Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Pretzels - Just like from the mall, only better!

These pretzels are a bit labor intensive, and take time, but are so worth it. I usually just make them for New Year's Eve and the Superbowl. But a friend had one on Superbowl Sunday and asked me to teach her how. We got together last Saturday and she even took pictures!

I prefer to let a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook do the kneading, so I wrote the directions that way.

Mall Pretzels


1 (.25 oz.) package active dry yeast (or 2 ¼ teaspoons)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ cups warm water (110F)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoons table salt
1 cup bread flour

2 cups hot water (or microwave for 3 minutes)
2 tablespoons baking soda

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons coarse, kosher salt

1. In stand mixer, place yeast, brown sugar, and warm water. Mix slightly. Let sit for ten minutes.
2. Add all-purpose flour, then salt, then bread flour. Mix on low until dough comes together. Check to make sure dough is cleaning the sides of the mixer. If not add more flour.
3. Mix on medium for about 8 minutes. Put dough in well-greased bowl. Turn dough once to coat all sides with grease. (I usually use butter to grease the bowl.) Cover and let rise for one hour or until doubled in size.
4. Cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Combine hot water with baking soda in an 8-inch square pan.
6. After dough has risen, cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into long rope, as skinny as you can get it without breaking. Twist into pretzel shape, then dip into baking soda solution. Place on parchment covered baking sheets and let rise for 15-20 minutes.
7. Bake at 450F for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt.
8. Best eaten warm!

Variations: Try sprinkling with garlic salt or cinnamon sugar instead.

If you don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you can knead the dough by hand.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why You Should make a Touring Plan for Your Next WDW Vacation

I know many people who don't want to have a touring plan laid out before they go to WDW. They think a touring plan means they will spend their vacation watching the clock and rushing from ride to ride to restaurant to meet and greet. So they show up with no plans and are frustrated to find all the rides they want to ride have long lines and they can't get into the restaurant they heard so much about.

My experience is that having a touring plans means everyone has a great trip. I schedule rides, but allow lots of wiggle room for "smelling the flowers". Also, taking those necessary pictures in front of the castle, browsing in the stores, and eating a Mickey-shaped treat.

By arrving before "rope drop", we beat the crowds to the headliner rides. By making wise FastPass Plus (FP+) reservations at midnight on my 60th day before arrival, I can spend my late morning time redeeming my FP+, using the time between for rides with shorter queues.

I have only used the Advanced Dining Reservation option once, but it let me eat at a popular restaurant on a busy night. :-)

For those who go to the parks frequently, this isn't really a big deal. If you don't get to ride Space Mountain this trip, you know you will be back soon to try again.

But for families who only get to Walt Disney World once and a while (or only once!), spending the time beforehand to put together a touring plan is a great investment in your vacation.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Touring Plans for Spring 2015 Disney Trip

If you want to read my trip report for this trip, it is here: Trip Report

Magic Kingdom:

The maps shown here are all from www.easywdw.com.

For those interested in how our actual touring lined up with our plans, here is what I posted on the EasyWDW forum:

MK was a most recommended park that day. The predicted crowd level was 4.

I got a smart phone shortly before we went, so I did Facebook check-ins for most of the rides we went on. According to those check-ins, here is how we did:

Peter Pan – 9:16a
Seven Dwarfs - no check-in, FP+
It’s a Small World – 9:54
Haunted mansion - no check-in
Splash – front row! – 10:32
Pirates of the Caribbean – 11:22 FP+
Enchanted Tiki Room – 11:46
Sleepy Hollow Lunch – 12:27
Space Mountain - no check-in, FP+
Stitch’s Great Escape – 1:42
Buzz Lightyear – 2:10 FP+
People Mover
Festival of Fantasy Parade – outside Liberty Tavern
Walt Disney World Railroad
Mad Tea Party – 4:59 (twice)
Dumbo – 5:17
Barnstormer – 5:23
Journey of the Little Mermaid – 6:00
Tried to meet Rapunzel and Cinderella – 6:23
Random Pooh sighting – 7:27
Carousel of Progress – 7:57
Met Mickey – 8:20 FP+
Met Ariel – 9:03 FP+
Space Mountain – 9:22 FP+
Celebrate the Magic – 9:45
Wishes – 10:00
Waited for parade in rocking chair in FrontierLand
Main Street Electric Parade – 11:15

For our Hollywood Studios and Epcot day, here is how we did:

