Friday, 28 August 2015

Adventures in the USA part 6 - Tie-Dyeing and Salad at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

The second I discovered on the Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa activities schedule that there were tie-dyeing sessions, I decided that if we were going to take a day off, it had to be either Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday.  And so it was that the Wednesday after we arrived in Florida was spent at the hotel instead of at any of the parks.  My top two television and film experiences of tie-dyeing are Tie-Dye Girl from The Parent Trap and when Lizzie and Gordo tie-dyed the sheets in the Lizzie McGuire episode Pool Party.  In Pool Party, Lizzie and Miranda have been invited to Danny Kessler's pool party.  Unfortunately, Lizzie can't go because it's supposedly her grandmother's 80th birthday party, and Miranda chooses to go to the party without her.  Later on, it is revealed that Lizzie could have gone to the party, but it is too late.  However, Gordo comes to cheer up Lizzie by helping her to tie-dye some sheets.  Well, I got the best of both worlds - I went swimming at the hotel swimming pool just before lunch (I went to Danny Kessler's pool party, if you want), and then I tie-dyed a T-shirt just before tea (like Lizzie and Gordo)!


  1. Put on some rubber or plastic gloves and prepare the tie-dye solutions according to manufacturer's instructions, and a pot of water mixed with a cup of table salt (this can be used instead of soda ash as a solution to make the dyes "stick" to the fabric being tie-dyed).
  2. From the middle of the shirt (make sure it is plain and white), make the T-shirt into a sausage-like shape using elastic to separate the shirt into about 10 different sections (depending on the size of the shirt).
  3. Soak the shirt in the salt-water solution before starting to tie-dye.
  4. Squirt the dye onto each section of the shirt.  For this shirt, I made each section a different colour and put the colours in rainbow order, starting with purple in the middle.  I then had a few sections left at the end which I dyed pink, purple and light blue.  However, you can also use just one colour and alternate between that colour and just leaving a section white.
  5. The shirt, all tied up and ready to be dyed!

    The three finger-like sections at the left are for Mickey Mouse's face and ears.
    Time to squirt the green dye.
    A second purple section.
    The last section dyed light blue!

  6. Make sure that the dye reaches as much of the material in that section as possible.  You'll have to separate the folds a little bit to reach some areas.  This will avoid an excess of white space on the finished shirt.
  7. Roll the shirt in Clingfilm and wrap tightly.  Let it set for at least 24 hours, longer for more intense colours (we left it for nearly 72 hours).
  8. Once the appropriate time as elapsed, remove your shirt from the Clingfilm, remove the elastic bands, and place it in the sink.  Run water over it to remove the excess dye until the water runs clear (or almost clear).
  9. Wash your shirt in the washing machine.  Make sure to wash it ALONE (or with similarly coloured tie-dyed items).  Place a small amount of laundry detergent into the washing machine and set it to the hottest water setting possible (this seems awful for the environment though).
  10. It is also a good idea to run and empty load or something non-critical (such as a load of old rags) after you have washed your tie-dyed shirt.
  11. After the shirts have been washed, they can be put out to dry (washing line or dryer).
  12. Once shirts (or other tie-dyed items have been washed and dried once, they can be washed with any article of clothing and the dye will not come out.
My finished Mickey Mouse tie-dye T-shirt.

On our first night in Florida, as in the evening we had the flight from Washington DC to Orlando, we obviously hadn't had the chance to go grocery shopping.  Therefore, just after we checked in at our hotel (Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa), we popped into their self-service cafĂ© The Artist's Palette to find some dinner to take back to our hotel room.  My choice was the Saratoga Springs House Salad, a dish I recognised from a very old (Spring 2009) edition of Disney Files Magazine.  Disney Files Magazine has recipes so that readers can bring dishes served in Disney restaurants to their own homes.  So here's the recipe for the Saratoga Springs House Salad!

