Guess where?

People, what you see here is the ONLY Starbucks at Disney World. It’s in the Magic Kingdom, and you could blow right by it if you weren’t scouring the storefronts for it. Pretty cool how Starbucks set aside their brand to blend in with the old-timey, mom-and-apple pie feel of Main Street, U.S.A. The baristas wear blue and white stripes, little kerchief hats and white hose. Today was my first day of having my morning coffee. The few sips I had before I had to chuck it to get on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride were heaven.



Day 5 – Back at the Magic Kingdom

Today, after riding through Pirates of the Caribbean, Magnus got his face painted like a pirate at the Pirate’s League in Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom. He also got a pirate name (Jason Sea Menace), a t-shirt, sword, bag of treasure, map, and other goodies. Greta got done up like a beautiful mermaid, and dressed in a mermaid t-shirt and iridescent skirt.

The oil paint these artists used at the ‘pirate salon’ are hard-core! The kids’ make-up survived cheeseburgers and PB&Js (a Smucker’s Uncrustable – welcome to Quick Service) at Pecos Bill’s, waiting in the blazing sun for 30 minutes to meet Merida with lots of water swigs and eye rubs, and two hours of swimming at the pool. But they were no match for Clinique’s Take the Day Off make-up remover!



My beauty.

Our mean pirate faces.

Glad I packed you, Take the Day Off!

Merida from the movie Brave. She was cute – not as weird as the more traditional storybook princesses. The kids are wearing their pirate and mermaid garb by this time.

The kids and Barrak ran into Princess Tiana while I was getting my coffee. Barrak snapped these pictures with my phone. Magnus was wearing an Ohio State jersey before he changed into a pirate. And yes, we got an ‘O-H…’ within 20 seconds of entering the park.

Thanks Jon & Wendy!

Last night, our housesitter, Uncle Taylor accidentally locked himself out of our house when he went out to the garage to get something from his car. As they have for Barrak and me so many times over the years, Grandpa Jon (Barrak’s dad) and Grandma Wendy (my tireless mom) saved our butts — and our poor dog’s — by driving over at 11:30 at night with spare keys. Thanks for bailing everyone out of this late-night jam. Taylor, sorry we didn’t warn you about that door.

The players:

Grandpa Jon

Grandma Wendy

Doting Uncle Taylor

Belle, waiting patiently on the other side of the door.

Day 4 – Hollywood Studios

Although this was my first time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it all felt familiar. All the big soundstages and warehouses with props and movie ad posters reminded me of the handful of years I lived in Los Angeles, covering the movie industry at Premiere Magazine. Even though I was a lowly editorial assistant, the staff in the West Coast bureau was tiny, and there were always a ton of movies in production. So I was often at studios and backlots to visit sets or do interviews. Today’s visit took me back.

There’s not a ton to do at Hollywood Studios, especially for little ones. The 1920s Hollywood, Art Deco style buildings were pretty cool. I also saw two restaurants that looked really fun: the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant where you sit in a dark room in a 1950s-era, Rebel Without a Cause-type convertible and watch Attack of the 50-Foot Woman or some other B-movie; and Mama Melrose’s, which smelled so incredible — like sauteeing garlic and homemade marinara – that even the kids commented on it.

We had ONE reservation today, and that was lunch at Hollywood & Vine, a character lunch that I reserved with Magnus in mind. The kids met Oso the bear, Handy Manny, Jake from the Neverland pirates, and June from Little Einsteins. That’s right in his wheelhouse.

So my big lesson learned during this trip: you do need reservations for the popular character dining restaurants, but do not make more than one reservation a day. You get bookended. Today, after lunch, we were free to do whatever we wanted.

Today was also the first day we got a FastPass for something. As soon as you arrive at Hollywood Studios, you have to hustle over to get a FastPass for the Toy Story ride. Today, wait times were around 140 minutes without a FastPass.

Today, the thing I’ve been fearing happened: I left my iPhone behind at the Muppets 3D movie attraction. I set it next to me in the theater, then got up and left. About 20 minutes later when the kids were about to meet Donald and Daisy, I realized it was gone. In 90 degree heat, I sprinted back, waited for the movie to end again, and burst in looking for it. Luckily a nice southern family had found it.

Here are today’s family favorites:

Magnus: Muppets in 3D (in a dramatic turn of events, he did not appear to care much for the Lightning McQueen & Mater meet n’ greet)
Greta: Muppets in 3D and the Toy Story Mania ride
Barrak: Muppets in 3D, with Toy Story Mania a close second
Me: The Great Movie Ride – you ride through movies of years’ past, including Mary Poppins, Alien, The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

When we got back, Barrak was able to get us in at the Kona Cafe for dinner. Greta had “the best hot dog I’ve ever had.” Magnus also made light work of a sizable cheeseburger. These places are crazy-expensive and the food is always slightly off. You’re never raving about how good something is. But you’re just so grateful to be sitting down, and for the kids to be eating.

Tomorrow, we’re headed back to the Magic Kingdom. Magnus doing a dress-up-like-a-pirate thing, then we’ll ride Pirates of the Caribbean and stalk Merida and Princess Tiana. They’re the only two Greta does not have autographs for. Then the kids are going to The Neverland Club here at the Polynesian, and Barrak and I have a dinner date!

We arrived at Hollywood Studios around 9:30am, which seems to be our daily routine.



Cars and Cars 2 are Magnus’s favorite Disney movies by far. But he could not have cared less about meeting Lightning McQueen or Mater. Unless he was just playin’ it cool…






Hollywood and Vine is loud and raucous. They’re constantly singing the ‘yo ho’ song from Jake and the Neverland Pirates and dancing around. You definitely need reservations – it was packed.

The Mary Poppins scene in the Great Movie Ride.

