Star Wars Books

Star Wars Land Construction

Star Wars Books

We love Star Wars! My family just sailed on the Disney Cruise Line for a fantastic Star Wars Day at Sea. We had so much fun! Be sure to check out all the great info we’ve got on these specialty sailings over on our podcast here.

Star Wars Day at Sea

May the 4th be with you!

Unless you’ve somehow escaped the Star Wars fandom over the last 41 years, you’ve heard the phrase “May the force be with you” a time or two. Whether you’re a fan or not, there’s always no time like the present to dive right in! But before we get to Star Wars Books, let’s talk about Star Wars.

For Non-Fans

There are lots of ways to jump into the Star Wars fandom. The first and most obvious way is by watching the movies. While I could talk your head off for hours about the movies and which way to first consume them, I’ll save you the time. Just watch them all! Next up, tv shows!

Star Wars Land Construction

If you’d like to get into some of the newer Star Wars stories, then don’t miss their animated series. Star Wars Clone Wars, Rebels and the newly announced Star Wars Resistance, are all great ways to explore more of the Star Wars universe. I especially love the characters we’ve met through these series and I’ll get to those soon!

Disney Archives

For Star Wars Fans

Whether you’re properly caught up on the Star Wars world from my above tips or just came here for the book list, let’s do it! But first, some background information for you. Upon acquisition of Lucasfilm, Disney announced that Star Wars Clone Wars and Rebels should be considered canon. That means that most series and comics etc produced before April 24, 2014 are no longer canon. That’s what I’m going to stick with today. I’m sure there are many awesome Star Wars books out there that predate 4/24/14, but we’ll just leave those be for now.

My Favorite Star Wars Books

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor

This book is extensive! This is a great read for anyone wishing to know all those extra little details. More so than some of the actual canon Star Wars books I’m about to mention, this book is for those true Star Wars fans. Even if you think you know it all, you’ll most assuredly learn something new reading this comprehensive look at the most enduring space opera in history!

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Like the book above, this book is for those true fans. More specifically, Leia or Carrie Fisher fans. I very much enjoyed the audiobook version of this book as Carrie does much of the narration, with journal entries read by her daughter Billie Lourd. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like for Carrie to go from being “Debbie Reynolds’ daughter” to the most recognized princess in the galaxy, then this book is for you!

Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

This young adult novel is the first book I read featuring a character from the animated series. Ahsoka Tano was a favorite of mine since the moment her Jedi Master, Anakin Skywalker, first met her. She’s been featured both throughout the Clone Wars series, as well as in Star Wars Rebels. It’s yet to be determined if we’ll see her in Star Wars Resistance, but one thing’s for sure. If you’re looking for more Ahsoka, this is the place to go! Fun fact: this audiobook is great as well! Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka on the animated series, narrates this novel as well. It even features sound effects! Pew! Pew pew pew!

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

If you’re looking for an interesting look at a very methodical and calculating villain, then look no further! If you’re familiar with the ghost crew’s thorn in their side, then you know Thrawn is always playing the long-game. But how in the galaxy did he end up with the Empire? This story will delve into more obscure Star Wars lore including languages and species. This book definitely had me thinking differently about the Empire. Oh, and it too has a fantastic audiobook!

From A Certain Point Of View by Various Authors

This book is perfect for the more casual fan looking for snippets of story within the movies’ stories we all know and love. Rather than being a full-length novel, this book of short stories delves into the moments that we all know in a new and exciting way. If you’ve ever wondered what Princess Leia was looking at as she begged for Obi Wan’s help by way of Artoo, then don’t miss this one! There are so many fun stories in this book! It’s also perfect for someone looking for something short to read here and there.

It’s Your Universe by Ashley Eckstein

I’m so excited to share about this one! I was fortunate enough to meet the author, Ashley Eckstein, on my recent Star Wars Day at Sea cruise. Being the third person in line for the autograph signing, I actually got to see her mention that that moment was the first time she had even seen them printed! So exciting!! (I just stood there probably gaping because I just popped in and bought it no big deal a few minutes prior). She was such a sweet person to meet too.

autograph

Already this book has me aspiring to do anything and everything I can dream up! While Ashley is known for her Star Wars fame, she grew up with Cast Member parents. Being a Disney kid is something she talks about and she definitely makes it all seem magical. What’s even more is that she has the power to make us all believe that too! The book is in collaboration with Disney and is set to be released on May 8, 2018. You can preorder your copy here.

 

That’s a wrap folks. Want some more fun Disney Book recommendations? Be sure to check out my summer reading 101! And while you’re at it, don’t miss all our Star Wars fun here on our blog!

 

Until next time, May the 4th Be With You! ~Meredith

Marvel Movies To See Before Infinity War

SPOILER-FREE

Marvel Movies To See Before Infinity War

With the release of Marvel’s highly anticipated infinity war, the now-thriving studio is celebrating 10 years of superhero movie-making magic. But with 10 years comes 18 films that have all been leading to this pinnacle moment: the movie where all our beloved superheroes come together to fight an ultimate super villain.

