Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Winter Wonderland Sun Valley, ID February 15-20

Sun Valley Resort and Mount "Baldy"
Well, life has been moving pretty quickly in our household.  We went to Disneyland, then my daughter returned to school, then it rained an awful lot but we still managed to get to Fan Fest, then it was my birthday, then my dad had heart surgery, then it was February/Winter break/Ski week.  A month and a half of the new year had flown by.

When you are in college, you don't get a February break, so we were going to have one less kid to pay for if we wanted to go somewhere.  Another issue that reared its ugly head was that the baseball season had started and it was generally frowned upon to leave town.  We got on this right away, and our answer was that it was better to go earlier than later, so we decided to leave Friday February 15 and be back by the middle of the following week.  We thought this was a great shot at some destination skiing.

We looked at all the usual spots.  Mount Bachelor in Bend is by far the least expensive, but our time was limited so we did not have much interest in spending 9 hours in the car each way.  We also considered Whistler but to keep the air prices down we would haveto fly to Seattle and drive four hours.  Also not so fun after a school day.  Utah offered a lot of options, but the idea of staying in Salt Lake City and the limitations on alcohol in that state were less than appealing.  Sun Valley Idaho required a flight to Boise followed by a two hour drive north.  We could leave after school on Friday and be there by 10:30 pm, so Sun Valley, ID it was.

Staying in Sun Valley-

For a town of only like 3200 people, there sure are an awful lot of places you can stay.  A LOT of people own vacation rentals in the area and there are plenty to chose from.  The last time we were here my husband booked us in some crappy downtown motel and after one morning of a single once in a lifetime attempt at snowboarding which left me feeling like I had been run over by a truck AND beaten with a baseball bat, I insisted that we get out the flea bag roach coach and we moved to the Sun Valley Lodge.  At over $300 per night for a standard room with 2 queen beds, staying there was not practical this time, so we needed to look for a condo.
You can stay in lots of different areas, Elkhorn, River Run, downtown Ketchum, Warm Springs, etc.  They are all within 5 minutes drive of both ski areas and are all serviced by the free shuttle bus service.
We did not know too much about the area so after night after night of pouring over VRBO trying to decide on a place to stay we came upon the crown jewel of Sun Valley accomodations, a 2BR 2 bath Snowcreek condo.
This is the link to the VRBO listing.  but the pictures are not accurate--if this is even the same condo, it has been completely updated.  Regardless, it's the same owner. Ask to be put in his nicer condo.
Snow Creek is a good location anyway.  We walked to the SunValley Lodge in about 12 minutes.  If you want to ski at Dollar Mountain, which caters to less advanced skiers (and is a lot cheaper), all you have to do is carry your skis out the back door and there lies the lodge.  If you want to ski on the much larger Bald Mountain , lovingly referred to locally as "Baldy", you can either wait for the bus or hop in your car and drive 5 minutes.  Parking at the mountain is a piece of cake, so we drove all three days and never used the bus.
But listen, I cannot say enough about this condo.  It was not luxury so the price was reasonable, at what turned out to be about 275$ a night, but dang it had everything you needed!  The kitchen and the bathrooms had been remodeled.  All the appliances are brand new and there is a lovely foam mat which protects your feet from the cold tile.  The floors in the master bath are, wait for it, heated!  OMG!  Such comfort.  There is a washer and a dryer.  The kitchen is well stocked.  Oh, and speaking of stocked--I LOVED that the dry supplies from the last renters were not completely cleaned out.  We were happy to have some necessities, like flour, sugar, coffee, oil, bread crumbs, sandwich bags, aluminum foil, and also some NOT necessities like half a bottle of vodka, brownie mix, oatmeal packets and hot cocoa.  We made use of it all!
Another fabulous benefit of the unit was the HOT TUB.  More on the cold later but dang, the hot tub was absolutely essential or you would never emerge from the skiing induced ice block.  We went to the hot tub, about a 75 yard run in your swim suit and UGG boots in 18 degree weather, every evening.  About 15 feet from the hot tub was a heated changing room, which avoided the need to put on all your clothes in the freezing cold and give yourself a heart attack running back to the condo.
Anyway, we would stay again in a second.


