Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hello Tuesday

I know I missed last week's post, so instead of a weekend update you get the whole week.  Here in Indiana, we got about 5 inches of snow last week and with the cold temps it lasted all week.  It doesn't seem like much snow, but I guess since we had all the freezing rain first the kids were actually out of school all week.  Most main roads were cleared after a day or two, but the neighborhood streets were pretty bad for a while.  You would think that with all the time stuck in our house I would have gotten a lot done, but in reality, I don't really know where all our time went last week.  It did finally warm up a little on Sunday and we celebrated with a little walk around the zoo.

Hello Tuesday
This week seems to be a little more back to normal, with the exception of a visit to the dentist yesterday.  Littlecjc and I both had healthy appointments yesterday.  This obviously wasn't Littlecjc's first visit, but it was the first time I was able to sit back and admire my big girl.  Previously, she's laid back on me in the chair, but this time she sat there all by herself.  She looked so cute in the big chair and I was so proud when she did everything they asked without a peep.  They even gave her sunglasses so that the bright light wouldn't hurt her eyes which made her even more adorable.

Hello Menu
Last week, we tried two new recipes.  I made a honey garlic chicken and broccoli which will probably be a new go to since it was really easy and super yummy.  Patrick wanted to try a temp-ah chili that he saw on tv.  I'll say it was ok.  Honestly, I didn't really eat all that much since it was a little hot for my taste.  As for the previous week, I still haven't gotten to those cabbage rolls I wanted to try, so you'll notice them on the menu again this week.  So what else are we eating this week:

M: mini meatloafs, mashed potato
T: tilapia, sweet potato, brussels sprouts
W: tomato spinach chicken spaghetti *new recipe
T: cabbage rolls *new recipe
F: hawaiian chicken, rice
S: dublin coddle
S: stuffed peppers

Hello New Book
So, after my last post, I changed my book of the week.  The topic for week 2 was one of the first 10 books added to my to be read list, and I had planned on reading Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.  I was on a waitlist for the audiobook from my library and it became available shortly after my last post so I quickly changed books.  This book had an interesting concept, and I ultimately gave it a 4 star rating, but at times I got really annoyed with the main character.  I mean, I know she was suppose to be very naive, but I also found her a little selfish and at times it seemed like she was way too naive when it was convenient for the storyline.

I think it was the next day or so, another book that I have been on hold for since last year, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  Since I didn't get this book last year, I had added it to this years plan under the week 10 topic, an author's debut book.  If I was actually reading this book instead of listening, I'm not sure I would have made it.  It took me a really long time to get into it, at least 3 hours.  However, I ended up really enjoying this once I felt like the story finally started and again gave a 4 star rating.

So, what's this week's book?  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.  The topic for week four is actually one of four, where we're reading four books linked by the four elements, with this week's specification is earth.  I really struggled with this one, but some other members of my group chose this book based on the garden - earth connection so I decided I'd try it too.  So far, I'm still a little confused as it's not what I expected the book to be like.  I guess we'll see where it goes.

New Binges
Last week, we finished The Magicians and I finally devoured This is Us.  I loved this show, as I knew that I would.  So this week, Patrick and I decided to finally watch season 6 of Once Upon a Time.  We really enjoyed this show when we first started watching it, but I kind of feel like it's run it's course.  I still enjoy watching it, but it's a lot easier to stop and once we have, I don't feel the need to continue watching like I used to.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Christmas trip 2017, Day 4: Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios

Today was a little different for us, but still so much fun.  We had planned from the beginning to take this morning and sleep in and take our time getting out the door since we had the late evening at the Christmas party the night before.  While planning this trip, we knew we would probably be giving up one evening to visit with our local friends, but we didn't know which one yet.  So, we planned one day in each park and two in Magic Kingdom.  Since this was a bit of a floater day, we decided to pick up fastpasses at Animal Kingdom, because we knew the new Avatar rides would be the hardest to get on if our plans changed.  We didn't get them too early this day though since we wanted it to be a more relaxing day.  We ended up with Safari (10:25-11:25) Kali River Rapids (11:40-12:40) and Flight of Passage (12:55-1:55.)  That morning however, we looked at the app and decided to switch our Safari pass out to instead meet Mickey and Minnie at the outpost.  We knew they met in holiday attire here, so we decided we would all wear our new party shirts and get our pictures with them.  After taking our time this morning, we arrived at Animal Kingdom shortly after 10:00

Once inside the park, our first stop was to use those newly obtained fastpasses to meet Mickey and Minnie, characters #1 and 2.

