2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Favorites

2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival Favorites

With just about 4 weeks left in this years Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, 26 days to be exact I wanted to share some of my new favorites to this year’s festival, and some past favorites that are still around. We got to enjoy the first 4 days of the festival earlier in the season and I definitely wish we had more time. I miss the days of being able to go to the festival way too many times while it was going on. Oh the perks of being a local.

New this year was the Light Lab, in the Future World West building behind Club Cool. We really got to enjoy the space on Thursday and Friday the first 2 days of the festival before people started to find out about it and the crowds started to pick up. It was the perfect spot to cool off from the heat, enjoy a drink, with a nice atmosphere. The weekends however had lines to even get in the space, so you couldn’t just hang out. However there were still tables inside the back area of Future World West. We did a beer flight that was in the outside area, and also tried the Blue Spectrum. I really enjoyed it, especially once I popped the Boba Balls trying to get them out. The fun part about Light Lab was that they make the drinks right there in front of you like it’s a science lab, and lab coats are part of their costume.

My favorite thing, and also the last thing I had the entire festival was the Tequila Chipotle Shrimp at the Mexico booth. At first I wasn’t going to try it, I was sad they had something new instead of the shrimp taco I have loved for years. I’m going to be honest, this was even better! This was done on a Black Bean Huarache, topped with Red and Green cabbage, Queso Fresco and Crema Mexicana. I’ll be honest I’m so mad I didn’t get it sooner so I could have had it more than once. I also grabbed their Classic Margarita and the two paired perfect together.

The Almond Orchard was another new stop though it’s location has been many things over the years, it is sponsored by Almond Breeze and they had a variety of dairy free treats. It was nice to find a smoothie for my toddler as they are her favorite and she is dairy free.  It was a pretty basic strawberry smoothie made with Almond milk but it was good and she loved it, especially on a hot day. I actually found there were many more kid friendly options than I’ve noticed in years past. When you pick up your Food and Wine Passport look for the strawberry next to items that are designated as kid friendly options.

With mention of the Passport, a little tip if your kids love stickers the Food and Wine Passport was a BIG hit with my daughter. She loved the stickers and it kept her so happy while we waited in lines. We grabbed a few extra to bring home.

 

The Epcot Legacy Showplace in the Odyssey Center was set up as a tribute to Epcot’s 35th Anniversary, with Foods inspired by Epcot’s past. We tried both good items here the Chilled Scotch Egg wrapped in Sausage with mustard sauce, as well as the Zesty Cheeseburger and Cheddar Cheese Macaroni handwich. We were big fans of the scotch egg. The handwich is one of the best deals of the festival, at $5.50 its a great price for the portion. I didn’t love it because I don’t do onions and it had some big pearl onions in it. ( yes I can be picky) Don’t let that discourage you from trying it though if that doesn’t bother you because everyone else has loved it!

One last one, though there was so much more I wish we would have had time to try was the Sweet Pancake with Spicy Chipotle-Chicken Sausage, Onion Jam, and Maple Butter Syrup and the Piggy Wings from Flavors from Fire in Future World West. The sausage definitely had a kick too it, and the Piggy Wings reminded me a bit of the wings at Ohana but were still different and of course delicious.

Here are a few other favorites that have been around for a while.

China– Chicken Potstickers

Canada– “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon

Brazil– Brazilian Cheese Bread

Hops and Barley– New England Lobster Roll and Smoked Beef Brisket and Pimento Cheese

 

Belgium– Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote

We also of course enjoyed some drinks around the showcase. I tried a mix of things while my husband pretty much stuck to beer.

Always a favorite is the Passion Martini Slush in France. While this has changed time to time over the years for the festival it is still the perfect drink to cool down with, and always tasty!

New and exclusive to the festival Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Pomegranate Beer at the Brewers Collection. This was honestly fantastic! I know everyone has gone crazy over their grapefruit beer which I’ve yet to have but I’m really hoping Schöfferhofer decides to sell this one after he festival, at least in the parks.

Of course I couldn’t not try the Rosè that was available. I’m really only a fan of dry Rosè, I’m not a sweet wine drinker so when you’re looking for a dry one the lighter ones tend to me the most dry ones. I really enjoyed the Meomi Rosè from The Wine and Dine studio. I had been wanting to try this one for a while but didn’t want to pay $20 for the bottle at the store. I also had the Moët & Chandon Brut Rosè Imperial Champagne at the Almond Orchard. It was a tad sweet but still dry, but as you can see the colors in the two are really quite different.

There was so much more we wanted to try but there just wasn’t enough time to do it all. What are some of your favorite finds from the festival?

