Monday, December 31, 2012

I Firmly Resolve...

It's New Year's Eve, a time to celebrate the year that is ending and look hopefully towards the year that is approaching.

It's also a time to set ridiculous goals for yourself that you probably won't live up to.

Erm.  I mean.  It's a time to make reasonable goals that you at least plan to put some effort into.

Hopefully that's what I've done.

Mrs. Geek's New Year's Resolutions
in no particular order

-Blog more (and better).
I started this blog to document the wedding-planning process.  Since we were planning the wedding long-distance from both the venue and my family, and since I'm the first grandchild in the family to get married, I knew people were going to want to feel involved in the process.  I brought as many family members as I could on the dress-shopping trip because, although I didn't expect to actually buy a dress that day, I knew it was probably the only decision I could physically involve everyone in.  I knew that, by writing about every decision we made and why we were making them, people like my aunts and my grandmothers could follow along and feel like they were a part of everything.  Although the wedding was a full Mass in a Catholic church and I wore a white dress, we still had some less-than-traditional elements going on that most of our younger guests wouldn't bat an eye at, but had the potential to ruffle the feathers of those who had a different idea of what a wedding is "supposed" to look like.  The blog gave me an opportunity to explain everything so that the color of my shoes wouldn't shock and upset people on the day itself.  (You wouldn't think shoes could be so controversial.  You have no idea.)  Wedding blogs also serve as inspiration for other brides planning their weddings- I know I followed a ton of wedding blogs before we even got engaged!- so this blog also served as an application to Weddingbee, where I could share my planning experience with other women facing the same decisions.  Opening up to an audience of people who didn't know me personally was a little daunting, but overall has been a great experience.  I hope that, by expanding the topics I write about here, I can also expand my audience; I've always loved writing and sharing what I have to say with other people.  I hope, in the coming year, to make this little blog look a bit more professional- I want to give it a (hand-made) face lift, I want to stick to my 3-days-a-week posting schedule, and I want to write about things that interest not only you, my current audience, but also an audience that may not know I exist yet.  While I don't think I'm going to monetize this little blog any time soon, I would like to focus on cleaning things up and bringing it to a point where that might one day be an option.

-Read more.
Now that wedding planning is over, I finally have time to read again!  Since we got home from the honeymoon, I've averaged about a book a week.  While I'm not sure I can keep that up, I do want to challenge myself to read at least one new book every month- knowing full well that I'll probably be re-reading Catching Fire before the movie release, and I'll probably dive into another Potter series re-read.  Reading has always been my favorite way to escape the real world, and I don't want books to be replaced by the internet or television to provide such an escape.

-Cook from scratch more.
Before we got married, Mr. Geek would come over for dinner as often as he could, but most week nights his work schedule made that nearly impossible, especially towards the end of the engagement.  My roommate and I were often on nearly opposite schedules- I like to eat dinner closer to 6pm and she sometimes wouldn't be home until after 9- so more often than not, I was cooking for just me.  I figured if the food I was making wasn't going to be served to anybody else, I may as well make something easy and hassle-free- no sense getting all fancy if there's no audience.  Now that we're married, though, I want to get away from my reliance on frozen meals and "just add ground beef" boxed meals and pre-made jars of pasta sauce.  We were given an entire kitchen full of new and amazing gadgets, so I need to start properly using them!  This year, my goal is to make at least one completely-from-scratch meal each week, though I'll allow myself to fall back on the pre-made pasta sauce and pre-cooked chicken the rest of the week when I'm just too busy.  Meals made with fresh ingredients not only taste better, they're healthier for you, too.  Plus, meals that have a lot of prep work provide the perfect opportunity for us to cook together!

-Yeah, okay, I want to lose weight, too.
Every single year, without fail, I resolve to lose 5 pounds.  Every single year.  Sometimes I actually act on this resolution, setting myself an exercise plan that I stick to for a good couple of weeks, and sometimes I vow that when the weather gets warmer, I'll take more walks outside.  This year, I actually mean it- while I don't want to put a number on it, I definitely need to shed some pounds.  I am the first bride in the history of ever to actually gain weight during the engagement!  When we first got engaged, I was actually happy with my size and weight and therefore didn't feel the need to actively try and change anything.  I put myself on a strict no-desserts-ever "diet"- managing to make it all the way through Christmas with my family without once touching a piece of pie or a cookie!- but other than that, I mistakenly believed that "staying the course" would mean maintaining the same weight.  Wrong.  Apparently, when I get stressed out, my body stores up all the fat it can get in an effort to, I don't know, keep me warm in the winter, or something.  While I still fit in my dress on The Big Day- it wasn't that drastic of a weight gain- I definitely look...softer than I did when we got engaged.  Squishy.  I want to get rid of that.  Healthier food, less eating out, and yes, actual exercise, should get me there.

-Get to a place where I'm happy with my career.
If I can't manage to do this in 2013- if I can't get to a place where I'm happy with where my career is going, at least, if it's still not possible to be happy with the day-to-day job- then one of my resolutions for 2014 will be to get a new career, starting with going back to school.  I know what you're thinking- "You've only been in this career for two years!"- but it's not what I studied in school, it's not fulfilling in the slightest, and the path I'm currently traveling leads absolutely nowhere.  I know, I know- the economy is crappy and nearly every just-out-of-college 20-something feels this same way, I should feel thankful that I have a job at all.  Yes, that's true, but I'm actually planning to do something about my unhappiness instead of wallowing in it and complaining about it.

Here's hoping I can stick to these resolutions!

Are you setting any goals for yourself in the new year?  What are they?  Are they the same ones you've set before?

Happy New Year!
The Geeks

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 in Review

We're in Little Rock for the weekend to attend the wedding of two of Mr. Geek's closest friends and we are beyond excited- it's going to be a beautiful wedding.  Mr. Geek looks gorgeous in his tux, and I picked up a new dress for the occasion- can't let him look prettier than me, now, can I?  I can't wait to share pictures with you!  The best part about this wedding will definitely be the fact that we didn't have to plan it.  We never have to plan a wedding again!

Speaking of weddings...

Since it's the end of the year, I figure a retrospective look is in order.  (Yes, and a post about resolutions, but that'll come on Monday.)  But rather than a straight-up summary of the wedding planning process, I decided to go for a top 10 list.

So, without further adieu, I give you: The Top 10 Our Geeky Adventure Posts of 2012 (by view count).

10. True Colors
Olympic Antique Moss, Valspar Waverly Home Classics Purple Potion and Tomato Red, Valspar Laura Ashley Home Pumpkin 6
Our quest to come up with a wedding theme was...unique, and led us to the title of this blog!  It also led us, eventually, to a fall-themed color palette that ended up looking fantastic on The Big Day!

9. Choose ALL the Dresses!

Alfred Sung Styles D502, D448, D520, D524 // via Weddington Way
 Weddington Way is the best thing ever invented (when shopping for bridesmaids' dresses) and we took full advantage of it.  Though initially it seemed a daunting task to narrow down hundreds of gorgeous dresses to just one, I managed to pick my top 6 and then, with the help of my sisters, narrowed them down to these 4.  Then, each bridesmaid established an account on Weddington Way and voted for her favorite!

