All posts by Tina

Walt Disney World Vacations – Let’s Agree To Disagree

Cinderella Castle ~ Photo taken by T.M. Brown
Cinderella Castle ~ Photo taken by T.M. Brown

I get it.  Not everyone  is going to like Walt Disney World (WDW) and many will go to great lengths to complain incessantly about the changes being made over time in order to justify their dislike.   The new FastPass+ system is inconvenient.  The cost is too much.  It’s too crowded.   The Cast Members are rude and don’t care.   At some point or another, sure, those are all going to be true.   The company is run by humans, is it not?   However, since our very first family vacation to Walt Disney World in 2007, I have been smitten with this vacation destination and I honestly cannot find another place on earth I would rather make special memories with my family – and we have been coast to coast as a former military family.  I have grown to appreciate the streamlined FastPass+ system (and other changes), understand that it costs to run such an enormous resort and have made some amazing friends in some of the Cast Members . In all honesty, I have found it is all about the mindset you create when you go on vacation to WDW.   Do you want to have a good time?  Are you expecting others to provide that for you or are you ready to create that yourself? Continue reading Walt Disney World Vacations – Let’s Agree To Disagree

Beginning the New Year Recovering

No doubt there are many who are recovering today, the first day of 2016, after a long night of celebrating the old and ringing in the new. There are those nursing a hangover, while others are simply catching up on some much needed sleep lost during the holiday season.  However, my particular recovery is a bit different and more frustrating for me as I am lying on the couch having just undergone abdominal surgery.   I said goodbye to 2015 and welcomed 2016 barely awake, pumped up on anti-inflammatory medications and hoping that I can coherently make some resolutions in order to feel as though I started the New Year off on the right foot.

photo taken by B.J. Turley
photo taken by B.J. Turley

What adds to the excitement of the story is that our firstborn son was born on New Year’s Eve, so celebrating this holiday has not been the same since 1999.   I love remembering his arrival, the last baby born in the 1900s in our particular hospital, and I love making his day memorable and unforgettable.  At the same time, while I’m constantly battling the need to ensure his celebration is magical,  I’m also trying to ensure that I am closing the book correctly for the year ending and starting the new book with the best opening line possible.

Even facing the above circumstances, however, I still managed to toast the New Year with my three boys, hubby and Ryan Seacrest last night, as well as resolve this morning that I truly need to do a few things differently in 2016.   The past 365 days were riddled with stress and I don’t want this year to carry the same emotional burden (though, mind you, I know my situation is far better than those many of my friends had to face).  Oh, there were amazing moments and most of those belong to my boys (for which I am beyond grateful).  I, like many others, simply like to look at the first day of a new year as a new start.  What can be improved upon? What can be changed? What differences can be made?  Well, first and foremost, I need to recover physically and improve upon myself health-wise.  Though this surgery was more of an inherited problem that was unfortunately inevitable, I still recognize that there are things I need to do better in order to continue making those impressionable footprints with my family.  I also realize that I need to recover from my slump and get back into writing.   An unexpected and encouraging word just as the year was closing confirmed this even more.   I also feel that I need to reengage with friends I have made over the last year or two that have truly had an impact in my life, as well as those I have known for years that I’ve allowed distance and time to separate from me.   Oh, the list goes on and on…….I’m sure yours does, as well.

But for now, I simply need to recover.   I will get absolutely nowhere if I do not allow myself the opportunity to sit back, relax, breathe and allow my body and mind to heal from the recent trauma it incurred.   No, that’s not me.  I’m a go-getter, a must-do type of person.  This being held hostage on my livingroom furniture is driving me stir-crazy.  Of course, perhaps this is how I need to see my 2016.   Perhaps 2016 is simply going to be my Year of Recovery.

Until I am able to take my next step…

A Trek in Wild Africa

From the desk of Aaryn…

Aaryn being geared up ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown
Aaryn being geared up ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown

Our family has been to Walt Disney World quite a number of times since 2007.   Our most recent trip took place in August 2015.   As usual, the entire family had a fantastic time, yet my experience was even better.  As a late birthday present, my mother took me on a certain tour in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park called the Wild Africa Trek.  It was a behind-the-scenes look at Kilimanjaro Safari, the popular Walt Disney World attraction that takes you on a bumpy ride through some of Africa’s most beautiful savannas.  The tour was three hours long and became the best three hours of my life.

Hans, the Hippo - taken by Disney PhotoPass Photographer
Hans, the Hippo – taken by Disney PhotoPass Photographer

Ear pieces were given to each of us as we began our adventure so that, no matter where we were, we could hear the guides talk about the animals and environment.  The tour provided wonderful up-close views of some of the safari’s best animals.  We saw crocodiles, zebras, giraffes, and even got to see a hippo eat!

