Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ask Angie: Tips for a Disney Trip

Ask Angie:
I want to take my 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter to Disney world for three days in October. Where is a good place to stay on the property? How should I plan the 3 days?


Since we live so close to Disney, we go there quite a bit and have picked up some tips over that last couple years. I am happy to share!
NOTE: All the links highlighted in this post will take you to the section of the Disney website that corresponds to what I am discussing.


Disney All Star Resorts - Movies

There are a lot of options for places to stay. On the value end, we really like the All Star Resorts - Music, Movies, or Sports.   It has a couple great pools, good food court, pool activities and movies in the afternoon and we have had good experiences with taking buses to all the parks. The rooms are on the level of a Super 8 - a little dated, polyester bedspreads, but clean and everything you need. Make sure you let them know it's the first visit because you will get a special button at check in.

The Parks

With kids aged 2 and 4 and only 3 days, I would stick to the Magic Kingdom. Depending on the days of the week you are going, you can get "extra" hours at the park using your room key. There are a ton of activities and meet and greets every day so be sure to check the schedule. If you are hoping to go to a meal with characters or princesses, you need to make reservations now. They fill up very quickly.

You call the Disney dining number and say that you want to eat in the Magic Kingdom or one of the hotels for a character meal. Fort Wilderness has a Hoop De Doo Revue too that is fun and you don't need park admission for that.  Also - If you log onto the Disney website you can order park maps in advance.

Magic Kingdom
I would start as early as you can in the morning or go in the afternoon. Most families go to the parks in the morning and then leave after lunch to go swim and rest and then come back at night. If it is raining – GO! GO! GO! The lines will be much shorter, you’ll be able to run from one place to another and did I mention the lines will be MUCH shorter?

As for navigating the parks, get a map and pick a “land” to concentrate on for that day. Fantasy Land, Mickey’s Toon Town, AdventureLand will be popular. There’s a train that goes from the front of the Park to the back so it may be good one day to start in the back and work your way forward. Don’t try to navigate using the map – it is nearly impossible; just ask all the smiling Disney faces all around. They will offer the best directions.

The Rides
Some rides have very long lines: Buzz Lightyear's Ride, the race cars, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, and Pirates of the Caribbean to name a few. These are rides you are going to want to secure a Fast Pass for as soon as possible. A Fast Pass basically saves your place in line for a given attraction. The rides that have Fast Pass are noted on the map. You go to the special Fast Pass station, you put in your admission card, and then a ticket spits out with a return time. They prefer you come back during that window, but they will usually let you get in line after that time period as well. When you come back, look for the special line marked “Fast Pass”.

You can only get one Fast Pass per admission ticket until the end time on your pass expired or if you have a very long wait until the time period, the pass will indicate a time “Your Next Fast Pass will be available.” If this is confusing, you can always try to get another Fast Pass and a blank ticket will print out indicating when you can get another Fast Pass. Every rider will need their own pass – except if the 2 year old got in free. She won’t have a ticket so she won’t need a Fast Pass.

Tom Sawyer's Island is a good spot if you need a place to run around. American Presidents is good if you need an air-conditioned nap. There is also a train that runs around the park, a tram in Tomorrowland, and the Dixieland Ferry are good breaks.

Good luck! I would love to hear if other readers have good Disney advice.

Here's also a couple books:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Whatcha Reading? Not Ready for Mom Jeans and I was told there'd be cake

I picked up two more books that focus on short vignettes that pull together to tell a full story.

