Tuesday, December 4, 2012

30 Days of Carolling: Day 4

Christmas music you listen to when you're down

Normally if I'm in a funk at Christmas time it's because a lot of people are around and I don't do well with crowds - even family. They're loud, over dramatic, stressfilled... you get the picture... so I guess the best song for that would be ray stevens' "I Won't Be Home For Christmas".

Unfortunately youtube doesn't have this song, but trust me, it's a good one.

Since I couldn't find that one, here's another awesome song by ray for Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

30 Days of Carolling: Day 3

Song you listen to when you're feeling good.

That would be Alan Jackson's "Santa's Comin' In A Pick Up Truck". It's so much fun, and a great childhood memory. It's the song that made me an Alan Jackson fan because he sang with the CHIPMUNKS! When you're a kid that's COOL! Ha ha! And with the way the weather's shaping up this year, it just might have to happen this way here in AK!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

30 Days of Carolling: Day 2

Least favorite Christmas Carol

Again I assume this is meaning any Christmas song. And that honor goes to Paul McCartney's "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time" - seriously the most annoying and stupid song I could think of. I LOVE Christmas music, and was worried I wouldn't be able to find one for this prompt, and then this song came on a commercial and I said "BINGO". It's just so dumb, uncreative... and the "music video" is just... yeah.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

30 Days of Carolling: Day 1

Favorite Carol of All Time

I'm assuming that this doesn't mean just the traditional, but I guess mine is one of those classic/tradition/old Christmas songs. O Holy Night is timeless and the perfect song to reflect on why many of us celebrate the Christmas season (as opposed to the many other holidays, or the commercial holiday season). So many famous singers have done this song, and done it well, but the one that I blast all throughout the year - not just the days leading up to Christmas - is Josh Groban's version. His voice is amazing, and for some reason just seems to be the *right* way for this song to be sung... I don't know what it is, really.

30 Days of Carolling

Day 1 - Your Favourite Christmas Carol Of All Time
Day 2 - Your Least Favourite Christmas Carol Of All Time
Day 3 - A Christmas Carol You Listen to When Feeling Good
Day 4 - A Christmas Carol You Listen to When Feeling Down
Day 5 - A Christmas Carol That Reminds You of Someone
Day 6 - A Christmas Carol That Reminds You of Somewhere
Day 7 - A Christmas Carol That Reminds You of Your Childhood
Day 8 - A Christmas Carol Where You Know All the Words
Day 9 - A Christmas Carol Where You Always Mess Up the Words
Day 10 - Favourite Christmas Album
Day 11 - Least Favourite or Most Disappointing Christmas Album
Day 12 - A Christmas Carol Sung by Your Favourite Singer (Male)
Day 13 - A Christmas Carol Sung by Your Favourite Singer (Female)
Day 14 - A Christmas Carol as Sung By a Forgotten/Timeless Boy Band of the 1990's or 2000's
Day 15 - A Christmas Carol as Sung By a Forgotten/Timeless Girl Band of the 1990's or 2000's
Day 16 - A Christmas Carol That Best Describes Your Life Right Now
Day 17 - A Christmas Carol You Used to Hate, But Eventually Grew to Appreciate
Day 18 - A Christmas Carol You Used to Love, But Can't Stand Hearing Anymore
Day 19 - Favourite Christmas Carol Performed by a Choir
Day 20 - Favourite Christmas Carol Performed by an Orchestra
Day 21 - A Christmas Carol: Disney Style
Day 22 - A Christmas Carol Used in a Movie
Day 23 - A Christmas Carol Used in a Television Show
Day 24 - A Christmas Carol Used in a Commercial
Day 25 - A Christmas Carol You Would Dance Wildly To
Day 26 - A Christmas Carol You Shouldn't Dance Wildly To
Day 27: A Christmas Carol You Wish Radio Stations Would Play MORE
Day 28 - A Christmas Carol You Wish Radio Stations Would Play LESS
Day 29 - Your Favourite Lyric From a Christmas Carol
Day 30 - A Christmas Carol for a Character from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"

WDW 2013: Bambi Themed Dinner

Main dish of Cheesey Chicken and Veggie Chowder.
Side dish of roasted stuffed red bliss potatos. yum!
I am once again fighting a sinus infection/cold. Third one this year that's laid me out flat. Not happy about it, but I at least fought through it to keep working and of course I made dinner for this week's movie. Now before you go all sick and twisted like my dad went with the theme, we did not have venison or rabbit (or skunk). Originally we were going to go straight up vegetarian, but whatever I suggested was vetoed by the othere members of the family, so we compromised and did another chicken dish (bird, bird, bird-bird-bird!).

Finding a menu with a woodsy theme that didn't just mimick Snow White's theme proved pretty impossible, so it wasn't as cohesive as I wanted, however the results were yummy - which I think is all anyone really cares about. So I went with comfort food (let's face it, Bambi is traumatic to the psyche). With the weather being as cold as it's been, and me being sick, a chowder was in order. I still wanted to go with the roasted veggies, though, so I made a stuffed roasted potato dish as well. Dessert was a cop out as I just had no energy to be creative, so we went with a box mix Angel Food cake. I should've still found something green and leafy to go with my favorite line of the movie, though:
"Eating greens is a special treat, it grows long ears and great big feet... but it sure is awful stuff to eat! I made that last part up myself." - Thumper

I'm still learning how to pace myself as far as what and when to start so that the meal comes together at the same time. I got closer with this one, but the chowder needed to be stirred almost cosntantly so that the cheese didn't burn to the bottom. Mom came and helped me out a bit - mainly because I was moving in slow motion as doing anything while I have this cold seems to wear me out in just a few minutes, and this meal took an hour total. Probably couldn've gotten in done a little quicker if I'd managed my time better, but it is what it is. The recipe, though is enough to feed a small army - we have lots left over even after we all had seconds - and I had to switch to a bigger pot than what I started out with. We should have halfed the recipe, but after last week we wanted to make sure we had enough!

