Tuesday 31 December 2013

Out with the old and in with the New!

Here we are nearly at the end of one year and the beginning of another.

The run up to Christmas was a mixture of last minute shopping, present wrapping and catching up with friends. We finally got around to seeing friends Phil & Lauren who we had met for the first time during our visit to WDW this past Summer.  We had met during a WDW Radio Meet of the Month at Blizzard Beach and discovered that we only lived just over an hour away from each other!  It really is a 'small world after all'!

I then spent a few hours chatting with my good friend and podcast co-host Michelle as we recorded our second official podcast for the Disney Dream Girls podcast.  We talked Disney Dining plans and took a tour of the New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom...go on have a listen :) find us on i-tunes and subscribe for future episodes!

Christmas Eve is a special day in our house as it's our eldest's birthday so to celebrate we had a trip to the local cinema where we divided and conquered...the boys saw the next installment of The Hobbit whilst us girls saw Frozen - which we both loved! Fabulous music, beautiful storytelling and enchanting animation; a winner all round.  We finished the day off with a gigantic chocolate cake!

Christmas Day was a day for family as we all came together to celebrate the season, exchange presents and eat too much food.

Our Boxing Day (for any non-British out there this is what we call the day after Christmas Day, it has its origins in days of old when servants who had to work Christmas Day would be allowed home the following day carrying boxes of gifts)...anyway this Boxing Day we jumped in the car and headed a couple of hours South to see some more friends made through our love of Disney to partake in a BBQ!  Yes that's right a BBQ in the middle of Winter...thankfully the food was brought inside to eat so we all stayed nice and warm. A big thank you to Mark and Tara for providing the hospitality, food, drink and Disney based games :)

The last few days have been a lot quieter and have given us all the time to relax and chill out and enjoy a few days not doing very much at all!  Although Michelle and I did manage to get together to chat all things Disney and prepare for our next podcast, I even had a few lessons in audio editing!

And that brings us to today...New Years Eve...and the end of 2013.  We have an evening planned at my best friends New Years Eve party which should be an evening of fun, laughter, food and drink and I can't think of a better way to see one year out and another year in than spending it with people you love and care about.

I don't know what 2014 will have in store but I do know one thing it will be shared with friends and family who mean the world to me.  So wherever you are I wish you all every happiness for the year ahead, I hope the year is filled with dreams come true and spent with those you love - see you in 2014 and whatever it may bring xx

Saturday 21 December 2013

Holidays are here...

Well yesterday was my last day at work for two whole weeks...woo hoo!!

OK, so I may have finished work but I have still have 'work' to do...so although I won't be physically going to work I do have some paperwork to get done!  I'm hoping to get that done in the next couple of days so that I can enjoy the holidays.

So what has the last few days brought about?  After completing our Christmas concerts at the beginning of the week we had a relatively calm end to the week.  Lots of Christmas music, party games and party food for the children and the adults had fun too :)  Although the last couple of days were all about looking forward to the New Year, getting new systems in place, new ways of doing things and this also meant taking down the Christmas decorations - a very strange thing to have to do just before Christmas.

Yesterday evening was spent with my best friends; we had a girly evening in with nibbles and drinks, a few giggles and plenty of chatter :) A lovely way to start the festive celebrations.

Today has been a quiet day; a few last minute shopping trips but otherwise a quiet day with Simon drawing, me typing and movies on the TV.

So the holidays are here...let the festivities commence!

Monday 16 December 2013

A Busy Time of Year

Well since I last wrote it's been a busy old time...

Work has seen us concentrating on rehearsals for our Christmas concerts as well as making props and creating scenery whilst juggling all the usual day-to-day happenings.

Friday night was our Christmas Party...an evening out at a local pub for food, drink and dancing and a good night was had by all.

