Friday, October 9, 2015

Favourites Lately

Oy vey am I ready for the freaking weekend. But first, favourites with Amanda!

Favourite Post Favourite Anything if you only read one thing in this post, please read Steph's post here specifically #8 but really, just read it all.

I always enjoy reading Steph's blog but I especially love that she puts a voice to things that I am thinking or feeling but can't quite articulate. Call me ignorant, but I hate watching the news and whatnot because I hate knowing how awful the world is. But if and when I do learn things, they upset me but I am able to separate it and move on with my normal, boring but happy life. Except when it comes to guns. I cannot move on with that, I cannot understand why this is still a thing. I just don't get it. What will it take? Please tell me, what will it take? I cannot live here and be scared to go to the movies, or be scared to send my kids to school. I cannot raise kids in a country that cares more about guns than people.

Please read Steph's post if you haven't already.

Favourite dry shampoo

I've been using batiste for ages, but it wasn't until I finally got my hands on the brunette version that it changed my hair washing life. Also, my friend gave me the tip to put it on before you go to bed, which I had heard of before but never tried - sometimes you need a friend to tell you. Anyway, I can go a week without washing and it's amazing. However, when you wash it out (if you use the brunette stuff) don't freak out, it will look like dye washing out but it's not. Don't freak out like I did. Anyway. Highly recommend. It's often on sale at Walgreens.

Favourite Netflix find

The other day KC and I had a couple drinks and were trying to find something to watch on Netflix. He wanted something serious and I wanted something fun. I found Carl Barron and begged KC to watch it. He liked it but couldn't sit through the whole thing. I don't know if you would like it, but if you like observational humour / australian humour.. I recommend. I was seriously rolling off the couch and crying because I was laughing so hard. If you've ever met me.. that's a big deal because I'm not really a laugh out loud person.

At the very least, you should watch the below video (not from the netflix show). It's only like 5 minutes and hilarious.

Favourite Purchase

We have a grill. We don't really use it, it's too much muck around. So I thought about buying a George Foreman Grill and then it was on mega sale (which I found out using my handy dandy camel trick) so I impulse bought it. 'Scuse my language, but we've used the shit out of it and it's amazing. Seriously, don't buy it anywhere else as it's like $20 cheaper on Amazon.
Favourite Movie

KC and I rarely go to the movies, but we both wanted to see The Martian after loving the book. We all know the movies are never as good as the book, but holy shitballs the movie was good. Of course, they cut a lot out and there were some parts we didn't love, but overall.. I highly recommend the movie, even if you haven't read the book.

Happy Friday all!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Australian Stereotypes & Myths Busted

You know I love talking about Australia, so I thought I would share some common misconceptions about the ol' motherland and its peeps.

We all say G'day
I have probably heard this from a real live person less than 10 times in my life, not counting the times we all say it as a joke. Maybe it was a thing many years ago, but it's certainly not something I've ever encountered.

No one says you're welcome
I heard that we don't say you're welcome, we only say no worries. To that, I say WTF. Of course we say you're welcome, and you should say it too if someone says thank you, don't be rude. We also say no worries but that doesn't mean you're welcome isn't part of our vocabulary.

Shrimp on the barbie
We don't even call them shrimp, they are prawns. We do call the barbeque a barbie though. I am sure some people cook prawns on the barbie, but I certainly never have. As far as I know, most people eat them cold.

I know technically prawns and shrimp are different things, but we mustn't have shrimp because I have literally never heard anyone say shrimp except to make fun of 'put another shrimp on the barbie'.

Australian for beer? You mean, Australian for piss. I have never seen Fosters in a bar - wait no, that's a lie. I saw it in a bar in London once...

Everything is going to kill me!
Why are you scared of our wildlife but not scared of your own? Yes we have 'deadly' animals and stuff but do they actually kill people? No! If you are visiting Sydney or Melbourne cities you are very unlikely to encounter any of the things you are afraid of. Seriously. You're not gonna see a great white in Bondi (well it has happened before, but they were dead, and the shark alarm will go of well before it had a chance to eat you if it was alive), you're not gonna see a deadly snake at the Opera House. For reals, you will be fine. Chances are you'll die from falling of Ayers Rock or getting sunburned so bad you get skin cancer before you die from our 'deadly' wildlife.

We're all friendly / polite / down to earth.
In my opinion, we have as many friendly, mellow, polite down to earth people as any other country. Expecting everyone to want to be your best friend in Australia is like expecting it in America. Stereotypes of any kind are normally not true. If you go to Surfer's Paradise, yes more than likely people will be down to earth and friendly. If you're in the middle of Sydney on a Monday? Probably not. I think mainly, it's if you are nice and polite we will be as well.

