Friday, February 28, 2014

Passporter Walt Disney World 2014 Review (x3)!

Here at Picturing Disney I love when my readers can see a multi-faceted review and Passporter was awesome enough to send copies to my writers of the 2014 Passporter Walt Disney World! I was thrilled to hear that they love this travel guide as much as I do! Check out the reviews below from my girls (and then go order yourself a Passporter for your next trip)!

I love the new PassPorter’s Walt Disney World 2014, 16th Edition travel guide. This is not just a book it is an all-in-one, travel guide, dinner guide, day guide, night guide, what-tour-to-take guide, budget planner, resort description guide, journal and more. It includes the most up-to-date information on all things Disney World and there is a place for important phone numbers and pockets for important things to carry each day.

 Want a good tip? Color copy their maps (which are easy to read and the newest available) laminate them, punch a hole in the corner, put a binder ring through it and hang them from your stroller or back pack. You will have a perfect, wrinkle-free map and it will be waterproof for those inevitable Disney afternoon showers! You can also do it for any of the great information pages you want to have handy. If you want to plan a Disney World vacation and be ahead of the game you have to get this book/planner!


The PassPorter’s Walt Disney World 2014 is absolutely amazing.  When I heard we would be reviewing their guide, I must admit I was a bit skeptic. I had read other “guides” from national companies, bloggers, and the like. Their hardbound guides always seemed to be overwhelming and boring. Almost like your least favorite text book in school. However, when I received the guide in the mail I was pleasantly surprised.  PassPorter’s guide leads you through the logical journey of planning your trip to Walt Disney World. They even offer money saving tips that I did not even know about. The colors pop off the page and draw readers in to their extremely informative tool. What is not to love about a visual aids that depict several charts and tables about the best time to visit the parks during the year, dining reviews, and tips on emergency situations that could happen in the park? I would definitely recommend this tool to any Disney vacationer. Even the most seasoned Walt Disney World Guest could learn a thing or two from PassPorter’s Walt Disney World 2014 Guide.

Let me preface this by saying PassPorter itself holds a special place in my heart. I wouldn't have met many of the special people in my life or be doing what I'm doing (working as a Disney Travel Agent) if it wasn't for this. I first joined the Message Boards in 2007 and the rest, as they say, is history.
After over 20 trips to WDW it's safe to say I no longer need a guidebook. PassPorter, however, is a great book for both newbies and vets alike! It's very well laid out and detailed without being lengthy.
I love the "Staying in Style" section. It lists what they think are the best areas of each resort which is nice. The floor plans of the different rooms are also very helpful.  The numerical rating system of the restaurants is great as well. Again, very detailed, showing the type of restaurant, price points, etc.

What most people love about these guidebooks are the "PassPockets" in the back. This helps keep you completely organized! You can record all of the info you need here including all of your confirmation numbers. There is also a place to record the details of the trip which is nice! This way you can go back year after year and remember everything down to the weather! PassPorter definitely gets two thumbs up from me!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Introducing Palace Pets! & Win a Build-A-Bear Workshop Gift Card!

When I received my package from Build-A-Bear I was pleasantly surprised to find the adorable Palace Pet: Treasure!  Can you guess who's pet she is?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tony's Town Square Restaurant

Who could ever imagine that a classic animated film would influence such a great restaurant? Located in the heart of Main Street in Magic Kingdom, Tony's Town Square Restaurant can be found to the left of the Town Square Theater. As you walk through the door, you start to realize that the surroundings look familiar. This is because the lobby is themed around the look of the era and feel of the classic animated film, Lady and the Tramp. It's almost like you walked into the house of the Darlings.

As you order from their menu, you will notice that the mood is set by the dim lighting and romantic, instrumental music. The menu does not stray from the classic American-Italian cuisine you may be familiar with. Portions served at Tony’s could be considered "family size" to some guests. But if you're really hungry after a long day of walking the park, it's more than enough to appease even the mightiest of appetites. 

With Meatballs and Marinara Sauce
Chicken Parmigiana
Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast with Marinara Sauce topped with
Melted Mozzarella over Spaghetti
Filled with a mixture of Ground Beef and Sausage, Mozzarella,
and Ricotta Served with Marinara and Alfredo Cream Sauce.

