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!

One last time at Disney Taste and Wine

Soon the Taste and Wine Festival will be over, and there were just a few things left that we wanted to try. We started with Mojo Pork with black beans, cilantro rice and pickled red onions, from the Islands of the Caribbean. It was good, but Randy liked it better than I did. 
We had tried French before but Randy thought the Croissant aux Escargots might be good. The pastry was good...
While we were there we wanted the acrobat's act. Both actors are good and act like they are having a pretty good time.
More eats were waiting: Piggy Wings from Flavors from the Fire were good, but the Loaded Mac N Cheese from Active Eats was a very small portion. 

We rounded out the day at Mexican Pavilion, inside the big pyramid. Inside is a Mexican Market, a restaurant, and a slow water ride with short videos of cartoon characters Panchito, Jose Carioca and Donald Duck. Some of the ride scenes are similar to "It's a Small World". I thought it was cut that the lights that mimic fireworks on the ceiling look just like the painting on black velvet that they sell in Mexican tourist shops. 
On the way out we finally found the Patagonia stand! That was the last one on our list - a beef skewer that was pretty good. 

What, more Disney food?

There were still corners of Epcot we hadn't seen yet. In one of them was the Festival Center, and of primary interest in it was the History of Chocolate, with free Ghirardelli chocolate samples. 

Nearby was the Mission Space ride. It's along the line of Soarin but with individual seats and a control panel that sits just a few inches in front of your face. And the video hostess is Gina Torres, who we know from "Suits". 

Then on to more food. At the Farm Fresh stand we got their Crispy Chicken with cornbread and red eye gravy. And it was easily the best thing I've had at a Food and Wine booth!

At the Mexico booth we bought the Rib Eye Taco, which was OK. That's not much compared to the Crispy Chicken, but it was better than what followed. Africa's Spinach and Paneer Cheese Pocket didn't appeal to me. Hops and Barley's Smoked Beef Brisket didn't appeal to Randy. Things got a little better at Japan's booth, with the Wasabi Shumai Steamed Pork Dumplings which Randy said weren't bad, but I did not like them at all. We followed that with Australia's Grilled Sweet & Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp. My first bite wasn't quite done and that turned me off it immediately. Fortunately Refreshment Port was nearby. Their Pineapple Whip Soft-serve ice cream was just what I needed to cleanse my palate! For dessert we got a Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse at Earth Eats. 

We decided to try the international drinks in Club Cool again, looking for something refreshing. I settled on South Africa's Biblo. It's nothing like Diet Coke but it's carbonated, sweet and not too bad once you get used to it. 

Then we got in line for Soarin'.  There was a 40 minute wait but it's a delightful ride. Unfortunately after we'd been in line for 30 minutes and were within sight of our destination, there was an announcement that "some" of the rides were down so the waits would be longer. We decided to stick it out and after waiting in line an hour we finally got on. I was really tired of the wait but it turned out to be a lovely way to end the day.

More Disney food

There are only a few days left of Disney's International Food Festival, so we returned to Epcot today for more. Before eating we saw the "Circle of Life" film - can't recommend it. Then we sampled at booths we hadn't been to yet, starting with Hawaii's Pork Slider with pineapple chutney, and Teriyaki glazed SPAM. The Spam was bland; knowing how popular Spam is in Hawaii, I thought they might have spiced it more.
But the Slider was very good.  Thailand's Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Stir-fried Vegetables was unremarkable. At New Zealand we bought the green lip mussels; I chickened out and let Randy enjoy them all. 
At Canada we got Cheddar Cheese Soup with a Pretzel Roll. We thought they should have offered poutine. 
Italy's Chocolate-covered Cannoli with Sweet Ricotta, Chocolate and Candied Fruit was a disappointment; it was frozen solid and I didn't find any candied fruit. 

France's Boeuf Bourguignon with Mashed Potatoes was the best thing I've eaten at this festival.

In Club Cool we sampled soft drinks that are popular in other countries: Italy, Greece, Thailand, Japan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Peru and Brazil. Some were bitter, some were sweet, and none of them tasted like soda. 

Then we thought it was time to explore other areas, via the monorail. We checked out The Floridian Hotel, which is lovely, but I have other ways to spend my money.  
We were ready to see another resort but the Monorail quit working! Everyone who wanted to get from one hotel or resort to another had to queue up for a bus or boat. We opted for the boat, which took us back to the Magic Kingdom. By that time the Monorail was running again so we rode it to the exchange station and switched to another train that went to Epcot. The other food stations will have to wait for another day.

