Pests Be Pestin’

“Sandra,” you are most likely not thinking, “it has been an eternity since you’ve yammered in our faces about Disney.  Why so taciturn?”  Or something to that effect. 😉 Well, that’s because I’ve moved the majority of my Disney blindness over to both Instagram (find me at park_or_perish, or click on the IG link in my sidebar) and YouTube.

I’m particularly proud of our little YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, because I am notoriously tech-unfriendly.  I have accidentally destroyed more expensive electronics than my parents definitely would have preferred (on our wedding day, my dad pulled Mr. Finger Candy aside and, in his usual droll manner, said, “Well, she’s “yours” now.  But you do know she destroys electronics, right?”) and in university an emergency infusion of McDonalds was the only thing that held off a complete breakdown during the Online Editing Session From Hell, 1999 edition.  Holy crap I’m old.  Anyhow, I’m bad with tech.  Basically, if it deals with “stuff,” I will find a way of accidentally trashing that stuff and, I dunno, stapling it to myself or something.  I’m really kind of an incredible klutz for someone who took dance lessons for 20 years.

But I digress.  As always.  What I was trying to say is for someone so inept at the “business” side of blogging, and just generally anything having to do with tech, I’m super proud of myself for learning a little video editing program so I could launch our YouTube channel.  I’ve pulled off some not totally unfortunate edits, and I love to edit sound – it’s nitpicky work, but so satisfying when your timing finally snugs into place seamlessly.  YouTube also represents its very own particular little publishing quagmire; it took me more than a couple of test runs to work out the bugs.  None of this stuff comes naturally to me, so I’m really quite pleased that I’ve been able to jump in with both feet regardless.

So that’s where the Disney has scampered off to – it went off to seek adventure in the great wide somewhere known as Instagram and YouTube!  I made this video this weekend, and I thought I’d share it with you.  It’s all about the Disney nevers you know we’ll probably never actually respect; Disney has a particular knack for dulling one’s sense and reason, or at least our sense and reason.  I hope you’ll check it out, and thanks so much for being a great virtual neighbour!

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

On general principle, I’m against the front-loading of any major holiday.  I stopped shopping at craft retailer Michael’s years ago after they began trotting out their Halloween merchandise in mid-July, so incensed was I (also because everything is wildly overpriced, and their staff, in my experience, are not the nicest of folks.)

But when Mr. Finger Candy and I went to Disney World over the Labour Day long weekend and found ourselves at the Magic Kingdom for one of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Part(ies), we just decided to roll with it, late August date and 91 degree temps notwithstanding.  Here’s some of the festive fun we had. 🙂

First, a photo with some of the outstanding Halloween decorations at the very front of the park.  Not too surprisingly, Disney does seasonal decorating very well; glance around the park and you’ll find lush boughs of leaves trimming every door frame, flickering rows of Jack-o-Lanterns lining each balcony and streetlights hung with festive foliage.

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The Halloween parties (hereafter known as MNSSHP) run from mid-August to Halloween.  It is a hard ticketed event, which means your admission is NOT included in the cost of a regular park ticket, so be prepared to pay up (and up and up and up…)  The party itself runs from 7 pm to midnight, although guests are admitted as early as 4 pm (but as annual passholders, we can go whenever the heck we want!)

Around 6 pm cast members will begin ushering out the day’s remaining guests to prepare the Kingdom for the evening’s festivities.  I wouldn’t recommend hiding out behind the little Dutch kids on It’s a Small World so you can stay on until the party; the CMs are rather diligent about checking your issued event bracelets.  Capacity for the parties is capped at 20,000 guests, although there were far fewer than that in attendance on August 31st.  Which, of course, made it the perfect evening for these two MNSSHP newbs to really explore this cool seasonal event.

Because of all the usual safety concerns, there are strict rules concerning costumes.  Within reason, kids can wear pretty well whatever they’d like, while adult costumes are measured against a firm list of do nots – do not wear a mask, do not wear a full, floor-length costume, do not come dressed as 45 (sorry, that’s just one of my personal requirements.)  Basically, do not look like you could be confused for an actual character at work (and play) in the parks (and that includes 45!  Anyone take a real gander at his animatronic in the Hall of Presidents?  I swear they just nabbed an old beaver pelt from one of the tableaus out by Tom Sawyer Island and stapled it to his head.  Just like real life, ba-dum *ching*!)  We attended this party costume-less (a very wise decision given the obscenely humid weather) but we’ll be back on Halloween, and you can bet we’ll bring our A game then. 🙂

