Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Very Merry Disney Birthday

Monday was my birthday, so John and I ditched work and went to what is fast becoming my favorite restaurant on Disney property:

 Be Our Guest!

It was a blistering 90+ degrees out, and the wait for lunch was about an hour,  half of which is spent outside in the full sun. Disney really stepped up their game, though, by loaning out complimentary umbrellas for shade and providing an ice water cart, which I've never seen before. Kudos, Disney!

Once inside we snagged the best seat in the house -  in the dark & cool West Wing, in full view of the holographic rose:

Every so often a petal will drift down, thunder and lighting will rock the room, and the portrait of the Beast on the wall will flash to his Princely version. Combine that with all the kids screaming in terror - or just plain screaming - and it's a noisy spot, but totally worth it.

Oh! And I finally tried The Grey Stuff!

(Now with dramatic lens flare! JJ would be proud.)

It's on a cupcake now, and they don't write "The Grey Stuff" on the plate anymore, but it's still called that on the menu. And since you could only get it at dinner before - which you have to book a full 6 months in advance - I'm not complaining. Plus, it really IS delicious. (Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!) Incredibly light and fluffy chocolate mousse - not heavy at all - and the cupcake is filled with the Stuff, too. Mmmm.

And that's AFTER I had the best lunch dish in the 'Kingdom: the braised pork over mashed potatoes with grilled onions, green beans, and other assorted veggies. Oh. Migosh. (And only $12! Seriously, this place rocks.)

Now I'm hungry again.

Moving on!

After lunch we wandered over to check out some of the hidden treasures by Rapunzel's Tower.

If you look down you'll see lots of hoof prints embedded in the ground,  and if you look closer...

A-ha! Maximus!

My friend Amy tipped me off to follow the hoof prints, and sure enough, they led to this:

A bit hard to see, but the right apple has a horse-sized bite out of it.

Across from The World's Prettiest Bathrooms Disney has installed a shady seating area equipped with phone charging stations, and they've also provided a little I Spy game to play while you're waiting:

See the small painted plaque on the pole to the very left? That's telling you to look for "friends of Pascal" in the scenery. And you can see one fairly obvious "friend" in the center of the pic.

I think we found five in all, but the rest are pretty well camouflaged. Here's one more:

I'll leave the rest up to you to find!

After another parade viewing - which I still have to post photos of, and which I'm not ashamed to admit makes me a bit weepy because it's the most beautiful thing ever - we wrapped up our day by playing all five of the new Pirate Treasure Hunts in Adventureland.

These things blow that Sorcerer's game out of the water, because instead of boring digital screens, you get cleverly hidden physical effects. You'll have air darts blown at you, glowing skulls serenade you, cannons explode right in front of you, and a whole host of other fun surprises.

The original Talking Heads?

The hunts are also FAST - no more tapping your toe while the dialogue drones on for minutes at a time ala Agent P's in Epcot; you can zip through a single hunt in about 15 minutes, easy.

Let me know in the comments if you guys want more on the Treasure Hunts. I have plenty of pictures from both these and the special limited-run Muppet's Adventure over at Epcot, so if you guys are interested I'll put together a separate post.

Ah, and some of you may find this relevant to your interests:

May 28th - the countdown is on!

 (And for some reason they have an entire army of castmembers and managers just standing in a line out front. I guess to keep people from trying to queue up?)

My excitement is bittersweet, of course, since my anxiety has kept me off rides for about a year now. The only time I really mind is with new stuff like this, though, and I remain hopeful that someday I'll get to experience Little Mermaid outside of Youtube - and then work my way up to the Harry Potter ride at Universal. (Awww yeeeeah.)

Besides, there's always room for hope: Monday I managed the ferry ride in and out of the Kingdom for the first time in ages. Funny how anxiety makes you fight to regain ground like that; things I never thought twice about just six or seven years ago are now personal battlefields. Which is another reason I really appreciate Disney adding things like these treasure hunts; as a non-rider, I can still find plenty to do and see.

And to end on a sweet note, one more recommendation:

This is a Citrus Swirl and Sprite float. You can request it at the Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland - and you really, really should. Mix all that citrusy and vanilla-y goodness together, and wooooooaaaaahhh.

Oh! I should mention there's another 24-hour Disney Day coming up on Friday, May 23 (ending at 6AM May 24), but as much as I loved our reader meet up last year, I am more than a little terrified of trying again. It just keeps getting more crowded and insane, and just trying to park will be a nightmare. However, if some of you are willing to hop on the monorail over to Epcot earlier that day, then I'm totally game for a little Epbot shin-dig on the World Showcase. (Ice cream party in France, anyone?) Sound off in the comments and let me know if I should pick a time, k?


