Wrapping Up Christmas Party 2007

Another year, another party.  I made some old, familiar mistakes this year – plus a bunch of new ones!  But I think overall, our crowd of around 60 people seemed to enjoy themselves.  No one was any wiser for the things I forgot or ran out of time to do.  As usual, we have our list of must do’s and don’t do’s, and I’ll share the list with you. 

To begin with, I just felt really behind the entire weekend.  We planned the party for Sunday, figuring Jim would be home Friday and Saturday to help me get stuff done.  We also spent a week the week before the party in Orlando, so I had a mountain of stuff to catch up anyway. 

By the morning of the party, I had done a lot of the leg work.  We were not having ANYTHING catered, which we usually do.  I had roasted two turkeys, and I had made potato salad.  I cooked the sausage and fried the kielbasa.  I made spinach dip and hoagie dip.  I store bought roast beef, and needed to simmer that in gravy, and simmer the sliced turkey in gravy to put it on the buffet.  I had SOOOOO much trouble with my hard boiled eggs that my 3 dozen deviled eggs turned into just over a dozen.  Brighid – bless her to the bottom of her little heart – had done A LOT of the actual housework – wiping down the bathrooms, running the vacuum, etc.   To complicate matters, the party was scheduled for 2 o’clock, and at 12:45, I ran upstairs to get a fast shower.  By the time I was out of the shower, we already had company!

So here’s the basic lowdown on how things went, what I did wrong, what we did right…

Table 1 – Drinks

We said a couple of years ago that we needed to add another long table and put it in the Florida room with drinks on it.  That would free up the kitchen counter for things and eliminate the need to manuever around the dessert table in the kitchen to get a drink.  Well, this year, we asked my mom to bring her table, and it worked out GREAT.  The sodas, the ice, the liquor, the wine – everything was out in the Florida room on the table out there.  We had two tubs with sodas and beer in them, and we had way too much wine.  We also had a pretty stocked bar and mixers, so anything anyone wanted was there.  We need to get ourselves a table and make this change permanent.

Table 2 – Chafing Dishes and hot foods

We made the decision this year to try to keep everything in chafing dishes, to avoid things like the crockpots being too far on the back of the table for people to reach or what to do with the lids to the crockpots.  In the end, though, I put the meatballs and sausage in a crockpot.  They just taste better cooked together, and the crockpot does a great job helping  the flavors blend together.  The other crockpots had hot roast turkey and gravy, hot roast beef and gravy, green bean casserole (Megan’s recipe), broccoli casserole, and kielbasa and sauerkraut.  At the end of the night, there was virtually NO kielbasa and sauerkraut left – the few odd pieces of kielbasa.  We had some turkey left, more than I thought we would have, and based on the fact that my aunt with a ton of kids cancelled last minute due to pink eye, I figured we’d have stuff left over.  I had made two trays of roast beef, figuring it would be popular and I could easily freeze the leftovers, but I had a full tray left.  About half of the green bean casserole was eaten and 1/4 of the broccoli casserole.  They looked similar in the chafing dishes, so people may have thought they were the same thing, and I don’t know if it’s worth doing veggies at this type of party.  And of course, the meatballs and sausage – most of which was eaten.

Also on this table was potato salad.  I made 10 pounds, and we went through about 6 at the party.  My mom liked it, and since it’s her recipe, that’s all the compliment it needed. 

Table 3 – Snack Type Foods

This table was the biggest disappointment.  I threw away a ton of hoagie dip and spinach dip – both of which have been very popular in previous years.  I got rid of all of the deviled eggs, but I only made a dozen eggs, but only about 16 deviled eggs made it out to the table.  I threw away pretty much the whole cheese tray – I think only Granuaile and I ate anything from the cheese platter.  The pickles and olives were picked on, but I did still have quite a few left over.  The pickles I thought would be least popular – and the ones I threw on at the last minute because I had a spot left over in the divided tray – were the dill spears.  I only had 1 of those left.  I also threw away a whole tray of crackers.  I don’t know why more of this stuff didn’t get eaten.  I know early on, a lot of people were watching football downstairs, and the chips and dip tray was emptied, but no one really came up to get other snacks.

The one exception in popularity from this table was the shrimp.  I made 6 pounds of shrimp and cocktail sauce, and had not one shrimp left. 

