Spicy Margaritas

A month or so ago, M&I were out to dinner, and the power went out in the entire Marina as we were about to pay. Our server basically told us he understood if we just left, but when we sat around and waited for the power to return, he brought us a flight of house-infused tequilas to thank us for our patience.

SpicyTequila2When the lights go out in the city…

It may have been the 2+ glasses of wine, the free tequila, or the excitement of the entire Marina in pure darkness, but we fell in love with the spicy tequila, and set out to figure out how to make our own.

We followed this recipe almost exactly, but here’s what we did:

1 750 ml bottle of Tequila Blanco
2 Cups chopped Pineapple
3 Jalapeños, sliced in strips, with the seeds

1. Put pineapple and jalapeños in a large jar (we found one for $2 on clearance at Target).
2. After 2 days remove the jalapeños.
3. After another 2 days, remove the pineapples, and strain the tequila back in to its original bottle.

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The first time we made this, it was perfectly spicy, full of flavor of both the pineapple and the jalapeño. The second time we made it, we forgot to take out the jalapenos for 4 days, so we left the pineapple in for another 2 days, and it was much sweeter with less of a bite. I prefer the spicier tequila, but you can play around with the length of time the jalapeños and pineapple stay in the tequila to find a blend that works for you. (We’re currently on Day 2 of our third batch, and I hope we get something closer to the first…) (UPDATE: The third batch was exactly like the first batch)

We’ve also tried this with 2 cups of chopped Mango and 3 Habaneros, but we both preferred the Pineapple-Jalapeño tequila. And this is coming from someone who loves everything mango.

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Mike’s Spicy Margaritas:

3 oz Pineapple-Jalapeño Tequila*
2 oz Fresh squeezed Lime Juice
1 oz Agave
Splash Triple Sec
(Edit: I was just informed by my personal bartender that it was a splash of Cointreau)

1. Shake in a cocktail shaker
2. Serve in salt-rimmed glasses

*If too spicy, make with 1 oz Pineapple-Jalapeño Tequila, and 2 oz Tequila Blanco

SpicyTequila3Pairs well with taco night.

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An Evening with “Anna” and “Elsa”

I’ve been dreading July 3 since THE BIG MOVE, and earlier in the week had a few meltdowns about it’s impending doom. I decided to plan some fun things to keep myself busy. Most of my friends already had plans (Three Day Weekend/Holiday/Family time/etc) so I decided to take myself to Disneyland.

The highlight of my morning was when Peter Pan spotted me walking through Fantasyland, chased me down yelling “YOU HAVE MY SHADOW!”, and asked if I wanted to take a photo. He told me how to pose:
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He even noticed my Second Star to the Right tattoo behind my ear, and told me to keep it hidden else people would think I’m a pirate.

Then I had breakfast with Huey, Dewey, and Louie
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Had a Fun Wheel
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And enjoyed a concert from The World Famous Disneyland Band
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It was a great morning. I hadn’t seen the Paint the Night parade yet, nor the new fireworks, and I dithered about whether or not I wanted to stay. Parking at my new place at night is a challenge, it was a holiday weekend so it’s extra busy, and I was simply tired. I found a curb on Main Street, nestled between a bench and a pole, and figured no one would bother me there. I pulled out my kindle, and thought I’d spend the next couple of hours reading while I decided if I actually wanted to stay. Worst case, I’d watch the sunset over the castle and leave before it got too crazy.

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But soon, a little blonde girl dressed like Elsa, and her red-headed sister dressed like Anna sat next to me and asked me what I was reading. This began one of the best conversations I’ve ever had. I was live-tweeting some of the adorable things they said, but I wanted to put them here to keep everything together before they get buried in my Twitter feed.

***

Anna had Ninja Turtles on her shoes, I asked if she like turtles and her face lit up. I told her I had a pet turtle, and both girls thought I was the coolest thing ever.

***

Elsa: What’s your name?
Me: Emiliy
Elsa: Is that with an “E” or with an “M”?
Me: With an “E”
Elsa: MY NAME IS EMILY WITH AN E TOO!

(note: I didn’t mention the extra “i” because it’s confusing enough for adults. I later found out Elsa’s real name was Brooke, and she sometimes says her name is Emily because that’s her best friend’s name)

***

Elsa: What did you eat for dinner?
Me: Popcorn
Elsa: What did you eat for Lunch?
Me: Ice cream
Elsa: Well then what did you eat for breakfast?
Me: … a cookie…
Elsa: YOU CAN NOT EAT ALL OF THOSE THINGS FOR YOUR MEALS

I got schooled by a 6 year old dressed as Elsa.

Later:

Elsa: Mom, her name is Emiliy with an E not an M. She had a cookie for breakfast and popcorn for dinner!
Mom: That’s what you get to do when you’re an adult
Elsa: (jaw drops)

***

Elsa: So, it’s just you and your turtle?
Me: Yup.
Elsa: That sounds like the life.

***

Anna and Elsa’s dad brought pizzas. 
Elsa: This pizza is OK, but my dad stole all of my pepperoni.
Me: (laughs, looks up at her dad)
Dad: (shrugs) She stole my pizza. It’s fair.

(this began an argument between Elsa and her dad about pepperoni. Elsa is full of sass. I decide I like her)

Me, to Anna: Is your pizza good?
Anna: (sighs) It’s ok…
Me: Did your dad steal your pepperoni, too?
Anna: (eyes get really big) THERE WAS PEPPERONI!?

***

The girls climbed in to my lap and asked to see photos of Edgar.
Dad: Girls! No! Get off of her!
Me: It’s ok, I don’t mind. I have a pet turtle and they asked to see photos.
Dad: You have a pet turtle? Turtles are [Anna]’s favorite. It’s all she ever talks about.

