Friday, March 30, 2012

playing with paper dolls

When I was a little girl, one of my favourite "toys" were paper dolls.  I'd put outfits together based on the limited choices of skirts, tops, shoes for my little doll.  Now, my daughter has "Polly Pockets".  Very similar in idea, but these miniature dolls (about the size of my index finger!) have various rubbery outfits were you can easily change outfits. 

Now, whenever I need a little break...a diversion where I can fantasize and briefly indulge in my vanity...I find myself "playing" on Polyvore.  Although this site has been around for quite awhile, whenever I need a fashion "fix" (usually when the seasons begin to change) it's a place where I can indulge.  And since spring is finally here...well, let's just say I've been distracted!

Polyvore is a fun site where you can browse, assemble and buy (if you wish) the latest fashion.  It's a fashionista's highly addictive version of paper dolls.  From a huge inventory of clothing (pictures that are either uploaded by members or yourself from any website) you can pick and choose select articles of clothing and create an outfit. 

Vanity aside, I found this was very helpful while I was trying to pack for our vacation, since most of my spring/summer clothes were in storage. I was able to assemble what I was going to bring, and I didn't have to lug out all of my clothes out of storage to "see" what I was going to wear (I'm a visual person). It was also easy to plan my vacation wardrobe away from home 

Doing this ensemble online also gave me new ideas of putting together outfits using existing clothes in my also helped "test" outfits to see how the latest trends fit in with my current wardrobe (so I can say yay or nay to the latest coloured jean!).

For the shopaholics, it's guilt-free shopping...cost effective if you don't hit the "purchase" button.   I'm not sure if this will actually curb my buying impulses, at least this transported me back to the little girl, with fantasy dress up...playing with (online) paper dolls!

What I'd wear to the Oscars~ Alexander McQueen

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

a toast to tonga

I read in news headline that the King of Tonga recently passed away, and was buried in a state ceremony yesterday. I know what you're thinking...the King of who-what-where???  And why am I telling you this?

Well, let me explain further.  This news headline of the King's passing caught my eye because (and this is going to sound really strange), it was the second time I've even heard of this unique word, "Tonga" this month (the first time was few weeks back where we tried the famous "Tonga Toast" on our March Break's amazing!).  Of course, I was curious to learn about what "Tonga" really is?

Tonga – officially the Kingdom of Tonga  is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii.

"With over 170 islands, only 40 inhabited, Tonga is untouched and largely undiscovered. That means it’s a holiday destination where you can still encounter a world as nature intended. Un-spoilt by big resort complexes and modern development, Tonga remains as close to authentic Polynesia as you’ll find. In fact, with its sheltered beauty and cultural authenticity, the Kingdom of Tonga is often described as the ‘jewel in the pacific’.." {source}

Researching a bit further, I read in a Huffington Post article, that the "King had made some radical changes to his country.  John Key, the Prime Minister of neighbouring country, New Zealand, released a statement saying 'He believed that the monarchy was an instrument of change and can truly be seen as the architect of evolving democracy in Tonga. This will be his enduring legacy,' Key said."

It looks like a beautiful place to visit...a place that's authentic and untouched by the highly commercialized tourism industry...this place seems as friendly and open as it's former King.  It just might be a new place to add to my bucket list of destinations. So, in honour of this beautiful island, and the passing of their beloved King...I made this Tonga Toast.  I'm not sure when I'll get the chance to visit the Kingdom of Tonga, but at least I get to re-visit the amazing "Tonga" that we were first introduced to in Florida.

I've adapted this recipe so it's not deep fried.  I used a cast iron skillet instead, and approached this recipe like it was french toast.  The bread quickly absorbs the egg/milk mixture and it's unnecessary to deep fry this...just "grill" on a cast iron skillet with a little butter.

