On this trip, I set about collecting autographs for the first time. Although I did not get very many, I had a great time meeting the characters who were all really wonderful! They must practice quite a bit – especially the ones with the over-sized heads on their costumes. Most of the characters that were allowed to speak (i.e. not in over-sized masks!) were surprised that I was allowing them to have an entire page for their signature. I can’t imagine making them try and scrawl on a shared page!
NOTE: I tried to align my comments with the photos, but couldn’t figure out how to do that – the extra spacing was removed upon publication! Oh well – I’m sure you can figure out what I’m talking about!

The Queen of Hearts


I like how Pluto added a bone!


Pinocchio didn’t realize he could have the full page and left room for Geppeto to sign as well.

Minnie Mouse

Minnie liked my hat – a Mickey pants ear hat with a tail sticking up out of the top. Otherwise known as a “Mickey Butt Hat” – at least by me – I doubt they were marketing it under that style name…

Mary Poppins

Mary & Bert were so fun! Mary was happy to use my red market as it was color coordinated with her Jolly Holiday dress. We agreed that color coordination was important and she said, “But there is really no excuse for Bert’s tie!”

Bert (from Mary Poppins)

Notice the chimney sweep broom!

Mad Hatter - winner of most awesome autograph!

Now how did the Mad Hatter know it was my Un-Birthday? His autograph was the most creative – and he was the most excited to have a full page!

Holiday Autograph from Goofy

Goofy added a Christmas Tree in honor of the season to his autograph – it’s the little things…


Evil Queen

The Evil Queen was magnificent in person! Very fun to watch with the children – who didn’t seem frightened of her at all! She was a great poser – always with mouth down-turned, feet turned out and a frown on her face.


Heading Home

carpet in our room at Disney's Grand California

Can you spot the hidden Mickey on the carpet in our room?

Our flight was not until 6 pm and, with Don once again in meetings (continuing education, actually), I was left to my own devices until 3:30ish when we’d have to catch our bus to the John Wayne International Airport. I went on the power walk through Disney California and found myself accompanied by one of Don’s colleagues at Harborview in Seattle. Teresa was on her own due to a mix up in registration (for the meeting) so I offered to leave her my Disney Guidebook so she could plan out some time at the parks. It was a chilly morning – our breath was clearly visible – but one of the women was from Ohio and in shorts. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? An interesting note about being in the park before it opens: the Grizzly Rapids Run is completely emptied of water every night. Who knew?!?
I had decided that my last breakfast would be at Catal – they had a brioche French toast that sounded delightful. It was good, but not as good as the Mickey Waffle – sad to say! After breakfast, I went back to the room to pack up before the late check out (noon). The Bell Captain kept our bags for me in their holding room until we were ready to leave – most convenient! I had used up my 3-day Park Hopper ticket (sigh), so my day would be spent Christmas shopping in Downtown Disney.
I managed (somehow…) to accumulate several purchases and still had time before I needed to meet Don back at the resort, so I approached the Disney Vacation Club booth to find out more about the program. We had looked into it a bit previously and – of all the time share possibilities out there – I was interested in learning more. I whisked away on a tram (bliss! my feet were so tired!) to the offices and chatted with Bruce who discussed scenarios, answered questions and gave me a tour of the model units from the Grand Californian. I would dearly love to someday have a family reunion or do Christmas at Disney World (specifically, Disney’s Animal Kingdom with a view of the “Savannah!”) and buying into the Vacation Club would help bring that dream to fruition. Plus, it’s Disney and I can count on them to do it right. The prices seemed reasonable to me and the program is fairly flexible regarding destinations and “point accumulation.” Perhaps, someday…
I was once again whisked away in the tram and back to the Grand Californian to collect our luggage and Don so we could hop the bus to the airport. I had just enough time to dash back into Downtown and buy some huge soft pretzels for our plane ride home before the bus was to arrive. Don returned to the resort just ahead of the Disneyland Express bus. Our airport experience was uneventful – no pat downs or body cavity searches – and our plane was fully loaded before our scheduled departure time. I believe we actually took off a few minutes early. The charming toddler behind me didn’t kick my seat the entire time, so the flight seemed quick and we were once again in rain swept Seattle. Home again, home again – jiggety-jig!