Marvel Movies To See Before Infinity War

While comic book fans know and understand the care and planning this kind of storytelling takes–that being years’ worth of smaller story arcs that have to simultaneously hold their own as an independent movie AND fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe arc as well. This is something special in cinematic history as no other studio has provided audiences with 10 years’ with of movies culminating in an epic battle movie to decide who lives and who dies. NO SPOILERS!! That’s just how Villains work right? They decide who lives and dies til someone defeats them. And you thought I was spoiling it!

SPOILERS!!!!

Also, PSA: Speaking of spoilers, if you go see this movie DO NOT SPOIL IT FOR OTHERS!!! Everyone deserves to enjoy this movie first for themselves. Furthermore, take a friend or loved one if you’re emotionally invested in these characters. Trust me. #ThanosDemandsYourSilence

Marvel Movies To See Before Infinity War

Back to the movies. Now, in a perfect world, I’d say see them all!  (And if you have, that’s awesome. Chances are you’ve already seen it too). But let’s be real. If you haven’t been enjoying these movies since they first released Iron Man, then no worries!! Let’s talk about the few movies you really need to see to understand what’s going on when Infinity War starts.

 

In no particular order (as to not give anything away) here’s my Marvel Movies To See Before Infinity War:

·Captain America: The First Avenger
·Avengers: Age of Ultron
·Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (at least. Both is best)
·Captain America: Civil War
·Thor: Ragnarok
·Black Panther
·Spiderman: Homecoming
·Captain America: The Winter Soldier
·Doctor Strange

Marvel Movies To See Before Infinity War

So there you go; my main list. I cut eight for you. ::busts out my best Maui impression:: You’re welcome!

If you haven’t seen these titles, chances are likely you’ll be confused about something at some point. So what are you doing still reading my blog post! Go watch these super fun titles and then enjoy the epicness that is Marvel’s latest Titan of a film, Infinity War!

Did I forget anything? If you’ve seen Ifinity War -WITHOUT SPOILING IT- Which Marvel movies do you think should be seen before Infinity War?~Meredith °o°

 

Check out our other Marvel content Infinity War!

3 Things I’m Most Excited for At Flower and Garden Festival

 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

The International Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot is an annual festival happening every spring.  I attended the festival last year. I’m very excited that I’ll be attending the festival again this year in April.  I’ve been looking over lists of events, exhibits, gardens, and culinary offerings. Next, I’m excited to share with you the top 3 things I’m eager to experience at the festival this year.

Flower and Garden Festival

Food, Food, and More Food

This year the festival is offering more than a dozen outdoor kitchens. Patrons will be able to experience delectable and alluring foods.  These outdoor kitchens are located all around the World Showcase. Therefore, eating your way around the world will be fun! They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday. Here are the Top 3 dishes I’m excited to try:

  1. Bauermarket: Farmer’s Market:   Toasted Pretzel Bread with Blackforest Ham and Melted Gruyere Cheese.
  2. Fleur de lys:   Macaron au Chocolat en sucette: Large Chocolate Macaron Lollipop.
  3. The Smokehouse   a. Pulled Pork Slider with Coleslaw b. Beef brisket Burned Ends and smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage Chorizo, Cheddar Cheese Fondue and Housemade Pickle.

There are several other items that I’m excited to try. I encourage you to check out the menus to see what items excite your taste buds! The next thing I’m excited to see will get everyone wanting to be outdoors.

Flower and Garden Festival

Beautiful Topiaries

The Festival is an exciting time to experience the magic of living sculptures. According to Wikipedia, a Topiary is the horticultural practice of training perennial plants by clipping the foliage of trees and shrubs. As a result, this develops and maintains clearly defined shapes. Therefore, if you have never experienced these beautiful sculptures, this is the perfect Festival for you.  The festival is offering more than 20 magical topiaries. Everyone is sure to find a topiary they love. In addition to the topiaries, the Festival is also offering 16 different beautiful gardens and wildlife exhibits.  Lastly, I’m especially looking forward to a Royal Tour!

Flower and Garden Festival

Tours of the Royal Tea Variety

There are 4 different tours available at this year’s Flower and Garden Festival:

  1. Behind the Seeds
  2. Gardens of the World
  3. English Tea Garden by Twinings Tea of London.
  4. Royal Tea Garden Tour

I have reserved a spot on the Royal Tea Garden Tour for the morning that I’m at Epcot. This is a 45 minute guided tour though the English Tea Garden. Your tour guide will lead you through an elegant tea garden. The Tour is approximately 45 minutes where you will explore the garden in-depth. In addition to exploring, you will also learn the artistry and history behind growing and blending tea. The tour ends at the Rose and Crown Dining Room with a treat of tea and scones. This tour costs $18 per person. The tour starts at 9:45 a.m. each morning it is offered during the festival.  Spots fill up fast, therefore the site suggests obtaining advanced reservations to secure a spot.  Lastly, the Festival offers a concert series that I won’t be able to attend.