This dining location offers great seating with both an inside and outside view for the 3 o'clock parade. Because of its popularity with guests and its raised platform seating, the best way to solidify your view is definitely to get an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR). This can be made by calling the Disney Dining 180 days before the date of your visit.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Liam: A Celebration of my Sidekick and Best Friend

When my husband (at the time boyfriend) and I first got Liam he was around one, the shelter did not have an accurate date for his birthday but suggested a July 2005 birth.  We walked through the length of the Humane Society building and saw so many dogs we could love but when we got to the back and saw Liam he just grabbed our hearts: a spunky Lab/Pointer mix with paws that were too big and a wagging tail.  “You don’t want Liam” the worker told us but it was too late, after one glance we were already in love.  Liam jumped and played with us and even knew some commands. He was so happy and it was infectious.  He was such a good boy from the get go- he loved to chew chew chew chew everything, but what puppy doesn’t? Liam quickly became our best friend. 

As with any sidekick we began to need him as much as he needed us.  Afterall where would Pinnochio have ended up without Jiminey Cricket? Mowgli without Baloo? Robin Hood without Little John? He was more than just our pet, Liam quickly became our family.  The highlight of my day was the wag when I walked in and the silver lining on the clouds that rolled in were always puppy kisses and snuggles to dry my tears and warm my heart.  When I felt low or lonely or sad- he was there.  When I was happy and wanted to spend some times outside at the park- he was there.  When I wanted to snuggle on the couch and watch TV- he was there.  He was there when we moved in together and there when we got engaged, and was happy to meet our nieces and nephews and play any games they wanted.  At the end of the day all Liam ever wanted was our companionship and we were very willing to give it to him.

When Liam was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease it was after a long two weeks that began when he stopped eating and ended with exploratory surgery on September 21st.  It was really rough for us to go through and IBD is no joke (not to be confused with IBS).  The biopsy report can apparently be interpreted in many ways since IBD is subjective with no specific defined parameters.  All we knew at the time was that by October he was eating and had gained some weight back.  He was so happy in the two months following his surgery.  Before it got to cold we took him to the park, we had play dates with his cousin puppy, and he came house sitting with us.  We got him new food and toys and stopped feeding him table scraps.  He seemed to be in remission. 

Around Thanksgiving he started to get sick again, and stopped eating as much.  Just like the first bout he had diarrhea and we had to really coax him to eat.  Trying to be pre emptive about an IBD relapse we called the vet who prescribed a week of antibiotics followed by a week of steroids when that didn’t work.  By the third week he'd lost a third of his body weight, and was having diarrhea every couple hours all day long.   Plus he had not eaten in nearly two weeks and we were already weaning him off of the prednisone.  When we followed up with the vet again they recommended a specialist and we tried another antibiotic for a couple days.  It did not work so off we went.

When the specialist read his biopsy report he diagnosed Liam with Lymphangiectasia, a disease that blocks the absorption of all nutrients through the intestines.  I had hoped this appointment would be one where the specialist said that they could treat his IBD with some IV drugs and nurse him back to health with a feeding tube but instead we were told that we had a 15% chance of remedying this and it would not be a cure forever.  The specialist decided that we should try a slew of medicines for a couple weeks and go from there.  With heavy hearts we left the specialty center and tried to remain optimistic.   We snuggled him up with our blankets (especially his favorite that he rarely got to use: a Vera Bradley plush throw I got for my birthday) and would hold his cold paws (from going outside in the New York winter so often) until he fell asleep.  My husband whispered to him as he slept and next thing you know he would be off dreaming.  Dreaming of running and catching something as always, and then eating.  This in particular pulled at our heart strings even thought it was a frequent dream his whole life it carried more meaning now.  I could not help but think of something I teach my students about Egyptians and how they viewed the afterlife as a happy field of food.  I couldn’t help but think if I had to let him go a heaven described as a happy field of food seemed like the perfect place for him to be headed. 

Liam was only 8 according to our information from the Humane Society, but possibly he could have been slightly older or younger, when he was diagnosed.  Looking back at the seven years we spent with him prior to diagnosis I feel spoiled.  How did I get so lucky to have so much love in my life? Why were we the ones blessed with a dog who loved us so much and so unconditionally that he forced us to be better people? And worse, I wondered over and over if he knew how much he changed my life? Did he know how this inter-species friendship had been the best one my husband and I had ever had?  I went through the normal stages of grief bargaining in my prayers to do more and be better if God would just heal him.  I was also angry.  My childhood Dalmation, Dottie, had lived to be 14.  Why couldn’t Liam have a life like this? He would not get to see the yard when we bought a house or meet our child whenever we started a family.  I wanted Liam there for everything and no matter what the medicine did or did not do it seemed he would leave me.  I would be without my sidekick.

