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Thursday, May 31, 2012

social media ROCKS

so it's no secret that i'm a dork when it comes to disneyland.  like, last time i checked my annual pass profile, my magic number (of visits) is 50.  FIFTY!  since september!  i don't know whether to be proud or embarrassed.

anyway, i happened to see a tweet posted by the disney parks blog that said to watch for a special announcement at 3:00 PST the next day.  so i did what any normal disney freak would do:  i set an alarm on my phone to remind me to hop online at about 2:58.  and when it went off, i opened the site in a separate window and went about my business - checking emails, twitter, the usual.  i refreshed the window about once a minute, and when the new post finally popped up announcing a special disney blog meet-up for a sneak peek at the brand-new cars land at california adventure, i sprang to action.  i fired off an email according to the instructions, hit "send," and hoped for the best.

within the hour, i had my answer:  i'd managed to squeeze my way in.  the email requested my information as well as for my plus-one, and since i'd already checked with the teen to ensure that she'd be able to go, i happily confirmed our attendance.  you know me - i love shit like this.  we were going to be among the first guests at this brand new land in the park, and the tour was going to be led by two of the imagineers who'd been instrumental in designing and creating it.  so. stinking. awesome.

of course, because cars land isn't going to open to the public for another couple of weeks, we were warned that phones/cameras/etc. would be checked in, and anyone who got busted taking pictures would get booted out of the tour and basically red-flagged for any future opportunities.  since i love to blog this kind of stuff, i was super bummed not to be able to have photographic evidence of this fabulousness, but hey - their game, their rules.  i'll play.

the teen had forgotten her annual pass at her dad's, but since you didn't have to be an annual passholder for this special tour anyway...no biggie.  we were going to be given a park pass for the day so we could play afterwards.  whee!

we dropped the bean off with the grandparents, who were thrilled to spend some quality time together.  the teen and i made our way down to anaheim, got decent parking, rode the tram to the entrance, went through security screening, and found our way to the check-in tent well before the 5:30 deadline.  doesn't she look stoked?

the cast members handling the check-in chuckled as i took this picture.

"it's part of my story," i said, and snapped away while i still could.

yay for another VIP-style wristband!  not to mention, it was our ticket to a special reserved section for that evening's 9:00 showing of "world of color."

our one-day, one-park pass.  anybody else would have to pony up a whopping $87 for this thing, thanks to the newly-increased admission prices by the house of mouse.

as we were led through the park by a rather intimidating bouncer-like cast member, we got our first look at the just-opened carthay circle restaurant.

inside blue sky cellar, where renderings and models of cars land and buena vista street's remodeling has been located for the last year or so, we checked our phones in and were given headsets for the tour.

they were NOT messing around here.  even after you handed over your phone and allowed them to check your bag, they waved one of those metal detector wands over you to make sure you weren't hiding other electronics in your underwear.  not that i thought about that or anything.  so i have zero photos to share with you from here on out.

oh, except for this one - the teen and i were part of 66 (get it?) lucky disney fans on this tour.  do you see us?  it's the official disney parks blog group photo.  sweet.  and the blog post about our visit is up, too.  timely folks, those disney cast members.

we were split into two groups and led off in opposite directions by our guides - imagineers kathy magnum and kevin rafferty, sr.  they were instrumental in the development of cars land, going on a road trip along route 66 to get inspiration and working with lots of other folks during the entire process.  we were in kathy's group, and she was really friendly and full of fun tidbits and interesting facts.

the teen and i were completely enchanted from the moment we stepped behind the food court area and wound our way through the gate into cars land.  not to mention, it was fun to watch the envious glances coming our way from other folks in the park who were watching us as we strode happily towards the new area.  tee hee!  it was just so exciting to be there, before anyone else, in the new section of the park that's sure to be a complete cluster when it's finally open.  we got to see the inside of all the buildings and check out the incredible detail that disney always puts into their creations.  even as workers were touching up paint, hanging fixtures, and working on final touches, we were walking through it all, basically watching it come together.  it was a phenomenal experience.

and as a special surprise, we got to test out one of the three new rides in cars land - mater's junkyard jamboree.  it's a super cute ride that kids of all ages will love - we sure did.  and we totally cracked up as we caught a glimpse of that unsmiling bouncer dude on the ride nearby...still completely stone-faced as he whirled around the track, alone in his car.  really, it was so funny.

the tour was over all too soon, although it's not a particularly huge "land."  we dejectedly trudged out through the gate and back up to blue sky cellar to reclaim our belongings, plus some fun swag.

i'm totally going to use this for every disneyland trip from now on (or, at least, until it falls apart):

too bad i'm not a pin collector.

this thing was huge, and while it's cool and all, it was kind of a pain in the ass to drag it along as we decided what to do next.

as we strolled along, i spotted something familiar.  "once upon a time" is one of my favorite shows from the '11-'12 tv season, so i stopped to check out the props and costumes on display.

