Where the F*@! You Been?!: A Disney Vacation Explainer

Ah, friends, I am so sorry – I went and did the thing that annoys the ever-loving stuffing out of me when other bloggers do it, which is drop completely off the grid with nary an explanation for the prolonged absence.  And so I apologize, with the weak justification that I was at Disney, because of course I was at Disney!  Just trying to wring as much value as we possibly can from our annual passes (and at 20 in-park days, including a whole host of other little discounts, I think we’ve done quite well on our investment.)

Rainy Day Collage

We stayed at the Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, a quaint little resort styled like the very cutest and cleanest bits of New Orleans.  I’ve wanted to stay here since Disney built it and its much larger sister resort, the Riverside, nearly 30 years ago.  We somewhat recently soldiered on through a Disney accommodation debacle at Pop Century; the poor experience had actually soured me a bit on all Disney properties, so I was feeling a little nervous about what we might encounter at this smaller, older resort.

Resort Collage 1

I really needn’t have worried, because we wound up having a fantastic stay, and we loved every minute we were there.  The French Quarter’s older, meticulously maintained buildings and grounds – densely arranged, and occupying a fairly tiny geographical footprint – make the entire resort feel solid, protected and a little hidden.  I liked its sense of small city intimacy and the attendant quiet, both in terms of between-unit noise (virtually nil, but for the faint flushing of those insanely loud air toilets) and the general level of ambient hotel noise.  Plus it was just an adorable little cityscape to call our home for seven days, and the sea serpent water slide at the pool was bitchin’.  Also, powdered sugar-dusted beignets, fried chicken on a biscuit at the food court and swingin’ jazz gators in the streets.  Who wouldn’t love staying here when all that goodness abounds?

Resort Collage 2

We spent six days doing all of our favourite Disney things, and also trying out a number of fun new experiences.  We ate some incredible meals in-park, at our resort and, of course, at Disney Springs, which is basically a theme park of food, alcohol and merchandise.  We always try to hit up Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ for night one cocktails and southern vittles; our vacations never feel as though they’ve really started until we’ve cozied up out on the screened-in porch with a basket of hush puppies and a couple of moonshine cocktails.

Homecomin' Cocktail Collage

225

We tried out a number of new eateries and lounges.  We ate – and mostly enjoyed? – a lot of weird snack food.  One afternoon we wiled away a couple of rainy hours in an honest to goodness tequila cave – La Cava del Tequila – in the Mexico Pavilion.  The queso and quacamole were excellent, as were the margaritas.  And yes, I do fully cop to a Disney margarita problemo – I’m powerless in the face of vacation cocktail hour; does your sanity good!

Tequila Cave Collage

Lest you think all we did was eat and drink (and that’s certainly what both our waistlines AND wallets are currently suggesting) we also rode a record best 21 rides one cold and rainy day.  We hit up the Haunted Mansion five times over two visits and improved our scores on Toy Story Midway Mania over four total rides.  We rode Slinky Dog Dash, the newest and hottest ride in any of the parks, twice, including a last-call ride that put us in the second last dog of the night.  I had a small stroke when I saw that my favourite part of the Peter Pan ride – it’s not even part of the ride, just a small teddy tea table tucked into a corner as your flying pirate ship heads out of the waiting area and into the Darlings’ bedroom – had been removed and replaced with a jumbled pile of toys.  I burst into tears at the sight of it.  I’ve been fascinated with that little table arrangement since I was a very small child; its absence was genuinely upsetting.

Rides Collage

We met a number of cool characters, including Edna Mode of The Incredibles and Mike and Sully of Monsters Inc.

Characters Collage

Our favourite meet-and-greet, though, was with Vanellope Von Schweetz and Ralph of Wreck-It-Ralph.  Vanellope was SO excited to check out my new Wreck-It-Ralph ears, and Ralph was just excited when my husband commented that he looked as though he had lost a few hundred pounds. 🙂

Ralph Collage

Hmm, let’s see, what else?  I got You’d by Darth Vader at Hollywood Studios (I was sitting by a window having a little break when I looked up, and Darth Vader was just staring in the window at me.  I threw him a nervous little wave, and he spun around and stalked off.  That entire family is so freakin’ WEIRD, man.)

One morning when I couldn’t sleep (I get frazzled about flying days out from my actual flight, making sleep in an unfamiliar place pretty much an impossibility) I got up and filmed a solo walking tour of our resort.  Look for that video on our YouTube channel sometime soon.

