Tag Archives: fireworks

Gluten-free Disney: Day 3

Mickey breakfastWhile my mom and I slept, enjoying the quiet that came from not sharing a hotel room with my daughter who wakes up at the crack of dawn demanding breakfast and a show, my sister snuck out of our room in search of breakfast.

Since we were staying at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, initially when she went down to Capt. Cook’s to get a quick service breakfast she asked for the Bounty Breakfast without the French toast. Although the cast member who took her order was happy to comply, she did ask if there was a reason my sister didn’t want the French toast. When my sister told her about her gluten issue, the cast member told her not to worry, that they’d get her something tasty and allergy free. My sister was thrilled because she’d really wanted to have some Mickey waffles. She knew they were just going to be waffles, but the idea of getting them in the shape of Mickey delighted her.

She was so excited by her breakfast that she took a picture of it (notice the green allergy marking in the upper left corner) and texted it to me. I ignored the vibrating, but when she came back to the room and we woke up, she raved about her breakfast adventure. Even though I was not in the mood for breakfast (I never am when I first wake up), I was thrilled to see her so happy.

Unfortunately, her happiness was to be rather short-lived.

enchanted barWednesday was our planned park-free day. We had a cabana reserved at the hotel, but not until 3 pm. While I was scrolling through some Disney news, I realized that The Enchanted Rose, Disney’s newest lounge had just opened up at the Grand Floridian the day before, so I insisted we go and check it out. I was pretty excited to be one of the first guests to experience it.

The Enchanted Rose is amazing! I have another blog about it if you want a closer look at it here. Sadly, while they do have a unique snack menu available, which a foodie like me was excited about, the kitchen doesn’t open until 5pm, so we were not able to try anything. We were, however, VERY hungry, and more than a little tipsy at that point, so food was a must!

We decided to grab some lunch at Gasparilla Island Grill. Our plan for the day was to be so casual, so no reservations had been made anywhere. We liked the fly by the seat of our pants aspect of it, so lunch at a quick service place was great for us. My mom and I both got very tasty sandwiches. I had a chicken and brie and my mom had the hot Italian. My sister decided on a Caesar salad. Since she’s still new to eating gluten-free (and I suspect her decision making abilities were not 100%), she didn’t even think about the fact that many salad dressings have gluten in them (something I had no idea about), so she forgot to ask about potential allergens.

20191009_162921At first, she was fine. We made our way back over to the Polynesian where we hung out in our cabana, drinking delicious tropical drinks like these. Mine was the best…it was the frozen margarita with lime Dole Whip. That sprinkling of orange around the rim is a chili lime salt and it was so good that I licked the rim of that cup absolutely clean of it (and bought some at Epcot). My sister got a blueberry lemonade and my mom got the Frosty Pineapple. As with every other drink we got, we passed them around so everyone could try them. We did the same thing with our second round of drinks. My cucumber and mint vojito was ok, but just did not live up to this amazing margarita. I still dream of having it again.

Not long before our cabana time ended, my sister started to look green. It wasn’t the alcohol though. She traced it back to the salad, which had been delicious, but which had gluten in the dressing. She spent the next several hours in our hotel room, piled under several blankets and still shivering.

We were supposed to do the Monorail Pub Crawl that night, but with my sister so sick, that was obviously out. While she rested in our room, my mom and I went out to see the Electrical Water Pageant. If you’ve never seen it, it’s cute and a fun little show to watch from the beach area at the Polynesian. You can check out a video I shot of it on my YouTube channel here. Since we knew we’d be able to see the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom as well, we decided to relax and enjoy our hotel bound evening.

After they were both done, we were hungry. Obviously we weren’t going to leave the hotel with my sister still not feeling well, so we opted to head over to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. I texted my sister to let her know where we were. It had been about three hours since she’d been doubled over in pain and she was actually feeling better, so she decided to come join us.


