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December 5, 2010

Santa's Reindeer Roundup

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During the holiday season, Santa's Reindeer Roundup comes to Big Thunder Ranch at Disneyland. Santa and Mrs. Claus greet guests in the nearby cabin, while Santa's reindeer, all eight of them, live in the corral area.

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I recently had the opportunity to speak to Maggie Gitchen, Guest Service Manager at the Circle D, who oversees all of the animal areas at the park. Her charges include horses, goats, sheep, cows, donkeys, cockatoos, three pardoned turkeys, and, at this time of year, Santa's reindeer.

Laura Gilbreath: How long have you been working with the reindeer?

Maggie Gitchen: I've been working with the reindeer for five years. It's challenging, but it's a lot of fun.

LG: What's your favorite thing about the reindeer?

MG: I think they have the softest looking noses I've ever seen on an animal. They look like velvet. They're different in personality than any of the other animals I've worked with. They're a little skittish, but very pretty.

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LG: You mentioned they are skittish - how do they react with guests around them all day?

MG: They're skittish in that we can't walk up to them and handle them or lead them anywhere. So we have to learn how to move around them and do it safely without exciting them or chasing them. We go through a special training with new people so they learn how to be around them and not excite them. You never trap them in a corner - you always give them a space to move away from you.

LG: We had some really hot weather here in November - how did they handle that?

MG: Actually, they have a special [lining] in their nose, and they breathe heavy and it exchanges the heat so the heat is blown out with their breath. It really helps them deal with the heat when their bodies are ready for winter. And we make sure they have lots of water.

LG: Does Santa come by every once in a while and make sure things are all right?

MG: He's right next door in the little cabin all season, and then on Christmas Eve he harnesses up the reindeer and takes off back to the North Pole, loads up everything and takes off for the night. In the morning he lands them back, puts them back in the pen and then walks around the area in a smoking jacket, all relaxed since his job is done for the year.

The reindeer are pretty tired, but we make sure they have lots to eat to build their energy back up and we make sure they are healthy.

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LG: What do the reindeer eat?

MG: They have a special reindeer feed - a ground-up grain which is specifically made for reindeer. And we have a grass cage that they eat all day long. That's what they do in the wild, so it's best to have food constantly available to them. You know they're happy when they're laying down chewing their cud.

LG: Do they have any special treats, like apples or even candy canes?

MG: The night that they go out for Christmas Eve they get some carrots and some apples.

LG: Other than the North Pole, where are reindeer found?

MG: They are found in the northern areas of most [northern] countries. Reindeer are actually a breed of caribou that came from the Laplands [in northern Finland, most of it above the Arctic Circle]. They are smaller than the caribou found in North America, but these are the ones that were actually used for harness work and they pulled sleds in the snow. They have been used as domestic animals but they are not totally tame.

LG: What little known facts can you tell us about reindeer?

MG: They have a big round hoof - they call them "shovel feet". It gives them traction on the snow and ice, so when they get running and they take off and they fly it gives them traction to get going. It also helps when they drink water - if there's ice on the water they use their hoof to break through the ice.

Their antlers are shed every year. They grow out in the spring and will shed late in the winter. The antlers are actually alive when they have their velvet on the outside and then they will start to die and the velvet starts to peel off and and they rub them to get that off. Then they have hard antlers, which they need for protection. The moms use them to protect the babies, and then the males use them [during mating season] when they fight for the females.

LG: I know our time is up, but one last question - the thing that we all want to know: How do reindeer really fly?

MG: How do they fly? Magic.


December 6, 2010

Update on the Happiest Turkeys on Earth

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When I spoke to Maggie Gitchen recently about the reindeer at Santa's Reindeer Roundup, I also had the opportunity to ask her about the three Presidentially pardoned turkeys that are also in her care - Pecan from 2008 and Courage (pictured below) and Carolina from 2009.

(Sadly, the practice of sending the pardoned turkeys to Disneyland or Walt Disney World was discontinued this year - Apple and Cider went to Mt. Vernon instead. I for one will miss that little tradition.)

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Laura Gilbreath: Pecan is over two years old - that's a good lifespan for a turkey.

Maggie Gitchen: It's excellent. Florida helped us with a special diet that is high in fiber and low in calories, so they are living much longer.

LG: So just like people, a high fiber, low calorie diet increases your longevity.

MG: Yes, I guess so. Carolina and Courage look really good, very, very healthy. We don't bring [Pecan] out on exhibit any more. He's older and his legs tend to swell so we don't bring him out. But he does really well [backstage] - we take him out in the yard for exercise. He likes it, and appears to be very happy. I go in there and I scratch him under the feathers and he likes it. Who'd have thought a turkey would have character?

LG: Do you find that they are all have different personalities?

MG: Yes, they do. Courage is extremely aggressive about his food, but Carolina is not quite so. And then Pecan is totally tame in comparison to the other two. He's really mellow.


Look for Courage and Carolina (below) at Big Thunder Ranch where one of them is usually on display along the Big Thunder Trail between Fantasyland and Frontierland.

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December 8, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Are We There Yet?

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December - must be time for our annual trip to Walt Disney World! I think this might be my very favorite time of year to visit - the weather isn't hot, the crowds are relatively light, and all of the holiday events are in full swing. This year it looks like we're going to have colder than usual temperatures for our visit - mostly in the 50s and 60s during the day, and 30s and 40s at night! We'll be sipping hot spiced wine instead of frozen margaritas.

