Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 3 - EPCOT

Our second and final day at EPCOT for this trip was to begin with a Fast Pass for Soarin'.  Rod and I decided to sleep in a little, and met the kids at Akershus in Norway for a breakfast with the princesses.  This is truly a good breakfast, served mostly family style.  Bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, and a breakfast potato dish are served at the table.  On the buffet there is fresh fruit, sliced meats, cheeses, yogurt, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and chocolate croissants.  Our server advised us to try the "brown" cheese.  We did, and it was delicious - yes it was a brown goat cheese.  We had a photo take with Belle, and were visited at the table by Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White and Ariel.

The kids waited in a very long line to meet Santa and Mrs. Clause, while Rod and I shopped.  The kids met with some of the other characters, and in the afternoon returned to do Test Track.  I had wanted to visit some of the other lands in EPCOT and see some of the shows and storytellers, but the park was so packed that I had trouble navigating the crowds. I had heard that there was a Koi Pond in Japan - never found it.  In frustration, I gave up and returned to the front of the park to watch a Christmas concert by a gospel group.  It was very enjoyable, and it seemed to me that the "kind, and happy people" had gathered here. Maybe they were also avoiding the pushy crowds in World Showcase. We went to the aquarium and saw Turtle Talk with Crush (I love that cool dude).  I bid farewell to EPCOT, my favorite park.

We had a late dinner at Kona, where they have the best steaks.  It is one of our favorite restaurants, and we eat here every visit.  We had planned a cruise to view Wishes, the fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom.  Our boat was to leave at 8:30 to view Wishes at 9:00.  But Disney decided to keep the Magic Kingdom open later, so instead we left at 9:00 to view Wishes at 10:00.  If you are a Disney visitor and have never done a cruise, I heartily encourage you to try one.  Although they are a relaxing way to see the fireworks without crowds, they are also very informative.  Our captain took us on a tour of the lake, and showed us a secret island where Disney had originally planned an "animal kingdom".  He showed us the location of Disney's first water park, now defunct.
And we got to see the Electric Boat Parade.  The only downside of this cruise was the weather.  We FROZE!!!  It was so cold and windy.  Non-alcoholic beverages and snacks are provided with the cost of the cruise, but we could certainly have used some hot cocoa.

My notes on today - the crowds were unbelievable to say that we had chosen a week that was supposedly  "less crowded". There was more pushing, fewer kind words, and the day was certainly more stressful for me.  One good thing is that there is now a Starbucks in EPCOT, and it was like an oasis in the dessert.

Next - Magic Kingdom and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 2 - Magic Kingdom

Our first day at Magic Kingdom began with breakfast at Chef Mickey's, a great place to eat.  It's hard to get reservations for this venue, but Mary managed to get a reservation for all 8 of us.  You are visited here by Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Pluto, while dining at a buffet that has just about everything you could want to eat for breakfast.

We left there and took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, where we headed up Main Street for a photo in front of the castle.  After the photo op, we headed toward Phiharmagic and I noticed that the Fairy Godmother was behind the castle for a meet and greet.  She is one of my fairy tale heroines, and I have a shirt that says that I am a "fairy grandmother".  So, of course I had to stop and meet her and have a photo taken.  We continued making our way through the Kingdom doing our thing, and Rod and I had lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern.  We eat here every trip, but prefer lunch to dinner.  Near the end of our meal, a little guy at the table next to ours became ill and his lunch came back up.  The staff did everything to make the family more comfortable and were very apologetic to those nearby, but unfortunately did nothing to clean it up.  We asked for our check and left abruptly because the smell was very unpleasant.  (another bad experience).

We met the kids at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and they all rode while I people watched.  We moved onto the new Fantasyland, where I did some shopping.  We all did Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid.  Here I had to transfer to a wheelchair from my scooter, but it was very enjoyable.  But unfortunately, the tires on the wheelchair were flat and it didn't move very well.  Had I not put my feet down, the cast members would have dumped me right out of the chair.  Poor Krissy was in tears, convinced that they were going to hurt me.  It took a few minutes to calm her down, but soon we were on our way to meet Gaston, from The Beauty and the Beast.
 Gaston was an absolute hoot, and was so in character!  He bragged about his muscles, told Mary how excellent he was at expectorating, took our autograph books because "girls shouldn't read, and asked to see Jimmy's muscles.  Jimmy's were real - not stuffed like Gaston's, and Gaston commented on that.  He seemed to get a kick from how short I was, and had to rest his elbow on my head while having our photo taken.
During the course of the day, we saw a medieval show at the sword in the stone.  They had all kinds of big guys try to remove the sword, but none were successful.  Bubby was declared the "Hero of Fantasyland" when he was able to lift the sword out.