Yet Another Give-Away Update: My last winner was a no-show, so congrats to Sarah Dutton, my new randomly selected art give-away winner! Please e-mail me your mailing address & choice of prize, Sarah!


  1. Yes please! We're taking the kids to Disney for the first time (from Ottawa, Canada) and we will be there that week. It would be fun to meet you guys, especially since you and John have been such an inspiration for our daughter Brianna, inspiring her to give up birthday and Christmas gifts and fundraise for Charity:Water and other charities instead, and helping her feel free to unleash her inner cosplayer at ComicCon last weekend. We'd love to say hi and buy you guys some ice cream! :)

  2. Reading your comments about going to disney always make me a little weepy- I love Disney World, and it holds a very VERY special place in my heart... And since I live in Canada it's not always convenient for me to go. It's a long story as to why it means so much, but the first time I got to go was in my 30's, and I brought my children with me and gave them and myself memories we will never forget. (I've been a couple of more times since then) And now that they have added on to it, I have to get there. HAVE TO. I need to stop typing to get a kleenex...

  3. Thank you for telling me about the Grey Stuff. Randomly over the weekend I was thinking about how I wanted to go to "Be Our Guest" since Beauty and the Beast is my favorite and I wondered if they have the grey stuff.

  4. I know have Be Our Guest stuck in my head... :)

  5. That grey stuff looks better than the dinner offering. I managed to snag a reservation for when I was there two weeks ago.... it was a hard layer of cookies n cream type something and just a bit of the actual grey stuff. I opted for the steak at dinner and it was tasty, but you're right on the braised pork... OMG!! And like I said on Twitter, the citrus swirl float is next on my list!!

  6. I'm so glad you had a great birthday! You totally deserve it! Is your chiropractor still helping you with your anxiety? It sounded like that was working for you. I'd love to go back to WDW some day. I haven't been since I was a kid. But it's a long way from me, and pricey, and I'm not a huge fan of places with lots of people, not because of anxiety, but just because I'm an introvert who gets over-stimulated pretty quickly. But I really want to go to Be Our Guest. I LOVE Beauty and the Beast and that restaurant looks awesome! The park has changed a ton since I was last there.

    1. Oh yes, I still visit the chiro every 4-6 weeks, and it's continuing to be my best anxiety-buster yet. Most of my day-to-day life is anxiety-free, in fact, so I only really have to worry about things that trigger my "escape-phobia" - ie, anything I can't get out of or away from any time I want. If I do get free-floating anxiety - which still happens on occasion - that's when I know it's time to visit the chiro a little early.

      I feel you on the crowds, and they're pretty unavoidable at Disney! If you can come for a long visit and take lots of breaks, though, that will help - plus try to come in the off-season, like right after school starts up again, or January/February. New Fantasyland really is breathtaking, so I promise it's worth the stress!

  7. Definitely tell us more about the treasure hunts (especially the Muppet's Adventure)! I never get to go on these hunts when I'm at Disney because my wife wants me to go on all of the rides with her, so I'll just have to live vicariously through your photos and stories. Thanks for being so awesome!!

  8. Yes, more posts on treasure hunts please!

  9. Thank you as always for this.
    Even though I live in south FL because of finances we have not been able to go to Disney since hubby came home from his final deployment about 6 years ago.
    I did not even know there was a Rapunzel tower.
    We are hoping to be able to save up enough to go for my birthday on halloween this year. Really hoping they have the resident 3 day offer at that time.

    Thanks for letting me live my disney addiction vicariously through you

  10. Treasure hunts?! Yes, please! And if this doesn't convince my husband that we should go to WDW, maybe I'll just have to go on my own and leave him at home.

    P.S. Happy belated Birthday!! Glad you were able to ditch work and enjoy!

  11. I'm really not a theme park person (can't do the crowds and queuing) but I'd love to have all this on my doorstep, not to mention the weather. Do Nikon make rain filters for the UK market?

  12. Oh, and what is 'the grey stuff'??

    ~ Kate S

    1. In the song "Be Our Guest", Lumiere sings the line "...Try the grey stuff. It's delicious! Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!...". It's a wonderfully light whipped mousse that tastes like cookies and cream. When BOG was originally opened, it was served by itself on a plate for the evening meals. I think you had to request it or they would bring it to you if you were celebrating a special occasion. Now, you can order a cupcake during the lunch meal that has the mousse on top and stuffed in the cake. And like the dishes say... It is delicious!

  13. More treasure hunt please! :) I loved the "Be Our Guest". We booked the dinner 6 months in advance. It was spectacular! I too had the "grey stuff". Yummy!

  14. Ihave never been to Disney even though we drive past it 2x every year! (My parents live in Lake Placid FL). This year we finally went to Universal to see Harry Potter world (i figured it would be the least crowded now since people might be waiting until the new part opens up to go to them both at once).

