Monday, June 30, 2014

Disneyland: The Original Magic Kingdom... recap!

A. and I have been back from California for over a little over a week now, and I'm still tired! (To be fair, I could still be tired from the school year, too- I have been on the go ever since school let out.) A.'s been tired and sick (and working), and Penny is also wiped out from her busy week at my parents' while we were gone.

Sleepy puppy...

Anyway, we had a nice visit out to the west coast and the weather was gorgeous the whole time. It was crazy looking at a 10-day forecast and seeing a 0% chance of precipitation every single day. It was also nice to have no humidity! I could dry my hair and walk outside into 80* weather without my hair immediately starting to curl. 

Of course we had to go to Disneyland while we were in California, because we are huge fans. I'm going to try not to compare everything to Disney World (DW) every five minutes, but it was easy for me to see why Walt got frustrated with California and wanted to expand into "The Florida Project." When we were driving to our hotel, which was right across from the park without being a Disney resort, we were driving... driving... driving through blocks of houses, restaurants, and hotels, and then BOOM, there was Disneyland!

We got to Disneyland bright and early because- due to a three-hour time difference- we were both up and ready to go at 6 AM. So we walked into the park right after it opened at 8 AM. Again, the entrance to Disney in CA is crazy after being to DW so many times, because everything is so close together. I took this panoramic shot standing in the middle of the plaza after we walked through bag check:

California Adventure on the left, Downtown Disney in the middle, Disneyland on the right.

Since we got there so early (which I can promise did not happen any time during our honeymoon last summer) we walked right on to Big Thunder Mt. Railroad, which was a blast. Then we worked our way over to Fantasyland and went on the Flying Dumbos! After that we went on King Arthur's Carousel, and I didn't even have to fight for it - I got to ride Jingles, the most famous of the carousel horses. 

I know I'm a huge nerd and I don't care. : )

We also got to go on the Storybook Canal boats and It's a Small World, before we made our way over to Adventureland. We were both starving by this point because it was past lunchtime in Eastern Time, but the restaurants in the park don't start serving lunch foods until 10:30 Pacific Time. I finally tried a Dole Whip, and managed to get there at a point in the day when the line wasn't a mile long - later in the day when we passed, the line was almost as long as it would be for a ride!

From there we hit Pirates of the Caribbean (which we both liked much more than the DW version- it's more of an actual ride) and the Haunted Mansion. We shared a churro and then shared a lobster roll at the Harbour Galley, which was okay. It was one of the foods listed on a list I had read of the best foods to try at Disneyland... I don't know if it necessarily belongs there, but at least it satisfied our hunger (for the steep price of $13.99!)

We also went to Splash Mountain - which was different from DW in that we got TOTALLY SOAKED. The flumes are single-file instead of sitting two people across, which means you get twice as wet. We had a fun group on our flume, but we were also apparently a heavier group, because we were all drenched when we got off that ride. We also hit the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland and continued on to Tomorrowland, where I got this awesome shot in Innoventions (an EPCOT attraction at DW):

A. really likes the Avengers and superhero movies, so he really liked the Iron Man and Thor displays.

Because we were tired and trying to make it to our dinner reservation, we took a spin on the Disneyland Railroad, which was a nice break. We got ice cream on Main Street USA, found a table with an umbrella, and waited for the 4:00 parade to start. I will say this about Disneyland- there is so much more shade, which is wonderful. While we waited we listened to Rag Time Piano Eric play the piano- he was very good, but I kept thinking how disheartening it must be to sit there and play and have no one pay any attention to you. A. said "at least he gets to do what he loves." Which is true, but the next time you see a performer like that a park, try to give them some applause. : )

I had made a last minute reservation at Cafe Orleans for dinner, which was fan.tas.tic! A.'s dinner was the Monte Cristo sandwich, which seems to crop up often in Disneyland food lists - and for good reason. 

