Travel Tuesday: Faith, Trust…and Pixie Dust

PB+JL Disneyland

The thought of traveling with a group of people can create a lot of apprehension among those of us with social anxiety. But for our first trip to Disneyland, I took–what was for me–a leap of faith (or craziness? Aren’t they sometimes the same thing?) and invited our friends to join us. (more…)

We Crash Club 33


Here’s the story of Lance+Jeff and Brian and Phil at Club 33…and how we almost ruined our chances of ever returning.

First, an introduction for the Disney laypersons: Disneyland’s Club 33 might be the holy grail for the most intense fans of Disney Parks.  And somehow, we got in.


Photo Friday: Gratuitous Pictures of Your Husband at Disneyland


After six-plus years of being together, it’s always nice to step back, assess the BIG PICTURE, and come to the same conclusion: my husband is quite the catch.

Now I present the best way to cap off your work-week, a series of photos of Lance enjoying Disneyland.  What better way to enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth than with such an adorable guy? (Cameos by two other handsome gentlemen, Brian and Phil.)

Mayhem on the Matterhorn!
Splash Mountain super-selfie.
In the queue for Haunted Mansion Holiday. The guy on the left is not a hitchhiking ghost; he just has naturally dark circles under his eyes.
Waiting to catch the Aladdin stage show in Disney California Adventure. Lance’s smile will disappear 40 minutes later once he realizes we spent $100 a person to buy tickets for the upcoming Broadway production, which will likely not be as good.
Mad T Party in Hollywoodland.
Okay, so maybe Lance didn’t enjoy EVERY aspect of Disneyland…
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree selfie.



Well, I know all those pics put me in a better mood. Happy Friday, everyone!

Our Disneyland Mixtape


Christmas was just a few weeks after we got back from Disneyland, and I was scrambling at the last minute to come up with some stocking stuffers for Lance that wouldn’t break the bank.

I’d already purchased some “legal enough for eBay” Disneyland and California Adventure attraction posters, like the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Peoplemover, for Lance, since he nearly bought them for himself while we were in California but was too indecisive about which one he wanted.


Still, I felt like I hadn’t done enough to commemorate/hadn’t beaten the dead horse of our Disneyland trip enough.

What to do, what to do…

I’m one of those assholes who still likes High Fidelity after all this time, and the most important lesson I walked away with from that movie is how awesome (read: not lazy or cheap) a thoughtful, carefully-edited mixtape can be. (Too bad I didn’t see these cassette tape-themed USB devices before Christmas, ’cause they really would’ve been the kicker.)  Not everybody holds this view; mixtapes probably seem outdated in the Playlist Era. But like a Christmas card, I believe that giving something tangible adds just a little weight to your intentions.

Let’s go down the track-list, shall we?

1. “California (Tchad Blake Mix)” by Phantom Planet: 

This was an easy, if outdated, one.  Even though I don’t think either of us have watched an episode of “The O.C.” in our lives, Phantom Planet’s decade-old anthem to heading west is still what plays in my head whenever I wait to board a plane to the Golden State.

2 and 3. “Walt Disney’s Dedication to Disneyland” and “All Aboard! (Main Street Station!) from Disney’s Happiest Celebration on Earth:

Now that we’re in California, who better to welcome us than Walt Disney? To fully complete our transition into the lands of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy, let’s board the Disneyland and Sante Fe Railroad, the E.P. Ripley, at the Main Street Station.

4. “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room” from Disney’s Happiest Celebration on Earth:

One of our favorite attractions at the Disney parks, the perfect example of what sets Disney apart from their theme park competitors. Who would think that a show about animatronic birds, flowers, and tikis would still survive–and thrive!–fifty years later in our jaded, cynical times?  A pure delight, through and through…and it helps that they sell Dole Whips right outside.

5. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” from Disney’s Happiest Celebration on Earth:

Okay, this might actually be our favorite Disney attraction, a sister attraction to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull” in Tokyo DisneySea. An exceedingly well-executed adventure in the footsteps of Indiana Jones as he attempts to escape the destructive gaze of the god Mara.