Not Ready for Mom Jeans

Not Ready for Mom Jeans by Maureen Lipinski
Not being a mom, I find it so interesting what “thing” women pick as a physical representation of losing themselves to motherhood. For some it is a minivan, for others – it is fashion. For Lipinski – it was “mom” jeans. Through this book, Lipinski struggles with her decision to go to work after the birth of her child. As I was reading this book, I thought of at least ten friends who are moms who could relate to many of her stories. I often laughed out loud.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley 
My general reaction to this book was mediocre. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood or that I had read many novels in this genre of book that knocked it out of the park. It gives the feel of a girlfriend telling you funny stories over cocktails, but some of the stories just fell flat for me. The book has some bright spots. She opens with “I have given serious and generous thought to the state of my apartment should I get killed during the day.” I have had those thoughts – even going so far as to give my apartment one last fleeting glance through the eye of who ever would have to be the one to enter postmortem.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Brewing Report: Creme Brulee Stout and Ginger Ales

Southern Tier Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout

I recently learned that these beers are called Imperial Stouts because they were originally brewed in London for the Russian court of Catherine II. It needed to have a higher alcohol content to avoid freezing during transport. The term “imperial” is used much more loosely in modern day, but it’s still fun to think about how the beers – India Pale Ale and Imperial Stouts - we enjoy today were conceived basically to survive transport.

The Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout from Southern Tier Brewery in Lakewood, New York is amazing. I first tried it at Bukowski’s in Boston on tap. Because of the high alcohol content, it is served in a goblet. I was estastic to find it in my local liquor store. It is brewed seasonally so you’ll have to look right now to find it. It is worth the search. The stout is so smooth that I can actually use the term luxurious. It has that burnt sweetness associated with a crème brulee dessert due to the dark caramel malts and vanilla beans used in the brewing process. This is a must –try. I also made a beer sorbet out of it and that was delicious as well.

Magic Hat's Odd Notion Series Magic Hat’s Odd Notion Series is an unique way for Magic Hat to encourage its brewmasters to try new types of beers.

The Summer ’10 iteration is a riff on a Belgian ale – a ginger ale. It has a great blend of malts and hops with the sweet/spicy complement of ginger. Served very cold, it has a dry, almost nutmeg taste. As it comes to room temperature, the ginger flavor comes more the forefront. We think this beer would pair well with Indian food.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

At Home: Go to Kitchen Utensils

Today, I wanted to feature three of my kitchen must-haves: a strainer spoon, a pastry scraper and a nylon whisk:

WMF Profi Plus Fine Mesh Strainer

WMF Profi Plus Fine Mesh Strainer is perfect. I hate having to pull out the big, in the sink strainer when making pasta. With this little gadget, I just dip into the pot, and the strain and transfer the noodles into the sauce right there on the stove.  I have also used it strain meat and bacon. It is great for blanching vegetables. It has a larger surface area than a traditional slotted spoon so you can move a lot more food around.

Oxo Good Grips Nylon Balloon Whisk

Oxo Good Grips Nylon Balloon Whisk is the savior for my nonstick pans. We have a lot of non-stick pans. Recently, I noticed I was scratching them with my regular whisk as I made sauces, soups, ice creams, etc. This was the perfect solution. A solid whisk that is safe for non-stick pans.

Oxo 73281 OXO Good Grips Pastry Scraper

Oxo 73281 OXO Good Grips Pastry Scraper is so handy. If you have ever found yourself unsuccessfully trying to shove all your chopped vegetables into your hands to transfer to the pot, then this is for you. I love being able to load up the scraper and then transfer everything to the bowl. It is really good for tomatoes. Now, I don't think this is really what you are supposed to use this for, but it works for me!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Are You Watching? Hoarding: Buried Alive

Season 2 of Hoarding Buried Alive on TLC rights many of the wrongs of Season One. The standard for a show on Hoarding is A&E’s Hoarding. However, I just can’t figure out if that show is continuing. There hasn’t been a new episode in a long time. In the meantime, TLC has tried to join the Hoarding Band Wagon. The first season was frustrating as the show focused too much on the problem and not as much on the solution. Several of the first season episodes ended with the hoarder in a room with a “professional organizer” going through a box at a time. It was so frustrating. While Season 2 seems to correct some of these frustrations, I still think there is too much time spent on the problem. We see the person go through the space, the children go through the space and then the therapist go through the space. At least with this season a team is involved so that by the end of the episode we at least begin to see some floor space if not an entirely cleaned abode.