8. What Not to Wear

Chambray of the Week Dress via ModCloth / Gillian Dress in Navy by Dear Creatures via Ruche / Amy Adams via Style Bakery
 Once, I went to a wedding that was technically semi-formal, but people interpreted that in varying ways, and one guest showed up in a dress fit for the red carpet- meaning she was dressed more formally than the bridesmaids.  At a different wedding, also technically semi-formal, the bride tried to stress to her guests the semi part of semi-formal, and a guest actually showed up in sweat pants.  In an effort to get the dress code just right for the wedding we're attending tomorrow, I'm sure I've annoyed the bride by asking her opinion in my choice of outfit.  I once saw a bride on Offbeat Bride help her guests decide what to wear with a funny little series of pictures; I decided to mimic her with my own series.

7. Disneymoon Adventures: FOOD!

 This one came from the series of honeymoon recaps that I only just finished.  We took a ton of pictures in Disney and I wanted to document all of our meals, but as it turns out, we were too busy eating to take pictures!  Hopefully, if you're making your own Advanced Dining Reservations for a trip to Disney World any time soon, you'll find our (super positive) reviews helpful!

6. No Admittance Except on Party Business

Our invitation suite is certainly unlike any other our guests had ever seen before, and it was really exciting to unveil it to you!  We were so proud of our completely us invitations that we designed, from scratch, together.

5. Disneymoon Adventures: Characters

Another honeymoon recap post!  These pictures were definitely the most fun to take, and they got the most enthusiastic comments on Facebook :)  (Aladdin and Jasmine were hilarious, by the way.  They have a lot of advice to offer about marriage!)

4. A Very Important Date

photo courtesy Emile Frey
 Picking a date is probably the first decision a couple has to make when they get engaged, and our decision involved many interesting factors.  Hey- I really wanted to wear sleeves, okay?

3. Saying 'Yes' to the Dress

Speaking of sleeves- obviously, some of the most-read posts this year were about the dress shopping process.  Even if you don't know a girl, when you find out she's engaged, one of the first things you ask is what her dress looks like- and y'all loved reading about my shopping trip!

2. Saying 'Yes' to the Dress, Part 2

Of course, since you so enjoyed reading about the different dresses I tried on, it thus follows that you would've enjoyed the post where I revealed the winner!

1. Be Our Guest(book)

image via Scrapbooking Pleasures
 The number one most-read post this year was...the one where we debated whether or not we wanted a guest book!  I'm not entirely sure this one was an incredibly interesting post, but it was one that many of you had opinions on.  Turns out, guest books are quite the hot topic!

So that was a little look back on 2012 here on this little blog.  Incidentally, this was my 100th post!  Here's to 100 more :)

What were your favorite moments of 2012?

Much love,
The Geeks

*all photos personal unless otherwise noted*

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


So, a couple of weeks ago, I got my hair cut.

"Cut" might not be the right way to describe it, though.

"Chopped off" is a bit more accurate.

That's right- I got a Post-Wedding Chop :)  (And I'm just now blogging about it.  Whoops.)

I grew my hair out for the wedding- technically, I grew it out for 2 whole years.  Right after graduating college, I decided to mark the occasion with a dramatic hair cut:

Somehow this is still the best picture of what my hair looked like right when it got cut
I didn't really maintain the cut and it started to grow; I guess maybe I'd planned to chop it down again after a year.  But before I got the chance, Mr. Geek popped the question, and I knew I wanted to grow it out properly for the wedding.  I managed to achieve some pretty decent length after another year of growth:

long hair in Magic Kingdom
I really, really liked my pixie cut 2 years ago.  Changing your hair is a great way to mark changes in your life, and getting married is a pretty big change- so I figured my hair should undergo equally as big a change.  Plus, I had juuuust enough to donate to Locks of Love!  Enough talk- let's have a picture!

Nooo, not yet!  I got my hair cut on a Wednesday night, after work, and by the time I got home I was ready for a little mindless internet-ing  and then bed.  Mr. Geek grabbed the camera, knowing I'd want to document the change for the blog, but no!  Not yet!  Let's wait until I look a bit more...photogenic.

That's better :)  Mr. Geek proposed last year just after we saw The Nutcracker, so of course that ballet is now a Christmas tradition in the Geek household.  After we got home, I set up the camera and put it on self-timer to snap a few pictures of us looking so dapper.  What do you think of the hair?  Most days, I'm styling it like this- a little light styling wax and hair spray to make it lay down flat, swooping the bangs to the side a bit, maybe pinning them down or accenting with a headband like here.  If I'm feeling more adventurous, however, I might spike it up a little bit, like when we went to our friends' apartment for their late Thanksgiving / early Christmas party:

Did you dramatically change your hair after your wedding?  Would you ever try a pixie cut?

Much love,
The Geeks

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry 4th Week of Advent!

 It's an awful short week :)  That's okay by me though- I'm really excited to celebrate our first Christmas as a married couple!

Thankfully, I don't have to work today- as it turns out, I don't, in fact, work for Mr. Scrooge.  Mr. Geek does, though, so he's got a full day today :(  I'm going to try to be productive today and spend the day cleaning and otherwise getting ready for the big Christmas lunch (for two) that I'll be making tomorrow!  Tonight we're going to Mass at 11pm (not midnight...not that I'm complaining), so I expect Mr. Geek will want a nap when he gets home from work.  We'll be establishing new traditions for our little family tonight and tomorrow and we are so, so excited.

Have a blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Disneymoon Adventures: We are Totally Experts Now, Part 2

Previously, on Our Geeky Adventure:

-Because we have planned exactly one trip to Walt Disney World, we are the foremost experts on Disney vacations and you should follow our advice to have an equally fantastic time.
-Travel agents = life (and money) savers.
-It's okay to not take yourself quite so seriously when you're in Disney.

And now for the rest of The Geeks' Rules for Having an Awesome Time at Disney World as Childless Adults (and Probably Some of These Rules Apply to People With Kids, Too)

