Disney’s BeadForLife Kiosks

If you have read some of my other articles, you know I love to shop.  Granted, I tend to look for the best “deal”, but I love artsy, unique items that have a special meaning.  Usually these items are handmade, one of a kind and rarely inexpensive and yet I’ve found the perfect treasure right at Disney at their BeadForLife Kiosks.

Bead For Life at Disney World

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New Adult Drink at Joy of Tea in China

Not being a tea lover, I don’t usually give the Joy of Tea at Epcot’s China Pavilion a second look…

Joy of Tea Kiosk

Joy of Tea Kiosk

…but the picture on this display caught my eye, and the title stopped me dead in my tracks. Tipsy Ducks in Love?? Let’s get a closer look.

Tipsy Ducks In Love-A new adult beverage in Epcot at Joy of Tea

Tipsy Ducks In Love-A new adult beverage in Epcot at Joy of Tea

Hmmm, tea (of course), coffee, whiskey, (oooh) and chocolate (now ya got me). We had to try one of these! Although I did not see the tea/coffee/chocolate go into the cup, I did get to watch as the whiskey was generously poured over the top. Whipped cream, they asked? But of course! And I was told to stir it well before trying. (Note that there is a non-alcoholic version available for the kids too.)

Tipsy Ducks In Love-A new adult beverage in Epcot at Joy of Tea

Tipsy Ducks In Love-A new adult beverage in Epcot at Joy of Tea

This was delicious, not as sweet as I would have thought with the chocolate, wondering if a dark or more bitter chocolate was used. You could certainly taste the whiskey, but it was just the right amount to blend with the other ingredients. Tea? Coffee? I’m sure they were in there, but it was the chocolate and whiskey combination that really made this perfect.

As we turned to continue through the countries, we were stopped by the raised bridge for the Illuminations barges. So we sat and enjoyed this new drink in a bit of shade. We were approached by a woman who noted that our drink looked very refreshing (and that we really seemed to be enjoying it!) and inquired as to where we got it. I pointed out the Joy of Tea just down the hill and then watched her wander a bit near the bridge and finally turn and head down to the kiosk herself! (Leaving her perplexed family behind, no less!)

So hopefully this drink will stick around, at least through the summer. It certainly is a cup of Joy!

Eat to the Beat Concert: Howard Jones

On October 22nd I got to see someone that I haven’t seen for 27 years, someone who brought back fond memories and total nostalgia. I, once again, got to see Howard Jones in concert! Now, I’m sure some of you are probably saying “Who? I’ve never heard of him!” (Dave included), but if you were an “alternative” music child of the 80’s, when synthesizers and drum machines were the instruments of choice, then you know exactly who I am talking about.

Back in 1984 Howard Jones was a one man show, just him and a circular, revolving stage with all his keyboards, drum pads, etc. For this show, part of the Eat to the Beat concert series during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, he was joined by two other gentlemen, one on a keyboard, one with a drum kit. Howard Jones was front and center though, with his own keyboards and still the solo singer.

Howard Jones with his synthesizers at the 2011 Epcot Eat to the Beat Concert Series at Walt Disney World

Howard Jones with his synthesizers at the 2011 Epcot Eat to the Beat Concert Series at Walt Disney World

Howard Jones' drummer with his electronic drum kit at the 2011 Epcot Eat to the Beat Concert Series at Walt Disney World

Howard Jones’ drummer with his electronic drum kit at the 2011 Epcot Eat to the Beat Concert Series at Walt Disney World

Like the rest of us (the audience was mixed, but it was the 40 something women who were truly enjoying themselves) he looked a little older, a little rounder in the face, had a little less hair. But when he sang “No One Is To Blame”, I was that high school student all over again, cranking my Dream Into Action cassette in my ’73 Volkswagen so loud the metal dashboard rattled.

Some of the 40 something women who were truly enjoying themselves...

Some of the 40 something women who were truly enjoying themselves…

Unfortunately I only caught one of his shows that evening. Each show lasts about 30 minutes and he performs different songs for each set, so if you stuck around for all three shows you would enjoy the complete concert experience. Traffic in World Showcase was especially (or maybe typically) congested that Saturday and we just couldn’t get back to the stage to catch any more. I got my fix, though, and it was fantastic. Time has treated Mr. Jones well, his voice is still strong and he’s still a handsome Englishman. Hopefully he will continue to be part of the Eat to the Beat concert lineup in the future, his show was truly a bonus to this Disney trip!

You can view the rest of the photos from this show at our SmugMug Gallery!

Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2011

Well, it’s almost time for us to visit the happiest place during happiest time of year – Walt Disney World during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival! If there was one thing we learned from our last trip, it’s that you can’t do it all in a weekend! Last year was our first visit during the Food and Wine Fest and it was also unfortunately the last weekend of the event. We were overwhelmed (but truly what did we expect?) by the masses lined up at the booths. Much to our dismay, we were unable to take full advantage of all the unique and diverse culinary samples that we were so looking forward to.

Last November’s trip was during a free dining period, which was great for use of our snack credits at the booths. We also had the kids with us, it was fun for them to try some new foods, but they weren’t as focused on the Fest as we adults wanted to be. I had planned an entire itinerary of the offerings at the different booths, which was the best use of our snack credits, which dishes were most recommended or sounded the most interesting, the drinks we really wanted to try,etc. etc. Well, none of that really happened. We sampled maybe 4 or 5 different things (the favorite being the Grilled Beef Skewer at Argentina), I did get to try the Prosecco in Italy (it was ok, but I’ll try something else this year) but we didn’t even get the best use of our snack credit with the Lobster Roll (at the Hops and Barley booth) or enjoy the escargot in France (something I knew I wouldn’t have to share with the kids!)

So this year we are going in October, we will have 2 days that are not over a weekend to take full advantage of all the mouth-watering offerings. We hope to even attend one of the Culinary or Wine and Beverage Seminars. And we are going without the kids. We know now what to expect in the crowd level and I’ll condense the itinerary to be a bit more manageable.

Does anyone else have a “plan of attack” for the Food and Wine Fest? We would love to hear other suggestions, still being novices at this event, any planning tips would be greatly appreciated!

Howard Jones at Epcot!

Humor me if you will for a moment. I am one of those 40-somethings who is still living in the 80’s. At least when it comes to my music. Much to my kid’s disgust, I sing along in the car anytime a Depeche Mode song comes on. (And I found a good radio station, so it’s a lot more then they deserve. Not many people hear me sing for good reason). So you can imagine my utter delight when I found out that Howard Jones will be performing at the Eat To The Beat Concerts October 22nd and 23rd when we will be in Disney for the Pixelmania weekend!

Howard Jones (opening for The Thompson Twins) was my first-ever concert in 1984 at the Garden State Arts Center (now the PNC Arts Center) in Holmdel NJ. Oh how I wish I still had my t-shirt! Now my i-pod has only The Best of Howard Jones, alas my Dream into Action and Human’s Lib cassettes are long gone, but I still know all the words to the songs. (Sorry kids, October will seem like it will never get here!)

As if a trip to The World wasn’t enough to look forward to, now I can also appease a bit of my high school nostalgia. Howard Jones will be performing at the America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase October 22nd and 23rd at 5:15pm, 6:30pm and 7:45pm. The concert is free with Epcot admission. Stay tuned for my review and pictures! (And I will try not to embarrass Dave too much if I decide to dress like Cyndi Lauper for a day!)

Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper

Planning for our first Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Although I have been fortunate enough to visit the magical world of Disney four times over the past three years, I have yet to experience this wonderful thing they call the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. This is a perfect combination of my three favorite things! I grew up with a mother who took cooking classes from the Culinary Institute of America, James Beard and Richard Grausman, the American Representative for Le Cordon Bleu. We currently live in the New York Finger Lakes Region which boasts some of the finest up and coming wines like Riesling and Pinot Noir. And it’s all at Disney! I feel as if they created this festival just for me!

As soon as this year’s festival map was out, I printed myself a copy. Before the festival even started I was highlighting the food I wished to try. I tried to get the kids excited, but my son, who has food allergies and a picky appetite, was only interested in the German booth’s offering of the Sausage in a Pretzel Roll. My daughter, who is a bit more adventurous, was at first turned off by the “wine” reference, but as soon as she saw sushi on Japan’s menu, she was hooked.

Unfortunately this year our trip starts on the next to the last day of the festival. No matter, that will give me plenty of time to research the reviews so I can plan accordingly. Daily I have been reading the Disney Food Blog and the AllEars websites for updates and pictures. I have been highlighting my map in different colors, what I wish to try, what looks good, what people recommend, etc. I have been noting pricing too, since we are traveling during a “free dining” promotion, I want to get the most out of my snack credits. (Did you know you could use your snack credits towards the sample plates? How awesome is that??) So far, the best deal looks like the $7.25 Lobster Roll available at the Hops and Barley Marketplace. And it looks delicious too! Most plates are very reasonably priced from $2.50 to $5.00 for a more than adequate sample.

But this festival is more than just food; it’s also wine, and other beverages, both adult and kid friendly. The beer selections don’t interest me as much. I like good beer, (you won’t catch me drinking a Budweiser) but I want to focus more on drinks that I couldn’t get at my local bar. I had a harder time finding reviews on the drinks being offered. (I would think after about 3 drinks you could hardly walk straight much less form a cognitive opinion!) And unfortunately they are not considered a “snack” and although the wine seems to be reasonably priced, the mixed drinks tend to be substantially more expensive than the food.

