Posted by: Joe Barrett | October 19, 2011

Would you trade your Dole Whip to possibly save a life?

So you have $5 in your pocket & decide to go buy a Dole Whip or any other favorite Disney treat. But wait…… Would you instead do without one treat and donate that $5 towards a good cause that when combined with others generosity could have an impact on many lives?

1. Gimme 5 minutes of your time: Go to my personal LTN website at and read about what I’m doing.
2. Gimme 5 bucks: Just donate online–five dollars for a great cause, and if you want to donate more, fantastic!
3. Gimme 5 friends: Pass the word to five friends and help spread the word!

5 is the number of years that some blood cancer patients have to stay in remission in order to be considered cured.
Every 5 minutes someone new is diagnosed with a blood cancer – money for research is desperately needed – so PLEASE donate now.

$5 can get you a Dole Whip but to see how $5 makes an impact on cancer patients:

If 2 people gimme 5….
$10 provides two hours of microscope use to determine if a new medicine will stop a life-threatening lung infection in a bone marrow transplant patient.
4 people….
$20 pays for a bottle of nutrients that will nourish 10 million leukemia cells grown in the laboratory for a week, enabling scientists to test whether a new anti-cancer drug halts their growth.
8 people….
$40 purchases enough razor-sharp blades to prepare bone-marrow biopsy samples from 200 patients, enabling doctors to make accurate cancer diagnoses.
20 people….
$100 pays for the cost of an antibody used to determine the precise characteristics of lymphoma cells, allowing doctors to determine the best treatment for a patient.
50 people….
$250 buys an instrument to measure tiny volumes of liquid, which allows scientists to accurately measure the solutions needed to prepare a patient sample for a diagnostic test.
100 people….
$500 purchases 10 hours of time on a flow cytometer, a machine that reveals a multitude of characteristics of blood cancer cells that could be developed into effective diagnostic tests.

So why is this important to me?

Just before Christmas of 2008 my mom began to feel really sick & run down. She began to develop lesions on her skin & immediately started to panic. After Christmas she checked into the hospital for testing & found out she had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

Our family was devastated but remained optimistic. My mom has always been a very brave & strong person her entire life so she faced the journey ahead with the mindset that she was going to beat this illness. Being a positive thinker myself, I stressed to her the importance to keep believing she will make it through.

Her first chemo treatment was total hell for her. She spent hours on end in the bathroom getting sick. Her appetite was gone & caused concern since she was always thin to begin with & it was so important for her to maintain her nutrition. She struggled for a while but her blood tests no longer showed any cancer. This was a huge weight lifted off the family. But to be sure the cancer would not return it’s routine to go through a series of chemo treatments. So once again my mom endured the misery that came along with chemotherapy. This time she began to loose her hair as well. For my mom this was hard because she always had long her that came down almost to her backside. People always commented how beautiful her hair was so it was part of her identity. It took a while but she accepted it as part of the process & knew her wellness was much more important. This second treatment was really beating her body down though & once again agonized through sickness. Her weight dropped into the 80 lbs range & the doctors had to eventually prescribe a pill form of marijuana to not only ease her nausea but also build her appetite. Talk about the munchies….. Her appetite took a serious 180. Her & I joked about how she never ate so much when ever she asked me to go shopping for her. She really began to feel better & put on weight in the process. She told me how she felt better than she had in a long time.

As the doctors watched her health & strength return they began to discuss her third chemo treatment that had been put off while she recovered. She dreaded going through that once again after feeling horrible for so long & finally feeling so good. She turned to my sister & I for advice as far as what she should do. I told her the decision was ultimately hers but explained the pros & cons. On one hand she would go through another battle with hell but on the other if she didn’t, there was the chance the cancer could possibly return. Her decision was to continue with treatment.

This time only required an overnight hospital stay. As I drove her home the next day we went out to eat & to a few stores to spend some time together. My mom & I were very close especially when I was a kid. As I grew older & moved out we didn’t see each other as often as we should have but always remained in contact. That day she shared some stories with me and we laughed about old times. My Disney trip was coming up in less than a month & we talked about how she had never been to Disney World & would love to go someday. She said she planned to be well enough to go with us the following year. A few days later the side effects of the chemo started again.

A few days later on August 7th 2009 I went to take my mom to her doctors appointment. When I went up to my moms room she was very sick & could barely get out of bed. It took a while to finally leave the house because she had to keep sitting down from weakness. I insisted we go to the hospital instead of the doctors but she kept saying she was okay. As we drove I still felt as though the hospital would be a good idea but again she told me to just go to her appointment. We talked some as I drove but when she didn’t answer me I looked over & noticed something was wrong. Her eyes were open but she was not responding to me. In a panic I shook her arm & yelled her name but got no response. I grabbed her hand & told her to stay with me as I sped towards the hospital as fast as I could. I kept telling her how much I loved her & not to leave me.

My mom had went into cardiac arrest…. We spent hours in the hospital with doctors constantly reviving her heart over & over. A doctor discussed with me that even if they could get her heart to stay beating on its own, her brain had been without oxygen for too long during the time it took to get her to the hospital & there wasn’t much hope. After some time talking it over with my sister we painfully decided it would be best to let her go.

The loss of my mom was made worse by the fact that it was on my niece’s birthday. With my sister being a single mother, my mom always looked after my niece while my sister worked. So my mom & niece had a special bond that even went beyond ours….

While my mom is gone physically, I feel she’s always with me. Even while in Disney World I can almost sense she’s with me enjoying the magic she never had a chance to before. To this day I still cry when “we go on” plays during Illuminations because it reminds me of her so much.

So as you see, this cause is important to me because I don’t want anyone to ever have to go through such a terrible thing. Hopefully there will someday be safer ways in treating this disease and eventually a cure.




