Friday, September 27, 2013

Pumpkins for Cathey

Happy Blogoversary Cathey...these are for you!!!
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2010-0166

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Go to DaffyCat's site to see all the other posts for Cathey!

September 27th

Today is my Birthday and I've been reminiscing a bit on my childhood. Since my sister reminded me of a man who was one of the most important figures of said childhood, I figured I'd make my Birthday post a tribute of all the musical artists I've swooned over in my days. Like them, I may not have aged well or be as thin as I once was (well, actually I've never been thin), but hopefully someone can look at me today as I do them and still see the hot 20 year old residing within!

First up, the specific man that Amber reminded me of, Mr. Robert Smith and my all time favorite song ever...Just Like Heaven:


Then, of course, what 80's New Wave chick could do without Dave Gahan and my second favorite song...But Not Tonight:


Finally, the cream of the crop, the end-all be-all, Mr. Perfect himself, Simon Le Bon and my all-time favorite Duran song...Serious:


But, of course, we all grow up and new influences come into our lives. For me it's two in particular...first-Darren Hayes and Crush (1980 Me) (and frankly, any man who uses Simon Le Bon's name in a song lyric, deserves to be worshipped):


Secondly, and the most dominant of all of the above even today, Take That and my beloved Markie with Shine (and the absolute best version IMO):


So Happy Birthday to me and lookout Disney World, I'm on my way (and playing Take That the entire drive!).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Disney Necessities Part 8: The "Pack"

Last post of this series, and what would a Disney trip be without the "Pack"? Are you wondering what the "Pack" is? It's actually a combination of things that I spend weeks preparing...the final icing on the Disney cake!

I start off with a plastic tub for the current year's stuff. I did manage to buy a bunch of these while they were still readily available (so they would all match):
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Here is last year's tub after it's complete (the sticker design is that year's "theme"):
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There are certain things bought to only go in the tub: A Birbaum's for that year (they aren't good for much else-worst travel guide ever, but has great photos and is a good memory of what the parks were like that particular year). I also get a free vacation planning DVD directly from Disney for the same reason (also pictured are some of my documents mailed by Disney) as well as the Food and Wine Festival Passport which you get stamped at every booth you visit:
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A set of park maps you can get for free from the Disney World site. The only annoying things about these maps is that they come front and back instead of four individual maps and they only come in two different styles - I just switch styles every year, this is the character style:
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The P.I.B. comes next...the Personal Itinerary Book. It's filled with all my schedules, confirmation #'s, maps, flight seating (if we're flying), registers to keep track of spending, a notes section for taking notes (which I'm horrible at), Food & Wine Festival menus (to help me decide on snacks before I get there), and tons of other useless stuff. I print all the information on 4x6 cards (I used to use 3x5, but they were just too small), use file folders to cut out divider tabs, then take to Kinkos to get bound. It goes with me everywhere during the trip and I make one for everyone that is going. That's it in the middle of this bunch:
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Believe it or not, one of the most important items of the "Pack" is a coupon holder. I use them to hold all the receipts from all my purchases and keep them divided by days. This is especially handy when shipping stuff back to the resort because you will need your receipt to pick up the items:
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Once a trip is over, all of the pre-trip "Pack" goes in along with everything acquired during the trip. Yes, as seen above, I keep a set of toiletries from each hotel. The higher the level of the Disney resort, the more goodies you get. Another Deluxe bonus!

All my documents (we have two sets because we stayed at both Art of Animation and Wilderness Lodge last year):
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The unused Halloween Party candy bags and party id bracelets:
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A set of each size shopping bag (I know, sounds completely goofy (pun intended) but they do change upon occasion and it's nice to go back and see what the bags were like years ago):
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The pen and pad set from the hotel (only showing one here), coasters (and when we fly I have the coaster and napkin from the plane), and old luggage tags (yep, that says 14 pcs...amazing what we amass during the trip):
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Unused fastpasses and park maps:
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Old Keys To The World cards, used shopping cards, more maps, photo DVD that I make plus the Jeff Lange Halloween Party DVD from that year, a Disney Conservation badge which I ALWAYS donate to, and miscellaneous other junk:
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And that's it! Each tub contains a year's worth of Disney memories; from the planning stage to the actual trip to all the post-Disney work! Of all my Disney collectibles, these mean the most to me! The worse my OCD that year, the fuller the box (last year wasn't too bad actually...some literally bulge at the seams). I've thought about doing scrapbooks or shadowboxes, but they would have to be huge to hold everything! The tubs work out nicely, take up very little room, protect everything from all manner of issues, and keep me busy for pretty much an entire year!