10. Don't let the ride warning signs scare you.
 Anything even remotely considered a thrill ride at Disney has the same warning slapped on it- People who are pregnant, have back or neck problems, or who experience motion sickness should refrain from riding.  (That's paraphrased, but you get the idea.)  I understand the first two warnings, but motion sickness?  Heck, people who experience motion sickness should probably avoid riding in cars, too.  With Mission: Space, especially, I think people read these warnings and think "Well that one time I ate a whole bunch of nachos then went on that roller coaster and promptly threw up...this ride is too intense for me."  I haven't always been a daredevil- when I was a kid, the concept of riding an upside-down roller coaster was more terrifying to me than being plunged into hell itself- but by the time I got to high school, I finally understood the "thrill" part of thrill rides.  And then I went sky diving in college, and nothing has been able to scare me since.  Mr. Geek and I spent the summer and early fall visiting theme parks within driving distance with our friends- Hershey Park, Kings Dominion, and Busch Gardens- and riding some of the craziest, most intense coasters ever.  (We haven't done Cedar Point yet, but it's on the list!)  Compared to parks like those, every single ride at Disney World is tame.  Super fun and amazing feats of engineering, yes, but tame.  However, the reputation of Mission: Space preceded itself- the fact that it was designed with the help of NASA, and that a few astronauts rode it and confirmed that yeah, that's actually what leaving the Earth's atmosphere feels like in real life- and I was a little scared.  I'm prone to migraines and, yes, motion sickness, and I did NOT want to be one of those people who stumbled off the ride, threw up in the bushes, and had a miserable rest of the day.  With words of encouragement from Mr. Geek, however, I talked myself into picking up a Fast Pass (not that we needed it) and, after eating (and fully digesting) a small breakfast, we got in line for the ride.  The thing is, even though the DON'T RIDE THIS RIDE warning is the exact same one that's on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, for Pete's sake, it's repeated at you about a bajillion times before you actually get on.  The very last time is when you're standing just outside your "rocket", receiving your mission briefing, and a very convincing Gary Sinise looks you dead in the eye and repeats how this ride is frickin' intense and probably no one should ride it, ever, and if you decide to chicken out now we won't make fun of you (too much).  Well, okay, maybe he doesn't say THAT, exactly, but he repeats the warning that is slapped on the wall every few feet up until this point.  I looked at Mr. Geek with my eyebrows raised and he assured me- "You can do it."  I am so, so glad I did this because it was truly the most awesome ride I've ever been on- and yes, it felt real.  You feel yourself rise out of your seat a little bit, you feel your face pull's almost like sky diving, but in reverse- you definitely feel like you're being pulled up to the sky, not falling down.  In short- if you are at all a roller coaster person, RIDE MISSION: SPACE.  (If you're not a roller coaster person- ride all the other rides!  Ride Expedition Everest!  Ride the Dinosaur ride!  They really aren't that bad, I promise!)  And if you're like me and don't exactly have a reputation for having guts of steel, just follow the safety instructions carefully- keep your head back, keep your eyes open, and look directly at the screen.  They simulate the sense of weightlessness by spinning the whole enclosure very, very fast, and if you close your eyes or look anywhere but the screen, you can become disoriented very quickly and as your body tries to decide which way is up, your stomach will be deciding it doesn't really want that muffin anymore.  I did find myself a little weak in the knees when we disembarked, but everything stayed firmly inside my belly, thank heavens.

11. Don't let the wait times scare you, either.

Mr. Geek and I learned how they calculate the wait times when we rode Expedition Everest.  As we entered the queue, we were handed a red badge on a lanyard and told to walk it up to the ride attendant when we got to the vehicle.  Before he handed us the badge, he tapped it against something, and when we handed it to the guy at the top, he tapped it against something, too.  So that's how they do it- a little NFC-enabled tag that tells the computer what time you start the queue and what time you get on the ride.  But you know how I mentioned last time that Disney has really, really entertaining queue spaces?  Some people (like us) might dawdle a bit, looking at all the details- although I tried my best to drag Mr. Geek along, knowing the accuracy of that wait time depended on our progress.  The thing is, not everybody carrying those tags is quite so conscientious of their responsibility.  (Hyperbole.  Learn it.)  That, coupled with the fact that they're not necessarily sending those red tags through the line all that often means that the wait time listed on the "Stand-By Entrance" sign might not be 100% accurate.  Case in point: when we showed up to Toy Story Midway Mania, the wait time was listed as 55 minutes.  We had been dying to ride this all week but we never had time for the ridiculous wait, we were locked out of getting Fast Passes, or the Fast Pass return time was too late in the day for us to make it to our dinner reservations.  The last day that we went to Hollywood Studios, literally our only goal was to ride this ride (we visited this park 3 times total during our stay).  We were slightly disappointed to see that the sign said 55 minutes, but we were determined to get on this ride that morning, and there was nothing else we really wanted to do in the park that day.  The line had not yet made its way to the outside, extended portion of the queue, and as we took our place behind the last person, we didn't actually stop walking until we were well inside the building.  There were a few times when the line stopped moving, but we spent that time snapping pictures of the amazingly detailed environment of the queue (or looking through pictures we'd taken the rest of the week).  By the time we sat down on the ride, we had only actually stood in line for 35, maybe 40 minutes.  So just remember- sometimes, the wait times are wrong!  (And, for Toy Story Midway Mania specifically, your wait will be shorter than 45 minutes if the line is not yet outside, regardless of the time on the sign.)  We are so glad we decided to suck it up and wait- this was one of our favorite attractions all week.

12. Do the "geeky" things.
Mr. Geek and I refer to the area in the front half of Epcot- the side that isn't World Showcase- as the "geeky half" of Epcot.  Other than riding Soarin' and Mission: Space, there aren't many obviously fun things to do on this half of the park- at least that's how it feels as you're quickly trying to maneuver over to the "eating half" of Epcot.  But there are really quite a few gems of the educational-and-fun variety here and in other Disney parks that are really under-appreciated.  My favorite of these is The Sum of All Thrills, an attraction that lets you design your own roller coaster, I'm not even kidding you.  It uses this touch table set-up to let you choose elements for your ride, and you get to decide on the height of each individual element and how fast you want the car to be going as it hits each one.  Unfortunately, there's no time to do actual calculations- in an effort to maximize the amount of people who get to experience this attraction in any given day, there's a very short time limit for the design stage- but as you input measurements, it shows you the equations it's using to calculate the other dimensions of the track, and the equations turn red if your settings are impossible to achieve.  Again, due to time constraints, it doesn't explain why they are impossible, (ie, you'd be traveling too slowly and wouldn't make it through the loop, or you'd be traveling to fast by the time you reached the end and the brakes wouldn't be able to safely stop you, etc) but in any case, it won't allow you to design a coaster that isn't going to function properly (or, presumably, that a human body would be incapable of handling.  Presumably.)  Your design is then loaded onto a card which you take to a ride operator.  They put your card in a computer which controls a large robotic arm with two seats, and when you sit down, a hood comes down over each passenger individually with a screen in front of your face- but your arms are still free to grasp the bars on the over-the-shoulder harness, just like on a real roller coaster.  The arm takes you through the movements of your roller coaster design- including the upside-down bits!- and the screen displays a simulation from the passenger's point of view.  Mr. Geek and I designed a roller coaster that pushed the limits, using all the most "extreme" elements, the highest allowable heights, and the fastest allowable speeds.  AND IT WAS AWESOME.  I even got the slightly-wobbly-legs effect I'd gotten on Mission: Space!  (Or maybe that effect was just left over from riding it that morning...)  Most of the hidden, "geeky" gems in Disney World aren't rides, though- like One Man's Dream, pictured above, a museum about Walt Disney's life and how the Disney parks came to be found in Hollywood Studios.  Mr. Geek particularly enjoyed this museum- he's kind of a museum person- and it really was interesting reading about how just plain smart Walt was, innovating in film, animation, and animatronics, and how, like any good engineer (well, Imagineer), he was very hands-on with everything, not content to just toss out an idea and let somebody else figure out how to implement it.  People might criticize some of the decisions and expansions made by Disney in the decades since Walt's death, but nearly everything the company is doing now can be traced back to ideas Walt had that he was never able to implement, or are otherwise improvements on the ones he was.  There are many, many of these under-appreciated, little-known attractions all throughout Disney World; if you have the time, just wander around aimlessly for a while and do or see every little thing you come upon- you won't regret it.