Mickey’s Fun Wheel: A Disney Sidebar

We had a fabulous viewing spot for the Wonderful World of Color show on the boardwalk of Paradise Pier, across from the giant ferris wheel. The light display on Mickey’s Fun Wheel was very nearly hypnotic as we waited for the start of the show. I took a short video clip – wish I’d recorded more! – added a couple of snapshots from the area and put it to “The Spectrum Song.” The song is from one of the old World of Disney television shows and sung by Ludvig VonDrake – remember him? Click here to view the video on YouTube.

PS Unless you open the link in a new window or tab, you will be directed away from this blog post.

Mickey's Fun Wheel at night

Mickey's Fun Wheel at night - beautiful!

Day 3: Don & Shirley do Disney (part 2)

Disney California

Just outside California Adventure

After a quick stop in our room, we headed back out to Disney’s California Adventure. We had several “must do’s” for this park – first on the list was Soarin’ Over California. This is an amazing ride that gives you the sensation of flying through the many environments in the state of California – including the scent of pine or orange trees! We decided to go as single riders as it had worked out so well for me before, but -maybe because it wasn’t as busy – the cast members seemed to be more sticklers for protocol and separated us down different hallways. They kept everyone in their lane from the line before “boarding” to seating assignments – ah well! Next time through, we stayed together and got in the front row – weeee! Before going through “Soarin'” again, though, we went over to the Grizzly River Run – a “white water rapids” ride where everyone gets wet – at least a little bit! We had tossed a Mickey poncho (from a previous trip to Disney World) into my backpack as well as some large plastic bags for Don’s shoes. It was in the low 70’s that day, so we weren’t worried about a little bit of water, but it is uncomfortable to walk in wet shoes and we had miles to go before we slept… The locals considered the weather to be too cool for Grizzly, so we walked right on and shared our “raft” with a young man – a kid in his mid-teens. We gleefully bagged Don’s shoes and tucked my backpack (with my shoes & socks) under my poncho, regaling the kid with tales of our upcoming soaking! It was great! I did get a good-sized splash in the face, but our clothes came through just fine.
We headed to the Paradise Pier area next to check the line for Toy Story Mania – it was long, so we decided to try out the Mickey Fun Wheel. The boarding process was tedious – it took a while to fill all those “cages” and I insisted on a non-moving cage. After the Ferris wheel was filled, I think we only went around twice before the unloading process began. The views were amazing from the wheel, though – you could see the whole California Adventure Park and the higher points of Disneyland. After dark, the wheel was beautifully lit with changing colored lights and simulated movement, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
Next was Toy Story Mania with it’s 40 minute wait – and this was a slow day in the park! It is much better to stand in line with someone instead of by yourself, though!! Don beat my score this time, although my accuracy percentage was better than his – I consider that a moral victory.
By now, it was time to pick up our picnics for the World of Color Show. I had purchased them online ahead of time to get us into a preferred viewing area for the show. We were still stuffed from our huge lunch in Blue Bayou, so we planned to take them up to our room and tuck them into the fridge for later. As we walked away with our cool new lunch bags, we found that the Pixar Parade would be starting soon and we had the opportunity to sit along the edge of the route – we took it!
Monsters Inc character Boo in parade

Boo from Monsters Inc toddles toward us.

We were able to see the full parade unobstructed and you know Disney does a good parade!
We hustled our food up to our room and grabbed our previously discarded jackets and headed back into Disney California. We had a bit of time (still!) before we were to get into the queue for our viewing area, so we wandered into the Backstage area and went on the Monsters Inc ride. Now this ride is specifically for the little ones – too bad they didn’t take the chase scene in the door area from the movie and make that into a ride. That coulda been something! It is a cute ride, though and it is fun to see the little ones as they enjoy the animatronic figures. As we walked out of the ride exit, Don said, “let’s go through again!” He wanted to try to get some pictures inside the ride. He cajoled me (and was supported by the lady with two kids who was following us out – “Aw c’mon! Let him ride again!”) so we went through again to take pictures. Weee! (the pictures did not turn out)
Now it was time to head back to the Paradise Pier area and find our preferred viewing area. Oh – that would be the hundreds of people surrounded by cast members and guided by rope lines across the water from Mickey’s Fun Wheel. Holy crap! Not so exclusive feeling anymore! Eventually, it was announced that, if we didn’t mind the possibility of getting wet, people could get right down on the boardwalk and line up along the water. We decided to chance it and settled on a couple of folded towels right at the railing. Others filled in around us, including a set of grandparents with a couple of grandchildren who pondered aloud what would happen if we should stand up. “They will let you stand in front of them and you will have a front row view!” exclaimed the grandpa. “As if!” I thought. This family was swathed in ponchos to avoid the splashes we were warned about. While we were waiting, the grandpa talked loudly and constantly so I was worried we’d get a running commentary throughout the show. We were also treated to a light show on Mickey’s Fun Wheel – very mesmerizing! I took some video of the changes and now wish I had taken more. (Look for a side bar on the Fun Wheel light show soon!) The show began and the music was loud enough to mask “grandpa’s” remarks. The prevailing wind – which was very slight, moved across the water parallel to our seats so we had the occasional light mist.
It was an amazing show – animation was projected onto walls of water, jets of color shot into the air (how did they make the color so intense!?), familiar Disney songs played throughout, fire blasted up from the water – hot enough to feel the heat. I highly recommend going to this show – and getting the picnic lunch for a preferred view as it is cheaper than the dinner at Ariel’s Grotto and the viewing area is not much different.
Our day of doing Disney together came to end after our late picnic in our room and we went to sleep knowing we would be leaving the next day….sigh!

