Disney Girl Challenge: Vampirina!

Vampirina Collage 1

Well, would you look at that – actual nail art on this nail art blog!  However, owing to the fact that my brain now seems to be permanently stuck in Disney auto-pilot mode, you know there’s gots to be some House of the Mouse in here somewhere.

This is Vampirina.  She may be blue, with pointy teeth, but she’s just like you!  Or she’s like the three to six-year-olds who are her target television audience, where she has a cute namesake show about her family’s spooky adventures in Pennsylvania.  It’s a Disney Junior production, though fairly new, which means the kids haven’t quite lost their wee minds over Vampirina and her friends as much as they have over, say, Doc McStuffins or those weirdo PJ Masks critters.  Give it time; I feel like this one is going to be big.

I’m a good 35 years off Vampirina’s targeted age range, but I just find it utterly adorable.  Vampirina Hauntley’s a spooktacular little baby goth, and she’s the kind of thoughtful, self-possessed and totally normal kid anyone would be delighted to call their own.  That she’s a blue-skinned, pointy-toothed vampire from a strange country filled with unfamiliar customs is a metaphor for anybody who may think of themselves as an “other,” although the show doesn’t whap you over the head with its message of acceptance and friendship and understanding.  Or maybe it does and I’ve just been brainwashed after staring into Vampirina’s unmoving purple eyes for too long (my one complaint with the show – the animation is flat, although the rich colours and design of the show are straight out of a Tim Burton movie.)  It’s a terror-ifically delightful and non-irritating children’s show with a kind heart, a great message and a colourful gothic look, and I love it for it, child(-at-heart) or no.  Also, James Van Der Beek voices Vee’s father, Boris, Lauren Graham her mother, Oxana, and Wanda Sykes Vampirina’s 473-year-old gargoyle best friend, Gregoria.  It’s so stupid cute.

Vampirina 3

I nearly gave myself a case of the battys when we walked out of a ride on a recent trip to Hollywood Studios and Vampirina was right across the street holding a character meet-and-greet!  We jumped into line and didn’t feel the least bit weird about the fact that we were the only adults around. 🙂

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And oh my gosh, she was SO cute!  On the show, Vampirina plays guitar in a band with her human friends Poppy and Bridget.  The Ghoul Girls thrash out in Vampirina’s stone tower bedroom, and Vampirina’s all about those rawk fingers.  She actually got so excited here after we asked about her band that she nearly stuck her devil horns straight up Mr. Finger Candy’s nose!

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Is there something wrong with us that we’ll stand in line to meet real life plushie representations of fictional animated characters?  Yeah, probably!  But it’s a lot like Vampirina unlocking her inner ghoul – it feels good, so we’re doing it.  Family motto of the last 365 days, actually.  So glad we got to meet this cutie – one day it will probably pay off in cool-loser Aunt Sandra stories for some delighted six-year-olds. 😉

Vampirina Collage 2

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Tyler Two Pilots! Or How We Spent our Halloween Anniversary

Tyler Two Pilots 12

Hey!  Lest some of you mistakenly think that a poor resort stay at Pop Century was enough to completely undo our precious Disney vacation goodwill, allow me to reassure you that no, it did not.  We are remarkably resilient Disney travelers, and when the overall cruddy vibe at Pop Century began impacting our moods – seriously, who wants to be a grumper puss on holiday? – we got the heck out of there and got on with our trip.  No surprise here, but Disney vacations are expensive, time-consuming and require a ridiculous amount of what I call managerial oversight.  I realize how awful that sounds to those of you who prefer to vacation in “set it and forget it” mode, but once again, allow me to assure you we like these kind of vacations; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have gone to Disney World four times in one year.  We always have a great time; we’ve just never had to work quite so hard at ensuring that great time.  But things got markedly better – and absolutely calmer – once we moved over to our new resort, in part because Coronado Springs is a really wonderful place to stay, and also because we just refused to allow the crummy time we were having at Pop Century to negatively impact our entire trip.  Ain’t no one got time for that on holiday!

Besides, by the time we decided to leave our resort, we had already been having a ton of goofy, good times fun, and we weren’t inclined to step off the party bus anytime soon.  And some of the most fun we had across our entire 11-day vacation was during an actual party, our second run at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on October 31st, which also happened to be our 14th wedding anniversary!

