Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!!

What's true love? When your sweetie requests that you win her Clifford the Big Red dog and you do your best to win her favor by throwing balls into a toilet.

Yes, the game IS called "Bombs Away." Enjoying that visual your mind's eye just gave you?

Idlewild Park in Ligonier, PA, August, 2009.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wally Points. I like it!

Rarely will I find amusement park news that's really relevant to my book or that's actually groundbreaking. But this little missive about Erie PA's Waldameer is quite intriguing:

Waldameer going cashless (Erie, PA, USA)
Waldameer patrons won't need a dime to visit the Erie, Penn., amusement park this year, but they will need Wally Points. Waldameer has announced that the park is going completely cashless.

Instead of the green stuff, park guests will load a plastic card or wristband with Wally Points, which are named after the park mascot Wally Bear. The points will cost $1 each. Waldameer owner Paul Nelson told the Erie Times-News that the move will save money by giving the business tighter control over its cash.

In some ways Disney parks are cashless -- if you opt for the Dining Plan and put your souvenir purchases on your Disney rewards card. So this isn't really a huge item, but yet it is when you consider this is a smaller, vintage park. First one that I know of to take this on. I say, bully for them! Especially with the water park right on the premises, it'll make it a lot easier for waterlogged kiddies to go from the floating innertubes straight to the rollercoasters, buy some popcorn and a Coke, all without pulling soggy dollars out of their shorts.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not-so-much fun. At all.

Not really sure how decay can build up beneath a crown on a root-canalled tooth, but it can. Or, I should say, my teeth are capable of it. If you took all the dental work I've had done and totalled up the amount paid and took that amount to a Honda dealer, methinks you could walk out with a basic Honda Civic DX.

I have a car in my mouth.


Pardon me while I rest and eat soft foods and grumble today.

And, no, I did NOT eat too much cotton candy. I've been very good.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"I'm the pink flamingo on the lawn of life."

I'll give full credit where it's due: one of my best friends, Gail, is a pink flamingo enthusiast and my title line here is her credo. It speaks to her uniqueness and her willingness to stand out in a crowd. Gail is a truly original, inventive person with a bubbly gusto for life.

Her love of the tropical bird comes, well, I'm not entirely sure how it developed, but it's been a throughline for her as long as I can recall; Gail and I go back over twenty years. I've been a willing enabler in her quest for all things Groovy and Flamingoey: Gail has an eclectic collection of Flamingo statuettes, glassware, jewelry, and a retro 50s wall mirror(which would go well in Don Draper's foyer), formerly my Dad's.

Silver Springs' very own flamingo family is pictured here, in all their sunset-tinged glory.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Silver Spring History Museum

Located among some cozy shops and a really kickin' little cafe (that serves up a tasty BBQ chicken sandwich) lies a museum of memorabilia and artifacts focused on Silver Springs' history. Therein you can learn all sorts of nifty stuff about the park, the glass bottom boats, the springs and the numerous commercials, TV shows and feature films that were shot there.

I'm a big fan of paper ephemera. Housed in a number of glass display counters are a variety of pamphlets and signage from days gone by that really capture the essence of the Springs a half-century ago and even longer than that.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday on the blog with PHOTOS!

Check this out: on the island of St. John, a pristine beach called Honeymoon Beach beckons sunworshippers, snorkelers and devotees of just relaxing on warm sand, from every geographical direction. You can count me as one of those folks who enjoy spreading out the towel and sinking down into the sand, under the shade. While doing so, I noticed one of the leaves waving above me had an interesting design, made by hungry insects. If you look closely, you'll see one of the lower leaves has a peace sign chewed into it.

Peace to all on this blessed Sunday.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Brush your dog's teeth. Just... do it.

Sometimes one learns the hard way that an ounce of prevention is worth a big, honkin' tanker car's worth of cure.

Our dainty beaglette, Ivy the chaste and pure, had a thorough dental cleaning yesterday. Apparently, our laxity in addressing her dental hygiene resulted in large amounts of puppy plaque and (very minor) doggie gum disease. No worries -- it's all repairable, as long as we arm ourselves with a doggie dentifrice everyday. Her canines are like fine porcelain now - they practially "ding!" when light shines on them.

But besides the cleaning, Ivy had a suspicious growth removed from her hind leg. It was an odd little hairy growth, small in size but increasingly large in alarming us to do something about it. So our vet suggested both procedures be taken care of in one swell foop (she'd have to go under general anesthesia for both so it made perfect sense).