We had a lot of fun here, as they loved our holiday spirit!

While we were waiting in line before our picture, we realized that Littlecjc's new necklace wasn't lighting up.  Since we had just bought it the night before we were a little saddened.  The castmember working at the front of Mickey and Minnie's line heard us talking about it and he told us to go to any store that sells them and they will replace it.  So, our next stop was a gift shop and sure enough they exchanged it out for a new one, no problem.  We didn't need our receipt and she didn't really ask any questions other than "it just stopped?"  She did look at it for a moment and tried turning it on herself, but then she pulled the tags off a new one and handed it over after making sure that the new one worked.  I've always heard great things about Disney exchanging these lights, bubble wands, etc. but this was our first time experiencing that.

The outpost was a little too close to Dinoland for Littlecjc, so we then headed back there for attraction #1, Triceratop Spin.

One of the few attractions we didn't get done the other day was Everest, so we thought we would walk that way and check out the wait times.  En route, we found a photopass photographer and stopped too take advantage of their presence.

I don't remember how long the wait was at Everest, but the single rider line was completely empty.  You're unable to get a rider swap if using this line here, but since it was just the two of us we didn't need it since no one else was in this line.  After that realization, I rode Expedition Everest, attraction #2 first and then Patrick rode making Expedition Everest (take two) attraction #3.

By now, we were in our window for our next fp at Kali River Rapids, attraction #4.

After soaking a few poor souls, we decided to walk through the Jungle Trek, attraction #5.

Even after our walk through the jungle, we still had a little time before we could use our third fastpass at Flight of Passage.  So, while walking that way, we stopped for some Dole Whip and took a little time to enjoy that and put on a little sunscreen.

When we first arrived in Pandora, we decided to take another family photo.

After our photo, we went to the Flight of Passage line, where Patrick rode first and acquired a rider swap pass making Flight of Passage, attraction #6.  While waiting, Littlecjc and I got to play a while at the drum circle, before being treated to another drum show. 

By the time the show finished, Patrick had returned and I was able to take my turn and ride Flight of Passage, attraction #7.  While I was on the ride, Littlecjc got some amazing pictures taken.

We actually purchased this banshee on our previous Disney trip, but we never got any pictures in the park with it last time due to rain.  So, Littlecjc brought him back this day and they wanted some pictures.  After taking the picture together, they came across a second photopass person and Littlecjc thought she would take her picture by herself.

As you can see, she quickly changed her mind resulting in this awesome photo, and a few more similar ones.  Needless to say, Patrick had to jump back in again.

After we had all finished having fun in Pandora, we asked Littlecjc if there was anything else she wanted to do here.  She was okay with leaving, so we decided to park hop, something we haven't done in a while.  When we were at Epcot two days earlier, a castmember told Littlecjc that she really needed to see Belle since she was meeting in her Christmas dress.  We didn't get around to it that day, but Littlecjc had reminded us of it many times since.  So, we offered this as an option and she was beyond excited.

I know it was after 2:00 when we left Animal Kingdom, but I don't know exactly when.  I do know, however, that we had successfully ridden a bus to Epcot, gone through security and made our way to Figment: Journey to Imagination, attraction #8 by 3:15.

Do you remember the surprised face from the other day?  Well, here's the face you get when you remember what is coming.

After riding Figment, Littlecjc and I headed straight to the France pavilion to wait on Belle while Patrick stopped for some food.  He stopped by the Yukon Holiday Kitchen in Canada for a traditional french canadian touterie and a maple buche de noel, both of which were delicious.

Since this was our only lunch this day, and the line was still pretty long, Patrick went in search for more food.  He came back with this delicious dessert from Les Halles.  I definitely think I'll be stopping here again, especially since this wasn't even a special kitchen or holiday treat.

