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Disney Trip Report Day 7 December 1st

This will be called the day when my family could have ganged up on me, strangled me, and strung me up by my toes to dangle from the highest point of Cinderella’s Castle!

We are awake at about 5 AM, hoping to be on the road no later than 6:15 so we can get to the Magic Kingdom in time for the Christmas parade taping.  We end up on the road at about 6:30, and we are just arriving at the entrance to the Kingdom at about 7:05.  They are letting in groups of about 50 at a time, but we are pretty much the end of the group, so I think our group may be the last one let in.

They have us standing on Main Street for a while, and then after a good hour, they tell us that we will be moving down towards the castle foreground.  We are ushered down Main Street, packed in like sardines in a tin can, uncomfortable from standing so long, and now it is beginning to get hot and the kids are starting to get crabby.

After another hour, and seeing nothing but the warm up act telling us how much we will all love the show, we will enjoy being on TV, and reading us the rules (no strollers, no kids on shoulders, no logo shirts, etc), my kids are completely done with the whole parade thing.  Granuaile refuses to stand, sit or be held – she’s just completely done, and tired to boot.  I tell Jim I have to make my way out of the pack with the baby – there is no way she can wait for anything to go on, and we are hearing rumors that this could go on until 3 o’clock or later.  I make my way out of the crowd, and hear several cast members making comments about this being way too hard for people with kids to do.  I find our stroller, with Jim tagging behind, and we head over to Tomorrowland, where the rope is still up as the park hasn’t officially opened yet.  Pretty soon, the whole clan has made their escape, and we head right over to Buzz Lightyear.  Most everything is pretty much a walk on at this stage of the game, and that’s good.  This is the first day without rain, and it’s warming up already. 

Eilis is really, really enjoying Aunt Mary and Uncle Ted.  She has taken right to them and is excited about spending time with them.  Jim convinces Brighid and I that we should ride Space Mountain, and like idiots, we all get in line, only to have him step out of   line to take a phone call.  He never comes back 🙁

I am amazed that I can fit on Space Mountain, but I still am not  a fan of roller coasters – especially the ones in the dark.  But, I’m glad I rode it 🙂  

We do a few other things, and about lunch time, Ann and I take a now sleeping Granuaile over to a restaurant to get something to eat while the rest of the gang goes to Big Thunder Mountain.  We have a nice lunch, and the rest of the gang meets us in the restaurant, where they finish up all of the leftovers.  We then decide to head over to Pirates of the Caribbean, which does have a bit of a wait.  The baby is still sleeping, so I sit out with her, and I get to enjoy the Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial show. 

By the time the gang is done on POTC, we decide it’s time to head out of the park.  We have a long drive ahead of us, so we want to get on the road and get as far as we can before stopping for the night.

We end up pulling in to South Carolina at about 8 o’clock, and decide not to put in a wake up call, but try to get up and out early.  We are back on the road by about 6 AM and home by 8.

This was a good trip.  Nothing felt rushed, nothing felt like something we had to do.  We got to enjoy some of all of the parks, and we had some very nice meals. 

The best part of a trip to Disney is knowing we’ll be back again.  And we look forward to our January trip.

Disney Trip Report Day 6 November 30th

As this is going to be our most ambitious day of the week, we are all up and ready to head over to Animal Kingdom bright and early.  Brighid runs to get fast passes for Kali River rapids, and the rest of us head in to Its tough to Be a Bug.  There are no lines this early in the morning, but we do have to wait for the second show to start.  We are hoping Brighid catches up with us, but she does not, and in we go.  As always, a fun show, not to be missed.  Although, with no lines, you don’t get to really admire the Tree of Life.

Our half day at Animal Kingdom goes pretty well.  We don’t have a wait for anything, and in addition to the animals we get to see, we also ride Expedition Everest twice, the safari, Kali river rapids twice, and we do a few other things as well.  We have a late afternoon lunch reservation at Hollywood and Vine to see the characters from Playhouse Disney, so we start our journey out of Animal Kingdom in time to have lunch at 2 o’clock at MGM Studios.

We arrive just in time for the lunch ADR, but they are switching out characters as we get there, so it’s a few minutes before we see anyone.  Not only is Eilis thrilled to see the characters she has grown up with, but Brighid and Granuaile are equally excited to see characters they know and love.  Because we have made a late lunch, we find ourselves at the tail end of everything.  We get very quick visits from each of the characters, but only as they are on their way “home” for the day.  They are taking down the Playhouse Disney meal decorations as we are sitting there, and we soon notice that ours is the only table that still shows any indication this is a character meal.  Our waitress is a bit snippy, and when I inquire about soup on the buffet, she says there is none.  I tell her I’ve recently had gastric bypass surgery, and wonder if they can discount my meal, since I won’t be able to eat much of anything.  She tells me they can’t do that without a card from my surgeon.  My surgeon doesn’t give out cards 🙁   I grab a small piece of salmon and a couple of cubes of cheese, and plan to make this my meal.  In the end, she must have noticed that even with the small amount of food on my plate, I still left stuff, and she only charged me for a kids’ meal.  Believe it or not, the bright spot of this meal is the guy who is cleaning up for the change over to dinner.  He is an older guy from Ireland, and he spends some time chatting with us.  He is funny and completely adorable, and he even brings Ann a birthday card, signed by the Playhouse disney characters. 

