavor of the bread, cheese and beer together was the perfect bite of Ireland

5. Traditional Spanish Paella with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, Chicken and Crispy Chorizo from Spain

IMG_2807

How they managed to get every component on the plate is beyond me, plus the rice had that crispy chewy bite that normally you would be fighting to get at home.  

Top 5 Sips from 2017

1. Lenotti Recioto della Valpolicella (see picture with Nitro Truffle)

A sweet red dessert wine, probably the best red dessert wine I have EVER had and a perfect complement to the truffle.

2. Kim Crawford Frozen Wine Cocktail featuring Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand

IMG_1350

It was the perfect wine slushy and took the edge off of a family who decided that they wanted to ATTEMPT to crowd me out of my spot for illuminations that I had staked out for over an hour.

3. Red Moscato from Italy

IMG_1404

This must be the year of the sweet reds for me.  Another great vino!

4. Twinings Pumpkin Chai Tea Frozen Cocktail with Caramel Vodka (2nd year)

IMG_1413

My favorite drink from 2016 did not disappoint…pumpkin, chai, caramel vodka fall in a glass!  I will not even admit to how many of these I drank this year. I was EXTREMELY disappointed when I was reading the menu for Ireland’s Festival Booth for 2018 and found this missing…thankfully I did not have to cancel my trip over this as has just been moved to another booth.  

5. Dragon Berry Refresher featuring Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum from the Refreshment Port

thumb_600

A refreshingly light frozen cocktail, that given the opportunity I would have had more that I needed.

5 Misses from 2017

1. Bleu Spectrum (Blanc de Bleu Cuvee Mousseux with Boba Pearls) from the Light Lab

IMG_1011

I wanted to love this, but after 3 sips I threw it away.  It was bitter with an odd aftertaste. Light Lab is such a fun festival booth, mad scientist lab that glows in the dark.

2. Crispy Calamari with Spicy Pomodoro Sauce from Italy (see picture above on Italy’s Red Moscato)

The appearance turned me off as it seemed under fried, however the calamari was crispy but it lacked any sort of flavor at all.  The Pomodoro sauce was good, but not good enough to make up for the calamari.

3. Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce from Morocco

IMG_1410

Another favorite bite from 2016 that was a HUGE disappointment in 2017.  This year the fries were wet and soggy and lacked the spice in spicy.

4. Teriyaki Ginger Pork from Japan

IMG_2808 (1)

I guess I was expecting another version of the Piggy Wings, but this was not that.  It was dull and flavorless.

5. Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce from China

efw-duck

 

I was so excited that this was on the menu again for 2016, but after the first bite I was extremely disappointed.  This year’s  lacked the deep rich flavor I remembered and the duck was chewy and greasy, so instead of being on the top again the duck moved to the bottom.

Looking towards the 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival…

So, what I am looking forward to eating and drinking in 2018 (based on menu only)? Of course, I am going for the Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle, the Pumpkin Chai with Vodka and the Piggy Wings, plus I might give a few past disappointments another chance but here is what is topping my list to try…

Top 5 Eats to Try For 2018

1. Maple Bourbon Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Cream, Caramel & Pecan crunch (Cheese Studio)

2. The Steakhouse Blended Burger (blended beef and wild mushroom slider with brie cheese fondue, arugula, truffle and blue cheese potato chip on a brioche bun) from Earth Eats

3. Bougasta (warm phyllo dough strudel with sweet vanilla custard, lemon honey syrup and cinnamon) from Greece

4. Sweet Potato Poutine (sweet potato fries with caramel sauce, mini marshmallows and pecans) from Refreshment port

5. Korma Chicken with cucumber tomato salad, almonds, cashews, and warm naan bread from India

Top 5 Sips to Try For 2018

1, Caribbean White Sangria from Islands of the Caribbean

2. Chateau Des Charmes Vidal Ice-wine from Canada

3. La Passion Martini Slush from France

4. Fiji Apple Cocktail from Japan

5. Blood Orange Mimosa from the new Mimosa Bar

I have decided that this year, I do not have to try to eat and drink something at every booth.  Instead, I am going to get as many dishes and pours at a Festival Booth that catches my attention (and my stomach as room for).

Follow this link to the 2018 Menus…

2018 Epcot Food & Wine Market Places

What would make your list?  Share your lists in the comments!

