Turning 29 Again at Disneyland Resort, Day 1, Part 1

If you’d like to peek ahead, check out the Rich’s Birthday at Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland playlist on YouTube.

We’d had many plans for Rich’s birthday – when we were living in Florida we’d even booked a Med cruise, but, alas, with the move back west, we had to scale down those plans. But celebrating at Disney is always fun, right?

Staying onsite these days is reserved for special events, and this was pretty special, so we booked the Disneyland Hotel. Unsure about our future travel plans and with the AP we were interested in blocked still, we did not purchase an AP, but got a one-day park hopper to focus on catching up with what’s new, such as Galaxy’s Edge.

While Rich got in the check-in line, Kathy waited in the tea cup in the lobby, and after dropping off our bags in our pool view room, we changed into our swimsuits with a stop at Tangaroa Terrace for some lunch. We snagged a table outside, Rich ordered a Mai Tai and Kathy a Margarita, shared some Pulled Pork Nachos, and an order of Asian Chicken Wings. Tasty and refreshing. It was a hot afternoon and the whole pool area (Tangaroa Terrace) was packed.

After our lunch snack, we headed for the pool, but no chairs were available so like many others, we stacked our stuff on a cement wall and jumped in the pool for a refreshing dip. When we returned to our stuff, this big guy was sitting on our stuff but when I said, “You’re sitting on our stuff,” he got up and just stood there while we got dressed. Really strange, if not rude.

After the pool, we rested until time to get ready for Rich’s birthday dinner at Catal (and Kathy snuck in some birthday room decorations while Rich was out of the room).

 

 

 

Kathy’s July Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 2

Around 5 PM, we headed out from Huntington Beach to the Grand Californian. After a 30-minute drive up Harbor Blvd., we arrived at the Grand Californian where we left the car with the valet and headed into the hotel. It’s always a fantastic feeling walking into the Grand Californian lobby.

We headed to the gift shop to browse around, and then took at peek into Hearthstone Lounge. We noticed our favorite spot had comfy new chairs. So we sat down and ordered a couple pre-dinner drinks: Prosecco for Kathy, Conundrum White for Rich.

As our dining reservation time of 6:30 PM at Napa Rose approached, we closed out our Hearthstone Lounge tab and carried our drinks over to Napa Rose and checked in. They noted that it was Kathy’s birthday.

Soon we were seated at a table for two in a section we had enjoyed before. Our server, Michael, was quick to greet and welcome us. Rich recognized Michael as the server we had at our first visit to Napa Rose twelve years ago when we’d had the Tasting Menu. Sure enough, we asked, and Michael has worked at Napa Rose since it’s opening nineteen years ago. He was a cook for three years and a server since then. He is the very, very best. We would dare say the best server we’ve had at any restaurant.

We ordered, asking that the wine be served with the entrees since we still had some of our pre-dinner wine left.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Hamachi “Crudo”
cured with Meyer Lemon Kosho, Cucumber Jicama Relish, and Prickly Cactus Pear Vinaigrette

ENTREE (Kathy)
Cedar-smoked Berkshire Pork Chop
with Cherry Orange Conserve and Mustard Potato Salad

ENTREE (Rich)
Skuna Bay Salmon
with Strawberry-Lime Dust, Summer Corn-Strawberry Relish and Orange Crema

SIDE DISH (Shared)
Truffled “Mac & Cheese” Orecchiette Pasta
with Parmigiano-Reggiano

DESSERT (Shared)
French Vanilla Creme Brulee
with Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries

WINE
Pinot Noir, MacMurray Ranch, Russian River Valley

Napa Rose is one of the best restaurants on the planet. Chef Andrew Sutton is our favorite chef, bar none. If you’ve read our other reports of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle, you know we are huge fans of Andrew. His food is incredible. There is nothing that disappoints.

The appetizer was one of our favorites — fresh, sparkling, sumptuous hamachi crudo. Wow, we could eat this every night.

Kathy’s pork chop was amazing. We aren’t big fans of thick pork chops, but this overcame any objections. The tenderness and flavor was so good, it was addicting. It was huge, so we took the leftovers in a doggy bag and had it with breakfast the next morning. And the mustard potato salad was a delight too. There was none of this left over.

Rich’s salmon with flavors of strawberry and lime was delightful too. The perfectly cooked salmon was bright, rich, and refreshing. We shared a side of the truffled mac & cheese, and this was equally exciting.