So, remember how I started this post out with the directive about the brushing? The worse the plaque gets, the longer the procedure takes. Hence, the higher the price tag.

Our dainty beaglette's tending and care just set us back over $800. And that, during a month that followed the Worst Month of my Career, was not a welcome surprise.

I'm now accepting creative funding ideas for my Cotton Candy escapades, especially the lodging part.

But putting it into perspective, Ben reminded me she's our child. I never wanted to say these words: "I'm a dog mom." But I am. I reluctantly-yet-gladly own it.

But please, in the future, Dear Universe -- could you find a way for these procedures to cost maybe just a lung, rather than an arm and a leg and a lung?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Voice-overs and writings: hey, thanks God!

It's been a busy week for me on the voice-over the front (i.e. the thing I do to pay the bills and keep me in silk stockings, minks, French bon-bons and, most recently, Cotton Candy trips). Audio book work is becoming more and more rewarding. It's especially nice when it's tied in with Disney and Disney Princesses -- big time, Disney geek out fun for this oversized Disney urchin! I've done some narration recently for the Disney Princess series, a number of read long, listen along projects which I'm very proud of. Only drawback is that, for legal purposes, I can't do character voices for these projects. This makes total sense -- imagine me pulling my Class A impersonation of Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Potts and you can clearly view the scene -- lawsuits and gnashing of teeth and one mighty irritated Ms. Lansbury.

I don't wish to offend the Goddess of Lovett and Auntie Mame.

I so enjoy this work that it's rarely ever really "work". And I feel truly, doubly blessed that I've found myself on this amusement park journey because it, too, is a labor of deeply-set love.

These blog musings have many purposes. I feel gratitude should be included among my blog's reasons to be.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oscar "what-to-be" quandary

Every year we host a mega-Oscar party, complete with a traveling Oscar trophy. themed food and beverages, quizzes, Oscar bingo and the obligatory costume contest. This year I'm just not very geeked about my costume. In past years, I've been everything from Willy Wonka (the Johnny Depp version) to Abigail Breslin from "Little Miss Sunshine". This year I could attempt Julie Child, but the hair's a deal-breaker. I could paint myself blue and become an Avatar character, but I'd be totally ticked off at myself for the next few months as I'd be certain to still find blue body paint on handrails, doorjambs, windowsills. I wish "Adventureland" was nominated, as I'd simply fashion a t-shirt reminiscent of the ones the kids wore at the park.

However... last night I saw "Coraline". My imagination is now bubbling over.

Stay tuned. A photo will eventually follow...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So much time and so little to do - strike that. Reverse it.

Willy Wonka knew what he was talking about. Perhaps, unbeknownst to us, he was planning a vintage amusement park journey as well. I've always thought he was bequeathing the chocolate factory to Charlie because he himself was terminal or something (think back to the final scene in the original film, where Wonka sits in his half room. Was this a reflection of how he saw himself: half a man, ready to die? Always wondered...)

ANYWAY -- I've visited 15 parks thus far; I've got 25 to go. But where and how do I narrow my focus? What I'm loosely planning is to tackle them in groups wherever that's possible: a group of eastern PA parks, NY state parks, parks that dot New England, and, of course, southern CA parks. But scattered about the country are parks who, like the chesse, stand alone. Carousel Gardens in New Orleans. Flintstones' Bedrock park in Custer, SD. Two parks that are drawing me like flies to molasses up in OR.

So in the next few weeks, an actual schedule will be assembled. And Cotton Candy Twins will Unite again!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Well slap me in the face and call me Audie!

The past few weeks have taken me off my newly-beaten path toward writing my book and the last few days have been either exhausting, energy-depleting or draining (you get the basic picture I'm guessing). But today, even with grey skies and mini-snow drifting from the heavens, I'm back on the pony, saddled up and ready to roar forth with gusto! Amusement park tour planning for 2010 begins today with me at the helm, sufficiently caffeinated and perky.

But first, a word from my sponsor, namely the voice-over and narration world, the world in which I blissfully toil and earn monies which help fund my cotton candying, not to mention basic food and shelter.