Our first stop, for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom-lovin’ nerd I’m married to, was the Main Street Firehouse for our special event Sorcerers cards.  Limited edition cards for this neat, Magic Kingdom-exclusive collectible card game/scavenger hunt have been produced nearly every year for both the Halloween and Christmas parties; this year’s Halloween card features Orange Bird, the cheery citrus spokesbird of Sunshine Tree Terrace, a counter service spot in Adventureland where you can enjoy life-sustaining (or at least life-improving!) Citrus Swirls – frozen orange juice concentrate on one side, creamy vanilla soft serve on the other, blissed out heaven in the middle.  Here we’ve shown one of our cards (already safely ensconced in a protective top-loader; thanks, nerd!) alongside our not-long-for-this-world Citrus Swirl and a passholder exclusive Orange Bird pin we picked up later on in the evening.

Orange Birds

Crucial administrative details thus attended to, we walked over to Liberty Square and joined a lineup of 500 other overgrown goth lite types to meet Jack and Sally of The Nightmare Before Christmas.  The Pumpkin King and his ragdoll paramour only show up during MNSSHP; they are not characters you will find regularly bopping about the parks like you would the princesses or Pooh and the gang.  Which is the ONLY reason I consented to stand in a very hot, not particularly well shaded lineup for two and a half hours in order to meet them!

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Also because I adore The Nightmare Before Christmas, and when we finally met them, I could not stop myself from excitedly telling them about our Halloween wedding nearly 14 years prior (“Did it rain?” Jack queried.  “Actually, it did!” we chirped, prompting a keening, “Oh, how perfectly lucky AND marvelous!” from the man himself.  I nearly up and died and became a resident of Halloween Town right then and there.)

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Regrettably, after standing in a nearly three-hour lineup in the blazing sun (twas not blazing by the time we made it to the front of the line) the rest of the evening proved a real struggle against total collapse – following all that unaccustomed heat, 12 hours of air travel, precious little sustenance and a 2:30 am wakeup call nearly 24 hours previous, we were feeling quite piqued.

So no better time to shove a bunch of sugar in our faces, right?!  There are a number of party-exclusive food items available during MNSSHP, in addition to a seemingly endless quantity of candy you can pick up along the innumerable trick-or-treat trails.  We probably should have stuck with the mini Snickers (ooh, Snickers) – the Jack Skellington push pop we grabbed from Sleepy Hollow (cake, frosting and other creamy stuff layered together in a push-uppable container) nearly did us in; total blood sugar blitz.

I don’t know why we have so many darn photos of that push pop, because it wasn’t that good!  There are so many incredible snacks available at the parties; why did we go with this weird, cake crumbles and cream thing?  Next time, poison apple cupcake, I’m coming for you!  Below, Mr. Finger Candy standing in front of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe with a Jack Skellington push pop IS The Nightmare Before Christmas, wah-waaaahhhhhhhhhh.  Get it, get it?  “Yes, we get it,” you’re saying.  “And it’s still not funny.” 😉

After stumbling away from our snack spot, we ambled about for a bit, seriously contemplating whether we should just pack it in for the night and return to our resort, despite not having seen the parade, the Sanderson Sisters stage show or the fireworks show.  That is how sickly we were feeling!  Instead, we rallied hard – not too difficult when you consider the money on the line; Disney is an incredible vacation experience, but it’s never not inexpensive – and went off to Tomorrowland to meet our buddy, Stitch, resplendent in his Halloween costume as white jumpsuited Elvis!  As always, Stitch was an amorous little thing – he kissed my hand twice, oh my!

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But fuzzy blue alien kisses are apparently just the remedy one needs for an overabundance of sun, heat and sugar, because after our cool meet and greet with him, we felt immensely better, and decided to hotfoot it over to Cinderella Castle to catch the HalloWishes fireworks show.  We have had just the worst, most crap luck when it comes to properly seeing any of Disney’s amazing fireworks shows – usually we’re stuck behind the Castle seeing none of the cool projections they feature during Happily Ever After, or we’re at Epcot and we’re too pleasantly tipsy on walkin’ margs to possibly stay (and stand!) for Illuminations, or one particularly memorable time, we were trapped on Pirates of the Caribbean for 45 minutes and missed the entirety of the Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After fireworks show.  But for this special seasonal show featuring incredible projections and fireworks (that finale!) scored to neat arrangements of some of my favourite creepy Disney music, we had front row, centre (standing, always standing) space, and it was wonderful.  You know, I never thought I was one of those “I love it when shit blows up!” kind of people, but you guys, I love it when shit blows up!  Especially sparkly shit that makes a real big bang. 😉