As I write this, it's the day before our trip and I haven't even started packing yet - but I'll be packing the long-sleeve shirts and jeans rather than the tank tops and tees! Better throw in some gloves, too.

The main reason for this visit (apart from the holiday festivities) is the RADP Meet December 10-13 - it's an annual gathering of some of us who know each other from the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup. That's how all of us Disney fans communicated with each other in the days before the World Wide Web, discussion boards, and Facebook! This is the 15th holiday meet - you can read more about it at http://meets.radp.org/radp15.

It's a great group of people and we have a lot silly fun together.

But we're also doing something new on this trip - Lee and I are going to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park. We're going on Thursday, and are hoping the early December mid-week crowds won't be too bad. I've heard a lot of good things about that area and am looking forward to seeing it for myself.

I am planning to post a blog daily - though some of them might not be as detailed or photo-filled as I might like depending upon how much time I have to work on them. I do have to sleep sometime! :-)

On a different topic...not too long ago I posted a blog about A Little Disney in Your Decorating. I'm sure a lot of you incorporate some Disney in your holiday decorations and I thought I would get a fair number of replies, but the response has been, well, underwhelming. :-( It's not too late - I won't be putting that particular blog together until after I return from Florida, so if you'd like to share, please use either the Feedback Form link or the Comment section below. I really hope to hear from more of you - and thank you to those who have already replied.

The next time I post it'll be from Florida!


December 9, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 1

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It's late, and we have to get up fairly early (especially by west coast standards) to go to Universal tomorrow, so this is going to be a bit short...

Had a very easy travel day today - smooth flights and minimal waits for our bags and rental car. We were at Disney's Boardwalk Villas just about an hour after we landed in Orlando!

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First order of business after unpacking was going to Epcot's International Gateway to upgrade Lee's Disneyland Annual Pass to a Premier Pass that is good for both Disneyland AND Walt Disney World. Problem is...they do so few of those that they don't have the printer at the International Gateway - it's at Guest Relations at the FRONT of Epcot. Kind of hard to get there from the back of Epcot! After a bit of consultation they decided to have a manager walk Lee in, with our promise that we were going to the front of the park to get his pass. Which we did. (I was pretty happy because my Premier Pass, which I had not yet used at WDW, worked just fine the first time I used it at a turnstile - I wasn't sure it would.)

It was a chilly evening, so we had dinner at Seasons in The Land - partly because it was indoors! We both had the "Sustainable Fish - Nicoise style". The fish was salmon, so not very exotic, but it was pretty good - I'd do that again.

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We also shared the Yukon Gold potato soup with bacon. That was really tasty - and would have been quite filling on its own.

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After dinner we walked back to the American Adventure where we met up with Deb Wills, Deb Koma, and Mike Scopa. We were sort of listening to Jodi Benson and the Candlelight Processional, but mostly we were chatting.

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Mike and DebW left just before the show ended to avoid the crowds, but Deb, Lee and I stayed for Illuminations.

It was a bit, umm...nippy there alongside World Showcase Lagoon. Lee had kind of scoffed at me before we left our room when I put on most of my cold weather clothes (heavy jacket, gloves, and hat) and he went much lighter - but I think he was wishing for something a little warmer by that time. :-)

The show was incredible, as always. The extra holiday tag that they add at this time of the year is just awesome. We had a little bit of a "bonus" experience - we were actually downwind of the fireworks (not good planning on our part!), and in addition to smoke we also had bits of cardboard "shrapnel" showering us several times during the show. Either Deb or Lee got hit by a piece that was about 2" x 2". (She declined to keep it as a souvenir. :-) )

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We walked back to the Boardwalk and enjoyed some hot chocolate and coffee in the lobby before heading to our respective rooms. It's always great to spend time with Deb - I don't get to see her nearly often enough!

Tomorrow will be a very different day for us - it's been 11 years since we last visited Universal's Islands of Adventure, so obviously there have been some changes other than the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


December 10, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 2

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Big day today - instead of getting up and going to a Disney park, we actually left Disney property (gasp!) and went to Universal's Islands of Adventure Park. Different experience in many ways. Our main objective was to visit the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

For those of you who don't want to read a lot more detail I'll summarize here: we were pretty impressed. They put a lot of thought and detail into this area, and there are many small surprises, too. It's very faithful to the books, with lots of little things here and there that we looked at and said: "Oh yeah!" If you're a Harry Potter fan I'd say it's definitely worth a visit.

Ok, back to a somewhat more detailed version. (I still don't have enough time to write about everything, or share all the pictures I'd like to.) We arrived about 8:30 (the park opened at 9:00). It was a chilly gray morning, but fortunately the sun came out later, and although it never got very warm, it was quite comfortable in the afternoon. The crowds were much less than I had expected, so we were very happy about that. Forbidden Journey (the ride inside Hogwarts Castle) was never more than a 30 minute wait. The longest line seemed to be for the Ollivander's Wand experience, but we never did that. Lines weren't too bad in the other shops.

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At the park entrance we had to do something we NEVER do any more - buy a ticket!!! Major sticker shock, too - a one day, one park ticket was about $88 with tax. Yikes. They were a bit pushy about upselling - "adding the second park is only $30 more" - uh, no, I'm only going to Islands of Adventure - and "you can buy the express pass for another $29.99" - uh, no, I'm not expecting huge crowds today.