Flower and Garden Festival

Garden Rocks Concert Series

The Garden Rocks Concert Series is offering performances that are sure to bring the nostalgia back.  From Survivor to Smash Mouth and Rick Springfield to Lonestar, there is music for everyone. Make sure to check out the Concert Series page for the calendar of concerts to take full advantage during your trip.  It’s a bummer that there are no concerts during my stay, but I’m still excited about all that I’ll be able to experience.

 

Thanks Noelle for this exciting post. Can’t wait to hear how your experience was!

 

If you’d like more info on Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, you can find more great posts here.

 

 

A Wrinkle in Time Barbie!

A Wrinkle in Time Barbie. Can you believe that?!

Disney A Wrinkle in Time Barbie

These dolls are gorgeous and with the release of A Wrinkle in Time in theaters today, I’m sure these dolls will sell really well.

A Wrinkle in Time Barbie

As part of the Disney A Wrinkle in Time Barbie doll collection, this set features the Mrs’ from the movie. Featuring the likenesses of Oprah as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit, and Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who, these dolls are now available on the Barbie website.

 

The Mrs’

A Wrinkle in Time BarbieA Wrinkle in Time Barbie

Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who are now available for $50 each.

Mrs. Which is available for pre-order and will be priced the same. Bummer that while purchasing the set will save you some extra cash, this set is already on backorder!

 

So go check out these gorgeous dolls (much better than the Belle fiasco haha!) and then be sure to check out A Wrinkle in Time, in theaters today! Hot tip: if you link your Movies Anywhere account to your Disney Movie Reward account, you can automatically earn points for theater tickets you purchase with your Fandango account!

Which is your favorite Mrs?

A Wrinkle in Time Barbie
*All photos from the official Barbie website

 

 

p.s. While you’re over on Barbie’s website, be sure to check out their Inspiring Women Series! As part of their Role Models series, they’ve even got fun printables! (Scroll to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see Activity Pages on the right side) ~Meredith ºoº

Restaurant Review: The Polite Pig

The Polite Pig

 

 

I am one of the biggest BBQ fans there is. I mean, I LOVE it! When I heard about this new BBQ joint called The Polite Pig in Disney Springs, I knew I had to try it.The Polite Pig

Where is The Polite Pig?

The Polite Pig is a quick service restaurant located near the Lime Garage at Disney Springs. If the lime garage isn’t available for you or you arrive at a different location at Disney Springs, you can find the Polite Pig near the Welcome Center in Town Center. It was busy when we walked up, with a moderate line, but we didn’t wait very long.

Ordering

While waiting in line, you’ll be teased with the delicious food to come!  I will say that this restaurant is a meat lover’s dream come true. You can watch them as they chop and weigh the meat for perfect portion sizes.  The Polite PigWe also were greeted in line by a manager who offered us drinks while we waited.This was a fantastic gesture, though we didn’t wait in line long enough to drink our drinks.

Ordering was quick and simple. You place your order and they give you a number to put on your table. Considering how busy they were, there was plenty of seating inside and outside. The Polite PigDrinks

Alcoholic

The Polite Pig offers an array of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. From beers on draft to original cocktails, you are sure to find the perfect concoction to wet your whistle. They have beers available on tap that are brewed especially for, and are only available at this Disney Springs location.  If beer isn’t your thing, let me suggest the Tequila and Grapefruit cocktail that is also on tap. I was intrigued when I saw this and decided this was a must try. It is unique and refreshing. I didn’t know how well tequila and grapefruit would pair, but it was absolutely delicious.  The Polite Pig

Non-Alcoholic

Any good southern BBQ must be accompanied by some delicious sweet tea. Considering Walt Disney World is technically located in “the South,” you’d think that most places at Walt Disney World would offer up the southern favorite. Unfortunately that isn’t the case and you can only find this drink in a few locations. (No mango, strawberry, whatever-infusions. You can find those around too. I’m strictly referring to tea brewed with lots of sugar). So for those who can’t go without a little sweet tea while on vacation, the Polite Pig is a great place to try! They’ve also got your standard soda fountain fare also.The Polite PigIf one drink is not enough for you, don’t worry about getting back into line again. The Polite Pig has servers going around to tables taking extra orders. This makes everything about this quick service restaurant even more convenient and customer friendly.

