Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Seasons of the Force Launches Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend into Hyperspace

We go for the storytelling; the Magic that envelops us once surrounded by the Disney gates.  And so, that magic for Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend runners is called the Force.  While it was true at last year's inaugural event, it was certainly awakened this year.  Racers were immersed in the FIRST ORDER and the RESISTANCE in 2016.  If we just let it in, we were able to harness the power of the Light Side.

Star Wars central can be found in Tomorrowland.  As with any good training program, my advice is to start at the beginning.  Jedi of my generation might be a tad weak in their "prequel" history, installments 1-3.  Likewise, Padawans may need to brush up on the "classics" 4-6.  Head your cruiser to Tomorrowland Theater for Star Wars: Path of the Jedi - a 10-minute synopsis of the Star Wars story to date.  I can't tell you how much I had either missed or forgotten!  Get up to speed with this necessary primer to the weekend.

Next stop?  Steer to Star Wars Launch Bay for some face time with the heroes and villains you've come to love/hate.

And what a terrific way to show off your bling to the beings who are most impressed by it!

And for Disney Parks fans, "Chewie, we're home" means oh, so much more here.  Speaking of Wookiees, grab a pilot's seat in the nearby Hyperspace Mountain, head to Jakku and yell "punch it Chewie!"

Further satisfy your need for speed at Star Tours - The Adventures Continue, where your Starspeeder 1000 flight now includes a new location from Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

Post battles, all Rebels will need fueling, and that detail has not been overlooked by the masters either.

Though out-of-this-world, the breakfast and lunch/dinner menus made sticking to a pre-race sensible diet (low fat, low fiber, low spice) a challenge.  I chose the kid's Jawa Turkey Sand-Wich because it was light, healthy, and came on BANTHA BLUE MILK BREAD.  No, it wasn't whole wheat, but it's blue, and I NEEDED it.  It was deeee-licious.  Post-race, Darth By Chocolate it was.  After 19.3 miles I needed that too.

If you time it right, you can sit on the eatery's patio to watch and learn from Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple.  Get your double dose of the Force here!

At this point in your "training" you have earned your wings, so to speak.  Get to Tommorrow Landing and purchase your own personalized (in Aurebesh, mind you) Star Wars nametag.  Wear it, you must!!

Though I cannot claim that all this immersion shaved any parsecs from my Rebel Challenge times, it did send the fun factor, the entire Star Wars theming into the stratosphere.  Whether you intend to keep your running shoes firmly planted on terra firma, or you are simply "studying" for the upcoming Star Wars Land, Seasons of the Force makes the circle complete. "This is a new Day, a new beginning..."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Finest Hours | A Disney Movie Review

2016 is in full movie-swing and the first potential blockbuster from Walt Disney Studios has hit the screen.  Proving that "Disney" movies span the generational appeal, I brought my 24-year-old son and 86-year-old mom to a screening of the true-life drama The Finest Hours.                                

 Officially opening in theaters on January 29, 2016, this saga starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Eric Bana is one of the human spirit defying any manner of obstacle that nature (or man) presents.  Amazingly, my mom remembers the actual event; this 1952 rescue at sea featured prominently in the news of the day.  An ode to the "Greatest Generation" was certainly well-received by the three generations I was sitting with!!

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios
After a sustained one hour and 57-minute lump in my throat, I can assure you that this movie is action packed and the story gripping.  The undercurrent of "not on my watch" and trusting one's inner compass is played out through the chief protagonists; United States Coast Guardsman Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and T2 tanker First Assistant Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) counter their reputations as ner-do-wells as the saga progresses.  I refuse to spoil your experience with The Finest Hours, so I will leave my part of the story there.  Simply know that I had tears in my eyes for at least half of the screen time...  If this movie was not advertised as a true story, I would not believe that a rescue at sea could be so daring.

January 29, 2016 – The Finest Hours (Walt Disney Studios)

Walt Disney Studios

                                                                                                                                                                                    A heroic action-thriller, "The Finest Hours" is the remarkable true story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the Coast Guard.  Presented in Digital 3D, Real D 3D and IMAX 3D, the film will transport audiences to the heart of the action, creating a fully immersive cinematic experience on an epic scale.

Coming soon, Disney has more goodies on tap:

March 4, 2016 - Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Walt Disney Animation Studios

April 15, 2016 – The Jungle Book (Walt Disney Studios)

Walt Disney Studios

May 6, 2016 – Captain America: Civil War (Marvel)


May 27, 2015 – Alice Through the Looking Glass (Walt Disney Studios)

Walt Disney Studios

June 17, 2016 – Finding Dory (Disney / Pixar)


July 1, 2016 – The BFG (Walt Disney Studios)

Walt Disney Studios

August 12, 2016 -  Pete’s Dragon (Walt Disney Studios)

Walt Disney Studios

Fall 2016 – Queen of Katwe (Walt Disney Studios)

Walt Disney Studios

November 4, 2016 – Doctor Strange (Marvel)


November 23, 2016 - Moana (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Walt Disney Animation Studios

December 16, 2015 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm)


TBD 2016 – The Light Between Oceans (DreamWorks Pictures)

DreamWorks Pictures

Monday, January 25, 2016

Anabella Hotel Review | My Foray into Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are reviewing the official Disneyland hotels and some of Disneyland's Good Neighbor hotels.