I think A&E struck gold by highlighting the Hoarding issue because I believe that the majority of people hang on to useless things so therefore can relate minimally to the hoarder experience. I have a box of letters from my teen through college years. I don’t look through them but they have made every move and I just like knowing they are there. I hold onto projects that I may finish. I buy things on sale just because they are on sale which leads to bulging drawers and closets. This genre of tv really strikes home for me in ways that many other genres do not. TLC is starting to get the right balance. I just wish A&E would show up with longer seasons of Hoarding because TLC’s version just isn’t as satisfying.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hey Good Lookin'! What You Got Cooking? Chicken/Spinach Calzones

Chicken and Spinach Calzone

This recipe turned out to be super easy and really tasty. It definitely is going to be a go-to dish that could easily accommodate leftovers. The pizza dough was much easier to make than I had anticipated. And it is another one of those recipes where I can shop for items on sale and just have them on hand. So, here you go:


Pizza dough:

1 package of yeast (2 and ¼ tsp)

1 tsp honey

1 cup lukewarm water

Combine all these ingredients in a bowl. Leave for about 10 minutes until a foam over the top of the yeast. If this does not happen, dump out the mixture and try changing the temperature of the water and mix again. The first time I did it – the water was too hot so it didn’t foam. After I lowered the water temp, it foamed quite well after 10 minutes.

To this mixture, add:

2 1/2 cups Flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 TBSP olive oil

Once combined, knead for about 5 minutes until you form an elastic ball. Rub a light layer of olive oil around the dough ball. Place in bowl, cover with a dish towel and leave to rise for an hour.


1 chicken breast

1 box of frozen chopped spinach

1 small onion, diced

1 cup of grated sharp cheddar

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Oil for cooking

Place a pizza pan in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Heat some oil in a pan to cook the chicken breast. Salt and Pepper the chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side over medium to high heat. You want it to be slightly undercooked because it will continue to cook in the oven.

Remove the chicken breast from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, add more oil and then add the onions, spinach and red pepper flakes. Saute until heated through. Set aside.

Take out the dough and roll out. I found it easier to roll out into a square, but you may be able to accomplish the elusive circle. You want the dough to be about 1/8th thick if you can manage.

Chop up the chicken breast. In a bowl, stir together the chopped chicken breast, spinach/onion mixture, and shredded cheese. Spread this mixture on one side of the rolled out dough. Fold over the other half of the dough. Pinch the sides together. Brush a little bit of water over the top and cut three small holes in the top to vent.

Using a pizza peel coated with cornstarch or an extra set of hands, transfer the calzone to the preheated pizza pan.

Cook for 25 minutes or until a nice golden color.

 Let the calzone rest for a couple minutes. This made four servings.  We served ours with a BBQ sauce for dipping. Yum!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hot Topics: The Florida Primary

Yesterday's Florida Primary send a strong signal to the Republican Party of Florida: Shape Up or Ship Out. Rick Scott upset the Republican establishment by beating their candidate and current Attorney General Bill McCollum. Scott spent $40 million of his money to do it. The most shocking issue to me is that Rick Scott's company was convicted of one of the largest Medicare fraud schemes in history - and no one cared. In fact, one person said "All politicians are corrupt - at least his transgressions are out on the table." Scott won on a strong message of being a party outsider and "Let's Get to Work."  That theme easily resonated with people who have faced all types of corruption within the Republican Party over that last 24 months. The $40 million didn't hurt as Scott purchased lots of air time and our mailbox filled with his glossy brochures. He dominated. I can't even tell you what McCollum's message was. McCollum basically drowned in Scott's millions.

The general election will be very interesting. Scott positioned himself to the right of McCollum for primary - pro-Arizona immigration legislation, anti health care reform. I am curious to see if he sticks to that message and draws Sink (the Democratic) contender to the middle. Or if Sink is able to hold her ground and those voters who are truly centrists are the ones facing the stark choice. As with most Florida elections - this will be one to watch.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ask Angie: Can you thank someone too much?