Then we get to the fun stuff...decorating our main Christmas tree.  On Saturday we put the tree up in our living room; it's a real live tree and normally involves a lot of effort and some frustration as we struggle to get it straight and in the best position.  But this year we have a new tree stand, a German engineered tree stand no less.  It was so simple; the tree went in, we held it in place and hey presto one tree in exactly the right position in under 3 minutes!
Tree in position!
This tree is all Disney...all the decorations have been collected over the years with a number bought in either Walt Disney World or Disneyland Paris.  However a number have been bought from the Disney Store either in person or online.

These were some of the first that were bought, and they were bought for me by Simon during work visits to the US in the early 1990's.
And still in their original boxes
Unpacking the decorations

A few princesses :)
The weekend was then made complete with our daughter's guitar Christmas concert followed by a night of comedy as we went to see British comedienne Sarah Millican; who was absolutely brilliant.

The start to the week saw our first Christmas concert performance at pre-school...which went surprisingly well!  We even had some of our children stand up and do solo performances which for 3 & 4 year olds was amazing and beautiful to see.

So what will the rest of this week bring...

Tuesday 10 December 2013

A Disney Birthday

So since I last wrote I have had my birthday...and as I am a lady I will not be revealing my age but suffice to say I wasn't 21!!

And who would have guessed that my presents had a distinctly Disney vibe about them!!

From a copy of Monster's University on Blu-Ray to a Disney Traditions figurine to some jewellery and a book.

My Disney Traditions figure is of Mickey as Santa, so rather appropriate for the season.  He will sit nicely along side some other Disney Traditions figures that I have as well as some Department 56 models, and although a lot of them embrace the Christmas season I have them on display all year round.

My piece of jewellery is another piece of Disney Couture to add to my collection; it is an unusual necklace called Dr X Nuts & Bolts Mickey Mouse necklace that has an asymmetric clasp...just need an excuse to wear it now!

Tried to take a few shots of the necklace to pick up some of the detail in it.

My birthday also saw the start of a series of podcasts by the Disney Dream Girls entitled 'Minxmas'.  Co-host Michelle had the idea whilst still broadcasting as the Minnie Minxes; so as Michelle had already approached a number of podcasts to get involved, we decided to go ahead and launch our little countdown to Christmas Disney Dream Girls style.  So each day we will have other Disney and Orlando themed podcasts joining us to talk all about Christmas; their thoughts, ideas and memories.  Our first episode in this series sees myself and Michelle talking about what Christmas means to us with a little Disney twist :)

Sunday 8 December 2013

A Little Catchup

So what have I been up to since my last post...well let's see...

The last few days of the week have all been about preparation for the weekend, and more specifically my pre-school's Christmas Fair.  An annual fundraiser that is great fun and raises much needed cash to keep our pre-school going.

Friday night saw me baking...muffins and cupcakes are my speciality!  They may not be fantastically decorated but boy do they taste good (even if I do say so myself!).  So I made blueberry muffins, apple & cinnamon muffins, chocolate chip muffins and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and a bit of Christmassy silver shimmer!

Saturday saw me don my elf outfit as I took up my traditional role of designated Santa's helper for the day.  The morning was spent getting the stalls ready for the afternoon when Santa arrived and opened our fair.  I looked after Santa in his grotto and saw lots of very happy (and a few scared looking) faces as children came along to see him.  We had a great afternoon and managed to raise £920 for my pre-school which was absolutely fantastic.

Then Saturday evening I was out with Simon to go see White Lies at our local concert venue, the infamous Rock City Nottingham.  A venue we used to frequent in our younger days and hasn't really changed; it was great to reminisce and see a fantastic performance by the White Lies.  I've been wanting to see this band for ages and it was great to finally see them and in such an iconic venue.  I would highly recommend seeing them, they put on a great performance.

Then to today, well we had an early start as our youngest was off to school...for rehearsals for the school production that happens this week.  She is part of the back stage crew!

