Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tusker House Restaurant Review [Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World]

Tusker House Restaurant Review, Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Tusker House Restaurant Sign Animal Kingdom Disney World
I think a lot of people shy away from this restaurant once they learn part of the cuisine in African inspired. Big mistake! Tusker House has a lot to offer: characters, all you can eat buffet, one-of-a-kind "jungle juice" and of course Mickey waffles (a crowd favorite for breakfast). I've come here with kids and with adults and everyone agrees it is a good choice. The food is simply amazing and there is something for everyone.

Let's Get Right to it, What is Being Served?

Tusker House Restaurant Jungle Juice Disney World
Tusker House's "Jungle Juice"

This review will focus on breakfast since it's my favorite meal there (please note they also serve lunch and dinner). To start, there's a kids section for the little ones with all the classic breakfast offering. For everyone else there is an assortment of frittatas including ham and cheese as well as potato and leek. My favorite is the vegetable quiche and beef bobotie. There is also roasted ham carving station, oatmeal station, and assortment of breads, bagels and donuts. Of course the adults get the usual eggs, bacon, sausage, and potato selection as well. And oh so much more!

A popular station is the warm dessert assortment that includes cinnamon rolls, fruit cobbler and banana-cinnamon bread pudding. If you have had the bread pudding at Ohana's (Polynesian Resort) or Boma's (Animal Kingdom Lodge) odds are that you are going to be disappointed with Tusker House's offering. Everyone at my table was. The bread pudding just doesn't compare to its rival restaurants (sorry Mickey!).

Of all the offerings, most adults at my table chose to get more Mickey waffles on their second trip. I guess we all want to be kids when we visit Disney World!

Mickey, Minnie, Oh My!

While you dine you will have a few special visitors including Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Minnie. The gang is dressed up in their safari gear and as I discovered, are well versed in taking selfies (check out my picture with Mickey).

How it Compares to Similar Dining Choices

Disney has a lot of dining options, but for breakfast, make sure this tops your list. There are more unique food options for adults here then at Chef Mickey's (Contemporary Resort) or the Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom). But you still get the American breakfast selection for picky eaters and the classic characters for the kids.

Great, What Does It Cost?

The Disney website list the price for breakfast between $15- $29.99. I called to confirm the current price and breakfast for an adult is $31.94 and for $17.03 kids ages 3-9 (10 and over are considered adults). It's always a good idea to confirm the pricing before you book as I suspect the price may vary.

Planning Your Day in Animal Kingdom

The restaurant is located next to the Festival of the Lion King and a very short walk to the Safari. I'd recommend you make an early reservation, then enjoy those two attractions. This way, you are fully disguested and ready to rise Expedition Everest by the afternoon.

Complete menu is available here.

DINGLEHOPPER TIP: If you book your reservation for late morning you may be able to sample both the breakfast and lunch offerings. From what I've seen, the lunch options are brought out some time around 11am.

Tusker House Restaurant Review, Animal Kingdom, Disney World

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Easy Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

Easy Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

This tomato basil pasta salad is my favorite go-to summer recipe. I whipped this together last Sunday night for a Memorial Day cookout. Its simple ingredients make it a crowd pleaser. If you want to get crafty, this recipe is a great starting point. I know all recipes online claim to be "quick" and "easy" but I think once you read the steps below you will agree that anyone can handle this recipe. Plus, it requires no oven use (huge plus when it is 80+ degrees outside)! Here is what you will need:

  • 1/2 pound pasta
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups of grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella balls (I buy the tiny ones)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper

  • OPTIONAL: 2 tablespoons sweet onion (chopped)
  • OPTIONAL: grilled chicken, ham, turkey (any protein you like!) 

  1. Cook pasta to taste and cool by placing pasta in a strainer and running cold water over it.
  2. While pasta is boiling rinse and chop the basil leaves and set aside. Cut grapes tomatoes and fresh mozzarella balls in half. 
  3. In a small bowl combine balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil.
  4. In a large mixing bowl combine pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.  Add salt and pepper to your liking. If serving immediately mix in olive oil mixture. [It's best to store the pasta and dressing separately and mix right before serving.]

Friday, May 9, 2014

Typography: Keeping it Simple

This month is the annual How Design Live conference in Boston. This event is one of my favorites. Lots of great creative energy packed into five days discussing the latest and greatest in graphic design. Getting into the conference spirit I decided to explore typography, one of my favorite design topics, for this post.