This sandwich is basically a beignet (powdered sugar donut) with melted swiss cheese, ham, and turkey in the middle. Not a combination that would have probably occurred to me, ever, but it was SO GOOD.

I had a seafood crepe with asparagus:

It was so amazing. If I take a picture of food, it was good- it means I want to remember it!

After a quick stop in the shops on Main Street USA, we left for the day- we were exhausted and dehydrated (water was $3 a bottle, and we forgot to bring our own bottles into the park - you can do that). But it was a very nice trip! Fun to experience, but I don't know if we'll make it there again - the travel to California was exhausting.

Main Street USA & Sleeping Beauty Castle, CA

Main Street USA and Cinderella Castle, FL

Different, yes, but both fun!

Hope you're enjoying your summer...

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Tonys: They're grrrrrrreat!

This year's Tony broadcast was interrupted by a poorly timed thunderstorm. It completely killed our DirecTV satellite for the first 15 minutes or so of the broadcast, and then intermittently in between. Luckily I found a live stream online since our internet still worked. I know, I know... first world problems. The Tonys are one of my favorite things!

Last year's Tonys with Neil Patrick Harris hosting was one of my favorite TV broadcasts ever. The opening ceremony was, in NPH's immortal words, "crazy pants." So that's tough to beat... but I did enjoy this year's production as well!

This entry includes many, many embedded videos that may not be visible if viewed from mobile devices.

In case you were confused by Hugh Jackman bouncing into the Tony Awards, it was a tribute to the performance of "Take me to Broadway" in the 50s musical "Small Town Girl." You can spot a clip of it in the background as he bounces by at one point. An interesting choices of allusions to make, especially at the beginning of the show, but it got everyone's attention!

Here is a compilation of my favorite moments from this year's awards:

1) Hugh, LL Cool J, and TI performing a rap version of "Rock Island" from the Music Man. I know some people really hated this and some loved it. I LOVED IT.

2) NPH's acceptance speech:

While I'm not a huge fan of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," NPH has such charm and cracked me up with his comment, "This time last year I was hosting the Tonys. This is crazy pants!"

3) Audra MacDonald's acceptance speech:

Audra made history for being the first person to win in four different acting categories at the Tonys, and let's face it, she's pretty boss anyway; however, she started crying, so I started crying, and I just love her so much. Congratulations Audra. : )

4) Hugh introducing the nominees for Best Actress in a musical by singing and dancing with them. So fun! Unfortunately could not find a video clip of this.

5) We all know I love Broadway and Disney, so when the two of them collide I get a little bit excited. "Friend Like Me" is one of my favorite Disney songs of all time - my brother and I used to watch Aladdin on repeat as kids, and I know all the words and vocal inflections by the great Robin Williams - and this performance was pretty fun. BTW, James Monroe Iglehart seems like he could be my best friend. Loved seeing him any time he popped up at the awards! His acceptance speech was pretty great, too.

6) The performance from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder." I didn't know much about this show, but I do know that this performance was spectacular and super fun to watch!

7) The news that FINDING NEVERLAND is being turned into a musical. This was accompanied by a beautiful performance by Jennifer Hudson. I loved that movie, especially the score - it's one of my favorite CDs because I'm a piano nerd. I cannot wait to see what happens with this!

8) Carole King and Jessie Mueller performing bits from "Beautiful: The Musical." It just seems like Jessie Mueller would be fun to hang out with after watching her acceptance speech later in the show!

9) Of course, the performance from Les Mis. Not a huge fan of Eponine's voice, here, but she does have some pipes.


10) Idina Menzel's performance from If/Then. Jonathan Groff's introduction of her was pretty priceless, as well. : ) Poor Idina hasn't had much luck performing live on awards shows, but I feel like this one finally went right for her!

Things I was not so much a fan of: Rocky and Sting. Eh.

You know what was super cool about this particular show? So many of the award winners thanked their teachers... I felt that was pretty special. : )

Off for some summer fun... be back soon!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thank you, thank you very much!


