Thursday, February 28, 2013

Animation Academy at Disney World

In just a few easy steps, you, too can learn how to draw a Disney character. Every 30 minutes classes are taught in the Animation Building in Hollywood Studios (as well as in California Adventure). On our last trip to Disneyland (summer 2011) Ashley spent almost as much time learning how to draw as she did hanging out with characters. Well, maybe not quite, but it seemed like a lot. As a result of those classes, I have seen a huge difference in her drawings.

Tired from walking around at Disney for two days, and running a Half Marathon, I was up for taking a class at the Animation Academy. Actually, I was up for just sitting in the lobby calling lost and found trying unsuccessfully to locate my pedometer. Don took Ashley in for two classes. She really wanted to draw Donald Duck, but they chose Minnie Mouse and Goofy for those classes.

Ashley colored in her artwork after we came home. 

Don picked up fast passes for Rock 'n Roller Coaster, so I took Ashley in for the next class. I've gone to enough of these classes over the years I thought I was up for the challenge. Imagine my surprise when the cast member announces we will be drawing a new character: Snow White! I felt as if I had entered the advanced class, even though I'm still a beginner.

I made so many mistakes in mine (the uncolored one) that I started over on the back and wished with all my heart I had an eraser in my purse. 

The classes are a lot of fun. If you have not done them in the past, they are a great place to escape the crowds and soak up some air conditioning. Oh, you might learn something, too.

Bird Training at Disney

Over the years one of the things I have loved about Disney is the ability for people of all ages to find something to enjoy. Even in the 10 1/2 years we have been taking Ashley to Disney we have watched her interests grow. At first the changes were which was her favorite character (first Pooh, then Princesses, and then Alice and the Hatter). On the last trip we noticed her love of drawing and spent much time learning how to draw Disney characters.

This past trip, though, her interest in animals was shining. We spent our first day of the trip at the Animal Kingdom to let her explore this passion. We noticed birds in a tree, and she saw the Flights of Wonder show twice, but we only stopped to pose with one character (Rafiki) and that was at my mom's request.

While hanging out at Planet Rafiki, Ashley and Don made a beeline to see the reptiles and ask the keeper about bearded dragons (yup, we are still learning about how to take care of Sandy). The cast member told Ashley they were doing something with a bird and would she like to help. Ashley said "of course!" My parents were invited to join us and we were each handed buttons to identify us as the family chosen to train the bird.

We were told to meet his co-cast member (Jennifer) at a specific gate while he picked up the bird. Jennifer escorted us back stage to a classroom. Our only rule was we were not allowed to take any pictures. That was a really tough rule for me to adhere to, but I did.

In the classroom, Jennifer and the other cast member (whose name escapes me) told us about Kevin, the bird. Kevin is a member of the Road Runner family. He was named after Kevin from the Pixar movie Up!

As part of Kevin's training, Don and Ashley were asked to hold sticks with a landing pad so Kevin could practice flying to new people. 

Yes, it was hard to not take any pictures! Especially hard when Kevin opted to land on my mom's head. Even she agreed it would have made a nice profile picture.

Ashley's response: "It was so cool! It was really amazing!"

My response: it is amazing that after all these trips to Disney, we are still finding new forms of magic. 

In addition to this we also dressed in our Dapper clothes and I ran the Princess Half Marathon.

Princess Half Marathon

"Hi! I'm Jacquie, and I'm addicted to pretty medals 
earned by running half-marathons." 

I know there are at least a few of you reading this who could swap your name for mine and the statement would be completely true!

I've signed up for the Coast-to-Coast challenge -- one half (or full) marathon  at both Disney World and Disneyland within the same calendar year. The prize is an extra medal. I'm halfway to that goal. On top of that, I registered for the Dumbo Double Dare -- a 10K on Saturday, followed by a half-marathon on Sunday (think of it as a mini-Goofy). After last weekend's race, i see a LOT more training for me this summer. I can do it, but also want some energy reserved for walking around Disneyland with my medal collection.

Following the Goofy in January, a friend made the comment "why can't I race in the weather in which I trained?" I thought that thought many times as I trained on snow and ice thinking "yeah! I won't have that in Florida!" Instead, I had a 66 degree start with 94% humidity and the promise of 80s by the finish. Yikes! Not at all like February in New Jersey! Fortunately the sun stayed hidden behind the clouds for the most part.

This princess melted her way through the course, finishing nearly 30 minutes after goal. 

On the plus, I did take lots of pictures and chatted with princes and princesses along the route.

