Friday, September 22, 2017

birthday morning power walkin'

birthday princess day 2017 probably didn't start out the way you'd expect.

so as a guest staying at the grand californian hotel, we had the opportunity to sign up for a morning power walk through california adventure before they opened to the public for the day.  the 2-mile walk started at 6am and would last for about half an hour.  and although that meant that we'd be getting up at the ass crack of dawn (again!) instead of getting to sleep in a bit, we signed ourselves up and set our alarm for the ungodly hour of 5:30.  i figured that just meant that i'd get to stretch out my birthday for that much longer.  heh.

except that because we only packed for pool and park time, neither of us had packed any sort of athletic shoes. or socks, even.  oops.  one quick trip to the world of disney store that was oh-so-conveniently located right underneath our room fixed that though.  like my new kicks?


i was pretty cheerful for it being super early in the morning, right?


the location to meet up with the group was downstairs at the hotel's entrance to california adventure park.  there we were given a bright safety vest and a waiver to fill out and sign.



and that's when we found out that no pictures were allowed during our walk.  i was so bummed, but i guess it makes sense.  you know how disney is all about making sure they preserve the magic, and they didn't want anyone posting pictures of what the parks look like in the wee hours, when they're busy cleaning up and doing repairs and accepting deliveries and all that.  i get it.  and it really was very weird to get going on our walk (led by an incredibly upbeat and chipper cast member) and see cars driving through the park.  there were full-size delivery trucks parked near the stores and restaurants.  cast members were hard at work making sure that every inch of the park was clean and shiny, and we even spotted a couple standing at an open window along buena vista street, straightening and adding more stuff to one of the halloween displays.

we learned that the water in the grizzly rapids ride is drained every night, with a lot of it flowing out into the paradise pier area.  the music and lights and other stuff that makes the parks magical doesn't actually continue playing when they aren't open.  now, we've been to the parks when they aren't open to the public before - but during a run disney event.  they're still prepared for people to come through, so everything is all fixed up and ready for public consumption.  this was totally different, and it was really interesting.

our walk ended in the redwood creek trail area, where our cast member led us through some stretches before taking us back to the hotel and collecting our safety vests.  by then it was almost 7am, and so we decided to head out to downtown disney and grab some starbucks for breakfast.  after all, i had a birthday reward to redeem.



  it was fun to be there with almost no one else around us.




breakfast of champions!  lemon chiffon yogurt, bacon & gruyere egg bites and an iced caramel macchiato.


and as we'd promised, we caught the bean on FaceTime to say good morning and spend a little time with her before school.


not a bad way to start a birthday, yes?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

birthday princess dinner time

when the hub picked us up from the hotel, we drove just a short distance down the street for my birthday dinner at morton's steakhouse.  the old lady and i had been a little concerned about our attire, since it's a pretty nice spot and we were in less-than-fancy clothing.  our fears turned out to be unfounded though, as we spotted other diners in shorts and tennis shoes.

look, birthday menu!


the bread was warm and soft and oniony and delicious.  the bean enjoyed it, although she wrinkled her nose when we told her that it was onion bread.  but then she shrugged her shoulders and took another bite, and that was that.


it's not birthday princess dinner without at least one cocktail, right?  i decided to have a lemon drop, and i'd forgotten how tasty those are.


this was the bean's choice for appetizer - prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic and served atop a mixed greens salad, tomatoes and shaved parmesan.


the "seafood tower" wasn't exactly that, but it was really tasty.


and i'd opted for the prime ribeye topped with black truffle butter.  this was so good.


the bean was on a balsamic kick, as her salmon was served with a honey-balsamic glaze.


and then when we were done with our entrees and the crumbs had been whisked away from the table, our server brought me a lemon souffle and a chance to make a birthday wish.



the hub and the bean dropped us off back at the hotel, after lots of hugs and kisses.  as we walked through the lobby, we stopped to look in the gift shop.  i kinda want this tee:


after a quick stop in the room to grab sweaters, we headed back to california adventure to find a spot for that night's "world of color" show.  we'd gotten fastpasses earlier in the day and managed to score a perfect spot right in the middle, just behind a railing that was elevated a little over the group in front of us.


