Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Zonta International Young Women Award winners making the world a better place

How astonishing are our Zonta Awards Program winners?

I am SOOO looking forward to International Conventions where I know we will meet amazing leaders of the future. 


What I find interesting about these young women, is at such a tender young age they are working out how they can contribute to the world.  These gals live their lives at top speed. They want to achieve goals, that benefit not just themselves but their whole world. A YWPA winner wants to study medicine - not to become a wealthy doctor, but to donate time to children in Nepal. Or the JMK winner who is studying law, not to drive a Mercedes Benz, she wants to specialise in international human rights and support the women lawyers of Afghanistan!

When I was that age, I was just scraping through and thinking about my next chocolate bar. sigh ....



For my non-Zonta readers: YWPA = Young Women in Public Affairs Award, and JMK = Jane M Klausman Women in Business Scholarship

The YWPA award recognises young women (typically in high school) "for their demonstrated leadership skills, and commitment to public service and civil causes".

The JMK scholarship supports women in pursueing "undergraduate and master's degrees in business management and overcome gender barriers from the classroom to the boardroom".

Go now - via those links and learn more about these programs.


Allow me to introduce you to the District 24 winners we met at our recent District Conference. These are the ladies who bring hope in the world and they are not mediocre.

Our JMK winner is Kate Buchanan

Kate is working on her Bachelor of Commerce, and is working in Accounting. In a delightful and respectful touch, Kate told all of us the JMK history! And then she told us of how she has set up her own book keeping business. Which is WAY cool - hasn't even finished Uni but already running her own business.

At this point I am missing a lot of notes. Cause then Kate's story took an interesting twist that stopped me from typing. So now, let's take this young woman - quietly studying and paying her own way in this world and do a 'Scooby Doo wibbly wobbly go back in time' thing. Let's have a look at where Kate grew up and THEN think about her achievements.

Kate explained how she grew up in a small country town, 6 hours from Sydney. The No. 1 past time in this town was alcohol consumption. Her friends drank, her parents drank - and of course the there were the consequences. Her parents divorced, and her friends all fell pregnant as teenagers.

Kate was determined to break this cycle in her own life, and she set off alone for Sydney, CREATED work for herself (if I remember correctly there was the "working several part time jobs to get enough money to get by" thing happening) and now at the young young young age of 22 or 23 she is nearing the end of her degree, she is working professionally, and supporting herself!

One of her friends back in country town has just given birth to her 4th child.

Can you see how far Kate has travelled? The cultural and family bonds she has broken through to discover and create a different life for herself? What a courageous and wonderful young woman. I hope Kate lives with the confidence of knowing all Zontians have encouragement and support for her.

Next time ... we'll meet Abi Rajkumar - our YWPA winner!

What story do you have about your Zonta International Awards Winner?? Feel free to share them here on Mrs. Banks

Monday, 14 October 2013

Munching my way to paradise - at Victoria and Albert's Restaurant

Everyone at some point can enjoy a great meal - right?

Even people who just see food as a calorific experience or at the other extreme - gourmands who chase down extreme meals - even these people can occasionally spot an exceptional experience (surely?)

And so I donned my Mr Creasote attitude and the infinity expanding dress and went to enjoy my highlight meal at Victoria and Albert's restaurant at the Grand Floridian Resort.  My highlight meal - at the Chef's Table!! Solo ..........(said in singsong voice)

yep - I booked that baby - one sitting per night - and it was all MINE!

and, really, that attitude was pretty much the one I maintained throughout 11 courses.

OK - so one arrives at the delightfully elegant restaurant entrance, and am pretty swiftly escorted out the back - although I may tempt the situation at times, I was not escorted ALL THE WAY out through the rear exit. Down to a little area at the back of a pretty small kitchen is where they have the little guest table.

Not a revolving restaurant with fireworks

I have no idea what dishes they produce from this little tiny area - it was obviously not the only  preparation area. There seemed to be working on appetizers / entrees / main course - savory meaty things. There was a distinct lack of dessert.

Sitting there slowly getting tipsy on the provided glass of Piper Hiedieck Cuvee champagne, Head Chef Scott Hunnel was suddenly present - joining me with a glass of champagne - and welcoming me to the restaurant.

so ... it was kinda like this ...except less beautiful people and more Mr Creasote (source: doctored by me, original by wdwcompany)

Chef Hunnel reiterated my booking requests - no chicken or offal, more seafood and game! and then the dishes began to arrive.

In my desire to simply serve you I have made this little mini film of all the dishes! See how I care for you?

Oh WOW - did you catch all that? Here are some little fun facts:

  • The "fog" in the lamb dish is made with appley juice - so the room smells all appley!
  • The miniature herbs and vegetables come from a specialist gardener in Ohio, Chef's Garden. They grow everything to precise order - so 21 day old carrots or 14 day leeks as small as your finger. And they are harvested by miniature bunnies.