6. “Welcome to Radiator Springs” by Joe Louis Walker from The Music of Cars Land:

I expected to be ambivalent, at least, to California Adventure’s Cars-themed area since I’m very lukewarm on the films, but like most visitors, we were completely sold by the mid-century-beauty of Radiator Springs.  Cars Land is filled with ’50s and ’60s background pop-rock music, mixed with originals like this song written for a drive down Route 66.

7. “Space Mountain (New Daytime Track)” by Michael Giacchino from Disney’s Happiest Celebration on Earth:

Lance I both love Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino’s work on Up, RatatouilleLost, Alias and Fringe, so of course we’d love this thematic mashup of The Incredibles and Star Trek for a truly retro trip around the cosmos.

8. “World of Color (Orchestral Theme)”:

World of Color is the beautiful, breathtaking nighttime show (how?? It’s just water and lights!) in Disney California Adventure, and its intro/finale music is heartstring-plucking Disney magic at its best.

9. “Dance With Me Tonight” by Olly Murs

How could I not select this as the big finale of our Disneyland playlist? Our good buddy and Disneyland companion Brian hand-selected this song for his DisneySide video about our trip (it’s above and you should totally watch it!), and it seemed like a perfect musical fit to our trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Disneyland: One Little Spark

I try to avoid being a stereotype, so I go out of my way to dress as shabbily as possible, listen to alt-rock instead of Kylie Minogue (no, I do that too. Whoops…but at least I had to look up how to spell her last name!), and I definitely do not pay much mind to interior design.  All of these things are what I have Lance around for.

A “chandelier” at Flo’s V8 Cafe.

However, one particular element of design I find really fascinating is light.  John Hench, one of Disney Parks’ most–if not the most–influential Imagineers, wrote extensively on color and environment in his book, Designing Disney.  These things help to create the fantastical, immersive atmosphere that separates Disney parks from the everyday [Proofreader Mom, is that the right use of “everyday”?].

The Sorcerer’s Workshop.

So, of course, the use and design of interior and exterior lights is very influential in establishing and maintaining a very specific mood, just as important as the design of buildings, the employment of background music, cast member costumes, etc.

1901 Lounge.

Disney Parks the world over provide a opportunity to see a great variety of designs in a contained space, as Imagineers strive to provide not only an authentic experience–like in the case of 1901 Lounge in Disney California Adventure, which is inspired by high-rolling Hollywood executive lounges of the 1920s and ’30s–but also a “plus”-ed version of whatever they are representing.  It’s not enough to look like an elite tinseltown club, 1901 has to look like something straight from a movie, everything a slight fantasy.

1901 Lounge.
1901 Lounge.
1901 Lounge.

Above: I love these globe lamps in the 1901 bar area!

Cathay Circle Lounge.


I am by no means an expert on light fixture design–I’m sure there are lots of scientific and artsy-fartsy terms for all of this stuff–but these diamond-shaped lights are amazing, probably my favorite of any I’ve seen in a Disney park.

Carthay Circle Restaurant.
Carthay Circle Restaurant.

Is there any space in the Disneyland Resort more beautiful than the Carthay Circle Restaurant?

Here’s a sneak peak inside and around the exclusive (ooh, ain’t we fancy?) Club 33, which I’ll discuss in a future post:

Club 33.
New Orleans Square.
Club 33 foyer.
Club 33…near the bathrooms.
Club 33.
Club 33.

As I mentioned, the variety is seemingly endless: from Victorian French Quarter to a bar on the edge of exploration to the neon glow of Route 66.  Beautiful!

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.
The Cozy Cone Motel.

To The Park That Walt Built


What could be Mecca for Disney fans but Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom, Disneyland?

I’d been discouraged from visiting Disneyland before. “It’s so small. You’ve been to Disney World; you won’t be impressed.”  And there’s the never-ending East Coast/West Coast rivalry, trying fruitlessly (wait, wait, I’m setting up something good…) to compare the apples-versus-oranges natures of the Anaheim and Lake Buena Vista resorts.