As luck would have Moo.com (an online printer) was highligting typography in their lastest eblast. Below is a simplistic image they created that reminds us of the basic rules in typography:

Typography Basics | Font Do's and Don'ts
Source: Moo.com

I think one of the hardest typography lessons learned in design school is to keep it simple. As designers we are always analyzing our work, zooming into 300% to make sure every line is perfect, we work on hundreds of sketches just to find the right one. An argument could be made that sometimes we over think our work. But I think that makes us great designers.

When it comes to typography I find it's best to silence the "could it be better if I added ...." thoughts and keep it clean and simple.  For me design is my second love (behind marketing of course!) so I'm still gaining experience that builds better instincts to recognize when my work on a project is done.

But for now, I'll keep the to the basic type principles handy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Form a Social Media Strategy - Q&A with Liz Duggan

The following post "Lean Media" was originally published on AviationWeek's blog "Turnaround Time" by Kristin Majcher on December 9, 2011.

How to form a social media strategy - dinglehopper.net


I could talk about tablets all day, but let’s switch gears to make way for today’s guest interview with Liz Duggan, a marketing associate for Duggan Associates. Her company teaches organizations about Lean training and a complement to it called Operational Excellence. I noticed yesterday that she added me on twitter with the handle @lizjduggan and re-blogged one our previous Turnaround Time posts about Kevin Duggan’s new book. I asked Liz about what it’s like to form a social media strategy for a training organization, and here’s what she had to say. Because it is Friday, read to the end for a funny anecdote that sums up professional online networking perfectly. Thanks, Liz!

Tell our readers a little bit about your role at Duggan Associates.

I’m a Marketing Associate at Duggan Associates, a global Operational Excellence consulting and training firm. I’m responsible for setting strategic direction and implementation of the company’s global brand, public relations, social media, advertising and event planning.

Please tell us about how you first became engaged in social media. When did you first start using it and how has your strategy for social networking changed since then?

I initially approached social media like any other marketing strategy: I found my target market and delivered my company’s message. What I’ve learned since then is that social media is about more than just reaching potential clients; it also serves to keep our company top of mind among key influencers such as media professionals and event producers, who now view us as expert sources and contact us regularly with interview and speaking opportunities.

How does social media fit into your duties at Duggan and Associates? Why did you think it would be beneficial to start using it?

Social media is a growing component of our marketing efforts at Duggan Associates. While we initially viewed it as another tool to increase our exposure and grow our mailing list, we’ve become much more strategic – and committed – about our outreach. Today, I manage several social media accounts and spend about 20 minutes each day sifting through various streams on HootSuite looking for interactions to respond to, identifying opportunities to comment or post a RT on, checking the latest posts for keywords I follow, and reviewing my analytics report to track my exposure and engagement with other users.

How long have you been Tweeting for Duggan and Associates, and what have you learned so far from the process?

I began tweeting in April of this year and quickly lost any and all skepticism I had about Twitter! We immediately saw results from our presence and now it’s a critical component of our marketing strategy. In fact, we use Twitter to support all of our marketing efforts at Duggan Associates and continue to look to it for new outreach opportunities we hadn’t even considered before.

i love social media - dinglehopper.net

What kinds of tweets do you write, and whose profiles are your favorite to follow?

What I love about Twitter is that I can blend my personal and professional interests. So I tweet fun or interesting quotes about Operational Excellence, marketing and graphic design, posting anything from what I learned in my graphic design or MBA class the night before to upcoming work events I’m attending or a link to my company’s newsletter.

My favorite profiles to follow are my peers’. Twitter is a great forum to share successful ideas, trends, and tips. I also follow publications from Duggan Associates’ target industries to help me keep the pulse of how lean and Operational Excellence are perceived in these industries without having to read though 12 magazines a month.

Besides Twitter, does Duggan Associates use any other social media platforms?

Duggan Associates also utilizes LinkedIn, mostly for conference research and networking. We can easily track what events our clients and prospects are attending as well as follow updates from event producers so we can find out about speaking opportunities. When Management at Duggan Associates is on a conference agenda, they update their profiles to communicate this to our target audience.

Has using social media provided you with any interesting new contacts or information that you would not have been able to get otherwise?

Social media has been a great vehicle for me to re-connect with the media and conference producers. Before social media, I would meet these professionals at international events, but the connection was typically short-lived. Twitter and LinkedIn have enabled me to re-establish these relationships and remain within their active network long after the event.

A great example of this happened last month. An event producer I met three years ago sent me a message on Twitter asking if my company could provide a speaker for a conference in Amsterdam the following week. Although this relationship was pre-established, it was Twitter that kept me on her radar.