We attended Mickey’s Not So Scary in late August during our Labour Day trip, and it was an experience.  Bowled over by the oppressive heat and bonkers humidity, we didn’t attend in costume, and just sort of stumbled around from meet-and-greet to parade to fireworks to midnight stage show in a sucrose-enabled haze.  The whole thing is a blur of too much sugar and too much damp and not enough sleep.  We vowed to do better during our Halloween to Christmas trip.

Twenty One Pilots Collage 2

And so to celebrate 5110 days of wedded bliss and our second Mickey’s Not So Scary, we decided to don our first ever couples costumes, and spent the day – and the long party evening – bombing around the Magic Kingdom as two different video versions of Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of twenty one pilots.  Why two Tylers and no Josh Dun, the drummer?  With all adoration for Josh, neither one of us is confident enough to show that much sideboob – the man loves his low-cut tanks, if he’s wearing a shirt at all (never change, bro.) 😉

Mr. Finger Candy, resplendent in Tyler’s Stressed Out ensemble (complete with meggings and a whole lot of black gunk about his neck and hands) was being a terrifically good sport, but he was also convinced that absolutely no one would know who we were.  “Husband of little faith!” I mock-admonished him, in the act of smearing my own hands and neck with black stage makeup for my Lane Boy getup.  “Okay, so not everyone’s going to know who we are.  But the RIGHT people are going to know!”

Twenty One Backpack Collage

Turns out we were both a whole lot right and a whole lot wrong.  Virtually every cast member working the evening party knew exactly who we were, prompting much on-the-spot fanboy and fangirling over TOP’s new album, Trench.  In a park full of incredibly costume’d guests (wowza, some people turn it out) we had people running up to us to tell us how much they loved our outfits, and you could hear people all over gleefully shouting out, “Omigod, twenty one pilots!”  It was completely awesome.  I also think Tigger may have been a TOP fan – he kept enthusiastically gesturing to his neck and giving me delighted, double barreled thumbs up.

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Of course, there were also the people who had no clue who we were (“Are they video game characters?” was a common refrain, followed by a dismissive, “Oh, they’re that band”) and I still chuckle when I think of the little girl I overheard in the bathroom stage-whispering to her mortified mom, “Mommy, mommy, did you see the dirty girl with the black stuff all over her neck?”  Heh.

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Anyhow, that’s the story of how much I love twenty one pilots, and how much my husband loves me, and I him – I wouldn’t ask just any man to don meggings and a toque in 90 degree weather for me. 😉  And it’s not every man who would wear them for his wife either (though if we’re being totally honest here, he can go ahead and dress like that every day of the rest of our lives, because he looked hot as hell!  Nearly got us bounced out of the park after I tried to drag him behind the little Dutch kids on It’s a Small World to snog.  Joke, joke – although that is the number one way of getting kicked out of the parks.  Turns out Mickey’s not so down with the guests trying to bang behind the animatronics.) 😉  We had a blast, and it was a great party, Halloween, anniversary and day.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

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Pop Goes the Resort Stay

Pop Collage

Many months ago when we were planning our just-completed Disney anniversary vacation, we decided that because of the length of the trip (11 nights!) we ought to try to maximize our resort dollars with a first-time stay at a value resort instead of our usual moderate.  Out of the five value resorts on property, Pop Century was regarded as the very best, with a fun vibe to match its kitschy-tacky-cute aesthetic.

Potato Heads

So we booked our vacation, and as our long-awaited trip finally approached, we both became quite excited about our stay at Pop – the rooms had all recently undergone a much-needed refurbishment, and if they looked a bit sterile, well, they also looked bright and fresh and welcoming.  We had also heard great things about the kitchen in the food court at Pop Century – supposedly it was ultra accommodating of vegans and vegetarians like my husband, with special substitutions on offer of popular Disney favourites like over-the-top burgers and Mickey waffles.  And we had heard that it was just a fun place to stay, with a nice mix of small families and couples like us having a great time at the happiest place on earth.

I think you know where this story is going.  And I should have known where this story was going, but I had hope.

Misplaced hope, as it turns out, because we had a most unsatisfactory experience at Pop Century.  The kind of unsatisfactory that finds you begging for a room change at 5:00 in the morning.  The kind of unsatisfactory that maroons you at a packed bus stop in the pouring rain for 50 minutes with 200 other furious, soaking wet guests.  The kind of unsatisfactory that finds you just not eating dinner one night because, after waiting in a half hour lineup at the food court, they misplaced your meal.  The kind of unsatisfactory where there’s long, blonde hairs in the shower, even though one of you is a brunette and the other has no hair at all!  And ultimately the kind of unsatisfactory that leads to you booking a room at another resort at 1:00 in the morning after you’ve grown utterly exhausted with all of the above.

