Monday, December 30, 2013

The Fairest Week In Review: 12/30

Another just-Jenn WIR, guys. I'm so sorry about teasing you with last week's return of the dynamic duo, but SOMEBODY is on a road trip with her boyfriend. (The somebody in question is Moon.) She tells me she went for a run in Tennessee and will do a post on it, so we will forgive her her absence. ;)

As for my running last week... ehhhh. Well. It's better than last year. Last year I didn't run at ALL in the week between Christmas and New Year's. This year I am at least getting miles in. But they suck. They are slow and lackluster and subpar and generally displeasing all around.

I don't know what it is about the between-holidays period that destroys my running ability. One could argue that it's holiday food, but if that IS the case, it's the case in reverse... I actually react to eating sweets by consuming LESS food. That is, I eat cake INSTEAD of regular meals, not in addition to, because that way the calorie counts work out all right. Often I actually end up feeling like I've lost weight, if you can believe it. But of course this is not the right way to go about fueling up for exercise. Good ol' nutritional catch-22s.

Anyway. I AM running, as I said, so that's good, especially since the Tinker Bell Half is less than a month away. I'm just not feeling super inspired at the moment. Don't worry - I'm sure it'll all come back to me next week.

Or anyway it better. I want to be worthy of that corral B placement!

Um... no blog post roundup this week, guys. I haven't actually been reading many blog posts. Backlog next week! In the meantime, if there's a post you want to be sure I see, feel free to send me the link.

In the meantime - how does your running fare during the holidays? Does my reverse food weirdness make any sense to you or am I clearly insane?

P.S. It was my birthday the day after Christmas. Just sayin.' :)

From Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Christmas Town last year.
Because I didn't have anything more relevant.

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out
Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Fairest Week In Review: 12/23

JENN: Let's start by noting that we finally got around to putting together our flights for the Tinker Bell Half, and I'm super excited!

MOON: We are flying to LA, whhhat!

JENN: And our flight out is even nonstop. Unprecedented!

MOON: The cares weren't too steep either. I mean fares.

JENN: Indeed.

MOON: Quite.

JENN: Yes. Overall, I think it's an auspicious beginning.

MOON: So... tell me about your week. I hear there was a muscle injury?

JENN: :( Yeah.

MOON: I'm so sorry. Did you walk today?

JENN: Yeah, today was just a walk.

See, on Thursday I went for a run with Nicole in DC. We ran from DuPont Circle to the National Zoo and back and it was awesome and fun and we had a great time.

But the next day I felt a little twinge in the muscle next to my Achilles' tendon. It didn't seem unusually sore, so like an idiot I went for another short run anyway and turned it into a legitimate problem.

Luckily it's feeling a lot better now - I may even try running again tomorrow - but I'm trying to be smart about not pushing things.

MOON: You might be good for a short run, but whenever I push it, I always make things worse. Tread lightly my dear.

JENN: I'll grit my teeth and be careful, promise!

Did you run this week?

MOON: I did! I had two great runs. Speed and distance was pretty good. Improvement is happening, and my excitement for January is heightening. I'm glad to say I'm getting back into my normal routine.

JENN: Yay! Which reminds me! We got our corral assignment for Tink, annnnnnnd... CORRAL B. WHAT. That deserves the comic strip sound effect salute!

MOON: BOOM!

JENN: SHAZAM!

MOON: High five!

JENN: Anything noteworthy musically this week?

MOON: A lot of indie electronic, nothing too spectacular to note this week.

JENN: Yeah. I'm on a Flogging Molly kick again, but that happens, like, every two weeks.

MOON: That's my Queen, girl. I must say this, however! Beethoven's birthday was this week. I LOVE running to the symphonies. Magic happens.

JENN: Beethoven owns us all.

MOON: Amen.

Your lord and master.

JENN: Right then. Roundup time!

- Running Toward the Prize can help make cold runs less miserable.
- Learn to love the treadmill with Mom's Magical Miles.
- Searching for info on the Tinker Bell Half? Margaritas, Miles, and the Mouse has the lowdown.
- Make your own medal display with Fairytales and Fitness.
- Run Eat Repeat offers a healthier version of a peppermint shake.
- The Disney Hipsters share the best Christmas card ever.
- Read another take on the questionable Escape from Tomorrow from Food Fitness Fantasy.

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Fairest Trip Report of All: Restaurant Reviews - 12/04 & 12/05

The trip report continues with restaurant reviews! Click here to see all the posts for this report.

'Kay, so, I think for the most part I covered the counter service food in the reports themselves, but there is much to be said about table service restaurants. We had one per day, so strap in, kids!

How do we start this culinary tour of Walt Disney World? Why, with a little place you may have heard of on top of the Contemporary called the California Grill. And yes, we got a Magic Kingdom-side window seat. Easily, even. (Want to pull off the same trick? Make your reservation between 7 and 7:30PM and just stretch that sucker out until the fireworks.)

First things first - drinks! My mom is not a big drinker and I'm not about to get wasted with my immediate family anyway, but we did want to mark the occasion with a little something. I convinced my mom to sample the Rosa Regale, a sweet red sparkling wine from Italy. I first tried this when Elizabeth did the World Showcase wine walk thingee; you know, where you go to Germany, Italy, and France and get two wine samples in each country? Anyway, in Italy we tried Rosa Regale and it was delicious.

For myself, I hemmed and hawed and eventually settled on an item from the cocktail menu - the Cucumber Fizz. The concoction involves gin, limoncello, cucumber water, and a dash of Sprite. Delicious. Highly recommended if you don't mind a vegetable in your drink.


As I have mentioned before, my mom is a mostly-vegetarian who occasionally dabbles in pescatarianism, which is a word spellcheck refuses to recognize in any form so I will clarify that she eats fish sometimes. As such, order round one consisted of the tomato and mozzarella flatbread and the carrot soup with whitefish.

I was a trifle nervous about the flatbread after reading a less than stellar review on Eating WDW, but it was vegetarian-friendly and I love mozzarella so we went for it anyway. Maybe they finally worked the kinks out of the recipe, or we just lucked out, but ours was good! The mozzarella wasn't as sublime as what you can get at Tutto Gusto, but it was tasty, and the roasted tomatoes were fantastic. We saved a few slices for breakfast.


The carrot soup was also very good, with a robust flavor, but the whitefish didn't have much taste. It was nice to have a bit of texture variance but that was about all it added.

After careful thought, we selected as our next course one heirloom apple salad per person and a Sonoma goat cheese ravioli to share.


The salads were good, and interesting in the fact that the greens were cooked, but unremarkable. Normally a good salad is enough to keep me happy, but these were expensive salads, so I feel like greater effort should have been expended to make it stand out. The ravioli, on the other hand, was fantastic. I mean, if you don't like goat cheese, it's not going to make a believer out of you, but if you're a fan you'll be thrilled. And the broth it comes from? Amazing. Save some bread of soak it up. Which reminds me - our bread basket contained regular rolls and focaccia bread. Skip the rolls and go for that focaccia.

We were angling to occupy our seats long enough to see Wishes, so we followed this up with some dessert wines. I failed miserably as a blogger and forgot to both write down what they were AND take a photo, but my mom's was subtly chocolate-enhanced and mine had an orange flavor. Nice but thick and sweet as after-dinner drinks are wont to be.