Unlike Mount Bachelor, there is absolutely nothing budget about skiing in Sun Valley. When we got there during the peak President's day weekend, it did appear that a 3 of 5 day pass on Bald Mountain was about 466$.  466!  Even with a multiday pass that is more than 150$ per day.  Remember that at Bend our 3 of 5 day in 2014 worked out to less than 60$ per day!  We did get a significant discount using the website getskitickets.com, through which we purchased our tickets at about $353 for the same 3 of 5 pass, but we had to buy the non-refundable adult tickets for the four of us about 90 days in advance.  Did anyone say trip insurance!  We sure did!
Renting ski equipment also costs a pretty penny.  Renting at Sturtevants of Sun Valley in downtown Ketchum costs a rather steep 140$ for 4 days (we rented an extra day to allow us to get the skis in the middle of the day before).  We chose them because they did offer an online discount once again if we purchased the package 3 months in advance.  The total was 420$ instead of 560$, which brought down the price to like 26.25 a day, instead of 35$.  But then they tried to charge us the balance, and then gave us some line about that we were lucky because we got a 20% discount twice, and then another line about the discount not including the tax.  Whatever!!!  No matter what they were saying, the numbers didn't add up at all.  The guys were nice and the equipment was good but the business practices lame.  It would be our choice to not rent from them again.
Anyway, let's talk about that glorious ski area.  Yes, expensive.  Yes, cold.  But WHAT a glorious mountain and what a swank ski resort.
First lets talk about that mountain!  Baldy is a 3400 ft mountain from top to bottom with 2054 acres of skiable area.  There are 14 lifts, including one 8 person gondola and seven high speed quad chairs.  There is a fair division of green, blue and black runs.  We may have been lucky with regards to the weather, but the entire mountain from top to bottom has good snow, no icy faces, no windy ridges blasting your nuggies off.  A run the length of the mountain (including lift time) can take near 30 minutes.  Even on President's day and the week following, no lift lines-NONE, ZERO.  Three days, no waiting..just skiing.
And the ski resort itself...Yeah, you pay for it, but it has some serious amenities I have never seen anywhere.  All the bathrooms everywhere are spotless--no water on the floor, no mud tracked it.  Each stall is individual and fully enclosed, with room to put all your stuff.  The lodges, even on the top of the mountain, have roaring fireplaces, enormous flat screen TV's, and nice furniture.  There is kleenex and water everywhere.  The lockers are first come, first served and are FREE.  There is no banishing of those who bring their own lunches to outdoor picnic tables.  They are just as welcome as those who bought their food at the cafeteria (we brought our lunch every day).  A waitress comes by occasionally and asks if you need anything from the bar.  The cafeteria has a full salad buffet and lots of variety of sandwiches and entrees (but expensive, we passed).  The resort is connected to the bus line servicing the entire area.  My favorite amenity?  The WAGONS available to haul your stuff to and from your car or to the bus stop (which really isn't that far!).
Pretty much we all confessed--this is our new favorite place to ski!
 On Bald Mountain with Ketchum in the background

 Better stay bundled up!

Snow fo' days

Day of Rest:

Well, we got in really late on Friday night, and we still hadn't picked up our skis, so we decided our "day off" was going to be the first day we were there.
Besides getting our lift tickets, picking up our skis and picking up a few groceries at the charming downtown Atkinson Market, there is plenty to keep you occupied on a day off.  Honestly, you could just go to a base ski lodge and sit by the fire and drink beer and listen to music all day, but we decided to walk on over to Sun Valley Lodge and Village, about a 12 minute walk from our condo.
The Sun Valley Lodge is a large and comfortable hotel, with a restaurant and a bar in the lobby. The lobby overlooks a large outdoor ice rink.  Craig and I skated here 20 years ago.  Today in 2019, it was nearly 80$ for the four of us to skate--that's expensive.  The customer service was pretty paltry and the rink music was terrible, but heck, when do you to skate when it's actually snowing and 25 degrees?  It was fun and good exercise, so we skated the better part of two hours.
Sun Valley Village is home to cute shops and restaurants.  Ski wear, mountain resort wear, furniture, candy, jewelry--you can find it all down there.  Lots of parking available--handy when we chose to eat dinner here a few nights later.  We wandered into the little cafe Konditorei, which was packed at the lunch hour, to oooo and aaaah over the delicious looking pastries.
Slowly we made our way back to the condo and headed for that hot tub while making use of that leftover vodka!