Table 4 – Desserts

Would you believe I forgot to put out the bulk of the desserts?  How does anyone forget dessert?  I baked a pumpkin pie, a coconut custard pie, and an apple pie – all Mrs. Smith.  I sliced them and put them out, but they were a last minute addition.  I made a cupcake wreath, but the only one who ate a cupcake was Eilis.  We bought cookies from Wegman’s and made our own cookie tray – people really ate the cookies, but we over bought and had a whole tray left over.  Aunt Barbara and Uncle Buddy brought a 5 fruit pie, and it looked amazing.  Harry and his wife were the only ones who tried it, but both loved it, and then my mom and Bob had it on Christmas Eve and said it was really good.  I also made fruit salad, two bowls.  One was eaten, the other was not, and the dip was gone.  But I had cheesecake, eclairs and cream puffs in the freezer that never made it to the table.  I can’t believe I forgot them!

The other things I forgot – the provolone cheese for the meatball sandwiches; the horseradish for the roast beef; the cranberry sauce for the turkey; and the spicy mustard for the kielbasa.  Evidently, I’m just not good with condiments and accompaniments.

We still had people at the house until after 10 o’clock, and the kids really seemed to have a great time.  I will NEVER do this party this close to Christmas again – it was way too much to get ready so close to having to get all of the Christmas stuff ready.  I also needed more time between the party and the trip to Florida.  Either that, or I need to prepare more ahead of time and freeze it or call in the caterer.

We managed to get everything cleaned up and ourselves in bed by 1 AM – better than I thought we would do! 

Overall, it was a great day.  Jim says every year that this is really for the kids, and they appreciated it.  Granuaile was asking to go to bed when the last guest left, and Eilis was asking for playdates with all of the kids that came.  They had a good time.

Next year – earlier, catered, and with strings tied to my fingers to remember the provolone cheese and other accompaniments!

Jolly Holidays Thursday

The whole reason for us being here this week instead of a week that would have been way more convenient for school schedules and vacation schedules is because Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure does not start their holiday festivities until the second week of December.  Don’t ask me why.  It’s a tragedy that we have had annual passes to these parks forever and have never gotten to enjoy their Christmas offerings because they start them so close to Christmas.  I say get on the ball, Universal Studios.  The rest of the known world has their holiday decorations up at the crack of October.  What nerve you have waiting until CHRISTMAS to decorate for CHRISTMAS!!

So here we are, just in time for the holiday happenings at Universal, so that’s our plan today.  Except when we get there, the only time the Macy’s parade is marching is at dusk, just before the park closes.  Well, we don’t want to stay that late.  We have to be up early tomorrow to be on an airplane.  And the Islands of Adventure park ONLY has Christmas in Dr. Seuss island.  We can be done that in about 15 minutes.  So disappointing.

Anyway, we head in to Islands of Adventure for the Grinchmas celebration.  The stage show, new this year for the 50th anniversary of the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas, doesn’t start until noon, so we are way early for that.  We do the rides, we meet the Grinch, and the girls run into a few of the Whos from Whoville, who are wandering the area, telling people to be careful of the Grinch.  The Whos seem reluctant to pose for pictures, so I more or less took a few pictures of the kids talking to the Whos.  We putzed around a while, and Eilis got to ride the roller coaster, and then we went back for the stage show.  It was cute.  That’s all.  I wasn’t bawling my eyes out from the warm and fuzzy Christmas sentiment.  It was more like the Jim Carrey version of the Grinch, where you don’t much like the Grinch, even after he’s good.  But Eilis got to go up on stage and sing with the Da Who Doraze part of the show, so that was cool.

As a side note here, some woman passed out behind me.  The way they seat the show, all the kids can go up front and sit with one adult from their party close to the stage.  The rest of the adults have to stand at the back.  It was crowded and pretty hot, and an elderly woman fainted behind me with about 10 minutes left in the show.  She was still laying on the ground, appearing to be unconscious, when we exited the show, and the medics were walking over, confused about where to go.  I don’t know if they got lost, they didn’t call them right away, or it took them that long to get there.  Whatever the story, I hope they were able to get medical attention for this woman and she has recovered fully from her ordeal.