In between all this, we hopped about a bit and rode a few rides – Pirates of the Caribbean, with live actors dotted throughout the ride just for the Halloween party, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and the Haunted Mansion, but of course.  I’d typically say that given all of the other things to occupy your time during Mickey’s Not So Scary, actually riding the rides is a pretty poor use of your party time, but we walked straight onto all three with no problem and it didn’t impact our schedule in the slightest.  We also walked around and hit up a couple of the merchandise shops to check out the party-exclusive items, where we grabbed this refillable, light-up cauldron popcorn bucket I’m posing with the following morning in our hotel room.  Holy crow, was this thing popular!  Nearly as popular as my Gaston ears.  People would just bellow across the street at me, “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT AWESOME BUCKET?!” and I’d be, like, “Uh, right over there?”  Over the next couple of days, I saw so many more of them begin to pop up – pun intended – around the parks.  And in case you’re wondering, yes, it will be returning with us at Halloween.  We really love our $2 refills, and who doesn’t want to tote around a glowing cauldron?

Next, we walked back to Main Street and nabbed a super primo curbside spot right outside Casey’s Corners from which to watch the Boo to You Parade!  Once again, parades are, historically, not my jam.  I nearly had a total meltdown last Christmas after getting stuck in a massive crowd of people between Frontierland and the river on one side, and the relentlessly annoying holiday parade on the other, so no, not my thing.  But I loved this parade!  Gosh, it was so charming.  Featuring a showstopping entrance by the Headless Horseman (I apologize, but my camera utterly failed during the parade; poor thing could not keep up with the cascade of flashing lights and colours), as well as appearances by the Grim Grinning Ghosts, Jack Sparrow and his scurvy lot of pirates, the Splash Mountain gang, the gravediggers and diningroom dancers from the Mansion, Vanellope Von Schweetz and frickin’ Clarabelle the Cow hoofing around a silo, among many, many others, this delightful parade concluded with an entire float of rarely glimpsed baddies – Cruella, Jafar, Maleficient and the Evil Queen.  Badass, in the cutest, most adorable manner possible. 🙂

Finally, we capped off our evening with a midnight viewing of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular Show, featuring the Sanderson Sisters, The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Mr. Oogie Boogie Man and about a half dozen other killer villains – Cruella again, Dr. Facilier, Hades.  The show itself was a ton of fun, just a tiny bit raunchy (by Disney standards, of course, so still very family friendly, even at the late, late hour), with some great songs (shoutout to the ultra fun version of I’ve Put a Spell on You.)  And I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Cinderella Castle look so beautiful; the projection technology they’re using now is real world design and tech magic. 🙂  Just another day at the office, I believe the Disney Imagineers would call it. 🙂

Then, having been awake and on our feet for 23 out of the last 24 hours, we left the Kingdom and threw ourselves onto a resort bus back to Coronado Springs, where we rested and rejuvenated for the grand total of three hours and 45 minutes, before we got up and returned to the Magic Kingdom to start it up all over again.  No rest for the wicked, you know – just ask the Sanderson Sisters!  Also, there might be something wrong with us? 😉

It’s a Fiesta at Coronado Springs!

Coronado Collage

We just returned home from an awesome long weekend trip to Disney World, during which we stayed on property at the Coronado Springs Resort – quite fitting, given that it was hotter in Orlando, Florida last weekend than I think it ever was in the actual Mayan Riviera!  Floridian friends, I know you have acclimated to a lifetime of heat, sun and humidity in the same way that I have acclimated to a lifetime of cold, snow and freezing rain, but I DO NOT know how you do it.  Mr. Finger Candy and I just wilted like a couple of pansies – and by that I really do mean the flowers; a near constant intake of water is all that kept us upright!

Coronado Springs’ reputation has – unfairly, I’d say – been somewhat tarnished on account of the great deal of construction being undertaken on the property at the moment.  There’s a large, multi-unit tower being built on the west side of the property, as well as a vast amount of landscaping work.  Given that razed flower beds and 15 stories’ worth of exposed rebar are the very first sights that greet you upon arriving at the resort, I can understand some of the dissatisfaction with the state of the place.