After my Adult Disney Renaissance (a term I think is attributable to @macabresalad over at Food*Fitness*Fantasy), I read up a lot on the creation of the Disney parks, and I kept feeling drawn toward California.  Regardless of how much more expansive and operationally impressive Walt Disney World is, I became obsessed with seeing this little nugget of a park, the park that changed the amusement and entertainment industry forever, the park that’s rooted deep in the history of a corporate canon so engrained into my psyche.


I was fortunate enough to sucker two of the best fellas and Disney parks companions a guy could ask for into attending our first Disneyland visit with us. The promise of a Club 33 reservation didn’t hurt none, I’m sure! (More on that in a future post.)

When Lance, Phil, Brian and I walked under the Disneyland railroad archways and through to Main Street, U.S.A., it was like we were escape artists pulling off our biggest trick, slipping out of reality.  It was early December, and the park was dripping from head-to-toe in festive decorations, Christmas background music carrying through the air, characters greeting in Town Square in holiday garb…there was an energy in the air I’ve never experienced to such a degree before.


I’ve been trying to put my thumb on it for awhile, and I’m sure my eventual conclusion is nothing new: there’s such an emotional investment in Disneyland by the majority of its guests, locals who have been attending since they were kids. Disneyland is their land. They have a special sense of ownership over it, and they treat it with respect. Disneyland is not a once-in-a- or few-times-a-lifetime experience for visitors like Walt Disney World is; it’s part of the community.  Disneyland often meets the standards these return visitors expect.  In the same vein, people who go to Disneyland, for the most part, go because they love it, not because they feel compelled to lug their kids to a big resort as part of the American Dream/Requirement.


There are loads of live entertainment: jazz musicians in New Orleans Square; Mary Poppins, Bert and their big brass band in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle; the Mickey and the Magical Map stage show and the vaudevillian Fantasy Faire Royal Theatre productions; the bands under the tent of the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree.


…and that’s not even counting Disney California Adventure!

Disneyland is chock-full of attractions, doubling(?) the number in Florida’s Magic Kingdom close to the point of claustrophobia, though I’d like to think of it as cozy.

That’s actually how I feel about the whole park.  It feels cozy, like a warm blanket or a cherished stuffed animal from your childhood.  It feels like a home away from home, a truly idealized mix of fantasy and nostalgia, both for Americana and the pop culture icons of my youth.

I have so many other thoughts on Disneyland, on California Adventure, and our whole experience which I’ll elaborate on soon, but for this post, I just wanted to share how immensely enthralled I was by the whole park.  Disney’s California operation is a park-based experience, unlike Florida, which is an all-encompassing resort experience once you get off the airplane. Now, I’m not saying one approach is better than the other; as mentioned above, it’s apples-versus-oranges, and which coast is better is based on your personal preferences.

What I want from a Disney park right now is the in-park experience, the attractions, the entertainment, the “show.” I was disappointed with our most recent trips to Walt Disney World, where we easily knocked out  most of a park’s attractions in a half-day.  I was concerned after our visit to Tokyo Disney Resort that the American Disney parks had just given up on the park experience by comparison in favor to finding new ways to milk their guests out of money.

I think about this inaugural Disneyland trip every day. Disneyland assuaged my fears and made me a believer again.


Travel Tuesday: The Cost of Magic

blog 8.13.13

I’ve had a couple of conversations recently about the importance of staying “on property” at a Disney Parks resort.  For those not in the know, Disney owns and operates a ton of their own hotels at their resorts in the U.S.: three in California and, like, 45 or something down in Walt Disney World.  The phrase “on property” means you’re staying at one of these hotels and not, say, the Best Western in Downtown Disney or the Holiday Inn in Kissimmee.