Oh man, what a gong show.  Where to start?  With the gargantuan Roger Rabbit figure stationed outside our building?  In hindsight, this was an omen – I hate Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with the fire of 1,000 burning suns.  I hate it about as much as I hate The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, which I also heard twice whilst waiting in line for the bus.  Omens on top of omens!

Roger Rabbit

The rooms themselves were nicely, but inexpensively, appointed.  Can’t say I blame Disney for going low on the quality of the furnishings given that people seem to have used these rooms as their personal playpens – there was not a surface in either of our rooms that wasn’t peppered with nicks, dings and scratches.  And I think the damage may be inevitable given the tiny size of these cramped units – you’re never not on top of yourself, and that’s just with two people in the room.

Pop Century

Transportation to the parks, via Disney’s internal bus system, was usually pretty great, with buses departing from the front doors of Pop Century every 20 minutes.  But travelling between parks and resorts or leaving the parks at night was a nightmare of queuing and standing and grumbling that I came to actively dread.  Most evenings we’d wait for 45 minutes to an hour for a bus back to the resort with 200 other angry guests, miffed that the THIRD bus to Wilderness Lodge had just passed us by while the second Pop Century bus in a row had been scooped by a disabled guest and their 20 accompanying family members.  One night it rained, the kind of weather event that’s more mini hurricane than rainstorm; I’ve never experienced anything so furiously intense.  Umbrellas and rain gear did nothing – we were both soaked straight through to the bone (our bones eventually dried off; our shoes and underwear…not so much!)  With the usual hundreds of guests in line, now cold, sodden and utterly exhausted, it would have been a great time for Pop to allocate a few more buses to usher us all home.  Instead we waited, and then caught sass from our bus driver for not packing ourselves in tightly enough for the stand ‘n’ drip back to the resort.  More than once or twice or five times I overheard fellow guests griping about the lack of timely bus service, questioning what exactly they were getting from their stay at Pop, with one deeply aggravated gentleman saying that were it not for the non-refundable tickets he had bought for an event at the end of the week, he’d pull the plug on his entire Disney vacation, full stop.

Pop Bus

The food court, far from being the accommodating foodie mecca I had envisioned, was an exercise in chaos studies so extreme, Dr. Ian Malcolm would have thrown up his hands and stalked out in frustration (little non-Disney, Jurassic Park humour for you there.)  Forget personalized vegetarian substitutions – the one and only time my husband ordered a vegetarian burger, it still magically showed up layered with drippy back bacon.  One evening I waited in line for 35 minutes for a basic meal of chicken nuggets and waffle fries, only to arrive at the front of the line just in time to be completely and utterly ignored.  I am apparently invisible.  Well, after that, I certainly made us disappear – disappear right off property and straight over to Coronado Springs.  But more on that necessary resort change in a moment.

Coronado Collage

Cleanliness was an issue.  Our first room was cleaned once in five days.  Disney does this thing where they offer you $10 a day if you forego “Mousekeeping.”  We’ve done this before on shorter trips, but this time we weren’t even presented with the offer.  Which we absolutely would have taken had we known that our room wasn’t ever going to get cleaned in the first place.  There were also long, blonde hairs in the shower that clearly didn’t belong to either Mr. Finger Candy or I.

There seemed to be absolutely no soundproofing between the units, particularly those with an adjoining door, like our first room.  One morning we were woken at 2:30 am by the 24-hour party people next door stumbling back to their room after what was presumably a long evening at Disney Springs.  I actually don’t think they were being particularly loud, but normal speaking voices – in addition to every creak, thud and toilet flush – registered as though they were happening right in our unit with us.  Another morning we were woken at 4:45 am by the screaming of a baby the next room over; it continued for the next three hours, while we took time out of our holiday to negotiate a room change.