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But with the construction mostly confined to the front-most edge of the property, and only during reasonable daylight hours (during which we were never there), I didn’t find the ongoing renovations to the resort to be that obtrusive.  Besides, you don’t stay in the lobby of a hotel, a fun little accommodations fallacy Disney has disproved time and time again – it’s the rare hotelier that has rooms just as nicely appointed as its lobby.  Though if you were looking to bunk down in a public lobby, you could do worse than Coronado Springs’.  Please note the not-so hidden Mickey projected on the back wall of the reception area. 🙂

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The property itself was gorgeous, laid out very much like another favourite moderate resort, the Port Orleans Riverside, and also like the Riverside, it was very, very quiet.  On our walk to the main Dig Site pool one evening, we had a mile-long stretch of meandering, lantern-lit path all to ourselves, with not another soul in sight.

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Of course, that’s because everybody else was at the Dig Site, an incredible resort pool (one of the best ones across the entirety of the Walt Disney World Resort) that we visited one evening.  The big Mayan pyramid is the Dig Site’s main showpiece, but there’s also a sweet little waterslide off to one side, a spa, a playground, lots of lounge chairs, Siesta’s, one of three on-property pool bars, and, present company excluded, many, many hard bodies.  I guess if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?

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Not one of those hard bodies. 😉  Or sorry, did you say HOT bodies?  Because he definitely was one of those!  Did you know the tops of your kneecaps can sweat?  Well, now you do!  However, in Florida’s defence, Mr. Finger Candy is sitting by the pool in a long-sleeved sun shirt, cotton work shirt, full pants and leather high top sneakers, and I spent three days bombing around in all black, so really, who are the dummies now?!

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Of our actual room, I completely spaced and took virtually no photos – a true shame, as we were given one of the newly refurbished rooms, and it was lovely – spic and span, up to date and very, very comfy, a wonderful place to call home for three nights.  Show of hands if you also like sprawling out in front of Resort TV at the end of a long park day!

Room Collage

I did, however, take the time to film a quick room tour for our YouTube channel when we first arrived, and you can find that video below.

For all the talk of the disruption the construction has caused, I found it to be just that – all talk.  I suppose if your Disney experience is hanging out at your resort all day long, you would find Coronado Springs justifiably lacking – not sure how happy I’d be having my relaxing pool day scored by a symphony of jittering jackhammers and reversing backhoes.  But if you’re park-bound for most, if not all, of the day, then Coronado Springs – particularly with its slightly discounted, “Pardon our pixie dust” prices – is just the resort you’re looking for.  And not for nothing, but all of the usuals are present and accounted for here – a great restaurant in the Maya Grill, a fulsome food court, a cute gift shop in Panchito’s, and a great breakfast joint in Rix, the sports bar-turned-restaurant where we enjoyed an amazing end-of-vacation feast of Huevos Divorciados (that’s Spanish for heaps of Mexican breakfast yumminess on a bed of cheese quesadillas.)

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Coronado Springs is also home to a rather splishy convention center.  We whiled away an hour or so there as we waited for the Magic Express to not-so-magically return us to the Orlando International Airport and 10 solid hours of travel.  Holy cats, what a gorgeous facility!  The carpet was utterly mesmerizing, as was the fact that that salon I’m dancing in?  Is Salon L.  Which suggests there are Salons A through K, which are presumably just as large and grand as L.  And there are more salons beyond L!  The place goes on FOREVER.  I couldn’t stop contemplating the incredible (and incredibly large) wedding you could throw in one of those ballrooms.  And then I danced around a bit more. 😉

Convention Collage

The only nit I have to pick about our stay at Coronado Springs – indeed, it was THE nit to pick with regards to virtually all of our Disney interactions – was that during check-in we were really held at the mercy of some seriously misbehaving tech.  It’s no fun feeling like you’re missing out on the fun because you’ve been stuck in a line-up merely trying to reach the fun for 40 straight minutes.  Regrettably, this bad tech juju followed us straight to the parks, where our annual passes were failing to register (did I mention we became annual passholders?!), as were our PhotoPass privileges.  To paraphrase my new friend Peter Pan, I’m not that good at math, but even I know there’s nothing that screams vacation fun quite like account management and administration. 😉

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All in all, though, we loved staying at Coronado Springs, and I think we’d go back regardless of whether the construction had ceased or not – given how we vacation, it barely impacted our stay at all, and our experience was a great one overall.  Happiness is an awesome stay at a Disney resort.  Looking forward to our next one.

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Be Our Guest!