We rode a few other things, then had lunch at the rib place that Jim is so fond of.  We started to head out of the park at about 3:30 to head to Jim’s mother’s house for dinner.  We skipped Universal altogether, since the only thing I really wanted to see was the parade, and they had it so much later than I had hoped it would be.  There was not a line for ANYTHING that we wanted to ride at IOA today – even the roller coasters were a 5 minute wait.  I know when we go back after Christmas we won’t be so lucky, so I’m glad we got to take advantage of the short lines this trip.

Jolly Holidays Wednesday – And a HUGE Thank You!!!

First, before this blog goes anywhere, I went to post a HUGE THANK YOU to my father-in-law’s friend Richard.  We can’t tell him how grateful we are to him for gaining our admission to EPCOT.  We all had a great time, got a big dose of the Christmas spirit, and truly appreciate you going out of your way for us.  Thank you so much!

So, I am determined to get this gang up and out the door at oh dark something this morning, to make sure we are at the park in time.  We are meeting Jim’s parents and their friend Richard at 9 AM, and I want to make sure we are there with time to spare.  YAY – we get there at 8:35!!  We get a great parking spot, and I find Richard right away.  He is such a pleasure to talk to, and we all had a nice conversation when I wasn’t chasing my youngest daughter.

Dot and Russ got there a few minutes before 9, and we spent another couple of minutes talking before we headed into EPCOT for the day.  Our first stop – The Land, where we ride the boat ride.  This is one of my favorite things at EPCOT, although I am disappointed to see that they no longer have a guide on the boat – it’s all recorded.  I guess this is just another way to save Disney money, but it does take a little away from the ride.  It’s still fascinating to me, though, to see the garden part of the tour.  Not being able to grow anything in the traditional fashion makes me all the more interested in how they grow things the way they do!

We leave the boat ride, and Jim, Russ and Eilis head to Soarin’.  The wait is 20 minutes, which for this ride is really good, so they stay while I go up to the top of the building to wait with Dot.  During the wait, a lady comments to me about how very good and patient Granuaile is.  Well isn’t that a beaming mommy moment!!  I want to tell her that this is unusual for her, and it might be that she was drugged with a Triaminic strip for a cough this morning and we kept her awake until the wee hours of the morning, so she is probably sleeping with her eyes open, but I thank the very nice lady and appreciate for a few minutes that the terrible twos aren’t always so terrible.

We are closing in on lunch time, so we decide to head over to the World Showcase and the Amercian Adventure area, where we see the giant and smelling oh so good Gingerbread house.  They will be selling the delicious gingerbread here later on, but right now, it’s closed.  And so is the restaurant.  They don’t start serving until 11:30 and it’s only 11:05.  We just hang out, meet a nice lady in line with us who went to Boston College and discouraged us from letting Brighid consider Northeastern.  Finally, we purchase our enjoyable lunch, and just as we are finishing, Granuaile hears the fife and drum corps and runs to hear it.  She loves them!  She’s so musical.

The afternoon goes well, bouncing from ride to show to shop, and we soon find it time to eat again.  Dinner is at Le Cellier, and it’s an early meal so that we can go to the 6:45 Candlelight Processional.  I’ll review the restaurant later, but we eat, and we are on our way.  It’s pretty much time to go wait in line for the Candlelight Processional, which tonight is being narrated by Chita Rivera.  Jim loved her from Kiss of the Spider Woman.  I think that’s the show that turned him on to the theatre, because up until then, he had shown very little interest.  Anyway…

Midway through the show, Eilis has to go to the bathroom.  I figure I will wait until the Hallelujah chorus is being sung so I can slip out without really disturbing anyone.  Granuaile, however, decides to whisper in that OH SO LOUD baby whisper that Eilis has to go Baf-room!!  Now!  Mommy!  Eilis has to go baf-room!  UGH.  We do manage to make it to the Hallelujah Chorus, and we run to the bathroom.

We had a few pictures taken during this trip, and the one photographer helped me with my camera by teaching me how great night mode is.  He was great.

I hate to see the day come to an end, but the kids are tired, and it’s getting late, and we really have done a lot today.  The Candlelight Processional is my favorite Christmas moment, and I leave EPCOT feeling really good.  Back at the hotel, the girls get a snack and climb into bed, and it’s just been a terrific day.