For dessert, I tried to get my mom into the Nutella chocolate cake, but she wasn't having it and I was too full to finish one on my own. Not that it ultimately mattered, but when we ordered the seasonal pumpkin creme brulee, our server brought us two because we were celebrating birthdays. Needless to say, we didn't finish these, but we made considerable dents as it was pretty awesome. Nicely pumpkin-y without being overwhelming in the spice area, and garnished with a gingerbread cookie. Oh, and a chocolate "Congratulations" sign because according to our server they didn't have any birthday signs.


Overall? We had good service, miraculously, even though I'm hearing unfortunate things about the experiences of others; maybe they're finally getting over their re-opening pains? The atmosphere was lovely, especially with our fabulous castle view and prime seating for Wishes. The food was very good - but. Even ordering only appetizers and a couple drinks and even with the Tables in Wonderland card it was very expensive, and not in a "Yeah, but it was SOOOOO GOOD" kind of way. I'd happily go back if I was with others who wanted to try it, but I'm not scrambling to make ADRs for myself.

One last note: you know how they have a lounge where you can eat and drink and watch Wishes without a reservation? We were at a table right at the edge of said lounge, and the people who were there when we sat down were the same people who were there when we left after the fireworks. If you're banking on the lounge for your Wishes viewing needs, I'd arrive at... well, at opening, really.

*****

Really quickly, let's talk about afternoon tea in the Garden View Lounge! Moon and I have covered this experience fairly thoroughly already, but as some changes have been made I wanted to add an addendum.

Thing one: formerly the Grand Tea offered the trifle as a dessert option but the cheaper Buckingham Palace did not. No more! You can now get the trifle if you like as part of your Buckingham Palace tea service. However, the trifle might not be strawberry - we were told it was pear this time around. I've never known them to have seasonal flavors before, so that was interesting.

Thing two: your scone now features THREE accompaniments! You still get your preserves and Devonshire cream, but they are joined by delicious, house-made lemon curd. Awesome sauce. Literally.


*****

Next time: Sanaa, Coral Reef, and the Crystal Palace. Stay tuned!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Fairest Trip Report of All: 12/08/13

The trip report continues! Click here to see all the posts for this report. As a note: I'm glossing over my food experiences here, but don't worry - I'll be doing a full food post or two later on. 

My very last page of vacation day notes. My last trip report day. Waaaah. At least I have a couple posts' worth of food reviews... after which I'll really be depressed.

The wake-up bugle was at 6:45AM this morning because I wanted to give us time to check our luggage without impacting our schedule. When we left we found our boarding passes in an envelope on the door, which was a nice touch; I always checked in online in advance of my flight and then had the luggage desk print it for me, but I've never had them anticipate my needs before. I like it - one less step.

We found the luggage check area around the corner and were helped by a nice guy whose name I unfortunately don't remember. Anyway, he was nice and friendly. Following that we went around to the front desk and checked our large carry-ons at the resort. Since we had laptops in those bags, they put our bags in electronic cage; if you ever have valuables and you want to check your bag, feel free to ask for the same.

That done, we picked up the bus to the Magic Kingdom, which was unfortunately being shared with all three resorts. Two ECVs at All-Star Sports later, we took off for MK, arriving a little before 8:30AM. I found the special entrance for people with breakfast reservations and spoke the magic words: "Crystal Palace, 9:15AM." We were in!

Before checking in at the Crystal Palace we of course had to get the obligatory THERE'S NO ONE HERE SQUEEEE! photos of Main Street, USA, so I wandered around clicking merrily away. It was awesome. In fact, I might go so far as to say it was worth the price of breakfast. (At the Crystal Palace, anyway. I've never done Cinderella's Royal Table but I am frankly suspicious.)





Once I was photographically sated, we went over to the Crystal Palace podium; though we were over half an hour early, we were seated within five minutes. Our server was Kip from Melbourne, Australia, so naturally I was thrilled every time he spoke a word to us. He was really nice and fun and sweet, but I guess we were too tired because we never got into a banter groove. Ah well; they can't all be winners.

First thing first: we hit up the buffet and I embarked on my standard WDW buffet strategy, which is to eat the cost of the meal's worth of smoked salmon. I LOVE smoked salmon but it is so expensive; naturally in an unlimited situation like this I go nuts. Protein, people, protein! As an accompaniment Kip brought us coffee and wonderful Florida orange juice. Mini-buffet review to come in the food posts.

Soon the characters began to come around, starting with Pooh, who kissed me on the head because why not? Then Tigger, who was HILARIOUS. We took several pictures with various exciting Tee-eye-double-guh-er poses, and when I thanked him, he bowed to me in courtly fashion.




Tigger's handler - I think it was Tigger's handler but there's a small chance it could've been Piglet's; just go with me here - saw the Candlelight Processional sticker I had left on my camera bag and asked us how we liked the show. Turns out she was a member of the chorus, although not on the night we were there. She was super jealous that we had Whoopi Goldberg as our narrator but was generally pleased that we had loved the performance. Incidentally, she was also from Australia. Is Crystal Palace where Disney quarantines all its Aussies?

Next up was Piglet, who was a) adorable and b) a STRONG hugger. Serious arm muscles on that one!



Eeyore still hadn't come by and he's my favorite, so we asked Kip if we could stay and wait for his next round. Kip assured us that we were welcome to stay until the restaurant closed that night provided we participated in at least one of the Friendship Day Parades. So of course we had to leave. But we did wait for Eeyore, who gave me a hug, so that was something.


By this point it was about 9:30AM; I pondered one last ride on Space Mountain, but the line was posted at 15 minutes and I didn't want to make my mom wait. This might be a good time to explain my Theory of Ride Waits:

  • 5 minute posted wait time = There is no line.
  • 10 minute posted wait time = If there is a line, and there may well not be, it's bunched up near the loading area.
  • 15 minute posted wait time = There is an actual line. You will likely wait 15 minutes, give or take.
  • 20+ minute posted wait time = Honestly, it's something of a crapshoot, but you're definitely going to be hanging out for awhile.

Naturally there are exceptions to every rule, but I've tested my hypothesis many times and it pans out more often than it doesn't. But my point is that I suspected the Space Mountain line was real, I'd already ridden it once this trip, and I didn't want to make my mom hang around alone on our last day.

I always let my traveling companion choose our park itinerary on the final day of a vacation, so we decided to go to my mom's favorite place (Epcot, duh). We paused on our way out, though, as the holiday Trolley Show magically appeared before us. It was cute as usual, but I can only imagine how hot they get in those outfits.


MAGIC BAND MALFUNCTION! The Epcot reader refused to let my mom in. Why? Beats the heck outta me - she got into Magic Kingdom that morning just fine. But a lady with an iPad scanned her and let her through, so that worked out. Oh, Magic Bands. There is work to be done. 

We made it into Epcot just as World Showcase was opening, so we headed straight to China to catch the first Reflections of China movie of the day, which was of course enjoyable. We wandered around the store for a bit, and as usual I pondered springing for one of those pretty mandarin collar dresses and then talked myself out of it. At least I'm consistent.

I was feeling rather parched, so I wandered over to the Joy of Tea stand and ordered an iced mango green tea from one of the most enthusiastic CMs ever. This turned out to be comprised primarily of mango juice with a dash of green tea for technical accuracy, but I was thirsty and like mango so I drank it without complaint.

From there we walked back through Mexico and around into Canada, where we were just in time to see the Canada movie with Martin Short. As a hockey girl with a great deal of Canadian ancestry, I... can only wonder how come I don't have a greater tolerance for cold, really. My grandfather was from Duluth, Minnesota for God's sake! Shouldn't it be in my genes?!