Disney half day

We went back to Epcot to try more dishes at the International Food & Wine Festival. First we took a turn on "Soarin", and then we sampled our way through Coastal Eats (lump crab cake), Greece (meatless nachos), Morocco (Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce), and China (Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce, and Chicken Potstickers). 

In between sampling, we watched some 3-D Pixar Shorts and an in-the-round film called "Reflections of China". 

We left around 2:30 because our Small Life Group was meeting in the evening. But it's always fun to spend time at Mickey's place, especially if there is food involved!

Boating again

The boat motor wouldn't lower after the hurricane blew through here, so we had to pull it out of the water to work on it. Randy fixed it and we took it out right away.

Shorty sure likes boating!

Disney again

Today I wanted to go back to Hollywood Studios. We were going to start with a show but the line for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride was really short, so we went there instead. I just love the attention to detail that Disney puts into their attractions. The area around the ride is part of the fun experience!
But the ride, of course, is the best part. I don't know why I love this so much, I still shut my eyes through much of it!
To recover from that, we walked down the main street and watched some street performers who were really good.
We watched the March of the First Order again. If they don't have a tall woman playing the part of Captain Phasma, then the guy who's doing has a woman's swagger down pat! 

We had a fastpass to Beauty and The Beast today because that's the only way to get in on the weekend. Good show!
Then, because we wanted to have lunch at Epcot, we took the Friendship boat across the lake. We got off one stop early, though, and walked the rest of the way because we had time to spare and wanted to work up an appetite. We had reservations at the Biergarten for later in the day, but fortunately they were able to get us in when we arrived. Biergarten offers a smorgasbord, and was in full Octoberfest mode. They had salads, beets, pasta, spaetzle, bean soup, rolls, etc. But the menu leaned very heavily toward meats: sliced pork, pastry-wrapped meatloaf, beer sausage, brockwurst, bratwurst, salami, chicken, salmon, meatballs, and a few other things I didn't get around to trying. 

For dessert we had fruit compote, pineapple, apple strudel, cinnamon pinwheels, mini black forrest cakes, mini cheesecakes. We drank a concoction made of Coke and Fanta, which was surprisingly good.  I overate so bad that I promised myself to never overeat again. 

The entertainment was a small German band playing accordian, tuba, horn and drums. But they also did a special number with cow bells, and I finally got to hear alphorns, those wooden horns that are longer than a man is tall.  They have a deep sound (not surprisingly) but what did surprise me was that, without holes, the musicians can make different tones. I think it has something to do with breath control. 

Disney's Animal Kingdom

We decided to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom today. The big draws here now, of course, are Pandora's Avatar Flight of Passage and the Na'vi River Journey. And there was a 2-3 hour wait for those, so we passed. Someday we'll be able to get Fastpasses, but right now they are completely booked. If the Floating Mountains are anything to judge by, they should be pretty great.
So we moved on, through the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trial and the Conservation Station, where a lizard was being treated. Apparently he just wasn't feeling well, and they were checking if he was sick. How do you tell if a lizard isn't feeling well?
We took the Kilimanjaro Safaris, which rides through the area with the big animals. They have lions, cheetahs, several different kinds of antelopes, Nile crocodiles, elephants, wild dogs, hippos and rhinos.  Most animals have their own area, but sometimes different species can share digs.
The young giraffe was aware of us, but kept close to Mama while she snacked on palm leaves. 
We had lunch, then went to see Finding Nemo and It's Tough To Be a Bug. The Bug show was fun - they've added to it over the years. And there is a lot of creative work in the Nemo show. They borrow a technique from Lion King's stage performance, with players moving the characters. Randy knew a guy at the gate, who got us great seats close to the runway to center stage. How close? This close!
The play was a real spectacle with actors playing the part of fish and coral, and singing almost every line. 
In scenes in the dentist's aquarium, the pelican was a huge puppet, with just his head fitting onstage. 
Lots of fun! And someday we'll be back for the Pandora rides.

Another goodby

Life is hard sometimes. We made a rush trip back to Illinois to be with Randy's sister Sharon. We were able to spend the day by her side before she slipped away the next morning, on the 10th. This is so difficult. 

Sharon and Randy shared a special bond - he was born on her birthday. She said their mom brought him home and gave him to her as a present. There may have been times when she questioned that, but she always thought he was pretty special.  
Sharon may be the reason why Randy and I got married. She and I worked together at a restaurant and when Randy brought her roses, I was impressed. She decided to tell him that I wanted to go out with him. I did, but I hadn't told her. She just knew. She served cake at our wedding, congratulating herself on her match-making abilities.
Saying goodbye has been awful, but she was ill for a long time and we wouldn't want her to linger just to spare ourselves. The only bright spot was that we were able to spend some time with Vicki and her family. They are really good people and we are proud to call them family.