Cutest Bathroom Ever: A Disney Sidebar

We came upon the cutest restrooms around the corner from the Alice in Wonderland ride, near the Matterhorn. It had white ceramic tile with an “eye-height” border of right-side-up and upside-down bright red hearts – like a playing card – and all the stall doors were playing cards. Don’t worry – I waited until the coast was clear to take a picture!

cute bathroom

The Cutest Bathroom Ever!

The Chrismas Miracle: A Disney Sidebar

Riding the Matterhorn presented us with a Christmas Miracle. Several rides after our trip through the mountain, Don discovered his sunglasses case – with custom-fitted clip-on sunglasses – was missing from his jacket pocket. He asked a cast member outside a Disney wedding (seriously – people were getting married in the park with Mickey & Minnie in attendance…) about a lost and found. She suggested that we go back to the ride and see if it was still there awaiting a time when it could be taken to the central lost & found. So that’s what we did.
Lo and behold, an angel dressed in a Matterhorn-style parka returned unto us Don’s sunglasses! Alleluia!

Matterhorn Mountain

The Matterhorn - Location of a Christmas Miracle!

Day 3: Don & Shirley do Disney! (part one)

Hooray! Don took the day to be with me and hit the parks. We had a full day planned – from beignets at the Jazz Kitchen Express in Downtown to The Wonderful World of Color show at Disney’s California Adventure after the park closed. The parks weren’t near as crowded as they had been over the weekend – no surprise – and it was sunny and pleasant for Don’s park day. A good surprise!
We walked right into Buzz Lightyear’s ride – twice! and my score was higher than Don’s both times (not that I’m bragging…)!! There was also a short line for the Nemo Submarine ride which was cute, but I’d hate to have it break down and test my claustrophobia…

We're having more fun than it looks like...

We went on the Matterhorn – another short wait – and then to Dumbo, which had a little longer line, but it was a must! We checked on the Peter Pan ride (our favorite kissing ride!) and it had a long wait, so we headed over to Indiana Jones and pretty much flew right through the line. Yay! Of course we went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – how could we not?
Don & Shirley on the Dumbo ride

Ready to fly!

We caught a few more characters for photos and autographs: the Mad Hatter, Red Queen and Maleficent (evil queen from Sleeping Beauty) – an excellent poser! I didn’t get Alice’s autograph, though, as she was over run with little kids and it looks bad to knock little kids down…Again, there was no getting near Mickey.

We're not evil...

We checked again at Peter Pan, but no joy – too close to our lunch reservations at the Blue Bayou inside the Pirates ride. However, there was just enough time to breeze through the Indiana Jones ride – you can never ride that one too many times! We were seated near the bayou and were served a huge, over-priced albeit tasty meal. It’s all about atmosphere at the Blue Bayou and that was in abundance! Afterwards, we bit the bullet and stood in line for Peter Pan. At last!
Next, we headed back to the room to drop off our jackets (yay warmth!) and Don’s doggie bag – then hit Disney Cali…!

To be continued…

Day 2: Autograph Hound

Today I was determined to get some autographs and managed to snag a few. Minnie, Goofy & Pluto were in Toon Town and I found Mary Poppins and Bert just before leaving Fantasyland. I also got Pinocchio and Geppeto out on Main Street as I was headed back to the room for a few minutes. I looked for others in Disney California and actually got in line to see Sully (Monsters Inc) but was told he couldn’t do autographs because of the claws. I saw Mickey several times but he was always swamped as soon as he appeared. In fact, I was pushed aside by a “lady” who abandoned Pinocchio’s line…in her defense, she did say “excuse me” as she shoved. I also had pictures taken with most of them! I took advantage of the photo-op spots, too when there was a cast member to take theĀ  picture. They were very nice and took pictures both with my camera and theirs – I’ll need to look at those online.

