Friday, November 2, 2018

Charities of the Months - September - November 2018

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

In August we supported Ronald McDonald House Charities based on the work they do (and a cute marketing campaign on their part) with a $125 donation.

November Charity of the Month Quarter:

Open Heart Magic
Cubs Care

Yes Charity of the Month has not been on-target the last few months.   This time we have a good excuse.    We wanted to concentrate on a couple of charities because of their impact on a certain individual's life and thought it would be better to do it in one post vs. spreading it out over a few months.

Early this year a ten-year old boy that is the nephew/grandson of our friends was diagnosed with ALL - acute lymphoblastic leukemia.    The family has gone through a lot over the past months with unexpected hospital trips, canceled treatments because his counts were too low, etc.   He's gone through many chemo treatments (including spinal tap treatments) and several transfusions.   

Early on Open Heart Magic made a lasting impact on him.  The organization entertains kids in hospitals with magic tricks and provides needed encouragement.  His grandmother gave them very high praise.    The boy is also a huge Chicago Cub's Baseball fan.   In August he got to visit Wrigley Field and spend time in the dugout and behind the scenes touring the facility and meeting players.  About a month later a Cubs player visited his hospital ward during a treatment (through Starlight Foundation) which again was another great boost to his spirits. 

About ALL from St. Jude's:

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer that affects the white blood cells. These cells fight infection and help protect the body against disease.Patients with ALL have too many immature white blood cells in their bone marrow. These cells crowd out normal white blood cells. Without enough normal white blood cells, the body has a harder time fighting infections.ALL affects a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes, causing them to build up in the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.

About Open Heart Magic from their website:
Helping all sick kids get their magic back.... Being hospitalized can be frightening for anyone, but especially for a critically ill child. As kids undergo difficult or painful treatments – surrounded by strangers – they can become overwhelmed with fear and sadness.

That’s where Open Heart Magic comes in. Our Bedside Magic™ programs bring laughter, hope and strength to sick children – one-to-one – at their hospital bedsides. Our volunteer Hospital Magicians are trained to work with all kids in a hospital – regardless of their medical conditions or physical abilities – so that every child can benefit from this entertaining and empowering therapy.
About Cubs Care:
Cubs Care is committed to helping those less fortunate improve their lives and strengthen children and families. With the generous support of fans, donors and matching funds provided by the McCormick Foundation, grants are made to qualified nonprofit organizations with programs that concentrate on child and youth education and health and wellness. In addition, the Chicago Cubs and the Foundation pay all campaign and administrative expenses, so one hundred percent of all donations, plus the match, goes to improving lives.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Walt Disney World Highlights - September 2018 Trip

The two main focuses of this Labor Day weekend trip to Walt Disney World were Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival and Hollywood Studio’s Toy Story Land.  The Food and Wine Festival was covered in our last post so please check this link to view that post.   Thanks to our Disney Vacation Club (Disney timeshare program) ownership we were able to stay at The Grand Floridian Hotel.  The relatively new rooms were very nice and having two showers in a studio room helped us to get ready quickly in the mornings.

Toy Story Land

This section of Hollywood Studios opened up in the early summer.  Guests are made to feel like hey are in Andy’s backyard experiencing his creations from a toy’s POV.   The land is home to a new roller coaster, spinner ride, and the new entrance to Toy Story Midway Mania.   As of now there is only one narrow entrance into the land.   We rope-dropped the new coaster (Slinky Dog Dash) on both our visits. These ended up being the most aggressive rope-drops ever experienced since this was the longest distance we’ve ever traveled with the hordes.  We made it on the first coaster of each day (unfortunately Dave takes pleasure in navigating the rope-drop) making enemies with pushy selfie-loving millennial along the way.  

Slinky Dog Dash is not a thrilling coaster.  It is a fun ride with lots of cute features and nods to the movie lore.

Alien Saucer Swirl is a copy of Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Disneyland with a green alien overlay.  It’s very cute and the techno soundtrack is fun.

The rest of the land is filled with giant statues of Toy Story characters and vignettes of toys.  

Other Fun

In the Magic Kingdom we visited Stitch’s new meet and greet location in the old location of Stitch’s Great Escape.  The meet took place in the preshow lobby and they did not spend one cent on remodeling.   When finished we walked through the preshow theater and out the door that must have been a chicken exit.  We got to walk on a little back area path we’ve never been on before and saw a cool poster about a rocket expo.  

The Incredible Summer Celebration (Tomorrowland takeover) was still going on.  We spent a few moments at the Purple Wall (made a thing on Instagram so now Disney is capitalizing on it) having Photo Pass guy take our picture.  We were on Splash Mountain when the lights came on for the end scene.  We were hoping to get evacuated but it never happened.  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2018

We decided to spend Labor Day Weekend at Walt Disney World.  Thanks to Our Disney Vacation Club (Disney timeshare program) ownership we were able to stay at The Grand Floridian Hotel.  The relatively new rooms were very nice and having two showers in a studio room helped us to get ready quickly in the mornings.