 Outside iconic Sun Valley Lodge

Ice Skating at the Lodge

The mouth watering pastries at Konditorei!


OK.  For everything that was absolutely wonderful about this place, these were the lowest temperatures I ever endured in my entire life.  The lowest temperature we saw while there was minus 2 (Fahrenheit everyone) and that was at 845 in the morning putting boots on at the car in the morning in the parking lot of the ski area.  By 10 in the morning on the ski slopes it was 3 degrees. 3.  I was wearing 8 layers--a sports bra, a camisole, thermal underwear, a T shirt, a cotton turtleneck, a fleece half zip top and a fully lined ski jacket, double gloved and double socked up to the knee.  It was absolutely necessary to cover every portion of your face with scarf and goggles, or die, and FORGET taking a glove off to text or some other ridiculousness.  One thing I do have to say is that there was no wind and it did not seem to be horribly colder at the top of the mountain, what a relief.  Really, and I never thought I would do this-we went in once or twice just to literally thaw out--but of course I said it was to go to the bathroom.
In contrast to the outdoors, a lot of the indoor areas are overheated-making me and my eight layers almost sick.
The nightly run to and from the hot tub in about 16 degrees was interesting, but necessary, and walking to dinner in jeans and a sweater and no helmet or ski socks when it was approaching 10 degrees was also interesting.
Summary, it was CRAZY cold.  Watch the weather forecast and do not come here unprepared!  California it ain't!

Okay, well let's look at some pictures!!

 We had to poke Nicky to make sure he was breathing.
That sofa sure is nice!

Uh, yeah...that's cold

Snowy downtown Ketchum in the morning..

Thank you for reading this post!  Next trip is a college tour in April!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pretty close to Cloud Nine. KNBR SF Giants Fan Fest February 9, 2019

KNBR SF Giants Fan Fest is one of those things that happens every year but every year something happens that prevents me from going.  Since the Giants started winning World Series in 2010, I either had to work a school play, someone needed a ride somewhere, or some other social obligation came up. My daughter got to go with some friends one year and Sergio Romo (now of the Tampa Bay Rays) signed her Sergio Romo jersey.  She called me hyperventilating as if she had met the Queen of England herself, but I guess at that time having Sergio Romo sign your shirt was better than meeting Queen Elizabeth.

I had two daughters out of town so it was determined we were going to do something February 9th, which incidentally is the day before my birthday.  There were three events to choose from, and we couldn't decide so we left it up to chance and the lot fell upon Fan Fest.  Early in the week it was determined that there would be no baseball practice for freshman on Saturdays, so I loaded my car with 15 year old boys and 10 of us headed up to Oracle Park in San Francisco to mingle with our favorite players.

KNBR Fan Fest is a free annual event held at the ballpark scheduled just a few days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.  Fans can wander the field and have access to some very cool areas usually off limits to the run of the mill audience, such as a the dugout and the press box.  As one of those that never has seats that allowed me to visit the club level, it was cool to go up there and see all the memorabilia displayed and see how those club level seats are accessed.  We had hoped the Clubhouse would be open, but it was not.

Our bunch in the Giants Dugout

Make the call to the bullpen!

How long before we pull him, Bruce?

We were given two strong warnings.  One was to take public transportation and the other was to get there early.  One story relayed stated that a few years ago they stopped letting people in at 9:45 am!
We ran into no such problems.  We parked in an offsite lot at 470 Brannan for 15$ and lined up at the Willie Mays gate at about 9:20.  The gates opened precisely at 10 am and every one made it in without incident.
Our crew is ready to go!

There are a lot of sponsors there giving away free stuff, drink cuzzies and paper placards and the same backpack I got last year on a giveaway day.  There is lots of stuff to buy.  A lot of last years merchandise was marked down for quick clearance.  Especially tempting was the twenty dollar "mystery bag," which made it's way home with just about everyone in our party.  Once the first one was opened and the contents were discovered to not be so bad, others followed suit, particularly in the last hour of the event, when the bags were marked to two for twenty dollars.  Members of our group starting gifting them to one another.  I walked away with an Andrew McCutchen Tshirt, a rally rag, a water bottle and a Will Clark Autism Awareness Bobblehead--all likely leftover giveaways from last year.  I was pretty lucky-one of our poor boys came home with TWO Crazy Crab scarfs--the same ones we chucked out the minute we came home with them last year.