The Polite Pig also offers an extensive Bourbon Bar. With something around 50 different types of Bourbon. A connoisseur is sure to be in Bourbon heaven. Main Course

Pulled Pork

After ordering and finding a table, we were told about the Sauce Bar. This is an awesome idea, catering to people with different BBQ Sauce tastes. Choose from Thomas’s Southern Gold, Spiced Vinegar, Lil John’s Signature Black Pepper, Layla’s Sweet Sauce, and BBQ Ranch. The Polite Pig has a sauce for everyone.The Polite PigThe Southern Pig is a beautifully crafted pulled pork sandwich topped with apple slaw, mustard and mayo. I can attest that this is one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I have ever had. It was tender and very messy. While I wasn’t able to finish the whole sandwich, I really wanted to. The Polite Pig

More Than Just Pulled Pork

Our group can also attest to the delicious Brisket sandwich, the Chicken Salad sandwich, and the Kid’s Chicken Tenders. I will give forewarning though. If your children love Ranch with their Tenders, the only Ranch available here is the BBQ Ranch, which the kiddos weren’t a big fan of.The Polite PigIf you’re not a big fan of pork or chicken, The Polite Pig also offers Salmon in a salad or in a sandwich. I think anyone in a group could find something to suit their lifestyle in this varying menu. The Polite Pig

Market Sides

While the star of this show should be the meat, I must say that the Market Sides won me over big time. Our group had the Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Smoked Corn, and the Sweet Potato Tots.The Polite PigEach and everyone of them had our tastes buds dancing in pleasure, but my favorite were the Sweet Potato Tots. These were so crispy and packed with flavor, I had someone stealing them off of my plate! I don’t fault her though; I wouldn’t have been able to help myself either.The Polite Pig

Next Time

I plan to return to The Polite Pig in September and am looking forward to trying other things on their menu. They offer some delicious sounding salads and appetizers. From the BBQ Cracklins with Spiced Vinegar, to the Hop Shop Pretzels with Beer Cheese Fondue and IPA Mustard, my taste buds are already watering with anticipation.  And just maybe, next time I’ll save room for the intriguing Orange Blossom Honey Cake… Though I may just have to get that one to go!The Polite PigThanks for reading and be sure to check out all our posts from Disney Springs here! And thanks to Noelle for this fantastic review of the Polite Pig at Disney Springs. 

Artist Point Restaurant Review

Dining at Artist Point

Because I wanted to make the best of my last Walt Disney World trip by eating at the best restaurants I could find, I studied all of the menus I could find! I got super excited when I found an apparent hidden treasure called Artist Point. This gem of a restaurant is located at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort. So, I booked my advanced dining reservation for my solo day and began dreaming about the cheese plate listed on the menu!Artist Point Restaurant Review

Location

I had a dinner reservation schedule for 7:45 p.m., so I got to the Wilderness Lodge a few minutes early so that I could take a look around. This Disney resort is a huge beautiful log cabin in the woods, with a big waterfall in the back courtyard that is sure to take anyone from the city to the forest in a short walk. The website touts the “rustic elegance” of the dining room and I can attest that the space is comfortable and elegant while maintaining the cabin feel. Unfortunately for me, I visited at night and during a rainy day. I was unable to enjoy the waterfront views, but the ambiance was relaxing and perfect for enjoying a fine meal. Dining at Artist Point

Starters

I started my meal off with a delicious amber beer called Magic Hat and their house made 9 Grain Sourdough Bread with Smoked Sea Salt Butter.  Let me just say that this was by far the best bread and butter I have EVER had. Let me repeat this…. EVER HAD. I fought with myself many times trying to not eat it all. I would push the plate to the other side of the table, only find my hand reaching for it a few minutes later. Needless to say, I finished it off by the end of my meal. Dining at Artist Point

Special Extras

During this scrumptious course of the meal, my server brought me a “gift” of Strawberry Kimchi from the chef.  I have not been able to locate this on the menu, so I assume this is not a usual menu item. The Strawberry Kimchi was beautifully plated and looked delicious, but tasted like black licorice (which I am not a fan of).  It was by far the most disappointing thing I ate my whole week. And I’m very happy that I did not have to pay for this one. Though I do hate to disappoint a chef. Thankfully, happiness on a plate arrived shortly thereafter!Dining at Artist Point

The Cheese!

The Artisanal Cheeses plate was everything and more than I had been dreaming of.  The cheese plate is variety of five cheeses served with handcrafted breads and seasonal accompaniments. This dish made me do a crazy, happy dance in my seat.  All of these beautiful cheeses are made in the U.S.A. and are a delight to the taste buds. The accompanying breads, jelly, and fruits pair wonderfully with these cheeses and make a well rounded cheese plate. I expect I will continue to dream of these cheeses. Continuing on with my meal, I ordered an Aged Buffalo Strip Loin.Dining at Artist Point

The Main Course

The Aged Buffalo Strip Loin is served medium rare with Farro Risotto, Root Spinach, Favas, and Radish. Having never experienced eating buffalo before, I didn’t know the melt in your mouth, deliciousness that was to come.  The buffalo was cooked perfectly and elegantly plated. The risotto and veggies were creamy, adding just the right textures. It was truly a flavor explosion with every bite. I can say that I will definitely have buffalo again.  Now for the last course of my amazing Disney World trip, dessert!Dining at Artist Point

Dessert

The Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee was just heaven. Served with cherries, gooseberries, and topped with a crisp honey crunch, this creme brulee was baked to perfection. The custard was smooth and creamy. The honey crust on top gave it the best sweetness and crunch. The cherries and gooseberries gave just the right tartness to a sweet dessert. I don’t believe that I could have ended a trip with a better meal. Dining at Artist PointThe Artist Point is by far one of my favorite restaurants I’ve eaten at anywhere. I HIGHLY recommend this hidden treasure to anyone visiting the parks.  