Jolly Holidays Tuesday

Tonight is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, so we’re going to try to take the morning easy.  We get up when we’re ready – which for me means by 6:30, and the rest of the crew by about 8:30.  I offer the kids breakfast now, pool later or reverse, and of course, they are kids.  They want to go to the pool NOW.  The AKL pool is so nice.  It’s a zero entry pool, which means you don’t climb down steps, you go in like you do at the beach, and the water gradually gets deeper.  It’s also HEATED – YAY!!!  The air temperature is still a bit cool – low 70’s – but the water feels pretty good and the kids go right in.  The water slide is closed, since there are no life guards on duty yet, but I don’t think the kids would use the slide anyway.  We hang out at the pool about an hour and a half, and the girls have worked up an appetite for some breakfast.  We head on up to the room, and I throw breakfast together while Jim puts the kids in the shower, then while they eat, I hop in the shower.  We are going to head to Downtown Disney to get Granuaile’s silhouette done.  I have one of each of the other girls at age 2, so it’s her turn.

 We arrive to find out that the silhouette booth won’t be open for another 20 minutes, so we go into the World of Disney to do a little shopping.  The check out line is pretty long, so Jim ends up taking Granuaile over to the silhouette stand and Eilis and I check out with our purchases.  Because we spent $50, we also picked up an adorable snowman throw blanket for only $10 more!  A great addition to the holiday decorations at our house!

With Granuaile’s silhouette in hand, we take a ride back to the hotel for Jim to take a call for work and for us to eat lunch and change for the party.  We are out the door by about 4:30 to head to Magic Kingdom, and that puts us there just in time to see the transformation of Cinderella’s castle!  Oh my gosh – it’s so beautiful!

We have a dinner reservation at Liberty Tree Tavern.  Uh oh.  Something got stuck.  I’m not really sure what it’s called, but stuck is what it feels like.  It’s when I eat something that seems to stick somewhere in my upper chest region.  I feel lumpy there, and I feel like I should throw up but often can’t.  It’s such an uncomfortable feeling, and I end up making 3 trips to the bathroom, praying to be able to throw up or for the walking to help it move down.  Finally, it did move, and I felt better.  I also got great pictures of the kids with the characters, so that made the meal worth it, despite not being able to eat much.  And, as a bonus, they only charged me a kid’s price!

The party is wonderful!  I love the special events at Disney World.  The party was sold out, but there didn’t seem to be lines for anything.  The kids rode a few rides, we saw a fantastic Christmas parade, the fireworks were amazing.  This year, in addition to giving guests hot chocolate and sugar cookies, you could also select apple juice and apple slices – they were a huge hit with my kids.

We ended up staying at the park until just past 11 o’clock.  Tomorrow will be a long day at EPCOT, and I know the girls will be tired.  They are back at the hotel and in bed around 11:45, but both of them fell asleep in the car on the way home.  That will certainly help in the morning 🙂

Cafe TuTu Tango A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

As a person who has had a gastric bypass procedure, it can sometimes be challenging to find something on the menu at a mainstream restaurant that I can – or want to – eat.  As an overweight person, I didn’t realize how absolutely HUGE the portions can be at restaurants, so no matter where I go now, I end up taking most of my meal home with me – and even doing that, much of it ends up going to waste.  I try to steer clear of the things that are fried, things that have rice or pasta, anything with bread.  It really does wake you up to the fact that my options are limited wherever we go.

Cafe TuTu Tango was one of our favorite places to get a bite to eat when we lived in Orlando.  Jim even organized an office Christmas party there one year, and everyone had a blast.  While driving down International Drive in Orlando during our recent trip, thinking we might find a new restaurant to try, Cafe TuTu Tango popped up and a quick decision was made to revisit our old stomping grounds.

The “theme” of Tutu Tango is “Food for the Starving Artist”.  Everything here is served tapas style – or appetizer sized.  This keeps the cost of getting something to eat at a reasonable level, and it allows you to try a couple of things, or a table to try several things, that can be passed and shared.  This place is a gastric bypass patient’s dream come true!

