Sunday, December 25, 2011

Annual Christmas Eve Journal Write

'Tis Christmas Eve!  I couldn't go to sleep without first continuing Melody's most memorable Christmas tradition, the Annual Christmas Eve Journal Write.  It was always a good idea because then even when I hadn't written for months, or even all year, I have at least one entry to round out the year.  Of course, I don't really keep a journal anymore, per se, but the old blog has served that purpose pretty well for the last few years, so I'll just write a short post on an evening such as this to continue the tradition.  So this has been a very nice Christmas season, and it was quite busy, but things are winding down now.  It's been a great Christmas weekend so far, and we're looking forward to more of the same for the next couple of days.  After the play ended and our Disneyland trip passed by, there were a few other exciting festive activities of note:
  • The day after we returned from California I led my wonderful ward choir in the program for which we've been preparing for months.  We had a few ambitious selections, but our numbers have been increasing very nicely lately, and I felt like we could handle Handel.  And we did!  Hallelujah, indeed!  It was incredible, and such a wonderful program.  Rutter, Wilberg, Bush, Handel, etc. etc. etc.  Right on.  They sounded like a much bigger and more professional choir than we are, and everyone worked so hard.  Attended by multitudes of angels, I say!
  • We've watched a few Christmasy movies, sometimes obliquely Christmasy, such as While You Were Sleeping, Edward Scissorhands, You've Got Mail, Love Actually and The Nativity (as well as lots of LOST, which is appropriate for any season).
  • We had our annual cousins' Christmas party at the Frisbys' house, and it was fun as always, and I ate way too much of that amazing dip that Stacia brings.
  • We went to see the Utah Regional Ballet production of The Nutcracker and it was awesome.  It's amazing how weightless they seem, and also how muscular their legs are, and also how tight their pants are, and also how incredible that score is.  I never get tired of it.  There was a small, but live orchestra in the pit, and the dancers were excellent (including lots of adorable wee ballerinas), so it was very fun and festive.
  • We went on a double date with some friends to have a fancyish dinner in Salt Lake and then have a walk around Temple Square.  It was so crowded, and bitingly cold, but it was really pretty and of course it was a good time.  Here are some pictures:
We ate at Buca di Beppo.  They have family style Italian food that is DELICIOUS.  There were a lot of leftovers.
Hello, temple.
Thanks for the fun time, Jeppsons!

So yes, today there were some activities for Christmas Eve, and tomorrow there are sure to be many more for Christmas Day, but if I don't go to bed soon Santa Claus will just pass us right on by!  It's so nice to spend a quiet evening at home with my beautiful and charming wife, and Christmas Eve is always magical.

Also, since it's Christmas, here is our Christmas card for this year, in case some of you who cared for one didn't get one.  Our supplies were kind of limited, so we couldn't send them as far and wide as we might otherwise have.  (Yes, it's the same picture as last year, the short letter following explains all.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Really Long Blogpost With Lots of Pictures About Disneyland at Christmastime

Is it possible for Disneyland to be even more magical than it usually is?  The answer is yes, yes it is.  How, you ask?  The answer will be revealed herein.

Since The Wife and I aren't leaving town for the Christmastime holidays, we decided we should do something fun and go to Disneyland to finally see it decorated for the season.  (There are those who have expressed incredulity that we were going to Disneyland "again" already, forgetting that we haven't been there in over a year!  I mean, sure, we did go to Walt Disney WORLD about six months ago, but this is totally different...)
Yay for the shuttle!  It was quick and easy and less expensive than renting a car.

And we finally had a chance to see this little number.
We'll be forever part of Disneyland now! :D

We had planned to go the week prior, since rumor has it that the week or two right after Thanksgiving is amazingly uncrowded (meaning, before the incredible Christmas crowds really arrive), but soon realized that the stake play kind of put a kink in those plans.  We thought the next week should still be fine as far as crowds, and of course the weather should be nice, so we made the necessary arrangements and looked very much forward to finally seeing Main Street all decked out for Christmas.  And we were not disappointed!!!  See here:
It's bigger than you think.
Here we are closer up for scale.  I mean, it's BIG.
It's so cool in the day, but just wait until you see it at night.

Julie is taking note of how much smaller this castle seems now that she's seen the one in Orlando. Le petit chalet is still le belle chalet though!
We never tire of getting pictures like this together, can you tell?  This flower arrangement was cool because it had poinsettias all over.

I guess the tree in Toontown is new this year, and quite tiny (reportedly relocated from Florida where their Toontown was much smaller).  It was still festive.
Here's how it looks at night:

They do this projection show on this at night where they show pictures guests had taken that day and we were TOTALLY ON IT.  It was awesome.