So, I'm so glad Patrick thought to grab food now, because the line to meet Belle was no joke.  It took about 1 hour before we made it to the front of the line.  I was thankful for the food distraction, and Littlecjc made friends in line so it worked out.  We also used this time searching for other fastpasses.  We debated trying to get a pass for Test Track or something else in Epcot, but ultimately we decided on Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios, since we knew we wanted to catch the evening holiday shows there.  At the end of our wait, we were rewarded with this beautiful picture with Belle, character #3.

Not to mention, that our little princess was happy.  It was actually a little humorous how much she wanted to meet Belle here.  It's not like Belle is her favorite princess or that she recognized this dress or anything, but ever since that cast member told her she needed to see it, she NEEDED to see it.  With that finally accomplished, we tried something new.  We hopped over to Hollywood Studios via the Friendship boat.

This seemed to take a while, but it was nice not needing to walk to the front of Epcot and it's always fun to do something new and different.

While I waited on the slowest bag checker ever (not complaining, I'm happy to see them do their job properly) Littlecjc decided to model for Daddy.

Once inside, we headed first to Tower of Terror, attraction #9.

Unfortunately, the couple right in front of Littlecjc decided to lean together for a kiss, so we can't even see her face.  Although she's ridden this ride twice before, she decided this time that she didn't like it and she wasn't going to go on it again. 

We thought it was a good time for her favorite ride in this park, and headed straight to Toy Story Mania, attraction #10 and used our fp.

We thought we better eat some real food, since we really only snacked on desserts for lunch, so we headed to the Backlot to eat.  Littlecjc loved eating here, because she enjoyed watching the Jedi Training.  We tried talking her into joining since we were starting our day here tomorrow, but she said she didn't want to.  She loved watching though.  

After dinner, we headed back to Sunset Blvd to take in the falling snow and the new holiday projection shows on the Tower of Terror.  We really enjoyed these and watched them many times since it was a loop of four short clips.

They each had a little pre-show on the billboards down the street, that led into the projections.

At some point while playing here, we were sure to get another picture.

When we felt that Littlecjc had played in the "snow" enough, we moved back to the front of the Chinese Theater for Jingle Bell Jingle BAM!  I had forgotten about the Movie Magic projection, so we were happy to see that start at 7:45.

At 8:00, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! began.  I had heard mixed opinions about this show, so maybe I really just wasn't expecting much, but I loved it!  I thought it was fun and the storyline/song choices made sense to me.

This may not have been the most productive day in the amount of rides and characters met, but we had a great day.  We felt like we accomplished a lot and we saw and did new things which is always a plus.  Join me next week for more Hollywood Studios adventures and a little more park hopping!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Christmas trip 2017, Day 3, Magic Kingdom & Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Yay! We've made it to Christmas party day.  Our plan today was to go to the park early in hopes that Littlecjc would fall asleep in the afternoon and take a nap.  Our last attempt at an after hours party was at Halloween and we actually left the park and went back to the hotel to rest up (and get dressed) before returning to the party.  This worked, I guess, but Littlecjc didn't take a nap until we were on the bus on our way back to the park.  With this fresh in our minds, we didn't see the point in going to the room to rest, but instead we planned on renting a stroller again today and just wearing the girl out until she crashed.  (If you're wondering about us renting the stroller, check out my post about Day 2.)  The park was open from 8-6 today with the party running from 7-12, so as usual we were early and in our first line by the time the park opened at 8.  Our pre-planned fastpasses today were Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (9:35-1035) Big Thunder Mountain (10:35-11:35) and Splash Mountain (11:45-12:45).  Since our first fp was in an hour and a half for the main rope drop attraction, we changed our normal morning routine.

When they first opened the park, we stopped to rent our stroller and decided to visit Pixie Hallow.  We asked Littlecjc many times who she wanted to see first, in fact, Patrick tried to sway her to choose Mickey since we knew that line would grow faster, but she was determined to meet Tink, character #1.

As expected, by the time we finished meeting with her, Mickey's line was longer than we were willing to wait this early in the day.  So, we headed up Main St and stopped for a castle picture.