For months my only thoughts have been of him.  No matter where I go or what I do he is there and as a coping mechanism my thoughts of him somehow turned to the good stuff: how he looked that first day, the way he perked up when we told him we were “goin for a ride” and took him to the park or to a friends house, the way he actually was smiling the day we took him home and so many times after that, how he learned the command 'speak' at age seven (can’t teach an old dog new tricks, eh?), how happy a squeak toy made him, when he cocked his head to the side when he heard a noise out of place, the way the mailman was surprised he wasn’t much bigger after hearing his bark for years, the way he trotted around when he was happy (which was nearly all the time), how he looked when he was sitting and whip-wagging across the floor, how he was so smart and learned so much English we had to stop saying any synonym of the word treat because he understood them all, the way he curled up with all his paws together when he slept sometimes, how he loved to look at Christmas lights, how he was always so willing to dress up and pose for pictures, and that’s just what I have thought so far this morning. 

Liam died on Monday, December 23rd.  We had to make the decision ourselves because medicine had failed us and Liam's disease was rapidly becoming fatal.  Before we said goodbye we took Liam to his favorite park.  We walked to all his favorite places and all the places he had ever wanted to stop.  To make the rest of our time together a time of love and family we pulled the mattress off of our bed so he could snuggle up with us like he used to (he couldn't jump up anymore) and we all slept together.  We sang Liam his favorite songs and all slept and napped together... and my husband and I watched our boy dream some more.  My memories of Liam will always be with me so no matter what happens my sidekick will be here in my heart, because he is part of it.  

I have gotten a lot of unsolicited opinions from people about their pets in the last few months, many who surprisingly think we spent too much money on him and wouldn’t have given him another chance or another round of meds.  Many still who reassured us that we were doing what was best and not giving up.  One friend told me, “You’re really making a huge mommy effort for him.  I know you feel horrible but at the very least you know you’ve really really done everything you possibly can at the point.  You haven’t given up on him.  You’ve fought for him for months. I hope that makes you feel a tiny little bit ok.”  Another friend said, “Listen, feel like shit.  Go ahead. You are allowed to and don’t let anyone force you to not mourn.”  My father told me about how he felt when my childhood dog had to be put down and said, “Our dogs are not easy to lose.  They become part of our families and part of our life experience.  They give unconditional love and ask for very little in return, just some affection and playtime.  They wait patiently for us to return when we go out and always greet us ecstatically when we return.  Humans can learn much from dogs: patience, faithfulness, protection, and unconditional love.”  I keep thinking about how as I have told a few loved ones that "Liam has ruined me for other dogs" because his love is so special and our memories fill such a huge place in my heart that I don't know if I could go through this heartache again and I don't know if I could ever bond with another animal the way Liam and I have.  Then I think of a friend who told me "you have to build your home over the holes in your heart".

Mourning is mourning and I think about some of the lines from "Sleepless in Seattle" sometimes when I am having a rough day.  Just get out of bed in the morning, just breath in and out, and maybe one day the empty spot near my night stand and the empty feeling in my home won't hurt me in my bones.  One day I will see a puppy that reminds me of Liam and smile not cry.  One day I will feel the peace that letting him go brought him.  A lot of pain has come my way since I lost my Liam and I try to keep this in mind every single day.  A good friend told me in regards to another situation in my life "Dare to be brave." and that advice translates so far.  I have dared to be brave when I need to be honest with people and dared to be brave when I need to choke back tears or stand up straight or teach about the Ming Dynasty when I wanted nothing more than to run and hide.  Remember that when you find yourself stuck in a situation like this.  Dare to be brave every single day.  Days when you lose love or when you feel pain and heartache just be brave.  I promise you will find the strength.  

Love: that is real magic.  My puppy boy loved me unconditionally and every moment I spent with him I wanted to live up to that love.  As long as I can think I will think of him and it will remind me to be the kind of person he already thought I was.  Real magic isn't found in fairytales it is found in sweet snuggles, gentle kisses, and love that radiates so strongly that it does not even need to be spoken.  I love you Liam, my Liam boy, and I will see you again.  Remember you are a good boy (the best boy) and you are never alone (and to look for Dottie D). I wish you peace.