Tonga Toast Recipe 
(from the Kona Cafe Polynesian Resort)
{adapted from:}

  • 4 slices sourdough bread, cut 1 1/2 inches thick (the freshly baked one at Whole Foods is fabulous for this!)
  • 1 organic banana
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup organic milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. butter 
  • maple syrup (optional)

  • Cut a 1-inch pocket in one side of each bread slice. 
  • Peel and cut banana in half crosswise, then split each piece lengthwise. 
  • Stuff two pieces of banana in each pocket of bread; set aside. 
  • Mix sugar and cinnamon; set aside. 
  • Mix together well the egg, milk and vanilla.
  • Heat about 4 inches of oil in a pan to 350ยบ F. 
  • Dip stuffed bread into egg/milk mixture and let it soak a few seconds to let penetrate bread. 
  • Grill bread on both sides until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. 
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and serve with maple syrup (optional)


Monday, March 26, 2012

it's good to be at home

It's funny how when you go on vacation or travel anywhere, I often hear (mostly from parents with young children)... "I need a vacation AFTER the vacation".

It's true.  Although we had special, relaxing times by the pool, beach, and spending time with family at lovely shows or dinner, it's the preparation to get there and back that sometimes can make vacations more like work.  We were very blessed to be able to go on our vacation RIGHT BEFORE the spring break, so we didn't have to dive back into the schedules when we returned, and was able to transition slowly back to our daily lives (like cooking instead of going to restaurants!).

I'm not complaining...I am very grateful that we got to go to a lovely destination with hot weather, and great times with family.  And although it Disney was a magical place, there really is nothing better than to "be at home".  

As a welcome back surprise, last week I was featured on "Be @ Home's Best of the Web" series.  Thank you to all my readers who continually support this blog.  And thank you, "Be @ Home", for the lovely gesture and honour!  

You can see my blog featured here, at "Be @ Home".

It's GREAT to be home!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

worth a zillion

A great family portrait...wait a minute...
I feel a joke coming on here...

Disney's slogan this year is "Where memories begin...".  Indeed, they did.

Friday, March 23, 2012

be our guest

One of the places we've always wanted to visit was Bora Bora in the French Polynesian islands (it was on our list for our honeymoon, but timing didn't quite work out).

Since Disney is all about fantasy, we booked our stay at the Polynesian resort and were curious to see what Disney's interpretation of French Polynesian was.  (and since we're not going to Bora Bora just yet, we might as well get "taste of it" here...well that was my argument).  

French Polynesia, also known as “Tahiti and Her Islands,” encompasses volcanic islands of great beauty and tiny atolls scattered across the eastern South Pacific Ocean, distant from all civilisation. These idyllic islands have captured the imagination of the world since the very first European explorers arrived on these sunny shores in the 18th century. {source}

I think the Polynesian resort captured the essence of the islands, with the lush tropical trees surrounding resort, the volcano inspired pool area, and the waterfalls throughout the guest areas.

Our second choice was the Grand Floridian...we got to visit this lovely resort while we had breakfast at the 1900 Park Fare (the Mad Hatter Tea party breakfast with the Alice in Wonderland characters).  It definitely felt more upscale (I think my husband would have preferred to stay here instead), but I thought it suited the honeymooners and seniors that visited Disney...I couldn't imagine the kids "flip flopping" through the lobby from the beach to the room!  Definitely a place to consider if we return with teenagers...

Disney's Polynesian resort had a relaxing island feel to it, which the kids found very appealing since most of their fondest vacation memories were at the beach.   

Although the rooms didn't quite reflect the exotic nature of the exterior, you couldn't beat the location (it was about 10 minutes away from Magic Kingdom via monorail, ferry or bus!). The staff was very friendly, and always greeted us with "Aloha"...we felt very comfortable and relaxed, and always felt like a pampered guest.

The kids said this was "just like a beach resort !!! ", and the Polynesia was a great choice for a family with young kids.  Hopefully one day we will visit the real Polynesian islands...and truly feel like welcomed guests like we did at Disney.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

it's a small world

We (especially my husband) was fascinated with the business of Disney's operations. It was amazing how most of the people employed at the parks were friendly, courteous and helpful.  There were times when we were looking at maps, and next thing you know, am employee was there to help you guide your way.  The Disney Institute  teaches seminars to businesses on how to have work environments like Disney...that are the "happiest place on earth".

