Carrot Ginger Soup from Boma - Flavors of Africa


Boma – Flavors of Africa, at Animal Kingdom Lodge's Jambo House, is my favorite restaurant to recommend to those willing to try a little something out of the ordinary. First of all, the Lodge itself is simply stunning and worthy of a trip just to walk around, not to mention look at the animals! Secondly, the restaurant is a gem. There’s something for everyone and while the dishes may be in combinations you’re unfamiliar with, many of the items used to make up the combinations are old friends.

Designed to resemble an African marketplace, Boma serves dishes inspired by the varied flavors and seasonal dishes of over 50 African countries, from the coast of the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. You can watch as Boma’s chefs prepare dishes in an open kitchen with a wood-fire rotisserie grill. Morning offerings may include fresh fruit, African pastries, omelets, pancakes, french toast, bacon, sausage, carved ham, breakfast potatoes, cereal, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and corned beef bobotie (which is a MUST DO for me). The dinner buffet offers favorites prepared with African flair, which may include signature vegetarian selections, traditional dishes, fire-grilled meats, seafood, soups, salads, and desserts.

Our first time at Boma, the server recommended I try the carrot ginger soup. I like carrots. I like ginger. Why not? The taste was reminiscent of pumpkin pie – yay for me!

Carrot Ginger Soup from Boma – Flavors of Africa, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo House

  • 1 pound carrots, chunky cut
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ounces American cheese, sliced or shredded
  • ½ ounce ground ginger (fresh ONLY)
  • 2 ounces sugar, adjust as needed
  • Roux (2 ounces butter and 2 ounces flour)

To make a roux, melt the butter in a small sauce pot, slowly add the flour to make a paste. Cook until incorporated. Remove from heat and set aside.

  1. In pot, cook carrots in water, sugar, and ginger. Let simmer until carrots are soft. Puree until smooth.
  2. Add heavy cream, milk, and roux. Cook until soup is hot and slightly thick.
  3. Add American cheese and let simmer until cheese melts.
  4. Adjust seasoning.

Serves 8.

10 Must-Pack Items for Your Disney Cruise

As our girls cruise gets closer and closer, my mind turns to packing. Okay, my mind is always on packing because I’m a wee bit obsessive about it! Over the years, we’ve found there are some things we just don’t want to do without and most of them are items… well… you might not think to bring, especially if you’re new to the WONDERful world of cruising.

girls cruise

A common vacation packing suggestion is to take half as many clothes and twice as much money as you have planned!  But there’s more to packing for your cruise than making sure you have enough clothes (and money). Here are 10 must-pack items for your Disney cruise:

  1. Nightlight: You’ll need a nightlight to help you find the bathroom at night. Trust me. Staterooms are dark! P.S. The bathroom door doesn’t stay open so leaving it ajar, like you would in a hotel room, doesn’t work.
  2. Big cup with lid: Disney Cruise Line’s free beverage station on the pool deck is open 24/7 and bringing your own larger cup (with lid) will allow you to make fewer visits to the aforementioned drink haven.
  3. Multi-port USB wall charger: Cameras… iPods… video cameras… iPad… laptop… We’re a plugged-in group and there are never enough plugs around when you need them. This will also help protect your electronics from power fluctuations. (DCL does not allow power strips/surge protectors)
  4. Over-the-door holder: Hangs over your closet bar and holds all of those things that mess up a stateroom, from your lanyard to sunscreen to ponytail holders to dollar bills for room service tips.
  5. Pop-up hamper: After one cruise with a pile of laundry tumbling out of the closet every time I opened the door, I was hooked on the hamper!
  6. Suction cup hooks: Great for hanging wet swimsuits in the shower. Yes, there’s a clothesline in there but the hooks are so much easier.
  7. Clothespins: Huh? Clothespins? Really? Yes, really! Take a few and use them to keep the privacy curtain shut and hold the porthole or verandah curtains closed during naps.
  8. Dry erase board: Use one with magnets on the back and hang it on the back of your stateroom door so you can leave messages for each other like “Headed to the spa!” or “Bingo at 6pm”
  9. Air freshener: Your choice of compact solid or small aerosol. Enough said.
  10. Ziploc bags: I never travel without several bags in different sizes. Snacks, tiny toys, etc. all corralled by a simple envelope of plastic with a zipper on top. Brilliance.