To their credit, Pop Century quickly accommodated our request for a room without an adjoining door.  Of course, luggage services failed to move our luggage to our new room, necessitating a long walk back to the lobby for my husband in the middle of the night to fetch our possessions, but at least we could now enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, right?  Well, sure, so long as you could ignore the thuds coming from all around you as people lowered their already-creaky Murphy beds, threw the bolts on their doors, flushed their toilets.  In the very still of the night, if you weren’t fortunate enough to have jet engine-rated ear plugs screwed into your noggin, you could hear every ding of the elevator and every snick of the bathroom pocket doors sliding shut.  And speaking of the bathroom, you could also hear your neighbours tending to their nature needs, clear as a bell.

On the subject of the neighbours, I encountered precious few of the small families or fun-lovin’ Disney couples I had anticipated.  Instead Pop was inundated with gigantic school groups, frazzled runners in attendance for the Run Disney marathon, and large, nasty families who could seemingly only communicate in lobbed insults (in fairness, I’d be twitchy, too, if I had two adults and three kids in one of those tiny little rooms.  Oh no, wait, I DID have that one morning, thanks to the shoddy construction materials in use at this resort.)  Far from the goofy, easy-going vibe I had been expecting, the entire resort seemed steeped in a frantic, stressed-out mania that made every interaction feel like a competition for precious few resources.

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Perhaps most galling of all was that this harried, Lord of the Flies-esque vibe extended to the cast members at Pop Century, particularly those in the perpetually-slammed food court, who always let you know, if you needed assistance or, you know, food, that they had other, better things to do.  At 1 am the morning we finally decided to jump ship, my request to general Disney Services that we be moved to a new resort was punted down to Pop Century’s front desk.  I’ve no idea why the resort from which we were trying to flee would help us find new accommodations, and indeed, they couldn’t; supposedly there were no more rooms at the Disney inn.  But less than a minute later, after a quick online search, I had secured a room at Coronado Springs for the final four days of our trip.  Care to offer me a job, Pop Century?  Because supposedly I can work bookings MAGIC over here (actually, no, I do not want to work at Pop Century; I’m not very good at providing front line cover for back-of-the-house incompetence.)

Pop Lobby

Following the no-dinner debacle, I groused all the way back to our room – oh, how I wished we could move resorts!  “So why don’t we?” asked my imminently wise husband, reminding me in a flash that we were adults with the desire and – probably most importantly – the means to improve our vacation experience.  Was being forced out of our resort and into a more expensive upgrade how we wanted to spend our hard-earned money?  Of course not.  But any savings that we were realizing as a result of the value-priced room rate were completely undone by Pop’s many and varied negatives.  Ultimately, the situation at Pop Century had grown completely unlivable; the resort’s chaotic vibe was beginning to catch, if my griping and general dissatisfaction were any indication, and I didn’t want those bad feelings to infect the rest of our trip.  So we moved on, and enjoyed four great, Roger Rabbit-free days at Coronado Springs.  The only time I looked back was from the shelter of the half-filled bus to Coronado as I peeked at the 200-strong lineup of poor saps queuing up for another sleepless, dinnerless night at Pop Century and thought, “Thank goodness that’s not us.”

You Can’t Stay in Neverland Forever

Couples Collage

Though we certainly gave it our very best shot with our just-just concluded 11-day vacation at the most expensivest place on earth!  I’m sorry, I mean the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  It also may be the hottest place on earth; save for maybe just 12 approaching-cool hours, every day topped 90 degrees with full, bright sun and sticky humidity.  As always, we had a wonderful time, and we’ve arrived home with bookings for our next trip already in place, so clearly we’re those nuts that embrace the insanity that is wildly overpaying for a vacation in the devil’s sweaty armpit.  No sense denying that!  But this vacation also came with some first-time challenges on the accommodations side of things that made coming home that much sweeter – shelter from the Disney storm.  I’ve been glad to return to non-Disney life, as tempting as it is to just blow off adulthood altogether and live forever in the Haunted Mansion.

The objective of this trip, because we are Type A Disney nerds who do things like plan out mini challenges within an already packed vacation schedule, was to bridge the Halloween and Christmas holidays with two special event parties, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on Halloween, and then Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party one week later on the final night of our trip.  In between we’d enjoy a lot of great meals at favourite restaurants, celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary, attend our first fireworks dessert party, don our first ever couples costumes, lay waste to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, meet lots of fun characters, take a pile of goofy (and sometimes Goofy) photos, ride the Mansion half a dozen times, complete Mr. Finger Candy’s first and second decks of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards, and hopefully enjoy a fun and relaxing stay at another great Disney resort.