This park is really beautifully themed and I kept having to tell myself NOT to stop and take pictures because we really wanted to get back to the Harry Potter area as early as we could, and there would be time for the others later.

You enter the town of Hogsmeade, where you can see Hogwarts Castle in the background.

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And there's the Hogwarts Express. (There was a conductor hanging around providing some interesting "atmosphere", too. :-) )

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And there's all of the shops, like Zonko's and Honeydukes (I knew I could spend a lot of money there...and I did), and Dervish and Banges. And the restaurants - the Three Broomsticks and the Hogshead Inn (which had a moving snorting boar's head behind the bar).

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We pretty much went straight back to the castle to ride Forbidden Journey, which had a 10-minute wait at that point. You must leave all bags and backpacks in a (free) locker before you go on the ride. I carried my camera in my pocket, so I was able to take some pictures inside. It's really wonderfully detailed, and the queue goes through so many areas of the castle that we've all read about - the herbarium, the entrance to Dumbledore's Tower, Dumbledore's office itself, a gallery with (talking) portraits of the former headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts, and the Room of Requirement. It's kind of a blur and I don't really remember. Dumbledore talks to you, as do Harry, Ron and Hermione.

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The ride itself is very cool - it's more moving simulator stuff, and there's a lot going on - everything from riding a broomstick in a Quidditch match to getting chased by flaming dragons, spat upon by spiders, whomped by the Whomping Willow, and accosted by dementors. There's a lot of motion - though it really didn't bother me, I also knew that riding it again immediately would not be a good idea. If Star Tours bothers you, I'd think twice about this one.

Next we did Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a pretty small roller coaster - a little longer than Goofy's Barnstormer - but not much. It was cute, but the best thing about it (other than seeing Buckbeak and Hagrid's Cottage) was the view of Hogsmeade.

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Lee did the Dragon Challenge roller coaster. That one is too violent for me, so I just went through the queue with him - that's another one where bags must be stored in a locker, though since I wasn't riding I could hold onto his. The queue offers a great view of the castle. And there's also banners supporting the candidates in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

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We had an early lunch at The Three Broomsticks. It offers things like ribs, roasted chicken, shepherd's pie, and fish and chips. Because we were eating early we walked right in - there's actually a queue to get into it, so obviously it gets pretty busy. Lee had to try the butterbeer (which is like cream soda).

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I had the pumpkin fizz, which I really liked - it's pumpkin juice with a bit of carbonation added. The pumpkin juice is more like spiced apple juice (and apple juice is the main ingredient, though it does have some pumpkin and apricot puree). It was really good.

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One of the extra touches - occasionally places on the walls would like up and show the shadows of house elves at work. Hard to get a picture of them, though, but it was a lot of fun to watch for it.

Other fun things - this snowwizard and his owl. And, in the restrooms (or "Public Conveniences", we could hear the voice of Moaning Myrtle. Also, the cast members (I'm not sure what Universal calls them) were pretty into it - I heard one of them say when they were posing for pictures that they had to stay very still for Muggle cameras. :-)

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Later in the day we saw the the Frog Choir - this was four Hogwarts students and their frogs. They were very talented - the frogs were singing the bass part. I have some video, but I don't have the processing power or the bandwidth to get it uploaded right now. There was also a Tri-Wizard Spirit Rally, featuring Dumstrang and Beaux-Batons students, but we kept just missing that.

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We also visited the rest of Islands of Adventure. Seuss Landing was my favorite the first time we visited, 11 years ago, and it's still really good with lots of charming details. They are doing Grinchmas right now, so everything is decorated for Christmas.

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There's a special live How the Grinch Stole Christmas show. Only about 30 minutes long, but it told the story very well, and had some clever dialog and fun moments. (The Grinch realizes he's talking in rhyme - and he hates that!) Max the dog even appears on stage a few times. Though one very non-Disney thing about the show - it's held in a soundstage behind the park, so you have to walk through some backstage areas to get there. They try to hide it with some plants and stuff - but that doesn't really work.

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I think The Lost Continent is one of the most beautiful areas of the park. We did not do the Poseidon's Fury show, but we saw The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad stunt show - which was pretty cheesy. Disappointing since up until then everything we'd experienced had been quality entertainment.

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The other half of the park includes Jurassic Park, Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon. We didn't do any attractions other than Spiderman - mostly because the attractions in the other two areas involve large amounts of water - and it was not a day we wanted to get wet! Too chilly for that. We found some fun photo ops in Toon Lagoon, though.

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The park closed at 6:00, but we left a little after 5:00 - it was starting to get chilly again, and we'd done everything we wanted to do. We made a pretty quick stop in our room before going to dinner at the Garden Grove Cafe over in the Swan hotel. It's a buffet, but they have different themes depending on the night of the week - tonight it was Mediterranean. So we had Greek salad, hummus, couscous, pasta, and antipasto, along with roasted chicken, salmon, and a beef dish. My favorite part was the desserts, though - one of the nicer (and tastier) buffet dessert selections I've ever seen. Two pretty decent chocolate desserts and one that was really good. (The really good one was a chocolate tart, which is not pictured, though.)

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After dinner we walked to Epcot, planning to get some Gluhwein at Germany, but we got sidetracked when we went by the America Gardens Theater, where the Candlelight Processional was just starting. Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel) was the narrator, and she was excellent. We ended up watching almost all of the show - there's just too many songs that I like.