Anyway, throughout most of the day, KNBR personalities conducted interviews with players down on the field.  Despite the occasional standing in the rain, it was actually quite nice to get close and watch the discussions.  Out by "the garden", there was also a sponsored question and answer area, but we never ventured out that way.

A lot of the concessions were available and alcohol was available, though in our desire to be good examples, we did not buy any.

While all this is fine and dandy, no one comes out to the ballpark for this stuff, and neither did we.  People come out to get autographs and to meet players. From what I could ascertain,there were two autograph stations, one kids 16 and under autograph station (which came in very handy for our 15 year olds) and one selfie station.  The autograph stations were on opposite ends of the ball park, one at the top of the Willie Mays ramp and the other in the Alaska Airlines Loft at the right field wall.  The kids station was on the club level, quite appealing as it was indoors.  The selfie station was also up in the nosebleeds and the endless line in the downpour kept us away.

The lines for autographs were like waiting for Space Mountain, fully equipped with the "wait time is 45 minutes from this point" signs posted strategically. Another tricky thing is that the players/VIP's in the autograph booth once you finally get there rotate every 50 minutes, which leaves you with the very real possibility that after waiting for Brandon Belt for one hour, you could be five minutes away from having him sign your #9 jersey before he is whisked away to be replaced by Pat Venditte (actually he was really nice), so disappointment can really be a thing, but all the players/VIP's are so nice that it really didn't matter who you meet.  During the rotation the line abruptly stops moving for about 10 minutes while the VIPs change.  Another thing we noticed is that you might see the same player rotated to another autograph station--yes we actually have one autograph twice, but for the most part we did not fall into this predicament.  There are three to six VIPs at every station, so even if you are repeating one meet and greet experience, there are three others you haven't met.  There are some rules for the autograph stations.  No posed pictures are allowed, though you can take pictures of the players themselves as they sign your gear.  Also only one autograph is allowed per person, so don't even think about having both your baseball and your jersey signed.  There is no hurry once you get there. The players and VIPs, who are for the most part phenomenally well dressed and good looking--sigh, are polite, make eye contact and are up for a little conversation.

Dear fan, I love you.  Signed Austin Slater

 Kickin' it a little with Austin Slater and Drew Pomeranz

The boys stop by the "kids only" autograph station

We got there with plenty of time, and made a beeline for the top of the Willie Mays ramp.  The adults
went here to wait for Ty Blach, Tyler Beede, and Austin Slater, but due to the 50 minute rule wound up meeting Shawon Dunston, Pat Venditte (who just beamed over from the kids section) and Drew Ferguson.  The 15 year olds ran off with another adult where they met Brandon Crawford, Aramis Garcia, Pat Venditte, and Jeff Samardzija.  One of the guys that came with us had the Brandon Crawford jersey he was wearing signed.  Now that's pretty cool. Then the boys found their way back to us and sneaked into line with us and got the signatures we were waiting for.
Brandon Crawford signs Nicky's baseball
The kids line became very crowded as the day went on.  I believe largely because it was indoors.  One of our party decided on the strategy of just getting back in the kids line over and over throughout the day, betting on the 50 minute rotation rule.
Eventually we made our way across the stadium to the Alaska Airlines Loft.  By now it was raining steadily, making part of the wait time rather uncomfortable.  We did wait a fair amount of time in this line.  Our scouts told us that Mike Krukow, Amy G., and Dave Fleming were in the loft but by the time we got there it was Mark Melancon ( "you were supposed to save the games, not destroy them!"), pitching coach Curt Young and hitting coach Bam Bam Muellens.  Yeah, missing out on the first three was a bummer, oh well.
After visiting the press box we had time to stand in one more line. The adults headed back to the top of the Willie Mays ramp to meet with Aramis Garcia, Austin Slater and Drew Pomeranz, the kids went back to the kids line, which we heard was closed since 1:30pm, and pulled off the biggest VIP coup of the day.  The line was closed but they just hung out at the back and sad faced their ways into being allowed into the end of the line.  Who was signing autographs? Serious, BUSTER POSEY, THE BUSTER POSEY.  Buster, 2012 NL MVP, 2012 NL batting champion, 2012 Comeback Player of the Year, 6 time All Star catcher, 3 time World Series Champion, Golden Glover, Silver Slugger 2010 Rookie of the Year, Posey.
The autograph was plenty to be envious of.  I told my son to send me a picture and he sends me this.