Here is this year's "Pack" in progress which reminds me of another thing I forgot to mention - Mousekeeping Envelopes! Their function is to hold the daily tips for the Mousekeeping staff (Disney's name for housekeeping). I design new ones every year (although these are extras from last year's designing process). There is also the added bonus of the travel maps I made. I bound them like my P.I.B. (although I don't know why I felt the need...I have sat nav in the car and on my phone as well as purchased maps...OCD!):
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And that's it, the Disney Necessities! I don't think I'll have time for another blog series before I go, but Friday is my Birthday, so hopefully I'll have something in store for the big 4-3!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Disney Necessities Part 7: The Pet Sitter (aka Grandma)

We're almost done with this blog series, so I guess I should talk about the most important aspect of any trip...the pet sitter. My boys don't like to be boarded (what dog does?), so stability and their own environment is very important when I'm not here. My Mother has graciously stayed with my "kids" for many years (although we have had our "moments" because she thinks she can sneak them down to her house for a while...she ALWAYS gets caught).

Plus, it's always good to make sure your house is safe (especially where I live). I do have a security system, but I feel much better knowing that my stuff is protected. I also have friends in the police force, so the extra police presence always makes my Mother feel better about staying in my trailer (I'm the poor one of the family and my better-off relatives have issues with coming near my neck of the woods...someday when I win the lottery those roles will be reversed!).

I have boarded them in the past, but they always come home sick and really REALLY mad at me. This will be Bam's time with me gone as well...hopefully he will take to my Mother! Zach could care less as long as he gets to sleep and eat, he doesn't even notice I'm gone!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Disney Necessities Part 6: Boxes

What could you possibly need with boxes? Well, not so much if you're driving, but flying, it's a Disney shopping necessity! We buy a lot of junk. So much so that it definitely won't fit in our luggage (and, since the baggage handlers are the most trustworthy lot, I wouldn't dare put anything valuable in my checked bags anyway).

We ship a huge box filled with other huge broken-down boxes as well as packing supplies to Disney a few days before we leave. As long as you put your arrival date and put "guest", the resort will happily store the box until you arrive. Then, everything we buy goes in the boxes and then we ship them home from the resort's front desk the day of departure.

Granted, Disney will ship things home for you (and you don't have to pay sales tax if you ship outside the state of Florida, only the shipping charges), but they don't pack them well and things get broken (especially with our local UPS delivery people...I still swear they play bumper cars with the boxes). Disney will happily replace anything broken, but they ship out the replacement with the same low-quality packing (I've had a broken item replaced twice before I just decided to live with the broken item). I'd rather pay more to know I'm handling my stuff.

Besides, letting them pack it means that you don't see it again until you get home...a problem when you're grabbing things left and right and can't remember half the time what you've bought. Heck, I have that problem even when I'm controlling the shipping! I make it a point to keep all the pins together and un-bag them every night to make sure I don't have duplicates (and to remind me of the ones I already have).

I think, even if I only bought a few items, I'd still box them up myself and ship them home.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Disney Necessities Part 5: Power Strip

Camera battery chargers, iPhone chargers, iPod chargers, laptops, tablets, yada, yada, yada. There aren't enough plugs in a hotel room to accommodate all these items plus hair dryers and Chi irons, and whatever else. That's why a power strip tucked in your luggage is always a good idea!

I actually have one that has two USB ports on it as well so that I'm not taking up valuable acreage with plugs. Especially since I have more than one camera battery charger to be able to keep them all charged. I also bought one for Am (which doubles the plug situation since she has the same stuff I do).

In the past couple of hotel rehabs, Disney has added USB ports in their desks/tables to help out (or at least every resort I've stayed in), but it's still not enough if you have just as many electronics as well do. Definitely plan on adding the power strip, you won't regret it!

