Thursday, July 19, 2018

Disney World Trip Highlights - May/June 2018

Every few years we book a week+ long trip to Disney World in May.   Typically we do this around Mother’s Day but since Dave started with a new company last year his vacation allotment reset, causing us to take advantage of the Memorial Day holiday to minimize vacation use.   We figured there would be a noticeable difference in the crowds for the holiday weekend, but it actually wasn’t any worse than earlier in the month. 

We’re going to cover the highlights in the post vs. a day-by-day account of our trip.   We spent the first 6 nights at Bay Lake Tower (attached to the Contemporary Resort) followed by 4 nights at Boardwalk Resort.   We are DVC (Disney Vacation Club) members.

We landed early Friday evening and rushed through MCO to our rental car.   We dropped everything off in the hotel room so we could head right into the Magic Kingdom to see the Happily Ever After fireworks show.   Holly was a big fan of Wishes and we both decided the new show was not a very good replacement – definitely less pyrotechnics and more castle projections (which are hard to see with all the darn kids on parents’ shoulders).

Memorial Day Weekend marked the last few days of Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival.  This put the pressure on us to hit all the food booths around World Showcase that we wanted to try.   Overall offerings this year were not as good as they have been in the past.   Epcot did look great and it was fun to watch the flowers slowly disappear later in the week when the festival closed.   We took in The Spinners at the Garden Rocks concert.  Fun show!

Trader Sam’s at the Polynesian is still a fun place to enjoy the evening (outdoors).  We were happy to see that Disney did not get rid of the guitarist/singer on the terrace. 

California Grill is back on our top dining list.   We had really bad service on our last visit to the restaurant and the changes to the menu items at that time were not our favorite.  Now with the former Jiko chef at the helm things are back the way we like them.   We ate a late (10pm) dinner one night at the bar and then a normal time dinner the following evening.   The filet with the tamarind BBQ was as good as ever.   Our motto for Disney dining in May still held true:  If Zellwood corn is on the menu get it.  The corn chowder was fantastic!

We dined with friends one night at Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table.   We had a great night watching the kitchen team in action and enjoying great food and wine.   That evening will get a detailed post of its own.

We had a surprisingly good lunch at The Wave in the Contemporary.  We didn’t want park food or food court food and found this a decent option.  We split the appetizer mussels and Asian pork belly buns.   There were a few decent beers on tap.   This is a perfect break from the Magic Kingdom.
Disney Springs has become an enjoyable place to eat and drink.   We experienced Paddlefish, Dockside Margaritas, Polite Pig, The Edison, Morimoto Asia, and more.
 Afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian is still a fun break from the Magic Kingdom.

 This summer Animal Kingdom started an event in Dino Land called Donald’s Dino-Bash.   The premise is Donald Duck discovers ducks are descended from Dinosaurs and throws a party. Uncle Scrooge is fighting with some rival duck over whom was the first duck clan of Scotland.  There’s some decent theming and backstory in the Uncle Scrooge photo opp area.  Other photo opps include Launchpad McQuack, Chip & Dale in cute dinosaur onesies, Pluto, Daisy, and Goofy.   We hit the character stops before they opened (at 10am) and breezed through them.   In the afternoon the hold a dance party in the courtyard.   By dance party think Disney Jr. vs. Dj Elliott.

 Incredible Summer was occurring in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.   Characters from the Incredibles movies were out along with some photo opp backgrounds and a stage show/dance party.   Banners were all over the place and the regular Tomorrowland music loop was replaced by an Incredibles themed soundtrack.   We weren’t fans of this since 1) we don’t really enjoy The Incredibles and 2) it replaced the theming of Tomorrowland.   Dino-Bash was an add-on vs. an overhaul.   There’s rumor Edna Mode is going to narrate the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.   If that’s true it’s time to bring headphones with us to stream an old narration.

We dined at Spice Road Table in Epcot’s Morocco for the first time.   We never included this location on our dining list before because the outside patio area was usually empty when we passed by.  They have a great location on the water so something must be wrong if it’s empty.  We booked a table in time to see Illuminations (fireworks show) and enjoyed how close we were to the action in the lagoon.  Then we remembered this used to be where we watched Illuminations before they built the restaurant.   Food was good, portions were large and reasonably priced.  We could come back and share an appetizer and share an entrĂ©e and be content.

Several months ago Dooney & Bourke  released a purse with a Disney dog pattern that Holly was after.  She missed out online at the release date (setting an alarm to get up in the middle of the night).  While we were on property some were being released in very limited amounts.    We got to Animal Kingdom later than we normally would one morning and she missed it by 10 minutes.  We started rope-dropping stores selling purses vs. attractions for a few days after that.   No luck.

