Thursday, January 29, 2015

Foodie Friday: Treats in The World Showcase: Japan

Every time we go to Epcot, I have to go into Mitsukoshi Dept store in Japan. It is one of my favorite stops, the Japanese items are nice, and the anime is cool, but I go for the candy!

 Japan has a unique array of fun foods and they are very budget friendly too! So, for just a buck or two you can enjoy something like rice candy where you actually eat the wrappers.

 I am starting to get more daring with the choices I make, I always look for the new items each time I go. So, this last trip we got a few things to try out and they were all very yummy.

 So first was Jelly candy. I usually always have to pick up a bag of jelly candy as my hubby and kids go crazy over it. This time they had the jellies in a brick form instead of in a small cup, so I got those for only 2.99 for 10 small pieces. You peel out the outer plastic layer, the next layer is rice paper, so you eat the second wrapper, and enjoy the jelly. The flavor we chose was strawberry.  It was pretty good.

 Next we picked up Tohato wheat crackers, which are a Japanese cookie. These are packed in packs of 4 and are super thin and buttery. They reminded me a lot of a town house cracker, but thinner and lighter. These were a great deal at only 3.49.

 Next was Calbee Bean snack. These are sometimes in small bags, and come in 4 single serve bags, which is great for sharing. They are only 3.29. These tasted like the veggie chips I get in the grocery store. They were shaped in tiny little hearts,and were super light and a perfect small snack.

 The last thing we picked up this trip was something called Cream Collon They are a wheat cracker, and have cream inside them. They are just like a combo to me, they had that same feel to them. They were stuffed with some form of vanilla cream, again super light, and yummy.These were only 2.99 a box.

 For the hot times don't forget outside in the small kiosk, they sell ice pops that are only 2.00, Perfect for the smaller kiddies.

So, if you're in the mood for some fun snacks, don't just walk on by Mitsukoshi while in Epcot's Japan.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Coronado Springs Resort: A Hidden Treasure

My family and I really enjoy visiting the various Walt Disney World resorts and spending a little time walking around and taking in the ambiance.  We go through phases where a particular resort becomes a favorite.  For the longest time that resort was Disney's Art of Animation.  Lately our allegiance has shifted to Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. 

I know that it may come as a surprise to some that we would enjoy this resort as it consistently gets a bad name as a "business" resort because of its onsite conference center.  I say that this is all the better reason to visit Coronado Springs and would make a great choice when planning a vacation.  Every time I visit Coronado Springs it is a very quiet and relaxing experience.  The beautiful scenery and southwest motif is right up my alley.

This moderate resort boasts a quick service restaurant (The Pepper Market) as well as a table service restaurant (The Maya Grill).  Both look to have amazing menus staying true to the southwestern theme of the resort.  My wife and I hope to report back after our anniversary dinner at Maya Grill in a few weeks.  Besides the fact that Coronado Springs has two amazing restaurants, it also an amazing pool (The Dig Site) that is, in my opinion, one of the nicer pools at all of Walt Disney World.  The giant pyramid and water slide make it aesthetically pleasing as well as fun!

The next time you have a little time to kill while at Walt Disney World and you are the type of person who truly enjoys the effort that Walt Disney World puts into theming, I suggest you head on over to Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.  I truly believe that it is a hidden treasure.  Just to give you a little taste of what you will find I have put together a slideshow of some of the sights from my last walk through the resort.

As you go through the video keep your eye out early for my favorite Hidden Mickey on Walt Disney World property. (hint: Lobby/Lights/High on Wall)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Disney Travel and Making Memories that Last: Is it really that important?

    I know what you're thinking... You just read the title of this post and thought, "Duh."  Of course, making memories that last are important.  Trust me, no argument here.  I'm a big fan of memories that last.  I peruse my online photo albums repeatedly; I laugh, I cry, I cringe at the memories said photos provoke.  So, let me explain.  I come to this topic by way of numerous conversations I've had as a Disney specific travel agent.  You see, as a lover of all things Disney, I'm pretty much a walking advertisement for the brand.  Chances are, I'm wearing a Disney related article of clothing (Mickey Mouse thermal at the time of this writing).  I love talking about Disney.  If you're talking about Disney travel within earshot of me, I will butt in.  Not just to promote my free travel planning/booking services, but just because I genuinely love talking about Disney.  So, I cannot tell you the number of times I've heard someone say, "Oh, we'd love to go to Disney World but we're not going to go until Insert Child's Name Here is OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER IT."  I smile and nod, and my inner Disney geek sheds a little tear.

The Hurdle Family at Wilderness Lodge, Photo provided by Tracy Hurdle
My son will be 4 years old in a few short months and he's a very fortunate young man in that he has been to Disney World twice.  He was 2.5 years old when his feet hit Main St. USA for the first time. I am well aware that he will not remember what it was like to see that glorious Castle for the first time. So, why did we go?  Why spend that kind of money (typically the number one reason following the "they won't remember it" adage) for something with no lasting effect or apparent benefit to your child?  We'll get to that in a minute.  First, science.

Fire up your old Google search engine and enter "Toddlers and Memory" and you'll receive about 9,730,000 results in 0.24 seconds.  The first entry is from a website called Today's Parent and the article is entitled "Your toddler's memory: How much do toddlers remember and for how long?"  The following is an excerpt from this article:

In a study published in the journal Memory in 2005, researcher Carole Peterson, a professor of psychology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, found that six- to nine-year-olds have verbally accessible memories from toddlerhood that seem to disappear as they get older. A follow-up study published in Child Development in 2011, which tracked four- to 11-year-olds over a two-year period, found that “earliest memory” changed as the children aged, even if they were given cues about the original earliest memory from two years prior. It was infantile amnesia in action.
“We documented the fact that children were losing memories,” explains Peterson. Intrigued, she decided to find out why some memories stay and others go. This newest study, which is awaiting publication, found that memories “infused with emotion, either positive or negative,” were three times more likely to stick, says Peterson. The other factor was coherence — the memory needed to fit together as a whole, in narrative form, rather than just being a stand-alone snippet. In other words, if you want your toddler to remember something, talking about it with her helps, too. “Children acquire the habit of remembering life events because they talk about them,” says Peterson.
Did you catch what I did?  The part about memories that last are the ones associated with emotion?  I can't speak for anyone else's child but my own.  I assure you that my son experienced a multitude of emotions on his Disney trips.  Excitement, Happiness, Fear, Awe, and a myriad of others as he experienced his first roller coaster (The Barnstormer), his first Disney character meet (Minnie Mouse), his first haircut (Harmony Barber Shop on Main St.), his first parade, and so on.                                                                                                                  
The Hurdle Men with Minnie Mouse; photo provided by Tracy Hurdle
The second part of the above paragraph that is important is the concept of coherence.  Children may not remember certain activities but by golly, they remember stories.  Sometimes the elements may have a bit of fantasy about them, but they remember them.  To help my son remember his time in the House of Mouse, I created a large and very sturdy photo album with as much detail as I could muster about our trip.  We look at this photo album fairly regularly and talk about the memories associated with each page.  We tell stories about our experiences and watch YouTube videos of Disney rides (The Haunted Mansion is a favorite). Again, I understand that my son will likely not remember these trips when he is older, but he remembers enough now to exclaim, "I want to go back to Disney World" at random moments.

Back to the questions at hand: Why does my family go to Disney World now?  Why spend the time and money on something our children won't remember?  The answer is profoundly simple.  I'm actually going to let Neil Patrick Harris do the talking for me.

<Double Take>  What does Neil Patrick Harris have to do with this?  Fair question and I'll start with a little exposition.  Neil Patrick Harris is an outstanding entertainer of stage, screen, and film and is a long time Disney fan.  He hosted the Disney Christmas Day Parade in 2013 and for years has narrated the Candlelight Processional at Epcot.  He and his husband, David Burkta, are parents to two adorable twins, Gideon and Harper Burkta-Harris.

Photo provided by

I recently finished reading Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, a charming and fun book that was published in 2014.  At the very end of the book, Mr. Harris talks briefly of his associations with Disney and perfectly relates the thoughts and feelings that I share about this magical place.  The following is an excerpt from page 287 of his book as he describes his children's first ride on one of my favorites, Peter Pan's Flight:

And now for your hundredth time and their very first, you are boarding Peter Pan's Flight in Fantasyland.  It's one of the few original Disney attractions still in operation, and of course you-savvy, sophisticated you-know all its secrets.  You're familiar with how Omnimovers work, you've seen how Audio-Animatronic figures are programmed, you've studied the circuitry, you know where the speakers are.  And knowing all this makes you greater appreciate the artistry, and you find yourself admiring the thousand little details that go into the ride.  But some of the wonder, you admit to yourself, is gone.

Until you gaze at your two-year-old son sitting on your lap, and his twin sister, sitting on the lap of the man you love so much, and this five-minute climate-controlled adventure that you've grown a little jaded about is once more a spellbinding enchantment, because you're seeing it anew through their eyes.  Gideon gapes at Captain Hook.  Harper gasps at Peter soaring through the sky.  They both squeal with delight as the crocodile does his dirty work.  You experience them experiencing pure magic, unadulterated by cynicism or irony or self-consciousness.  And as the ride makes its full circle, so do you, until Peter Pan has done it again, and you are once more a child, taking it all in, amazed, overwhelmed, and enchanted.  

Then it's over, and Gideon and Harper, these two little organic walking talking miracles that are somehow yours, are cheering at the end for the ride they called "Boat".  "More, more!" they shout.

And so you cry your eyes out.  And ride it again.

You see, gentle reader, the memories we make when our children are small, the memories that last, are our own.  I took my son to Disney World when he was 2.5 years old because I wanted those memories.  I will forever remember my son's face, his maniacal laugh, his genuine delight.  I will remember him facing his fears, trying new things, and interacting in a world unlike anything he'd ever seen.  I will remember watching my husband and my son stroll hand in hand down Main St. and the feeling that my heart would burst with gratitude and joy.  I promise you, it's worth every penny.

That is the face of a boy who just met his favorite character of all time.; Photo provided by Tracy Hurdle

Tracy Hurdle is a fellow agent and Family Destinations Specialist with the travel agency, Magical Vacations by Me. If you have any questions about Disney travel, feel free to contact her on her Facebook page, Magical Vacations by Tracy, or by her email address:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Kingdom Hearts, The Ultimate Disney Game

            So I’ve been wanting to write an article on the subject of the video game series known as Kingdom Hearts for quite some time now. I know some people will probably just scroll passed this because, hey, it’s a video game. But nevertheless, I shall write about this glorious series and just how much it’s gotten me through over the last few years.

            Some people may look at this and think, what is Kingdom Hearts? Well for those of you who have never heard of it, it is a game that came out back in 2002. The game takes place in a multiple variety of Disney themed lands, or worlds as their known as in the game. The story follows a boy named Sora, who is chosen to wield a magical weapon known as a Keyblade to defend the light and stop the growing threat of Heartless (monsters that form from the darkness in people’s hearts) from swallowing each world into darkness.

            At the beginning of the game, Sora lives a pretty normal life with his best friends, Riku and Kairi, on the Destiny Islands (rearrange that and you get it’s Disneyland!). The three friends long for the day they can get off the islands and explore the outside world. However, they become separated when a massive storm hits their home and swallows up the island in Darkness.

            Sora then wakes up in a temporary world known as Traverse Town, where he meets Donald and Goofy who have been sent by the King (aka Mickey) to find the one with the Key. They join together to save the worlds from the villain of the first game, Ansem the Seeker of Darkness and to find Riku and Kairi.

            I’ll stop with the spoilers there. But I thought since the Kingdom Hearts 2.5 remix has recently come out, I’d write this article to express my love for this amazing game. I discovered the series myself back in 2008 when the first Nintendo DS game, 358/2 Days (three five over two days) was released. I’d wanted to play the games since 2002, but I’d never gotten the chance to buy the game because I never owned a Play Station 2, the console that first housed this beautiful piece of art.

            Being confused by the story at the odd place I jumped in, I began learning more of the games by watching walkthroughs on Youtube. In 2008 I was still having a lot of problems with my house burning down and being sick, so I needed as many distractions from life as I could get and Kingdom Hearts was one of those things. As cheesy as it sounds, it taught me that in the darkest of darkness, there would always be a little bit of light to get you through it.

            Now that I’m older, I actually have played a few of the current releases and I’ve beaten the 2009 release Birth By Sleep once. Gameplay wise, my favorites were Kingdom Hearts 2, Birth by Sleep and the 2012 title Dream Drop Distance. For me, those were kind of hard to beat. The upcoming title, Kingdom Hearts 3 (no release date yet) going to have to seriously trump Kingdom Hearts 2 for me. I genuinely loved that game for the story and what Gameplay I got to do of it (I was borrowing a friend’s console and needed to give it back so I never completed the game).

            For any gamers out there who read this, I recommend playing the games if you have not experienced them personally. The story, though a tad on the confusing side, is absolutely beautiful in my eyes and the game is really fun to play.

            Well, I believe that’s all I have to say on the subject. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book review: Faith and the Magic Kingdom

*I was given free product to review. These are my own thoughts and opinions.*

   I was lucky enough to have received a book called Faith and the Magic Kingdom by Randy Crane, and couldn't put it down. I could go back and re read again and again. This book has so many details in it.  I would read a bit and then let it sink in, then go back read some more. It's about 10 chapters long. Some nights I would re read previous chapters to get a better grasp, other nights I would read a few new chapters.

    This book should be called "The Perfect Bible Study for Disney Fans". It is an amazing book that takes you to your favorite Magic Kingdom areas, rides and more but also pairs each to a Bible scripture and/or a story.

    One of my favorite things in the book was about Castmembers. As you may know Disney does not just hire anybody, they have to be "chosen". Well, Randy, in this book took that and showed how God's people are chosen people too. I could not stop smiling while reading. When you can take somewhere so fun and happy and use that as a teaching tool for your walk with God, there is nothing better. The best of both worlds.

   This book takes you from the entrance of Main Street to the exit and doesn't leave a thing out. It has renewed my spirit and last week while at Disney I remembered each thing and the stories that  came back to my mind and it just reminded me even more of God's purpose and the plan He has for each one of us. It is filled with scriptures and even devotionals.

    I can not say anything bad about this book, as it's almost not like a book. It's more of an experience. At the end of each chapter there is a question for you to ponder. This would make a great teaching tool for kids' church or the teens, and yes, even adults.

 Randy Crane has taken my favorite place in the world and made it even more like heaven on earth.

{Editor's Note: For more information on this unique book and the author go to: There is also a link to the Facebook page there.}

*I was given free product to review. These are my own thoughts and opinions.*

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Big Hero 6 Movie Review

           Photo copyright and courtesy of Disney

           Long time no articles from little old me! Well I now have something to write about! So recently I went to see the new movie The Big Hero 6 with my best friend and oh man was it good!

            This movie was inspired by the Marvel comic book series The Big Hero 6. Well, I’ve never read those comics myself so I can’t tell you if the movie was close to the comics’ story line. But I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie being a super hero fan myself. Even if you really aren’t into that sort of thing, I think you will still enjoy this movie.

            The story follows a fourteen year old genius named Hiro Hamada and the robot Baymax, whom his brother invented to help people. I won’t tell you much else because I don’t want to spoil the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it. But it sticks true to a good super hero film as well as a classic Disney movie. There was lots of action, comedy, and heart warming moments that nearly made me tear up and cry (I am not usually one to cry at movies).

            Also, being the art junkie I am and with the fascination I have with the animation process I found this movie to be visually breath taking. They managed to combine eastern and western cultures into one perfectly. It was literally Tokyo meets San Francisco, creating the beautiful city of San Fransokyo. I’ve always had a fascination with things that have a Japanese vibe about it. But nonetheless, it was flawless. One of the best movies I’ve seen visually and story wise in a while. I highly recommend this movie to everyone. To me, it’s a drop everything right now and go see it! My friend and I both said we want to see it again!

            Oh and, any Marvel fans out there? Well you guys are going to want to stay to the very end of the credits. You won’t regret it!

            That’s all I have to say for right now, but I’ll be back in about a week or so with another article so be on the lookout. Here’s a hint, it involves an awesome Disney video game. Well that’s all! TTFN! Ta Ta for now!