Giveaway pins mailed!

I went to the post office today! I did cheat and had a coworker go with me, but I guess as long as they are mailed, it doesn't matter! Once you guys get your pins, let me know so I won't worry and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Disney Necessities Part 4: Flip Flops

I don't think people realize how massive Disney World is and just how much walking a person does. Plus, I come from Amazon women (which I am not), so I have to walk fast just to keep up with them!

Yep, I'm also pooh-sized...which means footwear in Disney World is a very particular thing. I've spent years trying to find the "right" pair of tennis shoes, only to always end up with blisters, no matter how good the shoe. I have always made it home without any serious damage to my feet, but I usually can't walk for a couple of days once I'm home. It's always been extremely frustrating.

That is, until the miracle that is Teva Mush came into my life. Am has pretty much always worn flip flops or sandals in Disney (although I do remember the occasional tennis shoe day) with very little blister problems. She talked me into trying Teva's one year when I didn't think I could take another day of tennis shoes, and I don't think I've ever looked back! Granted, there is a "training" period you feet has to go through (which I found out the hard way after some very badly-placed blisters), but once your feet are adjusted, it's SO much better!

One trip to Disney will pretty much ruin a pair of Teva's though (remember, pooh-sized?) and they are very expensive only to live for one week, but it's a price I'm willing to pay for the relatively blister-free and less painful tootsies!

I do worry a lot about getting my toes stepped on since they are displayed for all the world to see (which also means a decent pedicure - which I hate getting done professionally...I don't like being touched and someone playing with my feet completely creeps me out). As of yet, my piggies have managed to not get flattened, but I do take preventative measures to keep it from happening (any excuse to stay away from others is always welcome).

They have changed the Mush's throughout the years and not really for the better, but this year they reintroduced the Teva Mush Original and I only wish I could have gotten more than one pair before they all went into backorder!

I can't imagine Disney with tennis shoes ever again!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Disney Necessities Part 3: The iPod

Although I would never use an iPod in the parks and find great offense with those that do, it's definitely one of those "must pack" necessities I can't live without. But as far as in the parks goes, Disney sounds are as big a part of the experiences as is the sights and smells. The subtle transition changes from one land to the other in the Magic Kingdom or the tropical ambiance sounds in Animal Kingdom are really amazing if you stop to listen. And you can't forget about the songs that make up the Disney library...Grim, Grinning Ghosts or Yo, Ho A Pirates Life or even Zip A-Dee Doo-Dah, even someone who has never been to Disney knows at least one of these songs, and they are playing everywhere!

During the "getting there" part of the excursion, the comforts of the right music, music that is important to me, control my nerves almost as good as Xanax (and lots of Xanax and driving don't mix well - although lots of Xanax does mix well with airports). Granted, for anyone who travels with me, it can be especially annoying (just ask Am about the 30 hours of Take That she was forced to listen to while I drove to and fro on the last trip). Nothing better for those congested motorways than a bit of Mark Owen!!

And, although I don't usually sleep with music at home, my over-heightened senses run amuck at Disney, making it very hard to get to sleep and stay that way (especially when someone, who will remain nameless, is snoring in the bed next to me). I've been known to try to sleep on the bathroom floor with the fan running to block out the rest of the world (although it never really works). After a few days, I'm just so tired I can't help but sleep out of sheer exhaustion.

Admittingly, it's probably even harder to sleep when I'm by myself. Especially since they always want to put me on the ground floor when I'm alone. Not only do I have to worry about the room entry door, but the balcony doors as well (a factor that doesn't bother me so much on an upper floor). I may have grown up in a small town, but I have a big city mentality when it comes to safety. I'm not comfortable, for the sake of my fellow Disney guests and neighbors, to run the TV all night (although they typically don't show me the same consideration). With an iPod, I can watch videos or movies and not disturb a soul and be guaranteed I'll love what I'm watching!

When it comes to television on Disney property, the channels are very limited and there are a dozen Disney Park specific channels (gotta love Stacy!), and as much as I like watching them, they can lead to anxiety as well (just watch her and see):

As much as I love being in the parks, it's still stressful for me being there and, when I'm back in my room, I just want to forget for a while and be alone (social anxiety disorder, remember?). That's where Jane Austen comes in very handy! I have several movie versions of her books on my iPod and nothing is as soothing or as escaping as Miss Austen!