Then it was time for one of my all-time favorite Epcot attractions: the World Showcase Players. LOVE. THEM. Love. This time around they were performing the King Arthur tale (fun story for another post: my ex-boyfriend was once Sir Galahad. The pictures are priceless).



Each WSP performance is uniquely funny, and this one was no exception. A man from the audience had a bag of Doritos which he shared with a Player, and this earned him the distinction of portraying Sir Galahad. This was amusing enough, but it gets better! The evil sorceress Pelum was then selected, and prompted to say her line: "I am the object of your deepest desires." And from the audience came a voice: "Oooh, that's freaky." Yes, you guessed correctly - Pelum was, in her off-stage life, the daughter of Sir Galahad. From then on she was instructed to address her lines directly to Sir Lancelot. Good times.

We headed back to Mitsukoshi for some shopping. Sadly, my mom got overwhelmed by the selection and went outside and sat down. Meanwhile I ran around the store making decisions and then changing my mind repeatedly until I finally had my Christmas shopping for my friends done. Whew. I'm afraid I am not a decisive shopper.

The American Adventure being right next door, we headed inside and settled in for a Voices of Liberty performance, because my mom's love for them stops just short of founding a religion around them. After the show we headed back toward Future World, where a girl pointed at my Jukebox the Ghost t-shirt and got REALLY excited. "I love them and no one's ever heard of them!" she declared. See, I have indie music cred!

That done, we hit The Land for our Soarin' FP+, as it was my mom's favorite ride of the trip. We noted as we exited the ride that Living with the Land had no wait as is right and proper, so we went ahead and did that again too.

After that we went into Mouse Gears, because I had decided I was going to buy a t-shirt that I had spotted and earlier and liked a good deal. I found it, hemmed and hawed over the color and then the price and then I talked myself out of buying it again. Like I always do. I followed this up by not buying some Christmas-specific merchandise, my theory being that I can get it at DisneyStore.com for a discount post-holiday. Thus we left the store empty-handed.

We passed Spaceship Earth with a short line as we headed toward the exit and I almost suggested one last ride; ultimately I decided against it because I couldn't be sure how long it would take us to get back to the resort. Of course there was a bus waiting for us and we were back at All-Star Music a full hour before our Magical Express bus was set to pick us up.

Being a bit hungry, we decided to hit the food court for a snack. Guys, the All-Star Music food court BLOWS. Granted, it was an off hour, but COME ON. I'm used to Everything Pop or walking over to Art of Animation, where there is always something worthwhile in the grab 'n go case. I don't know if Music is indicative of all All-Star resorts, but if so, I hope the newly renovated Sports food court signals a re-commitment to culinary awesomeness. It is sorely needed. I wound up just eating an orange muffin my mom had socked away from the Crystal Palace buffet.

We further murdered time by wandering around the Maestro Mickey's gift shop (which is totally separate from the food court - as a denizen of Pop Century, I found this weird). I continued my talking-myself-out-of-buying-stuff streak by coming close to but not actually buying a Figment Mickey ears hat. And, um, I kind of wish I had bought it, so, uh, that might be a day-one purchase next trip...

It was still awhile before our ME bus would show up, so we took a walk down to the piano pool and back and then finally accepted our fate, retrieved on carry-on bags from bell services, and settled down on the benches to wait. Has anyone's ME bus ever arrived on time? Mine certainly hasn't - not that I'm ever in a hurry, mind you. There was a bit of a mixup with our ME tickets because I thought it was on your Magic Band like it had been upon arrival, but we were let on the bus and arrived at the airport without further difficulty. Sigh.

Thanks to the questionable weather conditions at BWI we already knew that our flight was delayed by 40 minutes, and we strongly suspected it would be longer than that before we really took off. Nevertheless, we headed straight through security, grabbed dinner at Au Bon Pain, and then hung around the gate for safety. We charged our laptops and I loaded the last of my photos while sulking. Stupid airport. Stupid home.

To make a long and, let's face it, not very exciting portion of the story short, our flight finally took off at 9:30PM, we landed without coming anywhere close to dying, and my dad entertained us upon our arrival with his Huffy Dance of Why Is It Taking So Long For Your Luggage To Arrive It's Icy Outside And I Want to Leave. Then he forbid me to drive home from my parents' house because my parents firmly believe that at any given moment out of their sight I must be two seconds from death. So I went home in the morning and then went to work. Sigh.


SOME TAKEAWAYS

Magic Bands are great in theory. I love having my tickets and my room key and and FastPasses and, hypothetically, my credit card all in one. But the system is flaaaaaaawed. I couldn't get my AP hooked up without help although I was assured that I could use the app. Our PIN never worked and we stopped trying to use it. At one point my mom was having trouble getting into Epcot. The only way it consistently worked was as a room key. I understand that resort-hopping and/or connecting multiple accounts creates a whole new host of problems.

FastPass+... Look. I'm not opposed to FP+ in full. I'm fine with making some decisions in advance, and didn't have any trouble finding some day-before options, either. I'm even fine with being confined to one part for my selections and I understand the reasoning behind placing attractions in different tiers and limiting them thereby. BUT. This is all with the assumption that the regular, "legacy" FastPass program continues to apply. I hear rumors that the system is being tested sans legacy FP machines and I am NOT okay with this. Not unless I get LOTS of FP+ options and can spread them between two parks. And even then I'm not sure I'd like that either.

ALSO: FP+ can create problems where none formerly existed. Mind you, I only have observational data, but from what I saw it looks like FP+ being added to attractions that formerly rarely had a line is causing more harm than good. FP+ people are creating bottlenecks where none formerly existed and now rides like Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land and Finding Nemo have waits much longer than they did pre-program.

My Disney Experience is great... when it works. I loved being able to check show times, wait times, hours, and more from my phone. When I could. I found the service to be extremely spotty, unfortunately most often when within the parks themselves. I understand that a LOT of people are trying to access the app at once, but that's the nature of the beast. Disney needs to beef up their bandwidth if they want the system to work properly.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party garnered a lot of complaints from me, but I would give it another shot. I'd just adjust my expectations. You can't count on the alleged ticket cap to save you from crowds, and you need to be aggressive in getting into character lines and staking out show and parade spots far in advance. Would that strategy make for a fun evening? I'm not sure, but I'm willing to give it a go. The cookies are good, anyway.

EDITED TO ADD: All-Star Music Resort is okay. I wouldn't turn up my nose at a trip to WDW just because I had to stay there, or one of the other All-Stars for that matter. But with the bus sharing and the sucky food court and the Timbuktu location, my experience only solidified my Pop Century love.

That's all I can think of for the time being. Feel free to ask me in the comments if you have any specific questions! Thanks to everyone who slogged through this trip report. It made me happy to write it and I look forward to re-reading it in the future. :) One shining ray of light on the horizon: I plan to do two food-specific food recaps. Stay tuned!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Fairest Trip Report of All: 12/07/13

The trip report continues! Click here to see all the posts for this report. As a note: I'm glossing over my food experiences here, but don't worry - I'll be doing a full food post or two later on.

Our last full day. Booo. It's funny how you can start getting bummed out over the end of your vacation before it, y'know, ends.