For dessert, we asked if we could order off the menu for Andrew Sutton’s creme brulee, and that was no problem for Michael. Soon he came with lovely creme brulee with a candle and a Happy Birthday wish for Kathy.

Everything was fantastic, as always. We chatted with Michael a bit about Andrew Sutton and how he is publicity shy. I said that he must be the best chef no one has heard of. He lets his food speak for itself, and wow, does it speak! Amazing!

After another incredible meal at Napa Rose, we sat in the lobby and listened to some beautiful piano music before we visited the gift shop again where we got a new Disney top for Kathy for her birthday and sunglasses for Rich.

 

Port Canaveral: Cruising from Central Florida

Looking back at our most recent time living in Central Florida, we feel immense gratitude for yet another Florida adventure, this time living closer to the beach than Disney World, enjoying beach bars and hanging out at Port Canaveral.

We even celebrated Rich’s birthday cruising to the Bahamas on the Carnival Liberty. So I put together a little video celebrating that time.

Port Canaveral is expanding so whether you’re a local, cruising solely, or combining your cruise with a trip to Disney World, I hope you enjoy it. If so, please like and subscribe to this blog and on youtube.

Thank you!

#Mexico #cruising #Princess #Carnival #Liberty #Bahamas #cruising #Carnival #Cruises #CentralFlorida #DisneyWorld #Florida #fiction

 

 

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 4

We skipped the complimentary breakfast at the hotel because this was travel day and that means Norm’s for breakfast. Their pancakes are the best ever. And it fills us up until dinner so we don’t have to stop to eat on the way home.

As usual, we had the “Bigger, Better Breakfast,” which is the best deal even if you just eat the pancakes. It comes with ham, bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns and pancakes. I skip the ham and bacon, eat a couple of sausage links, half the pancakes, and the hash browns because they are pretty amazing, too. I am so getting hungry!

Our drive home was uneventful and it was so good to see the kitties. Scott, our pet sitter from before, had agreed to take care of the kitties even though we now live way beyond his normal boundaries. He is awesome and the only pet sitter we trust in Las Vegas. Thank you, Scott!

 

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 2, Part 1

Overcast skies at the beach allowed us to sleep in a bit more than we do in bright sunny Las Vegas, which feels odd to us – lol! Eventually, we got up and Rich made our first cup of coffee in the room. Then he went to bring back the better coffee and some complimentary breakfast, which has improved since our last few stays.

We showered, dressed, and drove to Irvine to take care of some personal business. Some of the neighborhoods remind us a lot of Summerlin – beautiful but houses are situated in interesting ways to make the most of the precious land. And then there’s UCI – I’m quite familiar with it – several of my classmates went there and I had plans before my family moved to the PNW and I ended up at SJSU. Long story short.

Business done, we drove to Newport Beach and back to Huntington Beach where we grabbed tacos and chips from Surf City Tacos to share back in our room. Delicious food, friendly personal staff with a great local vibe.

We were stuffed but had dinner plans at Napa Rose. We took a nap, hoping to be hungry by dinner. 🙂

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 1

We left Las Vegas at around 9:00 but since we’re 30 minutes north of where we used to live, we basically left at our usual 9:30 departure time, arriving around 1:30/2:00 pm with our usual lunch stop at Tommy’s in Barstow.

TamaleTommy’s Tamale – Yum!!

This was our first trip from LV to SoCal in our Black Challenger, although the one we rented at LAX last summer was exactly the same – lol!

Btw, Las Vegas is booming again and has grown quite a bit since we left in May of 2017, and this is felt on the Vegas freeways and on I-15 from LV to SoCal. We also noticed the change in Inspection station, which is now much closer to the Cal/Neva border than it was before. Fridays used to be pretty smooth sailing, but now it feels more like a Saturday.

Also, instead of staying near Disneyland, we chose to stay in Huntington Beach so we had another half hour on the other end of the drive. But we were more in the mood to relax at the beach than spend most of our time at Disneyland since we weren’t planning on entering the parks this trip.

After settling into our room, we took a nap and instead of going out for dinner, we opted to make something in our villa. Pizza, as I recall, with some wine we’d brought from home. It felt so good to be here again!

The two-story villa (instead of high rise) is nice for a change

Studio with King Bed

Convenient to have a kitchen – our version of DVC

Farewell Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George and the Chicken Guy

When we got the email about Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George, we knew we had to do it for our good-bye to Florida. This would be our third time at Wine Bar George and one of the places we will miss when we’re back West.