That this or that person is Australian.
Think of an Australian celebrity. Betcha they aren't even Australian. Ok, Steve Irwin is (was), Heath Ledger is (was), the Hemsworth brothers are (you're welcome), Cate Blanchett is, Hugh Jackman is, Eric Bana is.. But Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Olivia Newton John, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson... Nope. I know I've mentioned it before, but it really bothers me... I mean, Keith Urban sings about fourth of July. No. Australian you are not, my friend. I know you wanna be us, but you can't sit with us!

The toilet flushes the other way.
NOT FREAKING TRUE. The water comes out of a jet thingy which directs the way the water swirls. Just like yours. If a toilet flushes the other way it's because of how the toilet is made, not because of the Coriolis effect. Not to mention, our toilets have hardly any water in them - not like American toilets so the water just goes down, it doesn't swirl. Don't worry - it doesn't affect the way the toilet, you know, does its job.

On that note I might end this post. Did you know or not know any of these things?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to get Disney Advance Dining Reservations (after 180 days)

If you are not planning a Disney trip, this post is probably going to be extremely boring and not helpful at all, and possibly sound a little crazy.

So. You're planning your Disney trip and want to sort out your dining reservations. Depending on what restaurant you are trying to get a reservation for, this could be easy or hard. I hope that what I share today makes it a little easier!

How to get Disney Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) when you are less than 180 days away from your trip

Unless you are a newbie to this whole Disney thing, you probably already know that if you are staying at a Disney (owned and operated) resort, you have extra privileges and can reserve a dining reservation 180 days in advance (and make up to 10 days of ADRs the same day). Whoopdeedo, right? There is lots of advice on the interwebs on how to obtain your ADR at exactly 180 days before your trip, so I am not here to talk about that. We didn't decide or book Disney 
until mid July, which was about 120 days out. Because the ADRs become available at 180 days, most of the ones I wanted were already snatched up.

If you are less than 180 days away from your trip and the reservations you want are all booked up, 
all the Disney experts advise to 'keep checking'. The reason for this is that people cancel their reservations all the time, for whatever reason.

My travel agent (I used Small World Vacations, highly recommend, see why here) also advised me that a good time to check is 45 days out from your travel dates (because that's when people using a travel agent have to pay their balance). She 
also mentioned that there were apps that monitor dining reservations, but she had not used them so could not attest to how well they worked.

This was the first I'd heard of any apps or the like that search for dining reservation availability. I know everyone says to keep checking, but I was, and I still wasn't getting my reservations. Not the end of the world, I know, but I really wanted them. So I did some quick googling and pinteresting, and to be honest it was quite hard to find! Why aren't these more popular? Why is this a secret?! After more digging, I discovered it's not a secret at all on Disney trip forums (like disboards) but for people like me who didn't frequent those forums, it's not widely known.

Eventually, I discovered four websites:

Disney Dining Buddy
WDW Table Finder 
WDW Tools (ADR sniper)
Disney Dining Scout

For the purposes of being (hopefully!) helpful and definitely a little bit crazy, I signed up for all but one of them. I show them all in detail below, but there is a clear winner (no offense to the others).

The point to these websites / apps is that they watch the reservations so you don't have to. This is handy for those who can't sit by their computer all day or who forget to check regularly (ahem, me).

Disney Dining Buddy

Disney Dining Buddy is a whopping $8 per search. If your time is flexible, you can choose 'breakfast', 'lunch' or 'dinner' in your search. Disney has it's own meal times so be sure to check the specific restaurant to see what time they serve meals. See below for example.

As you can see below, I only did one search (because hello $$).

Disney Dining Buddy definitely works, I got a notification when my reservation became available.

WDW Table Finder

WDW Table Finder is $7 for one search, $10 for 2. $5 extra for each additional search.  

Like Disney Dining Buddy, WDW Table Finder allows you to choose 'breakfast', 'lunch' or 'dinner'. Another handy thing, that the others don't have, is that you can search a beginning and end time, so you could search more than a 2 hour period (paid option only).

There is also a free search option, but honestly, you may as well go to the Disney website to check because it doesn't stay up or refresh the search.

The paid option (using the 'notification' tab) is below:

While I did get a notification from WDW Table Finder (so it technically works), I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. I don't think it's as user friendly as the others.

WDW Tools (ADR Sniper)

WDW Tools (ADR Sniper) is the most expensive at $10 per search or unlimited searches for $21 per month.