If you stumble upon this article of celebration and sadness in a state of your own doubt or loss, remember you will find clarity just keep your heart filled with love- I have not fully found mine yet but I know it is there.  If you have a friend who faced a loss like mine tell them you are there for them, tell them something special you remember about their Liam.  If you are dealing with canine IBD or Lymphangiectasia please email me if you have any questions.  We did a lot of research on both of these during Liam's treatment and I would be happy to help another pup if you need direction or advice- just remember to keep being optimistic, fight for your pet, do what he needs not what you do, and believe in miracles.

If you are here because you are a Picturing Disney reader, just celebrate your pets.  Celebrate their unconditional love and never take a wag or a kiss for granted.  Sing to them and play with them.  Snuggle them a little closer tonight. Leave me a comment and share your own special memory- if you know my Li maybe a celebration of him but if not your own special boy.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My DisneySide at Home Party!

Last night I had my DisneySide Celebration! Although I had some post-party technical difficulties, I have quite enough story to fill in any blanks that may be visually missing from My Disneyside Celebration! (I somehow lost ALL the pictures on my cell phone before getting to write this post and had taken nearly all my pics during the festivities on it.)  Want more details on my planning and my Disneyside? Check out my post from last month! In any case, lets get started with the sweetest part- dessert! Afterall, life is short so dessert first! (We ordered pizza for dinner and the kids ate in the living room while watching Monster's University while I set up in the kitchen.)  I made cutout cookies for dessert in both the Star Wars and Mickey variety before the party.

I picked up cookie cutters from William's Sonoma a couple summers ago that I rarely get to use so I was stoked to make some Boba Fett, Yoda, and Storm Trooper cookies (and may have over done it with the food coloring in the dough)!

With the second batch of cutout cookies I went with the classic Mickey cookie cutters that I got from my DisneySide at home box and some others I had picked up from Walt Disney World.  For these ones I used the cookie cutters in fondant to decorate and added some mickey sprinkles in the corners. 

And of course, we need a little bit of chocolate so I let the kiddies help this time and after making a nice batch of brownies we cookie-cuttered them up to get some Disney-shaped brownies with our dessert!

After meals, movies, and snacking we decided to hit up the games that were included in the bundle: Disney Trivia and Disney Bingo.  I let the kiddos choose their prize from the prize table (little did the kids know that I was going to pass out EVERYTHING on the table later that night).  

Since snow in New York has been nearly nonstop this winter we ended the party with more movies and games because we wanted to wait out the weather.  What better way to end a Disney night filled with Disney themed snacks and games? Some Disney Infiniti and Teen Beach Movie on a cold winter night!

Since the party I have gotten lots of feedback: the HP kits are amazing and easy to use, the prints are adorable and perfect for any little princess' room, and it doesn't take much to make children of all ages ready for a Run Disney race! Looking to plan your own DisneySide Celebration? Head over to the website for some great ideas whether you are trying to create a fun night for family and friends like I did or you are planning a special birthday party for your Disney kid! :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tinkerbell: An Evolution... a true fairy tale!

Tinkerbell: An Evolution is a love letter to everyone's favorite fairy.  This awesome coffee table book is filled with the story of Tink, how she was developed, changed, and has grown as a character over time.  It catalogs through amazing pictures and narration her life as one of Disney's most recognizable characters.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few of this masterpiece! And for under $30 on Amazon you can't miss out on this amazing piece of Disney memorabilia!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Disney Princess Cookbook: Magical Recipes for every meal!

Here on Picturing Disney we are huge fans of magical Disney inspired recipes! You can find a whole catalog of the Disney at home recipes HERE.

The Disney Princess Cookbook is one of the bundle of books Disney Publishing sent along to me to review but was the one I chose for myself.  The minute I saw it I knew that it would be right up my alley! I have not had a chance to create any of these delicacy's but I would love to share the kinds of recipes you will find included! The book is separated into breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even has themed meals from different movies!

With this lovely book you can create great recipes with your kids and each recipe has a fun little description and even ideas for variations! I have never seen a cookbook like this but I already love it and can't wait to try it. And they even feature a variation on the Sea Turtle Cupcake recipe I have already tried! :)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Disney Junior Board Books with Free Apps!