On our lunch visit, we walked in to find the restaurant virtually empty.  We were quickly seated, and both girls given crayons and pictures of Backyardigans characters to color.  Granuaile LOVES the Backyardigans, and she was thrilled.  Jim and I browsed the menu, and quickly discouraged Eilis from ordering off of the children’s menu and allowing us to pick some things we thought she might like to try.  The kids’ menu at Cafe TuTu Tango is similar to every other children’s menu you’ve seen – heavy on the fried and fatty.  Any kid would be glad to have something – corn dogs, chicken strips, the usual fare.  But we’re emphasizing healthy eating, and the adult menu has a bigger variety of better for you choices.

The specials menu features a hummus with pita chips, and it’s only $3 for a good sized portion.  I order that, as I currently love hummus, but Eilis apparently enjoys it as well and is scooping up quite a bit of it on the tiny pitas and pita chips.  Jim orders a bowl of black bean soup for he and I to share, and I have to say, of all the foods we ate, this was the one disappointment for me.  There was an overwhelming citrusy taste to it, and very little of any other flavor.  I felt like I should add salt, but then didn’t want to add salt because it tasted so citrusy that I thought the salt would make it taste funny.  Jim ended up with the whole bowl after I braved a second bite to determine I really didn’t like it.

The kids practically devoured the shrimp and chicken potstickers, which you can order steamed like we did or deep fried.  Eilis didn’t even try the sauce until the very end, and then was dipping everything into it.  We also ordered a chicken pizza to give the kids something familiar.  The flavorful, thin crusted pizza had chunks of chicken, carmelized onion, and three cheeses.  The chicken pizza is a white pizza with a nice garlicky flavor.  Another big hit was the scallops – broiled to perfection and with a lime sauce that was really tasty.  Scallops are one of the foods I can easily eat, and after sharing one of the large scallops between Granuaile and Eilis, I ate one whole one myself and split the last one with Jim. 

With drinks – a very nicely flavored unsweetened ice tea for me, and sodas for the kids (Jim only drinks water), and a magnificent looking dessert of banana pizza (bananas, caramel, and ice cream atop a pizza crust), the bill came to about $50 for the 4 of us.  Because the portions are smaller sized, there really is no waste for someone who has a compromised gastrointestinal tract like we do after weight loss surgery, and you really can choose from a good selection of proteins, salads, the soup (there are two on the menu).  I would have been more than content with the scallop dish and a small salad (there are 5 salads on the menu, and 3 contain some form of protein) if I was there eating alone, but had PLENTY to eat even in choosing foods I knew the kids would like.  The pizza crust is thin enough that I could easily eat it without getting sick, which a lot of pizza crust can do to me, and there are many other options on the menu I could have tried with a table full of WLS patients that would have skipped any type of bread/crust at all. 

The added bonus to Cafe TuTu Tango is they feature art work throughout the restaurant from local artists.  You can purchase any of the pieces on display, and you really get a good sampling of local talent – in everything from sculpture to painting. 

This is definitely a must do restaurant for Gastric Bypass patients – and anyone who is looking for a menu filled with delicious surprises, international flavors and eclectic flair.

Jolly Holidays Monday

You know when you plan the perfect vacation, and everything is falling into place, and you can’t wait to get started, watching the kids enjoy themselves and then you start to relax and enjoy yourself?  Yeah.  Ain’t happenin’.  This is a Skamarakas family trip – did you expect the Brady Bunch?

I woke up early this morning – what else is new? – and went to the bathroom before waking Jim and asking him if he wanted to get up early with me, eat breakfast out on the balcony watching the animals before the kids got up.  He reluctantly agreed.  I quickly made breakfast for Jim, grabbed a protein bar for myself, and sat outside.  Then had to go to the bathroom.  Then ran back outside.  Then had to go to the bathroom.  Yes, ladies, you might recognize this as a symptom of a urinary tract infection.  I drink a gallon of water – give or take an ounce – and hope for the best.  The plan is to go to SeaWorld, then hit Walmart for a few things I didn’t know I needed – cranberry juice and Azo tablets – and to pick up a bag of groceries that never made it into our shopping cart yesterday.  We also left a bunch of stuff at Jim’s mom’s house, but I realize how low in importance it is when the pain from the UTI kicks in. 