during the last ten minutes before the show starts, you can play a game using your phone and the fun wheel.  it's a basic memory game, where you have to memorize the pattern of colors lit up on the wheel.  kinda like the old "simon" game i always wanted when i was little.  if you get the high score, you get to control the lights on the wheel for the next game.  i never did win, but i had fun trying.


the show was fun to watch as always, and the "pirates of the caribbean" part is my favorite.


and then it was over.



when we got back to our room, we found that our beds had been turned down and chocolates left on the pillows.


man, i sure do love this hotel.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

running into nick and joe jonas...again (and again and again)

OMG you guys, the blur that was this weekend.  if ever there were an epic birthday princess weekend, this one was it.

friday and saturday were pretty normal days - school, first girl scouts meeting of the year, laundry laundry laundry, blah blah blah.  all very well and good, but then the hub dropped a fantastic surprise on me - he'd reserved a room at the grand californian hotel for me and the old lady to spend sunday night together.  you know...the hotel with its very own exclusive entrance right into california adventure park?  which also offers direct access to downtown disney?  and is one of our most favorite hotels ever?  SO EXCITE.

i still managed to squeeze in a barre class on sunday morning before coming home to pack and get out of the house.  the plan was to head down, check into the hotel, spend some time at the parks with the girls before meeting up with the hub for dinner.  and because it was a school night, he'd take the bean home with him to get ready for school the next day.  sorry, kid.

it was very busy when we arrived at the hotel and went inside to get checked in.  the cast member directing traffic said this was pretty normal for a sunday morning.


whatever.  we didn't care.  we were just excited to be there.


finally, my turn to check in.



it was fairly early - before noon - so i was surprised when the cast member told me that there was a room all clean and ready for us.  sweet.  and as i waited for her to get everything finalized and hand me room keys, a frantic, all-caps text came through from the old lady, who'd gone with the bean to the restroom.  apparently, both nick and joe jonas had posted photos and video just an hour before from one of the restaurants in the very hotel we were standing in.  she was losing her mind, as you can imagine.  and then as we headed off towards our room we spied a plaid standing off to one side and she hissed "that's their manager right there!!"


and so we did what any normal human being would do:  stopped dead in our tracks and took a seat on the empty couches right behind them.  duh.  and just a few minutes later, our awkward hangout paid off as we spied first nick and then joe strolling through and joining the little group just behind us.


see the bean on the right side of that picture?  she gave zero fucks as she promptly stood up from the couch she was sitting on and moved right over to the chair where she could get a better look.


as we sat there all agog over what was happening before our very eyes, the rest of their group (including frankie, the brother formerly known as "the bonus jonas") along with a very burly looking bodyguard gathered and then they all headed out the door and to the right.  we figured they were being taken into the parks via some sort of secret back entrance, and so we got up to go and find our room.


except that we somehow managed to get lost and ended up having to retrace our steps to get back to the lobby area and reorient ourselves to get to the right place.  and as we walked in past the gift shop, we realized that there was a bar directly in front of us...and that's where the jonas group was hanging out.  the bean sat right down in a conveniently open chair and we resumed the awkward hangout.


a few minutes later as they headed out the door, we realized that they were walking right past us.  cue the frantic phone grabbing and not-so-stealth blurry photos.  the bean had taken off to go look in the gift shop, and the old lady and i waved (discreetly, i promise!) as first nick and then joe walked by.  i'm not gonna lie, joe looked a little annoyed when he spotted us and we stopped waving immediately.  hahahahaha.


when the last of the group disappeared out of sight, we refocused on getting up to our room so we could get our bags and go out to have some fun.  turns out we were in the section of the hotel that's going through some renovations, so the carpets were covered in plastic.



that didn't matter much to us anyway.  we'd been upgraded from a standard room to one with a courtyard view, and i felt so bad as the bean lamented the fact that she wasn't going to be able to stay with us that night.





courtyard view:


and off to the right we saw that we were directly above downtown disney and right in front of where the trams let out.