Posted by: Joe Barrett | October 16, 2011

The one thing that will keep me going back.

For the past 6 years it has become a tradition for us to have dinner at Wolfgang Puck Cafe’ on our first night at Walt Disney World. But it wasn’t until 2008 that I tried the Pumpkin Ravioli. Initially the sound of it didn’t tempt my palate but I’m always one to try new things. After reading many recommendations from fellow Disney goers, I decided it was time.

(excuse the old picture from my Palm Centro)

The pumpkin filling is not the “pumpkin pie-ish” flavor that you’d expect because it doesn’t have the spices that give the pie it’s flavor. In fact the filling is savory with a hint of natural sweetness. If you’ve ever had any sort of squash, you’ll understand. The ravioli is served with a brown butter & fried sage sauce with pine nuts then topped with shaved aged Parmesan. Finally it is drizzled with a port wine glaze.

The dish became an instant favorite from the first bite. Every flavor mixes harmoniously in your mouth & instantly sends happy thoughts to your brain. It acts as my reminder that it’s the first day of a wonderful Disney vacation.

With all that said, it came to us as a surprise this past September that they have significantly reduced the options on their menu. My first thought was that maybe it was because our reservation was at 10pm & they switched to a late menu. But I’m unaware of any such policy. So for now I assume it’s a simple cut back. Now, my wife & I do not eat red meat or pork so this reduced menu made it difficult for my wife who is a picky eater to find variety.

The Creme Brulee, which was my favorite dessert there was removed last year & still hasn’t returned. It has been replaced by a Snickers Cheesecake which the staff really pushes towards. I had it last year & to be honest, didn’t like it at all. I love cheesecake & Snickers, but this dessert wasn’t for me. Maybe I had a “bad batch” but I found it to be dry & overly rich. It felt like I had a brick in my stomach afterwards. It also could have benefited from a little extra sweetness.

So this year I opted for the sugar free cheesecake mousse.

Wow!!!! Yes, Wow! This dessert was not what expected at all. The whipped cheesecake mousse has a perfect balance of sweet & sour flavor. It has a light & creamy texture that a mousse should & when mixed with the graham cracker crumbs & raspberry puree only gets better. It would be a hard decision for me if they brought back the creme brulle & I had to choose one. But with creme brulee being prominent in many restaurants in WDW, I think I would definitely go with this dessert.

Wolfgang Puck Cafe’s service has always been good. Sometimes better than others but always good. So I have no complaints there. The reduced menu is a concern but at least the popularity of the pumpkin ravioli will keep that on…… I hope. Should they ever remove it I would definitely consider breaking tradition & making ADR’s elsewhere. It would be a sad day as it would feel as though something isn’t right since we’ve been doing the same thing for a while now.

Posted by: Joe Barrett | October 15, 2011

Mama Melrose Redemption

My first experience at Mama Melrose was back in 1999. My recollection is vague but from what I remember, I wasn’t impressed. For this reason we never had any desire to return. Even reviews from fellow Disney forum members gave not so good reviews.

Normally we would go to WDW for 10 days but since last year was our honeymoon, we extended that to 14 days. We now needed to fill those extra days with dining options so we thought we would give Mama Melrose a second chance to avoid leaving the park to eat. I’m glad we did because the food was a complete 180 from our previous experience. With such a pleasant experience we gave it another shot this year. I was disappointed when I found that they removed the seafood fra diavolo from the menu so I opted for the wood grilled tuna with vegetable risotto.

The tuna was cooked to a perfect medium rare & was accompanied by a vegetable risotto, warm vine-ripened red & yellow tomatoes, & an olive-caper butter. I was disappointed no longer as this dish trumped the previous years. As I said, the tuna was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of spices to not overpower the fresh flavor of the tuna. The risotto was creamy & had just the right amount of “bite” to it while the tomatoes added a bit of acidity to balance the richness of of the dish.

I also had the mixed green salad with dried cherry vinaigrette, candied walnuts, fresh pear and gorgonzola cheese. The salad could have definitely used more dressing as I barely tasted it even though there were plenty of dried cherries. I usually don’t like any kind of nuts in my salads but the candied walnuts were a nice touch & worked for me (even though my wife stole most of them)

I was quite full from the meal so desert was nothing more than some vanilla Gelato. While nothing to brag about, I can’t say anything negative either. Simple, creamy, & refreshing.

Besides the food the service has been a plus.

So with a great experience two years in a row,  it’s safe to say that Mama Melrose will now be in our normal rotation each trip.

If you go during a busy time of year, it is a good idea to use the Fantasmic Dining package as it will alleviate the inconvenience of standing in that long line that starts to form well before the show & risk the chance of being turned away due to capacity.

Posted by: Joe Barrett | October 15, 2011

Is $8.50 too much for a candy apple?

I always felt it was but there was no denying I’ve always wanted to try one. Well, I finally broke down this past September & bought one from the Candy Cauldron in Downtown Disney. I mean it’s Disney World, why not splurge.

After a little time trying to decide I opted for one dipped in caramel, white chocolate, then heath bar bits.

$8.50……. definitely worth it.

This was definitely the best candy apple I’ve ever had in my 40 years of existence. Quality chocolate & caramel is what sets this apart along with the freshness. Take my word, the price is justified. If only once, you should try one. My only suggestion is to have it sliced at the store. I opted not to as I didn’t want to destroy this work of art before snapping a pic. It was difficult to eat this way without making a complete mess, even though it was fun.

Posted by: Joe Barrett | October 15, 2011

My first blog

Haven’t really thought this one out so I’ll just keep it non-Disney related & just leave it as is.