Fall is in the Air

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I love autumn! It is my favorite season out of the whole year. I am obsessed with pumpkins. I love Halloween and we were married, take our vacation and our daughter was born during the season.

One activity that makes me think about fall is going apple picking.

Simmon’s Farm in McMurray, Pennsylvania is a little under an hour away for us. For years, we have been visiting the farm during the fall either to go apple picking or to enjoy some of their other autumn activities like a corn maze, pumpkin picking and more.

However, this was the first year that Lily has gone apple picking. And I think it was a success.

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The way it works is that you pay for what you pick. You can choose different amounts like a half bushel, a bushel, etc.

We decided to pick a bushel because I love to make apple sauce and it takes a lot of apples. (I might end up doing a video and sharing the recipe for my homemade applesauce in the near future.)

Since we went during an early part of the season only two types of apples were available, gala and I want to think it was Golden Delicious. We decided to get a half bushel of each type.

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While of course it is nice to have the delicious apples to enjoy, one of the biggest benefits is doing the actual picking. Lily loved it and was able to see where her food comes from and learn about how apples go from farm to table.

The day was perfect and we couldn’t have asked for more.

What are one of your favorite early fall activities that you like to do with your family? Leave a comment below!


Soaking Up the Last of Summer

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It is hard to believe that summer is almost over. It seems like it was just Fourth of July and now kids are going back to school and Halloween candy is making its appearance on store shelves.

We try our best to do everything on our “Summer Bucket List” but inevitability we realize that we can’t get everything done.

This year was especially difficult because our weather was more rainy and cooler on Saturdays, the days that we usually go and do our adventures.

After trying for about a month, we finally made it to the Soak Zone at Idlewild park last weekend.

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Included with a ticket to Idlewild park is Soak Zone, a small water park.

While we had been to the rest of the park through this year, we hadn’t been to the water park portion.

When I say it is a smallish water park, it is by no means tiny. There are about five different areas in the water park.

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Map courtesy of Idlewild

Soak Zone includes an awesome wave pool (which is where we spent most of our time), I think four water slides (it could be more), a lazy river type attraction, a little kids play area and a bigger kids play area that features a dump bucket with a bunch of kid sized water slides, plus a stand alone dump bucket.

When we first arrived last Saturday it seemed like it was going to be a little cool and very cloudy.

However, luck was on our side and it became pretty sunny and warm and we made it out before a storm hit.

Personally, my favorite place to spend time was at the Wowabunga Wavepool.

Lily could swim around and splash between wave sessions, and when the waves began, we sat on the “beach” and let the waves rush up on us.

Lily seemed to really enjoy the little kids splash area.

The pool is only about one foot deep and features tubes that spray water up and down. Kids even have the option of turning a valve that controls how much water sprays out.

We had such a wonderful day full of lots of family fun and memories.

We sure tired out Lily by spending almost four hours splashing around.

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We finished the day off by taking a ride on the carousel and grabbing a quick lunch before leaving. Lily was asleep before we hit the main road to home.

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Did you get to do a lot on your “Summer Bucket List?” Leave a comment below.


More to the Mouse

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Many people go to Walt Disney World or set sail on the Disney Cruise Line to escape reality. Let’s face it, the real world can be an ugly and scary place.

For me, this is the main reason why I return to the various Disney properties time and time again. I want to escape.

Another benefit of going to the parks time and time again can be because you can apply the Disney principles to your everyday life.

A lot of different corporations implement the Disney management style to their businesses.

But on a smaller scale, what if you could apply the Disney principles to your everyday life?

For myself and my family, we look at the world through the lense of Christianity. Others might look through a Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or other spiritual lense, and that is the great thing about Walt Disney World. Walt Disney was very careful to not exclude any religion in his films or vacation properties.

However, if you are of the spiritual faith there are some books available that can marry the two together.

One book that I really enjoyed is “Faith Trust and Pixie Dust” by Mark I. Pinsky.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Pinsky, who is a religion journalist, according to the book’s Amazon listing, wanted to take a deeper look at one of the biggest influences on children: Disney.

