Wednesday 31 October 2012


As we approach this special time of year I thought I would share what Halloween means to me and share some memories, and wishes.

A friend of mine the other day when discussing this time of year said to me that 'Halloween is as synonymous with me as Disney is'!!  Which kind of surprised me, but it got me thinking.

Over here in the UK Halloween can be frowned up...often talked about in derogatory tones and bemoaned as an 'American' holiday.  Yet in recent years this holiday has become more embraced by the British public and whilst we struggle with the concept of 'Trick or Treating' we love the excuse for a party!

So over the last seven years we have celebrated Halloween in style.  And over the years shops have also embraced this holiday resulting in a greater array of costumes and accessories with which to get 'into the spirit'!!

So it's time to decorate the house, dig out the horror make-up, mix up the cocktails and decide on what this years fancy dress should be.

We have been everything from Vampires, Evil Sorcerers, Mad Scientists, Zombie Doctor & Nurse and even Cruella De Vil but this year....what to be.....perhaps Simon's artwork for our party may give you an idea...

But each year the best thing about Halloween is it gives us a really good excuse to throw a party and hang out with those people we hold dear.  A chance to eat and drink (Simon makes a mean Cosmo!!), catch-up with good friends and if we're really lucky we dust off the old karaoke machine!

But there is one thing that I haven't yet done at Halloween....and it involves a little bit of Disney...I would love to attend Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in Walt Disney World.  To see the Magic Kingdom dressed up in style, to trick or treat down Main Street, to see the parade and everything else that goes with it!  We came close one year when at the end of our Summer holiday we saw the beginning of the decorations being put up, but that's as close as we've got.

Ah well, gives me something to dream about ;)

Wednesday 24 October 2012


Well we've reached a milestone's exactly 300 days until our next WDW vacation - yippee!!

So, what does this mean exactly?  Well, not a lot's just a nice round figure and gives me chance to talk more Disney :)

Now I booked next year's vacation back in April which may seem a little far ahead but I have good reasons.

Firstly we have to go during UK school holidays, so in order to guarantee getting the dates that I wanted, the hotel and more importantly the price I had to book early. Also, it's probably the control freak in me needing to know that everything is sorted!

Secondly it means I have longer to pay for it; going anywhere these days isn't cheap and when you have two children who no longer fit into the 'child goes free' bracket money is a big factor to take into consideration, and if I can ease the burden by paying a bit each month all the better.

And thirdly I just had to get it booked!!!  I knew that it was going to be 2 years between trips so I needed to get it booked to get that Disney fix and have something to look forward to.  After all, part of the fun of a Disney holiday is the build up and the anticipation :)

So let the planning this space as I endeavour to keep you all up-to-date with the latest vacation happenings!

Sunday 21 October 2012

My Family and Other Vinylmations

Due to having a very talented husband myself, family and friends now find ourselves immortalised in Vinylmation form.

Vinylmations are a plastic figure, in the shape of Mickey Mouse that have been painted to represent all sorts of themes and characters and are available from Disney in their parks and stores.  They have become a collectors delight and have a huge following amongst Disney fans.  They are issued in sets and are bought blind, so part of the fun is trying to get a complete set and then 'swapping' or 'trading' any duplicates.

Over the course of our last few visits to WDW and Disneyland we have, ourselves, purchased the odd one or fact our son has enjoyed the challenge of finding those knocked down in price and then 'trading' duplicates in order to get the illusive full set!

And for the artistic amongst you there are blank, plain white, vinylmations to buy and 'decorate' yourself.  Now for Simon this was too big a challenge to pass up, as soon as we saw Vinylmations for the first time in the parks he started talking about how fun it would be to paint one and then low and behold we discovered the blank ones!

Initially Simon decided to paint me and him;

Me and Simon with the stack of 365 Mickeys Project
When Simon posted pictures of these online he was 'hassled' by fellow Disney fans to recreate them in plastic as a compromise (and not wanting to infringe any Disney copyright) Simon created a couple of 2D drawn images for friends Christy & Emma.

But Simon couldn't stop there and after a friend in Japan had sent us a Vinylmation all the way from Tokyo he decided to repay the favour and re-create our friend, Nana, Vinylmation style.

Along with a special commission from Emma

And after the success of creating Simon and I in plastic form our two kids were keen to see themselves as 3 inch high figures, so with a weeks holiday presenting itself Simon set himself the task of creating the rest of our family;

The four of us, and me with new eyes - Simon decided to re-do them!!
Not bad going, the detail is amazing and likenesses are uncanny!