We do a few more things around MGM, and then meet up with Dori and Spider and Aviva to take in the Great Movie Ride.  Eilis is grateful to have a new best friend, and after the movie ride, Dori and I have a few minutes to sit and talk while the gang goes in to see One Man’s Dream.  We head over to see the Osbourne lights just as they are about to be turned on.  Amazing is about all I can say.  I didn’t love the dancing aspect this year – it wasn’t awful, I just don’t think it added much to an already amazing display.  We stood around at least a half hour admiring everything here – the lights and everything are just so pretty.  The fake snow is such a nice touch.  The holiday music is great.  The only disappointment I had this year was the t-shirt I wanted was only in stock in a size 3 XL – my size just 4 short months ago, but now no where near what I wear 🙁

Because it has been such a long day, we decided to head back to the hotel.  We say our goodbyes to Dori, Spider and Aviva and head back to our hotel.  Dinner tonight is at the Turf Club restaurant at Saratoga Springs.  I know it’s been a long day, and we’re all pretty tired, but the dinner did not go well.  Jim is bitching at Eilis, Grace doesn’t want to sit still, Brighid has a terrible attitude, and the only thing they have here that I can safely eat is chicken soup, but they have to send the chef out to discuss that with me.  Poor Ann, I’m sure, is ready to head home at this point in time!   The waitress is way to chatty with another table, and gets the order wrong.  I end up leaving with Eilis and Granuaile in tow before our dinner gets there.  Fortunately, this is our last night, and we can get in bed early.

Back at the room, we are waiting for my Aunt Mary and Uncle Ted to come down from Ocala.  We ended up scoring 2 extra tickets to the taping of the Walt Disney World Christmas parade, and we all have to be there at 7 AM sharp tomorrow for the taping.  Interestingly enough, my Aunt and Uncle were having a drink at the Turf Club as we were having dinner, but we all must have walked right past them when we left the restaurant at our different times!!

When Aunt Mary gets there, we end up talking a little later than I think we planned to, but it’s so nice to have time with the family – especially the ones we don’t get to see very often.  We are all packed, clothes laid out for the morning, and pretty much ready to go by the time we go to bed.  The only thing we should have done is pack the car with as much as we could, but we decide to do it in the morning.

We’re all off to bed for the last time on this trip at Saratoga Springs!

Disney Trip Report Day 5 November 29th

We have nothing planned for today, except meeting Dori and her family for dinner tonight at 1900 Park Fare.  I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to that!   I have had at least a half dozen reservations at 1900 Park Fare and have yet to make one of them for various reasons.  Plus, it will be nice to see Dori – I haven’t seen her in ages!!

We decided to try and get up a little earlier than we have been getting up and head over to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  We get there just as the park is opening, and make a quick decision to do Universal Studios first, since we don’t know how much time we’ll have to spend.  As soon as we go in, we find that there are no lines and no waiting for Jimmy Neutron or Shrek, so we do both.  I’ve never done Jimmy Neutron, so it was fun to try something new.  Outside of Shrek, the kids get in line to meet the big guy and the Mrs. while I go grab the stroller. 

We actually manage to see a good bit of Universal in a relatively short period of time, and Brighid even gets asked to do a taste test of some french fries, in exchange for $15 in Universal Dollars (we didn’t even know there was such a thing!   What will we do with all the Itchy and Scratchy dollars we bought???).  Then came the turning point of the day.  We are breezing by the Fear Factor Live stage show theater when they make an announcement that they are looking for two teams of two to participate in the show.  I love the show Fear Factor, and I ask to get in line and see the show.  As we’re waiting in the line, they are still calling for these teams, and I tell Jim and Brighid they should go and see about doing it.  Jim jumps right on it, but Brighid is hesitant.  I tell her it’s a theme park.  OBVIOUSLY they are not going to serve you anything nasty – you’ll get sick, leave the park, and won’t spend money here anymore.  She finally agrees, and the two of them head off to join the show.

Once in the theater, my little Eilis gets selected to participate in the show as well, and she is very excited!   She gets to turn the wheel that raises and lowers some of the other contestants.  She is excellent at it, and we are looking into  colleges that offer this as a major.  She was so good, she could make it a career.  We soon find out that Jim and Brighid have been chosen for the eating portion of the show, and their challengers are two big, muscular, manly men with foreign accents.  Remember Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live?   This could have been them.  I am still convinced that there is no way on this planet that Universal Studios would accept the responsibility of these guests getting sick and puking all over the theme park, all the way up to the point where they are dumping awful, nasty things into a blender.  They start with fish parts – lemon juice containing oysters, clams, mussels, and squid, followed by meat scraps, and sour milk.  Then they add the piece de resistance.  On top of the already nasty mess, they give them live bugs – crickets, meal worms, cock roaches, and other nastiness.  Part of me is still looking for the out – like they are going to switch the smoothie that they’ve created using Dr. Frankenstein’s recipe with a regular old milkshake.  Then it’s time to drink.  Hans and Franz pretty much gulp theirs down, swallowing it in about two swigs, high fiving each other, and acting all victorious.  Jim has put his cup to his lips, made an awful, creepy, nasty, I’m gonna puke face and then puts his cup down.  And there’s my little Brighid, one hand daintily holding her nose, the other hand wrapped tightly around the cup of doom, drinking as fast as she can.  What a proud Mommy moment that was for me 🙂