Each chapter looks at a different film and the biggest message it tries to impart on the viewer.

For example, “Dumbo” looks at a mother’s love while “Robin Hood” looks at tax rebates.

This book does not really have a Christian leaning, or any other denominational leaning. It is more a look at morality and the Disney influence.

For anyone looking for a more direct approach to Chrisitianty and the Walt Disney World vacation, check out “A Christian’s Guide to Walt Disney World Resort” by Jeff Chaves.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Unlike “Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust” this book definitely is geared toward the Christian denomination.

This is sort of almost a “Bible study” type of book that takes a look at a Walt Disney World attraction, attaches a Bible verse to it, a little bit of details about the attraction, how it can connect to Christianity and questions for further discussion.

For example, Space Mountain, located in Tomorrowland of the Magic Kingdom, the author uses the verse “God is Involved in Every Detail of Our Lives” — Matthew 10:30-31.

It further tells people to look out for the Earth that is shown at the end of the coaster and how God is involved in everything that goes on on Earth.

There are then four different questions that can help develop a deeper discussion of the connection between the two.

This format continues through the rest of the book.

Two books that go together well that combine one of literature’s most beloved characters, as well as a bear that has been a part of the Walt Disney World family for many years is “The Tao of Pooh” and it’s companion book “The Te of Piglet,” both by Benjamin Hoff.

These two books explore Buddhist principles through the lense of Winnie the Pooh and his fellow Hundred-Acre-Woods neighbors.

I have only read “The Tao of Pooh,” but I really enjoyed it.

The author interacts with the characters and uses many of their stories that are told in their books as an example of Buddhist teachings.

Hoff even talks about the different personalities of the character factor into the principles as well.

I really enjoyed these books because they are an easy way to learn about what is Tao and offer a different perspective on life.

Obviously, these are just a sampling of these types of books that are available out there. There are lots that look at the connection between spirituality and Disney. A simple search will bring up many of them.

Is this something you are interested in, or do you prefer to keep everything at an entertainment level when it comes to Disney? Leave a message in the comments below.


Eat to the Beat Lineup Announced

It is hard to believe that Fourth of July is almost here and plans are already in motion for the fall at Walt Disney World.

One of the highlights at Epcot during this time of year is the Eat to the Beat concert series that is included in the price of admission.

These concerts, running from Aug. 31-Nov. 13 often feature interesting acts that you might have to pay a pretty good price to see elsewhere.

If I lived down in the Florida I would be making frequent trips to check out a lot of these concerts.

This year’s concert series will feature 32 different acts who will take to the stage at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. each day.

This year’s festival includes:

Aug. 31-Sept. 1 — Delta Rae “Bottom of the River”

Sept. 2-3: The Hooters “And We Danced”

Sept. 4-5: Baha Men “Who Let the Dogs Out”

Sept. 6-7: Fuel “Shimmer”

Sept. 8-10: STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas “We Built This City”

Sept. 11-12: Lauren Alaina “Road Less Traveled”

Sept. 13-15: Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah”

Sept. 16-17: Sister Hazel “All For You”

Sept. 18-20: Air Supply “All Out of Love”

Sept. 21-22: David Cook “Light On”

Sept. 23-24: Everclear “Santa Monica”

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Everclear (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.) (As a side note, in my other life I had the chance to interview the lead singer of the band for my work. Really nice guy.)

Sept. 25-27: Sugar Ray “Every Morning”

Sept. 28-29: 38 Special “Hold on Loosely”

Sept. 30-Oct. 1: Mark Wills “19 Somethin”

Oct. 2-3: American Authors “Best Day of My Life”

Oct. 4-5: Christopher Cross “Sailing”

Oct. 6-8: Devon Allman “Ragged and Dirty”

Oct. 9-11: Dennis DeYoung: The Music of STYX “Come Sail Away”

Oct. 12-13: Taylor Dayne “Tell It to My Heart”

Oct. 14-15: Jeffrey Osborne “One the Wings of Love”

Oct. 16-17: Postmodern Jukebox Various Hits

Oct. 18-20: 10,000 Maniacs “Because the Night”