Sunday 14 October 2012

Confessions of a Runner!!

Well it's a week since my last running update and I feel the need to write another update....but it's a little tricky to write an update about nothing!

So my confession is that this week I have not been out running :(

The week started off great, a lovely (if hard work) Sunday morning run in the autumn sunshine so my plan was to run on Wednesday, but two things came along.  Firstly that was the night my weekly shop was being delivered and secondly I have contracted my first post-summer cold.  Not to be deterred I thought 'I'll go out at the weekend', so here we are at the weekend and guess what still full of cold.  In fact both Simon and I have been struck down with it and are both feeling rather grumpy and sorry for ourselves and both bemoaning the fact that we can't get out for a run.

So I suppose the good thing is that the desire for a run is there but the energy and health required is somewhat only thought is how hard is the next run going to be once this cold is over with!!!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

So you're going to the Theme Parks!!

This post was inspired by a recent tweet from fellow Disney fanatic, friend and blogger Emma, who when talking about her upcoming visit to WDW was asked the question 'so you'll be visiting the theme parks?'

Often when telling people where I'm off to on vacation I get greeted with a look of puzzlement and a 'oh you're going to the theme parks' with a heavy hint of disdain, and slight disbelief - people do not get it do they?

So here is my little rant about why I don't do beach holidays and my attempt to explain why WDW is more than 'just theme parks'.

It can be very frustrating, and exasperating, when, as a UK based Disney obsessed individual, you encounter those who have no grasp about WDW, those who when finding out you're off to Orlando say 'oh you're going to Disneyland'....err NO!!!  Now I know that I need to exercise patience and understanding but sometimes it can be very difficult.

So before we go any further lets just clarify something - DisneyLAND is the original Disney theme park and is located in Anaheim, Los Angeles (US west coast).  Walt Disney WORLD is the second Disney theme park and is located between Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida (US east coast) - everyone OK with that?!!

Here in the UK when it comes to vacations we tend to head for somewhere where we can at least guarantee some warm weather as the UK can be somewhat unreliable when it comes to spells of good weather.  Staying in the UK means having to pack for all occasions - heat, cold, rain, wind and that's in the middle of summer.

So those of us that can afford to tend to head for the sun...which often means a 'beach' type holiday.  Now I have a few problems with a beach holiday;
  • Firstly, I am fair skinned, so the thought of sitting all day on the beach, or by a pool, is simply not an option unless I want to look like a lobster!
  • A beach vacation is all about chilling out and doing as little as possible - not something that I am very good at, I like to be up and doing stuff.
  • And if I did manage to 'chill out' I have two children who, I know, after a couple of days of not doing much would be hassling me with 'mum....I'm bored', 'mum....what can I do?'...
But a vacation to WDW, in my opinion, means the best of all worlds:
  • Good weather
  • Plenty to do
  • And time to chill
Now I won't dispute the fact that there are plenty of theme parks at WDW, but they are more than just theme parks, they offer so much more.  They are a truly immersive experience; the theming, the atmosphere and the attention to detail all make it more than just the thrill rides that are traditionally associated with the term 'theme park'.

Yes it's a ride - Splash Mountain, Magic Kingdom, August 2011
Also WDW is not just theme parks it is a resort, a self contained community that provides everything that you could need for that well deserved vacation.  There are beautifully themed hotels (to suit all budgets), excellent water parks as well as pools at all the hotels, fantastic shopping, a wide range of eating places from fast food to high-end dining, sports facilities, spa's, health clubs, behind the scenes tours, Broadway quality entertainment, fireworks, parades, special events and really is so much more then 'just theme parks'.

Shopping!  Mouse Gear - Epcot August 2011
Sport - well, mini golf! Fantasia Gardens, August 2011

There is also that sense of something magical, something that you can't quite put your finger on, something that to a WDW virgin is very hard to explain and convey without sounding like a completely deranged individual!  There is a special quality to visiting WDW, where you can suspend the trappings of normal everyday routines and indulge in a fantasy, in make believe, in a magical place.

But it's just for kids isn't it?  NO!!  When we first visited back in 1991 there was just me and Simon, and we fell in love with what we experienced, so much so that we came back the following two years dragging first Simon's parents and then my parents and brother with us, eager for them to experience the same feeling as us and share in the memories. Visiting with children does bring another dynamic to a visit and watching their faces is a truly wonderful thing, but as Walt said 'Adults are only kids grown up, anyways'.