Due to the fact that I have so many songs, music videos, and movies on my iPod, a smaller shuffle or nano just can't cut it. The screen may be small, but it's an iPod classic all the way for me! That way, I can have the choice of whatever I want (even if I only listen to Take That or Darren Hayes or watch Jane Austen movies). It's just one of those "must have" Disney necessities!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Disney Necessities Part 2: The Bag

I'm a girl, therefore a purse I must carry. I have meds, camera gear, credit cards, and valuable trip documents that need a home (and the occasional extraneous Disney purchase). I do tend to over-carry supplies though and comfort in a bag is a big issue. Throughout the years I've tried them all; backpacks, sling bags, shoulder bags, and even the occasional tote bag (well, all but fanny-packs...I'm convinced there is a demon somewhere in hell laughing his ass off at his creation). Messenger bags tend to work best for me. They can go cross-body deflecting weight off of a single shoulder (although they do make for interesting tan lines). I like the thought of a drawstring backpack (especially since they are so light), but being a "pleasantly plump" girl, drawstrings don't fit so good over my arms.

I did carry a backpack for years, but having my stuff away from convenient reach made me incredibly nervous. The sling bag is just weird...it's like a backpack with everything on its side (not so good for any liquids you might carry).

Whatever bag you choose, the weather has to be a deciding factor as well. Certain times of the year in central Florida sees rain every single day at roughly the same time (mid to late afternoon). A very soft and comfortable bag doesn't do so good in rain. Expensive bags (especially leather or suede) can pretty much be considered ruined after a Florida rain storm (as my light purple suede LL Bean sling can attest to).

The final consideration is the bag searches you go through before entering the parks. Something with tons of pockets and dark interiors makes it harder to get through bag check. They want you to open every single little pocket, nook, and cranny.

No matter what bag I carry, I put the interior contents in ziploc or clear bags to make them waterproof and see-through for security (and it doesn't hurt when I'm trying to locate something either).

My bags have typically been Disney bags for the past several years, but this year, I'm going with a Vera Bradley Frill messenger bag. Its waterproof, a good size yet comfortable to wear (although maybe a bit heavy...time will tell), and, best of all, it's purple! Am managed to get it on sale at a Vera Bradley outlet. Since it's purple it matches my luggage and my laptop bag, and I do love to match!

Honestly, I wish I had the guts to carry my Donald or Stitch plush backpacks. Its not like I would stand out (to anyone other than myself)...there are tons of adults wearing weirder or worse. I can't bring myself to wear Mickey ears either, but I sure buy a ton of them!

Whichever bag you choose, don't worry if it doesn't work out, Disney has tons of choices when it comes to bags in the parks, so you can just get a new one! That's how I ended up with my Disney Nerds Messenger that's been with me for two trips and my Disney backpack that made it through four trips.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Disney Necessities Part 1: The Camera

Disney time is almost here! The closer it gets, the more the smaller, but no less important, details of Disney planning comes into play. For me, there is nothing so important as a camera. Pictures are the best memories simply because, no matter how many years pass, one glance at my Disney pics stirs the sights, smells, atmosphere, and all the feelings in a specific second of life. There is nothing else that has that power. It's the one accessory I will never go to Disney without.

Having said that, you'd think I'd be a total camera geek, but picture taking is very hard for me in more ways that one. Obviously, everyone that goes to Disney World takes pictures, but, for those that have been, have you ever seen this rampant picture taking by thousands of people? Probably not because you are too busy taking pictures of your own. But I notice everything and actually seeing cameras left and right is rare (makes you wonder where are the pictures come from). So, for me to stop and take a picture, even though everyone else HAS to be taking them as well, makes me feel like I'm doing something different and could potentially be bringing attention to myself...the power of Aspergers.

I rarely ever even stop to take a picture...I'm a drive-by picture taker! It's really hard to get good pictures that way, but I take my chances. Since, obviously, a big camera kit would be out of the question for me (there would be no way I would actually stop, set up a big kit, wait for people to get out of my way, to get the perfect image, pack it all up, and move on to the next). So, the camera I choose has to be small and brilliant at the same time meaning Point and Shoot, or P&S.