Stuffed potatoes were a hit with the family.
With the chowder safely taken care of I worked on the potatoes. I boiled them but they weren't soft enough in some people's opinions so they threw them into the micro. They were too soft after that which made it difficult to scoop them out correctly, but I did it well enough that I had enough potato to mix with the other ingredients. My family loved them, but I was not a fan of the thyme - just don't like a lot of that - and so I let dad eat my portion!

Dinner was finished while the football was still going (what a game, right?!), so we ended up finishing eating before the movie started. I haven't actually watched Bambi in years, it's just so sad!, however I was able to remember many of the lines - enough that it annoyed my mother when I began quoting what would be said or done next. Oops.

Dad didn't last very long into the movie before he headed into the kitchen for dessert. He loves Angel Food cake. You ask him what he wants for his bday and this is what he begs for. So when he found out it was Angel Food for dessert he was a happy camper. It's no wonder he sped through dinner, ha ha! I made mini cakes, or tried to, using mom's mini bundt cakes. I must have put a bit too much in teh cups, though, because they baked up and over by a lot, but it worked out because they look like mushrooms you'd find in the woods! So I'm making a claim that I planned it that way!

The "mushrooms" before the "snow".
The "mushrooms" looked good covered in "snow" (whipped cream) which also fit the theme of Bambi. Except it's the winter scenes that are sad, we all know what comes with the snow in that movie. Thankfully I could blame the tears on my sinuses being hyperactive.

We have tons of leftovers, anyone want some? Next week we have Cinderella, and I'm still debating if I do a breakfast for dinner or go with a menu that follows "Cinderella's royal palace" there at Walt Disney World. Any ideas?

Cheesey Chicken & Veggie Chowder recipe
Stuffed roasted red bliss potatoes recipe

Saturday, November 17, 2012

WDW 2013: Pinocchio Themed Dinner

Just some of the ingredients for this week's meal!
After an unplanned break last week - I was super super super sick - we are back on track with the Tasteful Countdown for our 2013 Disney trip. This week's movie was Pinocchio. It's not one of my favorites, but it has the song that became Disney's "theme", so it is a must watch. I found out that dad's favorite Disney character growing up with Jiminy Cricket, so that also made it special! We're learning more about each other as a family as we go through this.

The menu was themed around Northern Italy as that is the area that Pinocchio is supposed to take place (who knew?! I always thought he was German! LOL). It was difficult to find something that was Northern Italian that wasn't really *out there* or expensive, or that anyone would eat. I finally found a website that linked recipes by region and away we went.

Dad helped with the menu, I'm trying to keep him excited about this adventure, and so we settled on a main dish of Chicken with a Fire roasted red pepper red sauce over fettucine, and the dessert was a Peach tart with a Cocoa-Almond crust (the best part of that being it was gluten free so mom could have it). I couldn't figure out a good side dish, but my friends at Golden Skate Forums helped me out and suggested Polenta. DorisPulaski gave me a good recipe for a creamy polenta so my menu was all set.

Thursday rolled around and I felt all set - until we realized we never went and got the ingredients. So mom made a quick trip to the store in between her Bible Study and PCC duties, and called me to let me know I'd have to get the stuff out of her car on my way home from the office. No problem, a quick drive over and I had the stuff and was on my way home. That's when I noticed that I was missing some key ingredients - mainly the roasted red peppers!

The peach tart's directions were scary,
but it was successful!
So I sat around hoping I'd just missed a bag in mom's car. No such luck, instead of roasted red peppers she'd bought roasted tomatos! Whoops! So as I started on the dessert mom hurried over to the store and got the missing peppers. The tart had me very nervous because I had to make a syrup with the peaches and I was so scared that I would burn the sugar (I didn't!). When I chose this dish, I just read the ingredients and not the instructions. There's a lot to this little tart! I didn't have all of the tools I needed, but I made do.

With the tart baking in the oven, I started on the main dish. It was easy peasy and I realized the sauce was going to be finished before the rest of the meal! Oh no! I took it off the heat and made the polenta. I was worried I would do it wrong, and so I think I cooked it a bit longer than what I should have, but how was I to know?! While I finished up the polenta I boiled the pasta, and finished the sauce. Unfortunately this meant the polenta was cold by the time it was ready to dish up. I guess I still need to work on my timing!

Main dish was awesome!
The chicken also had me worried, as I didn't want to cook it wrong. Mom "taught" me by doing it herself. She said I watched so I would be able to do it next time... okay, mom, whatever you say! Once everything was done I dished up the plates, sliced up the chicken breasts and served my family. Duane was at youth group, so he was dining on Pizza while we had our own Italian meal. He was fine with missing out - except that he wanted dessert! Mom and Dad loved everything on the menu, but I found I am not a fan of polenta, so mom was happy because that means she's gotten to have left over polenta for days!

We also decided that the next time we make the main dish that we'd make a double batch - we needed more sauce! The sauce was super yummy - and I'm not normally a fan of peppers, but this was really good! I definitely ate all of that on my plate, but I was full from lunch (I ate late, my bad!) so I didn't eat all the chicken and I skipped the polenta.

The tart was so good dad ate half of it!
Dessert was served about half way through the movie, and Duane was back from youth group, so he had nothing to worry about. I am not a fan of peaches at all, so I didn't try a piece, but judging by the reactions of my family they all loved it. I served it with ice cream and the extra peace syrup and they gobbled it up!

Because it was an almond crust, I used almond flour instead of the all purpose the recipe called for - so mom could have it. From what I could tell it didn't do anything to negatively affect the dish - though the dough was a little wetter than it called for. We also had to use frozen peaches, so the syrup was runny and we had more of it, which made the middle of the tart to be very soft, but everything was cooked through. Dad ate the last piece of it the same night, so obviously it was a win!

Next week is Thanksgiving, so no movie night - but I will be baking on Tuesday it looks like! Grandpa is coming from Anchorage to spend the holiday with us, he flies in on Wednesday and will be here through Saturday. Should be fun. Week after next we will be watching Bambi. Going to go with a vegetarian theme as I just find it wrong to eat forest animals while watching it! I'm having trouble coming up with the menu, so it's a good thing that I have a lot of time to figure it out!