She wasn’t super hungry, but figured she probably needed to eat. This time she was careful about her menu choice. The chicken lettuce cups were exactly what she needed. Not only were they delicious (I took a tiny bit just of the chicken), but still small enough that her stomach didn’t feel overwhelmed. They were light and tasty. Not as good as my Thai chicken and veggie flatbread, but she wasn’t even ready to glance at anything with gluten in it again (and secretly I’ll admit I was glad as I didn’t want to share it).

Not only did Trader Sam’s have great appetizers, but they also had some really tasty drinks. And the best part is that many of them come in really cool souvenir mugs. After being so horribly sick, my sister definitely deserved her Shrunken Zombie Head drink.


The best part was that instead of giving her the dirty glass, they gave her a completely new glass all boxed up and ready to take home with her. We also learned that if you want one of the fancy drinks but don’t want the fancy cup, you can still order the drink at a reduced rate. Both my mom and I took advantage of this fact. She got a mai tai and I got…well, now I don’t remember what I got, but it had pineapple in it! You can see all of the cool souvenir glasses they offer below.


So while it definitely was NOT our best day of gluten-free eating, we did learn some important lessons. And my sister was very meticulous about asking for allergy free foods for the rest of the trip.





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Frozen Ever After is delicious

blue treatsWhen my mom, sister and I decided to have this year’s girls’ trip at Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival, I was super excited. Sure, this was my fourth time attending, but neither my sister or my mom had ever even been to Epcot, so I was thrilled I’d get to show it to them. I was also more than a little stoked to get to once again try tasty treats from around the globe, which is the real star of Epcot in October.

My sister loves fireworks and was very excited we’d get to see them multiple nights. However, she and my mom also have some mobility issues, so I was worried about their ability to stand through the viewing. I knew there was no way in the world they’d be able to sit down on a curb and watch the show. Heck, I may still be able to do it, but I won’t lie and say I like the idea of sitting on the ground or standing through a show either.

I remembered seeing the Tomorrowland Terrace being used as a special fireworks viewing area on previous trips and I knew Disney did special fireworks and meal packages, so I decided I should look into it. When I did, I found that each of the four parks has some sort of fireworks and dessert party.

Wait, I can not only snag a place to sit during the fireworks, but I also get all I care to eat drinks and desserts? SIGN ME UP!

Epcot’s version happens to be the Frozen Ever After Dessert Party. It includes a buffet of desserts, a few savory treats, drinks, special fireworks seating, and an after hours ride on Frozen Ever After. So not only do you get tons of fun desserts, but it comes with something even better than a Fast Pass to ride one of the most popular attractions at Epcot. Again, SIGN ME UP!


We arrived at our designated party space, which is close to the Mexico pavilion only to find out that due to inclement weather, our party was moved inside. So, instead of sipping drinks and snacking on treats near the lovely World Showcase lagoon, we had to walk back over to Norway to find our indoor location. This was my only real complaint about the event. My guess is that by inclement weather, they were referrin to the wind, which had picked up a bit. My mom and sister were pretty tired at that point (it was 8 pm) and walking back to Norway, even though it wasn’t far, did annoy them a bit. The cast members who were supposed to lead us to the special room they had set up, were far back by the actual Frozen Ever After ride, so we nearly missed them. It was dark and we couldn’t see their signs. Luckily we found them and were ushered upstairs into a series of secret rooms inside the Norway pavilion.

room for frozenWell, after we checked in and were given special glittery writsbands to indentify us as members of the party, we were ushered in. I wish they’d made it clear there was an elevator available. I didn’t need it, but my mom and sister could have used it. Thankfully the line was moving slowly so we were able to rest on every stair. For anyone who has trouble with stairs though, there is an elevator available, so ask for it.

The room was decorated in full glitz and was cozy without being too crowded. There were snowflakes everywhere and they at least tried to capture the feel of Frozen.

Olaf lightEveryone is assigned a table, so we ended up sitting with a family, a couple and a woman who was on her own (10 of us at each table). Our table had an adorable Olaf lantern on it as well as very pretty, sparkly linens. Once we found our table, we had about an hour to eat and drink as much as we wanted. And there were LOTS of choices! 