We watched some phenomenal stage shows (the Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom is incredible; live music, acting and puppeteering at a level that will make you question how you can be seeing something so beautifully produced and performed in a theme park) and incredible fireworks displays.  Much to Mr. Finger Candy’s delight, we played a solid 10 or more hours of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, completed two games and amassed over 20 free packs of cards.  That’s what you call dominating, kids!

Rainy Sorcerers Collage

So that’s where the f*@! I’ve been, once again with apologies for just up and disappearing on you.  I promise now that I’ve gotten that Disney out of my system for the time being, I’ll settle down and get back to the serious business of nail art, literary takes, bath, beauty and wax reviews, and of course planning for our next Disney vacation, perhaps once again at the French Quarter.  And hopefully by that point the teddy tea table will be back. 🙂

Fall Fun Fridays: Autumn Dreamer

Another Mansion Collage

Today’s prompt in the blogging series I’m doing with my friends Jay of The Scented Library and Julie of The Redolent Mermaid is to discuss how we’d  put together our perfect Fall event or vacation.  For our dreamer purposes, the real fun in this hypothetical planning process comes from the fact that we are unencumbered by any real world concerns – money (or a lack thereof), professional and personal schedules, ANY of the usual obligations.  So please do check out both Jay and Julie’s blogs to see what sort of autumn shenanigans they’d get up to completely off the chain!

As for me, come on, you know it all begins and ends with Disney’s Haunted Mansion!  A wedding – hmm, a Halloween vow renewal for two Disney nerds coming up on their 14th? –  the actual ceremony of which takes place in the lobby, in front of the fireplace, beneath the changing portrait of Master Gracey.  Afterwards, guests (and did I mention I have a team of makeup artists and costumers on hand to garb our guests in the finest of the Mansion’s moldering fashions?) will pass through the Stretching Room before boarding Doom Buggies draped in swags of jet black roses.  Upon reaching the diningroom reception, guests will disembark (please don’t ask me how they’re going to climb down, particularly encumbered by dusty, gothic fashions; this is my crazy, impractical dream!) and enjoy a sumptuous feast of, well, this (this being a strip loin steak topped with balsamic shallot butter on a bed of four cheese pancetta and arugula pasta from Mama Melrose’s in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.)

1134

And for my husband and our other vegetarian guests, there will be a plant-based option that tastes EXACTLY like a steak.  Actually, come to think of it, if that were an option, the entire meal would be veggie.  I ultimately kind of hope that if such a thing actually existed, the entire world would be veggie, but I digress.  No one will drop even a crumb of food down their fronts, and everyone will remain on the responsible, pleasant side of intoxication.  Because there be margaritas a-plenty!

Tequila!

After dessert (my mom’s homemade apple pie, 13 tiers of it and miraculously calorie-free) my new-old husband will waltz me around the dance floor, weaving in and out among the ghosts, to the strains of twenty one pilots, who are there because we’re personal friends and I can just call them up like that.  Josh will NOT be wearing a shirt with sleeves.

This actually reminds me of the ever-so-hopeful exploratory phone call Mr. Finger Candy placed to Disney event services when we were planning our wedding nearly 14 years ago.  He had asked me at one point shortly after we got engaged what my dream wedding looked like, and I gave him pretty well all of the details I laid out above (minus the twenty one pilots stuff, although then – and now – I’d also accept Green Day.  Mike Dirnt’s got nice arms for a bassist.)  So one day he rang them up and asked real casual-like how much it would cost to actually rent out the Mansion, or a portion thereof, for a private event.

Later on that evening we both nearly laughed ourselves into asthma attacks as he recounted the very pleasant and also very delusional Disney rep who quoted him a figure just north of 50K, including a whole host of guarantees we had to make regarding room, food and alcohol sales.  And that was for a two or three-hour event, at best, held in the dead of night after park close, and without any access to the actual ride itself.  I suppose if you had REAL money, you could close the entire ride down just for yourself (hell, close the entire park down just for yourself) but for us regular plebs “just” looking to shut down a small portion of a beloved ride in the most popular theme park in the world (!!) we were looking at a solid $75,000 investment.

So it might have taken 13 years to get there, but I’m feeling really quite positive about our decision last year, on our Halloween anniversary, to ride the Haunted Mansion 13 times in one day.  It’s the most fun we’ve ever had on our anniversary, a total bucket list item, and it didn’t cost us 75 grand!

Grim Grinning Ghosts

Finally, just to keep it wax-relevant, here’s a bit of the Melting Duck’s Foolish Mortal, a Haunted Mansion-inspired blend I picked up some weeks back.  It smells like peppermint-vanilla gum, herbal and a little bit tingly, and the shapes and colours are perfection!  Love everything about this ghostly lovely.