If you have any vegetarian ideas please share them with me by commenting on this post! I need all the help I can get!

Links to recipes from this week meal:
Chicken Fettuccine with roasted red pepper sauce
DorisPulaski's Creamy Polenta
Peach Tart with Almond-Cocoa Crust

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Getting sick does slow you down (recap pt. 5)

After our long day at Sea World - and a late night drive back to the hotel - we all slept in the next morning. Haille and I had a breakfast date, which she didn't seem too happy about because she felt she was missing out on time at the hotel (because you know sitting in a hotel room watching people get dressed is super fun). I think she was mainly just tired of her trip (she'd been away from home for two weeks, and away from her mom for nearly a week, that's a lot for a little kid).

Still, we did the best we could to make her feel like this was a good thing. She wanted to take the bus, and we were going to do just that, but Gaylord didn't like the idea of us doing that, so he dropped us off at the front gate and we headed into Disneyland. Haille chattered the whole time about rides and how she needed shorts instead of the long black pants she had (they were the last clean pair we could find). She wanted to shop first thing, but we were already late for our breakfast, so I hurried her along which did not improve her mood.

I was feeling like I was coming down with a cold, you know that feeling where you're in slow motion and you know the dam is about to break on your sinuses. I was doing my best to not let it get to me, but I knew as the day wore on I was bound to poop out, but I was going to make sure the breakfast and morning was as good as we could make it.

This girl is the queen of word searches! So awesome!
Our breakfast was at the Carnation Cafe, which is one of my must dos whenever I go to Disneyland. Normally I sit outside, but with the heat I figured it would be better to be inside. The remodel was fantastic, and I was worried the menu would be different, so I was happy to see my favorite was still a menu item. I always get the Mickey Waffle. Haille the whole time said she wasn't going to eat anything, but I made her choose something and she also picked the waffles. We both picked the sausage, which was chicken and apple (which sounds better than it actually was). Haille immediately openned up the children's menu to the activities. A year ago she'd only do the color pages, now she was doing the word searches! Where did my little girl go?!

After ordering and getting into the activity book, Haille chilled out and we had a good breakfast. She definitely started laying the ground work for a guilt trip for me not being around as much now that I moved, but for the most part we kept it positive and she was laying out her plans on what she was going to buy in the stores. She had a gift card, but her grandma had it and we had to wait for them to get to the parks (which would be its own set of issues it seemed).

Once the food came, Haille realized she was hungry, and she lit up when she saw that the Mickey Waffles did, in fact, have a Mickey face! She didn't want a lot of syrup, but I doused mine. What's a waffle without syrup?! We both ate our waffles in no time flat but we left the sausage (I tried eating both but it just wasn't working for me). While we were eating a familiar face stopped by our table, Oscar! He's the longest working employee of the Disney parks. He started as a teen when Disneyland was still new, and while he never worked alongside Walt Disney he met him and worked for him. It'd been rumored that he had retired, so I asked about that.

Oscar shows off the Children waffles.
Oscar had planned to retire this year, but his wife got sick and he had to stay on to financially support her. They've been married for decades, and I could tell he was worried about her. But he said she was a fighter and that she'd be sure to beat this. Considering what my grandmother was going through, it touched me a lot and I just let him talk. He seemed to need to just vent, and I was more than willing to lend an ear. Haille even seemed sympathetic, even though she had no idea who he was. She is such a sweet, good hearted kid - even though she has her moments. After a while Oscar seemed to decide he needed to let us finish and off he went to greet more diners.

After breakfast we headed over to one of the "clothing shops" on Main Street to find some shorts for Haille that would match her top. There wasn't a whole lot of selection, but Haille spotted some Minnie Mouse ones that worked and thankfully they had some in her size. Once we changed her into those it was much better. I texted Judy to find out what the game plan was and we were told to stay on main street so we could meet up. But our few minute wait turned into over an hour.

While we waited we hung out in the shops and played around with the different toys and souveniers, Haille tried on hats and ears and other fun things, and we tried to make the best of it... but an hour is a long time to be in a store when you can hear the laughter and screams coming from further into the park. We should've just said we'd meet up with them whenever we could, but we were trying to do things as a group that day. But it was tough on both Haille and me. Why tour at the hottest part of the day?!

Haille let her inner pirate out in the gift shop.
By the time everyone was back together it was the heat of the day and the lines were insane. Haille wanted to go on the Matterhorn and the line was an hour long, but we got in line anyway and the rest of the group (sans Judy who was with us) headed off for smaller rides. We got almost up to the sleds and the ride broke down! So we grabbed some frozen lemonade and headed for Small World where there was almost no wait, and it was air conditioned. Haille ate most of Judy's frozen lemonade while we rode in the boat. She can make even the bummer stuff fun, that's for sure. Next thing we knew she was almost out of the stuff (she did feed her gma a few bites).

After that we tried, once again, for Splash Mountain by taking the train (which the line for that was long as was the wait). It was hot on the train, but it was nice to be off our feet. Haille thought the section where we saw the dinosaurs was real, and she wanted to know how Disney kept them alive. We told her Disney Magic, what could it hurt, right?

When the train got to the section closest to Splash Mountain we got out and looked to see what the wait time was and it was long, so I went to see what the fastpass return time was. It was far off and I asked the attendant what he would do in that situation and he said to just come back at night, that the line wouldn't be as bad. So that's what we planned to do. We went and got lunch across the way at the Critter Country eatery and tried getting in touch with the other half of our group. We were hoping to park hop in the evening and catch the Aladdin Show. We planned to meet at the park entrance, so off we went to go shopping on Main Street.

We stopped long enough to go through the Haunted Mansion again, because it's Haille's favorite ride, and then took the train all the way over. When the train let out at the Main Street station we found we were just in time for teh parade! So we stood up on the platform - pretty much had it to ourselves! - and watched. The Sound-sational parade is awesome. Drumline start it out, with Mickey playing the drums as well! It was a lot of fun to watch and Haille enjoyed it. Once that was over, I sat in the gift shop while she and Judy shopped for stuff.