We get the kids up, dressed, and fed, and we are on our way to SeaWorld.  The gallon of water is helping minimally, and I am in such great discomfort walking around SeaWorld that by 1 o’clock, I really can’t stand it anymore.  We decide to head out of the park and grab some lunch and then hit Walmart for the stuff we need.  Not sure where we want to eat, Jim starts heading down International Drive from SeaWorld, and we figure we’ll find some place we’ve never eaten to try, and then we pass Cafe TuTu Tango.  This was one of our favorite places when we lived in Orlando, but we haven’t been here in years.  If you have never been, this is a tapas style restaurant – basically, a menu full of appetizers.  It’s perfect for someone who has had gastric bypass surgery!  We choose a few things we think the kids will enjoy – steamed dumplings, chicken pizza, scallops, hummus and chips, and black bean soup.  It really makes a full meal for everyone at the table, and the girls are given pictures to color of Backyardigans characters – Granuaile’s favorite.  Another of the neat things about TuTu Tango is that they display the works of local artists all over the walls, and when the girls are done their pictures, the waitress brings them tape so they can add their art to the beautiful displays.  Eilis puts a price tag of $2 on hers – a bargain at twice the price.

Bordering on agony, I am finally on my way to Walmart.  I grab a six pack of diet cranberry juice and the box of Azo, a nightgown, since I forgot to pack one, and we get the groceries that we left behind the day before.  I pick up a rotisserie chicken for dinner, and we are on our way back to the hotel.  Tonight in the lobby there is a craft set up.  The kids can pay $5 and make a Christmas ornament using dyed broken ostrich egg shells.  We pay for Eilis to do one – the money goes to animal conservation – and she happily sets about making a blue giraffe, which, of course, is exquisite 🙂  They give her a button which says she has helped with animal conservation, and we head up to the room for dinner.  The Azo is kicking in THANK YOU MAKERS OF AZO!!, and I am finally feeling a little bit better.  I take the girls downstairs and at the gift shop, they are getting ready to hold a parade.  The kids get to choose an instrument from the shop, and they parade around the immense lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge singing, “We are in Africa!” over and over again.  It’s so much fun for the kids, they want to do it every night of the vacation!

We head back upstairs, have a bedtime snack of cookies and milk (thank you, Jim, for the nice cookies you picked up for the kids – they loved them as much as you do), and head off to bed.  No rush to get out tomorrow, since the plan is just to go to Magic Kingdom for the Very Merry Christmas Party.

Jolly Holidays, Sunday

I am up way too early.  My internal alarm clock seems permanently set on 6 something in the morning, and I don’t know how to break the habit!  I may have to find out during Christmas break!

I get up, and quietly start to pack our stuff.  At some point, Jim wakes up, and he starts getting himself ready.  When the girls get up, so as not to disturb anyone, I give them cereal and juice, and then I start to get them ready to go.  At that point, Dot and Russ wake up, and the kids decide they need “second breakfast” – a hot and delicious eggs and bacon, which certainly makes them forget the cereal they have already eaten. 

We take our time, load up the car, and we all head to CiCi’s Pizza for lunch. When lunch is over, we head to our hotel – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  This is our first trip “home” as Animal Kingdom DVC owners.  We checked in and found our room was not ready, so we headed over to do the grocery shopping.  The thing I like best about the villas at DVC is the kitchen and laundry facilities in your room.  It’s a great money saver to have the ability to make some meals – especially breakfast – and to keep snacks and drinks handy.  And going home with all clean clothes is AWESOME!  We hit Walmart and do our shopping, picking up more than we need of everything (come on, who doesn’t do that at Walmart?).  By then, we can check into our villa.

I had booked a 2 bedroom, working on the assumption that my mom would be coming with us.  She doesn’t feel up to it, and we have a ton of room.  The thing is, this is a lock off – meaning it’s really a 1 bedroom and a studio that are opened up at the connecting door to make it a 2 bedroom.  I feel a little cheated here, because I have tried to change our reservation to a 1 bedroom several times, only to be told they are not available.  They could have made another family happy by closing this unit off. 

This is, as I said, our first trip to AKL villas, and they are GORGEOUS!  The counter tops are all granite, and the color scheme is very earthy.  The CM who brought up our luggage tells us that AKL is now the largest African museum in America, and every piece in the unit is authentic – from the carved wood headboard and armoire to the art work.  I love how they incorporated things from The Lion King – my all time favorite Disney movie.  The room is just beautiful.

