Friday, May 27, 2011

Fair Food - What to eat at Disneyland

Look who's eyeballing that cherry!

I used to take my stepson to Disneyland at least once a month when we had season passes a few years ago. There were always strict instructions from his health conscious grandfather, "Don't let him eat too much fair food". It got to be kind of our joke because as much as I enjoy a corn dog or popcorn occasionally, anyone would know I'm not letting the kids gorge themselves on sour balls, cotton candy or churros!

But in my opinion, a chocolate-covered banana once in a while doesn't hurt anyone!

For the most part, whenever we've gone to the Parks, for main meals we've always gotten one platter to share between me & the kids, maybe a side of fruit and taken in our own drinks and healthy snacks (like granola bars, fruit cups, nuts, etc).

This time was no different. My husband is also very health conscious so he loaded up his backpack with bottled water, powdered Gatorade to mix in, individual zip-bags of prunes, apples, trail mix, clementines, peanuts & granola bars, along with some 100%juice fruit snacks for the kids. That is the nice thing about Disneyland; they allow you to bring in your own food, so long as you follow their guidelines. And of course, use common sense. Since you can't bring in a cooler, mayonnaise-based meals or things that need to be kept cold wouldn't be the best choice. And I've lived and learned in 100 degree heat, neither do granola bars with chocolate!

Day 1:

Breakfast. We ate at home, since we were driving up that morning. We did give the kids snacks to eat while we were walking into the park.

The Girl, eating her picnic lunch

Lunch. I'd preordered these World of Color picnic meals online. They came with the meal, drink and a ticket to stand in a reserved area for the World of Color show that evening. All of the picnics are served chilled. We sat in the Sonoma Terrace area, a wonderfully shaded spot that allowed us to rest and eat quietly.

I got the All-American. I ordered Danny a Mediterranean Vegetarian, which he loved! Whew! He can be a challenge to please, but he really liked this dish. The kids each got a Junior All-American. Since we ordered 4 meals, we got a World of Color reusable tote, which is so nice.

I'm not sure why the kids are always posing like Egyptians lately...

Dinner. Our hotel, the Park Vue Inn offered a free social hour with our booking, so after checking in, we went to see what was available. Apparently they change the offerings daily, but when we went there were two kinds of soup, a simple green salad, mini breaded chicken patties with buns and condiments to top them with. Simple. Satisfactory. And best of all, free!! We ate up and went back to the hotel room, where we found a complimentary gift basket for us that included wine (you can change that out for apple cider in the lobby) and fresh fruit. A very nice touch! We packed up the fruit and took it back with us to the park.

Day 2:

Breakfast. Another free meal provided by the hotel. This time there was fresh fruit, cottage cheese, juices and milk, make-them-yourself waffles, bagels, toast, pastries and doughnuts, hash brown patties and sausages. Wow!

Lunch. We stepped off the train late-afternoon in New Orleans Square and my husband spotted the clam chowder in bread bowls and he was sold on eating at The French Market.

I was good with that and knew just what I wanted: The citrus chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies and the cornbread! I regret not taking a picture of this beautiful dish but well, I was hungry and the food was soooo good!

Danny shared the soup and salad combo with The Boy. I pulled off some chicken meat for The Girl and she happily nibbled on steamed carrots, chicken and the top of The Boy's sourdough bread bowl.

I nearly licked my plate, the food was absolutely heavenly, especially the potatoes! At $13.49, this is honestly comparable to what you might pay at a restaurant anyway. And I was full when I was done, despite having shared. Danny & The Boy didn't even finish eating their bread bowl, they were both stuffed. After eating we sat for a bit, admiring how well staffed the dining area was with Disney employees. We were instructed to leave our dinner plates and silverware on the table, the employees would quickly bus the tables and clean them off for the next guests.

Dinner. We left the park around 6 and drove out a bit before stopping for dinner at Panda Express.

So really, we only purchased two full meals in the park, which ran us less than $100 for two days. With the free meals at the hotel and supplementing in between with snacks we'd brought, it was quite a bit less spent than we'd expected. The Picnic lunches were pricy but also included the World of Color pass, so we didn't have to stand in a Fastpass line to get that ticket to see the show.

I'd like to direct you to the All Ears website, which keeps updated Disney dining menus for all of their eateries. I've found this to be extremely helpful when budgeting for a trip or when figuring out who-wants-to-eat-what ahead of time.

These are photos and thoughts from previous trips:

There are select full service restaurants. The Blue Bayou is always a treat but I've always enjoyed Cafe Orleans ("Mickey" shaped Beignets!).