“Grey Stuff” Inspired No Bake Cheesecake

“Grey Stuff” Inspired No Bake Cheesecake

 

The Live Action Beauty and the Beast movie comes out on Blue Ray/DVD today! If you have yet to see it go out and get a copy because Disney did an absolutely amazing job with this LIVE action remake of an animated classic. You can order it here. I also happen to be celebrating my 8th wedding anniversary with my husband today so I have a little Beauty and the Beast date night in planned for the evening. I am excited for him to see the movie for the first time.

With the Beauty and the Beast theme in mind I wanted to whip up a dessert for the evening. Of course the “Grey Stuff”came to my mind but I wanted to play a twist on it a bit. After much thought and looking through my dessert board on Pinterest to see if anything gave me that inspiration, I decided on a Grey Stuff Inspired No Bake Cheesecake.

This was super easy to make, and I really enjoy the flavor of it more than the cool whip flavored recipe that is floating around, and is used in the park.

Here is what you need:

18 Oreos

10 oz of cream cheese softened

1.5 oz of milk ( I used Ripple Milk( dairy free(

1 packet of Simply Jello Vanilla Pudding

wine glass, jars, or whatever you would like to serve it in

Lay your cream cheese out to soften. Mix 1 cup of the milk with the pudding mix until it thickens, then add in  12 of the crushed Oreos. You can crush Oreos by placing in a baggy and using a cup or rolling pin. For the first 12 I left the cream in the center. Mix together. Remove the filling from the remaining 6 Oreos and add to the mixture, with the cream cheese. Mix all together and then refrigerate for one hour. Crush the remaining 6 Oreos, divide and place in bottom of your serving dish of choice. Top with the cheesecake mixture.

You can spoon it in or use a pipping bag which I found much easier with using wine glasses. Place back in the fridge for a few hours before serving. Mine made these 2 huge wine glasses and 2 small cheesecakes, which we enjoyed as soon as they were set. You could definitely get 6-8 servings out of this depending on how you portion them.

Pop in the animated classic or the new LIVE action film, and enjoy this tasty treat with the entire family, or just your significant other!

*This post may contain affiliate links, that means I may receive a small commission. I don’t recommend items I don’t personally love.


Disney’s Toy Story Date Night In

Disney’s Toy Story Date Night In

 

Today starts my Date Night In Series.  Dating your spouse is so important! When you add a child into the mix, the dynamic of things change. Those weekly date nights, time alone with just your spouse become few and far between. By the time bedtime rolls around for the kids you are just plain exhausted. Budgets can be tight not allowing for a date night and a sitter, and even schedules can get crazy. However you can’t let that foundation you set for your marriage fade. That is why date nights even if they are not out of the home are so important.

We are lucky that we have grandparents that watch our daughter about once a month so we can get out. Otherwise we would not have nights out very often at all. Not everyone has that option, and lets be real leaving a young child with a sitter is hard. Because of this and our need to make sure we are creating that time more than once a month we started Date Nights In at our house.

I am not talking always starting up Netflix and getting cozy on the couch more often. I am talking really creating a night where you can talk, dream, and inspire each other and have that one on one time without the distractions. That can even be tough on a real date night out. Find things to do that maybe take you back to things you used to love to do together.

I love to create things with a theme.  These date nights at home give me the ability to do so. When my daughter is old enough to watch and enjoy these things I can see many family themed date nights with movies in our future. I love to plan also, and as a Mom I’ve lost the ability to be creative as often as I would like to be so this gives me the ability to do it a few times a month.

A lot of this all started when I created our 12 Dates of Christmas.Something that has been a tradition of ours for the last 6 years or more. I’ll share more about that when Christmas is closer. I’ve been picking my brain for sometime about the things we loved to do and a lot of our most favorite dates night take us back to Disney Date nights from our time in Florida. The first date night in My Date Night In series, is Toy Story themed.

When we lived in Florida we absolutely loved hitting up the parks for really fun yet simple date nights. One of our favorites was to hit up Hollywood Studios for Pizza Planet and Toy Story Mania. (It was best during the non busy times.) Of course we would hit the other parks too. The goal was to create that at home for us and I did just that!

So the making of this date night was combined of homemade pizza, a Sheriff Woody inspired drink we called ” There’s a Snake in my Boot”, White Chocolate Chex Mix, and the Nintendo Wii Toy Story Midway Mania game. We also decided to pop in Toy Story 3 when we tired out from the game.