Tuesday’s on the Run: A Marathon Runs Through It

It’s Tuesday (okay, I know in reality it is Wednesday and I am a day late), so it’s time to link for Tuesday’s on the Run

images   Montana

download

This past weekend, I crossed another state off my quest to “someday” complete a half marathon in every state with the Missoula (Half) Marathon. Why the Missoula Marathon?

brad2Maybe I was hoping to find a young Brad Pitt (circa 1992) waiting for me at the end with nothing but his waders on, after all “A River Does Run Through It” or should a say a marathon runs through it…

Seriously, If you are going to finish an event in every state is seems pretty clear that you pick the best one the state has to offer, and in this case the United States has to offer…

The Missoula Marathon has twice been named as the Best Marathon in the US (2010 by Runner’s World Magazine and in 2017 by BibRAVE).  It has also been named the 2017 Top Marathon for runners like me, Back-of-the-Packers, as well as a Top 10 Bucket List Marathon.

Missoula Marathon YOUTUBE VIDEO  

Now I know that I only completed the half (cause I am lazy that way), but for 10 miles of both events we shared the course…

The Missoula Marathon makes it look easy to be NUMBER 1…

The volunteers and Run Missoula Wild put on an event with EXCEPTIONAL RACE MANAGEMENT. From the moment I submitted my race registration in April, the Missoula Marathon provided weekly communication about the event via email newsletter.  Each week I looked forward to reading about Missoula as well as the race.  It was also nice to get a PRINTED race program at bib pick up, a keepsake. Bib pick up was easy and in a central location that also gave you insight into the finish set up, as well as a chip check for your bib (just in case you are one of those who are running for time).  Parking was easy, buses ran efficiently to the starting line.  The bag check as the best I have ever seen conducted, with a fleet of UPS trucks and men in brown and bags sorted according to bib number waiting on marked trucks as you made your way to the exit chute. The race start, with fireworks, went off smoothly and ON TIME. The finish was a well-oiled machine of stops (medal, bag, time tape, and food) before meeting back up with your own personal cheering squad.

It’s Montana! I knew going to be beautiful and being a fan of the movie (and book) “A River Runs Through it”, I already had my vision of the race course set in my head long before I completed the registration.  Missoula delivers on the promise of one of the most beautiful places to run (and I have completed mountain half marathons in both Colorado and New Mexico) with its 360-degree panoramic view of the mountains during sunrise, run along the river, charming homes on tree lined streets and the dramatic finish over the bridge and across the river into downtown Missoula.

But you want to know the real reason why Missoula is number 1…

The People of Missoula!  It felt like the entire town somehow came out on race weekend. From the countless volunteers who made sure not only did the race go off with out glitches but runners felt safe and welcomed, to the townsfolk who literally lined the sidewalks of the race course and offered their personalized spin on course entertainment…signs, cowbells, cowboys on horseback, a man playing a baby grand on his front lawn in tails, a string quartet, banjos, cowbells, unofficial course treats (including whiskey shots and popsicles) and just shouts of encouragement as you went past. There wasn’t any stretch of the race where there wasn’t someone cheering you on or a water sprinkler set up purposefully to keep you cooled off!

My experience with the Missoula Marathon demonstrated why in the movie that Brad Pitt’s character, Paul, would reply to his brother Norman “Oh, I’ll never leave Montana.” The Missoula Marathon makes you feel like you are part of the community, and who wants to leave a place where you are treated so well?

Oh yes and then there is the bling…

which is just about the size of the Big Montana Sky!

 

 

Tammie’s Take Thursday:  Refurbished Rooms at Coronado Springs Resort (CSR)

Up until last fall, Disney Coronado Springs Resort had never been on the top of my list to stay at.  After staying there last November, I find myself asking “Why not?”. This little hidden gem between Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom quickly soared to the top of my list as a favorite moderate resort.   Disney Coronado Springs theming is inspired by northern Mexico and the American Southwest and set around a 22-acre-lake.

IMG_1123.jpg

Currently, Disney Coronado Springs Resort is going through a major construction. Walt Disney World is adding a 15-story tower to Coronado Springs Resort which will add 500 rooms to the resort and be located near the main complex, El Centro.  

Honestly, I didn’t even notice the construction except for when I was arriving or departing the resort and never heard anything. I am not going to share much about the resort as a whole, since by the time I stay there again everything will have changed.  But I will tell you that I found the pool, “Lost City of Cibola” to be excellent and the grounds beautiful.

 

Disney Coronado Springs is divided up into 3 sections, the Ranchos (Southwestern Cattle Ranch), Cabanas (Mexican Beach Resort) and Casitas (Spanish architecture from Mexico).  In addition to the tower being built, there are ongoing room refurbishments to the existing rooms during the expansion of Disney Coronado Springs. This is my take on the room renovation in the Ranchos Section ….

