Thursday, June 26, 2014

Planning Fastpass+: Updates!

Since the roll out of Fastpass+ a few months ago, Disney has been tweaking the system to try and improve the experience for all guests!  New Fastpass+ options have been added, attractions have switched tiers, and the rule along with Fastpass+ have changed for the better!

On my main pages about planning Fastpass+, I have made changes to reflect Disney's changes and better help you plan!  I also posted an update about the changed rules.

Instead of rewriting them all here, I'll just put the links here!:

Happy Planning!

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Princess Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

If there is anything I know better than Disney, it's how to make a good cupcake.  In fact, before this blog, I started a cupcake blog (of which I forget the url), which ended because of my freshman year in college and my lack of oven to continue my craft.  From there, my love of cupcake baking sort of fizzled out...but for special occasions I'll still whip some up from time to time.

I made these Princess Red Velvet Cupcakes for my 3-year-old cousin.  I typically spend a lot of time with her over the summer, but because of my internship I won't see her much at all.  We always play with her Disney Princess toys when I visit her, so I knew this would be a cupcake we would both love.

For 24 red velvet cupcakes, you will need:
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (softened)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bottle (or about 2 tablespoons) red food color
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Begin by mixing the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, and salt) in a separate, smaller bowl.  Next, cream together the butter and sugar until fulling incorporated, then add the eggs one at a time.  Carefully add the red food coloring (because it will make a mess) and vanilla, and mix until the batter is thoroughly red.  Add the dry mix and the milk in parts, 1/3 of the dry, 1/2 of the milk, 1/3 dry, rest of the milk, and the rest of the dry. Mix until just not over mix.  Last, add the baking soda and vinegar, letting the two react on top of the batter only briefly before mixing them into the batter.

Fill cupcake liners between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 18-21 minutes, checking at 18 minutes.
A trick I learned to tell if a cupcake is done is to press on the top of the cupcake with your finger.  If an indent is left in the cupcake, they need 1-3 more minutes.  If they spring back into place with no indent, they are done!

For the cream cheese frosting, you will need:
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (softened)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 teaspoons milk
  • Pink food coloring
To begin, cream together the cream cheese and butter until the two are completely mixed.  Add the vanilla and mix.  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until the desired consistency is reached.  If you add too much powdered sugar, add milk to thin the frosting out a bit, one teaspoon at a time.  Once you like the consistency of the frosting, add pink food coloring (or just a little red) until the color is what you want.  I went with a bright pink.

Allow the cupcakes to cool, and frost with whatever tip (or knife!) you want to make the cupcakes as fancy-looking as you would like.

To make the tiara garnish, you will need:
  • Yellow decorators chocolate
  • Pearl sprinkles
Melt the chocolate (I use the double boiler method).  Prepare a surface to put the chocolate on (I used foil that I sprayed with a non-stick spray).  Place the melted chocolate in a squeeze bottle or a piping bag with a small round tip.  Carefully create tiara designs (as shown below) as simple or elaborately as you want!  Decorate the tiaras with whatever sprinkles you prefer, such as the pearls.  Allow to harder for a few minutes in the refrigerator.
If I were doing this again, I would probably use the edge of a can with foil and non-stick spray on top to design the tiaras, allowing them to have more curvature than these.  I ended up carefully cracking these to try and curve them around the top of the cupcake.  It would be a bit more complicated, but it would look really cute!

    This is the finished product!
You might feel so inclined to add a hidden me!

Though not a recipe from Disney, these cupcakes will make any Disney princess lover feel like royalty!  And they taste pretty delicious too!

So, do you think you'll make these cupcakes for yourself, your friends, or little cousins like I did?  Do you have any questions on how to make them?  Leave a comment!

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for Disney-inspired crystal jewelry!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Star Wars vs. Indiana Jones - My Opinion on the Rumors

Earlier this week, rumors began spreading that Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular would be closing sometime around the end of this year.  The rumors extended to say that this is likely to make way for a much sought-after Star Wars land.