then my phone rang and our decision was quickly made for us - in all the excitement, i'd totally forgotten to take the car seat out for the hub to get the bean home from the grandparents'.  crap.  so we grabbed a drink, cast a forlorn glance at the not-too-long line for "tower of terror," and made our way back to the tram.  as we headed out onto ball road, i asked the teen to text the hub and let him know we were on our way.

and then she squealed.  really loudly.


didn't have to tell me twice.  i swung over into the left lane, caught the green, and headed back to the parking structure.  after pulling in, finding a spot, hopping on the tram, and getting through the ticket booth, we had just enough time to grab a snack and find our spot for "world of color."  pretty good view, wouldn't you say?

another funny moment came courtesy of mr. stone face at the entrance to our VIP viewing section, who was actually smiling as he chatted with his co-workers.  as the teen cringed and stayed right where she was, i headed over to take this.

the bean hates "world of color."  granted, it does have some pretty scary parts to it, as most disney movies do.  so this was only our second time viewing the show, and we enjoyed it - especially with the sweet spot we were watching it from.

just before it ended, we snuck outta there and scurried through the crowds towards the hollywood backlot, where that "tower of terror" was waiting for us.  the posted wait time was 55 minutes, but with only 30 minutes till closing time, we knew it would only be about half that.

sure enough, we were on the ride and screaming our heads off within about 35 minutes.

the teen and i have shared some pretty awesome moments at the ol' disneyland resort, but i'd have to say that this ranks right up there with our visit to club 33.  we toured cars land with people who helped create it, while it's still brand-spanking-new and untouched by hordes of folks who'll be stampeding every inch of it come june 15th.  we got to see it completely empty, with fresh paint everywhere and structures gleaming with brand new neon lights. we were the first non-disney people who were given access to one of just three new rides in the whole land, and even got an exclusive keepsake that no one else will get to have.  

definitely an afternoon chock FULL of win!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

wackadoodle bean

honestly, the bean is so silly.  and such a ham!  i suppose i know where that comes from, though.  heh.

like, this is her new go-to pose whenever i pick up the camera:

and she knows what and how to turn on when she really wants something she knows i would normally say "no" or "not right now" to.

at the dollar bins at target, she scooped this up and instructed me to take her picture as she put it on.  "turn on the camera, mommy.  you've gotta see this."

oh, and operation sneaky veggie continues.  here, she's helping me make her lunch of mini pizzas - with pureed carrot and spinach mixed into the sauce.

i'm so thankful that her favorite ice cream flavor is mint chip, because i can easily sneak in some spinach with her post-nap milkshake treats.

during our last trip to the hello kitty store, she pointed these out.  i figured they'd come in handy with her upcoming swimming lessons (since last year's run was sort of a bust, with her aversion to putting her face in the water):

i swear, this kid is such a crackup.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

cookies galore

i've been so busy doing other stuff that i haven't even had a chance to show off some of the cookies i've done lately.  and you know i've been fundraising for the teen's and my upcoming avon walk for breast cancer via cookies by the dozen again, so i've been quite the busy baking bee.

a mama-to-be asked me to make these for the shower her friends were throwing her.  using photos she sent me as inspiration, i presented her with a few dozen of these:

and then she even got me some referral business when one of her shower guests requested my information to make some tiaras in turquoise for her granddaughter's 16th birthday.

and yup, when i look at that cookie i not only see a tiara, but a rather rude hand gesture.  i sure hope no one at that party saw what i see.  geesh.

i was thrilled to have a second chance to bake for another friend - last time she had me do cookies for a party, let's just say they didn't arrive in perfect condition.  shockingly, she didn't hold it against me and asked me to make some special treats for her niece's 4th birthday.

you already saw these last week, in my recap of mini cee's birthday party.  but i loved them so much, you get another look at 'em.

we had a fun gathering to celebrate some big news for one of my favorite friends.  so of course, i had to bring some party favors for the group (and a few extras for her to take home to her family).

for a nurse's retirement party, i got to work on this fun trio.  those bingo cards are made with homemade fondant that i got to try for the very first time.  while it wasn't perfect, it was easy enough that i've vowed never to buy that store-bought stuff ever again.  not only was it a snap to make, it tastes a gazillion times better too.

i've got a few more batches of cookies coming up in the next few weeks.  lucky for me, it's still fun to do these, especially new designs that i get to play with.  and remember, if you've got an occasion that calls for cookies - because sweets make everything better - you know where to reach me.  mama's got a whole lotta fundraising to do.