Foolish Mortals Collage

Dining at Disney, Part II

Last we broke the Disney fast, I was regaling you with tales and blurry photos of the equally blurry, margarita-enhanced evening we spent drinking and dining our way through Epcot, and before that, two stupendous feasts at our favourite Magic Kingdom restaurant, Be Our Guest.  I mentioned in my last post that my husband and I were fortunate enough to enjoy fantastic meals virtually every time we put fork to plate, a complete rarity when you’re on holiday.  There’s always inevitably that one meal where afterwards you think to yourself, “I really wish I hadn’t wasted my money and calories on that.”  Also, vacation food – particularly theme park vacation food – is frequently terrible.  But save maybe one or two snacks that didn’t quite live up to the hype (Dole Whip, what weird animal are you anyways?) we enjoyed some wonderful – and wonderfully delicious – meals.  Here are three more of my favourite dining experiences.

Midday Break at Gaston’s Tavern

Gaston's Collage

Yes, that is Mr. Finger Candy, just sitting there in a tri-cornered pirate hat, unironically.  As you do. 😉

No trip to the Magic Kingdom would be complete without a stop at Gaston’s Tavern.  I love this charming little spot; tucked into a nook between Be Our Guest and Journey of the Little Mermaid, it’s typically quite quiet, even during the busy midday rush (I say “typically,” as Christmas morning the 50-strong lineup stretched clear across the bridge.)  LeFou’s Brews are the non-alcoholic specialty of the house, a sweet-and-sour concoction of frozen apple juice and fruity, foamy topping.  They are sooo yummy; a lighter, more refreshing alternative to lemonade.

But on the subject of the man after which the tavern is named, I regret to inform you that the big, throbbing tool was once again absent.  We are now 0-4 on meeting Gaston, and to be honest with you, my feelings are a little hurt.  I’ve now traveled all the way from the Canadian wilderness to France (by way of Orlando) twice, I’ve visited his tavern – scene of the rehashing of all his greatest victories – four times, and I was deeply sympathetic upon discovering that his absence our first day was due to his need to nurse his emotional injuries following a humiliating trouncing at arm wrestling (so we were informed by a bemused cast member.)  But to leave me hanging four times in a row?  Why, Gaston, that’s positively primeval.  All the same, I still struck a fetching pose outside by the fountain bearing his bulgy likeness.

Gaston Pose

Dinner at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe

Hands down, this was the most fun I’ve ever had while dining.  Possibly some of the most fun I’ve had EVER, actually!

Prime Time Collage 1

A meal at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe is a bit like 1950s LARP-ing, with pot roast!  After checking in with an earnest-looking young man in a crisp soda jerk uniform, we were invited to take a load off in Dad’s adjacent rumpus room while Mom put the finishing touches on our meal.  We were ambling about the lounge gawping at all the linoleum, naughyde and zebra print – and at this time of year, silver tinsel – when an older gentleman dressed like every photo of my grandfather ever stepped forward and barked, “FINGER CANDY KIDS!  Finger Candy kids, put your toys away, wash up and get inside, it’s time for dinner!”  As we followed our Pops-for-the-night through the restaurant, which is sort of laid out like the world’s largest, most ambling mid-century bungalow, I could hardly tear my eyes away from my surroundings.  The entire place is an absolute marvel of 1950s design; I could have spent hours just walking around, taking in every last harvest gold canister, blown glass ashtray or rabbit ear’d TV.

Prime Time 5

Upon being seated in what I think was the breakfast nook, we were introduced to our waiter (an “exasperated” baby-sitter type who immediately dubbed us Uncle and the Princess) and another table of heretofore unknown relations.  We were also reminded of the house rules, which include such tidbits of mannerly wisdom as “Hey kids, no lids!” and “No elbows on the table,” which is helpfully printed on the top of the menu.  Here is my husband flouting both of those rules simultaneously, which prompted our waiter to swing by, tap his arm and say, “The only elbows allowed on this table are the ones in the macaroni.”  Busted!

Prime Time 7

Also, someone has clearly never heard of the “snitches get stitches” edict, because here’s my beloved attempting to rat me out for taking pictures with my phone (which I had hidden under a stack of napkins!  Modern tech is not verboten at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, but you will get some righteous, all-in-good-fun crap from your distant relations about your reliance on modern conveniences.) 😉

Prime Time Collage 2

Dinner itself was way, way yummier than I was expecting.  It has been my unfortunate experience that these sorts of themed restaurants often trade style for substance – I’ve had some seriously dodgy (and expensive) meals from a number of places that have prioritized their memorabilia collections over the food served therein (Planet Hollywood and any and all Hard Rocks, I’m looking at you.)  But dinner at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe was the perfect combination of both kitsch and delish.  My pot roast was a particular standout, and who’s going to say no to a neon purple cocktail?  Not the Princess!