Anyway. We were up early again, and I ate the other half of last night's grilled veggie sandwich for breakfast while my mom got ready to go. We were out the door by 7:45 and at the Magic Kingdom gate by 8:25AM. Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten that the MK had recently extended its hours to 8AM - 1AM for that day, so technically we were late. Of course, the number of people actually there that early was pretty minimal, but it did mean that at no point this trip would my mom see the MK opening ceremony. Oh well. Next time!

I had not forgotten that they were taping the Christmas parade this morning, but I wasn't really worried about it; essentially they would be sequestering a portion of the crowd for us. Thanks, WDW! The taping did completely block off Main Street, though, so we were siphoned through a backstage area around the Main Street shops that dumped us out a little before Tomorrowland Terrace.

I have no idea what this stuff is for.

Doubtless it would've been smart to keep going around to the other lands ahead of the crowds, but Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin was right there and it's tame enough for my mother to ride so I figured what the heck. We walked right onto the ride and blasted some aliens. I find the weaponry of Buzz Lightyear to be EXTREMELY difficult to control, as I have a lot of trouble figuring out where, exactly, I'm pointing (I also suck at first person shooters; I'd really rather melee, thanks. Where is Buzz Lightyear's Space Rangers Punch Aliens in the Face?), but my score improved markedly this time. Must have lucked out with some high point target. My mom does not play video games in any capacity, but she managed to hit a few targets.

That's right - I'm a GALACTIC HERO.

At the point it was half past Mom Needs Coffee o'clock, so we went in search of some. The Lunching Pad wasn't open and we couldn't get to the Main Street Bakery, but a short walk found us at the Cheshire Cafe. I looked longingly, longingly, longingly at the Cake Cups - I LOVE FROSTING - but I knew I had a big lunch ahead of me. I took a big breath, exhaled, and let go of the Cake Cup. Just know that if they are eliminated before my next trip, I will CRY. Big salty tears of loss.

Philharmagic was right there, so we did that (big hit), then went back to Tomorrowland for my beloved Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (also a big, relaxing hit). Then it was off to the Hall of Presidents. Here I want to acknowledge that this sounds kind of like Trip Planning for Boring People Who Don't Know How to Save Line-Free Stuff for Later When the Crowds Show Up, but keep in mind that my mom is a low-thrills kinda gal. Just knowing my audience!

We had some time to kill before HoP, so we browsed a few shops along the path between Liberty Square and Frontierland. (If anyone's looking for a Christmas present for me, I will cheerfully accept that Wall-E/Eve pin set. I love Wall-E so much he's my My Disney Experience avatar.) Once sufficient time had been murdered, we went back to HoP and took in the show. My mom was wildly impressed with the audio-animatronics and generally really enjoyed it. I know that HoP gets a bum rap for being boring, but I must gently disagree; it's worth the time just to see Lincoln give the Gettysburg address. Moon loves this one too.

My mom is of the generation that is legitimately familiar with The Swiss Family Robinson movie, so I decided we'd hit the tree house next. On our way over we happened to pass the Captain Jack Sparrow pirate recruitment show, and we stopped briefly to watch. I don't know how many Captain Jack impersonators are employed, but I am invariably impressed with how well they capture Johnny Depp's interpretation of the character, from slurred speech patterns to mincing mannerisms. But my mom has never seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, so we moved on in short order.

By the time we exited the Swiss Family tree house (or, as the family in front of me called it, the Swiss Family Obstacle Course), the Magic Kingdom was starting to get really crowded again. It makes me a little sad because in the early morning, sparsely attended hours, my mom was starting to get over her sardine experience at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. She was starting to warm to the MK's wonderful atmosphere. But those holiday crowds were moving in, and there was nothing else for it but to grab the monorail for Epcot a little early.

A brief note: at no point during the entire morning at MK did we ever pass ANYTHING happening over in the parade area. No floats, no performers, no nothing. I have no idea when stuff starts to happen but dear Lord you must really want to be on television to wait around for that thing.

Moving right along to Epcot. The first thing we did was hit Club Cool, because I felt a little low in the blood sugar but didn't want to ruin my lunch. After that it was time for ELLLLLEEEEEEEEEN'S ENERGYYYYYYYYYY ADVEEEEEEEEEEENTUUUUUUUUUUUURE. Because we love Ellen and we love Bill Nye the Science Guy BILL BILL BILL BILL BILL and sometimes, too, we enjoy sitting for 40 minutes at a time. Not saying it couldn't use an update, mind you, but if said update doesn't continue to involve Ellen and Bill Nye I will be, in the immortal words of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, QUITE PUT OUT.

By that point it was time for our Candlelight Processional dinner package reservation at the Coral Reef. Side note: my first experience at the Coral Reef was with my ex almost three years ago. As we were walking up to the restaurant, we saw a CM freaking out over a GIANT crack in one of the big glass doors. Based on what we overheard, it seems an ECV-driving patron had crashed directly into the door about five minutes earlier. I have nothing to add to this piece of inherent comedy except to say that I am super bummed that we missed it.

Anyway - the Coral Reef. I requested at the desk that we have either a tankside seat or, barring that, a seat on the outside edge of the platform, if you know what I mean. The CM told me it could take awhile, and I said yes, that's fine. I'd say our buzzer went off 15, maybe 20 minutes later, and we were led to... a table at the very back of the very top platform. Sigh. But I didn't feel like causing trouble and my mom didn't look perturbed so I went with it.

Our server was John, also a December birthday, so we commiserated about that for a bit. He explained what was included in the CP package and we nodded and agreed and placed our orders. More on the food later, of course, but as a quick rundown: perfectly good but nothing earth-shattering. So, you know, in line with your larger majority of Coral Reef reviews. But my mom enjoys seafood and I knew she'd like the view of the aquarium, so it was worth a shot.

Post-lunch I whisked us off to Captain EO, because even my classical music-loving mother appreciates that talents of Michael Jackson. Plus let's face it: Captain EO is HILARIOUS. It's essentially MJ defeating the Borg with the power of song and dance. I can't believe Starfleet hasn't tried that yet. My mom liked it but felt that MJ didn't dance enough.

Next we rode Journey Into Your Imagination, as it was right there. In 1998, this was my RIDE. The only souvenir I asked for was a Figment t-shirt, which I still have. Tragically, and even taking into account how much I love Monty Python, I consider the current version to be a downgrade, and my mom agreed. I'll still ride it, but... can't Dean Finder be a little more visible?

We had a little while before our Spaceship Earth FP+ opened up, so we headed over to Living with the Land for a quick ride. Um... there was a LINE. Like, it said 20 minutes. It didn't look like 20 minutes, but still - a line? For Living with the Land? This officially cemented my theory that in the case of rides that have never really needed FastPass, FP+ is just creating bottlenecks where they never existed before. Not cool, guys.

I'd say we were in line for somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes before we boarded a boat, and then we hung out in the loading area for about 10 minutes before we took off, but once we did it was a pleasant trip. Living with the Land is never going to blow anyone's mind, but I always enjoy it, if only for the novelty of watching real people wander around the greenhouses as you float past.

Then it was time to hit up Spaceship Earth again, with another cute ending animation, although personally I kinda wish they'd add more dark ride scenes on the way down instead. Also, I am always confused by the message that your time rover is now rotating backwards, so please don't get out of your seat. Who are the people who respond to going backwards by standing up?