Mary Poppins, Bert & Me

It's a Jolly Holiday!

I went to the animation studio at the Hollywood Backlot section in Disney Cali and saw the Talk with Crush show (sea turtle from Finding Nemo) which was very cute. It’s a Pixar animated show, but the twist is that he actually can interact with audience members -asking to speak to specific “dudes” and “dudettes.” It was totally awesome, dude! It started raining in mid-afternoon – I thought it never rained in California! Actually it wasn’t too terrible, considering where I live! I caught part of the Pixar Parade, but was behind a pile of people so I didn’t have a very good view. What I saw was cute, though! “Life-sized” Pixar characters dancing and singing – very colorful!

We had a dinner in the evening at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. with the Pharmacy Residents (and others) – about 2 miles from our hotel. We decided to walk and got soaked on the way back. We hoped to see the fireworks again from our balcony, but apparently they were canceled due to the rain. Wimps.

My friend, Minnie Mouse

Picture Upload Fail

I had a difficult time uploading this pic of my breakfast partner the other day!

First Day

I signed up for the 7:30 am power walk through Disney California and had discovered the night before that I had forgotten my sweatshirt jacket for the cool of the morning. Luckily, shops in Downtown are just steps away so I picked up a new one before returning to the room last night. No – it wasn’t on purpose! It was great walk – the park wasn’t open yet so we pep-stepped all through it avoiding maintenance vehicles and – oddly enough – cats. I saw three that call Disney Cali home and there are probably a lot more! the mousing must be good ….
Breakfast was at the Storytellers Cafe and I had my waffle-jones satisfied in a Disney way – Mickey shaped! (picture below) I was joined for a short while by a large bear, which was cool and somewhat creepy at the same time. After he left my table, he started doing something behind me that got the next table laughing and snapping pics …I’m afraid to even know! (pictures below)
Single Rider = AWESOME!
…at least for the rides that have them. there was a 30 minute wait for the Indiana Jones ride, but I was on the ride in about 4 minutes! That was very happy making! Thee wasn’t a single rider line for Pirates, but it was moving along pretty quickly. I met a family with several small children who invited me to join them and, as we talked, they offered to give me an annual a pass if I kept a couple of them … I turned them down. I *think* they were kidding….Disneyland was jammed – Saturdays are their busiest day – so I sauntered over to Disney Cali and took a single rider line into Soarin’ Over California and snagged a front row! Awesome!
Toy Story Mania was shut down for a while and when it re-opened, they weren’t using the single rider option (boo!) The line was long, but I stayed the course. It wasn’t a good line experience, though. I had a young couple ahead of me who kept “play wrestling” so I kept a bit of extra space between us to avoid being thumped. (about 18″) Behind me was another couple who constantly stepped on my heels and bumped into my backpack the entire 40 minute wait. I think when you are in a long line, you need to respect personal space to avoid annoying those around you. I was surrounded by people who didn’t subscribe to the same philosophy…BTW my score on the ride was 128,500 (it’s a 3-D virtual arcade), so there is plenty of room for improvement.
Don was able to return for dinner so we went into Downtown to search out sustenance. I was reluctant last night to go into one of the restaurants for a sit-down meal by myself, but all the menus looked amazing! We ended up going to the same place I went to last night except we went to the upstairs restaurant instead of the street bar. I had wonderful pasta with butternut squash and chicken – Don had been eating pretty much all day so he had a creamy white bean soup (had a taste – yummy!) The meals didn’t leave us feeling over-full so we ordered dessert, too. Don had a rice pudding with bits of caramelized sugar mixed into it and dried apricots on top (again, yummy!) I had a “deconstructed s’more” which was a roll-your-eyes-up-into-your-head gastronomical delight. I liked it. It was a piece of flourless chocolate cake with caramelized marshmallows (NOT Kraft!) and Graham cracker ice cream. OMG!
Don at Catal restaurant
We ended the evening by watching the fireworks from our balcony – even with a partially obstructed view of the show, there were still plenty of ooo’s and aaah’s. Nice!

The Happiest Breakfast on Earth

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