I then had the pleasure of chatting with my good friend and co-host of the Disney Dream Girls, Michelle, as we recorded two pieces for upcoming shows.  Firstly we have the start of 'Minxmas' on the 9th December, which is the coming together of various Disney and Orlando themed podcasts as we all share our Christmas thoughts and memories.  And then we recorded our first proper episode of the Disney Dream Girls where we get chance to hear Jim Korkis share his passion for Disney, and talk all about princesses.

So a busy few days I think you'll agree...busy but very productive!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

A little Christmas Shopping

Another day of work that was finished off with a little Christmas shopping.

My daughter wanted to buy some gifts for her friends so off we went into our local town centre in search of presents for teenage girls!!  Thankfully she had an idea of what she wanted to buy them so it was a lot less of a painful experience than I was expecting.

Our next stop was to buy her a Christmas jumper...when we got to the shop there was hardly any left but of those that were there was thankfully the one she had wanted - phew!  I had bought myself a Christmas jumper a couple of weeks ago...with a Disney twist of course!!
Festive Minnie Mouse with a touch of bling
And when we got home we discovered a Christmas Tree waiting for us in our garage; courtesy of my lovely Dad who every year fetches a tree for me :)  Just got to decide when to put it up and decorate it Disney style!

Tuesday 3 December 2013

And now I podcast...

Well I am now adding another string to my bow and joining my good friend Michelle in hosting a podcast...all about...well what else could it be but Disney!

Michelle has previously been one half of The Minnie Minxes but when her partner in crime decided to step away from the show Michelle decided to start afresh and asked me to join her.

We are now the Disney Dream Girls podcast!

Simon has been very busy over the last few days and evenings putting together some fabulous artwork for our new blog, podcast and twitter. While Michelle has been busy planning and editing our first few episodes.

The last two episodes of The Minnie Minxes were recorded a few weeks ago and feature Michelle and myself discussing various elements of our latest WDW trips; a review of the Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream Soda Shop and Dine with an Imagineer as well as us answering some listener questions and Michelle setting me the challenge of planning a weekend at WDW with no expense spared! (not as easy as you might think!).  These episodes can now be found on the Disney Dream Girls i-tunes feed for your enjoyment.

We are also launching for the Christmas season an idea that Michelle had whilst still producing the Minxes called Minxmas...a celebration of Christmas Disney style with contributions from some of our favourite podcasts from around the world.  Minxmas starts on Monday 9th December so please pop by and have a listen.

The Disney Dream Girls then starts in full effect on Monday 16th December when we have a chat all about princesses!

I really hope you can find the time to give myself and Michelle a listen, and if you like what you hear subscribe to us in i-tunes and stay in touch every two weeks with our thoughts and take on all things Disney, but especially WDW :)

Monday 2 December 2013

Nativity Rehearsals

Thought I would do a little diary entry in this run up to Christmas...so what has today brought?

Well it's been kind of an ordinary sort of day.  It was work as normal although it was filled with Christmas music and Christmas concert rehearsals.

We have decided to do a fairly traditional Nativity this year with a few familiar Christmas songs thrown in at the end for good measure.  So we have been casting roles and deciding on 'stage' layouts - OK so it's not an actual stage just a large floor space but we can dream!  And tomorrow we attempt our first run through with narration; so far we have just been learning the songs.  Next it will be convincing the children that they do want to 'be a sheep' or 'how about a snowman'!!

I do know that the staff know the songs as they all seemed to be singing them as we left for the day...although I don't think they realised they were singing them...

Sunday 1 December 2013

'Tis the Season...

So here we are...the 1st December and the Christmas season has begun.  So let me start for apologising for not writing a new blog post sooner but things have been a little busy of late.

Working in a pre-school at this time of year means lots of things to do from sorting out Christmas presents for all of the children (69 at the last count!) to organising our Christmas Fair fundraiser to preparing for our Christmas concert! Rehearsals have begun already, and we've been singing Christmas songs for the past week!

