Arnold Mango Tango Pom-er

We’re still in the middle of summer, and I thought I’d share with you my current summer obsession: the Arnold Mango Tango Pom-er. Sometimes I’ll just call it the Mango Pom-er for short. When I’m feeling sassy I call it Mango Tango. Yes, silly names, but the most accurate description.

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Summer in a glass.

My take on the Arnold Palmer, it’s equal parts DavidsTea Pom Tango tea and Stew Leonard’s Mango Lemonade. Add some ice and an optional splash of mango-passion fruit vodka, and you’ve got summer in a glass. I prefer mine with the vodka, R prefers his without, but we’ve spent every Sunday since June sipping our Mango Pom-ers on the patio with a book.

I brew 4 teaspoons of tea with 4 cups of hot water. Using 1/2 cup tea and 1/2 cup lemonade, this gives me approximately 8 Mango Pom-ers.

If you’re not lucky enough to live near a Stew Leonard’s, then there are several recipes out there for mango lemonade, but the ingredients on the bottle of Stew’s version list simply lemons and mangoes. I saw an ad recently for a new Simply juice brand  mango lemonade, although I haven’t seen it in stores yet (I also haven’t been looking).

What really makes this drink is Pom Tango from DavidsTea. Unfortunately, it was one of DavidsTea’s spring teas, so unless you bought it a few months ago, you’re unlikely to find it in stores. However, the tea did recently show up on their website at 20% off, so if you’re fast you can probably grab some before it is completely out of stock (until, hopefully, next spring). It’s my favorite from DavidsTea, and I can vouch that it’s fantastic both hot and iced.

Last weekend, I wondered what would happen if I prepared the drink frozen. It was a complete game changer.

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Darth Vader approves of the Mango Pom-ers. (It was the only ice cube tray free)

I used both frozen tea cubes blended with the mango lemonade, and frozen mango lemonade cubes blended with the tea. I found the flavor of the frozen tea cubes to be smoother – almost creamy, but my blender had an easier time blending the frozen lemonade. Either way you prepare it, the frozen drink is delicious.

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Umbrella optional.

The best part about the Mango Pom-ers? It’s a feel-good guilt-free summer beverage. This tea has 5 calories per 1/2 cup, and with the lemonade and light vodka, you’ve got yourself a summer cocktail for around 100 calories*.

Whether you’re in the summer-ends-on-labor-day camp or you’re a summer-ends-on-the-autumnal-equinox fan, you still have plenty of time to enjoy a Mango Pom-er. What are you waiting for?

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PS This was not a sponsored post, even though this did end up sounding like a love letter to both DavidsTea and Stew Leonard’s.

*Estimation. Assuming 55 calories for the 1/2 cup of lemonade and 40 calories for a splash of Smirnoff Light Mango Passion Fruit Vodka. Stew’s doesn’t list their calories but Simply Lemonade with Mango has 110 calories per 8 oz.  Smirnoff Light Mango Passion Vodka is listed at 78 calories per 1.5 oz.

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Happy Birthday Disneyland!

In honor of Disneyland’s birthday today, I thought I’d share something I wrote back when I worked there.

It was the summer of 2005: Disneyland’s golden anniversary, and, though I didn’t know it at the time, my last summer working at the Park. Our Operations Manager challenged the Fantasyland Attraction Leaders (or, “Leads” in Disney-speak) to find one guest over the summer and make their trip memorable. We were given vouchers for food and merchandise; money wasn’t an object. The only rule was we were to find one guest – only one guest – and go above and beyond for them (meaning, this wasn’t to be an everyday thing).

In August, we were asked to report back with what we did for the guest, and what their reaction was. Below is the email I sent to my manager. This was then shared with the team, forwarded around the resort, and eventually made its way to Florida. The VP of Disney Parks wrote me a personal letter thanking me for what I did. The weird thing is, I don’t feel like I did anything special, because Josh changed us.

Disneyland truly is a magical place. In the seven years I worked there, my fellow Cast Members turned in to a family and guests turned into friends. I kept in touch with Josh’s family after I left Disney, and visited them in Maryland a few years ago. Sadly, Tony (Josh’s father) passed away last year, but he left a lasting impression on my heart. This is my most favorite memory of working for the parks, and a big reminder why I stayed with the company for so many years. Hope you enjoy.