Unfortunately, small and brilliant are two things you rarely find in any P&S (especially in low light...rarely ever have ride pictures come out decent). I keep trying to find the "perfect" camera (much to the chagrin of my family...they hate the fact that I buy a new camera almost every trip), but, as of yet, no luck with what I'm looking for. I keep looking though, adding even more time into Disney planning and research.

And, low light pics brings up another topic...flash. I rarely ever use flash in Disney World. It's not allowed on dark rides (although, throughout the years, I've had many a ride ruined by someone who ignores that rule), and most of the time the subject is so far away, a tiny P&S flash is useless anyway. It kills me during fireworks when flashes are going off left and right...what the hell for? It's not like it's doing any good! It's just a waste of battery life! Drives me absolutely bezonker-nuts!

Another issue to take into account is the fact that Disney is very "colorful". Many, typically considered "high quality", cameras are pretty muted when it comes to color, but, at the same time, many "colorful" cameras are typically low on the quality side. Early Kodak digitals were actually quite perfect for Disney World since they were high on color (although, not so good on quality). I've had quite a few of those in my day and I will always defend my decision to invest in Kodak. They really weren't as bad as everyone thinks (at least from a Disney standpoint). Some of my favorite Disney pics ever were taken with my Kodaks (these are untouched pre-produced photos fresh off the memory stick):

Don't get me started on Olympus. I'm technologically savvy, but I think you might need an engineering degree to operate those bloody things! Granted, I haven't messed with any in a few years (so they might be better now, although I doubt it), but Am had one that totally sucked...and, coming from the person that had to "fix" all of her pictures, I think I can safely say it's a verified opinion. Every single picture was dull and crooked, so they all had to be adjusted post-production numerous ways to get them right. Luckily, she never took that many to begin with.

There is always one brand you just don't like for whatever reason, and mine's Canon. I don't like their body, I don't like their menus, and frankly, I'm not too impressed with their picture quality either (despite their rave reviews from pretty much the entire world).

I want to hit the "auto fix" button in any photo software and not see any kind of change (or very little of one). Kodak gave me that, but when even their color quality started dropping, I had to go in search of something else. That something else had to be a Sony. I swear by every other product that Sony makes (and own most), so I had to give their camera-making abilities the same level of dedication and, I have to say, I have yet to be disappointed!!

In regard to low light, my last, the Sony TX-66, was definitely the best. Here is a pre-produced pic from last year:

Am has a Nikon now (and doesn't go through them like I do), and although the color is a bit better, there is still a crooked issue (I kid that it's her head that's crooked). It's not her fault, she really does have a good eye (much better than mine for sure). Here is an example of she and I taking pictures of the exact same thing and the differences in color level:
Am's pre-production (notice the fading and blown out sky):

And mine (an early Sony of mine the TX1) pre-production from pretty much the same standpoint right next to her and at the very same time):

I wasn't in the market for a new camera for this trip. I blame my Mother who said, "you're not planning on buying ANOTHER camera this year, are you?". She planted a seed. My TX66 was working quite well, but there was still a bit of quality issue and the fact that it is so incredibly tiny made for lots of "freak out" moments when I thought I'd lost it.

I do read the DisBoards (although reluctantly, and with very little joy, it typically pisses me off more than it informs me of anything). I've been on them for many years (with very little posting on my part). But I do take great interest in the Photography boards over there. I look at everyone's pictures (the best way to judge a camera, IMO), read their thoughts on P&S's, and even absorb a bit of knowledge about Mirrorless (which I did consider this time, I just don't think I'm ready for one yet, both in skill level and price level...maybe next time) and DSLR's (so far out of my price range it's not funny! The lenses alone would be two months salary for me!).

The more research I did, the more I started leaning toward the Sony rx100 (the supposed best P&S ever made with DSLR quality pics). Knowing they were about to come out with its successor, the m2, I waited to see what the initial reviews of it were...they were very positive, but still, there was no Disney-themed reviews or pictures for me to ogle at and make my decision. Following the advice of a DisBoard member who loves the rx100, I took the plunge on the m2 anyway. Here's hoping and thanks bunches Havoc!