Saratoga Springs House Salad

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 cups gourmet salad mix (fancy lettuce)
4 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons dried blueberries
1/2 unpeeled red apple, diced
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1/2 cup poppy seed dressing (see recipe below)


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently.  Serve with poppy seed dressing.

Poppy Seed Dressing Ingredients

1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon diced onion
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds


  1. Combine first 5 ingredients (everything except for the canola oil and poppy seeds) in blender or food processor and process for 20 seconds.
  2. With blender on a high setting, gradually add oil in a slow steady stream.  Stir in poppy seeds.
  3. Once blender to your satisfaction, serve with the rest of the salad!

The lake at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.

Ducks approaching ...


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Adventures in the USA part 5 - Epcot, Disney World Florida

On our 5th day in Florida (Monday), we were off to the second Disney theme park of the four main parks (we weren't visiting the water parks), Epcot.

Top 5

  • Test Track - In a new and improved version of a ride I've visited in the past, you can design your "own" car to be driven around the test track.  You can choose what the strengths of your vehicle are, including its performance in adverse weather conditions, and its speed.  This information is then stored on your Disney Magic Band for use later in the ride.  When you board the test track car, you scan your Disney Magic Band for your chosen car's information to be loaded.  As you zoom around the track, your car then competes with the cars of the other passengers of your test track car in a series of tests measuring the performance and endurance of the cars.  Some cars may perform better in some tests than in others.  At the end of the ride, you enter a showroom full of Chevrolet cars (the Test Track ride is sponsored by Chevrolet), and you can, scanning your Magic Band again, design an advert for your car, choosing the music style, presenter's voice and the location of the advert, which you can then email to yourself.
  • Soarin' - This is also one of my all-time favourite rides.  Board a "glider" and fasten your seatbelts for a virtual flight of a lifetime, as you take-off from the ground and whoosh over the landmarks, mountains and other sites of California.
  • Living with the Land - a boat ride through greenhouses with real fruit and vegetables and fish tanks.
  • Spaceship Earth - this ride seems to have been enhanced in the past 5 years, and each cabin now includes a touchscreen feature where riders answer questions and then at the end of the ride, the magical computers inside the ride build a little video about how your life would be in a futuristic world (including living under the sea).  During the ride itself, you learn about history, including the Ancient Egyptians, The Stone Age and eventually the age of movies and going into space.

Spaceship Earth as viewed from the World Showcase Lagoon.

The Morocco Pavilion

The pagoda at the Japan Pavilion
  • IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth - Epcot's fireworks show that showcases the wonders and cultures of the world.
Fireworks during Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at the World Showcase Lagoon.

While I was watching Disney Channel, I saw a programme promotional advert where they were making Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Waffles.  Nutritional information for this and for some of the meals served in Disney World restaurants could be found by visiting  The meals listed were recipients of the Mickey Check and met Disney Nutrition Guidelines, developed by health experts to align with federal dietary guideline recommendations.  They had a page for recipes, so I decided to look through them for some fun and relatively easy recipes.  I've been looking for a while for a vegan-friendly version of sushi that all my family will like (and which is easy to make at home without having to go out and find nori wrap, etc, so the first recipe from this website to catch my eye was for Sandwich Sushi.  With the exception of one ingredient (alfalfa sprouts), we had bought all the ingredients required while at Winn Dixie, so I put it forward to my mum as a lunch or dinner suggestion.

Ingredients (to serve 4)

12 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed
4 tablespoons hummus (you can use the recipe here)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4" by 1/4" by 2" sticks
1/2 a cucumber, cut into 1/4" by 1/4" by 2" sticks
1 bell pepper, cut into 1/4" by 1/4" by 2" sticks
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts


  1. Place crustless bread on a large cutting board.  Using a rolling pin, flatten the bread so it spreads slightly and is as flat as possible.
  2. Spread each slice with a very thin layer of hummus, about 1 teaspoon's worth per slice.
  3. Lay a piece of carrot, cucumber and bell pepper lengthwise on each piece of bread, staggering and stacking them slightly so they take up as little space as possible.
  4. Top with a few alfalfa sprouts and then roll tightly into a spiral towards the opposite side.  Press on the seam to ensure that the bread sticks together.
  5. Repeat with the remaining slices of bread.  Slice into 4 "sushi rolls" and serve.

