Thursday, July 23, 2015

Video: Star Wars Weekends Legends of the Force Parade and Show

This video is most of the Legends of the Force Parade and scenes from the post-parade show.  Thanks to the Feel the Force Premium Package (costs extra) we had a nice curb-side view and were escorted to the front of the stage for the show.   Poor camera work is a result of trying to take photos of R2-D2 and Chopper (from Rebels) together.

Other Star Wars Weekends Posts:
Star Wars Weekend 2015 Day 1
Star Wars Weekend 2015 Day 2


Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Comeback!

I haven't run a race since the Rock and Roll New Orleans Marathon on January 25th. If you follow this blog you know this is a long time for me. I have a good reason for having nothing on the schedule. I unfortunately had to have a hysterectomy on March 9th. The good news is that the surgery went well and my life will be much better going forward. The bad news is I wasn’t able to run at all for 4 weeks. Just walking. Basically I have had to start completely over in my training and it has been tough.

Two days after the surgery I could barely walk down my driveway and back without being completely exhausted. This was very frustrating for me since just before the surgery I had run 13 miles! I slowly kept adding distance to my walks and was regaining my strength but still wasn’t cleared to run and frankly I had no desire to run either. I was worried. I was worried that I would never get back to the marathon. I did something you should never do. I went to the internet. I found so many stories about people not being able to come back from this. I also found stories that people came back stronger than ever. (I of course ignored those). I was finally cleared by my doctor to start running again after 4 weeks. The first run was nerve wracking. I was terrified. I ran on the treadmill to control my speed and to be able to stop if I needed to. I ran 3 miles and I didn’t die. I felt like I might. I went super slow, but my comeback had begun.

The last three months have been all about getting back in shape. I put on 5 lbs and I’m still struggling to get rid of all of them. It has been a tough road, but I’m up to 14 miles for my long runs and my speed is looking better than last summer so I’m pleased with that. Some runs are great and some are really bad. I need to remember that I had to start from square one, but it’s hard to remember that.

My first real test is this weekend at the Rock and Roll Chicago half marathon. This was my goal. This is my only legacy race, meaning I have run every one of them. I wanted to keep my streak intact. I am so ready to race and am excited but also nervous. I really hope this goes well because I have five, yes five, full marathons set for the Fall. A bit aggressive? Yes! But I have missed it so much!!

 

 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July Charity of the Month: UNICEF US Fund for Nepal Earthquake

Charity of the Month is the way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

June: We sponsored Feed My Starving Children to help provide meals to needy kids around the world. We donated $130 plus a matching gift to FMSC through their online link at FMSC.org.

July's Charity:

UNICEF US Fund: Aiding the Nepal Earthquake Relief

http://www.unicefusa.org

You may have noticed we are a little late announcing this month's charity. In all honesty we did not have any ideas of what organization or fund to support so we kept delaying the post until we could make a decision. We picked the Nepal Earthquake relief efforts due to watching a show on The Travel Channel.

Thanks to the magic of On Demand we binge-watched Big Crazy Family Adventure. The show documents a family (husband, wife, and 2 sons ages 7 & 3) taking a three month journey from Western Canada to India via Korea, China, Tibet, and Nepal without an airplane. The first 5 days were by canoe. We thought these people were nuts! Beyond that, we really enjoyed watching all the highs-and-lows of travel play out and how well they all took it in-stride.

Bruce, the father, is a guide and photojournalist by trade and had visited Nepal and Everest Base Camp before. He had such great love for the area and respect for its people. You could tell this was definitely being passed onto the eldest son. During one of the Nepal episodes they flashed up a memorial message for the victims of the earthquake. The April earthquake killed over 9,000 people.

Learn more about the earthquake click here.

To donate, click here to go to UNICEF's Nepal link.

 

 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chain Livin': The Hot Dog Boat and some Randoms

We've lived on "The Chain" for 13 years and finally had our first experience at a hot dog boat. These floating fast food counters are converted house boats that anchor in high-traffic areas to sell food and non-alcoholic drinks to passing by boaters. We've always wanted to stop at a hot dog boat but could never find one when we actually needed one. Usually they'd show up after we passed their anchor point and we'd already ate lunch by the time we passed back. Other food boats we've seen on The Chain include the pizza boat and the ice cream boat.