The Sheriff Woody inspired drink was actually fairly simple. Add 1.5 oz of Bourbon into a cup, top with  Ale 8 One which is a soda from Kentucky that is kind of a mix of Sprite and Ginger Ale. You can find it here. The glass bottle is better if you just want to drink it but we stock up when we go to Kentucky. These are a tad pricey to order online but you can sometimes find them at a local Kroger or Harris Teeter. Even Cracker Barrel sometimes has them as  they have started to expand outside of Kentucky! Add a few gummy worms and you have a “There’s A Snake In My Boot.” If you don’t have these just use ginger ale.

The recipe for the White Chocolate Chex Mix can be found here. Its super easy and the perfect movie snack!

We had the best time being competitive with each other playing Toy Story Mid Way Mania. Sometimes it is easy to forget how much fun you can have. For the dinner portion we decided it would be a non family dinner  night. We were more than ok and we would have dinner just the 2 of us after our daughter was in bed. It was the perfect time for conversation which does not happen much at dinner anymore. We are both are lucky enough to eat while trying to make sure our daughter is fed, not attempting to find a way out of her high chair, or dumping her plate on the floor.

There are so many ways you can create these great date nights at home. Most of this one with our grocery budget or things we already have in the house so this can definitely be done on a budget. Make sure to stay tuned as more Date Night In’s are coming every Friday in the month of June!

*This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through my link I may  get a small commission from it.

3 Reason to Love Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

3 Reason to Love Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

 

 

 

 

I have always loved Epcot’s International Flower Garden Festival, I even got to work it one season of it on my college program and worked in the first ever speciality booth. Years after that they kept adding them and adding them into what it is today. I’m happy our trips have fallen during the festival and this year I fell even more in love with it each year. I love seeing all the bold, bright, vibrant colors and flowers through Epcot. They seriously do the most fantastic job. The picture below is one of my favorite spots in the festival. Here are 3 reasons to love it.

1.The Special Topiaries

The topiaries are so fun to see each and every year. They have been enhanced and changed a bit over the last 8 plus years I have been visiting the festival and they just don’t disappoint. This year I absolutely loved the Beauty & The Beast ones, mainly because everything was all about the Beauty & The Beast movie coming out and they just took me back to my childhood. These have been around for a while but this year they just really hit the spot.

 

I also loved the Peter Pan topiary. Again this has been around for a while but I don’t recall it always being on top of the United Kingdom building. ( it could have been that way for years and my Mom brain just doesn’t work, there were 3 years in a row I wasn’t there during the festival)

My absolute favorite and one we will continue to hit year after year is the Lion King. We got a picture there last year on my daughters trip and one again this year to compare. I hope we can do this for years to come, though Daddy may not be able to hold her up like that forever.

2.  The Play Areas & Children’s Activities

This year I found a whole new love for these play areas. Last year we were not old enough to enjoy them but this year they were life savers with an extremely active at the time 15 month old. There are 3 play areas one along the Imagination walkway from Future World to the World Showcase called Music Melodies Play Ground, a small area in-between France and Morocco, and one that sets right behind Mousegear, along the Test Track Walkway called the Road to the Florida 500.  There is also an egg hunt you can do, as well as fun activities at each country at Kidcot where your children can travel the world and get a stamp at each country. ( Kidcot is available year around but the offerings can change a bit from season to season.

We spend a lot of afternoons and evenings at Epcot on our visits so we visited the Music Melodies play area few times and my daughter had a blast. They have nice shaded areas for Moms and Dads to sit back and relax too.

 

The small play space in between Morocco and France was fairly small but it was a great spot to run off some energy.

Our favorite of the 3 was definitely the Road to the Florida 500. While it wasn’t hidden necessarily it was not so out in the open that tons of people were stopping, and it was super shaded which is always great! We wish we would have explored this gem earlier in out trip.

The front of the area was themed super cute as well for the upcoming CARS 3 movie.

3. The Food Booths

To be honest as much as I love all the food booths I only stopped twice this last trip and both times for drinks. On our previous trip in November it was Food & Wine Festival and we snacked so much and tried so many things that I barely had room to try some of my favorites. However I will say I love love love the fact that they added all the booths into Flower and Garden Festival several years ago because they were so needed. My favorite booth is the Pineapple Promenade, I love all things Pineapple especially Dole Whip and there they have Dole Whip with rum. I like the Coconut Rum best. This year I had to try the Pineapple Mana beer from Maui Brewing Company and oh how I wish I could find it at home.

There are so many other great stops through the World Showcase for drinks and food galore during the Flower and Garden festival to check out.  You can even pick up a passport and get a stamp at each country as you go through. There are 15 different Outdoor Kitchens as they call them.