A visit to WDW brings people together and creates memories and experiences that last a life time and ones that you want to keep experiencing again and again.

Cheers! Chilling by the pool with a mango margarita - Port Orleans French Quarter, August 2011

Sunday 7 October 2012

Running along....

So how's the running going then?

Well, I'm still not getting out for a run as often as I would like but I am trying to make the effort when life allows.

So this last week has involved another trip to the theatre, shopping, children at karate and the lovely wet British weather so once again my attempts to get out and run have been thwarted.

So we get to a busy Saturday and I say to Simon 'I really need to get out for a run, we're too busy today so how about we go running tomorrow first thing'.  Now I'm not really a morning person but this morning we were up and out the door before breakfast!

So I had my first experience of a morning run on a beautiful autumnal morning in the countryside, watching the mist get burned off by the warming sun.  It was not the easiest run I've ever had but I did it and managed 25 minutes.  

I definitely earnt my coffee and brioche breakfast :)

Tuesday 2 October 2012

WDW Planning - When to go?

When planning that trip to WDW the timing of said trip has to be considered, and there are quite a few factors that can make this not as straightforward as you might think.

So what goes through my head when thinking about visiting WDW?

Before we can continue you have to remember the following:
    1. I live in the UK
    2. I have 2 children and a husband to consider
    3. I work in education
    4. I want to do it all
I suppose the first thing that I have to consider is school term times.  Over here in the UK schools are really quite strict about taking children out of school, especially as my two are now at secondary school, and any requests for holiday time are rarely granted.  A couple of years ago I needed 2 days of holiday for my eldest and had to fight tooth and nail to get it - the irony being that once we got to the US and were ready to come home we were stranded because of the Icelandic volcano incident!

As I manage a pre-school my vacation time is restricted as well....although being the boss does mean that I can be a little more flexible!

Simon works in video games and every couple of years we hit 'crunch' time as a game gets close to being finished and the result is that we often end up with a 3 to 6 month period of 'no vacation time allowed'.

So having taken all that into consideration, our choice of when we can go to WDW is almost a cut and dried decision as the school terms become the driving force in our decision making process.  This means having to pick 2 weeks to coincide with the school breaks so either Easter, Christmas or during late July & August.  The problem with Easter and Christmas is that UK schools only have a 2 week break which makes getting that booking both time critical and expensive.  This then leaves our summer break giving us a 6 week window to get that vacation sorted.  But yet again this means an expensive time of year to go.  However, a tip I can offer is that going as late in that 6 week window as possible can often coincide with a drop in prices (not much of a drop but enough of one to make it worth doing).

The other advantage to visiting during the summer is that travel companies will have special 'deals' which often means being able to take advantage of things like the Disney Dining Plan for free!

But there are other things that could/should be taken into consideration if you have your pick of the year....

What time of the year?  Visiting WDW during summer means that all the parks will be open, and are open longer than at any other time of the year.  This can also mean that there could be extra parades, shows and fireworks meaning that you have a lot more time and choice to cram everything in, but.....

What about the crowds?  It goes without saying that some times of the year are more crowded than others, and this may have an effect on when you choose to go.  Christmas, Easter and summer are the most crowded which can result in lots of queues, long waits for the most popular rides and having to plan your days carefully in order to get everything you want to get done into your vacation time.  Whereas less crowded times of the year can give you greater freedom to tour around at your own pace, the ability to get on rides and into attractions with relative ease, but there is a possible downside as these times of the year lend themselves to closures of rides, entertainment and even a water park for that ever important essential maintenance.

What about the weather - isn't it always hot and sunny?  Well not always...summer in Florida (especially for visitors from the UK) is HOT, although there are those wonderful heavy downpours of rain and spectacular thunderstorms to look forward to.  Late summer runs the risk of tropical storms and hurricanes, then there's the high humidity levels that Florida is known  for and even the winter months can get chilly, especially at night time.

What else is there to take into consideration?  Well there are all the special events that you may be interested in that might dictate when to go.  There are numerous Run Disney events (marathon, half marathon and fun run weekends), Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, Halloween, Christmas, Star Wars Weekends, Fourth of July Celebration, New Years Eve Celebration.....what is a girl to do?

Oh decisions, decisions......I think I shall just have to make a plan to visit at every time of the year for research purposes so that I can be fully informed when making that all important choice of when to go... ;)