Counter service varies from location to location. For instance, at the French Market and at Rancho del Zocalo, though you self-serve your food (cafeteria style), you are served on a real dish with real flatware and someone will bus your table when you are done. However, at other places like the Bengal Barbeque or the Golden Horseshoe, your food is going to come in either paper or plastic with plastic flatwear and you'll be responsible for clearing your own table when you're done eating.

Crowned with a pirate hat during dinner at Cafe Orleans

For snacks, you can't beat the Little Red Corn Dog Wagon (they are best ever!), the Gibson Girl ice cream parlor on Main Street (if you can get a seat) and the Mint Julep bar (where they also serve "Mickey" shaped Beignets).

Slurping down a mint julep

Of course the Tiki Juice Bar is unbeatable for Dole Whips, if you don't mind waiting in the line that takes FOREVER!!! Over at California Adventure, you can get a margarita or a cold beer over on the wharf, too.

Offering Cinderella a ranch dressing coated carrot

For character dining, we've done quite a few of these but not for a while. The most recent was Goofy's Kitchen which is in the Disneyland Hotel. Talk about a buffet! If you can't find something to eat there, well....

Ignoring poor Pluto at breakfast

Up next, what else is there to do beside go on the rides and eat fair food?


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Disneyland - Encouraging kids to get off the "baby rides" and try a zippy coaster!

I have updated this post and have it featured on my new blog SAVING UP FOR DISNEY.

I think it's equally important to encourage our children to try new things while still remembering that new things might make them scared or nervous. And you certainly don't want to ruin an entire day at the Park because you pushed too hard getting them to ride Indiana Jones and they got scared. Because well, then they aren't going to want to try anything new after that!
I can remember clearly the first time my parents tried to get me and my brother on Big Thunder Mountain. I was crying and my brother had a death grip on the chain at the entrance!! But after the first ride, well, we jumped off and got right back in line to go on it again! But my parents knew us and they knew that we could handle a bit of encouragement. Only you know your kids and how far you can push them so use your best judgment.
Both The Boy and The Girl are 7 years old and tall enough to ride every single thing at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure.

In front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Being very sweet 7 year olds, they are at that perfect "in-between" stage of still loving the DisneyJr preschool shows like "Jake & the Neverland Pirates" and "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse". They have no problem still riding the so-called "baby rides" like Dumbo or Pinocchio but are eager to try out the zippy roller coasters like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain.

The first day I decided that the very first ride they should try out is the fastest coaster in the parks, California Screamin', which also happens to go upside-down! Ooops...Not sure that was my best strategy, thinking back!

The Girl & Danny going through the loop!

Since I was pregnant, my husband rode with each child individually, starting off with The Girl. She looked very confident at the start and judging from the smiles when she got off the ride, I'd have guessed she had a great time!

Just taking off...

Same thing with The Boy, though his expression at the beginning of the ride (before it had even begun to MOVE) was slightly more terrified. However, when he got off the ride he was all smiles and excitement.

They haven't even taken off yet and already The Boy looks terrified!

My husband, on the other hand, seemed to be the one who was most tormented. He said that both kids had frightening reactions during the ride that I'd never had guessed at. He said that he thinks that perhaps the height requirement for this ride should maybe be raised a bit because he didn't think the kids were able to handle it.

He said The Girl filled her cheeks with air, like she was holding her breath, then said to him that she was going to throw up!

Danny said he swears that The Boy passed out! He said his head dropped down and that he was patting The Boys chest and that my little guy rolled his eyes around to straighten up but that he looked pretty out of it through the entire ride.

YIKES! Yeah, judging from their happy expressions a few minutes later I really never would have guessed that this ride wasn't really as the kids were portraying. They were in good spirits even thought neither of them really enjoyed it but later when we encountered new rides, The Girl was extremely hesitant to try them for fear they would be too much like this one.

Wearing 3-D glasses for Toy Story Mania

We moved on and other rides along the pier like Toy Story Mania in 3-D, Silly Symphony Swings, Jumpin' Jellyfish, Golden Zepher were more appropriate. The Girl didn't like Mickey's Fun Wheel, likely because they chose a cage that slid back and forth each time the wheel turned a notch. I don't blame her...I don't like it for the same reason!

Bumper "Bugs" in Bug's Land

Bug's Land had some slower paced rides that they loved but once they moved over to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, The Girl was having nothing to do with that, so Danny and The Boy rode alone. That was The Boy's first time on that ride and he actually loved it. I think The Girl was put off by the "spooky" aspect because she didn't want to ride The Haunted Mansion or Indiana Jones either.

The Hollywood Back Lot

Soarin' Over California was a success, both kids really loved it. The Girl was nervous though when the preview video watched before the ride mentioned that we would be flying!