It was getting late enough in the afternoon that we wanted to make sure we were heading in the general direction of the American Gardens Theater. We ducked into France and watched the Impressions de France movie, which my mom LOVED because it's absolutely brimming with great French classical composers - Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Offenbach, and more, all ending in my beloved Organ Symphony by Saint-Saens. Glorious.

But by the time we were out it was later than I had realized, and we hightailed it over to the American pavilion for our Candlelight Processional seats. There was some slight confusion over how to get in (our server had said "Here are your tickets," not "Here are your stickers") and where, and we were sitting farther back than I would have hoped, but ultimately it was fine - we didn't have to stand in that INSANE stand-by line.

Who was our celebrity narrator, you ask? Why it was none other than GUINAN I MEAN WHOOPI GOLDBERG. And guys, she was AWESOME. Funny and very much herself without distracting from the story she was telling. If she comes back I highly recommend that you rearrange your trip dates to see her. My mom was positively raving about how totally worth it the CP package was, despite me botching the timing on taking our seats. And I am inclined to agree because as you might imagine she drew quite a line.





It would be the same amount of walking to get back to Future World either way, so we stepped off in the direction of Mexico and took a Gran Fiesta Tour with my pals the Three Caballeros (but pals though they may be, if some Latin baby says yes, no, or maybe, each man is for himself).

By the time our ride was over it was almost time for our Soarin' FP+. We sat by the Fountain of Nations and enjoyed a brief show and I ducked into Club Cool for a cup of sparberry soda. Meanwhile my mom called my dad for a consult on the expected weather for the next day; Maryland was predicting a wintry mix which was making us feel a trifle nervous about our flight. He felt certain that our plane would land just fine so we decided to leave our flight reservations alone, at least for the time being.

We rode Soarin' again, then headed back to Mitsukoshi with a mind to shop. It was far too crowded for our comfort, however, so we decided to browse the Germany and Italy gift shops instead. Germany in particular had many an interesting Stief stuffed animal, but the price ranges just weren't justifiable.

That was enough window shopping for the evening and it was time for Whoopi's last Candlelight Processional; we stood behind the seating area with a large group and watched her come out and read her opening lines. My mom had had enough of standing, though, and after a couple minutes we turned and went over to France instead, where my mom managed to locate a lagoon-side table next to the Vins de France kiosk. I bought us a Kir Royal to share, because Kir Royals are delicious if obscenely, wallet-gougingly expensive. At this point we made a radical decision: rather than walk over to the special Candlelight Processional dinner package IllumiNations viewing area, we decided to stay exactly where we were. Perhaps not as optimal a location for exact, right-down-the-lagoon fireworks placement, but we had our own seats!


My mom held down the fort while I wandered through the France gift shop just for fun and to keep myself entertained; I also made more FP+ reservations for the next day. After about half an hour, IllumiNations started. It's not my favorite of the WDW nighttime shows, but then neither is chocolate my favorite type of cupcake and I ain't turning one down. Oh, and I'd totally forgotten about the special holiday tag. My mom was duly dazzled.




After the show we immediately walked with all speed to the bus stops, where we found a bus waiting for us. Yay! We were back at All-Star Music in due time, where we performed our usual shower swap and I uploaded my pictures and took my notes. I set my alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual so that we'd have extra time to check our bags. Tomorrow: home.

Blech.


Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Fairest Week In Review: 12/16

JENN: LOOK WHO I FOOOOOOUND

MOON:  GIIIIIIRRRRLLLLL

Reunited! WITH HATS.

JENN: WOO! Moon has been running!

MOON: Affirmative!

JENN: So how's your new training era been going?

MOON: Well, typically training is always a downer in the winter for me. You know... it's cold, no sun, every day is blue. So I made myself promise to run every day for a week at least to try and get back into my normal routine. I think it worked pretty well. This week I plan to do at least one long run.

JENN: Have you been running outside or treadmilling it?

MOON: HA. I'd run outside if I could run in a bubble of warmth. Treadmill.

JENN: ME TOO. I tried running outside in the cold once and my lungs went ACK ACK ACK.

MOON: Yeah, the cold air just rips your lungs right out of one's chest.

I think the treadmill worked pretty well. This week I plan to do at least one long run. But let me say this: ARTIFICAL CHERRY SCENTED PLUG-INS SMELL TERRIBLE.

JENN: New gym has an exciting anti-odor regimen, I take it?

MOON: Yes. Oh! And you'll enjoy this. So, the lights are motion sensor.

JENN: Oh no...

MOON: They don't read me. I went in after a few other people. Keep in mind there was plenty of motion because I was RUNNING... About twenty minutes in the lights go off.

JENN: Could it be where you were in the room? There's a whole swath of my gym that doesn't read.

MOON: Apparently they are just the sensors from Better Off Ted.

JENN: No, they recognized Asians. Veronica was very proud of that.

MOON: DOES THIS MEAN I'M NOT ASIAN? Identity crisis.

JENN: OH MY GOD

[Note: If you have no idea what we're talking about but do have Netflix, you can watch this magnificent half hour of television by clicking here and selecting the season one episode "Racial Sensitivity." And then you should watch all the other episodes, because they are awesome.]

MOON:
How was your week?

JENN: Surprisingly good. I think my five days without running while in WDW gave my muscles a nice rest.

MOON: That's good to hear! I'm starting to get pumped for our trip.

JENN: YES.

MOON: All I have to do is keep running... Maybe I should start watching inspirational sports films.

JENN: What've you been listening to on your runs?

MOON: A pretty sweet mix made by DJ Herbert. And Chvrches. Lots of Chvrches.

What's on your iPod?

JENN: I found a bunch of really old CDs when I was at my parents' house. So I've been going back in time with Good Charlotte, Green Day, and - wait for it - the original Broadway cast recording of Footloose. Tenth grade me was very interesting.

MOON: Oh, wow. Blast from the paaaast.

JENN: Quite.

MOON: If I went back to 10th grade, I'd probably be all up on Elliott Smith and being sad in some high school bathroom cursing the stars.

JENN: Yay!

MOON: I know, right?!

JENN: And the roundup takes us home.

- Running at Disney has the details on all the new runDisney/New Balance sneakers.
- We Run Disney walks us through the mental process of a long distance runner.
- In a running rut? DisBroads can help you get out of it!
- Live, Run, Grow outlines the runDisney corral problems a lot of people are currently facing.
- This Happy Place Blog + Emmet Otter = Need I say more?
- Food Fitness Fantasy points out the weak spots regarding Magic Bands and related programs. Cosigned.
- Pink Elephant on Parade adds to her mom's legend.

Trip report continues this week!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Fairest Trip Report of All: 12/06/13

The trip report continues! Click here to see all the posts for this report. As a note: I'm glossing over my food experiences here, but don't worry - I'll be doing a full food post or two later on.

I was surprisingly merciful after our late night and set the alarm for 7:30 instead of 7AM. My mom hopped in the shower while I brought up Animal Kingdom showtimes on the My Disney Experience app, which was being cooperative. I wanted to catch the bird show and the Nemo musical, but the times were a little at odds. I decided to take a risk and assume we could make it from the 12PM Nemo performance to a 1:15PM Sanaa reservation... right?

Despite our later start we still made it to DAK by 8:40AM, and were let into the park about 15 minutes later. We went straight to the safari, and in the early morning hours it was exactly the improvement we'd hoped. I got some absolutely astonishing shots of the male lion.





From there we went straight to Pangani Forest Trail; my mom and I aren't much for primates, but it was still an interesting walk.