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Oh, we WILL, and in just a little under a week’s time, too!  Guesting at the Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, that is, one of our favourite spots to dine on Disney property.  We love it so much (actually, Mr. Finger Candy is, somehow, the real Beauty and the Beast nut in this household) I made this little video all about our experiences there for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!  So as Lumiere might say, I invite you to relax and pull up a chair as the diningroom and I proudly present…your dinner!  And also your breakfast, as many times as we possibly can.  Happy watching, and bon appetit!

A Multitude of Mermaids

Closing out the long weekend for us Canadians and kicking off the work week for the rest of you fine folks with this little video I made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, of one of my favourite rides at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid!  As my husband has pointed out, my affection for this new-ish attraction is fairly unsurprising given that it’s essentially the Haunted Mansion, themed to the Little Mermaid (they share a similar ride profile, right down to the Doom Buggies/Clam Shells that usher you through the ride (don’t forget to pull down your sand bar, wah-waaaahhhhh) and the bats/stingrays printed on the moving walkway at the end of the ride.)

And while I was dinglehopper-deep in fond memories of Journey of the Little Mermaid, I thought it would be fun to round up the many, many mermaid manis I have done over the years, including a number of ever-evolving Little Mermaid manicures honouring our girl, Ariel.  Gosh, some of my earlier stuff was dod-gy!  That’s one of the very nice things about dabbling about in a visual medium – when your talents evolve (and they absolutely will, with enough practice) you’ll really be able to see how very much you’ve improved.  It’s great (mermaid) motivation. 🙂

Remembering the Riverside

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And just when you thought I had stopped yammering about this place!  But the Port Orleans Riverside at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is our favourite place to stay on property, and I apparently have lots more to say on the subject.  So much more, actually, I made up this neat little video for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, extolling this great resort’s many awesome qualities.  Please do check it out and at least have a good chuckle at the weirdness of my voice, if you’d be so kind. 🙂  And who knows, maybe you’ll see something you like well enough to get you down to the Riverside as well for your next Disney vacation.

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Sudsy

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Some weekends back my mom and I went out for one of our doughnut ‘n’ decorating dates, which involves a trip to a favourite local doughnut joint (Suzy Q’s in Ottawa, Ontario) followed by a bit of retail therapy at a favourite home decor shop across the street (Marie Antoionette’s.)  I’ve spoken about both before – and actually, hang on a tick, I’ve vlogged about both before as well!  I actually vlogged this doughnut date, much to my mother’s eternal embarrassment/amusement.  Here, ch-check (it out for) yourself, if you’d like:

Anyhow, it was during this Saturday morning shopping excursion that my mom, as is her sweet custom, asked me if I’d like a little treat from Marie Antoinette.  The answer to that question is always a delighted YESand I quickly snapped up a beautiful bar of soap from Juniper Tree, a soap supply company out of Berkeley, California.  I’ve actually purchased three or four bars of Juniper Tree’s gorgeously detailed glycerin soaps in the past, and all from Marie Antoinette, who display them on tantalizingly tiered trays like precious little petit fours.  This beautiful bar, with its crown of dried flowers, is in a fresh and sweet scent called Tiki Taffy.

But I clearly spaced on how much these little bars of soapy goodness actually cost, because there was a moment of sticker shock when the cashier read out our total.  “Sorry, how much was the bar of soap?” my mother casually asked in a not-remotely-casual tone of voice.  And when the answer came back as a shade over $10, we had a good, guffawing laugh (once we were outside, we’re not complete animals.)  My mom was positively in stitches over the thought that this one wee bar of soap cost more than her entire suds “budget” for the year.  What can I say, her daughter’s got tastes in high places.  This is really all her fault, wretched enabler. 😉

But seeing as I was now in possession of a very expensive bar of “company soap,” I thought I should do something impressive to best display its elevated status among the other suds-stuffs in my collection.  And that’s how I found myself carrying out a lifestyle photo shoot with a bar of soap, a bottle of Prosecco and my thoroughly annoyed cat at three in the afternoon on a Wednesday in the middle of May.  As you do.  Or as I assume wealthy people do, because what else would a $10 bar of soap be up to other than…

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…drinking sparkling stuff out of fluted champagne glasses?  Or…

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…hunting big, deeply disinterested game?  Or my personal favourite…

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…perusing yacht listings.  I’ll take the $74 mil guy at the top – he comes with a villa!  Mr. Finger Candy, grab my cheque book, we got a yacht to buy!  Quick question: Do you think they accept Canadian Tire money?

Really, though, I was just feeling exceedingly goofy.  This bar of Tiki Taffy will go into a soap dish and I will use it with relish.  Until the next trip to Marie Antoinette’s when we’re amusingly sticker-shocked anew!