Prime Time 1

Ordering that drink actually led to some amazing interactions with our waiter and our getting-larger-by-the-moment extended family.  Dropping my glow cube-enhanced cocktail off at the table, our waiter announced to the room at large, “Look out, cousins, Princess found the keys to Dad’s liquor cabinet!”  I assured him that I could hold my own (this was pre-Epcot, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!) and he responded by going over to a girl with purple hair the next table over and remarking, “No, seriously, drink too many of those and your hair will actually turn this colour.”  Ha!  My husband responded by pointing to his own, ah, follicly-challenged head and said, “Yeah, and if you work too hard, THIS is what will happen to your hair.”  That prompted a huge round of guffaws, and an appreciative slap on the back from our waiter, who said, “Listen to Uncle here, kids – he is laying down some TRUTHS.”  Oh my gosh, so good, we’d go back in a heartbeat.  I walked out of there with a giant smile on my face and a happy tummy full of great comfort food – can you ask for anything more?

Prime Time Collage 3

Bar Dinner at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’

The last night of our vacation we stumbled back to our resort following a 12-hour day at the Animal Kingdom.  After having hurt the top of my right foot on Christmas Day (17 hours at the Magic Kingdom will do that to a person) I was actually beginning to question whether my ultra tender tootsie was just flat out broken.  But following a change of footwear and a quick freshening-up, I rallied hard, hobbling and wobbling my way to Disney Springs for one last dinner at our favourite Florida restaurant, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’.

1718

Which was, of course, packed.  Not too surprising given this cozy restaurant’s popularity and the deep chill just beginning to creep into the night air – Homecomin’s scrumptious Southern cuisine really beckons during the colder winter months.  Without a reservation, we were looking at something like an hour and 10-minute wait for a table.  So we pulled up a couple of seats at the gigantic wooden bar, ordered two (later four) fairly lethal moonshine cocktails and some accompanying vittles, and spent an amazing couple of hours watching the bar staff dazzle us with their mastery of the alcoholic arts.  At one point I looked up to see the head bartender muddle some fruit with his left hand, pour two pints with his right, turn off the taps with the side of his head, all whilst kicking something into a ground level garbage can.  It was fairly incredible – Cocktail out in the real world.

And not for nothing, but the drinks were won-der-ful – unique, deftly layered cocktails brimming with high octane, house-made ‘shine.  My husband’s Apple Pie a la Mode tasted like liquid gold – the perfect festive toast on which to end a Christmastime vacation.  My Berry Lavender was flat out spectacular.  I’d seriously drink a barrel of this rosemary and lavender-infused gem, it was that great.  Wowzers, what a cocktail!  And so delicious alongside Church Lady Deviled Eggs, Thigh High Chicken biscuits and Momma’s Mac and Cheese.  I’m so glad we somehow found the energy to go to Homecomin’ for one last special meal; it was a truly wonderful one.

Homecomin

In conclusion, food is good and we ate a lot of it!  But more than that, we’ve returned home, having enjoyed an embarrassment of perfect dining experiences, with tons of fun memories…and plans for next time.  This could be very dangerous!  But at least we know it’ll absolutely be delicious. 🙂

Blue Curacao

Blue Curaco nails

I joked yesterday that after doing two back-to-back manis inspired by alcoholic drinks (Tuesday’s frozen strawberry daiquiri nail art and Wednesday’s cherry-garnished Manhattan mani) it was clearly cocktail hour here at Finger Candy HQ.  Now that I’ve done another – these citrusy blue curacao nails – I’m just running with it.  Cocktails are a surprisingly fantastic inspiration for nail art; there’s actually quite a bit to draw from there.  For these nails I layered blue and turquoise jelly polishes one atop the other, and then added a sweet, fruity garnish.