There are several tangible benefits to staying “on property,” including the very significant free transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport and Extra Magic Hours (where on-property guests have access to the Disney parks a few extra hours longer than off-property guests).  The Mighty Men of Mouse podcast did a good job at boiling some of these costs down by the hour in one of their most recent episodes, demonstrating how much money you’re saving/losing with these features.

Disney resorts’ theming is also tangible (most off-site resorts are not going to have an extensive Pacific Northwest theme, for example), though not quite as quantifiable.

Now, before I continue, I want to preface by saying that this is my opinion, based on my own biases, budgets, and preferences. Lord knows I spend money on extravagance in different ways, so believe me, this is all about how I perceive the value of Disney resorts.

A lot of people prefer Disney resorts over off-site because of the above, quantifiable factors.  Many people (just read TripAdvisor reviews) also believe that on-site, particularly Moderate- and Deluxe-tier Disney hotels, offer a level of service and dedication to theme that creates an enveloping sense of magic (not so quantifiable).  And that’s great!  Who wouldn’t want an experience, particularly with a company built on pixie dust, to feel magical?

But how much is that magic worth to you?  I personally struggle to justify spending $200+ a night for something as immeasurable as “magic.”

Full disclosure: the only time I’ve even stayed on Disney property was at the Boardwalk Inn, a wonderfully themed hotel and one of Disney’s deluxe resorts.  We were able to stay there because of a very reasonable conference rate.  Without that, we could never have afforded to spend the $450+/night a Standard View room goes for.  The lobby was great, the music, the smells, the surrounding boardwalk area.  Fantastic, don’t get me wrong.  But, in my opinion, the room and the bathroom were small (and Lance and I are not big people).  And, I’m just gonna lay this out there: regardless of how thematically appropriate it is, I want a standing (not tub) shower in a $450+ hotel room.

Effectively, Lance and I are shut out of the deluxe resorts for budget reasons.  Even if we could afford $400+ night hotel rooms, I couldn’t justify the expense to myself. It’s not worth it to me.

Even the Moderates (your Port Orleans, your Coronado Springs and such) are often over $200 a night (and might drop down to around $150 with a discount at the right time of year), and these are for hotels that have exterior entrance to the rooms.  Yes, these are basically well-themed motels.  Granted, they have food courts and gift shops and many of the services you’d expect of a hotel, but if I can’t access my hotel room from an interior hallway, then it’s still a motel (this all goes for the Values as well, which are usually very reasonably priced at about $85-125 a night, but with a balanced dip in amenities/services).  You can put lipstick on a pig…

Part of what I struggle with regarding Disney hotels is knowing that I can get more of what I’m looking for at off-site hotels for the same rate or cheaper.  And if I can’t get it for cheaper elsewhere, I can usually play the points/best rate guarantee games with chains like Hilton or Sheraton and get similar accommodations off-site for a much cheaper price.  For example, if I were to book for this upcoming Saturday, Port Orleans–Riverside, a Disney Moderate hotel, would be $190 before tax.  The Doubletree Lake Buena Vista, with the same TripAdvisor score, is $96 before tax (and if you use Priceline or Hotwire, you can get a rental car in Orlando for less than $50 a day).  And with Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, and more, I could save a significant amount more via their loyalty points programs.  (And thankfully, I can redeem Sheraton’s Starwood Points for stays at the Swan or Dolphin hotels located on Disney property.)

Probably the only way to “play the game” to really get bang for your buck at Disney itself is by renting Disney Vacation Club points from a DVC member, meaning you can stay at the villas at some of the Disney Deluxe resorts for a great savings compared to the rack rates (say, $125 for an Animal Kingdom value room versus $200+).  You can rent points through more established companies (usually at a higher price per point) or, if you know a DVC member, you might be able to negotiate a lower price.  We’re looking into renting DVC points, even through a broker website, for a one-night stay on the tail-end of our Disney cruise next year, but the process is a little messy and it seems like you give up a lot of flexibility as a renter.