Our focus of this trip was Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.  Our pre-planning indicated we would eat/drink 60 different menu items (spoiler:  we didn’t make it).  During the Festival we would attend one paid food/wine seminar with a chef, join in candy sushi making (a reserved event), and attend one performance from Tiffany.

This year Disney had a few Festival gifts for Annual Passholders.  The first was a magnet featuring Mickey in a chef hat.   The other was a cutting board attained by going to Epcot 4 times during the festival.   We had four park days planned but Epcot was not part of our last day’s plan.   We decided to run (almost literally) into Epcot before checking in to our room and making our dinner ressie at Narcoossee’s (in the Grand Floridian).   Our plane pulled up to the gate at 7pm.   By 7:50 we were in our rental car, buying supplies at Speedway, and made it to Epcot’s gate - at a dead stop.   Combine the holiday weekend with the 2nd night of Food and Wine and you have a lot of people heading to Epcot.   We sat there for 15 minutes as cars paid their parking fees every so slowly.   Then 8:00 hit and parking was free!   Lanes opened up and we parked in the first spot we found.   We race-walked to the entrance in the 100% humidity and high temps.   Dave looked great.   Once in the Festival Center we found a long line for the magnets.  Might as well grab a beer while we wait.   After getting the magnets we hustled out of there.   Dave was crabby since his nice clothes for dinner were drenched with sweat.   Fortunately we made it to the hotel in time to check in and quickly freshen up.  Dinner at Narcoossee’s was nice.  We watched the Hallowishes Fireworks from the porch - which was possibly the best place on property to view the 180 degree effects.

Overall the Food & Wine Festival was same stuff-different year, but that didn’t mean it still wasn’t fun.   The booth lines were relatively low all weekend.  We believe the heat and humidity kept the locals away.  At times Epcot was very crowded but folks were not on food lines.  There were plenty of Drinkin’ Around the World crews, tribes, and squads.

While at the Festival we used the Food & Wine Passport book to track our progress.   We used a check-mark for good items, a dash so so-so, and an X for items we did not like.

Any food item pictures we have will follow the order of the marks in the Passport.  Some beverages don’t have photos since they may have just been a beer or red wine.

No photos of the beers from the Festival Center.  We each had a flight and had too much to manage while sharing our flights on line for the magnets.  We did enjoy the Disney Family Wine flight.

Tip:  if it is too hot too eat outside there are a few tables in Club Cool you can use.  Added bonus is free soda.

Skipped this one

Both these items were among our favorites.

The black stuff with the scallops was nasty.

We enjoyed the next 5. At first we rated the jerk chicken high, but realized it didn’t have the flavor of Dave’s recipe.

We did have the shrimp quesadilla in Mexico. It was good but not worth the high price.   China’s pancake was a top item.

The beef from Africa has been better in previous years.  Holly thought it was spicy hot.  This is the first year we skipped the Brewer’s Collection - the beers were too light for us and we’ve tried those same beers during another fest.   Also disappointing - German pavilion replaced the Oktoberfest beer with everyday Beck’s.

No photo....this is a Fest staple item and it is always very good.

Stuck with beer here.  Sometimes this booth is a hit-or-miss and we were never really hungry when near the pavilion.

Took a chance here with tuna and salmon (we don’t do raw fish). Everything was good.  Brazil scallop stew was very good.

They never give you enough bread for any cheese dip.

Other fun:

We watched a performance by Tiffany at the American Gardens theater.  She can sing and even mentioned how she had to prove it back in the 80’s with “Could Have Been”.  Her vocals were a mix of Melissa Etheridge, Stevie Nicks, and Miley Cyrus.   Tiffany knew her audience and played all her hits plus an 80’s medley.

We attended a seminar in the Festival Center.  For $25 each we were served a glass of wine and a small portion of food similar to what the chef was preparing on stage.  Our menu featured a wine from a Chappellet in Napa Valley and short rib bourguignon.   The wine was a restaurant-size pour and the beef a decent few-bite portion. The time commitment was about 60 minutes. 

On Friday and Saturday the park hosts a dance party near the Fountain of Nations.  While there we saw a performance by IRL (In Real Life).  We had no idea who they were, but the girls in the crowd were singing along.   We found out later that they have some hits on Radio Disney and were part of a reality tv show.  We took a selfie with them in the background to up our street creds.

This year a new free event started in Sunshine Seasons where you make candy sushi.   It was sponsored by M&M Mars and Adventures by Disney to promote their Japan itinerary.  We were given paper hats and materials to make several varieties of sushi.  There were a few other kidless adults at the event and we did not feel out of place.  

Even after attending this festival so many times it’s still a great event.  Epcot is the perfect place to walk around and sample food and drink while taking in some fun entertainment.   We even got a cutting board out of it.