 

There are many other things to do at the Flower and Garden Festival. There are great photo opportunities, workshops, The Garden Rocks Concert Series, tours, special merchandise and more. You can actually download the Festival Passport here.

 

The last day for Flower and Garden is Monday, May 29th. As with anytime at Disney but especially Epcot during festivals the weekends are much more crowded.  There are 2 more great Epcot Festivals to look forward to this year as well. My favorite the International Food and  Wine festival which starts even earlier this year on August the 31st and runs through November 13th, and Holidays Around the World November 24th – December 30th.

A Farewell To Wishes

A Farewell To Wishes

 

Writing this is a little emotional for me. I know to the normal person writing a farewell to Wishes a firework show at Walt Disney World seems so silly. You think, it is just a firework’s show. The thing is to me, to many of friends, my Disney family, and so many people I do not even know it is so much more. On Thursday, May 11th this show closes and honestly its a mix of emotions for me. It has been 10 years of Magical Memories, and  for others even more since its beginning in 2003.

Wishes has been the start of new chapters, and endings of others. It has been the ending to many wonderful celebrations, reasons for random date nights, meet ups with dear friends, and a thing to always go back to each and every visit and let all those memories come back in.

I am not just your average Disney lover. I am a Disney College Program and Professional Internship Alumni, and a 3 year Disney Cast Member after that. I was engaged in Cinderella’s Castle, and some of my best friends in the whole world came from my experiences and time at Disney. Disney is home, it is special, it is a I just left there and I need to go back like yesterday kind of place. Wishes, well it is just the icing on the cake!

So, let’s talk about those new beginnings. My then boyfriend (now husband) and I took our first trip to Disney together in the summer of 2007. It was his first trip and my first time ever staying on property, and going to any park other than Magic Kingdom or Epcot. I hadn’t been to Epcot in probably 10 years or more. My love for Wishes began this trip. The music is what really gets you. I had known for a while but I really knew that trip he was the man I was going to marry. March of 2008 we went back for our Senior Year of College Spring Break. That trip Wishes got a whole new meaning! One evening while dining at Cinderella’s Castle my husband proposed to me, and just a few minutes later we watched Wishes from our table out the Castle Window. It was a new chapter for us to start our lives together. This year exactly 9 years to the date he proposed, we watched Wishes for the first and sadly the last time with our 1 year old Daughter. Getting that moment with her was so special.

The next new beginning was the start of my college program. Thanks to Facebook I was able to jump in a group with other people doing the program the same time as me. Many of these people are still some of my dearest friends. I remember after our first day of traditions as soon as we had the ticket to get in we all made plans to meet up for Wishes. I am not even kidding there were like 20 or more of us.  Some of the best times ever in January of 2009, and some of the slowest times I have ever experienced in the parks to date. Oh, the fun we had! But all great things must come to end, and just like we started that experience together on Main Street with Wishes, it is also where that May we all met up at the end of our program.( and again in August for some people who extended.)Me I still stuck around. I remember those nights being filled with so many tears. Not wanting to say goodbye, not wanting “The Time of Your Life” (Disney’s marketing campaign at the time) to be over. Wishes was our thing. These weren’t the only nights we saw Wishes together but one of the few times we saw them in such large groups, as it got very hard to all meet up with work schedules. Wishes made us cry tears of happiness and sadness many times.

Then there were just memories. I spent 6 months doing my management internship in Magic Kingdom. 6 months away, and then another 3 years in that magical place. I have fond memories of heading out to the patio with an empty restaurant with some of my cast members at Pinocchio’s Village Haus. I remember the 6 months I spent at the Contemporary sneaking away to the observation deck wishing I was back in the park, but still loving the view just the same. Then I got to go back to Magic Kingdom, to Stands East. (sadly no longer a thing) At the time Toon Town was one of my areas and the Cast Members had a thing for watching Wishes in the backstage area. It was a such a great viewing spot. I remember some of my cast members making plans to watch it there one last time before Toon Town closed for the New Fantasyland expansion, and I remember watching right in front of Gaston’s Tavern with some of the very same cast members when we got to open that new location. I heard the music 3-4 nights a week and even if I was too busy to stop and watch it never got old! It was truly one of the best parts of working in Magic Kingdom.

 

Then I remember that last closing chapter. The one where we closed up the chapter of our Florida life. I remember the last night shift I worked and watching Wishes in front of Gaston’s Tavern, that one last time.  I remember one of my very best friends surprising me my last day at work and coming down for a few days to close that chapter with me. It was special, and magical, it was tradition.