Wanna hear a story about blue curacao?  Growing up as a teenager in Ottawa, Ontario, THE thing to do once you turned 18 (or earlier if you had the borrowed ID of an older friend or sibling) was nip across the river to Hull, Quebec to take advantage of their lower legal drinking age.  And THE place to do that was The Strip, a three or four-block stretch of bars and restaurants and dance clubs and resto-pubs that was pretty well overrun with drunk and horny teenagers every Friday and Saturday night.  With my birthday coming toward the end of the school year, I was one of the last of my friends to make the journey across the bridge.  Also because I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to go; The Strip had some very nice establishments – Chez Henri looked like a Victorian castle, and Campus was a hole, albeit a hole with fantastic music – but it also had a (deserved) reputation for being rough, a $2.50 cocktail-fueled debauchfest that spilled out into the streets every weekend, bringing with it fights and altercations and just generally crap behaviour.  But I suspect that’s just what happens when you get a whole bunch of drunk and horny teenagers together in one place.

So I had my reservations.  As did my parents, who never, ever prevented me from joining in on the reindeer games, although they did have some concerns.  And so one day after school a trusted friend swung by my house to talk to my folks and put their minds at ease – “No, Mrs. Lewrey, it’s really not as bad as everyone says.  We’ll be safe and we’ll look out for her; we always look out for each other” – we really did, good cab-taking girls that we were – “I swear I’ve never even seen a bar tussle.”  Which was good enough for my parents, and so off we went that very weekend to the Land of Midori melon ball shooters.

No word of a lie, guys, I had taken maybe three steps into a dive called Ozone, struck dumb by the sight of an entire dance floor of sweating bodies embarrassing themselves to the Macarena, when a bottle of blue curacao arced gracefully above my head, crashing to the tequila-soaked floorboards and igniting a 30 second fistfight between a number of the flailing group dancers.  Then it was over and *I* was suddenly embarrassing myself to the Macarena, and certainly not for the last time…although that bar fight was also the first and last time I saw one of those.  Also the first fight my friend had ever encountered – she really hadn’t fibbed to my folks; it was just a stupid coincidence.  This is also the first time I’m sharing this story publicly, so this should come as a fun surprise for my mom should she be reading this (hi, Mom!  Aren’t we glad I turned out more or less okay?!)

I’ll Take (a) Manhattan

Manhattan Front

It’s apparently round-the-clock cocktail hour here at Finger Candy, between yesterday’s fruity strawberry daiquiri nails and today’s bracingly brown Manhattan mani.  My grandmother’s drink was a Manhattan – a double Manhattan, actually (once again, Grandma, get down with your bad self!)  Me?  Well, after a young adulthood steeped in wine coolers and across-the-bridge brew, I don’t actually drink very much any more.  Alcohol just doesn’t seem to agree with my old lady constitution (never did – a graph depicting my response to alcohol is pretty much a straight up and down line; I’ve been known to go from “WOOOOOOO, LET’S GO TO THE BAR!!!” to sprawled out and unconscious in about five minutes flat.)

But there’s something quite alluring about a Manhattan, with a perfect little cherry gleaming out of its clear, brown depths.  To get that perfect Manhattan colour, I used a favourite – unfortunately also out-of-production – polish from Nfu Oh, the quite unimaginatively named JS39.  I have used this polish in SO many foodie manicures – it makes the perfect lacquered stand-in for caramel sauce, pumpkin spice anything and coffee.  Also nylons, but that’s not quite applicable in this situation.  Anyhow, drink up – plenty more where this came from (although maybe not; that beautiful bottle is distressingly low, and I’ve no idea where to find another.)  Boo to that, but yay to this mani – with its little martini glass and pair of cherries, it’s quite charm-ing. 🙂

Manhattan Bottle

Strawberry Daiquiri

Strawberry Daiquiri

Uh, yes, please!  Heaven knows the weather has been more daiquiri than hot toddy around here lately, but as long as the snow wishes to remain a holdout, I shan’t complain. So let’s order up a couple of them frosted (and straight-up) frozen delights and see this extended summer out in style. 🙂

Cocktail Hour!

Cocktail Hour HandA couple of months ago I did a brushed-on gradient manicure with the warm sister colours to the polishes I used in this manicure – Mentality Nail Polish’s sheer green, aqua (shown below) and blue glazes, in case you were wondering – and it looked exactly like a Tequila Sunrise, one of those alarmingly coloured and potent alcoholic concoctions you can’t help but love, despite its not-from-nature hue. In any event, it would seem I’ve cozied up to the rainbow-coloured bar once again with these nails, another brushed-on manicure using Mentality’s glazes that now reminds me of a Blue Lagoon or a Blue Hawaiian or any other super stainy cocktail involving blue curacao. And what’s a cocktail without a little (fimo cane) garnish, hmm? Nothing I want to drink (that’s a lie; I’ll still drink it, even if my middle-aged constitution no longer allows for the kind of drinking that goes along with blue beverages.)Cocktail Hour FingersCocktail Hour Bottle