I had developed a severe thirst, so from Pangani I led us to the Anandapur tea kiosk. I got a cranberry pomegranate iced tea, and my mom got honey ginger iced green tea. They came to use unsweetened, allowing us to customize, and were very refreshing. Recommended!

We were also a little hungry, but Sanaa was coming up and we didn't want any enormous baked goods. Mr. Kamal's would've been good but it wasn't open yet. I ran over to Tamu Tamu but it was closed for breakfast too? Weird. I know I've eaten breakfast there before. But the glazed nut stand was open, so we bought a cone of almonds to share. They were quite delicious, and my mom enjoyed them so much she vowed to buy more if she saw them sold elsewhere.

By that time the Flights of Wonder pre-show had started, so we watched a handler present a few different birds until they let us into the show. I asked my mom if she wanted to try to volunteer for the bit with a dollar bill (I always bring one just in case; in February I successfully got Moon the volunteer slot), but she demurred. We were to be observers, it seemed.

The show started and was great as always; the birds are gorgeous, although I was disappointed that my usual Guano Joe wasn't there. The guy we had was fine, but I've had a really HILARIOUS guy the past three times so I'm spoiled.

I'd been shooting all day with my Nikon SLR camera, and when they asked for volunteers to take pictures from the stage, I hesitated a moment... then raised my camera in the air as instructed. I was the first person selected! I and another lady were brought up to the stage while they released an adorable barn owl for our snapping pleasure. It was awesome.









I decided we had time to hit up Conservation Station, so we headed over to the Wildlife Express station and discovered an enormous wait. Very wonky. We hopped the second train that came through anyway, but I realized as we were pulling into the complex that if we wanted to make the Nemo show we'd have a max of 10 minutes to spend in here. We did a quick circle around the building, walked through the petting zoo, turned around, and caught the train back. World record!

At that point I switched back over to Walking on a Mission mode, managing to get us from the train station to the Nemo theater in 10 minutes flat, with another 10 to spare. We took a seat on the upper level - I prefer this because you can more easily see all of the action that occurs on the promenade between sections. It was a good show as usual, although I still prefer Festival of the Lion King.

It was once again time for our new favorite game: Book It Across The Park As Fast As You Can! And in this way we made it from Nemo to the Animal Kingdom Lodge bus stop in another 10 minutes. Despite my gambling with time, we actually made it to our Sanaa reservation with five minutes to spare. I was shocked to discovered that it was really busy. Okay, who told the general populace about Sanaa? This was supposed to be our secret, people!

Undeterred, I requested a window seat and was told that it could mean waiting another 30 to 45 minutes. As far as I'm concerned, half the reason to come to Sanaa is to see the animals while you eat, so we said yes, we'll wait. We only waited about 10, maybe 15 minutes before our buzzer went off, so that worked out fine.

We were rewarded by a lovely view of cranes, Watusi cattle, giraffes, gnus, some other type of bird I didn't recognize, and zebras INCLUDING THE BABY ZEBRA EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. SO CUTE. It was totally worth it to wait.

This was taken outside, but we could often see them from our table as well.

Our server was Jim, who was very nice but very quiet. This suited me just fine, as I am also generally quiet with strangers and I respect that. He was nice and accommodating and brought me a light-up clip-on compound-words Tinker[-]Bell for my birthday so he gets my vote. (If only my Tinker Bell hadn't subsequently fallen off my bag. Phooey.)

At my urging, we ordered the Indian bread service (spiced and garlic-ginger naan, onion kulcha) with ALL the dips, plus the salad sampler. I got a mango lassi, which was delicious, and then we ordered tomato soup and chickpea cakes. A more in-depth discussion will come, but let me just say that my mom could not have loved Sanaa more. It can be tough for vegetarians, even quasi-vegetarians, to find non-salad-and-veggie-burger food to eat, and Sanaa's vegetarian offerings are varied, interesting, and delicious. Hey, Sanaa, if you want to set up a satellite restaurant in the Baltimore-Washington area, I can guarantee you at least two regulars!

We went out to the nearby animal viewing area for a bit to take more pictures, then picked up the bus to the Studios. The bus made a couple stops along the way, so it took us a little longer than expected to get there, but not debilitatingly so. The security guard that checked my bag was very cute and told me that I looked 19, so once again I say: WINNING!

We had a FastPass+ for Star Tours, so we went straight there. Our tour took us to... the planet... with the snow and the combat zone? (I fear that when it comes to the stars, I prefer to Trek.) And then a Leia hologram showed up, and then we bounced around the Death Star. And then I said to myself, "I could kill you with this tray," and then I laughed to myself because Eddie Izzard is the best.

From there we went to MuppetVision, one of the few attractions where I am just as if not more excited about the pre-show than the actual attraction. "WILL YOU STOP THIS FOOLISHNESS?" "What sort of foolishness would you like to see?" is one of the greatest exchanges ever recorded on film. Oh, Sam Eagle. I do love you so.

Our next FastPass+ was for The Great Movie Ride. This was an adventure. We were in the second car, which, as Katherine has proven, means you get the gangster hijacker. Meanwhile, the first car rolls through the gangster scene a little faster and gets hijacked by the cowboy in the western scene. So imagine my surprise when we rolled into the gangster scene and saw... the first car, hanging out. One of the divider doors had failed to open, so they were stuck, and we were stuck behind them.

Unfortunately, no one had told the audio animatronics, so while maintenance came and manually opened the door for car #1, car #2 watched as the vehicle full of gangsters sped in and fired their guns at no one because Mugsi had not yet arrived. And then the red light shot itself out, which was a neat trick.

This left our host, Zach (he was good), and poor Mugsi to do what they could. Mugsi just kinda sauntered out onto the porch and intimidated Zach off the ride with the usual dialogue, but without the preceding gunfight the effect was lost. Later on this also messed with the timing in the Oz scene, as we were blocked by the first car and had to watch as their host did the dialogue with the Wicked Witch. I, of course, found all of this quite fascinating, but I was a little sad that my mom didn't get to experience the ride properly. Ah well.

Fun fact about me: I always hide under my hat during the entire Alien portion of the ride. I can't. I just can't.

We decided to hit up the Indiana Jones stunt show, which is not spectacular but good for some solid entertainment, plus it was the last show of the day and I always heard the stunts are more impressive at night. I was quite impressed when my mom immediately called the plant. As in, the second he was called down to volunteer. Can't get anything past her! She also pointed out that both Indy and Marian were way too young to believably pass as stunt doubles for Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, but I'm sure it all made sense in 1989.

At this point it seemed around the time the Osborne Lights would go on, so we headed over and caught the lighting ceremony. It was insanely crowded, though, so we decided to come back and tour them properly later. We were starting to get a little hungry, and I headed straight for Writer's Stop, hoping to persuade my mom to join me in a carrot cake cookie. Tragically, she was not to be tempted by sweets, and I didn't want to eat such an enormous sugar bomb all by my lonesome. Dear readers: if you would like to tour the parks with someone who will help you share dessert, please let me know.

We headed down to Sunset Boulevard and the line of food stalls, but nothing caught our fancy. I was, however, asked if I needed a hand by a guy wielding a teal Mickey glove. I didn't know they even made those, and that's the only one I've ever seen - I wonder how he made that happen?

Ultimately we ended up at Backlot Catering, using our last meal voucher courtesy of my coworker's husband. We got a grilled veggie sandwich, strawberry parfait, and Coke, and it was all perfectly serviceable.