This year was crazy, busy, bad and good; I feel like it flew. I also feel like every time someone asked me how married life was, I answered "I don't know, I never see my husband." So this summer my goal is to spend more time with him than I do on work. We are going to enjoy our anniversary, gosh dangit!

However, starting with this weekend, we're back in the throes of wedding season. It's that time of my life, ladies and gents... I was one of the culprits last summer. And with wedding season (end-of-school season, graduation season, birthday season, etc etc) it is also time for THANK YOU CARDS!

I am a huge advocate of sending cards; sometimes I feel like I could single-handedly keep the US Postal Service, Hallmark, and American Greetings in business. I keep a stash of cards on hands at all times so that they are ready for any occasion. I am a big fan of these bad boys from Target:

Target has so many packs of pretty cards in different colors. SO MANY. But I like the colorful ones with designs on the cover.

Let me start this rambling entry by saying that if you are sending a card or thank-you note, you are already one step ahead of many people. You're on the right track and doing a good thing. I just want to help you make it better.

Look at all those Benjamins! Someone is a lucky, lucky graduate.

Let's say you just graduated high school and Aunt Mildred sent you a check for $50. That was awesome, Aunt Mildred! Now it's a good idea to send her your thank you card within a month of your graduation. (If you write thank you cards as you receive things, it is more manageable to get them done, instead of saving all of them to do at once.)

Dear Aunt Mildred,
Thank you so much for your generous gift! I am sure it will come in handy as I get ready to leave for college in August. I am sorry you couldn't make it to graduation, but I hope you can make it to my party on the 28th. Thanks again!
Love, K. 

I thanked Aunt Mildred not once, but twice; I explained what I will do with her gift; and I threw in a little personal note. That should easily fill up an entire little notecard!

This couple doesn't just have bills, they have STACKS of Benjamins. Phew!

Since A. and I got married last summer, I had a ton of experience writing thank you notes: from two bridal showers, from the wedding gifts, and for our wedding vendors. People were so generous and we were so full of gratitude! Here's an example of a shower thank you and a wedding thank you. You will notice that they don't differ too much from the graduation example above.

Aunt Martha,
I am so glad you could attend my bridal shower! Thank you for the waffle maker... A. and I can't wait to make lots of delicious waffles! We are so excited for our upcoming wedding and we are glad you will be joining us for our special day. Thanks again and see you soon!
Love, K.

Mr. and Mrs. Crazypants,
Thank you so much for making the trip to Awesometown for our wedding! We hope you had a wonderful time. We appreciate the beautiful picture frame and gift card for Bed Bath & Beyond. Thanks for your generosity- we will be thinking of you as we decorate our new home together! 
A & K Newlastname

Is this the only way to write a thank you note? Absolutely not. They will take more time, but I promise people will appreciate it more than if you just write:

Dear Sue,
Thank you for the baking sheets and for coming to our wedding.
Sincerely, Boring McBoredson

At the end of the school year, I sometimes get gifts from my kids. And I try to set a good example, so I make sure as soon as I receive something that I write a thank you card.

Dear Isabella,
Thank you so much for the beautiful hibiscus flower and your thoughtful card! I have loved being your teacher and watching you grow as a musician this year. See you in the fall- have a great summer!
Mrs. Orchestrateacher

Short, sweet, and to the point- but still personal.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you can, inject a little personality into your thank you notes. DUDE, someone cared enough about you to give you something or do something for you. Sometimes all it takes to make Aunt Mildred's day a little brighter is to tell her how much you really appreciated her gift and mention something personal to make her feel that much more loved. Plus, you'll be on the fast track to being the favorite niece or nephew. (Although, let's be real - she already sent you $50 so you've got to be near the top of that list!)


I'll be back soon, promise! I've got some Tony awards to talk about. Take it easy, everyone!