Even More Magical

As you should know by now, going to Walt Disney World for me is the equivalent of getting to go to a second home. I know those parks, those rides, and all those good eats as well as I know my hometown. At Christmastime though, it becomes something even more magical.
I haven’t been to WDW at Christmastime in 12 years. Think about that Disney people. The last time I saw the Osborne Lights they were on Residential Street, Snow on Main Street was still novel and there was that great theater back in Tomorrowland for the Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas show. There was also, gasp!, no Holiday tag to Illuminations which I think might be the most tragic thing of all.
So, now that I had my Florida Resident Annual Pass, I headed down to WDW for Thanksgiving to take advantage of my sister being a fantastic person who was willing to go to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for a third time with me. Sadly, my body decided to cause issues this trip (the Celebration hospital is VERY nice FYI) so we missed our planned Thanksgiving feast at Tusker House but we discovered that the food court at Pop Century does a nice Thanksgiving meal on their own. The things you learn…
OK, so what was my favorite part of all the new holiday things I saw…that would be like asking me to pick only one favorite book. I adored the new location of the Osborne Lights on the Streets of America. The snow added a nice touch but I especially like the “dancing” lights (which is apparently it’s official name now…who knew?). Every 10-15 minutes, the lights “dance” to a song. It was fun to watch and see what they would do next! We also got there just in time for the lighting which I liked seeing – I think some of the impact is lost if you were to just wander in. Seeing all those lights come on at once was truly incredible.
Looking down the Streets of America
Next, is Epcot. This is my favorite park anyway but add in the Christmas element and it’s even better. I wish I’d had more time to go and watch all of the little shows in each country. We caught part of the show in Norway and their mischief maker Santa was fun to learn about. Also, apparently, you leave out Porridge and Ale for Santa in Norway. That is one St. Nick that knows what is up! We also didn’t have time for the Candlelight Processional but that is at the top of my list for next year. It’s something I know I will adore. I didn’t make a big push to see it this year because I missed the narrator I would REALLY love to see by a day. Next year Neil Patrick Harris (and if you don’t come, I will cry). Now, Holiday Illuminations. I love fireworks, well, let me rephrase…I love Disney fireworks. To see non-Disney fireworks is just sort of sad actually but I digress. As I was saying, I love Disney fireworks and Illuminations happens to be my favorite of them all. Holiday Illuminations adds a tag at the end. It is AWESOME in the true sense of the word. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so many fireworks! And as always it goes beautifully with the music and adds a truly magical element during the holidays. We actually saw this twice and it was totally worth it!
The park that pulls out all the stops at the holidays though is Magic Kingdom. Home to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, MK is truly decked out in its holiday finery this time of year. Lights and garland are everywhere along Main Street USA and if you stay for a party, you also get snow on Main Street which is such fun to see. We attended a sold out Christmas Party so it was a bit crowded still. If we hadn’t been so tired, I think I would try to do the later parade and show because most of the families with kids do the early ones and then leave after the fireworks. I enjoyed the show in front of the castle – If nothing else, I do love watching the cast members in these shows. I sometimes think it would have been fun to be a dancer at WDW if only for the fun costumes  The parade was so much fun – I didn’t really remember it from before especially the smells! Yes, some of the parade floats come with their own smells like the Alpine float with Chip and Dale smells of pine and the Baking floats make me hungry from cookies even if I wasn’t feeling well. We did get some of the (free with your $60 ticket) cookies and I tried the apple juice rather than the hot chocolate. The juice was tasty! It had an added kick of cinnamon which I enjoyed. I would have liked it hot though even better. The new show on the Castle before the fireworks is wonderful! I liked it a lot better than the one they ran over the summer. I especially liked they have added a Wreck-It Ralph section to it – it was fun to watch Ralph and Felix wreck and then fix the Castle! Then it was time for Holiday Wishes. They had a bit of a mishap with the fireworks the night we were there – the close up fireworks were firing just fine but the larger fireworks went MIA for a bit. Luckily, they got it back on track for the finale and if you didn’t know better, I don’t think you would have missed them. I do enjoy the perimeter fireworks they have for the special firework shows – it’s fun to be “surrounded” by fireworks 🙂
Seriously, you’d think they couldn’t improve on the best sight in the world and then they do…
But wait! I forgot what I think is my favorite part of the Magic Kingdom at Christmas time. The Castle lights. A few years ago, Disney “iced” CInderella’s Castle with white lights to make it look like ice hanging all over it. We didn’t watch the lighting but it was truly a magical sight to see when we walked up to the Castle after eating. The lights will vary throughout the night but I think I prefer the blue best – truly makes it look like an iced confection!
Cinderella Castle at Christmastime
Yes, it is crowded this time of year, make no mistake but I think it’s worth it because at this time of year, the most magical place I know of gets a lot more magical 🙂
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My first Thanksgiving

So, technically, this was not the first Thanksgiving away from home for me. That honor belongs to the dinner in Bath in 2005 which was great except, I mean, what do the English know about Thanksgiving? The stuffing came out in little balls. They tried and I was grateful. But my first Thanksgiving that I was in control of was going to go perfectly.