Picture is unrelated, yet hilarious
13. Be flexible.
I mentioned in my plug for ADRs that it's important to have a plan before you get to Disney.  For us, the best way to create that plan was to research what the Extra Magic Hours were likely to be for each park, then make meal reservations based on that- in other words, lunch reservations in parks with extra morning hours and dinner reservations in parks with extra evening hours.  However, it's important not to restrict yourself too terribly much.  I've mentioned before how awesome The Unofficial Guide was when planning this trip; we made our decision on where to stay and, for the most part, where to eat based on the Guide's recommendations.  At the back of the book, they have drawn up "touring plans" for all the parks based on how many days you have to spend there that show you exactly which attractions to hit in which order and when to stop for food- they also have a smartphone app with current wait times for all the rides and additional touring plans not found in the book.  Originally, we had planned to use these guides and this app- Mr. Geek had already purchased it and installed it on his phone before it got smashed during our Let's Decorate for the Wedding party and was rendered useless that week- but when we got there we realized it's MUCH more fun if you just wing it.  We had planned out which parks we were going to be in on which days, and what time we would leave to head to the next park (generally, immediately after eating lunch) and that ended up being all the planning that was necessary.  As we grabbed a map on the way into the park, we'd discuss what our individual Must Do attractions were, agreeing that it would be okay if we skipped the other things.  If we'd scheduled another day in a particular park and had not yet hit one of those Must Do's, we knew we could always do them later in the week.  Because the crowds were so thin this particular week, most rides had minimal wait times, so we really were able to approach them in any order we wanted, and the Guide's plans, amazingly detailed though they are, were not necessary.  Obviously, it is much, much easier to be this flexible when you don't have any kids with you- nobody is going to cry and pitch a fit and fail to understand that it's okay that we didn't have time for Star Tours, we can do it on Thursday.

14. Ride all of the popular Magic Kingdom rides during that park's Extra Nighttime Magic Hours.
This is a super specific tip, but it's a very important one, depending on your priorities.  If you want to meet characters or go shopping or watch parades, do all of those things during the day, during regular park hours, because many of them are closed or don't happen in during Extra Magic Hours.  Magic Kingdom was open until 1am with the extra hours on our first night at Disney, so as soon as the park "closed", we hit up all the rides- Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railway, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, the Buzz Lightyear ride, even the Peter Pan dark ride.  There were lines- everybody had the same idea we did, obviously- but they were definitely shorter than they'd been before "closing", and although the park was only open 3 extra hours, we successfully rode every ride and managed to leave by 12:45.  An added bonus to this strategy is that rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railway are even more awesome in the dark!

15. Do all your shopping at the beginning of your trip.
We started our trip armed with a list of all the loved ones we planned to buy Christmas presents for during the trip (and it was quite a long list).  A bonus to staying on-property which I don't think I mentioned last time is that when you buy something in the parks, you can have it delivered to the gift shop in your resort, meaning you don't have to carry all your souvenirs around all day.  However, they're not delivered until the next day (or even the day after that, depending on how late in the day you're shopping) so you don't want to wait until your last day to start picking up souvenirs, else you'll have to drag them with you everywhere.  Once your packages have arrived at your resort, you'll get a phone call (or a voicemail) in your room telling you they're available for pick up.  We got the majority of our list checked off in the first two days- and it was quite helpful to have a list, by the way, because we were able to check it off as we went, and I wrote down what we bought for each person, so it was much easier to wrap and tag everything when we got home.

photo is, once again, unrelated, and, once again, hilarious
16. Before you start planning your trip, get a Disney Visa card.
We knew even before Mr. Geek popped the question that we wanted to do a Disney World honeymoon, so when we did get engaged, one of the first things I did was sign up for a Disney Visa card.  Every wedding purchase (that didn't have to be made by check) and every gas purchase was charged to this card (and the balance was paid in full each month).  The rewards (1% of every purchase) from this card can be used in any Disney Store and in any store or restaurant in the parks (and to pay for your trip itself, too, but instead we charged it to the card- and, again, paid the balance in full every month.  No going in debt to go to Disney!)  Your Disney Dollars come in the form of a debit card that can be reloaded as you earn new points, which makes them easy to spend.  We used this little card to buy souvenirs and pay for alcoholic drinks and tips at meals- meaning the majority of those Christmas presents we bought were free, paid for with rewards from purchases we had to make anyway.  Of course, there are many credit cards that offer "cash back" rewards, so if you don't go with a Disney card, I still strongly suggest paying for your trip on one such card and using the reward cash while on your trip.  Having this little Disney debit card was a very convenient way to keep track of how much "free money" we had spent so we could more easily budget for our Christmas gift shopping.  The Disney card comes with other, little perks as well- you get an automatic discount at Disney Stores when paying with this card, you can take advantage of a special financing plan to pay for your trip if you want to, and there is at least one special cardholder character meet-and-greet which includes a complimentary Photo Pass print.

Okay, I think that about covers it.  I know you're probably all sick of hearing about how absolutely amazing our honeymoon was :)  I promise, starting next week there will be no more talk of Disney round these parts for quite some time!

What are your "best practices" when it comes to Disney vacations?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Disneymoon Adventures: We are Totally Experts Now

some of the beautiful "Just Married" artwork on my car, snapped at a pit stop at Wendy's
Prior to this trip, I had been to Disney World exactly once- in the 9th grade on spring break with my family.  We spent 4 days in the parks, then took a 3-day Disney Cruise.  We stayed in the Polynesian Resort and saw each park once.  We left for the trip just after my baby sister's birthday, so we treated it as her "birthday week" and though she didn't have a button, we told every restaurant it was her "special day" and she got free cake with every meal.  I didn't have to pay a penny for anything, but I had a feeling it was the most expensive vacation we'd ever taken.

Mr. Geek had been to Disney World twice, with his parents- once at the age of 10, then again at age 13.  The first time they stayed off-property, the second time they stayed at the Dolphin hotel.  He remembers that the second trip was much less stressful, both because they stayed right next to Epcot and because they stayed for a longer period of time.

This was the first time either of us had ever fully funded our own Disney trip.  It was the first time we'd had to make decisions about where to stay, how to get there and back again*, what package to book, how much money to budget for souvenirs, which attractions to see first, which restaurants to eat at.

Clearly, this means we are experts in all things Disney World, and you should listen to our advice.**

I give you: The Geeks' Rules for Having an Awesome Time at Disney World as Childless Adults (and Probably Some of These Rules Apply to People With Kids, Too).

I am so good at titles.

1. Use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
I heard about Dreams Unlimited from a coworker who had a positive experience booking with them, but I'm sure there are countless other companies who work the same way- they are paid directly by Disney, so you're literally paying only for your trip without any additional fees for their services.  I raved about them briefly already, but I would also like to add one more thing- a travel agent does the homework for you.  This might seem obvious, but let me explain.  If, after you've booked your vacation (but before you've made your final payment), a new discount or special is released, you can call them up and ask to apply the discount to your trip (if it applies).  Of course, this means you have to constantly be on the lookout for these specials- which isn't hard, necessarily, as there are always TV commercials and, once you've visited the Disney parks website even once, you'll be inundated with Disney banner ads everywhere you go on the internet- and then research them to see if they apply to the package you've already booked.  Case in point: Disney very often runs a free meal plan special at various times of the year.  I saw a banner ad for this special once, and the fine print on the ad explained that they were offering a free basic meal plan with the purchase of at least 4 nights in a Value-level resort.  We had booked a Moderate-level resort and a Deluxe meal plan, so I wasn't sure if we were eligible for that discount, and I didn't have time to click through and read up on it (I was in the midst of wedding-planning things, you see.)  I made a mental note to email our agent, Kim, and see what she could do for us.  By the time I finally got around to logging into my email account later that night, there was a message from Kim saying she'd saved us $500 on our meal plan because of this special- that's 50% off!