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So by the time we walked to Germany the kiosk selling the bottles of wine had closed for the night...oh well. Maybe tomorrow!

We didn't stay for Illuminations this time, though we could have had just about our choice of spots - the park was pretty empty. It seemed a little warmer to us than it did last night, though!

It was really a good day - I'm so glad we went to Universal. It was really a nice change to go someplace new, and do things that we *haven't* done 20 or more times. Yes, it was an expensive day, but I felt I got my money's worth. I really enjoyed taking photos - I wish I'd brought my better camera, but I didn't feel like carrying it around with me all day, especially since I knew I wouldn't be able to have it on Forbidden Journey.

RADP 15 officially starts tomorrow, so we will be at Animal Kingdom for most of the day. Looking forward to seeing lots of friends again!


December 11, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 3

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Friday - the first day of the official RADP meets. Today was Animal Kingdom Day. The RADP Meet is really not about riding rides and doing things - it's about spending time with friends that we might not see more than once every year or two. We have a good time being silly. The cast members seem to enjoy it, too, when we do something that involves them.

The first meet this morning was for Kilimanjaro Safari. Lee and I were a little late, and I arrived just as the meet photo was being taken. But I wasn't too late to be in it! :-) (Lee was off getting us Everest Fastpassses for later, so he missed it.)

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I mentioned the cast members - one of them walked us around the back and to our own safari vehicle! Though with 27 of us, we were going to almost fill one up anyways. Our driver asked if it was a first safari for any of us - nope. So then she tried to stump us with questions. And the first thing she asked actually got us: "What does Harambe mean?" None of us knew that it means "working and pulling together". But we knew about reticulated giraffes, the difference between horns and antlers, what rhino horn is made of, and the shape of the island occupied by the flamingoes.

It was a pretty good safari with quite a lot of animals out. One of the interesting things was seeing the observation platforms that are under construction for a new Wild Africa Trek that opens next month.

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And we also saw some baby sable antelope.

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And we saw the newest baby elephant.

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After the safari was an unscheduled "photograph the gorillas" meet, since two of the bachelors were out in full view.

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Oh, I guess I should give today's weather report - it was warmer - in the upper 60s, and mostly sunny. I still wore a light jacket just about all day, though. The park seemed a bit crowded to me today, more than I would expect for an early December day.

A smaller group of us took the train to Rafiki's Planet Watch:

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Unfortunately(?) we had missed the 10:30 veterinary procedure - a toad enema.

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But we got a group photo with Jiminy Cricket!

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We got to spend a little more time with DebK before she had to leave to catch her flight home. :-(

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Most of us had lunch at Yak and Yeti - I don't really care for the food there, so I had a chocolate muffin from the nearby Tea Shop. There's a nutritious lunch for you! After lunch we went to the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

We saw these blackbuck mock-fighting:

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There was lots of activity over where the white-cheeked gibbons are - it's a family group with mom, dad, 10-month-old baby, and 3-year-old daughter. The baby was initially clinging to mom, but we also saw him swinging on the ropes on his own!

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We were supposed to ride Expedition Everest at 2:00 but it was down. REALLY down, as in they had to walk people off of it - even the ones who were in this train!

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Some people went to find Nemo - Lee and I wandered through Dinoland and Camp Minnie-Mickey - I always enjoy seeing the character-themed Christmas tree they have there at this time of year. (This is Pocahontas' tree.)

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We met the group back at the Dawa Bar, and watched Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade from there.

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I hadn't noticed the "Naughty" and "Nice" lists posted on Santa Goofy's float - interesting that Donald seems to have made both lists, and Stitch is definitely on the "Naughty" list!

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Tonight was one of the highlights of the meet - the Open House hosted by Charlotte and Jan at Old Key West. They put out quite a spread, though other people bring some food and drinks to share, too. But they (and their husbands!) do most of the work. There were about 45 people this year, and we all had a wonderful time.

We had an unexpected surprise this evening - an appearance by Santa Claus! Kevin, one of our RADP friends, is Santa at his local mall, and he had brought his costume with him. Most of us took turns sitting on Santa's lap and telling him what we wanted for Christmas.

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The "Santa-razzi" were in full force! :-)

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After a while Santa said goodbye, but a little while later Kevin came back - but so did Santa! I didn't know who it was until he spoke, and then I realized that it was Lee! He was a really good Santa, too.

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It was a great day - it's so much fun to get together with this terrific group of friends.

Tomorrow is Epcot day.


December 12, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 4

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RADP - Day 2 - Epcot!

Actually we didn't make the early meets at all today - we *really* needed to get out and run this morning (since we have this pesky marathon/half marathon coming up in four weeks!), so we went out and ran for 45 minutes or so this morning. If the weather is like this in January (~50 degrees) I will be pretty happy.

So we didn't make it into Epcot until after 11:00. We were walking around World Showcase and went by the new Karamell Kuche in Germany.

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For a change it didn't have a huge line when we went in. As annual passholders we were able to get a free small sample of caramel corn, but also got a bag of it and a big chocolate caramel cookie. Yummy. I love Storck's chocolates (Riesen is my favorite), so I'll have to get back there again and see what they have that I haven't tried before. The stuff in the display case looks really decadently delicious!