I texted this to my daughter in San Diego and she could only respond with one word...."AHHHH!!"

I asked one of the boys what he said when he met Buster.  He said he just blathered like a dumbstruck idiot.

After that, there was nothing to top it.  We took the boys to Amici's for some fabulous pizza and drove home.

What an amazing day.  Now for some pictures!

Thank you Sir Hensley Meulens for letting m photograph your WS ring!

Future sports writers visit the press box

Now officially the coolest jersey ever!

Thank you for reading this post!  I just got back from the winter wonderland of Sun Vallley, ID.  Hoping to get to post about that mighty soon!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Planning, Fashion, and what's new at Disneyland--January 11-14, 2019

Well, after going to Disneyland Resort about six years in a row during the Disneyland "Season of
Wonder," the period of time between roughly Veterans Day and the first weekend of January, during which the parks are meticulously themed from head to toe in holiday array, we decided to go for a change of pace and check out the Disneyland resort during a traditionally quiet weekend, in our case the January weekend prior to MLK. Lots to talk about in this blog..how this timing worked out and might work out for you, planning for and surviving your trip and what new things you might notice when you next visit the happiest place on earth.  Don't quite know the best order and it all might seem a little garbled but here goes.


Crowds--Well I have to say it seems there is never a time when Disneyland is not crowded, but there were definitely less crowds during this weekend.  I can't say that the lines for the rides were any less-still plenty of times the stand by times for the favorites were well over 60 minutes-- but when it came to the ability to walk through the street without fear of being run over by a stroller or just generally swept away by a sea of people, or to do something as usually stressful as finding a good place to watch fireworks or Fantasmic, yeah it was quite a bit less crowded.  During this time there is no parade--which is a godsend as gosh there is nothing worse than trying to get up or down or even cross Main Street while the whole street is blocked off and the curbs covered with spectators.  The restaurants were full, but it was not impossible to get or change a reservation.  Though Fast Pass did run out for rides like Matterhorn, Space Mountain, and "Indy," floods of people left both after the first showing of Fantasmic (9pm) and then again after Fireworks (9:30pm) so the stand by lines came down considerably in the hour before the park closed.  Space Mountain was as little as 35 minutes.  Now when do you see that?  Fantasmic can be a stressful event at Disneyland, as you are forced to stand to hold your place at the end of a tiring day.  Thanks to the light crowd, we strolled up to a very good spot just 15 minutes before the 10:30 pm show.  My kids push me on a rigorous schedule  (Can you believe my husband actually poops out and LEAVES me there??) and we try to leave no "ride wish" ungranted, but this time the second day we actually checked off our list and left the park before it closed--this has never happened.  I found the lesser crowds to be quite an advantage.

Refurbishment, etc.--Well, along with the smaller crowds come a few provisos; namely, construction, attractions dark or closed for refurbishment and fewer park hours.  Ok I can probably start with the park hours because Disneyland was open from 8-11pm both days, SOOOO really one less hour on each day.  No big deal.  There is no parade.  There is no night show at DCA at all.  There are fireworks both nights at least on the weekend, but the 5-6 minute show is pretty lame by Disney standards.  No 20 minute "Believe in Holiday Magic" with snowfall or "Happily Ever After" with castle projections and music in January!  Haunted Mansion and Astro Orbiter were closed, as was Grizzly River Run.  You couldn't walk through the castle.  Really not too big of a deal.