One benefit of the Frozen dessert party is that unlike the dessert parties at some other mom's plateparks, this one does have adult beverages available. Anyone over 21 can have as many beers, glasses of wines or signature cocktails as they like. Someone suggested to us that if we wanted more than one alcoholic beverage that we should order two at a time because lines can get long, but honestly there weren’t that many people at the party and we had no trouble getting drinks. I only had one margarita, but my mom and sister each got two with no wait at all. They got the Olaf-inspired pina colada, and it had little candy bits in it to replicate a melted snowman. That’s supposed to be cute, right?

Olaf cupcakesFor any kids or those who don’t want alcohol, there are canned Coke products, coffee, an assortment of teas, water, and special juices with cute Frozen themed names like “Frozen Heart.” I actually had a big ol’ cup of water because even in the evening after drinking a lot of water, I still felt dehydrated from being in the Florida heat (it was about 86 degrees that day). I also had a Coke Zero because I am very addicted.

After we got our drinks, we headed to the tables to get some food. There was a great spread to choose from. The decor was adorable. I loved the snowman cake decoration that was used to hold all of the blue velvet Amy's platecupcakes. I also thought the blue light blocks all of the treats were situated on were very cute. There really was something for everyone at this buffet. There was a delicious no sugar added lemon curd with blueberries (also gluten free) that my sister worshipped. There were coconut macaroons, a key lime tart with an orange glitter glaze, eclairs, almond cookies, ice cream, fresh fruit, a salted caramel bread pudding, cheese fondue with both bread and veggies to dip in it, and some sort of savory snack mix that I did not try. There was even a special celebration of Olaf. They had a slice of Olaf’s birthday cake and nitro frozen custard with chocolate sauce.Olaf's cake

smoresMy absolute favorite though was Olaf’s warm double chocolate s’mores pudding. I didn’t initially want the scoop of ice cream the cast member scooped on top of it, but in hindsight, it was perfect. The pudding was simply amazing. It was rich and creamy and everything I want in a dessert. The chocolate was melty and smooth. The marshmallows did not overpower. And the soft, graham cracker inspired bread pudding sort of base was like a cloud on my tongue. I actually ended up eating not only mine, but also stealing my sister’s!

About 45 minutes after we started nibbling, cast members came around and handed out special 3D snowflake glasses to help us watch the fireworks. These seemed a bit silly at first, but when they were on, they made any light look like snowflakes. After using them to view the fireworks, I don’t think I ever want to watch fireworks any other way. It’s difficult to describe, but it made them even more beautiful. Plus, looking out across the lagoon to Future World, there were tons of other lights (including the torches) that took on a cool, special snowflake effect.

Since our party had been moved inside, the one real negative is that our special firework viewing area did not have tables set up. Since we were toward the front of the party leaving the dessert pavilion, we were also some of the first people to arrive at the viewing area, so my mom and sister could at least lean on the railings in order to watch the fireworks. Many people, especially the ones with children, did end up sitting on the ground. There was plenty of room and no one was squished in our area, which makes sense since we should have had a bunch of tables and seats. We saw the brand new Epcot Forever show and I was blown away¬† by it. I was not sure what to expect, but Disney did not disappoint. I especially loved the illuminated kites. It was also pretty cool to hear Walt Disney’s voice during the show as well as music from the nearly 40 years of Epcot’s history.

DSCN0708As the rather lengthy fireworks show came to an end, we had to wait a few minutes for the crowds to disapate a bit. Then, we were led back to Norway for our faster than Fast Pass ride on Frozen Ever After. I’d really wanted my mom and sister to be able to ride it since I think it is an adorable ride AND it moves at a ride pace they can appreciate. Thanks to this party, I didn’t have to use a Fast Pass for it. And since the park was closed, there was no one in line for the ride. We still got to go through much of the queue, so they could see the sights, but we waited less than two minutes in the line, hoped in our boat and took our ride. They both loved it.

We left Epcot, full of yummy treats, dazzled by fireworks and content with a great last ride. Even with our dessert party being held in doors, I still think it was 100% worth the money we paid for it. I would absolutely do it again with my husband and kids. Although next time we might look at the Star Wars inspired party at Hollywood Studios.









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Wildcard Wednesday: 4th of July

Charleston beach.jpg

This year I decided to take students to the UK during my family’s regularly scheduled trip to the beach. Since the only reason we go to the beach is because my in-laws orchestrate a big family get together there, my heart was definitely more set on the UK trip. Plus, we stay at a beach house my SiL owns, so I knew my husband’s family would be able to be a bit more flexible with the beach week. And if not, it would save me two 12 hour drives to Isle of Palms and a week in the same house with 14 other people, most of whom are only related to be me by marriage.

True to form, as soon as my MiL knew the dates I’d be going to the UK, she arranged for our beach week to be moved. It’s not the first year we’ve had to mix it up, although the other time was also to accommodate a student trip to the UK three years ago. Luckily my trip coincided with my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary, so they were happy to move things around so we could have a big family party to celebrate this milestone. That trip was scheduled for the end of June and we just missed being at the beach on the 4th of July.

Wild Dunes is a surprisingly popular destination for the 4th of July. Since my in-laws knew two years in advance when my trip would be, it was no problem for my SiL to make sure her beach house was not rented out for the holiday week. So this year we celebrated America’s independence without any sparklers or bottle rockets as setting off fireworks is illegal on the Isle of Palms. For some reason we also didn’t have the traditional cook-out, even though there was a grill at the beach house. We had my FiL’s homemade spaghetti sauce (which I regret to say I am the only who is not a fan of it–too much meat and not enough spice), pasta, garlic bread and salad. It was a perfectly fine meal, if a little strange.

My family did celebrate our independence a bit by going out to a really awesome breakfast at Acme Lowcountry Kitchen. I cannot give them high enough praise. Truly awesome experience. Delicious food, good service, plus we got to eat on the covered patio, which was really nice. I’d been there once before with friends, but I got to introduce my husband and kids to it and they loved it. Especially my son who, despite ordering from the kid’s menu, had way more food than any of us. He was in breakfast heaven.

We spent our day walking the beach and hanging out in the nearby pool, which the kids loved. Both were insanely crowded though. We usually go to the beach over Father’s Day week and even though mid-June is way cooler than July, the beach and pool are never as packed. We actually had someone plop down in front of us on the beach (complete with three beach umbrellas and chairs), partially obscuring our view of the beach, which has never happened before. There were just a lot of people.

Although we had to buck some of our usual 4th of July traditions, we did get to see some pretty cool fireworks, even though they were a little far away. A little after 9 we headed up to the top balcony of the beach house and waited for the city display to start. It was a little slow at first and the fireworks didn’t look very impressive, mostly because they were rather far away, but as the minutes ticked by, the spectacle picked up. The finale, which didn’t happen until about 9:45 was one of the most impressive I’ve seen in awhile. It was gorgeous. My son loved the fact that several of the fireworks formed hearts. My daughter was so tired after a day at the beach and the pool that she completely slept through them!

The only real downside to the day was that the “entertainment” that happens at the Boardwalk Inn next door didn’t stop playing at 10 as usual. Every night during the summer there is a live band next door in the pavilion between two of the pools. The bands begin playing around 7 and have to be done by 10. Since they are outdoor and our beach house is right next to the pavilion, we can hear every single note played. One night, my son was in the bathtub and he yelled out, “Mom, they’re playing ‘Sweet Caroline!'” Then he started singing along. That’s how loud it is every night of our vacation. My husband and I have to listen to mediocre cover bands cover mostly the same songs for at least an hour every night. Even with the TV on watching Netflix, we can still hear the music.

On the 4th of July I was excited to watch an episode of Preacher and figured that the band was going to finish their set with a song or two with their remaining 10 minutes. Nope! Because it was the 4th they played until 11. We still watched Preacher, but had to rewind a few times because the choruses of “Born in the USA” and about half a dozen CCR songs were so loud. It was annoying, but I was glad they didn’t go completely cliche and play “Proud to be an American,” which every other band had played at some point leading up to the 4th.

It was definitely an interesting holiday. I’m glad we went, but I think I’ll be happy to go back to mid-June next year.

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