An interesting question came my way the other day: Is there a limit to how many times you have to say thank you or bless you? For instance, if someone has a sneezing fit – do you say bless you repeatedly seven to eight times? If you are leaving the office at the same time as someone else and they open the door for you all the way out – do you just keep saying thank you?

To the thank you question – I would answer yes. If someone does something nice or generous for you, then you should say thank you over and over. I do not believe you can actually thank too much.

To the bless you question – If you are a person that bestows blessings on a sneezer, then I think one bless you is fine. It becomes a bit embarrassing for both the sneezer and the blesser to go on and on.

What about you? Do you have any questions for Ask Angie?
You can write me QuestionforAngie(at)gmail.com.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Whatcha Reading? Three Novels about Cheating

Randomly, three novels about husband who cheated on their wives made it to the front of my reading list:

Husband and Wife: A Novel by Leah Stewart, Heart of the Matter by Emily Griffith and  Fly Away Home: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner. The novels all have something else in common- but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Heart of the Matter

Heart of the Matter tells that story from both sides of the equation – the mistress and the wife. I am enthralled by the first chapter. Griffin raises the idea of what if you knew the last time would be the last time – the last time you see someone, the last time you were happy, or the last time you were trusting and naive. This idea has stuck with me. This novel unflinchingly delves into the complexity of these affairs. I was really impressed by this story.

Husband and Wife: A Novel
 Husband and Wife: A Novel is basically the internal monologue of the wife for the first few weeks after she leavens that her husband has cheated. It definitely has the characteristics of an internal monologue – a little rambling and scattered with some self-analysis. I was a little concerned about the novel since it opens with the main character introducing herself to the reader, but the writing style does improve from there.

Fly Away Home: A Novel

Fly Away Home: A Novel -  The twist in this novel is that the cheater is a high profile Senator. The story includes the Senator’s two adult daughters and their own romance tribulations. At times the novel felt like it could have easily been three books. But it is the mother’s journey that allows the daughters to find their freedom. Many people have commented that this was a hard book to put down. I agree. I felt myself devouring this book. I just couldn’t read it fast enough. Weiner definitely lives up to her reputation in this one.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Brewing Report: Red Brick Brewery

Pale Ale –Flavor is a less hoppy than many pale ales so that increases the drinkability. It would hold up well to a steak. The fruity aroma leads to a fruity aftertaste. If you love traditional pale ales, you miss the sharp bite.

Brown – This brown ale has a strong unique flavor. It avoids the super sweet notes that many brown ales have. The maltiness is more complex that I have found. My husband tasted notes of dark chocolate while I thought it had stout-like flavors. As for drinkability, I think I would max out at two beers due to the full flavor.

Blonde – This Blonde has a full body making it a little heavier than what I typically expect from a Blonde. The flavor is very nice – a slight hops taste with a sweet finish.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

At home: Travel Websites

My husband and I do a lot of travel and many people have asked what websites we use to find our great deals so I thought I would share:

http://www.travelzoo.com/ - You can sign up for a weekly newsletter that sends you the Top 20 deals on the Internet any given week. We have found a number of great hotel, package and cruise deals this way.

http://www.kayak.com/ - This site lets you compare prices for airline, hotels and rental cars both from the company's website and services like expedia, orbitz, etc. It truly is one stop shopping.

http://www.friendlyplanet.com/ - This an international tour operator. I have taken two of their tours and am signed up for another next spring. The prices are incredible for what they include and I have had a fantastic experience.

http://www.gate1travel.com/ - I haven't taken a trip with them yet but the deals on International look fantastic. As soon as I see an email from them in my inbox - I know I am going to start dreaming about heading to another terrific location.

http://www.lastminute.com/ - This used to be site59.com and I used it a couple times to get great last minute hotel and airfare deals to go visit friends. It's fun to go look and see what's out there for an upcoming weekend.