It was a beautiful day – we arrived at Disney Springs at around 10:30 a.m. for our 11:30 reservation. The lime garage was already full but we’ve grown to appreciate the orange garage so that was no problem. We strolled around the springs, enjoying the atmosphere and Christmas decorations and our first stop was the Ganachery – another place we will totally miss. We got some chocolate toffee bark to take home and a milk chocolate Mickey and a vanilla with dark chocolate, shared them, while we strolled the Springs and made our way to World of Disney to get our first peek at the remodel.

We browsed and ended up getting Minnie Mickey coffee mugs. By this time it was getting close to 11:30 so we headed back to Wine Bar George and were seated on the balcony across from another couple, who were just being served a huge plate of Thanksgiving turkey. We exchanged appreciative glances and comments and ordered the same. The dinner was a traditional turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and haricot vert. We paired it with Argyle Pinot Noir. It was quite tasty, but I asked for a box to take half of it home for my evening meal.

We skipped dessert but made a point of stopping at the Chicken Guy. I’m not a fan of chicken tenders, but this was our last chance to try them. We were especially interested in the Nashville hot honey sauce – we were wowed by Nashville’s hot chicken when we evacuated there last year. I’m not usually a fan of hot chicken as in Buffalo Chicken Wings but Nashville chicken is amazing!

Anyway, we picked up an order of 3 tenders and the Nashville sauce for Rich’s evening snack since he managed to finish his turkey dinner. And then we headed home. It may seem to silly to complain about an hour and fifteen minute drive but it does get old. But that’s probably because we’re so ready to move back west. Our Florida vacation this time around is so over.

The toffee was incredible, my leftovers were even tastier heated up later, and the bite of chicken tender I had was the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had, although Rich remembers Cane’s in Las Vegas as being just as good if not better. We’ll have to make that one of our first stops when we get back so we can double check that memory. 🙂

 

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round 4

The F&W Festival gets more and more crowded each week, and Saturday, wouldn’t you know it, seemed to be the hottest, most humid day yet. It may have been the last hot and humid day of 2018, because it’s been cooler ever since. Anyway, all I know is that I dripped sweat like I was in Thailand so many years ago. It makes it all so very tiring, and we didn’t have a lot of energy for this one.

But our list of things to do on this trip wasn’t that ambitious – mostly to revisit Taste Track and get another one of those tasty Chocolate Raspberry Croissant Donuts, the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri, and, perhaps, the Short Rib Tostada at Mexico or the Black Pepper Garlic Shrimp Noodles in China. We did all of the above (except for the noodles) and more.

We also tried the Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes when we got the Skirt Steak. I actually preferred the Corned Beef over the Skirt Steak, although the smoke on the steak stood out nicely.

So, back to the beginning.  We debated about whether to choose the Festival Center or Taste Track for our first stop but we were so hungry, Taste Track won. But we had to wait about 7 minutes for the booth to open, but it was worth the wait.

Then, we were off to the Festival Center for our free on 4th visit Passholder Mickey cutting boards (so cute!) and a couple of Mimosas to wash down breakfast. Rich got the Blood Orange I got the Tropical – mine was a bit too sweet and his was a bit too tart so we mixed them to get it just right. Hard to tell which is which from the photos.

We stumbled around and found the Flavors from Fire both and got the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri and Polenta and the Corned Beef with Crispy Potatoes (amazing cheese sauce) and a wine pairing (Michael David Winery: 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel, Lodi).

My apologies for the not so great photos – the sun was so bright it really was hard to see what I was snapping.

We thought we might want a refreshing Baileys Guiness Milkshake in Ireland but partway there, we decided to turn around and head for Mexico for the Short Rib Tostada and a couple of Margaritas – so hot and sweaty out!

Halfway through the margaritas, we decided to head over to Hawaii for some dessert. Rich got in line and I snagged a table.

The Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Macadamia Nuts was awesome!

We’d also heard great things about the Maple Walnut Cheesecake at the Cheese Studio so we made a final stop on our way out. It was quite tasty, too, but better suited for Thanksgiving – it had a real taste of Fall but too heavy for such a hot, humid day.

My favorite was the Passion Fruit Cheesecake in Hawaii, although the Maple Walnut may have been Rich’s favorite. Both delicious and a great way to end the 2018 Food & Wine Festival for us.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round Three (Brother Bob)

Yesterday we made our third trip to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival – this time with brother Bob. Little did we know that it also happened to be Columbus Day and the park was packed, especially for a weekday. Ugh!

Still, we had a blast sharing some of our favorite booths with family – the last time was back in 2010.