***

A Cast Member came by and told the girls that the real Anna and Elsa would be in the parade. The girls nearly lost their shit. They were screaming and jumping and it was adorable.

***

Playing an iPhone trivia game to pass the time.
Me: In the Hunger Games, who was “The Girl on Fire”?
Elsa: I KNOW! It was Snow White!
Anna: NO! It was Olaf!

***

During the Parade, THE Anna waved at “Anna” and I thought she might faint.

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***

The girls asked me if I was going to watch the Fireworks “because tomorrow is the 4th of July and we need to watch the fireworks together”. During the Frozen/Let It Go scene, it started to snow on Main Street, the girls looked at me, then at each other with the most perfectly excited look filled with awe and wonder. I was able to catch a photo of it, and will be emailing it to their parents. I don’t want to post a photo of someone else’s child on the internet (I’m still essentially a stranger to them) but trust me when I say it was magic.

***

Despite all the somber and emotions that July 3 was meant to bring, this ended up being one of the best days I’ve had at the park. I dithered about staying all day, but I’m glad I did. From Peter Pan chasing me through Fantasyland all the way to my two little guardian angels in the evening, it truly was a day filled with Disney Magic.

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Second Star to the Right and Straight on ’til Morning. Jupiter and Venus watch over the Disneyland Fire Dept while Walt looks over the Park.

Disneyland Bucket List

In September, my parents promised me an Annual Pass to Disneyland if I moved back to California before Christmas.

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I became one of “those”

The majority of 2015 has been me meeting up with my girlfriends (who also all happen to be former Disney Cast Members) once or twice a month for Fun Wheels and Disney adventures.

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Fun Wheels are indeed quite fun.

A few weeks ago, while chatting over Fun Wheels, we discovered there were a number of things at least one of us have never done in the Parks, and our Disneyland Bucket List was born. I’m pretty sure we were at least one Fun Wheel in, but the best ideas come about when you’ve been drinking. And so far we’ve been having a lot of fun knocking things off the bucket list:

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Animation Academy (because drinking and drawing is safer than drinking and driving)

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Riding the Golden Zephyr

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Breakfast in the Park (that cinnamon roll french toast will be served in heaven)

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Attending an Annual Passholder exclusive advanced movie screening (Inside Out! Go see it!)

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Riding in the driver’s seat on Radiator Springs Racers (and being in the park early enough to snag a RSR Fastpass before they sold out.)

We have several things planned for the summer, but we need some more things to add to our list. What have you always wanted to do at Disneyland? (or Disney’s California Adventure. Or Downtown Disney…)

R’s Nerdy Thirty

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for more than a year. R didn’t want me to post it, but considering (1) I no longer give a shit and (2) I’m attending my very first Blathering, I need to get this little blog up and running again. I’ve been explaining what I did for this party to people for years, so this post seemed to be pretty perfect to get back in to it. I’ll try to contain my snarky digs at R and his folks (who hated the party, btw) (ok, that will be my only dig, promise) (but seriously. They HATED this idea)

***

R turned 30 and I wanted to do something big for him. I knew that I wanted to throw a surprise party, and I wanted there to be a theme. I tried to think of themes to include his favorites: Muppets, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Video Games, Robots – and they all came out looking with varying degrees of success. I didn’t want it to look like a child’s party – He is an adult turning THIRTY. But I did want it to be fun, a little punny, and include all of his interests. And then it hit me – NERDY THIRTY

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Address/phone numbers removed for privacy’s sake. The QR code opened a map, but altered slightly for same reason.

I had a lot of fun putting together the themed menu, and it was basically a big hit. Some of the references were lost on most of the guests, but that was OK. R got everything, with the exception of the Legend of Zelda reference, because I didn’t realize he had never played the game before (UNACCEPTABLE!)

Anyway, here’s the food table, referred to as Admiral snAckbar:
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Computer-y things:
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hardware (utensils) | software (napkins) | pi (mango pie) | chips (get it? like computer chips!) 

Lord of the Rings:
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lembas bread (pita chips) | council of elrond (e.l. fudge cookies) | second breakfast (pastries) 

Star Wars:
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dagobah swamp (spinach artichoke dip) | bantha fodder (popcorn) 

Legend of Zelda (sortof) | James Bond (sortof) | Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:
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be square (triscuit) | lon lon ranch cheeses | broccoli | babel fish (goldfish crackers)

This one was a bit of a stretch. One of R’s favorite snacks is Triscuit with sliced cheeses. The tagline on the invitations was “Be Square” so I kindof used that as the them for the Triscuit. As I mentioned before, R didn’t get the Zelda/Lon Lon Ranch reference. But not all references can be perfect. Same with the broccoli as a reference to James Bond. We had just finished watching every James Bond movie, so I wanted to include 007 in the party somehow. Bonus points if you get it without clicking this link.

Ninja Turtles / Muppets / Star Trek:
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pizza | cup labels | rainbow connection (fruit salad) 

Cake:
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It was NOT a lie, and it was delicious. 

And of course, the star of the show: The Death Star Watermelon
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We told R that you can’t have a Death Star without destroying it using The Force. His response was “Well, clearly this is the first Death Star, and there isn’t an exhaust port” so we handed him a blindfold and a baseball bat and told him to improvise.

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Food stuff I had planned, but forgot to take photos of:
Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (adult beverage, Hitchhiker’s Guide)
Vaderade (fruit punch, Star Wars)
Felix Felicis (lemonade, Harry Potter)
Goldfingers (chicken fingers, James Bond)
Edgar Food (salad, named of course for Edgar)

Lastly, I found a company that lets you design your very own robot, so I made the little guy on the invitations:
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The RobBot liiiiiiives

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.

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.

**************************************

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.