Haven’t Been Around…

I haven’t been around in a bit, but I’m here to remedy that. Recently, Matt and I went on a cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy. Spectacular barely comes close to explaining our trip.

Saturday, we boarded the vessel after a trip from Disney’s Old Key West Resort via the Disney Cruise Line charter bus. It was cool, figuratively and literally. There was a Disney video, with classic cartoons, music, and trivia. The driver was congenial and humorous as he made small talk in the lulls of video. Kids, eager to embark on their adventures were giddy with excitement. The teens even put their phones down long enough to laugh at the cartoon shorts and yell out some of the trivia answers. To say the bus was abuzz would be correct. Needless to say, I was cautiously optimistic.

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Upon arrival, our carry-on luggage in tow, we entered the cruise terminal and proceeded to check in. From there, we entered the portal.

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Seems legit, right?

After walking up the gangplank to the main hall, we were not only welcomed with the glitz and glamour of the 1920’s-30’s Art Nouveau style, but the cast members announced us to the entire vessel. I told them that they were very welcome, and that the party had indeed arrived.

Here are two chandeliers, both oddly reminiscent of sea anemonae:

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What they fail to mention in all of the lead-up, is that at each staircase, on each landing, there is artwork from various animated Disney and Disney-Pixar films. Like this lovely impressionist piece from Ratatouille:

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(This is on the 11 1/2th floor landing at the aft just before you get to the Remy/Palo area of the ship.

NOTE: Don’t book Remy the 1st half of your cruise. Or Palo for that matter. Even though Disney’s level of service is the industry’s diamond standard, enjoying either of these two restaurants before you’ve had a dinner rotation at any of the three main dining rooms is setting yourself up for disappointment. (We had Remy for dinner the first evening and Palo for brunch the following morning.)

Here are some photos from our trip:

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For Brian Patrick Flynn… bc He’s awesome, and I can’t figure out another way.

For Brian Patrick Flynn… bc He’s awesome, and I can’t figure out another way.

So over the weekend, whilst we were at THE Epcot Centre, I found myself watching a “Mobile Gardens” mini-seminar by THE Mr. Brian Patrick Flynn. Anywho, somewhere in his very upbeat, energetic and fun-filled talk, I blurted out about how we’d acid-stained the cement floors in our home. One thing led to another, and now I’m trying to figure out how to get these photos over to him.

Here goes….

Now, this was all the acid staining.

These first three were the “pre-poly” shots:

These next few are after the poly coat:

Since Decosup is no longer distributing ChemTone acid stain (http://www.decosup.com/acid_stain.html), I had to do some research when a friend of mine decided to stain her floors.

What I found was McKinnon Materials (around the Tampa area) distributes (and REALLY fast shipping, too!!!!) a Chromastain (http://mckinnonmaterials.com/our_products/chromastain.html) in basic colours. The good news is that this is an acrylic stain, so the colours can be mixed without fear of a chemical reaction AND it’s super easy. Only thing gross is the cleanup needs to be done w/ Xylene or Acetone if it dries on your skin (or so I’ve found.)

The colours available are:

Forest Green

Sierra Black

Mesa Brown

Orchard Orange/Red

Rustic Yellow

Royal Blue

Heart Red

Now for the technical stuff:

WE used Rustic Yellow and from the sample pack, the samples of Heart Red, Orchard Orange, Mesa Brown and Sierra Black. We got a bunch of hand-spray bottles, put the different colours in each and added some of their reducer. (Think, acrylic paint extender) and put the Rustic Yellow in a large, pesticide sprayer. First, we walked around the outside perimeter of the room, working from the far wall to the doorway with the large sprayer of Rustic Yellow. Before we got too far away from the walls, we hand-sprayed the differing colours of Heart Red, Orchard Orange, Mesa Brown and Sierra Black to mottle the appearance of the floor. This process continued until the floor was coated thoroughly. As the surface was drying, we carefully walked back through, adding splashes of the stain in a more direct way. (The colour was straight from the bottle, so much more concentrated.) We THEN added reducer to an empty hand spray bottle and re-coated the entire surface as to lightly diffuse the edges of the concentrated stain drops and splashes. After drying, we used a swiffer pad and sprayed a light coat of Poly to the surface with the large sprayer, walked back through, swiping the surface w/ the swiffer mop pad to gently coat everything. We waited for the dry to happen, then repeated two more coats of the Poly and the floor was gorgeous and looked like this:

(These pics are from my friend’s home. These were taken from a 2nd floor balcony of the entire floor.)