I've apparently been nominated for not one but TWO Audie Awards, the audio book equivalent of the Oscars. I read many titles last year and two of them seem to be a cut above: "Face of Betrayal" by Lis Wiehl and April Henry, and "Kiss" by Ted Dekker. Guess all those hours I spent as a kid imitating everyone from Linus to Mary Poppins to Jiminy Cricket to Wilma Flintstone has paid off and my vocal gymnastics have helped me garner finalist status. Excited? Uh, yes. Shocked? Well, um....

Grateful. Grateful to God and the stars and planets and angels.

And to Walt Disney for crafting characters whose voices became my first school of "listen and learn".

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A different kind of rollercoaster ride...

"Dan, don't worry. It's kind of like riding a rollercoaster."

My Dad is no chump and he knew this was only an attempt to make his first ride onto the chair lift at least a little more cheerful.

Dad will be moved to assisted living within the month. For those of you not familiar, assisted living at the Arms where Dad's been in independent living for about 9 years now, is on the 2nd floor. He'll be receiving more care, more attention, resulting in a better quality of life. Still, his friends who also reside at the Arms seem to consider his move some sort of ending to a chapter.

"We'll miss you, Dan", one lady sadly admitted.

"No, no, no, he'll still be here and he'll still be visiting down here in the lounge, and going to bingo and all that. You can't get rid of Dad that easily!", I quickly chimed in.

"Oh well, that's good. We don't want to lose him," admitted his friend, a lady in a walker, who has been watching our old time radio shows all these years, especially those that featured my dad (Dad does a crackerjack imitation of Rochester from "The Jack Benny Show". We'll be performing two Bennys next weekend, but this will be the first time Dad won't be playing Rochester. He just can't process the way he used to.)

From his inside view room on the 5th floor, Dad can't see the world whirring around him. From his new room on the 2nd floor, Dad will get a sunny Southern view, albeit of the parking lot. But there's a busy intersection nearby, life bumping along as the day chugs.

When we wheeled Dad into the new room to give it a peek, it was hard to detect if he liked it, was indifferent, or wanted to rapidly retreat. Until I saw the smile enter his eyes when he took in the sunshine.

It's not Vegas, but it'll do.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Theme parks across the country -- map them out!!

These links from Ultimate have been invaluable resources for locating parks for my book. Thing is though, you need to visit the sites and really educate yourself about the parks because, unfortunately, these sites consider waterparks and those go-kart parks theme parks -- which they're NOT. But, with a little detective work, you'll be able to locate the best, the brightest, the ones possessing the "old balloon man souls".

The first link provides a list of theme parks, while the second link allows you to click on a map and find out which parks are nearby.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"The greatest show that was ever afloat..."

"All aboard, all aboard
On the glass bottom boat
It's the greatest show that was ever afloat
Take a ride on the tide with the guide and see
The way out wonders of the deep blue sea"

From the 1966 film, "The Glass Bottom Boat" (lyrics by Joe Lubin, sung by the delightful Doris Day)

Few rides are more inviting, exciting and relaxing simultaneously than a glass bottom boat ride. Silver Springs Park basically invented them, so we knew we were in for a treat when we boarded our first of two glass bottom boat rides that day, this one lead by Captain Dale, who originally hailed from Chicago (I could pick off his accent, sharp as a scythe, in a nanosecond. When you grow up South Side in the depths of that dialect, you can almost smell it, and it brought to my senses Niki's hot dogs and fries).

Clear natural springs feed the river and the proof is in the viewing. It's like riding the submarine ride at Disneyland, only this is REAL. Real water plants and fish and turtles and an occasional alligator. The fish in the photo were lil' dickens, darting around and about, a jolly lot.

The view is tinted in tourmaline -- exquisite.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snowy blowy...

Woke up to around 5 inches of snow. Knew I had to manage rush hour morning traffic, but was only driving to Wheaton, so that's a lot less intimidating than trying to circumnavigate going into the city. Made it to my audio book session in record time, no worries.

But stepping foot out into the tundra got me fixated on warmer climes, warmer times and more amusement parks in the future. I took a gander at my pin map; I have a huge map on my western office wall, filled with pins. Black and white for the places I plan to visit, and blue, red, green or yellow for those I've visited and written about. Right now, the earliest opening park I could potentially visit, if I get a really good deal on Hotwire or somesuch site, would be Carousel Gardens in New Orleans (opens weekends starting in March). I'm just chomping at the bit to go there: dates back to 1906, and FDR did a lot to rejuvenate the space. It's listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.

