Harrods royal badges and warrants

When we visited Harrods in 1997, the corner of the store boasted 4 large heraldic badges, evidence of warrants from the Royal Family households of the Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, and the Prince of Wales
A royal warrant is an advertising ploy that can be given to merchants who sell goods or services to the Royal Family (basically they say that someone royal shops here). They are reviewed every 5 years, and Harrods has had royal warrants since 1910. As a tourist, I was interested in these things, especially the second one - what is an almost-naked guy doing there?
I recently found out these are no longer on Harrods. When Prince Philip's warrant to Harrods came up for review in 2000, it was decided that his household doesn’t do business there anymore, and Harrods was informed that the warrant would not be renewed. It’s possible that Queen’s and Prince of Wales’ warrant may have followed suit when their review came up (the Queen Mother’s warrant was not subject to review). However, after the death of Princess Diana and Mr. Fayed’s son Dodi, Harrods owner Mr. Fayed was very angry at the royal family. Knowing he lost one warrant and anticipating losing more, Mr. Fayed took them all down. Then, in a 2011 TV documentary, just to show how mad he was, he hauled them out of storage and burned them. He also banned Prince Philip from Harrods, although I don't imagine Prince Philip cares very much. But I hate it that he burned these things -  I really liked them! To satisfy an old curiosity, I looked them up:

1. The Queen's shield has 3 lions for England in 2 quarters, another lion for Scotland, and a harp for Ireland, all surrounded by a garter (the Order of the Garter is an ultra-prestigious, ultra-exclusive order of chivalry that dates back to 1348). The “supporters” on either side of the shield are a crowned lion and a unicorn. The French motto "Dieu et mon Droit” translates to “God and my right” (King Henry V added the “my right” part when he claimed the French crown).  

2. Prince Philip's shield has three lions for Denmark, a cross for Greece, two bars for Battenberg/ Mountbatten, and a castle for Edinburgh, all surrounded by a garter. It's topped with a plume of five ostrich feathers, and the supporters are Hercules (so that's the  almost-naked guy!) and a crowned lion. The motto is ’God Is My Help’.

3. The Queen Mother has a busy shield, combining UK's coat of arms with her father’s, the Earl of Strathmore. It includes 9 lions, 6 bows, and a harp. It's topped with a crown and supported by a crowned lion and a half-red lion.

4. The Prince of Wales' badge is the simplest one, with three large white ostrich feathers and a gold coronet. A ribbon below the coronet bears the motto "Ich dien", which is German for ”I serve”.

Our Jeep eats motors

We stopped by Hutson Auto today to visit our Jeep. It's sitting in one of the bays with the hood sitting on top of the body and a big, empty area where the motor used to be. 
The worst part is that this is the second time in a month that it's looked like this. On 11/27 on the way home from shopping, the Jeep motor acted very bad. Randy barely made it to Hutson's, where they discovered the engine was shot - a valve dropped, hit the piston, and the piston drove the valve through the valve cover. Randy and I discussed buying a new car, buying a used car, or repairing the Jeep. Hutson talked about the merits of putting a Jasper engine in, and eventually we decided to do that. It comes with a 3 year/100,000 mile warranty, which is a lot more than we could get on a used car. Gary and Erin from our Life Group offered to let us use their car while ours was being fixed, which was a huge blessing. 

We picked the Jeep up on Friday. Tuesday while we were out, the engine started running rough. We took another trip to Hutson's, where they ran some tests which showed the #3 cylinder wouldn't hold compression; they called Jasper. The next morning we dropped it off for more tests and more calls to Jasper.

The upshot of all that was a new motor shipped in, and today they started fitting it for our Jeep. This isn't fun anymore.

Ladies' Refresh

Today was the Ladies' Refresh, which is what they call the Christmas party for the ladies of the church. Tables were decorated by individual hostesses, resulting in some really gorgeous table settings. Many life-groups reserved tables for their members, and Donna asked me to join her.  
For this meal, the men served the ladies. I guess for some women here this is unusual; it's quite normal at my house! The church kitchen provided quiche and side dishes, but some table hostesses made their own quiche. After the meal was over, the entertainment started. Kathy Broccoli has won a bunch of awards, and I found out why - it's because she's awesome! She has a lovely, strong voice and I love her rat-pack, bossa nova style. I love her.

Pre-trimmed Christmas trees

Our church got a bunch of Christmas trees and had volunteers decorate them, then put them display to sell. All profits benefit the church's high school. I hope they did well; many of these trees were beautiful!

A night at the Magic Kingdom

The main reason to go to the Magic Kingdom after dark is to see Cinderella's Castle lit up. And after doing it, I felt it was not only worth the trip, but I want to do it again!

When we got there, the castle was bathed in dark blue lights. Very dramatic!
They weren't going to light it up right away, so I used the time to good purpose by riding on the big carousel behind it. I have a soft spot for carousels, and this one is such a beauty.
The first lighting show was shorty thereafter. Queen Elsa and the rest of the gang from Frozen did a short skit, culminating in covering the castle with "ice". And just like that, the most beautiful castle was even better!
For the rest of the night, everywhere we went, I kept looking over my shoulder to see it!