Bub's is one-of-two hot dog boats we've seen on The Chain this year

Docking was relatively easy and the crew working the boat was having fun. We ordered hot dogs and fries and ate them a bit further down the lake. The food was good but hard to manage condiment packs and napkins in the breeze while the boat was rocking. The next time we stop at a hot dog boat will either be when we are in dire need of food or a water or if we have a guest on board that wants to enjoy this novelty.
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We came up with a name for our pontoon boat last year and developed a graphic to stick on the back. Of course, we finally got to applying the decal this year. We bought the graphics pretty inexpensively from buildasign.com. Dave messed up the first order and bought a non-transparent background graphic. We fixed our error by ordering a few transparent stickers the second time around. We decided a windy day was the perfect time to adhere a 18x18 sticker to the boat and in the process screwed up both the transparent stickers. The next day we went back out and applied one of the old non-transparent stickers vs. ordering more and waiting two more weeks to do this project. We will replace it eventually......

Going back into the Camera Roll history on the iPad reveals some of the inspiration behind our design. We wanted it to have the 50's Retro/Googie style which meant a lot of different shapes and use of multiple fonts. "Toon-In Lounge" and the TV is part homage to Disney's Hollywood Studios' bar the Tune-In Lounge. "Toon" was also a reference to the fact that our boat is a pontoon boat and "Lounge" because our seating configuration is lounge chairs.


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Dave went to Wal-Mart unchaperoned and arrived home with some unneeded things. One such thing was a $5 bubble gun that promised "bubbles inside bubbles". This thing actually worked. Of course he had to set up the GoPro and film it.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios Day 2

The second day of our Star Wars Weekend was going to be spent at more add-on/reservation-only experiences: The Rebel Hangar Lounge and the Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine.

We started the day in Epcot since our first reservation was a bit later in the afternoon. Our Epcot time was spent riding the headliners in Future World, enjoying a few drinks (except La Cava seems to have changed some of their margarita recipes for the worse), and having lunch at Via Napoli. We finally had a chance to enjoy the new musical act in Morocco and recommend spending some time watching their performance.

We walked to The Studios from Epcot and made it on time for our first reservation: The Rebel Hangar. This is a new bar/lounge experience designed for Star Wars Weekends in the Backlot Express. The theme is a catina on a rebel outpost on Sullust - where Nien Nunb is from (disneyfoodblog.com does a better job capturing the details and they took pictures of the menu with backstory). The usual counter service was still available, but the dining section near Jedi Training Academy was closed off in order to house this experience. When we arrived at the podium we were immediately escorted to a nice corner table with a statue of Luke in his pilot outfit decorating the table. From time-to-time characters wandered around. While there we saw a cantina band member, a Jawa, and Ezra and Sabine from Rebels. For whatever reason, the Rebels characters only visited one table.

Our waitress was ever-present, but never rushing us. I think they wanted you to take your time and enjoy, but also did not want to miss the opportunity to turn a table. We both ordered speciality cocktails for the first round so we could complete our Star Wars Glow Cube collection. Between in-park drink kiosks and The Hangar we had pairs of Death Stars, X-Wings, and Falcons.

For food we tried the pork wings (Thermal Detonators) and fries (Pilot's Pommes Frites). The pork was tasty and a good size for one to enjoy and the fries were darn good. The garnish on the fries was a flat bread with a picture of Chewy.




The Rebel Hangar was nice. The Studios could use a few more lounges since Tune-In is now crowded at all times of the day. Having a Star Wars overlay was great, but really not a priority over having a comfortable place to take a break while in the park.

A few hours later we took part in Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine. This is a buffet character dining experience in the restaurant that regularly features the Disney Jr. characters. Needless to say we've never dined here before because 1) we don't care about Doc McStuffins and 2) We typically avoid the buffets. When you enter the restaurant you are sent over to meet Jedi Mickey for a photo opp. After that we went to our table (and tables are packed in) and got the orientation from our server. We hit the buffet and found a few OK salads, veggie offerings, and entrees. While dining we met with Stormtroopers Donald, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy, and Ewok Chipmunks. There were a few themed desserts - like Jawa cookies and Blue Milk soft serve. Overall this wasn't a horrible food experience like the Sci-Fi breakfast from the previous day. However, our bill for the meals and one drink each cost more than our superb meal at The Brown Derby the previous night (and no Zellwood corn to be found here).