I can expect that other Disney fans, like me, might have pretty mixed feelings about this.  I'm a Star Wars nerd, that's for sure, but there is a lot of nostalgia along with Indiana Jones.  And though I know nostalgia isn't enough to keep an attraction around, I can't let go without a little apprehension.

Let's get the negative out of the way first...
1. There is a lot of nostalgia associated with Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
In it's 25 year run, Indiana Jones has been a favorite of many of those who pass through Hollywood Studios (or MGM, depending on when you went).  No matter how many times you see it, the special effects and audience involvement never seem to get old.  I'll never forget my first experience with the show, the episode of Full House where DJ dreams Steve is Indiana Jones.  I'll never forget my first time being chosen to be in the show, and how excited I was.  I'll never stop regretting not attending the show on my last trip to Disney, and the last time I'll have been there when the show was still running.
I wish I could pull the rope one last time, or stand in the queue line that puts you in the middle of the jungle, just like the movies.  I feel like Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is a Hollywood Studios staple.  The nostalgia is the hardest thing to let go.
I'm the one in pink.

2. Star Wars fans will have huge expectations for a Star Wars land.
Disney, as a company, has really stepped up it's game recently in the parks.  Cars Land in California Adventure, Toy Story Playland in Hong Kong Disneyland, and the upcoming Avatarland in Animal Kingdom.  That being said, Star Wars is a huge fandom. Huge. Massive.  People obsess over these movies (I mean, look at how hated Jar Jar Binks is!).  Expectations for Star Wars land will be just as huge.  With so many different worlds in the saga to choose from (Tatooine, Naboo, Hoth, the Death Star, Cloud City, Endor, and so on), how are the creators of this new land going to completely satisfy Star Wars fans?  I feel like they would need to build an entire park around the stories, not just a "land."

3. Star Wars land might go against the "story" of Hollywood Studios as a whole.
This might be the thing that I am most concerned about, although likely unecessarily and not what others might be bothered by, is the possibility that Star Wars land will go against the story of Hollywood Studios as a whole.  When it was opened in 1989, Michael Eisner called the studios "The Hollywood that never was - and will always be."  The park was meant to look like a real, functioning studio in Hollywood, and was to make guests feel like they were part of the "behind the scenes" of filming in Hollywood.  Indiana Jones successfully achieves that by showing the audience how stunts are set up and performed, at least somewhat like on a real set in film making.  However, adding an immersive land to the park has the potential to deviate from that story line.  To make the Star Wars land that fans will anticipate, a feeling like they actually stepped into the saga, it is likely that the "behind the scenes of film making" will need to be left out.
...Then again, Disney imagineers are the best of the best, so you never know.
Indiana Jones "behind the scenes" feel.
Photo credit

1. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular has been running for a long time, and could use an update if it were to stick around.
Like I mentioned, Indiana Jones has been running for 25 years, basically since the park opened, with no major changes.  The show you see now is basically the show you saw when you visited as a 5 year old, and if it stayed, would likely be the same show you would take your kids to see.  It's a bit old and tired, and Indiana Jones is out of date.  To stick around, the show would need to see some major changes, maybe including stunts from some of the Indiana Jones movies.  With no new Indiana Jones movies on the horizon, this would not be the practical and money-making option for Disney, and leaving it as is would not be the most desired for fans.

2. Star Wars fans are dire hards who will rush to this new part of the park.
Though there are many young adults and adults out there, like me, who would do anything to live in Florida and go to Disney every day, there is a large demographic in this age group, with or without kids, who have no interest, and are in fact resistant, to go to Disney World.  However, with an announcement of a Star Wars land, potentially set to open around the time the new films will debut, an entirely new demographic will flock to Hollywood Studios to feel immersed in environments from movies that they love.  Disney sees this with the crowds that flock to the Studios for Star Wars weekends.  It is a story that spans generations, with no end of it's popularity in sight, and will help draw crowds that may have previously not considered Walt Disney World for their vacation spot.
Star Wars fans take Star Wars seriously.
Photo Credit

3. Walt Disney World doesn't currently have any other 100% immersive worlds.
Though the opening of Avatarland is on the horizon, and concept art of this new addition seems amazing, Avatar doesn't have near the following that Star Wars does.  And other than the currently-in-progress Avatarland, Walt Disney World does not have any completely immersive worlds that other Disney parks boast.  In addition to this, Disney World is now in more competition with Universal Studios as they open Diagon Alley, an addition to the Harry Potter universe.  I know that this could drive more traffic to Universal and away from fiancĂ© has already told me that we have to make some time for a trip to Universal during our next visit to Orlando (though I plead against it).  That being said, Star Wars land would provide some heavy competition right back at them, and continue to enhance Walt Disney World as those who set the standard for theme park entertainment.