What about you? What travel websites do you use?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Are You Watching?: The Bachelor Pad

Over the years I have watched the Bachelor franchise on and off.  I like to see the fantasy locations and shamefully revel at the tear-filled heartbreaks so I was intrigued at the idea of a spin off game show. The premise of the show is that they take 9 guys and 11 girls and put them in a house where they share a dorm-like room filled with bunk bed.  Each week there is a competition where the winner or winners get to pick 3 people of the opposite sex to go out on a date. The competition winner then hands out a rose. The rose holder and the competition winner are safe from the elimination. Houseguests are eliminated by a vote - boys vote out girls; girls vote out guys.

The series changed dramatically between the first and second episodes. The first episode was fun, flirty and everyone got along. Second episode- the claws came out and people realized it is a game. Strategy talks replaced pillow talk and one "couple" already broke up because guy thought being single would be better for his game play.  Being a Survivor fan, it's pretty funny watching these co-eds try to figure out a good strategy. The major issue I have with the show is that at least 10 of the people had relationships with each other before entering the house. So they formed an easy alliance that left everyone else scrambling. I think the show would have been a lot more interesting if everyone had been on a level planning field entering the game or some of the folks with previous relationship had entered halfway through.

The show is still working on the kinks. The competitions have been uninspired  - Twister and a pie eating contest. I'll probably watch for a couple more episodes. If you were having trouble getting your fill of 20-30 somethings frollicking in their bathing suits since the Bachelorette went off the air, then this will easily fill the void.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hey Good Lookin'! Whatcha Got Cooking? Butter Chicken

I came across this recipe and it is now a once-a-week favorite. I have made a couple adaptations based on what I had in the cabinet so you can easily do the same. Enjoy!

•2 pieces Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

•3 cloves Garlic, Minced

•1 teaspoon Salt

•½ teaspoons Black Pepper

•½ heaping teaspoons Cayenne Pepper

•¼ heaping teaspoons Ground Coriander (This usually comes in most spice racks. You'll need to grind it yourself either in a mortar & pestle or I used the back of a spoon on a cutting board.)

•¼ heaping teaspoons Cumin

•1 TBSP rice wine vinegar or the juice of a lime

Combine the above ingredients and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 9 hours. I usually put it all together in the morning before work and let it marinate all day.

•1 whole Onion, Diced

•4 TBSP Butter

•1 can (14.5 Oz. Can) Tomato Sauce (If you don't have tomato sauce, I used 2 cans of the diced tomatoes. It turned out more chunky and less saucy, but the flavors were excellent.)

•1 can (14.5 Oz. Can) Petite Diced Tomatoes

• Milk or cream

•1 bunch Chopped Cilantro, to taste

•Rice or Couscous to serve over

Take the chicken out of the refrigerator.

Heat a large pan up on medium to high heat.

Melt the 4 TBSP butter.

Add the onion and saute until translucent.

Add the chicken.  Cook on each side for 4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes with a lid on.

Take off the lid and add milk/cream. The amount you add depends on the fat count of the milk. You are looking for an orange color. When I used cream, I only used about 2 TBSP. When I used whole milk, I used closer to 1/4 cup.

Then add the chopped cilantro.

It is ready to serve. Bon apetit!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hot Topics: Net Neutrality

The term "net neutrality"  has buzzing across and newspapers since Google and Verizon began lobbying Congress for legislation that would allow the providers to charge different amounts for different types of data streaming to cell phones. Right now, users pay a fee to access the Internet and this gives them access to everything on it. With the new system, users would buy a separate plan if they were avid users of more bandwidth heavy services like streaming audio or video. Basically you'd have your regular "reading" plan and then a "I wanna cats go potty on YouTube" plan.  Their rationale is that the demand for streaming services like video is eating up the bandwidth at an alarmingly rate and users should bear the cost of the $1 billion upgrade that is needed. Google has said it maintains it's position that all Internet should be equally accessible for wired services still stands and also wants legislation codifying the currently voluntary position of wired service providers to keep access open.