So Jim and Brighid lose the challenge, and lose out on the fabulous prize – a plastic cup that says Fear is Not a Factor for Me.  Brighid walks out of the show crying because her father, at the last minute, decided to fake her out and never actually drank any of the drink.  She is soon recuperated from the trauma of the deception and now she is answering questions from her adoring fans, most of whom also assumed Universal would never give them something so awful to drink.  While her five minutes of fame eases the pain of having her father fake her out at the show, food is not on her list of high priorities.

 We plug on through, finishing most of what we wanted to do at Universal.  Brighid rewards herself with a Fear Factor t-shirt, using those fabulous Universal dollars she was offered when she ate the other experimental meal of the day (those french fries), and we move on over to Islands of Adventure.  As we visit some of our favorite parts of this park, we come to realize that dinner at 1900 Park Fare is not going to be in the cards.  Something about sour milk, mixing with the lemon juice and the fish parts probably has a hand in this.  We do as much as we can at Islands of Adventure, then head back to the hotel.  Since, regardless of what Brighid has eaten today, the rest of us still have to eat, so the decision is made to just stay pretty local and have a light meal, so we go to Olivia’s at Old Key West.

I have never eaten here, and it’s a very casual, fun environment.  The restaurant is smaller than I imagined, but because we opted to eat so late in the evening, it’s not terribly busy.  I am disappointed again by the extremely limited, exactly like every other restaurant kids menu.  Eilis likes some more grown up things, and I am trying desperately to get her into a healthier eating pattern – and these foods stick to kid basics.  Granuaile doesn’t eat much of a kids meal – she’s not big on burgers or chicken nuggets – so for her second meal in a row, she ends up with the fruit and veggie platter, less the veggies, because they are served raw, and she doesn’t have enough teeth to truly appreciate raw veggies at this point.  But it seems as though everyone else enjoys their meals, and we are soon back at the hotel relaxing.

Tomorrow is a busy day.  We are going to try to do some of Animal Kingdom, and then head over to MGM so we can see the Osbourne lights.  If luck is on our side, we’ll catch up with Dori and her family at MGM before the lights, so we can at least see them for a little while!

Disney Trip Report Day 4 November 28th

The plan for the day is to get up and out early, but not too early.  We have a 2:30 lunch reservation at Restaurant Marrakesh as part of our Candlelight Processional package for tonight. 

We’ve had drizzly mornings all week, but fortunately, they don’t seem to have any impact on any of our plans, so that’s excellent.  Jim has to work this morning, so Ann and I head into EPCOT with the kids, and he’s going to catch resort transportation and catch up with us later on.  He has been warned to be at the restaurant in time for lunch at the latest, and he does half assed assurance that he’ll be there in plenty of time.  I can’t really complain, because as of today, he does not have an assignment to go to after vacation, and the phone calls he has to take may lead to one.  He still better be there in time for lunch.

The kids do a bunch of rides, and we have a good time wandering around.  We rode on the new Nemo ride at the Living Seas.  Not great, but okay.  It’s definitely a little kid ride, but if I had to describe it, it’s sort of like an animated, children’s version of the boat ride through Mexico. 

At about 2:15, we head over to Marrakesh for lunch – no Jim in sight.  I’m a little more than irritated at this point, first because he was not supposed to be that long, and second, he was absolutely going to be here in time for lunch.  Lucky for him, just as we are getting ready to order, the hostess escorts him over to our table in the nearly empty restaurant.  I don’t know why we never encounter crowds at this restaurant.  The meals we’ve had here have always been good, and while they may not be the fastest servers in the world, they might be the friendliest. 

Our waitress, by the way, if you’re a single guy reading this, was drop dead gorgeous.  She had beautiful eyes, and long dark hair, and was about as sweet as she could be.  We enjoyed a fabulous meal here, and had time afterwards to enjoy more of EPCOT before we had to be at the American Gardens Theater for the Candlelight Processional.

If you have ever been to WDW during the holidays and NOT seen this show, shame on you!   If you have NEVER been to WDW during the holidays, this show is almost worth making the trip without seeing anything else.  The best way to describe the Candlelight Processional is to tell you that a large choir is amassed on the stage, everyone holding electric candles, dressed in colorful choir robes.  A celebrity appears in front of them and retells the story of the birth of Christ.  The choir provides musical accompaniment to the narration of the story, and the orchestra is phenomenal.  If you are not in the Christmas spirit after seeing this show, you are about the Grinchiest Grinch in Whoville.

Our narrator is John O’Hurley – Mr. Peterman on Seinfeld, or better known for his Dancing with The Stars appearance on the first season.  He has a beautiful voice, perfect for story telling, and he asks at the end of the performance if we will remember in our prayers this holiday season his wife and the baby son she is expecting any day.  That was so sweet!  