Haille watching the parade

Once again it was a lot of waiting once shopping was done and it was meet up time. We waited for a long while before we decided to just head over to the other park to catch Aladdin without them when there they were. So we all made our way to California Adventure. We put our stuff in lockers and off we went. We were too late to make the final Aladdin show so we headed to Soarin'. This is a ride I cannot stomach without drugs, but I wanted to see Haille on the ride, she loves it, and so I was going to suck it up. Plus I didn't want to try and find the family later. I was feeling extremely sick by this point, but I was trying to tough it out. Just about the time we got through the line I realized I was too sick to do anything so I said I would sit outside and wait for them...

The whole time they were on the ride I continued to go downhill fast. I hate being sick at Disney. It's my favorite place to be, and when I can't enjoy it it is the worst feeling. I saw them come out of the ride and I made my way over, gave them the maps and photopass card and said I needed to go to the hotel and take meds and just be sick. Haille wouldn't come near me because I had germs, but was worried I couldn't make it back by myself (you and me both, kid) but I assured everyone I was fine. Gaylord wanted to take me back but I didn't want to ruin everyone else's night so I just (probably angrily) told him NO I would be fine I did it all by myself last year.

I went to the hotel, ordered chinese, took my meds and turned on the Olympics and went to sleep... woke up to the phone ringing saying my food was in the lobby. So in my disney pjs (heck yes I have many pairs of disney pjs) I went down, got my sweet and sour chicken and went back to my room. Ate dinner and then passed out in my room and didn't even notice when the others got in. When morning came I was still in no condition to do anything so the family went off to Universal Studios without me. I cannot begin to tell you how bummed I was to not get to go - again - to Hollywood Studios!

I spent the day watching an Auction Kings marathon on TV, and then late in the afternoon I decided to do laundry. Haille was out of undies (we found out later that she was having accidents and instead of telling us, she was just switching out panties) so I needed to take care of her stuff. That was an adventure, both the washing machine and dryer that I originally chose were full of coin so it wouldn't take my money but it wouldn't give it back either! I was at the mercy of maintenance, and then they didn't even refund me my detergent I'd already put in (because that's what the instructions told me to do!).

Once that adventure was over, I was feeling pretty good -not great- and I was itching to get out and take pics at Disney... so I texted Judy that I was headed out. It was another mistake, I was on cold meds and by myself in Disneyland... I made it to the park and lost all energy, but darn it I was there and I was going to make the best of it. So after standing on main street for 20-30 minutes (no joke, I'm sure I looked stoned out of my mind) I started walking towards Adventureland. Not even sure why! I heard booming coming from there and realized it must be time for FANTASMIC which is my favorite evening show in WDW... and I wanted to see if Murphy was out as s/he was MIA last year. I got to the show just in time to see that Murphy was not there, but it was only the first showing.

For those wondering who the heck Murphy is, Murphy is what Cast Members call Maleficent's Dragon in the show. The prop is huge and amazing.

I caught the eye of a cast member as they let the crowds go after the showing and asked if the dragon would make it out for the second show. He said he couldn't promise anything but he knew what the issue was and that they were working on it. He said if at all possible I should sit it out and wait. I took his advice... meaning I once again missed the Wishes at the Castle... I haven't seen the fireworks show at the castle since 2006! ugh! LOL However I still got to watch the show and it was as always beautiful. And, since I was doped up on the cold meds I was easily moved to tears.

Watching Fantasmic put me in a good mood after being invaded by *those* groups that suddenly forget their manners and english. I'm not being racist, I just find it incredibly convenient that these people were talking to each other and people they don't know in perfectly fine english until they're asked to not invade someone's space. Then they look at you like you've spoken Klingon or something. Not cool, guys.
As the show neared the Maleficent part I was more and more nervous that she would not turn into a dragon. In fact I was getting ready to pack up as I thought I saw her coming back out in her human form when the whole place went dark except for the glowing eyes of the... Dragon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't think I've cheered so hard in my life. It was amazing. Jaw dropping. My dreams come true. Maleficent has always been my favorite "baddie" and I LOVE the dragon. The one at WDW is impressive as a big head and neck, but the one at Disneyland is a full body dragon designed to look just like the one in the movie....

I'd seen video, pictures... read other reports, but I was still overcome in the moment! She was amazing, and I was mad at Mickey for a good long while after he vanquished her! I mean, how dare he have the courage to retake his dream! Didn't he know I wanted it to last forever?! I truly feel that this dragon would have excited Walt Disney in such a way that he'd have been over the moon - and he'd make sure that she wasn't as tempermental as she seems to be!

After the show I decided to head back to the hotel. I think I stayed in the parks all of three hours, but I knew it was a full final day tomorrow and I wanted to make it through the whole thing. So I made my way back and the gang had beaten me by half an hour back to the room. Not too bad. We made a game plan for our last day and then we all went straight to bed.

Next up - A California Dream Come True...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

WDW 2013: A Tasteful Countdown

With Disney almost a year away, I have been trying to find a way to get the family more involved in counting down. With all of us being adults (or nearly so) some of the tried and true methods (countdown chaings, for example) I was at a loss... until I read an article by Chip and Co. that mentioned doing a family movie night and have dinner that went with the movie. That sounded like something I would be a bit more adult than most, so after talking with the family that's what we decided.

It also helps because mom, the main cook of the house, is busy on Thursday, and this would give her a bit of a break (it was normally taco night, and dad was getting tired of tacos). So I think that was the true selling point.

Tonight was the first themed dinner night, and I have to say it was an amazing success! Tonight's theme was Snow White - what better way to start than with the movie that started it all (yes Mickey'd been around for a while, but we're going for feature length). I worked for a week finding the perfect menu (thank you, Pinterest) and decided on Pork for the main dish, and of course apples for dessert.

Pie ala Apple pre-baked.
Lookin' good "raw"!
I started cooking on Wednesday, baking (my first) apple pie while handing out candy to Trick or Treaters. A process that should've been an hour, or at the most two, turned into four due to all the starting and stopping. Still I got that and extra pie dough done to finish the baking and cooking for Thursday.