2. Stay on property.
There are SO MANY perks to staying on property.  First of all, you park your car once and never have to see it again- Disney transportation really is quick and convenient.  Depending on where you stay, you might be able to use the monorail or boats to get to certain parks, which is way more fun than taking the bus, but the buses are clean and the drivers are always friendly.  If you do want to drive to any of the parks, you get a pass that allows you to park for free.  Besides the transportation perks, you also get to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours- times when the parks either open early or close late.  During these times, they ask to see your Key to the World- aka your room key with built-in ticket- at any ride or attraction you want to get on.  Finally, there are several little discount coupons that come with staying on property to entice you to play miniature golf or hang out in the arcade- we didn't use any of these, but we did use the free souvenir mugs so we could get free coffee every morning at the resort's food court (you can also fill them with soft drinks).  I realize you can just use the in-room coffee maker to have free coffee, but we really like having the souvenir mugs- we fill them with coffee to take to work every morning, and they're a fun little reminder of our awesome trip.

3.  Use a meal plan.
Was the deluxe plan ultimately too much food?  Yes.  Do I regret our decision to choose that plan anyway?  Nope!  The deluxe plan comes with 3 meals each for each day of your stay- meals which can be used at either quick-service or full-service restaurants, your choice- plus two snacks each per day.  As I talked about last time, if you prefer light breakfasts, like we do, you can use a snack credit to buy a cinnamon roll or muffin without having to spend a meal credit for a full breakfast, or you can use those snack credits on things like ice cream or bottled water during the day.  Some restaurants- like the character dining experiences- require two meal credits each, and the meal plan does not cover tips or alcoholic beverages.  (At one point, Disney was offering a wine package add-on that gave you one bottle of wine per night, with some wines requiring two wine credits, but apparently this wasn't economically feasible for them, as it is sadly no longer offered.)  I think next time we will still go for the deluxe plan- especially if we can swing the 50% discount like this time- and do more 2-credit dinners so that we're not necessarily eating two giant meals a day (and then 17 bottles of water on the last day to clear out our snack credits).  Without the meal plan, we would not have been able to enjoy some of the meals we ate, or even some of the restaurants themselves.  The deluxe plan is typically between $86 and $90 per person, per night, depending on the time of year, meaning each meal credit is less than $30 each (considering you also get 2 snack credits in that $90).  You definitely get your money's worth, as it were, by eating at full-service as opposed to quick-service restaurants- I'm not sure I'd ever spend $30 on a cup of coffee, a frittata, and some home fries like I had at Pizzafari, but I can see spending about that much on an appetizer, entree, dessert, and beverage at a restaurant of the caliber of Yak and Yeti.  Restaurants that are 2 credits each, like the Yachtsman Steakhouse, are generally the type where you'd expect to spend about $60 per head in "the outside world".  Is the deluxe plan right for everyone?  No- some people might prefer the basic package that offers just one quick-service and one full-service (plus 2 snacks) per day, or some might prefer the quick-service-only package.  We definitely think you should have a meal plan of some sort, though, to optimize your comfort level while in the park- the food is paid for already and you can pick from some of the pricier items that you might not go for if you're shelling out the cash right there.

4. Make Advanced Dining Reservations.
We had a reservation for pretty much every meal, aside from those snack credit breakfasts.  This meant we got a table quickly everywhere we went, and at some of the more popular restaurants, you literally cannot eat there without a reservation.  (Incidentally, this is also another good reason to use a travel agent- you give them the list of places and times you want to eat when you book, and they'll call Disney and make the reservations for you!)  An ADR does not reserve you a table at a restaurant; it just guarantees that you'll be seated during that specific time wave- it's like calling ahead to put your name on the list.  You have to check in with the hostess by a certain time, otherwise you lose your spot in line.  If you budget your time properly, however, you'll have basically no wait for a table- at most restaurants, we showed up and were seated well before people who had been waiting there for quite some time.  Yes, making ADRs requires you to plan out pretty much your entire eating schedule 6 months before you arrive, but if you make those decisions then, you won't have to spend ages debating with everyone about where to go eat when you're all hangry and tired and standing around in the hot afternoon sun.  This also means that in all likelihood, your entire Disney schedule will revolve around where you're eating your meals- in other words, it's a good idea to spend the afternoon in whichever park your dinner reservations are- but your schedule has to revolve around something, so it might as well be food!  Seriously though- you should have some sort of plan about where to spend each day before you arrive, based on extra magic hours or some such limiting factor, because if you show up planning to wing it, you might be a bit overwhelmed.

Look Ma- no people!
5. Go in November- before Thanksgiving week.
I know it's not technically the least-busy time of the year- or so sayeth The Unofficial Guide- but it was pretty damn slow while we were there.  The longest lines were to meet characters!  For rides like Expedition Everest, even though we didn't show up right at park opening, we walked up to the ride and got straight on with no wait whatsoever.  For some of the newer rides, this is almost a bad thing- Disney has mastered the art of the attraction queue so that standing in line is an attraction in and of itself, and Mr. Geek didn't like that I kept rushing him through the empty waiting areas to hop straight on the ride so he couldn't snap pictures of absolutely everything.  ("We'll ride it again!" I told him- a promise I only kept with Rock 'n' Roller Coaster because for all the others, we got distracted by other things the moment we got off the ride.)  Animal Kingdom is the least-busy of the 4 parks anyway, no matter what time of year it is, but in the morning, the dinosaur area was practically deserted.  Another advantage to going at this time of year is the weather- it was sunny and comfortable, sometimes even a bit chilly, which was fine by me, because I have a thing for sweaters and tights in the fall :)

6. Get into it!
 Whether you're there with kids or not, let go while you're in Disney World- let go of whatever it is about our society that makes us think that being an adult means no longer having fun or finding joy in the simplest things.  I mean, you're in Disney World for heaven's sake- if there's any place on earth where you're allowed to relive all the best parts of your childhood, it's here.  So if you run into a character as they're making their way to a greeting spot and they say something to you that is, well, in-character, play along- pretend, for a moment, that she is actually Alice and she really is following the White Rabbit, and point her in the direction you think you saw him last.  Or if you're on a dark ride and you figure out how a particular animatronic character works, don't explain it loudly to the person sitting next to you.  In other words, as an adult, you kind of need to do your part to help the cast members do theirs- keep the magic intact for the very young children who really do believe that she is Alice and that ghost is magically chasing them.  The positive side effect of this is that you're keeping the magic intact for yourself; if you suspend disbelief when you enter the park, much like you suspend disbelief when you open a book or turn on a movie, then the experience will be more enjoyable for you all-around.  Maybe posing with characters isn't your thing, and that's fine, but again, if there's any place in the world where you're allowed to feel a little giddy at the prospect of meeting Belle, your very favorite princess ever and first real role model, it's Disney World.  Feel giddy.  You're no less of a mature, responsible adult for feeling that way.  Along those lines...