Weather--Well, I don't really see why this is any different in December versus January--but this time we got it--RAIN.  It hardly ever rains in Southern California, but rain it did this weekend.  It rained about two hours Saturday morning at a steady pour that one would want to avoid, even with umbrellas and proper rain gear, which we all had, and then again for some time near the dinner hour.  As with any trip you take if you have half a brain, it is critical to watch the forecast carefully.  We knew at least a week in advance that rain was in the forecast but would not be bad enough to cause us to cancel, which we considered. We used this link for the forecast.  All in our family were required to carry collapsible umbrellas and ponchos.  The Disney ponchos sold at the park are garbage and cost a fortune.  I am much more partial to this little gem from REI.  The only thing that is nearly unavoidable is getting your feet wet.  Though it would have been helpful, it is not very practical to carry rainboots.
The cold is a real thing too.  The temperature did not get much above 62.  We all wore jeans and long sleeve shirts and light weight down jackets pretty much the whole time were were there.  I had mittens and a scarf and I was plenty pleased I had those as well.  It was not unbearable but it certainly was not warm.  My son insisted on Splash Mountain and we all obliged and after getting wet it was quite chilly.


One thing is for sure, Disney fashion is a real thing. I could probably do a blog post on this subject alone.   I would venture to guess that about 75% of the guests at Disneyland on any given day are wearing some type of Disney wear.  It is hard to describe the variety--it's not all about watches and Mickey Mouse Tshirts anymore.  I've seen ladies with adorable self created Snow White and Alice in Wonderland creations.  Plenty of families go the the custom T shirt route, think Disney Mom, Disney Dad, Disney Uncle, Grandma's B-day disney trip, etc.  Little girls are dolled up straight from the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique.  Lots of Etsy and mall created Tshirts combine Starbucks and Disney, sports and Disney, or label members of couples as "Beauty" and "Beast."  You get the point.  People are into it.  All my Disney clothes were T shirts, so I figured I wasn't wearing anything Disney this year besides my mouse ears.  Just a few strolls through strategically placed stores and this usually thrifty GoFamily Mom had picked out a cute long sleeve jersey to wear the next day.
You can find any article of clothing you want, but the big three right now seem to be Mouse Ears, Jerseys, and mini backpacks.

MOUSE EARS:  Remember the $6.99 black plastic ears with your name embroidered on the back??  I honestly did not see a place you could get those and I didn't see anyone wearing them.  Ear headbands are the big thing now and you can get whatever you want, silver, rose gold, Christmas colors, basic black with the red bow, the variety is endless. The latest colors are purple potion and millenial pink and they are popular, almost like people bought them that day!  Mouse ears are adorable and everyone wears them--not so much the guys, but I hear in Tokyo Disney even the guys wear the headbands!  These run about 28$ at the souvenir stores.  A lot of people (including my daughter, who made Pooh, Peter Pan and Sully themed ears) make their own or order unique ears from craft sites such as Etsy.  Anyway, ears aren't cheap and like where else do you wear them but they are a fun way to express yourself. I never go to Disneyland without my basic blacks!

SPIRIT JERSEYS:  The next thing in winter wear seems to be the long sleeved spirit jersey, available in both men and women's sizes in a variety of colors, including purple to match the purple potion ears you just bought.  I don't know what is particularly "spirit" about these jerseys.  It is basically an oversized long sleeved T shirt with the Disneyland logo across the back of the shoulders.  Oh, maybe that's why they call it a jersey...hmm. Ok.  Well yeah they are cute and all but they are 66$!  At least you can wear it in public outside of Disneyland and not be committed to the looney bin...but you probably won't.

MINI BACKPACKS:  Well you want to talk about creative Disney wear?  The Loungefly mini back is pretty much the mother of all Disney souvenirs now and many many a lady Disney fan, including my own daughter, was carrying a new Loungefly bag.  Most are themed with subtle patterns and accessories specific to Star Wars, Belle, Alice, Mickey, Moana, Disney Villianesses, you name it.  Some bags have bows or ears or other such appendages to make them specific to the character they represent.  Not all patterns are available in the park at any specific time but there are about 50 varieties available on Amazon.  I bought one for my daughter for Christmas and she met with plenty of admirers.  The newest styles are bags covered in sequins in the popular purple potion or millenial pink with ears attached.  Dang these bags are CUTE and hard to resist, BUT the top sellers are 90$.  If you want one, I would say to pick one that's a bit more subtle, because a 90$ bag you can only use in the park is pretty much a waste of money.