Monday, May 28, 2012

party like a yelp star

despite the fact that i hadn't written a yelp review in probably a year and a half, i somehow managed to score an entry into one of their "yelp's 100 days of summer" exclusive parties.  the invitation i received via e-mail gave me a choice of four days in four different locations, and after checking with lilcee (my go-to partner in crime, if you hadn't noticed) to make sure she was available, i sent in my RSVP and hoped we'd get in.  because there was limited space, only a certain number of folks were going to be given access.  and you know how much i love anything resembling VIP treatment.

obviously, we did get in.  otherwise you wouldn't be reading this right now.  heh.

the venue for our shindig was the ford amphitheater, which i'd seen countless times on our way to and from the hollywood bowl and other fun spots in that area.  i'd never been there before, so it was cool to check out something new.  to us, at least, as it was also lilcee's first visit.

free parking, and it was filling up fast.


there were lots of stairs.

crowds of folks were gathered around tables set up all around the front plaza.  it was a little difficult to tell which line was for what, but we just followed our noses to the grub.  as we waited in the first line, this table was handing out cold-brewed iced coffee samples.  yum.

apologies for the usual blurry photos.  i'm lazy about toting the "good" camera these days and most of my pictures are via the iPhone, if you couldn't tell.  let's face it, i wasn't winning any awards with my photography skills (or lack thereof), anyway.

turns out that the reason for the long ass line for grub was the freshly-made french toast, cooked to perfection about three or four slices at a time.  there was some homemade mac & cheese to snack on as we waited, and it was totally worth the wait.  so good.

next up was a pepper steak sandwich from giamela's.  i'd never heard of this place before, but their offerings were mighty tasty and pretty generously-sized for a "sample."

cake bar had mini margarita cupcakes.  much better than the one i had from [not so] yummy cupcakes a lifetime ago.

at check-in, we'd been handed this tote.

pretty plain, although other folks were walking around with decorated bags that we were eyeing.  turned out that they'd been screen printed with those designs by these nice fellas:

after a 10-second stay under a high-powered dryer, ours were all nice and pretty too.

still holding our sandwiches, we found a quiet area upstairs with a couple of empty tables and lots of fun yelp swag.

after we were done eating, we checked out what looked like a photo booth.  only it was a step above that - you grabbed props and acted out a silly scene for a few seconds with the camera clicking away madly, which resulted in a flip book.

lilcee and i decided we weren't feeling silly enough to think of a scene to do, and decided to skip it altogether.  besides, the line was pretty long by then.  meh.

from pitfire pizza, we snagged some salad and a meatball.

random bubbles in the air and a lovely aroma wafting by alerted us to something interesting down by the entrance to the amphitheater.

the bath petals beauty truck was handing out free samples (again, really generous ones) of several different "flavors" of bath salts.  it was hard to pick just one, but we managed.

our last activity at the event was a tour of the venue, led by the very enthusiastic events coordinator, bill.  this place has been a part of l.a.'s theater scene since the 20's.  pretty interesting.

we learned that there are actually two stages here - one that's indoors and much smaller than the main theater.

it's used to put on workshops and run-throughs and things like that.  also, the ford amphitheater is used to put on productions by small companies throughout the los angeles area.  not that i'm particularly artistically inclined, but that's pretty cool.

as we wound through the bowels of the backstage area towards the main theater, we passed by dressing rooms and what's called the "jesus door" - it was used back when the theater first opened for the actor playing jesus to get from one side of the stage to the other without being detected by the audience.

we got to stand above the stage in an area that's not typically accessible by the public ("you guys are so lucky to be up here," we were told by one of the guides).  sweet vantage point.

i'd always wondered what the story was behind this cross up on the hill.  it's visible from the street, and i never really understood why it was there.  apparently, when the woman who started this theater passed away, she was so beloved by the community for bringing the arts to l.a. that they erected this big ol' white cross in her honor.  of course, because it was on land owned by the government, there were cries of "take it down!" by folks who didn't really do the religion thing.  and when it was taken down, the churchgoing people cried "put it back up!" and it went back and forth and back and forth until the powers-that-be finally decided to bequeath a 10' x 10' section of land to a church in the valley.  they still own that land today, and the cross has stayed there ever since.

our tour ended down at the back of the theater.  we'd enjoyed learning about this venue that we'd never even really knew existed before.

as we made our way back out to the car, i mentioned that i overheard some girls giggling about heading over to sprinkles ice cream.  it had just opened that day, and they feature fun flavors like red velvet and malted milk chocolate.  lilcee's eyes lit up and she said "let's go!  we're just over the hill from there!"

well hell, you don't have to ask me twice.  i consulted the website and found that they didn't close till 11, and it was just 9:30.  a quick consult of the GPS, and we were off.

except that when we got there, we realized something awful.  with the grand opening, lots of social media coverage, and the fact that it's sprinkles for the love of corn...we had this to contend with:

and that wasn't even a quarter of the line.  it went all the way down the street, and would have been at least an hour or two to get through.  eff that noise.  i can make some damn good ice cream at home, after all.  for much less than $6-$8 (yeah) per person, no less.

but...red velvet ice cream in a red velvet waffle cone.  hmmmm.  maybe another day.

squeezing in all the sightseeing

this was our NYC home for a whole week: it was one of only a few hotels that i could find that offered two beds in a room rather than, say, ...