I have also been working with a good friend of mine, Michelle who was co-host of The Minnie Minxes Disney podcast.  Unfortunately The Minnie Minxes are no more but from the ashes of one podcast rises another - the Disney Dream Girls podcast hosted by Michelle and yours truly!  Simon is busy creating us some artwork and you can already find us on i-tunes.  So if you would like to hear a couple of British ladies talking passionately about their Disney passion give us a listen and join in the fun. Or you can follow us on Twitter @DisDreamGirls, or myself @JaynePhipps for all the latest thoughts and news.

And as today is the beginning of December I have been rather busy getting the house and garden ready for the festivities.  With the help of Simon we have decked the fences and the pathways with lights and my favourite Santa, Snowman and Penguin have taken up their usual position.
Outside lights not captured very well on camera but the sky is beautiful!

This will greet me every night I come home from work :)

My favourite 'illuminations'!

Inside I have dotted around the house numerous Christmas ornaments and two of my three trees are now up and decorated.  I have one tree that is decorated in Gisella Graham ornaments...
Love these quirky decorations
...and then a black tree that is covered in all things silver and white.  
My sophisticated tree, with an appropriate movie poster behind it!
A little Disney has already worked its way in... 
Some of my Department 56 models

Two new Jingle Smells vinylmations

And a little Winnie the Pooh!

...but it won't be until later in the month when we put up a real tree that the full Disney affect is felt!!

I am hoping to get a few more blog posts out throughout December and let you know how my run up to Christmas is going...I might even manage to get some more posts completed about our latest vacation...:)  See you soon x

Thursday 14 November 2013

WDW Day 5

So here we are on day 5 of our WDW vacation and today was a bit of a special day for us, because today we got to meet a good friend for the first time in person.

Through the wonder of the internet we had become friends with a certain Mr Lou Mongello of the WDW Radio Show. Over the years we had emailed the show and got involved through Simon's artwork with various charity auctions organised by Lou raising money for the Make-a-Wish foundation.  But despite visiting WDW a couple of times since listening to the WDW Radio Show we had never been able to time our visits to coincide with a 'Meet of the Month'...until now!

Today's 'Meet of the Month' was to be at Blizzard Beach, meeting at 8.30am/9.00am at the entrance, so this meant an early start.  So being prepared we had bought donuts the evening before and had a breakfast of coffee, powerade (the kids drink of choice) and donuts sat on the balcony to our room - a fine way to start the day I think you'll agree!

So by 8.00am we were ready to set off for Blizzard Beach.  When we arrived at the hotel bus stop we found that an Animal Kingdom bus had just turned up.  Now usually this bus displayed that it would be stopping at Blizzard Beach but this one didn't.  So Simon jumped on board to find out from the driver what best to do.  She explained that it was too early for the buses to start going to Blizzard Beach.  So Simon explained that we were meeting people at park opening and that was why we thought we would get an early bus. The driver then said 'get on board and I'll drop you after Animal Kingdom'.  Brilliant and how kind of the driver...and then she dropped us off first before even getting to the Animal Kingdom!!  Another bit of Disney magic!!

So we arrived at Blizzard Beach and made our way to the park entrance and the group of people already lining up to get into the park and there amongst them was Lou and his family and other WDW Radio friends (after all we are all friends those of us that listen to Lou, even if we haven't actually met!).

We then had a fun packed few hours (in fact probably the best time we've spent in a water park!) hanging out with our WDW Radio friends and going on plenty of rides together.  We met a large number of fellow British WDW Radio listeners who have now joined our list of 'Disney Friends' :)

Simon was armed with the Go-Pro camera and managed to capture some great footage of us plummeting down various rides.  We had great fun riding down Steamboat Springs a couple of times and why is it that I always end up going backwards?! We rode Runoff Rapids as well as Toboggan Racers and Downhill Douple Dipper and the kids had a float around Cross Country Creek whilst we got to know our new friends.

Runoff Rapids

Teamboat Springs

Lunch was turkey legs for the kids, BBQ pork and slaw dog for me and caesar salad for Simon - how come messing about in water makes you so hungry!!  The kids finished off with ice-creams too!