1. Toy Story – No check in
2. Rockin’ Roller Coaster – 9:39
3. Voyage of the Little Mermaid show – 9:54
4. Great Movie Ride – 10:29
5. Trolley Car CafĂ© for Starbucks – 11:06
6. Frozen Sing-Along – 11:26
7. Carrot Cake Cookies – 12:10
8. Boat to Epcot – 12:26
9. Meeting Mary Poppins – 1:21
10. Citron Slushie in France – 2:05
11. Epcot Character Spot – 3:02
12. Spaceship Earth - 3:29
13. The Seas with Nemo – 4:12
14. Living with the Land – 5:29
15. Test Track – 6:49
16. Check-in for Rose and Crown ADR 7:12 (7:10 ADR)
17. Seated for ADR 7:38
18. Canadian Pavilion – 8:29
19. Mexico Pavilion – 8:30
20. Norway Pavilion – 8:32
21. China Pavilion – 8:32
22. Germany Pavilion – 8:35
23. Italy Pavilion – 8:35
24. American Adventure – 8:37
25. Japan Pavilion – 8:39
26. Morocco Pavilion – 8:40
27. France Pavilion – 8:41
28. United Kingdom Pavilion – 8:43
29. Illuminations from bridge between UK and France – 9:00
30. Spent the rest of the evening wandering counter-clockwise through World Showcase, ending with 3 Amigos ride in Mexico at 11:10

Friday, November 14, 2014

Our Walt Disney Trip 2014 - Part Sixteen

This will be the last post about our wonderful trip to Walt Disney World.

After the carousel, the offspring attempted to pull the sword from the stone.

Picture of Cinderella's statue.


From there, some wanted to look around in the breezeway under Cinderella's Castle. Part of it was closed off because they were doing a show in front of the castle.

From there we went to TomorrowLand where some rode Astro Orbiter while others rode the People Mover. I believe that was the time the lights were on in Space Mountain and we saw people being helped off the ride. Sorry, no pictures.

Next, we did The Monster's Inc. laugh Floor and then the offspring all went to do Stitch's Great Escape. I think I had more fun texting with friends and people watching but they enjoyed the ride. By this time, it was almost 7pm and there was a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party that night, so we slowly made our way to the exit. We did some last browsing in the stores on our way out and 7yo bought a Minnie Mouse Head key chain.

The Halloween Party started, but we were not shooed out of the park. We saw Jack Skellington doing a meet and greet as we made our way to the restrooms by City Hall before leaving to catch our boat back to the Fort.

There was some shouting on the boat between a woman who had been taking pictures and a man who didn't want her taking pictures of his kids. It sounded like it might come to blows, but the shouting finally died down.

When we got back to our site, there were balloons on our car.

The offspring said there also balloons on the bicycles in the site next to ours. We never did figure out what that was all about. I had the younger offspring play with the balloons the next morning while the rest of us packed up to go home. It had been a great vacation, but we were ready to go home and be dry. (Speaking of which, it never rained that last park day! What a blessing!)

Here is a last picture. It is 19yo with her favorite souvenir - a Stitch pillow pet.

It was a fantastic trip, thanks in such a large part to so many of you. My prayer is that the Lord will bless you for blessing us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making this the trip of a lifetime!

Our Walt Disney World Trip 2014 - Part Fifteen

I had wanted the offspring to do the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. The younger two really wanted to do the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Given my foot troubles, i elected to do Aladdin with the younger ones and let the older ones do the Treehouse without me.

Treehouse pictures.

Next was our FP+ for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Bekah and I waited in the shade while the rest of the offspring went to do that.

No ride photo. :(

Next was our FP+ for Splash Mountain. This was where I ran into trouble with my MagicBand. The scanner said i did not have any FastPass+'s booked on it. The offspring had scanned in just fine. The Cast member checked on it, then allowed me in with the family. While the cast member was checking me, my daughter said other people got in who should not have. :))

Wait! What about 7yo who didn't want to ride anything like a roller coaster? You guessed it - another bad mommy moment. I really wanted to ride Splash Mountain. My 7yo did not enjoy it too much, but she got through it. At least you can't see how scared she is in the ride photo. LOL

After that, we went to Tom Sawyer's Island. The kids enjoyed it. 19yo snapped these in one of the caves.

We were still on the island when the Festival of Fantasy Parade started. It was an okay place to watch from. We were in shade with water fountains and bathrooms close by. 7yo watched some from in the mill on the island and said that was fun. However, we had none of the fun of characters interacting with us like those on the parade route did.