The only "bad point" I've identified so far is that it's not a touch screen. The past five cameras I've had have all been touch screens. I miss that already. The fact that I can use filters is a big plus (although taking the time to switch out or add filters might be difficult). It also has RAW capability, another area I'm anxious to delve into. I'm just excited to take pictures on dark rides...that's the true test of any camera!

Ultimately, camera choice is personal. It's what you're comfortable with and the final product that makes the camera. Professional photographers say it's the photographer and not the camera that makes the picture, but I disagree...I'm a crappy photographer but even I can turn out a few decent shots given the right instrument. The software you use in post-production is another big element, but that's for another blog series!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Giveaway and pup update

Congrats again to the winners of my first ever giveaway! I've got the pins sorted and ready to go, I'm just waiting on Heather Cartwright and Lauren at Ambitious Stitches to send me their info so that I can get it all mailed together!

So, in the meantime, how about a little update of my chitlins...Bam and Zachary (oh, and I took these right after they ate, so they are a bit messy)!
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Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Disney Trips

OK, enough suspense! How many times has Keebles been to Disney World already? The answer still isn't ready to be revealed...let me wander just a bit before I give an actual total.

My first ever trip to Disney World was 1981. I was 10, almost 11 years old and, once it was finished, I swore I would never take another family vacation as long as I lived! Not because Disney was bad, but because my Step-Dad...well, let's just say he isn't the nicest person on the planet. Back then, the only park was Magic Kingdom (Epcot was only a model in Tomorrowland and we had no idea they were actually building it-pre-widespread internet usage). We stayed off-site because there were only a couple of resorts then (and staying on-site wasn't such a big deal like it is now). We also did Sea World, Circus World (R.I.P.), Cape Canaveral and NASA, the beach, and probably other things I don't remember...all in one week! Plus, not only was it the middle of summer, but I was also cutting my molars. Not happy days.

It was also much harder to hide the fact that I was different than other kids my age by then. Do I remember rides or important moments from that trip? Nope...one of the only memories I have is throwing a very loud and public hissie-fit because I was told I could only have one stuffed plush, either Mickey or Minnie, and I wanted both. Needless to say, I got both - not because I was spoiled and just wanted both (OK, I am spoiled, but that's another story), but because Mickey and Minnie were a "set" and should stay together, especially since they were in matching summer outfits (told you I was "off"). I can remember everyone around staring at me, I remember my Mother's face, I can even remember the puzzled look on Am's face. Weird what we remember in detail. Asper-Keebs was shining in her first ever spotlight, and not in a good way.

So much happiness in our little family:
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Notice my Mother has four legs? Another tantrum of mine...I hate getting my picture made:
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I did go on vacations with my Step-Dad's parents or with my Aunt and Grandmother and even once with my Dad, so I still managed to go to a lot of different places. I never felt like I missed out on anything...lack of family experiences or not.

Later on, when I was in my late teens, my parents and my sister went again...without me. I moved out at 17 and had separated myself even more from the family by then. They didn't ask me to go anyway (not that I would have said yes). I kind of wish now I would have gone with them...to see Epcot in the early years? What a trill! But I know that it would have been just as miserable as '81. They had a good time without me (I don't think I am the problem, the tension between me and my Step-Dad is to blame, but it still hurts my pride knowing they could have a better time without me).

Once I got married, I really wanted to go as a "couple". My ex had never really been anywhere and I was really anxious to show him all that I had seen, no place more than Disney World! I even went to a travel agent (back in the day when you still needed travel agents), booked the trip, and was paying for it when we got divorced. I wasn't so upset about the marriage, but definitely about another Disney opportunity gone (at least I got my money back)!

In 1999, knowing that I still wanted to go, my Mother offered to go with me. Now my count was up to 2 trips! Granted, '99 wasn't much better than '81, but for an entirely different reason. I was at my social worst...constant panic attacks and severe anti-social disorder. I was also less than a year away from filing bankruptcy...some people eat for comfort, I spend. So, when I wasn't trying to hide at every opportunity or making myself sick when I couldn't hide, I was buying everything up in sight!