Today I came home from working at the office to bake my second dessert - "Pie ala Apple". I only had a couple of hours before I needed to head over to the courthouse to watch a long time friend get sworn in as someone able to actually "practice" law. So very excited for him! Congratulations Paul!

Once that was over and we were back home I started work on our main dish. I chose the "Cranberry Apple Glazed Pork Loin" mainly because it tied into the movie and it sounded amazing. (Wondering why I chose Pork for Snow White? How about the whole part of the huntsman using a pig heart to trick the queen into believing that he'd killed the princess. "...Snow White still lives, fairest in the land. 'Tis the heart of a pig you hold in your hand.")

The finished pork loin. So good!
I'm not a big fan of cranberry (I hate it) but when it's paired with apple it's edible. It took an hour and a half for it to cook (with me basting every 10-15 minutes) and the whole house smelled divine! Our sides were wild rice and almonds, and buttered carrots. Perfectly woodsy and in tune with the movie. The whole family scarfed it down, and we enjoyed watching the original Disney Classic.

For being the first time for making apple pie, that, too, came out well... and we all ate way more than we should have of the sweet treats! But it was totally worth it! Next week is Pinocchio and I'm actually excited to tackle the recipes I've chosen! But you'll have to wait and see what that is!

Stay tuned each week for the latest edition of our cooking adventure!
Countdown with us by following me on Pinterest!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Wait, Shamu doesn't work for the Mouse! (recap pt 4)

Haille takes coloring seriously. Everything must be just so.
Seaworld in San Diego meant getting up early, getting ready and getting out the door. Thankfully - due to my getting sick the day before and leaving the park early - we had a lot of time to sleep before our day began (yay earlyish bedtimes). Haille slept in her own bed all that night and I got a decent night sleep. Not long after breakfast we loaded up the cars - the girls weren't happy that they didn't get to ride together, but neither car could hold everyone. So, for safety's sake, we split up like we did for our day at the beach.

The girls packed up blankets, pillows, coloring books and crayons and off we went. Judy and I got to have a great deal of catch up chit chat and then we realized that we hadn't fixed our adrs for our revised plans - so I spent the better part of our trip on the phone. The call kept getting dropped so I ended up with four or five different Cast Members before I could get it changed!

We fielded lots of questions about what we would be doing from the back seat. Having never been to Sea World, Haille was unsure as to why we wouldn't be going to Disneyland again that day. After assuring her there were lots of rides and she'd get to see whales and dolphins up close, she was satisfied that her grandma knew what she was doing. It's always nice to have the official okay from the six year old! LOL Haille then said she wanted to do all the tall rides and the water rides, we promised we'd do our very best to get her on them, but just like Disney it was going to be crowded and we couldn't do fastpass. She said that would be fine. I'm telling you I have got her trained!

Sweet dreams, sweet princess!
Haille did great in the car, even though it was a long car ride and she was tired. She eventually decided to nap for most of the way down, so she missed out on the smoggy views, but I think it was the best thing for her as it was going to turn out to be an incredibly long day. If there's one thing this trip taught me - other than never go to SoCal in August - is that the girls can handle far more disappointment and frustration than adults can! LOL

The car ride was uneventful but long - nearly two hours that went on for eternity (I told you, the girls did better than I did) - and we finally made it to the gates of Sea World. Haille woke just in time to see the park come into view and she began to talk a mile a minute about all of the rides we were going to have to go on. She really wanted to do the water rides to get her gramma and aunt Toni wet. We felt the love... maybe...

After lathering up with the sunscreen (I was bright red all week) and going through the turnstiles, we grabbed some maps and tried to make a game plan. We headed off in the direction of the dolphins first to see if we could get the girls close enough to pet them. We got there and found a decent sized crowd, but the girls quickly found themselves close to the edge of the pool. After watching the trainers interact and explain some of the dolphin tricks/training/life they brought them up to the sides to begin petting.

Haille was jazzed to pet the Dolphin and get splashed by him!

This is where it got hysterical - at least for me. One of the tricks of the dolphin trade is, of course, splashing. So on command, the dolphin the girls were petting took his tail, scooped up a bunch of water and SPLASH! Direct hit in the face of both girls. Now Haille LOVED it, but Haille Elizabeth you may recall does not like getting her face wet. Her reaction was priceless - and a little sad. She wouldn't go back towards the pool for anything, even when the trainer brought the dolphin up to say sorry. Haille, of course, was right back up and checking out the dolphins.

With that traumatic event behind us, we grabbed a bite to eat befove we headed to watch Shamu rock it out in his arena in One Ocean. This show was so much better when the trainers were allowed in the water with the animals. I get that Shamu eating a trainer does not make for a great entertainment, but it's such a shame as you can tell just how much the show relied on that interaction.

Because of the girls' encounter with the dolphins they decided they did not want to be in the soak zone, so we headed way up the bleachers. One thing that the Orlando location has over San Diego is they cover their arenas so you are out of the sun. No such luck here. It was hot and just blah, but once Shamu and family came out you forgot how yucky it felt - and it was definitely cooler in SD than in Anaheim! Both girls were in awe of everything, and when Shamu came out to splash the crowd their jaws dropped! I wish I'd thought to get a picture of them because it was hysterical. Hailee looked on horrified and Haille was wishing she'd sat in the soak zone. The two couldn't be more different, but it's their differences that bring them together into a dynamic duo!

Had to use the long lens to get decent shots from our seats.
Once the show was over we split up to allow Haille to ride the water ride. It was a shorter version of Grizzly river rapids at Disneyland... and the wait was over an hour long, but little miss Haille didn't mind. She just kept reminding us that the lines moved faster than what the sign said they would. The little bugger was pretty spot on with that. Though, again, there was not enough covering and as such it was very hot in teh sun. We spent a lot of time taking turns putting my frozen water bottles on teh back of our necks and talking about anything other than the wait and the heat.