Thanks to our contributor Noelle for this restaurant review!

Buying Shoes for Disney

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Guide to Buying Shoes for Disney

Buying shoes for a Disney vacation

One of the biggest, and oftentimes overlooked, aspects to planning your Disney vacation is what shoes should you wear? From my own experience, there’s too many options and it can be overwhelming. And what’s more, is that the chances are high that the shoe that best works for you won’t work for someone else. We all have our reasons for why we choose the shoes we do and I’m here to help you nail down the shoe that will best work for you.

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Decide what shoe style you already like best

This one is the biggest tip and most important. For me personally, I prefer sandals because I can’t stand having hot feet, especially Florida heat hot! But you may not like sandals and prefer tennis shoes instead. Others may swear by flip flops, and so on… My point being here that you should start your search by knowing, and keeping in mind, your favorite shoe style. Don’t abandon what you know works well for just you just because you read somewhere that “this shoe is the only shoe you should wear at Disney”! It’s also good to point out that you should keep any health concerns you may have on your mind when considering shoe options.

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Explore new options

Keeping in mind what style you tend to prefer, check out blog posts etc about that shoe type. If you’re a sandal gal, then explore new shoe styles like a recent fan favorite, the Sanuk Sandals. If you’re only into tennis shoes, then maybe explore some sandal/tennis shoe hybrids like Keens. In any case, and this is important, be sure to go to an actual store and try them on to ensure both fit and comfort level. I had a pair of Chacos I was convinced I wanted but once I got them on, I was not about to drop over $100. They just didn’t feel “right.”

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Budget for new shoes in your vacation fund

If your family is anything like ours, by the time school let out for the summer and we were ready to embark on our vacation, our school shoes had definitely seen better days. Not to mention they barely fit the kids! Knowing that I’d spend $$$ for ours shoes helped us better realize and prepare how much all aspects of our trip would realistically cost. It also ensured that we wouldn’t be spending top dollar on cheaper shoes while at Disney because “the strap broke” or whatever conundrum that may happen. Murphy’s law and all…

 Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Consider which parks (or cruise) you’ll be attending

If you’ll only be visiting the four main theme parks and don’t plan on riding the wet rides, you’ll probably be just fine wearing tennis shoes. On my family’s most recent trip, we knew we’d be visiting both water parks as well as the major theme parks and took this into consideration when purchasing our shoes. This special consideration led us to a shoe that functions mostly as a tennis shoe but feels like a sandal, is completely waterproof, and slides on and off easily. With the water parks a consideration for us, I wanted to ensure I could purchase something that would work no matter which park we were at.

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

If you’ll be cruising, your needs will be different than that of a park-goer. You may opt for sandals and slip-ons the majority of the time and save your sneakers for any adventurous excursions you may take. Always keep your destination, and it’s terrain, in mind when shopping for your shoes.

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Consider how long you plan to wear them

If you’re going for multiple days as a parks vacation, then you’ll want to go for long-lasting comfort. It’s also good to take two styles of shoe and rotate your shoes each day. This way you won’t have excessive rubbing in the same areas from extended waking times and those spots will get a break every other day.

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Additionally, consider the amount of time you’ll be spending in that particular park. If you’re an annual pass holder and won’t be in the parks all day, you may opt for a more stylish shoe since long-lasting comfort wouldn’t be a consideration. Amanda loves her 101 Dalmations Vans for her leisurely trips to Disneyland (ah, the passholder life). They’re comfy and she’s stylish! The best of both worlds if you ask me!

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

And if you’re attending a special event, you may even want to bring along a super cute pair to wear only for photo ops! Doesn’t Sarah look fabulous as Daisy for Dapper Day at Epcot? Those shoes make it! But we all know that walking around the park, especially Epcot, in those shoes aren’t a real option. She opted for cute sandals the rest of the day and saved the pumps for the photopass stops.

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Don’t forget to break them in!

Don’t forget to purchase them early enough so that you and your family time to break them in well. Nothing’s worse than getting to Disney with a super comfy pair of shoes only to find wearing for them hours on end has rubbed a righteous blister. I purchased our shoes at least two weeks before our trip and had us all wear them several hours a day before we left so that they were broken in well. Good thing too, because mine did rub my heel a bit the first few days. But once I got to Disney?! No blisters whatsoever for the entirety of our trip (and we were there 8 days y’all!)

Now that you’ve got those tips in your shoe-buying arsenal you’re probably wondering what our favorites are here at the Mouse and the Monorail.

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

Keen

My new favorites are Keen. Not only are they completely waterproof, come in sizes that fit my 2yo as well as myself, but they act like a sneaker yet feel like a sandal. I can’t ask for anything better! They’re super comfy and it’s no exaggeration when I say that I wore these multiple days from rope drop to kiss goodnight. And not only did I have NO blisters, but I didn’t even have the classic Disney foot ache those nights! That’s amazing considering I know all too well the Disney foot ache that comes after multiple days in the parks! Don’t we all?