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To: Jim Doyle, Operations Manager
Subject: My Homework

Every now and then you meet someone that touches your heart. Rarely does this occur at the place you work. However, I am fortunate enough to work somewhere that magic is a daily occurrence. Every day, a child meets his favorite character, someone flies over Neverland, and an adult lives the dreams of their childhood. Magic isn’t just something that happens here, its what we are famous for!

In what seemed like a never-ending summer where we were all hot, tired and slightly over-worked, my cast had lost a little bit of their own magic. Working together everyday for the last year and a half, we had become a family, and like families, we had our problems. We had daily disagreements and disputes, and many of us had grown apart. Then Josh came.

I met Josh 2 years ago, but my team had met Josh just last year. He came every day for 21 days straight, and he always sat in the front row, right on the aisle, to watch the Snow White Musical. At first, he was just that kid with the Guest Assistance Card but to some of us he became more. As we chatted with his parents before the show we learned a little more about him.

Josh was Autistic, so dealing with theme park crowds was an overwhelming panic to him. He learned to speak from watching Disney cartoons, and rarely spoke to anyone outside of his immediate family. He considered Disneyland his true home, although he seldom rode the attractions. He planned his day around the Snow White show.

At first, Josh never acknowledged us, but by the end of his trip, he was laughing with our cast members, and would walk up to you and say nothing more than I like you, before walking away. Josh had started to grow on us, but just as we were starting to break the ice, he was back on a plane to Maryland.

As the year went on, things like school, family, holiday seasons and vacations nearly erased Josh from our memory. As the summer season started and July 17th quickly approached, our minds were completely focused on our Golden Anniversary. Everyone’s hectic schedules pushed the limits of our Fantasyland Theatre family, and when the decision was made to cancel the Snow White show, cast morale hit an all time low.

A few days later, I received a letter from Josh’s parents. Josh and his family were returning the following week! He had been talking about us for the past year and couldn’t wait to see us. The letter went on to say that he had been so inspired by his experience the previous summer, he had auditioned for and was cast in a musical at a junior theater in Maryland, something his parents never thought possible.

As the days of Josh and his parents return visited approached, I scrambled to find a way to welcome him back. I bought a card that said “We’ve Missed You. Welcome home!” and golden Mickey Ears with each of their names embroidered on the back. However, getting my cast involved was like pulling teeth. Most of them didn’t remember who Josh was, and those who did were reluctant to get involved.

On the first day of their return visit, we presented the family with their ears and the card for Josh. Tony, Josh’s father, cried when he proudly placed the ears on his head. “I’ve been coming here since 1976 and this is my first pair of ears!”

Over the next twelve days, Josh became not only a friend of my Cast, but a member of our family. Even the toughest Cast Members would laugh with him, and they taught him how to give high fives. Josh became a household name, not only to the Fantasyland Theatre, but to the resort as well. Leads from other areas would call me to say “I met Josh today. He gave me a high five!”

As the days of Josh’s trip grew shorter, my Cast eagerly asked what we could do for him for his last day. We were able to arrange another Meet and Greet with the Snow White cast, and I had a picture from a former Meet and Greet framed. When I brought in the frame mat for them to sign, my crew fought over who could sign first, who could sign where, and who had the most clever phrase.

On Josh’s last day, we had a surprise party waiting for him in the bleacher area of the Theatre. We presented him with the frame, a Dopey doll (his favorite dwarf), and Seven Dwarf bath toys (since he told me his favorite part of the show was when the Dwarves were told to wash up and Dopey pretended to eat the soap). As we all sat around eating cake, I looked around at my fellow Cast Members. They were all playing with Josh and laughing with each other. They had truly come together over this little boy. The whole time I wanted to bring a little magic to Josh, but somehow, he brought magic to us.

Its moments like these that remind me why I work here. This summer, a dozen or so cast members simply came to work and yet became the world to one little boy.