At one point a breeze blew by and we caught a horrible smell. Haille was very loud in voicing her concern over what could make such a disgusting smell and we pointed out a flock of flamingoes. She decided they were not good birds to have around because they stunk. This got a laugh from most of the people around us. We got about 5 minutes from the boats when the ride stopped for about twenty minutes. Our "luck" had followed us, but we decided to stick it out and made it down eventually.

Haille knew the ride would be worth the wait!
The ride is maybe 90 seconds, so that was disappointing, but Haille enjoyed it. She loved the idea that I would get soaked - and oh, did I get soaked. We all three did. Haille squealed in delight and laughed like a lunatic every time water came over the boat. The child is crazy! We got off the ride and went looking for a towel. Couldn't find one, but the heat dried us quickly enough.

We texted the other half of the group and planned to meet up with them at the tidal pool. Haille was all about touching and holding the different sea creatures. I went and got something cool to drink as we'd long ago run out of my water bottles waiting in line.

Judy went to find a bathroom so I was in charge of keeping Haille occupied. There was no need to worry, she was talking with the tide pool keepers and asking questions... and petting sea anenomeas. It's so funny to see such a girly girl be as into slimey animals as she is, but she never had a problem. She loved the tickling feeling of the star fish on her hand. And she was very interested to find out what each animal did and how it lived. She is such a learner and I hope she always keeps that interest in life and education - because she's brilliant (yes I am biased).

Haille was all about the tidal pools and their animals.
After we met up with the other half of the group I took off for a while by myself. I needed a break. I was hot, tired, and just... yeah. I wasn't interested in what the rest wanted to do and I was hoping to get to see some other parts of the park. So off I wandered. It was boring without the kid, but I needed the space. I finally found my way to the seals and sea lions, and realized the Clyde and Seymore show - so I texted Judy and held down some seats close to the action. It was considered a soak zone, so we split up. It was all a lie, though, we didn't even get near anyone getting wet. Such a bummer.

Haille, again, loved the show. Especially when Seymore was break dancing. Haille couldn't get over how silly the animals were. It was a short show - and it was cheesey - but it was nice to just sit with the sun going down. After that show we went to one last show - the Cirque de la Mer. This would become the highlight of the trip for most of us - especially Haille. She wanted to see it again, unfortunately we saw the last show (ever). It was humorous as well as impressive. You couldn't watch everything that was happening at once.

One thing the girls have in common - they love to SHOP!
After the show it was time for shopping. The girls were all about getting a lot of Sea World swag and gramma and grampa were all in for the shopping spree. We ended up in one of the bigger Shamu Shops. Gaylord and I went over to find out about this really cool picture op while the girls spent money.

We were all spent by then and so we got pizza in the park and then headed to the car. We had a two hour drive ahead of us, and another day at Disney the next day, and we needed to get back to the hotel. So no Shamu rocks for us or fireworks, but over all I think the girls had fun.

I can now cross going to the original Sea World off my list. I am still not sold on it - though San Diego is better than Orlando for some things. I'm just not into animal attractions like this. Disney's Animal Kingdom park fulfills my animal love far more, but I'm not anti Sea World. It's just not how I want to spend a day or two. Especially not in August (or June). But overall it was a great memory for the girls and that's what counts.

Next up - Day two at Disney which means neice and aunt time!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

WDW 2013: It's Official, We're Going!

We interupt the Disneyland 2012 recap to bring you this exciting (for me) tidbit on vacation plans for 2013!

Not that this was ever doubt, but it's finally *official* as I just (ok well I got busy doing other stuff so I didn't just get off the phone now) got off the phone. Even though dad hasn't put in for the time off yet, and we don't know some of the other details, I have us booked at the Art of Animation for October 2-12. Those dates will be played with, I'm sure, but it's nice to have a jumping off point.

I had another fantastic Cast Member help me book our vacation, and he gave me a heads up that he had a "good feeling" that we would be seeing some great discounts for when we would be travelling. I've seen others report when CMs give them the "insider info" and have it be wrong, so I'm not going to believe it till I see it/get it (I know that we may have to change resorts, too, to get them as AoA is not qualified currently for the discounts).

We'll be staying in the Cars themed Family Suite at the Art of Animation, with the Dining Plan and park hopper passes. We also have the Magical Express picking us up at the airport. Very excited!

www.MyVacationCountdown.com Ticker

Monday, October 1, 2012

Disneyland 2012: Heat Exhaustion and Princess Treatments (recap pt. 3)

Haille at the Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique.
So, what was your first ride ever at Disney? For Haille it was Pirates of the Caribbean last year, me? I don't remember... it might have been PotC or it could have been Hailee's first ride, The Jungle Cruise. Once again Haille asked if things were real and we played the same game - it's all up to you to decide what's real. She came away believing the animals in the Jungle Cruise are real. (really, kid? really?!) We would come to find out in the next few rides that certain rides were not the best for Hailee. She is not the daredevel that Haille is and so we spent a lot of time all week seperated as the girls had very different ideas on what would be the most fun to do.

But, don't let the girl fool you (she did us) Haille decided she wanted to go on the Indiana Jones ride again. You know, the one with the snake. The one she said she didn't want to do again. I think she was worried she'd miss out somehow if she didn't do it, so off she went. We get in the car, it starts and both girls start to freak. So much for that idea! What was super "amusing" was after getting off the ride they stopped the sniffles and began arguing over who was more scared. Ok, girls...

Because the lines were soooooooooooo long, and it was sooooooooooooo hot we decided to get something to eat before we headed over to the castle where the girls would get their Princess on. We were unable to get a table inside so we were out in the sun eating some very warm food and just melting. I was not drinking enough water and it was really affecting my mood and my energy. (I was also coming down with a cold we'd find out later in the week.) We at least got to sit and decide our plan of action. We had about a half hour to kill before heading over to the castle so Haille, Judy and I went to the Haunted Mansion (Haille wanted to see her ghosts again) and Hailee, Aana and Gaylord went to Fantasyland where there were rides that she would enjoy.