We stick around just until about the time the park is going to close.  We see Illuminations, and we head out to the car.  It has been another really great day.  I am already planning next year’s vacation around this same time.

Disney Trip Report Day 3 November 27th

We are definitely sleeping in today!!   Well, everyone else is.  I’m not a sleeping in type person.  I think my father has instilled in me the belief that if you wanted to sleep, you could stay home.  Vacations are for getting up, doing stuff, seeing things. 

Jim and I get up about 8 and run to WalMart for some groceries.  We lay in enough stuff to get us through the week for breakfast and some stuff for lunch.  We have a lot of snacks that were brought with us, so we’re good there, and we plan to be out for most of the other meals.  Everyone gets up, has breakfast, we lounge around a bit, as it’s a little rainy this morning.  We have tickets tonight for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and we want to head into the park about 4 o’clock so we get the most amount of time that we can.  Plus, we have dinner reservations for Tony’s Town Square at 6, and we want to make sure we’re there for that.

We decide to take the kids down to the quiet pool – I’m very excited to be in my bathing suit and not mortified by my weight.  Unfortunately, my suit is too big 🙁   No worries.  It has a skirt and a tie at the neck, so we tie the neck as tightly as we can, and the skirt hides the fact that the bottom is too big 🙂   The water was so glorious!!   I could have spent the entire vacation just laying at the pool.  It was warm and welcoming from the first step, and because we chose the quiet pool, we were the only ones in the pool for a while, so that was nice.  After an hour or so in the pool, we headed over to the jacuzzi, which was so hot when we first stepped in, but then it just felt so great.  The jets were so relaxing and the water just felt so good.

We slowly all decided to head back to the room.  Jim and I got back first, and I did a quick shower and dress, and then put out lunch.  By that time, Ann and Eilis were coming in, so we ate a little in shifts, which worked out well.  We have time left after everyone is showered to relax a little before we head over to the Magic Kingdom for the party, and everyone benefits from the rest (I think I could have slept for hours!). 

Our arrival at the Magic Kingdom is just before 4 PM, so we wait in line outside for the gate to open to the MVMCP guests.  We are all braceleted, and we make our way down Main Street towards Buzz Lightyear.  We spend our free time before dinner between Buzz, Carousel of Progress, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  Shortly after taking in these attractions, it starts to rain, but it’s time to head over to Tony’s for dinner, so we skip the fireworks and make our way to the restaurant.  It’s packed, but we’ve never eaten here before, so I enjoy wandering around and looking at things.  We are seated after about half an hour, and we find that our waiter is in training.  We’ll try to be super easy on him.

The meal at Tony’s was very good.  The only thing I am hating is the new kids menu.  It’s the same everywhere, so there are very limited options for the girls.  They are willing to work with you, to an extent.  If a meal shows yogurt with granola for dessert, you can get it plain.  You can swap out some things for other things.  But essentially, there is the same very limited menu everywhere we go.  I’m disappointed.

By the time we are finished at Tony’s, the rain has let up enough that it is not a bad walk at all around the park.  There are no lines and no waits for anything, and we really do enjoy just about everything.  Although the party goes until midnight, by about 11, everyone is pretty tired.  We are supposed to go to EPCOT tomorrow, and that’s going to be a long day as well, so we pack in it and head back to the hotel.

Back at Saratoga Springs, everyone gets a drink and snack, and we all head off to bed.  It’s been a great, very full day, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow!!

Disney Trip Report, Day 1 and 2, November 25 and 26

We have decided to take a trip to Disney!   Yeah, I know, so what else is new?   Well, this is our first time going back as Disney Vacation Club members, and our first time to stay at our home resort, Saratoga Springs!   We’re all very excited for that reason alone, and we have invited my stepmom to come along with us, so it should turn out to be a great trip!

The decision is made to leave very early on Saturday morning, stop late Saturday afternoon in Savannah.  If we’re not too tired, I’d like to visit some of the shops in Savannah, and then head down to Ocala on Sunday to see Aunt Mary and Uncle Ted.  At the last minute, we schedule John, the hardwood floor guy, to do our floors the weekend we come home, so we have to move all of the furniture out of our bedroom and dining room.  That means Jim and I are sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor, and we are relying on Brighid to wake us at 3 so we can pick Ann up at 3:30.  At 3:25, Brighid comes down to let us know it’s time to get up.  Let’s hope things get better from here!

We make it to Ann’s and are on the road shortly after 4 AM.  This should put us in Savannah about 4, which gives us the evening and Sunday morning to shop if we want to.  The trip really isn’t bad at all.  Granuaile, who spends most of these trips whining and complaining with the other two ignoring her, seems to sleep a lot headed down south, and when she is awake, she’s pleasant and entertained by Nanny.  Ann can come with us on ANY trip, ANY time.  Brighid and Eilis have TVs in the back and there are snacks and drinks, so we don’t have to make too many stops.  We eat a nice breakfast at Cracker Barrel, then hit Wendy’s for a long lunch.  When we get near Savannah, we stop for dinner and make the decision to cancel the reservation in Savannah if we can get a room in Orlando.  We are making good time, and may be able to make it to Orlando by 10. 

