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.

Friends over for dinner

Finally got our Jeep fixed, so we could return the Juke to Gary and Eric. They joined us for dinner - Randy's chicken strips and sides. It was a lovely visit; we sat around talking for 3 hours.

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!

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. 

More Disney food

Wow, there is a lot of food to taste at Disney!  First we went to the Information Center to get a new pin, and a free sample of chocolate. While we were there we looked at stuff to buy. The headless little toothpick holders seem kind of freaky to me!
Since we were near it, we went on the Mission Space ride, and this time I kept my eyes open. It's not a scary ride, I just didn't know how it would be the first time. 

Outside three guys wheeled their portable stoves in place and started performing. These aren't stoves - they're drums! 
Then more food - maybe someday I'll remember what we ate today. I know we ate at Active Eats, and Morocco. But details escape me!

Lambert's a la Maison de Foose

The group who took Randy's crepe class enjoyed it so much that they asked him to do a full dinner for 17. That involved preparing almost everything in advance, packing everything up and taking to the Foose house, where Randy cooked the veal to order. 
A lot of work but worth it, and Randy made sure he had fun along the way!

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.