Our day was brought to an end by the weather, what started out as a small shower soon turned into an absolute downpour.  So we bid our farewells and returned to Wilderness Lodge.
New friends :)
So back at the hotel we got showered and changed and waited out the rain by sorting out some photos and the Go-Pro footage and then hooking up with new friends via social networking!  But as the rain eased we decided to venture out to Downtown Disney for the evening.
Waiting for the bus to Downtown Disney

View from the bus stop towards the hotel main entrance

When we arrived in Downtown Disney it was extremely busy and we decided to keep food nice and simple by visiting one of our favourite places...Earl of Sandwich...
The famous gold wrapper :) yummy!
After eating we had a wander around the shops but it was so busy...so busy in fact that we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel.  So we jumped on a resort bus and off we set...but boy was the traffic bad.  It took what seemed forever just to get out of Downtown Disney, the traffic was horrendous so by the time we got back we were all ready for our beds, ready to re-charge for another busy day ahead.

Sunday 27 October 2013

WDW Day 4

Let's get back to what we got up to whilst on our latest visit to WDW...now where were we?  Ah yes Day 4...

...and it would turn out to be a day of firsts for us!

Our day started as most of our days did with breakfast at the Wilderness Lodge, sat outside enjoying the serenity and sunshine.  Then we took a quick boat ride over to the Contemporary Resort ready for a pre-booked activity...this was the day Simon and I would try parasailing for the first time - eek!

But the day started with a little hiccup!  Simon as technical support was in charge of all the videoing of our vacation; he had a GoPro camera which he was going to strap to his chest so we could have a first person view of the experience and we also had our usual video camera to film what was happening from the safety of the boat.  But the video camera decided to react to the cold air inside the hotel and then the very warm humid air outside by fogging up!  We'd had this problem before and knew that moisture had gotten inside and that the camera would need to 'dry out' before we could use it again.  So on the way over to the Contemporary and whilst waiting for our turn we had the camera open and were desperately hoping that it would resolve itself in time!

Whilst Simon tried to get the camera working me and the kids went and explored the Contemporary Resort as it was our first time visiting here properly rather than whizzing through on the monorail.  The plan was that if there wasn't room on the boat for the kids they were going to spend their time in the arcade, so off we went to find the arcade and hatch a plan so that we knew where to meet up afterwards.  When we got back to Simon the video camera still wasn't working but then with literally moments to spare the camera powered back into action, much to everyone's relief.  We then also discovered that there was only going to be Simon and I pararsailing so there was room on the boat for the kids too - woohoo off we went!
About to get on the boat!!
The parasailing takes place out on Bay Lake behind the Contemporary Resort and is organised by Sammy Duvall's Watersports who were fantastic.  From booking it online and answering questions, to the staff on the reception looking after us on land, to the guys on the boat everything was perfect; they couldn't have looked after us any better.

We had decided that Simon would go first and then me.  We both got strapped into our harnesses and life jackets and then Simon took up the position and within 30 seconds was up in the air!  I watched him get higher and higher and tried not to think too much about the fact that in about 10 minutes it would be me up there!  The guys on the boat were brilliant; so friendly and made you feel so at ease but also that it was OK to change your mind...now that would have been the easy option but I was determined to do this.

Before I knew it Simon was back on the boat and grinning from ear to ear, and then it was my turn.  I was hooked up to the parachute and told to sit down on the back of the boat...
Me just about to go up in the air!
...the next thing I knew I was quickly leaving the boat behind and in what only seemed like a matter of seconds I was soaring above the boat, getting higher and higher and taking in the world around me.
Up, up and away
Can you see me? I'm that tiny spot in the sky!
To say the views were spectacular would be an understatement.  It was a beautiful day and you could see all around Bay Lake and beyond and could spot the familiar sights of Space Mountain and Cinderella's Castle and more.  It was surprisingly quiet and almost serene up there at the end of a 450 metre rope and whilst I enjoyed every minute I did find myself holding on to the straps for dear life and was quite glad when I could feel myself getting winched back towards the deck of the boat.  The landing was very simple I was guided into the back of the boat and told to just stand up as my feet touched the deck, I was unhooked from the parachute and then got out of the harness to enjoy the boat ride back to shore.