IMG_2110.jpg

When I received my room assignment text for the Rancheros, I was not pleased for several reasons… I wanted to be in a refurbished room, this section is the farthest away from El Centro and to me seemed most like the environment that I am from in my everyday life (I like to have new experiences on vacation),  but as I made my way to my room I found myself appreciating the walk (er, hike in the rain) thanks to the beautiful job Disney has done with the landscaping.

When I finally found my room (that is a whole different story), I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the door because this is what I was expecting…

41508_103_z

but I want I got was one of the newly refurbished rooms.  (Disney Magic Moment)

IMG_1104

The room has a beautiful modern,clean and  airy look to it in rich earth tone colors. The 2 queen beds are on a raised platform (leaving a wide open space underneath to store suitcases) and have massive headboard with reading lights above each bed.  

Between the two beds is a nightstand with enough convenient USB ports to charge all of your devices at once, telephone and a small thank you gift for putting up with the construction. The in-room safe is located in the middle of this table. I love the 3 Amigo artwork located throughout the room, just enough Disney to remind you where you are.

Across from the beds is one very long desk with built in drawers for storage and many more USB outlets.  I loved the reading light at the desk. There is also a mini-fridge, a Keurig coffee maker with coffee pods and ceramic mugs to drink from, and a HUGE flat screen television.  In the corner near the window is a nice comfortable sitting chair. In all of the refurbished rooms across different resorts, Disney is removing the carpet and laying laminate type flooring, here wood laminate.  I find this a welcome change and so much cleaner feeling overall.

The bathroom is separated from the sleeping area with barn doors.  I love being able to shut the bathroom off from the rest of the room.  The bathroom has a double marble vanity with lots of counter space and cupboards.  The closet has been replaced with a stand-up unit that houses the ironing board and iron.  The bathroom itself is pretty basic, but the rain shower head was delightful.

Rancheros section was so far away from the main part of the resort, El Centro, but the bus stop was right out the door which was an added plus for wanting to get to the parks quickly. The actual walk to El Centro only took about 10 minutes, I could have taken the bus as the last stop was El Centro before leaving to the parks but then I would have missed the beauty of Coronado Springs.  The “Dig Site” was a short 5 minute walk.

When selecting a resort, my biggest WANT is to be able to come back and relax after a full morning or day in the parks.  

Copy of IMG_1537

There’s something to say for being able to return to the resort with the ability to enjoy the most relaxing atmosphere possible. Can I come back and truly relax at Coronado Springs?  Yes, I from everything I experienced at Coronado Springs Resort it fits the relaxation requirement, so much so that I know recommend this resort to my clients despite the construction as my first choice in moderate resorts.

Looking for advice where to stay for your Walt Disney World Resort?  I have personally stayed most of the on-site Walt Disney World Resort Hotels and can give you an honest opinion on the rooms as well as the relaxation factor, just ask and when you book your vacation with me I will do everything possible to make the hotel stay just as magical as your park moments.

A Cars Inspired Road Trip, Part 4: Tucumcari, New Mexico to beyond Williams, AZ

There is an item on my bucket list that my family and I have partially completed, a drive from Chicago to Santa Monica along the famous Mother Road, Route 66.  Last Spring we drove half of the route on our Cars inspired trip to Disneyland…

IMG_0928We were only supposed to go about 500 miles today, but as you will discover when you read to the end we ended up going much further than planned…

We said goodbye to the Blue Swallow Hotel early, wanting to stop in Albuquerque for breakfast at the Famous Frontier Cafe across from the campus of the University of New Mexico.  

slide2

Frontier Restaurant 

My husband grew up in Albuquerque and the owners of the Frontier, the Rainosek’s,  are family friends.   180sNo stop to Albuquerque is complete without a Frontier Cinnamon Roll, some homemade tortillas and my personal favorite, green chile stew.

 

We will save the 66 Diner, which serves American comfort food to hungry travelers of Route 66,66 diner 2

Route 66 Diner

in Albuquerque for another day whose chrome and stainless steel Streamline Moderne decor and 1950s-inspired waitresses uniforms serves as inspiration served as inspiration for Flos V-8 Diner in Carsland.

Our next stop was just across the New Mexico-Arizona border at Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post (which was closed).  