Haille remembered a great deal about the Haunted Mansion and was so happy to have another ghost in her lap. After that and a round of "can we go right back on"s we headed over to visit the Fairy-Godmothers-In-Training for a little bit of magic. Haille had given Hailee the 411 on how the whole thing worked, and the girls worked hard on Aana to allow Hailee to have a bit of make up. So when they walked into the shop both girls knew what dress they wanted. They still looked at the other dresses (Haille was tempted to pick the Merida dress but decided it would be too hot to wear out in the park), but both chose Belle's ballgown. Haille'd decided this months in advance, so it was no surprise - especially since both listed Belle as their favorite.

Haille spent most of her time making sure the FGIT did everything just the same way she had it last year. Which was hysterical because when she told the FGIT that she'd been there the year before she also told her she didn't remember anything about it. Yeah, every time we turned around she was asking "aren't you going to do ____ next?" They had two FGITs doing the girls' hair and then one that flitted about and did their nails and make up and face jewels. She royally confused Haille, to the point where Haille clammed up a bit. She felt she was being made fun of (she wasn't) and that's one thing she will not tolerate. Poor kid, but she came around and it made for some memorable moments (of which I got on video)!

(video to come later)

Besties in the carriage, from their
Disney's Photopass Photoshoot.
After they got dolled up they got to have a photoshoot, and it was quite possibly the cutest thing ever. The only thing the girls didn't get were princess shoes as Haille had had a bad time with them last year, so she talked Hailee out of trying them on. Besides, I don't think they had them in one of the sizes we needed. Both looked so sweet and had a blast being the princesses that they were. Looking back at the photos I wish they'd gone barefoot in them just because it would've been more princessy than their walking shoes, but over all I just love them!

Once done with that we decided, again, to head in different directions for a bit to try and get on some rides. Haille wanted to go on Splash Mountain, but it was down for some reason so we went on Haunted Mansion - again - and then headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean. Afterwards we tried for Dole Whips but the machine was down. This was quickly becoming the trip of broken.

By this point I was wasted. It was just too hot! Haille was talking about the pool at the hotel since we weren't getting on any water rides anytime soon... and then I got very sick. It was obvious I was stupid and not drinking enough fluids of anykind... and I was overheated. We headed for the castle to hopefully catch the others and take a breathev from the park. At the very least I wanted to go home by myself and just cool off, but no one wanted me going alone. Judy and Haille got me a Mickey Bar while we waited for our meet up. I ate most of it before feeling worse.

Back at the hotel everyone went to the pool. I stayed in the room knocking back an amazing amount (for me) of water and checked my phone messages. I got one from a family member saying something I didn't understand and the one from my mom saying to give her a call that she didn't want to ruin my vacation but it was about gma. I told Gaylord who was on his way down to the pool, and he hurried down to tell Judy. I called my mother and found out g'ma had been admitted to the hospital and it wasn't looking good. That they didn't know all of what was going on, but that my dad was headed at that moment to Anchorage. I told her to keep me updated, but that I wouldn't be coming home any earlier than planned.

This is where I am going to just cut off and say I know this confused people, but the fact of the matter is (and was) that I needed to stay to bring Haille back home to Alaska. I know we *could* have cut her vacation short as well, but this was not her close family (technically not family at all though she spent most of her Christmases with her) and she wouldn't understand why she had to leave her gma for mine. I also would not have been able to do anything up there if I left and went home anyway. It was high drama enough as it was. This alienated me from family because *someone* was causing emotions to rise on both ends. It was a disgusting move on their part and one we're still healing from. I felt very much alone in California from then on, though Judy did her best to help me out. I vented long and hard to her all week as the text messages came in and my parents kept me in the loop.

Haille was so sweet to me all week and very understanding when I needed to talk with her gma alone. She kept my spirits up and I will forever greatful.

Not wanting to end on a downer note, but the next day was Sea World so we would be getting up fairly early so we went to bed early enough. THAT was an adventure, and will be my next update.

With that we wish you a good night, and we'll see you tomorrow...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Disneyland 2012: The Beach & A Very Goofy Dinner (recap Pt. 2)

Again, I apologize for the long wait between updates. I'm going to try and plug out the reporting and have it done by the end of the weekend just so I can feel good about moving on with my blogging.

As stated back in part 1, the girls decided to sleep together in Haille and my room, so I spent most of the night listening for them to have meltdowns, or fall out of bed... Hailee Elizabeth was sick and had an AWFUL cough, which also didn't help as I am a super light sleeper. Both girls also snore and talk in their sleep.

As always, Haille tuned into the Disney Channel right away
our first morning in SoCal. So predictable!
Needless to say we woke up far too early and I was feeling awful. For me I don't understand why people get drunk enough to deal with hangovers the next morning. I don't need booze to feel that lousy, and I don't understand why someone would even WANT to make themselves feel that way!

The girls kept themselves entertained with the coloring books and crayons that I brought with me for them (that Haille found in my suitcase while she "helped me" unpack). Both were still tired as they were pretty zoned for most of the morning while we waited for everyone to get ready and decide on what we were going to do.

After a little debate it was decided we'd head to the beach before going to dinner that night at Goofy's Kitchen. The weather looked good for a day at the beach, but we all forgot it was SUNDAY, which meant we were in for a crowded beach. However by the time we realized it, we were committed. We took two cars as the rental car did not have enough seatbelts for all and we were going too far to "fudge it." So Judy, Haille and I went in the Saturn while Gaylord, Aana and Hailee went in the rental.

Haille was excited to be heading to the sun and the sand.
We followed Gaylord and... got lost. We ended up driving around quite a bit before parking well away from the area we were hoping to be in. We didn't get to lunch on the pier as we'd planned, and we got there to find it a tad windy and the water was rough. But we made the best of it. The girls had their pails and shovels and swimsuits and we hit the sand. Hailee Elizabeth does not enjoy the water, where as Haille is a fish. So one spent most of her time building sandcastles while the other one squealed in delight as the waves continued to crash on top of her!

I was unable to wear a  swimsuit to the beach (let's just say I was not feeling well), and Judy couldn't find a place to change so we were in full clothing and switching off to hold onto Haille as she crept further and further out into the surf.