And, you know, with the exception of but one of those things (our underwhelming, ultimately truncated stay at Pop Century is a blog post for another day) we tackled everything on that list, and have arrived home victorious!  Also utterly exhausted, and in possession of about 3,000 photos and videos that need to be organized into posts to share with our friends and family, and of course anyone else who might like to join in on our Disney vacation fun.  Come on over to the dark side, we have Poison Apple Cupcakes!

Poison Apple Cupcake

Over the coming days I’ll be sure to drive you bonkers with the recounted details of our trip in a slightly more organized fashion (brace yourselves for the all-food post, because we truly ate ALL the food!) but for now I’d like to leave you with a video I made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, of our evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios enjoying the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam holiday dessert party and fireworks show!  Spoiler alert: We get Girl Drink Drunk (that’s a Kids in the Hall joke about the potency of ultra stainy, rum-based cocktails, of which we both now have a great deal of experience!)

Happy Hallowversary to Us!

Well, here’s something I’ve never done before – blogged whilst on the road. Said road, of course, being in Disney World, where Mr. Finger Candy and I are celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary! Yeah, we’re the people who got married on Halloween, and now we’re the people heading off for another round of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! I hope to have some cool couples costume pics for you tomorrow, but for now, here’s a wee peek at just a bit of the sunny anniversary fun we’re having down Disney way.

They’re Coming to Get You, Barbara

Cemetery Gates 1

Call this updated Night of the Living Dead-esque manicure the inevitable sequel to a design I always thought I could do a little bit better.  I’m sure George A. Romero thought likewise when he attempted Dawn of the Dead.  Ooh, sick zombie burn!

But real talk?  Wonkus hand position aside, I actually prefer the original design; it’s clearer than this muddled black-and-white cemetery, and the tiny details are more delicately rendered.  Here, take a peek!

Not entirely unfortunate, right?  Like I said, slightly sideways hand position aside (it took a long, long time to nail down a position that both felt and looked good) I think this 2013 manicure is far superior to the one I did today.  What’s old is new again!  Or maybe I’m just regressing?  Hard to tend to my nail artabilities when I’m running off to Disney every 20 seconds (slight exaggeration, but only slight – we’re leaving for our anniversary trip in two days!  So 172,800 seconds.)  Anyhow, perhaps I’ll have to update the update of the original, just to put these black-and-white zombie things six feet under where they properly belong once and for all. 😉

Fall Fun Fridays: The Finale

Decorations

Goodest of mornings, friends, and welcome to the final prompt of the Fall Fun Fridays series I have been embarking on with my blogging buddies Jay and Julie.  Today we’re discussing the great autumn out-of-doors.

Well, they probably are.  Julie takes some of the most beautiful photographs of nature I’ve ever seen and Jay just loves getting out and exploring the world, so I’m sure they both have lots of cool adventures to share in the great wide somewhere.  Please do check out their blogs to follow along in the fun.

Jay at The Scented Library

Julie at The Redolent Mermaid

As for me?  Well, you know it all pretty well begins and ends with Disney.  I commented earlier during this series that the last two years, I’ve had a hard time mustering up an appropriate level of enthusiasm for the Fall.  As in I’ve had hardly any – very unusual, as I just adore the autumn.  Is there a better season for gloomily beautiful weather, scrumptious food, delightful decorations and just cozying up with someone you love?  I certainly don’t think so.

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But the last two years there’s been a weird block in place where it has literally taken leaving my gorgeously be-leaf’d province for Disney World in Orlando, Florida to jump start my Fall fever.  I suppose that’s because like most things Disney embarks upon, they do the autumn – and especially Halloween – very, very well.  And being the Halloween nuts we kind of are, there’s nothing that gets our happiness meters revving like our favourite time of year at the most magicalest place on earth.

And so we’re heading back again in just a couple days’ time to immerse ourselves in the season – one last Halloween hurrah for these two old marrieds celebrating their 14th Halloween wedding anniversary.  And when we return, I’ll no doubt have tons of photos to share of our end-of-autumn adventures, but that doesn’t do any of us any good right now, does it?  And so I’m sharing this little video I made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, of the Fall fun we had at Disney World just this past Labour Day long weekend.  It was our first time attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, a spooktacular after-hours event at the Magic Kingdom, but our second time hitting up the World for the autumn season, and I think we really did it up right.  I hope you enjoy it, and thank you again for following along with this little blogging series – it’s been so nice to have you by every Friday. 🙂