The next day at Disneyland, we started off less vigorously, sticking to the slower rides in Fantasyland (like Peter Pan, Casey Jr. Circus Train, It's a Small World and the Carousel). Small World was a favorite of course, I think The Girl would have rode that all day! We built up speed a bit with the Teacups , Matterhorn, Roger Rabbit's Car-toon Spin and Gadget's Go-Coaster. This last one is a perfect first coaster to try kids on who have maybe never been on a coaster before. It's a short, speedy little ride so it's over very quickly.

Getting a surprise splash on the Go-Coaster

We kept things very casual and if they didn't want to ride a particular ride, there was no pressure. We know our kids and they don't respond well to pressure. By the end of the day, The Girl in particular was picking up steam and ready for action. All of her earlier nervousness about fast rides was disappearing and she happily jumped on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain. In fact, they ran off the latter ride and went right back in line to ride again!

Having a fantastic ride on Big Thunder Mountain!

In the past, The Boy has been hesitant to ride fast rides. Despite the fact that his older brother was riding them, he wasn't ready to take that leap yet. I'd tried cajoling but it seemed the more I pushed, the more he dug in his heels. It wasn't until he was really ready to ride them did he try and of course, enjoy them.

Me & The Girl on the Carousel

Not pressuring your kids or forcing them to ride anything they aren't quite ready for is key to having a great trip. We were fortunate that ours were game for trying so many new things...very brave of them!

Please search "Disneyland" on my blog for other relevant posts!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Disneyland with Special Needs

I have updated this post and have it featured on my new blog SAVING UP FOR DISNEY.

This picture of my husband is deceiving...

It wasn't an easy sell...getting my husband to agree to a 2-day trip to Anaheim (which is just about 90 minutes north of us) to spend at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. He wasn't sure he wanted to spend that much money. He wasn't sure the kids' attitudes would hold up for two days of non-stop action. And what would we eat?

But I'm a tough cookie and very convincing and was finally able get him to agree that a family vacation to Disneyland would be perfect for us!

Once I got the go-ahead, the planning machine was set into action!!

My travel lists and itineraries were pulled out, online research was done, reservations were made and menus were printed out. Outfits for the kids were made by me in a few late-night sessions. I bought snacks & bottles of water and we packed everything up the night before.

That day, we got up and ate breakfast and were on the road by 8:30am. I knew that we wanted to go to California Adventure the first day and that park opened at 10am. I'd booked the Park Vue Inn right across the street from the park. I'd never stayed here before.

View of the park entrances (behind The Boy) from the lobby of the hotel.

Coming out of the Disneyland esplanade (where the two parks face each other) there is a transit drop off/pick off area that you walk through, then a street light and our hotel was literally right here at the light. They allowed us to park in the lot for the day after doing a pre-check in (no cost, usual Disneyland parking is about $15 and many of the area hotels charge this same amount per day that you park in their lot). We were also given tickets for a free "social hour" meal later that night and a free breakfast the following day. I will never stay anywhere else, this hotel was really a good fit for us!


We walked over to the park and immediately headed to Guest Services. The Girl is Autistic and though melt-downs are currently at a minimum, my husband and I were reminded of our road trip spring break vacation last year. Each stop on that trip was met with a meltdown of epic proportions every time we had to transition to the next event. It was truly a difficult time. We'd never taken her to Disneyland before so we weren't sure what to expect with the prolonged exposure to all the bright lights, long lines, loud noises and over-exhuberance that is an amusement park.


I'd read on the Disneyland website (and other resource sites) that there is a Guest Assistance Card for those with special needs. After explaining to the Cast Member what her possible issues might be (anything from a full-blown tantrum with hitting and screaming to laying down on the sidewalk and refusing to move), he gave us a card that showed the dates we would be visiting, the number in our party and instructions of use. He even told us where we could get free ear plugs (at First Aid) in case any of the attractions were too loud.

We would show the Guest Assistance Card to the Cast Member at the front of each ride (Disneyland is very well staffed & there was never a problem finding one or two people at each line). They would instruct us where to go, which was either through the Fast Pass line or through the exit. The entire party (up to 6 people) can use the pass along with the special needs guest. We only used the card when lines were very long, otherwise we just waited in the usual line up.

Sunglasses are helpful to ease the annoyance of sun in her eyes. Earplugs were good for loud attractions.

I will greatly admit that having a special needs child is a challenge in itself because you never know what you might get one day (or moment) to the next. Having the pass that eased on the line waits make a huge difference in the enjoyment level for The Girl, and actually for all of us.