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney trip

And when I say they’re waterproof I don’t just mean you can wear them on Splash Mountain. Oh no! I wore them everywhere throughout all of the parks, including the water parks. And I didn’t just leave them in the lockers at the water parks either! They swam wonderfully in the wave pools (the sandal-like holes help water move through them easier than traditional swim shoes) and lazy rivers as well as all of the tube slides! The only times I had to take them off was for Humunga Cowabunga at Typhoon Lagoon and Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach! Everything else was fair game with these kicks!!

Guide to Buying Shoes for a Disney tripSanuk Yoga Slings

I also really enjoyed my Sanuk Yoga Slings for our Magic Kingdom day and 4 night cruise aboard the Disney Dream. I wore them for our girls trip to Universal too! And Amy really enjoyed these shoes too! She recently wore them for Magic Kingdom day and Disney Dream cruise as well! They’re super squishy and unlike regular thong flip flops, these slings stay on no problem. You can even stop by the Sanuk store at Disney Springs to check them out! Jennifer is all about comfort and opts for her classic Nike and Saucony Tennis shoes. Go with with you know works well and if it ain’t broke, right?

 

We hope these tips have helped you and would love to know what your favorite park shoes are! Comment below or tag us in a social post on your favorite social site! We’d love to hear from you! ~Meredith ºoº

Glitter Mickey Ornaments: A DIY Project

Hey howdy hey, it’s time for a DIY! A DIY featuring Glitter Mickey Ornaments, that is! Today we’ve teamed up with Beth and her kids over at Paper Angels Vlog to bring you this super fun and simple Christmas ornament craft. All you’ll need is some ornament bulbs, mop ‘n glo, extra fine glitter, and paint pens. And if you want to get fancy, you can add Mickey ears vinyl stickers and glitter blast them! This craft is great for kids and adults alike. Thanks for watching and be sure to subscribe to Paper Angels Vlog because I have a feeling we’ll be teaming up more in the future!

More ways to enjoy the Mouse and Monorail

If you’ve enjoyed this video, please let us know and be sure to include your own DIY Christmas ornaments! You can also find us on the following socials: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, & YouTube. ~Meredith ºoº

Guest Post: Moana Soundtrack Music Review

It’s time for a new guest post and I’m excited to say that my husband and blogger over on his own music review blog is today’s guest! If you’ve been listening to our podcast, then you’re probably aware that I really enjoyed the Moana soundtrack. I realize that’s not saying much as I love lots of Disney music, but this album in particular is beautiful for so many reasons. And I’m happy to have Tim share his review as he is able to express with words much better than I can the many reasons why this soundtrack is destined to be a classic Disney soundtrack. Take it away Tim!

Welcome, welcome. Let’s start this post off with a little introduction. I’m Tim Cooper, Meredith’s other half. I am a software developer by day and music appreciator, father and amateur handyman by night. I run a blog over at Bearded Music Reviews, where I review albums on a weekly basis and then compile it all at year’s end to create a Top Albums of the Year list.

Meredith asked if I would write a post about the Moana soundtrack, so here we are. I did review the deluxe version, just to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. I did give this album five full listens, two of which came back to back. On top of that, I have three kids so I’ve listened to handfuls of these tracks many, many times.

This is the soundtrack to the newest Disney movie, Moana. The music was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina. Miranda is coming off his award winning run as writer and performer in Hamilton on Broadway and if you haven’t listened to the soundtrack to that by now, please do so. And just recently released, he has signed on as Executive Producer for the Kingkiller Chronicles, excitement level 100! Opetaia has been writing Pacific flavored music with his group Te Vaka since the mid 90’s. Mark Mancina has worked on many soundtracks from The Lion King and Con Air to Speed and Tarzan.

The deluxe version of this soundtrack breaks into three sections: songs from the movie, score, and demos and outtakes. The first section contains all of the lyrical songs that appear throughout the movie, most of which were written by Miranda and Foa’i. These songs have some really strong melodies and their instrumental backing has a nice touch of Pacific sounds. I found that all the tribal drumming and choral voices really tie the music to its location and pull you deeper into the film. And all of the performers from the movie do a really great job of bringing these songs to life. The songs flow well and do a great job of telling the story. This first section ends with the two pop versions of How Far I’ll Go and You’re Welcome by Alessia Cara and Jordan Fisher/Miranda respectively.

This movie captured some really catchy songs. If you’ve heard them enough times, it is hard not to sing (or at least hum) along. Miranda has a real talent for telling stories in his lyrics that I just can’t get enough of. His work on Hamilton, with its base in Hip-Hop, paid off here as he can pack a lot of story elements into one song. Furthermore, he doesn’t force a song to rhyme A to B, crafting some really memorable rhyme schemes. This has a slight trade off though, as all the words can make the songs harder to sing on first listen. I found that if you put in the time, they are just as catchy though and are much more fun to sing.