I was scared.  Really.  I have never stayed in a Disney Parks off-property resort.  Never ever in 44 years.  But runDisney is an expensive habit, and paying the kids' college tuition really does take precedence over an enchanted room in my Disneyland race weekend default digs, the Disneyland Hotel.  I was quoted a rate at a Good Neighbor Hotel that was less than half of what I normally pay.  It.  Was.  Time...

After using all of my map skills to discern which hotel would be most convenient to the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend corrals (aka starting line queing), and remembering local folks literally stumbling out of their motel rooms into said corrals last year, I placed an X on the Anabella Hotel.  Located on the corner of W. Katella Avenue and Disneyland Drive, this 7-acre, self-described "California Mission Style Boutique Hotel" is situated down the block from the Anaheim Convention Center and across the street from this little beauty...

Disney's California Adventure
*Please be aware that you cannot simply cross the street to gain access into either park; you need to walk about 1/3 mile to Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, walk through to Downtown Disney District, and backtrack another 1/3 mile to park security.  If you or someone in your party cannot manage the 2/3 mile trek to and from the parks each day, the ART bus service will drop you at Downrown Disney District for a fee.

**Likewise, although the Star Wars Half Marathon passes directly in front of this hotel, due to new security concerns and proceedures all runners must now proceed to the Disneyland Hotel parking lot to be screened prior to gaining access to the corrals.  So much for the research and planning!!

Disneyland amenities include posted park hours, and the ability to purchase park tickets at the hotel.  A congenial bell hop assisted me and wheeled my giant race weekend luggage through the labyrinthe of buildings to our room.  (This might be an issue if it every rained in Southern California!)

One of nine Anabella buildings
Our Deluxe Room included a lovely terrace with sitting area, which served to expand our living space.

A luxe "pillow-top" Queen-sized bed, pull-out sofa, and adjoining nook with a Double bed.

This large room could very comfortably accomodate a family of 4 or 5.

And as my runDisney roomie pointed out, we did not have to "hold hands" while going to bed each night; we really felt as though we had 2 seperate rooms!  The Concierge Queen and Concierge King Double must be huge.  Accessible Premier Rooms are also available.

Large, that is, until one needs the bathroom facilities.  Here the space is cramped and adequate at best.  There is a significant counter for "stuff." (Which 2 women easily filled to overflow.  OK, I did it all be myself.)  But, for a runDisney weekend, or any Disney Parks stay, time spent in the room really is minimal.  The only other shortcoming that I must report are the thin walls and substantial outside noise.  Perhaps that explains the complimentary ear plugs!  I kid you not!!


-   Complimentary Wi-Fi
-   100% non-smoking property  (California, I miss you!)
-   Fitness Center  (This I cannot report on, as my fitness was spent on the 19.3 race miles.)
-   Business kiosk  (with the ability to print boarding passes)
-   Gift Shop
-   In-room safe
-   Guest laundry
-   Mini-fridge
-   Self-parking  (for a surcharge)

The Anabella Hotel provides 2 pools for their guests; the Resort Pool and Jacuzzi and a seperate Quiet Pool.  Both are clean and nicely appointed.  because of the hotel's convention facilities, and its proximity to the Ananheim Convention Center, special care and attention seems to be given to adults.

In my estimation, the hotel's dining offering is well-represented by the Tangerine Grill & Patio.

Again, race weekend schedules do not lend themselves to long, lingering meals, but I did get a cup of Joe to go from the walk-up counter (but boy, that Organic Oatmeal sounded delicious) and a cup of hot chocolate on their patio.  The staff could not have been sweeter, and the outdoor bar and lounges with firepits beckoned to us nightly.  (Darn those 3 am race wake-up calls!)


-   Did I yearn for Disney resort accomodations?  You bet.  Would I stay at the Anabella Hotel again?  You betcha.
-   Ideal for large families who do not mind a bit of a walk back to their hotel after a long day in the parks.
-   Unfortunately, the change in runDisney's corral policy makes this hotel inconvenient for this race.  Dependent upon what they decide for Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, the queing in the parking lot of Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel would make the Anabella far more convenient.  We shall see if the runDisney policies continue to evolve.
-   The price is right!!

The staff at the Anabella Hotel made my first foray into Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels a painless one; the bar has been set high for my next adventure...

For more Disneyland hotel reviews, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Disneyland & Good Neighbor Hotel Reviews Loop:

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pandora for Your Valentine Giveaway

Are you as in love with the Pandora line as I?  Ever since their alliance with the Disney Parks, I've been ogling and coveting the bracelets, charms, and all that sparkles about them.

Though I've been window shopping for two years now, YOU can own a beauty by Valentine's Day!

That's a Black Leather Pandora Bracelet, a Mickey Mouse Charm, AND a Black Leather Clutch Fossil Wallet!!! 

(Where you can store all the $$ you saved from not having to buy a thing!)
Value:  $175 CAD 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway to open to both U.S. and Canadian citizens alike (worldwide, in fact!), 18 years and older.  Enter now through November 1st.  Check Giveaway Rules HERE.

I'd like to send hearts and flowers to my blogger pal Suzanne at @Maple Mouse Mama for inviting me to join in this countdown to Valentine's Day.  Good luck all!!