7. Unplug for a bit!
Odds are, you're on this trip with your family or other people in your life who are important to you.  Use this vacation as a chance to connect with each other- not the internet.  Like I said, earlier, Disney has mastered the art of the queue experience, so there are constant distractions- talking robots, videos, incredibly detailed scenery, even interactive games- and it's nearly impossible to get bored while waiting in line.  If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in an hour-long wait and are currently in the outdoor portion of the queue where there are no such distractions, TALK TO EACH OTHER.  Share a bit of what's going on in your head with your companions instead of your Facebook friends; say something witty to them instead of your Twitter followers.  Mr. Geek's phone broke during the setting-up activities the night before the wedding, so we only had one phone at our disposal anyway, but it stayed in our backpack the entire time- we never even needed to use the Wait Times app (because there were no waits!)  In one of the few longer-than-20-minute queues- our third time on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, at the end of the week- I was saddened to see a family of four standing vaguely near each other, heads down, fingers swiping away on their smart phones, looking up only when the line moved ahead and not speaking to each other until it was time to sit down on the ride and they were literally forced to put their phones away.  You've come all this way and entered what otherwise feels like another world- so leave the outside world behind for a bit and enjoy yourself.  For that matter...

8. Actively be in a good mood.
Just as there are plenty of things to entertain you in Disney, there are plenty of things that could annoy you.  Long waits.  Temporarily closed attractions.  Over-priced food.  Screaming toddlers.  Sore feet.  If you let them, these annoying things could completely ruin your day, and you'll find yourself wondering why you decided to put yourself through this hell to begin with.  But you know what?  Getting pissed off is a choice; if something is annoying, you can choose to either let it anger you, or shrug it off.  Every morning when we got on the bus to head to the park, we looked at each other and said, "We are going to have a good time today."  (Okay fine, it's more like we were bouncing in our seats saying, "We're going to have so much fun today!!"  But you know what?  Being overwhelmed with happiness is so much more enjoyable than being overwhelmed with bitterness.)  I realize this was our honeymoon, so it's not like we had to try very hard to be happy, but we were both actually sick during the week- I had caught the cold that all four of our tiny attendants had at the wedding and by the end of the week I had passed it on to him.  Between stuffy heads, sore throats, and overall tiredness, it would have been very easy to let some little things overtake our mutual good mood- but we constantly found reasons to smile.  Looking through all million pictures of this trip, I honestly don't think you can tell that on Thursday night we both flopped into bed moaning "My head is going to explode!"  As we waited in line to see Belle, we stood behind a British couple and their son who was maybe 9 or 10 years old.  We were in the France pavilion at Epcot, and the father had just come back with a crepe.  He took one bite, grimaced, and handed it to his wife, who had the same reaction.  "What's that?" asked the little boy.  "It's a crepe," explained his mom.  "It's not a crepe, it's crap," corrected the father, who snatched it from her hands, marched to a trashcan, and threw it away.  He wandered off to a different pavilion, bought a different snack, and came back to share.  (Belle had gone on her break- I mean, to check on Beast- and we were waiting for her to return.)  This snack, too, did not live up to this man's high standards of quality, and this time he announced, rather loudly, "This tastes like shit!  All the food in this bloody park tastes like absolute shit."  The little boy looked confused for a moment, then tentatively took a bite from whatever it was that was so shitty.  His mom took a bite, too, and literally spit it out into the bushes.  The little boy chewed thoughtfully for a moment, appearing to enjoy it at first, but then glanced up at his parents' scowls.  "Yeah," he said finally, stomping his foot.  "Crap crepes!  Crap crap crap!"  You know, maybe the best rule to abide by to ensure you have a good time is...

9. Remember that you're not the only person there.
I'm not just talking about the members of your own party- there are other kids there, heck, other people there, too.  Don't feel so insistent on getting your way that you ruin it for everybody else.  The only thing that really bothered either of us the entire trip was when people didn't seem to understand the words NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY, or otherwise thought it couldn't possibly apply to them, though it was repeated multiple times in multiple languages at the attractions to which it applied.  In a theater setting, flash photography can screw with the actors' and dancers' vision; in a dark ride, illuminating what was meant to be hidden ruins the magic by exposing how the whole thing works.  You're using an iPhone or a crappy point-and-shoot; if you're too stupid to know how to turn off your flash, do you really think you're artistic enough to get a good shot of those dancing fish?  Put your camera down and watch the show.   Another example of this is if you don't have an ADR at a certain restaurant.  Like I said, with an ADR, you still have to sign in with the hostess, so unless another guest asks you directly, he doesn't necessarily know that you made an ADR for this restaurant.  Biergarten in Epcot opens for first seating at 12 noon; we arrived just before then and put in our names.  When they first started calling families to seat them, one gentleman got very, very angry when another family who had checked in after he did were called before he was.  He raised a fuss with the hostess and all the wait staff- "I've been waiting here for 20 minutes, they only just showed up!"- and they tried to calmly explain to him that that party had made a reservation and therefore their names were pushed to the top of the list.  This wasn't enough for him, though; he yelled louder and louder about how he'd been waiting for a whole twenty minutes and should have been seated first.  I kind of wanted to tell him that the other party had technically been waiting for 6 months, since they'd made a reservation, but I held my tongue.  The hostess scratched something out on her list and wrote something else closer to the top, and wouldn't you know it, Mr. Grumpy and his wife were called by the very next waiter- my suspicion is that she bumped them up the list to calm him down.  His sense of entitlement disrupted, if only by a dreadfully long twenty minutes, another family's lunch.

Well, I think that's all the advice we Expert Disney-Goers have to offer you this round.  There's one more post on Friday with a few last bits of "wisdom", and then after that, I promise it's the last you'll hear about our honeymoon for quite some time :)

How many times have you visited Disney?  What advice would you give to someone wanting to know the best way to make the most of their vacation?

Much love,
The Geeks

*...anyone?  Anyone?  Beuller?
**So I realize this footnote should really not be necessary but this is The Internet so apparently it is: I am obviously joking when I say that we are experts.  These "rules" are based on this ONE experience as grown-up Disney-goers, so what worked for us might not work for others, even in the exact same circumstances.  Any anecdotes about people we are suggesting you not mimic are merely told to say "These people appeared to not be having a very good time.  If you do the opposite of what they were doing, perhaps you'll have a better time."  But then again, perhaps not.  Your results may vary.  Please do share your results in the comments, however- did you make the same choices we did when planning your trip but have different results?  Do you disagree with any of our advice?  Let me (and your fellow readers!) know!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Disneymoon Adventures: FOOD!

Sorry about the radio silence, folks!  I thought I would suddenly have so much free time that I wouldn't know what to do with myself once the wedding was over, but, as it turns out, married life is busy, too!  I'm really going to try to not let that (a whole week without posts) happen again.  Here's hoping I can stick to that promise!

 One of the best decisions Mr. Geek and I made when planning this honeymoon was to go ahead and purchase a meal plan.  (The #1 best decision we made was using a Disney travel agent!)  I'll have a post later this week that goes into more detail about how awesome a meal plan was for us, but the gist of it is- we were able to eat large, fabulous meals at amazing Disney restaurants all week long that we likely would not have been able to enjoy otherwise.  This post is devoted solely to those large, fabulous meals.