There were no less than six times that she got to the front of the line and then decide she did NOT want to ride after all. A few times she got back in line again after bailing out and would go on the ride. I think being able to have that ability (for her to think it over and then try again) was very helpful. I know that if we'd been standing in a 30 minute...60 minute...or goodness, a 90 minute line only to have her say she didn't want to ride would have been very frustrating for everyone.


About mid-day, my husband held up the Guest Assistance Card and said, "this really does make the day enjoyable for everyone". I have to agree!

Next, up fast, faster and fastest! From the toddler rides and attractions to the zippiest of roller coasters.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Whatcha been up-to?

Well, it's been a while since I've posted! Not that I don't think about posting...I've just been pretty busy growing a baby and all that other stuff!

What have we been up to?


Baby Growing:

Tomorrow I will be 12 weeks along. The last few weeks have been pretty good. My stomach is feeling a lot better now and I'm sleeping well at night, too. I was miserable morning, noon and night for many weeks. It's so hard to force yourself to eat when nothing sounds good and everything makes you feel nauseous. I was also having a very hard time at night, just laying there, unable to sleep or waking multiple times and not being able to get back to sleep.

Now I'm at the point where, for the most part, I don't feel anything at all. The baby is less than 3" long so I still don't actually look pregnant yet, just more chubby than usual. I am wearing jeans that are about one size up than what I usually wear, however I do have the buttonhole looped with a rubber band so I can keep the button undone!


I had my first appointment about a month ago and she gave me a sonogram image with a due date of December 6th. We did tell The Boy and The Girl that we'll be having a new baby in our family at the end of the year. The Girl is indifferent though she did offer two baby names: she says we should call it Cindy-Lou-Who if it's a girl and Alvin (as in Alvin & The Chipmunks) if it's a boy.


The Boy, however, is wildly excited. He seems to believe that he will be changing many diapers. By the time this baby is born he will be 8 and though he will be fully capable of changing diapers, I have a feeling that once the smell hits him, changing a stinky diaper will be the last thing he'll want to do!


Heading to the end of the school year:
Only about 2 more weeks for The Girl and 3 more weeks for The Boy until the last day of school. I have been diligently keeping a calendar to track which weeks we'll have The Girl, which weeks they'll go to summer day camp together, which weeks they will go to Vacation Bible School, which weeks my mom will have The Boy, which week my mother-in-law will be keeping them with her during the day, etc. It's a challenge to get it all set up, especially since the camps require pre-registering and payment.


We went to Disneyland:
I'm sure you figured that out by the photos! I'll post more about this, but in short we had a fantastic trip. We were reminded of what great kids we have. There was no whining, no complaining or crying, no tantrums...only lots of laughing and good-times!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Bun in the Oven for Mother's Day

First off, let me wish my mom a Happy Mother's Day! She does so much for us (and for her "second son", The Boy).

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Nearly 7 1/2 years ago, I was pregnant with this guy. At my first doctor's appointment, I was given the due date of December 6th. At my ultrasound, the doctor changed the date to December 9th, and that is the same day he was born. 2:22 am and weighing 6 lbs 13 oz.

The Boy at 3 months old

The Boy at 7 years, 5 months

With all the baby buzz going on in our family recently, it's no doubt that I was caught up in all the newborn madness!

I am now proud to announce that my husband Danny and I will be welcoming a new member to our family in early December. I was recently given a due date of December 6th.

Our Baby Bean

Blessings to all of our moms on this special day (and every day!)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More babies...



Today was another baby-filled day!


First up was the baptism of my cousin Joe and his wife Vivi second son. It was my first time meeting baby Roy and he was so beautifully behaved (didn't even cry when he had the water poured over his head!).


Look at those round cheeks!


Right after the baptism, we drove about a mile down the road to another cousin's house, whose wife Hisae is having a baby in October. Her mother was in town from Japan so it was decided to throw her an early baby shower so her mom could be here to celebrate with her!


This diaper cake was amazing!! Everything was "gender neutral" since Hisae doesn't yet know if she's having a boy or a girl.




Can't wait to find out if it's "pink or blue" Hisae!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Babies Babies Babies

BABY - times three!


My cousin invited me to visit her 5 week old triplets and of course, I had to bring my camera.

The babies were sleeping when we first got there but once one of them awoke, pretty soon they were all up. They were all so sweet, quite content just to be held and even happy to just lay down and look around.

Our first little guy was our happy photo tester, so easy to move around and furrowing his forehead with each pose.



Our second little guy even gave me a few smiles! He's the most filled-out one, which I expect the other two will start to resemble in a few more weeks.



Baby girl was the last one to wake up and didn't even need a bottle, she got right to work with the photo shoot. Once she got her thumb in her mouth though, she was out for the count!



I can't wait to capture these itty-bitties as they continue to grow and change!