Sharon is part of a big family that keeps getting smaller, here. We trust in God that we shall be reunited in heaven. 

Disney - Food - Disney

We went to Hollywood Studios on October 2nd. In the morning and at intervals during the day, Captain Phasma leads a contingency of storm troopers down main street in the "March of the First Order". With somber background music and her voice amplified for everyone to hear, Captain Phasma has presence.
We went on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride, which is still one of our favorites. And it did not disappoint!
Next we walked around and learned that Disney's version of Grumman's Chinese Theatre has authentic celebrity footprints in it's concrete, and that Hollywood Scoops has reasonably priced ice cream. We also took the Star Tours ride, saw a movie about Walt Disney, grabbed a quick lunch at the Backlot Express, then went to the Indiana Jones Stunt show.
Later that evening we went to the Cheney Brothers Food evening event, where we nibbled on snacks and treats. They put us up in the Renaissance Hotel and provided bus service to their event location. The next day we returned to the Food Show for the serious stuff. And I mean serious. They were out to impress their potential customers and they were offering samples of everything. Oysters, scallops, and mussels. Every kind of cheese, including gorgonzola, provolone, English cheddar, and French brie. A bounty of Italian meats like prosciutto, mortadella, capocollo, pepperoni, and salami. Sashimi and sushi, lots of pasta dishes, some really good pate, and macaroni and cheese made with lobster. And a few desserts. 
One of the best things I tasted was the Peking Duck. It was so good that I didn't even mind how it looked.
We took a couple of days off to get a few things done at home, then it was back to Disney. This time we went to the Magic Kingdom, where Main Street is decorated for fall and Halloween. 
It rained on and off all day but we just put on our ponchos and kept going. We went on the Liberty Square Riverboat, then to the Haunted Mansion. They have added several things to the outside of the mansion, including a large mausoleum with musical instruments "sculpted" on its side. When kids press the instruments, they make music. Dark, somber music of course. 
Nearby we found the "It's a Small World" ride so we did that one. For an old and easy-going ride, it sure was busy! Afterwards we climbed up and through to the Swiss Robinson Family's tree house. Then we headed to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. They have dressed it up a bit with references to the movies, but much of it remains as it was originally created. We also went on the Jungle Cruise, with a nice young lady boat captain who was witty and clever, and could pilot the boat from behind her back.
By the end of that ride it was time for the early afternoon parade. Each float was themed for one of the famous Disney cartoons, like Frozen, Tangled, The Little Mermaid, Brave, Peter Pan, and Beauty and the Beast.
But near the end of the parade, just before Micky Mouse's float, came a big, lumbering dragon. I, of course, with my fascination with metal creations, loved it. One of the best things was that, unlike the other floats which just floated along, this thing walked! It took slow, tromping steps with it's big metal-banded legs. 
After the parade we went to the Monsters Inc comedy show. It was cute, and it used a feature that is showing up in more of their presentations, where the creature on stage or screen interacts with the audience. They ask questions and craft their presentation around the answers they receive
We still hadn't seen Tomorrowland so we went there next. That was sort of disappointing. We went on the People Mover ride which, like the Liberty Square Riverboat and Jungle Cruise, is a slow-moving, low-key ride. But this one felt very dated and uncared for, with views of uninteresting scenes and blank walls. The nearby Carousel of Progress has a lot of good animatronics but it too seems dated. 

And the next afternoon we went back to Epcot. We were there for the fireworks and while we were waiting, we tried a few more of the Food and Wine samples. We started at The Chocolate Studio with a Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte and a Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle. It was good, although Randy and I disagreed about the effectiveness of the nitrogen-freezing. 
We also tried a small Cheese Tart at The Cheese Studio, and at the Wine and Dine Studio we had Pulled Duck Confit. The duck was good but I expected more intense flavor from a confit dish. At the Irish stand the Warm Chocolate Pudding with Cream Liqueur Custard smelled so good that we had to order it. And it was good, but nothing today was so good that we need to repeat it. 

We went to the American Adventure Theater for an animatronic presentation, then to the Canadian show, which is a film in the round. At 10 pm the fireworks started. Epcot fires them off from the center of the lake, around the big globe, and uses the globe for a light show. We were tired by the time it was over but it was worth staying for.