Try not to drool on your keyboard :)

Cinderella's Royal Table, Magic Kingdom
character dining, 2 credits each
Sunday 7:15PM dinner

 Of course this restaurant is located inside Cinderella's Castle, and as it's character dining, it's more of an experience than a dinner.  The package includes a print of a Photo Pass picture with Cinderella, and throughout the evening, other princesses are announced and make the rounds from table to table.  I believe the princesses themselves vary; take a look at my characters post to see who visited during our dinner, but there may be different princesses when you visit.

I had to turn off the foodie in me for most of the trip, and remind myself that we were in a theme park, but even so, everything was really really good all week- no complaints from either of us.  Cinderella's Royal Table is definitely more about the experience than the food, so it wasn't the best food we had all week, but it was still delicious.  But, like I said, dining here is more about the experience than the food- there are constant distractions, between the visitors at your table every few minutes for a hug and a photo and the beautiful fireworks show, Wishes, that takes place right outside the dining room!

What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her
Appetizer          rock shrimp cocktail                          cheese tasting platter
Entree                   beef tenderloin                               grilled chicken pasta  
Dessert             pumpkin cheesecake                            pumpkin cheesecake

Pizzafari, Animal Kingdom
quick service, 1 credit each
Monday breakfast (no ADR)

When we got to Animal Kingdom, we went straight to Expedition Everest, since all our research suggested this would be necessary in order to ride it.  We were definitely in Disney at the perfect time of year, however, as there was absolutely no wait whatsoever.  After screaming our heads off on Everest, we were huuuuuuuuungry for some breakfast, so we wandered around aimlessly for a bit, looking for a quick service restaurant that was open for breakfast.  Of course, Mr. Geek had been smart enough to grab a map at the park entrance, though I'd insisted we didn't need one, and Pizzafari was the first restaurant listed that fit the bill.  I'm so glad we found it!  The cast member working the register was so patient with us as we learned out the meal plan worked, and he helped us figure it out.

breakfast panini
Most of the food offered at the quick service restaurants are the same no matter where you are- we could've had this exact breakfast at any of the quick service restaurants in Walt Disney World.  That doesn't make it any less delicious, though!  Mr. Geek scarfed down his breakfast sandwich so fast that I didn't have time to ask for a taste!

What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her

Entree              breakfast panini                           spinach and goat cheese frittata  

Yak and Yeti, Animal Kingdom
full-service, 1 credit each
Monday 1:00pm lunch

This place was a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.  It's designed to feel like an inn decorated by an eccentric collector- all the decor items are authentic pieces found all across Asia.  We were led to our table on the second floor, up a large wooden staircase, by a very talkative hostess who seemed giddy at the fact that we were on our honeymoon.  That definitely set the tone for a wonderful lunch!

This is Stacey, our waiter, and the best part about eating here.  He was so nice, so entertaining, and gave really wonderful recommendations- I'm pretty sure we ordered everything he pointed out on the menu!  At the end of the meal, he left a survey card with the check, and I enthusiastically filled it out- I was in such a good mood and wanted Disney to know exactly why I was so happy.  In the open-ended comments section, I raved about the sauce on the dessert I was still enjoying, saying I simply must find the recipe!  Sure enough, when Stacey came back out to check on us one last time, he handed over a card with the list of ingredients on it!  He explained that the chef told him that proportions were tricky, as they make it in such large quantities every day, but that the key is to not over-mix and really judge it on flavor.  Seriously my best experience at a restaurant, ever.

What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her
Appetizer       Thai chili chicken wings                            pork pot stickers
Entree           duck with plum chili sauce                     sweet and sour pork  
Dessert                   mango pie                            cream cheese wontons in vanilla sauce

The Hollywood Brown Derby, Hollywood Studios
full-service, 2 credits each
Monday 7:50pm dinner

This place is modeled after the real Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, down to the original Cobb salad (which neither of us ordered because we wanted steak!)  The service was wonderful and the food was exquisite.


Oh the food!  By now we were getting to the point where by dinner, we were still full from lunch!  Had our tummies been emptier, we may have been able to wipe our plates clean- it was definitely tempting, but I was full to bursting!

What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her
Appetizer          crab spring rolls                        mushroom and bleu cheese Napoleon
Entree                bison tenderloin                           beef tenderloin with pesto sauce  
Dessert               grapefruit cake                                 chocolate three ways

Sunshine Seasons, Epcot
quick service, 2 snack credits each
Tuesday breakfast (no ADR)

We wandered slowly through Epcot when we first arrived, not sure what to do first.  World Showcase doesn't open until a bit later in the day, so we were limited to "the nerdy half" for the morning.  We made our way to Mission: Space which had absolutely no wait for the "intense" version, but I wanted to have some breakfast in my tummy first.  We grabbed Fast Passes though we absolutely did not need them, then made our way to The Land Pavilion and the little quick-service cafeteria on the bottom floor.  Time to use some of those snack credits!

What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her
Entree                 cinnamon roll                                            croissant  
Drink                          OJ                                                    iced mocha

Biergarten, Epcot
full-service, 1 credit each
Tuesday 12:00pm lunch

Oh, Biergarten!  This place was fantastic and recommended by everyone- for good reason!  The food was fantastic- and all-you-can-stuff-in-your-mouth buffet of German food and a selection of beer so thorough you could spend an entire day here!  Our server was so charming, and they seat you with other parties "in the Oktoberfest tradition" so we got to chat with two brothers who had slipped away from their massive family reunion to taste their way through the Biergarten beer selection.  The best part, though, was definitely the band.  Because we made sure to mention the whole honeymoon thing with every dining reservation, we got certain perks in certain places; here, they had the crowd lift their glasses in a toast to us!  So awesome!

Yachstman Steakhouse, Yacht Club Resort
full-service, 2 credits each
Tuesday 8:30pm dinner

Somehow, we neglected to take any pictures of this beautiful restaurant.  Probably because we were exhausted by the time we got there, and it was so very swanky that I would've felt silly pulling out my camera to snap pictures of the food, blogger though I am.  Oh boy was it swanky!  They've relaxed the dress code in recent years since the majority of guests come straight from the parks, so Mr. Geek wore shorts and a polo shirt and I wore a casual dress- the outfits we had been roaming around in all day.  The Beach and Yacht Club resorts are on the water just outside of Epcot, so we walked from World Showcase (though we could've taken a boat if we'd been patient enough to wait for one).  The resorts are just across the way from the Boardwalk, where we were tempted to spend the rest of the night hanging out, were it not for the fact that our feet were screaming at us and our eyes could barely stay open.  (Hey, we knew from the beginning that Disney would not be a relaxing honeymoon- but it was sooooo worth it!)  Again, the little honeymoon perks were fantastic- they gave us personalized menus to take home with us, a small plate of chocolates with the word Congratulations written in chocolate, and I had a glass of red wine on the house (Mr. Geek opted to pay for a whiskey and Sprite instead).  If you're celebrating any sort of special occasion, do so here- but come with a big appetite!
What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her
Appetizer            lobster bisque                                        Caesar salad
Entree             16oz boneless ribeye                                  filet mignon  
Dessert               creme brulee                          a trio of chocolate and peanut butter

Old Port Royale Food Court, Caribbean Beach Resort
quick service, 2 snack credits each
Wednesday breakfast (no ADR)

We popped into our resort's food court before driving over to Universal on Wednesday morning and finally picked up our complementary drink mugs included in our package.  These mugs are refillable for free at the food court so we got our morning injection of caffeine without needing to use snack credits on coffee.   The same cinnamon rolls Mr. Geek enjoyed in Epcot were available here, so we both enjoyed one before heading to Hogwarts!