After dinner we ducked into the Tune-in Lounge for some Dad's Lemonade to enjoy while we waited for another showing of Symphony in the Stars fireworks. This time we chooses a spot much further from the main stage so we could try to get more of the panoramic experience. We shot video from this location and the Premium Package location we had the night before to create the video below:


Friday, June 19, 2015

Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios Day 1

Some years the stars align and the timing of a Disney trip coincides with one of their Star Wars Weekends. This ultimately means spending too much time in Disney's Hollywood Studios Park.


Star Wars Weekends occur over several weekends in May and June. The event includes a parade, special shows, character meet and greets, celebrity autograph sessions, and fireworks. Events are included with park admission, but there are several add-on experiences. For the Friday of our visit we purchased the Feel the Force Deluxe Package and had breakfast at the Sci-Fi Galactic Dine-In.
Our Deluxe Package came with a scary $99/pp price tag. Surprisingly enough this was a relatively decent value with these inclusions:

- Reserved Parade spot with unlimited bottled water, soda, popcorn, and frozen treats for 45 minutes before the parade, plus escort to the front of the stage for the show.

- Reserved spots at all the talk shows for the day.

- No-wait access to get into Darth's Mall exclusive store.

- Reserved space for part of the DJ Party and Fireworks with a dessert party and select alcoholic beverages.

After watching the opening show with the Stormtroopers we hauled it over to Star Tours for the Chewbacca/Ewok photo opportunity. We usually skip most of these opps since we spent HOURS doing this back in 2010, but Holly wanted to get this one again and we had the time. Chewbacca can sometimes have a 2 hour wait. Afterwards we took in Tatooine Traders (the year-round Star Wars store), which was a perfect time to visit since no one was in there yet.

Next it was time for our Sci-Fi Galactic Dine-In meal. This was a pricey character breakfast setup in the Sci-Fi Drive-In restaurant where you sit in a car-shaped table and watch clips on the drive-in style movie screen. Upon entry you get a photo opp with Darth Vader AND Boba Fett at the same time. We made sure we had the right outfits for this: Dave a Boba Fett Assassin's Creed mashup and Holly a Vader/Fett Selfie T-shirt. The photo the cast member took with our camera wasn't great and our free photo on Photopass (Disney's photo service) is not coming up free in the system.

Here's what was good about our experience: The cast members serving food were great and willing to bring whatever we wanted from the menu. The costumed characters were playful and fun to watch. The clips and drive-in style Star Wars themed ad cards were fun.
One-eyed Jawa
Here's what was bad about our experience: The food. Other than the pastry basket items, everything else was a flop. Bland mushy shrimp, way too salty steak, over-cheesed grits. Nothing was good except for the Vader Waffle. The drive-in tables were not designed for 40somethings to get in-and-out every so often for character photos. We know others really enjoyed this meal, but our experience was not good.

The first use of our Feel the Force Package came at the Legends of the Force Motorcade Parade. We were given our VIP pass lanyards and allowed into a small roped-off area at the corner of Hollywood Blvd by the main store and across from Sid's. For the 45 minutes before the parade we had access to bottled sodas, waters, popcorn, and Mickey Bars. We probably consumed/walked away with six waters, a soda, some popcorn, and ice cream. We were allowed to sit on the curb, which made viewing the parade comfortable. It was super hot in our space but they offered a couple umbrellas to stand under. The only bad thing about the space was the parade was backlit from this spot. Dave wasn't pleased with the pictures. But getting escorted behind the parade to the front of the stage for the opening show made up for this - Especially since Chopper from Rebels was standing right by us (Chopper is a droid for the new animated series Rebels and Holly loves him).






We worked some rides into our schedule throughout the morning via Fastpass. Since we had the Deluxe Package we did not have to use any Fastpasses for entry into any of the talk shows. The two shows we attended this year were Star Wars Rebels and Stars of the Saga. We skipped An Ewok's Tale and Obi-Wan and Beyond because we saw these shows in 2013. Rebels and Saga were talk shows hosted by James Arnold Taylor (voice actor) where he interviews other celebrities and plays clips from the shows and movies. Each show opened with a form of a skit involving Stormtroopers. Both shows were fun.

Celebrities this week included Rebels voice actress of the character Hera, the guy who played Nute Gunray in the Prequels, and Wicket the Ewok from Return of the Jedi

We visited Darth's Mall late in the day so our VIP access did not mean too much. Most of the merchandise had that "been there, done that" feel to us so we did not buy much.