Beignets, Cajun music, and a ride on a vintage carousel. THAT'S spicy!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Enjoying the view...

Silver Springs park in Ocala, FL doesn't resemble an amusement park as much as a nature conservancy. But it does have some rides, more than two, so it fits the bill for my book.

The view above is from our car in the Lighthouse ride, a part gondola/part Ferris wheelish jobbie that hoists you well above the trees. The breeze was warm, the waters below even bluer than the skies.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hunka hunka birthday cake

Spent the last eversomany days aboard the Disney Cruise ship, the Magic. Let me tell you, there's probably no better way to spend one's birthday, especially if one's birthday is in the middle of winter and, usually, there are no flamingos anywhere nearby. Here, flamingos aren't that far away, and dolphins swim alongside your ship and you can even have High Tea on the High Seas, which is precisely what I did.

We had high tea at Palo, the ship's exclusive restaurant for "grown-ups" only (we appear to fit the bill, but are actually just overgrown children with credit cards, so we pass muster). I'm served my own pot o' tea, Jasmine green. Then the sandwiches arrive: baby shrimp salad and cucumber and ham on foccacia and more. Scones, delicate and fluffy, soon follow, accompanied by jam and double cream. Ben eats most of the double cream by the spoonful, never mind the scone. And after these, the actual desserts follow: eclairs, brownie fudge cake, and a blueberry cheesecake that equalled perfection, along with fruit tarts topped with tropical fruits. We were entitled to seconds, thirds, a continuous stream of plenty, but we finished right there and then, requesting to take our remaining pastries with us (where they sat in our stateroom fridge)

This was at 3 o'clock. Our scheduled dinner seating? 5:45. Can you see a bit of a difficulty here?

We arrived at dinner at Lumiere's which boasts an incredible French menu. Somehow Ben managed to order a full dinner. I had a simple green salad, which drew raised eyebrows from our server and giggles from our tablemates (who blissfully ordered full meals as well).

Dessert time came and, by then, I decided I did, in fact, have a teensy bit of room for, well hey, creme brulee is small most of the time, right? So I ordered it, cracked through the burnt sugar on top (the best part!) and poked through only about a quarter of it.

And then the clapping began. And our entire waitstaff, from far away places like the Philippines and Serbia, all gathered around to celebrate, what? My birthday, of course!!! And what did they bring?

See above photo.

This glorious cake was approximately 6" tall, 6" across, 6" deep. White cake with a creamy strawberry center and smooth vanilla frosting. With a white chocolate ship to top it.

After our merry waiters sang "Happy Birthday" to me, I slowly scraped my fork along one side of the cake. Offered as much of my cake to our tablemates as they would like, but they just had their own separate desserts and were also jam-packed (quite possibly with actual jam!).

So the photo of this generous amount of pastry is one for the ages now. It was awfully sweet of the staff to remember my birthday and, well, at least I had room for about one thirtysecond of it. Plus the aft end of the chocolate topper.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bobbing along, bobbing along...

Seated in a relatively quiet terminal at Orlando International Airport, waiting for our flight, listening to Mozart and CNN simultaneously, while I'm typing away while I wonder when I'll stop feeling like the boat is still rocking under my seat.

Yes, our grand tour of the eastern Caribbean ended this morning and the Floating Mouse House is setting sail with a whole new crop of seafarers at this very minute.

And I'm so jealous I could spit.

I highly recommend the Disney Cruise for anyone, any age, at any time. Just go. Wonderful service, wonderful food, wonderful excursions and entertainment. It just goes on and on, the wonder of it all.

Some highlights:

The "Sweet Temptations" nightly dessert offering. Always inventive, never boring, always delicious.

Getting a free upgrade (angels must've been aflight) to a room with an outdoor open air deck, with chairs and a little table for setting your Mai Tai upon.

The onboard gym, with a glorious view of the ocean through the huge windows. It's located Forward so you see what the captain sees while you're working the elliptical.

The "Pirates IN the Caribbean" night time show, complete with pirates and fireworks! Arrrrrgghhhh -- thar be firey chrysanthemums above the sea!!!

The island of St. John. Just. Beautiful.

And, most importantly, quiet contemplative time. Especially with my wonderful hubby.

So I'm almost back home and I'll be blogging up a storm and posting a plethora of pictures. Stay tuned.

Oh -- and I'll be working out basically around the clock.