Oct. 21-22: Toad the West Sprocket “Walk on the Ocean”

Oct. 23-24: Kenny G “Songbird”

Oct. 25-26: Billy Ocean “Get Outta My Dreams”

Oct. 27-29: Tiffany “I Think We’re Alone Now”

Oct. 30-Nov. 1: Hanson “MMMBop”

Nov. 2-3: Blue October “Into the Ocean”

Nov. 4-5: Living Colour “Cult of Personality”

Nov. 6-8: Boyz II Men “End of the Road”

Nov. 9-11: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy “Go Daddy-O”

Nov. 12-13: Squeeze “Black Coffee in Bed”

If you want to make the concert a complete event there are also 15 popular Epcot restaurants that you can eat either breakfast, lunch or dinner at and will give you confirmed seating for a same day performance.

Which concert are you most interested in? Leave your comments below.


Kennywood’s Open

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Growing up as a kid in the Pittsburgh region, it wasn’t summer until you made the annual pilgrimage to the holy land of childhood fun and memories: Kennywood Park.

Since my dad worked there for many years when he was younger, I grew up going to the park ever since I could remember.

When I was younger I remember riding The Turnpike with my Dad in the passenger seat thinking I was a big deal because now he was the one in the the back seat.

When I got older, high school age, I couldn’t wait to go to Kennywood with my friends as part of our school picnic. We would ride from morning to dark when the lights would come alive and transform the park to a magical, neon fed world that made it seem like summer would never end.

Then for awhile it seems like life gets too busy and you are between college classes, work and starting out on married life and you just don’t think about going back for awhile.

But everything changes when you have a child of your own and you want to take them to give them the same kind of experience that you had when you were growing up.

Luckily for us Kev’s work hosts an annual company picnic at Kennywood and we take advantage of the offer and spend the day in the park where I grew up.

I remember the first time we went to Kennywood with Lily it was a different experience then the one I just had this past week which was three years later.

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Kennywood 2016

This year we were able to try Lily on a couple of different rides that she was unable to ride last year, like the Kangaroo. She really enjoyed this ride, but at first she was afraid that it was too fast, but she ended up really liking it.

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We did spend a lot of time in Kiddieland riding the numerous rides that she enjoyed a couple of times. I felt bad for the poor ride operator that had to basically pull her out of the helicopter ride while she was a sobbing mess.

The carousel was my favorite attraction to enjoy with Lily. We rode it twice and the first time Lily didn’t like it because she said her horse went up too high. But the second time we opted for one that didn’t move. She liked it a lot better.

But, her favorite ride was Garfield’s Nightmare. This 3-D boat ride through different scenes depicting a nightmare for the orange fuzzy cat (ie attacking ice cream cones, a menacing vet getting ready to give a shot, and more).

The ride is more funny than it is scary and is brightly painted and highlighted by a black light.

Speaking of things that are funny, Lily has the best of luck when it comes to playing games at amusement parks.

She loves the fishing game or duck game where you pick three of the animals to see what you win. Lily picked three ducks at Kennywood and she walked away with a large prize, which was a big frog that she named Ribbit.

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We had a wonderful day and were so thankful to Kev’s company for having the picnic and giving us many more memories that we will cherish for years to come.

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Meeska-Mooska-Get Early Reservations-ska

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

There are a few restaurants in Walt Disney World that are very difficult to get “advanced dining reservations” (ADRs) for because they are a very coveted dining experience.

One such place is Chef Mickey’s located in the heart of the bustling Comtemporary Resort situated on the monorail line.

There are a couple of factors that contribute to making this dining location so popular including the fact is it is on the monorail line, is a buffet and features a character meal with some of the most popular characters on property.

Menu

Chef Mickey’s is open for all three meals and features a buffet that is sure to please all sorts of pallets.

Breakfast

Seasonal melons and fruit, smoked salmon, quinoa salad, hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese scramble, carved ham, tofu scramble with spinach, chef’s specialty pancake of the day, Mickey waffles, Minnie muffins and more.

Brunch

Peel-and-eat shrimp, assorted salads, yogurts and toppings, barbecue pork ribs, baked salmon with seasonal garnish, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and more.