I kid you not I saw ladies with the Purple potion collection:  ears, jersey and back pack.  $184 plus tax.  Disney fashion is an expensive venture!
If ya want it all this is your ensemble!!

This purse for 90$ is my favorite, but it's not
like I can carry this around at the mall, so I skipped it

Honestly, my son has 3 15$ Disney Tshirts from Target and another from a store in Hawaii.  No need to go crazy and sell the house.  But when in Rome, dress like a Roman!!


Well, Pixar Pier is new!  It's not all that exciting but I would say the changes are fun and positive.  The old California Screaming now is called the Incredicoaster and has some Incredibles theming that my kids had to point out after I rode it for the second time. It's the same fabulous roller coaster and had me screaming and laughing my head off.
A GREAT new restaurant, the Lamplight Cafe, replaced Ariel's Grotto.  The Yelp reviews were not fab on this but I chalk this up to people expecting culinary masterpieces in the Disney Parks.  The concept is original.  The outdoor seating is more like bar seating than dinner seating.  I loved sipping my yummy beer and eating my lobster nachos spread out on a little love seat while the sun descended over Pixar Pier.  Super relaxing!  My family shared Potato skins, the carne asada roll, the lobster nachos, and a couple sandwiches.  Sitting down and being served in a restaurant is a MUST in any Disney day we plan.  Another plus to the Lamplight Cafe..no characters interrupting your meal.  I would definitely come here again.
Fun Lounge-type seating at the Lamplight Cafe
(and all except my husband are wearing Disney shirts!)

...and the view from the restaurant is not bad either

Another first for us was eating dinner in the Storyteller's Cafe at the Grand Californian.  It was raining and so cold outside, and what did Storyteller's Cafe have??  A fireplace!!  Nice!  Anyway, dinner at Storyteller's Cafe is a full buffet of good food, chicken chowder, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, chicken adobo, and of course carved prime rib.  There are oodles of desserts including a bowl full of scooped ice cream if you knew who to ask.  Bomb.  My son had two hot chocolates and another one to go.  We all had coffee to go.  Another dinner with no characters (breakfast has characters) and another plus of no characters is that your buffet costs less.  Dinner here was $35.  At Goofy's Kitchen it's $43.

Okay just a few more cool tidbits in my very long post.  Matterhorn now has FastPass as does Small World.  Matterhorn, Dumbo, and Space Mountain all made some queue changes.  Small World was the only ride still decorated for Christmas in mid-January, which I enjoyed.  A lot of the showrooms have additional lights, all LED now, and some added features which gave more to look at without looking cluttered.  And last and least, Pirates of the Caribbean made the PC change we all new was coming  For my comments on this I refer you to my blog post about Disney World from last year.

That's it!  Now let's enjoy some pictures!!

The Matterhorn queue has had some work done

Jackets, sweatshirts, and MOUSE EARS necessary!

Thought this was cute at the Lamplight Cafe

One year ago, but everyone in Disney gear!
My son is in one of the Target Tshirts..

No Disney night is complete without fireworks!

Thank you for reading this post!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Walt Disney Family Museum San Francisco, CA October 8, 2018

A little over two years ago I won four adult admissions to the Walt Disney Family Museum at a charity event silent auction.  The tickets had no expiration date and I thought this would be a great experience for our Disneyphile family.  The trick was that our Disney loving family actually has five members.  Saturdays and Sundays are full of sports and church activities and Mondays (the day I don't work) during the school vacation quickly filled with day camp and summer jobs, so we found it very hard to actually use our prize!  The window finally opened on a Monday my two remaining highschoolers had a day off school and my husband had off for Columbus Day.  Though we probably should have used the day to look at a college for my junior, off to the city we went.

First of all I must say that the setting is absolutely lovely. The address is 104 Montgomery Street, right in the middle of the Presidio.  The museum is set right there facing a gorgeous lawn area.  The "back" of the museum, an exhibition hall that houses rotating exhibits, faces the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay.  On this particular day, the water was full of boats and the sky was clear, just gorgeous.