    Wednesday, 19 August 2015

    Adventures in the USA part 4 - Universal Resort Florida

    On Days 4 and 6 in Florida, we were off by taxi to Universal Orlando Resort (missing Ally Sheehan and Jen Converso's visit there by just 12 days).  Our main reason for going to the two theme parks there (Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure) was because of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas based on Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, but we also went to visit plenty of other rides and shows.  This post will combine my top 5 things to see overall at both parks as well as a recipe!

    Me getting a photo alongside a stunning Marilyn Monroe impersonator.

    Top 5

    • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Diagon Alley at Universal Studios) - this was an indoor 3D mini-rollercoaster that did leave me squealing a little bit (I'm not a rollercoaster fan).  Bill Weasley is your guide as you journey through Gringotts Bank following the story of Harry, Ron and Hermione's visit to the bank in The Deathly Hallows where Hermione impersonates Bellatrix Lestrange in an attempt to enter Bellatrix's volt.  At times, it felt like your rollercoaster cabin would stop for a bit of the story, but then you'd speed off in the direction and because it was dark, you didn't know where you were going and it was a bit weird.
      The depiction of London at the entrance to Diagon Alley.

      The Knight Bus

    The exterior of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes

    The fire-breathing dragon above Gringotts Bank

    The entrance to Knockturn Alley

    Inside Gringotts Bank

    • Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees (Diagon Alley at Universal Studios) - I saw this mini-show for the group who are famous throughout the wizarding world in the Diagon Alley area while drinking butterbeer.  I'd describe the group's style as uplifting, energetic, glamorous and similar to Diana Ross and The Supremes.
    • Celestina Warbeck (far left) and the Banshees with a guest.

    • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure)

    • A snowman in Hogsmeade
      The Hogwarts Express!
      Dawn French portraying the lady who guards the door to the Gryffindor common room.
      The entrance to Hogsmeade

      Snow (fake) covering the roofs of Hogsmeade.

      Inside Hogsmeade

    • Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges (Islands of Adventure) - my experience of this ride was a bit like my experience at Kali River Rapids at the Animal Kingdom.  It was a water ride, and I got absolutely SOAKED!  I was also the only one in my family to go on this ride as my brother wanted to go on The Incredible Hulk Coaster, and our parents didn't really want to go on either ride.  Therefore, I was in the raft with a group of strangers (they were nice though).  The girl next to me thought it was a good idea to wear a poncho on the ride to stop her from getting too wet.  Well, by the end of the ride, she, like me, was also soaked to her T-shirt.  It took a LONG TIME after getting off this ride for my T-shirt, shorts, socks and trainers to dry out - I had to take off my socks and wring out the excess water for them to even be vaguely wearable for the rest of the day.  In any case, it was a fun ride.
    • Poseidon's Fury (Islands of Adventure)

    One well-known treat to be found at both the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort and at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter is butterbeer, a sweet soft drink that was served in the series at the Three Broomsticks Inn and at The Hog's Head in Hogsmeade and also known to be sold at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley.  In the film and book series, butterbeer is known to have a very slight alcohol content, but the versions sold at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and in London are both non-alcoholic and are sold either cold or frozen as a slush drink.  After having a cup of butterbeer on both days at the parks, I was left wanting to be able to recreate the taste at home.  After looking around for vegan-friendly homemade butterbeer recipes, the easiest-looking one I could find was actually on the PETA website.  This recipe contained vegan margarine (such as Pure), but I'm omitting this because I just tried this recipe with Pure and there ended up being a little blob of it at the bottom of the glass when I was done and it just tasted gross.

