Disney World Christmas – My Quick List of What Not to Miss

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You cannot begin to imagine how excited I get over Walt Disney World at Christmas time!  I start planning next year’s holiday trip probably before I leave this year’s vacation.  Visiting Walt Disney World during the holidays has become tradition for my family, and as much as there is to see and do, there are a few things I encourage you to put at the top of your list.

A Cup of Christmas Tea

The Garden View Lounge at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort is where you’ll find this jewel of an afternoon break.  Afternoon Tea is served daily from 2 PM until 4:30, and honestly, this is a meal – and an event – unto itself.  Choose from a selection of packages that include tea, sandwiches, pastries, scones, and fruit; or opt for the a la carte service, where you can choose the components of the meal you want.  It is a great way to kick off the holiday season, and it’s usually where my family begins our Christmas holiday at Walt Disney World.  We head from the airport to the resort, and we are checking in for a relaxing tea service right around 3 o’clock.  I love sitting with my girls around the table, enjoying their company in a way that we don’t always get to do in the hustle and bustle of home – OR during the hustle and bustle of a theme park vacation.  It’s a must do for me.

World Showcase Santas

Where else in one afternoon can you visit Santa, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, AND the Monkey King?  And where else in one afternoon can you give your kids such an amazing holiday cultural lesson without the whining and complaining that comes normally with trying to teach kids something on Christmas vacation?  I like to clear an afternoon and have the girls go from country to country in the World Showcase to listen to the stories of Christmas in other cultures.  The “Santas” are all wonderful, and the children are glued to the stories of how other kids are waking up on Christmas morning.  You’d think there was a Hannah Montana marathon on, they’re so attentive!  If you can’t give up a whole afternoon/evening, choose the countries significant to your family – perhaps La Befana in Italy can give your kids a glimpse into what it was like when Great Grandma woke up in her country on Christmas day.  I love it when learning and playing are almost the same thing!

Jennings Osborne Is My Hero

Long before his lights became a holiday tradition at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I couldn’t help but admire a man who held Christmas and the joy of his daughter in such high regard that he went to court to defend his right to celebrate both things.  Unfortunately, Jennings lost his court battle, but fortunately for the rest of us who couldn’t get to Arkansas for the holidays, he was kind enough to share his love of Christmas with us at Disney.  If you have ever wanted to burn your neighbor’s house down, because he has the most obnoxious holiday light display on the block, you might want to skip this part of my annual holiday tradition, but if you find joy in the bright celebration that is Christmas, you won’t want to miss the Osborne Spectacle of the Dancing Lights.  I have to tell you, I could do without the dancing part, which was added a few years back, but I still wouldn’t miss a chance to go see this outrageous display of Christmas celebration at least once (but usually twice) during my Christmas vacation.  You’ll see flying angels, marching soldiers, dancing lights, and even snowflakes (yes, in FLORIDA!!).  If you linger after the initial massive crowds when the lights first come on (usually around six in the evening), you can grab a cup of hot cocoa (yeah, I know, it’s 80 degrees – but ya gotta….) and meander up and down the street, soaking up the holiday festivity.  I’d venture to guess this is the very top of the must do list for my two littler girls, but it’s a holiday favorite for all of us.

EPCOT Candlelight Processional

It is here every year that I find the true meaning of Christmas.  Yep, in the middle of a loud, busy theme park.  Surrounded by people whose feet hurt.  Crowded by crying children.  Overwhelmed by all of the “I want…” and “Can I have…”s.  If you don’t find your holiday spirit here, you are not going to find it.

This is the retelling of the Christmas story – remember that one?  No, not the “You’ll shoot your eye out” one – the ORIGINAL Christmas story.  A celebrity narrator tells you of the birth of Christ and his impact on the world.  I gotta tell you, by the time the essay “One Solitary Life” is read, I’m crying.  I’m crying right now just thinking about hearing it.  It is the most moving theme park experience I have ever had, and I cannot wait each year to enjoy it again.  The music is outstanding, and the reminder of the reason for the season much welcomed.  If there was only one thing I could do at Walt Disney World during the Christmas season, this is the thing I would do.  (and after I did it, I’d push to do all the other things!)

This is a can’t miss vacation, no matter what.  I hope you get to enjoy some of the wonderful things my family goes back for year after year, and I hope some of our family holiday traditions become some of your favorite family traditions as well!

 

 

Christmas Morning 2010

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Christmas – In Retrospect

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I took a lot of pictures this holiday season.  These and the blogs to follow highlight some of my favorites!