What is the benefit of using social media in a professional organization?

I really see three main benefits. First, including social media as part of an integrated marketing campaign is a great way to quickly and easily share information, videos and images. And when these materials go viral, you increase your awareness faster than traditional outreach efforts.

Since it offers a lot of opportunity to provide valuable content that’s not self-promoting, it’s also a great tool to boost your company’s reputation and position your leaders as experts.
And of course, including social media in an SEO campaign increases your ranking on search engines and increases traffic to your website.

Do you have any advice for companies that are new to using social media about how to make their networking experience more useful?

Social media is all about staying top of mind among key influencers in your industry. Whether its current clients, prospects, journalists, or event producers, you should know your audience and understand what they expect when they follow you. They are not looking for a 24/7 advertising campaign about your company. They want your expertise. The reason people chose to follow you is to learn from your knowledge.

When you start a social media campaign, you have to be committed to maintaining it with fresh content or you’ll fall off the radar. I find it helpful to have a short list of tweets and status updates ready for those hectic days when I don’t have time for social media, or I’ll schedule them in advance by utilizing HootSuite.

Also keep in mind that, thanks to the great SEO Twitter provides, your potential audience is broader than you think. Take advantage of this fact and include strategic keywords in your tweets to increase your discoverability on search engines.

Lastly, remember that social media is not your traditional advertising campaign. It is okay to be personable. How personable? I’ll end with a fun analogy I read about the personalities of three big social medias: LinkedIn is like attending an event for the Chamber of Commerce, Facebook is attending a company picnic, and Twitter is pretty much happy hour.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Planning the Perfect Bridal Shower Party Favor

Planning the perfect bridal shower favor
Bridal shower party favors can be a lot of fun and a memorable touch for the bride-to-be. With so many choices it's hard to know where to even begin. Here are a few easy steps to review before you start planning the party favors for your next bridal shower.

Step One: Pick a Theme

Keep it simple. It's not necessary to have a vision board to follow these steps. Focus on the bride and what she likes whether it's her favorite place or color. For my sister's bridal shower I selected blue hydrangeas as the theme because they are her favorite flower. Consider your theme in room decor, the cake, centerpieces, invitations and of course the party favors.

Step Two: Determine Your Budget

It's easy to spend hours on pintrest and etsy mapping out fun ideas for your party favors. Before you narrow down your options for party favors make a budget. You will be surprised how quickly small items like ribbon or bags add up. Plan ahead to make sure you don't overspend. After all if you are planning a bridal shower you are most likely facing other wedding expenses that you need to balance.

Step Three: Assembly Required?

Some bridal shower favors can be purchased with no assembly required. Other DIY projects require a creative touch and lots of time. Do you have time to dedicate to a custom party favor? Do you have others that will help you? Be realistic about your resources and avoid creating a stressful environment.  There are plenty of websites where you can order cute favors like this soap set Stamped with Love Scented Soaps - Wedding and Bridal Shower Favor Guest Keepsake Gift (BULK BUY SALE)  or cute mints like these, Darice VL09560 Mr. and Mrs. Buttermints Wrap, 50-Pack, both available on Amazon. Even if you opt to purchase your favors, read step four on how to select the perfect one.

Step Four: Use Colors to Link the Favor to the Theme

Having a bridal shower favor that fits your theme doesn't have to be a challenge. Using color as a guide to selecting your party favors is a fool-proof way to incorporate your theme.  Whatever you selected as a theme there will colors associated it with. If there aren't go ahead and pick two colors to use throughout your planning process.

blue hydrangea bridal shower invitation
Above is the bridal shower invitation I designed for my sister's
wedding and the blueberry yogurt covered pretzel party favors.
For example, for my sister's bridal shower I mentioned my theme was blue hydrangeas. Because the table centerpieces were arrangements of blue hydrangeas I wanted the favors to be a little different but still complement the theme. I decided to give away a food item so I did an online search for "blue candy" and found an online store that sold blue blueberry yogurt covered pretzels. I packaged the pretzels in clear bags and secured with blue and white ribbon. I then designed a small tag to match the bridal shower invitation that said "thank you" on one side and "blueberry yogurt pretzels" on the back.

You don't have to use food to coordinate your party gifts by color. [Although I always recommend offering using food as favors because guest love them and you know they won't go to waste.] Other examples of favor items included a small bottle of lotion, a candle, anti-bacterial gel or a small picture frame.