Not only do we find a room available, but we find our 2 bedroom villa at Saratoga Springs Resort is available!   It will use a bunch of points, but it gives us an extra day at the resort and we don’t have to unpack stuff and move it.  Unfortunately, the people at Ruby Tuesday’s are doing everything in their power to prevent us from making it anywhere any time in the near future.  We spend more than an hour at dinner here – and I leave exhausted!

We eventually do a little switching around with the drivers, and Ann offers to take a shift so I can close my eyes a while.  Holy cow, this is so nice of her to do!   I am so tired and Jim can’t see this late at night to drive, so having a third driver is a big treat!   We make it to the security gate at Saratoga Springs just about 11:30, and we are welcomed home by a very nice security guard, who directs us to the check in parking.  We are home 🙂

I head in to check us in, and I remind the lady at the desk that we are celebrating Ann’s 60th birthday during this trip.  I had ordered a birthday cake, since we missed her original cake back in August, and it is supposed to be delivered to our room tomorrow.  I am hoping it is delivered while we are at Aunt Mary’s.  The lady at check in is very nice, and it doesn’t take too long to check in – although with tired kids waiting to get out of the car, it seems much longer than it is.

We are soon in our beautiful 2 bedroom villa in the Congress Park section.  Our view is of the quiet pool outside of our balcony, and we can’t wait to see what else there is to see.  It will have to wait until morning, though. 

We all decide not to unpack, but the kids are now wide awake and wanting to see every inch of the room.  I end up unpacking all of my stuff and Jim’s.  Ann graciously offers to take the room with the two beds, and share a bed with Eilis.  She’ll live to regret that decision, and I feel badly that she didn’t take the bedroom to herself 🙁   We all end up in bed about 3 AM, but with no rush to get anywhere in the morning, we know we’ll have time to sleep in the morning.

Sunday morning comes, and Jim and I are the first awake.  We take a ride down to where we checked in and find breakfast.  We come back to the room with some croissants and some bagels, juice and coffee.  By the time everyone else wakes up, there’s breakfast going and plenty of time for everyone to shower and get ready for a ride out to Aunt Mary’s.  We even decide to go to Downtown Disney first 🙂   I like having the kitchen facilities – and this is a nice kitchen, equipped with pretty much everything you need. 

Once we are showered and dressed, we head to Downtown Disney with plans to grab lunch at the Earl of Sandwich.  We wander around a little, check out a couple of shops, and then we head over to the Earl of Sandwich.  Everyone gets something – Ann, Brighid and Eilis opt for grilled cheese, and Jim gets the special Turkey dinner sandwich.  I order the chicken soup, which is absolutely delicious!   After we finish our sandwiches, we decide to head to the car to make the trip to Ocala to visit Aunt Mary and Uncle Ted.

The trip to Ocala should take about an hour – maybe a little longer.  UGH.  We are heading out of Orlando with everyone else who has spent the Thanksgiving holiday there.  We take more than 2 hours to get to Ocala, but it is so nice to have this visit!   Aunt Mary’s home is absolutely, Better Homes and Garden beautiful.  We spend a little time chatting, and then we take a tour of their new community.  There is just about every amenity there you could want – indoor and outdoor pools, a banquet facility, a gym, and much more. 

We ended the tour at the miniature golf course, where Eilis and Uncle Ted played a quick round of golf.  It began getting cold and dark by this time, so we headed back to Aunt Mary’s for a very nice dinner and a lovely evening of conversation and catching up.

Back at the hotel around midnight, we opened the door to see a lovely bouquet of balloons and a goodie bag put together by the Pixie Dust delivery service from The Mouse For Less list that I am on.  Guess what?   No cake!   Jim and Brighid went to the restaurant this morning to check on it, and saw it, and we know of it’s existence.  I call immediately to the front desk, and about 30 minutes later, we get a delivery of a cake no where near what we ordered.  I phone again to the front desk, and after much pissing and moaning, at pretty darn near 1:30 AM, the correct cake arrives.  We sing happy birthday and everyone enjoys a piece of the cake, which revs the kids up just enough to keep the rest of us up until about 3:30.  Thank goodness, it’s a sleep in morning tomorrow, too!

Little Miss Sunshine

I received this DVD this Christmas as a gift from my husband and children.  It was one of those movies I REALLY wanted to see in the theater, but either Jim would not go or Brighid could not go, and the timing never worked out.  Anyway, I’m so glad it got picked up as one of my gifts – it was an AWESOME movie.

The basic plot is a family of losers takes a road trip out to California, where their young daughter, at the tender age of 7, has been chosen by default to represent their state (New Mexico) in the Little Miss Sunshine pagaent.  The road trip with this VW bus load of dysfunction is one horrible turn after another, culminating with their 5 minute late arrival to the pagaent. 

 I wish I could share more specifics with you, but I don’t want to give away anything.  The family experiences one bad turn after another, but each one just a wee bit funnier than the one before.  But through it all, this is a family you love, you want them to stay true to themselves and each other, and you are rooting for them not only to make it to California, but for the little girl to win the contest.

There is no incredibly plot twist, scary scene, or huge explosions.  But there will be laughter and tears as you watch this film.  It’s just so good.