Even with the inability to allow little miss fish to swim out into the water we all had a blast. At one point we had dolphins playing in the water just off shore. The girls were so excited to see them - though Haille wanted to swim out to them and swim with them. Weirdo. We wouldn't let her and soon after the dolphins went away and the wind surfers seemed to take over - which Haille also wanted to do. *facepalm* That's our little daredevil I suppose!

Gaylord and Hailee Elizabeth building sand castles.
Haille and Judy getting wet - and sand - everywhere!

Sleepy girl after a fun day in the sand and water.
On our way back to the hotel from the beach both girls crashed hard, which was good because once we got back to the hotel it was showers all around and getting dressed to meet up with some familiar characters. Haille knew what to expect so she spent the hour leading up to dinner giving Hailee a heads up on what to expect. I really do think having someone their age helped both girls deal with the intensity of Disney. I think having been there and done that also helped Haille not have the same reaction she did last year.
The girls dressed up nice to meet Goofy and his band of merry chefs as well as some extra surprises. With their homemade autograph books in hand the girls were on a mission to fill those pages with the signatures of any and all they could find. This, I think, also helped keep the apprehension at bay for meeting the characters.
The girls are natural besties, and told everyone that!
We got to the Disneyland Hotel and made our way inside. We had visited last year while they were under major renovation - top it off we came in a different door, too! - so we didn't know where to go. As always a friendly CM was there to help us out. While Judy waited in line to check in for our reservation (we were 15 minutes late, ugh!) I took the girls to go crush pennies to put with their autograph book. By the time we were done, it was time to get in line to get our pic taken with Chef Goofy!
While we stood there waiting our turn, Haille gave Judy and I a scare. She asked if Goofy was real, or if he was someone in a costume. We asked her what she thought and she said she thought it was a peron in a costume. My heart nearly broke. I was also playing the song "Age of Not Believing" in my head. She wanted confirmation if she was right, but neither of us gave a definite answer. We told her the beauty of Disney magic is YOU had to be the one to decide.
Our worries were for not, though, because after meeting with Goofy, getting her book signed and pic taken she came away saying that that was the *real* Goofy! WHEW! We were seated and immediately there was Pluto - Haille's favorite character from last year. She chatted with him, petted him, and then asked him if he remembered her (and, of course, he did). We also ended up with Minnie, Chip, Show White and Alice. When Snow White came to our table she asked the girls what their names were. Imagine the confusion that ensued when she realized they have the same name! She thought they were sisters, but we quickly explained it all to the Princess. Hailee was over the moon because Snow is one of her favorites.
The food was as good as we remembered it, and we gorged ourselves on prime rib, fruit, and all sorts of goodies. Their buffet makes sure no one - even the pickiest eaters like me - go hungry. Haille's only complaint is they cook the broccoli. Go figure. It was Aana's birthday that night so she got the song and cupcake, the girls each got a cupcake, too, saying "Just Graduated". They were pretty impressed with the buttons and wore them the rest of the night.
All in all it was a good taste of what was to come the next day, and we were all pleased with how the girls did. It was decided that they would sleep in seperate rooms that night so I could hopefully get some sleep. I didn't get much as Haille was feeling rather homesick (and would for several nights), so Monday was not the most fun... but that's for the next update.
Haille showing off her autograph book made by an awesome
person, wonder who that was? ;)
The one character that was not at dinner was
Mickey Mouse himself, so the statue was
the next best thing I guess!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Where I've Been...

Wow, I can't believe it's been a month since I started my trip report. However it was very difficult month. On September 12, my grandmother passed away. You may remember I mentioned that she was in the hospital in my last post - she never got better this last time. She was surrounded by family in her final days.

"On Wednesday, September 12, Edwina Jane Reitter, 79, left her beloved home in Anchorage where she had shared her life with family, friends and husband of 63 years. She fought the good fight and is now with her Lord and Savior watching in anticipation for others to join her in eternity.

Born to Clyde and Bessie Jones, in Meridian, California, on May 17, 1933, Edwina was preceded by brother Alvie Jones and sister Margarie Jones Taws. Edwina attended grammar school in Meridian and Sutter Union High School.

In the late 1940's, Edwina caught Bob's eye while babysitting his brother's children; soon Bob was stopping by to borrow the dictionary to work crossword puzzles. They married on December 9, 1950, and began their incredible journey together.

Edwina was ALWAYS ready to entertain or just add another plate for more people. She loved to cook the favorites during the holidays.

When Edwina and Bob arrived in Alaska on vacation in 1971, she embraced everything about Alaska. She was an avid fisherman, fish wheeling, clamming, salmon and halibut fishing. She loved to hunt, dropping two Caribou with one shot. She even tried a hand at prospecting in Chicken. She sewed parkas for each member of the female side of the family, adding mukluks and parka ruffs as well.

Edwina loved working for the Alaska Court System where she retired as Supervisor of In Court Clerks. She and Bob took motorhome trips visiting family, friends and sights throughout the United States. They extended their family to include the members of their local RV group.

Edwina is survived by her husband Bob; son Robert and wife Kathy of Grants Pass, OR; son Alan and wife Susie of Kenai; son Jeff of Anchorage; grandchildren Louisa and husband, Jim James of Tok; Toni and Duane of Kenai, and great grandchildren Trinity and Demitri of Tok.

A Service to Celebrate Edwina's Life will be held on Saturday, September 15 at 4 p.m. at ChangePoint Church, 6689 ChangePoint Drive in Anchorage. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to your favorite charities."

I'm now in charge of getting the family photos in order and scanned and ready for distribution at some point. It's been a challenge, but I love looking at all the photos! I even posted some on facebook and am learning the stories behind them and meeting family friends that way. (Also had an ex of my dad's contact me... which was awkward.)

Read more here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/adn/obituary.aspx?n=edwina-reitter&pid=159877393&fb_action_ids=10151220439065664&fb_action_types=my-memorials%3Aremember&fb_source=timeline_og&action_object_map=%7B%2210151220439065664%22%3A416427591751600%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210151220439065664%22%3A%22my-memorials%3Aremember%22%7D&action_ref_map=[]#fbID=733500663#storylink=cpy