First of two rope bridges on the Wild Africa Trek ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown
First of two rope bridges on the Wild Africa Trek ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown

Another great part was the rope bridge. There were two and one spanned a small pond filled with crocodiles, making you feel as if you could fall at any moment.  The bridge was so realistic that there were actually missing boards!  Of course, for safety reasons, all trekkers wear clips that are attached to lines above them that keep them from falling.  My mom seemed a little nervous as she crossed.  Me?  Not so much.

After an hour and a half of watching animals, it was time to eat! Depending on what tour you took, morning or afternoon, you either get breakfast or lunch.  We had lunch and I have to say it was amazing!  The food was delicious and, not to mention, they had my favorite drink, Jungle juice, a blend of several fruit juices.

(Photos above include Jungle Juice on the right.  The center photo is chicken curry salad, fresh fruit marinated in mint and ginger, and air-dried beef and prosciutto.  The last picture on the right is salmon roulade with dill, sun-dried tomato hummus with pita, and marinated tandoori shrimp ~ all photos taken by my mom, T.M. Brown)

After we ate, we saw several more animals before the trek ended. We handed in our equipment, personally selected a charity for a portion of our tour costs to fund, and received a special PhotoPass that had hundreds of pictures taken by the Cast Members during the trip.   All in all, the tour was probably my favorite experience at Walt Disney World.

Thanks for reading and be sure to read my next blog, Hoop-Dee-Do, here’s my review!

See you next step,


PS – check out these great Cast Members!  Paola, Bryn and Karen made the tour even better!

Paola and Bryn - Wild Africa Trek tour guides Karen - CM Wild Africa Trek tour guide

Scavenger Hunt: Mission…Blue Tag!

During our last few trips to Walt Disney World Resort (we like to call it “home”), I decided to go on a scavenger hunt.  No, I wasn’t looking for sorcerer cards, hidden Mickeys or even certain Characters.  Well, “characters” is debatable, I suppose.  I was actually in search of Cast Members with blue name tags.  Have you seen them?  They are not very easy to find, or at least they hadn’t been for me over the years.  This past trip, however, I determined that I was going to find myself someone boasting a blue tag and find out his/her story.  Boy, was I in for a magical adventure!

Every Cast Member (CM) wears a name tag.  In fact, it is considered one of the most valuable pieces of one’s costume.  Should a CM lose or arrive at work without his/her name tag, he/she is handed one to use for the time it takes to make a new one (and, apparently, there are only TWO PEOPLE who make the name tags for the entire Cast – TWO!).  The funny thing about that temporary name tag?  It has a completely different name on it!  For the time it takes to make a new tag, the CM takes on one of two preselected personas (we’ll keep those two names secret)…and that CM is always from Orlando, Florida!  Of course, now you know I’m in search of those name tags, as well!

Blue tags are issued only by award.  They cannot be purchased, nor can be they be earned for years of service.  They are solely distributed after a committee of peers has reviewed various accolades and commendations made by other Cast Members.  These commendations emphasize this particular individual’s service to the company and/or Guests as outstanding and exceptional.   This is what makes this person so fascinating to me.  Can you believe I found THREE people this past trip wearing blue name tags?  I thought I had hit a treasure chest filled with Pixie Dust!!!

Robin - photo taken by T.M. Brown
Robin – photo taken by T.M. Brown

The first person I actually met donning one of these tags is the individual I want to highlight later in this piece, but I cannot go without mentioning the other two Cast Members.  Having had the opportunity to experience the Backstage Magic Tour this go round, I had a feeling I would find at least one person wearing the tag.  I actually found one of these blue tagged Cast Members in Costuming backstage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  His name was Steve.  Sadly, I know nothing else about him.  I saw his tag in passing.  We exchanged smiles and he saw me utter the words, “Yeah, blue tag,” but that was about the extent of our conversation.  The third person I found wearing the blue tag ID was at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  Robin was watching over the famed Easter Eggs that had just been placed on display a few days earlier in the lobby of the deluxe resort.  We struck up a conversation before I had noticed her wearing the esteemed tag.  She filled me in on more of the background of the honor and on the committee that awards them.  In fact, she even mentioned to me that she had been on the most recent committee.

I loved talking to Robin and appreciated all the information she divulged.  However, the highlight of my blue tag hunt was a conversation with a woman by the name of Curlie.  Curlie is a custodial Cast Member, though I did hear that all Cast Members are part of the custodial staff (that’s a great story for another time!!).  She normally works the area around Casey’s Corner at Magic Kingdom, but the day I found her she was taking care of the property around Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland.  I had just had dinner with some Florida family who had come to spend the day with me.   Curlie was waiting off to the side with a smile on her face.