We have a nice dinner – Granuaile’s favorite – hot dogs.  And then we sit on the balcony and watch the animals.  We also have a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks, and we watch them each night that we are in the room.  We headed to the gift shop and rented a couple of movies, and Granuaile falls asleep early.  We’re visiting SeaWorld tomorrow, so we’re trying to be well rested.  The rest of us head to bed about 11 with no plan to rush getting up in the morning.  They’re saying the weather will be beautiful all week.  I can’t wait!

CiCi’s Pizza Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

CiCi’s Pizza, for those unfamiliar with the place, is a pizza buffet restaurant.  For a set price – around $6 or $7, depending on the CiCi’s you go to – you can eat as much as you want of their many varieties of pizza, macaroni with a red gravy or an alfredo sauce, and two or three kinds of pasta.  They also have a small selection of desserts – a dessert pizza, that is kind of like an apple pie on a pizza crust; cinnamon buns; and chocolate brownies. 

In terms of the gastric bypass patient, CiCi’s might not be your first choice.  Pizza is high in fat, after all, and fat is one of those foods we should avoid.  Pizza rests on pizza crust, and that is another thing that for many gastric bypass patients is not a safe food.  But I say go, my fellow WLS buddies!  Enjoy the pizza, have some salad, skip the pasta, and you’ll come away happy.

The pizza at CiCi’s is mostly thin crusted (although you will see one or two Sicilian varieties), and if you don’t eat the back of the crust, you really shouldn’t have any trouble at all with the bread part of the pizza.  You can skip the pizza with tomato sauce (although I do not know if CiCi’s uses sugar in their sauce, I always assume that any place that serves red sauce uses sugar), because you will find many options without red sauce.  But even the pizza with the red sauce doesn’t overload the crust with the sauce, and for most of you, it should still be a safe bet.

The cheese, as we all know, is chock full of protein, and some of the CiCi’s toppings are added protein.  There is a ham and cheddar, chicken, BBQ chicken, as well as the more traditional pepperoni, sausage, beef, and ham and pineapple pizzas.  You can make a good choice even at the pizza buffet, and they are really very accomodating, so if you want them to make you something, they will. 

The salad bar varies from restaurant to restaurant.  Some of them have two or three pre-made, pre-dressed salads, usually including a pasta salad, a caesar salad, and a mixed green salad.  Other CiCi’s have a regular salad bar.  This one we went to had the pre-made, pre-dressed salads, and I stuck with the mixed green salad with an Italian type dressing.  You can certainly skip the salad if you fear the fat content in the pre-dressed salads, but I had no trouble with it.  I even had a little bit of a bacon ranch salad that was offered – a mixed green vegetable salad with bacon, a little cheese, and ranch dressing.  It tasted good and I didn’t dump, so I was pleased with that.

If you’re craving dessert, this is not the place to find happiness.  Your options on the dessert buffet are limited to ooey gooey chocolately delicious looking brownies; ooey gooey sticky sweet cinnamon buns; and ooey gooey caramely delicious apple pie type pizza.  I would guess that the sugar content in any of the desserts is enough to send you into some kind of serious, laying on the floor, begging for mercy dumping situation, and if the sugar doesn’t bother you, the fat likely will.  But if you are the kind of WLS patient that can handle that stuff, they do cut the brownie pieces into small squares, and the apple pie pizza thing into thin slices, so you may be able to get away with a taste of either of those.  The cinnamon buns are much smaller than those you would get at the mall Cinna-Bon store, but they are the most generously sized dessert, so you might want to skip those.

You can add whatever kind of drink you want to the buffet, and they do have water at no additional cost.  I stick with unsweetened iced tea.

CiCi’s is certainly not gourmet pizza, but it is good tasting pizza, and it’s a great restaurant to take a family with kids.  For those of you who hesitate to go to a buffet with your family because you know you can no longer eat your money’s worth, CiCi’s is a reasonably priced enough option that even if you can only eat one or two slices and a bit of salad, you won’t feel you’ve wasted money. 

I highly recommend CiCi’s pizza to those of you who have had Gastric Bypass surgery – and to those who haven’t.  It’s enjoyable for the whole family.