Dinner

Fresh mixed fruit salad, baked chicken, carving station selections, chef’s selection of pasta, seasonal bread pudding, create-your-own sundae bar and lots more.

Dinner and a Show 

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World 

In addition to being visited by the characters table side, there is also some music, dancing and even napkin twirling that takes place that makes the experience so much fun.

Cost

The cost of Chef Mickey’s is pretty much on par with other character buffets within the resort.

For breakfast and brunch for an adult it is $41 and for a child it’s $25. Dinner is $50 for adults and $30 for children.

If you have the dining plan you can use it at Chef Mickey’s.

When to make reservations

You will want to make reservations right when you reach 180 days out. Like I said earlier, it is a hard ADR to secure, but it can be done.

Breakfast is the most coveted and dinner is a close second, so you might want to try for brunch during an off eating time. Another benefit of brunch is you get to taste both breakfast and dinner foods.

Does Chef Mickey’s seem like a restaurant you would like to try out? Leave your comments below.

For more tips about where to grab something to eat at Walt Disney World, pick up your copy of Mousekatots.

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Pandora’s Box

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Photo courtesy of thedisneyblog.com

If you haven’t heard yet, Pandora, the world of the Avatar films, has been having a soft beta opening this past week.

A group of lucky guests have had the opportunity to explore this incredible, new world situated in Disney’s Animal Kingdom before it opens to the public on May 27.

Here is a round up of some of the early reviews on what people are saying.

To Eat

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When it comes to food, Pandora has two options that have items for both the timid and adventerous palate.

The first is the Satu’li Canteen, a quick service restaurant.

The food looks amazing, and what I have heard it tastes just as good, too.

Being a vegetarian, I am happy that they have plenty of options available that would qualify as a full meal.

One of the best deals here are the different bowls (slow roasted sliced beef, chopped woodfire chicken, sustainable fish bowl, or the chili-spiced crispy tofu bowl). Chalk full of vegetables and Boba balls, you get a pretty good bang for your around $12 buck.

Another option, if you are looking for a quick beverage (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) can be found at Pongu Pongu.

There are a ton of exotic looking drinks here to wet your whistle including the Mo’ara Margarita in a Souviner Mug with a Glowing Unadelta Seed for $18.25.

To Buy

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

Inside of Pandora there is one store that sells souviners called Windtraders.

Here you will find cultural artifacts of the Na’vi, science kits, specialized apparel and even some of the region’s more colorful creatures.

To Do

Let’s face it, the main reason why people are in the area is to experience the attractions that this area has to offer.

The first is the Na’vi River Journey.

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

Think of this attraction as a sort of high tech Small World. You go on a boat where you look at the amazing flora and fauna and the super sophisitcated animatronics.

People have been saying this has been blowing guests away. It is beautiful and you swear that the animatroics are real people.

The other attraction in Pandora, Flight of Passage, has been blowing people away for a wide variety of reasons, not all of them good.

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Photo courtesy of WaltDisneyWorld.com

On this ride you board your very own banshee and take to the skies of Pandora.

While on the ride vehicle you wear special glasses and view a large screen that is similar to Soarin’.

People who have been on the attraction have been raving about how amazing the experience is and that is like none other in the entire resort.

However, the Disney community has also been up in arms over the attraction as well.

When the rider steps onto the vehicle they have to sit on it like a motorcycle. Then a support comes up and pushes against the back while two braces come behind the calves and they also push forward.

The problem is that many people who are either tall or of the “Winnie the Pooh” shaped variety are having a difficult time fitting onto the ride and are subsequently being asked leave the ride.

One early previewer said that she had estimated 22% of the people that were slated to ride were asked to leave.

Another person said that in one group four out of 12 and seven out of 12 were asked to leave.

Some people are saying that because of the calf area being tight, people with either larger calves or taller people couldn’t fit properly into the restraints.

Supposdly, cast members are taking note of how many people are asked to leave the vehicle and the reason, so there is hope that this issues will be fixed in the future.

Are you looking forward to visiting Pandora? What are you most looking forward to?