After taking the raft back to the mainland, we made our way to the Haunted Mansion. 19yo had been meeting Anna and Elsa when we had ridden it on Tuesday and really wanted to ride now.

7yo didn't want to ride it again, so we waited by the exit. I saw a Photopass Photographer taking photos by the hearse, so she and I got our photo taken. I had told her to look scared, but she just smiled. LOL

I believe from there is when we went to the Hall of Presidents, although we might have gone when it was raining on Tuesday. Either way, we enjoyed it.

Picture of Peter Pan's Flight queueing area.

Disneybounding photo. (Gaston)

After that, we rode the Prince Charming Regal Carousel.

Next up: More fun in the Magic Kingdom!

Click here for Part Sixteen

Our Walt Disney Trip 2014 - Part Fourteen

Our last full day at Walt Disney World was scheduled to be a busy one. We had gotten our park tickets through a program called Disney Student Seminars. It is Disney's home school program. There were many classes we could have attended, but since we don't get to Disney very often, we elected to spend our park time doing rides and attractions. There was one mandatory class and i was looking forward to it. It was called Healthy Living: Living with the Land. A Disney gardener was going to be teaching on hydroponics growing and other unusual ways to have a garden. That class was being taught in Epcot, so we started the day heading there.

You might recall that we had skipped Mission: Space and Turtle Talk with Crush our first Epcot day, and the hope was to do those that morning as well. We had to be at the class by 9:30a, so we would only have time for one ride before that. I decided to send the older offspring to Mission:Space while I took the 7yo on Spaceship Earth again. Then we would meet up and go to the class. Good plan.

We left the campsite at 7:30am and in good time got to Epcot. We made our way through bag check and lined up right in front of the scanners to enter the park. So far so good!

We had plenty of time before park opening, so i was tacky once again and did the 7yo's hair while waiting for rope drop.

You can see how early we got there. It was practically deserted! But I had plans and wanted to be sure they worked out.

Finally, at a few minutes to 9am, when the crowd was much larger, they said we could scan our bands. First ones to scan! Firt ones to fail. :( At least mine did.

Remember how I said I had one day left on a ticket from January which was expiring 9/28, and then the 3-day hopper? And how I was very careful to use only that ticket on our Friday adventures at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios? Well, because I had tied that ticket to My Disney Experience account for this trip - so I could book us FP+ all together for Friday - the scanner counted that Friday as one of my 3-day hoppers. That meant I did not have a valid ticket for Thursday, 10/2. Oh, and my older children had been at different scanners and were now in Epcot headed to Mission:Space, unaware that I was unable to even get in the park.

I was sent to Guest Services, with my 7yo, where the cast member explained to me in detail how this had happened and how sorry they were before finally telling me he was able to fix it. I did not throttle him. But I was tempted.

He finally worked it all out and told me I was good to go. I asked if i now needed to wait in the long line of people going into the park. he said just go back to the CM who had directed me to him. I politely but firmly walked through the line, talked to the CM, scanned my band and rushed for Spaceship Earth.

We had a fine time on Spaceship earth. I texted 19yo that we were a bit delayed, so she got her self a Starbucks while waiting for us.

The cup says Gaston because she was Disneybounding as Gaston that day.

We got to the class a few minutes late, but enjoyed the rest of the class. After class, we were ready to hit the parks hard for our last day of touring.

Quick picture in Canada.

We went to Turtle Talk with Crush and enjoyed that. Afterwards, we looked around the aquarium area for about 30 minutes. We all agreed we could spend most of a day there. But we had plans!

Some pictures in from of Spaceship earth.

Time to hop to the Magic Kingdom!

Quick change at the Ticketing and Transportation Center to another monorail.

We are there!

The bulk of our touring on Tuesday had been in TomorrowLand and FantasyLand. Today was scheduled to be in AdventureLand. We headed there. I had not told the offspring, but I was hoping to catch Peter Pan at his new Meet and Greet spot. My 19yo likes Peter Pan even more than Gaston.


Peter gave my 19yo a hard time about the time on her Magic Band. Apparently she had painted the wrong time on Big Ben. Not cool making my sweet daughter frown, Peter!

Signing autograph for 7yo.

Then we went back to Pecos Bill's for another late lunch.

From there, we redeemed our FastPass+ for the Jungle Cruise. I was worried that my earlier ticket trouble would mess up my FP+, but it worked just fine.

"There it is, Folks. The moment you have all been waiting for - the backside of water!"

Next post will have more adventures in AdventureLand!

Click here for Part Fifteen