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I usually wore a tie when I was FLT Lead, but this day I was training for a new role since FLT was closing. Hence the Fantasyland Attractions Costume. Also, bonus appearance by Brooke who came up from Small World to celebrate with us.

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Josh’s Farewell Party! 

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Ignore our messy break area. 

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I hope I don’t get in trouble for posting this photo. 

Florida Part 1 – Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In honor of Diagon Alley opening this week, I thought I’d finally get around to writing about the trip we took to Orlando in February. R had to go to Tampa for a meeting early in the week, so we both took off the back half of the week and I met him in Orlando. I have a lot I’d like to write about, but for now I’ll just stick to the day we went to Islands of Adventure (and more importantly – Wizarding World of Harry Potter).

We stayed on Disney property (because 1. we got a great deal and 2. it’s more fun) so I thought getting to Universal would be the biggest challenge of our trip. It wasn’t. (Turns out our biggest challenge was returning R’s rental car but that’s a story for Part 2). The staff at our hotel was amazing – not surprising for Disney – and signed us up for a shuttle. It was $20 round trip each, and the shuttle picked us up right at our hotel.

We were offered several shuttle times that picked up just about every hour. The girl at the front desk told us it would take 90 minutes, so we decided to take the 7am shuttle to ensure we were at the park by the 9am opening. The shuttle took 20 minutes so we were extremely early.

We took our time walking down City Walk. We saw a duck sitting at a bar, and we decided he probably had a rough night.

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Hard to tell, but the duck is actually sitting at the bar.

We hung out with the duck for a while. It was relaxing watching the boats on the river. And also we were 90 minutes early and had nothing else to do. It rained the night before, so most of the benches were wet.

Around 8am, we were approached by a Universal employee who asked what we were doing. We explained we received poor information from our hotel, and the shuttle dropped us off too early. He asked if we had an early entry ticket. We did not. He told us not to tell that to any one else, and escorted us in to the park a full hour early. Completely unexpected and absolutely appreciated.

The only part of the park opened was WWoHP, which was fortunate for us because that’s where we headed first. I’m not going to lie, I did tear up a little the first time I saw Hogwarts through the trees.

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Who knew there were palm trees at Hogwarts?

The first ride we went on was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The wait was posted as 11 minutes, but there was no one else in line. We think the 11 minutes was the time it took to walk through the queue.

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Speaking of the queue, it’s amazing. You walk through Hogwarts Castle, and it’s beautiful and perfect and you really feel like you’re in the movie. Because there was no one else in line, we went twice in a row. While the ride is technologically speaking one of the best rides I’ve ever seen, twice in a row is a bit much on an empty stomach.

From there we went on the Flight of the Hippogriff, which is basically Gadget’s Go Coaster. I’m glad we went on it, but once was enough and we did not go on it again.

We grabbed a quick snack (Two croissants for less than $2!) and then we went on the Dragon Challenge. This was themed to be like the Triwizard Tournament, and it was our favorite ride of the day.

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Again, there were no lines, and we rode in the front of both tracks – themed to be the Hungarian Horntail (blue dragon) and the Chinese Fireball (red dragon). Actually, when we rode on the Chinese Fireball, we were the only people on the entire train.

By the time the park opened, we’d already done almost everything in WWoHP.

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Ollivander’s Wand Shop didn’t open for early entry, so we went there when the park opened and were in the second group that went in for the 10-minute show. It was basically the scene from the movie where Harry gets his wand, but he picks a child from the audience. The kid Ollivander chose had a bad attitude (aka he was being a teenager). Ollivander scolded him and said “You’re lucky I’m in a good mood, so I’ll ask you again before I pick someone else.”  Later in the day, the line wrapped around the building, so I’m glad we got it out of the way when we did. The show was cute, but it is kindof boring if you’re not a child or traveling with a child.

After Ollivander’s, we bought a bottle of Pumpkin Juice and ventured out to the rest of the park. I did not like Pumpkin juice. It tasted like apple butter, but more liquidy and not very pumpkin-y.

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The rest of the park was fun, but not nearly as well themed as WWoHP. Actually, this comic sums it up perfectly.