The second section also does a great job of taking you through the movie. I’m reminded of scenes and emotions that arose while I watched the movie. Again, they did a great job of coming up with solid melodies in these tunes. They bring them back throughout, as any good soundtrack should, and their attachment to the characters and themes brings you deeper into the movie. I get a bit of a Peter and the Wolf feel from this soundtrack, where certain sounds and melodies are attached to characters. So when I hear the airy, almost wind chime sounds, I know that Moana’s Grandmother is the focus. There are some majestic moments balanced well with the wayfaring tunes that have a softness to them that was nice to hear.

The deluxe version rounds out with some demos and outtakes. The outtakes were nice to hear and there was one that was so strong (More), I’m surprised it didn’t make it into the movie.

The demos for the songs might have been my favorite portion as it allowed a little peak behind the curtain. Hearing the demo for Shiny, you get a touch of a David Bowie sound in Miranda’s voice. But then listening to the movie version, performed by Jemaine Clement (from The Flight of the Conchords fame), you hear how much more he brought to the performance. And I do have to disagree with the ladies on this one. If you haven’t listened to their podcast on Moana, please go do that, I’ll wait.

podcast

Lots of homework on this post, I know, but if you aren’t listening to their podcast, you should make that a part of your week as they can be a real treat. Unfortunately, on the podcast they said they didn’t really enjoy Shiny. Most of the movie takes place in the sunny atmosphere of the Pacific and when they travel to Lalotai, the Realm of Monsters, the movie needed a sonic shift, which this song brought. You get the skeletal marimba sounds and the slow lurching bass, I mean, when I hear it, I’m right back with Tamatoa. 

moana soundtrack

The more I listen to this album the more of the tiny elements peek out of the compositions, you get a grunt here that really ties the song together or that pulling bass line that comes in after the hook joke in Shiny. It really seemed like everyone brought their A-game to this music/soundtrack and I think it really paid off. I’ve already heard many of these songs hundreds of times (again, I do have three young kids that love this album) and probably will hear them many many more. And thankfully, they are solid songs that don’t get old (at least not yet).

I hoped you enjoyed my guest post. Thanks to The Mouse and the Monorail for having me. If you did, please check out my blog Bearded Music Reviews. Hopefully you’ll find your new favorite album. I’ll even give you a sneak peek at my not-yet-released Top Albums list for 2016. Spoiler: The Moana Soundtrack lands at #44 out of 61!

Thanks Tim and I agree with so many of your assessments, especially the bits about Shiny and More. Can’t wait to have you back to review more Disney music!

If you’d like to hear the entire Moana soundtrack, it’s available for purchase via iTunes and Amazon as well as in most stores. If streaming is more your style, then you can find the deluxe version on Spotify (my preferred choice) or visit the DisneyMusicVevo YouTube channel. They have the complete soundtrack including select songs with the video too! (That’s where the above videos came from). You can even test out your karaoke skills with karaoke versions of How Far I’ll Go and You’re Welcome! What did you think of the Moana soundtrack? ~Meredith ºoº

More ways to enjoy the Mouse and Monorail

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please let us know! And for more Disney tips, tricks, tutorials, packing lists, dos and don’ts… Okay, you get the picture. You can also find us on the following socials: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, & YouTube.

Disney Park Maps Video Tutorial

Remember that time I made a tutorial about how to make a Disney park maps ornament?! Well, our good friend Beth over at the PaperAngelsVlog has given us a little video about how they made their own version. I’ll let Beth explain better:

New #phototutorial up over in the blog! Check it out at www.mouseandmonorail.com/parkmapornament ~Meredith °o° #diy #handmade #howto #modpodge #glitter #disneyparks #disneyparkmap #ornament #handmadeornaments

Hi guys!

When I saw Meredith’s tutorial about the park maps ornament, I immediately added it to my to-do list and got the supplies. That was last year. Ha! We finally got around to making our own this year! We did our ears a little different. I wanted the sparkle of glitter without the mess so we used glitter paint. We painted the ears black and then added the glitter paint over it. The paint gave it a nice little shine.

Watch the video below to see how we did ours!

This was such a fun project. It looks amazing on the tree and reminds us of the special memories from the parks.

Thanks for watching and thanks to Meredith for the awesome tutorial!

And thank you Beth for that shout-out! You all did a fantastic job and they look amazing. If you want to see more of their Vlogmas 2016, be sure to find them on youtube here and subscribe!

Liked this post? You can find my original tutorial here and make your own! There’s also loads more Mouse and Monorail Christmas fun here, here, here,and here!

Want to pin it all instead? Find them here:

Park Map Ornaments Tutorial —–> here

“Sirenbucks” (Disney/Starbucks) Christmas Wreath Tutorial —–> here

Disney Store Ornaments —–> here

Top Five Last Minute Gifts —–> here

Last Minute DIY Halloween Costumes!