Flights of Wonder bird show in Animal Kingdom was overhauled to be Up! A Great Bird Adventure.   By doing this they have incorporated characters from Up! into the show.   The birds are basically the same, just the main narrator’s “Eat, Pray, Love” shtick is more annoying than the tour guide shtick from the old show

Even though it was his birthday, Dave agreed to go to the princess character breakfast at Trattoria al Forno in the Boardwalk Resort.   Characters are not his thing, especially ones that talk back.   The food was good – can’t argue with steak at 8am and the character interaction was quick.    They had the annoying kid parade around the restaurant and other songs so be ready for that.   The characters were nice and knew to limit interaction with Dave, even when they found out it was his birthday.   This is worth a try if you want to see Ariel, Rapunzel, and related princes.

Since we are on the topic of the Boardwalk Resort we’ll cover our check-in mishap.   We left Animal Kingdom around 3:45 and finally got the notice that are room was ready.   We arrived, asked Bell Services to bring our bags (we dropped them off earlier that day), and went to our unclean room.   The room had not been serviced.   Dave called the desk (which is a central line for all the hotels) while Holly went to the desk directly.   We were told it would be 45 minutes and received some compensation for our troubles.   45 minutes turned into almost 2 hours.   After some additional conversations were received 3 bonus Fast Passes (shorter wait tickets) per day.   

We were going to write a glowing review of Matboukha Groove at Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion but the band is no longer there.   They engaged the crowd with their high-energy performance.   Sahara Beat is the replacement act.

Brown Derby’s outdoor lounge in the Hollywood Studios is still enjoyable.  It’s a really nice dining venue with great appetizer selections and the chance to get Zellwood corn soup from the inside menu if you ask nice.    Sitting at a two-top we were not given the advantage of an umbrella for shade.   While dining around noon the breeze had stopped and the sun shifted perfectly over us.   It was HOT!

Those were some of the highlights.  We'll return back to Disney World Labor Day Weekend for a few fun days at Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival (Tiffany is performing that weekend) and to check out the Studio's new Toy Story Land.   This will also be our first time staying at The Grand Floridian Resort.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Charity of the Month: Sarcoma Foundation of America

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 March we sponsored Chicago's Brookfield Zoo Share the the Care Program with a continued donation to Hudson the polar bear and a new adoption of Potoka the giraffe.   For April, May, June we didn't find any charities to feature during this time.  Nothing stuck out to us.   In late May Holly decided to use Facebook's "Dedicate Your Birthday" to charity function as a way to promote one of our favorite organizations: Give Kids the World.  We decided to donate 3 months worth of Charity of the Month funds to this cause.  Thanks to the generosity of our friends Holly raised $600 through her Facebook post.  We kicked in another $400 to make it an even $1,000.     

July Charity of the Month:

Our friends Bob and Barb Kennedy will be participating in the Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma 5K in memory of a family member.

"Sarcomas are cancers that arise from the cells that hold the body together. These could be cells related to muscles, nerves, bones, fat, tendons, cartilage, or other forms of “connective tissues.” There are hundreds of different kinds of sarcomas, which come from different kinds of cells.

Sarcomas can invade surrounding tissue and can metastasize (spread) to other organs of the body, forming secondary tumors. The cells of secondary tumors are similar to those of the primary (original) cancer. Secondary tumors are referred to as “metastatic sarcoma” because they are part of the same cancer and are not a new disease." - SFA website

Brief History of Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma (PCS) Organization
In January 2011, Drs. Hussein Tawbi and Kurt Weiss with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, chaired a start-up committee of 12 members who joined with the Sarcoma Foundation of America to fundraise and raise awareness for the Pittsburgh area and beyond. The group pursued a 5K event with a goal to raise awareness and support others who have been affected by this rare cancer. This event, along with the creation of the website, garnered much attention in the Pittsburgh region and gathered many families who have been affected by sarcoma cancer.

The overwhelming success of the initial 5K fundraiser in 2011 set the foundation for this to be an annual event, which has continued to grow each year in participation and funding to support research. To date this event, as well as an annual golf outing, has raised over $1,000,00,000 to support sarcoma research here in Pittsburgh and across the nation through the Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA). Since 2012, the SFA has presented a research grant named in honor of Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma to a sarcoma researcher in the United States to continue efforts to development innovative treatment approaches for sarcoma. This would not be possible without the support and participation of major sponsors in the Pittsburgh region and involvement of generous patients and their families.

Please join us to help ensure that our progress to support sarcoma research continues.