Bah Humbug

I generally love Christmas, so if this starts off sounding like it’s going to be grumpy and miserable, it’s not that the whole holiday sucks – just some of the aspects of it.  To begin with, I had my party 2 weeks earlier this year, thinking that I would have   more time to get the rest of the stuff I need to get done finished without the stress of the party looming over me.  I’m still up to my eyeballs in wrapping left to do 🙁   And I am hoping that all of my gifts are up in the cabinets above my bed, because if they are not, I’m in big trouble.  I did find my in-laws presents, and wrapped them late last night, packed the box up and got it ready to go, then realized I had one more small box for my mother-in-law that I hadn’t put into the box.  I just found that and had to rip open the box and add it, so it didn’t get mailed today, as it was supposed to.

I “adopted” a family of 5 little girls.  I will be mailing their stuff out tomorrow as well.  I’m sure if I upgrade to Priority mail, everything should get there, but a more organized person would have had this stuff wrapped and shipped at least a week ago.

By this time last year, I had already sent my donation to Monsignor Doyle at Sacred Heart in Camden for his food baskets.  It was my Christmas present to my dad, since it was his first Christmas gone.  I made a committment to myself to do it every year, because my father did it every year.  I haven’t done it yet.

With this being the second Christmas without my dad, and the 4th without Bean, you would think that it would be easier to get through the holiday this year.  It isn’t.  And I’m not sure who I miss more.  I really thought that the first year would be the toughest, but as my kids get older and I start to feel badly that they don’t have Bean and my dad here to share the holidays with them, it gets harder. 

I feel like getting my shopping done early also has an affect on the Christmas spirit.  It may not be “fun” to go out with the throngs of people in the crowded mall, but you really get more of a sense of the spirit of the season when you see the kids lined up for Santa, see all the Christmas decorations, listen to the Christmas music…  Now I sort of feel like I missed out on some of the holiday fun.

I know this is a moaning and groaning message about my lack of joy for the season.  It’s not the same to be a grown up at Christmas time – especially when you’re the grown up responsible for making it Christmas for everyone else.  Ah well – maybe a stop in at Starbucks for a fat free, decaf, sugar free vanilla latte will perk up the Holiday spirit.

At The End of the Day – Christmas Open House 2006

Last year, Jim insisted that I blog everything about last year’s Christmas party so that this year, I had it to come up with a menu and a floor plan for this year’s party. It worked out pretty well, in that I had a whole list of things to follow – stuff I knew did not work, stuff I wanted to repeat, how I wanted everything laid out. So, this year, we’re doing it again. This is the run down – and the background – on this year’s holiday party.

To begin with, I have to talk about the now infamous invitation snafu. Don’t ask me what happened, I just know that SOMETHING happened. It started when I began writing my invitations out. I used my hand written address book so I could write the invitations while I was sitting in the living room with the kids. A few years ago, however, I started just keeping addresses in my computer, so the list of people I actually have in my address book is very small. Once I had all of those written, I turned to my computer to start doing the other invitations. I only did one or two when my computer crashed and burned. Literally. You could smell it burning from the inside, and it refuses to boot up. So now I am without a majority of my addresses, and we are leaving for FL in about a week. I mail out those that I have finished, and I phone my mom and get all of the addresses she has that I need. I finish those invitations, and just before the Thanksgiving weekend, I send those out at the Cherry Hill post office.

On our way home from FL, I start checking voice mail at home. We are now only two days from the RSVP deadline, and I have VERY few RSVPs. It is at this point that I am finding out that a lot of people have not received their invitations. It seems at first to be mostly the people who’s addresses I got from my mom, so I figure the problem is with the Cherry Hill post office, as the other invitations were mailed from Bellmawr. But then I find out that my step-brother and my step-mom’s sister have not gotten their invitations. Those addresses are in my address book. I find out that my grandmother has not gotten an invitation, but my Aunt Barbara has gotten one. I know they were mailed at the same time. My Aunt Duffy has gotten one – and she lives in the same house as my grandmother. I panic, because of course, we’ve ordered food for about 40 people, and with so few getting invitations, I am worried we will have no guests.

Now we complicate things a bit further. The day we leave FL is the day that the guys come and work on our hardwood floors. I know they are going to be done on Monday, so that gives me just about 5 days to clean up and put up the holiday decorations. Then we hire a painter. The painting crew starts on Wednesday, and they don’t finish until Saturday morning. Fortunately, on Thursday, I am able to put up and decorate a tree, and then with the help of my father-in-law and mother-in-law, we get some time on Friday to put the rest of the decorations up and get the house in some kind of order.

Saturday, the painters finish up in the morning, and I am cooking by noon. I don’t have a lot of stuff that I am cooking, but I want to get stuff prepared and laid out so I don’t have too much stress on Sunday. Yeah, right.

Sunday comes, and the worst of the day comes when Jim brings home the cookie tray I ordered from the Acme. I have gone in person to order the tray, and specifically requested NOT to get certain types of cookies. The entire tray that they bring back is those cookies. I spend a good 30 minutes on the phone with the Acme trying to get it rectified, and I end up having to run down there, pick out the cookies I want – not easy, since they still have Halloween cookies on display – and I come home with a tray of cookies I settled for and didn’t really want. They did give me a $10 gift card for my troubles 🙁 First important note to self – DO NOT ORDER COOKIES AT THE ACME.