When we got ashore I have to admit to needing a sit down, as the adrenaline kicked in I could feel myself coming over a bit woozy and a bit shaky and quickly suggested to Simon that I needed a coffee and a cake!  So we went into the Comtemporary Resort and whilst the kids went to play in the arcade Simon and I were able to nip into the Contempo Cafe for a coffee, cinnamon bun and a chance to reflect on what we'd just done and 'come back down to earth'!!  And this was our view whilst we relaxed; part of the Mary Blair mural inside the Contemporary Resort.
Mary Blair mural as seen from Contemo Cafe
Once we felt more 'normal' we took advantage of being child free and did a little shopping; I bought a couple of car antenna toppers, a car decal and a bracelet.  Then we received word that some friends were in the Magic Kingdom and so we agreed to meet them over in Fantasyland.

This was another first for us and something that became a trademark of this vacation - meeting friends old and new and being able to share the magic of Disney with them.  We dragged the kids out of the arcade, jumped on the monorail and headed off to the Magic Kingdom.  Our first stop was Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe for a spot of quick lunch before heading over to the Mad Tea Party to meet our friend Michelle, as well as fellow WDW Radio fans Jeff and Kris.
Me and Michelle (of The Minnie Minxes fame!)
It was whilst we were chatting and swapping stories about our vacations so far that we had another first.  The kids were getting bored with all the adult chat so they decided to ride a couple of attractions, initially they dragged Simon onto the Tomorrowland Speedway but then they ventured off on their own for the first time to ride Big Thunder Mountain.

After a couple of hours chatting we all went our separate ways and we finished our day off at the Magic Kingdom with a little Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom, a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean and a stop at the Sunshine Tree Terrace for a Citrus Swirl...
Mmmm yummy :)
Then came the question of where to eat that evening...I then remembered talking earlier with Michelle all about the Grand Floridian Resort and in particular Gasparilla Island Grill so we decided to once more jump on the monorail and give it a try...another first!

Although it was a little tricky to find Gasparilla's when we did we all had a lovely meal and despite it being a quick service restaurant all the food was cooked to order and brought over to you at your table, brilliant service and amazing value.  Our eldest said it was the best burger he'd ever had and the apple crisp I had for dessert was simply divine!
Grounds of the Grand Floridian Resort at dusk
For the third time that day we jumped onto the monorail and headed back to the Contemporary Resort to get a boat back to the Wilderness Lodge.
Dock at the Contemporary Resort
Once back at the Wilderness Lodge Simon and I got ourselves a hot drink and then sat in the magnificent foyer whilst we uploaded the GoPro video from our parasailing earlier in the day and posted a few photos to Facebook for friends and family to enjoy.

Now that was a very good day :)

Halloween Time

So once again we approach that time of year when the ghosts and ghouls come out to play!

Or in our case it's time for our annual Halloween party.  Now this year we were in two minds as to whether we would actually host a party...the most obvious weekend to hold a party was the weekend after the 31st but we had other plans. So although the weekend before felt a little 'early' for Halloween antics I really couldn't resist the idea of throwing a party.

So last night we had our party.  An evening of cool costumes, good food, great company and an odd Cosmopolitan or two!

Simon drew our party invite as usual and this year we decided on a vampire theme...
Although the final outfits turned out a little different with more of  punk/new romantic vampire meets zombies affect...

I even ended up wearing my new steampunk Mickey ears at one point...

And talking of Disney whilst we were at WDW this year we did have the privilege of seeing the Halloween decorations appear on Main Street, USA
Halloween decorations, this was at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom but these could be found all the way down Main Street, USA - beautiful
Main Street, USA
Town Square, Magic Kingdom
Happy Halloween everyone!!