The course starts and ends in Epcot, with a run to, from and through the Magic Kingdom, ending with a quick lap through the future part of Epcot. This race is geared for women -- 26,000 princesses ran, with another 1,000 princes also racing. There are 325 "Perfect Princesses," and 10 "Perfect Princes," meaning they have finished all 5 races in the past 5 years. 

The girl power is amazing and inspiring. The men in drag (such as Ernie as Belle) add to the experience. Easily half of those participating wore a costume of some sort. Many were very elaborate. People cited Pinterest for giving them ideas. I had fun wearing the princess mouse ears from Masumi and my new sparkle skirt (made in Tampa, FL, according to Ernie). The skirt will get a lot of wear in future races. As it fits over my own shorts, it is super comfortable, while adding a bit of a flair and some fun to the day.

It is a Disney race. There were lots of photo ops with characters. I followed the rule of thumb of only stopping if there were less than 10 people in line, or if I was very interested in the picture. Some of the lines seemed to be 30 minutes for just one picture (such as of Princess Minnie, or posing with four hunky princes). I just wanted to finish before I completely melted!

Another plus was that water, Gatorade, volunteers and medical staff were plentiful. 

A couple of downsides, but this is being petty. The spectators were only allowed in a couple of spots, which made those spots super crowded. I was looking forward to running down Main Street. Don, Ashley, and my parents were going to cheer me on at that spot. I spent the entire stretch of Main Street craning my head looking for my family and no soaking up the experience. Fortunately the spectators were only on the left, so I didn't have to keep turning. However, I did not see my parents, Don or Ashley along the route. Ashley saw me and pointed me out to my parents. Don was in another spot and completely missed me. I foresee matching florescent shirts in their future so I can spot them in a crowd! 

My energy waned by not seeing my family. The path then went through Tomorrowland, and to the Tea Cups. I passed Buzz Lightyear, but made sure to stop for Alice and the Mad Hatter. Then we continued through Fantasyland (and their walls) to Liberty Square and Frontierland. I was really ready for some water by this point, but there were no water stations set up. It wasn't until after the race that I realized they have water fountains in Disney. D'oh! The next race will be in Disneyland, a park I know much better.

I was also disappointed by the lack of music piped throughout the race. It tool place entirely on Disney property. They had lots of photo ops, but I would have enjoyed hearing more music along the route to push me along. There was some, but not enough on those long stretches along the highway.

Fortunately the updating system worked and even though they missed me at the finish line, Don and my parents knew it was time to look for me at the family meet up.

After a shower and lunch, we went into Disney for Dapper Day.

For more pictures of the event head on over to Shutterfly.

For another take on the weekend, read Mr. Daps' Blog. Though you can't tell in his picture, the winner was wearing a sparkle skirt, too.

Things I wish I had done differently:

  1. Attach my pedometer better. It flopped off my sparkle skirt near the start line.
  2. Had something to eat sooner along the course. I was so swept up in the fun, I forgot to eat a gel until mile 5.
  3. Run with a friend. Like I said, the girl power is awesome, I was lonely. Others were amazed I did this alone.
  4. Bright colored clothing for my fans. They knew what I was wearing, but I had no idea what they were wearing. 
  5. Finish before Epcot opened (I finished as it was opening, and as they were changing the route to allow guests to enter the park).

Things I did right:

  1. Training went well, despite the wintry weather.
  2. I did stop and take pictures and enjoy the experience (would have stopped more with a friend on hand to take pictures).
  3. Smiled at my photo ops.
  4. Had enough energy to walk around Disney that afternoon.
As I was nearing the finish, I started reminiscing about the Disneyland Half Marathon. I realized I liked that race better because it left Disney property. It seemed more of the town got into it. There were more spectators all over the place who read my name on my bib and cheered me on by name. It sounds silly, but hearing someone shout "Go! Jacquelyn!" gave me an extra push of energy. My bib for the Princess Half Marathon said Princess Jacquelyn. While cute, it made the font too small to read, thus no one shouted to me by name (except one little girl shouting "MOM!"). I'll be in Anaheim at the end of summer and will see how I reminisce about the Princess during that race. 

While it was fun, I'm not planning to run the Princess again. My heart belongs to Disneyland. This is my year to earn my Coast to Coast medal. I plan to enjoy each step along the way.

Dapper Days at Disney World

I like wearing costumes. I find it fun. When I decided to do the Princess Half Marathon, the next thought was what costume would I wear. Over the years we've had fun encouraging Ashley to wear costumes to Disneyland -- they make terrific photo ops. I'll post some of those pictures another time. When I saw on a Facebook thread Dapper Day was the same day as the race, I knew I wanted to participate. Don and Ashley also jumped on the Dapper bandwagon. 