Disney Cruise Line Navigator App: While it's not a packed item per se, this little app will allow you to send messages to other members in your traveling party, look at the daily entertainment schedule, find Mickey, look at menus, and so on. It kinda replaces your paper Personal Navigator, though you'll still receive those nightly.

DCL Navigator App

Are you ready to set sail? 

Room Choices at Aulani

Aulani has over 359 hotel rooms, 460 Vacation Club Villas, including 21 Grand Villas, and 16 suites available at this time, and two main towers with 16 floors in each tower. There are hotel and villa rooms, with Aulani being unique in that they have allotted more villa rooms than hotel.

There are standard view, island gardens view, poolside garden view, partial ocean view and ocean view rooms for either hotel or villa rooms. Suites will have either a partial ocean view or ocean view options.  Hotel rooms, with 382 sq ft, offer either 2 queen beds or 1 king with a queen size sleeper sofa, nice, luxurious bathrooms with complimentary plush robes and slippers during your stay (you can purchase these items if you choose to do so), mini fridge, coffee maker, flat screen TV with DVD player, and small table with two chairs.

Parlor Suites, at 764 sq ft, offer sleeping for up to 5 guests with a Master bedroom with one king size bed, a queen size sleeper sofa and pull down bunk size bed are available in the parlor, one and a half bathroom, along with all the amenities the hotel rooms have as well.

Aulani also boasts VIP Suites – the first being the Lei Hulu – One Bedroom Suite. At 1528 sq ft, it offers sleeping arrangements for up to 5 guests as well, with the Master bedroom having a king size bed. The queen sleeper sofa and a sleeper chair are available in the parlor. There are two bathrooms, flat screen TVs in both the bedroom and parlor, and a private porch or balcony.

The ‘Ahu’Ula Two Bedroom Suite is the crown jewel at Aulani. With a whopping 1910 sq ft (that’s bigger than our first house was!!), this room can sleep up to six guests with a king size bed in the Master, 1 queen bed and 1 queen sleeper sofa in the second bedroom, three bathrooms (one has a roll-in shower), sub-zero under counter fridge in the Master bedroom and three flat screen TVs. All villas have full kitchen and laundry as well.

Each of the rooms at Aulani are true to form with the Disney extra touches. Disney partnered with local Hawaiian artisans to create a series of earth-tone print fabrics inspired by native kapa cloth which is known for its intricate and elegant patterns. One of the first things Bob and I did when we were getting settled in our room, was search for the hidden Mickeys, and we were not disappointed! The fun thing about Aulani is, along with the hidden Mickeys, you are always on the lookout for the mischievous Menehune that are found all around the property. According to legend, the Menehune are small, enchanting people that love to get into mischief (think of Stitch, but as a Hawaiian native), and Aulani has hundreds of them all over the place and we found ourselves having fun searching for and finding them throughout our stay.

We have been fortunate enough to stay in an Ocean View room on the 11th floor, and a 1 Bedroom Villa Island Garden View on the 12th floor overlooking the Starlit Hui, and with both rooms, we were not disappointed. With the standard hotel style Ocean View room we were able to not only see out to the ocean, but we had a perfect view of the pools, lazy river, lobby/lanai area, and the Makahiki restaurant. With the Island Garden View Villa we overlooked the Starlit Hui area, and could see a part of the ocean in the distance! With both rooms we were closer in towards the elevators, which made it easy to get to the different areas of the hotel.

The spa, teen spa, fitness room, water areas, laundry room, restaurants, Luana lounge (late or early check in lounge) and Pau Hana Community Hall (great place to hang out, play board or video games, watch movies and even make your own vacation video with you as the host), are all on the first floor. The lobby, check-in, Kalepa’s Store (Aulani and DVC merchandise available here as well as the drink station to refill your Aulani refillable mug) and the Holoholo Desk (your excursion and car rental information desks) are located on the 3rd floor. There is also an Alamo Car Rental office located in the Conference Center.  Self or Valet parking will be $37 per night.

The layout is somewhat like a U-shape with the lobby being the base and the two towers attached on each side. So, when going to your room, you would come through the lobby and either go right or left and follow a hallway to the elevators up to your floor. The higher up you are, the better the view of the ocean will be as well. We were originally on the 6th floor, but they offered us one higher and once we looked at the view from the 6th compared to the 11th, it was an easy decision.  When booking an Ocean View room, it is always a nice idea to request (this is only a request and not guaranteed) an interior facing room on either tower.