Now, I just realised that I keep saying “Poly” but for the second project, we actually used McKinnon’s “Crystal Coat” which is a 100% acrylic floor sealer. It’s a “single component, shake well”, situation in lieu of the “mix part A/ part B, use fast” situation as with most Urethanes. So, win-win.

Email me if’n you want at drkvbailey@gmail.com

Go Raibh Maith Agat! (Thanks!)

UK Pavilion: Great place for historians and families alike. (Part one)

Tomes would be written about the attractions at Epcot oft-times bypassing the minutiae of the architecture that evokes these feelings of nostalgia and giddiness for travel. My goal is to bring to light the small in order to give the traveler better vantage of the entire picture.

Now we shall move along our tour onto our stop in Epcot’s United Kingdom. This particular “country” has a bit of a bittersweet twinge for me. My family hails from Ireland (originally, however there was a “brief” history through Australia) and though a lot of the “troubles” have ended, the fact that Northern Ireland is represented alongside Scotland, Wales and England will always be a sticking point. (Yes, I understand that this really has no bearing on the land’s layout at Epcot, it’s just a personal gripe of mine.) In any case, shall we?

As we approach the UK from Canada, we find the Eastern façade Sportsman’s Shoppe, a building very much like that of Hampton Court, (modeled after it, so rightfully so!) a Tudor/Baroque style building.

(Hampton Court)

These two styles are due largely to the fact that the palace was begun by Cardinal Wolsey (Chief Minister to Henry VIII- Henry Tudor) and William III began the later renovations after those of the Palace at Versailles in the Baroque style. The work at Hampton Court was stopped in 1694, leaving these two contrasting styles co-habitating and much like most places within WDW they still work extraordinarily well together.

(Sportsman’s Shoppe, East Façade)

We also find a mail drop, a telly booth area and a water feature on the approach to the north side of the pavilion just before the short garden in front of the building itself.

I just recently took notice of this fountain outside of the WC area here. (At first glance, not too incredibly interesting, however, on further review, the spout of said fountain is highly suggestive of a nearby resort. Care to venture a guess which?) Well yes, much like many other renaissance depictions of dolphins, this beaked fish is purportedly our friendly mereswine. (The artistic obtuseness has always creeped me out a bit. This is certainly no exception.) You’ll also take note of the rose spouts on the base of the fountain. This is the representation of White Rose of York (not the Red Rose of Lancaster, which has two petals at the top, not one) is not really significant to current day royals, seeing as how the current monarchy is from the House of Windsor. However the two roses were merged together after the War of the Roses to form the Tudor rose, which is only significant to the architectural style of this façade. (Yorkshire day is on my birthday, coincidentally.) Prince Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, consort is the Duke of York. Prince Henry will be accorded the title of Andrew predeceased him. It makes my head spin. Have you had enough royal history? Me too.

Shall we move on?

As we crest the square, we see the Southern façade of Sportsman’s Shoppe. This was modeled after Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford Manor House. (Not to be too cheeky, but Scott “borrowed” the sculpted stones from abbeys and ruined castles across Scotland for his building materials… I suppose I should also note that this has been done for thousands of years across Ireland, the British Isles and most of Europe. It just seems harsh.)

(Sportsman’s Shoppe, South façade)

(Abbotsford Manor House)

I would be remiss without mentioning the window on this façade. The crests represent England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. When overlaid onto one another, they form the Union Jack, or flag of the United Kingdom (Great Britain, etc…)

I’ve always felt that this building felt like two, now I understand why. I think 400 years was nearly too much to try to mush together. The other buildings in this pavilion work nearly seamlessly, however this one is much more choppy. In any case, gentle reader, I hope to have enlightened you about this small section of the UK pavilion, and have much more to come.