The Three Broomsticks, Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Wednesday lunch (no ADR [obviously])

We both ordered fish and chips at this magical little pub, though I opted for the child's size since the super-sweet Butterbeer was actually kind of filling and I wanted to leave ample room for dinner.  Mr. Geek sampled the Hog's Head Brew while I tried some pumpkin juice in a cute souvenir bottle.  The fish was actually really, really good, and the pub was cozy and not too crowded.  By the time lunch was over, we were definitely eager to try some Honeydukes candy!

Liberty Tree Tavern, Magic Kingdom
full-service, 1 credit each
Wednesday 6:10pm dinner

Originally, we'd asked our travel agent to get us reservations at The Crystal Palace, just off Main Street USA, but it is apparently extremely popular (probably because it's a character dinner) and therefore was booked.  This place was certainly a fine substitute, and we had the perfect seating time- the Main Street Electrical Parade started literally just as we were leaving, so we got to watch it from the steps of the restaurant.  Liberty Tree Tavern feels like it was plucked right out of Colonial Williamsburg and the food is delicious!  It's served family style with a fixed menu, and it basically feels like Thanksgiving dinner (only three times bigger than any I'd ever have the sanity to prepare).  We were seated in a small window alcove at a tiny table for two where we could people watch or otherwise stare lovingly into each others' eyes :)

Trail's End Restaurant, Fort Wilderness Resort
full-service, 1 credit each
Thursday 7:30am breakfast

Again, we sadly have no photographs from this restaurant, probably because it was very early in the morning and we were very tired.  Because it was so early, we weren't sure the buses would be running in the right direction (we would have had to take a bus from our resort to Downtown Disney, then grab a bus to Fort Wilderness), so it was just easier to drive.  We parked at the front of the resort, then took an internal bus to get to the restaurant.  I gotta say, if we were camping people, it would probably be pretty awesome to stay in one of the cabins at Fort Wilderness...if we were camping people.  Trail's End has two options- pop in and pick up a snack, or grab a table and peruse the buffet.  Everything is served on tin plates and cast iron skillets, but it's certainly better than any food I've ever had while camping.  Our waiter was an adorable older gentleman who explained that "every dish has a little card on it telling what it is, but if you see something you don't recognize, just take the spoon, put some on your plate, and odds are, you're gonna like it."  Sage advice, there.  We definitely recommend starting your day here!

Boardwalk Bakery, Disney's Boardwalk
quick-service, 1 credit each
Thursday lunch (no ADR)

Oh man.  We probably didn't need to even eat lunch that day, but we had credits to spend!  The Boardwalk is a pretty quaint little place, easily accessible by the water taxi from Hollywood Studios.  We popped into this little bakery expecting to grab a sandwich and drink, but we learned that the deluxe meal plan afforded us a full meal here, too- a sandwich, a side item, a dessert, and a beverage.  So, once again, we grabbed way too much (delicious) food and sat at a table near the water, watching the water taxis shuttle people back and forth and the ducks playing near the pier, hoping for some sandwich crusts to be tossed in.  After lunch, we grabbed the water taxi again and headed for an afternoon in Epcot.

What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her
Sandwich            Italian sandwich                     turkey, bacon, and swiss sandwich 
Side Item                   chips                                             cucumber salad  
Dessert            cheesecake brownie                             strawberry cupcake

California Grill, Contemporary Resort
full service, 2 credits each
Thursday 7:50pm dinner

Apparently, by this point in the week, we'd pretty much stopped taking pictures, which is a real shame, because this place was FANTASTIC.  We took the monorail from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom, then switched trains and headed to the Contemporary.  The hostess for California Grill is on the main floor of the resort, where you check in, then when they call your name you're taken up in an elevator that only goes up to the top floor, where the restaurant is.  We were seated by the window, and Mr. Geek decided to sit next to me, rather than across, so we could watch the Epcot fireworks display.  Just before dessert arrived, the Christmas edition of Wishes was playing, so we walked out on the roof's observation deck with the other guests (and our glasses of wine) to watch the spectacular display.  Of course, in our hurry, we left the camera at the table, so I can't share with you just how beautiful it was.  Just trust me when I say that the roof of the Contemporary is the absolute best place to watch Wishes- so be sure to make late-night dinner reservations at California Grill!  The food was, of course, outstanding, and we were treated to another honeymoon perk here- complementary glasses of champagne!  These were meant to be a surprise, but our waiter, bless him, had to tip us off by carding us.  We both look young- a trait we've been told we'll appreciate when we're in our 40's- so he told us, apologetically, "I wanted to bring out a champagne toast on the house, but my manager said I have to card you first!"  Mr. Geek pulled out his ID and that satisfied him; we made sure to act surprise when the toasting glasses arrived :)
What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her
Appetizer            flatbread pizza                                           gnocchi
Entree                    veal chop                            pork tenderloin with Zinfandel sauce  
Dessert                 apple crisp                                      chocolate lava cake

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano, Hollywood Studios
full service, 1 credit each
Friday 12:05pm lunch

This place felt like a New York-style Italian restaurant relocated to Hollywood (relocated to Disney World).  The food was really, really good and the atmosphere was inviting- we wanted to stay all day drinking wine and eating pasta!  Definitely a good place to recharge after pwning at Toy Story Midway Mania.  (We did have breakfast on Friday, but it was at a snack cart, and I can't remember what it was.  Suffice it to say we used a couple of snack credits each on breakfasty foods and coffee somewhere in the Pixar area of Hollywood Studios.)

What we ate:
                                    Him                                                       Her
Appetizer               calamari                                             caprese salad
Entree               pork "osso bucco"                        penne a la vodka with chicken  
Dessert            tiramisu semifredo                                chocolate cheesecake

Les Chefs de France, Epcot
full service, 1 credit each
Friday 8:00pm dinner

This was the perfect place to end the week- a beautiful French restaurant with beautiful French food and beautiful French wine!  Just as we were finishing dessert, the Epcot light show, IllumiNations, was starting, and we had a nice view from our table.  Unfortunately I didn't write down what we ate- bad blogger!- but I can tell you that it was delicious and we highly recommend eating here!

Well, I'm feeling full already reliving all these wonderful meals!  Have you ever received special treatment at a Disney restaurant when celebrating a special occasion?  Where are your favorite places to eat in Disney?

Much love,
The Geeks

*all photos are personal*

PS Those of you who came here from Weddingbee- are you wondering why these Disneymoon Adventures posts haven't been making an appearance on the 'Bee?  (Probably not.)  The typical Weddingbee reader is interested in reading about weddings and wedding planning, and since I already shared my honeymoon planning posts with the 'Bee, I didn't want to distract any more from talk of actual weddings that typically happens there.  As you can see, I can spend ages talking about Disney, but Weddingbee is for talking about weddings!