The adult admission is 30$.  The youth ticket (6-17 year of age) is half that and students and seniors receive a small discount.  This includes general admission to the museum plus admission to the rotating exhibit housed in the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall, a few short steps away.  The price is 5$ less is you chose to leave out the rotating exhibit, however, the exhibit, at least in our case is worthwhile, and worth the extra few dollars

The museum is not about Disneyland.  It is purely about the history of Walt Disney, his personal life and his empire.  Disneyland opened in 1955 and a heck of a lot happened before then. The museum chronicles in meticulously labeled pictures and documents Walt's humble beginnings on a farm in Illinois, his time spent in the war, and his move to Hollywood.  Then it was onto the development of his first drawn character, Oswald, which, though swindled from him in a bad business deal, became the inspiration for Mickey Mouse.

Walt used animators to start stringing pictures together to create short films featuring his characters.  It was amazing to see how in the complete absense of technology, the short films worked and were successful.  Short films added sound and then color.  In 1932 Disney won his first academy award for Best Short Film (Cartoon) for his creation, Flowers and Trees.

Not long after, Disney embarked upon his greatest adventure yet, the full length motion picture Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  He got plenty of pushback from those who said no one would go to the theater to watch a 90 minute cartoon.  The film was released to the public in 1938, and was a critical success, and to this day, adjusted for inflation, is among the top ten North American performers.  Though Snow White did not receive an Academy award in 1939, Walt Disney received a special award for screen innovation that year, especially fun as it was presented as one large statue and seven mini statues.

The room describing the animation of Snow White is again amazing, particularly the development of the dwarfs and their individual characters.  Animators watched live figures to see how Snow White's skirt might flow when dancing, or how a squirrel might run across a room.  My favorite is the way they watched a fat man dance to simulate how Happy's tummy might bounce while dancing a spirited jig.
After the success of Snow White, it was off to the races for Walt Disney.  Along came Dumbo, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Bambi, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland.  He started to make live action movies without animation like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Old Yeller.  Then came the movies that combined animation and live action, like Song of the South and of course, Mary Poppins.
One particularly cool document is Walt's typed letter to Julie Andrews asking her to consider the part of Mary Poppins.

The upstairs winds down to an Walt's full scale imagining of Disneyland as it was to look on opening day. This a sight to behold and it's fun to see how many rides you can recognize and see their change in location from 1955.  From here we get to see technology from a lot of the original rides (animatronics were a Disney invention), the evolution of tickets, and thoughts for the future.  We also see the evolution of The Mickey Mouse Club, the Sunday night classic The Wonderful World of Disney and all the live action classics, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the Parent Trap, Freaky Friday, Herbie the Love Bug...  How many can you name???

Walt Disney passed away after a short and sudden illness in late 1966 at the age of 65 .  The last room is poignantly dedicated to how the world mourned.

Though we all know that the Disney legacy goes far beyond the date of Walt Disney's death, I find it quite suitable that the museum, which makes itself a celebration of the life of the king rather than his kingdom, closes its story in this way.

The Main Building also houses a movie theater which plays changing Disney films, some that are quite obscure.  While we were there, I believe it was the 1949 movie The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,  that was playing.  Currently, it is Fun and Fancy Free and Make Mine Music, among others featured this month.  The film screenings are an extra charge of 10$ for an adult and 8$ for a youth 6-17.

The Main Building also has a cafe and a pretty good gift shop that I would almost classify as a bookstore.
Returning to my previous mention of the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall, the current featured exhibit (which will run through January 7) is titled Walt Disney's Nine Old Men: Masters of Animation.  The exhibit is a collection of sketches, concept art, first drafts of each of Walt's main animators.  Each enclave is dedicated to one animator.  Animators were responsible for the development of certain characters and the exhibit shows how a lot of these characters evolved.

Anyway, I think I have gushed about this museum enough.  It is delightfully done and well worth the time and the money.  I highly recommend it to all Disney enthusiast!

And now for some pictures!  I clearly did not take all of these but found them on the internet.

This is one of my favorites.
Walt Disney and Shirley Temple, circa 1939

Meet the Nine Old Men!

Lots of sketches such as these in the Nine Old Men exhibit

Clear skies over San Francisco Bay

Thank you Walt Disney!

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