Picture of a Magic Kingdom Cast Member named Curlie.
Curlie ~ photo taken by T. M. Brown

She asked how our day had been going and I immediately noticed the blue tag.  She was my first – so I was ecstatic!  One of my goals for this trip had been attained!  I began to ask her questions and that led to a 20 minute conversation about the honor of wearing the blue tag, the process on how one is awarded…and then her life’s story as it pertains to being a Cast Member.   At the time I met Curlie, she was just months away from celebrating 42 years in her role at the Walt Disney World Resort.  She has been working there for as long as I have been alive (yes, I gave away my age – it’s okay, I’ve earned these years).  If the 42 years in itself are not amazing, Curlie will boast 26 years of perfect attendance come April 17th.   PERFECT ATTENDANCE!!  She has a tremendous work ethic and was such an inspiration.  She is an early riser and gets herself to work before it’s time to clock-in.  She has her breakfast backstage, gets herself ready to go and then puts herself onstage with a smile on her face.  She shared what she loves about the job, how she enjoys bringing her grandson to the Park and how well organized she keeps her utility closet (supposedly the best organized closet in the Magic Kingdom).  Every word that came out of Curlie’s mouth was full of enthusiasm, love for her job, passion for the quality of her work and a desire to ensure the Guest’s happiness.  I walked away from that conversation feeling as though I had just met a new friend.   I hope to have the privilege of introducing my sons to her during a future trip!

Well, finding Cast Members with blue tags may not be an unsolved mystery for me anymore, but I don’t think it is going to stop me from keeping my eye out for them.  There are fascinating stories out there and I love to listen to each and every one of them!  Keep an eye out for Curlie!  She will be dressed in white, donning a blue tag and wearing the biggest smile on her face as you pass by.  Say hi – you’ll be glad you did.

Richard - photo taken by T.M. Brown
Richard – photo taken by T.M. Brown

NOTE: This story was written back in late March 2015.  Since that time, I have met several more Cast Members donning the blue name tag, including perhaps the most famous, Richard, who is frequently found at the entrance to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Ellen is a Cast Member at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.
Ellen ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown

In fact, over the past year, we have become close friends with a particular Cast Member, Ellen R., who recently earned her blue tag!! Congratulations, Ellen R.!!   We know firsthand that you deserve to be wearing that very prestigious honor!

Until the next step…..

Taking the first step of many…..

Well, I finally took the step…..a major leap of faith, to be honest.  With so many blogs available to read and many of my own friends having taken on this task, it has been a little daunting for me and I have been dragging my little insecure feet.   Fortunately, I have some wonderful, supportive friends out there who convinced me it was finally time to begin documenting the adventure.  I have so much to share, so much to say.  I have just been looking for the opportunity to get it out there and see what kind of a difference I could make with anything I might have to write.

The title of my blog is “Footprints in Pixie Dust.”   When I think of embarking upon a journey, I think of the many steps taken and the various impressions they leave behind.  Some of those steps I wish I could take back, while others I wish I had simply taken just a little more time to let my foot sink into the dirt.   As a wife and mom, I realize that the impressions I leave now with my husband and sons will have an impact greater than I can imagine, longer than my thoughts can fathom.   Of course, I hope the imprint left is more positive and meaningful rather than the opposite, particularly when it comes to my boys.  I have always looked at the three of them as potential world changers and, each and every day, I have the chance to see them grow into those roles.  I cannot tell you how excited I get when I see them succeed, grow, learn something new, rise up when knocked down or affect someone else in a very positive way.  They are leaving footprints now, as well, and I see their steps making a difference.

The “pixie dust” portion of the blog title obviously gives away and speaks to my love for anything Disney-related.   As time goes on, you will begin to see my fascination in Walt Disney, the man, as well as the genius behind the magical empire he left behind for us to enjoy.  I chose to incorporate “pixie dust” into the title as I will likely blog quite a bit about our various adventures visiting Walt Disney World, but also in light of the fact that our journey thus far has been so blessed and I only hope it will continue to be so.  There are times it truly feels as though each day has been “sprinkled with a little pixie dust” and prayer.  Yes, a woman of faith talking about magical moments.  It’s okay – God understands (it’s okay to chuckle here).

So, as I conclude my very first maiden post, my very first step into the world of blogging…I hope you find yourself comfortable and able to relate to our journey.  I look forward to having you follow along and perhaps find yourself a little “pixie-dusted”  along the way.

Until the next step…