Three of the books included in my Disney Publishing package were these awesome Disney Junior big hardcovers that come with free mobile apps for kids! Minnie's Trouble Times Two book is adorable on it's own (think Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Minnie) and you can help Minnie design bows in the included mobile App! Sofia the First's Royal Slumber Party book is another adorable choice (and I thik Sofia is pretty gender neutral fun in most cases) and you can read along with the included mobile app!  And for you pirate lovers, Jake and the Neverland Pirates' Follow that Sound is equally fun with a puzzle based app included! Click the images below for Amazon links to each book - make sure if you have the option you choose the board books to make sure you get the free apps - these great books are all available for under $8 currently! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Disney Reading Giveaway!

Want to win a prize pack of great Disney books for kids??
Enter using the rafflecopter widget below and you could win each of the following:
Doc McStuffins, Leilani's Luau (comes with sticker sheet)
Sofia takes the Lead (World of Reading Level 1)
Surfin Turf (World of Reading Level 1)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Olaf and Sofia: Magical Tales for Magical Tikes!

When I received the package of children's books from Disney Publishing my eye immediately went to this great Frozen-inspired book starring the fabulous Olaf. An Amazing Snowman is a hardcover book that features the fabulous sidekick from the recent Disney adventure "Frozen".  The artistry is beautiful and of course the story is absolutely adorable.  The watercolor style art even features some Disney easter eggs (like Ariel in the sand in the picture above).  If you have a Frozen fan and reader at home this book is sure to be an amazing adventure! ;)
Similar in style and quality, Sofia the First The Enchanted Feast is a high quality hardcover with a great story.  This book even features a free digital song download (directions inside) and a cameo from the original Disney princess, Snow White herself! Like the Olaf story this book has great artwork and a unique and creative story.  And since you can order both for under $20 total they are affordable too! Don't miss out on these great adventures for the prince and princess in your family. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Disney Reading Week Preview!

I am dubbing this week Picturing Disney's Disney Reading Week! 
Look forward to reviews and posts from some great books that Disney Publishing sent me and even an amazing giveaway!  Be sure to come and follow me on GoodReads for up to date reviews and recommendations of all that I am reading! 

Check out all the titles that will be featured yourself by following the links below:
Sofia takes the Lead (World of Reading Level 1)
Surfin Turf (World of Reading Level 1)

(Be sure to click those links on the left of your screen and follow me across social networking platforms to get all the great info about these great books!) 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

From Up On Poppy Hill Film Review!

I was thrilled to get a copy of Studio Ghibli's From Up on Poppy Hill.  I am a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki and even though this was directed by his son this has the same charm you would come to expect from anything he touches.  I was apprehensive at first because in the past I have enjoyed the fantastical films by Ghibli and this, at first glance, seemed to have such a rather normal story.  However, I can now easily count it among my favorites.

Set in 1964, this beautiful film takes place among a group of teenagers who are trying to save the common house at their school from being knocked down to make way for new buildings for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.  The film is simple yet beautiful and somehow mixes a sweet, simple romance into the easy going plot.  I was really routing for the crew of characters at the end and without trying to hard Umi and Shu swept me off my feet. As always I thought the dubbing was great and being a fan of animation its hard not to marvel at the scenery and style.  I love seeing Japanese culture in Ghibli films, it makes me want to hop on a plan and head into the Pacific!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pangani: Africa or Animal Kingdom?

Have you ever wondered where Disney gets the names for the places? Obviously over at Epcot’s World Showcase this is easy but what about the name inspiration over in Animal Kingdom?  If you know about the Expedition Everest lore, it is said to take place in a fictional Nepalese village.  But what about the other areas?

I recently decided to google “Pangani” to see if there was a link to the Gorilla habitat found on the trails in the park.  After much research I discovered that Pangani is a town in Tanzania (see image from Wikipedia below).  There are no links to anything animal related here although I did find out that this was a town that grew mostly on slave labor and used to have large plantations of sugar and coconut.  The town of Pangani is named for the river which stretches through Tanzania out into the Indian Ocean.  I looked into the geography here and it does seem that it runs through some of the lowlands which are what they refer to the Gorilla sanctuary area in Animal Kingdom.

The only other connection to the town/river seems to be the term Pangani itself which can be loosely translated to “place of enchantment”.  It seems imagineers wanted to bring a name from Africa that could represent this enchanting place filled with African animals.  Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, while having no link to the Tanzanian village except for name is a must visit on your next trip to Animal Kingdom.  Here you can see many native African animals such as the Gorillas, Hippos, and Meerkats! I have gotten some of my best animal photos and viewing here! And its a nice walkway from the safari ride to the train station!

This article was written by Melissa and was first posted on The Disney Moms Blog.