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Today's weather was beautiful - sunny and in the low to mid 70s. Definitely the nicest day we have had. Not quite shorts weather for me, but it was comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans - and actually I was getting too warm when just standing in the sun.

We went to the "It's 5:00 Somewhere" Meet at the Cava del Tequila in Mexico, only to find that it didn't open until 12:00! Sean, Pam, Julie, Kevin, Lee and I decided some food would be a good idea first, so we went over the the newly remodeled cantina. We were able to eat inside the dining room (because the table service restaurant wasn't open yet). It's really quite nice, and the tables on the water side should have a good view of IllumiNations!

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The menu is quite a bit different. We had the Emapandas de Queso and the Tacos de Pollo. They were both pretty good.

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When we got back to the "Cava", the tequila meet was in full force. :-) The menu has all kinds of different (and unusual) types of margaritas - avocado, cucumber and jalapeno to name a few. Lee stuck with beer, but I had a pomegranate margarita that was very good - pretty strong, though.

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We'd already eaten, so we didn't have any of the food, but others said that it was pretty good. We had a very good server, David, who seemed to really enjoy our group. So let's just say that it was a very happy group that left there about 90 minutes later. :-)

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The "Big Meet and Greet" (BMAG) was at the International Gateway at 1:30 - I was told that there were 52 people there. We missed those of you who couldn't make it. And I think most of us thought of our friend Randy Birbaum, who passed away several years ago.
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(Click on the photo to see a larger version of it.)

The BMAG is always a time to connect with people you haven't seen in a while, or to finally meet in person people that you've been talking to on-line for years, who seem like old friends once you finally meet face-to-face.

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It was about 3:00 by the time the meet broke up. Lee and I decided we really needed an afternoon nap, so we went back to our room - it was very nice to have a break, and yes, we did take a nap! We left again about 5:45 and went back to Epcot, which was a LOT more crowded than it had been any other day this week. Warm weather and it being a weekend day will do that, I guess.

The 5:15 Candlelight Processional had just gotten out right before we arrived, so we felt like salmon swimming upstream as we tried to get to the Japan pavilion. And the people were lined up all the way to Morocco waiting for the 6:45 show. And those were the people with the Candlelight packages, who were guaranteed entry to the show.

We had dinner at the Yakitori House - the evening had cooled off a fair bit already, and something hot tasted good. I had the Tempura Shrimp Udon. Lee had the Japanese Curry, but that really does not photograph well...it looks like mud.

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Our friend Tony was singing in the Cast Choir at the 6:45 Candlelight Processional - we didn't even try the standby line, but instead stood all the way at the back, like we did the other night. There were a lot more people doing that, too! Whoopi Goldberg was tonight narrator, and I think that was also a big draw for people coming to the park. For the most part she played it straight, though at the beginning, when she said the line about Caesar Augustus' decree that "all the world should be taxed" she paused and then added "What a surprise". :-)

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Our friends Kevin and Lori found us back there and watched the show with us.

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The show was terrific - as we had noted the other night, there are some differences in some of the arrangements this year. And the Candlelight Overture has several changes (we hadn't arrived early enough to hear it until tonight).

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We'd planned to go the Magic Kingdom afterwards, since there was a RADP Meet to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade, but Kevin and Lori were getting Facebook posts and text messages which made it sound like MK was wall-to-wall people. So we decided to go have something to eat instead. We started off at Beaches and Cream, but it was going to be an hour(!) wait, so we went to the Dolphin Fountain instead, and were seated fairly quickly. Kevin, Lee and I ordered milkshakes - don't these look yummy?

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Lee and I had eaten earlier, but we were hungry again and decided to split the Salmon Salad, and that was very good. I've always been pleased with the food I've had at the Fountain. Kevin and Lori enjoyed their "Build-Your-Own" Burgers, too.

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We said goodbye to Kevin and Lori - Kevin was headed off to Magic Kingdom anyway, since it's open until 1:00 a.m.! As we walked back to the Boardwalk we could see IllumiNations going, so we stopped along Crescent Lake in front of Jellyrolls to watch the finale and the holiday finale. I think you actually see the holiday finale better if you are a little further away - it's SO huge that you really can't see it all if you're around World Showcase Lagoon. It's still very impressive, and one of my very favorite things about the holidays!

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Tomorrow is Magic Kingdom day - that's always fun. I'm getting to bed early enough tonight that we should be able to make the morning meets this time.

One more photo from the Iluminations holiday finale:

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December 13, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 5

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I think this is going to be short - it's been a very long day and I'm tired!

Today was Magic Kingdom day. The day started off absolutely beautiful, with a cloudless blue sky.

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First meet of the day was Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. Fortunately they had turned off most of the real excessive splash effects. We had 19 of us on Splash Mountain, and we walked right onto the logs - there was no line even though it was almost 10:00 by then.

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There were 25 of us for Thunder Mountain - several people who didn't want to do Splash Mountain joined us.

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We had time before the Hall of Presidents meet so we're walking, we're walking over to Haunted Mansion. Notice that it's still sunny. When we came out of Haunted Mansion 20 minutes later (no line, but the ride stopped 6 times while we were in there!) it was completely overcast and the wind had really come up - and the temperature had dropped.

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Instead of doing Hall of Presidents we opted to have an early lunch, hoping to beat the crowds who would descend on Columbia Harbour House when it started raining. And it started raining just as we headed over there so our timing was good.