From an economic perspective, I totally agree with Google's perspective. This is an issue where some users are endangering the availability of services for everyone. The heavy users should pay for the upgrades needed to support their YouTube or TV.com addictions.

The societal implications are where this gets messy. Basically, this type of legislation would be allowing a private corporation to censor the Internet. What if the tiering system benefits Christians or Muslims or Conservatives or Liberals or the Porn industry? You have to pay to get access to CNN, but Fox is streamed for free?  The worry is that the type of data won't be where the differentiation ends. Right now, everyone is on an even playing field for the Internet. Anyone can start a blog (hi!!), post video and have it be accessible to everyone. Starting a tiered system of payment changes that. It takes away the entrepreneur highly competitive spirit of the Internet and makes it just another place where the highest bidder wins and those with the most money control the information we get. In our country, it's not the government that will censor our access to information - it's the multinational corporations like Google and Verizon that will begin to erode the last place where speech is truly free and access if truly equal. It is something to be worried about. People are protesting Google about this. If you free strongly about it, you could join that protest here.  Or you can always contact your Congressional Representative. Or contact the FCC directly. There is a FCC hearing on this issue tomorrow in Minnesota. Make your Voice Heard!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ask Angie: References - how much truth do you tell?

I got this question the other day:

"A good friend and colleague called me the other day to get my take on a person (we'll call him Jim) who worked in my division several years ago. Jim is applying in my colleague's division. Here's the problem: I did not have the best experience working with Jim.  What should I do? Tell the truth or just stay silent?

I think this is a really hard situation. On more hand - you've had experience with Jim and if you were in your colleague's shoes, you would definitely want to know what you were getting into with a new hire. On the other - it is more professional to stick to the basics, confirm employment and that's about it.

In this case, I would  suggest that you offer an assessment of what his strengths and weaknesses were. (And I mean a real assessment not - strengths: always up for a drink; weaknesses: anything involving work) I would also be very clear that you haven't worked with him in several years and this assessment may be out of date. You should not gossip or complain about any of Jim's behavior while he was previously at the company.  The goal is to try to avoid an uncomfortable situation if Jim does get hired.

Let me know how it goes!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Whatcha Reading? Pieces of Happily Ever After

Pieces of Happily Ever After
Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell is a classic romantic comedy: husband cheats, wife struggles to put life back together, and then we all take the ride to a mostly happy ending. Zutell does a great job of adding fun elements to the story to keep it from becoming stale. For instance, the husband cheats with a famous movie star so the wife is confronted with tabloid covers and tabloid reporters at every turn.She uses  pyschic readings to frame the key elements of the story. I read this book on one plane ride and I was a little sad when it was over. A nice, brain candy summer or travel read.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Brewing Report: Bud Light Lime and Bud Light Wheat

Bud Light Lime – A poor’s man Corona. My husband’s reaction was “Is this a malt beverage?” My take – It is slightly over carbonated so it does feel like you are drinking something fake. There is lime flavor. You can tell they are going for a Corona flavor, but, in my opinion, fall short. In its defense, I have liked it much better in draft form where it tastes more balanced.

Bud Light Wheat – The coriander flavor is prominent. It has an unexpected orange finish. It’s hard to me to judge the “wheat” flavor because I am so used to unfiltered wheat so the wheat flavor here is too subtle. I like it better than Bud Light regular.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

At Home: Personalized Soaps

This past weekend, I was honored to be a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding. She got each bridesmaid a gorgeous basket filled with personalized handmade soaps from The Soap Shoppe.

The smells are so good. The soaps were handmade with all natural ingredients and had fabulous flavors.

 I loved how each item had a label memorializing the wedding.
The Bath Salts
The yummy soap

The Salt Scrub

Then on the back contained a quote about love or marriage.

I even got a set of travel sized soaps for all my travels.

It was a terrific present.