    We went for MY birthday and I was randomly selected to fill out a survey and when i went to enter my age, i turned to my husband and said "oh noes I am 33 today!" so the guy asked him if it was my birthday and gave me a "Its my Birthday!" pin.

    I gotta say--if you ever get the chance to get one of those pins they are GREAT!
    We got a free upgrade to the collectable butterbeer cup, Picked for Ollivander's wand demonstration, a discount on ice cream, and the lady running the forbidden forest ride let us skip the outside line (though I was not riding (boobs to big), and i just wanted to see the decorations, but my husband was and he still got to skip the line). plus everyone is SUPER nice to you all day.

    so, yeah if you go on your birthday--tell someone on staff so you can get your pin!

    Photos from my trip:

    1. oh and the guy at ollivander's said it is INSANELY crowded in the summer so try to go in the "off season" because even then the "street" was REALLY crowded in the afternoon and we had to go to another part of the park till about sunset.

  15. Lots more treasure hunts please! I love the tiny details they put in! And it makes it easier to live vicariously through you ;)


  16. Oh yes!! I would love to get more information on the Treasure Hunts. My family is going to Disney World (first time in over 15 yrs) in mid-June so any extra helpful info/tips would be greatly appreciated! I was also wondering about the time wait for Be Our Guest. We tried to book dinner reservations, but were unable able so we're going to try for lunch. I know on a previous post you had had mentioned that as long as you're in line by 2 you'll get seated. I was just wondering if that appears to still be the case and what time did you go on Monday? We're going to be there on a Saturday so I figure the wait's probably going to be long, but its definitely on our to-do list. Thanks!

    1. Our wait time for Be Our Guest was less than the hour we were told it would be, and I think we got there around 12:30. So far as I know the in-line-by-2 thing still stands, but definitely double check if you're going to be cutting it close! Also, while we were there they were testing a new Fast Pass option for lunch, so keep an eye out for that - maybe you'll get lucky!

  17. We wanted to eat there last year but my husband ran the marathon in the morning. By time we went back to the hotel for a bit of down time and got to MK, they were closed for lunch. It is beautiful though, and that is at the top of my eatery list the next time we go. (I will be ordering the pork.) In truth we didn't have a bad meal while we were there. I'd love to hear some more of your favorites. And yes, fantasyland is wonderful! Worth it just to walk around and see all the new stuff.

  18. I'd love to see more of all things Disney. I haven't been to the Florida park in over 20 years, so it's all different from what I remember. I enjoy living vicariously through you!

  19. Yes please do a post about the Muppet one. I have loved the Muppets for years, and do foresee me getting to Disney World/Epcot anytime soon. I love being able to see this stuff through someone else's eyes, plus I don't have to deal with the crowds.

  20. Glad you had such a wonderful birthday - and a great lunch! If I could pick a place to spend my birthday, that's where I'd be as well!

  21. I would love to go to The Beast's castle, especially the West Wing! Wow! One day, I hope!

  22. I did send you my address through your email. Thank you again for picking me and making my birthday/anniversary month.

  23. My old roommate from my time as a CP now works at BOG. I haven't been down since summer 2012. I so want to go see the new parade and Fantasyland. I suppose I should probably wait until they're done with DAK (and hope it's not a total horror).

  24. Happy belated birthday to you!
    Glad that you had a great time (:

  25. You're making me want to go back to Disney, I want to see the new Fantasyland, in the mean time I'll just drool over your pictures.

  26. Looks brilliant. Thanks for the tips. Were traveling from Australia to WDW in November. Looks like we should book something at this place soon.

  27. Happy Birthday! Sounds like a great way to spend it.

  28. Shelley in So. IllinoisMay 15, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    Happy Birthday to my favorite blogger ever! I feel like I must have missed something because I had no idea about the treasure hunts or the sorcerer hunt. I would love to read and see more!

  29. You are showing me a Disney I don't recognize. I grew up with the E-tickets. I thought the Buzz Lightyear ride was radical for them to add, but I'm getting used to the upgrades. I'll always remember Mr. Toad's wild ride!!!!! It terrified me and I couldn't wait to ride it every time I went. lol Your post makes me want to really really go to Disney and EPCOT again. So dang expensive though. And your art collection - just the one's your giving away... thud. There's like 6 I want right off the bat, the Iocane poster is sadly taken though...