This was a construction sign where the new Fantasyland 2012 was being built.
Even construction signs were inspirational!

The Disney Corporation also clearly understood "customer satisfaction"...most specifically that the longer one must wait in line for anything (rides, dinner, shuttles back and forth to the airport), the less "happy" of a customer they will be.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs described a “version of Fastpass for an entire Disney vacation” during a speech at an investors conference last year and the Orlando Sentinel reported that future guests will be able to reserve specific ride times for popular attractions, secure seating for shows, make restaurant reservations and pre-book other experiences before they leave their homes on vacation." {source: Delvinia}

And for the most part, our experience at Disney did run quite efficiently.  There were various methods of transportation from our resort to Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  Monorail, ferry, resort launch boat (from The Polynesian, Grand Floridian and The Contemporary), as well as buses, all about ten minutes away from those two parks.

However, we did find that for a huge "world" that relied so heavily on transportation between the parks, that the scheduling of the buses (and communication of such schedules) was lacking.  Unlike city buses, there were no fixed bus stop schedules, so you'd have to guess when a bus will come by your hotel (and arrive at your destination) to go to Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney or the Fort Wilderness Lodge (where the Hoop De Doo Revue show was held).  In other words, destinations that were NOT on the monorail system.  And the staff at these bus depots were equally confused.

As things get faster and faster with technology, one good thing is that the Fastpass has removed the beast of line ups, so we can enjoy the beauty of Disney inside the parks.  Hopefully they will incorporate better ways to get to these parks just as easy, and truly make it a small world, after all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

oh mickey you're so fine...

When one thinks of Disney, the first thing that doesn’t come to mind is the culinary experiences (I usually think amusement park hotdogs and hamburgers!).  Not almond crusted cheesecakes, Polynesian noodles, and chocolate mousse!

The variety of food available at Disney was better than expected (albeit, still on the salty shoes didn't fit at the end of our trip!).  However since we have fantastic restaurants where we live, we chose places that would give us the most experiences for the kids.  So every single meal we had was part of a character dining, or an experience in itself.

We ate with almost every Mickey Mouse friend, Princesses, Alice in Wonderland and other Disney characters (Princesses at "Akershaus Storybook" , more princesses at "Cinderella's Royal Table", Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter breakfast at "1900 Park Fare" in the Grand Floridian, breakfast with Lilo & Stitch at "Ohana" and Winnie the Pooh and friends at "Crystal Palace").

We also enjoyed places where the ambience was the entertainment.  The Polynesian family style dinner with fireworks view at "Ohana" was our favourite.  We also ate at a fun drive in style diner "The Sci-Fi Dine In", and took in a western show at "Hoop de Doo Revue (our least favourite show).

For the foodies in us, there were so many international restaurant options at the World Showcase at Epcot...some of the best (and least amount of salt/fried food...i.e. NOT hamburgers and fries) were found here.

Right before the Illuminations exhibit at Epcot (the fireworks and light show over the World Showcase), we went to the "San Angel Inn", the most  "adult" restaurant we ate at, that was founded in Mexico and was so popular, it was brought to Disney.

The replica of the Mayan ruins and volcano was interesting enough for the kids, and the setting was romantic enough for the adults to enjoy some peace and quiet from the Mickey Mouse crowd.

Although there were many "sophisticated establishments" to eat at, we chose restaurants that had more "character", so we didn't have to line up to see them at the parks (some of the line ups for the "meet and greets were astonishingly 90 minutes long!).  And after seeing the smiles on the kids faces...

...I think Mickey (and his crew) were just fine.

Mickey Mouse Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I used this recipe from a previous post {here}, and just added banana slices and chocolate chips.  Because this pancake recipe makes thick fluffy pancakes, the batter is thick enough to slowly pour onto the hot skillet.  Just make one large circle for the face, then slowly spoon a small amount of batter to make the ears.