  • You can pay extra to add special ingredients including caviar and Australian wagyu beef
  • You can pay extra and get completely smashed with a matching glass of wine for every course! yes 11 glasses of wine for dinner .... your cordon bleu would quickly become "cor, I'm bleurgghhhh"
  • They customise every dinner, so no two meals are the same, and you can have dishes different to what is served in the main dining room.
  • The seating lasts about 4 hours. You can take a break - or possibly even go watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
  • Every dish was served by a different person - I met all the main players in the restaurant.
  • The Chef's Table can accommodate up to 10 guests
  • If I had a man with me, his take away gift would have been a small loaf of orange bread stuff
The whole time I am munching away, these guys are working
Chef Hunnel like to run what he calls a "quiet kitchen" - so sorry - there are no Gordan Ramsay-ish outbursts. I suppose it works for him. He does have an awful lot of awards and is considered Orlando's No.1 restaurant by a number of outlets and check out the reviews on Tripadvisor

So this meal went both to my head and my waistline. I was a giggling food expert about 3 dishes in - admiring the technical expertise, how the beauty and flavour of best quality ingredients was highlighted in every dish, and pleasantly surprised at how new blends of flavours came together so well - or old favourite flavours were masterfully replicated.

Preparing the meat portions on a large baking tray on the top burners. Up top is a tray of prepped golden chanterelle mushrooms

I simply can't say anything bad about this meal - they delivered all my favourite ingredients, prepared perfectly, there was plenty of theatre, talking to all of the people was like having a chat with your best friend - they are just so delightfully friendly!

Whilst a lot of money in absolute terms, my proposition is that this meal is actually excellent value - the meal cost me USD $300 - that covered everything - including tax, gratuity, world class 11 courses, an upgraded Dover Sole dish (not in video), 2 glasses of wine, tea, the take home chocolates and rose, and all the pleasure of private entertainment!

I am definitely doing this again in June - bookings open 180 days in advance of my hotel room arrival date - so I will be on the phone seeking a seating!


Save up your pennies now, join up with the Mrs. Banks Facebook Group and you will have first notice to join the group when I book.

I give this meal, 3 Mr Creasotes - cause it really was an extraordinary amount of food

and 6 spoon fulls of sugar - for absolute delightfulness!

What dining experiences are you joyfully anticipating for our trip to Orlando?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Kill, Refurb, Marry - WDW Resorts

Well - apparently I lived a sheltered youth.

Whilst I was avoiding 'spin the bottle' and 'Truth or Dare' ....(side note - although I am the right age for that strange Madonna combination of 'dare with a bottle' - ummm where was I ...???) OH YEAH apparently the girlies of the Americas were playing something called "Snog, Marry, Kill"

Anyway my sheltered life, in Australia, avoiding funnel web spiders, taipan snakes and boxing kangaroos, meant that my teenagerhood was a big snooze fest.

So when Melissa from Mouse on the Mind invited me to participate in her Kill, Refurb, Marry game I thought I was in with the cool chicks! (insert a "whatever..." here)

Kill Refurb Marry Blog Hop 

OK - so let's see - we'll start with KILL - KILL - KILL IT WITH FIRE!! 

Tonight the insurance claim is going in for the Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa

Oh Disney - where is the magic? - well approx 10 kilometres away by a circuitous bus route. Where is the theming? YES - The theme is ORDINARY EAST COAST HOTEL ROOM! HURRAH! or even some of the basics - like the lack of convenience and lack of hidden mickeys.  I may as well have stayed ACROSS THE ROAD at the Plaza and paid one third the price. 


So for being the most inconvenient, boring, "only built to spin timeshare points" resort, SSR is being excommunicated from vision of an ideal WDW. 


Now being a middle- aged woman, I understand the concept of refurbishment. Everyday during my ablutions, all kinds of refurbishments are attempted. But when it come WDW resorts there is one place that I think could do with a pick-me-up to bring her back to the delightful, sunny, exuberant lady she once was.

For me, that's The Beach Club Resort.

The forty bajillion squillion kiddies have run this lady ragged. The once cute "Little Mermaid" carpet looks like it hasn't been replaced since the film originally came out. There are little scuff marks everywhere. There was the wonky door handle on our balcony door, worst pillows and squashed flat cushions on the chairs.

Like me, this lady doesn't have wrinkles and cracks - they're character lines!

With a magnificent pool and lush gardens and fabulous location - Return her to her glory!


This is a hard one - I think I would want to play the field - test a few more out - before I committed to just one resort. Does that make me a Resort slut?? I just sleep in them and treat them like the cheap piece of meat they are.

But not my beautiful Polynesian Resort.

Your sensuous green marble bathrooms; your giant room sizes, your lapu lapus. The giant waterfall in the foyer. Tonga Toast. The amazing gorgeous lush green gardens, the little suction cups on the shower curtains.

The laid back, island time vibe, whilst still on the monorail or walking distance to the transport centre - together allow that you can go at whatever pace you want. How I would love for us to be committed to each other forever. Say it can be so.

Oh - so with that last pleasant thought in my head, I thank Melissa for sending me to my happy place.

Now go! visit the other blogs - and learn more about WDW resorts!!