We then made our way to Tomorrowland.  We decided to split up (after procuring a rider swap pass) and I rode Space Mountain, attraction #1

while Patrick and Littlecjc rode Astro Orbitor, attraction #2.

We decided to hold on to our rider swap to use later and decided to all ride Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, attraction #3.

Here is where we made our first mistake of the day.  We thought we would knock out the speedway while we over here and the line didn't look too long, so we jumped in.  It was only after we were committed that we realized they were only loading one side of the track, so it seemed to take forever.

Eventually, we got on and Tomorrowland Speedway became attraction #4.

My little stinker didn't want to drive, but she loved it when I drove all crazy.  We still had a little time before our first fp at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so we decided to knock out Storybook Circus.  This area is usually pretty empty early in the morning, or late at night for that matter.  This may be due to Pete's Silly Sideshow having a little more limited hours.  For example, most days, if not all, it does not open until 10:00.  We walked on Dumbo, attraction #5 first.

Per the new usual, Littlecjc decided to stop for a photo after our flight.

We then moved over to Barnstormer, attraction #6 and walked on there as well.

By the time we had finished both these rides, the rotation of castmembers had shifted and our dear friend was working out front of the fp line back at Dumbo.  This was the first time we had spotted any of our friends, so we took a little time to catch up and visit.

After a while, we decided we probably needed to move on and headed toward our first fp, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, attraction #7.

I guess the fact that the first two hours today were different than normal didn't bother Littlecjc, because as soon as we got off Seven Dwarfs, she followed our traditional path and walked straight to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, attraction #8.

Check out that empty line, two hours after park opening!  I think a lot of people missed the memo that the park opened at 8 instead of 9.  I should really look up when they made that change, but that just proves that you should always double check your park hours after your arrival.

Our next fastpass was for Big Thunder Mountain, so we decided to leave Fantasyland and start moving that way.  En route, we noticed that the Haunted Mansion line was really short, so we took advantage, making The Haunted Mansion, attraction #9.

In fact, we kept telling other guest to pass us in line, as Littlecjc wanted to play with all the interactions along the queue line.  We eventually made it over to Big Thunder Mountain and as our luck usually runs, the fp line was really backed up.  With no alternative choice, we went ahead and got in line.

As always, they kept this line moving so it really wasn't that bad and before long, we were on Big Thunder Mountain, attraction #10.

Our next fp was next door at Splash Mountain in 20 minutes, so it seemed silly to leave the area.  Instead, we decided to take advantage of a photo op and get a little snack.

I'm pretty sure this was Littlecjc's first time enjoying this iconic Disney snack, and she was not very excited about sharing.  After our ice cream, it was time for us to use our next fastpass at Splash Mountain, attraction #11.

Since this ride was closed for refurbishment the last time we were here, this was the first time Littlecjc was tall enough to ride this.  Look how excited she was even at the end! 

After leaving Frontierland, we decided to walk through Adventureland, eventually stopping at Pirates of the Caribbean, attraction #12.

We had lunch reservations at 1:20, so we didn't have enough time to ride Jingle Cruise, but we did get in The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, attraction #13.

After our spin around Agrabah, we made our way to Cinderella's Royal Table.  I was always under the impression that you were to arrive early for a dining reservation, and if you were late, you were at the mercy of the restaurants castmembers and availability.  However, CRT seemed to be having some problems this day.  When we arrived, there was a long line at check-in, so even though we were early, we went ahead and started standing in line.  By the time we reached the front of the line, we were maybe only 5 minutes early.  However, the castmember working here said that there were people in line with earlier reservations that hadn't checked in yet so I needed to stand to the side.  The lady behind me in line was also a 1:20 reservation, so the castmember told her to stand to the side next to me, and we started forming a line for 1:20 check-ins.  Maybe one other family actually had a earlier reservation, but most everyone else in line switched over to the second line we had started forming.  Well after 1:20, the castmember announced that she would start accepting 1:20 reservations.  Okay, we were on our way.  So, we checked in and then stood around a little longer waiting to be invited inside.  They shortly called our name and we entered and were greeted by Cinderella, character #2.