CHRISTMAS AT HOME - This actually was 12/18, the day before we left to spend the holidays in Florida – plus one bonus photo of lazy Granuaile being met at the car by her dad with a wagon so she didn’t have to walk up the driveway!

Christmas Party 2010 – The Aftermath Part 3

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Let’s move on to the main event, shall we?

This is where things get fuzzy.  This table WAS just for the main parts of the meal – entrees and side dishes.  As my dining room table has grown in size over the years (hmmmm, so has my waist size – coincidence?), it seems I add more stuff to this table that maybe should be elsewhere?

Anyway, what ended up on this table was the spinach dip – which was gone entirely.  The vegetable crudite, made only with veggies I and my girls will/can eat, so when I have leftovers, it’s not leftovers of stuff I end up throwing away.  We went through nearly the whole tray.  Then we had a pickle (dill spears and sweet gherkins) and olive (black and green) tray – with marinated mushrooms, mostly because I had an extra space in my dish.  I had nearly the whole tray left.  Apparently, this was not an olive year.

We had at the other end of the table my baked ham, served cold.  I had a bunch of that left, but ham doesn’t do well in the chafing dish for the length of time the party was.  I might have to work on that.  In the front right is the grape pizza – which was almost entirely gone.  In the crock pot was my roast turkey, which was a big hit – and that was a surprise.  Aren’t people still eating turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, and turkey croquettes from Thanksgiving?  I put the cranberry sauce next to it in case people wanted to make a whole Thanksgiving meal/sandwich kind of thing.  I had half of the cranberry sauce left.  Next year – awesomesauce (this is an homage to my “brother” on the Moms Panel, Jonas, and I have no idea what one would even make awesomesauce out of – perhaps Damn Good Dip?).

The gorgeous looking “wreath” is a broccoli/ham/cheese ring, made with a recipe from my friend Amy.  Amy has elevated herself to Best Friend For Life with this recipe!  Almost as soon as I put the ring on the table, it was entirely gone.  I’m sorry I didn’t make the whole table just these rings – it got RAVE reviews.  No awesomesauce or damn good name necessary.

Meatballs, Sausage, Bruschetta – oh my!  The bruschetta is nestled safely back in my fridge, as it was the lone “not touched” item on the table.  The second crock pot has meatballs and sausage in it, and I had only a container left.  Even the Italians commented on how good they were (thank you, Ragu, which may very well be the original awesomesauce).  The chafing dishes contained stuffing – my stepmom’s recipe- which also won critical acclaim; and kielbasa.  One pan of kielbasa was entirely eaten, but the second pan was too dry and untouched.  I also think we got better kielbasa at the Polish deli, but to save time, I bought it at Wegman’s deli.  Next year, we’re back at the Polish deli (yeah, I keep saying next year after I swore never again).

Then we had desserts.  I inevitably forget SOMETHING on the table.  This year, it was the dip for the fruit salad.  I had a mini-meltdown over desserts.  I ordered a case of cranberry bliss bars from Starbucks, along with peppermint brownies, and my bliss bars were accidentally dispensed to Starbucks patrons with obviously discriminating palates.  I was pissed.  Almost pissed enough to never set foot in Starbucks again.  I ended up replacing it with a red velvet roll (no one touched it, as pretty as I thought it was), cupcakes, panettone, petit fours, and blueberry cake (they were hard to replace).  I had desserts of all kinds left, especially since people brought more desserts in.  I don’t have a photo of the beautiful carrot cake my Aunt Barbara made, but I heard it was delicious!


What kind of desserts do people like at these things?  Clue me in.

Christmas Party 2010 – The Aftermath Part 2

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Food, glorious food!  Here’s what we served at the party – and a breakdown of what people didn’t eat.

Starting with the cheese course.  I’m not a fan of strong cheese – I prefer mild and softer cheese.  The tray included Havarti (my favorite), Stilton with cranberries (which looked pretty but must have tasted terrible, because I ended up tossing nearly the whole thing), Swiss, for Jim, who loves it (blech), and a sharp cheddar (blech again, but my family loves it).  The only thing I tossed off of this plate was the crackers and the Stilton.  That would have made a nice lunch!  Next year – well, it’s easy to do cheese, and it varies from year to year whether it’s a hit or miss.  Maybe I’ll change it up with some Fabulous Beekman Boys goat cheese!