The theme of the meet was "Hall of Mediocre Presidents", so we were all charged with cheering for various not-so-well known presidents when they were introduced, like William Henry Harrison, Millard Fillmore, and Calvin Coolidge.

It was raining when we got out of there, though fortunately it never rained all that hard. Our next meet was Pirates of the Caribbean, followed by a stop at the Dole Whip place. We had 29 for our ride on Pirates - we filled several boats. There were actually a number of takers for the Dole Whips - though several of us opted for egg rolls instead.

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Lee and I did a little shopping before meeting back with the group at Stitch's Great Escape. (We did a LOT of attractions today!) The group kept getting smaller every time - the rain had stopped by then, but the temperature kept going down, too. Quite a few of us defended the galaxy against the Evil Emperor Zurg. I've gotten so used to the lasers in California (that are not fixed to the console) that it was hard to use the ones here.

The TTA (now Peoplemover) Ride-a-thon was next - the idea was to go around 5 times. Lee did twice, and I did three times - I think there were only seven people that went around all 5 times.

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We'd gotten Fastpasses for Space Mountain before riding Buzz Lightyear, so we did that. I don't think Lee and I had ridden it since it was refurbished. It seems a little smoother than it used to be.

Kevin, Lee and I wanted to see the Castle Lighting show at 6:15 - we were able to get a very nice spot in front of it - there weren't a whole lot of people. It's a beautiful castle...much more impressive than the one we have at Disneyland.

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It was really getting chilly...We took the first bus that was going back to any of the Epcot Resorts, which happened to be Yacht Club/Beach Club. Walked over to the Dolphin where we had dinner with Kevin at the Dolphin Fountain again - it was early enough that we were able to walk right up and be seated. We were all interested in something WARM - no one had ice cream this time! :-)

Lee and I came back to the room to put on the warmest clothes we had before going to Epcot. Yikes, it was cold in the wind!!! We did a little shopping, and found a Christmas Mickey sweatshirt for Lee that we'd seen at the Magic Kingdom, but not in his size. Then we met up with the faithful (or foolish) few who had braved the elements to come out for the RADP Illuminations Meet. There were only six of us. We started at Norway, but the wind was blowing straight at us so we moved to Germany...and so did the wind. We stuck it out anyway - it really was a great spot. We had a very moving sing-a-long of "We Go On" and "Let There Be Peace on Earth" - when we weren't dodging fireworks shrapnel. :-)

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That holiday finale is still an insane amount of fireworks.

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Tomorrow is Studios day - and is supposed to be one of the coldest days of the year. Down to the 30s tonight, and supposed to be windy and barely in the 50s tomorrow. This is Florida??? (It was 80 in San Diego today!)


December 14, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 6

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RADP Day at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was COLD today. Windy all day, and I don't think the temperature ever got above 45. How cold was it? It was so cold that the gardeners were covering a lot of the plants because they are expecting a hard freeze tonight.

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It was so cold that I think everyone (even the Canadians!) was wearing at least three layers.

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It was so cold that a priority seating was not to be had anywhere in the park, and even the ABC Commissary had a 30+ minute line to order.

And, if you can believe this, it was so cold that there was a line to get into Sounds Dangerous!

Still, about 20 of us braved the cold and came out for the Rock'N'Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror meets at 9:30. The line for RnRC was 10 minutes when we went in, and 40 minutes when we came out. And it was chilly in the building when we were zipping around in that super-stretch limo. My fleece earband really protected my head and neck on those corkscrews, though - usually I get banged around a lot on those.

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Our group of 14 had its own library room on the Tower of Terror - that was fun. We didn't get our own elevator, though - we felt a little bit sorry for the 7 poor unsuspecting folks who had to ride with us.

Because of the cold, several of the meets we'd planned were canceled or changed. We were supposed to do the Backlot Tour, but that sounded like torture on a cold day. So a lot of us went into One Man's Dream instead - I hadn't seen the current version of it. Some of the exhibits were different, but the movie was still the same. There was a family behind us who all fell asleep during the movie - a couple of them were even snoring!

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Lee and I went to Mama Melrose for lunch with some of the group. It was inside, and, bonus, the food was really good, too! We had a very nice meal. I ordered the goat cheese ravioli and Lee ordered the Chicken Parmagiana, and we shared. They were both good. We also shared a half carafe of Sangria - it tasted good even if it wasn't warm. :-)

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A couple of our table mates ordered this Tomato Mozzarella salad - doesn't it look wonderful?

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After lunch was the "Bad Santa Tacky Gift Exchange". This was another meet that was moved indoors - even though the sun was out it was way too cold and windy back at the Backlot Cantina. So we went to the ABC Commissary instead. Which was busy, but we managed to find a place for most of us to sit. The idea was to bring a tacky white elephant type of gift, preferably from your hometown. So we had snowglobes from Pennsylvania and Nashville, keychains and magnets from Cape Cod, a shot glass, some chocolate candies, and even a couple of souvenirs from Canada. It was fun.

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Afterward we posed with some of our gifts at the statue of Betty White, who has a special place in our hearts after one of those "you had to be there" meets two years ago.

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Most of us went to the Great Movie Ride - it was indoors! Not much of a wait, and we got the cowboy side, which I prefer.