So, what are your thoughts on the rumors?  Would you be happy to see Indiana Jones go in favor of a Star Wars land?  Or are you sad to see an old favorite go by the wayside?  Or would you prefer to see a completely different immersive "land" take its place?  Let me know in the comments!

Personally, I'm just sad/disappointed/kicking-myself-in-the-ass that I didn't go to see Indiana Jones during my last visit.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mexico: Frozen Lime Margarita

Sorry for the delay in this last post in the Drink Around the World series.  Check out my twitter for some explanation.  Anyway...

Here we are at our final stop on our tour around world showcase at home, Mexico!

In Epcot, Mexico is one of the best places to get a specialty drink.  The margarita options there are basically endless.  You can smell the tequila in La Cava de Tequila before you see it!  But to save on buying ingredients, for our drink around the world, we'll just make a simple frozen Lime Margarita, found at the margarita stand out front!

To make one frozen lime margarita, you will need:
  • 1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) tequila
  • 3 oz. sweet and sour mix
  • 1 1/2 oz. simple syrup (made by boiling down sugar with water)
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 cup ice
  • Salt (for garnish)
To make the drink, you will first need to create the simple syrup.  To do this, simply add 2 parts sugar to one part water (you'll want to make a little more than needed for this drink to be sure that too much water doesn't boil off).  Boil until all of the sugar has dissolved, and let sit until cool.

Add all of the ingredients to a blender with ice.  Blend on high until all of the ice cubes have been broken into small pieces.  Rim your glass in salt. (If using regular table salt and not margarita salt, be sure to use a lot less than shown in the main picture.)  Add the frozen drink to the glass and serve with a straw (also not pictured).  And that's it!

Check out yesterday's post from Norway.

So what did you think about Drink Around the World at Home? 
Would you have chosen to make any different drinks?
Are you going to give this a try with a few friends?
Let me know in the comments!

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Norway: Viking Coffee

Our second-to-last stop on our home drinking journey around World Showcase is Norway!

The most popular drink here is the aquavit, a vodka-like beverage flavored with spices that is produced in Scandinavia.  However, a more accessible drink (and easy favorite of mine) served in Norway's pavilion is Viking Coffee!

To make one Viking Coffee, you will need:
  • 1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) Bailey's Irish Cream
  • 1 1/1 oz. (1 shot) Kahlua
  • 1 cup of brewed coffee, hot or iced
  • Sugar - to taste
  • Whipped Cream - optional
Simply mix the Bailey's and Kahlua into a glass of brewed coffee, adding sugar if the drink is still too bitter for you.  Feel free to top your with whipped cream if you have it on hand, as that is one of the options available in Kringla Bakeri Og Cafe in Epcot!

Viking Coffee from World Showcase
Photo Credit

Tomorrow we are on to our last stop in World Showcase, Mexico!
View yesterday's post from China.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

China: Ginger Zinger

 With only three stops left on our at home tour of Wold Showcase, we stop at China for a Ginger Zinger!

This drink is actually available at the China pavilion, however it is made with ginger liquor and light rum.  Using what we had available from other drinks, I instead made this with spiced rum and ginger ale.

You will need the following for one Ginger Zinger:
  • 1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) of spiced rum
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • Ginger ale
Mix the rum and lemon together in a glass. Top with as much ginger ale as desired...approximately 3 shots worth.  If you happen to have any extra lemon laying around, garnish it with a lemon twist.

Simple enough, right?