We then stood around this crowded room for probably 15 more minutes before we were guided upstairs and to our table.  Previously, we've only had breakfast here where we were the first to be seated, so I'm really hoping this was a one off and not the norm.  Although I also have to admit that my only other character dining lunch experience at Magic Kingdom (at The Crystal Palace) also had a crazy delay in actually getting inside, so who knows.

So, yay, we were finally seated and still excited about our lunch in the castle.  Littlecjc was given a coloring page/menu that she worked hard at while waiting for her food and the princesses.

The meals here all come with appetizers, so I chose the salad.

Patrick chose the tomato soup.

And Littlecjc got fruit and cheese.

The princesses then started arriving, and before our main courses came out, we met Snow White, character #3

Aurora, character #4

Jasmine, character #5

and Ariel, character #6.

We were excited to see our food arrive and it looked delicious.  I went with the braised pork shank with creamy polenta.

Littlecjc of course chose the macaroni and cheese.

Patrick decided to try the fish of the day that came with shrimp risotto.

For dessert, Littlecjc got to build her own cupcake.  She thought this was great.  She also thought she had to use all the provided toppings.

Patrick decided on Lady Teralyn's Citrus Chiffon Cake.

I was really torn between chocolate mousse and chessecake, but ultimately decided on Jaq and Gus, the cheesecake.

Here's Littlecjc's finished cupcake.

With Littlecjc's belly full of food, we thought we would try to get her to fall asleep.  We put her in the stroller and started making our way to the front of the park and the train station.  She was still awake by the time we reached the end of Main St. so we were able to get this quick tree picture.

After a quick restroom break, we were ready to board the Walt Disney World Railroad, attraction #14.

We completed the entire loop, and unfortunately Littlecjc was still awake.  However, when we got off the train and put her back in the stroller she quickly went out.  We just had to walk around aimlessly for a little bit.  Since we needed to keep moving to get her asleep, we headed toward Tomorrowland.  

By the time we got there it was just after 4:00 and we were able to pick up our wristbands for the party.  I know they sell party merchandise in Tomorrowland, but for some reason we always seem to go to Storybook Circus for this, and that is what we did next.  With our shopping done, we circled back around to the front of the park to walk through the party entrance for some photo ops and our first cookies.

With Littlecjc still asleep, we headed back to Tomorrowland so Patrick could use the rider swap we accumulated earlier in the day at Space Mountain, attraction #15.

We tend to waste a lot of time when Littlecjc is asleep, because we don't ever want her to miss something.  If we had been thinking, we would have come to this idea earlier, and maybe even still done everything we had the past hour, but we would have done so a lot faster.  We decided to head to Adventureland and find the line that we were sure was already forming to meet Moana.  Of course the line was really long already.  Since Moana had not started meeting yet, the castmember informed us that it would probably be 1.5 - 2 hours before we reached the front of the line.  Since Littlecjc was asleep, we decided to wait it out.  At this time, Moana only meets during these special parties, and we missed her at Halloween so we had never met her and decided we were okay with this wait.

As expected, Littlecjc woke up while we were standing here.  As I'm sure is the case with most toddlers, she was not in the best mood when she woke up.  Especially when she realized we were just standing still in a line that didn't seem to be moving, even though Moana had already appeared.  In order to calm her down, we started to walk a bit and she quickly spotted the carpet ride.  I figured we had plenty of time still, so I agreed and the two of us rode The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, attraction #16.  I did start to panic a bit, when I realized I left my phone back with Patrick and the stroller.  Especially after we were boarded onto a carpet and they stopped those boarding the carpet in front of us because a little kid lost his shoe down in the water.  It was kind of entertaining as they used a big hook and net to try to get the shoe out.  Ultimately, they were unsuccessful and decided to run the ride once to see if the water would move somehow move it.  As we were sitting in our carpet, I could see Patrick starting to look worried as the line moved really quickly once we left, so as soon as our carpet landed, I didn't hang around to see what became of the shoe, but instead we hurried back to Daddy and the Moana line.  Of course, almost as soon as we got there, Moana went on a break.  The good news was that as soon as she got back there were only about two groups infront of us.  So, Littlecjc used the time to color, while Daddy used his phone to provide a light.

When Moana came back out, it was quickly our turn and we were excited to finally meet Moana, character #7.