    Ingredients (serves 1)

    2 small scoops of vegan-friendly vanilla ice cream
    2 dashes of cinnamon
    1 dash of nutmeg
    1 pinch of ginger
    cold apple juice
    additional cinnamon


    1. Place all the ingredients, except the apple juice and additional cinnamon, in a glass.
    2. Pour the apple juice over the ice cream and spices.
    3. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and serve immediately.

    Butterbeer in Diagon Alley

    Friday, 7 August 2015

    Adventures in the USA part 3 - Animal Kingdom, Disney World Florida

    Day 2 of exploring in Florida, and we're at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Unfortunately, we went there on a day with shorter hours (closing at 5pm), so there are things I would have liked to have seen but I missed (things that I've seen in the past though).  I think that this time though, I had a larger appreciation for the wildlife aspect of this theme park, especially with the recent killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, the conservation and protection of such majestic and special creatures is even more important.  You may question if you should support Disney's Animal Kingdom or not out of concerns about animal welfare, but from what I can currently tell, the organisation takes good care of the animals, allowing animals to not be on display to the public if they seem distressed, keeping them at a safe distance from the public, and keeping the park's closing hours early to give the animals some peace and quiet.  If anyone reads this and disagrees about Disney's treatment of animals, please send me links to educate me in the comments.  Now, onwards to my top 5 of things to see and do at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park:

    • Festival of the Lion King – This indoor attraction has been a family favourite for many years now. It’s a sing-along, acrobatic celebration of The Lion King.  In preparation for the show, audience members are invited to learn the sounds made by lions, giraffes and warthogs, and learn the Swahili names of the main performers.  As puppeteer-controlled moving platforms carrying Simba, Pumbaa, Timon and a giraffe move into the arena, the festival begins with the use of the previously-learned sounds to greet the animals.  With favourites such as The Circle of Life, Can You Feel The Love Tonight (with a dancer flying in the air as Nala) and Hakuna Matata (complete with a hand-jive from the acrobats), you'll be singing like one of Simba's pride in no time! 

    • Kilimanjaro Safaris – It probably hasn't been my favourite part of the Animal Kingdom park before, but it certainly seems like it this time.  On this tour that takes about half an hour, you are driven with other visitors in a safari bus into the depths of the park, where you can see a wealth of animals from a safe but relatively close distance.  During our mini-safari, we saw elephants, giraffes, a hippo (completely out of the water, which is unusual for an animal that spends most of its time below the water's surface in order to stay cool), zebras, flamingos and lions, and although I am currently non-vegan (but still trying to cut back on my animal product intake), I did find myself looking at and taking photographs of these beautiful creatures and wondering why anyone would want to harm them and other animals. 

    • Flights of Wonder

    • Kali River Rapids – Kali River Rapids is a water ride where you sit in a circular raft complete with safety belts and a central compartment for the storage of bags and valuables during the ride. This was the first ride we had a Fast-Pass for, which made waiting time MUCH shorter. Fast-Passes can be organised through the My Disney Experience app available in the iTunes and Google Play stores. I’d suggest to ride on Kali River Rapids quite late in the day, as you WILL get wet!
    • Maharajah Jungle Trek

    If you've not already noticed, I find taking the time to eat breakfast every day very important - especially if you're going to school or university or work - to keep your mind and body nourished and energised for the day ahead, and a day at a theme park should be no different.  After all, you'll be running around to go on as many rides as possible and see the animals.  This recipe for a "banana breakfast dog" is one I found on, which identifies it as a nutritious option for kids.


    whole grain hot dog bun
    peanut butter (may use sunflower butter as nut alternative)
    sunflower seeds (shelled)
    low-sugar jam


    1. Open the whole grain hot dog bun and spread peanut/sunflower butter on the bottom half.
    2. Sprinkle sunflower seeds onto the spread half.
    3. Peel a whole banana and place on the bun.
    4. Add a small amount of low-sugar jam on top of the banana, add the top half of the bun, and enjoy!

    Look back next week for part 4 of my Adventures in the USA series, in which I share my favourites from the Universal theme parks in Orlando!