Oh come now. I’m not that naive. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if there were not scares and hiccups and moments when you think the whole thing might blow up in your face. It started out early, before the parade even came on, one of my roommates started the turkey. We couldn’t find the packet of giblets but we carried on, thinking perhaps they’d forgotten them. Seanna put all sorts of stuff in the bird, rubbed it down with miracle whip and successfully had it into the oven before 9 AM. Ahead of schedule. I liked this. However, the parade never started. Apparently, Detroit’s Thanksgiving Parade is more important than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Michigan. I was confused and found some sort of coverage on CBS. My parents later helped me figure out the problem and I flipped out. One tradition shot to dust. Luckily, my paper arrived on time and I plotted out my attack for the next morning. Yes, I am one of those nutters who leaves the house at the crack of dawn on Black Friday.

Anyhoo, we’re swimming along just fine and then Julie appears. Our turkey is probably done. Three hours before planned. Me, the person who checks, double checks and triple checks anything to do with cooking hadn’t looked up cooking times again after we decided to cook the turkey unstuffed…House thrown into frenzy, people running around, stuffing being thrown into oven, potatoes boiling. In the grand scheme of things, of course it worked out. In fact, the turkey ended up only being done an hour earlier than planned (our oven takes forever to do anything).

So, Thanksgiving was delightful in the end. We ate ourselves into food comas, recovered to have pumpkin pie and whipped cream and generally enjoyed a day with friends and less guilt for not working on papers.

And in the end, we found our packet of giblets. The take home message of the day? A turkey has two holes. Check both before cooking.

Holy Christmas Batman!

So we all know that Christmas comes directly after Halloween. In fact, according to Hallmark, that evil card company that likes to make up holidays to make money and depress those of us who are single, Halloween doesn’t even rank that high anymore. Its Christmas ornament display started going up at the beginning of October people. How ridiculous is that?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year. I loved it so much as a kid my dad had to make a rule to limit my Christmas music playing fun. Not until the day after Thanksgiving could I pull out my extensive collection of Christmas music. There is a radio station in this city that started playing carols on November 1st. So much for Thanksgiving.

Now, on to my latest adventure. Today I explored Frankenmuth, Michigan, or as it has cleverly nicknamed itself “Little Bavaria” (i.e. Tourist Trap in the middle of nowhere Michigan). It’s a cute little town. I did for a moment think I’d stepped into some little chalet town of Germany. It has a charming architecture theme, an impressive covered bridge and more chocolate hauses (sp?) then I knew one small town could hold. However, the town is not the main attraction. Frankenmuth is home to the world’s largest Christmas store. One and a half football fields big. As my friend said when we entered the store, it is Christmas on Steroids.

The girl who adores Christmas all of the sudden discovered it was possible to have too much of it. It wasn’t just that this was Christmas on Steroids, this was a Christmas explosion, of sensory overload, of a holiday so far beyond steroids it makes that enhancement look tame. One simply does not know where to look first. Not too mention there are hundreds of people moving in every direction possible. The store was not big on a traffic flow. Theme-wise, and this from a girl raised on Disney theming, less is more is a good rule of thumb. You have shelves upon shelves of ornaments, lights, Christmas trees, giant reindeer for the front yard. That speaks for itself. You do not need to line every inch of the upper walls and ceilings with Christmas bric-a-brac as well. I felt like I was under attack and the ceiling of friendly polar bears and penguins, cheerfully decked out in lights and garland, was coming down on me if I did not start filling my basket immediately.

That said, if I even need to find an ornament for my flamingo loving friend or a relative who can’t get enough of his John Deere tractor, I will know where to go. If you cannot find it in Frankenmuth folks, it cannot need to exist. So enjoyable though it was to find a place so near devoted to my favorite holiday, I would have to say once a year will be more than enough to visit that Christmas Wonderland. After awhile a headache ensued from the colors and lights and sounds. Not to mention I’ll be singing “We Need a Little Christmas” for the next week before I can drown it under my own personal Christmas faves.

So join me now if a moment of silence for our dearly departed Thanksgiving holiday. How we do miss you and the buffer zone you placed between us and this out of control commercialized Christmas that engulfs us from October until January (who are we kidding? We shop for it all year long). Personally, I’ll keep to my dad’s rule. Even the girl who loves Christmas (I mean, I can recite “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” off the top of my head…) realizes there is a limit to even her holiday tolerance.