This all basically comes down to: how much am I willing to spend for that “magical” component, that Disney Difference?  Each person has to answer that question for themselves.  I’m not arguing for Disney to lower their prices–they’re a business, after all, and they can charge as much as they think the public is willing to spend (they aren’t gouging you if you agree to spend that amount, regardless of what my cartoon above suggests), but for me, as a Disney fan, the extra hours in the parks, the transportation, the theming, is not worth the extra hundreds of dollars per night.  The magic of their hotels is not a make-or-break for me in visiting the parks.

So, that’s me.  What about you?  Am I crazy?  If I really want the magic, should I just suck it up and stay at the Disney Value resorts I am willing to pay for, regardless of amenity disparity between those and off-site hotels for the same price?  Am I really saving any money after rental car costs?  Am I undervaluing immersive magic just for a standing shower? (This might be true.)  Obviously, Disney fans are passionate and I’m sure there are a lot of opinions about the value of the Disney resorts.

If you’ve got thoughts, please share in the comments!

[Tip of the hat to Estelle from This Happy Place Blog for sharing her thoughts on this topic and post.]


Thoroughly enjoying brunch at Boma in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

So I’ve been lazy.  Definitely not busy.  Just pretty lazy.

Do you ever get writer’s block, that kind of motivational constipation, a case so bad that it just seems to shut off all “creative” (a liberal use of the term) valves in your brain?  I’ve had no gumption to do anything blog or doodle-related in several weeks now, and I’m gonna chalk this up to a few things:

  • Back into the city: though we’ve had our fair share of drama recently (including an impending major dental procedure), for the most part, Lance and I have been much more content, happier in the last few months since we escaped the suburbs.  Without that tortured soul, I haven’t been able to snark enough about anything in particular.
  • My un-commute: Now that we live in the city again, and I can see my office building from our apartment, I don’t have to spend two hours commuting to work every day, a chunk of time which allowed me to come up with post ideas.  Now, my walk to work is so gosh-darn pleasant that I don’t think about much of anything!
  • Up in the air: As I’ve alluded to on here many times, I obsess about traveling, and have not-so-recently been piecing together a potential trip idea to Disneyland in California.  I would (and still do) check Kayak and Room77 several times a day to see if airfare and hotel rates went down, hyperventilating when prices would spike.  Thankfully, now that our travel itinerary has solidified a bit (which I’ll get into in a later post), I should avoid any “are we or we not going to Disneyland???” panic attacks.

All that being said, I’ve begun dipping my toes again into the world o’ blogging, this time for my pal, kellybakes.  Kelly’s currently galavanting around Walt Disney World, so I put together a list of the top 5 Disney food items you shouldn’t miss–especially someone like Kelly, who hasn’t been to Disney World in over 20 years.  Go on and take a gander at my guest post on her blog, and poke around beyond that for some great recipes and beeeeautiful food photos.

And, I PROMISE, I actually have some brand spankin’ new posts (to go along with this brand spankin’ new look!) on the horizon.

I’ll see you back here tomorrow!

Northeast Disney Meet-Up Or Bust

hitchhikingThis past weekend was the Northeast Disney Meet-Up hosted by the Disney Hipster Blog, Mouse on the Mind, and This Happy Place Blog.  I had been super-excited to go, given my recent resurgent love of all things Disney (I may or may not try to hit all the notes in “Out There” while in the shower), and soon after it was announced we made hotel reservations and booked seats on Bolt Bus for the journey up to New York City.

I knew even then that it was going to be a financial stretch for Lance and me to go, since the meet-up was coming at the end of a very expensive month of moving (I get paid monthly, so I measure time in 30-day chunks).  Still, I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know the Hipsters and Estelle and Melissa and Jamie and Keith via Twitter over the last few months, and even though Lance + Jeff is by no means a Disney blog, I was compelled to attend.

But the moving expenses kept mounting (SO MANY CURTAINS!), and my unofficial resolution of 2013 was to not spend money I didn’t have (how novel!), so we made the decision a few days before the meet-up to cancel our trip; while our $12 bus tickets weren’t refundable, the hotel was, so we weren’t out too much money.