By 2004, Am and I were grown and relations between the family was better, so why not break my oath and try again? Plus, it would be the first time Am's husband had the full monty of life in our family. Surely, now that Am and I were grown and we'd all matured, we could do much better, right? WRONG! '04 made '81 and '99 look like picnics! We can laugh about it today (Strawberry Shortcake?!?!?), but at the time I had a hard time keeping myself from crying every five minutes.

I planned that entire trip all by myself for five people in three separate rooms (and thank god for that-I was extremely grateful for my solo room). I studied and researched every single book and what little there was on the internet at the time and basically did everything I could to make it all picture perfect, only to be shot down at every turn by my Step-Dad.

It wasn't all bad though...Am and I got closer, everyone else could finally see what a jerk my Step-Dad is (instead of just me), my oath of no more family vacations was renewed with vigor, and my love for Disney got even stronger, bad trips be damned! Once we split off into groups, we were even able to enjoy the end of the trip! Some of our favorite (and worst) memories are from that trip in particular (best-"yo, ho, yo ho a pirates life for me, I use a knife to stir my tea!"; worst-show out at Le Cellier).

Notice how everyone tries to act like they are happy except for the Jerk-Meister? Glad I take the pics now and don't have to be in them or it would have been even worse (not entirely sure Am's not saying, "just shut the hell up and smile":
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In an effort to finally have the perfect jerk-free Disney trip, Am and I decided to go together without the rest of the family (although my brother-in-law would have been more than welcome...he's just a very busy man). So in 2005, Sisters Amuck was born and I had my first "real" Disney World trip!! It was also my first stay at Wilderness Lodge (which is probably why it's so endeared to me) as well as our first Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party! Now the addiction was in full swing!

2006 - my first solo and Christmas trip; 2007 - another Halloween Sisters Amuck tour de force; 2008 - my second solo and my first real Food & Wine Festival participation; 2009 - Sisters Amuck travel in luxury thanks to Am's husband; 2010 - another Sisters Amuck masterpiece; and 2012 (I skipped 2011 for financial reasons and I still regret it to this day) - last year's trip and my first Disney Passholder experience.

Granted, even the wonderful trips had their "moments", but not even Disney World is 100% perfect (just 99%). Then again, maybe the horrible years make every good moment in Disney even more magical. I don't really care why it's so wonderful or important to me now, it just is!

So, in case you lost count...that's 10 trips total in my whole life!!!

This upcoming trip is quite possibly the shortest, but I'm really planning on it being the best one ever! I do have reservations about December for many different reasons (Am knows them and concurs on most), but I haven't given up hope on it yet. 2013 will add another two to my belt.

Come 2014, I am planning a spring Flower and Garden Festival trip with my friend Kate over at The Suddenly Kate Show, but I also can't miss a Halloween trip, so another one is in development for October (plus, with the passholder discounts, I can go twice a year for the cost of once a year).

In 2015, there will be a Disney World trip (although I'm not sure when), but there will also be my very first Disneyland trip with my T-Boo! So good times ahead folks and plenty more Disney-themed blog posts on the horizon!!

Congratulations again to all the blog winners!

My Magic Band has arrived!

Just last week, I received my Magic Band for my upcoming October trip to "the World". It came in a huge box (the same size box that four usually fit in-which I think is a massive waste of space).

My name is on the back of the actual band as well. I did actually choose the gray (the color given when you don't pick a color) because, as of now, they don't have purple as an option (BAD DISNEY!). I really hate pink and also green, orange, red, and yellow and I thought the blue might be too boyish, so that left me with gray. I'm cool with my choice though, you can decorate them up with gibbits or sleeves and such, so no worries there.

To tell you the truth, I'm not jazzed about the whole Magic+ concept. It is still in the testing phase as of now, but since every upcoming resort guest is "being chosen" for testing, one might as well just say they are in full use. The only thing that might change after testing is that more options could be added to the plan. I do think that, not only Disney could benefit by offering more options to on-site guests versus off-site ones (by getting more people to stay on-site), but on-site guests, who pay more to do so, could benefit from more extra perks (and make up the difference for the currently dwindling perks-SAVE EXTRA MAGIC HOURS!!).