Aulani, has so much to offer, and I will cover that in a future blog! If you have any questions about staying at Aulani, do not hesitate to contact me. The resort is beautiful and the rooms are comfortable and spacious. I truly believe everyone will be impressed with the attention to detail Disney has done with the rooms at Aulani. 

Resorts for Romance & Relaxation

Ready for a break from the day-to-day grind? Work is crazy, come home and the family schedule is crazy and has you running to and from kingdom come? Feel like you and your significant other could use a romantic getaway to rest and recharge? Or just ready for a break from the ice and cold but have no idea where to start? Don’t worry, I got you! I’ve highlighted just some of the amazing resorts the world has to offer. Don’t see what you like, just ask!

Beloved, Playa Mujeres

The Beloved resort is set on an immaculate white sand beach that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. This beautiful resort is an adults-only, all inclusive, boutique resort (small stylish resort, situated in a fashionable urban location).  You will get the exclusive feeling without the super exclusive price tag! There are so many activities there really is something for everyone whether it be golf, the spa, deep sea fishing, or other tours, they have you covered. And after you’ve worked up an appetite, by adventures or lounging poolside, the cuisine will not disappoint. If you are looking for a quick bite or something more romantic you can check out their restaurants with a view! When you are ready to retreat back to your room how can you not completely relax and unwind with this as your balcony?

Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua

Galley Bay Resort & Spa knows a thing or two about relaxation. With bragging rights to several travel awards, one being 2017 Travelers’ Choice from Trip Advisor, this quaint boutique resort has only 98 rooms nestled on 40 acres of the most beautiful tropical gardens providing its guests with the utmost sense of privacy. The perks of this smaller resort is that you are never more than a couple of steps across the sand! This all-inclusive resort has three open-air restaurants and welcoming lounges ensuring you never have to leave the property if you don’t want to. Guests staying can enjoy live entertainment that include the amazing island music, a weekly cocktail party, and a special Caribbean BBQ night! Whether you are there to relax seaside or take advantage of complimentary water-sports it will not leave you disappointed!

Sandals Royal Plantation, Jamaica

Widely known for their elegance and attention to detail, Sandals Royal Plantation in Jamaica is no exception (I mean, it is the only all-butler Sandals resort!). This exquisitely private resort consists of 74 ocean view suites tucked into a beautiful coral bluff. Hit a few rounds on the lush greens of the Sandals Golf & Country Club before relaxing poolside where drinks will be delivered right to you by your beach butler. Work up an appetite relaxing (because it is hard work)? Don’t worry, they have you covered! Along with Jamaica’s only champagne and caviar bar, there are 4 other restaurants on this property with quick and easy access to 16 other restaurants in Sandals throughout Jamaica. You’ll quickly see why Sandals Royal Plantation has been voted one of Ocho Rios’ best all-inclusive resorts!

Ready to go? Yeah, me too!

5 Reasons to Visit WDW in 2018

The countdown is on for Star Wars Land but there's still PLENTY to do at Walt Disney World in the meantime. Here are 5 reasons to visit Walt Disney World in 2018:

1. Toy Story Land

Of course Toy Story Land is the big news for 2018. Opening in Summer 2018 (UPDATE: Toy Story Land opens June 30th), it will feature 2 new attractions - Alien Swirling Saucers and the Slinky Dog Dash family coaster - and the quick-service venue Woody's Lunch Box.

slinky dog dash

2. Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

Food. Wine. Need I say more? We're anxiously awaiting the official dates for for the WILDLY popular festival but think end of August through November. Figment had a huge presence in 2017 - I can't wait to see the 2018 theme!

epcot food and wine festival

3. Disney Springs Opens 8 New Restaurants/Lounges

The Edison

Sticking with our food theme, Disney Springs is loading up great places to eat. The Edison opened in January and Disney calls the theme "industrial Gothic" and I call it "Disney's answer to Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Kitchen at Universal's CityWalk". 

Also in January, we saw a trio of Italian restaurants open: Maria & Enzo's Restaurante, Enzo's Hideaway and Pizza Ponte. They're all nestled inside each other but have separate entrances. Be sure to peek inside Maria & Enzo's... we're big fans of the travel theme.

