2017 Disneyland holiday trading pins

You know you're a Disney geek when you can spend a full day inside a Disney park without getting on a single ride. There are so many other things to entertain you: the shows, the parades, the shopping, the dining experiences... and the pin trading.

If you like Disney characters and memorabilia, you'll love Disney pin trading and collecting. Half the fun is shopping for bright, shiny, new pins, and the other half is trading pins. You can trade with other pin collectors, or you can trade with cast members around the park. We started collecting and trading pins in 2012, and have been enjoying it ever since.

Disney releases new pins year round, but I have a soft spot for the holiday pin trading, because Disney's holiday pin designs are so stinking cute (click here to view some of Disney's holiday pins from past years).  Also, I love the fact that you can't get these pins at any other time of the year. Here are some of the cutest Disney holiday pins that I ran into this year:

Halloween Costume Watch 2017: The Pea

Every Halloween I like to blog about the costumes we're wearing and how we made them. I usually feature each member of the family, but this year I have to make it a one-man show.

This year, The Pea decided to go all out for her high school's Spirit Week, which is held the week before Halloween. For each day of Spirit Week, classes (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors) are assigned different themes, and students dress up in that theme. Every day, each class nominates two students to represent their class in a costume contest. Each day, Pea came up with a costume each day that got her nominated four days out of five, and won Best Costume twice (today's results aren't out yet, so hopefully she'll get a third trophy!).

There's no point in featuring anyone else's Halloween costumes. Mine is a store-bought Pooh onesie. 3Po and Jammy haven't even started planning their costumes. They'll probably wear one of The Pea's costumes.  Alfie isn't even wearing a costume. This year, all the oohs and ahhs belong to The Pea. She totally deserves it.

Sweet memories of the Musem of Ice Cream San Francisco

Museum of Ice Cream SF

As a child, I always wanted to visit Willy Wonka's factory; today, I finally got the chance. I first heard about the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) last summer, but since I had no plans to visit New York, I had to watch enviously as visitors sniffed wallpaper, sampled ice cream, and buried themselves in sprinkles. When they announced their latest pop-up installation in San Francisco, I knew I had to go. If you like ice cream and selfies, this is the museum for you! Keep reading to get the inside scoop (yes that's an ice cream pun!) on San Francisco's latest destination for the cool (another ice cream pun!) set:
Museum of Ice Cream SF

Five things you must know before your teen applies for a DMV learner's permit


Well, we put it off for as long as we could, but it's like trying to stop the tide from coming in. Those darn kids just won't stop growing up! Last week, The Pea finally got her driver's permit. Both Alfie and I got our first drivers license when were 17, so 15 1/2 seemed ridiculously young to start driving. How responsible can a teen that age be? But we bowed to the inevitable... and almost immediately The Pea proved our point about responsibility. We left the entire process of getting the permit to The Pea -- signing up for online driver's lessons, taking them, getting an appointment, gathering the paperwork. In typical Pea fashion, she didn't bother to gather the required paperwork until the night before her DMV appointment. This resulted in yours truly suffering through the morning commute traffic to get the proper forms and signatures so that The Pea wouldn't have to reschedule her written test.

Parents of 15 year-old would-be drivers, learn from my mistakes and PLAN ahead! Here are five things I've learned from this experience and written down so we don't make the same mistake when 3Po and Jammy are ready to get their permits:

How to prepare for the August 21 Total Solar Eclipse


In just 12 days, the entire US will witness a rare celestial event: a total solar eclipse.  Total solar eclipses happen every 18 months or so, but not very many people can see them. Some are visible over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, others from the tip of Greenland... you get the picture. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible from the US was 99 years ago, in 1918. The next total solar eclipse to be visible from the US will be in 2024, then again in 2045.

Finding our inner Katniss at Arrowland

Arrowland Philippines archery

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Robin Hood, Merida, or Katniss?  Archery isn't the kind of sport that you can just do in your back yard or street corner (unless you live on acres of land). I've always wanted to try it, but never really got the chance until our recent trip to Manila. Archery and the Philippines aren't really two words that I associate with each other, but since discovering Arrowland, we've decided that every trip to Manila is going to include a visit to Arrowland for the chance to live out our Hunger Games dreams (just the archery part, not the killing tribunes part)!

McDonald's in Bangkok

McDonald's Thailand has its share of unique menu items, such as the Samurai Pork Burger and McFish Dippers; unfortunately, we never got to try any of them. We were in Bangkok for such a short time (3 days) that I decided to prioritize the wonderful native Thai cuisine. However, we did drop by a McDonald's for a late night snack (a soft serve ice cream cone dipped in a hard mango-flavored candy shell).

McDo Manila 2017

I've been eating at McDonald's Philippines since I was 12 (when they opened their first restaurant there), so this is not the first time I've blogged about McDo in the Philippines. Yup, we even have our own local nickname for it. Please note, it's not pronounced Mc-Doo or Mc-Doe or McDoh. The best I can come up with is Mc-Daw (rhymes with saw), except the vowel sound in "Daw" is extremely short (glottal stop), not drawn out the way it usually is in English. 

A few observations I've made over decades of eating and enjoying McDo:

1) Over the years, the menu has evolved from purely American burgers/fries/soda/milkshakes to more local menu items. My theory: in the beginning, McDonald's American-ness is what attracted customers, but over time, McDonald's had to keep up with local competitors.

2) Serving sizes are much smaller. A small size soda in the US would be a large size soda in the Philippines. A small size fries in the US would be a kiddie size fries in the Philippines.

3) Prices are much cheaper than in the US. A lot of that is due to the exchange rate, but I think McDonald's Philippines has to keep their prices lower in order to remain affordable for the masses. Most of their menu items are about 50 pesos or 1 US dollar, and I don't think there are any single items above PHP100 ($2), or any combo meals above PHP200 ($4). A plain soft serve ice cream cone is PHP10, or 20 cents!

Green Tea Ice Cream: all you need to know about McDonald's Hong Kong


McDonald's Hong Kong had quite a few additions to the menu beyond the usual burgers, fries, and nuggets, like chicken wings, chili chicken burgers, and side dishes like sweet corn.  Even if you don't eat a full meal there, it's worth seeking out a McDonald's in Hong Kong just for one item: GREEN TEA SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM. Check out the yummy local menu items below (or just scroll to the end for drool-worthy photos of the ice cream):

McDonald's and learning about local food culture


I've gotten a lot of grief from family, friends, and strangers for my weird desire to check out the local McDonald's restaurants when we travel. Don't feed your kids junk! Eat real food! You can get McDonald's at home! There are so many local foods to try! First of all, don't let your experiences with US McDonald's restaurants shape your perception of McDonald's restaurants abroad -- I've found the ones abroad to have food that is far superior to any of the ones in the US. Second, some of these places serve their burgers with a ton of crisp lettuce and tomatoes, as well as side dishes like corn and tomatoes, so it's real and healthy.

The only one of those arguments that has any merit with me is the last one. I realize that every time I eat at McDonald's, I'm forgoing the opportunity to sample local cuisine. But I would argue that the local McDonald's food is, in a way, local cuisine. For better or worse, Western culture has permeated other cultures; it's not like I had to look very far to find a McDonald's! The local menu adaptations give me a glimpse of what foods the locals love. I, for one, find it fascinating to see how McDonald's has adapted to the local culture!

Here are some unique McDonald's menu items that we saw from our summer 2017 trip to:


Enjoy!


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