GEEZ, though, I was so bummed.

I moped around last Thursday and Friday trying to basically figure out my life.  It was very intense: frustration over being cash-poor, mostly, while still wanting to meet in-person people who’ve provided such goodwill and humor to my Twitter feed over the past six months.  Major internal conflict!  I was scrambling, trying to pull together money from different places in order to get our butts up to New York.

Since we’d already canceled on the dog-sitter, we felt bad un-canceling, and the cost of boarding Ripley would’ve added up fast.  Lance fell on his sword, courageously sacrificing himself to watch the dog so that I could attend the meet-up.  The plan was for me to use our original bus reservations to get up to NYC out of Philly, then book Amtrak back late the same night of the get together.  I’d save on a hotel and splurge just a little for the train ride out of Penn Station.

That, and it turned out that Ripley had some tummy troubles the night before the meet-up, needing to go out every hour or two to release some stank diarrhea.  It just wasn’t meant for Lance to come with me; we couldn’t have left Ripley with somebody else given the state he was in.  Poor little guy!

Aww, Dads! My rumbly tumbly!
Aww, Dads! My rumbly tumbly!

(Now that I think about it, a lot of my weekend revolved around poop…)

So, I went up to NYC solo, bummed around Midtown for awhile buying socks (no, really, the Uniqlo socks are THE BEST. Why doesn’t anybody believe me??) and gorging on some wonderful pizza at Eataly.  It was raining and miserable so I thought I’d hop on the C Train down to Brooklyn early and work on some blog stuff at a Starbucks with a big hot cup of coffee (remember, I was working on about four hours of doggy diarrhea duty sleep), only to find out that those crunchy granola weirdos in Brooklyn don’t believe in chains.  Why are there more Starbucks per square mile in Baghdad than there are in Brooklyn?

I was a hot wet mess by the time I got to the Cornerstone Lounge in Brooklyn for the meet-up.  Lots of soggy hugs were had before the Disney-inspired drinks started flowin’.  You can check out a cute photo re-cap over on the Disney Hipster Blog. Update: Estelle over at This Happy Place Blog also has some wonderful photos!

The meet-up was great, and I got to put a lot of faces to Twitter handles that I’ve been following for weeks or months.  There was some super-hard Disney trivia (do you know what year they added the magnetic strip to Disney World tickets?) and some not-so-hard background music trivia…and then more drinks.

I ended up missing my train as the night grew long, though thankfully New Jersey Transit and SEPTA run pretty frequent service between NYC and Philly.  This also afforded me the opportunity to guest on a couple of episodes of the Disney Hipster Podcast, the first one which is now available on iTunes!  The hipsters and their “co-whores” Jamie and Keith are a lot of fun, and I had a fun time bullshitting about Disney with them…which in the second episode we recorded, is a more literal statement than you’d think.

So thank you for hosting the Northeast Disney Meet-Up, guys.  There was a reason I felt so compelled to get my butt up there: it was really fun, and it was great getting to know new and not-so-new Disney pals.  It’s a great, mostly positive corner of the internet these fans reside and operate within, and I’m glad to be even tangentially a part of it.

Love In The Time of Superheroes


Thanks so much to Estelle over at This Happy Place Blog for inviting me to write about sappy love nonsense.  Well, not really: the prompt was to write about what makes some of the great Disney couples work. And I couldn’t think of a better couple then Helen and Bob Parr (a.k.a. Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible) from Pixar’s The Incredibles.

Writer-director Brad Bird obviously has a knack for capturing true emotion on film, be it the passion for what you love in Ratatouille, or the complex identity of an outcast in The Iron Giant, or the at-times strained but always loving marriage of the Parrs.  They love each other immensely, but that doesn’t mean their marriage is without insecurity.  They squabble, they fight and nag, but they know each other better care about each other more than anybody else.

(I also love Helen Parr because she reminds me a lot of Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights!)

I drew a little comic strip to try and capture the essence of what makes their relationship tick.  Head over to This Happy Place Blog to take a look!