Now to the good stuff. The food! We had 3 tables and the drink station this year. I put no tables downstairs, but on the end table, we did have chips and dip – onion dip with potato chips and salsa and chips. The onion dip – completely gone. The salsa and chips – more gone than last year, when I said I wasn’t doing it again, but I thought the people from the SJBSS might want it. I don’t know if this adds anything, so I don’t know if I would do it again or not, but I always seem to do it anyway.

Okay – here’s the run down:

TABLE ONE – Snacks and some hot food

Deviled Eggs – I made about 50, and I threw away about 7.  They are always popular, I always run out of them, and I was glad I made extras.

Spinach Dip – almost entirely gone. You can’t go wrong with this

Shrimp – 4 pounds – gone entirely – not one shrimp to be had anywhere. And I thought with 4 pounds, and not as many guests, it would have lasted a little longer. It was gone before some guests even arrived. I should always have extra ready, because what doesn’t get eaten at the party will surely get eaten by us after the party.

Hoagie Dip – moved from downstairs last year to upstairs this year, this was a huge hit. My mother loved it, quite a few of the other guests loved it, a couple took some home with them. The recipe I have makes a lot of it, so there was still some left in the bread bowl, and I have a little in the fridge, but this was definitely popular with our crowd.

Mixed Nuts – still have a ton left over

Pretzels – almost the whole bag was left over

Assorted Cheeses, Pepperoni, and Crackers – I had more of this left than I thought I would. The crackers got eaten, because people used them with the dips, but I threw away more cheese than I would have expected. Only a few slices of pepperoni were left, although I had more in the fridge. I’m not sure why some times cheese is popular, other times it is not. Definitely will not buy port wine cheese again. It’s a beautiful Christmas color, but no one ate it at all. I bought a cheese ball this year, which I have never done, and about 1/3 of it was eaten. The cheese did get eaten, but I was surprised I had any left at all.

Potato Salad and Macaroni Salad – I had half trays of each – bought from Misci Caterers. I threw away most of what was on the table and still have half of each tray in my fridge. I really have to plan to make my own potato salad next year and the macaroni salad was totally not necessary. I think with so much other food, people would rather eat the good stuff and leave the salads.

Antipasto Platter – ordered through Harry – I had SOOOOO much of this left over, it was a terrible sin. It was loaded with great stuff – pepper shooters, salami and provolone cheese, marinated mushrooms and artichokes, roasted peppers, olives – but the tray was hardly touched, and I had two more full trays in the FL room. This was so sad to see wasted – I know I would have been picking at it if I could have been. I won’t order it next year, though.

Pickle and Olive Tray – some of the stuff on here was duplicated on Harry’s antipasto platter. I also had pepper shooters and olives. The black olives got eaten, some of the pickles were eaten, a couple of the peppers were eaten. But last year, I had more of it eaten. This is one of those things that only costs a few dollars to put together, and maybe it doesn’t all get eaten, but it’s nice to have for people to pick on.

Bruschetta – Harry brought that, and it looked great. I wish I could have tried it – and I was so tempted to. Harry brought a huge tray, and about 1/2 got eaten. I think this was popular, and a very nice surprise.

Hot roast beef and gravy – I only had the gravy, and it was really good. It was a little thicker than an au jus type gravy, and not the thick stuff you get in a jar or can. The beef was sliced a little thicker than you usually see it for roast beef sandwiches, but I saw quite a few people with it on their plates. I think the way it was done it made a nice meal without having to put it on bread. This was also catered through Harry.

Final comments on Table One – I’m glad I moved the snacks upstairs, where most of the people seemed to congregate, although with the Eagles on, I had more people downstairs this year than last, so I probably could have put more food downstairs – like the pretzels and nuts. I might do that next year, but having most of the snacks upstairs helped move them.

TABLE TWO – Hot entrees and side dishes

We had so much stuff here, that I think people had more than enough to choose from. Here’s the run down:

Rolls from DelBuonos – had about a dozen left over – always fresh, always hot, always a must.

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut – I actually forgot all about this until the very last minute, and thank goodness I remembered. It was gone. I have one small container left over, which we’ll have for lunch today. We bought 5 pounds of kielbasa and two bags of sauerkraut. We got the smoked garlic kielbasa from the Polish deli in Runnemede – delicious.

Meatballs and Sausage – about half of a crock pot got eaten – nearly all of the sausage was gone. I knew putting the sausage in would help it. We won’t have as many hot veggies next year, so I think we’ll keep doing the meatballs and sausage. The hot veggies on this table probably also distracted from the potato and macaroni salad on the other table.

Chicken Marsala – I tasted this, and it was really good. It had a great sauce and chunks of mushrooms, and smelled great. Harry catered this, and my mom wants some for her house. We had a ton of it though – Harry brought a lot of food, and I have a huge tray still in the freezer.

Herbed Chicken – catered by Pat at Misci caterers – we went through about half of a tray of this. I ordered this in addition to the chicken marsala in case people wanted something without the sauce. I think I would have to choose one or the other next year.