The Indiana Jones scene in the Great Movie Ride. I love this movie.

The Casablanca scene in the Great Movie Ride.

The Wizard of Oz scene in the Great Movie Ride.

We got a FastPass for the Toy Story Mania ride around 10am. They give you a time range to return and bypass the line. For us, it was between 3:35 and 4:35pm.

Every day feels hotter than the last. Those popsicles were free since they’re considered a Snack on our dining plan.

The best part of dinner tonight was the smooth, fruity frozen mango margarita Barrak ordered for me from the bar.

Flora, fauna and critters

Even though the Polynesian doesn’t have the elegance of the Grand Floridian resort across the lake from us, the kids have loved the landscape and the critters that live on the grounds here: banana leaves the size of beach towels, oversize palmettos, tall bamboo and palm trees, huge lava rocks, tiny lizards, squirrels and butterflies everywhere.

You can see the Grand Floridian resort from the Polynesian’s pool and beach area.

The Polynesian pool has a huge volcano water slide that the kids have loved.

I snapped this right before a lightning storm closed the pool and forced us indoors.

A giant cicada!

Kids, it’s never OK to pick flowers from private property – unless it’s for your mother.

BEAUTY REVIEW: Three beauty essentials

Every day, we walk around in sweltering heat and humidity. So it’s a miracle that I have managed to avoid the breakouts that normally plague me. I’d like to share with you the three beauty products I’m giving credit to:

1. Clinique Moisture Surge: The cool pink gel never feels heavy. I love it in winter. I love it in summer.

2. ColoreScience Sunforgettable: Most sunblock creams for your face make me break out. This is a powder that you doesn’t make you feel goopy, stays on in the water and can be applied on the go.

3. Glycolic Cream Cleanser by skin effects: I’d never heard of this product before last week, when I bought it at CVS during a quick lunch-hour dash for vacation items. This has a little more punch than CeraVe, the extremely gentle cleanser I normally use. I love this stuff. It has a nice creamy texture and makes you feel clean but not stripped. The bottle says it ‘Reveals younger looking skin with each use.’ I’m in!

Here are my friends, lined up for duty. Yes, that is the last of a mango margarita on the bathroom counter.

Day 3 – Epcot

We took a break from the Magic Kingdom and visited Epcot today. Barrak summed it up best when he said, I loved it until we got to dinner.
Here’s how it went down:
9:30am: Arrived at Epcot, and there was almost no one there. It was an oven today. We picked up our daily stroller rental, which is being comped by Disney because the third-party vendor screwed up.
10am: Squeezed in a Finding Nemo underground ride. It got high marks from the kids. We rode it again later in the day. There’s not much for little ones at Epcot.
10:50am: Storytime with Mary Poppins. It was weird that it was at Epcot, but apparently Mary Poppins hangs out in the UK part of the World Showcase. It was painfully boring.
11am – 5pm: Lunch with the princesses at the Akershus Royal House in Norway and country-hopping in the World Showcase. I loved this part of the trip – it’s one of the few memories I have of visiting Disney with my family when I was 11 or so. We ate at the Biergarten during that visit. Today, I popped in the Biergarten just to take a picture.
5:30pm: Dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel in Mexico. I was so looking forward to this reservation. Unfortunately, it was a bust.
7pm: Back at the Polynesian for a night swim at the pool, showers, etc.
10pm: Watched the Wishes fireworks from our beach by the Polynesian.
10:30pm: Kids fell asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow. They have both developed coughs. Luckily, my think-of-everything husband packed every cough syrup and cold medicine we own.

Here are the results of the ‘What was your favorite thing today?’ poll:
Magnus: Going to the pool.
Greta: Everything. I can’t decide.
Barrak: Lunch at Akershus. He got to have a cold Carlsburg beer, smoked trout, herring and salmon, and traditional meatballs with lingonberry chutney.
Me: The vanilla gelato I had at Italy. The only bummer was, Barrak took a picture of me and my cone. In my head, I pictured Gwyneth Paltrow coolly enjoying a gelato. In reality, it was 5’2″ me in ill-advised denim cutoffs with a pudgy middle who had no business enjoying a gelato. But damn, it was good. Creamier than ice cream, and you just feel glamorous eating it.

It all deteriorated around dinnertime. Greta didn’t like anything on the kids’ menu, and Barrak wasn’t tolerating it. She cried through pretty much the whole experience. Magnus bonked his head getting up from the table, so he was wailing as we walked out. Ugh. It was a dud.

The other reality of the day: we’ve already used up all of our Table Services on our dining plan. It’s Monday and we’re here until Friday. We still have all our Quick Services. It’s basically the difference between eating at a restaurant where you get served, and Chipotle, where you stand in line and take your food and go find your own table. We each get one Quick Service and one Table Service per day we’re here. But some of these princess things cost TWO Table Services. The good news is, I’m done with these reservations. Everyone insists you have to have them. And you do at some places. The rub is it ties you to certain parks and you have no flexibility to eat when and where you feel like it. For example, today we had lunch and dinner reservations at Epcot. So we found ourselves trying to find things to do during that 6-hour stretch.

I came back to the room and canceled and rearranged several reservations, and it was such a relief.



Barrak and Magnus in their clam shell at the Nemo ride.


Mary Poppins storytime. Patsy, you’re way more fun!

Magnus and his new stuffed reindeer in front of the Viking exhibit in Norway.



Finally, some beer with our meal at Akershus!

We met Mulan in Japan, in the World Showcase.



Hey, mom, dad and Bran: remember eating at the Biergarten?

You better believe your sweet bubbie we’re coming home with one of these Christmas tree pickle ornaments.

We also popped into the Rose & Crown Pub in the UK to cool down and get a round of Stella Artois and Shirley Temples.