We started off with the Festival Center, tracking down the Chocolate display, including scenes from Coco, made entirely with chocolate. It was quite impressive!

Then we moved on to France for our favorite beignet with Hazelnut Creme with a glass of champagne – fabulous way to start the day.

Of course, we had to introduce Bob to the Ireland booth, then we chose the paella from Spain, Belgium, and Bob chose some items at India and Africa. We then finished up with my favorite Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles in China – amazing! Rich got a Kung Fu Punch, and while refreshing, was too sweet for me.

On our last stop for the day, we entered the Mexico Pavilion for some much-needed air-conditioning and to see the Dia de Los Muertos exhibit from Cocol One of the exhibits showed time passing, lighting up the scene and then returning to darkness, revealing the dead family members reunited with their family. Really cool!

It was hot and crowded by then and Bob had some plans of his own to do some park hopping before returning to Epcot for some evening noshing, so we called it a day and let Bob continue on his way.

We’ve had such fun playing tourist with family but now it’s time to get back to work. Let’s see what I’m inspired to work on most – my music or my writing.

An Evening at Wilderness Lodge

We’ve been craving a martini at Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge for some time now. It would be a nice change from hoofing it around a hot park – air conditioning, peace, quiet, ah…

We each had a dirty Ketel One Vodka martini, the Oregon White Cheddar Chardonnay Cheese Fondue that comes with 3 pretzel breadsticks and grapes, and the Asian Sticky Wings. The Cheese Fondue is amazing and the wings are quite tasty, although tonight they were especially salty.

We noticed the famous Artist Point Mushroom Soup is on the lounge menu along with the Berry Cobbler (we’ve had the Cobbler in the lounge before), but we decided to save those two items for our final Artist Point dinner at the end of next month right before it becomes the silly Snow White Character dinner. I mean, did they have to convert it completely? How about special occasions or just until 8 pm or something like that?

 

We noticed Artist Point was quite busy last night so maybe it hasn’t been hurting or maybe everybody is just booking it now because they know time is running out but it seemed like there were many families with the stroller brigade crowding the restroom area. Obviously, Disney World is going after the family dollars above all else.

After our lovely little meal and drink, we walked the grounds and while it’s as beautiful and mostly peaceful as ever. We stopped with another couple to get some photos of a rabbit hiding in the flowerbed and took turns taking photos of each other.

Later on our way to what was once the Trout Pass Bar, we were almost run over by two New Yorkers when I paused for two seconds to take a photo. People seem to be storming over to Geyser Point – that place is always a madhouse these days – and the smores area is making it even more crowded.

Note: Rich is standing in front of where we last sat on stools and enjoyed a glass of wine before our last meal at Artist Point over Thanksgiving 2017. Sigh…

We did enjoy another lovely walk over to the cabins – wouldn’t we like to live there? Wow! Of course, we love Wilderness Lodge and in some ways really hate to see these changes impacting that peaceful experience it used to be. It’s sad that the Trout Pass Bar is now a nail salon – I mean, a nail salon by the pool? Seriously? Oh well, I may have to give it a try for old times’ sake.

It was such a beautiful night and we were wishing we were staying over, but, alas, it was soon time to go home. But first we had a quick look around the gift shop and then out to the parking lot to retrieve our car to begin the drive home via the Windermere townhome for old times’ sake. After all, when we lived there, Skipper, Lovey, and Buddy were still with us. It wasn’t such a bad life, now was it? 🙂

Back when the townhome community was new. The trees in front of the townhomes are so huge now, it makes the neighborhood seem much more crowded.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round Two (For Dad)

I received a copy of my father’s death certificate this week and the reality hit me hard. So Rich took yesterday (Friday) off and we went to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had no intention of returning a week later so we made it six days later – lol!

It must have been the hottest day of the year, but pixie dust sprinkled on our tram experience both arriving and departing, which cut down on our miles walked (only 3 this time), but, still the heat really wore me out, not to mention give me a lovely glisten. Ha! In honor of my dad, I wore my Dodger Blue hat. He and his father used to go see the Dodgers play and Dodger Stadium was where I saw my first professional baseball game (Dodgers vs Giants – Dodgers won). He once told me, “The Dodgers will break your heart.” 🙂

Here’s my selfie wearing my Dodgers hat while snagging a table while Rich was picking up some food at one of the food booths. We had a great system going and I was so thankful he was up to doing all of that because I just wasn’t. You can catch a glimpse of Rich in some of the photos getting our snacks. Like a “Hidden Mickey.” 🙂

People often say I look like my mother but mostly because they don’t know my father and we do have a similar shape of the face. But the rest (coloring, nose, eyes, hair, etc.) is all dad and his side of the family. My ear for music and taste for food and wine adventures, I also get from my father. So, here’s to you, dad!