It's just amazing!  That tree is enormous!  And the castle is just beautiful.  Disneyland at Halloween is awesome, but Disneyland at Christmas is ~**AWESOME**~.  They play Christmas music all throughout the park and there are decorations everywhere!  (Except for Tomorrowland, which was lacking almost completely in the Christmas department...  Maybe since Christmas isn't tomorrow, they don't put it in there?  Until Christmas IS tomorrow?  Like on Christmas Eve?)
Look how empty it was!  (It did get busier on the days closer to the weekend, but that first day was fantastic.)
New Orleans Square!  You've never looked more festive.
There's something really eerie about this walkaround Jack costume...  kind of alienish (hence our skeptical expressions).  But they were really fun and in character and asked us what we want for Christmas.
Oh, the scandal!
When we see a character with no line, we figure why not?  Pluto was very enthusiastic.
Yeesh Julie, can't you put the phone away for ten seconds?!?  (Uh, inside joke of sorts.)
We were able to do a lot of new things that recently opened, like The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure (that tilde is very important), Goofy's Sky School, Star Tours 2.0, and see World of Color again (twice :D).  Many of the rides were also decorated on the outside, and a couple of them were decorated on the INSIDE!  We rode all our favorites, including Haunted Mansion Holiday and the Christmas overlay of it's a small world.
I've never ridden Dumbo more than since I met this girl, and now I really like it.  She just loves that little elephant.
I still love the submarines, but only if there's like a 5-10 minute line (which, this day, there was).
It's cool!  It's different every time you ride it.  I think it's funny that the little girl in the foreground with the, erm, makeover kind of looks like a space creature.
I loved it!  It was a great dark ride.  Mr. Limpet was even hiding in it.

She loves Buzz too.  She beats me every time!  But it's okay because I always beat her at Toy Story Midway Mania.
Julie loves that Haunted Mansion Holiday so.
We haven't seen the original Disneyland Haunted Mansion for a few years now, but it's okay, we love this one!
This is the final scene of it's a small world holiday, and it's pretty spectacular too.
Julie is suitably impressed.
We checked out ElecTRONica (some cool, some meh), and it was fun to see Muppet*Vision 3D after recently seeing the new movie.  AND we saw snow!  Falling!  From the sky!  On Main Street!

We also tried very many new and delicious foods, some that are just seasonal and some from new places that we haven't eaten at before (when you're there for three days and none of those days include Club 33, you start to examine your options a little more).
Pumpkin fudge YES.

Someone in our ward said we HAD to try the mint julep in New Orleans Square.  It was pretty good.

Gingerbread beignets with egg nog glaze YES YES YES.
We tried the newly opened Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta in DCA.  It was delicious.
Julie took one look at this chocolate creation and was like, yes please.
This is the pasta in Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta.
Of course we have to get a turkey leg each time.  (But we always eat it daintily.)  This one was pretty good.
The new entrance to DCA looks rather familiar... especially to those who are familiar with Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.
DCA has a nice big tree too.  It's even a Gryffindor tree.
Julie loved the snapdragons.

She really wanted to get into the arcade.  Just wait a few hours, my love, you'll get all the flashing lights and pounding music you desire!

"Libations for EVERYBODYYYY!"
Julie is being recognized.  It said "GAMES."

Inner 15-year-old: Ha ha ha haaaaaa!

So this is an Easter Egg I heard about and had to see for myself.  The sign says that security is out but the key is under the mat...

... And lo, it sure enough is!

Oh I love those Muppets so.

And now we're back to see TRON.  Julie said "Make your super-excited-to-see-ElecTRONica" face.  It went through many variations in the time it took her to say 1-2-3-, and apparently this is it.


She tried to get into the office but I guess the Grid eluded us this time.
We always like to be creative with our on-ride pictures:

Um, this might be the most wet I've ever been after Splash Mountain.  It was like I sat in a puddle and bucket of water was dumped on me.

Oh my word, my hair.

Patty-cake patty-cake.
Jeffy's first time!  He was a little traumatized.

And we just generally enjoyed the atmosphere:

It was actually quite cold on our second day.  I spent most of the time in this posture until I gathered my hoodie.

Two hats!

And then we met up with Amber and everyone.  Ally was hesitant to ride Big Thunder, but she ended up loving it (of course).

Julie really liked this little squirrel in the Haunted Mansion cemetery.


By the end of our trip, we were starting to get pretty exhausted:
I'm riding the super fancy famous Mary Poppins horse.

I was too tired to give it my full effort this time.

It was a magical trip!  There were a couple of times that the crowds were heavier than I had been anticipating and hoping for, and one day it was really quite chilly (which is saying something if I think it's cold), but overall it was wonderful and I felt so Christmasy.  We met up with Amber and Jillian and Allyson and Cami and Jack and Jeffy and Ethan and Jane, where we were there to not only witness, but also share in the experience of Jeffy's first time on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain (the latter he quite enjoyed, the latter... not so much--he cried after, but hey, he earned his $20.  Say, why wasn't I bribed to go on rides as a kid, Mom and Dad??).
I recommend visiting Disneyland at this time of year to anyone, it makes the whole place even more magical.  But set realistic expectations when it comes to your agenda, you might not get to ride everything as much as you would like to.  It was a little sad to remember all the things I love about Walt Disney World, but there's so much to love at Disneyland too, so that sadness doesn't last long.  Especially when the voyage from hotel to park entrance took us all of five minutes and NO shuttles.  That was very lovely.

Yay, Disneyland!
And now it's been like two years since we've been to Disneyland when it's just Disneyland and not decorated for a major holiday...  Maybe we better make our annual pilgrimage earlier than usual and head out there something in the spring or something?...  Or the fall when all the California Adventure construction is finished?...