The weather was overcast for most of the day, and temperatures were in the mid-60s. For two New Englanders escaping the Polar Vortex, it was a sweltering. For Floridians, this was probably too chilly. Also, it was mid-week in February. The park was mostly empty and we hardly waited in lines for any of the attractions – including the lines for the front row.

We decided to have lunch at Mythos, which has been rated as one of the top theme park restaurants. We were not disappointed. When the check came, we were shocked that it was less than $30 for the both of us (including tip). Are we just used to NYC prices? Or is Universal Orlando against price gouging their customers? Earlier we paid less than $2 for two croissants and even the Butterbeers were only $4. (Side note: we did not find food prices at Disney to be as reasonable, so it’s probably a Universal thing.)

After we went on every ride in the park (including all of the Dr Seuss rides and excluding the water ride), we went back to WWoHP. The lines were a bit longer, but no more than 10 minutes (again, including the front row of the Triwizard coasters). We rode the Dragon Challenge several times, and decided the Hungarian Horntail was the better of the two tracks.

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In London I had my Butterbeer on the steps of 4 Privet Drive, and in Florida I enjoyed a butter beer at the Three Broomsticks. My little HP Geek heart exploded.

A few years ago, I went to the Harry Potter studios outside of London, so Butterbeer is not new for me. The studio tour does not offer frozen option, so I was excited to try it here in Florida. I prefer it served this way.

By 4pm, we did everything we wanted to do (in some cases multiple times), so we decided to leave the park early and head to Downtown Disney for dinner. I couldn’t have been happier with our day, and I’m a little nervous to go back. I’m not sure any other visit I’ll ever have will be as magical as this trip – unexpected early entry, no lines, front row for everything, great company. Pure magic. Including this:

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Top: Universal Studios FL 2014. Bottom: Universal Studios CA 2013. This was not planned.

 

 

 

July 4

Eleven years ago today, I was in Hawaii for the first time. I swam with sea turtles and dolphins. I ate huli huli chicken and poi. I drank pina coladas and mai tais. I smelled plumeria flowers and watched some amazing sunsets. My dad was pulled up on stage at a luau.

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There’s my dad in his stars and stripes shirt doing the hula.  

The day after I returned from Hawaii, I had knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus, a cracked patella, and a bruised femur.

Both of my knees had been weakened over years of abuse from dancing and soccer and snowboarding. What finally did me in was slipping on a costume piece during Flashback. I landed on my knee and needed to be carried off stage. Cynthia Harriss saw me backstage and ordered her assistant to get me ice and pizza and I was told to go to the emergency room. I was convinced it was just a bruise, and I would be going to work in the morning.

I did not go to work in the morning.

Eighteen months later, I had surgery. The reason for the long delay is an even longer story but the short version is my original doctor was sued for malpractice, canceled my surgery two days before, and my insurance gave me the runaround before approving me for a new doctor.

After the surgery and six months of post-op rehab, my new doctor recommended low impact sports like cycling or swimming to reduce strain to my knee. He told me I’d never dance again. And I would never be a runner.

And here we are, eleven years later.

My knee still bothers me from time to time. I feel like it’s in a constant state of swollen. It aches and locks when it’s below freezing outside.

However…

Two weeks ago, I celebrated three years as a dance fitness instructor. And in January I ran my first 5k.

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I worked at Disneyland for 7 years, and Peter Pan is my favorite book/movie/Disneyland attraction, so I decided my first running event would be the Neverland 5k. I even convinced my brother to do the run with me.

Considering I stopped a few times to take photos (the Disney runs have Characters peppered along the course), I think a 12-minute mile average is pretty great. In fact, I ran the entire first mile without stopping or walking – a feat I’ve never accomplished before in my life!

I feel a little foolish being so proud about this. I’ve been told numerous times that a 5k is the lowest/easiest/lamest of the running events. But you know what? This is something I was told I would never do.

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Post-race!

I hurt my knee in 2002 on the Hyperion Theater stage in Disney’s California Adventure. I find it quite satisfying to cross my first finish line in the same Disney Park.

(But I still don’t consider myself a runner.)