The kids did Enchanted Tales with Belle, where Jimmy was chosen to play a Knight.  When they returned, we proceeded to our Be Our Guest reservation.  This is another venue where it is almost possible to get a reservation.  Mary checked every day, two or three times, and was able to score a reservation for all 8 of us.  The decor inside the Beast's castle is absolutely stunning.  We were seated in the West Wing., the rose was there under glass, and the photo of the prince changed each time the thunder clapped.  It was dark.  I wasn't impressed with the food, however.  I ordered the mussels for my appetizer, and felt like I was munching on cloves of garlic.  I ate two of them and didn't eat any more.  I ordered Chicken Breast Provencal as my entree, it was pan-seared and simmered in a blend of heirloom tomatoes, olives, white wine and fresh herbs. After I scraped off the top, the chicken was delicious.  It was served with fingerling potatoes.  For dessert, I chose the sugar-free lemon-strawberry cream puff which was filled with lemon custard.  I have to tell you that Disney makes the best sugar-free desserts.  Our server was amazing, and Rod left him quite a hefty tip.  He tracked us down while we were waiting for a photo with the Beast and questioned Rod as to whether or not the amount of the tip was a mistake.  When Rod assured him that it was not, the wonderful gentleman had tears in his eyes, thanked us profusely, and wished us a Merry Christmas.

Since the Christmas party that evening had already started, we were escorted out of the park, and Rod and I returned to our room.  My notes for today - Magic Kingdom is probably my least favorite park.  There are more screaming, crying kids and frustrated parents dragging their kids around by their arms in this park than you see in any other park.  Today's dining was disappointing at best.  The cast members were friendly, helpful, and cheerful.  I would rate today 97 out of 100.

Tomorrow - Epcot and a cruise.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Back From Vacation

First, I want to wish my oldest daughter, Mary a very Happy Birthday.

We returned from vacation last night.  It was certainly a trip of mixed feelings.  We arrived in Orlando without any issues, and proceeded to our resort.  We had requested a handicapped accessible room at Port Orleans - Riverside so that we would have a roll-in shower.  The only handicapped accessible rooms they had were in the Royal Section.  So we paid extra money to have a room in that section.  The decor of the room was beautiful, but unfortunately there was a tub/shower combination.  Not what we asked for.  I don't like to make waves, so I said nothing.  It was wonderful that the beds were lower since I have very short legs, but I could certainly have done without the mile-high toilet.

We proceeded to EPCOT, got a snack, and did some rides.  Rod and the kids did Test Track, and I shopped.  They did Soarin' and I people-watched.  And then we all did Living with the Land.  It is one of my favorite rides at WDW. I love music, and we went to see the Voices of Liberty at the American Adventure pavilion. The Voices of Liberty is an a capella group that sings under the accoustic dome. From there we went to see the American Adventure show, which takes you through America's history.  Later, Rod and I had dinner at the Biergarten restaurant.  The food was delectable, and the entertainment was very pleasant and put me in the Christmas spirit.  We sat with two older ladies who are from Florida, but retired there from Jersey.  They have been friends since grade school, and were fascinating dinner companions. They told some great stories. Rod was amazed at the amount of beer they were putting away. After thanking each other for an enjoyable dinner and wishing each other a Merry Christmas, we parted ways. We went to get in line for the Candlelight Processional, and were seated in the handicapped section.  
Dennis Haysbert was an amazing narrator as he told the Christmas story in his deep, booming voice.  The choirs and orchestra are just magnificent, and leave me teary eyed each time.  However, I couldn't take my eyes of the lady who signed the program.  She was probable the most animated signer I have ever seen.  Her hands moved so gracefully, and her facial expressions added so much to her interpretation.

The night was getting chilly, and we had been up since 3:00 am, so Rod and I bid EPCOT farewell and returned to our room for a good night's sleep. Today's summary - most of the people we encountered this day were surprisingly friendly, polite, and in great moods.  We found very few "Scrooges", and considered this to be a positive day.   Tomorrow - Magic Kingdom.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Great Time for a Vacation!

Wow, have you seen the 10 day weather forecast for my area?  Rain, sleet, and significant snow accumulation, with frigid temperatures.  We leave for our Disney vacation in less than a week, and it's supposed to be in the 70's while we are there.  So, we will leave Pittsburgh in 12 degree weather, and arrive in Orlando where it should be balmy and warm.  What a great time for a vacation!!