Downstairs snack foods are always tricky.  It’s usually mostly kids playing down there, but this year, it was mostly grown ups.  For the first time EVER, in the 20 plus years we’ve had a holiday party, I threw away potato chips and onion dip.  I almost always have to refill the chips and dip.  The buffalo chicken cheese dip – FLOP.  Thank goodness I can’t take credit for creating this hot mess.  Even the grown ups deemed it too spicy and unpleasant.  Chips and salsa – no one ever eats chips and salsa.  Jim makes me put it there every year, because he prefers it to sour cream based dips.  Next year, he’ll have to sit and eat the whole thing.  If there was going to be a next year.  17,003.

We also had girl scout nuts (they were spicy), and a snack tray from Target with my favorite ever trail mix – the pumpkin one.  Fortunately, no one ate it, so it quickly became all mine.

The thing that looks like a pizza is the seafood surprise dip.  I love how this dip tastes, I really do, but no one ever eats this thing.  I make it for Jim, because he loves it, but even he didn’t find time to get downstairs to eat any of it.  I think, and rightfully so, food with the word “SURPRISE” in the name probably frightens people off.  A heart attack is a surprise – not good.  A car accident is a surprise – not good.  A tax audit from the IRS is a surprise – not good.  Next year, I’m still making this, but instead of calling it seafood surprise, I’m calling it Damn Good Dip.

This was also downstairs, and there is only one snackable item on the table – the dark chocolate covered, metallic almonds that Jim bought.  I don’t think people realized this was not just a decoration.  These were delicious, but I had to go downstairs, open up the candy jar, and pass them out.  The metallic thing also freaked people out.  Next year?  These will be called Damn Good Nuts.

Stay tuned for Damn Good Stuffing.

Christmas Party 2010 – The Aftermath, Part 1

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Well, for those of you who have been dedicated blog readers – back in the day when I posted once a year – you know that I always post a Christmas party wrap up.  I do this for two reasons.  The first reason is to remind me next November when I start thinking about hosting the Christmas party that I said 17,000 times the year before “I am NEVER doing this again!”  The second reason is because I have Mommy brain, which, as you know, not only causes you to forget your own name sometimes, but also causes you to forget painful things like childbirth and planning a Christmas party.

Next year, when I’ve forgotten how grueling putting this party together has been, I’d like to be reminded what I did that worked and what I did that flopped.  So here is part one of my party recap.

Invitations – I sent almost all electronic invitations this year, and I loved them.  The feedback I got was almost entirely positive, so it’s not something I’d scratch off the list next year.  I did find out there were a few people who had trouble opening the invitations, so I apologize for that.  I may just post the invitation here on my blog.  You’re all invited next year.  Oh wait, I am NEVER doing this again 17,001.

Clean Up and Preparation – Bless my lazy arsed husband.  When I told him that between the kids, my classes, scouts, cheer leading, drama, dance, and him, there was no way I’d be able to clean the house to get ready for the party without his help.  His answer to that was to bring in a housekeeper the day before the party to help me get things ready.  She was a lifesaver.  While she was scrubbing toilets and wiping down windows, I was roasting a turkey and making deviled eggs.  Everything ran a bit more smoothly without the worry of a last minute, Flight of the Bumble Bee style clean up looming over my head.

Layout – The Florida room, which, ironically, is the coldest room in our house during the winter, is the “bar”.  We set up a table, put out beer, wine, sodas, and pitchers of iced tea, occasionally do a punch or an egg nog (not this year), and sometimes some stuff to mix drinks.  This year, it was brutally cold outside, but because of all the cooking, it was comfortable in the Florida room.  The drinks stayed cold, the ice didn’t melt as quickly, but I did notice not too many people gravitated out there this year.  Maybe because we had a smaller party (50 guests)?  I don’t know, but I’d probably leave the drinks out there next year.  If I was doing this again next year, which, as you know, I am not (17,002).

Downstairs was the table of snack type foods.  There were chips and dips and cheese and things.  I am truly surprised at how much of this I ended up getting rid of at the end of the night.  Not sure this is a good spot for this or not.

We always set up a table in the kitchen with desserts, and it seems to be a good – but not great – spot.  There’s always a gang of people in the kitchen – maybe people who don’t want a plate of dessert, but will stand and nibble on cookies.  I can’t think where else this table might go, but I’m not sure having it in the kitchen is the best place.

The dining room table is always real food, but over the years, it has become a mix of real foods, snacks, side dishes.  I think this needs to be reworked, also :-(

Stay tuned for part 2, where I tell you how people criticized my cooking in the most polite way – by not eating it!