(As a side note, bring back the Man U kits!!!!)

I leave you with this,

“…But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy….” Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”, 1785

Canadian Pixie Dust

Beginning in Canada and working our way counter-clockwise to Mexico, each of the eleven countries showcased has a distinct architectural style and time-line. Of the countries in The World Showcase, Canada’s vast expanses and diverse architecture, population and culture make it a perfect starting point for this trek. “Oh, Canada!” as the song goes, or as the poet A.M. Klein once penned:

another planet, the better to look
with single camera view upon this earth —
its total scope, and each afflated tick,
Its talk, its trick, its tracklessness — and this,
this, he would like to write down in a book! (“Portrait of the Poet as Landscape”, 1948)

Canada itself has quite a distinctive aesthetic that lends itself to the Imagineers for design and creation of this lush landscape and story-telling device. In fact, there are five distinctive areas of this pavilion. Most people bypass the entrance to the gardens and Le Cellier, (amazing steakhouse!) and automatically are driven to the front entrance to this pavilion where they are greeted with the façade of an outpost/frontier-like foreground. This log-cabin archetypal store is highly expressive of the period of expansion that came with the Canadian gold rush (1859;1896). This specific style of architecture draws on the human psychological need for adventure and exploration. The building style is quite impromptu and almost seems as though a visitor could feel the chill of the arctic winds blowing through the cracks in the mortar between the wooden slat rails of the walls and shaking the thin-paned glass windows on a particularly blustery night.

Moving further into pavilion, the influence from the First-Nations’ aboriginal tribes around the Pacific Northwest is felt via the longhouse or Haida (dependent on the tribe, but the one in Epcot’s Canada pavilion is reminiscent of a Haida to me) adjacent to the Northwest Mercantile. The door of the Haida is actually another entrance to the same Mercantile, although it is marked “Trading Post” quite specifically. (The font used for the Trading Post -“Cooper Black” when paired with the Mercantile’s “Playbill” reminds me of the kitschy “Indian” tipis along the winding roads in the Appalachian Mountains during the late 70’s-80’s, but that’s another story.) The visitor will take particular notice of the Totem Poles and their prominence. The main totem is a 30-foot “Story” pole by Tsimshian carver, David Boxley from Metlakatla, Alaska, was done on site (or in situ) finished and installed in 1998. (Well, close to in situ, in any case.) This allowed some interaction with the artist and guests, and having experienced this first-hand, was pretty magical. I’ve heard of totem carvings, I’ve seen finished ones and those in various stages of ruin/decay, however to have a world-renowned Totem carver in my midst, it was something otherworldly.  Boxley is also the creator of the Totem Mask wall. (For more information on the Raven Trickster Story that inspired this totem, please email me.)

Progressing deeper into the space, the visitor is brought into a small maritime provincial village at the base of the Hotel du Canada. (Two distinct styles inhabiting the same space is a design element we will notice at other places, as well.) The maritime traditions and intrepid spirit brought to Canada from Irish, Scottish and Scandinavian settlers in addition to those of the First Nations are depicted not so subtly as we round the corner and get a glimpse of Salmon Island and the “Rocky Mountains”.

The hotel, when viewed as Victorian era chateau-styled architecture, is such a stunning example of the Imagineer’s attention to detail. Right down to the patina of the metal roof and the corbelling of the limestone. The hotel is actually inspired from the Ottawan hotel, Chateau Laurier. (Albeit a downscaled version)

Look similar?

Lastly we find our way leaving the pavilion through the winding walkway, willowed path of Victoria Gardens (inspired by the Butchart Gardens near Victoria, BC.)

Tucked away near the back of the gardens is a tiny stone cottage. This is something highly evocative of an English stone cottage with its shake-shingle roof and white-linen curtains, and which, in my mind, brings us out of Canada and headed in the direction of our next stop along the World Showcase….