All good stories start with "Once Upon a time," this is no exception. Once upon a time (in this case, last fall). some friends from Disneyland posted pictures of Dapper Day, a chance to dress up in your "Sunday Best" and promenade around Disney. It was founded in 2011, and and happens once in the fall and again in the spring (only in warm climates could February be considered "in the spring"). There are official times for meet-ups. They even sell group tickets. It is not a day sanctioned by Disney, nor does it appear on the Disney calendar. I double-checked with guest services the night before and not all of them were not aware of the event. 

Disney frowns upon people over 10 wearing costumes to Disney (for fear of being mistaken for the official Disney character, and for that person not acting at all Disney-like), hence Mickey's Not So Scary HalloweenBats Day and Dapper Day are times the rest of us can join in the costumed fun.

Had I but known about the official website in advance, and their tips for looking "Dapper," we would have put a bit more effort into our costumes. Some are just amazing! People wear outfits they purchase at vintage clothing stores. They put a lot of effort into their hair and make-up and the entire effect is amazing. People could tell we trying, and gave us smiles for that, but it was nothing compared with the real serious cos-play crowd.

The outfits of some of the other people were simply stunning. Add a sepia tone and block out all 21st century references, and you feel like you are stepping back in time looking at their photographs. Mr. Daps captured some pictures in his blog. Other friends have posted pictures from Disneyland. With California Adventure having a section that is reminiscent of Walt's early days in Hollywood, there are many photo ops. Our top picture is in front of a gift shop on Main Street. The bottom one is inside first aid (I needed some Vaseline to help me recover from the race). We saw others taking pictures there and decided to follow their lead.

It was fun waling around the park dressed up. Unfortunately I forgot to take my gloves out of my non-period purse and Don left his "Indiana Jones" hat in New Jersey.  So glad we heard about this before we left home so we had a chance to be part of the magic. 

I hope we can relive that magic on a future trip.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lost Earrings

I have a bad habit of losing earrings. I'm sure most of my friends with pierced ears can relate to the feeling of frustration and annoyance that comes from losing a favorite earring. I'm sure this is the case with most of my friends, I only lose earrings I like because I tend to wear my favorite earrings.

Last October I lost the match to the earring on the left while walking around German Village in Columbus, OH. In December I lost the one on the right while walking around Central Park in New York City. 

It stinks!

Years earlier I lost a pearl earring Don had given me when we were engaged. I turned it into a ring.

When I lost the dragonfly earring I told Don I might turn the misfit earrings into a charm bracelet. "Or," I said suddenly inspired, "I should just buy two pairs when I find earrings I really like this way I'll have a back up!

Valentine's Day this year Don not only remembered my comment, he bought me two pairs of the same earrings. In theory the problem should be solved. In reality, Ashley thinks the second pair is for her ears! We have the same taste in earrings and Ashley prefers raiding my jewelry box to wearing ones from her own collection.  

Happy belated Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Excuse the mess

Buoyed by the bathroom transformation, I'm ready to think about tackling the family room. How's that for a commitment statement? Trouble is I have no idea what family color to even consider. I'm not at the stage for "is this shade better than that one?" More I'm trying to figure out while part of ROY G. BIV spectrum is best for this room. The budget for this project: ideally the cost of two gallons of paint, but we all know that won't happen (see bathroom transformation).

Please excuse the mess. Non-tidy rooms make for much better "before shots." The room has a chair rail in the middle, thus encouraging one color on top and one on the bottom (just to make choosing colors that much more complicated).

The Coca-Cola border is going. That is what we used to choose our colors the first time around. The Coca-Cola ceiling fan and other Coca-Cola memorabilia (including the Coke cans from around the world collection) is staying. 

I love this old (blue) steamer trunk that we transformed into Ashley's dress-up area. She is phasing out of dress-up, saving her costume wearing for plays and the Lenape Village. I'm also looking for ideas of what we can use this trunk for. 

The family room looks into the kitchen. The kitchen is also due for a new paint job. Leaning towards a Benjamin Moore True Blue. If money were no object, I would put in a Portugal/Spanish blue/white/and yellow tile back splash. Part of the hold up on the kitchen project is deciding if we are replacing all or part of the back splash. With the openness, the kitchen color is a consideration.

The green couch and love seat are staying. After 18 years (gasp!) they are in desperate need of replacing, but not happening just yet. Likewise, the grey carpet could stand to be replaced, but not quite yet.