In March, we not only watched Wishes one last time with our daughter, but also several of these same people who were a part of making this show so special. How special it was to close yet another chapter with people who mean so much.

As Walt said, “We keep moving forward opening up new doors & doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. “ While I am so sad to see Wishes go, I am excited to start making new memories with the new show. With this I leave you;

“Make a Wish and do as dreamers do and all our Wishes will come true. “

Farewell Wishes!

 

 

6 Reasons a Walt Disney World Annual Pass may be right for your Family

6 Reasons a Walt Disney World Annual Pass may be right for your Family

My family and I love to go Disney! There are a lot of reasons but here is a few. It is our second home, I was a cast member there for 4 years, we got engaged there, and it is just the perfect place for a fun family vacation. Being a previous cast member I know a lot of the ins and outs, tips and tricks of  Walt Disney World even though it has been 4 years since I worked there. We visit frequently, I read Disney Blogs on the regular and much more to constantly stay up to date. This past year in November we decided it was time to get a Walt Disney World Annual Pass. We have been blessed with many trips to Disney for cheap thanks to Disney friends but with a child we needed to be able to have more flexibility and plan on our own.

 

So is a Walt Disney Word Annual Pass right for our Family? Here are 5 reasons why it might be.

 

  1. You have a child under the age of 3 (Disney with young children – Another post for another day)

 

Our daughter is only 1.5. She has been to Disney 3 times already. We are taking extra advantage of it since we don’t have to pay for her right now, as our ability to go more often may change once she turns 3. (We hope not though.) At Disney 2 and under are FREE. No ticket required, no dining plan or meals have to be purchased, we can even still get a King size room. She can get her own plate at character meals at no charge, and eat off ours at others. However, she is an eater so we do buy her meals sometimes. This just makes things that much easier. I know it seems so young for a child to go to Disney but its free and they may not remember but you will!

 

  1. If you plan to go for more than 10 days in a calendar year it may pay for itself

 

When we got our pass in November we actually got an extra month free which gave us 13 months to use our pass. We have already been for around 14 days and the pass has easily paid for itself and then some. Price compare the options, especially if you like to park hop like we do. Also annual pass holders get room, food and merchandise discounts so that adds more savings.

 

  1. Memory Maker

 

This can be confusing to some as its listed as Photo pass under the pass holder perks, but it’s the exact same thing as the memory maker. It is one of my favorite perks of the pass. If you’re a Florida resident not every pass comes with this, but it is worth it for one person in your party to have the one with photo pass for the perk alone. Memory Maker cost $169 a trip, $149 if booked in advance. Over 2 trips that’s $300 or more you would pay for it close to half the cost of a pass. I wouldn’t do a trip without it, it is worth every bit!

 

 

  1. Free Parking

 

If you ever decide to go and stay off property, your parking with an Annual Pass is FREE! Parking is crazy expensive at $20 a day. Our most recent trip we stayed off property ( not my favorite thing, but we had a good deal!) and the pass saved us $140 in parking fees we would have paid.

 

  1. Discounts & Perks

 

Pass holders save on rooms, dining and merchandise. Room discounts can be up to about 30% off depending on the type of the resort. You receive 20% off merchandise and 10-20% off at certain food and beverage locations. We have yet to use the room discount but have easily saved upwards of $100-$150 from dining and merchandise discounts. You can even use your pass holder discount on the shop Disney parks app. Also just this year they have added special pass holder entrances. It was so great to skip the line at the turnstiles on the early mornings.  Who doesn’t love a discount, and good perks!

       6. Special Events and Merchandise

There are so many great special events throughout the year at Disney. From Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival, Food and Wine Festival, Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party, Holidays around the World , to the New Festival of the Arts Disney always has something fun and new to offer! The Fall and Christmas are one of our favorite times to visit, and no it never gets old! With an annual pass you can experience it all, and there is always special merchandise just for annual pass holders.

 

As I mentioned we have already been 14 days since our first day of use in November. The park days alone have already paid for themselves and then  some based on what we have paid for 2 different trips worth of 7 day park hopper tickets. Because we got 13 months at time of purchase we plan to get one more week trip, and hopefully a long weekend or 2.

Do the math and the research and see what works best for your family. You could take one trip with your pass in 2017 and one in 2018 before its expiration saving you on trip for the following year. I think so many people don’t realize this is even an option.

Annual passes may not be the best option for every family depending on how often your family likes to make the trip. Sometimes we like to be spontaneous and plan a last minute little get away. That’s not easy for everyone to do, but if you can sometimes it is fun to fly by the seat of your pants. Happy Disney planning!