as soon as our bags were delivered we grabbed our stuff and headed off to have some fun.  our passes had been loaded with a fastpass that we could use for any ride except for the guardians of the galaxy, and so we decided to hit cars land and ride radiator springs racers.  it was opening weekend for all of the fun new halloween decorations - DCA has never really done much for halloween before, but since the tickets for the halloween party nights are hoppers, they got to dress up for the occasion.







we were happy to bypass the 90-minute standby line, although the fastpass line still had a pretty significant number of people in it.  it moved pretty quickly though, and i joked to the old lady about how funny it would be if the jonas group came through the exit as we were standing there in line.  heh.

the line continued to move at a pretty steady pace, and right as the family in front of us moved up towards the gate we were asked to pause briefly to allow the loading area to free up a little.  the old lady glanced towards the ride and froze again.  "OMG that's their plaid standing right there," she said.  and as we stood there watching, the boys emerged from the waiting area and headed towards the loading zone.  the bean was super excited to see them again and she and her sister waved at them as they walked by.  this time though, joe was engrossed in his phone - but nick gave a little smile and waved back.  in my frantic camera-grabbing, i missed the wave.  oh well.


we were on the ride in no time, and it was so much fun getting to ride it together for once.  we usually opt for the single rider line to save time, which means we usually get separated into different cars.



our other DCA rituals - a free piece of chocolate at ghirardelli and a sample of sourdough bread from the boudin bakery tour.


jumpy pictures in front of the fun wheel are always a good idea.  well, except for the old lady who doesn't like to jump and is still nursing a sore toe from when it was broken on our last day in hawaii.


they're doing a lot of promo for the upcoming pixar movie "coco."





 here guests are invited to write down a favorite family memory and add it to the wall.


as we stood in line for the old lady to grab a michelada, we spotted captain hook as he headed off to parts unknown.


i got a chance to meet up with my friend ali, who i hadn't seen in forever.  it was fun to chat and catch up, and even more so as we watched the girls become fast friends.


we found this pretty mural along the back wall and couldn't resist the photo op.


and mickey waved to us from the trolley as we walked through the hollywood studios area.


of all the times we've stayed in disneyland resort hotels, we'd never taken the time to hit their pools.  and with the parks super crowded that afternoon and the weather becoming quite warm and humid, we decided to change that.  and so we headed back to our special access gate to the hotel and went upstairs to change.  the bean, knowing that she wasn't going to be able to stay the night with us, had no idea that i'd packed her bathing suit and a change of clothes and was extra excited when she found out that we'd had a secret plan.


this gate was the entryway to lots of fun:


these cool cabanas offered food and beverage service, a shady spot to hang out in, and big screen TVs to keep up with sports events, disney shows or maybe the latest episode of the real housewives.  i don't know.  i'd much rather hang out in the pool or hot tub than watch tv next to it.


we got these wristbands when we showed our keys and grabbed pool towels.


and then we found three empty lounge chairs to leave our stuff on while we played.


while the bean scampered right off to hit the water slide and the pool:


the old lady and i opted to hang out in the hot tub and do a little relaxing.


except that both hot tubs attracted all the small children, who jumped in and splashed around and pretty much filled the entire tub area so that we hardly had room to sit and enjoy the jets and the warm water.  i know it's disney, and it's a family vacation destination and all that.  but come on man...there's two giant pools plus a kiddie pool and they're all heated to 82 degrees.  hot tubs are supposed to be relaxing.  this was not a relaxing situation.  and so we climbed out and decided to get into the pool where the bean was happily sliding and swimming.


going from the hot tub to the pool was quite a jolt to the system.  i was freezing for the first few minutes, but the bean was stoked to see us in her neck o'the woods.  we hung out there for as long as we could before heading back upstairs so we could get cleaned up and change into regular clothes for dinner with the hub.

between the jonas sightings, the halloween decorations, the free fastpass, our ritual snacks and pool time i'd say my birthday weekend was off to a pretty darn good start.  now, if only i could've swapped them out for justin timberlake...that would have just been the most delicious icing on top of a pretty damn good cake.
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