407-WDW-DINE.

For those of you (along with us) who enjoy frequenting the House of Mouse on and around the winter holiday season, I have a few pointers to keep you and your family from pulling your hair out, and otherwise having a miserable time.

One: You should’ve had your dining reservations for sit-down restaurants about 6 months ago. Sad to say, but gone are the days when you could walk right up to the reception desk at Liberty Tree on Thanksgiving morning and enjoy the sound of the host or hostess greeting you with, “When would you like to dine with us.” Now, if you try this, you’re most likely to hear, “Sorry, but there aren’t any openings.” What’s more, is that a lot of people will tell you to just go up to the desk when you’d like to dine, and they may have an opening. They’re partially right. The restaurant of your choosing MAY have an opening, just like there MAY not be a wait at Toy Story’s Midway Mania. Bottom line? Pre-Planning, EARLY, is always your best bet. (*Side note: if you’re not going to USE your reservation and you KNOW you’re not going to, do the good thing and cancel it. There are tons of people at the park and chances are, they’re all hungry.)

Two: Stay on property. There are more than the adequate amount of rooms at the Disney Resort. But you need to make plans to stay there to take advantage of the perks they have to offer. I don’t know why anyone would ever stay off property. Even if you’re planning on visiting one of the other theme parks in the Orlando Metro Area (*gasp!*), you still get free parking at all the Disney parks, and that is a perk in and of itself. Disney’s Value Resorts are running at $105-125/night for a family of four. Not too shabby for Orlando during peak season.

Three: Go grocery shopping for breakfast items. I’m fairly certain that most of the rooms (Even the Value Resorts) all have refrigerators and microwaves. Grab a box of cereal, a gallon of milk, some fresh fruits and some popcorn for snacking. This will be much, MUCH cheaper than eating breakfast in the parks, even if you’re paying for Disney Dining.

Four: Be prepared to have fun. Don’t bring your outside world into Disney World. Sarcasm, cynicism and jaded adult sensibilities have their place, but when kids of all ages are trying to get wrapped up in the magic of Disney, it just isn’t needed. It is hard for kids to enjoy being kids, astounded by “magical” gatherings and “fairies”, when you’re making snarky comments in the background. No one expects you to believe in them, but please, be a kid again for once.

Five: Leave your teen’s short-shorts at home. Especially when you’re at the Magic Kingdom. The slutty, “prosti-tot” clothes aren’t appropriate for anyone. Even moms who’ve missed the memo that dressing like their daughters was never En Vogue.

Be polite to one another. Brush up on some etiquette and use some good, old-fashioned common sense.

~Fred

What do you do when it’s cold/rainy/hot/humid, etc….?

To be honest, there is tons of stuff to do when trying to ward off the nasties. This is applicable everywhere, but especially at Disney. I’ve been visiting the Mouse’s House for this side of 30 years and it just never gets old for me. Why? Well, we keep it fresh.

How does one accomplish such a thing? Planning, common sense, patience and a sense of humour. That’s where most people go wrong. They forget that this is supposed to be fun for EVERYONE. Even people you don’t even know. Even people you don’t even like. It takes a little doing, but when you look on the parks as a place of endless possibilities, magic and adventure, that outlook makes you see the people and events in the parks as extraordinary. This is a HOLIDAY, people! It should be amazing! I like to people watch. I am highly observant and this has gotten me through more lines and waiting than all the corn dogs and Coca-Colas in my life. That’s where the “I wanna” game came from. “I wanna” is something we hear from little kids shooting off rapid-fire demands at their parents for the quickly forgotten promise of good behaviour and quiet, but this “I wanna” is something a bit different.