By now, the party had officially started and all the special characters were beginning to come out.  Jack still had a pretty short line, and we figured we'd be in his first set as soon as he came out, so we decided to wait, making Jack Sparrow, character #8.

We've met him before and the interaction was fun, but I think it was even better this time around.  He also learned a valuable lesson from us, in that you never tell a little one to stand on your trap door.  He instead decided to stand there himself.

We then stopped in at Toratuga for the special party treat here.  Snowmen pretzels and snow cones.

As expected, Patrick and I preferred the pretzel and Littlecjc preferred the snow cone.  This was probably around the busiest time for this stop, but we were here and weren't in a hurry at the moment.  Why wouldn't we be in a hurry at a party?  Well, the parade was going to step off here in Frontierland in about an hour, and we've previously had good luck watching it from here.  So, we scoped out the castmembers laying down the tape and found our prime spot.  Once we were secure with our choice, Littlecjc and I left Patrick with the stroller to hold down the fort and made way for Splash Mountain, attraction #17.


Although we walked right on the ride, it's still a long attraction and by the time we got off Patrick was in need of reinforcements.  Apparently, a few other families thought our spot was ideal too, and they were heavily encroaching upon our space.  We held firm, we were here first after all, but they were extremely rude, especially after the parade had started.  I was trying desperately to be nice and remained sitting so that their kids could see over me, but I probably should have stood up because these kids were falling over the top of me the entire time and the grown male with them was encouraging them to continually yell at the characters, which happened to be right in my ear.  Regardless, we watched the parade and then moved on around the back side of Fantasyland as soon as the parade passed.

Littlecjc really wanted to ride Mine Train again, but the line was still pretty long, so we said maybe later and eventually ended up in the Storybook Circus area where we got cookies, chocolate milk, and this magic shot.

I love how the photographer said we had to stand still while the light passed behind us, so this is how Littlecjc froze.  After a little back and forth trying to decide what we were doing, we ended up in front of the castle where we saw the end of the Mickey's Merriest Celebration show.  This wasn't our intent, but it was nice in keeping us entertained and Littlecjc enjoyed all the characters.  What we were really after were the fireworks.

At 10:00 the Holiday Wishes Spectacular began.  I miss the old Wishes fireworks, but I really love this holiday version and I'm so happy that it didn't get changed this year.  As soon as the fireworks ended, we raced around the castle to the mine train.  We figured this was our best bet, and it seemed to be the only thing Littlecjc wanted to do right now.  So, we waited it out.  It really didn't take that long, since the fastpass line is shut down, the standby line continually moves, so before long, we were aboard the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, attraction #18.


 We kind of turned our evening over to Littlecjc by this point, and she decided that she wanted to ride the Mad Tea Party, attraction #19.

We had spotted the seven dwarfs earlier when we were in Storybook Circus, and I guess that was still on Littlecjc's mind, because she decided that this was what she wanted to do next.  We walked that way and their line was still open, but we warned her that this would be the only other thing we would get done this evening.  I was kind of impressed that she chose to wait it out.  However, being the end of the party, everyone was really laid back and besides the line for the dwarfs there weren't many people back here so we figured it wouldn't be that bad if I stayed in line and Patrick took Littlecjc over to see Minnie and Daisy, characters #9 & 10 who were meeting close by in their Christmas attire.

This time, I was the one to start worrying, as they took a lot longer than I thought they would.  They did make it back though, and we were able to meet The Seven Dwarfs, character #11-18.  

Since my Littlecjc loves chocolate milk, I thought to stop back by the treat station here before leaving.  Since it was the end of the party, the castmembers literally filled my arms with cookies and chocolate milk.

As the party was officially over, we made our way to the front of the park.  We did stop for a few pictures before heading out though.  First, on Main St. where Littlecjc loved playing in the snow while we waited for our turn.

And then out front at the park entrance, where we got this magic shot.

This was a great day, and we really loved our time at the party.  Overall, we saw 18 characters, (of course we caught 7 at one time and we met 5 at lunch) rode 19 rides, saw 1 parade, 1 stage show, and 1 firework display.  I call that a successful day!