  30. I loved meeting you last year at the 24-hour fun fest, and we will be going again this year after work. So even though I would love to meet up at Epcot, it looks like I won't be there in time...but who knows...I might get out early! I think if you try another 24 hour day wait to see if they do it on Leap day again! It was so nice for those that arrived anytime from rope drop til about noon, then it got super busy. So, we hopped over to Epcot for lunch and Hollywood for dinner, then rested and refreshed at the hotel and went back to MK for the rest of the night at about 8pm. We avoided all of the huge crowds that way...but it was also a Wednesday in February. I really wish they would move if off of Memorial Day weekend.
    We were at be our guest for dinner on Saturday!! It was a our second time doing that and was as delicious as the first. It really is some of the best food in all the parks! The Grey Stuff dinner dessert is a little different and completely delicious! This past weekend was also our first time hunting Pasquales and we didn't look up! Can't believe it! And we'll have to go check out the hoof print and apples as that is my sister's favorite Disney movie now and I can't tell you how many times we just walk past all that hidden goodness!
    Please show all the fun stuff on that Pirate thing because we've been curious about it, but feared it would be forever long like the other card game. I have a few friends I travel with that will love it i'm sure!
    Keep up the Disney goodness!!
    Crazy canning chick

  31. More detail about Treasure Hunts, please&thank you! :)


    Thanks for sharing your special day in the Parks with us!!!

    More of anything new at Disney is fine with me 8(:-D

    TTFN 8(:-D

    KDB 8(:-D

  33. I would love more info about the treasure hunts! We are going at the end of June, and I'm interested in other things to do. Disney World has been our happy place for so many years, but this new FP+ thing has me worried. We can't do and see things like we are accustomed to... Being limited to only 3 (initially) FP, and having to schedule them ahead of time is quite different for us. I'm hoping new and different options (like the treasure hunts) will be fun and interesting to my boys (and me!).

    Hope you had a fantastic birthday! My youngest son got the Grey Stuff last year for his birthday, and it was delicious! :)

  34. So, my husband, daughter, and I probably walked by you in line for Be Our Guest! We took our first trip to DW Mon- Wed and had a blast! Best part - we received a FP for the lunch (I believe it's something they are beta testing), so we didn't have to wait in line in that horrible heat! I was too shy (hi anxiety!) to see if you wanted to meetup while we were in Disney, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY! and how funny that we were in the same place at the same time! I absolutely loved the restaurant, and my 10 month old got a kick out of the simulated snowfall in the main dining room. Delish food too!

  35. Happy Belated, girl! :) Sounds like you had a fantastic time!

    I've only ever been to Disney Land, but didn't get to play much. We were there on a band trip, and were involved in the parade and a lot of workshops. Knottsberry Farms was pretty rad though! :)
    Never been to Disney World. Never been to Florida.
    But after all these posts you keep adding, I may just have to save some trip money.

    -Piper P from Washington State

  36. As a California girl who went to Disneyland growing up, I'm surprised and glad you have good (and inexpensive) food choices. As I remember, Disneyland food was something to be avoided or endured (especially with that cost), unless you could afford the restaurant by Pirates. Oh, and the fritters were good.

    Is this a relatively new thing? Does anyone know if the food situation here in CA has improved?

  37. OOOh Jen yes please do an Ice Cream Social at France (their ice cream martini is the best ever!!!!!) I've met you a few times including the 24 hour event last year. Sadly I can't go to it this year because as a Cast Member I can't use my main gates but I would love a meet up in Epcot!

  38. Happy Birthday!

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and experiences! I am SOOOO excited because we are going to Disney World in a few week and I've really enjoyed your tips--honestly, I live vicariously through your Disney/ComicCon posts even when I don't have anything planned.

    I would love more on the treasure hunts and the Muppets in Epcot! Thanks!

  39. I'm glad you had a great birthday Jen!!! I would love to see more treasure hunts. I live them!! One day I will make it to Disney

  40. The Maximus hoofprints make me happy. :)

  41. Happy Birthday Jen! I went to my first con this weekend after seeing all the fun you have. Had a great time, it was a total Firefly and Star Trek geek-out! Was SO excited to see Jessica Grundy there and I got some amazing art too! I had my Epbot button on my backpack. :) Thank you for the encouragement and your blog!

  42. Super down for another meet up! We missed you at megacon, so you owe us one!

  43. I'd like you to do a meet up in Epcot but I'm not sure I'll be able to be there. I may very well be working at the time though if you wander towards DHS you may see me in passing.
    Happy Belated Birthday & the strawberry cupcake @ BOG is delicious as well. ^_^


  44. Ah, we missed the awesome horseshoe prints!! Did you know there are more Pascals hiding around other than in that one area with the sign? There is one in the flower box above the bathrooms, but I haven't found any others. The cast member I quizzed hadn't even found that one. =)

    By the way, do the pirate quest where you find the pearl (Blackbeard, I think?) at night if you haven't...that's all I'm saying. =)

  45. The sorcerer game and the Agent P quest were my favorite things the last time we were out there, so I'm glad that they're continuing down that route. Hopefully they'll still have all this the next time we visit.

    I'm excited for you that you were able to ride the ferry.

  46. Yes please to a post about the hunts! they look so cool!


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