Every time we went back outside after being indoors for a while it felt colder! We had some time before the last meet of the day so Lee and I went to the Backlot Cantina, which is selling some specialty drinks for the holidays, and we got the Captain's Hot Cider - hot apple cider with a shot of Captain Morgan's. It tasted really good - but even in an insulated cup it didn't stay warm for very long! We wander along the Streets of America, where the Osborne Lights are, while we were drinking it. Even during the day when the lights are off there were some things to see. We found this Jack Skellington-themed ornament - appropriately enough it was outside the office of the Funeral Director. :-) We also found the Halloween cat that they place somewhere different every year.

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The final meet was the Toy Story Mania meet, where we used the Fastpasses that we'd all gotten when we arrived that morning. The standby line was 120 minutes!!! Maybe at that point people didn't mind standing in line for two hours as long as they could be inside where it was warmer.

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It was even colder when we came out (the sun was completely gone by then), so several of us went to see MuppetVision. Ahhh...warmth! Sean and Pam had the idea to have a quick dinner at the Tune-In Lounge and then go to the Osborne Lights - but lots of other people had that same idea and it was packed. So we went back to the Backlot Cantina for some more holiday cheer (Lee got the Bailey's Coffee this time, though), and then went onto the Streets of America - it was less than 10 minutes until the lights came on. It started snowing - it was cold enough tonight that it really could have been REAL snow!

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We also found Catherine and Amy back there - one positive thing about the cold is that it really keeps the crowds down!

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By that time it was 38 (wind chill of 29) and it wasn't really getting colder, but we'd been out in it enough that we were feeling it a lot more, so after watching the lights "dance" several times we called it a day. We walked over to the Dolphin with Amy and Catherine (that was a LONG walk in the cold!) and had a nice mellow dinner at Picabu. There were very few people in there so it was quiet. And the food was pretty good (and the 20% DVC discount is nice, too).

The usual final RADP meet is for miniature golf, but I think it was a unanimous decision that mini golf would be No Fun tonight. So after dinner we walked over to Kimono's in the Swan, where part of the group had gathered, and were planning to sing Karaoke later. Even that short walk between the Dolphin and Swan felt very cold! But it's really windy along that causeway. I said my goodbyes early but Lee decided to stay. And it's been over two hours and he's still not back, so he must be having a good time. :-)

It's hard to believe that the RADP Meet is over, and that our trip is also over - we leave tomorrow. :-( It went so fast! It was wonderful to spend so much time with terrific friends who are so much fun to be around. It would have been nice to have weather that was a little warmer, but I know that the joy of friendship warmed all of our hearts over the last four days. I enjoyed the meets, and the impromptu get-togethers, and the opportunities to spend time with some people that I didn't know quite as well.

Each RADP meet is different, and they all have their special and memorable moments - I'm sure we'll all remember the cold weather this year, and the Mediocre Presidents meet, and of course Kevin and Lee appearing as Santa Claus, and how good baby Anthony was on his very first trip to Walt Disney World. Until next time, my friends!

We'll have a little bit of park time tomorrow, but not much.


December 15, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 7

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All good things must come to an end...and today was the last day of our trip. It went way too fast!

This was our coldest morning yet - 28 degrees at 8:00 (but felt like 20!). Still, it was a beautiful clear sunny day - hard to believe it was so cold until you went outside. Not nearly so windy as yesterday, though, so if you were in the sun it felt a lot warmer.

We packed our bags (bought lots more stuff this time than we usually do - but some of it is Christmas gifts) and lugged them out to the car - it was up to 30 degrees by then. Then we met our friends Paul and Ilene for breakfast at Flying Fish. They have been serving a scaled down version of the Kouzzina breakfast menu while Kouzzina is closed (it opens tomorrow - we were very disappointed to miss it).

I'd tried to call for a Dining Reservation but they said nothing was available - but the restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived. So maybe they just never managed to get it completely into the system since it was for such a short time. Paul, Ilene, and Lee all had the American Breakfast - eggs any style with bacon or sausage and toast or croissant. It also comes with breakfast potatoes, but Lee and Paul asked to substitute the sweet potato hash instead.

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I had the scrambled eggs with feta, tomatoes, and spinach. Those were quite good. They came with bacon or sausage, breakfast potatoes, and a croissant.

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We said goodbye to Paul and Ilene, who were headed to Animal Kingdom (cold day for that park, since there aren't very many indoor spaces), and we walked into Epcot, since we wanted to do some shopping. Something we hadn't done much of because it had just been too cold at night - once we got back inside the room we didn't want to go out again!

As I mentioned it was a beautiful day, end even though the temperature was not much about 34 by then, it felt pretty good if you were in the sun - as long as you had some kind of jacket on. But the temperature dropped a LOT if you got into the shade.

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A lot of the ground coverings and the topiaries had been covered to protect them from the cold - the white covering looked like snow from a distance. But it was strange to not see any of the topiaries - and I'd never gotten a photo of them on this trip, either. Oh well.

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I was surprised that the fountain was going - though I don't think it was as high as usual.

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We finished our shopping, but still had about 40 minutes before we needed to be back to our car, so we wandered the long way around World Showcase, and I took some photos along the way. It didn't seem to me like some of the pavilions were decorated as much as they have been in the past.

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We saw the outside of the new Via Napoli restaurant in Italy.

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And the big gingerbread house inside the Liberty Inn.

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But all too soon it was time to leave for the airport. Along the way we went through one toll station that was showing some holiday spirit.