My Etsy shop will be closed during that time, but will reopen on the 19th for shipping on the 20th.  Any order shipped by the 22nd should arrive in time for Christmas.  If you need some last minute gifts or stocking stuffers, click on the Etsy button and it will take you directly to my site.

See you after vacation.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Single Digits!!!

I am so excited that we are in Single Digits - which means we have less than 10 days until our trip to Walt Disney World.  We were there at Christmas time before, but we got a tremendous amount of rain along with cold temperatures.  Needless to say, we didn't see as much as we wanted to see.  This trip should be especially magical.  The decorations on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom are beautiful, and you can't help but join in the Christmas spirit.  Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is held on select nights.  It features a Christmas Parade complete with Santa, special Celebrate the Season fireworks, snow on Main Street, and complimentary cookies and cocoa.  Our last visit at Christmas time was so cold that Rod and I didn't stay for the party although we had purchased our tickets.  This time I will be better prepared with warmer clothing.
I made this sweatshirt just for this trip.

EPCOT celebrates the Holidays around the World, with special storytellers, entertainment, and merchandise in each of the countries.  And the icing on the cake is the Candlelight Processional, a special telling of the Christmas story featuring choirs, an orchestra, and celebrity narrators.  We have tickets to see Dennis Haysbert, the Allstate guy, with the wonderful, deep voice.  Rod and I are dining at the Biergarten restaurant, where the Oompah Band and the Alpenhorn players provide entertainment during your meal.  (You know I can't resist the German music.)

Hollywood Studios is home to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, the most amazing Christmas light display that I've ever seen.  We will see Fantasmic, a 25 minute show of fireworks, dancing waters, and images projected onto water spouts.  We love it, and it shows at 6:30 on our day, which will give us plenty of time to tour the Dancing Lights before the park closes.

Animal Kingdom has a large tree with tribal masks, animals, reed baskets and wooden stars.  It is my favorite tree, and during our last visit, I did buy some baskets.  This trip I'm in the market for some of the animal masks.  They also have a wonderful parade, which we enjoyed the last trip.

And some of the resorts have special-made gingerbread attractions.  The Grand Floridian has a gingerbread house made of gingerbread, and you can purchase gingerbread there.  (I love me some gingerbread!)  The Contemporary has a huge gingerbread tree, and the Beach Club has a carousel made of gingerbread.  I know that I'm leaving some out, but my mind is just reeling from thinking of all the gingerbread.

I have printed the special envelopes that I make for our Mousekeeping tips,  I have printed our touring cards, which have all our confirmation numbers on them.  I have started my packing list, and each day I get more excited.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December, Already?

Can you believe that November is gone, and December is here?  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Hope yours was safe and happy.  For dinner we had all the usual items: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans with bacon, baked corn casserole, applesauce, and a relish tray.  Pam decided to try a pumpkin cheesecake pie recipe that she had seen online, and it was delicious.  Saturday was a great day - just Rod and I, and we spend the entire day watching the Harry Potter marathon on ABC Family.  After eating turkey all day Friday, we were a little "turkey'd out", and Rod decided he was cooking dinner Saturday.  He had bought two T-Bone steaks on Saturday morning, and grilled them with baked potatoes.  We heated up the corn casserole that was left, and dinner was complete.  Sunday morning, I slept in and when I finally got up, Rod had put away all the Thanksgiving decorations.  We decided that we would use the last of the dark meat from the turkey to make "caps".

Rod's mom grew up in a coal mining town with people of all ethnicities, and many of the foods Rod grew up eating were from his mom's childhood.  Cappelletti are one of those foods.  They are little pillows of dough similar to ravioli.  The dough is a basic noodle dough of flour, eggs, and water.  The filling is ground cooked turkey, Parmesan cheese, eggs, garlic, and a little oil.  The dough is rolled out into a thin layer and cut into squares.  We like little squares to make little, bite sized caps.  You place some filling into the center of the dough square, fold it into a triangle shape and seal it well.  Then you bring the two side corners to the back and seal them to form a "little hat", which is what cappelletti means.  We like them in chicken broth, but you can also put them into a marinara sauce.  This is a food that we just keep warm in the slow cooker and eat all day.

After the caps were made, we set up the platform for the tree, and Rod got the tree out of the attic.  The tree is up, but not decorated.  He then went outside to put up the Christmas lights. When he came back in, we adjourned to the living room where we again watched ABC Family.  They had started their Countdown to Christmas, and we watched some of our favorite movies.  It was a wonderful weekend, but unfortunately this is Monday and Rod had to return to work.