We started off with Taste Track this time. I’d had my eye on the Cinnamon Sugar Donut and Rich got the Chocolate Hazelnut with Raspberry – both were delicious!!

Then we swung by the food booths that are on the East side of Future World and while we spotted many items we’d like to try when it’s not so hot (that area is so exposed and still, being out in the open without the lagoon to provide a breeze), we did get the Scallops and paired it with Petite Sirah at the Wine & Dine, I think. Really clever dish and quite tasty. I could definitely go back for more of that.

Btw, many booths were open at this time, which was about 10:30. So then we headed back to Ireland but on the way stopped at New Zealand to get one of our favorites from last year: Mussels paired with Pinot Noir. Just as good as last year!

Soon we were back in Ireland and I have to say, we arrived at all of these booths earlier than I’d expected and were getting full eating our lunch calories for breakfast – lol! We skipped the chocolate cake in Ireland this time but did get the Guinness/Bailey’s shake with chocolate shavings this time and the Irish Sausage with Colcannon again. Yum!! But I do think we’ve had our fill, well, at least until Brother Bob comes down.

So what’s next? Several booths we decided to save for Brother Bob’s trip – we were getting quite full at this point – but we wanted to get back to Mexico to try the Short Rib Tostada. Last week we’d been too full by the time we got to Mexico.

We were also quite hot and thirsty and exhausted. We sat down in the shade a couple of times just to keep from collapsing. By the time we got to the Cantina, I found a table, Rich got us a couple of regular Margaritas from the Cantina – we’d tried the specialty F&W Margaritas last week and once was enough. He then ran over to the Mexico booth and brought back a Tostada, which was so delicious, he ran back for a second one. Yum, yum, yum!! Certainly makes a California girl proud!

At the booth last week, they’d balked a bit about serving him two margaritas, but he convinced them one was for me sitting down. At the Cantina, they had no qualms about serving him two.

We had a great time, the crowds were low on a Friday but it was just so darn hot!! At least the tram system was working efficiently and they even used the shady area for the pick-up. I’d complained about having to wait in the sun a few months back and it was the same last week so maybe they use the covered area on week days but not on week-ends due to needing more space for security? That’s our guess.

At this rate, we’ll be back four times to get the cutting board, although it’s rather small. Somebody on Instagram said they thought it wasn’t as small as they’d heard but I think some of us saw the Food & Wine cutting board you can buy, which is a really nice size that it makes the “free” (on the 4th visit) one for AP holders seem small. More of a cheese board size, if you know what I mean.

2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Round One

So we couldn’t resist the Food and Wine Festival now that the Labor Day weekend and early vlogger crush was over. And we did it in such an awesome way.

We arrived a bit after 9 am and headed straight for the Festival Center for our AP Chef Mickey magnets. We also got the ornament/keychain (whichever works for you) and a gift card, which makes snack purchasing a snap.

Then we made our way to France for our usual beignet and champagne except that there were no beignets so Rich got us some yummy chocolate croissants instead.

We finished our bubbly outside in the shade but at around 10:30, we walked back to Ireland to see if they were opening early and they did. We were first in line and the only downside was that the chocolate shavings for the Guinness Baileys Shake hadn’t arrived yet. But the chocolate cake provided the chocolate after all. And, oh yeah, the Irish Sausage with colcannon  potatoes and onion gravy made for an awesome savory breakfast after the sweets in France.

This totally lived up to the rave reviews we’d heard about and hope to return for seconds and thirds on future visits.

After all of this deliciousness, we headed back to France for the official rope drop at 11 am and stopped in Spain for some chicken and sausage paella and wine flight.

After that it was China for my very favorite Shrimp and Garlic Noodles! Yum!! Rich can’t eat shrimp so he got some kind of Chinese Pancake. We shared everything else.

By this time we were pretty full so our next and final stop for this tasting was in Mexico for the Mariachinand Aye Carrimba Margaritas. Both were interesting but not my favorites by a long shot.

It was very hot, we walked 4.5 miles and were exhausted the next day, although no other aches and pains. The heat really wears you out. We hope to make it back 2 or 3 more times because we barely got starte, but we’ll see. Along about now, a martini at Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge sounds a bit more relaxing/refreshing. 🙂