For those that don't know, Magic+ is Disney's new way of doing things...and in things I mean EVERYTHING! Disney has been using the Key to the World card for resort guests for years, which is basically a credit card with your park tickets, your meal plan, your room key, and even charging privileges all in one. For their fastpass system (a way to bypass the long line in favor of a much shorter one), you would just insert your World card and out spits a fastpass giving you an exact window of when to return to the ride to bypass the line. Fastpasses are good and evil, good in that you don't have to stand in line for hours, but bad because you avoid the "good queues" where all the cool stuff is (i.e. Expedition Everest and Haunted Mansion are the worst offenders-great queues that Fastpassers don't get to see).

But the Magic Bands are replacing the World card for everything, including fastpass distribution. Instead of rushing to the line of the ride to get your fastpass, you can book it weeks in advance or, once you've arrived, at kiosks set up around the parks. I admit, I am a serious planner and have no problem planning my day around dining reservations, but adding more specific plans for times of day to be around specific rides, might just be too much planning! We do use fastpasses, but not a lot and not in ways that usually affects our day.

I also think putting all your eggs in one basket might not be such a good thing. I think I prefer to keep my card safe in my bag or in my pocket versus wearing a hot and sweating (and rather unattractive) rubber electronic bracelet. These bracelets can be kept and used for future trips as well (i.e. they will eventually get all ugly and worn out or lost and Disney can charge you to replace them).

Another big UGH thing for me concerning the bands is the fact that, once you scan the band, the castmembers are now supposed to acknowledge you by name. I have dealt with the torture of my name my entire life and rarely has anyone pronounced it right the first time without me having to correct them (hence why most of the world knows me as Keebles). The thought of spending my Disney days either being called by the wrong name and letting it go, or constantly having to say, "it's pronounced Key-lee", does not make me happy. Way too much interaction and personalization. Sometimes you just wanna be a nameless, faceless person in a crowd (especially if you have Asperger's)! ATTENTION DISNEY HIGHER-UPS...not every single Disney guest likes interaction or personalization (and also ban those stupid flashing thingees on dark busses so people like me with brain tumors don't have seizures!!!).

Here is a really great intro video to Magic Band use by one of my favorite Disney Fan Site owners (and fan video seller-every year I get a keepsake Halloween or Christmas party video from him to remind me what the park and party was like that particular year). Jeff Lange over at JeffLangeDVD and Mousesteps.com:


But, needless to say, like them or not, they are probably here to stay (at least until Disney can start using the electronic chips we will eventually have inserted in bodies, because really, is there any other way to take it to the next level?).

Blogoversary Giveaway Finished!!

It's done, kaput, finito, fin, ende, terminado, wrapped up, sqashed...well, you get the point. While no one hit the proverbial nail on the head, Siobhan got the closest with 13 and Heather was second with 15. I only wish I had been in the 30's like Lauren and DJH guessed, but their Disney-lovin comments put a huge smile on my face! So, since I only had four total entries, let's just say that EVERYBODY WINS!!! I have enough for everybody anyway. Heather and Siobhan will get a couple of extras thrown in because they were first to guess and top of the class and Lauren and DJH will get their handful for just being Disneyfied!

Everyone, please send me your addresses (and my UK friend will need to send me her phone # as well for the shipping document). I do ask that you guys be patient with me...going to the post office is one of the hardest things for me, so it might take me a bit to gather up the courage to get there. I'll email you when I make it!

CONGRATULATIONS EVERYBODY!

If you've noticed, I haven't actually told how many times I've been to Disney World yet. There is a reason for this. Stay tuned to further blog posts for that information.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Last day for Giveaway!

Today is the last day to get your entry in for my Blogoversary Celebration-Disney pin giveaway! I've really only gotten one serious entry (thanks to Heather Cartwright!), so I figure I'd give it one more shot! Oh, and Heather, just because you were the "real" first entry, I'm giving you a handful of pins even if someone else beats your guess! Congrats!! Send me your details when you can and I'll get them shipped out A.S.A.P. (there is an email link in my "About Me" section-currently to the lower right of this post).

Anyone interested in winning a handful of Disney pins, you have until midnight tonight to guess how many times in total (solo or with family) I have been to Disney World (not including the two upcoming trips).

Oh, and I forgot...here is the LINK to the original Bloversary Giveaway post for you to sign up!