Penne pasta with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses – won’t do it again. Catered by Misci, and I’m sure it tasted great, but it just doesn’t do well on the buffet table. I kept putting sauce, but it just got dried out looking and the pasta got too soft. Maybe better for a much shorter party – where you only keep the food out for an hour or so.

Carrots, Corn, Broccoli Rabe – all were trays left over and frozen from Thanksgiving. The broccoli rabe was almost entirely gone – I didn’t eat it, but heard people say it was really good. I had nearly as many carrots left as I started with, and I had way too much corn left over. I forgot to melt the stick of butter in the corn, and the complaint from Thanksgiving was that it was a little too bland. The carrots were giant “horse” carrots, and they were cut pretty big, so one piece would have been plenty. I didn’t see many people with them though. Next year, I might order a tray of the broccoli rabe, and not worry about the other veggies.

Green Beans Almondine – Ordered through Harry. They were pretty popular – I didn’t have many left on the buffet, but there was another HUGE tray in the FL room that is now in my freezer. I would do those again.

Final comments on Table Two – I did not buy provolone this year for the meatballs sandwiches, and once again, I forgot to put out the cheese I did buy – shredded parmesan. I guess we’ll be eating that on stuff for a few days. Parmesan encrusted french toast, anyone?

We had more hots than we would normally due to the abundance from Thanksgiving. I think the veggies were nice, but again, people stuck with the good stuff – meats and chicken. We will probably continue with the meatballs, sausage, and kielbasa, and I’ll see whatever whim strikes me as for other hot dishes.

TABLE THREE – Desserts

Cream Cake Platter – Acme – only about half got eaten this year – and they were wildly popular last year. I might still do them, or I might try to find something else.

Brownie Bites – Acme – These were our cutesie thing this year, and they were so cute. Frosted with cream cheese, sprinkled with green and red sprinkles, topped with either a Hershey kiss or a little holiday pick. We had a few left over, but the kids loved them.

Cookies – NEVER ORDER COOKIES FROM THE ACME – I still have most of the cookies left over

Mini pastries (cannoli, eclairs, cream puffs) – only a few cannoli left, but I might order from a bakery instead of the Acme next year.

Fresh Fruit Tray – nearly all gone, ordered from Misci, and cannot do without this. I still have a whole container of dip left.

Cheese Cake – from Aunt Barbara – this was so yummy, people were taking two pieces. They loved it!

Chocolate Fountain – very messy – it splashed when the kids were eating stuff – but it seemed very popular. I served cubed pound cake, marshmallows, pretzel sticks and strawberries. People were also taking fruit from the fruit tray and sticking that under.

Pistachios – about half got eaten, but my gang will finish them up.

Trail Mix – some got eaten, some didn’t

Hershey Kissables – I think Granuaile ate most of them, but they looked cute, so no reason not to have them.

Candy from Carano’s Cucina – Kathy made the most amazing candy – ALL of the nut clusters were gone, devoured in short order, and there are just a few small pretzel pieces left, after I think people broke pretzels to just get a little taste of them. The pretzels with the caramel were amazing, from what I hear. There isn’t a taste of those left. Now if she would just do sugar free, dark chocolate, vanilla butter creams, she would be my best friend for life 🙂

Fudge – homemade by Aunt Duffy and Uncle Tony – Delicious! Everyone raved about it, and it was nearly gone.

Final Comments on Table 3 – I was so glad to have that Chocolate Fountain – and so grateful to my mom in law and dad in law for cleaning it up after the party!! I didn’t buy as many desserts as I have in the past, but the table was still full and I still had left overs.

Drink Station – I had 2 pitchers of iced tea, which were replenished several times over. There was quite a bit of soda, but I worried not enough – I had more than enough. We had more wine this year, and more was drunk than in other years. I had a case of Heineken, about half was gone. We had liquor, but had to send Jim to get mixers – tonic and orange juice. We borrowed my mom’s ice bucket – much nicer than the small one I have.

I don’t think anything was missing – I didn’t do a punch or egg nog, but I don’t know that they would have added anything.

Final Comments on the Drink Station – next year, get mixers ahead of time!

It’s The Most One-derful time Of The Year!

When I started my weight loss surgery journey, I hoped and prayed that I would be one of those one hundred pound losers before the end of my first year.  My second hope was that I would at least get below 200 pounds – which is pretty darn close to 100 pounds lost, since I was starting at 295.

Well, we came home from FL after a week on vacation last Sunday, and as soon as I found the scale, I was on it.  I am ecstatic to report that I am officially in “Onederland”!   I fell below the 200 pound mark for the first time in about 15 years.  I still have 3 pounds to go to get to my 100 pound loss mark, but this is so close, and in only 4 months.

I have to get in to see Dr. Nusbaum, but with all the confusion at home with the floors the paint the party the Christmas….. you get the picture – I forgot to get my blood work done.  I’ll be heading to the lab Monday morning so I can reschedule with Dr. N.

While I still see fat when I look in the mirror, I know that a lot of it now is the hanging skin that will eventually have to be taken care of.  My thighs look like two shar pei puppies huddled together in one big, wrinkled mass.  Not pretty.  Thank goodness for a bathing suit with a skirt.