It’s almost Halloween and you still haven’t got a costume. Your kids aren’t helping because they can’t make up their minds either. Fear not! Our newest Mouse and Monorail contributor has the perfect DIY Halloween costumes for you.  Thanks to Beth (Paper Angels Vlog) for this super cute tutorial!

DIY Halloween Costumes

Paper angels vlog

Hi guys! I’m Beth from Paper Angels Vlog. I am so excited to be guest posting on the Mouse and the Monorail. If you watch our channel, then you know that we are HUGE Disney lovers.
Recently we shared how we made our Incredibles Halloween costumes. When the kids were trying to decide on what they wanted to be for Halloween, I figured it would be a princess, pokemon, or maybe someone from Star Wars. I have a 8 year old boy, 7 year old girl, and 5 month old boy for those that don’t know. The whole Incredibles set, right?! When I made that remark to the kids, they were on board to be the Incredibles for Halloween. Yay!

This is a perfect last minute costume idea. Head on over to Walmart (or a local thrift store) to pick up your red shirt. You will also need some felt. That is it! You can keep it simple with just the shirt or go all out with red pants/leggings, black shorts, black boots, black masks, and yellow ribbon around the waist. We are keeping it simple with just the shirts and masks. Walmart has the masks for around $2.

Watch the video to see exactly how we made ours. Enjoy!

Let us know if you are making an Incredibles costume, and look for more guest posts from us in the future! Thanks for watching! ~Beth ºoº

Thanks again, Beth, for contributing your awesome talents! Stay tuned for more new contributors to the Mouse and the Monorail!

Free Dining at Disney – Is It Right For Me?

In case you haven’t heard, Disney has released free dining dates for this fall. Guests are eligible for free dining plans when they purchase a non-discounted 5-night/6-day Magic Your Way package that includes a room at a select Disney Resort hotel and tickets with Park Hopper or Water Park Fun & More Option.

  • August 23 – October 1, 2016
  • November 15 – November 21, 2016
  • November 26 – November 28, 2016
  • December 10 – December 21, 2016

The dining plan offer depends on which resort level you are staying at.

The following resorts are excluded from the free dining offer: Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms, the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter. Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside is excluded during the following dates: November 15 to 21, November 26 to 28 and December 10 to 21, 2016.

So what’s the catch you ask? Why wouldn’t someone want free dining? As someone who has traveled to Disney twice with free dining offers, I personally know the value this offers to a family traveling on a budget. We have eaten like kings at Disney with the free dining, and I know that I would have been pinching pennies if we were paying out of pocket.

BUT…

Many people have come to expect free dining offers in the fall at Disney and with that comes larger crowds. Larger crowds mean more time waiting in lines and it’s harder to obtain reservations at your first choice restaurants. Disney has also blocked out most of the month of October this year, which had historically been open for free dining. It seems as though Disney has caught on to the high number of school systems that have fall breaks now, and they have no reason to discount that season anymore. Many people spent hours and hours on hold with Disney on Monday only to find out that due to limited availability at each resort, they couldn’t have the discount applied.

It’s a tough call on whether or not the value of the free dining is worth it anymore. For many it is….for others, it would mean changing travel dates, choosing a different resort with availability or adding park hoppers which could make the overall cost of the trip more expensive.

For reference on the value of free dining, here is a breakdown of the prices for the 2016 dining packages at Disney.

Untitled pictureWe had an anniversary trip planned for December 2015 to Disney. I had already booked our reservations prior to the release date for free dining, and added the regular dining plan to our reservation. I figured that if free dining was released for our dates, then that would be wonderful. If not, at least I knew that our meals were already budgeted for, and it was one less thing I had to worry about paying out of pocket for. Our reservation totaled a little over $1600 for our vacation, including the dining plan. Our dining plan was $480.32 of our total. We were not doing park hopper passes on this trip. Here is my personal experience:

When the free dining dates were released for last year, I found out that our reservation was outside the booking window. Out of sheer curiosity, I played around with our reservation dates and checked out the prices. That year was the first time that Disney has had the caveat that in order to qualify for free dining, guests must purchase either a Park Hopper pass or a Water Park Fun and more option. They did the same thing for 2016 free dining qualifications. We are staying at a value resort, and I would have had to upgrade to the regular dining plan (personal preference here) and pay the difference, as well as upgrade our tickets to a Park Hopper pass. Because of this, I was actually going to end up paying more out of pocket, just for the “perk” of free dining. It took our $1600 vacation to just under $1800, so I would have ended up paying almost $200 more for free food.

It was an easy decision for me for that trip – no free dining. However, when free dining isn’t an option, you can always look for a room discount to come out to save a little money.  All things considered, I just added the free dining to a package for a client of mine and saved her family close to $1300!

So, when considering the value of free dining at Disney, ask yourself if the discount is worth it to your family. In our case for our last trip it wasn’t, but it might be perfect for your family! What are your thoughts on free dining at Disney? Let’s chat in the comments. ~A ºoº