Later this year, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, Wine Bar George, and Terralina Crafted Italian will open making Disney Springs THE place to end your day.

4. New Destinations for Star Tours - The Adventure Continues

You might have to wait for Star Wars Land but you can visit Crait (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Batuu (a peek at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge) on Star Tours - The Adventure Continues.

Star Tours new destinations

5. The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

This year's event will run from February 28 to May 28 and since it's the festival's 25th anniversary, look for even more character topiaries, food, kids activities, and the Garden Rocks concerts. Try the Egg-stravaganza and new Spike's Pollen Nation Exploration scavenger hunts- they're not just for kids! Disney's picked up on the popularity of food booths and there are 15 "Outdoor Kitchens" at the festival this year.

Think of the Flower & Garden Festival as Food & Wine Festival + flowers - some of the problems with misbehavior. I'd still avoid Friday and Saturday nights ;)

My first visit to Disney World was during the Flower & Garden Festival. ::sigh::

Sure, Star Wars Land is exciting, but no need to wait - Disney still has a lot to offer in 2018. My tip: beat the 2019 crowds and enjoy a vacation this year, vacation elsewhere in 2019, and see Star Wars Land in 2020.

Taxiing Down the Sassagoula River

One of our favorite things about staying at the Port Orleans Resorts is the Sassagoula Water Taxi from the Sassagoula Steamboat Company. These simple ferries motor up and down the Sassagoula River from the Port Orleans resorts (each one separately) then to Disney Springs and back again.

Before we go any further, I have to tell you that the river is called “SausageGouda” in our house and I’ve having a really hard time typing it correctly here.

After boarding the boat at POFQ, you make your way down the river towards Disney Springs — look, there’s our building! The furthest from anything and it still only takes 3 minutes to cross the resort. I *big puffy heart* French Quarter.

Port Orleans French Quarter at Disney World

Along the way you’re going to pass golf courses. A lot of greens. A lot and lot and lot of greens. If you’re traveling with an 8-year-old, she’ll be busy waving to golfers and since it’s Disney, a lot of them will wave back. This is not the case where we live in Myrtle Beach when we’re not hanging out with Mickey.

Mia on the Sassagoula River at French Quarter

One of my favorite places to pass is the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs. Since there’s no elevator and the living area’s on the second floor – and they’re meant for families up to 9 people – we’ll most likely never stay in one but MiaMouse pretends she’s Jane and The Chief Mouse is Tarzan and that’s their house. She gets that from me, the Anti-Camper.

Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs, Disney World
Treehouse Villa at Disney World

Speaking of Saratoga Springs, it’s such a MASSIVE resort that you’ll be passing it for a long, long time.

Saratoga Springs from the Sassagoula River

Once you reach Downtown Disney, the Port Orleans taxi drops you off at Marketplace which is home to Earl of Sandwich (best.counter-service.meal.EVER!), Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, World of Disney, Ghirardelli, and so on. If you want to go to West Side, you’ll want to hop another taxi to take you to Cirque du Soleil (currently dark while they prepare for a new Disney-themed show), House of Blues and that side of the world. Or you can visit The Landing Dock which is near The BOATHOUSE, Morimoto Asia, T-Rex, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin', and more food and shopping.

We’re always a little sad when we get back to the dock and it’s time to disembark but we know we’ll be back!

Arriving home on the Sassagoula River

When’s your next stay at one of the Port Orleans Resorts?

Couscous Salad from Restaurant Marrakesh

Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot

Picture it: Back in 2010, we didn’t make Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) for dinner one night, Princess Mouse wanted to go to the Mouseketeer Club at the Grand Floridian (RIP, Mouseketeer Club), and the Chief Mouse and I needed a place to eat that night. Did I mention it was September in the midst of Free Diing? So we call Disney Dining and ask what they have available for a party of 2. They have Restaurant Marrakesh at Morocco in Epcot. Yikes. I don’t do Indian/Moroccan/etc. food and DH most certainly doesn’t but the Cast Member on the phone convinces us that it’s quite good and tells us what to order. He shrugs at me, I shrug back, and we go.

It was GREAT!

Vegetarians will do well at either the quick-service Tangierine Cafe or the table-service Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco. Any non-vegetarians in your party will find plenty of delicious meat dishes and this carnivore could’ve made a meal of the hummus and the delicious couscous recipe that follows. Yum!