IMG_0935

It was easy to see what part of Cars and Carsland was inspired from this location…

At the same exit for Chief Yellow Horse, you will find 2 other locations that inspired both Cars and Carsland…3E76CE89-C137-4DEB-9BD4-F1ED7173DE88

 

Take a look at the cliffs and it is easy to picture this location in the movie right behind the Cozy Cone. And across the highway at the same exit you will find the inspiration for Fillmore’s Taste-In.

The Cars character, Fillmore is also based “unofficially” on an actual person, Bob Waldmire.

He is  “unofficially”  Fillmore because he refused to lend his name for the film.  Waldmire lived a hippie lifestyle, driving up and down Route 66 in his VW microbus (complete with a solar panel for supplemental power), and selling his intricate artwork. You can see his microbus at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac.

Our next stop was in Holbrook, Arizona home of the Wigwam Motel…

My “boys” had a great time exploring all of the old cars parked around the motel.  Can you guess the how the Wigwam Motel inspired both the movie and Carsland?

Continuing down I-40/Route 66 we came to the exit for the Jack Rabbit Trading Post (which of course was closed) but we still had fun locating the next inspiration for Cars and Carsland…

We then continued on to Winslow, Arizona (Are you already singing along?)…

IMG_1001

While it is not an inspiration for Cars, Winslow is just one of those places you have to stop at for a photo opp… standing on the corner and singing!  We would drive another 90 miles to Williams, Arizona where we planned to spend the night…only to arrive and discover that I made reservations for the next week at the hotel and there was no room in the inn.  Oops…IMG_1028

 

Taking it all in stride we decided to head for the California boarder and spend the night in Kingman, Arizona in order to get an early start on our next day and arrive at Disneyland in time for the fireworks.  I am glad, I messed up the reservation because we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset that evening.

Stay tuned for Part 5:  Oatman, Arizona

 

A Cars Inspired Road Trip, Part 3: Blue Swallow Hotel

There is an item on my bucket list that my family and I have partially completed, a drive from Chicago to Santa Monica along the famous Mother Road, Route 66.  Last Spring we drove half of the route on our Cars inspired trip to Disneyland…

Part 3: Overnight in Tucumcari, New Mexico

I know that it sounds really crazy that when you have a 16 hour drive in front of you to stop for the night only 2 hours down the road, but that is exactly what we did!  

Our first night was spent at the Blue Swallow Hotel in Tucumari, New Mexico…  

“The Blue Swallow has been serving travelers along the Mother Road since 1939, and today, our guests enjoy a pleasant reminder of what it was like to travel across the USA in the “good old days. From the beautifully restored rooms, to the distinctive attached garages, to the fabulous neon display each night, a stay at the Blue Swallow is a unique experience that will leave you rested, refreshed, and with wonderful new memories. Come take a step back to a simpler time, meet your neighbors from around the world, and relax under the glow of the neon lights in the historic courtyard of the Blue Swallow Motel.”

https://www.blueswallowmotel.com/history-2/

And like all stops on this road trip the Blue Swallow has a Cars connection…

The office for Sally’s Cozy Cone Hotel is modeled after the Blue Swallow Office.  And all of the neon used in both the movie and in Carland..look no further than inspiration from the Blue Swallow and Tucumcari.

So how was our stay?

Each of the 12 rooms at the Blue Swallow has been restored to represent a room at a motor court as it would have been in the 1940s and 50s.   We stayed in Room 14 and could not have been more pleased.

The room was comfortable and clean,but best of all was the room decor.  Every room at the Blue Swallow is different and features vintage lightning, period furniture and artwork. Don’t let the decor fool you…the bedding is 600 count thread, the mattresses are premium and the towels fluffy, and yes there is a modern flat screen television and free internet.

The bathroom featured original bath fixtures and tile work, which was beautiful. I am amazed how it has withstood the last almost 80 years.  

IMG_0920

There was even a working 1940s rotary dial telephone, that the #manchild was amazed with.

It was a beautiful night when we arrived, so we spent some time exploring the Blue Swallow courtyard and grounds, before finding a place to eat.  And of course being on the Mother Road we wanted to find someplace that fit the theme of our trip.

IMG_0321

Since 1956, Del’s Restaurant has been a destination break on Historic Route 66. The menu has a little bit of something for everyone including New Mexican favorites and Cowboy Grub. With it being Lent and a Friday, we had some great catfish!

Afterwards, we spent a little time driving down Route 66 through Tucumcari and trying to imagine what Route 66 was like in the 40s and 50s.  

Then it was sweet dreams and an early morning…

Next Stop:  Tucumcari, New Mexico to Williams, Arizona (504 miles)