We went on the Jungle Ride again, where the boats have been temporarily renamed in honor of the holiday; ours was the Reindeer Ruby. The captains all tell the corniest jokes and puns possible, which are so bad they are actually funny. Some of the sights were half obscured by the darkness, but it was fun anyway. 

We went through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, where I was a little worried about tripping in the dark, but it wasn't a problem. 

We had some time to kill before the night show so we went to the 3-D PhilharMagic Show. It wasn't amazing but it was a nice way to spend a little time. And the gift shop was fun.
We had reservations for an 8:00 dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern, but they were running at least 20 minutes behind. That meant we might be having dinner when the fireworks started, so instead we went to Casey's for a hot dog. Even there it was swamped, and Randy stood in line for a half hour to get our food. We finished up just a few minutes before the firework show started. It was more than fireworks, of course. The castle was used as a canvas to tell short bits of many of the Disney films like Frozen, Tangled, Brave, Aladin, and too many others to count. It was amazing; they altered the look of the castle with lights to match the music.

And behind it, with the castle appearance still changing, the fireworks went off. An amazing number of them looked like big mouse ears! And some took me back to the opening sequence of TV's "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color".
I even think they had fans to control the firework smoke; it only obscured the castle once, then cleared away for another scene!
After the fireworks ended, most people headed out, including us. In the lot we all learned that both Monorails were down. And since the Magic Kingdom is located across the lake from it's parking lot, everyone had to take a ferry or a bus to get back to their cars. The line for the ferry was huge so we headed for the bus. And although there was a big crowd there too and we had to wait, everyone took it well, and the staff did a fine job of moving everything alone. 

Another Horrible Spider!

When I was in South Carolina I found a Golden Silk Orb-Weaver, which is another name for a big freaking spider.  I have lived in Florida for over a year without encountering a Wolf Spider, but I can no longer say that. Randy and I were talking on our dock when he noticed this monster.
Are you kidding me?!!! How big can a spider get? It's even bigger than the Orb-thing! Randy put his hand on the rail next to it so I could get the scale of it. Nice of him; you don't catch me doing that!
I didn't get close enough to investigate the details, but enlarging my photo shows the row of eyes and the barbs on its legs.
I tried really hard to let it live; I actually told Randy we should let it go. Then I thought better of it and asked him to do away with it. Sorry, but I simply can't share my place with these. 

Now I can't get rid of the feeling of harry legs crawling on me.

Magical Magic Kingdom

Enough of Epcot! Time to visit the Magic Kingdom, this time with our good friend Donna! We took the boat from the parking lot to the park. I wish the parking lot was next to the entrance, but even on overcast days like today, the boat ride provides a nice view!
We started with what one of the oldest shows - the Country Bear Jamboree, which has been here since 1971. I've seen it before, and like "Small World", part of it's charm is that it hasn't changed. 
They have started decorating Main Street and piping in sweet Christmas Carols. Who needs snow!
First ride of the day: The Haunted Mansion. This is one of the attractions where they really focus on the details. Every time we come here, we see something different!

Around the corner is Cinderella's Castle, which is visible from almost everywhere in the park. This is just perfect.



Tucked away behind it is a charming statue of Cinderella as a young girl, instead of a Princess as we normally see her.  
In side of the castle is the entrance to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where little girls can get a Princess makeover. Across the hall is the entrance to Cinderella's Royal Table (second floor). Both of these require reservations, which can be made up to 180 days. Which suggests they are very, very popular.

The castle used to sit at the edge of the park, but they have opened up a whole section there now, with shows and shops. Lots of shops! 
In one of them I found a Mouse-eared hat that I had to have. Anytime something makes you smile as much as this thing made me smile, you should get it!
Around the front of the castle, people were beginning to gather for the daily parade. The parade here, starting at 2:00, is one of the best! It has everything: A Beauty and a Beast,
Princesses and a Snowman, 
a horse riding a swinging ax on a gauntlet,
and of course, a fire-breathing dragon!
Afterwards we were ready to go so we headed out through Main Street, which was crowded by now. 
Randy decided to go to Guest Relations to learn how to get Fast Passes for a group. The guy at the counter explained that, then gave us a generic Fast Pass. Since we hadn't been to the Enchanted Tiki Room yet, we went there. This was Disney's first audio-animatronic attraction, opening in 1963. It has been tweaked since then, but the basic design is the same. 
We decided to take one more trip to the Haunted Mansion before we left - yep, still fun!

Then it was time to leave, for real. Is there anything prettier than Cinderella's Castle? I can't wait to see it at night!
Just for a lark, we stopped on the way home at a store called "Bulk Nation". It's right on the way to and from Disney, so we will probably be here a fair bit!