Let’s start with the food. I have 10 “definite” booths I would like to try, 12 items total. The top of my list includes that Lobster Roll, Japan’s Tuna Sensation and Argentina’s Grilled Beef Skewer. And I will have to try France’s Escargot Persillade en Brioche. (My kids probably won’t even walk near a booth that serves snails!) And Belgium’s Steamed Mussels look heavenly. It was really hard to narrow this list down! I have 9 “maybe” booths, food that had mixed reviews or just doesn’t look as appetizing in the pictures. And I originally had 7 “skips” until I read more reviews and two of those booths had inexpensive items that came highly recommended. (Poland’s Pork Stuffed Cabbage and Puerto Rico’s Medianoche Sandwich each for only $2.75) And we’ll only be there for the last two days!

Now the drinks. I think that wine will be my beverage of choice for the most part. There are 18 booths that have wine (including South Korea’s Rice Wine and Ireland’s Honey Wine). I have tried wines from some of these countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand even South Africa and Chile, but I have never had Italy’s sparkling Prosecco or a Moroccan Sangria. A Chardonnay from China? Yes, I’m going to have to try that one. Glasses of wine seem to start at only $2.50 each (although I have no idea what the pour size is, it is difficult to judge in some of the pictures and they may vary from booth to booth) and the most expensive is Canada’s Ice Wine at $5.75. Alright, I’ll admit there are a couple of other drinks I may have to try; Poland’s Vodka Strawberry Balsamic Chiller just sounds interesting. And how can anyone pass up a Godiva Chocolate Liqueur Iced Coffee from Belgium?

And although it may be hard to think about after all that, there are still some desserts I would like to try too. 13 of the 27 booths are offering something for the sweet tooth, including one that is exclusively Desserts and Champagne. Belgium’s Waffles seem to be a big hit in the reviews and they are one of the less expensive choices at only $2.75. I’m a sucker for a bread pudding (Boma and Tusker House have the best) so I will have to try the Pecan Bread Pudding from the Hops and Barley Stand. (Actually, I may end up using all my credits at Hops and Barley. Now if they only sold wine…) And even though we live pretty close to Canada, I have never had the famed British Columbian Nanaimo bar and from the sounds of it, this one is pretty good.

So does anyone else have a plan of attack for the Festival? Have you already been there and can offer suggestions or tips? Any idea if in past years, booths would “wrap up early” towards the end of the festival and we might miss out on anything? I would love to hear from you to help make the most out of those last two days. And if nothing else, I’m sure it will all be a learning experience for the hopefully longer trip we can plan for next year!

All Four Disney World Parks in One Day

I once read an article about the challenge of riding 10 Magic Kingdom rides/attractions before 10am. It can be done according to the person who wrote it, and I don’t doubt for a moment that it’s true. The majority of our trips to Disney have been somewhat commando-style, with detailed plans organized by extra magic hours and park layout. So our last trip we challenged ourselves to do all 4 parks in one day. (So you don’t think we are totally crazy, we did not have the kids with us on this trip.) Our idea wasn’t to do as much as possible at each park, but just to do our favorites and enjoy a few special things that each park has to offer.

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Is EPCOT for Kids?

The simple answer is yes, EPCOT is a wonderful place for kids of all ages. But by reading around on the Internet it seems many people are not sure if their children would be interested in visiting EPCOT. Rest assured that besides having some of the most innovative rides on Disney property, such as Soarin’, Test Track, Mission: SPACE, and Ellen’s Energy Adventure, EPCOT is loaded with fun, interesting, educational, and entertaining activities for every age group.

First, all of the non-ride attractions are acceptable for all ages. Innoventions is full of educational activities and experiences. The JAMMitors perform their trashcan percussion [Read more…]

The First Day of Our First Disney Trip

Not only was this our first big trip to modern day Disney World, it is the first time the kids ever flew on a plane!

There's our plane!!!

There’s our plane!!!

We had a direct flight from Rochester, NY (leaving at 9:18am) to Orlando, Fl (arriving at 11:55am). Two hours and 37 minutes. A quick flight, but seemingly endless wait to finally arrive in Florida for the vacation we had been looking forward to for almost six months. The flight was smooth and uneventful. I always enjoy flying and hoped to share that with the kids for their first flight. I wanted to point out the acceleration on take off and reassure them when they heard the clunking of the retracting landing gear. I guess they were too distracted by the destination, since the kids had no noticeable enthusiasm for their first ride on an airplane. Or maybe they just aren’t as geeky as I am… [Read more…]