Congrats, You Nailed It

No matter where you are in the planning process, these four easy steps will help streamline and coordinate your event. And trust me, the bride-to-be will notice and appreciate your efforts.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Best Breakfast in the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort

Best breakfast in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World

As an avid Walt Disney World park-goer I know my food options. When it comes to breakfast in Magic Kingdom I always go for the unique offerings at Sleepy Hollow. The menu is basically fresh waffles with fun toppings such as nutella and fruit or strawberries and whipped cream. I obviously optioned for the nuetella with fresh fruit (check my "before" photo above, it wasn't nearly as pretty after I demolished it so you won't be treated to an "After" picture). I've included pictures of the full menu below.  Plus, they have all the caffine drinks as a New Englander I have come to expect (iced coffee anyone?).

Sleepy Hollow's Menu | Breakfast in Magic Kingdom | Walt Disney World

Another benefit to this breakfast option is it's location. Positioned to the left of Cinderella's castle you have the perfect view with minimum foot traffic. Enjoy!

Sleepy Hollow Restaurant | Breakfast in Magic Kingdom | Walt Disney World

Saturday, January 25, 2014

5 Low Cost Resources for Small Biz Marketers

5 low cost resources for small biz marketing

Marketing managers for small businesses do it all. From public relations, online marketing, branding, advertising to the day to day decisions that guide the firm's overall marketing strategy. As the marketing manger for two RI based b2b firms I'm no stranger to these tasks. Luckily, I have access to great low-cost resources that make my firm look like is has a marketing budget 3x it's actual size.

Below are my top five low-cost resources for small business marketing along with examples of how I've used them (listed in no particular order!)

ONE: Fiverr

fiverr logo
Fiverr.com calls itself "The world's largest market place for services, starting at $5." Sound too good to be true? It can be, proceed with caution and use good common sense and you'll be fine. Target sellers with an impressive portfolio and high ratings. I've used this website and received narration for a 5-minute YouTube video for $20, a video animation of my firm's logo to use as an intro to our marketing videos for $5 and a custom cartoon for my boss's keynote presentation for $15. These items may seem minor but they make all the difference in positioning your small business to play in the big leagues.

I paid $15 for an artist to create this custom cartoon that will be used in keynote presentations given by senior management at conferences. This cartoon was drawn by the seller "alifestyle"

TWO: Powtoon

PowToon Logo
I read about PowToons.com in Inc Magazine a while ago and had it bookmarked on my browser ever since then. Powtoons is a quick and easy way to create animated videos and presentations. While some of its features can be limiting, such as your audio has to be in one file and you cannot sync it with animation (last time I checked fixing this was on their list), it offers a lot of value for what you pay. If your marketing strategy includes content marketing you probably are already leaving this blog to go sign up for one of their free accounts. It's a great way create marketing videos without paying the hefty price for a production company.

Below is a video I made with Powtoons

THREE: Hootsuite

hootsuite logoIf you manage more than one social media account chances are you've looked into a social media management platform. For me hoosuite is ideal. My company pays $8.99/month (there is also a free account with restrictions) and I'm able to have complete control over all our social networks. Key features include a built-in link shortener, the ability to pre-schedule tweets and team collaboration.

FOUR: Constant Contact

If you are reading this I doubt I need to sell you on the benefits of email marketing. My preferred vender is Constant Contact and I've used them for years. Pricing starts at $15/month for a basic plan, if you have more than 500 contacts you will need to upgrade to the next plan and pay $30/month.

In addition I always pay the $5 for image library. Without this feature you are limited to the number of pictures you can upload to your account. Also without this feature if you delete an image from your library it removes it from any emails you have archived.  I also pay another $5 for email archiving which lets me keep our company newsletters archived on our website.

Here are two sample newsletters I developed using constant contact. The first is for Amenity Aid, a local nonprofit and the second is for Duggan Associates, a management consulting firm.


While not every news is "news worthy" for announcements that are I use PR Web to submit a press release. Often my main goal is SEO which works great for short-term results. There free account is very limited as you may suspect.  I word of caution about their standard $159 per release -  it is limited too. I used it recently and I could not place hyperlinks on words, I could only paste in a sloppy full url. Also you are not given a featured image, you had to use the tiny sidebars. With all this in mind the free or low cost accounts still achieve the SEO results I was looking for.

Here is a sample press release I compiled for the Institute for Operational Excellence. Please note this press release was part of a premium yearly agreement I had with PR Web. If you choose the free or standard account, your release may be formatted differently.