Couscous Salad

  • Olive oil for sauteing
  • 1/2 of a red onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 of a sweet red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 of a sweet green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 of a zucchini, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 12 ounces cooked plain couscous
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup tangerine segments or mandarin orange segments
  • Mint sprig for garnish

1. In skillet, saute onion, garlic, sweet bell peppers and zucchini in olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add 1/2 cup olive oil to vegetables along with raisins, chickpeas and orange juice.

2. Toss vegetable mixture with couscous and pan juices. Add parsley and fold in citrus segments. Mound mixture onto a platter and garnish with mint.

Mardi Gras 2018 at Universal Orlando

Laissez les bon temps rouler! Come to Florida’s Biggest Party – Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras! 

On 13 select nights, you can sing along as some of the biggest names in music take the Music Plaza stage, including GRAMMY Award-winning rapper, Macklemore, international superstar and recording artist, Sean Paul and award-winning, multiplatinum chart-toppers, Fifth Harmony

2018 Mardi Gras Concerts at Universal Orlando

Feb. 3 - Sean Paul
Feb. 10 - The Beach Boys
Feb. 17 - Kelsea Ballerini
Feb. 18 - Andy Grammer
Feb. 24 - Macklemore
March 3 - 311
March 4 - Phillip Phillips
March 10 - TBA
March 11 - Fitz and the Tantrums
March 17 - Foreigner
March 18 - Fifth Harmony
March 24 - TBA
March 25 - BUSH

Mardi Gras floats at Universal Orlando

A constellation-themed Mardi Gras parade keep the good times rolling every night throughout the streets of Universal Studios Florida with breathtakingly detailed floats, festive krewes of colorful dancers and stilt performers, and countless beads. Six new celestial floats – including Taurus, Virgo and Serpentarius – complete a lineup of 12 intricately hand-crafted floats engineered by Kern Studios, designer of the original New Orleans Mardi Gras floats for more than 50 years. 

Mardi Gras street performers at Universal Orlando

Starting at 4pm, enjoy mouthwatering shrimp po’boys, jambalaya, beignets and more at the French Quarter Courtyard while listening to authentic sounds of New Orleans straight from Bourbon Street. 

Mardi Gras events are included in your regular admission to Universal Studios Florida. Hashtag the fun with #UniversalMardiGras and 2018's theme #ReadyforUniversal

How to Keep Your Resort Room Organized

As I’m sitting down to our packing list for our next Universal Orlando trip, I realize just how much of what we pack is actually geared towards keeping our resort room organized. We spend more time in our room than most of our clients – hello, working vacation here! – but still, no one wants to walk back into their room, tired after a long day at the parks, and have it look like a bomb went off.

Let’s look at what makes our resort life easier and more organized:

Bathroom/Vanity Area

  1. Over-the-door holder: Hang one over your bathroom door to hold brushes, sunscreen, lanyards, and more. Goodbye, messy vanity counter!
  2. Pop-up hamper: Toys, shoes, jackets… it all goes in pop-up hampers.
  3. Suction cup hooks: Great for hanging wet swimsuits and hand washables in the shower. I much prefer the hooks to the clotheslines.
  4. Air freshener: Bring your choice of compact solid or small aerosol. Enough said.
  5. Leave a suitcase open: We keep one suitcase open to fill with dirty clothes. When it’s full, it’s time to run a load or two of laundry while enjoying the pool. There’s a reason the laundry facilities are always close to the pools! Since we drive, I also bring laundry detergent and a roll of quarters but those who fly can get them from the vending machines at the laundry.

Living Area

  1. Power strip/surge protector: We use a lot of electronics (laptops, iPods, phones, iPads, cameras, etc.) and they all seem to need to be charged at the same time so the power strip/surge protector comes in handy. This will also help protect your electronics from power fluctuations.
  2. Ziploc bags: I never travel without several bags in different sizes. Snacks, toys, hair doodads, etc. all safe inside their little zippered plastic bag.
  3. Drop-it Dish: It doesn’t matter what it is – a small box, a dish, a bag, whatever – you need a place to drop stuff that you can’t put away at the moment. Everyone should know that if they can’t find something, check the box. We keep ours on top of the entertainment center and I clean it out every night.

Do you have any good packing/organization tips? Share them here and I’ll include them in an upcoming edition of the Mouse Tales Travel Newsletter. Be sure to subscribe!