Jolly Holidays, Saturday

So, we sleep a little bit later than usual this morning, and no one is really anxious to get up and moving, since we were up so late last night. Grace bounced from bed to bed until Jim finally put her down, asleep, with Eilis on the fold out sofa.  Jim’s mom has to work later today at a holiday function in their community, so we don’t make any real plans to go anywhere or do anything, other than run out for coffee.  We spend quite a bit of time on the phone and online with British Airways, but the end result – all of our travel reservations for next summer are made!  We got a pretty good deal by booking with the British Airways credit card.  We had to buy upgraded seats (not REAL upgrades, like first class, but upgrades like two across instead of 3), but it was a buy one ticket, get a companion ticket for free deal, so it worked out to be the same price – a few dollars less – than paying for all 7 of us.  We were able to book the odd ticket as a regular coach fare, but then with the frequent flier miles we got from booking the rest of the tickets, we got a free upgrade on the 7th seat, so we’re all together.  London won’t know what hit them when this crew arrives!!

We had a delicious dinner of roast beef, and then after dinner, Russell took us all out on the golf cart to see the holiday lights.  I was surprised how many people were really decked out for Christmas.  I had figured that since it was an over 55 community, there would be a percentage of people not even home over the holidays, since they were traveling to visit their children or grandchildren; and then I figured there is a percentage of homes not occupied for whatever reason.  Add into that however many people don’t celebrate Christmas or might be too old or not up to decorating, and I really assumed there would be way more un-decorated houses.  And some of the people really go all out!  Dot and Russ had one of the best decorated – the kids could have stood outside for hours watching all the things they have outside!

I headed to bed early – around 10 PM – and left Jim out with the girls.  I don’t think they stayed up much later though – they were just as tired as I was. 

Jolly Holidays, 2007 Arrival in Orlando

After a flight where Granuaile has kicked the hell out of the seat in front of her enough times that the person sitting in it has relocated; my bag took a tumble, spilling all of the important contents out onto the floor, which then slid down to the back of the plane; and losing the SeaWorld passes when a flight attendant finds then, assumes they are trash, and tosses them, we have arrived safely in Orlando, very late at night. We are supposed to be in at around 11:30, we make it in around 11:50, so not too bad considering the weather across the country is reported to be terrible.

We head to the car rental counter after collecting our bags, and we get the keys to our shiny new car that won’t hold the four of us, let alone all of the luggage we’ve brought. Okay, back to the counter. Keys to a new car in hand, we set out to find it. And there, in the far end of the parking garage, is the shiny new Lincoln MKZ car that won’t hold all the luggage we’ve brought. I’m going to stay here at the car, Grace straped into her seat, Eilis waiting to doze off, bags scattered all over, while Jim walks back to the counter to exchange the car again. Finally, he pulls up with a Jeep Liberty – a car that will barely and uncomfortably hold the four of us and all of the luggage we’ve brought!

The kids are transferred to the new car, we are packed in like sardines in a can, and we are headed to Poinciana to Jim’s mother’s for the weekend. We get on the road, hopefully headed the right way, when we hear, “I wanna burger. Eilis, do you wanna burger?” Eilis says no. “Come on, Eilis, you wanna burger. You wanna chock-it milk? I wanna chock-it milk.” And there we are, at nearly 1 AM, trying to find a burger and chock-it milk for Granuaile.

After a pit stop at Burger King, sorting out the order, opening the happy meal toys, passing out the drinks, we are back on the road to Poinciana. I tell Jim he should call his mother and explain why we’re running so late. He doesn’t have the phone number. I don’t have the phone number. Brighid has the phone number programmed into her cell phone. Brighid is in New Jersey, sleeping soundly in her bed. Jim calls the cell. No answer. He calls the home phone. No answer. I tell him Ann is probably sound asleep and has no idea in the middle of the night where the phone is. He calls it again. I was right. Ann answers and finds Brighid, who is going to call her grandparents and tell them where we are.

Finally, sometime around 2 AM, we are there, the bags are in, and we are fighting with Granuaile to go to sleep. I fall asleep around 3, and Jim sometime after that. The first day of our vacation promises to be a drowsy one tomorrow.