As our tour continues, check out the next drink from Norway!
See yesterday's post from Germany.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Germany: Jager Bomb

Evidence I was at fiancĂ©'s house-his Pitt shot glass.  Whoops. 

The next stop is every beer-lover's favorite, Germany!

Though it is quite obvious that there is nothing like a German beer, the next most popular drink from this country is definitely their signature liquor, Jagermeister.  And a popular way to drink Jagermeister is in the classic Jager-Bomb, a shot of Jagermeister dropped into a glass of beer, drank quickly.

However, one of the "under $50" requirements was no beer.  I knew I wanted to use Jagermeister, but there aren't too many mixed drinks that use this licorice-flavored ingredient.  As I searched the internet for "what pairs well with Jager," one of the suggestions was Root Beer...and I thought, perfect!

So here's the instructions on how to make a Jager-Bomb..."beer" and all!

To make one Jager-Bomb, you will need:
  • 1 shot Jagermeister
  • 2/3 glass of Root Beer
Pour the two items separately (as pictured in the main photo).  Gently drop the Jagermeister shot into the root beet and chug!

I found that the taste of this reminded me of a Necco Wafer (throwback!).  It was much better than I expected!

Bombs away!  Check out tomorrow's post, a cocktail from China!
See where we visited yesterday, Italy.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Italy: Peach Belini

As we continue around World Showcase (from our living room!), we next encounter Italy!

Known primarily for it's delicious wine selection, I've instead picked another favorite of the Italy pavilion, but with a twist.  This peach belini uses vodka and sprite instead of Prosecco (a sparkling wine) because you'll already have those ingredients on hand!

To make one Peach Belini, you will use:
  • 1/2 can of peaches (about one peach) pureed
  • 1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) vodka
  • Lemon lime soda
To start, puree the peaches as smooth as possible.  Mix in the shot of vodka and pour into a champagne flute, or other glass.  Top with lemon lime soda until the bubbles reach the top of the glass (as shown in the main photo).

The actual drink from World Showcase

Sip on this while we journey along to the next stop, Germany!
Check out yesterday's post, American Adventure.
(For links to all the drinks, click here.)

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

American Adventure: Bourbon Lemonade

Our journey...or, adventure...continues with our next stop, American Adventure!

This pavilion offers a frozen Bourbon Lemonade, replicated here!  However, the drink in World Showcase uses Red Stag, a cherry flavored bourbon.  I used regular bourbon, and left out the cherry flavoring (I hate cherries!).  That being said, you could definitely add some cherry flavoring, or actual cherries, to add that flavor back in!

To make one bourbon lemonade, all you'll need is:
  • 1 cup lemonade
  • 1 cup lemonade ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) bourbon
Just add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.  Add to a glass and enjoy!

Check out tomorrow post as we travel to Italy!
See yesterday's drink from Japan.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Japan: Green Tea Martini

Next on our journey drinking around the world is Japan!

Other than sake, a flavor that the Japan pavilion is most known for is green tea.  Among other snacks, they offer the flavor in a Green Tea Martini, which you can learn how to replicate here!

For one Green Tea Martini, you will need:
  • 1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) green tea infused vodka
  • 4 1/2 oz. (3 shots) green tea
  • 1 tablespoon honey

The first thing you will need to do for this drink is to infuse the vodka with green tea.  This can be simply done by pouring a little extra vodka into a glass and placing the green tea bag into the vodka (as pictured to the right).  The flavor will be the best if left to steep overnight.

After this, you will want to make the actual green tea.  I used the same green tea packet first to attempt to get as much of the vodka that had been absorbed out.  You can heat the tea up and then ice it, or just allow the tea to steep at room temperature for a little extra time.

If you heat the tea, add the honey to the green tea while warm.  If not, just thorough mix the honey in either before or after adding the vodka to the green tea.

To summarize: 1. Make green tea infused vodka: 2. Make regular green tea: 3. Add honey: 4. Mix.

And that's it!

Kanpai! (that's "cheers" in Japanese)
Tomorrow we'll try a drink from World Showcase's home country at the American Adventure!
Check out yesterday's post from Morocco.
(For links to all the drinks, click here.)

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