WDW Tools is very similar to the others, you search for a restaurant and time, etc etc. Something that they have that the others do not, and is - in my opinion - very cool, is the ability to search across all the parks, resorts and downtown Disney over a specific date and time.

I think this is really great because you might be flexible with your plans, or have park hoppers and the ability to see everything that is available over a few days or a week is really neat. This tool is free though, you don't have to sign up to use it.

This is the one I didn't sign up for, because of the price. Sorry WDW Tools. I still think that above feature is super neat, and if you have a lot of reservations to search for, maybe $21 a month isn't so bad.

Disney Dining Scout

Disney Dining Scout is the clear winner in my opinion.. for one, it has a great free option (no notifications though) and the paid options are significantly cheaper for more searches. Plus, it has an app.

There are no 'breakfast', 'lunch' or 'dinner' options, you need to select a specific time (though it will search for 2 hours on either side, like all the others, like the Disney website). I chose the 'standard' option and it's not 4 searches and you are done, but 4 searches at any one time. So when I found a reservation I was looking for, I was able to delete it and add another, which to me is just brilliant. If you want to use the app, you first have to register on the website. If you do the free option, you can just keep the website open (it refreshes frequently) and keep an eye on it. It will send you an email at the end of the day, but chances of them still being available are slim.

Below is the free option. I think Disney Dining Scout has the best free option because it refreshes and keeps the search listed. You can only search for 2 reservations at a time though. No emails or texts, but it beats refreshing the Disney page. It will email you at the end of the day to tell you what became available and what you would have been notified of had you paid for the searches.

Below is the paid option (4 searches with notifications). For the sake of knowing what it would look like and what would happen, I added a search for the Biergarten restaurant (which I already had a reservation for) and it showed up as available immediately. 

I don't know if you can see, but the Biergarten Restaurant has a green smiley face whereas the others have red frowny faces. Literally within 1 minute of adding this search, I also received a text and an email. Good to know they were on top of the ball!

I 'tested' it with the Biergarten restaurant so I knew the texts and emails worked, but it wasn't until I added a search for the 50's Prime Time Cafe and was notified the next day that I knew for sure for sure it worked. I actually got a text at work, I tried to get the reservation but missed it (sobs) then I got a text as I was driving home - again, missed it. The next morning I was at work fairly early when I got another text and I jumped on the computer and snagged it. Ha!

This is what the app looks like when one of your searches finds something.

After that, there was only one reservation that I really wanted, and that was Akershus. I have Be Our Guest listed up there, but I already had a reservation, I was watching to see if a later time came up. 

Who won?

After a month (ouch) of waiting, I finally was able to snag my Akershus reservation - the one I had set up a notification for on all the websites. The first website to text me was WDW Table Finder, then Disney Dining Buddy and then finally Disney Dining Scout. It all happened within 2 minutes of each other though.

Which one do I recommend? 

Even though Disney Dining Scout was the last one to text me when all 3 found one at the same time, I had no issues getting the reservation. Because they are all set up on different search times, it is very likely that one will find a reservation and the others will not.

So, to me, the clear winner is Disney Dining Scout. Hands down. It's the cheapest option by far and allows more searches. It is easy to use, has an app and a very handy free option. Can't go wrong, in my opinion. 

Something I want to add, and I don't know if this will always work, but I had all my searches set for 2 people. I set a search up for 3 people for shits and giggles, and the next day I got a notification (this was the day before all of the above). I was able to book my reservation and then I called Disney and asked them to modify it from 3 to 2. I read on a forum that they are more likely to give a table to 3-4 people than 2, and when I got a notification for the 3 people reservation, I tried to book it for 2 and it didn't come up until I changed it to 3. Just something to think about....

Important to note!

Regardless of which site you use, when you get the alert, you need to get your butt over to the Disney site immediately otherwise it will be gone before you can say acca-scuse me. I got a text for one of them and headed over straight away, but someone snatched it up before I did. I didn't cry. Actually, I discovered that the Disney app was much faster and I was able to snag the reservations much quicker than on the computer.

Also, remember that anything two hours on either side of your request time will be matched. If you don't want a reservation after 9 PM, set your request time to 7 PM or earlier. 

Another note...

If you don't want to pay for any of these searches, you can at least check out the forums at for your specific month, people often share what they are cancelling and you can coordinate to get it at the same time.

And if you still don't get the reservation you want, don't fret. 