Over the 12 1/2 years we have lived in this house we have gone from a shade over white to much brighter, more vivid colors. I see this room also being painted in a bright, vivid color. We've been leaning towards the Benjamin Moore Historical Colors collection.

We encourage color suggestions. so long as you recognize we are not painting the room in ALL the colors suggested, nor are we picking a color out of a hat (even though that is a tempting suggestion).

Room Transformation

My friend Darla recently blogged about her one-day room transformation. I wish I could say I was a speedy our bathroom transformation, since I felt like "all" we did was slap on a new coat of paint. Our transformation took closer to two weeks.


It was time to part with the Winnie-the-Pooh theme. The peeling paint around the shower moved it up the priority list. Hard to tell in this picture, but the walls were a pale green. We painted this room 11 years ago anticipating Ashley's arrival.

The border is gone. The room is a bright and cheerful yellow (Ashley chose the color). We replaced the shower curtain, light, towel bar, and toilet paper holder. I added a swag of flowers to the mirror. Ashley added a bud vase of silk flowers in the corner (you can't see it in this picture). 

Overall the room feels brighter.

Good use of our recent cold snap.

Now onto figuring out what color to paint the kitchen and family room. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Catholic Schools Week 2013

Catholic Schools week is a chance for the normal routine to be broken and for a little fun and levity to enter the school. Parents decorate classroom doors. Students have dress down days. Friday was a half day.

The official reason for this national celebration of Catholic education is to:
gather in unity to share knowledge, enjoy each other's company,  and honor those who help our school to provide the academic excellence and spiritual values that make it a special place.

I like my explanation better.

During the week parents are invited into the classroom to see the teachers teach one lesson (my teacher friends are probably cringing at the thought of having a bunch of parents in the classroom, but it is only for 80 minutes a year, 80 minutes that are announced way in advance so you can plan your most exciting lesson possible and have the parents thrilled their child is in your class).

We can also have lunch with our kids. What this means is us parents drive out of our way to pick up a treat to share with our child at a time our grown-up bellies cannot fathom eating, and when most places are not yet serving lunch. Seriously, it is a treat to get that sneak peek into the school cafeteria.

We also had a chance to peek at the projects the kids have been working on in school. 

A highlight for a student who always wears a uniform, though, is a dress down day! This week included 2 1/2 dress down days -- the half was crazy hat/crazy sock day, but still wearing the rest of the uniform. PJ day was a definite favorite. No, Lucy Kitty did not go to school with Ashley.

Other fun activities included service projects, mystery readers, an assembly by a Martial Arts Group, Bingo! (it is Catholic school, after all), Drop Everything And Read, Grandparent Visitation Day (sadly, only up to grade 4), pretzel day, ice cream sundae day, volleyball game between the teachers and the 8th graders, breakfast for the staff, swapping classes with their prayer buddies (Ashley's class went to 2nd grade, while 2nd grade went to 5th grade).

Whew! A busy week! 

Somehow Ashley's teacher still found time for tests, projects, lessons, and homework. Fortunately it was lighter than most weeks.

Monday resumes the regular routine. 

Contact Lenses

I still remember getting my first pair of contact lenses. I was a freshman in high school and I was ready. I'd worn glasses since I was in the second grade. Back in those days we wore our lenses for 30 days straight without taking them out of our eyes. Ouch! Fortunately by the time I was 29 I made the leap to LASIK, but that's another story for another time.
Ashley is 10 1/2. She has been wearing glasses for over 2 years now. Feels like much longer. When she had her first appointment for glasses, our eye doctor told us about a new study being done on identical twins to try to stunt the decline of nearsighted-ness: bifocal contact lenses.

It is still in a test phase, but the results are promising. 

In a couple of years Ashley went from -1.75 to -3.50. After stumbling around the stage without her glasses, she was ready for contact lenses. 

We talked it through with the eye doctor and decided to give the bifocal contact lenses a try. What is the harm? If it doesn't work, she can always use regular contact lenses. In the meantime, she is part of a tiny test program at our eye doctor's office -- the same eye doctor I have been visiting for nearly 20 years.

How did it go? The first attempts at putting in her lenses were complete failures. We left after an hour (with an eye sore from being poked) and returned a week later.

With a new instructor, and more grit, she was able to get the first lens in within 30 minutes. She left the office with "twarkling" eyes and a huge grin.

(BTW, that is my "ancient" pink phone she is using. It makes calls on the rare occasions it is charged.)
Within a few days, she was able to get her lenses in a matter of a couple of tries. She might never wear glasses again. But if she does, the eye doctor has these gems for her to wear-->