I shall explain: The first person, (The youngest) gets to “I wanna” first. As in, “I wanna see three people with the R2-D2 Mouse ears on.” This forces everyone in line with your group to people watch until that “wanna” is exhausted. The next youngest’s “I wanna” gets thrown out into the world and the group does a people watch until they’ve satisfied that demand. Obviously, this is a much different spin on things, but what it does is force everyone in the group to become active participants in observation and human interaction. It allows every one of the group to satisfy the basic human need for voyeurism. Favourite “I wanna” of all time: “I wanna” see a group of 4 big guys* walking around in bright orange, family reunion shirts. I had seen this earlier in the day, but my “niece” found them this time, lickety-split. It was so hilarious when she YELLED out, “ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! There they are!!!!!” The guys turned around, blankly trying to figure out what was going on, but everyone in line got it and started dying laughing. It was awesome. (*big guy is anyone older than 8; little guy, alternately, is anyone younger than 8.)

Another bit of advise: If you see something funny, journal it or take a photo. I always have a journal with me, either for sketching or logging funny stuff I’ve heard or seen. For instance, my last “Pixie Dust” post about hilarious kids. (Don’t worry, there will be lots more of that to come.)

All advise aside, we love heading over to “Rafiki’s Planet Watch” for a little anthropomorphic fun. Find an awesome animal face that really “speaks” to you and mimic away. We humans REALLY relate to things with faces, so this should be a no-brainer.

Example:

But what happens when my kids are whingey because the weather is disgusting? Slow down and enjoy the weather. Make it part of the overall experience. Cold? Think of the snows you could be in if Disney were in the Arctic? Rainy? That’s nothing compared to monsoon season in Asia! Hot? You’re not in a desert. Humid? …well, “3 out of four ain’t bad”.

Example: Cold AND Rainy? Sure, no one wants it to be gross on their big holiday to Disney. But if it happens (and it DOES happen), you need to be prepared both physically (all of the weather needs) and mentally (whinging notwithstanding). “But, Fred,” you’re asking, “Florida’s weather changes like the moods of Pele! How on earth can we plan for all of this when we’re flying in from (insert far-off place here)?” Simple answer: You can’t.; My answer: Do the best with the information you’ve got and remember to use some common sense. If you’re traveling to Florida from June-September, there is more than a good chance that it is going to rain on you at some point. That’s what happens here. Bring your own poncho from home. They’re tiny and easy to pack. And, where ever you’re from, they’re much cheaper there than in the parks. Not visiting during the Summer? The rest of the time, bring a sweat-shirt/hoodie, at least one pair of jeans, some sunscreen (EVEN IN THE WINTER!!!) and a refillable water bottle.
Hopefully I’ve shed a little light and a few complete thoughts on this subject. I’ll try to keep up with this, for all of you who are reading. :D

Be polite to one another. Brush up on some etiquette and use some good, old-fashioned common sense.

~Fred

M-I-C-K-E-Y HILAR-I-O-U-S

So, now that you’ve heard my gripes, I think you should hear my likes.

One:

3-year-old boy, whilst standing next to a 90+ wheel-chair bound woman, both watching the parade lines form, says, “Hey! I like your hat!” The lady looks at the boy, cuts her eyes up as if she forgot that she was even wearing a hat, realised that she was and then looks back at the boy. She smiles, gently and says, “Thank you, young man. Your hat is pretty snazzy, too.” The boy, grabbed his sides, and started stomping his foot and laughing. They were wearing the same hat.

Two:

Kids are all crowded around, looking at something on the ground. I, for the life of me, can’t figure out what is going on. The huddle of kids starts moving from the middle of the sidewalk, to a grassy area. As I get closer, I realise that they’re following something. It was a lizard, and according to their giggles, they were protecting it from the sun. One of the kids looked up after the lizard made it safely to the grass, said, “Whew, that was close! He didn’t even have sunscreen on!” I love the way kids think! :D

Three:

I absolutely LOVE The Monsters, Inc™ show It is SO funny to watch the kids who have never seen it before. SO awesome.

The world needs to learn from its children. They can laugh, see the good in people and above all else, enjoy the small stuff.

Things like this make me proud to be a human.

Be polite to one another. Brush up on some etiquette and use some good, old-fashioned common sense.

~Fred