If all else fails, the concierge desk at your resort and Guest Services at the parks can check for last minute cancellations and openings once you are on property. Also, just for fun, every week or so I would check for the upcoming Saturday and there would always be openings. People cancel closer to the date, because some restaurants charge a cancellation fee ($10-$25) if you simply decide not to show up. See below, these are restaurants I would randomly check the next day or two for, and there was always a reservation available. 

Please note that I had no desire to eat at the more popular restaurants (Cinderella's Royal Table or Chef Mickey's for example) so I have no idea how well these would work for the super hard to get restaurant reservations. Because Cinderella's Royal Table requires full prepayment, I think that it would be much harder to catch a cancellation, but I could be wrong. 

Please also note that I am not affiliated with any of these companies, I purchased all the searches and such myself. I just really wanted to share because I know it can be stressful trying to get those reservations, especially if you have kids that want to eat at certain restaurants (not that I do, but I may as well be a child) so I really wanted to get the word out.

Happy ADR making! 

Anyway - I know this was a super long and crazy post, and if you aren't planning a Disney vacation this is obviously useless to you and you might think I am crazier than you ever thought possible. But if you are planning a Disney vacation and having trouble with your ADRs, well I hope this helped!

Linking up with Kels for her secret blogger club (tomorrow, my bad).
The Blonder Side of Life

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Throne of Glass (series) + October's book!

When Kari suggested we read Throne of Glass for September's book club, I was hesitant. Not because I wouldn't like it, but because I knew I would and the series isn't finished and I hate when I read a series and then have to wait for it to be finished. I forget too much in between books but not enough to reread and... life is hard y'all.

So. I read the book. Then I read the second. and the third. and the fourth. and now I have to wait for the next one uggghhjfknzdfbngnmjb.

Here are my thoughts on (only) the first book:

- I love the main character. Some people find her annoying, conceited, etc etc. But you know what? I found her refreshing. I'm sick of main characters that doubt themselves and don't know their own talent or what they want. An ego is not a bad thing. She's not perfect and I dig it.

- Love triangle done right. Um, spoilers? Anyway. There are so many books out there with a pathetic excuse for a love triangle - as in they just throw it in there because they think they should, but it actually is not a triangle at all because there is a clear winner. I feel like this (first) book did it right, you're a bit conflicted and the love triangle is not the main point of the story. Don't let me talk about it anymore otherwise I will word vomit spoilers.

- It was interesting. It kept me turning the page and I wanted to know what happened.

- It's not really a Cinderella retelling, so whoever told me that totes lied. Sarah J Maas says herself:

"I got the idea for Throne of Glass when I was sixteen. Music always inspires my books and when I was listening to the 'Cinderella' soundtrack, I thought, 'What if Cinderella was actually an assassin who liked getting dressed up all pretty and going to the ball, but then she wouldn't mind kicking butt," Sarah explains. "Then of course, I wanted to know who this assassin was. So it started off as a Cinderella retelling and later it became it's own original fantasy."

- There is more to it than the cover / synopsis. So many times I have picked up a book and thought I would love it based on the synopsis or cover, but it's rarely the other way around. I love when the synopsis doesn't really sound intriguing but the book exceeds my expectations.

This basically sums up my thoughts on the second book:

oh shit son. <-- my actual reaction when I finished, just ask Kari.

Third book:

meh and ohmygod. This was the hardest book in the series for me because it was so long and it seemed to drag in places. But overall, I loved it. I just felt like there were some unnecessary parts or parts that dragged. But overall, good.

Fourth book:

Because the third dragged a bit, it took me a little bit to pick up the 4th book, but of course, as soon as I did, I loved it with all the love. Let's just say I have never jumped ship before but I was like byyyyeee Felicia to the other ship. I shall say no more.

All that being said, would I recommend this series? Honestly? Yes, but not to everyone. Simple as that. If you like YA / fantasy / fairytales / books like these, then yes. If you like real life stuff, and have trouble with suspension of disbelief, probably not. If you like hardcore stuff and are expecting more assassin-y stuff, probably not.

I convinced a girl at work to start reading them and she loved them as much as I did. Insert evil laugh. Make all the people like all the books.

Now, hurry up book #5!

Apparently A Court of Thorns and Roses started as a Beauty & the Beast retelling, so you know I'm reading that one next.

As for what we (book club!) are reading next, we thought it would be fun to have a little Halloween type theme because, you know.. Halloween and all. So we are reading: Jackaby by William Ritter. 

From what I heard, it's Doctor Who meets Sherlock. I'm not really into scary / horror so I am glad we chose this because it doesn't sound scary, and did I mention Doctor Who? It sounds interesting. Lets hope it is!

Feel free to link up below!