We dined at The Brown Derby before heading into our Feel the Force Deluxe Package dessert party (Disney Tip: If any menu item has Zellwood corn, get it. We had the best corn chowder ever at The Brown Derby). We picked one of the back tables in the reserved zone and took turns grabbing items from the dessert bar. We had many items to choose from between cupcakes, panna cotta, and ice cream bars. We could get soda, bottled water, coffee, iced tea, or one of three punches either spiked or virgin. They were all too sweet. The bartenders were not allowed to mix the booze with anything but the specific punch and they did not offer beer or wine. Since the punches were awful we really did not drink during the event. The desserts were ok - they put theme before taste.

While in our paddock the DJ Lobot (DJ Elliot in real life) dance party was in full swing and very enjoyable. Before the fireworks James Arnold Taylor came onstage with another show. This time, we got a look at the new Stormtroopers from the upcoming movie The Force Awakens. The fireworks lasted over 6 minutes with a soundtrack taken from the movies. We hate to say it but the fireworks for last year's Frozen event were better.

After the fireworks we called it a night and headed back by foot to the Boardwalk. We ended up taking our drinks from Bellvue to go. It was a full and very fun day. The package saved us a lot of frustration and Fastpasses, plus gave back a few tangibles in food and drink. We'd likely buy the pass at this price-point with similar features.

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DJ Elliot's mixes are available to stream or download from his site DJElliot.com. Check them out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Our Stay in the DVC Studio at Disney's Polynesian Resort

We'd like to thank everyone for checking out our review of the Polynesian Bora Bora Bungalows. We had a lot of positive response and appreciate the feedback and your questions.

It was hard to check-out of the bungalow that morning, but at least we weren't on our way home just yet. Our last night of this trip was going to be spent in one of the new DVC Studios in the Polynesian's Moorea Longhouse Lagoon View Room. We didn't take too many pictures (or quality ones at that) but we thought the theme of the building was done really well. In the elevator lobby on each floor are sitting areas with mid-modern furniture and 50's style travel-themed artwork. The hallways carried the theme with fun tiki light fixtures and an orange/red prime color scheme. The colors mixed with the wood tone darkened the hall quite a bit.

We drew room number 2023, which put us about 1/2 way between the elevator and the side closest to the main buildings.

We mostly stay in DVC Studio rooms so the first surprise for us was the actual size of the room with the extra bathroom. Most DVC Studios have a bathroom that can only fit a tub and toilet with double-vanity sinks outside in the main room. This room had a large bathroom with a tub, sink, and toilet PLUS another bathroom with shower and sink. Not sure why they didn't change the layout to get another toilet in, but it was still an upgrade from a regular studio. In the morning we each used a separate shower at the same time to get ready and this worked out really well.

Opposite the bathrooms was a closet with full-size electronic safe (no stupid key on a bracelet).

The main room was where we found the queen bed, 2 night stands (another Studio win), pullout couch, table, chairs, and coffee table. Under the flatscreen TV was the pullout bed. The theme was carried through very well with the artwork and room accessories.
Borrowed from tiki manages.com
Borrowed from tikimanpages.com
We were in a hurry to get to the pool! Sorry for the bad picture.
Bedding, chairs, art, lamps, couch, mirror all in one photo
We really enjoyed the view from the room:





Our balcony had a small table and two chairs. Later in the evening we sat on the balcony until around 12:30am and found it very pleasant and relaxing. We watched Wishes in the park (From the new Fastpass+ area which was nice) that night so we do not have any comments on what fireworks are like from the room.

You think the horns are loud from the Bungalows? Try Moorea. Holly said she heard the first horn at 5:30am. We were getting up anyway so on this day it did not bother us. We're coming back in September for a longer stay in these rooms so we will see how the horns really impact us then. As much as the horns could be a detraction, the proximity to TTC is awesome. In less than 3 minutes from leaving the room we were on line for a Magic Kingdom Monorail. This will be beneficial on Epcot days.

At first we were convinced that our upcoming September trip will be our last stay at the Polynesian's DVC units because home resort members will book this up before we'll get a chance to reserve a room seven months out. But since these are studios we may get lucky from time-to-time since many people prefer the one bedroom units. We'll see how it goes in September, but as of now we are fans of this new DVC offering.

For some better pictures of the room, hallway, and sitting areas in Moorea check out tikimanpages.com and wdwinfo.com. Inside the Magic also has a short video tour of the studios.

And now we present Tonga Toast: