Friday, December 28, 2012

Stitching update

Finally, that horrible holiday is over!! I'm still reeling from all the social interaction, but it's done. And thankfully, it will be my last Christmas participation. My days of putting myself in excruciatingly uncomfortable situations for the sake of others is at an end. If I don't want to do something, I'm not gonna do it...call it New Years Resolution #1. But more on resolutions later.

It's been a while since I did a stitch update, but mainly because I have been stitching like mad! I have actually finished another row of my little Highland girl and only have two full more rows to go!

Here's the day after my last update on her:
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And here's where I stopped on Sunday:
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Here is where I ended last night:
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And here she is in her entirety:
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When I actually work on her, it just flies by. It will be really hard for me to do fractional stitches ever again after working on a HAED. I think that's why I have such difficulty switching back to the other two projects I have going...fractionals and outlining. I'd much rather do a million tiny X's on 28ct than one half-stitch or even look at a three-quarter stitch!

Her little gray fingers creep me out just a bit, but I try to think of it as she has fingerless gray gloves on (but that cover her little thumbs).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Framed Ribbon Topiary

Here it is - the cheaply made, 3 year old could do it stitch that cost a bloody fortune to frame!!! I am also doing this blog from my phone, so I hope it works!

Finished framed Ribbon Topiary

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Last IHSW of 2012 - Results

I've been working again on A Summer Ball, so lets show that progress first. On Friday I started here:
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and yesterday I finished here:
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But today I spent my time working on my little Highland girl and ended up here:
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I know I'm ending a bit early, but now that I'm *gasp* a "day" person, it's getting close to my bedtime!

As the same with the TUSAL, I'm looking forward to next years and hopefully the finish of all three of my current projects!

Last TUSAL of 2012

Instead of merging this post with the final IHSW, I figured it deserved one of its own! My final pic of my ORT jar for the year is in front of the amazing pillow I bought at the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot at Walt Disney World. The picture really doesn't do the pillow justice!
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Considering how little I've stitched in the past couple months, I'm really surprised the jar came closed to being filled at all. I'm definitely looking forward to next year's TUSAL!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Last IHSW 2012!

This weekend is the International Hermit and Stitch Weekend and it also happens to be the last of 2012. Pretty exciting! I only missed one this year, so I did pretty good, but not good enough...next year will be better!

Now that I have my stitching mojo back, I've been going crazy on my little Highland girl, but I have also started working on A Summer Ball again (thanks partly to Vickie over at Reading and Stitching and the fact that I think it will look really good in my office).

So good luck everyone and hopefully we will all have a really big stitching send-off to 2012!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Big weekend!

We had our work Christmas party Saturday night. I haven't gone in many years due to the fact that they are boring, that the religious faction has blocked the alcohol availability, they've been in horrible restaurants, and most importantly, because I'm not a fan of most of my fellow co-workers (as most of you know).

This year was different...there was the promise of co-workers embarrassing themselves by singing karaoke, there was finally bar access, it was in a really good restaurant, and finally, my new position requires me to at least show my face at such functions. So T and I braved the bad and managed to actually have a really great time! Sure, I didn't do much socializing (shock), but the Guinness element and Tony's great company definitely made it worthwhile (and it didn't hurt that I looked absolutely amazing!). I did somehow manage to get a big bruisy knock on my noggin (and I'm still not sure how - hopefully I didn't make a complete ass out of myself), but thanks to my strong family "constitution", I woke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, no hangover in sight!

So I got to spend all today stitching and I got a ton done! Here is where I am now:
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It really is amazing how fast these HAED's go considering their size! I'm totally addicted now!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Decision made

Well, all my work on the redo of the Breast Cancer project was in vain. I gave the person it was made for the choice between the two, the first simple version and the second linen and silk version, and she chose the first version. I'm still gonna give her both of them, but only get the first one framed for her (since framing cost a fortune...if this wasn't such a weird shape, I'd just frame it myself like I always have before, but this will require the professional touch).

I'm not too terribly bummed, because, like I said in previous posts, it was a learning experience with the linen and the silk thread, but at the same time, ugh. It cost an absolute fortune getting the thread and the material together (as well as the time it took ordering it from different vendors because the color wasn't right). The money spent on the redo would more than pay for the framing. I've spent months avoiding this puppy like the plaque because I didn't want to work on it, putting me majorly behind on my "real" projects, and when I did work on it, I ended up frogging more than I ever have in my whole life because I wasn't paying close enough attention.

So why do I keep doing projects for others? Every time I finish one I say "never again", but I always end up doing it again. Yes, I know I didn't have to redo the Breast Cancer project in the first place and I could have left it the way it was. I was so unhappy with the original, it wasn't up to my standards and I knew I could do better, and in the end, I did do much better, but apparently, the recipient disagreed. Should I be offended at that, or am I just looking for excuses to be mad? (which is not out of character for me...I like something and I expect the rest of the world to agree). Maybe I'm a lot more bummed than I thought I was.

This reminds me of the projects I did for people when they got married/had a kid, which is now probably sitting in most of their attics (or worse, "got lost in a move"...yeah, I've actually been told that...at least lie to me and say you preserved it as a treasured family heirloom!). One project in particular always causes the burr in my side to act up - I was actually asked to stitch a Noah's Ark project (because their baby's room was Noah themed). I spend forever picking the right design, spent her entire pregnancy working on it, framed it for her, the works (besides the fact I'm not really religious and I always seem to get wrangled into doing religious projects). Her daughter is now 13 or 14 and I asked her about a year ago what ever happened to that project. Her answer? "Oh, I have no clue what we did with that thing". Yes, those were her exact words. After I managed to pick my jaw off the floor (which doesn't happen to me often), my exact words back can't be repeated in polite company!

I think I need to say "never again" and mean it. No matter who asks or how important it may be to them...I'm going to just give into my Asper side and say it will be all about me from now on!!

Soapbox dismount...but not without a bit of hurt pride this time 'round!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

About time!

First off...I completely forgot my TUSAL for the month of November! So, to get it out of the way, here's my Ort jar sitting on my favorite piece I brought back from this Disney trip, my Cinderella Castle Big Fig:
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Next up...I have done it! I have finished The Ribbon Topiary (for the second time!):
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I'm still not sure if it's better than the much simpler (and much cheaper) original. I've learned a ton of lessons from both of them (mostly that I ain't ever gonna touch silk thread again unless I absolutely have to!):
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But here is the piece de'resistance of this weekend...I've started working on my little Highland girl again!! As a reminder, here is where I left off:
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And here is this weekend's progress:
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The fun part of stitching now versus the last time I left off was the added bonus of Zachary's clingyness that started when I got back from Disney...he won't leave my side (not that I'm complaining). But it's a bit difficult to manage a magnifying light, scroll bars, and a lap stand with a pup in my lap. Here is the view underneath the lap stand:
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And that's about it (although it's a ton!). Now that I'm back on track stitching-wise, hopefully it will help channel my inner Christmas Grinch this year (although I highly doubt it, the Grinch is a strong force that won't be denied!).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updates (or lack thereof)

I am a horrible blogger, a horrible stitcher, and a horrible friend (or at least it seems that way lately!). I have been holed up in my house just vegging. Post-Disney Depression still lives large in me.

But I do have a major rant. Since starting my new position, I've been super busy with cleaning up everything and getting everything back on track (my predecessors didn't have the time and very important things got left on the side of the road, some for several years). Plus, the added "bonus" (torture is more like it) of covering my old job when the transcriptionist is off (my punishment this week and part of next) on top of my real duties.

One of my big new projects has been setting up the billing office with new computers (10 in all). The process started out very smoothly, until I hit the first major snag, one computer was infected with a virus that copied over to the new computer. Easily enough fixed, but I started being more careful and started scanning the old ones first (which I probably should have been doing in the first place).

Everyone else turned out pretty much ok (well fixable), but one old computer was so infected, I have no clue how it was still running! I have NEVER seen a computer so infected and I've been working on computers for family and friends for a very long time (even more infected than the person who regularly surfs porn, and theirs is usually pretty bad). 17 virus, 56 trojans and more pups and tracking cookies than I care to mention (although they are usually side effects of browsing anyway, but they should be cleaned upon occasion...well over 15,000 is just too friggin much!).

How do you manage to get into such nasty stuff at work? I have regularly throughout the years removed toolbar after toolbar and "coupon-this" and "coupon-that" from this particular terminal, but they always get put back on, no matter how much this person gets told to stop it. I have no power in that arena, it's up to the billing manager.

Why don't people who spend their entire workday working on computers know more about them than they do? They can do enough to get through their job, but other than that, they are computer illiterate. It should be a requirement that anyone who works on a computer at least has the basic knowledge to know what is safe and what is not and what to download and what to not and when to open and email and when to not and even how to clean up their own machine. You don't drive a car without a license, why not have to take a "computer test" to make sure you're computer literate enough to operate one?

Granted, even the most diligent of people sometimes get viruses (I haven't ever, but it is a possibility and I'm always prepared for it). I personally have had my email hacked a couple times throughout the years, but again, that happens to the best of us. I don't limit my internet browsing at work...I don't do anything at work that I don't do at home and I'm always safe, so again I ask, what in Hades could this person have been doing to get so infected? Are they secretly coming up on the weekends to surf porn?

We have new virus software that has a control panel, and my answer was to jack up the security settings so high, they can't do any damage. But after the first day and receiving dozens of calls because they can't get here or do this, I dropped it back down until I can put in a list of safe sites, but until that moment comes, how much damage will be done? At the same time, these are adults...they shouldn't have to have their computers "child-proofed"!! And the person in question is managerial level as it is (which means they should know better than anybody).

I've actually stepped away from that particular computer for the past couple of days...I just can't bring myself to face it. Those computers are old (running XP) and slower than Christmas (one person's takes a full 17 minutes to go from boot to a fully loaded user). It took over 6 hours just to run one scan and one scan is never enough to remove all the viruses. I will probably just end up copying their files over one at a time instead of transferring them all to prevent further infection (yet another reason I can't face it).

The person in question isn't too worried that they are so infected...I saw this person Christmas shopping online just yesterday (yeah, on a computer loaded with viruses, let's put in our credit card numbers, shall we? Stupid much?).

OK, I'm gonna soapbox dismount now...but this issue is not over, not by a long shot! If I have it my way, no one (well, no one but me...it is a Woot-off this week after all) will be doing anything on their computers but working!! Nor will their be no phone charging, iPod playing, USB drive usage...basically, my inner Grinch is about to be all up in this place!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A different kind of blog

Throughout my post-Disney depression, I always end up reading more...the only form of escape I can get in my tiny little world. And as the good little Janeite that I am, I always turn to my favorite author to get me through. But you can only read her books and watch the movies and adaptations so many times.

I do love a good Jane-inspired novel as well as the real thing. Not so much the "continuations" or the period-inspired (and I really don't like the Jane as a vampire or Jane as a private eye kind of novels). It's the the modern re-tellings or the inspired by's that get me. And there is nothing better than the modern characters that get stuck back in Austen days and interact with Austen characters! I also like the historical references about the period as well as Jane herself.

But have you ever tried to find one of these on Amazon? One never knows what to look under. You find one you like and look up the author to see if they have written more or read the recommendations for others, but it's still pretty limited. It's not like you can search for Austen fan fiction...fan fiction is still a negative term in a lot of literary circles, even if that is what it is.

Here's where the Austenprose blog comes into play. They review upcoming Jane-inspired novels, interview the authors, and even have written Jane fiction themselves! My Jane library has grown exponentially since I've been reading it. I don't get to look at it very often, but every time I do, my Amazon wish list gets longer overnight!

The latest batch of books I picked up are modern "teen" versions of the Austens, written by Jenni James, called the Jane Austen Diaries, starting with Pride and Popularity, then Northanger Alibi, and the newest being Persuaded. I've only made it through the first one, but I really loved it and I'm really looking forward to Persuaded (since we all know Persuasion is my favorite).

I have been, on more than one occasion, been inspired to write my own Jane Austen adaptation, but considering my writing skills, it would just be stupid to try. Besides, my bestie Kate is a fabulous writer and I could never compare to half her talent, so I'll leave the writing to her!

But if you're a Janeite, or even just love good books and are looking for something new, head over to the Austenprose blog and start looking!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Imperial Restaurant - R.I.P.

Rarely in life do you find that "perfect" restaurant. Imperial was mine. I've been going there as long as I can remember. I knew the staff very well and they knew me. They had been with me through college, through marriage, through divorce, through jobs, through illnesses...basically, just through life. They knew my family and friends and we all ate there together. The chef would see me coming and smile really big and just say, "Mongolian Beef!". He would always make sure there was plenty and it was fresh just for me.

It wasn't a popular place in town, mostly because many years ago when it first opened, it was different...not your typical McDonald's type Chinese. People went once, hated it, and never went back. But, like any restaurant, it went through changes and got much better over time. I tried to change people's opinion and did managed to make a few converts over the years, but never enough to keep them busy.

It was the only Chinese restaurant in town that not only dominated the dishes with meat, but didn't charge you extra if you got only meat from the buffet (and I'm all about the cow!). They knew how to brew oolong right (a huge compliment from a tea snob). And most importantly, their fortune cookies were never stale (and how many of us have had to put up with stale cookies?).

I knew the owner was retiring, but we had high hopes that someone would just continue as ever (as did the employees). He didn't want to sell, he wanted to just lease it out, with business remaining the same. Alas, apparently it wasn't meant to be. I had planned on stopping by tonight and picking up a take away, but got the shock of my life when it was void of it's former glory and was nothing but a hollowed out shell!

So what do we do now? There is no place in town that even comes close. No place that I will ever be able to go into by myself to either get take away or to even sit at a table and enjoy a meal. A place were the wonderful people who work there ask me about my day, about my head, even about my Mother and actually care when I tell them. And I really don't mind when they sit at my table with me just to chat. A place where Tony and I can go and just enjoy ourselves, spending twenty minutes eating and three hours just talking, and not have to worry about getting run off.

I'm trying to look to the positive side, it gives us a chance to find a new favorite place, but I don't want a new favorite place! I want my old one back!!

Imperial Restaurant, Cindy, Gracie, Peter and gang we'll miss you!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Post-Disney Depression

Yes, it's real...and, as per usual, for me it's pretty serious thanks to Asperger's, but "regular" people get it too (or so I'm told). I've spent an entire year planning a trip that is over with in 11 days. All my energy has been focused on one thing for such a long time, and in a flash it's over. That would be upsetting for anyone.

Toward the end of the trip, I'm ready to come home, but once I get home and am thrust head first into the "real world", I want nothing more than to go back, or even better, start planning the next trip! It makes me moody and I don't want to talk to anybody or go anywhere or do anything. But at the same time, I can't bring myself to organize our trip pictures or put my new pins up in their books, it's just too depressing! There is no place in the world that makes me at peace like Disney World does.

I did upgrade to an annual pass, so once I get a new vehicle, I can go whenever I want, but I can't get a new vehicle yet because of my finances...nothing kills your checkbook like a Disney trip! And it never fails that bad things start happening when I'm the brokest (aka Zach's illness and my self-created Disney credit card debt). The new job and the lack of overtime money aren't helping the financial things. It doesn't bode well for one's state of mind (even though I know it's all my own doing).

This after effect of Disney World sometimes makes me wonder if it's even worth it going in the first place. It's the closest to a depression that I ever get. I'll get over it, I always do, but until I do...ugh. I try to remember all the annoying people and all the bad moments, just trying to lower the giant pedestal I have Disney put on, but it never works.

Being an Asper-girl means all my obsessions are intensified, and Disney is one of, if not THE, biggest obsession I have. I feel nothing for things that I should, things that so-called "normal" people feel (and since I don't feel those things, I can't really describe what I don't feel), but the loss of Disney is almost devastating to me, probably like a "normal person" would feel for the loss of another human. It is what it is, and knowing these feelings are stupid and misfocused doesn't make them any less real to me. Ah, the joys of being an Asper!

Life will get back to normal (or as normal as I can make it), but until then, here's looking forward to the next trip!!

IHSW update

Since it's been so long since I've posted a stitch update for the Ribbon Topiary project, I first better post the last pic of my progress:
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And here is what I got done last weekend:
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It's the first real stitch progress I've made in months. I will be so glad to finish this project so I can get back to my little Highland girl.

On other fronts, I won an autographed copy of John Taylor's new book (the audiobook version-I'd much prefer a real book, but since I've never won anything before ever, I'm not complaining...much).
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As you can tell, it's still in the plastic. I was really looking forward to reading his book, but I just can't bring myself to open this, partly because I don't like audiobooks and partly because I don't want to mess it up since John's hand actually touched it!

Zach is doing better, but still not out of the woods yet. He's really upset because this new food only comes in wet version. He gets wet and dry of his old food, the dry stays out 24/7 and he gets the wet in the morning and night. He's really missing his dry food. He spends a lot of time searching for lost pieces around the house (and, unfortunately he's finding them because he's like a hamster, he gets a mouthful of dry at the bowl, carts it off somewhere, spits out the pieces, and then eats them one at a time, so there is stray pieces in all kinds of locations). Not only does his wee hurt from the stones, but now it's like he's on a diet - poor little dude is hungry and sick! I feel like a bad mommy!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Precious little Zach

What Zach thinks of the Piggies from Angry Birds:
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I know I haven't done my IHSW update yet, but I have good reason...Zachary is sick. He has bladder stones (again) and is peeing blood. He also has a severe bladder infection.

Removing the stones is a major surgery, they pretty much have to gut him, take out his bladder, split it open and empty it of all the stones, then scope his urethra for stuck stones, sew his bladder back up, fill it with liquid to make sure it's not leaking, then stick it back in, and finally sew up his gut leaving about a 5-6" scar.

He's had the surgery twice already and now that he's 12, it's more dangerous than ever if they have to do it again. But, so far, the stones he has are all pretty small. One is stuck at the end of the urethra, two are stuck in the base of the urethra, and there are two stones free-floating in his bladder. The kind of stones he grows are like little maces, they aren't smooth but rather covered in tiny little spikes. When they are little, they don't do much damage, but they can actually cut through the bladder wall if they get too big (especially since his bladder has been split open twice already and areas of the wall are weak).

He's on antibiotics for the infection and a special food to help dissolve the stones a bit more to make them easier to pass. He's been on prescription food for years that supposed to keep him from forming stones, but it's not fool-proof. I also give him Smart Water (which has electrolytes in it) to help with his urinary health...yes, my dog drinks Smart Water and I drink tap...see where the priorities lie in my household?

We are basically waiting a couple of weeks to see if he will pass the stones before we jump into surgery. The doc isn't too thrilled at the prospect considering his age, but Zachy is a very healthy pup otherwise, so the surgery WILL happen if necessary. So everyone please bare with me while I take care of my little munchkin and any good wishes you want to send his way would be greatly appreciated!!

His little buddy Pascal is looking out for him as well (and his Mommy spends way too much time using apps!)
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Updated site (again)

I know I just changed the color of my site, but the darker color just didn't suit me, so I changed it yet again. I was trying to go for a fall/winter look (or as fall and winter-y as purple can get), but I think it was miserable and oppressive, so back to the lighter I go!

IHSW and TUSAL

I haven't stitched since last month's pathetic attempt, so there is nothing to report Ort jar wise, so hopefully I will be able to rectify that this in the next couple of days during the International Hermit and Stitch Weekend. Now that Disney is over with, it's time to get back to the real world!

I'm home!

OK, so I've technically been home for well over a day, but I needed a bit of "me" time after all that "people" time.

Considering how bad my memory is, I doubt a few Disney review will happen, but here are a few highlights, first the bad:

Am and I are both getting old! Between the bad troubles, headaches, sore tummies, and feet trouble, both of us had a rough time!

The days of enjoying the peaceful October time in Disney World is now over...I've NEVER seen it so crowded!

I now understand why people complain about the groups of drunks at the Food and Wine Festival...they were everywhere! Having drinking contests and just being general idiots, but it was the large quantities that was shocking.

What is up with the store CM's lately? Did they ALL have to go through some new training course that taught them to move like snails? I can't tell you the number of times I wanted to just rip the scanner out of some CM's hand and check out my stuff myself! Not ONCE did I have a CM move like they were in a hurry (or like I was...which I pretty much always am)!

And speaking of CM's, I realize that I am an Asper girl and have selfishness issues (or what the rest of the world would call selfishness), but I sure as heck could care less about the CM's personal lives and every single one I encountered had to tell me some story about how they came to Florida, where their husband works, to even what they are eating for supper that night! They all started off with "where are you from?" and then once we said, off they went on their own tangent. None of them had any Disney comments that would even kind of interest me. I don't deluge them with my business, what makes them think I want to hear theirs?

Brazilian tour groups were EVERYWHERE...which is also probably why the parks were so crowded. Although they weren't as bad as I have seen, there was no line cutting or shouting out loud, the whole "I understand English when it comes to how to ride rides and where to go", but "I don't understand English when you tell me no flash pictures", got really old really quickly!

Speaking of guests, this is my dance space and that's yours...stay out of my dance space!! I can't tell you how many times I had people stand right up on me (and yes, I know I have issues with that, but this was beyond normal to the point that even Am noticed it). I'm not saying they had to stand a mile, but at least a foot would have been nice! That extra foot isn't gonna get you in the ride any quicker.

And what is up with kids and flashing things? Their shoes, their toys, their jewelry...everything flashes! I never noticed it before (probably because I didn't know how easily I could have a seizure because of Ferg-id), but I had to take bus rides with my eyes closed, ride some rides with them closed, even walk through queues with my eyes shut. And the darker the area, the more flashy things kids insisted on operating. To add insult to injury, Disney was actually selling most of these flashy things! That is definitely going in my complaint letter to them this year. A brain tumor sufferers worst nightmare!

Oh, and I gained 12lbs that I now have to re-lose.

And now the good:

They had a special "dress rehearsal" of the New Fantasyland section and not only did we get to ride the new Little Mermaid ride, but we got to shop, tour the restaurants and have LaFou's Brew at Gaston's Tavern! I could well up just talking about it! It was gorgeous and sweet and pretty advanced, and all the things I knew it would be, but since there is a possibility I won't be going in December, it just made it that more special.

For the first time ever, I actually loved eating at The Hollywood Brown Derby. It's always the one place I dread, but it was actually really good (even that bitter grapefruit cake). It's one of Am's favorites because of the cobb salad, but it's always been one of my least favorites...consider one of my stead-fast opinions changed!

But, on the subject of food, how amazing was the Food and Wine Festival! Only one thing I had was horrible and, believe it or not, it was the cheese fondue from the Cheese stand. Of all things that SHOULD have been good, how can you screw up melted cheese? And everything was on a roll of some sort, but it was still good! I tried things I would have never tried before, ate things I never miss, and enjoyed every second of it (despite the gritty fondue and the extensively long lines).

It always amazes me how much Disney changes from one trip to the next, but since I skipped a year, new stuff was everywhere...from the new graveyard at The Haunted Mansion, to the New Fantasyland section to even the fronts of stores and even just the smallest change of new carpets everywhere...Disney is ever-changing and constantly amazing!

But at the same time, I'm constantly amazed at how much Disney stays the same...you can always count on the best food anywhere and the rides to be completely immersive from the start of the line to the exit of the ride. Everything is always clean and fresh and generally (despite their snail's pace and annoying personal diarrhea), the CM's were overall kind and nice.

How good it felt to be home at the Wilderness Lodge again! I'm never as happy as when I stay there, and this time was no exception. It really is "my perfect place". For someone who is terrified of trees and woods, doesn't like western architecture and artifacts from America's old west days, it should be my worst nightmare, but it just has this amazing vibe than makes even me love it. And we've always managed to stay there after a refurb, so it was as beautiful as ever!

You can also count on guests being complete idiots and adding to our fun by having something to make fun of! And older man singing "Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho" for Pirates instead of "Yo Ho" gave us a new theme song..."ho, ho, ho, ho a Santa's life for me".

It feels really good to be an annual passholder. Not only did I get discounts everywhere, but it really made me feel like part of everything...I don't know why I didn't do it sooner (probably because I still have spending issues and can't afford to go more than once a year because I spend too much in the stores!).

I'm sure I'm missing some important stuff, but that's it for my "quick" recap (those that know me know I don't do "quick" posts!). If I think of more later, I'll add it, plus some picture highlights.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Disney so far...

Well, I tried to blog from my tablet, but it definitely does NOT like the wireless service here! Luckily Am brought her laptop, so I'm not totally without! Drive down was almost uneventful, until we hit the heaviest rain I have ever driven through with the added bonus of it being 10 pm in heavy interstate traffic going 70mph...not good times! But luckily that didn't last long.

First impressions of our first value...ugh. It was clean and nice because this wing has only been open 3 weeks and it was fairly pretty...but, and I guess there is always a but, I have never seen so many kids in one place in my entire life! I don't think there are that many kids in the actual parks! And not just the typical 2.5 kids to a parental unit, more like 5 or 6 to one parent! There is no way anyone can control that kind of brood on their own, especially in a place like Disney.

So now I'm coming to you live from Wilderness Lodge and all is right with the world again! Bed is 110% better, bathroom is much bigger, room is bigger, we're inside instead of walking a billion miles...sheer bliss!

Since I am using Am's laptop, I can't post pictures yet, but it looks as though my new Sony is quite possibly the best camera I've ever had!

Until my next free moment...see ya real soon!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

This is it!

...the day before we pack up and drive down to Disney! Thanks to everyone for your kind words and all my Disney blogging buds...Vickie, Joyce and Abby, I'll be thinking of you, so if you're ears start burning, you'll know why! Same to my non-Disney blogging bud, Madison, Boo To You!!

Katy...bestie oh mine...one day it will be us going!

Tony...bestie oh mine 2...ditto...no excuses!

I say I'm gonna blog while I'm there, but I'm not gonna promise anything. Disney is a difficult place to get free time. I always plan to take notes of funny or weird events, but only do the first couple of days (which is where the blog might come in handy). Am is a master at trip notes though, so I'm not worried about documentation of important events.

Zachary could care less for all my pre-trip preparations...his Gram is gonna stay with him so he can be in his own environment. He probably won't even miss me! But I will call him anyway, just to annoy him since he's scared of the phone. His brother (rest his little soul) loved the phone and would sometimes even try to talk back. Times like this is when I miss Zander the most, he would be pacing the floor and constantly be under my feet because he knew I was about to leave. Zachary is just pissed because the bed is covered with luggage and he can't snuggle up and go back to sleep!

I just remembered I forgot to make Mousekeeping envelopes (if you didn't think I was crazy before, you will now!). Mousekeeping is what the hotel housekeeping staff are called at Disney World and I make envelopes to leave their tips in with little pictures and sayings on them thanking them for an excellent job. It's cuter than just leaving the money on the bathroom counter, and, since I hand-make mine instead of downloading them from the web, they are a bit more personalized and special. So I'm off to make quickie envelopes and hopefully they will turn out ok.

Everyone have a great week and a half and a full report will be due upon my return!

And I just realized that I not only passed my trip goal weight, I blew it out of the friggin water! Yea me!

It's Halloween-lo-ween everybody!! I like duck butts and I cannot lie! And one more completely meaningless quote (well, to anyone other than Am and I)...Love Ya, Mean It!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Robin Hood-A Revisitation

First off, thanks to everyone for my B-day wishes! Work made sure it was ruined, but I thank everyone anyway. Here's to hoping for a better one next year.

But the subject of this post is Robin Hood, The Series. I watched this show faithfully and absolutely loved it from it's first airing. It was an amazing show, one that gave me Richard Armitage (which, in itself is an amazing gift!).


But, and there is always a but, because of my impatience, I knew ahead of time what was going to happen at the end of series 2 and it completely ruined the series for me. I stopped watching it before the inevitable happened. Someone eventually told me how the complete series ended and it just strengthened my resolve that I had done the right thing to stop watching it. It was a major sore spot for me for a long time...the thought that they could do what they did to not only an amazing legend, but one of the greatest romances of all time!

I never bought the series on DVD past the first one, but always kept the other two in my Amazon wish list. Once I started buying from Amazon UK, it also found it's way onto that wish list as well. I never could delete it, and every so often, I would find myself checking the price, but it was always way too high on the US Amazon (as is most US versions of UK shows...Doctor Who anyone?). But I eventually forgot about it (although I never removed it from either wish list).

Every once and while, one of the guys would appear on other shows and it would start to nudge that part of me that loved Robin Hood so dearly. Watching both Jonas Armstrong and Keith Allen on The Body Farm reminded me how great they played off of each other. But Lucy Griffiths being on True Blood this season made me realize that enough time had passed and I really didn't hate her anymore, so I began watching the prices on Robin again. The Dutch version, completely packed in a three set, eventually came up at an unbelievable price on Amazon UK, and I just couldn't help myself, so I ordered it, knowing I still probably would never watch it, but I would have it "just in case".

This past week I was craving some Richard I had never seen before and this was all I had. Plus, I really haven't revisited him as Guy of Gisborne since my initial infatuation with him. Normally, once I'm hooked on an actor, I really don't like to see them play bad guys. Richard's ending on Spooks still pisses me off and I still don't believe Lucas North was bad...no matter the obvious. But, when you like an actor, it's hard to buy them as bad, Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in Harry Potter is the ultimate example...how many people can honestly say they hated Severus? You can't, no matter what he did, because it was Alan Rickman and who can hate Alan? If JK Rowling truly wanted people to hate Severus, she would have never of allowed Alan to be cast! But I digress...

So "just in case" happened this past week and I broke down and watched, from beginning to end, the entire three series of Robin Hood. I just finished literally 10 minutes ago, so my emotions are still pretty high, but wow, was I a complete idiot for finishing this series the first time around! You guys know how much I love happy endings, and this series' ending was far from a happy one, but I wasn't completely upset about it either, in fact, it ended exactly the way it should of (and you won't often hear me say that over such an ending).

I am trying to purposely not give particular information away for the sake of not ruining it for anyone else. I made that big mistake already for myself, and I wouldn't want to do the same for anyone else. All I can say is definitely give the entire series a chance. You may have to take a breather after series 2, but you will have to finish it. It is definitely one of the best series to come out in years and I would had no qualms about watching it again!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

OCD Disney Planning 101-Part 7: The Final Details

First up...HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! Today was my big day! I never work on my Birthday, so this weekend will be when I start packing for Disney! I'm usually more organized than this and have it all done by now, but I think it's because flying takes more preparation and, since we're not flying this time, my prep brain is not working as fast. Flying is a very stressful thing for an Asper and it takes ton of mental prep and considering how work has been the past few months, I don't have the mental juju to get through a flight anyway.

But alas, enough about me, on with the show...You've made it! It's weeks or even days before your trip and you think you're ready...but you'd be wrong. There are some finite details that make the OCD'er not only feel better, but make for a better, more controlled trip.

I spend months loosing weight because my vacation clothes are a smaller size and I usually also spend that time on the treadmill, but I have done a crappy job of that this time. One very important thing you ought to know...I've talked and talked about how big Disney World is, but it never really occurs to anyone (myself included) that a big chunk of that you end up walking on. Even the Magic Kingdom, which one would think is a small park, is deceptively large in size. By day 3 of your trip, you're lucky to be walking without limping or without the aid of prescription drugs! It's painful on your feet, legs, back, your entire body, so please, if you do nothing else, prepare yourself physically!

Since I don't get to the store much, when I do in the months before we go, I always pick up little items for the trip, trial size items and ziploc bags (if we're flying, I put my clothes in them because I can't stand the thought of airport security touching my stuff). I make sure I have enough camera stuff and adequate batteries and chargers for everything (although I do keep most all that stuff from previous years in one location).

I buy coupon holders to use as storage for all the receipts from our trip. Each divider is a day and it makes it really easy to keep track of expenditures and of the resort shipping receipts that you need when you pick up your packages from the gift shop. Plus, it's a great and inexpensive way to store all of those receipts in case you might need them (and I have had to look at old receipts before, so it's not as odd as you might think).

I take all of our info, schedules, dining reservation numbers, hotel information, park hours, Food and Wine Festival information, and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party information, put it on 4x6 cards and have them bound at Kinkos. We call it our PIB, or Personal Itinerary Book. I also add pages for logging expenditures so I don't go over budget and can tell how much cash I should have left, pages for daily notes and comments, as well as shopping lists, photo ops I don't want to miss, etc. It takes time to create a PIB, but it's just figures and dates. The hardest part is coming up with a cover.

Disney also has a thing called pressed pennies...where you put in two quarters and a penny (of course) and the penny gets pressed into a flat shape with a Disney design on the front and back. There are pressed penny machines all over the park and they are all different. It's been years since I've done this because I had most all of them at one point, but I might consider doing it again. It's a process preparing for though. You have to pick out really pretty pennies or clean up dirty ones. You need enough change (and a great way to keep change is in M&M tubes). Just remember, if you are flying, be really careful with that much change through security! Masses of metal tend to set off the metal detectors and show up on scanners, so prepare to have your bags searched (which is another reason why I quit doing it).

But there is always a monkey wrench in even the perfect schedule...never fails. I ran across mine on Sunday while preparing our PIB. I was doing the routine checks of my schedule against our ressies on the Disney site and all appeared to be fine from a dining aspect, but when I checked the park hours, I was royally screwed! At first I thought I had my dining ressies mixed up and I tried to fix them, but the more I tried to fix, the more I kept loosing, which sent me into uber panic mode. I double checked our Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets and realized I had booked our second party on the wrong day from the schedule (at some point I got my schedules mixed up and have been studying the wrong one. Even OCD's get things mixed up sometimes).

I got the schedule fixed, somehow managed to get my dining ressies straightened out, and got a large chunk of the PIB done. But it was definitely a pretty hairy day! But it's all in a day's work for an OCD'er!

The closer times gets, the more details get checked and rechecked and checked again. Mental prep starts and I get short-timers at work. It's not out of character for the very grumpy pants that is my personality to be completely high-jacked by a humming, singing mutation of me. The day before leaving is crazy and very little sleep is had by anyone, but finally the day arrives, I hug and kiss my little munchkin who gets to stay at home and be babysat by his gran, and hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to Disney World we go!!

And that's how I do it...Disney Planning 101, OCD style. The important points are just research and prep. Being an obsessive planner makes for a better trip and a more prepared mind when it comes to the actual execution of the details. Plus, having something other than the actual trip to obsess about makes time fly by a bit quicker!

Once Upon A Time - Once 101

Keeping in theme with my current blog series, I thought it apropos to share with you this YouTube clip. This Sunday starts the new series of Once Upon A Time, and I, for one, can not wait! It's been a very long time since an American show has gotten (and kept) my attention, but this one certainly has because Once was practically made for me - the perfect combination of romance and drama and most importantly, Disney!

ABC.com has a great introduction to the first series with a few major exclusions(for those that haven't seen the first series...it's out on Blu-Ray and DVD now, go get it!). There is no mention of August/Pinocchio, Ruby/Red Riding Hood, Jefferson/The Mad Hatter, Ashley/Cinderella, asylum patient/Belle, or even the dragon/Maleficent (although Red, Belle, and Maleficent in dragon form do show up in the clip). Considering they are an integral part of the storyline, they definitely could have gotten their appropriate screen time if the narrator didn't ramble so much (or even spoke faster).

But without further ado, for those that don't know (and were maybe curious), I give you Once 101, the first series recap:



Series 2 will bring the introduction of my favorite princess, Sleeping Beauty, as well as my favorite prince, Phillip (although Charming is giving him a run for his money after 42 years of Phillip worship-Josh Dallas is a total hottie and you can't deny his chemistry with Ginnifer Goodwin, it's so obvious these two were gonna end up together in real life too!). But, back to the Sleeping Beauty plot, Phil's travelling companion on his quest to find Aurora happens to be none other than Mulan. Possible love triangle there maybe? They better not screw with my princess and her man!! It's been hard enough dealing with the whole Kathryn/Abigail, daughter of Midas, triangle! But the good news with this storyline is that Maleficent is coming back and more Maleficent is always good! Plus, I'd love to see her Storybrooke counterpart!

On other character fronts, Captain Hook arrives to put a kink in Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin's plans (as well as a love/hate interest for Regina/The Evil Queen-and a possible intro to Peter maybe?), but old Rumple might just be too distracted to care now that he has his Belle back! Jefferson/The Mad Hatter is back for a little Emma interaction (I'm still waiting for the promised return of Graham/The Huntsman, but considering Jennifer Morrison and Sebastian Stan are a rumored real life couple as well, bet we see that relationship blossom, if she can get past his loony side that is!).

Then there will be the introduction of other fairy tale characters like Jack and the Giant, Sir Lancelot, and promised others. And finally, toward the end of the series we are promised Ariel and Jasmine (which also means Jafar and considering how much they kept showing the genie lamp in Mr. Gold's shop, it was apparent that it had more of an importance than Sidney/the Genie/Magic Mirror guy's home away from home!). I've also heard rumors of Chernabog! Wonder what he'd look like in human form!

Supposedly we are gonna learn who Henry's biological dad is (anyone want to put money on Baelfire, Rumple's son?), or maybe it's another character (maybe Peter Pan?), but you can almost bet, it will be a fairy tale character. And speaking of Rumple and Bael, we might just find out who/where Bael is (which makes him the perfect candidate for Henry's dad...he arrived in some world - probably ours - before the curse was even created, so he should be able to leave Storybrooke like August/Pinocchio and Emma, ergo, Emma could have met him anywhere else she ever lived). But then again, she described Henry's dad as immature and fickle...perfect Peter Pan territory...could the secret wife of her baby-daddy be Wendy?).

I'm really hoping for more villains (OK, I'm REALLY hoping for more Maleficent), but I'd like to see Regina/The Evil Queen not be so prevalent, give someone else a chance to be bad! Disney has an enormous bulk of villains to choose from (Hades, Hades, Hades, did I mention Hades?)!

I don't mind the mixing of other fairy tales, but the whole Lancelot storyline bugs me and I'm not sure why yet. Probably like the whole Midas and Siren storylines. For some reason Ruby/Red fits in, but Kathryn/Abigail was always the odd man out. We'll just have to see on that one.

There were storylines left hanging, namely the whole what happened to Ashley/Cinderella's prince/Sean? Who took him by the wishing well? Is he in Regina/The Evil Queen's asylum/dungeon as well? Has the Blue Fairy/Mother Superior known all along who she was, and if so, why didn't she help? Who is Dr. Whale? What happened to Jefferson/The Mad Hatter after Mary Margaret/Snow White pushed him out the window? Did the hat work, and if it did, does that mean that Emma is magical? Will Belle really be able to love Mr. Gold/Rumple or when he does finally find Baelfire, will she fall for Bael instead? Will Kathryn/Abigail get together with her true love now that everyone is awake? How did Snow and Charming overthrow King George and the Evil Queen back in fairy tale land? Now that magic is back, what about August/Pinocchio? Will he go back to being a hunk of live man, a living puppet or is he still a "hunk" of wood in his room at Granny's Inn?

But the biggest question/twist of all...how will Emma deal with the fact that Snow White and Prince Charming are her parents? Will her friendship with Mary Margaret and David be enough to make her forget her horrible parentless upbringing in foster care? And what about Mary Margaret and David? They not only have a daughter the same age they are, but also a 10 year old grandson! And will Emma be able to forgive August/Pinocchio for leaving her in the orphanage in the first place instead of keeping his promise to take care of her?

Confused yet? Trust me, if you've never seen it, the pieces won't start to fall together until the final few episodes, so be prepared for a wild ride and the occasional amazing kiss between Mary Margaret/Snow and David/Charming (Charming sounds so much better than James! Who came up with the prince's names anyway? James for Charming and Thomas for Ella's? Seriously?).

But I do have one major suggestion, bring in Rapunzel and Flynn, but just make sure Zachary Levi plays the Storybrooke Flynn...how cool will that be! And please, oh please, give me some Hades (have I mentioned Hades yet?)!!! Maybe even a touch of Meg (my second favorite Disney "princess") and Hercules! And what about some sidekicks? Almost every villain had a sidekick! Give us Pain and Panic and Iago and Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed!!

Enough for now, I stayed up too late and tomorrow/today is my B-day and I'm gonna do squat all day long! Besides, I could obsess about this show forever! Maybe another Once Upon A Time marathon is in order! Who's with me?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

OCD Disney Planning 101-Part 6: Scheduling

So you've booked your resort package...picked your hotel, ticket and dining options as well as planned your transportation, now you have to sort out a schedule. Disney is not a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of place (not that any place is so for an OCD).

Parks are open at different times on different days, there is the Extra Magic Hours to consider, if it's during a party night the Magic Kingdom closes at 7 (Mickey's Not So Scary or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas), during the Food and Wine Festival there are special events on specific days. Then there are events in the parks every day, parades, stage shows, and fireworks that happen at specific times. You need to know these things before booking your dining reservations.

The window between when you have to fix your schedule and book your 180 plus 10 dining ressies is very small...the park schedule is released only days before your dining window comes up. This is why the scheduling time is the most stressful part of trip planning. You can use the previous years schedule as a guide until the new hours are released, but you can't count on it. And even when you plan the perfect schedule, booking your dining plans can completely screw you.

There are plenty of online sources that provide menus of the Disney restaurants, so by the time scheduling comes around, you should have a good handle on where you want to eat. Disney is not the kind of place you decide that day where you want to eat, or you will definitely be eating counter service and NOT in a restaurant, they book up months in advance. I don't get it when people say "I won't know what I want to eat until that day, so how can I book 180 + 10 days ahead of schedule?". I don't think of it that way, I think of it as, "Yea! We get to eat at Le Cellier on Tuesday!". It's not like your day to day life where you can get into your local Red Lobster after a 30 minute wait. You have to think of it as you're planning to eat at the most exclusive restaurant that you've waited months to get into.

Thankfully, Disney no longer allows you to book more than one reservation for a particular time slot, they make you cancel one before you book another (and if you somehow manage to sneak under the radar, they will catch it and cancel both). They used to have a very lax system when it came to ressies. People would book two or three ressies for the same time under that same ole pretense, "I don't know where I want to eat that far in advance" with the added moniker of "so I book several places so I have options". Thing about that is, double or triple booking prevents someone else from getting in since there is a limited amount of ressies for any given time. To say this is unfair and rude is an understatement and I'm so glad it's done!

You've done your research, so you know what is going on in every park on every day of your trip, you've picked out your restaurants, and you've bought your party tickets. Your personal schedule WILL fall into place. I usually end up with three or four workable schedules and the outcome of the dining ressies determines which one becomes "the one".

But you still have to keep an eye out on everything, park schedules change, EMH change, and you have to be ready to adapt. Certain dining ressies can be adjusted, but plan carefully and make sure there is an opening before you cancel your current ressie or you might loose both.

Next is just to wait it out till time arrives! There are a couple of pre-trip things that have to be taken care of, but I'll safe that for part 7, the final chapter in this series!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

OCD Disney Planning 101-Part 5: On-site vs Off

I've been saving this post until the end of the initial planning stage for one very particular reason - it encompasses all aspects of the initial planning phase, booking, dining, and transportation.

I'm not a fan of staying off-site. There are way too many perks to on-site guests (which I'll get to shortly). It drives me nuts when people say they stay off-site because it's cheaper. That couldn't be further from the truth! Yes, your actual hotel stay might be cheaper, but the benefits to staying on-site save you so much money, it all works out in the wash. Most people only see the initial costs and don't factor in all the little expenses that occur once you get there, which leads me to these infamous benefits I keep mentioning.

You can safely assume that ticket prices and your meals will be cheaper if you get a resort package, simply because Magic Your Way Packages and dining plans aren't available to non-resort guests (although you can book dining reservations, just not at the 180 plus 10 window that I mentioned before). But it's all the other perks that make it worthwhile.

First up, free parking for resort guests. Parking costs are $14 per day, a 7 night trip, which is 8 days of park time, makes a total of $112 for parking alone! If you haven't driven your own vehicle, then odds are if you're paying parking fees, then you've rented a car. Car rental fees alone are enough to make up the difference in cost for the resorts. Then you have gas, which is always expensive in vacation spots, as well as the fact that most all the major thoroughfares in Orlando are toll roads, and I've just answered my argument!

Automobiles bring up yet another costly topic...time. The time you spend from your hotel on to property and then to the parks is enormous. And oh, the traffic! Let's just say you are not going back to your hotel for lunch or an afternoon nap.

Disney transportation is only for resort guests (although they don't strictly enforce it, like I mentioned before, I have seen people get turned away for not having a resort ID). Besides, riding buses are stressful enough, it makes them down-right murder when they are filled with non-resort guests who shouldn't get the perk and you're either crowded in or forced to wait for the next bus because of it.

Next up, extra magic hours...resort guests get either an extra hour in the morning or an extra three hours in the evening (about to be knocked down to two) in selected parks on selected days. So while the general population is performing a mass exodus from the park, you're still in line for the Haunted Mansion! EMH is one of the best perks for entertainment value! I've seen it play out a hundred times, there is always a non-resort guest demanding to stay in the parks and causing a scene - it's hilarious! At first, Disney set up barricades where you can't get into certain parts of the park without the EMH wristband (which is where most of the non-resort guests get caught) and then, once they are assured the masses have cleared, they really only check it when you're trying to get on rides, but by that point, all the non-resort guests have gone. In Animal Kingdom, three extra hours is the only time you'll ever be able to see the park in darkness, or for Magic Kingdom or Epcot, be there into the next day!

My most favorite perk, package delivery service! We buy a lot of stuff in Disney, in the parks, the stores, other resorts other than our own, and if we had to carry all of it around, our days would be short. But resort guests can have their purchases delivered directly to their resort gift shop the next day (or directly to the park entrance the same day). Oh what a blessing this is! Although the resort gift shop CM's (Cast Members are the official name of Disney employees), might disagree - by the end of our trip, they run like cockroaches in the daylight when they see us coming because of the quantity of packages they have to dig out!

Speaking of shopping, resort guests can also use their room card/park ticket (called a Keys To The World Card) to charge purchases back to their resort...it could be your purchases in a store or even your meal, anything you can purchase, you can charge provided you've allowed charging privileges. Different resort levels also determine how much a day you can charge, with the deluxes (of course) providing the highest level of charging.

There are times when the parks fill up to capacity and have to close. For those still outside waiting to get in, that's a royal pain. But resort guests (although not guaranteed entrance into the park they are in line for) are granted admission to "a" park, whether they have a hopper or not. Non-resort guests are just stuck out.

There are other perks, least of which is being immersed in Disney magic 24/7 or having the quality of service that Disney provides. Only Disney guarantees magic and only they can deliver it. Disney goes above and beyond in every aspect, and like I always say, "if you have a bad time at Disney, it's more than likely your fault and not theirs!".

Once you've booked, scheduling your days comes into play next, because you can't make your dining ressies without it! But that's a post for another day!

Monday, September 24, 2012

OCD Disney Planning 101-Part 4: Transportation

This is gonna be the easiest part of your planning...transportation. How far away you live or how quickly you want to get there will determine your arrival method, be it planes, trains, or automobiles (yeah, I know, that joke is getting old). We usually fly, but this time we are driving. But however you get there, transportation while you're on property is easy...Disney takes care of that for you!

We book airfare pretty early, just because flights to Orlando fill up fast and I want to be guaranteed a seat. I don't do well with the unknown. But, for those more adventurous people, you might get better fares by waiting (or you might end up having to drive).

If you do fly, transportation from the airport comes pretty straight forward as well. You can either rent a car, use a car service, use a taxi (the most expensive option) ,or use Disney's Magical Express, a free (yes, I said free) bus service provided by Disney for resort guests only. They not only deliver you to your resort door, but get your bags from the airport for you and deliver them to your resort by the end of the day.

We don't rent a car because driving in Orlando can be tricky. We don't use the bus service for a completely different reason: I just spent two hours on a plane enclosed in with screaming kids and annoying adults, I sure as heck don't want to be in an enclosed bus with them! At least in Disney it's a wide-open enclosed space!

We use a car service because it's the easiest for someone with my problems. You get off the plane and they are waiting for you at the bottom of the escalator. You grab your bags, sit in your own private environment, and 30 minutes later..."WELCOME HOME!" (what they always say to you when you arrive at Disney). I can't think of a more relaxing way to detox from a plane ride!

Even though we're driving this time, once we get there, it's still Disney transportation. You don't want to be driving yourself around on vacation! On site Disney transportation consists of buses, boats, and monorails, but is only available to resort guests (yes, lots of people use the transportation service that aren't resort guests, but I have seen bus drivers ask for resort passes and seen people turned away because they didn't have one). The monorail system is the only Disney transport not restricted (well, except for the resort line unless you have dining reservations at one of those particular resorts, but they only really enforce this at peak or heavily crowded times).

Transportation is pretty straight forward if you're a resort guest, but if you're not...well, the next post is for you!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

OCD Disney Planning 101-Part 3: Dining

After the last post, you should have a good handle on resorts and tickets (or completely confused by my ramblings, either is a possibility). But this post deals with the subject of the Dining plan and dining reservations, the most nerve racking and exciting part of the booking process!

As the same with the ticket options, there are different levels of dining plans as well, but I'm really only going to discuss two of them (for the simple reason I only have experience with these two); the quick service dining plan and the basic dining plan.

I guess I should first describe the different meal levels (yes, Disney does so love their levels). Snacks, which, believe it or not, consist of a lot of choices from rice crispy treats to Disney cookies (my personal favorite, they are huge and thick and doughy in the middle-perfection!) to Mickey head ice cream treats to chips to soda to donuts to turkey legs, to fresh fruit, to well, you get the point. Then there is quick or counter service, which basically functions like your local fast food joint, but definitely different where the food is concerned! And finally, the table service, which is a sit-down meal in a restaurant.

With the quick service dining plan you get one snack and two counter service meals consisting of an entree or a combo meal, a dessert, and a non-alcoholic drink for each day of your package. The basic dining plan is one snack, one counter service (with the same choices as the quick service) and one table service (buffets are also included in this category) consisting of an entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic drink. Any alcohol or appetizers are out of pocket expenses. Appetizers used to part of the dining plan, but no longer. Frankly, I'd rather have an appetizer than a dessert or have the option to choose one or the other, but it really doesn't affect us...if we want appetizers, we get them and we definitely get the alcohol (ICE WINE!!).

Both plans also include a refillable mug...one of my favorite collectibles from trips and something we always get. For the entire length of your stay, you can use your refillable mug in the food court at your resort (but only there, not in the parks) and get unlimited drink refills. This is also a very controversial item. Originally, the cup was valid forever, but Disney soon changed that and it became only valid for the length of your stay. Some people bring back their mug on their next visit and reuse it (their expired cups, not the forever ones), but we don't nor ever will do since it's stealing and just plain uncool (and Disney can actually ban you for life and that's a stupid reason to be banned). There have been rumors of barcoded cups that you have to scan to fill, and I personally can't wait until this practice comes into play!

But people will be people and, not only do they continue to bring their non-valid cups, but I've heard of them filling bread bags with coke (and I've personally seen someone filling a small milk container). Come on...you've just paid a small fortune to come to WDW, if you didn't get the dining plan, spend the extra $12 and buy a new cup. After a couple of days, the bloody thing has paid for itself! Every single time I hear, "we're paying a fortune for this trip, it doesn't hurt Disney if we do...blaa", it makes me cringe. OK, yes, you are paying a fortune to be there, but there is no place in the world like Disney, so you are definitely getting your money's worth.

But more importantly, what lessons are you teaching your kids? "Honey, mommy and daddy say it's OK to steal soda because we've given Disney enough money already". Yeah, and when your kid gets nicked for stealing candy bars from the grocery store because "you've given the grocery enough money already" by buying a ton of groceries, don't go blaming anybody but yourself! While I'm on the rant, same goes with cutting line on rides, pushing people out of the way who have been waiting a lot longer than you for the parades just because you have a kid and they don't (little Johnny can look at the back the entire parade, I paid my money just like you did and just because he's a kid doesn't make him more entitled to see Donald than me - Disney isn't just for kids and saying so might just get you hit, get their earlier next time and wait like the rest of us), leaving your trash all over the tables when you're done eating for someone else to clean up, or just basically being rude all 'round. People wonder why their kids are satan spawn...hmm, don't look in the mirror much?

But alas, I'm digressing...normally, we choose the basic plan, but the quick service plan comes into play for one very specific reason - time restraints. Dining reservations are made 180 days before your trip arrival. Disney resort guests get to book an additional 10 days early (one of the many perks to staying on site, which I'll address in the next post). But there is one major caveat to table service meals...getting reservations. Some table service restaurants are very hard to get into, even if you are either online or on the phone exactly at opening time. If I don't have the time to book reservations, then I always go for the counter service plan. Table service without LeCellier just isn't worth it!

There are certain times of the year that Disney offers free dining and it definitely can save you lots of money, but keep in mind that it also tends to fill WDW up with tons of people, even in the off seasons. People do so love free food!

Now, when you choose a plan, you get credits for each night of your stay, so if you're staying 7 nights, that's 7 snacks and 14 counter service credits for the quick service plan and 7 snacks, 7 counter service, and 7 table service credits on the basic plan. But some table service restaurants are what is called a "Signature Dining Experience" basically meaning they take two credits instead of one. For example, at least three of the restaurants we are eating at next month are Signatures, leaving us with only 1 credit a piece if we use them all up on the Signatures, but there are ways around this (quite legal, I assure you). Disney doesn't restrict what time of day you use what credits, so making a Signature for lunch and not using the credits for that meal at all means you have two additional credits for another day. A table service at lunch time is always cheaper than dinner time and basically has most of the same food choices. Using it for lunch often makes it affordable to just pay for it with cash. You can use your counter service credit for dinner time, which in the case of Magic Kingdom, works out brilliantly (taco salad from Pecos Bills anyone?). Plus, there is always one night we don't eat a table service meal, so it all works out with very little out of pocket expense.

But, in the end, not getting the dining plan is also one of those big mistakes that can cost you. Although it goes up in cost every year, right now the quick service plan is about $35 and the basic plan is about $52. Considering the average counter service meal is about $15-$20 and the average table service is $60-$120, having the plan pays for itself very quickly! There are no limitations to menu choices using the dining plan, so if the restaurant has lobster, then it's covered! You could have lobster and your table-mate can have a salad and you've both paid the same price, one credit!

Once your trip is booked, the next big step before actually making your reservations is making your schedule, which determines what meals you eat where on what days, but there is one more booking step ahead before we can get to scheduling...transportation. But that's for part 4!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

OCD Disney Planning 101-Part 2: Booking

Here we go with part 2 of my Disney planning series...
Once you’ve got your dates in mind, the next step is to book your trip. First step is your Disney World package, then depending on where you live, you have to decide how to get there, either by planes, trains, or automobiles which will also affect how you get around not only Orlando, but also inside WDW. But one step at a time…let’s start with the WDW portion of your trip.

There are several ways you can go about booking a Disney trip, either online, through the phone to Disney central reservations, or through a travel agent (although I don’t get using a travel agent…why pay extra to have someone do the same job you can do yourself with a bit of research-Disney doesn’t offer very many discounts privately that they don’t offer publically, the travel agents just know what they all are (as could you with that magical tool called research!). And what are websites like Travelocity or Expedia but online travel agents?

We book directly through Disney because it makes it very easy for an OCD to go online several times a day to check to make sure everything is OK (well, except for the two hours a night that Disney’s website is down for maintenance that is). You can also buy special event tickets and book your dining reservations online (again, which we’ll discuss later) and they are all tied to your package reservation (making it even easier to stalk your booking).

You can book either a package or book the individual components separately (your resort, park tickets, and dining options). Frankly, unless you’re a Florida passholder or an annual passholder, I don’t know why you’d want to book separately, and even they have package options. It would be almost insane not to book everything ahead, the longer you stay the cheaper it gets and if you buy your tickets on a day to day basis at the park gates you're paying full price, and that's just plain silly! The base park ticket for one day is $95, after 7 days you've hit $665 (more expensive than the price of an annual pass), but for a 7 day package ticket it's about $307, that's a savings of $358 (at least 30 pins or a big fig or 10 to 15 T-shirts...in other words, major shopping dough!).

The first thing you'll need to do is to pick is the level of resort. I’ve discussed the different levels and quantity of resorts before (oh, BTW, resorts are what WDW calls their hotels and motels because they are so much more – they are worlds upon themselves). But I’ll give a short recap – you have five levels of resort and each has their own theming: the deluxes (10 in all) with theming based on the lodges of the Pacific Northwest (hmm, wonder why I started with that one) or Hawaii with all it’s flora and fauna (and don’t forget Merriweather-take your time on that one), and the list goes on and on; then there are the moderates (5 of these including the cabins at Fort Wilderness), with their islands of the Caribbean and the French Quarter of New Orleans; the next level is the DVC’s (Disney's answer to timeshares) and are located adjacent to the deluxes sharing their themes, but some have their own theming like the old town of Key West; the values with their very scary over-sized outdoor theming based on movies, music, or sports or pop culture through the decades, or even the newest resort based on the new classics of Disney/Pixar movies; and finally, you have the campground at Fort Wilderness.

We do typically stay deluxe for many different reasons, the least of which being the fact that there are fewer children there. Yes, I know it's inevitable to run into children at Disney, but you don't have to swim in them! Plus, deluxes are hotels instead of motels like moderates or values, so there is that whole comfort level of being indoors (and not having to hear tons of little feet running up and down the walkways outside at all hours of the night screaming and hollering - which always happens!). I'd rather pay for a higher level of resort and go less, than deal with the chaos that is the values! Moderates are tolerable, less kids than values, more than the deluxes, but there is still that walkway issue. I may be poor, but I do have social issues and first and foremost is making sure I can deal with my surroundings, or the trip is ruined, and money wasted anyway, so best to just be on the safe side. Besides, I have been by myself a couple of times, and I feel that the indoors of the deluxes makes for a safer environment than the outdoor resorts (which is why I choose Wilderness Lodge since it's one single building and no external ones to half to walk to and fro from - not including the fact that I have a horrible sense of direction and always get lost trying to find my building at the other resorts).

Next up will be ticket levels. The Base Magic Your Way ticket is where you start. Then you’ve got to decide the add-ons. The first choice is the Park Hopper option, which is really the most important. The ability to go to the Magic Kingdom in the morning and Epcot for dinner in the evening is almost a must (frankly because the table service restaurants in MK are all pretty much character meals), but that is not the only reason to get a hopper...Animal Kingdom is not a full day park, and even if you manage to stay all day long, it still closes at 5 pm, you need to be able to hop to another park or you’re wasting an entire evening of your trip (although you could spend the night shopping at Downtown Disney-but I don't recommend going there at night unless you like tons of people (it's always better to go Downtown in the morning). Or if you don’t finish in Epcot one day (well, actually you need at least 2 to 3 days for Epcot as you do in the Magic Kingdom), you can go the next morning and then finish up the day in another park like the Disney Studios (which really isn’t a full day park either, but you definitely want to be there in the evening…a reason we’ll discuss later in another post).

The other add-on is the Water Park Fun and More option. We personally don’t go to the water parks and the “more” part is golfing, Disney Quest (the worst example of Disney not taking care of their property), and Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex (where certain major league ball teams do their spring training, and even sometimes, someone’s favorite footie team!). We don’t use this option and we never add it. Unless you are planning to spend half your trip in the water parks, it's just cheaper to buy a one day ticket to them, Disney Quest is best left alone, and the Wide World of Sports are usually only frequented by those on specific reasons, like training or competitions.

After the ticket options, is the dining add-on, but let’s save that for another post because it's a life onto itself!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

OCD Disney Planning 101-Part 1: When

Hopefully with this series I will be giving you an idea of what it's like to plan a Disney trip in the only way I know how, with gift of OCD. There are many levels of OCD, my particular brand leans very heavily on the obsessive side and not so much on the compulsive side (although I do have my moments), but needless to say, it makes for great planning! But my social issues wreak havoc and play a huge part in planning as well. But as Buck from the Country Bears says, "hey Henry, lets get on with the show"!

It never ceases to amaze me how people don't do research on this particular vacation destination. You wouldn't go to Europe or even new York without planning. I've discussed in the past how huge Disney World (or WDW for short) actually is, and considering it's twice the size of Manhattan, one would think a little bit of planning would be in order. But a lot of newbies make the mistake of thinking of Disney as their local amusement park, in need of no prethought, and it certainly is NOT an amusement park. One visit will cure that misconception, but for a lot of folks, that first goof is enough to keep them from trying again (and I've known several).

I've heard it all from "certain rides were closed" - which happens for refurbishment and are almost always announced months or weeks in advance. WDW is one of the few places I've been to that actually takes care of their "show" and keeping the rides in working order and the exteriors looking new and freshly painted are a priority. Plus, drop a piece of paper on the ground and see how quickly someone shows up to pick it up...it's kind of freaky!

"There were way too many people there and the lines were too long", well, yeah, if you go in the middle of July or at Christmas, expect wall to wall people anywhere, not just WDW. And it's sister complaint, "it was way too hot to have any fun". Yeah, go in the middle of August through September and see how hot "hot" actually is. It's central Florida and they are not immune to hurricane season. Plus the humidity can be high even in February (even if the mornings are freezing).

One of my faves, "we couldn't get in any restaurants to eat and had to eat hamburgers for a week". Well, if they had planned, they'd know you have to make your ressies 180 days out and even then, some restaurants are extremely difficult to get into. Which brings up another sister point, "everything was just so expensive!". Yes, you may pay $10 for a hamburger, but it's a big frickin burger! I will say this a lot, you get what you pay for at WDW.

The first decision to be made is when to go. Preferably, I need almost a year to plan and we pretty much prefer to go at Halloween time anyway. That makes planning pretty cut and dry for us. But for those that haven't been, it's a lot more complicated than that. Each season has a different event; spring has the Epcot Flower And Garden Festival, early summer has Star Wars Weekends, late summer has the Sounds Like Summer Concert series, fall brings the Epcot Food And Wine Festival and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and then the holidays brings Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and the Osborne Festival Of Lights. Those are just the main events, but there are numerous others, from golf tournaments to concerts to marathons to spring training for certain big-name teams...you name it, WDW has it! You just have to decide what you're interested in and plan around that.

Or, if none of these appeal to you, you can always plan during an off-season...but planning is a definite must, because while by Disney standards it's an off-season, it doesn't mean that it's off-season for other groups who like to go in the slower seasons, from the "notorious" foreign tour groups (known for all kinds of hijinx-I've witnessed it myself and I avoid them like the plague) to the numerous band, cheerleading, and sports groups (encountered those too-too many teenagers together is never a good thing), to Gay Days (which never ceases to frighten the homophobes into coming out in droves to complain online-had they've planned, they'd known). You need to be aware of what is happening during the time you are planning and schedule accordingly...the fate of a happy trip rests on it! Decide what you can tolerate and move on from there.

Play around with your dates a bit, you could get cheaper packages from Disney or airfare by just adjusting your dates by one day. WDW weekend rates are higher than weekday rates. Holiday or peak season rates are also higher than lower season rates or off months like January or February. Sunday is typically the most expensive day to fly with Monday, Friday, and Saturday being the busiest. We typically start our trip on a Tuesday or Wednesday and end on a Thursday...best way to avoid the rush and only allows for one weekend of higher rates.

You can use the Disney World website to get some ideas of potential dates and even save offers for several days until you make your decision. Airline websites will pretty much do the same. Sites like Travelocity or Expedia won't really give you a good offer off the bat unless you are willing to book right then, and you have to put up with the tons of pushing they do.

But I can't stress enough...RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! There are numerous Disney websites out there - AllEars, WDW Magic, Orlando Theme Park News, mousesavers.com, to even the official Disney blog itself is gonna give you tons of information. I have a love/hate relationship with the DisBoards, and I'm always a bit hesitant to direct people there, but in the short term, you can find out tons of info (just don't get yourself caught up in all their drama). There are tons of other websites, some less accurate than others, but you'll soon be navigating through them like a pro!

Then there are the books...I don't buy them anymore, other than the precious Birbaum's Official Walt Disney World Guide (which is more of a collectors item than a true learning tool), but the best book is The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World.

You've also got tons of podcasts, from WDW Today - with Len Testa (a co-author of the Unofficial Guide) to Mike Newell of MouseWorld Radio (to get you in the Disney mood) to Mike Scopa, a blog writer for allears.net, and Matt Hochberg, from Studios Central and brilliant host (as well as a total hottie!). Then there is the genius that is Lou Mongello at WDW Radio, who is also a co-author of an absolutely gorgeous Disney magazine called "Celebrations", as well as the author of The Walt Disney World Trivia books.

But that's about it for the first stage. Next up, what to do once you know when you wanna go.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Updates, IHSW, & TUSAL

Here we go with a combo post, frankly because I'm too lazy to split these up.

I'm two weeks into my new job and I have yet to work less than a 12 hour day (so NOT according to plan). But boy has EVERYTHING changed! I'm even more stressed out now, but it is such a good kind of stress! I leave everyday with such a sense of accomplishment! I also haven't had a headache in two weeks (and yes, I'm sure I just jinxed myself).

It hasn't been all wine and roses though. My old co-worker took on the transcription part of my job, she's doing it all by herself now. Problem with that is, when she's off, I still have to cover her. Needless to say, she was off last Thursday and Friday and it made for some incredibly hairy moments. It was even way too much for me and I snapped at people who kept bothering me (alot apparently, I heard my name and "bitch" mentioned in the same sentence quite a few times...gotta love the supersonic hearing and heightened senses that comes with Asperger's!).

But all the trauma of the past couple of days managed to scale me over a giant wall I've been ramming my head against for the past couple of weeks. I've been bogged down by this feeling of something akin to guilt by the fact that the docs didn't hire someone to try to replace me, they just divided all my other work up between several others. I've watched these people becoming more and more stressed as the days have gone by, especially since they keep insisting on coming into my new pretty office to dump their crap about how horrible work is for them now, how A is doing more work than B, it's all my fault because I took on too much responsibility in the first place, yada yada yada...blaa blaa blaa.

I may have been "rude" (someone else's word, not mine) to people both Thursday and Friday (but that's nothing new so why it was surprising I have no clue), but the utter lack of respect I was shown just made me see that all this "emotion" I've been feeling (be it guilt or something else) has been wasted on those that don't deserve it. They whine and bitch and blame, but still expect me to do the double-load and manage their lives at the same time. Suck it up and take it people...you are many, I was one and I handled everything just fine all by myself for not only the past two work days, but for the past 17 years. The only thing I feel now is sorry for the next co-worker that comes into my office to whine!

Oh, and P.S., when you piss me off, don't come into my office 10 minutes later to tell me how mean I was and expect me to be all calm and rational and apologize. I won't be over it in 10 days, let alone 10 minutes and, after all this time, these people should know that. What part of "leave me the fuck alone so I can get this mountain of work done" wasn't clear the first 5 times I told them? Expect on time 6 to get a new asshole chewed! If you don't respect me, how in the hell do you expect me to respect you by being civil?

On the diet front, I also really haven't lost any more weight in the past couple of weeks, but we've had all kinds of food events at work and I still haven't had the time to exercise. Come hell or high water tho, tomorrow I'm gettin on the bloody treadmill!!

On the International Hermit And Stitch weekend front...gosh am I completely ashamed! I stitched through about two episodes of Downton Abbey tonight and that's all! It's definitely my worst IHSW yet. But when you are working on a project you're not really into (especially one you have already done once), it's hard to keep at it. I'd like to say I accomplished a ton of other stuff instead, but that would be a lie. I played apps all day Saturday while finishing up series 3 of the Vampire Diaries, and today T and I went and saw Nemo in 3-D. But here is the sad fruits of my non-productive labor:
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As far as my Tusal goes, I can't remember what last month's looked like, so if this one was different, I would be surprised. But here it is anyway, placed on the free framed pin set I got from buying a Disney gift card:
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I have managed to get caught up on everyone's blogs (although I didn't post comments because I have been reading for several hours and I'm a pooped pup). These new work hours suck! Normally this time of night I'd normally still be at work, only to come home in a couple of hours and stitch like crazy till the sun came up. Now, I'm nodding off as I'm typing. How people get up in the morning to go to work will always baffle me. Give me a night shift anytime!

And that's about it for now! I am determined to start my new Disney OCD planning series next week (along with my own preparations for my October trip, which I am ashamedly behind on). We'll see how it all goes! Let's just hope I managed to make enough people hate me last week that I'm finally left alone this week! Hate is an emotion they can throw at me all day long, I can just put up the walls and shut them down completely. It's the easiest energy to block (love being the hardest). They are just spoiling their own vibe by filling it with useless negativity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book review

It's been forever since I've done a book review, probably because it's been forever since I've actually had a chance to read a book, but I really wanted to review this one because it really left an impression on me and that is no small feat!


I've read dozens of Jane Austen fan fiction-type books and absolutely love them, particularly either the modern day retellings or the ones where the modern people get transported to the Austen era (although not so much the so-called sequels...those tend to tread too much on the original novels toes).

There is a TV miniseries that I absolutely love called Lost In Austen which is the story of a girl completely obsessed with Pride & Prejudice and ends up swapping places with Elizabeth Bennet (not really Amanda's choice and she tries numerous times to get back only to be thwarted by a very quickly-adapting to modern times Lizzie). Although Amanda tries not to mess the storyline up, she ends up completely altering everything...Jane ends up married to Collins, Bingley runs off with Lydia, Wickham is a misunderstood hero (and pretty darn hot too), and, worst of all, she not only ends up falling for Darcy, but he ends up falling for her as well (after he gets over hating her that is).

But I never knew there were fictions about North & South, let alone bothered to even look for them. I ran across What You Wish For from Catherine Winchester and knew I just had to have it...a North & South version of Lost In Austen, what's not to love! The quality of the actual book wasn't so great, it almost looks self-published and the editing was atrocious, but that didn't seem to matter much. And I really wonder if they got Richard Armitage's permission to use his likeness on the cover (it's pretty obvious it's him, even with the artistic effects).

The basic premise is a girl named Carrie gets left a magical pair of earrings from her deceased aunt. In a "woe is me" moment, while wearing the earrings, she ends up wishing she could find a guy like Thornton, only to wake up the next morning transported to the Hale's door in Helston a couple of weeks before they leave for Milton. Carrie also tries to keep from messing up the story, but ends up falling for Thornton just as he does her, but their ending isn't as quickly a happy one (although she finally does stop fighting her feelings). Instead of swapping places with Margaret, they become like sisters, and Carrie actually follows in Margaret's footsteps from the original novel.

Because of this book, I'm definitely gonna start looking for more North & South fictions! I'd really like to see this in film as well, but unlike Darcy, there is only one John Thorton and that is Richard Armitage, so unless they can cast him, I think I'll have to pass!