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It seemed like a very quick trip, with so many things that we didn't get a chance to do - we never had a chance to resort hop and see the holiday decorations at the monorail resorts, and didn't even spend as much time (or take as many photos) in the Epcot resorts as I usually do. We never saw the Voices of Liberty - I think this may be the first trip that I've never seen them at all!

Despite all we didn't do, we still did a lot of things, and had a wonderful time with friends - and that was really the main purpose of this trip - the parks are just an excuse to get us all together.

Lee and I will be back in less than a month, since we are doing the Goofy Challenge on January 8 and 9. Hope the weather will be a little warmer than it was this time!


December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays!

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So the year's winding down to a close, but the holidays at Disneyland continue in full swing.

Had you been able to make D23's November tweet-meet at the Plaza Gardens, you might have found, among the decorations, a Disney Geek.

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Jeffrey Epstein was there, asking trivia, answering questions, and giving out long-sleeve D23 t-shirts to members who showed up--a nice Christmas present.

Otherwise, the resort is all decked out in its usual Christmas decor, with Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World enjoying their seasonal overlays. On looking over Disneyland, it's interesting that most of the decorations center around New Orleans Square and Main Street--apparently in The Future, we don't celebrate that much.

Anyway, here's a slideshow I put together of some of the holiday accents to be found around the resort this season. Despite what the soundtrack says, this is Disneyland in Anaheim, not Tokyo--I just liked the music.

From over here on the West Coast--wherever you are, and whatever you celebrate--Happy Holidays!

December 30, 2010

Followup: A Little Disney in Your Decorating

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A while ago I shared some of my Disney holiday decorations, and invited you to share yours. Disney is popular with a lot of you! Here's what you sent.

Mary Virginia wrote:

Disney Christmas ornaments are my favorite way to incorporate my two favorites: Disney & Christmas!

As a young child (5 years old, actually), I apparently begged enough that my mother bought.my brother and I each an ornament. His was Mickey and some presents stuffed in a stocking. Mine was Tinkerbell. Every year, these were my favorite ornaments to find on the Christmas tree.

Sadly, those ornaments are no more (thanks Katrina). However, I went to WDW last Christmas, and bought a new special ornament: a glass ball shaped like Mickey with a bride Minnie and a groom Mickey. It says "Just Married" and I got it personalized with our wedding date. It doesn't match ANY of my other ornaments, but I don't care! It is my new favorite. Who knows what kind of ornament I'll come home with this year!

From Melissa:

Most years, I just love to put out the monorail and circle it around the tree. We also have the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and the Contemporary where the monorail circles, and right in the middle in front of the tree.... Why, Cinderella's castle of course! The Christmas tree varies from year to year, but my favorite is the theme of magenta, teal, and purple!

We got married one year ago this weekend, and I am planning on getting at least one Disney Christmas ornament each year. Our first one was the Bride & Groom Mickey & Minnie sitting in a ring, and for this year, I have these adorable snowglobe ornaments!

As you can probably tell, we love Disney and I cherish each and every time we go, which is at least once a month!

Emma, all the way from Surrey, England, writes:

Nearly all of our tree decorations are Disney-related! We have a Mickey & Minnie tree-topper rather than a star or angel; I have bought sets of baubles from the Disney Store - and each trip to WDW we buy one more decoration for our tree :)

Happy Holidays!

Dale Knight says:

We have an Alice in Wonderland themed Christmas Tree. It's upside down and has a tea party set up underneath of it. We also put a "hidden mickey" on each of our six themed Christmas trees.

(I'd love to see a picture of that one! :-) )


From Pat:

A little late, but here is my Disney Decorating:

I have a beautiful Mickey & Minnie Tree Skirt, my tree is about 3/4 Disney ornaments(Characters). The rest are some old family and some of my favorites that came from EPCOT's Germany. My DD stocking is Mickey, I have a singing Tigger & Roo in a rocking chair, and don't forget the Mickey Shape hanging door bells. We have cookie cutters in Mickey Shapes for our butter cookies and I always have Disney wrapping paper for some gifts.

Merry Mickey Christmas to all.

From Lauren:

We don't have a separate "Disney Tree" but I'd say about 40% of our ornaments are Disney, all pretty much by accident. Whenever we travel we always pick up an ornament (or 2 or 5!) and it seems that Disney ornaments have prevailed over every other vacation we've taken!! Other than that, we have a small Disney themed train and a plush Eeyore we picked up a couple years ago who likes to sit in front of our fireplace. Thankfully our pets never thought he was a toy and accepted him into our home!

Damico writes:

My wife Karin & I are long time Disneyworld enthusiasts (my first visit was one week after opening). We decorate our entire 8 foot tree with Disney ornaments of every type that we've collected over the last twelve years. We generally add 4-5 ornaments a year and are getting to the point have having to pick and choose what will fit !!! Every visit (usually 4-5 times per year) we hit the Christmas store in the Marketplace to see what's new. In addition we have a niche in one of our living room walls that I use to build a Disney Christmas village every year using pieces bought over the years. Everything goes up Thanksgiving weekend and comes down after New Years so we celebrate a month Of Disney Christmas.

(Sounds like it's time to get a bigger tree! :-) )

Thanks to all of you for sharing your Disney decorating tips.

Have a very Disney New Year!



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About December 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in December 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2010 is the previous archive.

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