Thus sustained, we went back to the Osborne Lights, which had a more directed traffic pattern now. We walked through the entire area, talking lots of pictures and enjoying the periodic musical numbers. I know there are rumors of this going away to make room for a Star Wars land, but I hope they aren't true! I'm so excited at the prospect of running through the Osborne Lights in next year's Wine & Dine Half Marathon.




For our final FastPass+ I had selected Fantasmic, just to be safe, and I'm glad I did. I'm still not entirely sure how this is working, but there were two separate lines - FP+ and standby. From what I saw, the standby line wasn't moving at any time while we were walking through the FP+ line. Our FP+ was good until 7:45 for an 8PM show. Are the standby people held until the FP+ window closes? Are they let in in small groups beforehand? I am uncertain and I'm not sure how much I like it. The show was good as usual, though, and my mom liked it quite a bit.

We were careful to select seats toward the top and near the exit; when the show ended, we bolted out of the bleachers and hightailed it to the bus. This system worked beautifully - the bus wasn't even full when we took off.

Then the usual - showers, uploading pictures, notes, bed. Next morning: Magic Kingdom!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Fairest Trip Report of All: 12/05/13

The trip report continues! Click here to see all the posts for this report. As a note: I'm glossing over my food experiences here, but don't worry - I'll be doing a full food post or two later on.

We got up at 7AM for our first full vacation day. Epcot was on the docket, but first we wanted to tell someone about the open door snafu from the night before. (Etymologist's note: you should look up the origin of the word "snafu." Never fails to make me laugh.) So we swung through the lobby on our way to the buses, but finding the desks excessively crowded, I decided to make a phone call instead.

We continued on our way to the bus stop and were somewhat dismayed to watch an Epcot bus pull away. Oh well; it wasn't even 8AM yet and anyway buses tend to come more often in the morning. Sure enough, another Epcot bus came through about five minutes later. I was still on the phone with the All-Star Music desk, explaining what happened, but the lady on the other end of the line didn't seem too concerned. She did say she'd send maintenance to check on the door, but we never heard anything more about it. Then again, we never suffered any more door-related incidents, so I guess it all worked out.

Anyway, we hopped on said Epcot bus and had the entire thing to ourselves. I don't think we even stopped at Movies; we just headed directly to the park in our own private chariot. Nice.

My mom is one of those people who needs her caffeine in the morning, so we stopped at the espresso kiosk under the monorail station. The coffee was pretty expensive there, and they only offered one size, but it did the job. We hopped in line and alternately sipped at the coffee while we waited, finally entering the park at 8:50AM. There was no further rope drop, which leads me to wonder: has WDW abandoned opening ceremonies outside of the Magic Kingdom? I never did see the one for the Studios...

I hightailed it over to The Land - luckily my mom was able to keep up with my Walking On A Mission Mode - to grab FastPasses for Soarin', since I'd been unable to secure a FastPass+ for the day. From there we proceeded to Test Track, which was already boasting a 15 minute wait. We designed a COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS mini pink car with plasma engines and a tricked out grill. Somehow it still came in #2 in the test rankings. Who says novelty vehicles can't perform?

From there we headed over to Mission: Space, where we walked right on to the green side. I had actually never done the green side before; the first time I rode in 2004 they hadn't even instituted a more gentle version, and when the green/orange split occurred I never saw any reason to go for the milder iteration when I knew that I could take the wild side just fine. But my mom had no interest in centrifugal force, so green it was to be. It actually wasn't as different as I was expecting, but it was weird being able to lift my head and arms during takeoff.

My mom claims she felt a trifle woozy after even the green experience, but I think that may have been the power of suggestion. Still, we made our gentle, meandering way back to The Land for our Soarin' FastPass. Now this was a big hit - she loved it! Score one for Epcot.

At this point we were feeling a bit peckish, but we didn't want to eat too much as we had mid-afternoon ADRs for tea at the Grand Floridian. We wound up purchasing a pre-packaged snack from Sunshine Seasons, containing hummus, a red pepper spread of some sort, pita, and two kinds of grain salads. Nothing earth-shattering but decently tasty.

After a quick bathroom and water fountain stop, we hopped over to The Seas and rode the Nemo dark ride, which is cute. My favorite part is Peach at the end. "Wait, where are you going? Take me with you! It's a nice song, but..." There was an actual LINE for the ride, though, which is highly unusual, and this sparked the first embers of suspicion in my mind about FastPass+...

Post-ride we strolled around the seabase for a bit, but there wasn't much going on. We watched the manatees for a couple minutes, then went over to the dolphins, none of whom were particularly active. It looked like the dolphins had been separated - you could occasionally catch glimpses of a dolphin in an adjacent tank, and the remaining dolphin hung around the hole, waiting. Poor guy missed his buddy. (Perhaps more than a buddy; I've witness some interesting things in the dolphin tank. Educational, indeed.)

It was time for World Showcase, but first: a pit stop in Club Cool to try the new array of soda flavors. I can't believe they got rid of my watermelon soda, guys! The new Thai melon soda is good but not the same. My favorite of the new class is the Sparberry raspberry cream soda... but seriously, what do I have to do to bring the watermelon soda back?


From there we walked up the bridge and hung a left, through Mexico and into Norway to look at tall boys ride the Maelstrom. I loved this ride back in 1998 when I was still too much of a wuss to ride real flumes and roller coasters. It's not nearly as thrilling now, but I still enjoy it, and the drop wasn't too much for my mom to handle.

We stopped in Germany to look at the train display in honor of my dad, who is a huge model train buff. I was endlessly amused by the enormous and presumably irradiated squirrel that was terrorizing the tiny town.


Then it was on to the American Adventure, which I was pleased to note would start in ten minutes. I hustled my mom into the lobby because I knew that a) the Voices of Liberty generally perform starting fifteen minutes before the show and b) my mom would LOOOOOVE the Voices of Liberty. Sure enough, she raved about their beautiful voices (my mom has an MA in music). For myself, I don't always love their regular show, finding a strange disconnect between their trained, melismatic performance style and the simplicity of the folk songs they perform, but I think their holiday repertoire works very well. The American Adventure itself was good as always, and my mom enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as VoL.

My man Teddy.

After the show we proceeded next door to - DUH DUH DUH DAAAAAAAAAAAH - the Mitsukoshi department store! I preface this with a trumpet fanfare because my mom looooooves Hello Kitty, and Mitsukoshi has more Sanrio merchandise than some Sanrio stores. Naturally we meandered from the front of the store to the back coveting three-quarters of everything we saw, but as it was too early in the trip to make purchasing decisions we just made some mental notes and tore ourselves away.

We took a brief pitstop at Spaceship Earth, which had a LINE. My FastPass+ suspicions burned a little brighter, but we were in our time machine within ten minutes so no matter. My mom very much enjoyed Dame Judi Dench and found the end animation with our faces pretty hilarious, so that was good.

It was time for tea, so we caught the monorail from Epcot to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then the TTA to the Grand Floridian, timing it PERFECTLY - there was always a monorail just pulling in. Score! Of course, I had left plenty of time for travel, so we were way early for our reservation. We killed a little time looking at the decorations and gingerbread house before checking in at Garden View Loung, but we were still turned away and told to return at our exact ADR time. This is the only restaurant where this happens to me on the regular; I guess they were never issued pagers? We wandered through a few gift shops and people-watched a bit before finally being called in about five minutes after our reservation time.

We both ordered the Buckingham tea, which is essentially the same as the Grand Tea now except you don't get a glass of champagne. My mom went with the Harmony tea, and I was all set to order the seasonal Nutcracker when I saw that my beloved Cassis was back and I had to have it. Yay! I wasn't going to do a review since Moon and I have already covered tea pretty in-depth, but some changes have been made so I'll be touching on it during my food recap after all. Stay tuned!

Tea took less time than usual, so we found ourselves back on the monorail headed to the Magic Kingdom sooner than anticipated. It was a little after four when I hit the - the - the place where the turnstiles used to be? What do we call them now that they're Magic Band readers? Anyway, we were there, and I was about to touch my Magic Band to the reader when the attendant demanded to know if I was attending Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Bewildered, I answered to the affirmative, then at his prompting took out our tickets so that my mom and I could use them to get inside instead. We received our wristbands right inside the gate. I was a little confused, since the Magic Kingdom didn't technically close to non-party-goers until 7PM, but we had the tickets so it was all right.

The marching band was performing by the Emporium, so I dropped my mom off there to watch while I headed to the Firehouse to pick up the free, Christmas party-exclusive Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card. To be honest, I still haven't gotten around to trying SotMK, but I'm sure I will someday and when I do I want to be fully armed.

MVMCP wasn't starting for a couple hours, so we took a swing by the Haunted Mansion - 25 minutes. We weren't having that, so we went to Pirates of the Caribbean - also 25 minutes. (The reason why I didn't check this out on the My Disney Experience app beforehand was because, true to form, it wasn't loading.) Knowing what I do of the PotC system I was willing to bet the line wouldn't actually be that long, so we went in, and sure enough we were on a boat in about 15 minutes.

It was, to my mom's dismay, time for our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPass+. I assured her again and again and again that no, I wasn't lying, there really isn't any kind of intense drop whatsoever, really, I promise there isn't, and just to get physics on our side we'll sit in the very first car so that we're dragging the entire train behind us, okay? I guess she trusted me at least that far, because she did get on the ride, and you all KNOW that she was fine because anyone who has ever ridden BTMRR knows that it is adorable and fun but really just a glorified kiddie coaster.

Indeed, she was doing fine after she saw the first hill and confirmed that, yes, it barely qualifies at a hill at all, until we crested another tiny drop... and stopped dead. Why? Beats the heck outta me. The pause lasted about two minutes, but the interruption was enough to convince my mom that something had gone wrong and at any moment we were going to derail. Sigh. And she was doing so well, too. Still, she rode it, and I'm qualifying that as a success.

Big Thunder Mountain Standstill.

We pondered taking in another ride, but it was getting close to the castle lighting ceremony time and we didn't want to risk missing it. Instead we headed to the hub, where we were just in time to catch the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! parade. I've never been much for daytime parades, but this was cuter than I expected. I mean, I certainly wasn't going to dance - I'm not a participatory person - but it was fun. My favorite was a stiltwalker who tried his darnedest to reach down and grab a guy's Casey's hotdog, but he couldn't quite make it. Such is the burden of height.

We stayed put for the castle lighting ceremony, which was also pretty cute, if a little nauseatingly sweet in the way that Disney princess activities tend to be (which is a stupid thing to complain about at Disney, I know, but there you are). I did very much enjoy the Fairy Godmother's role.



By the time that was over our FastPass+ for the Jingle nee Jungle Cruise had opened up. As reported, little about the ride itself had changed; it was all in the spiel. We got a pretty good skipper this time around. Some favorite jokes:

  • "That's my friend Inna. Everyone say 'Hi, Inna!" ... some of you won't get that until later."
  • "It's Piranhukkah, the Festival of Bites!"
  • "This sight has never before been seen by civilized man. And today is no exception."

From there we walked through the extended Haunted Mansion queue, playing with the composer's tomb, then wandered right into the stretch room. The final bit of line was completely empty and we were the first into a Doom Buggy, which was unfortunately malfunctioning - our Ghost Host's voice kept fading in and out. Fortunately the narration, while fun, isn't really important to understanding the scenes, and my mom enjoyed it. I hid from the bride, as per usual. She's CREEPY, okay? So is Little Leota. God forbid playful spirits ever leave me stopped near one of them.

MVMCP had started by then, so we stopped in the Pinocchio Village Haus for some snickerdoodles and cocoa. The cookies were soft baked, which is how cookies ought to be, but the cocoa was unremarkable. Still, it was a nice snack.

We decided to head back to the hub, but they had cut off the most expedient route. I walked us around to the path by Sleepy Hollow to try to go that way, but THAT was cut off by the tail end of the first parade. So we stood there in a MASSIVE CRUSH OF HUMANITY waiting for the parade to end before following it to a spot near the Rose Garden where we jostled for positioning to watch the Christmas Celebration show. It was cute, but we were so far away and at such an angle that we could only see about half of it.

We stopped at Columbia Harbour House for some apple juice because I was so thirsty I was willing to drink apple juice. There was time to kill before the fireworks, so we rode the Pooh dark ride with minimal wait. On the way out, I was positively ecstatic to see a photo op with not just Mary Poppins but also Bert and the penguin waiters. Love! Sadly, we missed the line cutoff, but I resolved to come back later. Instead I went on Space Mountain solo (funneled into the FP line at the split, which was nice) while my mom called my dad. We passed one of the dance parties, but we're both strictly ballet people so we opted to skip it.

After the show we shouldered our way through the masses and managed to carve out a decent spot to watch the castle light projection show, which was cute, and the fireworks, which were admittedly REALLY REALLY REALLY impressive. I must say, those fireworks improved my morale immensely - great music and truly spectacular displays.




I hustled my mom back to the Mary Poppins meet and greet line and strongarmed her into appearing in the picture. I feel no guilt.


We eyed the seven dwarfs line, but like everything else, it was soooo long. Instead we rode the Little Mermaid dark ride before heading back to Main Street for the Christmas parade. It was so incredibly densely packed that we climbed up onto a fence behind the main group and watched from there. Not ideal but we could see okay. Not great for photographs.


By that late hour the line for the Peter Pan dark ride was unusually short, so we rode that, then went back to the hub to catch the Christmas Celebration show again to watch the Nutcracker Suite portion, which we really liked - the dancers were very good, especially the men of the Russian variation. There was still about an hour left of the party, but by then we were exhausted and overwhelmed and the crowd was just too much. We were ready to go home.

I dunno, guys. I was really excited about Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, but I ultimately found it to be a frustrating experience. I was under the impression that the tickets were capped, and indeed the party was listed as sold out, but as far as I can tell that cap was the number of people legally permitted by the fire marshal. It was packed. If we wanted to get a good view of anything, we would've had to stake it out far in advance, and we didn't pay $66 to stand around and wait. Heck, we don't even do that on regular days - that's what FastPasses are for. On a regular day if I wait for the second parade I guarantee you I can get a good spot with minimal effort. It was just too crowded.

Could be my fault - maybe we went into it with unrealistic expectations. But our primary topic of conversation, from making small talk with the bus guard to our hotel room, was about how insanely crowded the park was during MVMCP.

Regardless - we had never gotten around to eating a real dinner, so we scarfed down some protein bars before hitting the hay. Same as the last night - showers, pictures, notes. Sure, MVMCP was a minor disappointment, but it was back to AK in the morning for a brand new safari!

Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!